I really don’t understand electoral politics, especially the selection of candidates for office and how they are chosen. It’s not the procedure that I don’t understand—that I do—but why certain candidates appeal to anyone enough to garner votes. Why would anyone vote for Donald Trump, for example. Or why would anyone in the Democratic Party think that Joe Biden was anything but a creep?

Similarly, I have an intellectual appreciation for the fact that people vote for their team, but at the same time I don’t know why they would vote for someone they’d never invite over for dinner or let alone with their children. It’s easier for me to understand voting for someone with whom one has substantial disagreements over policy, than it is voting for a liar, a thief, a cheat, a smarmy snake-oil salesman. How can you expect someone to be responsible with government if you can’t trust him any further than you can spit?

Trust matters. Character counts.

Or at least I hope it does. And if it doesn’t, why not?

Perhaps it does and my understanding of character and my reasons for trusting just differ from other folks. I have to presume that people did and do trust Mr. Trump, though I’ve no idea why. It’s easier, I suppose, to believe that your neighbors are misled or deluded rather than to think that they may agree with malicious or callous behavior. It’s easier, but not easy.

Of course, I am most likely missing the big picture here, whatever it is, but I am very tired of being presented every four years with a choice between two people I don’t much care for. Choosing the least unappealing option is not at all satisfactory, like choosing among hung, drawn, or quartered. One wonders if either would win under different circumstances, such as if we ranked preferences or could choose None of the Above. I suspect we have neither of those systems because both the Republicans and the Democrats are quite happy with the current arrangement, unless tweaking the system means their party wins more frequently.

Twitter and smartphones have changed the art of citation on the Internet. It’s not enough to quote something and to link. A picture must also be included of the source with the quoted text highlighted. (Then the link and attribution are forgotten.) Perhaps this practice arose because the sources are easily deleted or altered. But everything digital is malleable. Pictures can be fabricated.

This is not a tweet by Donald J. Trump.

The question arises, what can we trust? Photographs, of the non-digital variety, have been the subject of manipulation since the invention of the medium, whether for monetary fraud, such as spirit photography, or for political, like the memory hole. Some news organizations, such as the Associated Press, adopted strict usage practices around photo manipulation to ensure trustworthiness. Other publications are less concerned about objectivity in the pursuit of their art. We made the distinction: is this a representational work with a claim to objectivity? Or is it art, potentially with a claim to so-called truth? What helps guide us now?

TED Radio Hour talked the other day about our understanding of memory and new techniques for altering it. We’ve known our experience is plastic for some time: lawyers lead the witness. But these medical techniques of memory alteration are the premise of Philip K. Dick‘s 1966 short story, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” frequently remembered as the motion picture Total Recall (1990), and pose a quandary: Should we? What is real if we can remember a fictitious vacation on Mars? No wonder some people think Apollo 11 landed in Arizona.

Funny how the Big Questions of Life have indefinite answers, if any. What is Real? What is Illusion? What is True? The same questions troubling us long ago bother us today. Is there anything there outside of our senses? Our sight grows old and dim. Our memory lies. We forget. Perhaps the Ancient Greek word for truth is intentionally precise: not forgotten.

What’s to be believed? Our dementiaThe treachery of images?