The college of real life

Kerry McDonald:

While reading about the student-led climate protests last week, a statement jumped out at me from the 16-year-old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, who is credited with launching the walkouts that occurred in over 100 countries. In an interview with The New York Times, Thunberg, who says she was a shy but good student who was overcome for years with adolescent depression, claims that her climate work has added fulfillment to her life. She says: “I’m happier now…I have meaning. I have something I have to do.”

Regardless of how you may feel about climate activism, the key message to parents is that school can be stifling and anxiety-inducing for many teenagers who crave and need meaningful work. Adolescents are meant to come of age within the adult world, surrounded by a diverse group of mentors and engaged in authentic, real-life pursuits. This gives them both experience and personal reward.

Instead, teenagers today are spending more of their time confined in school and school-like settings than ever before. Teenage employment has plummeted, with part-time jobs abandoned in the all-out quest for academics and college admissions. Summer jobs, once a signature activity for teens, are no longer valued. Schooling has become the priority—even in summer. In July 1985, only ten percent of US teens were enrolled in school; in July 2016, over 42 percent were.

Thunberg also isn’t alone in her teen depression. Mounting data show skyrocketing rates of adolescent anxiety, depression, and suicide over the last decade. Some researchers point to technology and social media as the culprit, but they ignore other, recent cultural trends—like more time in forced schooling and less time engaged in jobs and meaningful work—that could be contributing to adolescent strife.

In a recent Harvard EdCast podcast interview, Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of freshmen and undergraduate advising at Stanford University and author of the book, How to Raise an Adult, said that she has heard from several admissions officers that they, regrettably, rarely see work experience described in student essays or otherwise touted on college applications. Young people and their parents now believe that academics and extracurriculars are more important than good, old-fashioned teenage jobs.

Not only is this increased emphasis on school over work likely contributing to teenage angst and disenfranchisement, but it is also not serving them well for the adult world they will ultimately enter. A report by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation revealed that employers are disappointed that today’s highly-schooled graduates lack basic proficiency in simple tasks like drafting a quality email, prioritizing work, and collaborating with others. Other studies have found similar results, with employers frustrated by their new hires’ lack of communication skills, poor problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities, and low attention to detail.

While parents and teachers may think that piling on academics is the key to adult success, the lack of genuine work experience can be more hindrance than help for today’s young people. If parents really want their children to have a meaningful and successful adolescence and adulthood, they should consider trading a well-schooled life for a well-lived one. They can encourage their teens to get jobs and gain beneficial work experience—and make sure that their kids handle it all independently, learning through trial and error. As Lythcott-Haims warns in her book:

Helping by providing suggestions, advice, and feedback is useful, but we can only go so far. When parents do what a young employee must do for themselves, it can backfire.

In addition to encouraging part-time work, parents can also help their teenagers to develop an entrepreneurial mindset that focuses on customer satisfaction and value creation. By looking at her job (even if it’s in retail or food service) from an entrepreneurial perspective, a teen can learn a lot about business and value-creation and may be inspired to become an entrepreneur in adulthood. Unfortunately, entrepreneurship is woefully neglected in schools and standard extracurriculars.

As parents look ahead to summer vacation, they may want to pause and take a closer peek at their teenager’s plans. Will she spend those warm months getting ahead on her AP classes? Will he do a foreign language immersion program that will look good on the college transcripts? Maybe getting a job or learning how to think like an entrepreneur would be a more beneficial and rewarding way to enjoy a summer—and a life.


The other side

David French:

I want to begin this piece with a word of praise for Nancy Pelosi. In an interview with the Washington Post , she rejected (for now, at least) calls to impeach Donald Trump. But it’s not just what she decided that’s important; it’s also how she explained it. Here were her key words: “Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country.”

Sermon of the weekend

Prof. Donald DeMarco:

In his book Religion and the Modern State, the eminent Catholic historian Christopher Dawson (1889-1970) may have startled many readers when he made the comment that “European culture had already ceased to be Christian in the 18th century.”

To be sure, Christianity was not extinguished at that time. Rather, it lingered on, not as a dominant cultural force, but nonetheless influential in the lives of individuals and in the commitments of small communities.

For Dawson, the dominant faith of the succeeding century was liberalism, which lived off the capital it inherited from Christianity. It emphasized rights but not duties, freedom but not responsibilities, justice but not truth, conscience without principles, sex without procreation and compassion without real love. But liberalism, one-sided as it is, cannot sustain itself and inevitably tends toward a form of uniform or monolithic secularism.

In Dawson’s words, “Once society is launched on the path of secularization it cannot stop at the half-way house of Liberalism; it must go on to the bitter end, whether that end be Communism or some alternative type of ‘totalitarian’ secularism.”

Liberalism, as we observe it in the contemporary world, stretches what were once Christian values to the point where they begin to war against themselves. The legalization of homosexual practices and same-sex “marriages” offer illuminating examples. The present consortium of what were once considered sexual deviants represent a liberalization of sexuality on the one hand, but an intolerance toward traditionalists on the other, sometimes to the point of violence.

By refusing to capitulate to such intolerant demands, many employers have been heavily fined, and several bakeries, florists and bed-and-breakfast establishments have been driven out of business. Individuals have lost their jobs simply for defending traditional marriage. Hate speech is virtually defined as speaking against the new mores.

In Canada, the issuance of postage stamps and coins to promote same-sex “marriage” is a strong indication of a rejection of any opposition and the cultivation of a totalitarian movement. Asserting that same-sex “marriage” is “equal” means that Christian marriage is no longer distinctive.

The famous Catholic convert Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990) has made the comment that whenever there is “some drastic readjustment of accepted moral values” and they become the law of the land, the “consequent change in mores soon becomes to be more or less accepted.”

The change to which Muggeridge is alluding is profoundly significant, for it is a change from moral values that are anchored either in the natural law or in the word of God to the arbitrary mores of the people.

The moral values that are part of Christianity have an intelligibility that allows them to be explored, discussed and understood by people of good faith. By contrast, lacking this intelligibility, mores are what people simply demand. Mores must be upheld through intimidation or force, since that cannot be validated through reason.

Feminism provides a good example of this drastic shift from moral values to mores. Rebecca Todd Peters, who is a professor and a Presbyterian minister, has published a book entitled, Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice (2018).

The book is remarkable since it is neither “progressive,” “Christian,” an “argument” or in the least concerned with “justice.” It is flagrantly pro-abortion, without any real concern for the nature of the unborn or the consequences of abortion. The direct implication of trusting women is not trusting men or not trusting those women who disagree with the author.

Abby Johnson, who left Planned Parenthood and became a pro-life Catholic, was taken to court in a failed attempt to silence her. Johnson, since she revealed what was going on at Planned Parenthood in her book Unplanned, presumably is not one of those women who could be trusted. Rev. Peters wants a culture that is controlled by feminist will. It is a culture without dialogue because, in such a view, there can be no basis on which dialogue could take place.

It is illustrative of the march of liberalism toward a totalitarian society in which there is but one opinion. Fiorella Nash’s recent book, The Abolition of Woman (Ignatius Press, 2018), however, is the perfect antithesis as well as the logical contradiction of Peters’ effort. In addition, society will find it difficult to suppress the voice of New Wave Feminists: “When our liberation costs innocent lives, it is merely oppression redistributed.”

A culture in which no opposition to the “LGBTQ” agenda or to abortion or to secular feminism is permitted clearly epitomizes totalitarianism.

Nonetheless, like liberalism, neither can a totalitarian regime sustain itself indefinitely, for it lacks the realism that is needed to nourish the souls of its citizens.

The true Christian wants to remain a Christian. He finds himself in a culture that is increasingly Christophobic. He wants to honor the moral rights of the individual, to practice virtues that are based on the natural law, to be charitable toward the poor, to establish loving marriages and to raise children in the faith.

The Christian’s task in the present climate where liberalism is slouching toward totalitarianism is particularly difficult.

Christopher Dawson’s book does not leave the reader without hope: “The only thing that can stand against such forces is the spiritual vitality of the Christian community. If every Christian has an intellectual grasp of Christian principles and a living interest in his religion, it will be impossible to suppress Christianity even in a Communist State.”

The Christian can no longer rely on culture to support his Christian life.

He must be more assertive, both as an individual and within his community. He is at odds with an environment that is essentially anti-religious, one that abides no rival to liberal secularism.

Nonetheless, he has God’s indelible word on his side. Therefore, his prayer life must be strong and his faith must be sturdy enough to withstand the slanders and injustice that will come his way. In a word, he must be more capable than his enemy.

Contemptuous culture

Arthur Brooks:

I live and work in Washington. But I’m not a politics junkie. To me, politics is like the weather — it changes a lot, people drone on about it constantly, and “good” is mostly subjective. I like winter, you like summer; you’re a liberal, I’m a conservative. In the 2012 presidential election season, my wife and I had a bumper sticker custom-made for our Volvo that read “Vegans for Romney” just to see the reaction of other Washington drivers.

My passion is ideas, especially policy ideas. While politics is like the weather, ideas are like the climate. Climate has an impact on weather, but they’re different things. Similarly, ideas affect politics, but they aren’t the same. When done right, policy analysis, like climate science, favors nerds with Ph.D.s. And that’s me. For 20 years, I’ve been a professor of public policy and president of a think tank in Washington. (For a decade before that I made my living as a musician, but not the cool kind — I played in a symphony orchestra.)

But even a climatologist has to think about the weather when a hurricane comes ashore. And that’s what’s happening today. Political differences are ripping our country apart, swamping my big, fancy policy ideas. Political scientists have found that our nation is more polarized than it has been at any time since the Civil War. One in six Americans has stopped talking to a family member or close friend because of the 2016 election. Millions of people organize their social lives and their news exposure along ideological lines to avoid people with opposing viewpoints. What’s our problem?

2014 article in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on “motive attribution asymmetry” — the assumption that your ideology is based in love, while your opponent’s is based in hate — suggests an answer. The researchers found that the average Republican and the average Democrat today suffer from a level of motive attribution asymmetry that is comparable with that of Palestinians and Israelis. Each side thinks it is driven by benevolence, while the other is evil and motivated by hatred — and is therefore an enemy with whom one cannot negotiate or compromise.

People often say that our problem in America today is incivility or intolerance. This is incorrect. Motive attribution asymmetry leads to something far worse: contempt, which is a noxious brew of anger and disgust. And not just contempt for other people’s ideas, but also for other people. In the words of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, contempt is “the unsullied conviction of the worthlessness of another.”

The sources of motive attribution asymmetry are easy to identify: divisive politicians, screaming heads on television, hateful columnists, angry campus activists and seemingly everything on the contempt machines of social media. This “outrage industrial complex” works by catering to just one ideological side, creating a species of addiction by feeding our desire to believe that we are completely right and that the other side is made up of knaves and fools. It strokes our own biases while affirming our worst assumptions about those who disagree with us.

Contempt makes political compromise and progress impossible. It also makes us unhappy as people. According to the American Psychological Association, the feeling of rejection, so often experienced after being treated with contempt, increases anxiety, depression and sadness. It also damages the contemptuous person by stimulating two stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. In ways both public and personal, contempt causes us deep harm.

While we are addicted to contempt, we at the same time hate it, just as addicts hate the drugs that are ruining their lives. In an important study of political attitudes, the nonprofit More in Common found in 2018 that 93 percent of Americans say they are tired of how divided we have become as a country. Large majorities say privately that they believe in the importance of compromise, reject the absolutism of the extreme wings of both parties and are not motivated by partisan loyalty.

So what can each of us do to make things better? You might be tempted to say we need to find ways to disagree less, but that is incorrect. Disagreement is good because competition is good. Competition lies behind democracy in politics and markets in the economy, which — bounded by the rule of law and morality — bring about excellence. Just as in politics and economics, we need a robust “competition of ideas” — a.k.a. disagreement. Disagreement helps us innovate, improve and find the truth.

Democrats vs. Catholics

New York Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan (formerly of Milwaukee, and I attended one of his Masses once upon a time):

It’s been a rough time for faithful Catholics recently in our state government’s frantic rush for “progressive” ideas.

I’m thinking first of the ghoulish radical abortion-expansion law, which allows for an abortion right up to the moment of birth; drops all charges against an abortionist who allows an aborted baby, who somehow survives the scissors, scalpel, saline and dismemberment, to die before his eyes; mandates that, to make an abortion more convenient and easy, a physician need not perform it; and might even be used to suppress the conscience rights of health care professionals not to assist in the grisly procedures. All this in a state that already had the most permissive abortion laws in the country.

As if that’s not enough, instead of admitting that abortion is always a tragic choice, and that life-giving alternatives should be more vigorously promoted, the governor and his “progressive” supporters celebrated signing the bill. At the governor’s command, even the lights of the Freedom Tower sparkled with delight.

Those who once told us that abortion had to remain safe, legal and rare now have made it dangerous, imposed and frequent.

Then our governor insults and caricatures the church in what’s supposed to be an uplifting and unifying occasion, his “State of the State” address.

The bishops of this state have long supported a reform of the inadequate laws around the sexual abuse of minors. Yes, we and many others expressed reservations about one element, the retroactive elimination of the civil statute of limitations, but urged dramatic reform that, in many ways, was tougher than what was being proposed by legislators. A month ago we renewed that stance, and even dropped our objections to the “look-back” section if all victims would benefit. The governor was aware of all this.

Why, then, would he use his address to blame the church, and only the church, for blocking this bill? Why would he publicly brag in a political address about his dissent from timeless and substantive church belief? Why would he quote Pope Francis out of context as an applause line to misrepresent us bishops here as being opposed to our Holy Father? Why did he reduce the sexual abuse of minors, a broad societal and cultural curse that afflicts every family, public school, religion and government program, to a “Catholic problem?”

I’m a pastor, not a politician, but I feel obliged to ask these questions, as daily do I hear them from my people, as well as colleagues from other creeds. I’ve been attacked in the past when I asked — sadly and reluctantly — if the party that my folks proudly claimed as their own, the Democrats, had chosen to alienate faithful Catholic voters. Now you know why I asked.

As an American historian, I am very aware of our state’s past record of scorn and sneers at Catholics. It used to be called “know-nothings.” Now it’s touted as “progressivism.”

Genuine progressives work to pass a “DREAM act,” a “voters rights act,” a “prison reform act,” and we pastors of the church pitch in to support them. That’s government at its best. I pray that spirit returns.

The New York law that allows abortion up to birth should disgust even those who consider themselves to favor abortion rights.


Axis of Evil values

Jerry Bader:

The group Milwaukee rapper WebsterX was to have performed with has been pulled from Governor-elect Tony Evers’ inaugural gala after the Evers organization was informed by Media Trackers of offensive tweets by the artist, whose real name is Sam Ahmed. In tweets from 2011 and 2012, Ahmed jokes about killing police, Republicans, and committing rape.

Media Trackers sent the tweets to Evers organization spokesman Brandon Weathersby, who told us late Friday afternoon that the group New Age Narcissism had been pulled from the lineup: “Upon the discovery of offensive statements made by a member of New Age Narcissism the group will no longer be performing at the Inaugural Gala. These statements are not reflective of our values.”

Here are some of the tweets:

You can view more tweets here: WebsterX Tweets

The Cap Times reported on Ahmed’s inclusion in the line up Wednesday:

Also on the lineup is New Age Narcissism, a musical collective that includes some of the city’s biggest ambassadors of hip-hop and R&B. Among them is Lex Allen, an R&B singer who was recently featured this year as a performer at Summerfest, and WebsterX, a rapper who has had his music featured on NPR and whose single “Feels” was highlighted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as one of the year’s best.

Because, you see, in Milwaukee and Madison joking about killing cops and Republicans is not merely OK, but applauded and expected. This is what a majority of this state’s voters voted to have for the next four years.


A dog of an opinion

Jonah Goldberg:

I  wanted to write this column about dogs. If you follow me on Twitter or have read my work elsewhere, you probably know that about me: I like my dogs. Though truth be told, I probably like your dogs, too. Because I just like dogs.

It’s a common sentiment. Dog ownership has been going up markedly for a while now. There are some who worry that dogs — and even cats — are replacing human children as the objects of our devotion.

There’s evidence to support the claim. Many young couples are more eager to have pets than kids. Expenditures on pet insurance have soared. One often sees dogs referred to as “furbabies” on social media. Two decades ago, my wife and I struggled to find hotels on our cross-country drives that would accommodate dogs (at least at a reasonable price). Now, many hotels compete for the attention of dog owners. Some businesses eager to hire skilled young workers have generous bring-your-dog-to-work policies, and some even provide “pawternity” care for new dog owners.

A survey by SunTrust Bank found that 33 percent of first-time home-buying Millennials said the desire for a better space for their dog was a factor in their decision. Only 25 percent said marriage was an issue, and just 19 percent said children were.

Psychologist Clay Routledge makes a persuasive case that dog ownership is a symptom of America’s very real loneliness crisis. As our society becomes more individualistic, Routledge observed in National Review, “pets may be appealing to some because they lack the agency of humans and thus require less compromise and sacrifice.”

And the problem will like get worse because, as Routledge notes, young people report much more anxiety and isolation in the era of the smartphone, which is why anxious college students increasingly request the support of “companion animals.”

In his book Them, Senator Ben Sasse catalogs America’s loneliness crisis. We have fewer and fewer “non-virtual” friends. Americans entertain others in their homes half as much as they did 25 years ago. People don’t know — never mind socialize with — their neighbors the way they once did.

There’s much to ponder and debate here. But it seems obvious that Routledge is on to something.

Which brings me back to what I wanted to write about. I post a lot of videos and pictures of my dogs, Zoë and Pippa, on Twitter, that distorted and distorting window on the national conversation. I also follow many of the hugely popular dog-focused Twitter accounts (WeRateDogs, The Dogist, Thoughts of Dog, etc.).

Dogs — and animals generally — are among the few things that bridge the partisan divide. Tragedies are a partisan affair. If someone dies in a hurricane or shooting, there’s a mad rush to score political points. Last week, a lovely young woman, Bre Payton, died from a sudden illness, and a bunch of ghouls mocked or celebrated her demise because she was a conservative.

Even babies can be controversial, since babies can touch various nerves, from abortion politics to the apparent scourge of “misgendering” newborns.

But dogs are largely immune to political ugliness. The angriest complaints I get about my dog tweets — from people on both the left and the right — are that I’m wasting apparently scarce resources on dogs when I could be expressing my anger about whatever outrage the complainers demand I be outraged about.

This is one of the reasons I love dogs. Because it is an occupational hazard in my line of work to be constantly drenched in the muck of politics, dogs are a safe harbor. They don’t care about political correctness. They don’t want to Make America Great Again or join the “Resistance.” They just want to pursue doggie goodness as they see it.

It strikes me that all of these things are connected. The increasing nastiness of our politics is a byproduct of our social isolation. We look to politics to provide the sense of meaning and belonging once found in community and religion, which is why everything is becoming politicized. The problem is that politics, particularly at the national level, is necessarily about disagreement, which is why it cannot provide the sense of unity people crave from it.

And that’s one reason why dogs are so appealing. In an era when everything is a source of discord and politicization, it’s good to have something that stands — and sits and fetches — apart. Because they’re all good dogs.

Last point first. Recall that the author of Marley and Me lovingly chronicled all the bad things Marley the yellow lab did. After the column he wrote upon Marley’s death, his voice mail reached capacity with tales, plus additional emails, about the bad things those owners’ dogs did. (Like eat items of clothing and throw them back up whole.) So what is a “good dog” depends on your opinion of what your dog just did.

My general opinion of parenting is that people who don’t want to be parents shouldn’t be parents, so the “furbabies” thing is something that can easily be ignored.

Related to that is this comment:

Dogs are sentient (they think, learn and express emotions), loving, and they really only know how to live in the moment. It’s a great combination of traits for people who are sick of people but don’t want to live in total isolation.

There were also a few buzzkill comments:

  • Maybe it depends on where you live, but when I was in Seattle I saw politics start to creep in about dogs. Seattle is a place where many claim to need an emotional support pet. If you own a purebred dog people also feel it is their duty to lecture you on the value of adopting a pound dog. Speaking of pound dogs, have you noticed that no one just adopts a dog from the pound anymore? Even that has achieved virtue-signaling status. Now everyone “rescues” their pet. It’s subtle, but it elevates the actions of the owner to something more noble.

Well …

… here is Max, our “rescue” dog. This is the puppy we were introduced to one Sunday at church, who then kept inviting himself across the street, probably because his owner was new and didn’t know how to take care of a dog. The owner also didn’t notice the part of her lease that said “no pets,” which made her look for a new home for the former Peanut. We found this out one Sunday and left a note on her door. The following Saturday I was going to announce a college basketball game, but as I was leaving she appeared at the door and wanted to know if we were still interested. I said I was leaving, but talk to the people inside, and sure enough, when I left we had one dog and one cat, but when I got home we had two dogs and one cat. The one thing I did rescue him from was being outlawed by the city, which had one sense-challenged alderman who thought “pit bulls” (however they are defined, something the proposed ordinance did not do) should be banned. Happily, I caught him in a public lie, and that ended not only the ordinance, but eventually his political career.

  • A neighbor told me that they (the couple) had pulled their new puppy from her playgroup because there were Trump owned dogs in the group. They had been doxxed out into the open.
  • Dogs are awesome, yes, but don’t kid yourself…politics are alive and well in the dog world. The left is absolutely coming for your pets. I have a competitive dog (shows and herding trials) and have seen first hand PETA and HSUS activists trying to disrupt events. Also, beware of feel good laws that are being passed all over the country that will ultimately hurt all dogs and dog owners.

(Re PETA and HSUS, I bet that misbehavior stops the next time a dog owner pulls a gun on them defending their dog.)

The previous quotes prove the point of those who prefer dogs to humans — there may be no bad dogs, but there certainly are bad dog owners because there are bad people.

The 2018 Presteblog Christmas album

Starting shortly after my birth, my parents purchased Christmas albums for $1 from an unlikely place, tire stores.

(That’s as seemingly outmoded as getting, for instance, glasses every time you filled up at your favorite gas station, back in the days when gas stations were usually part of a car repair place, not a convenience store. Of course, go to a convenience store now, and you can probably find CDs, if not records, and at least plastic glasses such as Red Solo Cups and silverware. Progress, or something.)

The albums featured contemporary artists from the ’60s, plus opera singers and other artists.

These albums were played on my parents’ wall-length Magnavox hi-fi player.

Playing these albums was as annual a ritual as watching “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” or other <a href=””>holiday-season appointment TV</a>.

Those albums began my, and then our, collection of Christmas music.

You may think some of these singers are unusual choices to sing Christmas music. (This list includes at least six Jewish singers.)

Of course, Christians know that Jesus Christ was Jewish.

And I defy any reader to find anyone who can sing “Silent Night” like Barbra Streisand did in the ’60s.

These albums are available for purchase online</a>, but record players are now as outmoded as, well, getting glasses with your fill-up at the gas station. (Though note what I previously wrote.)

But thanks to YouTube and other digital technology, other aficionados of this era of Christmas music now can have their music preserved for their current and future enjoyment.

The tire-store-Christmas-album list has been augmented by both earlier and later works.

In the same way I think no one can sing “Silent Night” like Barbra Streisand, I think no one can sing “Do You Hear What I Hear” (a song written during the Cuban Missile Crisis, believe it or not) like Whitney Houston:

This list contains another irony — an entry from “A Christmas Gift for You,” Phil Spector’s Christmas album. (Spector’s birthday is Christmas.)

The album should have been a bazillion-seller, and perhaps would have been had it not been for the date of its initial release: Nov. 22, 1963.

Finally, here’s the last iteration of one of the coolest TV traditions — “The Late Show with David Letterman” and its annual appearance of Darlene Love (from the aforementioned Phil Spector album), which started in 1986 on NBC …

… and ended on CBS:

Merry Christmas.

A Thanksgiving message

Facebook Friend Gary Probst:

Be grateful, today, that kindness reigns over incivility. According to Harvard psychologist and author, Steven Pinker, today’s new incivility is simply a growing pain for the human race. We are safer, healthier and have more to be grateful for than ever. I agree.
Although people seem to be at humanity’s collective throat, things are much different than a few hundred years ago. The only nations where people are starving are where despots cause the suffering, not from a lack of resources. Modern farming has made it so. Starvation stems from greed and politics, not a lack of supply.

There have always been murders and violence. If you compare what we witness, today, to other times of human history, we are in a time of peace–not where we would like it to be–but better than before.

As life improves, our next goal is, naturally, to make it even better. We face a challenging future, as robotics that replace human jobs are on the horizon. However, we will endure. We will prosper. We will take care of each other. Anybody with parents or grandparents who lived though the Great Depression remember hearing stories of human kindness.
If times become rough, again, we will come together and care for each other. Its in our DNA. Its part of our very nature. According to Dr. Pinker, humanity continues to evolve, not devolve. We’re getting there. However, as with all growth, its never in a straight line of the rise. There are blips and bumps along the way.

Take time, today, to be grateful we live in a nation where we are able to disagree and duke it out on social media. We have a right to be indignant and that is a blessing. Its part of human growth and development. Resistance makes us stronger.

Thank God for each other. The farmers will take care of providing the turkey and the turkeys on Facebook will provide plenty of opportunity for you to grow. The connection between each other, in spite of disagreement and tone, is what makes our creator happy on this day of thanksgiving.

This is also appropriate today:


Ben Bromley:

My journalism professors wouldn’t be proud of me. Not only because I’ve spent my career satirizing the misadventures of America’s weirdos rather than uncovering corruption, but also because last week I cried at a city council meeting.

Reporters are taught to be dispassionate, objective observers. Getting emotionally involved had never been a problem for me before, except at the monthly disgraces they call meetings of the Sauk County Board, a body most politely described as a fly in the soup of American democracy. So tortured are the principles of good government and common decency that even a stoic feels moved to tears.

There isn’t supposed to be crying in journalism, but Baraboo is an emotional place these days, from City Hall to church pews to high school hallways. A photo depicting local prom-goers in an apparent Nazi salute was posted online last week, making international news and tying this community to hate speech. Locals feel outraged, attacked, disheartened and traumatized. We all lost the same loved one: Baraboo’s good name.

As one of the bereaved, I struggled to compose myself during last week’s council meeting. I listened to Jewish friends, good people thrust into a mess they didn’t make, call for healing and education. As the Chamber of Commerce president spoke, I thought of friends on the staff who spent the week fielding angry calls over a controversy they didn’t create, and may spend years working to overcome.

As a friend and alderman whose son appeared in the photo discussed the impact on his family, I thought of my own four children at the school who, despite not being pictured, may see the way they’re perceived — “You’re from Baraboo? Ick.” — change forever. I didn’t once think of the journalism professors who might say I’m friends with too many local newsmakers.

There’s much we don’t know about the circumstances surrounding the shooting and circulation of the photo. Each day, new accounts surface that move me to reject the face-value narrative that immediately spread around the world: “In that picture, the boys seem to be saluting like Nazis. It was taken in a mostly white community that must be a breeding ground for white supremacists.”

No, Baraboo is not.

I don’t believe it’s that simple. Yes, we live in a rural area, but we don’t wear ropes for belts. The shame in seeing Baraboo known only for that photo is that America might be surprised to learn this is a cosmopolitan little town. It supports the arts and public schools, and you can’t live here long without getting to know Jewish people and gay people and other minorities, such as those who think it’s OK to play Christmas music before Thanksgiving.

People don’t hide in terror behind the nearest tree when they approach or burn crosses on their lawns or break their Perry Como albums. Every community has its bigots, but I’d like to think that if we knew our high school was becoming a boot camp for Hitler Youth, the locals would be the first to step in.

We’ve learned this much: The view from the eye of a media — and social media — hurricane is terrifying. The instant a community is associated with hate, it becomes the target of that very thing. Whereas my Aunt Lucille, the Shakespeare of strongly worded letters, labored over her typewriter in upbraiding wayward CEOs and bureaucrats, today’s trolls with keyboard courage can tell you immediately and anonymously that you and your community are a pimple on America’s butt.

I can understand why the photo upset people, and I find calls for sensitivity training and Holocaust education entirely appropriate. I’d just like our knee-jerk, hit-send world to consider there may be more to the story than we know right now. Our modern world of social media and around-the-clock talking heads doesn’t much care for patience or complexity. But it’s best to evaluate events in context and resist the temptation to take them at face value. Maybe I learned something in all those journalism classes after all.

Whether we find out the photo depicts bigotry in action, an ill-conceived joke, a disastrous misunderstanding or something in between, the damage is done. An above-average small Wisconsin town bears a wound that won’t heal without leaving a scar. And that’s a crying shame.