RESTLESS from Democracy in America

lady in red
“…IT IS STRANGE TO SEE WITH WHAT FEVERISH ARDOR THE AMERICANS PURSUE THEIR OWN WELFARE, AND TO WATCH THE VAGUE DREAD THAT CONSTANTLY TORMENTS THEM LEST THEY SHOULD NOT HAVE CHOSEN THE SHORTEST PATH WHICH MAY LEAD TO IT.

A NATIVE OF THE UNITED STATES CLINGS TO THIS WORLD’S GOODS AS IF HE WERE CERTAIN NEVER TO DIE; HE IS SO HASTY IN GRASPING AT ALL WITHIN HIS REACH THAT ONE WOULD SUPPOSE HE WAS CONSTANTLY AFRAID OF NOT LIVING LONG ENOUGH TO ENJOY THEM. HE CLUTCHES EVERYTHING, HE HOLDS NOTHING FAST, BUT SOON LOOSENS HIS GRASP TO PURSUE FRESH GRATIFICATIONS.

IN THE UNITED STATES A MAN BUILDS A HOUSE IN WHICH TO SPEND HIS OLD AGE, AND HE SELLS IT BEFORE THE ROOF IS ON; HE PLANTS A GARDEN AND LETS IT JUST AS THE TREES ARE COMING INTO BEARING; HE BRINGS A FIELD INTO TILLAGE AND LEAVES OTHER MEN TO GATHER THE CROPS; HE EMBRACES A PROFESSION AND GIVES IT UP; HE SETTLES IN A PLACE, WHICH HE SOON AFTERWARDS LEAVES TO CARRY HIS CHANGEABLE LONGINGS ELSEWHERE. IF HIS PRIVATE AFFAIRS LEAVE HIM ANY LEISURE, HE INSTANTLY PLUNGES INTO THE VORTEX OF POLITICS; AND IF AT THE END OF A YEAR OF UNREMITTING LABOR HE FINDS HE HAS A FEW DAYS’ VACATION, HIS EAGER CURIOSITY WHIRLS HIM OVER THE VAST EXTENT OF THE UNITED STATES, AND HE WILL TRAVEL FIFTEEN HUNDRED MILES IN A FEW DAYS TO SHAKE OFF HIS HAPPINESS. DEATH AT LENGTH OVERTAKES HIM, BUT IT IS BEFORE HE IS WEARY OF HIS BOOTLESS CHASE OF THAT COMPLETE FELICITY WHICH FOREVER ESCAPES HIM. ”

via Tumblr via http://www.sewanee.edu/faculty/willis/Civil_War/documents/TocquevilleRestless.html

thinking men think, and therefore change their minds

Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal. – Robert Heinlein

Leadership, I frequently say, is about “making good decisions with limited information.” Not perfect decisions. But good decisions. You don’t have a choice in business: move quickly or die. And unlike CEOs on Wall Street, the small business CEO’s worst nightmare is to fail their employees and customers. I am not afraid of risk or failure as an individual, but I do have obligations and those must be met and that requires leadership during trying times.

There are three major factors that make leadership decisions difficult:

  1. Speed – you must make a decision and you never have enough information.
  2. Pressure – the pressure to make the right call, and make it now, is intense.
  3. Commitment – even if only 51% sure about a decision, commit 100%.

I suspect politicians face the same deadly triad when making decisions. And worse than letting their employees and family down, politicians risk being pilloried in the media, dragged through the hot coals of a PR disaster, and destroying the empire! Why anyone would want to be a politician is beyond me.

So it was with some relief this weekend when I read the letter to the editor in the Houston Chronicle by Charles Hamilton of Spring Texas titled “Thinking Men Think.” It was like someone with common sense finally stepped into the room. From his letter:

Regarding “Let’s give Romney time to sort out his positions” (Page B9, Friday), Gail Collins inaccurately notes a presidential nonqualifying trait in Mitt Romney‘s “not giving a fig” about undocumented workers clipping his lawn.

and

Non-objectively, she does not compare Obama’s many flip-flops (e.g., closing Guantanamo) with Mitt’s (e.g., abortion)…

Thinking men think. Man’s judgment of other men’s motives is often flawed.

Politician’s disparage each other to get elected because we the electorate remember bad stuff better. Witness the oft quoted and paraphrased “you get 10 bad reviews from an angry customer versus 1 recommendation from a happy customer.” Witness “if it bleeds it leads.” Witness Perez Hilton, the Drudge Report, etc… WE have trained the media and the politicians to feed us disparaging remarks about each other.

And the worst of those sound-byte-disparagements is she “s/he flip-floped on issue _____.” What does that mean in poli-parlance? It is slang for “the politician changed their position” with an implied “you can’t trust them.”

The White Houseflip-flopping,” by the media, is consistent with the actions of a rational human being. Feel free to ponder “what” changed. Be it pandering to the left or right. But SOMETHING changed in the politician’s world-view to have them logically take a new position.  The broad definition of flip-flopper can be painted on President Obama as well as on candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. And how does this help move us forward? It doesn’t.

Look, we all benefit from a healthy Presidential Election. Let’s talk about the issues in the primary and in the general election. But if you hear someone say “he is a flip-flopper” the person who is speaking is not thinking with acuity. Don’t we deserve a leader smart enough to move with the cheese?

As Charles’ said – “Thinking men think.” And thank God for that!

(this is a cross post – to comment please comment on the chron.com version here.)

I get why people are so angry

“I get why people are so angry at seeing Christmas commercials and why petitions are starting left and right and why regular, educated, hard-working Americans are taking to the streets to occupy and lend their voices to the movement.

These people are normal. They have kids and dogs and jobs that they’ve held for 17 years. They work in the lowest-paid but highest-required degree social institutions and donate money to social injustice to help other people. They take care of their sick parents. They help other people when they can by sending them to community organizations or by just paying a light bill. They do the best they know how to do. They never think they were going to end up here.

At least I didn’t think I would.”

(source)

every day

“Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words.” – Goethe

We have lost the “why”

“I believe the greatest threat to our country is that we have not passed down what it means to be an American.” “We have lost the “why”. The greatest generation did not teach my generation what Americanism is.”

“We believe in quality of birth but not in equality of result.”

“They are preoccupied in Europe with how much time off! Where will they vacation. When will they retire. These are selfish questions. These are not altruistic questions. The goodness that America created is jeopardized by our not knowing what we stand for. That’s our greatest threat. We are our problem.”

Dennis Prager