is a little bit of a non-sequitur, reflecting on Father’s Day &
Independence Day, and weaving both into the fabric of current events.
I was driving to work one morning in early
in June, on one of the last of those chilly gray rainy days, temps hovering in
the 40s to 50s, but the weather was predicted to break, the sun would come out
and we’d finally be in the 70s. I was wearing my camel brown L.L Bean barn
coat, and thought I could probably leave it in the car once I got to work,
since I wouldn’t need it at the end of the day. What’s the worst that might
happen, I thought, but the coat might get a little more faded by the sun, which
would only lend it an even more authentic, weathered and worn look. I had to
chuckle at myself, though, given that the barn coat has never seen even one day
in a barn.
It’s ironic how, despite (or maybe in
spite of) all the plastic, glass and steel modernity we are surrounded by, we
still crave the organic, the natural, weathered barn board, the distressed
look, white-washed ship-lap, the distressed look, flannel, lace, leather, and
yes, old barn coats. Stuff that is real. Fleece that resembles wool. A simpler,
truer, more genuine time. Real.
This is the battle of contradictions
being waged inside each of us. We are both animals, operating at a very primal,
instinctual level, and evolved, logical, intelligent beings.
It’s funny how primal it is, buried
and stored deep in the animal part of our animal brain. How the smell of wood
smoke might be both alarming, a sign of fire, and yet also calming, reassuring,
speaking of comfort, warmth, food, company.
A heavy rainstorm likewise, a baby can’t sleep, at some deep instinctive
level recognizing the threat rain and thunderstorms can bring, yet can also be
soothing, refreshing, replenishing a life need.
These contradictions also play out at
Father’s Day, just peruse the card aisle, and you’ll see all the mixed
expectations for fathers, and men in general, in our society. They’re expected
to be rough and tough, rugged, “manly men,” as well as caring, nurturing,
loving, providers, caretakers, and teachers. Sensitive, but still tough.
No wonder it is so confusing for men –
the expectations keep changing, and the world expects it all. Men who can be
masculine, but yet still sensitive and caring.
Believe it or not, there are even
organizations devoted to promoting boys’ and men’s equal rights. One such
organization is called Parity, in the UK. It’s an interesting argument that
even within the most privileged class (white men), that some may still feel
pressured or let down by society’s expectations.
This thread ties back into the model
presented by Professor George Lakoff that there are two ways that people view
the world: those who come from and expect nurturing father figures (loving,
caring providers) and those who expect the authoritarian head of the family (as
in the movie, “Footloose”). Professor Lakoff would argue that the current
schism dividing US society today is due to the conflict between these two
opposed frames of reference. Those who believe in the nurturing father figure
would promote a Government that takes care of its people, all of its people,
even or especially the weakest and most vulnerable in the population, providing
safety nets, and structures to take care of those who would be otherwise left
Those who believe in the authoritarian
father figure would promote a Government that lays out the rules, and then
gives people the freedom to care their own path, fend for themselves,
literally, sink or swim. Tough love, no hand-outs. Confident.
Recall, from a prior post, that the
fastest way to de-motivate a white man in the US is to tell them that their
success depends on the success of a team and multiple interdependencies.
Culturally/socially, white men in the US are spurred on by the concept, the
ideal, of rugged individualism, and making it on their own. This is not a
fundamental truth about human nature; just our current culture. Other cultures
put greater emphasis on teamwork, and that’s what they find motivating. We are
perhaps in the midst of a cultural revolution, or evolution, that has spun off
two polar opposite views of the world.
We celebrate Independence Day, after
all, not Interdependence Day.
It’s not too difficult to figure out
that the nurturing model reflects the Democrats, and the authoritarian, the
Republicans. What’s shocking and fascinating and distressing is how powerful
the message can be when it comes from a strong man. With a deep voice.
I recall attending a workshop on
Assertive Communication for women many years ago; so long ago that some of the
other attendees worked at the store still known then as Bread & Circus. One
of the most surprising things we learned: studies show that people (both men
and women) find messages delivered in a deep tone of voice more credible. The
deeper the voice, the more believable. At the workshop, we were actually
advised to think of the word “aluminum” before we began speaking, because it
prompts you to start talking at a deeper tone, and be heard more effectively.
I’m going to make a little bit of a
leap, and suggest there may even be a correlation between Lakoff’s model and music.
In general, country music tends to be associated with red states, and what do
you tend to hear more often in country songs? Really deep voices.
The horrible, crazy irony is that we
all probably want things both ways: Governments that provide safe
infrastructure, and safety nets, and yet allow individual freedom to pursue
happiness and associate with whomever we choose. And we as a society probably
want men to be strong yet sensitive, manly but partners in parenting. There are
even studies that might show that women are attracted to different types of men
depending on where they are in their menstrual cycle. Damn hormones!
The funny thing is that men are also
victims or benefactors of their hormones. In the recent article by Therese
Huston in The New York Times, she shares
the results of a study showing that heightened testosterone levels might lead
to overconfidence. The irony of course, is that more confidence usually has
only helped in getting ahead in the world. Reference prior blog about the great
confidence gap (“Challenge Yourself,” January 27, 2015).
However, as pointed out in Ms.
Huston’s article, there are times when overconfidence in your position could
have dire consequences, as increased levels of testosterone are also associated
with a decrease in reasoning power. Just when a man’s reasoning is impaired, he
may feel most confident in his opinion. The article is worth a read, given the
scrutiny women have been subjected to because of hormones. Egads, when Hillary
almost passed out, she was probably just having a hot flash.
Anyway, it brings us full circle
around to the question – are we human, intellectual beings capable of compassion,
empathy and logical, rational thought; or are we really just highly-evolved animals,
still just the products of our biology?
Only in recent years have I found my
Dad to be a surprising, oddly comforting source of counsel, and all of his old
sayings seem to ring truer with each year:
Food, clothing, and shelter.
When the going gets tough, the tough
When the tough get going…
Stay out of debt.
Don’t be a slave to the lender.
Don’t live for the love of money, but
for what it can do for people.
On Thursday, June 29, 2017, social
media, the press and politicians lit up, reacting to President Donald Trump’s
tweets mocking the cable news anchors, Mr. Joe Scarborough and Ms. Mika Brzezinski,
probably reacting to their jests at his expense, about his fake Times magazine covers on the previous
morning. Practically everyone came out of the woodwork, coming to Mika’s and
Joe’s defense, calling Trump a bully, and telling him to stop tweeting, as his
messages are unbecoming and do not honor the dignity of the office. Finally,
but why now, I ask? Think about how many other people he has mocked and bullied:
the news reporter with a disability, politicians’ wives, practically all women,
Senator McCain, an honorable man, a Veteran, and a former Prisoner of War. For
whatever reason, this is the line in the sand that has been drawn, and now
finally everyone is outraged.
The real problem is the society that President Trump reflects. It is just as Mr. Harold Ford said on
Morning Joe the next morning, that the real problem is our society, the Trump
supporters who still see nothing wrong with what he is doing (see my previous
post about the 38%). President Trump in a way is just a symptom of the larger problem;
the root cause is the disease in our society fostering and promoting such a
hateful, misogynistic, uncaring, racist, sexist leader. It feels like we are in
the last chapter of the book, The Lord of
the Flies, and the savages have taken over, the conch is lost or broken,
except that there are no grown-ups landing on our shore to save us, and restore
order and civility.
This is a dangerous distraction. These petty fights and constant chaos are a dangerous
distraction to the serious business of governance and engaging as a world power
on a global stage. May I remind everyone that a little-known leader in
Afghanistan quietly declared war on the United States during a previous
distraction in the White House, while we watched the day-to-day enquiry into
shenanigans mildly resembling an adult version of the board game, Clue: Bill
Clinton, with a White House Intern, in the closet, with a cigar. While we were
busy debating the precise definition of a sexual relationship, Osama Bin Laden
declared war on us, and no one noticed or paid attention. It was page six news,
literally. I remember that.
Afghanistan. Prior to 9/11, a country I had not
thought about since grade school, when at practically every Sunday Mass, from
fifth grade on, Father Jackson would include prayers for Af-uh-ghan-is-tan,
somehow making it into a five-syllable word, yet never taking advantage of that
teaching moment to talk about why we were praying for Af-uh-ghan-is-tan, or the
people there, or even what we were praying for, what might be our desired
Father Jackson was a severe figure,
towering over us, and he kind of scared us. Maybe he was mean. Yet, his
meanness offered the possibility for a small moment of kindness. One time in
class, a student who was normally one of the really well-behaved kids did
something a little out of character, and said or did something while Father
Jackson’s back was turned, and he spun around asking who did that? One of the
perpetually bad boys spoke up, and took the rap for the “good kid.” It was just
one more thing the “bad kid” was going to get yelled at for; it would have
up-ended the world for the “good kid.” And, funny how it is, that this, THIS is
what we remember, these little ironies, dramas, and tragedies that stay with
us, playing over and over again, and these small acts of kindness, at its most
basic, simple, fundamental level, how we can help people. I would like to
remind everyone that the Office of the President of the United States is still,
always, and foremost that of a public servant, working for the best interest of
If President Trump got upset about
getting teased about the fake magazine covers, he should have considered
another response: own it and have a good laugh at himself. Admit he had the
magazine covers made up, as a joke; thought it would be fun.
Yes, Mika and Joe were making fun of
Trump. Yes, Trump was mean.
Everyone just needs to stop.
Stop the pettiness, the humor has
passed, and there are so many much larger issues that need our attention:
health care, jobs, retraining the workforce for the new economy (the old
manufacturing jobs are not coming back, coal is over), North Korea, chemical
weapons in Syria, Mosul, ISIS, refugees, Russian hacking of our energy networks,
and of course, Af-uh-ghan-is-tan.
Hope everyone had a Happy Father’s Day
& a Happy 4th of July!
This blog is dedicated to Mr. Peter
Leckie, a member of Parity, who passed away in early June. He was a gentle soul
and will be missed.
For The Day:
“Hands,” by Jewel. “Only kindness
matters in the end.”
An ode to the sensitive man: “Too Much
Saturn,” by Francis Dunnery.
Asking the question, “Are We Human, or
Are We Dancer,” are The Killers.
For all those dealing with loss, two
“In The Sun,” by Joseph Arthur,
performed by Chris Martin and Michael Stipe.
Lastly, “Afterglow,” by INXS, urging
those left behind, to live on.
Get the theme – kindness, humanity,
and finding our way. Together.
Happy Belated Father’s Day!
Happy Interdependence Day, too!
“Even more than bread, we now need
poetry, in a time when it seems that it is not needed at all.”
need poetry & bread!
For Education, United Negro College Fund (UNCF), October 14, 2017
I might put all the radio show links
together, in sequence, in a future post, so that readers/listeners can find
them a little more easily and listen to the shows in order. Together, the six
shows document this highly historic time, attempting to make sense of these
strange and difficult times in our country.
As always, comments and suggestions
are always welcome!
WBCA-LP 102.9 FM Boston & Schmidt Happens:
WBCA is a community radio station
sponsored by the Boston Neighborhood Network, and is on the air from 6 PM to 2
AM each night. Jumana Hashim is a current member of Beantown Women’s Rugby
Club, while Rosemary, aka Rosebud, Schmidt has been retired a few years.
We are taking a little break from the
radio show over the summer, but we hope to be back on the air in September. I’ll
post blogs as topics come up. Maybe we’ll even talk about something other than
politics this fall, such as matters pertaining to public health: health
insurance and the Affordable Health Care Act, concussions, stress, water
quality, antibiotics, the microbiome, nutritional supplements, and diet.
Huston, Therese. Men can be so
Hormonal. The New York Times. June
Lakoff, George. 2017. George Lakoff:
Trump Tweets, Press Leaps. Vox Populi.
Merullo, Roland. 2017. In defense of
the white male. Boston Globe. July 3,
O’Connor, Anne. Poetry on the menu at
historic Bull Run. Nashoba Valley Voice. July
Velez, Yamil, and Howard Lavine. 2017.
Racial Diversity and the Dynamics of Authoritarianism. The Journal of Politics. April 2017.
White, Daphne. 2017. Berkeley author
George Lakoff says, ‘Don’t underestimate Trump.’ Berkeleyside.com. May 2, 2017.
2017 Rosemary A. Schmidt
Schmidt is the author of “Go Forward, Support! The Rugby of Life” (Gainline
Press 2004). The views expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do
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Statement: To Educate, Inform, Entertain, Inspire, and Open Minds.