I believe that history is highly valuable as a school subject, and it&rswuo;s not taught thoroughly or honestly enough in many cases. We need to show the “warts” and blemishes as well as the high points and triumphs. I&rswuo;m writing this on 9/11 when we suffered the worst, most infamous attack since Pearl Harbor, and the country rose in solidarity to defend ourselves, to recover, and to mourn.


Balancing Act®: The Newsletter

(No. 2665, October 2021)

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Balancing Act® is in four sections this month:

  1. Lessons
  2. Musings
  3. The Human Condition: Guilting
  4. ORTIYKMWOYBNT-O Department


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Things I’m Stubborn About

  • I like the kinesthetic feel of a newspaper, folded and held, to read the news of the day (or what passes for news). I don’t like scrabbling over a mobile device like a water bug.
  • Similarly, I want to hold a big, heavy, profound wine list and have a cocktail while I take my time wading through white burgundies and California blends. Using an iPad seems, well, silly.
  • I expect people to say, “Thank you,” for a courtesy, but I try not to get upset if they don’t, maybe I didn’t hear it or they’re preoccupied. But “no problem” is NOT a substitute for “You’re welcome.”
  • I refuse to call a cigar a “stick.” A stick is something Bentley turns up with which to play fetch.
  • I’ve given up on the breathless, fear-inciting, terror-invoking evening news anchors on all the major networks. If someone walked on water across a river their story would be about adults who never learned to swim and the dangers therein.
  • An airline seat is designed to recline. A passenger has a right to recline it. If you can’t accept that, then take the train.
  • When you ask for “a minute of my time” and I agree, I’ll stop you after a minute. If you ask to reserve an hour of my time I’ll assure you it’s not necessary I can help you much more quickly.
  • You don’t deserve a justification or excuse if I say “No” or simply decline to do something.
  • If you’re a stranger and open a conversation by calling me “Alan” as if we’re long-time buddies, you’re probably not going to achieve whatever it is you’re seeking.
  • I empathize with your pain. But suffering is voluntary.

I believe that history is highly valuable as a school subject, and it’s not taught thoroughly or honestly enough in many cases. We need to show the “warts” and blemishes as well as the high points and triumphs. I’m writing this on 9/11 when we suffered the worst, most infamous attack since Pearl Harbor, and the country rose in solidarity to defend ourselves, to recover, and to mourn.

However, today we are polarized as no time since the Civil War. The social justice demands today are righteous and their genesis is an important part of our history. An additional portion of that history is that Abraham Lincoln guided a divided North through a victory of the unified South, defeating the rebellion and ending slavery as an accepted aspect of American law and life.

The opposition Democrats didn’t favor the war and at Lincoln’s second election he faced George McClellan, once the commander of the Army of the Potomac, who advocated for two separate countries and ending the war. The British, carefully watching the battle results and often praised for ending their slave trade earlier, came very close to ending the war by supporting the Confederacy with its Navy. The economics of the cotton trade were British overriding concerns, not slavery.

But then Grant came along and won at Vicksburg and George Gordon Meade defeated Lee at Gettysburg within a few days of each other and the British changed their minds (America would emerge with the strongest army in the world and the British had trouble designing a revolving turret for their ships). The end was in sight. Grant took over, Lincoln was handily reelected.

Over 800,000 people died in that war, and today we seem just as polarized but, thankfully, without armies in the field. If we could come together after 9/11 we can come together now. But if people insist on taking the names of great men like Lincoln and Grant off of public buildings and schools, and people who know better are “guilted” into agreeing, the schism seems too wide.

Lincoln was a statesman and consensus builder (see Doris Kearn Goodwin’s Team of Rivals). The problem isn’t his name present on buildings, the problem is his spirit missing from our leadership.

The Human Condition


“To guilt” was never an infinitive verb when I was in school. But today, we are “guilted” by others and/or we “guilt” others.

My definition: We try to influence behavior and force compliance by shaming people publicly and threatening “exposure” and derision by groups. How serious is this? Well, individuals have been tried and convicted of encouraging actual suicides through such shaming. And for years people have taken their own lives when they’ve felt a sense of guilt they cannot overcome or compensate for, but that has been an independent decision, not one encouraged by others.

You can be deemed “guilty” today for believing in the wrong cause, despite varied evidence and ample room for doubt. Guilt attaches to inadvertently using a pronoun deemed insulting (no matter how ungrammatical or vague in its use). The candidate for whom you vote can create guilt from others, as can your attitude toward immigration or climate or abortion. These are no longer issues of healthy debate and attempts at compromise or resolution. They are issues of guilt or innocence in the court or moral superiority.

When I began my career at Prudential insurance 50 years ago, management would say to us individually, “You’re the only one preventing us from 100% participation in the blood drive and you don’t want to be viewed that way by your co-workers.” Of course, they told the same thing to all of us. It was manipulation through guilt.

To be guilty means you’re culpable and responsible for some wrongdoing, ethically and/or legally. And if it’s accurate, we have to serve our time or pay our fine or make our apologies or somehow confess and atone. That’s a call for society to make, not special interest groups or individuals trying to manipulate us.

But I’m not leading a life influenced by guilt flung by others who corrosively believe “if you’re not with us, you’re against us.”

Only Read This if You Know Me Well

I have five vehicles and, of course, they all have instruments and controls in different places. Recently, I noticed that two were almost out of gas because the dashboard warns you in no uncertain terms that the manufacturer will never sell you another car if you don’t buy fuel quickly. I filled them up.

The next morning, taking the dogs for coffee, I noticed that our pickup truck was also on empty, but that there was no warning at all. I ascribed this to the relatively inexpensive nature of the vehicle.

When I reached the gas station, the pump wouldn’t pump gas, it kept indicating that it was meeting resistance. I climbed back into the truck, and saw that the gas tank was, in fact, filled to the top.

I had been looking at the temperature gauge, which early in the morning was completely flat on “cold.”

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