It was a mighty strange sight to recently witness the gradual demolition of Karges Center on the UW-River Falls campus. Mid-way through the demolition process, the remnant of that once-mighty structure reminded me of images from WWII. "Karges" has held a steady presence on the local campus for nearly 60 years. The building was named in honor of Dr. R.A. Karges, affectionately known as "Kargie." He taught chemistry at River Falls and was vice president of the college from 1926 to 1951.
We may consider ourselves a "deeply divided country" but it's unlikely we feel divided when we gather for the solemn act of memorializing a life. And our country's deep differences can quickly disappear at something like a Memorial Day service sponsored by a local American Legion post. It seems normal today for our 50 states to be separated by labels like "red" and "blue" but at a Memorial Day service the color is more like purple. This version of purple has nothing to do with the Minnesota Vikings. It's the color you get when you blend red and blue.
One of the advantages of living in a relatively small community is ... well, community: "a unified body of individuals." It's probably true that communities are less cohesive today than they were before isolating technological "advances" took over our lives, but for me there is still a sense of unification in my community — everything from shared pride in a particular athletic team, to organizational involvement, to circles of friends. And then every once in a while an issue pops up and a community gets divided.
Walking down a city sidewalk with friends, the sun was just starting to set. After rounding a corner, we encountered a young man who looked like he was "down and out." He was sitting on the sidewalk, leaning up against a storefront and begging for money. As we moved past him, we couldn't help but hear him: "Hey, how about helping me out! My life is kind of upside down right now." I admit that I have a quick reaction to a scene like that. I don't actually say it but my reactive thinking goes something like this: "Get a frickin' job buddy!"
Traveling through Florida on a solo trip, I stopped for the night and booked a room. The motel recommended a small, family-operated restaurant nearby. Nothing fancy, just good food. I went there on the early side and it was easy to get a table. Four booths lined the wall near my table, and two of those booths were occupied —a couple in one and a woman-on-her-own in the next.
Question: If someone has donated a large sum of money to a candidate for judicial office and that donor's favored candidate wins the election, should the judge then be able to decide a case in which that donor is a party? That question is the focus of this column, but first some history about Wisconsin's system of electing judges. In the mid-1960's, the Milwaukee Braves baseball team (Aaron! Spahn! Matthews!) delivered a dagger to the hearts of Wisconsinites: the owner planned to move the team from Milwaukee to Atlanta.
Lie: "a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood" (dictionary.com). Pretty clear, isn't it? One person says "That light was red" and another says "No, it was orange." If each is sincere, this is simply a disagreement and neither is lying. What about the person who is invited to dinner and declines because of a "previous engagement?" In truth, there is no previous engagement — the person just doesn't want to go. This is a lie, i.e., an intentional untruth.
"Want to go to a concert with me?", my wife asked recently. "What kind of concert?", I asked. "It's called 'Masters of Scottish Arts.'" Silence. "Does that mean bagpipes?" I asked. "Yep. Featured, in fact." Every once in a while you're asked to go along with something you may not be inclined to do — in this case the invitation to attend a concert featuring bagpipes. It's a quandary of sorts.
I have recently been wondering how Donald Trump's supporters would grade him for his first year in office. So I approached a number of friends and family members — folks who had voted for Mr. Trump. Each of them knew that I had not voted for their candidate. Eight people — each someone I respect and care about — kindly allowed this intrusion. Here are the questions I posed and what I learned in response:
Got tribal lens? What's that, you ask? It's the idea that most of us tend to fall into a variety of "tribes," or social divisions, that create tribal unity around things like sports, family, friends, religion, and of course, politics. I refer to it as a lens because a lens can distort what is actually taking place right before our eyes. Tribal lenses result from various influences that have affected our lives. As the writer Anais Nin put it, "We don't see how things are, we see how we are." Some examples of tribal lenses you may recognize: