What Holds America Together – by David Brooks – NYT

“Unity can come only from a common dedication to this experiment. The American consciousness can be formed only by the lab reports we give one another about that experiment — the jeremiads, speeches, songs and conversations that describe what the experiment is for, where it has failed and how it should proceed now.

One of my favorites of these lab reports is Walt Whitman’s essay “Democratic Vistas,” published in 1871. The purpose of democracy, Whitman wrote, is not wealth, or even equality; it is the full flowering of individuals. By dispersing responsibility to all adults, democracy “supplies a training school for making first class men.” It is “life’s gymnasium.” It forges “freedom’s athletes” — strong and equal women, courageous men, deep-souled people capable of governing themselves.”

“Whitman was not, however, pessimistic. He had worked as a nurse during the Civil War, watching men recover and die, and the experience had given him illimitable faith in the goodness of average citizens. Average American soldiers showed more fortitude, religious devotion and grandeur than all the storybook heroes, he wrote. They died not for glory, nor even to repel invasion, but out of gratitude to have been included in the American experiment. They died “for an emblem, a mere abstraction — for the life, the safety of the flag.”

Whitman spent his life trying to spiritualize democratic life and reshape the American imagination, to help working people see the epic heroism all around them that unites the American spirit.”

David Lindsay Jr. Hamden, CT Pending Approval NYT Comments.
Wow. This is magnificent piece by David Brooks. I am sorry that so many of the comments tear him apart, without addressing the brilliant ideas he brings forth from the genius and heart of Walt Whitman.
I hate to sound snobby, but the comments section doesn’t seem to give this man a fair hearing, or to even understand the profundity of some his research and questioning. My father was a Lincoln scholar, who read Whitman, and it is a priviledge to hear some of Whitman’s extraordinary essay, and to contemplate his faith in and admiration of common people.
I almost wish that the comments section had a 4th tab, after: All, Readers Picks and NYT Picks, there should be another, called Mostly in Praise, or, In Support. This 4th tab, would be especially usefull when reading quickly through the angry mob of comments for David Brooks, or for instance, Brett Stephens. I love Socrates the commentor, but he makes a fool of himself, when he suggests that Abe Lincoln would be shocked by the scoundrels that have taken charge of the government today. Lincoln was famous for so many things, joke telling, brilliance, humor, wrestling, and especially his humility and sadness over the behavior of his fellow citizens. I recommend all six volumns of the Carl Sandberg biography. Now, we should read Whitman.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com


Education: Boys Falling Behind Girls in Many Areas – by Peg Tyre – Newsweek

“Spend a few minutes on the phone with Danny Frankhuizen and you come away thinking, “What a nice boy.” He’s thoughtful, articulate, bright. He has a good relationship with his mom, goes to church every Sunday, loves the rock band Phish and spends hours each day practicing his guitar. But once he’s inside his large public Salt Lake City high school, everything seems to go wrong. He’s 16, but he can’t stay organized. He finishes his homework and then can’t find it in his backpack. He loses focus in class, and his teachers, with 40 kids to wrangle, aren’t much help. “If I miss a concept, they tell me, ‘Figure it out yourself’,” says Danny. Last year Danny’s grades dropped from B’s to D’s and F’s. The sophomore, who once dreamed of Stanford, is pulling his grades up but worries that “I won’t even get accepted at community college.”

His mother, Susie Malcom, a math teacher who is divorced, says it’s been wrenching to watch Danny stumble. “I tell myself he’s going to make something good out of himself,” she says. “But it’s hard to see doors close and opportunities fall away.”What’s wrong with Danny? By almost every benchmark, boys across the nation and in every demographic group are falling behind. In elementary school, boys are two times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities and twice as likely to be placed in special-education classes. High-school boys are losing ground to girls on standardized writing tests. The number of boys who said they didn’t like school rose 71 percent between 1980 and 2001, according to a University of Michigan study. Nowhere is the shift more evident than on college campuses. Thirty years ago men represented 58 percent of the undergraduate student body. Now they’re a minority at 44 percent. This widening achievement gap, says Margaret Spellings, U.S. secretary of Education, “has profound implications for the economy, society, families and democracy.” ”

Source: Education: Boys Falling Behind Girls in Many Areas

The Boys Are Not All Right – By MICHAEL IAN BLACK – NYT

“I used to have this one-liner: “If you want to emasculate a guy friend, when you’re at a restaurant, ask him everything that he’s going to order, and then when the waitress comes … order for him.” It’s funny because it shouldn’t be that easy to rob a man of his masculinity — but it is.

Last week, 17 people, most of them teenagers, were shot dead at a Florida school. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School now joins the ranks of Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine and too many other sites of American carnage. What do these shootings have in common? Guns, yes. But also, boys. Girls aren’t pulling the triggers. It’s boys. It’s almost always boys.

America’s boys are broken. And it’s killing us.”

David Lindsay Jr. Hamden, CT Pending Approval
Thank you Micael Ian Black for a thoughtful set of observations and questions. Socrates calls it baloney, and he misfires which is unusual for him. I grew painfully aware of this difficult topic, when Newsweek ran a cover story on it, just before the magazine sold itself and went digital only. In that historic cover story, Newsweek reported that boys were falling seriously behind girls in elementary and high school, college, and even graduate school. It gave a host of negative national statistics and possible causes. A major cause might be the reduction of recesss and non varsity sports programs in school programs. Others included the natural addiction of young men to computer gaming and especially first person shooter games. In the grossly male hostile public schools of Hamden CT, I saw my two sons slowly decline, while my daughter thrived. What the Newsweek cover story brought to life, was that what we were experiencing in one family, was a national trend. Boys are in trouble, and the country is barely aware of the problem.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com

The Real Campus Scourge – by Frank Bruni – NYT

“Across the country, college freshmen are settling into their new lives and grappling with something that doesn’t compete with protests and political correctness for the media’s attention, something that no one prepared them for, something that has nothing to do with being “snowflakes” and everything to do with being human.

They’re lonely.

In a sea of people, they find themselves adrift. The technology that keeps them connected to parents and high school friends only reminds them of their physical separation from just about everyone they know best. That estrangement can be a gateway to binge drinking and other self-destructive behavior. And it’s as likely to derail their ambitions as almost anything else.”

Thank you Frank Bruni for a great op-ed. Here is an good comment, only I don’t think it compliments Bruni enough before adding its helpful list of  tips for lonely college students.


California 1 day ago

This article identifies the problem but doesn’t offer much in the way of practical advice. I worked for two different freshman orientation programs, for a combined total of four years, when I was an undergrad, and here are some practical tips for making a big school (mine was 30,000 students) or a small one feel less lonely:
– Sit in the same place in each of your classes each time you go. Introduce yourself to the people sitting nearby.
– Find out when and how to join on-campus clubs. My university had dozens of clubs and had a huge fair during the 2nd week of school where you could check out clubs. Join something. Show up to their activities. (You can also join an intramural sports team, a campus musical group, an amateur theater production, etc. etc. etc.)
– Go to parties in your dorm. Don’t drink too much. DO try to introduce yourself to several people at each event. “Hi, I’m NAME, I live on FLOOR NUMBER” is a fine start.
– Ask people who live near you in the dorms to go to the cafeteria with you.
– Find out about free stuff that happens on campus. Theater performances? The university symphony? Movie night? Interesting speakers? Go. It’s fine to go by yourself; even better if you invite someone you think you might want to be friends with.
– Leave the door of your dorm room open when you’re there. Be open to people wandering in to chat — or invite you to do things together.
– And ignore social media. Other people are lonely, too. It’s OK.


On a Portland Train- the Battlefield of American Values – by Nicholas Kristof

“The three were as different as could be. One was a 23-year-old recent Reed College graduate who had a mane of long hair and was working as a consultant. Another was a 53-year-old Army veteran with the trimmest of haircuts and a record of service in Iraq and Afghanistan. The third was a 21-year-old poet and Portland State University student on his way to a job at a pizzeria. What united the three was decency.

When they intervened, the man harassing the girls pulled a knife and slashed the three men before fleeing. Rick Best, the veteran, died at the scene. Taliesin Namkai-Meche, the recent Reed graduate, was conscious as he waited for an ambulance. A good Samaritan took off her shirt to cover him; she recounted that some of his last words were: “I want everybody on the train to know, I love them.” He died soon after arriving at the hospital.

Thank you Nicholas Kristof.

Here is the top comment, which I support, accept for the correction of Kristof, which is silly. The commentator needs to learn he can add, without putting down:

Tom San Jose 1 day ago

I thank Mr. Kristof for this article. I would argue that what we are confronting now is not so much a battlefield of American values, but more, a battlefield of human values. And many, many more of us need to step to the fore, as did these three disparate heroes.

I also feel compelled to take exception to Mr. Kristoff’s characterization of America as “leaderless, with nastiness and bullying ascendant,…” The problem is very much that this country has a leader who is a fascist, and is moving society in that direction. I feel we must not talk falsely, the hour has gotten late, to paraphrase Bob Dylan. Trump must be recognized for what he is, and for what he is calling forward in this society – it is an unbearable ugliness, and I fear we have not seen the worst of it by a long shot.

To defeat this is going to require many, many more heroes – all of us need to step out of our comfort zones.

947 Recommended

Jared Kushner’s Role Is Tested as Russia Case Grows – The New York Times

This is the article cited by David Brooks.
Because of the passage below, I remove my support for Keeping Kushner on the team, inspite of illegal communications with Russian agents.

“Mr. Kushner appears to be modifying his centrist stances. Instead of urging the president to keep the United States in the Paris climate accord, as he sought to months ago, he has come to believe the standards in the agreement need to be changed, a person close to him said.”

If he can’t stay loyal to the planet, let him go to jail.

The Politics of Clan: The Adventures of Jared Kushner – by David Brooks – NYT

“We don’t know everything about his meetings with the Russians, but we know that they, like so much other clan-like behavior, went against the formal system. We also know that they betray rookie naïveté on several levels — apparently trusting the Russians not to betray him, apparently not understanding that these conversations would be surveyed by the American intelligence services, possibly not understanding how alarming they would look to outsiders.

We seem to now be entering the paranoia phase of the Trump presidency, as insiders perceive that everybody else is out to get them. As The Times’s Glenn Thrush, Maggie Haberman and Sharon LaFraniere detailed in some amazing reporting, Kushner’s role in this White House may be in peril. This turmoil, for both Trump and Kushner, was inevitable”

Bravo David Brooks. You make me smarter, and more informed with depth.

Here is the first comment I read, and marvel at. This poetry is based on a very famous ballad, the Flying Cloud, starting, Oh my name is Edward Hollander. It was rewritten by Steve Goodman, as the Ballad of Penny Evans.

Larry Eisenberg is a trusted commenter Medford, Ma. 5 hours ago

with apologies to G and S

My name is Jared Kushner on intrigue I am intent
I Journey everywhere I always go where I am sent
The right hand man of Donald, a deal maker supreme
And I am his adviser on every squalid scheme
I deal with Russian diplomats as a matter of course
Just as I deal “with Frenchies who are active on the Bourse
Critics say I use back door channels just to make a buck,
they think the reason for my wealth is not savvy & pluck
And I can’t think why!

I am an active slumlord and evictions are my meat
To squeeze more cash from tenants I will not suffer defeat,
Repairs are never timely, each flat looks like a dump
I have the warm approval of my father-in-law, Trump.
I deal a lot with Russian Banks and lavish loans we’ve had.
They get good int’rest in return, it doesn’t make them sad,
And now I am the subject of an FBI witch hunt,
Publicity’s the reason, it’s a vile uncalled for stunt
And I can’t think why!

And I’m his wife Ivanka, I’m the daughter of the Don,
I live a Life in clover, unlike Butler’s Erewhon,
I have a line of products products which the Public doesn’t buy
And Daddy tweets malevolence with stores short on supply
I seem to run his businesses,in fact I never do
The Trust he built is phony he makes all decisions, too,
I act as an adviser yet my knowledge is so scant
I’d like to advance womankind but Daddy says I can’t
And I don’t know why!

Reply 751 Recommended

What Romantic Regime Are You In? – by David Brooks – The New York Times

“The dating market becomes a true market, where people carefully appraise each other, looking for red flags. The emphasis is on the prudential choice, selecting the right person who satisfies your desires. But somehow as people pragmatically “select” each other, marriage as an institution has gone into crisis. Marriage rates have plummeted at every age level. Most children born to women under 30 are born outside of wedlock. The choice mind-set seems to be self-defeating.

Even those of us who have had humbling experiences in this realm can look at those who seem to have this lifelong thing figured out and see a different set of attitudes and presuppositions, which you might call a Regime of Covenants. A covenant is not a choice, but a life-altering promise and all the binding the promise entails.

The Regime of Covenants acknowledges the fact that we don’t really choose our most important attachments the way you choose a toaster. In the flux of life you meet some breathtakingly amazing people, usually in the swirl of complex circumstances. There is a sense of being blown around by currents more astounding than you can predict and control. Mostly you’re bumblingly trying to figure out the right response to the moments you’re in.”

I enjoyed this piece. There is much to reflect on. The comments start out acerbic and brutal, and then melt into love poems by men and women who can attest to the joy of making 40 or 50 years of marriage with someone they grew to live with and love.

Dalai Lama: Behind Our Anxiety- the Fear of Being Unneeded – The New York Times

“In many ways, there has never been a better time to be alive. Violence plagues some corners of the world, and too many still live under the grip of tyrannical regimes. And although all the world’s major faiths teach love, compassion and tolerance, unthinkable violence is being perpetrated in the name of religion.And yet, fewer among us are poor, fewer are hungry, fewer children are dying, and more men and women can read than ever before. In many countries, recognition of women’s and minority rights is now the norm. There is still much work to do, of course, but there is hope and there is progress.

How strange, then, to see such anger and great discontent in some of the world’s richest nations. In the United States, Britain and across the European Continent, people are convulsed with political frustration and anxiety about the future. Refugees and migrants clamor for the chance to live in these safe, prosperous countries, but those who already live in those promised lands report great uneasiness about their own futures that seems to border on hopelessness.

Why? A small hint comes from interesting research about how people thrive. In one shocking experiment, researchers found that senior citizens who didn’t feel useful to others were nearly three times as likely to die prematurely as those who did feel useful. This speaks to a broader human truth: We all need to be needed.”

Source: Dalai Lama: Behind Our Anxiety, the Fear of Being Unneeded – The New York Times

This piece is lovely, and true. But it brings me know comfort. It is all about, and only about, human suffering and happiness. It is unfortunate that neither of these two men could teach the other about the suffering of our planet, the Antropocence, and the dangerous loss of bio-diverstiy due to a billion humans growing to 7.5 billion in the last 400 years. But this might be the greatest time ever to be alive, and reproducing at an unsustainable rate.

The Ultimate Protest Vote – by By SAÏD SAYRAFIEZADEH – The New York Times

“On Nov. 8 I will be going to the polls and voting, without hesitation or disinclination, for Hillary Clinton. But what a treacherous and unforgivable act this will be for my father, who will no doubt be supporting the only presidential candidate he believes has any chance of saving the United States from almost certain ruin: Alyson Kennedy.

You have probably never heard of Alyson Kennedy until now, and neither have you heard of her running mate, Osborne Hart, unless you happen to be a member of the Socialist Workers Party, as my father has been for the past 50 years, or you happen to have passed in recent months a folding table on a city street and been handed campaign literature explaining that “the only way forward is to organize independent working-class struggles that point toward overturning the dictatorship of capital.” This is the exact sentiment, word for word, that my family subscribed to when I was growing up, a sentiment that can be traced all the way back to Marx, and that held great power over me as a child, and that holds some power over me still, but that seems to hold no power over almost anyone else, including the working class.”

Source: The Ultimate Protest Vote – The New York Times

Who is this guy. I relate to his story, being a follower and disciple of Karl Marx myself, when I was about 16 to 18.

from Wikipedia:

“Saïd Sayrafiezadeh (born 1968)[1] is an American memoirist and fiction writer living in New York City. He won a 2010 Whiting Award for his memoir, When Skateboards Will Be Free. His short-story collection, Brief Encounters With the Enemy, was short-listed for the 2014 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for debut fiction. He serves on the board of directors for the New York Foundation for the Arts.


Sayrafiezadeh was born in Brooklyn, New York, to an Iranian father and an American Jewish mother, both of whom were members of the Socialist Workers Party. He was raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His maternal uncle is the novelist Mark Harris.[2] He lives in New York City.”