Miriam Pawel | Andrew Cuomo and How a Political Dynasty Dies – The New York Times

Ms. Pawel, a contributing Opinion writer, began reporting on Mario and Andrew Cuomo in 1983. She served as Newsday’s Albany bureau chief between 1984 and 1987.

“When I knew Andrew Cuomo, he was the 20-something top adviser to the governor he called Mario, and I was the 20-something Albany bureau chief for Newsday. I still remember how he ended our occasional phone calls: “Bye, hon,” hanging up immediately before I could protest. It was vintage Andrew — calculated and patronizing, a show of power.

Even in those early years after Mario Cuomo was first elected governor, in 1982, the differences between the two men were as apparent as their similarities. Both were ruthless competitors, prone to bullying. Both were control freaks, inclined to trust very few people outside a small circle of confidants.

But Mario Cuomo’s sharp elbows on the basketball court and pugilistic verbal gymnastics were wrapped in moral complexity, intellectual heft and Jesuitical questioning. His son exhibited none of those qualities. He had inherited his father’s fierce, win-at-any-cost competitive spirit without the humanity or introspection.”

David Brooks | What’s Ripping American Families Apart? – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

At least 27 percent of Americans are estranged from a member of their own family, and research suggests about 40 percent of Americans have experienced estrangement at some point.

The most common form of estrangement is between adult children and one or both parents — a cut usually initiated by the child. A study published in 2010 found that parents in the U.S. are about twice as likely to be in a contentious relationship with their adult children as parents in Israel, Germany, England and Spain.

The Cornell sociologist Karl Pillemer, author of “Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them,” writes that the children in these cases often cite harsh parenting, parental favoritism, divorce and poor and increasingly hostile communication often culminating in a volcanic event. As one woman told Salon: “I have someone out to get me, and it’s my mother. My part of being a good mom has been getting my son away from mine.”

” . . .  I confess, I don’t understand what’s causing this. But social pain and vulnerability are affecting everything: our families, schools, politics and even our sports.

A friend notes that politics has begun to feel like an arena where many people can process and regulate their emotional turmoil indirectly. Anxiety, depression and anger are hard to deal with within the tangled intimacy of family life. But political tribalism becomes a mechanism with which people can shore themselves up, vanquish shame, fight for righteousness and find a sense of belonging.

People who feel betrayed will lash out at someone if there is no one there to help them process their underlying hurt. As the Franciscan friar Richard Rohr wisely wrote, if we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.”    -30-

David Lindsay:  Thank you David Brooks for this sad but helpful essay.  This is another of your masterful organizations of excellent sources. You ended it with, “People who feel betrayed will lash out at someone if there is no one there to help them process their underlying hurt. As the Franciscan friar Richard Rohr wisely wrote, if we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.”
I hope you now write just about the idea in the last sentence by Richard Rohr, who happens to be one of my most important teachers on religion. He helped me to return to Christianity, through the big tent and environmentally conscious teachings of Saint Francis of Assis in his book, “Eager to Love.”
David Lindsay Jr is a writer and author who blogs at InconvenientNews.Net

Opinion | I’m Visually Disabled, And I Want to Show You How Life Looks Through My Eyes – The New York Times

James Robinson is a filmmaker from Portland, Me.

“In the Opinion video above, James Robinson, a filmmaker from Maine, shows what it feels like to live with several disabling eye conditions that have defied an array of treatments and caused him countless humiliations. Using playful graphics and enlisting his family as subjects in a series of optical tests, he invites others to view the world through his eyes.”

Why Jane Goodall Still Has Hope for Us Humans – The New York Times

“Wherever the story of our natural world ultimately lands, Jane Goodall will have earned a proud place in its telling. Goodall, 87, first found fame in the early 1960s for her paradigm-busting work as a primatologist. Studying the chimpanzees of Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania, she was the first to observe those entrancing animals eating meat and using tools, thus expanding our understanding of primate capabilities. While that work is likely to remain what the public primarily associates her with, Goodall’s career as an activist is arguably her more important legacy. She has spent 44 years leading conservation efforts through her Jane Goodall Institute and seeding the future with like-minded souls via the Roots & Shoots educational programs for young people, which can be found in more than 60 countries and have nurtured millions of students. “You just plod on and do what you can to make the world a better place,” said Goodall, speaking via Zoom from her childhood home in Bournemouth, England, and whose “The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times” will be published in October. “That’s all I can do. I can’t do more, I don’t think, than I’m doing.” “

Opinion | Frank Bruni: A Final Column on What it Means to Be a Columnist – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

This is the last of Frank Bruni’s regular Opinion columns, but his popular weekly newsletter will live on. To keep up with his political analysis, cultural commentary and personal reflections, sign up here.

“I owe Ted Cruz an apology.

Though, really, it’s readers to whom I should say I’m sorry.

One day in 2015 when I had a column due in hours and couldn’t settle on a topic, I took the easy route of unloading on Cruz, who was one of many unappealing contenders for the Republican presidential nomination. He was fair game for rebuke, no question there. But did I illuminate his dark character, enlighten my readers or advance any worthwhile cause by comparing him — repeatedly — to the unstoppable entity in the horror movie “It Follows”?

FRANK BRUNI: Get a more personal take on politics, newsmakers and more with Frank’s exclusive commentary every week.

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No. I just swam with the snide tide.

I did that too often. Many columnists do.

Starting, well, now, I’m a columnist no more. I’ve taken a job in academia and will split my time between teaching and writing. Maybe that’s best: Ten years is a long haul in any assignment, and while this one has been amply challenging and deeply rewarding, I always had misgivings.

I worried, and continue to worry, about the degree to which I and other journalists — opinion writers, especially — have contributed to the dynamics we decry: the toxic tenor of American discourse, the furious pitch of American politics, the volume and vitriol of it all.

I worry, too, about how frequently we shove ambivalence and ambiguity aside. Ambivalence and ambiguity aren’t necessarily signs of weakness or sins of indecision. They can be apt responses to events that we don’t yet understand, with outcomes that we can’t predict.”

By Margaret Renkl | Feeding the Hungry, One Wholesome Meal at a Time – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — When Tallu Schuyler Quinn started handing out sandwiches in Nashville’s homeless camps, she was responding to a need that seemed both obvious and intractable. People were hungry, and she fed them. In a few hours, they would be hungry again.

That was 2007, the year she established a Nashville branch of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, a nonprofit based in Austin, Texas. In 2009, Ms. Quinn planted an organic vegetable garden because hungry people need more than calories; they need nutritious calories. In 2010, when a devastating flood hit Middle Tennessee, she was ready — her team delivered 19,000 meals in just three weeks. Ms. Quinn was 30 years old.

As these efforts grew, the question of how to feed hungry people became Ms. Quinn’s life’s work. In 2011, she founded the Nashville Food Project, an organization whose mission is “Bringing people together to grow, cook and share nourishing food, with the goals of cultivating community and alleviating hunger in our city.” ” . . .

David Brooks | A Practical Guide to Building Trust – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Distrust is a cancer eating away at our society. It magnifies enmity, stifles cooperation and fuels conspiracy thinking. So the question is, how do you build trust?

Within organizations, trust is usually built by leaders who create environments that encourage people to behave with integrity, competence and benevolence.

That’s not just a matter of character, but of having the right practical skills — knowing what to do in complex situations to make people feel respected and safe. Here are some practices leaders have used in their companies and organizations to build trust:

Assume excellence. The more you monitor your employees’ behavior, the more distrusted they will feel and the more distrustful they will become. Leaders who trust their employees may tell them what to do, but they let them manage their own schedules and fulfill their responsibilities in their own ways. In the 1980s, Hewlett-Packard allowed engineers to take equipment home without a lot of formal paperwork, because they had confidence they would bring the stuff back.”

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:

Thank you David Brooks for another deep and challenging column. I see the paparazzi commentors here are furious that you don’t finger the Republicans, but they miss the the clear waters, in their pain and anger. Here is one of my favorite of your paragraphs: “Answer distrust with trust. People who have learned to be distrusting will resist your friendship because they assume you will eventually betray them. If you keep showing up for them after they have rejected you, it will eventually change their lives.” This wisdom alone is priceless. I inherited from my father, his six volume biography “Abraham Lincoln” by Carl Sandburg, and eventually, I read all six books. I then new Abraham Lincom better than I knew anyone in my own family. The paragraph above captures Lincoln’s political genius. He was mistreated many times in politics, and in every case reported by Sandburg, Lincoln turned the other cheek, and amazed his critics and enemies, by his willingness to foregive and forget, and reach out with kindness or helpfulness. It was two scoundrels who had betrayed him before, whom he treated with kindness, who allowed him to become the candiate for president of his new Republican party, at its ugly and divided convention. There are hundreds of examples of this advice, Answer distrust with trust, in the life of Abraham Lincoln.

David Lindsay Jr is the author of the Tay Son Rebellion about 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.

Margaret Renkl | We Were Called to Sacrifice as a Nation. We Didn’t Answer. – The New York Times

“. . .  In 1906, the American philosopher William James delivered an address at Stanford University that was later published as “Proposing the Moral Equivalent of War.” In it, he made the case for a form of compulsory national service that would instill the same virtues as those so often ascribed to military service. Without the fear and brutality of war, national service would be a morally uncomplicated way for young people “to get the childishness knocked out of them, and to come back into society with healthier sympathies and soberer ideas.”

Some of James’s own sober ideas have not survived the test of time. He thought, for instance, that waging “immemorial human warfare against nature” was an apt use of young people conscripted into national service, though the human war against nature has never needed reinforcements. We have been waging unceasing war against nature for the entire history of humanity.

Nevertheless, the need for some nonmartial way to nurture communitarian qualities is more urgent now than ever. We have lately been reminded of the absolute necessity for Americans to be motivated by warm fellow feeling across divides of region, race, class, politics, religion, age, gender or ability; to cultivate a sense of common purpose; to make sacrifices for the sake of others. And that reminder came in the form of watching what happens when such qualities are absent, even anathema, in whole regions of the country.  . . .”

“. . . In short, the coronavirus pandemic became a perfect illustration of James’s “moral equivalent of war.” We weren’t fighting a human enemy, but we were fighting for our lives even so. This national calamity, this invasion by a destructive and unstoppable force, was our chance to come together across every possible division. We could finally remember how to sacrifice on behalf of our fellow Americans, how to mourn together the unfathomable losses — not just of life but of security, camaraderie, the capacity for hope.

Plenty of Americans — essential workers, first responders, hospital staff, teachers and many others — lost their lives because they made such sacrifices. Millions more complied unhesitatingly with measures designed to keep the most vulnerable among us safe. But too, too many of us did not. Too many were hostile to the very idea that they should alter their behavior even in the smallest way for the sake of strangers. . . . “

David Swensen, Who Revolutionized Endowment Investing, Dies at 67 – The New York Times

David Swensen, a money manager who gave up a lucrative Wall Street career to oversee Yale University’s endowment and proceeded to revolutionize endowment investing, in the process making Yale’s the best-performing fund in the country over a 20-year period, died on Wednesday in New Haven, Conn. He was 67.

His wife, Meghan McMahon, said the cause was kidney cancer, which he had since 2012. He died at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Mr. Swensen’s innovation at Yale was to shift endowment investing from a formulaic menu of stocks and bonds to a portfolio that included hedge funds and even timberlands. When he took over at Yale in 1985, the endowment was worth $1.3 billion. Since then it has grown to $31.2 billion, passing those at both Princeton and the University of Texas and trailing only Harvard University’s.

Mr. Swensen was particularly proud of how the growing endowment had helped the university contribute to financial aid. . . . “

Margaret Renkl | Mother’s Day Can Be Painful. It Can Also Reconnect Us to the World. – The New York Times

“A contributing Opinion writer based in Nashville who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

Mother’s Day is still nearly a week away, but there are buds on the antique rambling rose that my mother rooted for me from her grandmother’s rose, and it will be in full bloom by Sunday, as it always is on Mother’s Day. My husband will make brunch. Our adult children will come over, and we’ll bring my husband’s 92-year-old father over, too, because he lives for family gatherings and has felt the loss of them more acutely than any of us. We’re all vaccinated now, but we won’t soon forget how it feels to be kept apart.

Mother’s Day has always cast a shadow of sadness for me, even before the pandemic turned every day into a memento mori. My paternal grandmother died before I was born, when Dad was only 24. He always threw himself into making Mother’s Day brunch a special event for Mom — and for her mother and grandmother — but he never stopped mourning his own mother, the one for whom I am named.

So I learned early on what a loaded holiday this can be. It’s terrible for those who mourn a mother now gone, and also for those whose mothers were just not equipped to nurture a child. It’s terrible for women who desperately wanted to be mothers but couldn’t be, and also for women who didn’t want to be mothers but are too often vilified for that perfectly reasonable choice. It’s beyond terrible for women who have lost a child.

I have family and friends who struggle on Mother’s Day for all these reasons. I think of them when I think, as I inevitably do on this day in May, of how much I miss my mother. The world has enough suffering in it without inventing a holiday that causes so much pain, and I would gladly eradicate it from the calendar if I could.

But painful as it can be, Mother’s Day also reminds me of how wondrously motherhood unites me with so much of the animal kingdom. My youngest child outgrew being a hip baby 20 years ago, but I have to stop myself from reaching out for a crying infant in the checkout line, and I swear I feel the urge to protect the hatchlings in my nest box as deeply as their mother does. We are partners in this enterprise of bringing baby bluebirds into the world, she and I, no matter that she doesn’t know it.

The need to protect and nurture young is a biological imperative shared by a surprising array of creatures. Ambivalence about the holiday notwithstanding, I will gladly play every cute-animal video and click through every cute-animal slide show that crops up on the internet at this time of year. Who could resist the lioness purring as she licks her cub’s belly, or a fox carrying her kit to safety by the scruff of its neck, or a giant-taloned hawk carefully nudging her curious eyas back beneath the safety of her breast?

I’m especially fond of the nurturing animals that we don’t associate with nurturing at all: the wolf spider carrying her tiny spiderlings on her back, the alligator tenderly carrying her baby in her mouth, the timber rattlesnake protectively encircling her hatchlings, the broad-headed skink silently guarding her eggs in the dark.

And as difficult as it is to stand witness to another’s grieving, it comforts me to be reminded of the universality of grief, to remember that we are not alone in our suffering, or in where we look for solace. I think of Rosamund Young’s delightful memoir, “The Secret Life of Cows,” and her story of the grieving young mother who sought her own mother for comfort, from three fields away, after the stillbirth of her calf. I think of the orca carrying her dead calf for 17 days, across a thousand miles of ocean, because she could not bear to let the baby go. (Last fall she gave birth again, this time to an apparently healthy calf.)  . . . . “

DL:  Thank you Margaret Renkl.   There are also  189 comments, many of which are extraordinary.