Teen Girl on FB Acts Like Teen Girl on FB: Dad Shoots Her Laptop

Unbeknownst to many other Americans, upwards of 26 million Americans have now watched a Youtube video created by one Tommy Jordan, a North Carolina father, an IT specialist and a potential reality show folk hero, in which he lectures his 15-year-old daughter about life in general and her life in particular.

The climax, and I mean climax, comes as he points his 45 at her laptop, lying on the patchy winter lawn outside his house, and shoots it full of nine exploding hollow-point bullets.  As he fires into the laptop, he tells his daughter she now owes him not only for the $130 worth of software he spent six hours the day before installing for her, gratis, but also for the cost of the bullets themselves, “about a dollar apiece.” Nice touch.

Why did he do this?  To teach his daughter a lesson.

What did she do that provoked this dramatic form of education?

She behaved like a rebellious, entitled, self-centered adolescent.  In other words, she was just doing what comes naturally to many in their teens.  Specifically, she chose to air her differences with her father on her Facebook wall in the mistaken belief that it was visible only to her FB friends. “To My Parents,” she’d written, and then unloaded her grievances.

What she didn’t take into account — hello? — is that her father is an IT guy.  He got behind her firewall and produced a fire wall of his own — all over her laptop.

Or, to be accurate, her ex-laptop.

In a well-spoken, indignant rant that might remind some — in part — of one of the finer Monty Python skits ever (The Four Yorkshiremen), Mr. Jordan informs his daughter that when he was 15, he was not only in high school, but was also studying in college at the same time and had a two paying jobs and was a volunteer fireman.  His daughter, whose only responsibilities in life, as he puts it, are to do a few household chores, which by his estimate, take well under ten minutes a day, get up in the morning, and get on the school bus.

Speaking for a generation of parents who had to lug heavy typewriters if they wanted to write anything that wasn’t hand-written, and had to put a dime, later upped to a quarter, into the coin slot of  an invariably inconveniently-located pay phone in order to make a telephone call when not at home, Mr. Jordan’s indignation has spread across the land as did the most memorable line of the 1976  movie, Network“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”  Although now, in 2012, that outrage is viral and on steroids, thanks to Youtube.

The Youtube has, unsurprisingly, sparked an avalanche of comments, the vast majority cheering him on as “Father of the Year,” another simply writing, “Justice.”  A small minority of others ask bluntly, “Are you nuts?” and “This is how you teach your daughter a lesson?”

As of this writing, the video that first went live on February 8th has garnered 289,058 “likes” and 27,053 “dislikes.”  The ayes definitely have it in the country at large.

Here on PJM?  Only you can say.

h/t: Soccer Mom

The Chastened Adulterer: How an Affair Is Like a Heart Attack and The Case for Psychotherapy

Dear Belladonna Rogers,

I read your last advice column, “Adultery Is Bad, Telling Your Spouse Is Worse,” and the comments it provoked. I have a question that no one raised: is it possible for a chastened adulterer to become a good — even a great — spouse?

Chastened in Chicago

 

Dear Chastened,

The answer is a resounding yes.  With serious introspection — if at all possible aided by serious psychotherapy with a licensed, qualified, and, in a best case scenario, a highly experienced therapist — yes.

Note: To avoid the awkward “his/her,” “himself/herself” phrasing, I’ll refer to “him” in this column, by which I intend to include “her.”  Whenever I refer to a “husband” and his conduct toward his wife, it applies equally to a wife’s conduct toward her husband, or any partner’s behavior toward his or her partner.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough that your post-adultery decision to make an effort to mend your wandering ways and succeed at becoming a good or great husband should not begin with confessing your adultery to your wife, unless you’re forced by circumstances to do so.

There were many comments last week to the effect that if you don’t confess, your spouse will love a person who isn’t “the real you.” My reply is that no one knows everything, even everything important, about his spouse. It’s neither helpful nor useful to make such a confession. It’s hurtful and counterproductive to the marriage.

One reader wrote that since infidelity is grounds for divorce, a secret adulterer deprives his wife of the knowledge that she has the legal basis for ending the marriage. To that I say that if the husband has ended his affair and is seeking to keep his marriage and family intact, it makes no sense whatsoever for him to inform his wife that she has grounds for a divorce.  That’s the last thing he wants or, frankly, should want.

Others emphasized that absolution requires an apology to the person you betrayed. While no Judeo-Christian-based religion condones adultery, I stand with the commenter last week.

Confessions to a member of the clergy can certainly give one a good start on the road to fidelity in marriage. For at least the past 20 years, many Catholic priests hearing confessions of adultery have recommended psychotherapy, and have even given their parishioners the names of competent therapists.

 WHY A CHASTENED ADULTERER CAN, POTENTIALLY, MAKE A BETTER SPOUSE THAN ONE WHO HAS NEVER STRAYED (NOT AN ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF ADULTERY)

An errant husband with a deep desire to mend his ways by understanding why he’s been vulnerable to, or even open to, extramarital temptation has the potential to become an even better husband after an affair (or after decades of affairs with numerous partners) than a non-adulterous spouse.  This is not a recommendation to commit adultery. It’s just a statement of fact.

Unlike a faithful husband, an adulterer must — if only briefly — contemplate how much he’d lose if his wife learned of his extramarital conduct.

A man who has looked into the terrifying abyss of life without his partner and children is a man unlikely to take his wife for granted.  He’s come too close to losing her and he knows it.

To change his ways, the adulterous husband must examine the inner triggers that have led him into adultery, be it once or serially.

Some may sneer that the “inner triggers” require no advanced degrees to decipher. The triggers consist of nothing more complex than an appealing cleavage, a lively smile, gorgeous legs, an attractive posterior, or a suggestive come-hither gaze across a crowded room.

Wrong!

Such enticements are almost everywhere.  Why is a man prone to respond to one temptation, but not to all?

Through serious therapy, an individual can discover clues to when and why the urge to wander occurs. When is he most vulnerable? It may seem like a no-brainer that the reason the urge occurs is that temptation has suddenly reared its head, but the question remains: why was one vulnerable then?  Or, if always vulnerable, why is one constantly at risk?

HOW POST-ADULTERY THERAPY IS LIKE RECOVERING FROM A MAJOR HEART ATTACK

The conscious decision to make a fundamental change in one’s personal life is analogous to the choice to act in a way to make a second heart attack unlikely after a first one.

By and largewhen one has dodged a life-threatening bullet of any kind, one has a keener sense of gratitude for everyday reality than someone who hasn’t ever felt the soul-chilling breath of the Angel of Death hovering close, or who’s never realized how close he has come to losing his marriage.  It can be sobering and life-changing.

When you’ve dodged The Big One, you know it.

As in the period after a first heart attack, when diet and exercise and other lifestyle changes must be made to avoid a second brush with death, in the time after an affair a man who wants to become a faithful husband must make a conscious decision to change his ways.

No cardiologist or heart surgeon, no matter how brilliant or learned, can keep a cheeseburger or a slice of pizza out of the hands or mouth of a man who refuses to accept that these foods will do nothing but produce fleeting, albeit intense, pleasure while also coating the interior of his arteries with life-threatening plaque.

The choice of whether to prevent another heart attack or to prevent another adulterous affair is one that only the individual can make.  A choice to change one’s patterns of behavior requires high motivation and Herculean resolve.  A trained physician or therapist can help, but not unless the patient feels a deep need to behave differently in order to produce a different response to the same stimulus the next time.

Menus and potential lovers will never change: they’ll always offer up their ephemeral raptures. It is the individual who must change his approach to them – or else suffer a repetition of the past, over and over and over again, just like in Groundhog Day.

 THE AGING PROCESS WILL NOT MAGICALLY CHANGE ADULTEROUS BEHAVIOR 

If you think that “waiting it out” will work – that the onset of one’s sixties, seventies, eighties, or nineties will, without serious introspection and a strong desire to change, magically “solve” the problem of being a wandering spouse — think again.

The emotional impulses will remain unchanged.  All that will change is that the flesh will require greater patience and longer periods of physical stimulation to accomplish the act.

THERAPY IS NOT JUST “FOR OTHER PEOPLE”

As for psychotherapy, those who think it’s only for others are making a mistake.  Everyone can benefit from greater knowledge of his inner life.  Without the clarity of vision that the hard work of therapy entails, one is fated to make the same errors, and fall into the same traps, again and again and again, leaving untold destruction in one’s wake, and doing untold damage to oneself. One can pretend otherwise, but pretending won’t make it so.

 HOW THERAPY CAN HELP

A fine portrayal of how therapy works can be found not in a film about psychiatry — and there’ve been dozens – nor in the HBO series In Treatment, which was OK as entertainment but not as a serious portrayal of psychotherapy, but rather in the 2010 movie The King’s Speech.

It skillfully tells the story of the man who became King George VI, the father of the present queen of England, who was afflicted with an agonizing problem of stammering, leading to minutes of total silence when the BBC broadcast his early public addresses.

Through his wife’s intervention, he consulted a speech therapist who immediately sought to learn about the future monarch’s childhood. “We don’t wish you to examine his childhood.  Just fix his stammer,” his wife ordered the therapist.

As the film unfolds, however, the future king does, in fact, examine his childhood and comes to recognize the hitherto invisible links between how he felt as a small, defenseless, and abused child and his inability to speak without mortifying pauses as an adult.  He begins to connect the dots that connect his earliest years to his present impediment.

In 1939,  after years of intense introspection and resolute, hard work with Lionel Logue, his speech therapist, the king must make a historic speech on the radio to his country and the entire British Empire, informing millions of his subjects around the globe that they are now at war with Hitler’s Germany.

He succeeds brilliantly. Without the will to examine his inner life, he would have been doomed to stammer his way through six years of wartime BBC broadcasts. Instead, he became, along with his wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, an inspiring speaker to the British and the Allies throughout the long, arduous war.

 SUBSTITUTING THE CONQUEST OF INNER DEMONS FOR THE QUEST FOR EXTERNAL TRAPPINGS

With the necessary will and the necessary help, demons can be conquered. What is needed is the determination that leads to intense, deeply motivated effort. Promises and resolutions to do better in the future will inevitably be broken without doing the work to connect the dots and to understand why a person does what he does.

Yes, it takes time, and yes, it takes money.  The time will pass, anyway: it’s better spent in therapy than in bed with a lover.  On balance, psychotherapy can be enormously worthwhile, far more so than any material object – from a closetful of shoes to a powerful, flashy vehicle or a humongous-sized television screen. Many therapists offer sliding scales of fees to enable all to benefit. If you believe that a new thing (or person) will make you feel better, it or she won’t — except fleetingly. The benefits of psychotherapy will outlast anything else you can buy.

Nothing in life is more costly than the errors we make because of woeful ignorance of ourselves.

 TO CHANGE FROM CHASTENED ADULTERER TO GREAT HUSBAND OR WIFE

I will end with part of a 1644 essay by John Milton, the towering poet of Paradise Lost who also wrote an essay titled “Areopagitica (emphasis added:)

Good and evill we know in the field of this World grow up together almost inseparably; and the knowledge of good is so involv’d and interwoven with the knowledge of evill, and in so many cunning resemblances hardly to be discern’d, that those confused seeds which were impos’d on Psyche as an incessant labour to cull out, and sort asunder, were not more intermixt. It was from out the rinde of one apple tasted, that the knowledge of good and evill as two twins cleaving together leapt forth into the World. And perhaps this is that doom which Adam fell into of knowing good and evill, that is to say of knowing good by evill. As therefore the state of man now is; what wisdome can there be to choose, what continence to forbeare without the knowledge of evill? He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true wayfaring Christian. I cannot praise a fugitive and cloister’d vertue, unexercis’d & unbreath’d, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortall garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat. Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world, we bring impurity much rather: that which purifies us is triall, and triall is by what is contrary.

Each of our lives involves trial by that which “is contrary.”  To win those trials and emerge stronger and better human beings, we must subject ourselves to the arduous task of self-understanding.  Without that, all the tearful and abject apologies, all the confessions of guilt to one’s spouse and endless promises of change are just so much hot air.

To change is to work at change, not to believe that absolution or forgiveness is all it takes. It wasn’t in 1644, it isn’t now, and it never will be.

— Belladonna Rogers

Adultery Is Bad. Telling Your Spouse Is Worse

Dear Belladonna Rogers,

I love my wife but I’ve committed adultery. I know it’s wrong, morally, religiously, spiritually and in every way. Reading your column last week on apologizing, I’m writing to ask if I should apologize for my infidelity even though my wife is unaware of it. What should I do if my wife suspects and confronts me?  Should I confirm her suspicions, make a clean breast of it and apologize? I know I’d feel better.

Sinner in Salt Lake City

Dear Sinner,

Adultery is the one thing to which you should never admit unless your wife discovers you in the act. The line, “Honey, this isn’t what it looks like” will be of no avail. It is exactly what it looks like. Assuming she hasn’t found you in flagrante delicto, here’s my advice:

CONFESSING ADULTERY TO AN UNAWARE SPOUSE IS CRUEL AND UNWISE

An adulterer’s need to confess and “make a clean breast of it” is both supremely selfish and  monumentally unwise.  If the urge to “confess” is overwhelming, then make your confession to a professional — religious or secular.  With a minister, therapist, or counselor you can give free vent to your impulse to disclose your adultery and discuss your feelings about it in complete confidentiality without being brutally cruel to the person you love.

Having made one crummy decision, your two options of what to do next are similarly crummy. Bad actions beget bad options.  The lesser of the two evils that I favor involves treating your wife with kindness by omitting to tell her what you did. The one I oppose involves confessing your infidelity to her, thus inflicting needless pain while not undoing your error.  Nothing will ever undo your error, including confessing it to your wife and apologizing for it.

A confession will irreparably destroy trust, the indispensable foundation of all relationships.

Under no circumstances — no matter how drunk, how angry, how deliriously high on any substance you may be, and regardless of how sorely tempted you may feel in a moment of guilt or intimacy to reveal “everything” about yourself and “get it off your chest,” and “make a clean breast of it” — does it make sense to reveal adultery to your spouse.  Even on your deathbed, the urge to “bare all” before drawing your final breath should be suppressed: this is an unconscionably cruel way to say goodbye.

HOW CONFESSING ADULTERY ONLY MAKES A BAD SITUATION WORSE

(1) By disclosing your adultery, you’ll be hurting the one person you love more than anyone else in the world.  Your urge to confess and beg forgiveness does not outweigh your responsibility to be kind, considerate, and to avoid inflicting pain and suffering. Confessing is cruel.

(2) It will inevitably lead to your spouse telling your children, if you have any.  If they are young, this will have long-term negative effects on their behavior when they’re married.  Children learn by the example set by their parents far more than by what their parents tell them is right or what their religious training teaches them is right or wrong.

(3) Revealing your adultery, especially soon after it has occurred, will increase the chances that your wife will do the same to you, motivated by a number of impulses, including:

(A)  Reassurance: There’s nothing quite like adultery to make a person feel abandoned, unloved, unlovable, and unattractive. One way many spouses of adulterers cope with feelings of rejection is by seeking comfort — as well as confirmation that they’re still emotionally and physically appealing — with a partner outside the marriage.

(B) Retaliation: to let the errant spouse know exactly how it feels to be cheated on. To show him or her that “two can play this game.”

(C) Punishment: a powerful desire to inflict emotional pain on the spouse who cheated first, a desire that never would have existed if the originally errant spouse hadn’t blurted out, in a foolishly self-destructive moment of candor or weakness, that he or she committed adultery.

ADMITTING ADULTERY LEADS TO A SPIRAL OF MISERY

The original disclosure of adultery is thus likely to set in motion a spiral of misery that can lead to divorce even when the couple is no longer in the bloom of youth. While examples abound, here’s a recent one to contemplate as you ponder whether to confess, courtesy of The Telegraph in December 2011 (emphasis added):

99-Year-old Divorces Wife After He Discovered 1940s Affair

An Italian couple are to become the world’s oldest divorcees, after the 99-year-old husband found that his 96-year-old wife had an affair in the 1940s

The Italian man, identified by lawyers in the case only as Antonio C, was rifling through an old chest of drawers when he made the discovery a few days before Christmas. Notwithstanding the time that had elapsed since the betrayal, he was so upset that he immediately confronted his wife of 77 years, named as Rosa C, and demanded a divorce. Guilt-stricken, she reportedly confessed everything but was unable to persuade her husband to reconsider his decision. She wrote the letters to her lover during a secret affair in the 1940s, according to court papers released in Rome this week. The couple are now preparing to split, despite the ties they forged over nearly eight decades – they have five children, a dozen grandchildren and one great-grand child.

WHY THINKING YOU’LL “FEEL BETTER” AFTER CONFESSING ADULTERY TO AN UNSUSPECTING SPOUSE IS A PATHETIC, DELUSIONAL FANTASY

Like the guilt-stricken “Rosa C.,” many a cheating or formerly cheating spouse will experience guilt followed by an overwhelming impulse to “tell the truth.”

This overwhelming impulse must itself be overcome by a far more constructive resolve to understand the devastation confession will wreak, even if accompanied by tearful, abject, heartfelt apologies and a promise never to stray again. The choice of confession is nothing but a pure, unmitigated self-centered mistake. 

It’s likely that the confessing spouse will, in fact, “feel better” after baring his or her soul. But that feeling will be more fleeting than the light of a firefly.  A husband surely won’t feel better when, a week later, he receives a text from his wife saying that the dentist kept her waiting…until midnight… to fill that cavity. What cavity?  That cavity.

DEALING WITH A SUSPICIOUS SPOUSE

What if a spouse suspects and confronts the delinquent spouse?

Suspicion is part of life and therefore of marriage.  Suspicion is a subdivision of thinking. If we have minds, we think.  If we think, we wonder. Only spouses afflicted with deeply flawed thinking seize the opportunity afforded by a spouse’s inquiry to reply, “Well, you’ve pretty much guessed, anyway, so I may as well tell you that that person I work with — the one who calls here all the time? –well, he’s (or she’s) got the hots for me. One night we were the last people in the office, and the next thing we knew we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. I don’t know what got into us.”

Bad idea! If the worried spouse expresses a hunch or a suspicion, the other spouse reassures. He or she does not leap at the chance to blurt out the truth. A loving husband or wife reassures rather than blurts.

Never ever, ever, ever, ever give in to the temptation to tell the truth if adultery (even once) is the truth. With adultery, once is the same as 100 times.  It’s the infidelity, the unfaithfulness, not the precise number of times or partners.  “Only” doesn’t modify “once” when it comes to adultery. Confessing to having had even a single one-night stand will cast a long, dark, irreversible shadow over all the days of your marriage.

“SHUT UP,” SHE EXPLAINED

If your infidelity is a result of an inherent problem in your marriage, or a personal problem of yours, you might find it helpful to address that problem in counseling or therapy with either a religious or secular professional. Flinging an act of infidelity at your wife is no way to deal with an intrinsic difficulty in your marriage or in yourself.

Making your spouse miserable is not an appropriate cure for your feelings of guilt.  The cure is to end the affair and to keep your error locked in your heart forever.

My advice is at odds with the mantra of the Oprah-and-Dr.-Phil-besotted, revelation-obsessed swampland in which we dwell.  Although admitting one’s intimate transgressions on national TV makes for high Nielsen ratings, such a confession does nothing to strengthen a marriage.

To paraphrase the writer Ring Lardner in his 1920 book The Young Immigrants, “‘Shut up,’ she explained.”

Discretion — not confession — is the better part of valor.

–Belladonna Rogers

Four Congressional Democrats to Oil and Gas Industries: Drop Dead

Ira Stoll’s brilliant blog, FutureOfCapitalism.com reports one of the most anti-capitalist, pro-stupid proposals in recent memory today, in which four House Democrats have taken it upon themselves to propose to the president a “Reasonable Profits Board” for the oil and gas industries, and they further propose a 50% to 100% tax on any profits above what the fatuous “Reasonable Profits Board” decides are…reasonable.  As Stoll writes

This legislation doesn’t look like it’s moving anywhere at the moment (two of the original six co-sponsors have withdrawn their support), but it’s newsworthy as an illumination of how certain elements — Congressmen John Conyers, Dennis Kucinich, Bob Filner, Lynn Woolsey — on the left think.

This is beyond “the left.”  It wanders aimlessly and cluelessly into the world of Soviet economics — an oxymoron. The Soviet Union’s economic system imploded with the Soviet Union itself. Five-year plans, fulfilling government-ordered quotas, ignoring extraneous elements of an economy such as supply and demand — all this and more sunk the Soviet Union of Socialist Republics in 1991.

How stupid can four Democrats be? This stupid.

And why confine the “Reasonable Profits Board”‘s purview  to oil and gas?  What about the manufacturing and housing industries? Steel and metals? What about media companies and children’s toy companies?  Why exempt publishing companies and telephone companies and hospitals?

As Emily Litella might ask, “What’s this I hear about communism?”  If the four Democrats have their way, we’ll be on the road to a controlled economy with Washington telling private industries across the board how high their profits may rise and taxing them mercilessly if they dare make one extra dollar.

What exactly about capitalism is so repugnant to President Obama and his minions in the House and Senate?  It’s one thing not to know much about geography and history but to seek to play so extravagantly fast and loose with the basics of a capitalist economy is really, really stupid.

Why Apologies Matter

Dear Belladonna Rogers,

Recently, someone who didn’t realize we’d once been close, introduced me to a former friend. Years ago, my former friend did something no friend should ever do, which is why we became ex-friends. When we were introduced, my ex-friend extended her hand but I withheld mine, which I’ve never done in my life.

To my surprise, a few days later I received a heartfelt letter of apology from my ex-friend expressing remorse for her dreadful behavior, which she outlined in the same detail that I too remembered, from many years ago. I responded immediately, forgiving her, and saying how rare it is to receive such an apology.

Why are apologies so rare? Do people believe that by not owning up to their errors and the harm they’ve caused that no one will be the wiser?

Puzzled in Peoria

Dear Puzzled,

Many see an apology as a sign of weakness, believing that only the weak apologize. Since ancient times, the vulnerable have depended on the strong. Slaves bowed and apologized to owners; serfs apologized to feudal lords; courtiers apologized to royalty; employees apologized to employers. The reverse was considered unthinkable.

This tradition is unfortunately still with us: for the powerless, apologies are mandatory; for the powerful, they’re unnecessary.

This shouldn’t exist in modern life but it does, partly because many behave as if they’re “Masters of the Universe,” in Tom Wolfe’s apt phrase from his 1987 novel The Bonfire of the Vanities

When one friend hurts another, a caring friend apologizes at once. The Master or Mistress of the Universe doesn’t: it’s the difference between being empathic and being arrogant.

Some people have more trouble apologizing than others.  As the gifted psychoanalyst Dr. Nancy McWilliams has written, narcissists have particular difficulty expressing remorse because to them it implies fallibility and personal error, admissions that are psychologically intolerable to such people.

Apologies can be difficult for everyone. An apology includes a clear statement of one’s error or offense, such as being disrespectful, underhanded, mean-spirited, deceitful, disloyal, unfair, hurtful, condescending, inconsiderate, insulting, heartless, cruel, abusive, as well as negligent, careless, feckless, and reckless.

Is it pleasant to acknowledge that you’ve been any of these?  No. It takes self-awareness, backbone, and a strong desire to do right by another human being.

Apologies matter if you value a relationship.

If you imagine that by procrastinating or refusing to apologize you’ll evade responsibility forever and make the damage you produced vanish into thin air, you’re fooling only yourself. Your friends or family members may no longer mention the injury you caused, but that doesn’t mean a painful, unhealed wound doesn’t remain. It’s never too late to apologize, even decades after you inflicted harm. But, as Benjamin Franklin said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”

If you don’t know what you’ve done to hurt or alienate someone: ask. Don’t offer a vague, blanket apology “for anything I may have done” or peremptorily insist that the injured person “forget about this; it isn’t important.”  These tactics show greater concern for yourself — and your need to “get past this unpleasantness” with transparently empty, unfeeling words — than for the person you’ve hurt.

A real, rather than a pro forma, apology also expresses genuine remorse.

What doesn’t constitute an apology is a one-word, “Sorry,” except for minimal inconveniences. For anything serious, “sorry” is a brush-off masquerading as an apology. If you seek to minimize the gravity of the harm you inflicted, then “sorry” will convey that. Like a shrug accompanied by “Whatever,” it expresses casual dismissal.

As is often noted, an apology is invalidated by the weaselly word “if” — as in, “I’m sorry if I did anything to offend you.” Nor should an apology blame the injured person for being hurt, as in, “I’m sorry you were upset.” Both forms of pseudo-apology fail to take responsibility for causing the other person’s distress and implicitly criticize the victim for his or her reasonable response to mistreatment.

It takes a mature and psychologically secure human being to offer a genuine apology. Far from being a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. An employer who apologizes for an unfair outburst to an employee will gain greater respect, not lose face.

It also takes a decent person to forgive. Indeed, there’s a moral imperative to forgive if you believe the apology is genuine, if you can forgive in good faith, and if the offense is, in fact, forgivable — which not all are.

You don’t have to stroll arm-in-arm into the mist with the person who’s apologized to you, although a genuine apology can be the beginning – or the continuation — of a beautiful friendship.  If not, it will at least put an honorable end to a relationship, like a firm period instead of an emotionally irritating semi-colon.

— Belladonna Rogers

In Praise of Worry

Dear Belladonna Rogers,

I’m a worrier. My husband says worrying does no good, wastes time, and won’t help. Is he right?

Worried in Wyoming

Dear Worried,

No.

While too much worry creates stress, which is hazardous to your health, too little worry can be just as dangerous. The anthem of the International Association of Worriers — which doesn’t exist, but one day might — could be the popular song by Randy Newman in the YouTube clip above.

We all worry.  The difference is not between worriers and non-worriers but between people who acknowledge they worry and those who don’t. The second group may think they’re not worrying, but they’re unaware that they are.  To err is human, as is to worry.  Those who say they’re not worried show their inner turmoil in many ways, from hair-pulling to beard-tugging, to drinking in excess, to sleeping or eating too little or too much.

Neurotic worry, or obsessive, repetitive thinking about a problem iscounterproductive.  But wisely directed worry can solve problems and lead to vastly improved outcomes.

People who claim not to worry enjoy mocking those who recognize they do, calling them worrywarts, fussbudgets, fusspots, handwringers, and Nervous Nellies.

Even the otherwise judicious Roman rhetorician, Marcus Annaeus Seneca, said, “There is nothing so wretched or foolish as to anticipate misfortunes. What madness is it in expecting evil before it arrives?”  Right.  Guess he never had to prepare for a hurricane, a blizzard, a flood, or a child’s college tuition payments.

Echoing Seneca, some people prefer to be what they consider “tough,” “mature,” “realistic,” or “stoic,” boasting, “I never worry because it serves no purpose.  If something is out of my hands, there’s no point in my worrying about it.” Both assertions are inaccurate but the second sentence is more so. Rarely are situations completely beyond our ability to improve their outcomes.  Believing that something is out of our hands doesn’t make it so: we can make an enormous difference for the better through actions we take after some beneficial worry.

But no situation will bend to our efforts to improve it if we believe “nothing can be done” and “it’s out of my hands.”  Those responses aren’t merely dismissive of the benefits of worry, they’re hostile to the notion that worry can produce positive consequences.  Such passive attitudes are far more detrimental to your health and happiness than is worrying.

Worrying constructively can change the outcome of the troubling situation for the better. The productive worrier is often thinking about what options are available in difficult circumstances, choices that could make the source of worry less threatening — less worrisome.

Case in point: after Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938, Sigmund Freud’s daughter, the gifted psychoanalyst Anna Freud, was deeply and justifiably worried about her father’s safety. Both she and her 82-year-old father had been questioned at Gestapo Headquarters in Vienna, a terrifying experience that could have led to an immediate deportation order to transport them to a death camp.  By worrying and using her worrying to come up with a successful escape to London, Anna Freud was able to save her mother and her father, as well as herself from certain death in concentration camps, which was the tragic fate of all of Sigmund Freud’s four older sisters.

More recently, Andrew Grove, the retired co-founder and CEO of Intel, the pioneering microchip company, titled his classic business book Only The Paranoid Survive.  He would know: while he and his mother, Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary, were sheltered by friends during World War II, Grove’s father was imprisoned in a concentration camp, which he survived.

Grove’s book focuses on the need to stay competitive in business, where sudden changes in regulation, innovation, and market forces require pivoting on a dime. Worry in business and at many places of employment is essential: competition from other companies and from others within your workplace create the necessity for worry.  Others are trying to surpass, supplant, and outdo you or your enterprise.  Unruffled, over-confident complacency is unwise.

To skip through life with nary a care may seem to be an agreeable way to go, but you probably won’t go far. In his penetrating book, The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker illuminates the critical importance of being realistically worried about the dangers that surround us.

While necessity is the mother of invention, worry is the parent of prudence. Not only in business, but also in our daily lives, being on the qui vive can prevent disaster.

When you’re driving, for example, worry is as functional as knowing how to brake.  If it never occurs to you on a Saturday night or on New Year’s Eve that other drivers could be drunk, you will be more likely to conclude your evening in an accident, a hospital emergency room, or on a marble slab at the morgue than if you’d worried and been hyper-alert.

If you’re in the woods and are happily unconcerned about poison ivy, you could discover the shiny three-leafed plant has left you with some maddeningly irritating souvenirs.

A happy-go-lucky unmarried man with a “What Me, Worry?” tattoo can go condomless as often as he pleases, until a gnawing itch is diagnosed as herpes, or other symptoms turn out to be syphilis, gonorrhea, or worse.

Being worried enough to wear a condom isn’t being a fussbudget.  It’s being smart.

In family finances, not to mention the federal budget, worrying about disaster compels the prudent person or government to put aside money for a rainy day.  Worry is the cause of saving, which can be the difference between having a home and being homeless, having a Triple A bond rating, or being downgraded.

In political life, if we weren’t worried, we wouldn’t vote at all.

Forward-thinking worry is part of a realistic person’s intellectual and emotional suit of armor in dealing with what Hamlet called the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.   Do not ask for whom worrying is indispensable.  It’s indispensable for you.

Worry isn’t just for worrywarts: it’s for us all.

— Belladonna Rogers

Sex Addiction 101

“Sex Addiction Among Women Real and Growing”

Now that I have your attention, I’d like to say that I don’t believe that headline, which recently appeared online.  At least I don’t believe that sex addiction among any group is “growing.”  I do believe, however, that some women — and some men — are genuinely addicted to sex.

First, let’s address sexual addiction and then, I’ll end by saying why I don’t think the incidence of this addiction is “growing.”  The latter is a somewhat less intriguing topic and if I wrote it about it first, you might stop reading now.

According to one description:

“Insatiable sexual hunger is not really a desire — an act of will — but rather a desperate need, a compulsion that is experienced as a craving. The need is pursued like a drug. Although sex addicts are enslaved to sex, it is far from their goal. Rather, the pursuit of sex is in service of a different goal — to dispel feelings of inadequacy, depression, anxiety, rage or other feelings that the sex addict experiences as unbearable.

“Like a drug addict or alcoholic, the sex addict relentlessly seeks satisfaction from an external source to palliate an internal pain. Modern technology, such as the internet, provides a new external source that sex addicts use in their quest for sex partners.”

Drugs, alcohol, food, and sexual activity all stimulate the dopamine receptors in the brain — the sites of memory and, more to the point, pleasure. The problem is that these receptors are insatiable little tykes.  The more pleasure they get, the more they want.  Leave them alone for a while and they’ll calm down, but stimulate the heck out of them and their response is, “I want more, much more, and I want it now.”

This poses an obvious problem for the possessor of these dopamine receptors

To cope with depression and anxiety, we humans have our techniques: those that we consider wholesome or relatively harmless such as tennis, hiking, playing Chopin on the piano for 12 consecutive hours, or reading a multitude of books aren’t deemed addictions.  They’re called, neutrally, “coping mechanisms,” or, more positively, “hobbies,” or, even admiringly, “passions.”

WHEN COPING MECHANISMS TURN TO ADDICTIONS

By contrast, when people consume copious quantities of liquor, food, or drugs to numb their feelings of despair, fear, anxiety, and loneliness, these responses are called addictions. And for those of us who have powerful sex drives on an averageday, at times of increased despondency, there’s nothing quite as distracting as a good — or better still, a great — orgasm.

As you’ve doubtless noticed, when you’re in the throes of sexual passion, you’re unlikely to become immersed in thoughts about making that next mortgage payment, getting into college, or whether Romney or Obama will be president in 2014.  All those concerns recede into nothingness. During sex all that matters is the intensity of the exquisite ecstasy you’re feeling and giving, and the glorious burst of climax.

Alas, if you’re a sex addict, you don’t settle into a state of blissed-out exhaustion afterward.  No such luck. Edward Mendelson, literary critic and editor of W.H. Auden’s works, analyzed the post-orgasmic melancholia described in the 1847 novel, Jane Eyre, in his book, The Things That Matter: What Seven Classic Novels Have To Say About the Stages of Lifeas follows:

Charlotte Brontë understood that an unequal sexual relation between adults is necessarily an unloving one; she also seems to have sensed that sex is experienced differently—that is, produces different physical and emotional feelings—in unloving relations and loving ones. … Post coitum homo tristis —“After sex the human is sad”—is far truer about unloving relations than loving ones; if the union between two partners is limited to the sexual act, then loneliness inevitably follows it.

And that’s exactly the vortex of dejection and despair that envelop the psyche of the helpless sex addict.  No sooner satisfied than empty.  It’s the Chinese take-out syndrome of loveless sex. And sexual addiction is by definition loveless because it allows no time for love to develop.  It allows no time for anything to develop except the bare essentials necessary for sexual intercourse.

It might appear that two sex addicts together would form the ideal couple.  What could possibly go wrong? Only everything. Such erotic duos generate emotional conflagrations so intense that the Chicago fire of 1871, which killed at least 200, appears, by comparison, as trifling as the flicker of a single kitchen match. Unions of sex addicts are psychological tinderboxes destined to consume them in mutually assured destructive infernos. They’re fated to part, lest their lives descend into nothing beyond the simultaneously tantalizing and terrifying bonfires they never fail to ignite in each other, regardless of age.  Hence such titles as Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Fatal Attraction.

The chase and the conquest are part of the addiction: while the pursuit is hot, the addict is distracted from cares and woes.  But once the conquest climaxes in orgasm, the chase begins anew.  The sexual addict will attach to anyone, from the postman to the butcher to the physician, to his or her nurse, to a friend, to anyone with the necessary physical equipment.  If the answer is no  (which it rarely is, because sex addicts invariably possess a bat-like radar for identifying willing accomplices) the addict moves on to greener pastures in search of — to mix a metaphor — fresh meat.

THEY’RE NOT JUST LURKING IN DARK ALLEYWAYS AND SEAMY HOTEL LOBBIES

The sex addict, whom you may imagine cruising bars or lounging about in seamy hotel lobbies, can and will turn any environment into his or her personal boudoir, from a church service to a birthday party to the Oval Office to a tennis court to a library to a walk in the park.  Compulsive flirtation and suggestive double-entendres are always in play.

The sex addict isn’t interested in you, but in him- or herself and his or her single-minded effort not to feel the pain. You are to the sex addict what a fifth of whiskey is to an alcoholic: a means to an end.  The sex addict has no more heartless attitude toward you than does the alcoholic toward his or her bottle: yes, your feelings will be trampled, but only because you’ve failed to recognize that you were in the grips of a sex addict. One way to know is if he or she tries to maneuver you into bed immediately after first meeting you.

You may actually think that the sex addict has found the love of his or her life.  You’ll certainly be treated as if you were — that is, until the chase, the conquest, and the climax are over.  Then, dear reader, you are as meaningful to the sex addict as that overflowing condom he’s just thrown in the trash, or the toilet paper she’s just flushed away with your heart.

A SEX ADDICT’S LOT IS NOT A HAPPY ONE

But as depressing as it is to have been used and discarded by a sex addict, it’s five gazillion times more demoralizing and anxiety-producing to be one.  A sex addict’s life is one with virtually no introspection, no wish to face squarely and deal directly with the painful emotions the addiction is intended to numb — and which, by the way, all human beings feel.  It’s the agony of the long-distance addict, criss-crossing the room, the office, the party, the town, the country, and the world in pursuit of the next conquest and the ever-more-stunningly penetrating orgasm.

Why do they do it?  The large body of research tells us that a sex addict had — you know it’s coming — an emotionally distant, inattentive mother who was unable to focus on the emotional needs of her infant.  The baby was never comforted when he or she cried or felt lonely, and so never heard such soothing words as, “You’re going to be fine.”  Thus such children never learn to comfort themselves.  When stressed and depressed, they’re unable to calm themselves from within and so they turn outward to others.

If they ever marry, it’s invariably to someone whose main focus is also elsewhere: either on his or her own work, or on home and family.  Such spouses tend to be as inattentive to the real inner lives of their marital partners as were the sex addicts’ mothers, which is one reason the sex addict chose such a mate in the first place. Their spouses’ psyches operate on a different wavelength, or as we might say today, bandwidth, and they are able to live with a discreet sex addict with absolutely no awareness that they do. This arrangement can continue indefinitely until the sex addict’s compulsive behavior erupts into public scandal so serious that even an inattentive spouse is no longer able to ignore the truth (e.g., Hillary Clinton; Anne Sinclair, the wife of Dominique Strauss-Kahn; Elin Nordegren, former wife of Tiger Woods; and the late Elizabeth Edwards).

For a momentary glimpse into the mind of a sexual addict, one need only read last Thursday’s Telegraph to see Monsieur Strauss-Kahn’s latest legal defense: concerning his sexual relations with ten different call girls at a Parisian swingers’ club, his attorney now claims DSK didn’t know he was sleeping with prostitutes because “they were all naked at the time.” Excuse me?  This is a legal defense?  Only if you have DSK for a client.

Getting back to the formative years of sex addicts’ lives, as the child becomes an adolescent, he or she discovers that in the sack, he or she doesn’t have to be alone.  So that becomes the place where anxiety, depression, and loneliness are assuaged.  As long as sex is being pursued or experienced, the comfort-seeking sex addict is able to have his or her painful feelings quelled.

But the more sexual experiences they have, the more they want.  More than one lover in a day or evening are not unusual. Lunch hour becomes yet another chance for a temporarily soothing balm.

Aye, there’s the rub: every balm is temporary.  A sex addict doesn’t want a relationship, he or she wants relief from unbearable tension, anxiety, loneliness, and/or depression. Saddest of all, sex addicts don’t realize this, because they’re so absorbed, indeed so riveted by their compulsive pursuit of the ever-more-intensely rapturous orgasm beckoning, always beckoning, from just beyond the horizon.

WHY I’M DOUBTFUL THAT SEX ADDICTION IS “ON THE RISE”

As to why I’m dubious that rates of sex addiction are soaring, it’s partly because I’m leery of statements made by people with doctorates in “sexual studies” who, by an amazing coincidence, also happen to own and operate clinics for — of all people — sexual addicts. They claim, whenever interviewed by the media, that sex addiction is on the rise.

Observations that coincide with the financial interests of the speakers are less than credible for another reason:  if you’ve read anything written in any century earlier than the 21st, you’ll have noticed that the phenomena the doctors of sexology note with grave concern are not exactly what you’d call new.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616), for example, was extraordinarily insightful on this subject — and he wrote the following 14 lines without so much as a master’s degree, much less a doctorate, in sexual studies:

SONNET 129 (emphasis added)

The expense of spirit in a waste of shame

Is lust in action; and till action, lust

Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,

Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,

Enjoy’d no sooner but despised straight,

Past reason hunted, and no sooner had

Past reason hated, as a swallow’d bait

On purpose laid to make the taker mad;

Mad in pursuit and in possession so;

Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;

A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;

Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.

All this the world well knows; yet none knows well

To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

We human beings, not unlike the birds and the bees, are hard-wired to enjoy sex.  That’s why there are now seven billion of us.  The problem of sex addiction afflicts no more than three percent of all people, even according to the “sexologists.”

IF WHILE READING THIS, YOU’VE ASKED YOURSELF, “AM I A SEX ADDICT?”

If you’re concerned enough to take an online test of whether you are, in fact, a sexual addict, beware of the website offering the test.  If it’s one that also offers “treatment” for your “condition,” it’s highly likely that you’ll meet the self-dealing criteria and discover that — OMG! — you are a genuine sex addict. To you I say: caveat emptor. 

These self-described experts in “sexology” have a product to sell: their own services.  It’s in their interests to insist that sexual addiction is a growing menace to society, and to dream up “tests” with questions so inclusive that your five-year-old granddaughter could well qualify for their “therapy.”

Unless sex is all you crave from the moment you awaken until your last conscious thought, and unless your entire life is consumed by sexual pursuits to the exclusion of anything else except perhaps earning a living — and if even that, as well as your marriage, is in constant jeopardy because of your obsession with sex — you may not be a sex addict.  If you think about sexual activity mainly in response to a stimulus — seeing, meeting, or being with someone with whom you think fleetingly, or not so fleetingly, of bedding down — you’re probably living with a far different addiction: to oxygen.  What this means is that you’re still alive.

Sexual addiction is not the same as enjoying sex, including having sexual relations, fantasizing about having them, and taking matters into your own hands if the need arises when you’re alone.  It means being hooked on it.  If there’s only one website you can’t live without and it isn’t PJ Media, but rather a sex site, you might be a sex addict.

Sexual addiction is not based solely on what you think — unless that’s all you think — as much as on what you do and what motivates you to do it. If you think about sexual activities, but don’t compulsively act on those thoughts, you’re what’s known as human. If you’ve ever uttered the words to someone you find powerfully attractive, “You’re very appealing, but I’m happily married and I wouldn’t do that to my marriage or to my wife (or my husband),” you’re definitely not a sex addict. “No thanks” isn’t in their vocabularies.

Yes, there are sexual addicts and predators.  Just ask any woman who’s been alone in a room with Dominque Strauss-Kahn.  But by and large, not every flirt is a sex addict, and not every compliment you receive is intended as a prelude to ravishing you in the sack and then heading for the nearest exit before you can catch your breath.

Sometimes a compliment is just a compliment, a sigh is just a sigh, and, yes, a kiss is just a kiss.

–Belladonna Rogers

How to Confront the Anti-Israel Fixation of the Left

Dear Belladonna Rogers,

Of all the challenges I face dealing with leftists, one of the most difficult is contending with their anti-Israel bias. I realize Ron Paul has also expressed and mobilized anti-Israeli sentiments, but I, personally, don’t have to deal with them and hope I never do. How can I deal with the growing, overt liberal animus toward Israel?

Chagrined in Chicago

Dear Chagrined,

Much of the malicious and inaccurate criticism of Israel stems from two sources: ignorance and anti-Semitism.

If the criticism is based on the first, you can counteract it with facts.  Here are four of the principal, hostile myths about Israel and the facts to rebut them.

(1) Israel is a foreign implant, a Western outpost, alien to the Middle East.

To the contrary, Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people, who were living there for centuries before Christianity or Islam began.  Jews have lived in what is now Israel continuously for more than two millennia.

(2) Israel has imperial ambitions and seeks to expand its territory and dominate others. 

When it was established by a vote of the United Nations in 1948, Israel accepted the borders that the UN drew. The year it was founded, the surrounding Arab countries, however, all attacked Israel in an effort to destroy it.  Israel ended the war with more territory than it had had at the beginning.  In 1967, Arab aggression led to another war of self-defense in which Israel captured more territory.  The Israeli government immediately offered to return the territory in exchange for peace.  In 1979-82 it did return territory to Egypt as part of a peace treaty brokered by the United States.

It has conducted negotiations with Syria to the north, and the Palestine Liberation Organization to the east, for the same purpose, but neither of them has been willing to make peace with Israel.  For that reason the Golan Heights, to the north, and the West Bank of the Jordan River, to the west, have remained under Israeli control. At no time has Israel sought to enlarge its territory by attacking others in an “imperial” effort.  Its boundaries have changed only as a result of wars initiated against Israel by its Arab neighbors.

(3) Israel is not a democracy. 

The status of the Arabs living in the West Bank is the subject of negotiations, as discussed above.  As for the rest of Israel, it is a Western-style parliamentary democracy in which full civil and political rights, including the right to vote, extend to all of its citizens, including its almost one million Arabs citizens, both Christian and Muslim, and to all women. (Full American-style rights are not available to the citizens of any Arab country.)  Arabs have been elected to, and serve in, the Israeli legislature, the Knesset.

(4) Israel and its friends manipulate American foreign policy. 

This is the canard of the vicious polemic written by Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.  They charged that Israel and its friends were responsible for the American war in Iraq, which the two professors opposed.

The president, vice president, secretaries of state, and defense and national security advisor of the George W. Bush administration (none of whom is Jewish), who made the decision to go to war, were not, of course, manipulated by anyone, nor was the United States Congress, which supported the decision.

Indeed,  Israeli government officials privately counseled their American counterparts against the Iraq war, believing that Iran posed the greater threat.

WHEN ANTI-SEMITIC BIGOTRY IS AT THE ROOT OF ANTI-ISRAELI SENTIMENT

As for anti-Semitic bigotry as a source of anti-Israeli sentiment — a subject on which Eliot A. Cohen has written brilliantly — here are some telltale signs that this ancient hatred is the underlying cause of the animus against the modern Jewish state:

(1) When people refuse to accept the validity of the facts presented above.

(2) When the critic demonizes Israel and Jews, assigning to them responsibility for things with which they have no connection (e.g., “banking domination of the world,” referring to “Rothschild Zionists,” and asserting that Jews “always profit from war” despite the fact that if anyone “profits,” it is defense contractors whose ranks are not “dominated” by Jews).

(3) When they use a double standard, criticizing Israel for actions they never question in other countries (e.g., when they attack Israel for self-defense, while ignoring rocket attacks from Gaza aimed at Israeli civilians, or ship-borne “peace brigades” from Turkey, with armed men on board ready to kill Israeli officers patrolling Israeli waters).

Bigotry is, unfortunately, rampant among Israel’s Arab neighbors, in part thanks to the bombardment of printed pamphlets of anti-Semitic propaganda and short-wave radio broadcasts in Arab lands by the Nazis during World War II.  Since then, anti-Israeli hostility has been encouraged by the incompetent, oppressive authoritarian dictators who seek to deflect the anger of those they govern away from themselves.

Anti-Semitism is also making a vigorous comeback in its ancestral home of Europe, where for more than a millennium it was comfortably ensconced, reaching its apex in the Holocaust.

The current wave of virulent European anti-Semitism has caused an exodus to Israel from Sweden, France, the UK, The Netherlands, Germany and Austria, and other countries by Jews whose families have lived in Europe and the UK for centuries.

The main cause?  Criminal assaults on Jews by the fast-growing young Muslim populations. The governments in these countries are scandalously lax in protecting their Jewish citizens.

There’s one place, however, where criticism of Israeli isn’t fueled by anti-Semitism, and that’s Israel, whose boisterous democracy regularly generates debate and criticism so robust that they can make relations between American Democrats and Republicans seem positively chummy by comparison.

Unlike anti-Israeli sentiment based on ignorance of history, though, you don’t stand a chance of persuading bigots by using facts, logic, or reasoning, because their attitudes are irrational, deep-seated, and often unconscious.

Education may help with the factually-ignorant.  With the deep-seated anti-Semite, nothing will succeed.

When you encounter such a person, I recommend minimizing contact — indeed, if you can, cutting off contact entirely.

Life is too short to subject yourself to an unrepentant bigot, no matter how charming or attractive he or she may appear to be in other respects. I’m with Moses Seixas and George Washington on this: “give bigotry no sanction.”  None.

–Belladonna Rogers

Can a Real Conservative and a Real Liberal Be Real Friends?

Dear Belladonna Rogers,

For decades, I’ve made the same New Year’s resolutions. They’re the typical “lose weight,” “get a flatter stomach,” and “be a better person,” but there’s one I particularly want to achieve next year: to be more accepting of the failings of others.

I’m very judgmental, and I’d like to learn how to be more understanding. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever tolerate total jerks, but I find myself annoyed with average-to-good people with human flaws, especially if they’re leftists. I don’t want to feel like a hypocrite liking a liberal whose views I believe are mistaken. I’m able to express my political views affably, but don’t want to compromise my core values. That’s my dilemma.

Flummoxed in Framingham, Massachusetts

Dear Flummoxed,

You’ve already taken the first step, which is to acknowledge that you want to become less judgmental. And you add, especially of liberals, suggesting that if you encountered the same flaws in conservatives you’d either give them a pass or be less annoyed.

This, in turn, suggests you’re not happy with having double standards. It sounds as if by being liberals they’ve already used up whatever tolerance you have.  They must be better, less flawed than if they were conservatives because they’ve already tried your patience by not agreeing that a smaller government is a better government and that the more the government “helps” citizens, the more it weakens them.

To become a less judgmental person who sees through political differences to the person within, the next step is not to think that politics is the be-all and end-all when you’re with other people.  If you make a serious effort to do that — as dubious a suggestion as that may appear — you’ll be able to circulate among non-conservatives as well as to deepen and broaden your current friendships with fellow conservatives.

You ask what can make possible the suspension of your most judgmental tendencies.

Several things can, either singly or in combination:

(1) Finding shared non-political values even in people with opposing political views: One day six years ago I was in the check-out line at Target, behind a young mother with a challengingly rambunctious two-year-old.  She was so patient, understanding and gentle with her daughter that I complimented her (yes, a total stranger) on her wonderful manner with her child.  She has since become one of my closest friends, despite our realization, early on, that our politics were 180 degrees apart.  But our values in terms of mothering and being a loyal friend, and how to treat other people are identical.

(2) Finding biographical similarities, be it a narcissistic parent, a childhood illness, or having studied and loved the same authors while students at schools thousands of miles apart;

(3) Finding a spiritual bond, be it within an organized religion or a similar outlook toward life, death and everything in between;

(4) Finding something you deeply admire in another person’s life or manner of dealing with a challenge; for example, someone who’s able to maintain equanimity, good humor and dignity despite having been dealt a cruel hand, such as a terrible disease or an agonizing injury — physical or psychological;

(5) Sharing a sense of humor and/or a sense of the absurd with another person who appreciates your humor and whose wit you enjoy as well;

(6) Discovering a common enthusiasm for a singer, a car, a Psalm, an actor, writer, a web site, director, play, movie, sports team or activity.  A passion for shared interests can make up for a lack of seeing eye-to-eye politically.

With a great majority of the 6.982 billion people now alive, you have something in common that could form the basis of a genuine attachment, anything from a casual acquaintance to a life-changing friendship.

If you’re part of a small minority of conservatives, surrounded by a vast majority of vocal, supercilious (in your case, Massachusetts) leftists, it’s understandable that you’d take comfort in the companionship of like-minded thinkers and even consider them a safe haven in a hostile world.

However, by doing this, you’re also cutting yourself off from the possibility of getting to know, respect and even love people whose politics are completely unlike your own.

It’s important to move out of our comfort zones – not to the point of bungee jumping or diving out of small aircraft with a parachute – to get to know people who are different, at least on the surface.

And as strongly as we all feel that our political beliefs are central to who we are, there are many other components within us that are also major elements of our identities.

If you allow into your life those who are different politically, their kindness, humor and generosity will astonish you.  Not every single person unlike you will do this, but many will.

Although I understand your fear that overlooking a leftist’s other flaws will make you feel like a hypocrite, as long as you don’t make politics the center of your friendship, and as long as the leftist understands that your political position is different, there’s no cause for fearing to appear deceitful to yourself or to anyone else.

You’ll have a fuller life if you don’t close yourself off from contact with people who didn’t grow up the way you did, or in the town or region you did, or practicing the religion your family did.

Finding common ground and forging bonds with others on levels far more important than political views is possible.  And yes, Virginia, there are more important levels, or at least other levels than politics.

The greater the effort you make to discover those commonalities, the richer and deeper your experience of life will be.

Another way to become less judgmental is to accept – as difficult as this may be to imagine — that you’re not perfect, either, and that you’ve made thousands of mistakes in your life.  Recognizing and remembering that will make you more understanding when you encounter other imperfect people.

The current vicissitudes in the popularity levels of the Republican presidential candidates mirror the conundrum you face every New Year’s Eve: to everyone’s amazement, none of them is perfect.   Who knew?

The world’s greatest humanitarians and spiritual leaders have all been imperfect:  we admire them despite their feet of clay.

If you can focus more on people’s admirable traits and less on their flaws, even their rudeness — as annoying and unconscionable as these traits can be — I promise you that by next New Year’s Eve you’ll have more people in your life whom you love, admire and respect than you do now because you will have become a less judgmental person, without sacrificing who and what you are.

A happy and healthy new year – with a jubilant result on November 6th — to you and to all PJ Media readers.

— Belladonna Rogers

The Joys and Perils of Driving With a 65-Year-Old Teenager At The Wheel

Dear Belladonna Rogers,

Joe, who’s 65, and I have been happily married for 40 years.  The one subject we seriously differ on is driving.  With two vehicles, we go our separate ways everyday, and never have to bicker.

But this week is different: we’ll be taking turns driving the 650 miles from Marks, Mississippi, to Chicago to see our parents.  Our driving styles couldn’t be more different.  I’m slow and cautious, while Joe’s a confident leadfoot whose preferred speed is 80 mph. He’s never gotten a ticket or had an accident, so he can honestly claim that he’s a safe driver.  But 80 mph exceeds my comfort zone. Every year we do this, I’m in fear for my life the whole time he’s driving. Help!

Nervous Nellie in Marks, Mississippi

Dear Nervous Nellie,

Driving styles are a vivid expression of the personality of the individual at the wheel. Powerful emotions that that are often suppressed in the rest of the driver’s life emerge on the road as almost nowhere else.  For those who learned to drive as teens – other than the anomalous Manhattanites in our midst who often never learn at all – getting behind the wheel will forever remind us of our first heady whiff of freedom. For many, that adolescent rush of liberation never entirely vanishes whenever the steering wheel is in our eager hands.

The open road is the physical equivalent of the web. On both, we’re sharing time and space with complete strangers. The force of our feelings, especially the main course of exhilaration along with the side orders of anger, entitlement, and a belief in our rightness — not to mention our righteousness —  becomes ever more pronounced.

The normal constraints that require us to behave as mature adults have become as rare on interstate highways as they have in Internet comment sections.  People who are unfailingly polite to their friends, co-workers, and neighbors can become careless of the feelings of others once they’re at the wheel or the computer’s keyboard. There, the only sign of their identity is their license plate — the vehicular equivalent of an ISP address on the web.

At the wheel or online, you’re no longer Joe Jones, the kindly face of your business or neighborhood.  You’re empowered as Left Lane Passer-in-Chief or All-Powerful Put-down Master (or Mistress) of the Comments Section.

A good and loving husband (or wife) can become a different person on the road, especially an interstate highway.

Since he normally has the car to himself, Joe’s driving habits may be so ingrained, and the exhilaration he derives from driving safely at 80 mph so much a part of who he is, that he may not be able to slow down.  He may be simply unwilling, or even psychologically unable, to decelerate on stretches of interstate where he can easily do 80 where the legal limit is 75. This may be an essential part of Joe’s pleasure at the wheel.  It’s like being young again.

One way to deal with his driving is to avoid peering at the speedometer.  If you don’t stare at it, you probably can’t tell how fast the car is going, except by knowing Joe’s own preference.  Try looking out the window and enjoy the stark winter landscapes of soaring trees bereft of leaves, or the towering magnolias still evergreen in all their majesty.  Cloudscapes are glorious marvels of nature, especially illuminated by the long, slanting rays of the late afternoon sun.  Or you could close your eyes entirely and delight in the music, and in anticipation of being in the company of your loved ones.

Your round trip will involve almost 24 hours in the car together. If you can’t avoid peeking at the speedometer, which is my first line of advice, an agreement before you leave home is my second.

“Joe, I’m looking forward to the trip with you,” you could say.  “We always have fun listening to our favorite music and it’s great to visit our parents.  But this year, let’s try to agree on some ground rules so we’ll both be happy on the road together.”

Don’t criticize Joe’s driving: given his blameless record, there’s nothing objectively wrong with it. You don’t want to make the discussion about something he does that you think is “wrong.”  That will only get his back up, cause him to become defensive and dig in his heels — in this case on the gas pedal.

The issue, in fact, isn’t his driving, it’s your reaction to it.  So take responsibility for your own anxiety and say:

“I know you’re an excellent driver but I don’t like it when you go over 80 mph.  It makes me nervous.  I know you handle the car very skillfully, but since we’ll be in it together for 20 hours, would you agree to drive under 75 for my peace of mind?”

In that way, you convey to Joe that you know you’re the nervous one and you’re acknowledging that you’re asking him to do something for you that’s both difficult  and unnatural for him.  The key phrases I suggest using are “I don’t like it when” and “It [not you, but “it”] makes me nervous.”

Now the subject isn’t something that Joe does but a response of yours that you recognize as a failing (feeling anxiety in a car driven legally at 80 mph by a safe driver).

He may say that he will get you to Chicago sooner, in which case you could offer to leave earlier so that he can drive more slowly and still arrive at the same time.

The key is to try to remain reasonable and fair-minded and not get into an argument about how dangerous you think Joe’s driving is.  If he exceeds the limit anyway, you can mention, gently (not in a shrill, exasperated tone) that he’s going faster than you two agreed he would.

Then there’s a third option: the Greyhound bus fare from Clarksdale, Mississippi (the nearest Greyhound station) to Chicago is $236.34 round trip, per senior. If you have an extra $472.68, it might make sense to take the bus. Buses today are equipped with free wi-fi, electrical plugs for cell phones and DVD-players, and are far more comfortable than the long-distance buses that plied the nation’s roads in decades past.

Assuming you do choose to drive together, the slower the music that you play in the car, the more slowly Joe may drive. You could also remind him that your parents won’t be around forever, and that you’d like to look back on these trips with warmth and affection rather than with fear and trembling.  Whatever you do, may this be your happy destiny:

Belladonna Rogers