It Is What It Isn’t

It isn’t bigotry; it’s freedom of religion. It isn’t mass murder; it’s Depression. It isn’t diplomacy; it’s appeasement.

It isn’t rape; it’s drunken sex. It isn’t obstruction; it’s Democracy. It isn’t murder; it’s self defense. It isn’t spying; it’s security. It isn’t union busting; it’s the right to work. It isn’t about public health; it’s about private choice.

It seems like we actually spend our lives on what something or someone isn’t. We have a tradition of distinguishing ourselves from others by emphasizing other-ness. Even with our history of civil rights and feminism, expanding rights for all sorts of people once excluded, the current zeitgeist is not one of inclusion and expansion. Critical thinking has largely been distorted into oppositional thinking.

Say it isn’t so!

We’ve shifted from what it is to what it isn’t, as we’ve been bombarded with challenges to our assumptions:

It’s a slam-dunk! (for which we are paying unimagined consequences in the Middle East).

It’s a no brainer!

It’s a sure thing!

It’s a 10!

It’s a boy!

It’s complicated.

The truth is, it is complicated. There are different views and facets and understandings and expressions of much of life. Concepts of gender, of life, of liberty, of religion, and so many constructs that were historically entrenched….are still evolving. It doesn’t feel like evolution when we seem so mired, and it is easy to feel despair.

It is what it is. The sigh of stalemate. We don’t hear “c’est la vie”  any more. We say “it is what it is”, like pop zen masters (or Winnie the Pooh). When we don’t know what else we can do, we can acknowledge that it is what it is. Move on.

We don’t seem to be moving on by what it isn’t. It isn’t right. It isn’t safe. It isn’t about you (or me). It isn’t working.

So many articles are written to sound as though previously held notions were naive, or misguided, or wrong. It’s as though some people think they sound smarter by debunking anything we’ve known prior to now. It seems as though everything you thought was true isn’t. It is what it isn’t. Aside from being able to eat butter and drink coffee now, this new moment of deconstruction requires critical thinking, not just being critical.  Some previously held ideas and constructs that seemed to be true and even natural deserve to be queried. But, not everything must be turned inside out or dismantled.  In fact, there seems to be a dearth of common sense and wisdom, much less decent behavior. And there is certainly a lack of common good.

So how do we move beyond it is what it isn’t? Acknowledge that it is what it is, but doesn’t always have to be this way or simply the mirror opposite (that way). Movement happens between (and/or beyond) those points–where there is space to move. We know there is a better way, isn’t there?

Ghost Busters

It’s easy to feel dispirited by the news. But yesterday’s news of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s interrogation “techniques” following the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, has me feeling somewhat positive– that is, between bouts of nausea.

The reports of torture are of course not entirely new, but they remain nauseating and shameful. In the 13 years since 9/11, these ghosts have been haunting us. Our own torturers have been lurking among us, but yesterday those ghosts got busted!

Even when we’ve been saddened and furious by seemingly misguided legal decisions–most recently in Ferguson and Staten Island, and before that in Sanford, Florida, as well as other similar cases– those calling for peace, non-violence, racial equality, accountability, dignity, life….you know….what we think of as fundamental to decent society… have essentially been ghost busting!

A country that formally stands for civil rights has seen too many incidents recently that seem to contradict that stance, and too often the negative spirit of racism hovers. The contradiction is unsettling.

If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS!

If it’s somethin’ weird an it won’t look good, who ya gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS!

Many will say that racism isn’t strange. Nor is police brutality. Nor the extreme version, as seen in the reports of CIA torture. Abuse is all too common, and until busted open, often legal.  (The same is true for sexism and sexual abuse.) But we know that the strangeness inherent in abusive behavior isn’t that it is rare; it is that such behavior is vile, and makes most of us extremely uncomfortable (as it should). The ghosts of racism and sexism and abuse of power still haunt us, but the current manifestations of these ghosts are getting busted.

I ain’t afraid a no ghost. I ain’t afraid a no ghost.

While some fear the possibility of inciting terrorists by revealing the Senate report on torture, ultimately it is better that we bust those ghosts of ours. Until we confront our own sanctioned behaviors and assumptions, conscious and unconscious, legal and moral, we will be haunted by ghosts.

I’ve never subscribed to what is often classified as “paranormal”. But if para-normal is actually beyond normal, then we can certainly move beyond the normal indignities that have accrued and caused distortions and fear and exaggerated reactions.

Each generation has its ghost busters. We must encourage this one and the next one. Hey–I hear there’s a new “Ghostbusters” movie in the making. Maybe ghost busting is in the air?

Back Up

When I was a young child, I wanted to be a Supreme. Beyonce may indeed be Destiny’s Child, but I was more interested in The Miracles. Sure there was Diana and Smokey, but before they were American idols and icons, they had Supremes and Miracles.

The back up singers were us! I wanted to join them singing harmonies and vocals that complemented the lead singer’s melody. Back up singers were a pair or a group of fabulousness, rhythmically moving in sync, ooohing and aaaaahing, repeating key words and phrases, connecting the lead vocals to the rest of us.

There’s something interesting to me about The Supremes and The Miracles, beyond suggesting divine intervention in their lead singer’s voices. Surely they had to have terrific talent, but I think the groups that included the back up singers in the names of the groups, remind us of the importance of terrific talent beyond the front person. This is true in any organization–from families, institutions, agencies, companies, or any group. Harnessing excellence in every role makes the real difference.

We have a tendency to focus so much on individuals and leadership roles, often to the detriment of healthy organizations. Great leaders are great not only because of their vocals (what they say, and do), but because they have talent that supports their efforts. Too often, we forget to hone the skills for back up singing: a great voice; willingness to work in harmony; supplementing and accompanying the theme; learning the choreography for the production; complementing the lead vocalist, bringing the work to perfection.

Imagine if we gave employees, students, volunteers, care-givers and any non-leader who is charged with responsibilities, the expectation of being supreme or a miracle! Imagine if we sought out a work force comprised of stellar back up singers–using their well trained voices in concert (metaphorically speaking).

Now we have crews –not Supremes or Miracles, and without the expectation of significance and talent from those not in the spotlight, we not only lose excellence at all levels, but we mute important voices and diminish leading voices.

So many of our institutions have been crumbling from within, and without capable lead singers. Perhaps The Supremes and The Miracles were of their time. We don’t emphasize the back up singers very much today, but I still love being a back up singer (metaphorically now). There’s great importance and reward in generating support, and encouraging others to move with the tempo and sing along. Talented lead singing will be brought to excellence with talented back up singers. Start enrolling those supremes, and making some miracles.


Too many people seem to think that they alone have clarity and authority, and use their voices as weapons rather than as tools for construction.

Criticism is easy. Acknowledging uncomfortable truths that may cloud a stance seems to be much trickier, and is missing in most of the media. This is the habit of the 21st century thus far, as it plays out in politics and media everywhere–including in the USA. “Either you are with us or you are against us.” That has been true for the left and the right, and the rational middle either keeps quiet or is kept quiet by the bluster.

The fear of acknowledging any truth to other sides, or attempting to understand how other people can see a situation from such a different perspective, is part of our dumbing down. Politics, whether domestic or international, is more than a lost art. It is a blood sport–quite literally, around the globe.

Clearly, education has failed US. Rather than broadening our minds, we seem less able to consider the complexities of our world. Rather than seeking wisdom through education, we reflect a bombastic, reductionist culture that claims to love freedom, but has yet to understand the complexities and compromises of liberty and peace.

Freedom to rant and incite is not the goal of this experiment called Democracy. Telling part of a story with hyperbole is propaganda–whether the story is familiar or new. We use pieces of stories to construct whole narratives that, more often than not, distort truth. Tweets and posts and thoughtless news (and faux news) stories are cacophonous and foment hate and anxiety.

All these pieces that get aired and posted to justify the rights of one side (and the wrongs of the other) are too often just bits and pieces–fragments of truth. We have become more dedicated to our piece than to our peace.

When I decided to become an educator, I saw education as the path to peace. Clearly, knowing (or reading or hearing) isolated facts does not equal education. An educated mind is one that can weigh facts and opinions, and consider consequences–intended and unintended. Education is the opportunity to engage beyond one’s circumstance and experience. The old saying “knowledge is power” has become distorted by the deception that we are better informed because we have more cables and channels and devices. We have much more input, but seemingly less real knowledge and much less depth. Our broad bands connect us with pieces of information that get used for the pursuit of power more than for the pursuit of peace.

Perhaps old constructs need to be reconsidered, especially in this digital media age. What would it take to consider or possibly accept additional points of view? A piece of this? And a piece of that?  It may be the only way to pursue peace and not go to pieces.

Shaken. Not Stirred.

Breaking News: Gunman kills student in school shooting. This is any day, USA. Yesterday it was the Las Vegas “anti-government” shooters. Over the weekend, three people were killed and 20 were wounded in shootings in Chicago. That’s one weekend in one city. You’ve seen the newsflashes. The horrors seem to be more frequent. There is more hysteria when the shootings are suburban or in schools (or malls or movie theaters). What was once (or twice or thrice) regarded as an anomaly, has become a daily news story. Yes. DAILY.

We are being terrorized. This time it is from within. We have always been a violent society, struggling to overcome violent impulses and histories. We have  also always cherished individual liberty, but wrestled with balancing individual freedoms with public safety and well being. As more groups of people who were historically disenfranchised have greater access to social, economic and political equality, individuals who feel threatened or disenfranchised have become more emboldened and, in too many instances, violent. The violence is not only self-inflicted, but too often the shooter’s personal drama becomes the unending pain of so many others directly affected by the seemingly random madness. The shooter’s disconnection from humanity may not resonate with many others who would probably reject violence, but the shootings reverberate and shake us to our core.

Even sadder, it seems as though the only ones who are stirred are the disaffected. For those who are driven by madness, we need to make it harder for them to act upon violent fantasies. Where is the leadership? Tweets and petitions may stir some folks into demanding change, but more serious legislation is necessary. Where is the outrage? What does it take to stir political leaders to act?

Beyond Belief

Unbelievable! Donald Sterling’s attempts to polish his image after his damaging remarks, revealed a man seemingly in the throes of dementia, espousing beliefs (and inaccuracies) disconnected from much of reality. Initially, TMZ revealed the private conversation which seemed to be the tipping point of a career of bigoted opinions that were expressed in business practices long before this personal conversation. This recent incident has allowed us to consider beliefs and free speech and the unintended consequences.

In the case of the tarnished Sterling, he does not seem capable of ownership of himself, much less of a team or business. He does not seem capable of understanding reality beyond his beliefs.

We are all guided by beliefs–some personal; some shared. Sometimes we do not realize the distinction between our belief(s) and truth. For some, belief means faith. Belief is also considered akin to an opinion or a chosen theory or principle(s) or creed. We live our lives according to our beliefs, whether they are political, spiritual, philosophical, cultural, or from personal experience. However, our beliefs are subjective– even those that are considered sacred. There is reality beyond our beliefs, and denying reality beyond our own beliefs is the source of disaster.

When individuals whose personal beliefs seem out of sync with our social norms and/or laws, we regard such individuals as problematic or possibly ill. It is the intersection of belief systems with natural and societal laws that allows us to interact and function. In fact, the basis of education is learning to understand beyond our beliefs. Ignorance is the lack of knowledge or information. It is also unawareness. If we live only according to our beliefs, we remain ignorant. And ignorance can be very costly.

We are in the midst of an interesting time in our culture when people’s personal beliefs are being rejected by boards of trustees, colleges, the NBA, and other private enterprises on both the left and the right. To be fair, it is not merely private beliefs that some have found offensive and rejected. The actions taken on behalf of such beliefs are what have offended and generated protests and rejections. The recent spate of protests and rejections of business and political leaders is a reminder to consider beyond belief. What is the real impact of our beliefs?

We look to evidence to confirm our beliefs. Have you ever considered whether or not you believe in evidence? This is what we do when we ask if one “believes” in climate change, as though science were an opinion rather than a systematic study of empirical data. Scientists evaluate data acquired through observation and experimentation. What to do with the evidence is another matter. Science is objective. Beliefs are subjective, even when shared. We are most effective when we are aware of our beliefs and their (our) limits. Then we can actually become educated and have greater capacity to solve problems, rather than merely complain about them or create them.

Our politics and our media have become enamored with beliefs and individuals who are prisoners of limiting beliefs (with limited evidence). It is time to live beyond belief.

Spring Theory

In today’s culture, we tend to separate education from stories. Music is considered peripheral, and singing seems irrelevant. Meals are outside the classroom and considered a break from learning. Family, especially multi-generational and extended kin, have nothing to do with conventional school. Encouraging the youngest to ask questions, much less playing hide and seek in the middle of a lesson, would be considered the exception, not the rule. Staying up late, still singing, is usually discouraged.


Yet, these are some of the elements of the Passover Seder that are not only enjoyed by people (of all faiths), but have the best features of real education. Pedagogically speaking, the Passover Seder is educational excellence. It is orderly (seder means order), but engaging and fun. There are a series of actions/activities with explanations and several interpretations that encourage thinking and doing. Food as symbol is central to the Seder. There is a special centerpiece–the seder plate– which has odd samples of a variety of foods that one would probably not eat otherwise, alone, much less in even odder combinations. It is part of what makes the night “unlike any other night”. Doing an unusual exercise (and explaining it), and perhaps adding a song, often leads to better information retention. Engaging with the story is the first level of pedagogy. Learning continues at all levels, through action and inquiry, critical discussion, laughter and singing.


Culturally, the Seder has resonated beyond strict religious observance to Spring ritual that reminds us of our personal and cultural “narrow straits” (the literal translation of the hebrew word for Egypt)–of constricted opportunities, narrow-mindedness, limited movement– and celebrates liberation from oppression. Slavery and oppression are human tragedies that are sadly not completely relegated to history. Natural plagues and severe weather force us to reconsider our lives and our interactions with the natural world. What may be Supernatural in the stories, resonates because we can connect to the natural world.


The lesson of good pedagogy is not specific to any single religion, nor is it even religious in nature. In fact, it’s the opposite. It is the understanding of the nature of learning that makes many religious rituals highly effective. To be clear, I am not suggesting that any religious rituals belong anywhere in our schools or public spaces (or government spaces). I am noting some characteristics that make learning effective and layered, and can be employed in non-religious domains.


The process of educating can not be limited to cramming test questions and sample choices and then bubbling them in. Many people confuse facts with truth, or have trouble distinguishing fact from opinion, often without realizing their confusion. Verbiage gets used as a mask for depth. True education liberates us from the narrow straits–whatever and wherever their origins. It expands our abilities to solve problems, rather than merely lay blame or recreate limiting or even oppressive conditions. Many so-called educated people can recite facts and tell stories, but thinking beyond one’s own experience and narrow confines, and applying an array of knowledge from various contexts, distinguishes the well-educated from those who have a more rudimentary education. Education is actually a creative endeavor, that engages and arouses curiosity and inquiry. Lessons are learned not merely from disaster,(in fact, they are all too often not learned from disaster), but also from reengaging in stories and questions and cultural remnants; from expanding our narrow straits, and including an array of sensory experiences to enhance our learning. It’s all part of truly educating.


So, in this time of Spring cleaning, and religious holidays celebrating liberation from oppression and rebirth and renewal, reconsider education as a creative endeavor requiring an array of approaches and experiences . Engagement and inquiry are necessary for learning and evolving. Our narrow spaces expand, and we can be liberated, and liberate others, through creative activity.

Power Smoothies

Over the past decade or so, whenever my daughter and I had a day off together, we’d go to our local lunch place “Power Smoothie”. It’s a Millennial take on the sandwich shoppe, serving  a variety of wraps and rice bowls with interesting combinations, and an extensive menu of Power Smoothies. These are shakes made with fruit, and sometimes yogurt, to which one can add vitamins and other supplements. This establishment tends to attract body builder types and other fitness devotees. My daughter and I, usually among the few patrons not in workout attire, like the sandwich wraps and sometimes enjoy a smoothie as a treat. For us, a fruit smoothie (just the fruit) is a treat–not a fuel. It is not about the “power” for us, but just a tasty blend of fruits that can be quite refreshing, especially on a hot day. But the Power Smoothie–it’s not only the Nectar of the Bods.

We’ve seen some Power Smoothies of a different sort in the news lately. The most serious (and threatening) Power Smoothie is Vladamir Putin. His reclaiming Crimea while the Ukraine’s interim government leans toward the EU has caused  a tense situation. Not long before this maneuver, some Americans were relishing Putin’s strength, particularly in opposition to their characterizations of Obama. This has been rather disconcerting. President Obama’s detractors have acted like they had a crush on (muscle-man) Putin, and when Putin behaved like the bully, placing troops along the border of Crimea, the Obama haters blamed Obama, insinuating that Obama was weak, which caused Putin’s actions.

People respond to flexed muscles. They see strength and power and like shows of force. For some, brashness is strength, and attaining power by showing strength is most important.

There has been another media sensation over the last several weeks, although this Power Smoothie is far outside the realm of geopolitics. Miriam Weeks, aka Belle Knox, is a freshwoman at Duke University. She has created quite a kerfuffle because she also works in porn. At first she hid her porn identity, Belle Knox, but after she revealed her identity to a frat guy, it wasn’t long before everyone else knew. Imagine that. She maintains that she works in the porn industry to help pay tuition. (Her parents just found out!) She has been on the talk show circuit recently, including Piers Morgan and The View, defending her right to work in porn. She insists that she feels “empowered” by this work,and that it is her choice, and shame on anyone who judges her negatively. She has received quite a bit of attention, including supposed death threats. The death threats, if true, are despicable, but her attention seeking is beyond combating death threats. She is brash and loves the attention, and knowing that she chooses to exploit her body, and feign innocence while insisting that she is empowered and should not be judged, is quite manipulative and disingenuous. For so many, sex trafficking and sex work is not a choice and is horrific and demeaning and ruins lives. If Miriam (Belle Knox) Weeks is happy to choose sex work, great for her! Even if she does need to work to help with tuition (which is questionable), she obviously does not consider sex work to have a demeaning side.

Choice is power. She thinks that she deserves respect because she has chosen her work, and she disparages those she thinks disparage her. For some, getting attention is intoxicating. It’s a sense of power. Miriam Belle Knox Weeks may feel powerful for being desirable doing porn at 18, and for causing a sensation at Duke and on national media outlets, but this Power Smoothie is not healthy. Real power is more than doing what one feels like when and where one wants. Power must include the strength of consideration of ones actions and words.

One more Power Smoothie has been on my mind for a while: Sheryl Sandberg. Sandberg is truly an upstanding and outstanding citizen. The COO of Facebook, Inc. has been ranked as one of the 50 most powerful women in business by several influential business magazines and journals. She is incredibly accomplished and engaged, having served on many boards and given numerous addresses, and last year, released her first book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.  While I appreciated her intentions with Lean In and her attempts to create a new movement, I am not aligned with her. I thought the unintended consequence of her attempt to empower women to “lean in to their ambitions” was that it was supportive to those women lucky enough to choose when and where they want to work. For most women, other structures of power need to be transformed beyond a woman’s attempts to lean in.

More recently, Sandburg suggested banning the word “bossy”, as it has historically been used when referring to certain assertive behavior exhibited by girls (and sometimes women). This “Ban Bossy” campaign took off with some celebrities attaching their names, including Beyonce, Jane Lynch and Condoleezza Rice. While it might seem like a catchy title for a campaign to empower girls, I respectfully disagree with banning the word bossy. Being bossy is not the same as being a good leader. Bossy behavior is not a catch all for female assertiveness. Being bossy is being obnoxious. Bossy girls may garner temporary power and think they are strong, but we should be clear about what effective leadership is and isn’t. The bossy girls I knew did not become dynamic leaders–just demanding (and usually just demanding for themselves).

Rather than banning “bossy”, let’s teach leadership and make distinctions between leading and demanding; debating and obstructing; elevating and pushing. Bring back dignity, but let’s not pretend that nastiness and obnoxious behavior, or even doing whatever one wants whenever and wherever one wants is somehow just misunderstood leadership. Being bossy is not the same as being an effective or good leader. Let’s keep bossy in our lexicon to remind ourselves of negative behavior.

The Power Smoothies, although very different from each other, have attempted to push boundaries, claim territory as though there were only certain considerations, flex muscles for attention, and seek to shake things up. There are Power Smoothies in every domain. Certainly not all are nefarious, but power and strength are tricky.   Everyone seeks some sort of power and needs strength. The kind of strength and power that we want to extend can’t be left to Power Smoothies.  Whether it’s co-opting language from historic movements or moments that generate visceral responses, or grandstanding, we need to remind ourselves and our children of the power of critical thinking; of consideration and consequences (intended or not); of distortions and distinctions. The Power Smoothies blend it all together . Some are bossy; some are bullies; some are oblivious. Some are well intentioned, but it is in our power to clarify and to educate; to provide healthy alternatives.

Going Upstairs Backwards

There’s nothing like pain to make us aware of our habits. Spasms redirect our attention to clenched muscles that seem to control us, rather than the other way around. Shooting, stabbing, burning, stinging, throbbing, aching,  hurting, sore…pain. Sometimes mere discomfort distracts us from our automatic lives, and asks us to pay attention. Agony is overwhelming, and suffering is more chronic misery. But the regular discomforts often steal our focus and energies, and ask us to do something different. With a different focus, we may adjust our posture or stance, or where we sit and how we proceed.

This is true of any sort of pain. Physical, emotional, psychological, existential pain asks us to attend to the sensation. We often get stuck when confronted with pain. Too often we compensate with unintended consequences. Sometimes we  consciously ignore the signals, as though giving in to a toddler’s temper tantrum will reinforce the tendency for eruptions. It is often hard to know how to deal with discomforts and pain so that they are  not reinforced or cause other damage. Some people wallow, others martyr, most numb themselves. Dealing with discomfort and pain as a lesson, is often reduced to avoidance.

Over the last 10.5 months, while strengthening myself physically, and taking the time to better manage my physical health, I decided to write. With no timeline in mind, or even a  roadmap or GPS, I wanted to experiment in a way that I had never attempted before, and create conversations. Forever committed to strengthening parenting and family life, education, Culture and culture, and healthy homes, schools and communities, I learned that I could be  critical  while optimistic. Moreover, I could learn from everyday discomforts and sometimes pain and even agony, both my own and societal, that there are always lessons. In looking back over the essays that span less than a year, I am reminded of political events and societal changes that, for some, were painful or uncomfortable . Some moments have been liberating culminations of long, painful battles that now demand societal realignment. Some moments seem to be flare ups of old wounds or negative habits. Time seems to move more quickly than it used to as we are exposed to so much more information at lightening speed, and it is easy to forget moments that affected us–that gave us opportunities to not merely get over the pain, but to learn from it. In reflecting upon the last 10.5 months, I am amazed at what is possible in less than a year. Some pain is chronic; some acute. Discomforts are inevitable, but as we redirect our focus and energies, and adjust our postures and stances, and even where we sit and how we proceed, we may not only mitigate some pain, but move ourselves further ahead in ways that we may not have even considered.

With a recent flare of back trouble, I have been having immense pain sitting and in many positions. Walking up the stairs has been another difficulty. This is not a new situation, but like most aches and pains (and worse), the situation flares from time to time. This time, I decided to try walking up the stairs backwards. It takes me a little longer (not much) and at first I needed more support. But I get up the stairs now! With fewer spasms! Of course looking back one sees how far one has gone, but more than that, sometimes looking at where we were and how we held ourselves and then tweaking it, allows us to be in a better, more comfortable and healthier position to elevate ourselves.

Guys’ Guise

Timothy Egan wrote an op-ed in today’s New York Times (January, 17, 2014) offering a thoughtful response to Brit Hume’s recent comment that Chris Christie is merely a “Guy’s Guy”–an apparently endangered species.

You may have heard Brit Hume, that is, Senior Political Analyst Brit Hume of Fox News, refer to Governor Christie’s problem. It’s not that he’s arrogant, paranoid, testy, bullying or too blunt for the P.C. culture. It’s just that he’s an “old fashioned guy’s guy” in a “feminized” world — an endangered species adrift on a floe of mush….

…He said, “By which I mean that men today have learned the lesson the hard way that if you act like a kind of an old-fashioned guy’s guy, you’re in constant danger of slipping out and saying something that’s going to get you in trouble and make you look like a sexist or make you look like you seem thuggish or whatever.”

I appreciate Egan’s clarification and answer to a particular concept of masculinity (which  Brit Hume, et al. equate with strength):

If you say something that genuinely offends women, it’s not because you’re a brawny dude, speaking freely, or even standing up to the culture patrol. It’s because you’re insensitive to people in general — the daughters, wives and mothers of many a manly man. Or, at the least, it’s because you’re outdated, like showing up for work at a tech company with a cellphone the size of a shoebox.

What has been missing from the discussion, however, is the subtext that being “feminine” or our supposedly “feminized” culture is an insult. “Masculinity”, whether defined by Brit Hume, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, or articulated through Chris Christie, Phil Robertson (of Duck Dynasty fame), Sarah Palin, or many others who seem to defy the laconic male icon of yesteryear, seems to refer to a particular paradigm that they conflate not merely with gender, but with strength and superiority. Calling someone “a fag” or a behavior “gay” is meant to be insulting in this crowd. Small mindedness, is somehow rebranded as assuredness and strength. In this crowd, it’s bully for the bullies! Shooting from the hip is preferable to being hip–which, to the “Guys”, is just a feminized subculture of spineless socialists. In that universe, there is not a ying-yang balance of energies that we call masculine and feminine, each with attributes valuable to the health of humanity. It’s right and wrong (wrong = left, feminized); strong and weak; makers and takers. These are the masculine and feminine types of that world. In that world of “Guys and Dolls”, guys play with dolls.

The guys’ guise is feigning strength and security through righteous impasse. They not only feel threatened, and reject even their own possible evolution, much less the evolution of culture, (not to mention nature), but suggest that that which they describe as feminine is what undermines them. The ideals of strength and honor are not gender specific. Moreover, gender is beyond biology. It is a cultural construct, and like it or not, cultures evolve.

Our job as parents and educators and citizens is to build a better society and a healthier culture that elevates and broadens. Under the guys’ guise, being a loudmouth or intimidating is just being a guy, and guys are now victims of this henpecked culture. The guys’ guise is not really political (although it could easily be construed as such). It’s cultural. There are small minded people everywhere, and thugs and trolls left and right. Strength is not a guy issue. It is not the same as intransigence. Flexibility is not a gender issue. The habits of mind (and culture) that include thought, reason, consideration, reflection, flexibility, appreciation and expansion build strength. That’s not a guy thing, despite the guys’ guise.