Archive for the ‘shutting down dialogue’ Category

Slowing Down: In Praise of the 14 MPH Rule

July 2, 2015

With Independence Day right around the corner, most people have plans for picnics, family reunions, or some other merriment meant to celebrate America’s 239th birthday. Beneath the parades and mosquitos, the beer and deviled eggs, the sunburns and smiles, there exists an undeniable strain from the mind spinning pace of change that this nation is experiencing. Recently, the US Supreme Court issued some monumental decisions that impact how ordinary citizens live, including access to medical care and who may marry whom. Whether or not you consider these decisions to be sensible or appropriately rendered is irrelevant because it’s a done deal. The Justices have spoken, so now we proceed accordingly.

That being said, the pace and dramatic scale of these shifts has left many feeling breathless, scrambling to adjust. These days, we have to worry about what pronouns or bathrooms to use, whether we’ll have enough money to pay for the kids to go to school, if professing our faith will subject us to ridicule, or what sort of disapprobation we’ll face if we dare to disagree with stridently proclaimed opinions. Intimidation under the guise of being offended about the smallest, most inconsequential matters is now grounds for aggressive accusations of unpardonable bigotry, prejudice, rudeness, and gross insensitivity. Public dialogue occurs in hyperbole, with anyone who expresses a preference to find a middle ground risking condemnation as feckless, irrelevant fools. Conciliation gets shut down from both ends of the political spectrum.

The absurdity of some of these scenarios is breathtaking. For instance, the Ninth Circuit has ruled that a 59 year old inmate in San Diego (serving a sentence of 83 years to life) has a plausible legal claim to force the State of California to pay for his gender reassignment surgery. This felon merits a free sex change + hormones in order to serve out his time with “dignity”? (What is dignified about being in prison? It’s a punishment.) All this in the face of schools not having new books in their libraries or soldiers going without needed equipment in war zones? Are you kidding me? I can barely pay my Obamacare! “It’s an unrecognizable world,” one friend mourned.

The reason I am going on like this is to attest to the ubiquitous nature of our social anxiety—it’s everywhere, it’s real, and it’s not hysterical. Significant progress in many arenas has been made, but this does little to alleviate our ongoing worries. Looking at the world today, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or cynical, which is why it’s so important to take time to savor those aspects of our lives we cherish.

Each summer, I spend time in a place where the speed limit is 14 miles per hour. I love the fact that it’s 14, not 15. Seeing those signs catches my attention and reminds me why it is I’ve chosen to escape to this sleepy little getaway hundreds of miles away from Washington. I do so because I love and recognize what goes on in this community. I embrace what it represents with little kids catching crawdads by the creek, old men rocking on the porch making the occasional wry remark, and the inevitable politics that arises at the women’s club. In a meta analysis, what goes on here is really no different than what occurs in DC, but it happens at 14 mph. It occurs at a speed that gives me room to breathe without being told that I’m deficient for not moving more quickly. Nobody else is in a hurry, either.

So, how about you? How do you feel about the pace of change these days? What can you do to create some breathing room? Whatever it is, I hope you enjoy yourself on the fourth. The United States is the best, most promising and dynamic nation on the face of the Earth. We are so deeply, deeply lucky to be living here.

14 mph


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