2016.02.11 A Rare Occurrence to be Lauded

I almost fell out of my chair upon opening the newspaper on Tuesday. David Brooks, New York Times' fairly conservative op-ed writer, confessed to missing Barack Obama!

In his column, David Brooks praised the president's character and the transparency with which he has governed the country.

How is that coming from a regular GOP supporter and just as regular critical voice of the current administration?

There are two points to this issue: 1) The character of the person occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue actually does matter. And 2) we should be able to look at the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the people we don't agree with.

More than just being relevant for the expats living in the United States, I mention this because what David Brooks illustrates is that it is perfectly OK to agree with points of view usually opined by people from "the other group."

When people move abroad, their values become very succinct: "This is what we stand for! - we who belong to my tribe." I use the word tribe on purpose to make it clear that this kind of thinking encourages tribal behavior.

Some people get so offended by differences in their new country, that they can't see anything valuable in the way other peoples behave or organize themselves, not even in areas where the behavior has nothing to do with the original offense.

And it is true, in some countries the systems really are below standard - even below the standard the host country otherwise supports.

From abroad, foreigners watch with dismay the huge amount of money feeding the American "Election-industrial complex" and it is easy to fall into the trap to see Americans through such a lens. Do you want to live in a country where people are "like that"?

But ss seems evident from watching the presidential primaries, a huge number of Americans also think that the role of money in the elections is beyond the pale. We can't let our distaste for some regulations rule how we perceive the individual members of our host population.

So that is my takeaway from Brooks' article: Employ sound judgement; it is all to easy to resort to group behavior and howl uncritically with the pack.

Somehow I am not all surprised that David Brooks of all people would come up with this article. I am in the middle of reading his book "The Road to Character" and Brooks can hardly laud the balanced approach of the people he write about without setting similar standards for himself.

Although I don't buy into everything in the book, for learning something about Americans who dared stand for something - even if it went against what was easy or convenient - it is actually quite a good read.