Last week I subjected you all to a long missive about the decline of the American Republic. This week I have decided to be a little more optimistic and discuss something, frankly, far more critical to us all as individuals: character.
From business, to politics, to law, to the basic interactions between us as people, there has been a decided lack of focus when it comes to character. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. admonished us to look to the content of someone’s character as the defining aspect of who they were. This has, to a large extent, fallen on deaf ears.
Instead, we have opted to look to external features to create stereotypes, assumptions, and exclusions. People who think differently from me are by definition, well… wrong. Therefore why give them any time at all?
Having to suffer through their dialectic, before realizing their perspective differs from mine, is just too insufferable. There simply needs to be a more efficient way to filter out the wrong kind.
Fortunately, there is! Just by looking at them, I can instantly put them into an acceptable or unacceptable column.
By looking at someone’s countenance, their color, their tribe… well… that is really all I need to know, isn’t it? White guy with dreadlocks? Worthless to me… I now have the ability to completely dismiss anything he is associated with. Woman in a fitted skirt, blouse, and pearls? Clearly an authoritarian monster and irrelevant to me.
Do they have redeeming qualities? Valid arguments? The cure for cancer? Who cares? They are marginalized as Antifa or Alt Right and we are done. Depending on my perspective (or mood) they have less value than a lemur on peyote.
(As a sidebar, if you do, in fact, encounter a lemur on peyote, give it a wide berth… peyote affects their digestive system and the results can be catastrophic.)
All this being said, from character also comes grit or, as Lou Grant from Mary Tyler Moore liked to say, “spunk”.
And one of the the most inspiring people in my life taught me about grit many years ago.
Oh… and we don’t agree on everything politically either. Sac re blu!
I am talking about my eldest daughter, Carolyn. She is currently living in London with her amazing partner, Alan, and thriving both professionally and personally as any brilliant young woman would tend to thrive in Europe. For those of you who follow us on social media, or read this blog on our website, you are actually seeing her work. She is the face of Artemis across all web-based platforms and directs our presence from her safe house on the Thames. (#artemisworlddomination)
(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here…)
I gave Carolyn the nickname Turtle when she was four years old. The reason was simple. She is steady, dedicated, and virtually impervious to the forces of nature when she wants to be. She can be vulnerable if she feels like it (thankfully Alan is there for those times)… but she has, and has always had, the stoic ability to push through even the most egregious of offenses.
Protected by her shell of self-confidence, she has never hesitated to completely uproot herself and travel where opportunities existed. She has lived and worked in Oregon, Germany, Australia, and now England. I suspect that her wanderlust has not expired yet either.
She also never, ever quits.
This is, fundamentally, what I mean when I talk about character.
Carolyn grew up in the martial arts world. She competed as a lower belt as a child, studying at Jimmy Kim’s Tae Kwon Do Center. After she became a black belt, the competition switched to high gear. Jimmy Kim was the 1988 Olympic gold medalist and he was, and actively is, grooming athletes for upcoming Olympics. Carolyn fell squarely in this pool of potentials.
As such, she started “doing the circuit”. The incident I am about to share with you took place at the World Trials in Louisiana. She needed to win at least two fights to make it into the next level ranking to compete later on at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
She handily won her first bout, then things got hairy.
In the first round of her second bout she suffered a debilitating hit to her hand. (As it turned out her competitor had kicked her hard enough in the back of her hand to completely break one of her bones.)
Jimmy Kim wanted to call the fight. Carolyn refused. She still had one round left, and even with a broken hand, she knew she could defeat her opponent and secure her spot in Colorado.
Into the ring she went. She did, in fact, win, then almost passed out with pain. She would end up having to undergo two separate surgeries and now has a wickedly cool scar on her hand.
Here is the thing… she didn’t have to compete. No one made her. Sandy gave her a pass if she wanted to bow out. Her coach told her she could throw in the towel. Carolyn was the one who refused to go out with grace. She was going to fight for her place, pain be damned.
She has always been like that, from the way that she pushes for her values, to her sense of right and wrong and the dignity of people everywhere. She is a warrior, who is not defined by the way she looks, not defined by her gender, and not defined by her race. She is defined, simply and elegantly, by her character.
Perhaps now is the time for us all to reflect on what really matters. Ultimately, I believe that is character.