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Here’s a couple of articles that, while only tangentially related to each other, are intimately related to the headlining struggles of the moment in American society.

One deals with the destructive and expanding partisanship among Americans that is shredding our essential republican ideals and the integrity of our most vaunted public institutions, such as the presidency, Congress, the FBI and, most recently, the Supreme Court. In the latter instance, the centerpiece of the controversy is an accusation of attempted rape by the nominee decades ago.

The other opinion piece is a deeply personal one by a man who passively watched a rape decades ago as a teenager, without responding to help the victim, and has been racked by unrelenting guilt since.

“The American Civil War, Part II: The nation is deeply divided, with each side seeing the other as ‘the enemy.’”

In this October 2 New York Times column, Thomas L. Friedman laments:

“I grew up with the assassination of Martin Luther King and raging street battles over civil rights and Vietnam. And yet this moment feels worse — much less violent, blessedly, but much more broadly divisive. There is a deep breakdown happening between us, between us and our institutions and between us and our president.”

He quotes Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s full-throated denunciation of the current political milieu:

“Tribalism is ruining us. It is tearing our country apart. It is no way for sane adults to act.”

Sen. Flake, as you likely already know, was one of only a handful of Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week to withhold their votes on confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. They demanded an FBI investigation into an accusation by Christine Blasey Ford, a Stanford psychology professor and researcher, that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when they were teenagers.

The entire confirmation process has devolved into a cringe-worthy reflection of the depths of awfulness to which American public life has descended.

Which brings me to today’s second recommended article.

“I watched a rape. For five decades, I did nothing. — Many men have stories to tell and confessions to make. This is mine.”

In his terribly sad, instructive tale, former newspaper reporter Don Palmerine recounts being at a party in high school where he was trying to fit it, trying to be accepted by the richer kids as one of their gang. He along with some other boys were encouraged to go outside the house and look in a window, where they watched as a boy raped a drunk and unresponsive girl on a couch.

When the girl awoke and tried to fight off her assailant, the voyeurs scattered.

Thinking back recently to that appalling episode yet again, Palmerine writes:

“I knew then, and I really know now, that I had committed a crime. I have felt guilty about it my whole life. I get angry when I think about my teenage self and those boys I wanted to impress. In recent days, listening to the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford brought back these memories. I feel a lot of compassion for her. What she says she went through was so similar, and I know she’s telling the truth.”

Starkly evident in these two worthy articles is that we are not in the best of times, but, as always, there is hope. Some of us still have the capacity to rise above, even when the rest of us don’t.


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saudi arabia memoir
Cover image of “3,001 Arabian Days.”

Now on Amazon!

FYI, my newly published memoir — 3,001 Arabian Days — is now available in paperback on Amazon, here (and soon in digital format). It’s the story of growing up in an American oil camp in the Saudi Arabian desert from 1953-1962. Hope you enjoy my memories of a fascinating and foundational experience.



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Rick Snedeker

Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...