Re/ Kavanaugh & Just-Being-17

Re/ accusation of sexual assault by the teenage Brett Kavanaugh, now 53, a federal judge and nominee for lifelong seat on US Supreme Court: A lot is being tossed around about “how much, if any, weight should be given to the teen behaviors (and experiences) of now-middle-aged & successful adults.”

For me as a psychologist focused on mature adulthood in today’s American culture, and as a citizen, a core question here is NOT he said/she said/did he do it/is she credible etc etc etc. More important is how (and whether) the adults demonstrate the markers of maturity. Top among those markers is self-awareness. That results only after and out of humble self-reflection, a demonstrated wrestling with and coming to terms with whatever is the very worst as well as the best about oneself. Then comes integration, moving forward with these shadow aspects of oneself integrated into the whole person. It is not a glib, glossy, or later-papered-over process. It’s been well-known from the Biblical Isaiah to Dante’s trip through the circles of the Inferno the journey through the abyss.

That is the very definition of mature adulthood . That — not “gee whiz, let’s get a perfect report card” — defines this “integrity” that Brett Kavanaugh so righteously claims to be defending. 

So the natural question with this Supreme Court process must be how this now-adult Kavanaugh demonstrates the humility to own, take responsibility, make appropriate amends & integrate whoever and whatever his teen self was and did. That — not “deny-deny-deny” as modeled by the man who nominated him — is what his “integrity” would look like here.

If he had it 

Kavanaugh either was the fairly documented “100 keg club” prep teen getting wasted on weekends with his “horse-playing” pals, or he wasn’t.  If he’s saying he wasn’t that, didn’t do that, he doesn’t get to also play the “just a crazy drunk teen making stupid mistakes” here. And if, as is at lease well documented enough to warrant interviewing witnesses and looking at what’s in writing, he was on occasion that drunk partying teen, he needs to own that and tell us what he has learned, what he would do differently, how he has taken that into forming the person, spouse, parent and judge he is now (he could take a chapter from his earlier boss George W on how to do this.) 

Otherwise and meanwhile, the only evidence we have about this nominee’s “integrity” is that he is still a moral, emotional, psychological 17-yr-old. With that adolescent’s undeveloped sense of ego-self too fragile to bear even his own work of self-scrutiny, he’s totally unequipped to sit in judgment of others.

NOT Supreme Court material.

Closer Look Can Change Things — And Us

Thanks to former NC Supreme Court Justice and Charlotte Observer contributing opinion columnist Bob Orr for this thoughtful piece, “I changed my mind about voter suppression.”

Good illustration of newShrinking: moving via thorough Journalism to Scholarship (in this case, History) and even the deepening Psychological step of challenging and changing one’s cherished positions.

New lenses, new perspectives. Refreshing things in our polarized, alt-fact times.

Hold on, Mr. Brooks: “Privilege” has a shadow side, too

I’m often a fan and follower of moderate conservative NYT columnist David Brooks’ measured and thoughtful voice in today’s frenzied public forums.

His “praise of privilege” column here makes some needed and excellent points. But they are points I wish he could make without the unfortunate condescension that weakens them and seems tone-deaf. For example, with this column’s description of March-for-our-Lives student speakers as “grandiose and pretentious” like “most of us were at 18,” Brooks effectively dismisses the youths in a damming-with-faint-praise. This sets him up up to sound like a grumpy-grandpa and pretty darned grandiose and pretentious, himself, for the rest of the piece!

(Full disclosure here: As a near age-contemporary of Mr. Brooks I really hate it when we sound that way and strive hard not to.  So my reactivity to that surely colors my take on this column.)

That said, I also differ (strongly) with Brooks’ distinction between the Parkland kids’ embodiment and embrace of “good” kinds of American privilege while he disdains and disregards the very dark shadow sides of privilege in our culture. I just don’t think we get to cherry-pick only the pleasant, comfortable, and self-flattering dimensions of privilege and declare the rest irrelevant. The greater public good demands that we face and wrestle with both, and these kids are showing us how.

Ironically, as I listened to the DC March speakers from start to finish, I found most compelling that many of these young people – and this entire movement and program – so fully and bravely owned and named their own inherent privilege relative to so many others. Over and over they embraced and included many other, mostly publicly invisible, youths from around the country whose lives have long been devastated by gun violence — without attention or action. And these other student-speakers’ stories and voices were important, moving — and quintessentially American.

Among world powers America has long been an adolescent nation, and that in many ways has been our strength. Now, our overdue need to grow up seems increasingly apparent.

Maybe it is appropriate, even uniquely American, that it takes the teens to lead the way.

Truth Matters

Here’s a handy guidebook on separating truth from fake news in today’s environment, from Capitol Hill veteran, media commentator, and author Bruce Bartlett.

Check out the easy-save highlight pages of good tips at the start of each chapter. Topics covered in clear, concise language include critical thinking skills, choosing trusted sources, using fact-checking resources, and a lot more in a small package.

A Campaign FOR Neuroscience = AGAINST Violence


Amid the thorough and thoroughly heartbreaking journalistic reporting in the aftermath of the latest mass shooting, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, here’s a bit of expanded context through a scholarly lens: the highly relevant field of neuroscience, reactivity/self-regulation and violence.

From today’s The Takeaway program on Public Radio International station WNYC, this interview departs from the endless loop of polarized gun-violence debate.

According to the summary from WNYC: “Neuropharmacologist Dr. Jeremy Richman and his wife Jennifer Hensel, also a scientist, lost their daughter, six year old Avielle Rose, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. Shortly afterwards, they moved to create a foundation in her name that would take a scientific approach to understanding and preventing violence. As a parent who lost a child in a school shooting, Dr. Richman reflects on the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and discusses what violence looks like in the brain — and how we can treat it. The Avielle Foundation funds extensive research in every aspect of neuroscience and brain functioning in order to prevent violence.”