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A Letter to My Friend 
Dec. 21, 2016

 Dear Rod,

 It was great to hear from you.  It’s been far too long since we shared a bottle or two of good red wine and discussed life, history, religion and the fate of our Republic.  When I think of some of our better dinners, I can’t help but be reminded of Wally Shawn’s great film My Dinner With Andre.

 And that is why I read with real happiness the announcement of your new blog, The Common Conversation.  And how appropriately named – for isn’t right now one of those times in our lives, indeed in the life of our Nation, when civil conversation and respectful dialogue are so desperately needed?  Bravo on taking the first step and providing a forum where all of us can share our views, whether they be popular or otherwise. 

 So, in the spirit of civil conversation and respectful dialogue, let me be the first, or at least one of the first, to offer a different point of view.  I’m excited.  Not because a loudmouthed bully smelled the fear and discontent stirring the land, indeed the fear and discontent stirring the entire globe.  No, I take no joy in the election of the man.  But I am excited nonetheless. 

 I’m excited because I was able to speak to a gathering of our clients last month whom we brought together to hear an analysis of the election, and close the program with the organization’s toast: “God bless the United States of America, God bless the Presidency of the United States, and God bless [our organization].” (All right, for those of you paying attention, I didn’t bless the [organization], but instead our State).   But Rod—I was able to say the name of God three times in the same sentence!  Not only did no one boo or walk out, but my audience actually joined me in the toast.

 I’m excited because a few days ago, at the end of a meeting of my sixty some partners, I was able to wish them all a “Merry Christmas.”  That’s right, not “Happy Holidays” or some even more diluted form of seasonal good wishes, but “Merry Christmas!”  True, my partners of the Jewish faith got a little twisted at that one, but they know me well enough to know that I wish them happiness and blessings for their holidays as well. 

 The point is that the election of Mr. Trump marked the end of the Age of Perceived Microagressions and the fascism of the far left under the guise of “political correctness.”  Let me share a story with you about just how crazy things had become, even at our eastern, establishment, white shoe law firm.

 About a year ago, we finished our very first strategic plan.  As the partner charged with heading up the planning effort, I was and am deeply committed to its success.  So when it was rolled out, I made sure that not only the partners in the firm heard about it, but each and every employee, as well.   Because I was the Evangelist in Chief for the plan, I spoke at each gathering where it was introduced, including at a gathering of our young associates.

 A week later, one of my good friends and partners approached me and asked to talk privately.  She tactfully suggested that we step into a side room and sit down.  I could sense that she was somewhat apprehensive, so I readily accommodated her request.  What she had to tell me was astounding.  Apparently, during my talk about the inherent value of our new long range plan, I had used a phrase I often use to describe a concept that is self-evidently good and beyond reasonable dispute.  I described part of our plan as “motherhood and apple pie.” 

 To my surprise, my partner was visited by two first year female associates, fresh from the halls of what now passes for academia, who asked why I didn’t value young single women?  Surely, if I held up “motherhood” as akin to an indisputable common good, I must not value the role of young single women in the workplace. 

When I picked myself up off the floor and dusted off my trousers, I found myself wondering whether I had fallen asleep for a long time and been transported to a distant planet.  I’d actually been feeling that way a lot recently.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m more Libertarian than anything in my social views, but I really found it confusing why, as a society we poured so much effort into moving beyond “civil unions” to gay “marriage;” why our outgoing administration saw fit to attack my religion’s right to choose not to offer abortions in a Catholic hospital, and even more confusing how (or why) we were supposed to accommodate the needs of men who wanted to use women’s rest rooms.  I know, this marks me as an unreconstructed Neanderthal, but recall the promise that we would have a civil conversation. I think that perhaps I was not alone in watching the more radical elements of the far left move into the mainstream with some degree of consternation.  The need to “make America great again” was not only felt by those whose jobs had been lost to the inevitability of the (mostly beneficial) effects of free trade, or those who were afraid of immigration, 

or even those who are fearful of a particular group that shares one of the great religious heritages of human civilization, perverted and polluted though it may be at the hands of those who espouse worldwide and perpetual jihad against even co-religionists who are not sufficiently “pure.”  (To be sure, I’ve come to have an abiding distrust of anyone who is certain that “God” is “on his (or her) side”).

 No, my friend, what is going on is not only the revenge of the dispossessed, it is also the natural and inevitable yearning to be free of the silliness that seems to have found a way to seep into almost all aspects of our society.  It is the pendulum swinging back from the farthest left reach of its path.  To be sure, it will swing to the farthest right reach of its path, and no doubt do harm on the way.  But in the end, this is simply another chapter in the great experiment that has been our attempt at self-determination for some 240 years. 

 And so I say to my distressed liberal colleagues and friends: relax.  It’s not the end of our Nation, nor is it the end of days.  It’s the next step in all of us trying to form that “more perfect union.”  It’s not the first time that we have elected someone who is likely to be a highly polarizing force.  Come to think of it, I was alive and politically aware when Ronald Wilson Reagan became the President of the United States.  To be honest, Reagan’s election (and re-election) made me embarrassed to be a Republican.  I didn’t vote for him the first, or the second time.  I was confounded by how anyone with an education, indeed anyone who viewed themselves as a thinking person could support him.  He was an actor -- and one who starred in a movie with a chimp!  How could this poseur be fit to hold the office held by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln?  And yet I was wrong.  History has been kind to President Reagan, and there are those who make the case, with some degree of support, that he was one of the great Presidents of our Republic. 

 So here’s an idea: how about all of us agreeing to give our new President a chance?  Indeed, if our President Elect is truly unsuited to the task, why don’t we do what we can to offer our assistance with the many difficult issues at hand?  Come to think of it, using a forum like this to have a civil conversation about the great issues of our day is a great way to start in that effort. 

 And as part of our common conversation, perhaps we will find ways to make common cause in protecting the rights of our fellow citizens as that pendulum comes crashing back to the right.  It is not a “right” or “left” idea to stand up for the right of an American citizen to practice his or her religion as they see fit.  Nor is it a “right” or “left” idea to stand up for the right of an American citizen to be critical of the new administration or the occupant of the office.  I suspect that there will be much for us to do together in the coming months and years as our body politic eventually finds its way back to some semblance of equilibrium. 

 But let me leave you with something that I’ve had in mind since I first heard the toast I mention earlier in this lette.  The toast is to the Presidency of the United States, not to the “President.”  Invariably, some large number of us is likely to dislike, even strongly dislike, the current occupant of the office.  But it is the office that deserves our respect, no matter how unorthodox or unprepared its occupant may be.  It is that office that will survive each of its occupants, both those whose service reflects great honor on it, and those whose service does not.

 Try it with me:  deep cleansing breath.  Breathe in.  Hold it.  Now let it go.  Repeat.  Feel better?  If not, open a good bottle of red wine.  It helps.  In the meantime, I hope that my decision to accept your invitation to engage with you in common conversation has only burnished our friendship, and that the promise of civil conversation did not have a footnote limiting it to only agreeable conversation.

 Wishing a very Merry Christmas to you and your family, I remain,

                                                             Your faithful friend from the East

 P.S.  As I reviewed this, I realized that I would have written the same letter to my conservative friends if the election’s outcome had been reversed.

Publisher's Note: The pendulum does swing, and most ideas wind up being taken to the limits of their logic, however extreme. I grew up in a time and place pervaded by casual discrimination and disparagement, and I now cringe at some of the things that I and my peers would say and laugh at. Live and learn. Without subscribing to the ideologhy of political correctness and all of its baggage, I have come to think that good manners and simple civility are independent and adequate reasons to avoid giving gratuitous and deliberate offense to others. But manners and civility should also mean cutting slack to people of good will who mean well and aren't looking to offend. It's hard to see offense in a neutral common expression, and, knowing you as I do, I know you had no intention to give some secret offense. Maybe your young lawyers were just doing what law school trains them (and trained us) to do -- over-parse words and drawn negative inferences (in two senses, right?) to reach strained interpretations. A conversation to be continued . . . .