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It’s 2020. Who am I? Who are you? Who are we?

Peter McCormick

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I tend to like even numbers for whatever reason, and look ahead more optimistically at even-numbered years than odd. But this one, 2020, has thrown that out the window. Man, did I ever get this one wrong. We seem to hit new lows almost every day.

The silver lining of the recent coronavirus "pause" in our daily routines has been for me more opportunity to step back, observe, reflect and think about where I — and we — fit in the new jigsaw puzzle that is life from 2020 onward.

Coronavirus. Masks. Science. Jobs. Media. Health care. Gender. #BLM. Policing. Guns. #MeToo. Statues. Flags. Environment. Education. Economy. And of course the overarching politics and electioneering that stains them all. 

Every single one of those topics suffers from a polarization of opinion or allegiance that was unheard of just a few years ago. In my opinion, much of that extreme polarization or dichotomy — admittedly exposed and fueled by social media — is based on who we think we are or have been conditioned to be rather than who we actually are, of our own volition, beliefs and understanding, as our standalone selves. It's ignorance... of ourselves.

Beyond the inherited genetics of body type, intelligence and skin color, virtually all and everything we are, identify with or profess to be... is learned. If we label ourselves as this, that or the other thing, is that based on a truly conscious, informed choice of our own, or a trickle-down of tradition or influence from previous generations?

"When you no longer believe everything you think, you step out of thought and see clearly that the thinker is not who you are." ~ ‪Eckhart‬ ‪Tolle‬

It used to be said that polite people don’t talk about sex, religion or personal finances in open conversation. But politeness in many circles (the golf turf industry a thankful exception) has gone out the window in recent years, so I will invoke editorial license to use religion as an example. 

Religion has for centuries served as a cause of conflict — and yes, hate — between people, from the Crusades to the Holocaust, the Arab-Israeli conflict to 9/11 to anti-Semitism and the political sway of conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists today. Yet, pick any individual out of the crowd and ask them to explain the basis of their beliefs and most wouldn’t be able to articulate it sufficiently to justify their extremism.

My maternal grandmother immigrated from England in the late 1800s, and brought roots in the Church of England with her. I was raised Episcopalian (the American version of the Anglican Church) until I could think for myself. My parents (who could lean toward snobbishness at times) might look askance at Catholics, Methodists and Lutherans, for example. Why? Did they, or any of us, know enough about the particular ideology or doctrine of the religion to which we ascribe (if any) to know how it differentiates itself from others, particularly those at which we might look down our nose?

I’ll bet 95% of those leaving church or temple or mosque after services wouldn’t be able to explain why they attend that institution rather than another denomination, other than that’s how they were raised. It’s what they did, where they always went, what they are comfortable with. Trickle-down ignorance.

We would be better served as a society if our behaviors and opinions were based on informed understanding rather than conditioning, history or tradition. 

We would be better served as a society if our behaviors and opinions were based on informed understanding rather than conditioning, history or tradition. 

Same thing goes for politics. My parents were Republicans. It’s what they were, and their parents were. I’m not sure they could articulate why, other than the rationale of the day that "White collar people are Republicans; blue collar are Democrats." Like cows down the path, they would go into the voting booth and invariably click down the row of Republican candidates, few questions asked. My wife’s parents did the same, as Democrats. Amazingly enough, Patty and I have survived together for 47 years.

We — and most of our siblings and our our kids’ generation — have eschewed those pre-ordained labels and mindsets and chose to think for ourselves. Patty and I have never voted in a closed primary election because we didn't want to declare ourselves one way or another. Resist the pigeonhole.

As parents, we all want to imbue our children with what we consider proper thoughts and beliefs. We have to be careful, however, not to pass along biases, prejudices or predispositions that without due introspection we may not even realize we have. Without that self-analysis and resultant awareness, raising our kids "in our own image" may put them at risk of perpetuating the ills that have become increasingly more obvious in our society today.

As I said, my mother was of English heritage. For no good reason other than tradition, she shared the anti-Irish racism that persisted among the English for centuries. My father claimed to be Scottish even though his surname — McCormick — is spelled the Irish way, rather than MacCormack as it would be in Scotland (or PEI, as our friend Paul's is). I can't help but wonder if that was to placate my mother at some point. She scoffed when we named our daughters Colleen and Erin (can't get much more Irish than that). "Where are you getting all these Irish names?," she asked. Dunno, I replied, no reason other than we like them. Maybe in some subliminal way it was to get under her skin a bit. Nah.

One thing I do know is that my mother, a college-educated person, had absolutely no reason to have an opinion either way about the Irish, whom I happen to like and admire for their humor and resilience in the face of adversity. She never traveled there, and I'm sure never invited an Irishman to dinner for earnest conversation. Yet the bias persisted. More trickle-down ignorance.

While I'm on a roll, let's talk about guns. Patty's family were all hunters. Mine was not. I have never fired a gun, and can't remember ever holding one in my hands. I'm basically OK with hunting as a sport, particularly as a tradition passed down from father or grandfather to son or daughter. I can imagine that time spent together in the woods, particularly when learning, quiet and surrounded by nature, is priceless. One of the things of which lifetime memories and filial bonds are made. That's a very good thing, especially today.

That said, I don't understand or agree with those who wrap themselves in the Second Amendment, slap on an NRA label and crow about their "right" to own handguns, assault rifles and high capacity magazines... often to the detriment of the common good. 

Labels, allegiances and affiliations have become all-or-nothing with little in-between. Polarized. Black or white, no gray. It's perfectly fine to be a hunter and turn in your handgun or support restrictions on assault weapons. It's permissible to be some of this and some of that, but that does require thought and introspection that too many people seem unwilling to invest. It's sometimes easier to be one or the other rather than in-between, but gray is OK.

So how about you? Most in our industry recognize the value of continual process improvement in our workplaces. Do you take the time and expend the effort to do the same personally, diving deep into your beliefs, opinions and affiliations to either reinforce, relax or even abandon them if they no longer fit or serve a purpose?

It's equally important to identify and provide more space for those things that bring you joy, while dispensing with those that don't. 

It's equally important to identify and provide more space for those things that bring you joy, while dispensing with those that don't. 

I will admit to doing much more of that recently rather than earlier, in my family-raising, business-building years. I have more time now, but it's also likely due to things being more "unsettled" today than they were back in the day. I could use harsher terms than that, but I won't.

Where do we go from here? First thing is to get this coronavirus under control. Look at it like this: You have brand new, pure bentgrass greens. Poa seeds are floating around, maybe on cutting unit rollers or on someone's shoes, trying to set their hooks. You're going to do whatever you can to keep the Poa out, and it's going to be a long struggle of protection, monitoring, awareness and remedial action. It will require a total, across-the-board team effort, but it can be done. No different than Covid-19.

Piecemeal, scattershot approaches won't work. You can have 7 of 8 mowers clean as a whistle but that seedy 8th one will get you. As a friend of mine says, "Having 7 of 8 digits of a password won't get you in the door..."

To those who feel their "individual rights" are being infringed by being asked or required to wear a mask, hey, take one for the team here. Wash your hands, keep your personal distance. It's simple, and much easier than keeping those greens Poa-free.

Most everyone I come across or talk to today is on edge, tense, irritable, borderline to full-bore pissed off. Masking-up in public prevents us from smiling at others. We rush past one another in the grocery store, avert our glances, treat others as if they're radioactive... which, unfortunately they could be, at least figuratively.

So go about it a different way.

Do a favor or something nice for somebody. Say hello to the person at the other gas pump. You may get a weird look back but it will make an impression. (Sometimes I take it a step further and run my card through their slot, telling them it's their lucky day but also reminding them to pay it forward.)

Do a little more than is required or expected. Call someone you haven't spoken with in a while, and give them space to talk. Listen to understand rather than to reply.

Invest in the legwork of personal introspection. It’s impossible to understand others without first understanding ourselves.

We are teetering on the precipice of long-term social damage, yet we all have the power to stop it at our doorstep. Think for yourselves, be careful what you pass on to your kids. Someday they will appreciate that you gave them the opportunity to become their own selves, earlier than later. Be nice.

As Randy Wilson mused in a podcast a few months back, why can't we just be friends?

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As always, Peter...Brilliant writing and thinking. Thank you. 
The password thing really hit home for me. 7 of 8 digits won’t do it. For sure. 

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Always enjoy your writings. I finding this one very appropriate and thought provoking for these times.

Wishing you the best.

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