Letters

Letters 05-02-2016

Facts About Trails I would like to correct some misinformation provided in Kristi Kates’ article about the Shore-to-Shore Trail in your April 18 issue. The Shore-to-Shore Trail is not the longest continuous trail in the Lower Peninsula. That honor belongs to the North Country Trail (NCT), which stretches for over 400 miles in the Lower Peninsula. In fact, 100 miles of the NCT is within a 30-minute drive of Traverse City, and is maintained by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club...

North Korea Is Bluffing I eagerly read Jack Segal’s columns and attend his lectures whenever possible. However, I think his April 24th column falls into an all too common trap. He casually refers to a nuclear-armed North Korea when there is no proof whatever that North Korea has any such weapons. Sure, they have set off some underground explosions but so what? Tonga could do that. Every nuclear-armed country on Earth has carried out at least one aboveground test, just to prove they could do it if for no other reason. All we have is North Korea’s word for their supposed capabilities, which is no proof at all...

Double Dipping? In Greg Shy’s recent letter, he indicated that his Social Security benefit was being unfairly reduced simply due to the fact that he worked for the government. Somehow I think something is missing here. As I read it this law is only for those who worked for the government and are getting a pension from us generous taxpayers. Now Greg wants his pension and he also wants a full measure of Social Security benefits even though he did not pay into Social Security...

Critical Thinking Needed Our media gives ample coverage to some presidential candidates calling each other a liar and a sleaze bag. While entertaining to some, this certainly should lower one’s respect for either candidate. This race to the bottom comes as no surprise given their lack of respect for the rigors of critical thinking. The world’s esteemed scientists take great steps to preserve the integrity of their findings. Not only are their findings peer reviewed by fellow experts in their specialty, whenever possible the findings are cross-checked by independent studies...

Home · Articles · News · Other Opinions · Unexpected Exceptionalism...
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Unexpected Exceptionalism

Stephen Tuttle - July 11th, 2011
Unexpected Exceptionalism
While searching YouTube for something, and I honestly don’t remember
exactly what,
I stumbled across the 2008 version of France’s incarnation of the Got
Talent franchise. Of course, they call theirs Incroyable Talent.
There, I met a beautiful 12-year-old named Caroline Costa. A giggly little
girl, it turned out she had a stage presence and voice equal to any
current mega-star. You knew within the first couple of seconds of her
audition she was something out of the ordinary.
We love those moments of unexpected exceptionalism that temporarily take
our breath away, catch in our throat and leave us shaking our heads in
dumb wonder. We look at each other to make sure we’re not the only one so
afflicted.
Actually, the Got Talent franchise has produced more than one of them.
There was American Jackie Evancho, the 11-year-old opera singer with the
bubbly personality and perfect voice. And, the British version gave us the
now legendary Susan Boyle, who looked and acted like someone least likely
to succeed until she started singing and peoples’ hearts momentarily
stopped.
Sports is a fertile field for both the unexpected and the exceptional.
In the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, American Bob Beamon was
expected to win the gold medal in the long jump, an event in which world
records are typically broken by an inch or less. Nobody expected what
actually unfolded.
On his first attempt, in perfect conditions, Beamon nearly jumped beyond
the landing pit. In fact, he did out-jump the optical device used to
measure distance so they had to do it the old-fashioned way with a tape
measure. Minutes ticked away as Beamon nervously paced. When the
distance was finally posted metrically, not everyone, including Beamon,
understood what it meant. When a teammate finally told him, he crumpled to
the ground, unable to comprehend what he had just done. No wonder. Beamon
had broken the world record by a stupefying 21 3⁄4 inches. His new
record stood for more than two decades and is still the Olympic record, 43
years later.
Sometimes it isn’t even a human being that generates that feeling.
In 1973, the great Secretariat was on his way to winning the Triple Crown
with only the final leg, the Belmont Stakes, remaining. He had already
set records in winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Though no
horse race is ever a “sure thing”, bettors had made Secretariat a
ridiculous 1 to 10 favorite.
The race itself was competitive for awhile but Secretariat began surging
ahead on the backstretch and it appeared he was extending that lead with
every stride. Chick Anderson, who called the race that day, famously said
Secretariat was “... moving like a tremendous machine...”. As the horses,
or at least one horse, rounded the final turn and headed for Belmont
Park’s long home stretch, the roaring crowd quieted for just a bit as if
preparing for this incredible thing they were about to witness.
Something incredible is exactly what they did witness. Secretariat won by
a preposterous 31 lengths – more than a football field – in a time that is
still the world record for a mile and half distance on a dirt track.
Such a moment can also be sent our way by someone completely anonymous.
In 1989, protesters in China gathered in Tiananmen Square in Beijing
demanding greater freedom. The Chinese government crushed their
mini-revolt with tanks and live ammunition.
There was, however, a completely unexpected and completely exceptional
moment. As tanks rumbled down the street, one man simply walked out and
stood in front of the lead tank. However that tank moved to get around
him, he moved in front of it.
Bystanders or secret police, depending on which version you believe,
finally dragged him out of the street. Some say he was later executed,
others that he was imprisoned and, still others, that he was never
identified or punished. Whatever the case, his boldness was breathtaking.
These moments most certainly happen in other, less publicized fields, too.
The educator’s breakthrough when the lightbulb finally goes off in a
student’s head; the scientist’s astonishing discovery. That the media
doesn’t cover them and we don’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t happen.
One field in which those moments no longer happen is politics. When is
the last time anyone from either party surprised us by doing something so
unexpected it transcended partisanship?
Our country is wallowing in debt, unemployment seems stuck at an
unacceptable 9%, we’re at war on three fronts and our politicians have
decided the solution is to see who is best at demeaning their opponent.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has provided us with
the best example of what we don’t need. His top priority is not the
deficit or the war on terrorism or unemployment or anything that could
pass for an actual issue. No, as he’s said many times, his top priority is
“making sure Obama is not re-elected”.
Well, thanks very much, Mitch. That should make for an interesting 17
months of accomplishing absolutely nothing.
It’s not as if the Democrats, whose spines and platform have apparently
drifted out to sea never to be seen again, are any better.
What we need is one of those moments. What we need is for President Obama
and Speaker of the House Boehner to step forward, together, and
acknowledge that fixing the damned budget mess and generating some jobs is
more important than anyone’s election.
We need Democrats to admit the problem cannot be fixed just by raising
taxes on the rich and the GOP to admit it can’t be fixed just by slashing
away at programs for the poor and sick. And both have to get serious
about reforming Medicare and Social Security in a way that protects
recipients and improves the bottom line rather than their chances in the
next election.
That would be unexpected. And exceptional.

 
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