Newsline , Society

Proportionality, Politics, and Kittens

Posted on Monday, July 31, 2023
by AMAC, Robert B. Charles

Sometimes it sweeps me: Proportionality matters – and we seem to be losing it. These days, big things are considered little, little things big. Cultural erosion is deemed acceptable, along with loss of history and science – while one insult ruins our day. Lack of military readiness is ho-hum, while a patriotic tweet triggers an internet explosion about race, histrionics, and more backlash.

Like losing our sense of taste or smell, you can lose your sense of proportionality. It is like losing balance, or faith, or depth of understanding. Society is doing that. Loss of proportionality is more than unhealthy. It leads to growing disorientation, irrationality, irascibility, and bad choices.

When you misjudge threats and friends, you stumble. If you misunderstand security and civic cohesion, you become vulnerable, open yourself to bad actors. Globally, if we imagine Iran and China are just misunderstood friends, minimizing the risk to allies, we invite danger.

On the domestic and personal sides, if we blow up minor disagreements into big, lifechanging confrontations and throw-downs, indulging anger on matters of policy not principle, we lose.

Conversely, if we obsess on personalities, or see enemies behind every tree, we miss the chance for agreement. Instead of harmony, we get disharmony. Instead of balance, we get off balance. This wastes time, goodwill, and erodes confidence – in our nation, institutions, and each other.

The odd thing about loss of proportionality, which can creep on you, is it can be hard to see, and harder to accept. When everything changes just a little each day, big things get missed. Whether keeping an agreement going, or fostering professional discipline, or reacting to the latest crazy news, we can lose perspective without realizing it – get worked up over something not worth it.

If you suddenly lose your sense of taste or smell, as many did during COVID, you promptly know it. The reality is a daily event, until the missing sense returns. If you lose wellbeing from stress or an event, you know that too – you may have trouble sleeping, eating, and thinking.

But when we lose a sense of proportionality, it happens gradually – until one day we wake up and find ourselves out of sync with half the world, putting things in bold relief that do not deserve much attention, while missing the big things, the ones that should matter.

All of this is not to say big things do not exist. Of course, some things deserve high attention, from foreign wars to culture wars, public integrity to public health and safety, but not everything is a “crisis.” Not everything is reason to fret, panic, cut people out, condemn, or go ballistic.

If all this seems common sense, it probably is. Then again, we often forget common sense, until we realize that what we used to do without thinking – and knew intuitively – is worth recalling.

A funny story makes the point, or might help it stick. Reacting to things is what we do every day – and proportionality really boils down to good judgment, how we react. Default to calm helps.

Growing up in rural Maine, we raised rabbits as pets, not to eat. We started with one, but soon each of the four kids needed one. Despite hutches enveloped in chicken wire, we had 67 rabbits within six months. Showing no sense of proportion …they escaped, communed, and bang, 67.

But this is just prologue. With no internet, lots of land, time, and imagination, we began to think kittens might be fun. After getting 67 rabbits in six months, a parental dictate came down: No kittens. This was disappointing, but appeals to the parental powers failed to change the dictate.

Then one day, a school friend happened to be giving way kittens. Our repeat appeals to the parental forces failed, ending in a second parental dictate: “The topic will not be raised again.”

Still, kittens seemed such a nice distraction – from rabbits, homework, and chores. The friend asked how we kept our rabbits. We said, in wooden hutches, dozens, side yard. They nodded.

A few days later, one of our parents returned from a morning walk among the hutches, with a surprising announcement. We were shocked – mostly at the proportionality of the reaction.

That morning we all learned, to our delight, that “one of the rabbits gave birth to five bunnies and a kitten.” We were out the door in a flash. To this day, we have no idea how it happened.  

What we do recall with clarity – is the proportionality of the parental response, tempered. In time we ended up with more kittens, no one worse for it. Proportionality … is worth remembering.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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1 month ago

Charles you made me grin like an ole Cheshire kitty cat!

1 month ago

No one says it like Robert Charles.

1 month ago

When one political party claims climate change is the single most important issue of the day, I know we (or they) have lost any sense of proportionality.
When men can fix things and open doors for women, they’re suffering from masculine toxicity.
When girls climb trees and don’t play with dolls, they’re confused about their gender.
When 9-month pregnant women want–and get–an abortion, that’s okay with them. I call it infanticide, but who am I but a stupid MAGA Republican?
When Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas says “The border is secure” and doesn’t flinch when Congressmen remind him that, under his authority, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from drugs being smuggled over the border, in addition to the 7 million unvetted invaders who have moved in, the numbers don’t seem to matter any more.
This is a crazy, topsy-turvy world we’re living in thanks to the woke idiots. When these ridiculous schemes and dreams of snowflake idealists make the mainstream media–and the anchors don’t crack up laughing–millions are goaded into thinking this is the new normal. The old normal was boring, dull, and not very shiny…I’ll take those days any time.
The clincher is Joe Biden and his family profiting millions of dollars over a decade or more, selling political influence to every bidder willing to pay the price. Impeach the b^&%$#@.
And that’s just fine with half of America who want to see this bumbling old crook of a fool re-elected in 2024. He can get away with it (so far), but your everyday person of color making $12.00/hour who can’t afford a fancy lawyer gets jailtime. And there’s another of those gems conjured by the socialist democrats–I don’t hear anyone screaming “White Supremacy!” when it comes to the bidens! But isn’t that the game they’re playing?

1 month ago

“I sometimes think that the saving grace of America lies in the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans are possessed of two great qualities – a sense of humor and a sense of proportion.” FDR
You have a wonderful proportion of humor in your writings. You always make me smile. Such a gift. Humor helps us to recognize and except the fact that we are off balance and “a little on the back foot.” It’s a great wake-up call and has helped save my “bacon” often throughout my personal life. I could not live without my sense of humor. But, on a more political note, we, the American people, need to refocus, shake our heads a bit, like dogs do when they are wet, and realize that our country is gradually morphing into an unrecognizable entity. It seems a bit overwhelming when you become aware of it. The alarms are reverberating throughout the countryside. It truly concerns me, but I’m an eternal optimist and know in my heart, that God is guiding our ship. Things will get better, as I am a firm believer that good will always overcome evil. Have a great Monday and week!

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