Brutalizing Times

November 27, 2023

Brutalizing Times

Brutaizing Times

Mark Rubin

A swirl of emotions. I read a recent David Brooks piece in the Times a few weeks ago. Mr. Brooks published How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen soon before then. He focuses, in the column, the book, and in many columns, on living successfully in brutalizing times. A must read!

Mr. Brooks reminds us that our advancement to an enlightened and rationale place is, well, not so much. He urges humility for those whose good fortune allows us to even consider how we might think about the failing and falling world circa the 2020s. Then, he urges us to “lead with love in harsh times.”

Mr. Brooks’ words placed a coda on the lead up to a lovely weekend early in November. On Thursday, dragging bigly, LB and I walked over to The Shanty to attend a fundraiser for The William E. Morris Institute for Justice. I’m old enough to have known Bill Morris, who passed away more than 25 years ago. Brilliant, intense, and totally committed to forcing powerful institutions to follow the law.

Follow! The! Law! What a concept! We are not far removed from a harsh past when we need organizations, running on shoestring budgets, to hold people accountable. The generous, warm, and wonderful people we spent time with on that Thursday night show us – with their commitment to speaking truth to power – how to lead with love.

On the following evening, we joined 200 others to honor three UA College of Law alumni who received Lifetime Achievement Awards. The honorees – Richard Davis, Ann Kirkpatrick, and Gordon Waterfall, of blessed memory – have led exemplary lives.

I’m blessed to have practiced law with Richard for five+ years, and to have counted Gordon and his family as close friends for more than two decades. (For those who are reading from far away, Richard is a top-drawer trial lawyer and a leader in Tucson’s general and African American communities. Ann Kirkpatrick was a Congressperson who served for a total of five terms (Two 2s and a 1), and an elected member of the Arizona House of Representatives. Gordon was an exceptional estate planner, a national leader in his field, and a leader among Arizona lawyers.)

Honors aside, spending a couple of hours with fellow professionals lifted me up. Anyone who can chat up Burr Udall for 20 minutes is better for it! Seeing old friends and former partners was a true treat and a reminder that, for all my profession’s failings, the best of us are truly terrific people!

Obviously, Mr. Brooks’ comments and my lovely evenings matter not very much when we return to the brutal situations we face. President Biden noted in a recent exchange with the President of Chile that:

…there comes a time, maybe every six to eight generations, where the world changes in a very short time.  And what happens in the next two, three years are going to determine what the world looks like for the next five or six decades.

On the cusp, for sure, and it’s hard to be optimistic. Sadly, too many people have incentivized hatred over love, war over peace, and suffering over pleasure. On both sides, by the way! Yassir Arafat never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, yet he looks better than those who succeeded him. Still, it was a Jew who murdered Itzhak Rabin. With a gun, Yigal Amir turned what might have been into a never will be, for the foreseeable future. The Great Middle loses, no matter who they are, while those who lack the “doubting gene” – what Mr. Brooks calls humility – pontificate.

I wish someone had answers for what we see. Thinkers will, someday, understand why the world we thought we knew collapsed in the past couple of decades. (I have notions, but they are not ready for prime time.) In any event, I grieve for those who suffer and count my blessings. Seeing and being seen makes the days easier. Being humble about what I can and can’t know and do lives in the same space.

G-d Bless. Be kind to those who are around you and, as well, to yourself!


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