Street Smarts

I love going home and I hate going home. Beyond the long two and a half hour drive to a loving family lies political discord. Every. Single. Time. Whether it’s out on the porch on Easter, in the living room on Christmas, or in the garage after a round of golf. Every. Single. Time.

On one level, it’s awesome. I don’t have a ton of conservative friends and there’s a lot of value in discussing things with people who have different values and beliefs. I’ve learned to be reflective and the drive home gives me lots of time to chew on things and assess the things they said. This is an example of just such a thing.

On the other hand, it’s awful. Although I’m more moderate than most of my friends, we all operate the same way and have the same broad values. We are generally the same people.

That is not the case with my dad and my uncles. They’ve spent a lifetime doing. I’ve spent mine reading, listening, and reflecting. They’ve, on the whole, lived in rural areas their whole lives. I’ve lived on the farm, in the suburbs, and in the city and have traveled across the country and across the Atlantic. They are distrustful, at best, of science. I (over)zealously embrace it. They purposefully exaggerate while griping. I demand factual accuracy and precise word choice AT ALL TIMES.

This time, my uncle, then my dad, took shots at folks who come onto the job or into a situation with a know-it-all attitude despite not knowing it. Of course, they couldn’t help but phrase it in a way that lumped all college graduates into this category.

Everything I know is useless because it wasn’t learned at the School of Hard Knocks, but no offense? Thanks…

Have I mentioned that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday? There’s football on Thanksgiving.


Can we stop using the phrase “street smarts?” It, probably along with “common sense,” needs to die.

Let’s use an example my uncle used. His wife, a very intelligent woman who does auditing at universities across the country, expressed surprise that the loon, Minnesota’s state bird, could fly.

Silly, right? Everyone, or at least most people, could sort of figure out that a loon can fly.

On the other hand, Continue reading

How Much We Don’t Know

It was after a knock-down, drag-out political argument that my uncle said something profound.

We were celebrating Easter, and without any decent sports on television, our post-dinner conversation turned to politics. Even a moderate, much less a social liberal like myself, would have been the odd person out. Phrases like “those people” (Hispanics, Muslims), “that stuff” (Homosexuality), and best of all, “White people are the only minority left” were tossed around without reflection or critical thought.

I was too angry to be articulate and I failed to educate. Thankfully, one of my uncles saved the conversation, and my sanity, by saying that we’d all be better off “if everyone knew they’re not as smart as they think they are.”

On one level, that’s not enough. It’s too easy for someone to say “no one is as smart as they think they are” and believe that means that everyone is equally knowledgeable about anything. Neither my father nor I are as smart as we think we are, but that doesn’t mean our opinions on farming or social history are equivalent. They are not.

However, my uncle was right, assuming we take it the right way. Continue reading