May You Live in Interesting Times!

From politics to policing, across the U.S. and around the world, a feeling of unease.

By Joe Sweeney

There’s some question about whether the Chinese actually had a saying often interpreted by Westerners as a curse clothed in the garments of well wishes: “May you live in interesting times.” Well, even if it didn’t originate there, it’s still sounds good. And it may have more currency today than in ancient times, anyway. Evidence of interesting times is all around us.

Start with the presidential election. There couldn’t be a more appropriate description of this year’s election than “interesting.” And I’m not sure a citizenry could be more cursed with that selection—one candidate whose campaign has unfolded against the backdrop of a criminal investigation by the FBI, and a time-bomb-tempered pro-business candidate whose career wake includes multiple bankruptcies, running a scam “university” and accusations of using undocumented workers on projects.

From this seat at Ingram’s, I’ve had the pleasure and privilege over nearly 20 years to meet some of the finest, most competent, most inspirational and most ethical business leaders you could ever hope to see in the chair of a chief executive. Remember William F. Buckley’s comment about how he’d rather trust administration of the government to the first 400 names in the Boston phone book than to the faculty at Harvard? Well, I can think of a dozen area CEOs right off the top of my head who would be better candidates for president than either of those nominated recently in their party conventions. 

I voted in the Republican primary last spring, and though I didn’t vote for Trump, I was a bit disconcerted by the way he was being portrayed in the media. Turns out the media may have been onto something: Since his convention acceptance speech, Trump has demonstrated that he’s erratic and unfocused, given to snap judgments, and apparently incapable of admitting fault.

The alternative—if you believe anything other than a vote within a two-party construct is a wasted ballot—should
quite arguably have been indicted for the national-security lapses she orchestrated as secretary of state. They nailed
Gen. David Petraeus for much less. The frustrating thing about that whole episode with Hillary Clinton’s server is that it makes Donald Trump look rational when he talks about the system being rigged in favor of the political establishment.

A disheartening election looms, race relations reek, and terror is on the prowl. Please tell me this isn’t as good as it gets.

On the plus side, it’s nice to see that a fellow Rockhurst High alumnus has made his way as a vice presidential candidate. The selection of Tim Kaine, the U.S. senator from Virginia and former governor of that state, as Clinton’s running mate surely enraged a lot of the Bernie Sanders crowd, but it showed that there’s room in the Democratic Party for voices of moderation. We’ve been following Kaine’s career ascendency with some interest here at Ingram’s since at least 2009, when his brother Stephen was recognized as one of our Top Doctors.

Another aspect of these interesting times is the current state of race relations in the U.S. It’s surreal to me, after witnessing half a century of steady and measurable progress toward racial equality in America, that we’re seeing race-related killings by and of police officers and outlandish claims that black Americans are being systematically targeted for execution by law enforcement. Yes, a vanishingly small percentage of police officers has indeed violated their oaths to protect and serve, but it’s hard to understand why the underlying facts that explode such nonsensical myths about police in general are incapable of penetrating certain minds. And harder still to reconcile the reality on our streets today with the talk from 2008. If you recall, that’s when the punditry proclaimed a post-racial America would emerge from that presidential election.

I sure hope that dynamic isn’t repeated with gender relations if Hillary were to win in November.

Developments like these—plus global factors like the looming breakup of the European Union, the mass exodus of refugees from Syria and the Middle East, large-scale terrorist bombings of innocents across Europe, wide open borders—all of it contributes to a psychological shroud of uncertainty.

And in business, uncertainty is a growth killer. It would be nice if Nov. 8 would get here soon, and bring with it an indicator that things just might become a little less . . . interesting. 

About the author


Joe Sweeney

Editor-In-Chief & Publisher