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The cultural divide bigger than an offensive line


Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his seminal work on the decision-making process “Blink” about a marriage therapist named John Gottman who can, remarkably, predict with 91 percent accuracy a marriage’s chance of ending in a divorce after observing a couple for only five minutes. In his research, Gottman has identified the number one behavioral trigger that predicts marital failure: contempt. When one or both partners display contempt for the other — eye rolls, vicious sarcasm, name-calling — it demonstrates a lack of respect for the other that is fatal to the marriage.

I couldn’t help but remember this nugget from Gladwell as I was watching football this weekend. Or, to be more specific, as I was watching the pre-game antics of the players and our President before the Sunday NFL games.

President Trump just doesn’t seem to be able to help himself — he has an almost pathological need to voice his (frequently poorly-thought-out) opinions on any and every issue, usually through his Twitter feed. The issue of NFL players protesting the National Anthem was almost a dead issue — it really hadn’t been a major deal this year. But, for some reason, the President felt the need to amp the issue back up again last week, taking an issue that had been a marginally good one for him and turning it into a major loser for him by going way over the top (whodathunk?) and calling the players SOB’s.

And, of course, in response, the NFL players multiplied their protest on Sunday. In one hilarious episode, teams playing a game in London knelt for the American National Anthem but stood respectfully for “God Save the Queen;” members of three teams decided to remain in the locker room for the entirety of the National Anthem; and many players — including 25 of our Denver Broncos — knelt or sat during the Anthem. And, to many, there is no doubt that that feels like massive disrespect.

Oddly, one member of the Pittsburgh Steelers blew off the rest of his team and stood proudly on the field, with his hand over his heart. Perhaps that’s because he — Alejandro Villanueva — is an Army Ranger who served three tours in Afghanistan and sent brothers home in boxes draped in those flags that others refused to stand for.

I would hate to hear Mr. Gottman’s conclusions about the future of the American marriage after these “five minutes.”

Let’s see: name calling? check. Sneering? check. Hostile humor? check. Vicious sarcasm? check. And if you’re wondering why the last two got checks, you obviously didn’t watch any late night television last week.

To quote Josh Lyman of “The West Wing”: “there may not be anything anymore that outpaces the hatred the right feels for the left of the tonnage of disrespect the left feels for the right.” Fifteen years after that line was written, it hasn’t gotten any better.

Yes, the Right holds the Left in contempt — the effete, latte-sipping, coastal elites who want nothing more than to take your hard work, your creativity, and your success and use the fruits of them to pay for free everything but your protection, as long as it is sanctioned by the United Nations.

And yes, the Left holds the Right (and most of American history) in contempt — the misogynistic, gun-toting Bible-thumping Neanderthals who want your children to die from a head cold and want to throw Grandma off a cliff.

And yes, nearly everybody and Donald Trump hold each other in mutual contempt.

I’ve written before that I thought this country was headed for a divorce, but I’ve never seen it blow up in such a dramatic fashion. Just when Hurricane Harvey reminded us of our very best selves, we go right back down the rabbit hole.

But, hey, at least we have this: the Rockies are two games up with six to go for the last playoff spot. United in Purple!

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His novels are available at MichaelJAlcorn.com


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