Are we searching for neat and clean?

We are all searching for something.  Some of us are searching for answers. Some of us are searching for relationships. Some of us are Seeking solace or peace. And a great many of us these days are seeking to understand what the hell is going on with our country.

Perhaps we mourn the neat and orderly life of our childhood and are confused by the messiness of today.  I get that.  I do.

In reality, messiness is a part of freedom, democracy, and liberty. One person’s freedom may be another person’s shackles.  I think those trying to rise above the shackles of racism, sexism and other isms understand that freedom is subject to context and definition.

As I watched Disney+’s Hamilton, a short exchange between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr got my attention.   Granted, this is from a Broadway show, but it speaks to me. Perhaps it will speak to you as well.

Aaron Burr:  The Constitution’s a mess.

Alexander Hamilton: So, it needs amendments.

Burr:  It’s full of contradictions.

Hamilton:  So is independence.

These differences we argue about today, and even in the time of the Founding Fathers are shallow.  We only scratch the surface with our charged words, defensive posture, and attacks on the other person’s perspective without really understanding.  We look to the Founding Fathers for wisdom and guidance, but they can’t provide clarity any more than we can today.

Our world is complex.  We aren’t a homogenous country where everyone thinks alike.  That would certainly be easier, but that train has left the station.

The United States is full of contradictions. Our government must accommodate an agrarian society as well as an urban society.  We must balance the environment with economics.  We must navigate “corporate America’s” power while maintaining small business as the heart of the country.

We are who we are. We can dig in and mourn the past, or we can look at the opportunities that the future may hold.  We can take a deep breath before laying into someone who’s beliefs are different, and try to find out where they are coming from.

If we can just get past that tense, rocky place where the surface looks like we are miles apart in our perspectives, we just might find we are closer than we think.


Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson
CAROL is the founder and Principal of Anderson Performance Partners, LLC, a business consultancy focused on bringing together organizational leaders to unite all aspects of the business – CEO, CFO, HR – to build, implement and evaluate a workforce alignment strategy. With over 35 years of executive leadership, she brings a unique lens and proven methodologies to help CEOs demand performance from HR and to develop the capability of HR to deliver business results by aligning the workforce to the strategy. She is the author of Leading an HR Transformation, published by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2018, which provides a practical RoadMap for human resource professionals to lead the process of aligning the workforce to the business strategy, and deliver results, and writes regularly for several business publications.

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  1. Great post Carol. This is a topic that must be constantly revisited. I will never lose hope. As you pointed out, we have been through division and less than equitable treatment for all people since the founding fathers. We have been through the Civil War, “race riots”, freedom marches etc. I was part of the Vietnam protests and witnessed the corruption of Watergate where the country looked like it would be torn apart. Being a free nations means we will never agree completely. Each side will try to gain an advantage. I believe the statement by Theodore Parker in 1855 and repeated by Dr. King; “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Change takes a long time, but it does happen. … Each of us who works for social change is part of the mosaic of all who work for justice; together we can accomplish multitudes. We will get past this by one simple act of kindness by one person at time and engaging in meaningful dialogue to understand not debate.

    • Thanks for your comment, Frank. And for the reminder that we’ve been here before. I too lived through difficult times, but somehow this feels different. I think it is because I’m committed to reading multiple sides, because I think that’s important. I know more now, and it is scarier. But your comments are helpful. Thank you.

  2. Carol — As usual, right on.

    This point is critical: “The United States is full of contradictions. Our government must accommodate an agrarian society as well as an urban society. We must balance the environment with economics. We must navigate “corporate America’s” power while maintaining small business as the heart of the country.”

    In light of your point, I have difficulty understanding the “small government” vs “big government” debate. We’re an incredibly complex society of some 330 million souls. We have massive infrastructure needs – roads, rails, power, clean water, defense. We have critical health care needs. Those who lacks sufficient insurance still require care and often wind up getting it for “free” except we all wind up paying for it through higher premiums and deductibles. To me, it’s not a question of small vs large, but one of how to make what we have more effective. The question to me is how can we find some common ground to work from?

    • Oh man, Jeff, how right you are. More and more I’m seeing contradictions in the polarity – to you point about infrastructure, I just read about how Amsterdam is falling apart. I’m in the middle of a phenomenal book “We The Corporation: How corporations earned their civil rights.” Having spent many years in corporate America, particularly in executive compensation, I knew I was uncomfortable, but I’m becoming more aware of why. More to come on that…..

      Thanks for your comment.

  3. agree – if they are talking about the broader red/blue footbal/baseball rock/pop my company / my competitor divides

    – where we focus on the difference – not the commonality

    – where we are trained that to be on the wining side is good – but not as good as ensuring the losing team understands that they have lost

    – where we have tv programs that celebrate winners over losers

    – where we have podcasts and radio shows where I am screamed at – telling me to get on board – and it’s about ‘flower arranging’

    yup – all good

    BUT – i will not make any exceptions for liars, bullies, misogynists, traitors, power abusers … they need to be taken down – along with anybody who stands by and watches – doing nothing but enabling them … for that I will absolutely declare there is NO middle ground – there is NO commonality … and I WILL NOT stand for the false equivalencies – you know — like ‘all politicians lie’, so there is no difference.