Leadership Thoughts on Bombs


Written Sunday (10/28/2018)

Pipe bombs are in the news this morning.

What are we to make of this?

Although I’m sure there is some civil disagreement out there…it feels to me that the uncivil have the microphone these days.  So much so that I actually find myself feeling unsurprised by just about anything that’s connected with the vehement angst pulsating around our current political system.

I heard a Republican Senator say, after the news of Cavanagh’s confirmation that maybe this will draw an end to the partisan fighting.


Do we really think that this (or that) particular moment is the one that’s going to make everyone hug and be friends?  Granted, that would be great, but with all due respect, while the “winners” play another round of Queens, We are the Champions in their headsets let me offer a conflictual interpretation – I predict very little hugging and making up around this issue or any other in the near future.

Lest I come off too one sided, let me offer the same pushback to all the political sides of today’s current arena.  Today’s pipe bombs could just as easily have found themselves being mailed by someone else to houses on the other side of the political spectrum.  No doubt, justice is needed around this particular incident.  But in the larger picture, these pipe bombs are symbols of a much bigger issue.

It would seem to me that anytime the champion of a moment creates a culture of condescension toward their opponents they are stirring a rivalry cauldron.  And to the extent that those on the other end of that rivalry feel continually cooked in the disdain and disrespect of their opponents there can be great justification around the idea that when the day comes that the tables turn – those currently cooking are going to be the cooked…

…and no one will get a pass.

During the Supreme Court confirmation process Bret Cavanagh had a moment in which he chose to tell his senatorial questioners (with quite a bit of passion) that he was disappointed with how it had all been handled.  If I might say, he has some pretty direct things to say to those who aligned themselves with what might be considered the political opponents of his blessing party.

Was he justified in feeling that he had been unfairly targeted?  I wouldn’t doubt it a bit.

Yet I have to ask, Bret – you look surprised.  Are you really surprised?  Did you not see this coming?  Granted, some of this IS about you.  But surely you know that this is not ALL about you.  This is about something (many things) that are so much bigger than you.  You just happen to be standing in the middle of how we do business these days.

So now pipe bombs are a part of the story.

What’s next?

Where is all this going?

I’m not sure…but I remain hopeful.

Let me tell you why.

Recently, while meeting with a group from my community I sat across from what I believed to be a devout Catholic woman who was a few years my senior.  As the larger group continued to talk a question emerged.  “What might look like if this group encouraged more intentional relationships between one another and those in our community?”

As the group pondered in silence, I looked at the Catholic woman and said, “You know, the faith of my youth believed that you were going to hell.”  She looked back and me and quickly said, “We thought the same thing about you.”  There was some laughter…but we both know it was true.  I responded, “I want you to know, I don’t believe that anymore.”

Amazing, isn’t it?  I once believed that my faith had a corner on the truth.  As a result I felt empowered to look condescendingly on her beliefs, her tribe and her.

That was then.  Now is now.

I want to thank her publicly for joining me in a heartfelt embrace before we left the meeting that night.  Not because a hug made everything better.  Far from it.  But because “We are the Champions” was only going to take us so far.