The real tragedy in Flint

Disasters

We’ve all read and heard a lot about the water situation in Flint. We’re hearing most of it from Democrats, who are citing this as an example of the evils of Republican leadership and all sorts of other hyperbole.

Rachel Maddow, among others, has (nauseatingly endlessly) blamed it on Michigan’s emergency financial manager law.

So much noise. So much misinformation. So little time.

If you’d like to know what really happened here, read on, but be warned: it’s long. If you’re the TL;DR type (Too Lazy; Don’t Reach), skip to the last subhead. The conclusions won’t make sense to you, but then maybe you don’t want it to.

The Tragedy’s Roots

For more than 50 years, Flint bought its water – treated and ready to serve – from Detroit. In recent years, Detroit has – like most cities with wholesale water customers, like Saginaw – has raised its rates to reflect the rising costs of maintaining aging systems. Detroit, according to Flint (and most of its other wholesale customers) was really jacking prices up.

Keep in mind that all of Saginaw’s wholesale customers say the same thing at every rate increase, and some – Frankenmuth most recently – have, over the years, threatened to build their own systems or find another source.

In order to be able to control its own water destiny, Flint’s city council and its mayor voted to join the Karegnondi water authority. It’s something they’d been talking about – and tried once before – since the 1960s. They finally got enough municipalities behind them to make the deal work. They announced the deal in 2013, with a target of getting water from Lake Huron through the new system sometime in 2016. Council voted 7-1 on the decision, which was later signed off on by the city’s EFM.

The Kiss-Off

The very next day Detroit’s water and sewer board notified Flint that it was exercising its right to terminate Flint’s 50-year-old contract in one year. Two years before their new source would be completed.

Why did Detroit do this? Because they were pissed off and thought, apparently, it would a nice F-U with which to send off their largest water customer.

Flint, realizing it was high and dry, needed to find an interim water source to keep things going until the new system was up. They hired a consulting firm, which looked at several options. One of them was to continue with Detroit, and there were negotiations over interim rates. The only news report of that process simply says “negotiations broke down.” Which tells me that Detroit wasn’t offering enough K-Y for what they were asking Flint to take when it bent over.

The study concluded that the best bet was to draw from the Flint River.

The Flint River, where the water gets drawn from, isn’t terribly “polluted.” As Michigan rivers go, it’s fairly typical. A little industrial pollution, but a ton of silt and agricultural runoff – it’s draining more than 1,300 square miles, most of it farmland. But it’s water that’s very treatable with modern treatment technology. And it’s always been the backup source.

The final decision to use the Flint River as an interim source rather than Detroit appears to have been made by the EFM (at this time, Darnell Earley. He claims the decision was made by the state; former Mayor Walling says it was made by Earley). Earley note at the time that it would save Flint $12 million over the two years of the contract. Not much of a bargain in hindsight, but nobody had foreknowledge of the screw-up and cover-up to come.

So Flint’s water department is asked to start treating its own water – something it hasn’t done regularly in at least 40 years, if ever. The water guys told the mayor and Council and Earley, “sure, we can do that.”

The First Screw-Up

Apparently, they couldn’t. I’m speculating here: They had little or no experience in treating raw water. I don’t know if they read a book, took a seminar or watched a how-to on YouTube, but either way, they started treating the water as if it were being run through a modern distribution system of plastic and copper pipes.

It’s not. It’s running through a 100-plus-year-old system of cast iron mains and lead service lines.

This is common. It’s what nearly every older city in Michigan has. I have a lead service line in my house – probably in every house I’ve lived in, in fact – but have never shown elevated lead levels, nor have my kids.

And that’s because something interesting happens with lead water lines. The inner surface of the lead pipe builds up a layer of lead oxide — the “lead” that makes “lead crystal” as clear and brilliant as it is. While still toxic itself, it is less prone to leaching. It coats the inside of the pipe and prevents elemental lead from leaching into the water.

But only if the pH balance of the water is just right. If it’s not (and I’ll not go into the chemistry involved except to say pH is an indicator of free ions that can create the galvanic activity), metals will start to corrode.

There are well-documented protocols for corrosion control for municipal water systems. They were not followed in this case – from what I can see, because the agency charged with monitoring that activity, the Michigan DEQ, simply didn’t require it.

As soon as they started running that water through the system, the free hydrogen and hydroxyl ions started eating the lead oxide from the lead service lines, and causing the iron mains to rust. That’s why you see so many pictures of brown water from Flint – it’s rust from the iron service. When it leaves the tower, it’s perfectly clear (and perfectly, safely drinkable). It’s just either too acid or too alkaline.

The Cover-Up

Evidence suggests the DEQ did not check to see if a corrosion control program was in place. When people started complaining, the DEQ shrugged. Maybe somebody knew they had screwed up. Maybe nobody did, although the chain of evidence seems to suggest they were just too arrogant to pay attention to anyone who had anything to say about it. This isn’t surprising, coming from an agency whose director has a degree in food science, an MBA in finance and spent the previous few years of his career managing a entrepreneurship incubator. That’s what happens when you give important cabinet-level jobs to people who help you politically … but that’s another story.

DEQ is responsible for overseeing testing of water supplies. And when Flint tested its water, DEQ staff made Flint fudge the results. They threw out samples that had high lead levels.

And, I’m going to guess, told the Governor and his staff, all along, that everything was fine, this was much ado about nothing: “Look, Mr. Governor, Flint’s testing says the water’s fine.” The US EPA, charged with oversight of the whole shooting match, also dropped the ball.

The Recap

  1. Flint’s elected leadership makes what is actually a solid, sound decision that will, in the long run, save the city millions of dollars and give it more control over its destiny – and, because it positions Flint as a wholesale supplier of water, possibly enhance revenues for them.
  2. Detroit Water Board decides to be spoiled and pissy and leaves Flint with no good options for the two years before its pipeline is built.
  3. Flint’s leadership and GOP-appointed EFM make a well-deliberated decision to draw water from the Flint River.
  4. Flint’s water staff – the people in Flint who are the experts on this sort of thing – apparently aren’t up to the task. And the people they count on to oversee and help them …
  5. The Michigan DEQ, is completely asleep at the switch. And once they discover their mistake, they lie about it and ask Flint to help them lie.
  6. US EPA is aware of a problem, but apparently trusted the kids playing in the DEQ sandbox to fix things.

Personally, I think Detroit needs to be held accountable for starting the snowball down the hill. And I think there are people in the DEQ who should be prosecuted for reckless endangerment and fraud.

The Governor? His accountability lies in the creation of the corporate culture that allowed DEQ’s hubris to let it happen.

The Detroit Water Board members, I’m guessing, aren’t Republicans. The Flint water department staff who were in over their heads weren’t Republicans. The DEQ staff is probably a mix.

The Even Larger Tragedy

This is a huge public health disaster. And we Americans like our big, bad disasters in black and white. We want to blame it on one bad guy and reward one good guy. We’re not real good at nuance and chains of events … especially if they clash with our political beliefs.

Every Democrat in the country is calling for Gov. Snyder’s head and blaming it purely on the Republican governor and his emergency financial manager law. And not only are they ignoring the guys in the black hats who actually caused the problem, they’re really ignoring the victims. Worse, they’re using them as a tool to gain a political advantage. And that’s even larger tragedy.

That’s not what Flint’s children need right now. People need to focus on them, and not on their hatred of all things Republican.

Update 1/19/2016

This has been updated to reflect new information. And let me be very clear: I am not paid to be an investigative reporter, and this is not a news outlet. This is strictly my opinion, and it is based on news accounts. Some facts are not known, in large part because of the lack of transparency in the office of a governor who promised to be transparent. And as I learn new facts that contradict information I had in here, I will so note them. 

None of this changes my overall point. There is a big difference between blame and accountability — and which you use will have a lot to say about the results you get in the end. Blame and outrage will help Hillary Clinton in the primaries, and it will help Michael Moore sell his next film. But the people of Flint can’t drink blame, and they can’t bathe their kids in outrage. We know exactly what the problem is. Let’s get the best people to work on fixing it. After that, we can start the floggings. And there are people here who should be flogged. 

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But I learned in second-grade English …

Que Seurat, Seurat: He probably didn't learn this in art school.

Que Seurat, Seurat: He probably didn’t learn this in art school.

As one who writes – mostly advertising –for a living, I hear that from people. A lot.

“I learned in second-grade English that you can’t start a sentence with ‘and’.” Or, “I was taught that it’s not a complete sentence unless it has a subject and a verb.” Or, “Miss Fussbudget drilled it into my head that you need to start out with a thesis statement.” Sometimes, even, “Mister Puffbuttock always said you should never use contractions in your writing.” Well, all of those things are probably true.

We do learn, early in our education, that it’s a “rule” that we don’t begin sentences with conjunctions. It’s a “rule” that a complete sentence contains a subject and predicate. Many things you write in school should, indeed, use the “keyhole” structure that builds a first-paragraph thesis statement. In certain forms of writing, you should avoid contractions.

When these issues come up, I like to think about a kid named Dale.

While at his North Carolina high school, young Dale played football, basketball, baseball and golf. He probably took English from Miss Fussbudget.

He dreamed of becoming a professional athlete. And he took driver’s training, where he learned the “rules” that a beginning driver must learn. Signal a lane change. Stay at or under the speed limit. Allow one car length per 10 mph. Hands at 10 and 2.

In his 20s, young Dale started fooling around with friends from work – doing odd jobs around a race track. And the racing bug bit him.

Retired since 2008, Dale Jarrett is still considered one of the top 10 all-time NASCAR drivers. He didn’t get there by following the rules of the road he learned in driver’s ed. He followed the rules of the track.

If you think about it, Georges Seurat’s second-grade art teacher would probably have been horrified by the rule-breaking of pointillism. (And don’t get me started on cubism.) Considered one of the greatest works of English literature ever, James Joyce’s Ulysses would be nothing but red marks if judged by the standards of middle-school English composition. The boundary-breaking improvisation that defined be-bop would have been frowned upon by young Dizzie Gillespie’s music teachers at the Laurinburg Institute.

In our early school days, we learn rules for the “science” of writing. Sadly, this is as far as writing education goes for most people. Those who pursue careers in writing, however, go well beyond that basic training and study the “art” of writing – just as Gillespie studied the art of the trumpet, Seurat the art of visual composition and Jarrett the art of stock car driving.

And in that advanced study, we learn it’s okay to start a sentence – even a paragraph – with a conjunction. A “fragment?” It can be a sentence. Contractions aren’t forbidden. Only a thesis-style paper should begin with a thesis statement.

It’s not necessarily breaking rules. It’s more a matter of having the skill and wisdom to know which rules can be bent, and by how much. It’s knowing what works, and, when appropriate, what wins.

In the marketing communications business, it’s a matter of playing by the rules of the track, rather than the rules of the road. On this particular track, the field is extremely crowded. The competition is fierce. The prize is your customer’s attention, interest and action. And the rules of the road probably won’t win them.

Go back and re-read great sections of your favorite novel or your favorite poem or favorite song lyrics. Watch your favorite movie, and imagine the dialog as it was born – as words written on a page. Pay attention not only to specific words and their meanings, but to their rhythm and cadence. Notice how the “rules” are bent to reflect the style of the writer, the personality of the character … and the rhythm of the character’s life. That’s what good writing does.

Good advertising writing reflects the style of the brand, the personality of the customer and the rhythm of the customer’s life. Those are skills that Miss Fussbudget couldn’t teach you in second grade. Because they take many years of practice to learn – after you’ve learned the basic rules first.

And when it comes to starting a sentence with a conjunction … you don’t need to take my word for it. The first chapter of Genesis in the King James Bible – arguably the most “formal” of all English translations – consists of 34 sentences.

Thirty-two of them begin with “And.”

And if it’s good enough for God, it’s good enough for me.

This was originally written as a newsletter article for the Princing & Ewend newsletter, way, way back in August of 2004. It has been updated. 

The Story of the People Who Told Stories

Storytelling is not dead yet. In fact, it’s getting better.

StoriesOnce upon a time, we grew up learning things from people who told stories. We entertained ourselves with people who told stories. We enriched our minds, constructed our faiths and built our businesses through people who told stories.

Then, one day, from deep within a dark, foreboding cave near San Jose – unearthing itself from decades’ worth of Red Bull cans, pizza boxes and Foosball tables – the big, bad Internet reared its pixelly head. It gobbled up all the storytellers. Then it pooped them all out again in pretty JPEGs, cool GIFs and 200-word chunks of bullet points.

The end.

At least, that’s the conclusion we’re offered in a recent post on Adobe’s cmo.com in which Pum Lefubre, chief creative officer at Design Army, declares that “Storytelling is dead.”

The post cites a study released by Microsoft a few months ago that has received plenty of publicity on its own. It declares that the “human attention span is 8.25 seconds,” shorter than that of a goldfish.

It’s time we all stopped using this study to declare that the human neurological, intellectual and emotional pathways that developed over 200,000 years of constantly changing and evolving media have been completely reconfigured by the Internet in just 20 years.

Without wading too deeply into the weeds of the study itself, let’s just say that the testing was measuring brainwave activity of people assigned a “gamified” task: noting the sequence of different objects, or classifying vowels and consonants and odd or even numbers. Not exactly the kind of riveting activity one plans for a big Friday night.

Sadly, the

Sadly, the “Methodology” section of the Microsoft study does not explain how they measured the attention span of a goldfish.

And the 8.25-second figure is for only one type of attention: Transient attention, a short-term response to a new or different stimulus that distracts you from something else. This is actually a good thing, because it means we are able to more quickly transition back to selective sustained attention – the task we were focusing on. The study, curiously, doesn’t offer a duration on this … mostly likely because it wouldn’t offer the clickbait potential of a comparison to a member of the carp family.

There’s more than one way to skin a fish.

In all fairness, much of the advice Ms. Lefubre offers marketing communicators as a “replacement” for “storytelling” is sound advice. Eliminating unnecessary messaging is always a good thing to do – including a tagline if, indeed, it isn’t needed. Understand the value of less as more. And, by all means, don’t “dumb down” your material and spoon-feed your audience. Leave something to the imagination to draw them in.

After all, those just happen to be some of the key roles of, um, storytelling.

The examples that accompany the article – all very fine work – don’t demonstrate the death of storytelling; they simply represent another way – a more visual way – of telling a story. Sometimes this is the most effective way. Sometimes it’s not.

It depends on what story you’re trying to tell. And to whom you’re telling it. A poster for a ballet company’s performance of Alice in Wonderland isn’t exactly telling the same story, to the same audience, as a message to a medical device manufacturer suggesting using a silicone elastomer over PVC, latex or TPE. Nor is a brochure designed to get people – most of whom have no previous connection with the organization – to contribute to a local Habitat for Humanity chapter’s endowment because it was established as a memorial to a beloved former mayor.

Those might need a different kind of story.

‘I’m not dead yet!’

Of course, this is nothing new. I’ve been a marketing communications writer for 39 years. For almost all that time, I’ve heard people say: “Nobody will read anything that long.” “People don’t have the attention span for copy that long.” And, yes, “Storytelling is dead.”

By people selling the next big media thing – and, of course, art directors – storytelling has been rumored dead more than Paul McCartney.

The Internet world didn’t create the shorter-is-always better shibboleth. But it’s determined to accelerate it – hence studies that confirm our shrinking attention spans. (These studies, of course, reinforce the need for devices and software to enable that acceleration. See! They’re telling a story!)

But are people really too impatient to read more than 100 words? Let’s find out, by looking at what was at the top 10 on the New York Times’ best-selling fiction list for one week in June of this year:

  1. Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told By Christian, 576 pages
  2. The Girl on the Train, 336 pages
  3. The Rumor, 384 pages
  4. Tom Clancy Under Fire, 512 pages
  5. Country, 336 pages
  6. The President’s Shadow, 416 pages
  7. The Martian, 387 pages
  8. All the Light We Cannot See, 531 pages
  9. Finders Keepers, 448 pages
  10. In the Unlikely Event, 416 pages

At an average of 250 words per page, those 10 novels average 108,000 words each. And a hell of a lot of people have either bought or downloaded them. It’s not that people won’t take the time to read – or listen to, or watch – a story. They just won’t waste their time with one that’s not told well. E.L. James, apparently, being an exception.

People won’t pay attention to marketing communications messages that don’t tell an interesting, engaging or compelling story. But if you’re telling a good one (or a titillating one that taps into repressed S&M fantasies), people will take the time to read it.

We’re wired for it. Since language developed, we have explained our world, built our businesses, made our reputations and educated our children through the telling of stories. And stories are like products – the ones that survive are the good ones.

I think we’re all a little tired of “brand storytelling” as a puffed-up cliche to describe copywriting. But the process of storytelling is far from dead. As more and more people try to tell more and more stories – and, as they try to tell them the wrong way, or tell them poorly – the ability to tell a story well is growing more important every day.

The businesses that tell them well are the ones that will live happily ever after.

The Refractive Index of Time

The Confederate flag represents evil. That’s why we can’t hide it away completely.

Flags

Here’s a fun little experiment.

On a piece of paper, draw a line with an arrow pointing to the left. Tape this to the backsplash of a kitchen counter. Fill a clear, smooth glass with water and set it on the counter. Now look through the glass of water at your arrow. It will be pointing to the right.

Much of the discussion over the removal of the Confederate battle flag from state houses – and, apparently, everywhere else – is an excellent example of how time refracts and distorts the events and beliefs of the past just as the water in the glass gives those arrows you a completely different meaning.

The removal of what most of us know, incorrectly, as “the Confederate flag” or “the stars and bars” from the South Carolina state house is a good thing, as will be its furling at other state government facilities – and its removal from state flags – throughout the South. To the State of South Carolina, there was one reason and one reason only for seceding from the U.S., and it’s best expressed in its declaration of cause:

[The] ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery …

It bears noting here that the “domestic institution” here is slavery, and “property” it refers to is other human beings. While we can pretend that the casus belli of the Civil War was “states’ rights,” it’s crystal clear from that declaration – and that of the other Confederate states – that the only right the states were concerned with was slavery.

The Myth of the Lost Cause

The fiction of a higher cause arose quickly after the war. It was, as Nolan Finley notes in the Detroit News, enabled, if not directly advanced, by the US government. Lincoln and his successor, Andrew Johnson, understood the ancient strategy of allowing a vanquished opponent to save face; the myth of the “lost cause” over states’ rights helped pave the way for reconstruction.

As we have grown more distant, though, the refractive index of time has given the “lost cause” a luster that outshines the dark reality of human bondage beneath it. The fact that the long-retired “stars and bars” were unfurled above southern state capitals in reaction to the civil rights movement a century after the Civil War reminds us that the darkness was never very far away.

But we must also consider how the refraction of time has changed our perception of other aspects of that war – most significantly, the men who fought it, and their reasons for fighting.

Only 20 percent of the CSA’s troops were conscripted. Most were there for reasons that are difficult for us, today, to understand.

The United States: Plural

Before the Civil War, and its unprecedented rise of federalism, the “United States” were a group of individual states in the classical sense of the word: sovereign nations, banded together like NATO or the European Union. As Shelby Foote notes in Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary, before the war, people said “the United States are.” After the war, they said “the United States is.

A century and a half later, it’s hard for us to understand how generals in the U.S. Army would resign their commissions to fight for Virginia, or how an average citizen would put his loyalty to South Carolina above his loyalty to the nation. But at the time, nearly everyone did. It was, in large part, Lincoln’s gift for oratory that drew the northern states around the cause of “union.” After all, only 30 years earlier, the State of Ohio and the Territory of Michigan declared war on each other.

A related concept that’s also difficult for us to understand today is the premodern concept of “duty.” To us, today, it’s a rarity, something we see in the “few good men” of the Marine Corps and in a select occupations and situations. Society has changed enough that most of us cannot imagine marching shoulder-to-shoulder into a storm of flying lead. But at that time – and, really, up through World War One – men could not only imagine it and romanticize it. They did it.

The common Confederate soldier did not own slaves, nor did most of his officers. In fact, only six percent of all the people in the South owned slaves. The South’s economy depended on slavery, so all had some financial skin in the game. But was still, as are most wars, a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.

Most of the 1.6 million Confederate solders who fought, the 80,000 or so who died and the 137,000 who were wounded were there because their sense of duty compelled them to fight for their home states. “My country, right or wrong,” and at the time, one’s state was as much – or more – one’s country than the US.

Racism was Not a Southern Monopoly

Secession was driven by a desire to perpetuate slavery. That slavery was based on the premise that the Negro was a subhuman class of animal; it is inherently racist.

But also lost in the refraction of time: Racism was not exclusive to the South.

The abolition movement was most emphatically not an anti-racism movement. Many white abolitionists believed the Negro was morally and intellectually inferior to the Caucasian – as did Lincoln. This belief was at the time, in fact, the subject of what we now call scientific consensus, and it was an article of faith for many mainline Christian denominations.

At a political level, the Civil War was over slavery. At the personal level of the infantry solider, it was over duty to his so sovereign state. But neither Confederacy nor Union was innocent of the stain of racism. If we cast ourselves back to 1861, the stars and stripes are almost as racist as the stars and bars; they just don’t stand for slavery. Racism didn’t magically disappear in the North after the emancipation proclamation or the 14th amendment; it has not yet disappeared to this day.

The Confederate Navy Jack is an ugly remnant of a nation founded by acts of treason over the right to own other people. This is why it should not be flown over state houses.

But one thing contemporary Americans do well is take a good thing too far. And that’s what we’re  doing with the wholesale removal of the flag from everywhere – not to mention the attendant madness such as the exhumation of Confederate generals, even one as loathsome as Nathan Bedford Forrest. That flag is an important part of the family histories of millions of Americans whose ancestors bravely followed a sense of duty to their government – misguided as that government may have been. This nuance – the first amendment aside – is why it should not be banned outright, and why people should be free to display it on their property as they choose.

Most importantly, though, that flag is also an important part of the history of the United States of America. It should not be purged and hidden away as an embarrassing secret from our past.

Because it serves as an important reminder of the cruelty, inhumanity and evil we are all capable of hiding under a cloak of tradition, custom, economic expediency or political demagoguery. This is a time when we need that reminder more than ever.

It’s the End of the World (as Glenn Beck Knows It)

But I feel fine.

DarkestIt’s been both fun and somewhat horrifying reading headlines and social media posts the last few days. Here’s a sampling:

“Five lawyers overruled 2.7 million Michigan voters,” says Michigan State Rep. Gary Glenn.

“This irrational, unconstitutional rejection of the expressed will of the people in over 30 states will prove to be one of the court’s most disastrous decisions,” says former Arkansas Gov. and presidential wannabe Mike Huckabee.

“The country as we know it is done,” says TV and radio host Glenn Beck.

“Now the destruction of the family begins,” says Michigan GOP committeeman David Agema.

“So sad we seem to keep going down the drain faster and faster, But God is not mocked!” says a comment on a friend’s Facebook page.

“June 26, 2015: the day the twin towers of truth and righteousness were blown up by moral jihadists,” a tweet from American Family Radio personality Bryan Fischer.

“This is indeed a rogue act by the SCOTUS which effectively ends Western Civilization as we know it,” a Facebook post by Michigan activist and reputed pastor Stacy Swimp.

And my favorite, from both the Breitbart Facebook page and from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz: “Darkest week in America’s history.”

Let’s let that one sink a little. The “darkest week in America’s history.”

I’m relieved that we made it through the “darkest week in America’s history” without the 7,000 deaths of the first week of July, 1863. Or the 2,500 deaths of the first Sunday of December, 1941. Or the 2,900 from the second week of September, 2001. Not to mention the 8,000 deaths of Galveston in September of 1900, the millions in poverty after October, 1929 or the 3,000 dead and 225,000 homeless of San Francisco in April,1906.

Now, we’re hearing from the same bloviators who complain about the excessive self-absorption of the so-called “Me Generation.” They are now apoplectic: A ruling on a badly worded provision of a two-year-old, poorly written healthcare law, and the ability of four percent of the American population to have their relationships legally recognized, overshadows dozens of wars, recessions and depressions, national disasters … even the Harding and Nixon administrations.

GRIP

Now, the “overruled the voters” complaint is an odd and disingenuous expression of intellectual inconsistency. It is, of course, SCOTUS’ job to “overrule” voters when voters – and their elected representatives – pass laws that do not meet the standards of the constitution. They overruled the voters in Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia. Of course, those cases would probably cause the same wailing and gnashing of teeth among the same people today. But these very same people were beside themselves with joy when the Court overruled the voters in Bush v. Gore and in Citizens United v. FEC.

But the other overly dramatic complaints? They would be silly, if they weren’t such an insult to the people who have suffered or died because of one of the aforementioned dark weeks, or many others, in America’s history.

Less hubris would allow them to remember that every week, the families of 47,000 Americans each face their darkest week, as they lose a father, mother, grandparent, sibling or child.

For the record, my positions on these two decisions is pretty much 180 degrees from those of Chief Justice Roberts. I am 100-percent behind the decision on marriage. And I believe the Affordable Care Act is a deeply flawed law that, while addressing a few of the symptoms of a huge disease, will ultimately only make the disease worse.

But now that we’ve had a couple of days to take a breath, I think all the conservatives who have called this “the darkest week” in our history, “the beginning of the end of our republic” and all other manner of drama-queen hyperbole, need to consider something.

A few paragraphs ago, I ticked off five “dark weeks” in which a total of 66,000 people lost their lives and many times that many lost their homes. America is still here.

In fact, this republic is one tough old bird.

It survived an invasion, less than 40 years after its founding, by what was then the world’s greatest superpower. It survived a war with its southern neighbor, two world wars, Korea, Vietnam and dozens of other incursions – not to mention a civil war that literally ripped the nation apart. It survived – and won – a 40-year stare-down with the Soviets.

It survived three major economic crashes – one accompanied by the nation’s most devastating drought– and dozens of smaller ones.

It survived the assassinations of four of its leaders and attempts on several others. It survived hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and explosions.

Ted Cruz, Bryan Fischer, Rush Limbaugh, Bobby Jindal and other so-called patriots have declared that this republic will crumble. Because the GOP still hasn’t been able to put together a real healthcare cost-containment solution. And because all Americans can now legally marry the ones they love.

America has proven that it’s stronger than that. And true patriots believe it.