A Stitch in Time

by Amy Zidell

     Like everyone, I have watched with horror and dismay the devastation of America's Gulf Coast and the suffering visited upon fellow Americans. Not unique is my ranging emotions from disbelief, to anger, to frustration, to fear, to sadness. I have compiled notes and bullet points for articles of different perspectives. I mulled, started and stopped a couple of times. I hope the result is something useful.


I wrote some months back about preemption in regards to achieving peace. The doctrine that you strike them before they strike you. Social ills should be attacked, at minimum, with as much force as fights terrorism.

Our post 9/11 society expects that we should have learned every possible lesson without need for continuing education. Whether our apparent failure to do so reflects short-term memory loss or overly optimistic steadfastness doesn't matter. Some believe that Political Correctness allowed the hijackers to remain in the country despite their red-flag raising activities. This contributing factor has been mislabeled. Gross misuse of the concept of Politically Correct has created a communication problem. In this vein, I suggest that Political Correctness is not such a bad thing. After all, there is nothing inherently wrong with being correct or political. If being Politically Correct means that people with strongly opposing political views can productively discuss a given issue, it seems that Political Correctness is down right useful. The problem is that the phrase Politically Correct, "P.C.," has too frequently been used incorrectly. When common sense and laws, including reasonable laws of nature, are ignored because one doesn't want to offend or be controversial, this is really an instance of Unnecessary Politeness or, U.P.

Allow me to illustrate an example using racial profiling. Racial profiling, which results in a person of a particular ethnic group being pulled over by the police because they are a person of a particular ethnic group is wrong by any measure. Not pulling someone over simply because they are of a particular ethnic group is a matter of doing the right thing. It has very little to do with being Politically Correct. If, however, someone matching the description of a criminal at large including the suspect's age range, clothing, vehicle description, and their particular ethnic group is NOT pulled over by police because the authorities don't want to be accused of racial profiling, that is Unnecessary Politeness. U.P. puts all of us at risk.

Unnecessary Politeness is what leads to study after study, panel after panel, report after report analyzing some crumbling infrastructure, rather than labeling it plainly as broken and then fixing it, as might happen with, say, oh a levy system.

Unnecessary Politeness dumbs us down and makes us complacent. We know that too many Americans live in poverty. Disproportionately, this same population has inadequate access to proper health care, is done a disservice by failing schools, and is tragically forced to contend with gangs, crime, and domestic violence. We have known these things for a long time yet the problems remain. The problems are not solved. At what point do we take decisive action? Preemption prevents our merely reacting to a crisis.

When I was in Junior High School (Middle School) some kid got in trouble in class and the 'teacher' forced the entire class to sit in detention after school. My mom, unaware of the punishment being administered, arrived at school right on time to pick me up. I was not at our designated waiting spot. My mother became concerned and all five feet of her fury tore her way to the administration office. My mother explained that she was there to pick me up and that I was nowhere to be found. The administrators were dismissive. My mother persisted and found out my location. The rest of this event happened in a blur. My mother whisked into the classroom and yanked me out of there and all the way back to the administration offices. She might as well have been a 500-pound mother bear. Toe to toe with the principal, my mother read this man the riot act as to the dangers of having children held after school especially without parental notification. My mother explained the problem, pointing out that children going home not at the normal time and not being monitored after they were let out at the delayed time puts children at risk. "How dare you keep my child after school without informing me!"

The principal blithely replied, "We've never had a problem before."

My mother shot back, "Are you going to wait until you do?" The principal had no reply for this pointed and intelligent question. With a flourish, my mom and I departed.

This brilliant, motherly, common sense is really all the compass anyone needs. The concept of preemption is nothing new or vanguard. There is one phrase, I'm sure you've heard -- A Stitch in Time Saves Nine. A simple sewing metaphor adroitly capable of summing up contemporary matters that will no doubt be codified in several thousand pages of bound commission reports. Let's look at a couple places where some stitches are needed. Talk about a potential housing bubble ignores a looming problem. The flood of 125% home equity loans, pay day advances, and instant cash loans, are markers of an impending financial crisis. If people are behind one week, the next week will likely be worse, especially when next week's paycheck is already spent. It is the start of a bad, vicious cycle. When people go to sell their 125% equity mortgaged homes, they may find they owe more on the home than the home is worth. That's a problem. It can lead to financial crisis, which can lead to a real estate market crisis, etc. The amount of hurricane victims citing chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and the request for plus-size clothing is an indication of a nationwide health problem. We need to stop being Unnecessarily Polite.

How can we stop U.P.? Here are some non-U.P. frank phrasing suggestions related to the unstitched examples above:
  • You don't have any money.
  • You need to spend less or make more.
  • Borrowing money isn't free; it creates a debt that needs to be paid back with interest.
  • Mortgaging your home to the hilt doesn't get you out of debt.
  • Taking a home equity loan out to pay off credit cards, does not improve your home's value.
  • You're fat.
  • Stop eating so much junk.
  • Get some exercise.
  • A deep fryer is not your friend.

In his book, Winning, Jack Welch devotes a chapter to candor. It is a powerful force. Let's be candid. What happened in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast can happen in any major city in America substituting for that region's specific natural disaster(s). Not to mention that every major city in America makes a juicy target for terrorists. This is not new and should come as no surprise. I'll venture that the average citizen in Any Town, USA could tell you, without hesitation, the top three perennial problems in their city.

So you can tell the difference, here's the Unnecessarily Polite translation of the above candor:
It is unlikely that the events, which unfolded in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast at large, would be repeated themselves elsewhere or even in the Gulf Coast area as different regions of the country have varying natural weather patterns and this was a unique occurrence. Furthermore, there are no verified reports of any planned terrorist attacks on any major city. Each city in America has its own special charm.

Be candid, be preemptive, please don't be Unnecessarily Polite, and don't tolerate U.P. from others.

© 2005 Amy Zidell

Read First | Articles | Contact

Copyright © 1995 - 2005 Amy Zidell. All rights reserved. No portion of the contents of this Web Site, including but not limited to, any articles, images or material appearing on or posted on the Web Site may be republished, redisseminated, transmitted, distributed or duplicated in any manner without Amy Zidell's prior written consent.