Genes that put us at risk of mental illness may also make us stronger
Did Cold War II break out last week while no one was watching? As the Kavanaugh confirmation battle raged, many Americans missed what looks like the biggest shift in U.S.-China relations since Henry Kissinger’s 1971 visit to Beijing... Denouncing what he called China’s “whole of government” approach to its rivalry with the U.S., Mr. Pence vowed the Trump administration will respond in kind... The speech sounded like something Ronald Reagan could have delivered against the Soviet Union: Mr. Xi, tear down this wall! Mr. Pence also detailed an integrated, cross-government strategy to counter what the administration considers Chinese military, economic, political and ideological aggression... Navy plans for greatly intensified patrols in and around Chinese-claimed waters in the South China Sea were leaked to the press... the recently-entered trilateral U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement was revealed to have a clause discouraging trade agreements between member countries and China. The administration indicated it would seek similar clauses in other trade agreements... Congress approved the Build Act, a $60 billion development-financing program designed to counter China’s Belt and Road strategy in Africa and Asia... highlighting the danger that foreign-based supply chains pose to U.S. military capabilities in the event they are cut off during a conflict... Mr. Pence warned that even higher tariffs are on the way. The White House report highlighting supply-chain vulnerabilities could provide the basis for new and more far-reaching restrictions... Business and investors may still be underestimating both the Trump administration’s determination to challenge China and the amount of economic disruption that greater U.S.-China tension can bring... To the mix of longtime China hawks and trade hawks now driving U.S. policy, national security matters more than economic friction, and many of the protestations from the U.S. business community may fall on deaf ears... Both China and the U.S. are likely to move quickly, unpredictably and disruptively as they struggle for advantage; Wall Street should brace itself for further shocks... Democrats who have relished attacking Mr. Trump for allegedly being soft on Vladimir Putin will have a hard time explaining why a hard line on Russia is a patriotic duty but a tough China policy is a mistake.
.. Replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement, reshaping the Supreme Court, and launching a new Cold War in the same week is quite the trifecta. America may or may not be on the road to greatness under Mr. Trump, but it is certainly going somewhere, and at an accelerating pace.
“The incredible ripple effect of being at peace with our vulnerability in any situation is that it means that you have to develop compassion for yourself.”
Krista reflects on how vulnerability can bring us closer to ourselves and each other. The fourth installment of “Living the Questions” this summer. We’ll be back to answer more of your questions in the fall.
.. Somehow, that being real and honest about ourselves and our ragged edges is a form of that, is a virtue. And then, like any other virtue, we really have to practice it. Like any muscle, we have to flex it. This is a very withered muscle because we’ve been taught to hide this at all cost.
.. I think the incredible side effect or ripple effect of being at home, being at peace, with our vulnerability in any situation is that it means that you have to develop compassion for yourself. This just becomes basic spiritual growth, basic spiritual discipline and knowledge, that you start to understand that this doesn’t make you special; that everybody else is struggling with this too. You start to get curious and aware that what other people present as strength, or what feels like resistance or aggressiveness, is also a reflection of the struggle they’re having. It very organically allows you to start to take in the complexity of others — including what they’re not saying; including, maybe, when you can start to really imagine and understand, that what they’re expressing or how they’re behaving may even be the opposite of how they’re feeling. It opens up a lot of possibility between you and others.
.. So vulnerability can nurture a sense of empathy with other people.
.. Some people might say being able to choose or embrace vulnerability can be a privilege of those who are in circumstances safe enough to be able to do that. How do you think through that?
.. those of us walking through the world in any given situation, at any given time, for whom it is safer to be vulnerable, do that on behalf of others. That’s what I think bridge people, I always talk about the calling to be bridge people. I think this is one way to describe what it looks like and what’s happening when someone steps into that space.
A Baltimore-based community program provides the architecture for kids’ success... I am constantly using this column to argue that social fragmentation and social isolation are the fundamental problems afflicting America today. Organizations like Thread are the best way to address them.Thread has taken 415 academically underperforming students in Baltimore schools and built an extended family around them, with about 1,000 volunteers. Each student is given up to five volunteers, who perform the jobs that a family member would perform... Each volunteer is coached by a more experienced volunteer, called the Head of Family. The Head of Family is coached by a Grandparent, who supports the Head. The Grandparents are coached by Community Managers, who are paid Thread staffers. Circling the whole system are Collaborators, who offer special expertise when called in — legal help, SAT tutoring, mental health counseling, etc... The students are lured with free pizza and asked if they would like to join the program. They are told they will be in it for 10 years, until they are in their 20s. They sign a contract demonstrating commitment, and no one has left early.
For the first few months, the students often reject the relationships. “You expect people not to be there for you,” says Marcus, one of the students. Trust is built by persistence through failure.
“Unconditional love is so rare in life that it is identity-changing when somebody keeps showing up even when you reject them. It is also identity-changing to be the one rejected.”
Thread also has an app called Tapestry. It tracks every time a volunteer has a touchpoint with one of the students — driving to school, sharing a meal. Hemminger calls it the Fitbit of social relationships. Tapestry can track how often a student has touchpoints, who hasn’t had a touchpoint, how many touchpoints lead to what outcomes.
.. Thread cultivates an ethos of utter vulnerability, which starts at the top. Hemminger and her staff are very open when they don’t know what they are doing and need help.
They are very, very open when they are hurting.
.. That vulnerability stretches throughout. Teenagers, who usually have their armor up with strangers, told me all about the stresses in their life, their fears and their mental health challenges.
.. The program rejects any distinction between haves and have-nots. The volunteers are not there to do social change. They are there to be changed. The word “mentor” is banned because everybody is leaning on everybody else.
.. These days, I spend my mornings writing depressing columns about a political culture marred by distrust and my afternoons visiting places like Thread. There is no way to repair national distrust without repairing individual relationships one by one. This is where American renewal begins.