When Chelsea Connor first saw Will Carey, all 6 feet 7 inches of him, in June 2014, he was onstage at the comedy club Caroline’s on Broadway, discussing the gentrification of the chopped cheese sandwich.
“I’m a Brooklyn girl and I’ve been eating that chopped cheese sandwich since I was a kid, so I could instantly relate,” said Ms. Connor, 31, the director of media relations and communications for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, a New York-based labor union and division of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
“He did a lot of observational humor and had so many funny bits that just got to me,” she said.
Mr. Carey, 34, whose height helped him notice Ms. Connor sitting with friends on a crowded evening, was a lot more observational than she first thought. When his standup routine ended, he walked off the stage and made a beeline for her and introduced himself.
“I just saw her and thought she was very beautiful,” he said. “When I started talking to her, I thought she was particularly smart and interesting, and I wanted to know more about her.”
He asked if he could escort her to the subway station, and Ms. Connor, then living with her parents in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, accepted his offer. “She gave me her phone number and then told me I could call her in a month,” said Mr. Carey, then living in Woodside, Queens.
Ms. Connor had been a spokeswoman for the campaign of Adriano Espaillat, who was running against Rep. Charles Rangel in a Democratic primary in New York. She explained to Mr. Carey that she was too busy to do anything that month but focus on the election.
“I knew nothing about local politics at the time,” Mr. Carey said, “so I was trying to follow the debates on local newscasts and various websites. When I saw that her candidate had lost, I texted her to say I was sorry about that.”
Ms. Connor remembered Mr. Carey’s text as “the very first I received the morning after the campaign.”
“It’s 7 in the morning and I look at my phone and it says, ‘Will the comedian,’ which is how I had saved his name,” said Ms. Connor, who graduated from N.Y.U. and received a master’s degree in elections and campaign management from Fordham.
“It took me a few seconds to remember who he was,” she said.
They were soon back in touch, and Ms. Connor set up a first date at a Chinese restaurant in Manhattan with Mr. Carey, who now works in content operations at Stitcher Radio, a podcasting network in New York. He is still a stand-up comedian, as well as a producer and host of the podcast “Between Awesome and Disaster.”
“I had only spoken to her in person that one time at Carolines, but I had a better conversation with her than I had ever had with any other woman,” said Mr. Carey, who graduated from Towson University.
“There was a certain, driven stick-to-itiveness about her that had obviously come from working in the world of politics,” he said, “and I found that very attractive.”
They began dating steadily. In October 2018, they took a trip to Southeast Asia. On a rainy day, they climbed Elephant Mountain in Taipei, Taiwan, and after arriving at the summit cliff, Mr. Carey proposed, as fellow climbers around them began to cheer.
They were married Sept. 9 in an outdoor ceremony at Gantry State Park in Long Island City, Queens, before five guests, including their officiant, Samuel Zelitch, who became a minister of American Marriage Ministries for the event. The couple had originally planned to marry May 23 at the Brooklyn Cider House with 178 guests, but the coronavirus forced them to cancel.
Transcending politics – Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
It is a phrase that has been continuously invoked by Democratic and Republican leaders. It has become the clearest symbol of the mood of the country, and what people feel is at stake in November. Everyone, it seems, is fighting for it.
“This campaign isn’t just about winning votes. It’s about winning the heart and, yes, the soul of America,” former Vice President Joe Biden said in August at the Democratic National Convention, not long after the phrase “battle for the soul of America” appeared at the top of his campaign website, next to his name.
A recent campaign ad for President Donald Trump spliced videos of Democrats invoking “the soul” of America, followed by images of clashes between protesters and police and the words “Save America’s Soul,” with a request to text “SOUL” to make a campaign contribution.
That the election has become a referendum on the soul of the nation, suggests that in an increasingly secular country, voting has become a reflection of one’s individual morality — and that the outcome hinges in part on spiritual and philosophical questions that transcend politics: What, exactly, is the soul of the nation? What is the state of it? And what would it mean to save it?
The answers go beyond a campaign slogan, beyond politics and November, to the identity and future of the American experiment itself, especially now, with a pandemic that has wearied the country’s spirit.
“When I think of soul of the nation,” Joy Harjo, the U.S. poet laureate and a Muscogee (Creek) Nation member, said, “I think of the process of becoming, and what it is we want to become. That is where it gets tricky, and that is where I think we have reached a stalemate right now. What do people want to become?”
Harjo said the country’s soul was “at a crucial point.”
“It is like everything is broken at once,” she said. “We are at a point of great wounding, where everyone is standing and looking within themselves and each other.”
In Carlsbad, Calif., Marlo Tucker, the state director for Concerned Women for America, has been meeting regularly to pray with a group of a dozen or so women about the future of the country. The group has been working with other conservative Christian women to register voters.
“It really comes down to what do you stand for, and what do you not stand for,” she said.
“I know this is a Christian nation, the Founding Fathers were influenced by the biblical values,” she said. “People are confused, they are influenced by this sensationalism, they are angry, they are frustrated. They are searching for hope again in government, they are searching for leaders who actually care for their problems.”
THE BODY POLITIC
The soul, and the soul of the body politic, is an ancient philosophical and theological concept, one of the deepest ways humans have understood their individual identity, and their life together.
In biblical Hebrew the words translated as soul, nefesh and neshama, come from a root meaning “to breathe.” The Genesis story describes God breathing into the nostrils of man, making him human.
The meaning echoes through today, in a pandemic that attacks the respiratory system and in police violence against Black people crying out, “I can’t breathe.”
Homeric poets saw the soul as the thing humans risk in battle, or the thing that distinguishes life from death. Plato wrote of Socrates exploring the connection between the soul and the republic in creating the virtue of justice. For St. Augustine, who wrote “The City of God,” the city could be judged by what it loves.
The soul of the nation is “a very ancient trope that is revived when all sorts of cultural ideas are in flux,” Eric Gregory, professor of religion at Princeton University, said. “It reveals something about the current political conversation, in times of crisis and change, a corruption of sickness.”
Often we stress systems and institutions, he said, but in the Trump era there has been a return to ancient concepts about the welfare of the city, where politics is about right relationships. “In ancient politics the health of society had a lot to do with the virtue of the ruler,” Gregory said.
In the United States, the question of who could define the soul of the nation was fraught from the start, from the forced displacement of American Indians to the enslavement of Africans.
And the state of the soul of the nation has often been tied to the country’s oppression of Black people. Abolitionists like Frederick Douglass fought for an “invincible abhorrence of the whole system of slaveholding” to be “fixed in the soul of the nation.” Lyndon B. Johnson said the country found its “soul of honor” on the fields of Gettysburg. When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders formed what is now the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, they made their founding motto “to save the soul of America.”
‘BATTLE FOR THE SOUL’
This year Trump has positioned himself as the defender of a Christian America under siege. “In America, we don’t turn to government to restore our souls, we put our faith in Almighty God,” he said at the Republican National Convention. Franklin Graham, one of his evangelical supporters, wrote last year that this age is “a battle for the soul of the nation,” as the original “moral and spiritual framework, which has held our nation together for 243 years, is now unraveling.”
For Biden, the soul of the nation came into focus after the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., three years ago. “We have to show the world America is still a beacon of light,” he wrote at the time.
Amid questions of the soul, voters have problems they want solved, and systems they want changed.
North of Boston, Andrew DeFranza, executive director of Harborlight Community Partners, an organization that develops inexpensive housing, reflected on the disastrous impact of the coronavirus pandemic for many people, from essential workers to people with disabilities. The country’s soul is disoriented, adversarial and tired, he said.
“I don’t think Group A is going to beat Group B and everything is going to be fine,” he said of the election. “We are eager to see political leaders at every level regardless of party demonstrate concrete, actionable plans to address these issues of inequity around health and race, and to do so in a way that is concrete and has outcomes to which they can be accountable.”
(The New York Times/Erin Schaff)
On politics and the principle of nurturing – MinnPost
Who is my neighbor? Over the course of life’s wanderings my answer to this question has gone through expansion and contraction cycles, and as I stumble into middle age over the cracks and potholes I recognize I’ve treated the question at times as rhetorical and metaphorical, but increasingly in recent years, literal. Especially this year, and especially at this time of year as I make decisions about the votes I will cast for elected offices in November.
The passionate pursuit of a single issue can drive a vote. As I write this, I’ve just read the fine commentary on these pages by Erik Johnson, who discourages us from hinging our decisions on single issues (“At election time, you have a voice — and it is your obligation to use it,” Oct. 19). I have never been a single-issue voter, but in these complex times parsimony is an elixir. The issue I claim is the principle of nurturing (the breadth of which may get me a pass from detractors of single-issue voting). Oxford Languages defines nurturing as “to care for and encourage the growth and development of.” As a mental health professional, I’ve become aware of the ubiquity of the need for nurturing (all of us, not just those who seek professional support), and as a Lutheran I struggle with the limitations on the bandwidth I have for contributing to the nurturing needed where my family lives in the urban core and across the state where my kids will grow up alongside yours.
A natural tendency
Humans have a natural tendency to nurture — with our families, pets, gardens, clubs, teams, businesses — reflecting the importance of people, where we belong, and what we are responsible for. We can recognize nurturing in the actions of people who inspire us. We read about nurturing in the newspaper and other media every day in wide-ranging stories of long-sustained efforts in every sector of life from global politics to sports to race relations, in obituaries telling us how the world is a better place because of ideas, values, and visions nurtured. Nurturing is not something the political right or the left can claim — thankfully it is a nonpartisan path to tread.
In his 2015 book “The Nurture Effect,” Anthony Biglan argues for nurturing as the core of solutions to challenges faced by individual people, families, schools, and our larger society (among other roles in his influential career in social/behavioral science, Biglan directed the research consortium of the Promise Neighborhoods initiative under the Obama administration). He describes nurturing as a scalable practice supported by decades of research across sectors of society that drives improvements to the human condition at the individual and systems levels. Biglan traces the origin of his push for nurturing to his work on a 2009 Institute of Medicine report on preventing social and health problems: “I began to see common threads that ran through all successful programs, policies, and practices … all of them make people’s environments more nurturing.”
Neighbors = Minnesotans
Back to the question “who is my neighbor,” I have settled on the answer of “everyone in Minnesota.” Business and pleasure have taken me all over this state to experience the richness of its people, places, and pursuits. But rather than a simple balm for my struggling spirit and a road map for action, this answer adds complexity. The decisions I make at the ballot box this November cannot possibly nurture all my neighbors in the ways they would define it. It is not a zero-sum calculation, but what nurtures the (mostly white) neighbors on my block may not nurture my BIPOC neighbors. Decisions that nurture my urban hometown or my beloved wild lands may not nurture the farmers who grow my food or the mining families who produce resources for our state and far beyond. I try to listen and learn but I don’t walk in the shoes of others. I embrace the tension in having no simple answers and in rejecting the dichotomous choices of our politics.
There will be winners in this election who will earn the responsibility of nurturing their entire constituencies, and must be held to account in that regard. I cling to an optimism that I am not alone in the hope that our civil discourse can embrace the difficult shades of gray it has shied away from in this age of the echo chamber, and collectively our tendencies as nurturers will pave smoother roads for all our neighbors.
Tim Moore is a psychologist who lives in St. Paul with his wife and three children.
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