John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


It’s Complicated

Posted on November 23, 2010
Every once in a while, as I peruse my Facebook friends, I run across a friend who has put “It’s complicated” in their relationship status.

It’s a phrase that neatly sums up the world we are now living in.

The economy is complicated.  Some sectors are doing swell, others are in the deepest of depressions.

Sex is more complicated.  You used to have male and female.  These days, you have third choice, transgender.  That is not the kind of complication that my grandmother spent too much time worrying about.

The war on terror is complicated.  Was Iraq part of the war on terror or was it a war of choice?  Why are we in Afghanistan?   Are we winning or losing there?

Race is more complicated these days.  It is not as easy as black and white, and now people are starting to get that.  The President isn’t fully black or fully white.  In fact, he is about half and half, and calling him either white or black is a disservice to his grandparents on either side of the family.  Tiger Woods is even more complicated.  He calls himself cablanasian (caucasion, black, asian).

Watching television is more complicated.  You used to have three networks.  Now you have hundreds of them.  You used to have to watch TV home.  Now you can watch it on your iPad, your telephone or your watch.  More choices mean more complications for programmers, advertisers and viewers.  It’s a good kind of complication, but it is a complication nonetheless.

Going through the security line at the airport is complicated.  Sometimes you go through scot-free.  Sometimes you have to go through a full-body scanner.  Sometimes, you have some strange dude feeling you up.

America’s place in the world is complicated.  We used to be the underdog.  Then, we were the top dog.  Now, we are the broke dog.  We have no money.

Can a country that has no money be the world’s foremost superpower?  Well, it’s complicated.

The President’s health care bill is very complicated.   But that is no surprise.  Health care is complicated.  Health insurance is very complicated.  Just reading the insurance policies gives me a head-ache.

Once the President tried to create a complicated solution to a complicated problem, he caused nothing but complications to his political future.

For most Americans, their health care bill is already too complicated.  Making it more complicated with a huge government health care scheme, with all kinds of exchanges and mandates and taxes really made the voters very angry.

They see the complication of it all and then they look at their health care insurance programs going up and up and they come up with a very simple solution.  Vote those damn Democrats out.

Some people like it when things are more complicated.  Lawyers, for example, seem to go out of their way to make life more complicated for the rest of us.  If you can’t understand the laws, it is far more likely that you will hire a lawyer than if everything was completely transparent. Lawyers love complication because it is good for business.

But you can’t blame the lawyers for the complexity of our laws.  You should blame the lawmakers for that I guess.  Lawmakers also like to make things complicated, because that is how compromise is achieved.  It doesn’t seem like there is any really elegant lawmaking these days, however.  Everything is just so damned complicated.

Alexander the Great reportedly sliced the proverbial Gordian knot, which has always symbolized through the ages how a bold stroke can sometimes cut through complicated problems.  But scholars now say that the story is more complicated than that, that Alexander actually probably untied it after pulling the pole out of the ground.  Even the legend of easy problem solving actually has a back-story.

Alas, that is life.

There are no easy solutions to life, just timeless virtues that help you navigate the curveballs that inevitably come your way.  Faith, Hope, Charity, Fortitude, Justice, Prudence, Temperance are virtues that help make life more simple, according to the Catholic tradition.  It might seem easy to live a virtuous life, but of course, it is not.   Especially the temperance part.

The devil is in the details goes the saying, and while that is often true, that doesn’t mean that we should trivialize the real complexities that face our nation every day.

Politicians who seek to oversimplify complicated policy or worse, use demagoguery to prey on people’s fears do nobody any good.

Life is complicated.  Balancing the budget is complicated.  Protecting our nation from crazy terrorists is complicated.  Building an economy that is capable of creating jobs is complicated.  Reforming education is complicated.

None of these problems are insolvable.  But none of them will be solved with simplistic catch-phrases and election year slogans.

We live in complicated times.  We need leaders who have the proper respect for life’s complexities and the proper humility to understand that they don’t have all the answers, especially in 140 characters or less.  Life is more complicated than that.