Ever noticed that writers and contributors to The Economist are not provided a byline. Generally, this is a bad sign. As I recall from anEdward Tuftee presentation, every document should have the author’s name on it. This provides accountability. Yet, as lawyers know, for every rule – there is an exception. The Economist is that exception!
Through and through this weekly magazine is exceptional. Notwithstanding, before I receive my hard copy version. I almost always first go online to read Lexington. From my viewpoint here in Seattle, its the best of the best.
For those of you unfamiliar, Lexington – named after the Massachusetts site which sparked the American Revolution – is The Economist’s column about the overall condition of American politics.
Tragically, this week the author for the last couple of years – Peter David – perished in a car crash. In offering tribute, the opening paragraph of this week’s Lexington column states:
BY TRADITION, departing Lexington columnists write a valedictory reflecting on the state of the nation. Had Peter David come to pen his parting thoughts, he might well have reflected on American exceptionalism. Sadly, this column must now celebrate his own.
The column then chronicles Mr. David’s career at The Economist which commenced in 1984. He wrote about science. He wrote about the Middle East. He also wrote about British politics in The Economist’s Bagehot column and he wrote special reports.
Most striking for me in this tribute were the following two paragraphs:
Above all, though, he brought to journalism a rare elegance of spirit. In tackling really hard questions, he carefully weighed opposing arguments before the application of reason, guided by strong liberal instincts, led him to a crisp conclusion. The approach, and his personal style, were gentle. But gentleness should not be confused with softness. On some issues, such as Iraq, you could knock against a surprising toughness, like an underwater rock. He stoutly defended his support for George Bush’s invasion in 2003, based on the information that was available at the time, but never shrank from cataloguing the disasters that followed.
His affection for Israel ran deep, but he was sharply critical of some of its government’s policies, particularly over settlements. Those who reduced the conflict to the “terrorism” of one side or the “colonialism” of the other were just stoking their prejudices, he wrote: “at heart, this is a struggle of two peoples for the same patch of land.” All his arguments—even on this touchiest of subjects—were conducted with courtesy. For years he shared a taxi home to Hampstead on press nights with a colleague who held equally strong but opposing views on the Middle East. (Emphasis added.)
I have added emphasis for a reason. Consider not the years, not the decades, nor even the centuries. Consider instead that the first documented land dispute in the Middle East was between Abraham and Lot as identified in Genesis 13.
Abraham, yes that ‘dude’, who’s monotheistic faith is the wellspring of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, decided it would be best not to fight over the land and instead give Lot the choice of the land to the left or the right.
My point. In a boundary dispute, be fair, be firm, and allow choice. Oh, and one last thing about the style of Peter David which I will now highlight …
The approach, and his personal style, were gentle. But gentleness should not be confused with softness… . All his arguments—even on this touchiest of subjects—were conducted with courtesy.