Friday, January 31, 2020

The Great British Revival

Over on the other side of the pond Great Britain seems to have recovered its sanity. We recall that those who opposed the 2016 referendum removing the country from the European Union uttered the most dire warnings of impending apocalypse. Now, apparently, all has been forgiven and Britain is exiting the EU, today.

The dire prophecies resembled nothing if not climate change hysteria, with Chicken Littles running around declaring that the sky was falling and that Britain could never survive on its own. It also resembles the leftist reaction to the election of President Trump, namely that it was the end of civilization as they knew it.

Being caught in the same self-contradiction as many American leftists have cultivated, British Brexit opponents pulled every lever of political and judicial power in order to undo the results of a national referendum-- in the name of democracy. Apparently, they believed that the only valid election result would have been the one they favored.

Will the real enemies of democracy please stand up.

Now, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Tory party crushed his Labour Party opponents in the most recent parliamentary election, it all seems to have healed. Brexit opponents have shut down and shut up.

It is a strange political phenomenon, one that we are tempted to attribute to the simple fact that Johnson was a far better politician than the hapless and hopeless Theresa May.

Writing in the Spectator USA, Rod Liddle explains how the British ship of state has righted itself. Considering the dire prophecies of imminent listing, it is remarkable indeed. (via Maggie’s Farm)

Apparently, the British version of American tribalism was more show than substance:

The remarkable thing is that since December 13 the great national divide over Brexit seems to have mended almost completely. One of the most frequently expressed opinions these past three years of commentators from both sides — although especially from the Remainer side — is that the UK was sickeningly split into two warring tribes and that this would take a generation to repair. I never quite bought into this argument. There seemed to me to be a furious rump of Remoaners unable to accept a democratic decision and — well, the rest of us. The vast majority of those who voted Remain have long since accustomed themselves to us leaving — a point never really reflected in the mainstream media, which of course prefers dissent to accord and still thought the whole thing was up for debate.

Factional divisions took approximately two weeks to heal. Liddle grants credit to Boris Johnson. Apparently, Britain did not need the EU as much as the EU thought. 

By the by, today’s news is reporting on the latest EU effort to field something resembling an army. The German military, until recently led by now-EU president Ursula von der Leyen, is so underequipped that its tank commanders must engage in battlefield exercises with their own automobiles… because the German military has no functional tanks.  Why would any self-respecting nation want to be part of such a boondoggle? How does it happen that someone who showed such manifest ineptitude in her last job received a promotion.

Perhaps we should continue to worry about the decadent and degenerating European Union. Perhaps Britain got out just in time.

Liddle reports from Great Britain:

As it happened, that cleft did not take a generation to heal — it took about two weeks. Since Boris Johnson’s remarkable victory, the fugue of complaint has been effectively silenced — except for on that lunatic wing. There is even a certain gung-ho optimism at large, and not simply from Brexiteers. Not a single one of those egregious Project Fear predictions has come true, not one. Inward investment stock in the UK was more in 2018 than in France and Germany combined, at almost £1.5 trillion ($1.95 million) — no. 1 in Europe. The UK’s economic growth is predicted to outperform the entire eurozone, with Germany — only recently sidestepping an official recession — heading towards stagnation. Unemployment is the lowest it has been for 45 years and the unemployment rate just a little more than half of that for the eurozone as a whole. Wages are at last rising. The pound is comparatively buoyant. Then there is this. Will Brexit render your home worthless, as the then-chancellor George Osborne kindly advised in 2016? Nope, quite the reverse. Since Brexit was assured by that general election victory in December, British house prices have risen at their fastest rate since 2002, according to the property website Rightmove.

Those who believed that Brexit would cause the British property market to fall apart are now obliged to admit that the ill-effects felt by said market were a function of the uncertainty that was ginned up by Remainers:

If anything had dampened the property market prior to the election, it was an uncertainty about whether we were going to leave or not, which was solely a consequence of that rump of the defeated side not accepting the decision of the people and using every possible recourse to prevent it. A paralyzed parliament and a concomitant lack of direction was far more damaging to our country than a timely withdrawal from a bureaucratic institution riven by internal division and economically floundering would have been.

We can only hope that America’s three year old nightmare of internecine warfare will meet a similar fate. Somehow, we are not very optimistic. And yet, you cannot read the next paragraph without seeing some stark parallels. 

All of this petulant, alarmist gibberish — far more egregious than an erroneous slogan written on the side of a bus — accompanied us for three long years, from June 23, 2016 to December 13, 2019. A shrill screech of idiotic fury from people who did not like being gainsaid and thought they knew better than the rest of us. Because of course — pace Pullman — we were all thick. Those false jeremiads were far more damaging to our country than simply leaving the EU. And now, for the most part, they have gone silent.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Negotiating Palestinian Surrender

In the midst of the impeachment farce, something significant happened in Washington, D. C. The Trump administration unveiled a new peace plan for the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Its Middle East policy is moving that region in the right direction. The effort to side directly with Israel against the Palestinians and to realign policy toward the Sunni Arab world, and away from Iran… is working.

One understands that the Obama administration sided with Iran against the Sunni Arab world and Israel, so naturally Democrats are seriously unhappy about the new policy.

To recall, once upon a time, I mused that the war between Israel and the Palestinians was over, and that the Palestinians had lost. Now, as President Trump presented a new peace plan, standing next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and in the company of the foreign ministers of Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, we can see that Trump’s diplomacy is moving forward.

The Daily Wire reports that nearly all other Arab states greeted the plan with encouraging signs:

Perhaps the sole silver lining of the otherwise-harrowing capitulation to fundamentalist jihadist evil that was President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal was the fact that the leading Sunni Arab states — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt chief among them — began to warm up to the Jewish state of Israel. The enemy of my enemy, as the venerable maxim goes, is indeed my friend. And these Sunni stalwarts have found common cause with Israel in opposing the Islamic Republic of Iran’s decades-long hegemonic ambitions, which were only augmented by the capitulatory cash influxes provided by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The presence of Sunni Arab foreign ministers suggested that they recognize Israel’s right to exist. They were making public back channel and secret negotiations that have been ongoing for several years now.

It is unprecedented to have such leading representatives from Sunni Arab governments effectively recognizing Israel’s right, under U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, “to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” It is even more unprecedented for such Arab governments to effectively recognize this international law right in the context of what is quite clearly, on the underlying merits, the most pro-Israel peace plan ever offered by an American president — and one that is offered by a historically pro-Israel American president and a conservative Likud party Israeli prime minister, no less.

If I were to speculate, I believe that Trump’s decision to remove Qassem Soleinani from the equation was received by these states as a constructive gesture.

The Guardian explains that these Arab nations have no real interest is seeing the reputation of Islam being dragged through the mud for the sake of a lost cause. (via Maggie’s Farm)

The Palestinians had become a burden, financially and politically, and were no longer worth the investment, the Saudi heir to the throne had concluded. There were bigger fish to fry in Iran, after all, and Israel could help them do that.

Improved relations with Israel over the past three years have aimed to condition the kingdom to the change in approach – and foe. Over the weekend, Israel allowed its citizens to travel to Saudi Arabia for religious or trade purposes. Gulf states, too, are relaxing travel bans on a country that was long seen as the obstacle to regional peace, but is increasingly being viewed as a partner.

As might have been expected, Democratic presidential candidates, incapable of renouncing the foreign policy of the Obama administration and of previous administrations, have denounced the new peace proposal.

US Democratic presidential candidates on Tuesday condemned the Trump administration’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after its unveiling at the White House.

Former vice president Joe Biden called the outline counterproductive and warned against settlement annexations.

“A peace plan requires two sides to come together. This is a political stunt that could spark unilateral moves to annex territory and set back peace even more. I’ve spent a lifetime working to advance the security & survival of a Jewish and democratic Israel. This is not the way,” Biden said.

Other candidates have stood up to defend the Palestinian cause:

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said any agreement “must end the Israeli occupation and enable Palestinian self-determination in an independent state of their own alongside a secure Israel. Trump’s so-called ‘peace deal’ doesn’t come close, and will only perpetuate the conflict. It is unacceptable.”

“The United States can bring unequaled leadership to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but we must use that leadership to promote a just and durable agreement. Any acceptable peace deal must be consistent with international law and multiple UN resolutions,” Sanders said.

What does this all mean? For one, it means that the Trump administration’s strategy of excluding Palestinians from the negotiations that produced the deal was brilliant. The Palestinian cause is terrorism. It seeks only to destroy the state of Israel. It has compromised whatever legitimacy it might have had by its own behavior. Pretending the the Palestinians are an equal partner for peace is the fraud that has continued to sustain their terrorist practices.

This means that the new peace plan has proposed the terms of surrender, nothing more or less. If it were not for their cheerleaders in the Democratic Party and in leftist Europe, the Palestinian authorities might be making plans to join the negotiation now.

As for the larger issue, the question overhanging these negotiations is the future of Islam. Will the Muslim religion undergo its own reformation, and modernize? Will it enter into the modern world economically and politically? Or will it follow the lead of Iran and the Palestinian cause... working to undermine the successes of others in order to hide its own failings.

The new Trump peace plan points toward reform. The Democratic Party and the mullahs in Iran point backwards.

Down with White Medical Science

This news, not off the wires, comes from the Babylon Bee. Some consider it satire, but it is an apt rejoinder to the decision taken by Yale University to stop teaching a survey course in art history-- because too many of the artists are white males.

NEW HAVEN, CT—Yale University has been under intense criticism after the recent decision to stop teaching “Introduction to Art History: Renaissance to the Present” because of its focus on Western art - mainly by white males.

Many people have called Yale out, saying they “didn’t go far enough” and that dropping a measly freshman art survey class was “wimpy” and “weak”.

In response, Yale has decided to take a stunning and brave stand against white males by striking all medicine discovered by white males from its med school curriculum. This has been lauded as a much-needed stand for diversity at Yale, especially by current med students who will now have much more time to deal with the stress of med school by watching Netflix.

"Yes, many people will get sick and die because of this, but it will be worth it for the woke points," one professor said. "We will now only teach medicine discovered by brave, oppressed, trans people of color."

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Should She Pretend to Care?

Sometimes, while reading newspaper advice columns, we fall into a state of despair. Exception given for the luminous writings and unimpeachably correct advice offered by Miss Manners. As for the rest, we wonder how these people miss the mark so consistently. And we are even more dismayed by the fact that the great American public reads and even follows their advice. 

Strictly speaking the New York Times Ethicist column is not your standard advice column. Written by philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, a man who is neither a therapist nor a wanna-be therapist, it is consistently thoughtful. Better yet, it consistently offers good advice. And it adds some seriously philosophical analysis of the situation.

We would be living in a better world if people could differentiate between mental health and ethical behavior. Aside from the fact that mental health is a contradiction in terms-- the mind is not a biological organism, and can neither be healthy nor sick-- we ought to understand that science, per se, cannot offer us any rules for conducting our lives in society.

As David Hume famously argued some two and a half centuries ago, science is about “is” while ethics is about “should.” You cannot get from the one to the other. You should not even try.

Here is the letter, written by a woman who is preparing for widowhood. Her husband had had several marriages before he married her. They have been married for decades. For these many years she has barely tolerated the obligation to spend time with her stepchildren. Nevertheless, she has observed formalities. They have been polite to her. By my calculations, these children are already of a rather advanced age.They might easily be grandparents themselves.

So, the letter writer wants to know whether she can sever contact with her step-family members once her husband dies. It feels strange, but apparently she does not much like people. She would rather not be tied down with social obligations toward people she simply does not care for. 

Here is the letter:

I married into my husband’s family decades ago. We have one child together, whom I adore. The rest of the children are from his previous marriages. I get along superficially with all of them. I make conversation and act interested in what they have to say. I tell them I love them when they say it to me. Generally, they have treated me very well, and I think they actually do love me. But I do not have any real feelings for them. I have never wanted much contact with people. Having interactions with all of them over these years has been painful for me. I fantasize about severing contact with his family once my husband dies. Is my pretending to care about them unethical? 

Name Withheld

Appiah begins by reflecting that it is very difficult to explain why we do not like someone. (A useful and cogent thought, one that we rarely consider) And he adds that sometimes when we affect affection-- nice locution that-- when we pretend to like someone, we end up liking them. Sometimes we do not. But, it is good to open with the pretense of liking someone.

I concur heartily when he writes:

… not loving someone, like loving someone, is seldom something you can explain. Sometimes affecting affection can, in time, make the affection real; sometimes, as you’ve discovered, going through the motions leaves the heart unmoved. But is the pretense itself wrong?

It’s all about social conventions and the rules of polite behavior. We make certain polite gestures because not offering them would be rude and dismissive. They establish a formal tie, but they do not necessarily express what either party has in either party’s heart and soul:

It’s conventional to say, “Very well, thank you,” in response to “How are you?” on the phone, even when you have a cold. That’s not dishonest; it’s merely polite. Replying to family members who say they love you with “I love you, too” can be merely conventional in the same way. Isn’t pretending to be fond of people you have to spend time with a better and more generous tack than being cold and distant? We know all too well the odious alibi invariably offered for some cruel remark: I’m just being honest.

Being polite is more generous than being cruel. One understands that Miss Manners would heartily concur with this sentiment.

Now, Appiah continues, the soon-to-be widow has been going through the motions for decades now. Thus, her social anxiety disorder is not incapacitating.  But she says it is painful.

Given that you’ve pulled it off for decades, you evidently don’t have an incapacitating social-anxiety disorder. And you’re certainly not the only person who sometimes feels like running away from family gatherings and hiding out. Yet plainly it’s harder for you than for most: I was struck that you describe your interactions with the stepchildren not as tedious but as “painful.”

One suspects that she recoils at the evidence of her beloved husband’s past marriages. This does not relieve her of the duty for being polite, but it explains why she might not feel overjoyed at dealing with people who resemble his other wives. One also understands that said children, being adults themselves, understand the difficult position she has found herself in.

So, Appiah recommends that she not be open and honest about her real feelings. (How refreshing is it to read that.) Especially, I would add, because the children themselves have done nothing to merit her disaffection.

Besides, he adds sagely, the woman is about to lose her husband. One thing she should not do is to retreat and withdraw, to diminish her social contacts.

 But there’s no point, at this stage, in telling everyone what your real feelings are — in dropping truth bombs, to use the aptly military metaphor. Despite your lack of affection toward your stepchildren, you clearly have some measure of regard for their feelings, and you’re right to. Another concern is that cutting yourself off from the world in widowhood (your adored child aside) can lead to depression. Your adjustment to life without your husband will probably go better if you don’t lose touch entirely with family and friends. Even introverts, as a rule, benefit from some human connection. So perhaps you can find a way to reduce interactions you find unpleasant without ending them altogether. Create a life that suits you, but in doing so, try to minimize the injury you do to others.

So, Appiah tries to split the difference. She can reduce the number of contacts while at the same time not cutting these people off entirely. And certainly not being rude about it.

One notes that we do not know how many people are involved in this family. And we assume that, given the age of the children, there are grandchildren involved too. 

Dumb and Dumber at the New York Times

John Hinderaker of Powerline asks whether it is not the funniest New York Times correction ever. Surely, it is a candidate for an award for sloppy writing and  sloppier editing. And let's not ignore the misspellings.

In a correction to a wedding announcement, The Times wrote:

Correction: Jan. 24, 2020

In an earlier version of this article, the given name of the actress who introduced the couple was misspelled. She is Vaishnavi Sharma, not Vaishmavi. The given name of the wedding officiant was also misspelled. She is Gabra Zackman, not Dabra. Also, the author of “Dracula” was incorrect. He is Bram Stoker, not Jane Austen.

Where does the Times find its reporters and editors?

Hinderaker continues:

That’s right: the Times employs a reporter, and presumably at least one editor, who thought Jane Austen was the author of Dracula! As I’ve said before, those who refer to reporters and editors as “elites” are missing the point. Reporters and editors, by and large, are less intelligent and less well-informed than the average citizen.

Perhaps at one time, media people were elite intellectuals. No longer.

Incidentally, if I were to speculate, I believe that the writer confused Dracula with Frankenstein. An easy mistake to make.

The author of Frankenstein was, of course, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, daughter of famed women's rights proponent, and wife of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

As it happens, Mary Shelley and Jane Austen were more or less contemporaries, so naturally an illiterate reporter and an even more illiterate editor would not know the difference between these two female novelists. They all look the same, don't you know.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Hillary's Revenge

The text comes from the Washington Examiner via Hot Air via Maggie’s Farm.

The question must be contributing to today’s national political divisions. Why has Hillary Clinton, designated loser in the last presidential election, refused to go away? Why has she refused to accept defeat graciously and gracefully?

In the annals of soreloserdom, Hillary Clinton will have a chapter all her own.

The Examiner opens by noting that losing presidential candidates have always had the grace and the dignity to retire from the fray.

John McCain returned to the Senate after his loss in 2008 to Barack Obama. John Kerry similarly went back to work in the Senate after the 2004 election and later joined Obama’s administration. Al Gore still complains about losing in 2000 to George W. Bush, but he also found a new calling and made his mark as a (self-appointed) spokesman for the planet. Bob Dole left politics altogether after his defeat in 1996 and went on to star in commercials for Pepsi and Viagra. George H. W. Bush split his time after 1992 between charitable work and his vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine. Walter Mondale returned to his law firm. Jimmy Carter has Habitat for Humanity.

They do it because they love their country more than they love their own ambition. And that they understand that the country does not owe them a victory in a contested election.

The Examiner suggests that Hillary is settling a score. That means, she is exacting revenge, blaming the country, blaming the American people, showing how unworthy are of her. The fault does not lie in her pathetic campaign or in the fact that she is an incompetent fraud. The fault lies with America. And America must be punished:

Each accepted failure and moved on with life — some more begrudgingly than others.

But Clinton has a score to settle with the world.

The former secretary of state’s many public appearances over the past three years have served the sole purpose of allowing her to name and blame persons, places, and things she believes caused her to lose in 2016. Many of them, she says, robbed her of her rightful spot behind the Resolute Desk. Clinton lives now to mourn her failed candidacy and to lash out at anyone she deems to have been insufficiently loyal.

Failing to accept defeat gracefully counts as moral dereliction. It is a sign that the individual in question has no character, no dignity, no self-respect, no decency. When you allow your rage to undermine your judgement and to tarnish whatever is left of your good name… you are morally degenerate.

It fits the woman who announced before a Senate committee that the Benghazi attack, attack that took place on her watch, at a time when she bore direct responsibility for the security of her ambassador, had nothing to do with her. By saying that: “What difference at this point does it make” she was showing her true depravity… and was blaming everyone but herself.

Strangely enough, today’s Democratic Party is marching in lockstep with Hillary Clinton. Since she has failed to acknowledge the Trump victory, the Democratic Party has refused to acknowledge Trump’s legitimacy.

Is the impeachment trial Hillary’s revenge? Would it have been different if the Democratic candidate for the presidency in 2016 had had some sense of decency?

The Diamond Ring in the Basement

At least, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist. New York Magazine advice columnist Polly is not. So, Gottlieb gives us a better sense of how a real therapist does her work. And yet, while Polly wants to strip people down to their feelings, at the expense of any sense of reality, Gottlieb basically wants to do the same thing.

Her column this week shows what is wrong with most therapy. It shows why a certain form of therapy is dying out. The profession seems incapable of dealing with practical issues. More than that, the profession has become girlified to such an extent that it sees everything from a female perspective. I would suggest that it sees things from a caricatured female perspective, but we’ll leave that for later.

So, it’s all about sharing feelings, unearthing feelings, feeling feelings, finding one’s inner truth… which means, ignoring the real world, forgetting about how real people function, and fundamentally ignoring the alternative reality of the male sensibility.

Gottlieb will respond to the following letter, from a woman whose boyfriend seems to be unduly attached to his former girlfriend, by giving her lessons in how to do therapy. It is appallingly disrespectful to the man in question. Since the letter writer, named Sara, has been trying it already, to little avail, it is doomed to failure.

At best it is infantilizing. Since Gottlieb believes, incorrectly, that we carry out childhood developmental issues and traumas with us throughout life, she is prescribing a type of conversation that would befit a child. A grown man will recoil at it. In truth, a grown woman should know better than to spray girltalk around the room and then to denounce her boyfriend for failing to respond. If we assume, no doubt correctly, that Sara works in the real world, we should avoid allowing her to think that she can use girltalk in the workplace.

In theory, this approach empowers women, or better, women’s sensibility. In fact, it renders women more dysfunctional in their relationships with men and renders them more dysfunctional in the workplace.

Anyway, Sara is living with her boyfriend. They seem to share a house together, though we do not know who owns the house-- him, her or them. The problem concerns a diamond ring. The man was going to marry another woman, but he did not. We do not know whether they were engaged, whether or not he proposed, or what happened. All that remains of that failed relationship is the diamond ring.

Apparently, the breakup was so painful that the man decided to keep the ring, as a souvenir, a memento or a reminder of a failed relationship. The relationship went south, for reasons that Sara doesn’t seem to know. The breakup was painful, so painful that the man kept the ring he had bought for his prior girlfriend. Huh? Why cling to reminders of past pain?

You might ask yourself whether the real issue is whether or not the boyfriend will ever propose to Sara. It is a salient issue. It has been discussed. But, how can she accept a proposal from a man who is still, excuse the expression, carrying a torch for another woman? The issue is less whether or not he will propose, and more whether she should accept it. If Sara does not know why the other woman left him, she does not know something that is probably relevant to her own situation. 

For all she or I know, the man stalked his ex-girlfriend. He might have abused her. We do not know. Clearly, the hidden reason is not going to make him look very good. Otherwise he might well have explained it. Just as clearly, Sara herself might find it to be a dealbreaker.

We would want to know whether the old girlfriend is still in town. We would want to know whether other people in town know the story.

For my part I would be curious to know whether she married someone else, and so on. No such details are forthcoming.

And that, my friends is the problem. Gottlieb is so mired in her touchy-feely world that she does not raise the issues.

Sara opens with this:

I have been with my boyfriend for about a year and a half. Before me, he was in a long-term, serious relationship in which he bought an engagement ring and was making plans to marry his ex. Clearly their relationship didn’t last, and the breakup was incredibly traumatic for him.

Was he making plans to marry the prior girlfriend? Did he offer the ring? Was his proposal rejected? We do not know. Beyond the fatuous issue of his true feelings, we would like to know what happened? We would like to know some facts.

Anyway, Sara continues:

Since then, he and I have had a very honest, serious, and healthy relationship, but the ring is still in our basement. When I bring up the ring (or her), he more often than not gets angry, defensive, and adamant that he doesn’t want to talk about it. Sometimes he’ll offer up the excuse that he doesn't want to sell the ring because he won’t get a very meaningful return on it, or he’ll say that maybe one day he’ll sell it.

So, she brings up the issue of the ring. You might ask why he does not hide it or why he does not simply put it in a safe deposit box. Sara does not. Gottlieb does not care. Clearly, the relationship is not completely honest, serious or healthy.

And yet, if he doesn’t want to talk about it, he doesn’t want to talk about it. Would it not be worthwhile to respect his feelings… and to move out. Why is she deluding herself about her relationship when his lack of commitment is still in their basement. 

In the great scheme of things he has every right not to discuss what he does not want to discuss. We ought however to question Sara’s judgment. How did she move in with a man who could not explain anything about his previous girlfriend, apparently still the love of his life?

Of course, we do not know whether Sara or anyone else knows the woman. Might Sara or a mutual friend contact her? Do other members of his family know what happened? Does Sara know any of them? It's a thought, one that crosses no one's mind.

So, Sara thinks that he must deal with his feelings. She does not recognize that this is girltalk. If she presents the issue in these terms, she is going to alienate him and to make it impossible for him to say anything. Again, I believe that he should share some of the facts of the situation. Otherwise, she should look for a way to exit the relationship.

The fact that he will not deal with his feelings hurts Sara’s feelings.

Though I am aware that she and the relationship are a trigger for him, I still feel hurt that he won’t put in the work to deal with those feelings. I also feel very angry that he keeps an engagement ring meant for someone else when we’ve been talking about the possibility of getting married ourselves.

How do I deal with this issue in a way that’s fair to both of us?


Why is she discussing marriage with a man who is evidently hiding something that, if she knew it, might very well change her attitude toward marriage?

I raise these issues because Gottlieb ignores them completely. She thinks that it’s all about feelings, and about having deeper feelings. She sees it as an opportunity to share feelings. She does not know that good relationships between men and women are not about sharing feelings. She does not know that a woman who asks a man to share his deepest feelings is alienating him. I would say that this is essence of girltalk, but that would be disrespectful toward women.

For your edification, Gottlieb opens:

Although your boyfriend’s decision to keep the engagement ring in the basement is painful for you, this impasse and how you deal with it has the potential to help you get to know each other in a much deeper way. That’s because it’s not just the ring that’s in the proverbial basement—so are your respective feelings associated with it.
To get to those feelings, you’ll need to have a different kind of conversation. But first, let me offer some context to help you create a space in which your boyfriend might feel more comfortable opening up about his inner world rather than evading the topic altogether with some version of Maybe one day I’ll sell it.

And then, Gottlieb offers us the latest in psycho thinking. If you examine the examples she chooses, you will see that her own view of a good relationship involves each member of the couple doing half the laundry. Could she have thought of anything less efficient? 

And she recommends that Sara tell her boyfriend that it hurts her feelings when he does not tell her about a conspicuous failure. Could it be that his confessing would hurt her feelings every more? Gottlieb does not consider the possibility.

What you two have been doing so far is staying in what therapists call the “content” of the conversation. The content is what the disagreement is ostensibly about. It might be something like You don’t do your share of the laundry, or You need to defend me when your dad criticizes me, or I want you to get rid of your ex’s engagement ring. Just beneath the content is what’s known as the “process,” which is what informs the content. For instance: When I’m left with all the laundry, I feel invisible, unappreciated, and unloved. Or: I don’t defend you when my dad criticizes you because I’m terrified of standing up to him and I freeze, just like I did when I was a kid. Or: I avoid talking to you about the ring because I’m afraid that you don’t want to hear my complicated feelings about it, and I will have no way to convince you that I want to be with you without denying these other feelings that are also very much a part of who I am.

So, Gottlieb arrives at what she calls a fundamental truth about being human. Namely, that we never outgrow the past. It is not a fundamental truth. It is a choice. We might choose to drag all of our luggage around with us-- which the boyfriend is apparently doing-- but we might choose to follow the counsel offered by the apostle Paul, and put away the toys of childhood.

Let’s begin with a fundamental truth about being human: Our experiences in life stay with us and shape who we are. Our pasts aren’t magically erased when we meet a new partner; we all show up on Day One of an adult relationship with our own histories, ways of relating, ideas about ourselves and others, insecurities, pain, and losses. It’s unrealistic to expect a new partner to be a clean slate, especially with regard to significant relationships from the past. This means that if you’re going to have a strong relationship with your boyfriend, you’ll need to get acquainted with his losses.

Of course, no one is talking about a magical eraser. The boyfriend has chosen to keep the diamond ring around, and to keep it in Sara’s basement.

But, Gottlieb continues, Sara ought to be letting her boyfriend feel his feelings and to have his feelings… and whatever. Trust me, if she sprays him with essence of girltalk, she will alienate him. He will shut up and shut down.

The conversation you need to have will be made harder if your boyfriend has gotten the sense (and based on your letter, I imagine he has) that this is less a discussion that allows room for his messy feelings and more a means to get him to stop having the feelings he’s having. There’s a big difference between Tell me more about the pain of that relationship so I can understand you better and feel closer to you—this will make it easier for me to not take so personally your wanting to keep the ring (process) and Let’s talk about how we can work together to make any trace or memory of this woman disappear, specifically by selling the ring (content). (By the way, this is also a common dynamic when a person whose spouse died begins dating a new partner. Sometimes the new partner feels threatened by the pieces of the past, while the other person has a deep need to preserve them in daily life.)

Moreover, it’s still about emotion and care and concern and compassion:

To talk on a process level, you’ll want to focus not on determining what’s “fair” but on sharing your more tender emotions and treating the other person’s with the utmost compassion and care. Instead of asking your boyfriend to sell the ring, you can share with him what it means for you that he’s kept it (maybe: that you believe he wishes he were still with his ex, or that his feelings for her are deeper than his feelings for you), and how you feel when he shuts down conversations about it (maybe: lonely or unimportant). In turn, perhaps he can share with you what the ring means to him (maybe: a tangible memento of an important chapter of his life, in the way that many people save photos from past relationships rather than deleting them from their archives), and how he feels when you try to engage him in these conversations (maybe: pressured, attacked).

Again, it’s about his unresolved feelings.

He may find your questions to be intrusive, judgmental, or controlling. If so, you’ll want to get curious together about how much of his avoidance of this topic is about your approach in the present; or about a familiar feeling from his past—perhaps an old experience of getting the message that his feelings were “wrong” or unacceptable—or about his unresolved feelings about the breakup that he’s not willing to look at because he fears that if he gives them any air time, he’ll become sad and overwhelmed. Maybe he believes that he can keep them in a box (an emotional box represented by the ring box) and has taken great care not to open the lid, because he’s afraid of what might come out.

As for a more constructive approach, Sara should tell him that she will not marry him if he cannot explain why he clings to the old ring. And she might even put an end to the relationship, because whatever he is hiding might well be worse than she or Gottieb imagines. The man should explain what happened, not feel his feelings or wallow in emotions. 

In the meantime, Sara might also do a Google search to see whether the old girlfriend has an order of protection against him. 

Otherwise, she should check out the portrait in the attic.