As I See It: Terminal sensitivity

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Since everyone else seems to be making up their own terms and slogans these days, I decided to come up with one of my own.

“Terminal sensitivity” is a condition wherein one becomes so obsessed with how something appears or feels to them, that their hypersensitivity overrides their ability to intellectually analyze and understand people and events. People become unable to think - and sometimes act - in a rational manner.

One example: A politician recently stated something to the effect that the United States invented slavery. And here I thought it has been around as long as one person, tribe, sect or nation conquered another and enslaved those who had been conquered.

The trouble with totally inaccurate and untrue statements such as this is that the uneducated and uninformed may believe this. This is also an indictment of our public education system all the way from the elementary level to major colleges and universities that indoctrinates, sometimes at the expense of education.

Terminal sensitivity has infected those who see evil in a Confederate flag, portraits and statues of national Civil War era politicians who supported slavery or a number of our founding fathers who actually owned slaves - and who seek to eradicate any vestige of their memory from our national culture and psyche.


It’s insane to believe that any of those actions will address the real problems associated with racism. As Shakespeare wrote, “It’s a tale ... full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Terminal sensitivity is being fed by one of the major political parties, the national media and those who wish to make fundamental changes in our government and society. “Black Lives Matter” as a slogan means different things to different people. Most Caucasians react by saying “all lives matter,” which is essentially correct, but disagreeable to most Blacks as an affront to their slogan and organization that seeks to eliminate police violence against blacks.

The violence, looting and arson following the tragic death of George Floyd significantly tempered the sympathy the Black community should have received.

I’m a historian among other things. I always look for parallels between the past and today. Let’s start with the today. Over the course of the last few months nonessential businesses have been forced to close due to the pandemic. It didn’t take long before business owners and customers were grousing about not being able to open their businesses and sell their wares or services.

A number of restaurants, bars and small businesses have already folded due to the economic impact of the closure. Some owners openly rebelled; chambers of commerce and state politicians became openly hostile to their governor, demanding that the government cease ruining so many businesses and the economy as a whole.

Now put yourself into the role of a Southern plantation owner in the 1860s. Your ability to make money raising cotton relies on slavery for labor. Yes, it is an evil practice, but much of the entire economy is based on that. Might you not have felt hostility and resentment when the president pledged to free all slaves? Might you not have banded together with like-minded friends, neighbors, politicians and states and openly rebelled?

Remember, you can’t think with your 2020 sensitivity; you have to be honest with yourself. That’s a hard thing to do if you can’t shrug off your terminal sensitivity.

Growing up years ago I read about reunions of Union and Confederate soldiers who participated in major battles of the Civil War. I don’t remember either side calling for the removal of statues and monuments. Warriors have almost always found a way to peacefully associate with former enemies. Why can’t we do the same?


Try to make a list of all the things that unite us as citizens of the United States. Do that on a sheet of paper and then make another list alongside this one that lists all the things that divide us. You should find a lot of duplicates in both lists. Gender, education, skin color, race/ethnicity, ancestry, economic status, profession, religion, high school and college affiliation, age and many more.

After a while you will hopefully come to the conclusion that what really divides us is not these things in and of themselves but how we view all these factors and the value we place on each one.

Now, what is your prediction as to how long it will take us to work through all of those factors, including racism, in achieving harmony?

My prediction is generations.

That’s the way I see it.

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