Looking For The Political “Glue Guys”

Sociological theory holds that every successful organization needs “glue guys.”  Coaches of sports teams agree.

“Glue guys” are the people who do the little things that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet, or the balance sheet, but that are crucial to moving the overall endeavor in the right direction.  On a basketball team they take the charge, dive for the loose ball, and cheer like crazy for the team when they are on the bench.  In an office, they might bring in a dozen doughnuts for no reason, take the new guy in accounting to lunch during his first week, or try to smooth ruffled feelings so a minor incident doesn’t become a major blow-up.

The “glue guys” typically aren’t perceived as superstars, and often their contribution is just assumed.  But if the “glue guys” leave, suddenly the office or the the offense doesn’t run quite so well, the prima donnas start battling for attention, and bad feelings start to grow.  Before you know it, people are hogging the ball and communicating with each other through passive-aggressive notes stuck to the front of the office microwave.

When I reflect on our dysfunctional political environment, I wonder if the real problem is that we lacki those political “glue guys” — the Senators and Representatives who, in the past, could swallow their pride, work with people in the other party, keep their word, and forge a fair compromise that would allow the necessary work to get done.  Now, it seems, everyone acts like a superstar — they raise huge amounts of money, they send countless overwrought e-mails soliciting even more cash by presenting opposing views in the most dangerous possible light, and when the party talking points get circulated they dutifully go on MSNBC or Fox shows and say pointed, terrible things about the other side.  How many of these preening politicos would take a charge or dive for a loose ball to try to, say, develop a rational approach to immigration issues?

I think we need more of the “glue guys” in Washington, D.C.  The question is, how do we accomplish that in our modern polarized, money-saturated, poll-driven political system?

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Cappy Dick And The Power Of Trying

You are a kid on a Sunday morning in the 1960s.  It is winter and brutally cold outside, and doing something inside seems like a good idea.  You flip through the brilliantly colored comics section of the Sunday paper, and there you find your perfect companion — Cappy Dick.  Cappy Dick, the chuckling, patient, pipe-smoking sea captain who every week urged kids to “try for these great prizes!” and proposed all manner of odd games and activities for bored rug rats.

Cappy Dick was all about the art of the apparently possible.  It suggested different things that you could try.  They looked like they could be done — hey, it wouldn’t be in the paper if it was fake, would it? — and in any case it looked like it would be fun to try.

Never were egg cartons put to so many different uses!  You could take the carton, paint each egg-holding indention a different color, and toss bottle caps or pennies into them, with each successful throw generating different points depending on color.  You could learn how to make a successful flip book, or convert a shoe box into a crude castle, or make puppets out of clothes pins.  When Cappy Dick spurred your imagination, the blunt-edged scissors, Crayola crayons, and construction paper got a serious workout, and the smell of Elmer’s glue was intoxicating.  And when you were done, your hands crusty with Elmer’s glue residue and the kitchen table littered with scraps of paper and other odds and ends, you realized that trying to make something had been fun, even if the results didn’t quite look like Cappy Dick showed.

I’m sure parents of that era rolled their eyes from time to time as an excited youngster charged up, babbling about needing an empty round Quaker’s Oats container to try to make a gaily colored Polynesian drum.  But surely Moms across the land appreciated anything that would keep the kids occupied in some kind of quiet creative exercise for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, even if a bit of clean-up would eventually be required.

No doubt video games, elaborate plastic Barbie houses, and other ready-made modern toys spur some kind of creative impulse as kids play.  I wonder, however, whether the creative opportunities are not quite as rich as when kids gathered around the kitchen table and worked hard to make that Indian headdress or Pilgrim bonnet, laughing all the while.  Cappy Dick helped to fill many a dull afternoon, and it may have made kids of that generation just a bit more willing to at least try.  After all, you could win Great Prizes!