Barcelona beach scene (Otto Normalverbraucher)

Let’s face it. Going to the beach is a bad idea. I grew up in the landlocked Middle West, where going for a swim meant visiting a murky lake or a concrete-lined pool, so you’d think I’d be especially happy to be by the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea. Not at all. I have nothing against being in the sea. Swimming is fun. …


(Wikimedia)

“No one talks about black-on-white crime.”

I was at a restaurant with a large group of people, most of whom I hadn’t met before. There was a television nearby, and a woman across the table from me seemed to have picked up on something she saw on the news.

“No one talks about black-on-white crime.”

I didn’t know this woman, and I was a guest of others at the table. So, I noted her comment — she had gotten my attention — but I let it go. …


One morning a friend and I went for an early run and stopped to rest at a scenic spot along the water. We chatted for a while until we realized we weren’t alone. A few yards away, at a rocky point jutting out into the harbor, were three people: a young man in a suit, a woman in a long dress, and an older man wearing a white collar. As the man in the collar spoke, it became clear that we were the sole witnesses to a solemn moment, and we fell silent. These people were strangers to us, but…


It was cold and snowing at 5:50 AM when I arrived at the United States Supreme Court building. A quick count revealed there were already thirty-four people in line ahead of me, but because I was among the first fifty people to show up, it looked like I would get a seat for oral arguments. So, I tightened the zipper on my coat and settled in.

I am not an attorney, but I have great respect for the relatively rational and non-political atmosphere of the Court. There are laws, precedents, and rules of engagement, and when the Supreme Court makes…


One of the most magical experiences of my youth unfolded like this: Someone invited a group of us into a high-ceilinged apartment with beautiful wood floors and almost no furniture. I was an Urbana High School senior with a permissive weekend curfew, and I had wandered onto the University of Illinois campus, where I managed to find alcohol and weed. The year was 1967.

I have no recollection of the people I was with or how we met, but I remember that as we entered the room no one bothered to turn on the lights. The most prominent features of…


Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom of Speech” (wikimedia)

My father rarely talked about his work. His job was in what was then called employee relations. In an era when unions were much more powerful than they are today, he represented management in labor negotiations. Early in his career he worked for a steel company and later for a large food manufacturing corporation. His companies had plants scattered across the United States and Canada, and he often traveled for work, living in a hotel room until the current dispute or contract negotiation was resolved.

Dad told me one brief anecdote that has stuck with me over the years. Contract…


Suddenly the Obama years feel like a dream — a distant tableau of American promise, frozen in the past. But we are awake now, and things are very different.

I remember this feeling. Most of my life has been spent in conflict with the leadership of my country. Nixon, Johnson, Reagan, both Bushes, and now Trump. I remember how it feels to be the loyal opposition — the thorn in the side of government. Now that the shock of Donald Trump’s election is beginning to wear off, it feels like coming home, and I’m ready for it.

American democracy is…


Pixabay

A teacher’s comment on my second grade progress report has become a recurring joke in my family: “Stuart is a pleasant child, but he daydreams too much.”

Far from being ashamed of my daydreaming, I am grateful for it.

Daydreaming is a misunderstood pastime. Once considered a dangerous form of idleness, today daydreaming is more often cast as the enemy of productivity — a distraction from the true task at hand. This is probably what my second grade teacher had in mind.

But, for many people, daydreaming is not a distraction at all. It is an essential aspect of their…


The Reason Rally, June 4, 2016.

Four times in my life I’ve traveled to Washington DC to join with other Americans in the expression of unpopular views. The first was in October of 1967, when, as a 16-year-old high school student, I went to the March on the Pentagon, a large demonstration against the War in Vietnam. The second was the 1969 Vietnam Moratorium to end the war, and the third was a 2005 protest against the War in Iraq.

My most recent trip to DC was on June 4 for the 2016 Reason Rally, a celebration of life without gods. It was a relatively small…


I’ve never met Mary Elizabeth Williams, but I’m a fan. I found her the way people do these days. A friend who’s done her time with cancer started retweeting things by various members of the cancer club, and before long I was following @embeedub myself. I’ve enjoyed some of her media commentary in Salon, but I became a committed reader when she blogged about the SNAP Challenge: the week she fed her family on just $5 per person per day—the amount allotted to needy families under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). …

Stuart Vyse

Psychologist. Writer. http://stuartvyse.com

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