March 29th, 2018

Those involved in conflict resolution and relationship counseling have a term they use for storing up grievances rather than resolving them when they occur, and then hauling them out as a weapon in an argument – even though they have nothing to do with that argument. It’s called gunnysacking, and it’s bad form.

Even in a fight, there are rules.

As published in The Memphis Daily News, March 30, 2018, and in The Memphis News, March 31-April 6, 2018

Gunny Sack


So you and your spouse are having a disagreement that escalates into an argument that moves up in decibels and moves into things flying off tables and dogs fleeing the room … and your spouse is winning … so you reach deep into your shared past and come up with something smelly, or several somethings, totally unrelated to the matter at hand to counter … and now nobody wins.

In short, whether or not we refinish the floors really has nothing to do with the name you called my sister 20 years ago.


So you’re getting older and the world and your place in it aren’t what you thought they’d be, the times you remember are preferable to what you see ahead, and you feel like the people in charge are – at best – talking down to you or ­– at worst – ignoring you … and now there’s an election … and a candidate reaches deep into your darkest fears and attaches each and every one to an opponent or ominous other along with a strong-arm guarantee to right the world again … and now nobody wins.

In short, the fact that you don’t have enough for retirement and a cup of coffee costs four bucks really has nothing to do with Mexican rapists and same-sex marriage.


So you’re completely committed to a cause right and just to you that is completely out of the question to them … and they won the election … so you reach deep into your righteous indignation all the way down to your condescending superiority and use it to further separate you from them … and now nobody wins.

In short, the merits of national health insurance and a woman’s right to choose really have nothing to do with orange combovers and sixth-grade vocabulary.


Even if you haven’t heard the term, you’ve probably been guilty of it. We all have a collection of real and imagined personal slights and wrongs stored in our subconscious, or ugly information left unmentioned. Gunnysacking is when we draw on those ugly things to win an argument and overcome an opponent, going low and playing dirty. Any merit in the conflict and any true resolution are thereby lost.

One side bemoans a president who grabs women by the genitals, cheats on his current wife with the next wife and then with porn stars, lies like the rest of us breathe, thinks of the world’s despots as role models and measures the future in coal dust … and the other side reaches into the Hillary gunnysack for their defense or blames the notoriously liberal FBI for the state of the union.

What passes for national discourse is as silly and strident as that argument you had in the kitchen the other night while dinner burned.

Cooler heads on both right and left must honestly address what’s passing for leadership or there will be little left to serve us.

I’m a Memphian, and we’re at the bottom of the gunnysack.


There are no comments yet.

Leave a comment