My Problem With Christians.

I used to begin every day praying that God would help me be the kind of man He wanted me to be. I prayed that people might see something different in me which that perhaps might cause them to contemplate their own relationship with God. I didn’t want to have to be the one to talk about it, mind you. I merely hoped to be some sort of subliminal messenger. And that seemed to work well for me for quite a few years. I used that prayer to hold myself accountable many times.
It’s not working anymore.
I don’t mean that I’ve quit talking with God or that I don’t hold IMG_0073myself accountable. I’m just not sure I’m interested in being a recruiter for Christianity anymore. There’s the age old “horrible things man does in the name of religion” thing but that never bothered me so much. At least not so much in that I couldn’t deflect the notion with evidence of the evolvement of man and civilization. It’s just that the current co-branding of Christianity and the conservative right have caused me to not really like Christians anymore. They aren’t nice and that’s a problem. Oh sure they’re great if you venture into their arena on their terms but let’s be honest. If you are gay, atheist, Muslim, even black or Hispanic the message of inclusion isn’t exactly the first thing you’d notice.
I’m not condemning Christians as having lost their way. Maybe it’s me. My embrace of progressive values has earned me numerous back channel messages quoting scriptures and imploring me to repent. They like that old “iron sharpens iron” quote but can’t seem to consider the Beatitudes. Christianity has a big problem right now. As long as they focus on building walls, denying sanctuary, feeling persecuted for baking gay wedding cakes and denying health-care to people who can’t afford it they can’t be my people. And I guess people never really had anything to do with my original prayer anyway. Dear God, help me to be the kind of man that You want me to be. I’ll leave the rest up to You.

The Real Enemy

Suddenly I’ve subscribed to two additional newspapers, three news magazines, a couple of thoughtful blogs and I’ve purchased books on history and government; I’ve attended two IMG_4942protests, three documentaries and paid to see “I’m Not Your Negro” twice, so far. I didn’t deliberately or even consciously make it a point to gather more information to make sense of the world around me. I’m attributing my thirst for understanding to self-preservation. I’m not quite sure how that is working. I found that spending my weekends screening “I’m Not Your Negro” or “Matthew Shepard Was a Friend of Mine” aren’t really “feel-good” activities that are conducive to lifting my spirits. It’s hard to imagine that they even generate hopefulness although they should.
The Matthew Shepard documentary is emotionally devastating. I was grateful that the venue where I saw it offered a discussion afterward. The discussion provided the opportunity to validate my feelings in hearing others reactions to the film. That helped. The viewing was only attended by twenty-five or so people; the same number who sat with me in the theatre when I tried to absorb the profoundness of James Baldwin and his contributions to the civil rights movement. Both films come at you with the idea that man has the extraordinary inability to see one another through compassionate eyes. There is some flaw in our character that prohibits us from recognizing that our fundamental humanness makes us all the same. We fail to recognize that the only difference between the proverbial us and them is the random luck of the draw of our birth. We are our brother’s keeper.
So when I see speech being emboldened that promotes otherness, the condemnation of political correctness and policy proposals that perpetuate separateness I need understanding. Just what is it that drives us to the ugliest attributes of tribalism? What do we benefit from the constant us versus them mentality? There are indeed people out there who want to do us harm. To think you can identify them by their skin color, religion, sexuality or gender is just lazy. It’s sloppy, ugly and lazy. I’m tired of pretending I can have respect for those who would allow harm to anyone based on their otherness.
There is an “us versus them.” It is those who would respect the dignity of all people equally and those who don’t. Those who refuse to accept the glorious diversity of man as a good thing are in fact causing harm. As such they should be identified as a threat. They need to be treated with caution and rehabilitated if possible. If they are beyond redemption and insist on clinging to their hateful ways they need to face the consequence of not being accepted. There is no room to normalize the ideologies of bigots, the alt right, segregationists and the like. If we don’t stand up to them now they will only gain strength and power. Resist and Persist. It’s our only hope.

Muslim Ban-2nd Verse

You know those seven Muslim-majority countries Trump claimed were “countries of concern” under the Obama administration?
When the new travel ban comes out next week remember:
The Obama administration had limited what isimg_4929 known as visa-waiver travel for people in those seven countries. People who previously could have entered the United States without a visa were now required to have as visa if they had traveled to one of the seven countries identified. That’s it.
img_4928That’s a far cry from: “the countries that were chosen in the executive order to protect Americans from terrorists were the countries that have already been identified by Congress and the Obama administration,” Reince Priebus

I’m still waiting for that first act of integrity from this administration.

 

A Thousand Tiny Cuts

I can’t speak of racism with authority. I can’t know what it really looks like. Most of the time I think I know when I witness it but my privilege is certainly myopic to understand the pain, the img_0066anger, frustration and sadness required to clearly see it for what it is. That’s not to say it doesn’t cause me pain, anger, frustration and sadness. And if I am honest, I am grateful that I can’t personally know the depth of such ugliness. I can say and know that racism is ugly but it doesn’t really affect me in the way it must when you can’t escape it.
On Sunday I was perusing my Facebook feed and ran across a friend’s post that woke me. Erin Jackson is more of a fond acquaintance that I had the joy of knowing in my comedy days. She has a smile that will melt you, she’s beyond funny and was always gracious in spite of my amateur status. So when she described an encounter she had…it rocked me. I’ll just share with you what she posted.
img_0065Some arrogant subhuman traveler had assumed Erin was in the wrong line at an airport because of the color of her skin. And this wasn’t the first time such degeneracy had confronted her while traveling. She recounts a similar experience on her website. I just can’t even imagine.
I was brought up in a way to always stand up to blatant racism. Now I’m starting to see that perhaps the worst part of racism is the thousand tiny cuts that go unnoticed by those of us who would never experience or likely notice such transgressions. The days of letting racist jokes or comments slide has passed.
We have all heard it described that the new president has emboldened racists. That can not stand.

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a talk by Daryl Davis. The talk was very thought provoking and gave some hope in that some of the most hardened of racists can be educated. Yet I’m not sure those are the biggest challenges we face. I was embarassed in the end when a few of the white audience members suggested that they are victims to the recent backlash against emboldened racism. You could hear fear in their voices. They should be afraid because we aren’t going to let them get by with that anymore. You can’t claim to be a victim for being called out for behaving like a racist. And these people Erin dealt with at the airport. Hiding behind smiles under the guise of trying to be helpful. They were as ugly as can be. We see them. I hope that makes them uncomfortable.

Man of Character

We have a saying in our house that began beautifully but eventually became weaponized, as families will occasionally do. “Be a man of character” was introduced to our family by my oldest son. His sister and younger brother now use it, mainly, to hold us to extraordinary expectations or as a gentle taunt when we are falling short. Falling short, in my case, seems to occur quite frequently if I am to trust my Catholic-guilt upbringing.img_4914
The concept is simple enough. The problem is that character defined is not good or bad. Merriam-Webster says character is, “The attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual.” I think it is safe to assume that the original context in my son’s mind intended noble characteristics, things like: trustworthiness, respectfulness, fairness and empathy. I would love to live up to that definition of character more consistently. I could certainly benefit from looking for that more in others. A good friend of mine always reminds me to assume good intentions. Perhaps that is what my son means when he strives to be a man of character.

So much can go wrong when we ascribe motive to words and the actions of others. We really have no way of knowing intentions. Even more problematic is when we assume another’s actions and intentions are directed specifically at us. That may be the root of a lot of our problems these days. Things like road rage and social media ranting occur when we take things too personally. It’s ok if someone disagrees with us. I also think that if we assume good intentions it will be easier for us to maintain trustworthiness, respectfulness, fairness and empathy. When we assume good intentions we needn’t operate out of a defensive or aggressive mind set.

I think I need to start with trustworthiness. Trustworthiness goes both ways. I need to trust that others have good intentions if I expect the same from them. Ok. That gives me enough to work on for today. Let me know how that sits with you.

Deconstruction of the Administrative State?

Steve Bannon says, “the new administration is in an unending battle for deconstruction of the administrative state.”
Wait. WHAT?
I’m rather fond of my government I must say. We have free and arguably fair elections so I can have confidence that this administration won’t last forever. That’s the first thing. We once lived in a land where only white property owners could vote. I like that our government expanded the right to vote to all majority non-felon citizens.
I like the idea that I will likely be around for a long time to watch img_0063my family grow and succeed. Government provides me with clean water, air and trash removal. The Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency ensure I have safe food and air and safe medicine. Actually the government is responsible for funding most of the private research that goes into all medical advances. That’s good, right?
In spite of recent gains by foreign nations the United States still leads the world in technological innovation. Is that an accident? Maybe public education, the 1785 Land Act,land-grant colleges and the GI Bill had something to do with that. What could Steve Banon and 45 possibly be thinking by saying they want to deconstruct American education?
I love my job but I don’t want to do it forever. Social Security and Medicare are a big part of my retirement plans. I maybe could have saved enough on my own, with some luck, in there private sector, to have those benefits. But then I guarantee you I would have needed the protection of government through the strength of a more robust Securities and Exchange Commission to protect my investments from the robber barons of Wall Street.
How do you plan to get to work on Monday? Do you think you might drive in a safety regulated car on a public road? Maybe you’ll take a train or a bus. However you get there I’m certain you’re glad that it wasn’t the role of private investors to blaze the trail to your front door. And where do you think airports come from? And if you live in Arkansas or Alabama do you think anyone would have built an interstate highway or airport to connect you with the rest of us? I rest my case.
Your cellphone and post office, the internet and broadcasting; how much of that do you think you might enjoy had government not pooled our tax dollars for the greater good? If those resources were funded on a profit motive they would be nonexistent or unaffordable to the masses.
Most of our energy comes from private companies but big capital projects like dams and the development of nuclear technology came from your government. I don’t think anyone should be in favor of deregulating nuclear power plants.
Our military, police and fire departments, libraries and many parks and museums are here by way of your government. The space program and defense research fuel our knowledge and economy. Advancements in medicine, electronics, and communications are all because of the government. Do you ever rely on GPS? Thank the government.
Could our government do better? Of course it could. But what we img_0064are witnessing now, in this time, under the leadership of Steve Bannon and Donald Trump should scare the hell out of you. Life as you know it is at risk and the freedoms you lose may be your own, Resist. Persist.

We Are All In This Together

I’m sipping coffee on the back porch enjoying one of those first warm spring mornings. The sun is warm on my shoulders as I listen to my jams on Pandora. Net neutrality allows me to stream my favorite tunes without extra charges from my internet provider. The new administration, as part of their plan to limit or accessibility to an open internet, are seeking to change that.
img_0061The family is gathering tomorrow for Sunday dinner. I’m making a family favorite Peruvian Chicken with green sauce. The recipe calls for fresh produce and citrus. It’s delicious. It is so freaking amazing to live in a land of abundant fresh ingredients to share with our family at the table. I often reflect on the cherished memories of laughter and the sharing of our hopes and dreams when we come together. The ingredients for those meals could soon become much more expensive. The new administration wants to crack down on the migrant workers that are essential to the harvest of the food we put on the table.
My youngest son is having his best year ever at school. We have utilized some resources available at my son’s school where he is now performing at superior levels like we always knew he could. I can’t imagine much that would cause a parent’s heart to soar as much as seeing their child succeed where he always struggled before. The new administration doesn’t value the programs our son needs and that concerns us greatly.
Did I mention I’m enjoying a beautiful day on my back porch? An amazing thing about living in Northern Virginia is that at any given moment fox, deer, raccoons, and hawks will visit our corner lot. The air is clean and the streams run clear. We have made so much progress since the 70’s when I recall making anti pollution posters for earth day projects. The new administration believes the cost of a healthy planet is to great of a burden on American industry.
We make a very comfortable living I’m happy to report. Yet even being among the highest percentages of income my household img_0060has very little comprehension of what a privileged few experience in their daily lives. I’m OK with not knowing extravagance. What I have a problem with is the growing income inequality as captain’s of industry and investments take more and more of the pie while so many are left behind. It’s a real thing. I’ve been a CEO and I can attest that I absolutely depended on my employees to secure my success. Did I deserve a salary 300 times higher than my staff? Hell no. I can tell you, as a CEO I had the authority to set the wages and I would have felt criminal to support that idea.
Sometimes when I read the comments under news stories or on social media I question why it is so important for me to resist this administration. I’m fairly confident that whatever happens in the next four years my family will survive. This isn’t about that. The things I value: access to a free press (and Pandora,) affordable food for everyone, quality public education, a healthy planet and economic opportunity for all drive my conscience. Let’s throw in affordable health care while we are at it. Capitalism is a beautiful thing but unbridled capitalism is ugly and we must guard against the elite oligarchy that is using fear and populism to divide us. United we stand. The temptation to assume that people get what they deserve can be tempting but remember, rising tides lift all boats and is foundational to liberal thought. Let’s resist all challenges to the real American dream and persist in all adversity. Believe in the pendulum.

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