learning from elijah

“Pick a side — any side” is the dangling societal lure.

One of the Intramuralist’s aims is to always promote what’s better. With last week’s sudden passing of the honorable, Rep. Elijah Cummings, if we paused, if we actually took the time, cleared the noise, turned off the TV, we again have opportunity to see something better…

“There was no stronger advocate and no better friend than Elijah Cummings. I am heartbroken for his wonderful family and staff — please pray for them. I will miss him dearly.” 

“Saddened to learn of the passing of @RepCummings this morning. In my time working with him, he was upfront, gracious, & caring… God bless you, faithful servant…” 

“Very sad to learn that my colleague Rep. Elijah Cummings has passed away. He leaves a legacy as a determined public servant and strong fighter for civil rights.”

Cummings was an avowed Democrat. Each and all of the above were shared by members of the so-called other “side,” respectfully, from Republican Representatives Mark Meadows, Chip Roy, and Steve Scalise.

As tributes have continued to roll in from all “sides” these past few days, perhaps most poignant to me were the words of former Rep. Trey Gowdy, an ardent, conservative man who like Cummings, is known for the vehement expression of his conviction. I will not soon forget their much publicized 2015 argument, when the two of them, who were the top committee members on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, in front of a silent Hillary Clinton, went back-and-forth for multiple minutes, mostly just screaming at each other.

This week, no less, Gowdy contributed an op-ed piece in The Washington Post and tweeted at length about Cummings. Wrote Gowdy…

“Elijah Cummings was one of the most powerful, beautiful & compelling voices in American politics. The power and the beauty came from his authenticity, his conviction, the sincerity with which he held his beliefs…

We never had a cross word outside of a committee room. He had a unique ability to separate the personal from the work. The story of Elijah’s life would benefit everyone, regardless of political ideation.

He was my friend, and it is that part of life working with Elijah that I will remember and cherish the best and the longest…

Members of Congress don’t always give advice to (or take advice from) one another. Most don’t have the kind of relationship where you can, but we did.

We did because we tried to understand where the other had come from, what made us who we were, why we believed what we believed…”

Gowdy’s op-ed was entitled, “Elijah Cummings and I were political opponents. We were also good friends.” 

Having watched the men (and more) bicker before the camera, most would not have known the depth of Cummings and Gowdy’s friendship. Most would not have guessed that each was sincerely intentional in understanding why the other believed what he believed.

Hence, one of the emerging insights from the week is that what we are witnessing on TV are just snippets… snippets. Snippets do not form an authentic narrative.

Wrote The Atlantic: “The story of the veteran lawmaker is one more example of how, in Washington, appearances deceive, and public performances and private relationships often diverge.”

One of the deceiving appearances in Washington is this need to pick a side. The danger in the side-picking, though, is that it fools us into thinking we no longer need to work at trying to understand why another believes what they believe.

My sense is that Cummings and Gowdy knew that. They knew what’s better.

Respectfully…

AR

can’t talk about kindness?

A little over a week ago, the Twitter-verse decided to hear themselves talk after gifted comedienne, Ellen DeGeneres, was photographed hanging out at an NFL game with former Pres. George W. Bush. Noting the attention that included both generous commendation and condemnation, DeGeneres responded further the next day by saying, “When I say be kind to one another, I don’t mean only the people that think the same way you do. I mean be kind to everyone.”

Multiple celebrities responded [all emphasis mine]…

From Blake Shelton: “Amen… thank you for saying this.”

From Jamie Foxx: “Thank uuu very much for that!!!! Soooo needed and necessary.”

Reese Witherspoon, Gwen Stefani, Kristen Bell and many more supportively weighed in. Others, however, responded strikingly, differently…

From Mark Ruffalo: “Sorry, until George W. Bush is brought to justice for the crimes of the Iraq War, (including American-lead torture, Iraqi deaths & displacement, and the deep scars — emotional & otherwise — inflicted on our military that served his folly), we can’t even begin to talk about kindness.”

From Susan Sarandon: “But missing the point entirely, DeGeneres framed the issue as simply a matter of her hanging out with someone with different opinions, not a man repeatedly accused of being a war criminal.”

Far more than Ruffalo and Sarandon — many others who do not even know DeGeneres — took time to judge her from afar (… amazing how generous we can be with our judgment… especially when we don’t really know someone).

ABC’s “The View” responded with the following question: “Should you be friends with someone you disagree with politically?” And they disagreed.

Co-host Joy Behar actually inserted, “I’ve always said I didn’t want to get to know George W. Bush, because I knew I would like him.”

Friends, do we see what’s happening?

Very intelligent people are struggling with basic moral questions…

Is it ok to be kind?

And many are justifying “no.”

When wrestling with the puzzling reason behind the refusal, in my semi-humble sense, it’s because we’ve got the order wrong.

If we actually got to know people first — and if we started to actually like them — to see that they aren’t evil, they aren’t stupid, and there is no way they are totally nuts, then we might actually have to wrestle with our own thinking — and why we are different. But we instead insulate ourselves with likeminded opinion so that we never have to allow our thinking to be seriously challenged. Many of the intelligent among us are unwilling to allow their thinking to be challenged. 

And in that process, we…

… refuse kindness…

… question forgiveness…

… and forgo relationship.

So what if we changed up the order? What if we got to know people first? What if we really got to know them (and put the disrespectful tweets and status updates away)? What if we could actually see the wisdom in Ellen’s words?

Music icon Elton John weighed in on Monday…

“George Bush has made a lot of mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes. Ellen DeGeneres has made a lot of mistakes… Yes, there were things that he’s — decisions were made. But they’ve been made by Democratic presidents and Republican presidents [too]… I admire Ellen for standing up and saying what she did.”

Notice the humility in the singer’s statement. It amazes me how in humility, it is far easier to extend kindness. When we instead refuse humility — when we refuse to respect, to interact with, or to even attempt to like those who are different — we are more prone to insulating judgment. 

Something, friends, seems wrong with that. If “we can’t even begin to talk about kindness,” something seems unwise and less fruitful in us.

Respectfully…

AR

who’s closer?

A little over a year ago, after a long day, off duty police officer Amber Guyger walked into the apartment of her unarmed neighbor, Botham Jean, mistakenly thinking the apartment was her own. She then wrongly concluded he was an invader in her home.  

She then shot and killed Jean; in fact, at trial, Guyger testified she intended to kill him.

At her recent trial and emotion-packed sentencing, Guyger was sentenced to 10 years behind bars after being convicted of second-degree murder in the state of Texas. 10 years is viewed as somewhat lenient, noting that life in prison was the maximum sentence — and of course, that she intentionally shot and killed an innocent man.

But perhaps the shot most heard around the country was the victims’ impact statement which occurred immediately after sentencing. The victim’s younger brother, 18 year old Brandt Jean, took the stand, and even though many of the onlookers and members of the press had already left the courtroom, Brandt had a most powerful thing to say…

Brandt — a black man — humbly, slowly said to Guyger — a white woman, “If you truly are sorry — I know I can speak for myself — I forgive you. And I know if you go to God and ask Him, He will forgive you. And I don’t think anyone can say it — again, I’m speaking for myself — not even on behalf of my family — but I love you just like anyone else. And I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die just like my brother did, but I, I personally want the best for you…” And then he asked twice if it was ok for him to hug her. He got off the stand. Guyger moved fast to him. The two embraced. You could hear the sobs. They held each other for over a minute.

No doubt forgiveness is a powerful thing.

Brandt Jean made no excuses for Guyger’s awful act. He did not deny the pain nor the wrongdoing. He did not deny that his family had done nothing wrong. He simply chose forgiveness when something different would have been easier.

Following the young man’s example, District Judge Tammy Kemp, who is black, also came down to hug the newly sentenced. “Had you witnessed the person who was hurting as Miss Guyger was,” said Kemp, “I don’t know a person who would have denied her that human contact.” Kemp seems to know that compassion is powerful, even and perhaps especially when undeserved.

What a fascinating scene — what powerful words. I am awed by one who has been so wronged — and by another who administers justice — how they could so unselfishly love on the one responsible for the wrongdoing. They chose mercy; that couldn’t have been easy. But those closest to the crime chose mercy and compassion.

Hear that once more… those who were closer chose mercy and compassion.

Moving farther away, the scene was not the same…

Outside the courtroom, there were protests. There was anger.

Further removed — on social media — there were lambasting taunts…

“How dare they!!” 

Allow me to humbly repeat what the taunt most seems to mean…

How dare they be compassionate.

Notice who is doing the chanting. It’s not those closest to the situation. It’s not those most involved or even most hurt by the wrongdoing. The chants, rants, and aggrieved accusations are coming from those farthest away. Those removed from the situation are hurling their hurt and attempting to project their emotion onto others.

Keen observation today, friends. Anger and outrage often come from places farther away.

That doesn’t seem helpful.

Allow us to learn from those who are closer.

Respectfully…

AR

happy birthday, son…

One of the things that puzzles me is how we react to life…

We can be so flippant, so callous. We can behave or believe as if some lives are better or worth more than others. Every time I fall or see someone seemingly fall into that shallow societal trap, I sense we are clearly missing out on some beauty or blessing specifically designed for us. There is so much to learn when we see no life as different.

One of those nothing-short-of-profound blessings happened eighteen years ago today; please oblige a more personal  —  albeit meaningful  —  post. One of my absolute, most favorite people was born on this day in 2001.

There wasn’t a whole lot of fanfare at the time; in fact, I remember significant worry, as we awaited word of how extensive a life-threatening heart defect would be. I now kind of wonder if the heavenly realms were cheering mightily that day. I couldn’t see it right then. I see more clearly now.

It did take some work to shed some of the initial shock and sting; take the geneticist’s words, for example. I don’t doubt he meant well.

He walked into labor and delivery, no more than an hour after birth, and began with zero salutation. He simply said, “This must be the saddest day of your whole life.”

The blank stare on my face was neither horror nor offense; it simply was a “wow… you don’t get it…” His words made no sense. A chromosomal condition may not be something one prays for, but every child comes with a few unwished for hurdles. Some hurdles are just a little more obvious.

Every birth is a miracle. Every life is a gift. My son is no lesser.

So on birthday number eighteen (a day in which his exuberance cannot come close to being contained — I exaggerate not), allow me to share a little more about my amazing young son…

  • He is witty and funny and bright.
  • He is engaging and inspiring and is better with people than most.
  • He is humble and kind.
  • He isn’t judgmental; he doesn’t let crap get in the way of people.
  • He likes pizza… and nachos and pretty much anything associated with queso. 
  • He finds food to be a bridge to community and connection… (yes, bright, I said).
  • He is brave.
  • He is inspiring.
  • He is adventurous; in fact, he wants to ride pretty much everything at Disney, which is a wee bit more than maybe one or two of his parents.
  • He can be stubborn — “determined” is the nicer word.
  • He is quick to ask for forgiveness. 
  • He loves music, motorcycles, and all things Batman.
  • He proudly calls his gold jewelry “ice.”
  • He wants to be a pop star.
  • He can sing most every song by the up-and-coming boy band “Why Don’t We” and also by Eben, our long-time, adopted family member.
  • He loves Zipper, our cat, and Yogi, our dog — but he will quickly admit he loves Zipper more.
  • He is good at making videos — especially on Mac’s iMovie; he’s been working on his grad video for 3 years!
  • He is also good at XBOX — especially NBA2K and WWE.
  • He’s becoming a Buccaneers fan (easier than the Bengals this year).
  • He has posters of Steph Curry, Michael Jordan, and Tim Tebow on his wall; much to his “funcle’s” delight, he prob still likes LeBron more.
  • He adores and admires his two older brothers.
  • He is cherished by them.
  • He has a special relationship with his older brothers’ best friends.
  • He is treasured, too, by our extended family, who have always been “for” him since the day he was born. 
  • He has great friends ranging in age and stage across the country — from New York to Arizona. Of course, his love of the land in Ohio is included along the way.
  • He has the gift of encouragement.
  • He has the gift of the rap.
  • He sings at the bus stop more mornings than not. Loudly.
  • His faith is solid and contagious; he likes to sit in the front row at church.
  • He has great joy, lots of patience, and one very special extra chromosome. 

In Josh I have learned much. The reality is that because of Josh, I have grown in ways I otherwise would have not…

… through the beauty… through the blessing…

Every life is a gift.

Respectfully…

AR

promoting the positive (thanks, Brené…)

In search of authentic promotions of what’s most important and unity — noting that the two are often encouraged by the same people — allow us today to focus on the words of author, speaker, inspirer, and research professor, Brené Brown. Noting that Brown’s TED talk – “The Power of Vulnerability” – is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world, Brown has much to say that would be wise for us to hear… that is, if we’re going to promote the positive. Here are just a few of her words…

“We’re a nation hungry for more joy: Because we’re starving from a lack of gratitude.” 

“What we know matters but who we are matters more.”

“Maybe stories are just data with a soul.”

“Trust is earned in the smallest of moments.”

“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”

“Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”

“You cannot shame or belittle people into changing their behaviors.” 

“To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.”

“Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.” 

“It’s in our biology to trust what we see with our eyes. This makes living in a carefully edited, overproduced and photoshopped world very dangerous.”

“I’ve found what makes children happy doesn’t always prepare them to be courageous, engaged adults.” 

“It takes courage to say yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.”

“We run from grief because loss scares us, yet our hearts reach toward grief because the broken parts want to mend.”

“I thought faith would say, ‘I’ll take away the pain and discomfort,’ but what it ended up saying was, ‘I’ll sit with you in it.’”

“Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.”

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” 

“What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.”

“One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on “going it alone.” Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into “those who offer help” and “those who need help.” The truth is that we are both.”

“The universe is not short on wake-up calls. We’re just quick to hit the snooze button.”

18, 19… oh, wait… there’s one more. Granted, this one might be harder for us; ignoring it really would be easier. But no one said promoting the positive is easy. It does, though, seem to be wise…

“Here’s what I believe: 1. If you are offended or hurt when you hear Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters called bitch, whore, or the c-word, you should be equally offended and hurt when you hear those same words used to describe Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, or Theresa May. 2. If you felt belittled when Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables” then you should have felt equally concerned when Eric Trump said “Democrats aren’t even human.” 3. When the president of the United States calls women dogs or talks about grabbing pussy, we should get chills down our spine and resistance flowing through our veins. When people call the president of the United States a pig, we should reject that language regardless of our politics and demand discourse that doesn’t make people subhuman. 4. When we hear people referred to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder, “Is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?” 5. If you’re offended by a meme of Trump Photoshopped to look like Hitler, then you shouldn’t have Obama Photoshopped to look like the Joker on your Facebook feed. There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization—the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.” 

Respectfully…

AR

bias

Let’s provide an epilogue of sorts to one of our recent postings, which you’ll note respectfully asserted that there’s a difference between news and opinion, with “news” sources often presenting information with a left or right bias as opposed to somewhere in between; the truth is secondary to the bias. The goal is to get us to rage — to keep our tribal fears and hatreds aligned — whether that be (as several noted) about the latest economic legislation or the long term effects of the local school levy.

To be clear, everyone has bias. As one of my fave new websites, AllSides.com, acknowledges, “It is part of human nature to have perspectives, preferences, prejudices, leanings, and partialities.” The challenge, though, as they continue, is that “sometimes, bias — especially media bias — can become invisible to us.”

How does that happen? How can even the most gifted intellectual be so obviously fooled? And… dare we admit… not even know it?

“We are all biased toward things that show us in the right. We are biased toward information that confirms our existing beliefs. We are biased toward the people or information that supports us, makes us look good, and affirms our judgments and virtues. And we are biased toward the more moral choice of action — at least, that which seems moral to us.” 

And so while so-called “news” sites/resources cover the same issues, they will insert their bias in a way which often goes undetectable.

AllSides.com identifies 11 types of media bias:

1. Spin

2. Unsubstantiated Claims

3. Opinion Statements Presented as Facts

4. Sensationalism/Emotionalism

5. Mudslinging/Ad Hominem

6. Mind Reading

7. Slant

8. Flawed Logic

9. Bias by Omission

10. Omission of Source Attribution

11. Bias by Placement

We won’t wrestle with all 11 this day (feel free to join me in thoroughly checking out the site),  but the point is that bias takes multiple — often creative — forms.

Spin, for example, is the use of “vague, dramatic or sensational language.” It is the manifestation of a journalist’s straying from objectivity and thus may prevent an audience from getting an accurate perspective; note that the audience will not even know they don’t have an accurate perspective. Words such as “tirade,” “crucial,” or “latest in a string of” may be inserted… or words that imply bad behavior — “finally,” “conceded,” or “dodged,” for example… also, words that stir something emotional inside of us, such as: “mocked,” “fumed,” or “gloated.” The words are typically not objective. 

Look, too, though, at unsubstantiated claims, statements that sound like fact, appear to be fact, but don’t include specific evidence. Note one example from our current campaign season (which I can’t believe extends for another 13 months… aye yai yai), this as reported by the Washington Post:

“First, [Sen. Bernie] Sanders complaint isn’t that billionaires exist per se. After all, if America’s household wealth were distributed evenly across the population, then every family of four would have a net worth of $1.2 million. Sanders’s critique is that the United States’ super-rich are symptomatic of a system that churns out a small class of extremely wealthy people who rule over the vast remainder.”

Looks like fact. Sounds like fact. And it’s in the much read Washington Post. But note there includes zero notation as to where the so-called “facts” came from. Friends, I’m no fan of the “fake news” chants, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discern that here is where the chants find their fuel. 

My desire is to wrestle with the facts. My desire, as you know, is to have respectful dialogue in which we can sort through those facts. But one of the most prodigious problems we face as a country and culture today is the existence of this bias. Again, as said by AllSides: 

“Bias can manipulate and blind us. It can put important information and perspectives in the shadows and prevent us from getting the whole view.”

Let’s commit to getting the whole view. Let’s acknowledge the bias and our own, individual ability to be both blinded and fooled — without even knowing it. How refreshing to start the conversation there.

Respectfully… as always.

ARA 

my struggle with politics

I have to be honest. As a Christian, sometimes I really struggle with the current political state. I see friends of shared and unshared belief throw many of the morals they typically live by right out the nearest window.

I get it. As writer, Christian, and avid Texas Rangers fan, Bryan Roberts, wrote: “Political discourse is the Las Vegas of Christianity — the environment in which our sin is excused. Hate is winked at, fear is perpetuated and strife is applauded. Go wild, Christ-follower. Your words have no consequences here. Jesus doesn’t live in Vegas.”

Sadly, for Christians and non-Christians alike — for those sincerely attempting to honor both their Creator and all of mankind — many of us seem to have concluded that some morals matter less. But we forget that the political process is dirty and broken.

Think one party is always honest?

Think one party is more moral?

Allow me to humbly ask the pervasive elephant in the room: what are you overlooking in that party in order to conclude such?

I am thus attracted to more words Roberts wrote. Let me gently caution you now, as they will be hard to hear based on what each of us may currently be overlooking. Seven years ago Roberts suggested seven things to remember about politics:

  1. Both political parties go to church. There’s a Christian Left and, perhaps even less well-known, there’s a secular Right…
  2. Political talk radio and cable “news” only want ratings.
    When media personalities tell you they are on a moral crusade, they are lying to you. These personalities get rich by instilling fear and paranoia in their listeners…
  3. Those who argue over politics don’t love their country more than others.
    They just love to argue more than others. Strife and quarreling are symptoms of weak faith and are among the things the Lord “detests.” We need to rise above the vitriol and learn to love our neighbors the way God commanded us. We need to love our atheist neighbor who wants to keep creationism out of schools; our Democrat neighbor who wants to keep gay marriage and abortion legal; our Republican neighbor who celebrates death penalty statistics and gun ownership; and yes, even the presidential candidate from the other side.
  4. Thinking your party’s platform is unflawed is a mistake.
    The social policies of your party were constructed by imperfect politicians fueled by ambition. It’s nearsighted to canonize them…
  5. Scripture tells us to pray for our governing leaders and to respect those in authority.
    Translation: if you’re mocking your governing leaders on Facebook, the Holy Spirit is grieved. We should spend more time honoring our leaders and less time vilifying them. This doesn’t mean praying the President will be impeached; it doesn’t mean praying your candidate will win. God commands us to pray for our leaders — for their wisdom, for their hearts and for them to be led by Him.
  6. Don’t be paranoid.
    The country is not going to be destroyed if your candidate loses… America has functioned—albeit, at varying levels of success — for years under the direction of alternating Democrat and Republican control, and at every flip, the other side thought it was the end of the world. It’s not. And if we’re a Church that believes God is in control, we have to believe that He is the one in control of the end times — not whoever’s in office now, and not whoever succeeds them.
  7. Stop saying, “This is the most important election in the history of our nation.”
    It’s not. The most important election in the history of our nation was when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Before that, we thought it was OK to own people. Every generation thinks it’s living in the most important moment in history. We’re not, our parents were not and our children probably won’t be. And that’s OK.

Again, I get it… this is hard to hear for Christians and non-Christians alike. So as one who sincerely struggles with today’s political state, I humbly ask again what I must ask myself: what are we currently overlooking?

Respectfully…
AR

let’s talk impeachment… maybe more.

We talk about all things here — albeit, always respectfully.

Yesterday Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal inquiry of Pres. Donald Trump. Understand that it was not a vote nor an initiation of official impeachment proceedings. It is an investigation, with many commentators divided whether grounds for an impeachable offense exist.

Unsurprisingly, Twitter went wild… and not in a good way in the opinion of this craver of respectful conversation. I believe one could safely say that Twitter fosters very little healthy dialogue, consistent with most of social media. When I then searched what was trending with the anticipated inquiry, I found social media accompanied by multiple unfortunate calls that denigrated (and far worse) any who disagreed, any who didn’t believe it should have been done sooner, and actual calls for civil war. Hear that. Civil war.

I thus found myself not pleased nor displeased, neither thrilled or upset. My heart simply broke a little more for our fractured state of the Union.

As the Libertarian Party tweeted…

“News headlines will be dominated tonight about impeachment proceedings pertaining to Donald Trump. Some will accuse the President of being a criminal, undermining the Oval Office, and defying the rule of law. Others will say that the Democrats and Nancy Pelosi have gone off the deep end, and are setting a dangerous precedent with little evidence moving forward. 

One thing is certain: we’re all losing either way. The reality is that this should never have gotten to the point where it mattered so much to so many Americans. Presidential activity should be remembered as footnotes in American history, not as grandiose epics. The Oval Office should be respected as a place for bill signing and vetoing, of implementation of checks and balances, not constant controversy. This isn’t limited to Donald Trump. It extends back dozens of Presidencies, from Obama to Nixon, Reagan to FDR.

The Government should never have gotten so large, and so powerful, that the actions of one person in one role could dominate the news day-in-day-out for years. It’s time we started reeling the monster of big government back in. It’s time we took back our rights. It’s time we started electing leaders that want to make these offices function how they were intended, not how they are run…”

I suppose that’s it in a nutshell. From a civilian’s stone throw away, government feels way too big, and politics feels way too important. It concerns me when politicians on all sides of these issues make themselves or their singular party most important, arguably forgetting the humility of their elected oath and the book on which they swore.

I’m reminded of the words widely-respected columnist Peggy Noonan penned on the 20th anniversary of the impeachment of Pres. Bill Clinton — an occurrence of which I was also not pleased nor displeased, thrilled or upset.

Noonan wrote: “I see it all now more as a tragedy than a scandal.”

Why a tragedy?

Had Pres. Clinton told the truth, Noonan opines that: “even accompanied by a moving public apology, the toll would have been enormous. He would have taken a hellacious political beating, with a steep slide in public approval and in stature. He would have been an object of loathing and ridicule — the goat in the White House, a laughingstock. Members of his party would have come down on him like a ton of bricks. Newt Gingrich and the Republicans would have gleefully rubbed his face in it every day. There would have been calls for impeachment.

It would have lasted many months. And he would have survived and his presidency continued.”

But she profoundly proceeds…

“Much more important — here is why it is a tragedy — it wouldn’t have dragged America through the mud.”

And that is why my heart breaks a little more, friends…

Regardless of any outcome of the current inquiry, when the truth becomes secondary to the politics — in the actual investigation or in defense of the investigated — the reality is that way too many are willing and wanting to drag the rest of us through the mud.

God help us. You surely know better than we.

Respectfully…

AR

do you know last week’s news?

As a blog which attempts to identify the difference between news and opinion — which are not the same — allow us to present last week’s news from three different perspectives: the left, the right, and somewhere in between the two.

From the left:

“Lamar Jackson and the NFL’s Quarterback Double Standard”  

“Opioid-maker Purdue Pharma Is Allowed Bonus Payout in Bankruptcy Case”

“Rudy Giuliani Melts Down On Live TV In Bizarre Chris Cuomo Interview” 

“‘Urgent Concern’ About the President”

“New Allegations Against Brett Kavanaugh Mean Congress Must Finish What the FBI Started”

From the right:

“A California Court Dealt a Blow to Religious Liberty. It’s Time for SCOTUS to Act.”

“Meghan McCain Leaves ‘View’ Stage after Clashing with Ana Navarro over Whistleblower Reports”

“Betsy DeVos Busts Colleges Misusing Federal Dollars for Anti-Semitic Social Justice Curriculum”

“Ilhan Omar Deletes 2013 Tweet About Her Father”

“Awkward: Colbert Corners Warren on Middle Tax Class Increases, Calls Her Out When She Dodges”

And now from somewhere in between:

“GM Workers On Strike”

“Attacks on Saudi Arabian Oil Sites”

“Colt to End Production of AR-15 Rifles for Personal Use”

“Three Questions: Antonio Brown, the Latest NFL Morality Test”

“For Clues about 2020 Campaign, Look Back to 2004”

[Note: the above headlines are taken from multiple sites, including CNN, FOX News, and NBC — albeit none of the three are quoted in the “somewhere in between.”]

No doubt precisely because of the above glaring disparity, many of us have stopped tuning into the news. The bottom line is that much of what is advertised as news is not. It’s opinion. Opinion and news are not the same. And opinion is not reliable.

What’s the potential motive for the intentional slant? I think it may be misidentified; it may be deeper than a partisan agenda.

Allow me to quote Senator and bestselling author Ben Sasse in Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal (an excellent read, by the way). While openly sharing that he is a Christian, conservative man, Sasse is also not a fan of division and partisanship. [Noting all emphasis is mine] Sasse writes:

“Sean Hannity is good at what he does. So good, in fact, that his daily cable news show is number one nationally, and his daily talk radio show is number two. TV and radio are very different media, but Hannity has mastered both. There’s a reason he reportedly earns a ballpark $40 million annually. You might not like what he’s doing, but it’s definitely on purpose.

So what’s he doing?

He explained the core objective of his two different programs to the New York Times. It’s not to promote a particular conservative agenda, or to encourage American patriotism, or even to offer coherent arguments against liberalism. His core cause is to rage…

Most cable news and talk radio shows today — on both the right and the left — operate this way. The leading programs are orchestrated by executives and personalities who understand well that there’s real money to be made in helping people keep their fears and hatreds aligned.”

So understand what the above headlines are doing. Understand what Sean Hannity, Don Lemon, and Rachel Maddow are doing. Understand what the Drudge Report, Palmer Report, and other biased reports are doing. Their goal is to make you rage — to make you mad and keep your fears and hatreds aligned.

So do you think you know the news?

Each of the above headlines is linked from www.allsides.com. They clearly identify the left, right, and in between. I like www.realclearpolitics.com, too.

Respectfully…

AR

look where it starts…

  • It starts with language.
  • We create categories to distinguish people into “us and them.”
  • We then give names or other symbols to the classifications.
  • We attempt to use law, custom, and political power to deny the rights of other groups — perhaps maybe silence them.
  • Then we dehumanize. One group denies the humanity of the other group, by equating its members to something lesser — often with animals, vermin, insects or diseases. Maybe we suggest they are evil, incapable, or simply not of sound mind.
  • Social media is used to vilify the other group. 
  • Hate on television, in print, and radio is utilized.
  • The majority group is taught to regard the other group as less than human and even alien to their society. They are indoctrinated to believe that “we are better off without them.”  
  • The other group is often equated with filth, impurity, and immorality. Something is wrong with them. 
  • We hear speeches decrying the other group as lesser. As worse. Their leaders, supporters — all of them — worse. Amoral. Immoral.

So, friends, let’s ask a couple of key questions before our one big, brave one today…

Are we hearing the above in our culture today?

Are we reading about such classifications? … seeing such content?

Is this happening on television, in print, on radio and social media?

And… hard to ask this… but are we being encouraged to think of another group as lesser? … less enlightened? … or less something?

Allow me to humbly reference Prof. Gregory Stanton, a former law professor at Yale, George Mason, and multiple other established institutions of higher education. In the late 90’s, when serving in the U.S. State Dept., Stanton drafted the U.N. Security Council resolutions responsible for creating the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and more. He is best known for his work on genocide studies — the intentional destroying of people.

In 1999, Staton left academia to establish Genocide Watch, an organization which exists to predict and prevent genocide. We would know genocide when we see it — right? 

… the Holocaust… the Holodomor… the Armenian Genocide… the Assyrian genocide… the Cambodian genocide… the Kurdish genocide… the Rwandan genocide… the Guatemalan genocide… the Bangladesh genocide… and so heartbreakingly more…

So in regard to what’s relevant today, remember our first sentence: “It starts with language.”

The 10 bulleted statements above are taken from Stanton’s well known The Ten Stages of Genocide. “The process is not linear. Stages may occur simultaneously.” Here are the stages:

  1. Classification
  2. Symbolization
  3. Discrimination
  4. Dehumanization
  5. Organization
  6. Polarization
  7. Preparation
  8. Persecution
  9. Extermination
  10. Denial

Let us not overreact. Let us not confuse now with Nazi Germany; this is not.

But let us be brave enough to ask one big question:

Where are we unknowingly supporting one of the above?

The reality is that if we can “dehumanize” another group  —  because of how they look, where they live, what they believe, or even who they vote for  —  then we can justify all sorts of arrogance, judgment and otherwise known-to-be-awful behavior.

Remember: it starts with language.

Respectfully…

AR