politically (in)correct?

Out on the airwaves there has again arisen a clatter, when the rest of us ask: what’s actually the matter? In the days before Christmas, the annual conversation begins: are these songs offensive?

With a desire to always be respectful of all, let’s honestly unpack some of the songs, each of which is being called on by more than some to retire…

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”…

The catchy tune was written by Frank Loesser in 1944 and won the Academy Award for “Best Original Song” in 1949 when featured in the film, Neptune’s Daughter. It has been re-recorded at least 58 times by 106 celebrities, ranging from Ray Charles and Betty Carter to Martina McBride and Dean Martin to Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé.

Why might the song be offensive? In the wake of the #MeToo movement, it encourages a rape culture in that it pressures the woman to do something she doesn’t want to do, as she repeatedly expresses her desire to go home.

Why might it not? It’s a non-serious song about flirtation. Besides the fact that flirtation is considered an accepted social interaction, this song was written for a husband and wife.

According to Loesser’s daughter, the controversy surrounding this song has increased most substantially since Saturday Night Live utilized it in a 2015 skit, mocking Bill Cosby.

Or… “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”…

This song was written by Johnny Marks based on a 1939 story his brother wrote for the Montgomery Ward Company. Gene Autry later recorded the song, which hit #1 on the U.S. charts during Christmas of 1949. The song was popularized further when it accompanied the similarly named TV special created in 1964.

Why might the song be offensive? It encourages bullying, as due to his red nose, Rudolph is laughed at, called names, and not allowed to “join in any reindeer games.”

Why might it not? The song (and story) are clearly fictional, and in the end, Rudolph becomes the leader and hero, solving the issue at hand precisely because of his uniqueness.

And… “White Christmas”

This winter classic was written by Irving Berlin in 1942, and the version sung by Bing Crosby is the world’s best-selling single with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies.

Why might the song be offensive? It ignores the celebration of Christmas by persons of other skin colors.

Why might it not? The color description refers to snow.

Recognizing the above list is incomplete, let’s reiterate our desire to always be respectful of all, as we summarize the realities in play:

  1. Times change.
  2. Classics may not be appropriate forever.
  3. Offensive to some does not equate to wrong for all.
  4. People feel differently.
  5. Wisdom is gleaned by learning from those who feel differently.

I had one wise friend suppose that the solution is not simply to demand these songs be dismissed. Maybe that’s part of it; maybe it’s not. But the greater growth seems to come in the societal conversation regarding possible, prevalent unhealthy attitudes made manifest in the classic’s content. Such may or may not prompt need for dismissal.

Granted, if such prompts need for dismissal, to be consistent, we may need to examine multiple, non-Christmas songs in regard to their potentially offensive content — some of those rap or pop hits encouraging violence, vulgarity and/or infidelity, for example.

It’s tough, friends. It’s a slippery slope… since what’s offensive to some does not equate to wrong for all. Maybe that’s the question: when does what’s offensive to some equate to wrong for all?

Sounds like once again we need to be respectful, listen, and learn from those who feel differently than we.

Respectfully…

AR

last week’s amazing moments

There are times to be silent and still… to be intentional in observance… taking it all in. Last week was one of those times.

Honoring the life, character, and service of former President George H.W. Bush, persons of influence — varying in politics and profession — gathered to pay their respects to Bush 41…

… Collin Powell and Condoleezza Rice… Peyton Manning, Nolan Ryan, Yao Ming, and J.J. Watt… Prince Charles, Reba McIntire, Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger (… have you seen the picture of 41 and Gov. Schwarzenegger actually sledding together at Camp David in 1991??)…

In the second row of the funeral in Washington, D.C. sat all living current or former vice presidents and their spouses. In the first row, sat all living current or former presidents and their spouses.

It was time to be still, to take it all in… time for the raucous responses to stop.

While the day was full of an impressive plethora of pomp and circumstance, two moments stood out in my observance…

One, when former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson spoke…

Known for the rapidity of his wit, Simpson did not disappoint. How wonderful it was to see actual moments when the entire front-row-eight were seemingly belly-laughing in response to Sen. Simpson. 

But Simpson’s wit should not overshadow his wisdom, which was nothing short of both poignant and profound. While he spoke of Bush’s loyalty and friendship and his willingness to take a political hit if another path was perceived wiser, Simpson’s most perspicacious statement was in his succinct description of 41’s character:

“… He was a man of such great humility; those who travel the high road of humility in Washington, D.C., are not bothered by heavy traffic.”

Oh, how wise… how we all need to hear… the recognition that humility is the high road.

Yet there was another moment that stood out more to me — in that time to be silent and still…

When the entire front-row-eight, bowed their heads together…

… were they praying? … were they meditating? … were they talking or listening to God?…

None of us know. We aren’t in the heads and hearts of another and thus need to resist the imprudent lure to judge the exact motivation of another.

But regardless of what we know, there was something in the collective, quiet bow that was incredibly beautiful, rare as such may be. It was the intentional act of deference — the humble submission to someone or something greater than self… an act we don’t often see. What a powerful moment, witnessing those men and women lead us not in any partisan effort or in the fueling of division, arrogance and thus some form of hatred… but rather, pausing… being intentionally silent and still… recognizing there is something bigger and more.

Calling George H.W. Bush “the most decent and honorable person I ever met,” Simpson seemed acutely aware of the gravitas of both his audience and moment. He said of Bush, “He never hated anyone. He knew what his mother and my mother always knew: hatred corrodes the container it’s carried in.”

In a day where too many struggle to see that hate only hurts the holder, humility is the high road, and too many refuse to bow to anyone other than self, last week was an excellent time to be silent and still.

Beautifully refreshing, too…

Respectfully…

AR

can everything be changed?

Seriously. If we want it to, can everything be changed? 

Are our feelings enough?

Meet Emile Ratelband. Ratelband is a 69 year old, seemingly charismatic, Dutch television personality. Self-described as an “entrepreneur in personal development,” Ratelband is an author and motivational speaker. 

Last month Ratelband told a Netherlandish court that he identifies with being 20 years younger.  His age made him “uncomfortable.” He argued that being locked into his 69 year old age — consistent with his actual date of birth — was causing him to struggle to find both work and love. He claimed to suffer from “age discrimination.” He therefore asked the court to legally change his age.

Said Ratelband, “We live in a time when you can change your name and change your gender. Why can’t I decide my own age?”

So help me here… always, with all due respect, let’s ask some questions… 

Can reality be changed?

Can truth be changed?

Can a fact — which by definition, means “a thing that is indisputably the case” — actually be disputed?

Note that even though Ratelband came into this world and out of a woman’s womb on March 11th, 1949, he argued that his birthdate was a mistake. He feels younger than he is; he thus wants to change the facts.

So how do we wrestle with that? The bottom line is the profound question: are feelings enough to change the facts? 

And if the answer is affirmative, what precedent are we setting by declaring that the feelings of an individual are enough to change what’s true? 

Perhaps some would argue that the change affects no one else. But just as the Dutch court questioned, how do we simply erase 20 years of existence on this planet? What about his family? What about his relationships and interactions during that time? Does that mean how his parents cared for him did not matter or somehow did not even happen?

A preposterous supposition, it would seem.

What if another individual declared that they identify as 20 years older? And what if at the time they felt such discomfort with their age, they were only 15?

Do their feelings then give them the right to drive? … to vote? … and all other legalities where age has proven to be a wise boundary?

Are these persons actually being discriminated against?

After the ruling earlier this week against Emile Ratelband, the court said in a press statement, “Mr. Ratelband is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly. But amending his date of birth would cause 20 years of records to vanish from the register of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships. This would have a variety of undesirable legal and societal implications.”

In other words, we are at liberty to feel however we wish. We are free to feel younger or feel older and even to act in accordance with the way we feel.

But we are not at liberty of changing the facts. 

We’re not capable either.

Respectfully…

AR

a kinder, gentler us

“… I wonder sometimes if we have forgotten who we are. But we’re the people who sundered the nation rather than allow a sin called ‘slavery’ — and we’re the people who rose from the ghettos and deserts.

And we weren’t saints — but we lived by standards. We celebrated the individual — but we weren’t self-centered. We were practical — but we didn’t live only for material things. We believed in getting ahead — but blind ambition wasn’t our way…

… I want a kinder, gentler nation…”

In his acceptance speech of his party’s nomination for President in August of 1988, George H. W. Bush called for that “kinder, gentler nation.”

If only we had those days back again… if only the younger generation knew those days… days when calls to kindness were first and foremost.

George H.W. Bush passed away yesterday at the age of 94, some seven months after his ever articulate wife, Barbara, also passed. And even though many mocked Bush’s call to kindness years ago, in the wake of his perceived lack of eloquence and charisma, there was always a sense of authenticity to said call over the course of his life.

After losing his re-election bid to Bill Clinton, for example, Bush left the following handwritten note to his successor:

“Dear Bill,

When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too. 

I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.

There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.

You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.

Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.

Good luck—

George”

Friends, that is evidence of a kinder, gentler nation.

The current cultural challenge seems not that we don’t witness that evidence so often; the current cultural challenge is that we no longer accept such as good. I thus sometimes wonder if, as Bush said, we have forgotten who we are.

Said Bill Clinton yesterday, acknowledging Bush’s note:

“No words of mine or others can better reveal the heart of who he was than those he wrote himself. He was an honorable, gracious and decent man…”

Two other specific aspects seem especially notable to me about this honorable, gracious, and decent man… first, his boldness; starting with the jump he made after the Japanese shot down his fighter plane over the Pacific during World War II in 1944, Bush made seven more parachute jumps — including on his 80th, 85th, and 90th birthdays.

And second, his faithful heart… while political pundits and onlookers may focus on his professional career, no doubt Bush’s prompting for calls of kindness was the fruit of his heart. George and Barbara lost their eldest daughter to leukemia just shy of her fourth birthday. It seemed to always affect them deeply, as they admitted in recent years they thought of young Robin every single day, no matter the decades later.

But remembering Robin wasn’t solely sorrowful. Said Barbara in an interview with “Today,” “Robin to me is a joy. She’s like an angel to me, and she’s not a sadness or a sorrow.”

May we remember George H.W. Bush with that same sense of joy… remembering him not as a saint, but as one who lived by standards…

… standards that never sacrificed kindness nor respect.

Respectfully…

AR