who is dividing us? (see below)

People justify disrespect, deceit, and division by pointing to someone else. I get it; the end justifies the means. And the other person is always said to have done it first.

But maybe the means isn’t justified. And maybe that’s part of current culture’s huge problem.

Note the following recent, brief excerpt from ABC’s popular “Good Morning America,” in which host Robin Roberts interviewed Jussie Smollett, a well-known black, gay actor, who reported being assaulted on the 29th of January:

Roberts: “I’m Robin Roberts in New York. Musician and actor Jussie Smollett sat down with me for his first interview since that night in Chicago. Smollett told me how he’s doing now and responds to those who doubt his account.”

Smollett: [teary] “I’m pissed off.”

Roberts: “What is it that has you so angry? The attackers?”

Smollett: “It’s the attackers, but it’s also the attacks. It’s like, you know, at first it was a thing of like, ‘Listen, if I tell the truth, then that’s it, ‘cause it’s the truth.’ Then it became a thing of like, ‘Oh, how can you doubt that? Like how do, how do you not believe that?’ It’s the truth. And then it became a thing of, ‘Oh, it’s not necessarily that you don’t believe that this is the truth; you don’t even want to see the truth.’”

[emphasis mine]

Roberts then asks Smollett to share what happened that night. Smollett describes the events… having no food in his apartment, he went out “for a smoke,” ran to Subway, got his order, was on the phone with his manager, when someone called out “Empire,” suggesting Smollett was identified by the TV show he’s on. Smollett then starts by sharing details how “the attacker, masked” initiated the confrontation by using racial, homophobic slurs and talked about this being “MAGA country.” They started fighting — Smollett and two others — putting a rope around Smollett’s neck, but walking away. He admittedly couldn’t tell you much about his attackers — couldn’t see much in the icy cold of Chicago at two o’clock in the morning. He didn’t have any measurable injuries, but said he was “in a lot of pain” and his clavicle was a little messed up.

The media reacted immediately. Said CNN’s Brooke Baldwin in response: “He [Smollett] said his attackers hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him. This is America in 2019.”

Except that it’s not. Yes, there are slurs and division fueled and fed by the left, right, even CNN. There are awful, awful hate crimes. But there’s a problem.

Smollett’s story is not believed to be true. As more info has been released, the Chicago police no longer consider Smollett a victim; in fact, the investigation is now focused on whether or not Smollett made up the entire account, maybe even practiced, staged, and purchased the props beforehand. Note, too, that there exists no evidence nor eyewitness of the attack — even though CNN, etal. ran with the hate crime story. We thus must ask:

(1) What narrative did this play into that CNN, etal. seemed wanting to promote?

And (2) Where else is the media rushing to judgment because it plays into their desired narrative?

Let’s go back to more of Smollett’s actual words with Robin Roberts — said after the incident but before the police and the public started to conclude that Smollett was once again acting…

Roberts: “Why do you think you were targeted?”

Smollett: “I can just assume [breaks into broad smile]… I mean, I come really, really hard against 45 [Trump]. I come really, really hard against his administration, and I don’t hold my tongue…”

Roberts: “And there is no doubt in your mind what motivated this attack?”

Smollett: “I can only go off of their words. I mean, who says ‘f*** Empire ***** — this MAGA country’, ties a noose around your neck, and pours bleach on you?…”

And one more line, when questioned about some of the initial doubt, before, of course, it was believed that Jussie Smollett concocted the entire scenario…

Smollett: “That says a lot about the place where we are in our country right now — the fact that we have these fear mongers. These people are trying to separate us, and it’s just not ok.”

That indeed says a lot. It indeed is not ok. It’s not ok for any hate crime to occur; it’s also not ok for any man or woman to make something up nor the media to irresponsibly run with it. 

Hence, no man nor woman should ever be assaulted. No man nor woman should have the whole truth not believed. But no man nor woman should also ever create, share, and promote a mistruth, believing divisively, that the end somehow justifies the means. 

Respectfully…

AR

I wish I didn’t care…

I wish I didn’t care…

I wish I didn’t care that Pres. Trump is circumventing Congress to finance the porous wall between the United States and Mexico.

I wish I didn’t care about the precedent it sets.

I wish I didn’t care that many immediately opposed him — but then mentioned their own national emergencies.

I wish I didn’t care that for both, it seems more about the 2020 election than about any actual, pressing emergency.

I wish I didn’t care that I wonder if Democrats and Republicans really know what an emergency is.

I wish I didn’t care that they change what they say depending on who’s in office.

I wish I didn’t care that it’s all so political.

I wish I didn’t care that they fight more about gun violence than respectfully discuss what works and what doesn’t.

I wish I didn’t care that it’s all so partisan.

I wish I didn’t care that they all spend too much money.

I wish I didn’t care about the anti-Semitic, anti-anyone things they keep saying.

I wish I didn’t care that the extremists in each party have such a loud voice.

I wish I didn’t care that representatives seem worse than senators — most likely because they serve 2-year terms instead of 6 — and thus seem in constant, running-for-office mode.

I wish I didn’t care that they treat one another so poorly.

I wish I didn’t care that they encourage us to treat each other poorly.

I wish I didn’t care how opinion-disguised-as-news fuels the poor treatment.

I wish I didn’t care that I don’t trust the news.

I wish I didn’t care about the abundant, disrespectful memes.

I wish I didn’t care about the “in-your-face-ness” of social media.

I wish I didn’t care that so many utilize another’s past disrespectful response to justify their own current disrespectful response.

I wish I didn’t care that so many can’t see their own justification of disrespect.

I wish I didn’t care that so many have dismissed the profound wisdom of our historic, core values…

I wish I didn’t care that so many have dismissed the wisdom of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I wish I didn’t care that so many have dismissed the wisdom of, in humility, considering others before yourself.

I wish I didn’t care that so many have dismissed the actual wisdom of humility.

I wish I didn’t care that so many have forgotten that the great big God of the universe is the only effective avenger of wrongs.

I wish I didn’t care that so many have forgotten about the great big God of the universe.

I wish I didn’t care that so many seem unaware of the unparalleled wisdom, insight and grace that only the great big God of the universe provides.

I wish I didn’t care that sometimes I have been unaware of the unparalleled wisdom, insight and grace that only the great big God of the universe provides.

I wish I didn’t care.

But I do.

And because I do, I commit to loving all mankind well, listening and learning from the unlike, engaging in respectful dialogue, seeking solution, and submitting to a God who will always be far wiser than we.

Respectfully…

AR

the camel’s nose (and culture going too far)

Consistent with our current conversation, years ago we pondered the following…

One cold night, as an Arab sat in his tent, a camel gently thrust his nose under the flap and looked in. “Master,” he said, “let me put my nose in your tent. It’s cold and stormy out here.” “By all means,” said the Arab, “and welcome” as he turned over and went to sleep.

A little later the Arab awoke to find that the camel had not only put his nose in the tent but his head and neck also. The camel, who had been turning his head from side to side, said, “I will take but little more room if I place my forelegs within the tent. It is difficult standing out here.” “Yes, you may put your forelegs within,” said the Arab, moving a little to make room, for the tent was small.

Finally, the camel said, “May I not stand wholly inside? I keep the tent open by standing as I do.” “Yes, yes,” said the Arab. “Come wholly inside. Perhaps it will be better for both of us.” So the camel crowded in. The Arab with difficulty in the crowded quarters again went to sleep. When he woke up the next time, he was outside in the cold and the camel had the tent to himself.

[Special thanks to CamelStories.com for “The Camel’s Nose in the Tent”]

The metaphorical camel’s nose illustrates the potential worsening of a situation when small, questionable scenarios are initially permitted. The allowance of the nose in the tent creates the potential for a scenario never imagined, but possibly dire.

Where — albeit by gradual steps — have we possibly witnessed the protrusion of the “camel’s nose”? Help me here. This is sincere, respectful wrestling. 

Where have we permitted scenarios to exist that may potentially evolve into the camel taking over the tent? Where have we promoted an initial, specific desire, policy, or behavior that as it progresses, manifests itself as a progression of wrongful thinking?

Like many I have watched the spiraling situation of Virginia’s Gov. Ralph Northam. He’s attempting to find a way forward to govern, keep his seat, etc. because 30 years ago he dressed up in a “black face,” universally considered an insult now — an act many have also done — including celebrities such as Joy Behar, Jimmy Kimmel, and Spike Lee. (Side note: his would-be successor, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, is also in trouble, as he stands accused of assault, while the parties and public ponder whether or not to employ the same standards as they did last summer.)

But the controversy surrounding Northam’s costume seems nothing short of a smokescreen for his previous comments (shared here last week) in which he seemingly equated late term abortion with infanticide.

“If the camel…”

This concerns me, friends.

“… gets his nose…”

What else? Where else have we gone too far and the animal’s nose has begun to reek?

Pick your social issue. Pick your fiscal practice. Pick your societal evolution. Where has the practice gone too far?  Where has the initial acceptance been possibly ethical, but the potential progression is now imprudent?

“… in the tent…”

Borrowing billions? Increasing the debt? Accepting or rejecting immigrants? Detaining immigrants? Negative campaigning? A two-party-only system? A refusal to work together? Fighting for “my party” only?… Or the acceptance of adultery? The omission of God? Acceptance of socialism … even Communism? … or some of the crud on TV? What about the idea that due process is not necessary? A belief that one party or gender is always telling the truth or always lying? That only one party got us to this place? What about a complete lack of respect and even denigration of those who feel differently?…

Where are the camels, friends? I don’t claim to know all of the above. I only ask the question in order to avoid the slippery slope of potential foolish and unethical activity.  Otherwise…

“… his body will soon follow.”

Respectfully,

AR

who is boiling the frog?

We’ve heard the legend of the boiled frog. Put a frog in hot water; it will jump right out. Start it in a body of water that’s cooler; it will soothe itself and stay.

As condensed by Lessons4Living.com… [all emphasis mine]…

“Put a pot of cool water on the stove and then add the frog. Not sensing danger the frog will stay. Next, turn the burner on low to slowly heat the water. As the water warms, the frog relaxes. The warmth feels good. As the water gets hotter it acts like a steam bath draining away energy and deepening the frog’s relaxation. The frog becomes sleepy and has less and less energy while the water is getting hotter and hotter. By the time the frog realizes its danger, the water is beginning to boil, and it is too late to take action. There is neither time nor energy left to do anything. The frog perishes in the boiling water.”

I often ask myself multiple, related questions…

Where are we unable to sense the danger?

Where are we relaxing that we should not?

Where does something feel good that isn’t good at all?

Where is our energy being drained?

Where is it too late to take action?

And…

How long before we perish?

My mind wanders as I ponder the potential boiling water… 

… when we’re ok with incivility…

… when we’re ok with denigrating tweets…

… when we’re silent on the put down of any race…

… when we’re silent on sexual misconduct dependent on party…

… when we question infanticide in any arena…

… when we wonder if socialism (which often leads to communism) is actually, somehow good…

… when we’re ok with hypocrisy… (Note: see the elect on border security, immigration, and the immediate acceptance/rejection of Brett Kavanaugh’s vs. Justin Fairfax’s accusers)

Ugh. My heart hurts… I’m not sure I can wrap my brain around it all… on all sides… from both parties… on all we put up with or are silent to…

We don’t recognize the danger.

My strong sense is that it’s not one party that’s making this happen.

I thus have a few questions… for each of us…

What are we accepting — convincing ourselves that it’s healthy, wise, and good — that is not healthy wise and good? 

What are we actually entertaining as ok that is not?

What are we putting up with?

But perhaps the biggest question remains, if we continue in this unhealthy pattern that trips up even the most intelligent among us…

What if something huge is at stake?

Will we be able to see?

… before it’s too late?

Respectfully…

AR

state of the government ’19

In conjunction with the President’s State of the Union Address, we have annually, semi-humbly offered our annual “State of the Government” analysis. Consistently in that analysis, we’ve opined the following…


Our government is:

  1. Too partisan 
  2. Too influenced by money
  3. Too big
  4. Too financially imbalanced
  5. And too far removed from the Constitution. 

And this was all true prior to the 2016 elections.

So let me insert an additional “too”:

We are too divided. 

My sense is we are too divided because we look at socio-political issues from a singular perspective — thus from a limited perspective… from the left/right, black/white, rich/poor, etc. We aren’t good at looking through the perspective of someone who thinks/looks/acts/votes differently than we.

Remember one of my favorite singular perspectives, creatively expressed six years ago?

Let’s say I’m a peanut farmer. I love peanuts. I love peanuts so much, I grow them in my backyard. (I’ve got a big backyard.) I start my own business and it takes off — so much so, it’s hard to keep up; it becomes a massive business, and we are providing ample nutrition to many across the country. It’s a good thing, but nuts are all I think about!

But in order to advance my cause, I need specific legislation to be enacted — or refrained from.  Remember:  all I’m focused on is nuts. I need to thus ensure the Food & Drug Administration doesn’t become too sensitive regarding nut nutrition. I need to ensure my state doesn’t limit the land I till. I need to also ensure that no new taxes are tacked on to our cultivating equipment, so I can keep my costs low. In fact, I’m hoping they raise the speed limit so I can deliver more peanuts more quickly.

So many decisions affect my ability to produce peanuts — economically and socially. I’m concerned. Hence, I form N.U.T.S. — the “National Union for Tilling Soil” — in order to mobilize more people who share my singular focus; this way we can affect political change. We don’t care about almonds or pecans or even those high-calorie cashews. Our special interest is peanuts. Nuts it is.

Since the lobbyist laws were eased in the late ’70’s, we have more access to lawmakers. I don’t mean to be mean, but I will let them know we will only contribute to their individual campaigns if they support our nuts. We will speak out against their legislation regarding pickles and potatoes unless they support nuts. We will be wholeheartedly supportive of them, however, as long as they advance economic and social policy favorable to our cause. Our focus is on one thing and one thing only. Our money will back that up… millions… yes, millions… oh, nuts.

It’s not that the passion of the peanut farmer is right or wrong; the problem is that they are not concerned about the totality of effective, responsible government. A healthy state of the union is reflected in the totality of an effective, responsible government.

In order to achieve that healthy state, we must surrender the binary, divisive, partisan choices. We need to quit advocating for singular, limited perspectives. Especially when they’re nuts.

Respectfully…

AR

a binary world and a governor’s words

One of the most challenging aspects of current culture (even among the intelligent) is that we continue to craft our world as one full of binary choices…

You must be this or that… for or against… black or white… as if there are only two possible ways to react to every issue… as if there existed a simple two answers.

In this current events blogger’s semi-humble opinion (emphasis on the “semi”), we have significantly over-employed the “if-you’re-not-for-us-you’re-against-us mentality.” We have lost our awareness and even respect for the existent middle ground, a perspective that fits not into the “one or the other” division.

For example, it is possible to want secure borders and have great compassion for immigrants.

It is possible to want to ensure everyone has affordable health care and be concerned that the government is financially insolvent and operationally inefficient.

It is possible to support the #MeToo movement and believe that some women have prevaricated the truth.

It is therefore possible for a “middle” perspective to exist, even in the midst of a tribal culture passionately attempting to sway us otherwise. The sides/tribes benefit when they can add another to their team.

As we wrestle with the folly of a binary society, there are times it’s harder — harder to find what a “middle” perspective may be. Understand that we aren’t having this conversation simply due to the desire to compromise; we are having the conversation because the middle actually exists.

We find the middle murkier when discussing abortion. Such became clear once more last week when New York passed their state Reproductive Health Act on the 46th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade.

I’ll be honest… finding a completely factual synopsis of what this bill says and what it does not was incredibly difficult; too much opinion continuously obstructs the news.

New York’s previous abortion law was passed three years before Roe v. Wade. It “allowed women to seek abortions up to the first 24 weeks of pregnancy and at any point if it was deemed medically necessary to protect the mother’s life.”

Their newly passed legislation “maintains the 24-week limit under which women can seek abortions but adds a provision for abortions at any time if the baby would not survive the birth. Additionally, the act permits abortions at any point if it is necessary to protect the mother’s life or health. It also decriminalizes abortion by regulating it under the public health law, not penal law.” [Source: “AM New York”]

The reaction has been raucous. Any middle is hard to find.

One of the most, perceived radical, public reactions was found in the words of Virginia’s Gov. Ralph Northam. He said this: “When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of the mother, with the consent of physicians, more than one physician by the way, and it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus which is non-viable. So in this particular example, if the mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen, the infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if this is what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physician and the mother.”

With a raucous reaction to Northam’s reaction, the Governor has circled back and attempted to clarify that he was not talking about infanticide. His clarifications don’t seem to be gaining significant traction in the court of public opinion, as many people across all political affiliations are deeply disturbed by the Governor’s words — now finding fault in other words and behaviors of his, even though they previously existed.

I, too, am disturbed. I’m disturbed by the Governor’s words… disturbed by the condemnation… and disturbed by the cheers.

No doubt this isn’t a simple, binary answer. I wish we knew how to talk about it.

Respectfully…

AR