Hey all, it’s been a while. Despite the lapse in posting, a lot has been on my mind. At the forefront, today, is this analysis by the Washington Post revealing that Donald Trump has now surpassed the 2,000 mark in overtly false or misleading claims since taking office last January. You can read the article here.
The big national debate this past week centered around professional football players taking a knee during the National Anthem in order to protest what they view as systemic inequality in America’s criminal justice system. Many Americans, spurred on by a campaign speech by President Trump and several subsequent presidential “tweets,” expressed outrage at the protest, claiming, among other things, that it disrespects the flag and the men and women of our military who fight and die for our freedom.
Let me be clear up front: I have tremendous respect for members of our military and the sacrifices they and their families routinely make in service to our country. I believe that we, as a nation, owe them both respect and gratitude.
But the respect we rightfully owe members of our military should not be used to conflate all issues surrounding notions of liberty and freedom in this country, particularly when it comes to our civil liberties. To do so does a disservice both to history, as well as a great many everyday people who fought and died in pursuit of liberty.
Lost in the conflation of these issues is an important fact: that the greatest threats to our basic civil liberties have almost always come from within our own borders, not some foreign power or regime. While wars have been fought across the globe, the battle for civil liberties has largely been waged in our streets, along docks, on busses, at lunch counters, and in courtrooms — not distant battlefields. The people who fought and sometimes died in these struggles most often wore everyday clothes, not uniforms, and were seldom buried with honor or distinction. And in fact, in many cases, it was men wearing uniforms who assisted in putting them down. This is far from a uniquely American problem.
[T]he greatest threats to our basic civil liberties have almost always come from within our own borders, not some foreign power or regime.
I know a lot of people don’t like to hear this. We like our history whitewashed, scrubbed clean of unpleasant truths, complex realities, and above all, culpability. We prefer an oversimplified mythology, with clearly-defined enemies and heroes in white hats. But such a worldview simply doesn’t reflect reality, and pretending otherwise doesn’t truly honor anyone, including the men and women in our military. Mostly, it does a tremendous disservice to many others who fought and sacrificed in the long and seemingly endless struggle for civil rights here at home.
As always, thanks for reading, and my best to both those who put on a uniform in order to serve and protect, and those willing to take a stand for injustice and inequality.
I’ve been thinking a lot about art lately. As some of you know, I’m a fan, as well as a dabbler. I recently joined the board of a local arts organization and am super proud of the work it’s doing. My brother, Jeff, is an accomplished writer and creative writing instructor. Art is important to me, my family, and many people I know. For some, it is their livelihood.
‘Solid job on the debate this week. While Trump scored well in a few categories (interrupting, mansplaining, general incoherence, weirdest makeup, coining new words, etc.), you prevailed on most everything else, including, importantly, substance, knowledge, experience, articulateness, aptitude, and temperament.
My best friend’s dad growing up was a cop. He was (and is) a good man, who spent his entire life in public service — first as a soldier, then a police officer. His wife was (and is) a saint, who treated me like part of her own family when I was a kid. I owe both of them a lot. Continue reading Let’s Have a Conversation About Race
The final chapter in a series in which I explore the spiritual, social, and political ramifications of the evangelical movement of the ’70’s and ’80’s through the lens of my own experiences growing up in a white Protestant church in the rural midwest.
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Most ideological wars have asked young people to do the heavy lifting. There are reasons we send teenagers off to fight our wars, after all, and it isn’t merely that they are the most physically able. It is that they are the most psychologically willing — willing to risk their lives, to conform to a strict ideology, to take risks in order to prove their mettle, make their marks and earn praise for their bravery and sacrifice. In some ways, they are our strongest; in others, our most vulnerable, and easiest to mold into a particular shape. Not to mention, if you really want your ideology to endure through generations, there’s little point in trying to recruit an army of 85-year olds to lead your charge. Pastor X recognized the importance of a strong youth movement, and was particularly engaged with the church’s youth group. It was there, more so than during Sunday morning sermons, that the real evangelical message was being driven home. Continue reading When Jesus Abandoned His Slightly Hippie-ish Ways, Part IV – the Finale
Part III of a series in which I explore the spiritual, social, and political ramifications of the evangelical movement of the ’70’s and ’80’s through the lens of my own experiences growing up in a white Protestant church in the rural midwest.
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1980 was a particularly shitty year for me. For starters, my family was going through some tough times. It was around then that my father got laid off from his job, as the factory he worked at in Toledo began its rust-belt slide toward extinction. Money was tight. Stuff happened. There was a tremendous amount of tension. I became so tense, in fact, that I began unknowingly walking through life with my shoulders scrunched up, like something was physically wrong with me. It took a moment of brutal honesty from my younger sister to even make me aware of it, and months of deliberate practice to begin to learn to undo it. Continue reading When Jesus Abandoned His Slightly Hippie-ish Ways and Became and Full-Fledged Young White Republican, Part III
Part II of a series in which I explore the spiritual, social, and political ramifications of the evangelical movement of the ’70’s and ’80’s through the lens of my own experiences growing up in a white Protestant church in the rural midwest.
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I didn’t start to really become interested in the church until around 1979 or ‘80, shortly before it changed pastors for the second time in just a few years. I was too young to know the full story behind the latest change, but it wasn’t hard to imagine that things with the pastor at-the-time may not have been going so swift. Something about him didn’t seem to quite fit. He was a large, disheveled man who sweated profusely and lived in one of the filthiest houses I had ever seen. I knew this because he and his wife had three sons close in age to my siblings and me, and I spent a little time at the parsonage, albeit not much. I think their middle son, who was my age, may have been embarrassed by the home’s condition, so we didn’t go in very often. But when we did, the place was almost indescribably messy, so heaped with clutter it was difficult to even navigate through. There were towers of dirty pots, pans, and dishes stacked on every available surface, with cats teetering atop, licking whatever they could find, which was ample. The house smelled like . . . well, what you might expect under such conditions. Continue reading When Jesus Abandoned His Slightly Hippie-ish Ways and Became a Full-Fledged Young White Republican, Part II
Something was stirring in America’s white, Protestant churches back in the 1970’s. A movement was afoot — one that would eventually influence, directly or indirectly, nearly everything that’s happened in this country since. It would eventually result in a near-perfect marriage of religion and conservative politics, and would touch nearly every corner of domestic and foreign policy, from labor unions to reproductive rights to marriage equality, gun control, energy policy — even foreign policy and war. It would also shape and refine a particular image of God, one that is angrier, less tolerant, and more totalitarian than other conceptions. As a kid at the time, I had no idea any of this was occurring, or that I would come to experience a part of this movement directly. Continue reading When Jesus Abandoned His Slightly Hippie-ish Ways and Became a Full-Fledged Young White Republican: Part I