The world is not suffering from an overabundance of rational thought

The world is not suffering from an overabundance of rational thought.

I say this at least once a week. If this sentiment was true prior to our last presidential election, it’s become more relevant by a factor of about 100, since. In fact, I was inspired to write a book about it.

Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t respect opinions. Let me caveat that.  Of course, I respect everyone’s right to their opinion, but just the fact of expressing an opinion, doesn’t automatically grant that opinion some special dispensation from critique if it’s expressed around me. If your opinion has been formed using methods which lead you to conclude things that don’t comport with what is demonstrably true, then I will probably call you out on it.

For example, if you have opinions about vaccines not working, or global warming not being real, or the earth being only 6000 years old, or about all people of a certain skin tone being worthless, then I will take issue with you because you have come to conclusions which are factually incorrect, and in some cases, morally repugnant.

This is what Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham did to the President of the United States a few days ago. They held him accountable to his morally repugnant statement about people from Haiti and other African nations.

In a subsequent Facebook conversation I was having with a pro-Trump attorney, the attorney suggested that Durbin should have suspended his moral scruples in favor of getting an immigration “deal” done, because Durbin’s constituents are more important than his moral objections to Trump.

Never mind that that position complete absolves Trump from any responsibility for serving his constituents, the American people, in this case, but the line of questioning struck me as odd and frankly, a bit alarming.

I believe in speaking truth to power and holding all people accountable, irrespective of title or position, particularly if they are demonstrating irrational behavior or saying vile things. If the President of the United States wants to make “great deals” as he claims, perhaps Dick Durbin’s and Lindsey Graham’s vocal disgust will inform the president that he needs to adjust if he’s going to be taken seriously.

And to answer the attorney’s question, not only would Durbin’s and Graham’s constituents be better served by a more reasonable and compassionate President, but the entire nation would be better served as well.

In fact, who are any of us to remain silent in the presence of racism? The idea of suspending basic human decency in favor of political efficacy makes me wonder about the underlying morality of the trade-off the attorney was suggesting. In 1630, Puritan John Winthrop borrowed from Matthew 5:14 when he told his fellow Massachusetts Bay colonists, that this new community they had left England for, would be “as a city upon a hill”, watched by the world.

What do we want the world to see?

Shithole countries and the Bible

The “shithole” wave was just a little late in coming.

I opened my Facebook feed this morning and there it was. The usual suspects celebrating and dancing around their Dear Leader’s latest reprehensible, racist remark. I’ve said from the very beginning of the Trump phenomena that supporting the reality TV star said more about one’s character than it did one’s politics. And these types of responses confirm that observation, time and time again.

Trump’s use of the word “shithole” to describe whole nations and their people, was for his supporters a bit like sunlight on Groundhog Day. They were afraid that if they peaked out to show their agreement with his racist sentiments, they would see their shadows and scurry back in their little hiding places.

Apparently, some of my Facebook friends didn’t see their shadows.

Rather than condemn him, rather than stay silent about him; they actually took to Facebook to sing Trump’s praises.

It started off with this:

I’ve redacted their names because the feed is not mine and it’s not public, but some of this stuff you just have to read to believe:

Of course, you can see the one sad reaction from me.

I posted the following just to send a message about hypocrisy given the overt religious self-aggrandizement so many of these same people exhibit, but I doubt my friend or any of his pious lemmings will make the connection:

“I imagine first century Romans saying very similar things about people from Nazareth….”

When I posted the same observation on my Facebook page, a friend of mine from high school who is now a local preacher sent me this verse as confirmation of my hypothesis:

Perfect. I can almost hear Nathanael saying to Philip, “Have you not seen the kinds of people who come from that shithole place?”

How can so many of these people who profess so publicly to follow Jesus’ teachings and who make grand, self-important claims about compassion and forgiveness, simultaneously sing the praises of a man who so effortlessly spews racism and bigotry?

I hope preachers like my old high school friend call special attention to the John 1:46s and Matthew 25s in their holy book this Sunday, as they address the giddy Trump lovers in their congregations.

Our “sh*thole” president

This is not Trump. This is an adorable kitten.

I’ve been resisting the urge to write something about Trump’s “shithole countries” remark for a number of reasons, but I’m having a tough time so I’m just going to rip the Band-Aid off and pen a few words. I’m up early on this rainy Friday morning so might as well get it over with.

I’m not even going to go in to what Trump said because it’s just a gross sentiment from a gross human being. You can read it here or here or even here on Trump TV.

Rather, I’m going to talk about why I was reluctant to bring it up in the first place.

Here’s the bottom line. At this point in Trump’s presidency, we can safely bucket his voters into two large groups:

Group 1: These are the diehard Trump lovers who worship him like a cult-leader. They love it when he says racist things because these things represent their own beliefs. The viler, the more bigoted, the more misogynistic he is for them, the better. They love him. He can do no wrong. They will go to their graves believing in their heart of hearts that Trump was a great person and a great president who said what needed to be said. They are Americans who are petrified of change and progress.

Group 2: These are the people who are mortified they voted for him. As such, they have turned off all news about him. They will not read this post, nor will they read anything else about him. I know a lot of my friends and family voted for Trump. I also never hear a political peep out of any of them anymore. Prior to the election, their Facebook feeds were flooded with “Crooked Hillary” nonsense, and pro-Trump propaganda, but over the past few months, they’ve gone silent. I truly think they are embarrassed. I get it. I forgive you. We have elections in this country and there will be another one soon enough. But here’s a gentle reminder – it’s OK to change your mind. You can own your mistake and then work to fix it.

So there it is. The Band-Aid is off. Now back to your regularly scheduled program. By the way, I picked a kitten for this post image because, well, Trump is disgusting and everyone loves kittens.

Let’s slow our roll on Oprah 2020

I listened to Oprah Winfrey’s speech during the 75th Golden Globe Awards. It was indeed a powerful and inspiring speech. Oprah had just been awarded the Cecil B. de Mille Award for her impressive career in television and film, and she used her moment to send a powerful message about female empowerment and equality.

And it was a really good speech. In fact, her speech was so good, many are now pondering the prospects of an Oprah 2020 presidential campaign.

Oprah as counter-punch to Trump.

Make no mistake, I think she would be several orders of magnitude better than Trump if for no other reason than she has spent a large portion of her career listening to and then evaluating what others are saying, but I think we would all be wise to take a look at what’s going on here.

Oprah is a TV star. Trump is a TV star. While they both have managed to make an incredible amount of money branding, and then using, their names to promote their business interests, those are not necessarily the skills that translate to good governance in a democracy.

The laundry list of Trump’s flaws is too great to rehash in this post and I’ve written about them already here and here, but Oprah has her own set of issues, particularly her ability to suspend rational thought when it comes to science. From her enormously popular show, Oprah promoted a considerable amount of pseudoscientific quackery and, like a strange pyramid scheme, launched the careers of other pseudoscience peddling quacks.

In addition, Oprah has made that classic theologians’ mistake of presuming to know better than you, how you feel.

A case made starkly clear in 2013 when Oprah challenged her guest, the author, motivational speaker, and long distance swimmer Diana Nyad, on Nyad’s ability to feel wonder and awe. During the Super Soul Sunday interview, Nyad explained to Oprah that belief in god claims is not a prerequisite for experiencing the awe and beauty of the natural world. Oprah then let her prejudice slip through by saying:

“Well I don’t call you an atheist then. I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder, and the mystery, then that is what God is. That is what God is. It’s not the bearded guy in the sky.”

It’s a strange and illogical leap to make, yet one made by many. If Oprah is going to change the meanings of words around to suit her own narrative, then we all need to be on guard. But if that’s the worst of what she does, we would still be in far better shape than we are now.

All of that said, can we not just take a breath? Is it too much to ask that we elect a president who has real policy experience, who is scientifically literate, who understands how government functions, who is not an oligarch, and who is not a brand in and of him…or her…self? Is it too much to ask?

We don’t want to replace one cult of personality with another cult of personality. We should all tread carefully.

Christmastime with your right-wing family

It’s that most wonderful time of year again, when families who are spread far and wide, come together for a few hours each Christmas season to enjoy good food and fine drink. They gather around to exchange gifts, tell stories, and by the end of the day, remind each other why they limit these visits to just once per year. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. But for more of them than I care to admit, I just can’t stomach their politics. And really, it’s not even the politics that bothers me. It’s the underlying unreasonableness of many of their positions which sends me over the top.

Case in point.

With no small degree of futility trying to defend liberal values in the face of a growing chorus of “we are a Judeo-Christian nation,” and “the Bible says gayness is an abomination,” I heard this statement from one of them:

“I disagree with gays.”

OK, here’s something I can maybe talk about. So I start. What do you mean you “disagree?” Like, you disagree with something a gay person has said, or…

“No, I disagree because it just isn’t right?”

Again, what do you mean it isn’t “right?” How is this a question of being right or wrong? Is there some decision being made here that somehow negatively affects you?

“I think it’s a chemical imbalance…it’s just not natural.”

Ugh…would not a chemical imbalance be the very definition of a natural cause? Do I even bother telling them that from a strictly biological perspective, homosexual behavior has been observed throughout the animal kingdom? Do I bother pointing out that, by the way, “natural” doesn’t automatically equate to “helpful” or “desirable?” Most importantly, do I tell them that how real people are treated here and now, is more important than maintaining beliefs in ancient, so-called “holy” texts that command you to kill those same people?

Yes. If you’re me, you say all of those things.

Because young adults are listening in on the conversation from the other room, and they want to believe that speaking truth to ignorance is the right thing to do.

And since I was the only liberal in that lively discussion, and since each of my interlocutors was using the word liberal to mean whatever pejorative thing they could dream up without ever agreeing on a definition, I’ll define it here for all posterity:

A liberal is one who bases his truth claims on reason and evidence rather than on myth and superstition and who is interested in maximizing the well-being of individuals rather than maintaining outdated social traditions.

Merry Christmas!