Conservative plea

The following letter to the editor appeared in The Charlotte Observer yesterday, penned by female citizen who identifies herself as conservative. She offers a well-articulated view of her concerns for the current state of the Republican party.

As an independent and former member of both parties, I have shared previously the opinions of conservatives and Republicans who see their party adrift. Some of these folks have been average citizens, while others have been in positions of influence. The party and our country need more of these folks to speak out and be heard and heeded.

I am a sane conservative with no candidate. I believe Trump lost and is misusing his former office to avoid criminal charges and bankruptcy. I believe taking the debt ceiling hostage is irresponsible. I want to vote for a government that believes in mostly free-market and local solutions to serious problems, but Republican governors keep placing constituents in danger.

I believe in letting local governments decide how to spend their federal subsidies, and I believe the federal government should spend my tax dollars fighting against internet monopolies and oligopolies that are occurring faster than we can regulate them. I want to believe my government exists to protect me from the worst of a free market, yet my government fights only with its former self.

Someone. Please. Help.”

Radical Kindness – once again

Yesterday, I repeated a post called “Build Bridges not Chasms” using a quote from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. One way to help build bridges comes from another earlier post which quotes someone defining another great American who passed away a few years ago – Mister Rogers. We need to practice radical kindness.

Last week, the excellent documentary called “Would you be my neighbor?” on the life and mission of Mister (Fred) Rogers, won an award from AARP’s Movies for Grown-ups annual ceremony. Morgan Neville, the producer/ director summed up his reflections of Mister Rogers with the words “radical kindness.” He noted we need his wisdom more today than ever.

In the film, Rogers, who was an ordained minister, puppeteer, and musician made it his mission to teach children about how to understand and address their feelings. His shows focused on issues that were previously avoided with children – anger, hurt. grief, confusion, jealously, greed, love, etc. He told these kids it is OK to be angry, but you should not hit others in reaction.

Through words and examples, often delivered through his puppets (and his modified voice), he discussed death, divorce, bullying and bigotry. A key example is his having an African-American in a recurring role as his Officer Friendly and friend. This sounds rather innocuous now, but he did this in the late 1960s. He made a further point of having both share the same wading pool to wash their feet, a purposeful lesson that could come straight from the bible.

Among several powerful moments in the movie, three stand out. The first is his testimony in front of a Senate committee chaired by the ornery Senator John Pastore to petition the committee not to cut $20 million funding of PBS. He focused on what he tries to do and asked if he could say the words to the following song:

“What do you do with the mad that you feel? When you feel so mad you could bite. When the whole wide world seems oh so wrong, and nothing you do seems very right. What do you do? Do you punch a bag? Do you pound some clay or some dough? Do you round up friends for a game of tag or see how fast you go? It’s great to be able to stop when you’ve planned the thing that’s wrong. And be able to do something else instead ― and think this song ―

“I can stop when I want to. Can stop when I wish. Can stop, stop, stop anytime … And what a good feeling to feel like this! And know that the feeling is really mine. Know that there’s something deep inside that helps us become what we can. For a girl can be someday a lady, and a boy can be someday a man.”

A visibly moved Pastore said he would make sure the funding continued.

The other two moments are more visual. He filmed an episode with Coco the gorilla who could do sign language. This enormous beast was quite visibly moved  by Rogers. Coco seemed to feel the radical kindness that exudes from Rogers, hugging and petting the man and signing that he loved Mister Rogers.

The other visual is of Rogers inviting Jeff Erlanger, a wheel chair bound young man on to his show. Erlanger explained to the audience what had happened to make him a quadriplegic, the result of a spinal tumor. In a very poignant manner the two sang a song together that left both my wife and me a little teary eyed.

Mister Rogers came along after my formative years. I would watch an occasional episode as I channeled surfed. Yet, seeing this and another documentary about his work, left me with a very favorable impression. As a producer noted, Rogers did the opposite of what other TV shows did. He talked directly to the children with radical kindness. We adults sure could use a large dose of that.

One of the sayings we should follow comes courtesy of Mister Rogers’ mother who said in a crisis, rather than focus on the crisis event, focus on the helpers instead, those first responders and volunteers. That gives me comfort.

Build Bridges not Chasms – a redux

I wrote the following about ten years ago and repeated it a couple of years ago. I edited it some, but the message is still needed today. Please offer your thoughts and reactions.

The title is a quote I heard recently from a new hero of mine, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She was being interviewed on PBS Newshour about her book “My Beloved World.” She said we should “build bridges not chasms” which is a tremendous life lesson. This one resonates with me and echoes my admiration for the “dot connectors” in the world. It is also the serum for the toxic fever of chasm building our legislative and some religious leaders seem to be infected with.

Well, how do we go about living this lesson? How do we build bridges and not chasms?

– First, we should look for ways we are similar. While we remain diverse, as humans there our similarities that cross all faiths, ethnic groups and countries. We want a safe and secure future for ourselves, but especially for our children. When I look at various religions, I am not surprised by the common thread of the Golden Rule which permeates them.

– Second, find these common threads. When I walk into someone’s office or home, I search for common experiences. I look at pictures of children, diplomas displaying education, trophies or pictures of sports or activities, etc. What can I talk about that will connect us better? Also, I take delight in finding out a similar passion or story. The other day I learned of a similar passion to help the homeless people among us from an unexpected source. We are now sharing information, books, etc.

– Third, an old boss said, “you have two ears and one mouth” use them in that proportion. We cannot listen if we don’t hear. We need to know what people’s concerns are before we can begin to help them. We have far too many people who like to hear themselves talk. My wife is the best listener ever. As a result, people flock to her as she will listen to their issues, interests, aspirations and problems.

– Fourth, look for the opportunity to compliment someone or reinforce an action. I am not advocating false praise, but I am advocating a supportive word or gesture. When you step up to the counter to be served by the exhausted clerk who is doing the best he or she can when the boss understaffed a shift, you can make a world of difference by some acknowledgement of their tribulations.

– Fifth, along this same line, you can never thank people enough. We tell our kids “people don’t have to do anything for you.” So, when they do, you should thank them for it. And, mean it. Even in this Twitter, text, Facebook and email world, a call or handwritten note speaks volumes. Yet, use whatever media you prefer to say thanks.

– Sixth, an old colleague used to say “you can never have enough cups of coffee with people.” Remember that and reach out. It is a low-key investment of time as it is not as intrusive as a meal. And, conversation will occur.

– Seventh, never hesitate to include others in meals or outings. Especially meals. If a friend of your child is over, ask them to stay. My wife and I made a conscious decision to have a house the kids like to come over to. Our kids love this. Their friends do as well as we make them feel welcome. Trust me on this. There is no greater sound on earth than hearing your children laughing.

– Eighth, laugh at yourself. Let me say this loud and clear, “you are not perfect.” Neither am I. So, be prepared to laugh at your mistakes and don’t be afraid to tell the stories. It will truly endear you. I found that my kids like me telling about the times I screwed up. We sometimes are in stitches. Why? Because they see it is OK to screw up. The world will not end. And, the old line is true, “laugh and the world laughs with you.”

– Ninth, LTFU. This is a pre-Twitter acronym. It stands for “Lighten the F**k Up.” We take ourselves too seriously. We make mountains out of very small mole hills. Many of the things we fret over are not that important. Trust me. Those folks that are reading texts and emails at stop lights (and God forbid in traffic), I can tell you right now, that text is not that important, even without reading it. I told a colleague one day, “I am going to take your I-Phone and throw it in the ocean.” He was constantly reacting to the messenger and not the message. So, issues got blown out of proportion.

– Tenth, help people in need. You both benefit from the transaction. Those in need benefit if you are helping them climb a ladder. You benefit from the psychic income of helping someone. It is a powerful elixir.

– Eleventh and last, getting back to the Golden Rule, treat others like you want to be treated. That is by far the best lesson in the bible and the ones some religious leaders tend to forget. If we do only this, the world will be a better place. This is especially true in dealing with folks who are serving your needs and are more overwhelmed these days. You may not like their efforts, but please remember you are no day at the beach either. Kindness is not a weakness.

These are a few thoughts on how to build bridges. I am sure I have left off several good ones, so please feel free to share. We are a planet of fixer uppers. We should give each other a break as we need a break from them. Justice Sotomayor has it right – let’s build bridges.

Navigating medical customer service – a reprise

The following was written a few years ago, but I thought I would repost this as it might help some. By the way, some of these suggestions might serve you well in other customer service experiences with banks, retail, supplies, etc.

Before I share a few observations and experiences, let me first note that too many Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are likely understaffed and undertrained to do the jobs they are asked to do. The healthcare system in the US is complex with a lot of moving parts, including consolidated entities on the provider side and insurer side. In other words, there are plenty of opportunities for the system to fail the customer, provider and insurer.

Through all of this, the patient has to be the navigator of his or her customer service experience. Otherwise, the patients may not realize they are not being treated fairly. As evidence that I am not personalizing this more than I am, let me mention two things.

First, I have a friend who runs a successful business advocating for insured patients. Her firm is hired by companies to help their employees and retirees navigate the healthcare insurance system. In essence, they advocate to get the insurers to pay for what they say they will in plan documents. No more, no less.

Second, as a retired benefits manager and consultant, I am familiar with the complexities, but there are people who know them far better than I. So, what concerns me is people who get maltreated  by the system and don’t know they can push back or don’t feel comfortable in so doing. The various acronyms, footnotes, poor communications, entities and touch points are confusing.

Rather than lament issues, let me offer a few tips to help in the navigation.

– If you need a pre-authorization for a surgery or procedure, start at least a week before or as soon as you can. Ask what they need and make sure they know who to call. An increasing number of providers are putting the burden more on patients to get the process started.

– On any call or reach-out, save emails or notifications, write down notes, names, dates and phone numbers – there are many, especially with centralized functions for smaller doctor offices. Recently, I was given multiple numbers to call (and addresses) from each party.

– Read your EOBs – Explanation of Benefits – including the footnotes as to why something was unpaid or pending. There may be an action needed on your part. If you have a non-ACA, non-Medicare or non-employer plan, there may be a need for medical information to confirm this is not a pre-existing condition.

– If you feel uncomfortable with asking questions of your doctor or insurer, write the questions down or include someone to advocate for you. Don’t be afraid to ask what someone said as it can be confusing or the person may not be the best communicator. And, if it is a major surgery or procedure, it is more than OK to seek a second-opinion.

– Follow-up. This is critical. Hand-offs are made to do things and the receiving entity may not confirm it has the ball. As a result, while you are waiting, nothing is happening. If medical records need to be there in 30 or 60 days, follow-up 10 – 15 days before those deadlines.

– Finally, be as diplomatic and polite as you can, but sometimes it is hard. So, be prepared to say something like, “I am sorry to be a pain, but this is frustrating.” Also, if urgency is needed, please share that need. Some readlng this may note there are websites to facilitate this process, but too often, the website does not do what you think it is doing. It may just be recording a query and not codifying an action. You may be surprised how frequentIy I have to read to the CSR what another part of the company sent me.

Again, there are many fine people in these positions who want to get things right for the patient. It is often said, good people make up for a bad structure.  Yet, it should not be as hard as it is. Until it is made easier, you must be the navigator of your customer service.

Please feel free to share your ideas and reactions.

*Note: If you simply cannot pay hospital bill after the above gets resolved, hospitals have processes in place to request an abatement to some or all of the bill. Usually, a weblink or phone number on the bill can be found. The process is not too unwieldy, given its nature. Sometimes the answer is no, but it is not uncommon for them to cut something out of the bill. Given some of the numbers are multiple tens of thousands, anything helps.

You know the rules of the road going in

Last week, an airplane departing from Miami headed to London had to turn around after 500 miles due to an unruly first-class passenger who refused to wear a mask. The first-class ticket may have given a sense of entitlement or maybe the free drinks unleashed her inner jerk, but yet another plane had issues with a passenger. It should be noted being a jerk is not restricted to first-class as a plane has many passengers

What is frustrating to all of the other passengers is you know the rules of the road before you get on the plane, so all one has to do is abide by them. If a store says no shoes, no service, one should not be surprised if they get no service. If a club says a tie is required, one should not be surprised if the Maitre’d walks up with a selection of ties to wear for the dinner.

The same holds true if a store or airline says a mask is required. That means you should wear a mask or not be surprised if you are handed one to wear. Civility should not be an art. It should be usual and customary. That Jesus fellow said treat others like you want to be treated. So, if you are treating others poorly, it only reflects poorly on the actor not the victim. This unruly passenger will be temporarily banned from the airline pending an investigation, but is yet to be fined or charged with a crime. But, she also caused people on the plane inconvenience. If they had connections or important events, they may have missed them because of one person who chose to not follow the rules.

It truly matters not if you agree or disagree with the veracity of mask wearing. The rules you have been given say wear one to enter and be served. You may not like wearing a seatbelt, but you know that it’s a law you must wear one. On the flip side, I cannot believe there are some states that allow helmetless motorcycle riders. Given how fragile the human head is, if I rode a motorcycle in one of those states, I would be wearing a helmet even if not required. Yet, those who don’t are OK as the state permits them to ride sans helmet. Those are the rules of the road in that state.

Let me close with one final thought. People who treat wait staff, cashiers, maids, nurses, teachers, et all poorly do not impress me with some false level of importance. They actually are offensive to me. I have worked in business a long time to see how people treat others based on some perception of status, with some narrow-minded folks treating perceived subordinates worse than peers who are treated worse than more senior officials. Quite simply, being a jerk does not give you importance, it just means you are being a jerk.

No more room in the inn (and hospital)

We have a relative with multiple chronic issues who is now in great pain and cannot stand up on her own. She was sent to an urgent care clinic because the hospitals are full up. She is now waiting in line at the nearest hospital to get a MRI as they cannot figure out what was wrong after the Xrays at the urgent care clinic showed no breaks.

Yet, if she is admitted, they may not have any hospital beds. You see, the hospitals are overrun by COVID patients who the significant majority of which have been unvaccinated. Yesterday, I read two things of import to this issue. In my metropolitan city of about one million people, there were only 66 hospital beds available in all hospitals within 30 miles. That was in the morning.

I also read of the death of one of my favorite singers, Marvin Aday, better known as “Meat Loaf.” Meat Loaf died of COVID after being an antivaxxer. He famously said if it kills me, it kills me. It did. In the last five months, six avid antivaxxer radio hosts have lost their lives due to COVID. Contrarily, in the last month, three of my immediate family got COVID, including me, and we recovered in a few days as all three of us had received at least two vaccines, with me having the booster as well.

Like any vaccine and any dose of medicine, there are those who react negatively to it. Some react with mild symptoms, while others realize more severe symptoms including death for an unfortunate number. But, when you divide those more severe experiences (I was just sluggish and had arm pain and a headache after mine) by the billions of vaccines in the denominator, the percentage of severe reactions is quite small.

I understand that people are concerned, but there is a lot more data to alleviate those concerns now. Yet, what I don’t understand is those who have been sold a conspiracy theory is behind all of this or that your rights are being infringed on to be made to have a vaccine as a political tactic by an opportunistic politician (think names like DeSantis, Abbott, Paul, Trump) or opinion entertainer.

If these folks had a child that would be going to a public school or any university, they would have to provide a vaccination record to get in. If they did not have certain vaccines, they would have to remedy those gaps. The rules of admission are forcing you to get a vaccine for the greater good. Why? Because the average distance between students is much closer in proximity (three feet) than the folks in general society. Schools are ripe for the passing of a contagious disease.

But, back to the hospitals. I understand elective surgeries getting placed on hold to free up space, but when acute or severe medical needs beg for immediate treatment, to have to wait is life threatening. I talked to the daughter of this relative last night. She had some choice words for antivaxxers who were making her mother wait in the lobby of the MRI wing.

Folks, there is a greater good issue that we often forget to pair with freedom. Getting vaccinated has been shown to save lives. Hospital staff are being overrun and they are begging folks to get a vaccine for the COVID patients, other patients and staff’s sake. And, yet these anti-vaxxers would like to beat on their chest to win a political argument acting tough. One thing is for certain in my mind – as the end nears for the less unfortunate unvaccinated patients, my guess is they are ruing that stubborn decision.

Save money and energy

Our friend Amanda from Australia posted a recent piece called “Changing the Material World” (see link below) written by Megan Tennant on taking strides we can do to save the environment and help do a small part in fighting climate change. I recognize fully we must do far more, so these steps are not panaceas, nor should be they be considered as such. We need to advocate for so much more and tell folks to stop listening to folks who have a vested interest in getting you to use more fossil fuel powered energy or buy more wasteful product.

The purpose of this post is to simply say, if you take steps to save on energy consumption and lessen product waste, you can also save money. And, to be frank, saving money has been at the heart of some of the major initiatives to combat climate change as the cost of some renewables is on par or better than some fossil fuel energy sources. For example, Walmart, IKEA, Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc. have all led the way with renewable energy sources as it was both good for the environment, but made their cost models look better.

Here are a few ideas, but I welcome more suggestions. These won’t solve the problem, but the additive impact will help some and get people more motivated.

  • Turn all chargers off at night for phones, laptops, – you will save on energy cost and defer product degradation with it being on at all times.
  • Turn the thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer when asleep – it is easier in the winter to throw on an extra blanket, but harder in the summer, as many folks like a cool room to sleep in, but still pays dividends. It also helps to do this during the day.
  • Walk more, use more mass transit – these save on petrol and energy to charge electric cars and avoid the concern that most car accidents happen within one mile of your home, while helping with your health. Plus, grabbing one or two tote bags as you walk to the store limits your grocery purchases, which saves by itself.
  • Be zealous with eating leftovers – this will save a large chunk in your food budget and will reduce land fill methane. I will usually eat leftovers longer than my wife, but she will do her part, usually for one (or maybe two) extra meal.
  • Buy fewer plastic items and use filtered water pitchers – we have an ocean of plastic that rivals Texas and may eventually rival the size of Australia. Getting people to buy water may be one of the greatest marketing successes ever.
  • Buy ugly produce, as it will go to waste – there are some websites that promote less pristine looking food that got passed over. Ugly food is cheaper and if we can keep good food out of landfills it will reduce methane.
  • Be careful but many expiration dates are “best by” dates not “throw away” dates – this is easier said on non-perishables, but it is not uncommon for all of these dates to be set early for you to buy more product.
  • Eat less meat, as livestock eat carbon absorbing grass and produce methane – other foods are much cheaper, plus less meat will help you live healthier and longer if replaced with other proteins.
  • Use rain barrels, compost heaps, and gray water sources to repurpose waste. An increasing number of buildings are reusing rain fall to provide water inside.
  • Print fewer items and do two-sided printing – this will save money and carbon eating trees.

Please offer some of your ideas. None of the above is rocket science, but understand that some of these suggestions are an effort to run counter to companies wanting you to spend more. No matter the product, they have marketing and sales people whose jobs are to get you to buy more. Altruism is not universal, so we must guard our energy use and money. As my wife and I have told and still tell our now adult children, people want your money.

And, again, this does not replace advocating for a conversion to better energy sources to reduce carbon and methane emissions and greater planting of trees, nurturing of coastal mangroves, and production of kelp farms, et al, which are natural carbon eaters. We are past time to take greater action. If we don’t, we are creating a different future for our children, their children and ourselves.

Bat out of Hell – one of the finest rock and roll albums ever by Meat Loaf, may he RIP

I woke up to the news that Marvin Lee Aday had passed away. Better known as Meal Loaf, he was behind some of the most innovative rock and roll music. Here is a reprise of an old post to honor him and his Magnum Opus.

When you read this title, you may do a few double takes if you are unfamiliar with the music or the performer. Who is Meat Loaf and why should I listen to such an odd titled album? Yet, “Bat Out of Hell” is end to end one of the finest rock albums to which I have ever listened. And, it almost did not get promoted due to its theatrical set of songs during the Disco era. Did I tell you Meal Loaf, (Marvin Lee Aday) could belt out a song like few others?

Per Wikipedia, “‘Bat Out of Hell‘ is the 1977 debut album by American rock singer Meat Loaf and composer Jim Steinman. It was developed from a musical, Neverland, a futuristic rock version of Peter Pan, which Steinman wrote for a workshop in 1974. The album was recorded during 1975–1976 at various studios… produced by Todd Rundgren, and released in October 1977 by Cleveland International/Epic Records. Its musical style is influenced by Steinman’s appreciation of Richard Wagner, Phil Spector, Bruce Springsteen and The Who. Bat Out of Hell has spawned two Meat Loaf sequel albums:…Bat Out of Hell is one of the best-selling albums of all time, having sold over 50 million copies worldwide. It is certified 14x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.”

Every song on the album has its own merits.. The songs tend to focus on young love, angst, passion et al along with some adult realizations the song characters figure out along the way. The song that was the biggest hit off the album is not its best song, but is pretty darn good – “Two out of three ain’t bad.” One reason others did not get played as much as singles is their length – the songs each told stories. Let me highlight three of the songs.

Two out of three ain’t bad – the chorus tells an all too familiar story about lust and love, but there is more to the song than that.

“…And maybe you can cry all night
But that’ll never change the way that I feel
The snow is really piling up outside
I wish you wouldn’t make me leave here

I poured it on and I poured it out
I tried to show you just how much I care
I’m tired of words and I’m too hoarse to shout
But you’ve been cold to me so long
I’m crying icicles instead of tears

And all I can do is keep on telling you
I want you
I need you
But there ain’t no way
I’m ever gonna love you
Now don’t be sad
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad
Now don’t be sad
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad”

If you focus on the chorus, you miss out that the lead character tried to make it work. What I also like is the song is sung in first person, so it is not gender specific. This could easily be a woman singing about a man or even someone who does not identify as either.

Paradise by the Dashboard Light – is the best song, in my view. It tells a story and involves in the recording Ellen Foley, who is much tinier than Meat Loaf, but whose voice can match his needed gravitas for this passionate song. And, when I say passionate, I mean two kinds – lust and eventually spite. I would add that talented Karla DeVito is seen in live performances, but the original recorded voice is Foley’s. Here are a few snippets.

“I remember every little thing
As if it happened only yesterday
Parking by the lake
And there was not another car in sight
And I never had a girl
Looking any better than you did
And all the kids at school
They were wishing they were me that night
And now our bodies are oh so close and tight
It never felt so good, it never felt so right
And we’re glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife
Glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife.”

This sets the stage, but the song describes what happens by the dashboard light using a famous baseball announcer for the New York Yankees, Phil Rizzutto. You hear Rizzuto’s voice as he broadcasts a game with the muffled foreplay going on in the background. To me, the best part of the song is when Foley’s character stands her ground and asks for a pledge of love.

“Stop right there!
I gotta know right now!
Before we go any further!
Do you love me?
Will you love me forever?
Do you need me?
Will you never leave me?
Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?
Will you take me away and will you make me your wife?”

From there, I will leave it to your imagination, but the ending is worth the wait..

Bat Out of Hell – is also a story telling song as a lover leaves town, but the regret seems to drive him to be careless on the road. There are some lyrics my wife does not care for in the song as they are gruesome, but the song is vintage rock and roll.

“…Oh baby, you’re the only thing in this whole world
That’s pure and good and right
And wherever you are and wherever you go
There’s always gonna be some light”.

But I gotta get out
I gotta break it out now
Before the final crack of dawn
So we gotta make the most of our one night together
When it’s over you know
We’ll both be so alone

Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes
When the night is over
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone, gone, gone
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes.”

Two other songs which are also strong are “All revved up and no place to go” and “You took the words right out of my mouth.”

Give this album a try. When I read those lists of greatest albums, this one usually makes a top twenty list. It is different. It is excellent, if you are a rock and roller.

Note two sidebars: Meat Loaf appeared in the movie “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in a small but pivotal role and Ellen Foley is also known for being on the comedy TV show “Night Court” with Harry Anderson.

GOP and Trump – a letter to the editor

My newpaper ran an edited version of my letter to the editor today. Here it is for your review, edit and use, if you so choose.

“The former president is continuing his Big Lie that the election was stolen from him. It’s a claim he has been very unsuccessful in proving, losing all of his recounts, audits and reviews and winning only one court case out of 65 or so.

Some of his funders have asked for their money back feeling they were misled. Sadly, so were the folks who felt emboldened to storm the Capitol to overturn the election. More than a few will go to jail, rightfully so.

It is past time for Republican leaders to follow the political courage of folks like U.S. Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and tell the former president to ‘man-up, you lost.’

The Republican Party needs to right this ship and stop listening to Trump and his sycophants.”

When religious and other leaders are intolerant – a reprise post

I wrote this post almost ten years, so some of the references are dated, but the gist is still relevant in today’s headlines.

I have written several posts in the last few months around the subject of intolerance and exclusion in religion. The issues have tended to be around my support for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Like many Americans, I am religious, but not evangelical. I am less strident in my views and favor inclusion and treating all of your neighbors well. These are the greatest teachings of Jesus and the themes find their way into other religions, as well.

When religions are inclusive they do wondrous things for people. They lift the spirits of those who worship and send them off to do good deeds as stewards of this inclusive mission. When they are exclusive and intolerant, they can become about as bad a group of people as you can find. They are bad in that their piety and general kindness overshadow the intolerance that lies beneath the surface. Last night, my daughter and one of my sons joined my wife and me as we watched “The Help,” a movie that looks at how African-American maids were treated before the Civil Rights Act in the early 1960’s. There are many lessons therein, but the one that strikes me most is how presumably pious people can treat others the way they do and how people who have distaste for this treatment remain silent. These silent witnesses are how intolerance foments and grows into something more.

Living in North Carolina, I was not surprised, but discouraged by the recent vote to reiterate that the LGBTQ+ community cannot marry in this state. The equally troubling part of this Amendment One gives the license to deny civil unions in place for both gays and non-gays. The lone positive to be taken away is the Amendment was defeated in the larger Metropolitan areas (Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Greensboro) where centers of education are located. At the same time, I am very encouraged by the stance of President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of Education and NAACP on gay marriage in the future. I just wish the President had made his statement before the NC vote.

During the lead-up time before the NC vote and since that time in early May, let me reiterate some of the less tolerant things that have been reported, some in NC and some elsewhere. These trouble me as they are forewarning of how intolerance can manifest into something ugly. As citizens, we need to call out this intolerance. We can say you can choose to believe the way you do, but you cannot denigrate and step on the freedoms of others. For the Constitutionalists out there this is for what our Bill of Rights stands.

Here are a few lowlights of late from my perspective:

  • Reverend Franklin Graham besmirched the name of Billy Graham, his father, by demonizing the gays and lesbians and promoting intolerance. I realize Billy Graham is still alive, but I personally feel he has always been about inclusion and tolerance and if he were alert, he would not let Franklin do this. Franklin’s earlier stances against Muslims showed how intolerant he can be. When Graham says things like this, it detracts from the all the good his ministry does.
  • The day after Amendment One, a county commissioner in NC’s largest county requested the elimination of domestic partner benefits for the county employees. This was less than 24 hours after the vote. This commissioner has a public record of intolerance, so his personal stance is not unusual, but this is the kind of action that was feared by those who were against the Amendment as they saw similar examples in other states.
  • A minster in a less metropolitan, but not rural NC county advocated this past Sunday about putting homosexuals behind an electrified fence. This is fueling a fire and could be construed as abetting a future crime in my view and he should be called out on this.
  • In Mississippi, a commissioner and reverend posted on his website his belief that the only ruling on gays is Leviticus 20:13 which advocates the killing of both men who are gay sexual partners. When pressed, he said he does not advocate the killing of gays, but this occurred after the backlash he received. Some say if you ever want to create an Atheist, have them read the bible. In my view, the bible was written and re-written by a lot of imperfect men who sometimes placed their imperfections in the bible to interpret God’s word. I personally do not want to worship a God that people believe feels this way.
  • Finally, after the Amendment One vote, I was doing some prep work for a meeting in a hotel lobby. A nearby conversation between two lesbian women started as they lamented the passing of this discriminatory amendment. One asked the other if her mother was supportive of her efforts against this bill. She responded that her parents no longer speak with her due to her sexual preferences. This made me terribly sad as no parent should disown a child for who she loves. This is your child.

We must call out intolerance. We cannot remain silent when we see it. Otherwise, the intolerant ones will feel more emboldened. Whether it is the people above, the Koran burning minister in Florida or the family of bigots whose church pickets military funerals because it allows gays to serve, let these people know intolerance does not have a place. As Americans, we must support the right for people we disagree with to voice their beliefs. That is one of the tenets of our Bill of Rights. Yet, when their rights damage or infringe on the rights of others, that is when we must step up.

When leaders, religious and non-religious, are intolerant and exclusive, they will drive people away. Even the silent witnesses will eventually vote with their feet and leave. The Catholic Church is seeing that as their church is on the demise north of the equator. More and more Catholics are staying home due to its intolerant positions not to mention its hypocrisy in masking criminal pedophilia in its priests. Please remember, religious leaders are human just like the rest of us. They can be full of crap just like you and me. So, when they are, tell them just like you would tell one another. I think if you said, “Minister, I hear what you are saying, but I don’t think that way,” you will get your message across. If he does not get your message then you can make an informed choice to leave. There are many inclusive, tolerant ministers who would welcome you.

Silence abetted the denial of the civil rights of African-Americans for the longest time. Let’s not be silent on the denial of the rights of LGBTQ+ citizens. Our children read history about the civil rights movement and ask how could people have tolerated that behavior? They see injustice and they know treating LGBTQ+ people differently is not right either. Let’s make our children proud and do the right thing. Don’t be silent.