About that woke thing – per the wisdom of Reverend John Pavlovitz

From the wisdom of a progressive and practical minister named John Pavlovitz, his latest post called “My woke liberal agenda” is responding to be called woke and how dangerous that is. The entire post can be found below with the link. Picking up his response to several accusations by a critical blogger who said after earlier comments:

You liberals and your agenda are the real danger here!” 

Reverend Pavlovitz then opined for us:

“Then it hit me.
I realized that I’d been found out.
My cover had been blown.
I’d have to come clean and cop to the charges.

I knew I needed to make a full confession to my social media prosecutor and to the watching world—so here it is,

My ‘Woke Liberal Agenda’ on gun violence:

Not normalizing the fact that tens of thousands of people are murdered each year in American schools, churches, supermarkets, and playgrounds—and calling out the professed Christians not worshiping the guns used to kill them.

Asking why, in their rabid and incessant defense of the 2nd Amendment, Conservative American gun lovers willfully overlook both the ‘well-regulated’ and ‘Militia’ portions.

Wondering why these same folks seem far less passionate about the 1st Amendment, when people like me suggest that their guns and their gunlust may actually be the gun problem we have here.

Asking why America has the highest gun homicide rate of any developed country—and suggesting that it has something to do with the NRA’s influence on the gun laws of this country, the number of guns in the system, and the cowboy culture created around them.

Forcing Republicans out of the bed they’re in with the NRA, because their continual expression of ‘thoughts and prayers’ when followed by complete inaction—may as well be bullets for the next mass shooting.

Mentally ill people and criminals not having access to handguns—and asking Republican leaders why they removed the barriers that made such things difficult and why they have continually defunded mental healthcare.

Respecting mass shooting victims enough to talk about them while the world actually gives a damn about them—and before they’re soon replaced the next day or the next week by more mass shooting victims we’re told that it’s ‘too soon’ for us to talk about.

And while we’re at it, here’s the rest of my woke Liberal Agenda:

Demanding that the actual history of America be taught to American children, including the parts white Conservative Christians find uncomfortable.

Insisting the LGBTQ human beings be given every right to govern their bodies, define their families, marry the person they love, and live free of the moral views of strangers.

Pushing back against Nazis, white supremacists, and racists—whether they’re marching in the streets or marching through Congress.

Ensuring that women and have autonomy over their own bodies and that their doctors get to advise them on their healthcare decisions, not Republican politicians.

Exposing a white Evangelical Church that passionately cultivates contempt for LGBTQ people, for Muslims, for non-Christians—and wants to escape culpability for the violence this visits upon them.

Contending that people fortunate enough to be born in America aren’t more inherently valuable or more deserving of liberty than those who were not born here.

Affirming that God is neither white, nor male, nor American, nor Christian—and that God doesn’t specifically bless America.

Demanding that no one have to choose between life-saving care or paying their mortgage.

Opposing any religious tradition that attempts to contest with musty doctrine, what Science has made clear about this world.

Insisting that the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the planet we’re sitting on be protected from degradation—not subjected to it by those of us fortunate enough to be here.

A diverse and equitable nation that makes room for more than just white American, Republican Christians who were lucky enough to be born here.

Yeah, you know—now that I see it all in black and white like this, I suppose it is dangerous: fewer guns, more barriers to having them, less money for gun lobbyists, Christian politicians and leaders who actually resemble Jesus—and equality for people despite their gender identity, sexual orientation, physical condition, religious tradition, pigmentation, or nation of origin.

I could see how someone could view that as a problem, how it could feel threatening.

Yes, I stand here accused of this subversive, dangerous, supposedly America-destroying woke Liberal Agenda.”

I will let us words stand without much comment. His opinion is one we should pay attention to, whether you or in full agreement or not. His best gift is to make us think and be aware of how that is or is not aligned with the teachings of that Jesus fellow.



Sand castle virtues – a repeat of an important theme

I was listening closely to an old song called “Thick as a Brick” by Jethro Tull, when a phrase struck me more so than before. Jethro Tull is renowned for interesting and unusual lyrics mixed in with equal parts flute, guitars and piano making a unique sound. Yet, amidst the lyrics is a reference to “sand castle virtues.” Here is the stanza which includes the term, penned by Ian Anderson:

“And the sand castle virtues are all swept away
In the tidal destruction, the moral melee
The elastic retreat rings the close of play
As the last wave uncovers the newfangled way”

I found this reference profoundly insightful, as many of our so-called virtues are not as concrete as we would like them to be. In other words, they are easily washed away by the waves and replaced by a modified version meeting a new paradigm. This is one reason people can support a candidate or politician who changes posture on a topic. Or, when the candidate was against an issue earlier when the opposing party supported it, but now favors it as it suits his interests today, we followers can overlook the previous stance.

The tide has washed away the previous virtuous stance and has been replaced. What is interesting to me is this song was written in the 1970s, so it is referencing that these malleable virtues or positions have been around a lot longer than today. The only difference is today we can more easily find the previous position, which may have only been stated a few years before. Yet, we don’t ask questions of why you have changed. In essence, we are “thick as a brick” by not staying on top of things and realizing when smoke is being blown at us.

Speaking through my imperfections, I find it hard to fathom why we choose virtues like we are at a cafeteria. A friend of mine uses the reference to “cafeteria Christians,” not to pick on this religion, but use it as an example. Some will cherry pick the parts of the bible they support, but overlook overarching themes. But, this occurs in other religions as well.

If we focus on the overarching virtues and endeavor to do the right thing, we will be on more solid footing. It is when we try to massage a virtue to meet an ideologue or a position, do we risk our position being washed away with the tide. Here are few that would solidify our foundation:

– Treat others like you want to be treated

– Be more inclusive, rather than exclusive

– You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion

– Kindness is not a weakness and in fact is a quiet strength

– It is easy to love someone when things go well; only when they don’t is it hard

– Help your neighbor when he needs it, as you may be in need one day

– Pay attention to what leaders are doing and shine a light on poor behavior

– Treat our environment well for the next generation, which is even noted in the bible

I could go on, but these are a few virtues that would not be washed away. These virtues are far more than sand castles and could stand the greater test of time and barrage of waves. And, if we did these things day in and day out, they would become ingrained making us less “thick as a brick.”

Friday follies and foibles Cinco de Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo. For a no-longer-drinker, have a Corona or margarita for me. Those days are long behind me, thank goodness. Just a few miscellaneous follies and foibles to start the celebration.

I saw where The Donald is considering testifying in his rape trial. The judge has given him until Sunday at 5 pm to decide. Oh, I hope he does. When your history is one of making things up, getting in front of a judge and jury is not the best action Trump could take. An attorney once said he got Trump to change thirty or so statements during one deposition to avoid perjury. One deposition – 30 or so lies.

Speaking of lawsuits, I am delighted to see Disney suing the autocratic governor of Florida for infringing on their business. The governor is picking on the largest tourism destination in a state run by sales tax revenue using them as a scapegoat for wokeness, which many cannot define. The term is used as a weapon like any name calling term, but at its heart it is good to be universally accepting and supportive of all people’s rights. To me, this is just one of the many infringements the governor and his party are imposing on people.

Between, DeSantis and his twin Greg Abbott in Texas, two of the largest states in the US are so poorly governed. Abbott does not get the national press DeSantis gets, but he makes a similar habit of not taking criticism well, saying derogatory things and infringing on the rights of those who do not look like our Europeans immigrants that came here.

There are imperfect people in the Democrat party, but I can argue policy with them or ask why they have not followed through on campaign promises? Trump created a bigger mess at the southern border than existed before he became president, but Joe Biden has not made things better. We need to hold him to what he said he would do, as we are not holding to our ideals as we make it very difficult to come here.

Finally, we need to deal with our debt problem, but not paying our bills is not the solution. It is the result. We need serious fact based discussion on a variety of solutions including raising revenue and cutting expenses. Grandstanding changes as the Republicans in the House have done is not the way to go about this. We should remind Republicans, they are not very good at solving our debt problem especially when in charge. Think George W. Bush cutting taxes to eliminate a surplus budget and Donald Trump cutting taxes to increase the debt by $2 trillion. Anyone can cut taxes, but we have to pay did things and watch spending both.

Wednesday walkabout early in May

What a great day for a walkabout. As I wander, here are a few thoughts I might take with me.

A general thought that I cannot seem to shake is it would be nice for legislators to focus on solving problems and getting something done, rather than grandstand.

To this purpose, it would be helpful if they took the time to study the issues we need to focus on and stop telling us what funders have paid them to do.

It is depressing how low the US Supreme Court has fallen. Not only has it become more political than before, it has added unethical behavior to the mix. Part of the reason is when the needed Senate votes dropped from 60 to 51 to approve someone. As a result, we have people on the court who are more strident in their views.

Stepping away from Washington, we have a more than the two most notorious governors in Florida and Texas who have decided leadership of all citizens is not what they are there for. They have also decided civil rights need not be evenly distributed or warranted. That is shameful in my view.

It would help if all of these folks noted above could spend a little more time with the truth and less time asking for and counting their money. We hear about the flood of people coming across the border, but the real crisis is we are purposefully bottlenecking folks from crossing. While the former president was awful as he created this mess, the current president has not followed through on improving the process.

Whether it is climate change, water, environment, debt, healthcare, et al, let’s focus on the truth and address these issues. And, stop exaggerating or contriving issues that are not that important, but designed to distract voters.

Now, that I have gotten that off my chest, I can finish my walk.

Call me crazy, but why pick on Disney in a tourism state?

The following is a letter I sent to the editor of my hometown newspaper. On occasion, they have been kind enough to print my letters. Let’s hope this one passes muster. Please feel free to adapt and use.

Call me crazy, but why is the governor of my home state of Florida slugging it out with arguably the most alluring tourist destination in a state which relies on tourism revenue to pay the bills? Like many corporations and people, Disney is not perfect, but they are trying to be an inviting place to all Americans and foreigners regardless of who they are, what they look like, where they worship, who they love, etc.

As for the governor (who may run for president), he apparently does not like dissent, criticism or history. We need our elected officials to represent all of us and work on our real problems, not exaggerated or contrived ones, so believes this independent and former Republican voter. The governor could start by doing things in his power to be an inviting state throwing out a welcome mat to everyone. Not only will that increase revenue for all, it is the right thing to do.

Thursday throw abouts

On yet another rainy April day, let me throw about a few thoughts this Thursday.

India’s prime minister Narendra Modi is taking steps to become more autocratic. Citizens who worship differently, are getting on the wrong side of his controlling nature as their civil rights are squeezed. With India soon becoming the most populous country in the world, this should add concern.

Modi’s steps are more dramatic than what is happening in Florida and Texas with their controlling governors. Yet, I did find it interesting that Disney Corporation has sued Florida governor Ron DeSantis for abusing his authority to control a corporation. As an outsider looking at my home state, Disney’s arguments have merit as DeSantis can’t seem to handle dissent or criticism very well. It should be noted that his fellow congress members are being none to kind as they remember DeSantis for the journalists.

Speaking of authoritarians, the former president had another bad hair day yesterday. A judge in one of his trials, the defamation one, told his attorneys that Trump’s calling the trial a sham in his communications is inappropriate asking Trump to stop the social media attacks and saying he may be exposing himself to further penance. Then, Jean Carroll took the stand and said she is only here because Donald Trump raped her. She will be cross examined, but this is not what the former president bargained for as she gets to tell her side of the story under oath.

Finally, why should people care what Boris Johnson has to say anymore? I saw his name at the top of some article I chose not to read. Why? He is no longer prime minister and he has never been too keen on truth telling. Adding kindred spirits Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, these three former elected officials need to sail off into the sunset and leave us alone. Maybe some billionaire, who unlike Trump is not cash poor, should offer to buy them lifetime room and board on some deserted island together with no contact to the outside world. That would make the world a safer, saner and sweeter place to live. Maybe he could put the name Trump up on the building to make the former president happy.

Harry Belafonte, a true hero and entertainer passes away

A true hero and entertainer has passed away – Harold George Bellanfanti, Jr, better known as Harry Belafonte. From a piece in Politico called “Harry Belafonte, activist and entertainer, dies at 96” here are a couple of paragraphs.

“Harry Belafonte, the civil rights and entertainment giant who began as a groundbreaking actor and singer and became an activist, humanitarian and conscience of the world, has died. He was 96.

Belafonte died Tuesday of congestive heart failure at his New York home, his wife Pamela by his side, said Ken Sunshine, of public relations firm Sunshine Sachs Morgan & Lylis.“

Belafonte is better known for his silky voice and big smile as he introduced the world to Calypso music with songs like “Day-O” and “Jump in the Line,” but he was far more than that. He was a hero to many, especially black and brown people and children as he advocated strongly for not just civil rights, but for survival rights.

His causes may have taken root in America with his friendship with Martin Luther King and involvement in the Freedom Summer education movement in Mississippi or various civil rights marches. He attracted other performers of all races to help calm the tensions of bigotry with their presence. But, he also was an ambassador abroad as he spoke out and participated in pushing back on Apartheid in South Africa and children’s rights issues in places like Zimbabwe.

With his music, time and energy, he increased awareness of the plight of black and brown people and all children around the world. He served in various ambassador roles for the ACLU and UNICEF focusing on children. He also broke racial barriers as he intermixed performers on his TV variety shows, which unsettled many sponsors back in the late 1960s. Some even pulled out, but the networks stood with him and aired the shows. In fact he co-hosted a show with Julie Andrews for one variety special, as pointed means to show we are in this together.

Belafonte was such a world-weary activist, he was well-admired by many from all races and countries. When he spoke, it benefitted folks to listen. He won many performance awards – Grammy’s, Tony’s and Emmy’s and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But, the awards that matter more are the Joan Hersholt Humanitarian Award and the Kennedy Center Honor. These represented a key part of his life’s work, not just the entertainment.

The world has lost a hero. If you are not that familiar with him, take a look at his work, both entertainment and activism. May he Rest in Peace.

Thursday thoughts and theories

As I sit down searching for a topic to which I want to devote a post, I am at a loss. I usually do better when I have started a post or at least recorded a title or pasted a link to an article to use the days before. So, with an eye toward alliteration, here are some random Thursday thoughts and theories.

First, I wonder who got shot last night in America? Someone did as we simply cannot help ourselves. Someone rang the wrong doorbell with a hand of a darker color or they may have just pulled in the driveway. Or, they may have been jogging or walking in a neighborhood wearing the darker color on their skin. Or, they just were at the wrong place at the wrong time when a disgruntled former employee, racist or mentally unstable person came a calling with a weapon that could kill many at one time. Or, maybe two old friends or relatives got into an argument over something stupid and one is now shot dead. Or, maybe a four year-old found daddy’s weapon and shot his older brother, sister, mother or father.

Second, it is truly amazing how an entity who just committed to pay one person it defamed $250 million and another entity it defamed $787.5 million with yet another pending lawsuit of $2.7 billion for defamation, can be non-specific as a news agency for what has transpired. I wish the settlement could have included an on air apology from Fox News. “We are sorry we lied to our viewers about Dominion Voting Systems and to cover for the lies of the former president.”

Third, in a state where tax revenue comes from sales tax built on a large engine of tourism, picking on the company which owns the largest tourist attraction in the state which feeds other tourist attractions is not the wisest of moves. The reason the governor does not like them – they are outspoken about treating all people fairly. Such a shame to actually follow that golden rule thing that some guy named Jesus talked about.

Fourth, speaking of governors, it seems to me the states of Florida and Texas are having a race to see who can restrict the most rights of non-white Americans. Sometimes it is not as clear as to the motivation, but each has embraced contrived or exaggerated issues to use as weapons to divide and limit. They also have embraced The Big Lie of the former president about the election being stolen from him to use as a reason to limit voting. Please read the above about Fox News’ defamation cases and the written evidence they knew they were gaslighting their viewers and public pushing Trump’s BS.

Fifth, we have an immediate crisis facing us with our debt ceiling in the US. If we do not raise this ceiling, we will default on some debt. We need to reduce our debt and deficit, so I do not mind discussions to do so, but what I detest is the gamesmanship. If the debt is such a big deal, why did nothing get done when Republicans ruled both chambers and had the White House, other than make the debt worse by over $2 trillion for the next ten years? Quite simply, dealing with the debt will require revenue increases and spending cuts, but neither side is willing to speak to both sides of this issue. Who says this? – the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and do not let ANY politician tell you we can reduce the debt with one or the other.

That is all folks. Have a great day and weekend.

When people in positions to lead choose not to

Just because someone wins an election does not make the person leader. The winners are in a position of leadership, not a leader when they choose not to lead.

A key failure is to forget an important lesson – the elected official is supposed to represent all people in the district, not just those who voted for the candidate. And, the winner should especially not kowtow to a vocal minority who makes more waves.

This more vocal group is of concern to me as with gerrymandered districts, they have more influence than they should. More strident people will vote in a primary and the folks who listen less to those voices, will suffer. And, when the elected official gets to office due to the gerrymandering, the winner will play too heavily to the vocal audience.

At times, I feel we are seeing a version of “The Hand Maid’s Tale” play out. We see too much influence from the strident few. So, we must ask more questions and, if they go unanswered, ask them again. We must demand leadership that we deserve where our real concerns are addressed and not blown off. We need leaders not people creating sound bites shouting at that wind.

In America, we have a gun governance problem, we have a water crisis, we have a climate change problem, we have a debt and deficit albatross, we have a threat to civil rights, and we have health care cost increase pressure among others. Let’s deal with those issues.

We need Trump – Really?

I saw a MAGA fan of the former president holding up a sign that said “We need Trump.” My response is “really?” A person voted by over 150 presidential historians as in the bottom five as one of the worst presidents ever? I am sure this poll of historians does not make many far right’ news blips.

The rationale for such a low rating, per one of the historians who so voted, is on top of his policy decisions and making America’s standing in the world fall, his poor handling of the COVID pandemic and his role in the seditious insurrection against a branch of government pull him down. It is not a surprise that his sycophants are trying to re-write history on these two issues.

But, these two issues do not stand alone. Here are a few other things to chew on:

  • His one focus his first year was to take away people’s healthcare which would have harmed his constituents as well as other Americans. Thank goodness his efforts failed as a Republican led Congress could not come up with a suitable replacement or follow a better process to get there.
  • He decided to set aside a regulation that would require investment advisors to be fiduciaries, meaning they would be responsive to the needs of their customers first and foremost. In other words, this populist president sided with the investment sellers not the buyers. (Sidebar – investors should insist their advisors be fiduciaries).
  • He decided to place tariffs on goods and services from China and our allies, which caused rebuttal tariffs on US goods. History has shown tariffs are not very successful at their stated goals and the consumers are the ones who are punished (he consistently lied about the impact on consumers, as well). He also upset both supply and sales chains, causing buyers and sellers to take action.
  • He took credit for turning the economy around, but he inherited an economy that was in its 91st consecutive month of GDP growth, with 2 + million per annum job growth for six straight years, and a more than doubled stock market from his predecessor. It did continue on his watch, was made better by a sugar rush of a tax cut before waning  and then going into recession with the pandemic.
  • He passed a tax cut that primarily benefitted the wealthy and corporations providing some breaks for lower paid workers but punishing the middle class with caps on state and local tax deductions. This not only increased the debt by about $2 trillion per the CBO, but it only gave us a brief increase in the economy for a brief time (like a sugar rush).
  • He pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Change Accord making us a significant outlier in the fight against global warming. Note, this change was made a day after Exxon shareholders voted to require management to advise them on what they are doing to fight climate change.
  • He elevated the exposure of far right, white nationalist groups allowing them to come out in the open. One of the worst things he said after Charlottesville is there are good people on both sides normalizing oppressive behavior.

Note five of the above examples of this populist president are harmful to the broader population, including those folks who are so enamored with him. This is keeping with what I have said for many years as a former Republican, that most Republicans are voting against their economic interests have no idea they are.

I will say I do agree that he made other NATO countries start coming to the table with the agreed upon funding. Yet, his manner in so doing is off-putting as it is in so many things. But, there is not much I support that this president put in motion. Yet, when you throw his actions leading up to, during and following the insurrection, coupled with his poor handling of the pandemic, his ranking in the bottom five is well-earned.

So, do we need Trump? Certainly not in the White House.