Moral Courage is Lacking

The following is a letter to the editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. It is not too dissimilar to a letter I posted on the websites of Senators David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas after they could not recall the President making insulting and profane comments about immigrants from certain countries.

Perdue went on to say Sunday to George Stephanoplous that Trump did not say that term. It should be noted Senator Lindsay Graham confided in two Republican Senators that the President did say it and confirmed that he pushed back on the President per Senator Dick Durbin. Note, I used to live in Georgia which I reference in my letter.

“As a former Republican, I am disappointed in the lack of moral courage of Senator David Perdue. When he had an opportunity to condemn the President for highly offensive remarks, he not only punted, he followed the lead of our largely untruthful leader. Is this the kind of man on whom the Senator wants to spend his dear reputation? I encourage him to honor my former state and his position and show moral courage.”

Quite simply, we must have leadership and moral courage from our Republican legislators. We are not getting either except from a very small handful. When this President defiles the office, he must be held accountable, a word like truth and civility, that he has a hard time executing.

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A Monster Calls

Do you ever get surprised by a movie or book? You did not expect to like it, but it touches your core. The movie “A Monster Calls” fits into this category.

The movie stars Felicity Jones as a divorced mother of a boy, Conor, who is bullied at school, but has anger issues, the source of which are revealed as the movie develops. Conor is played by Lewis MacDougall who does a wonderful job revealing his angst, which is far more than the bullying.

Conor loves to draw like his mother and is quite imaginative. He awakens each night at 12:07 am to a monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) who evolves out of an old tree Conor can see from his window in a field near a church. The monster teaches him parables, one each night, with one requirement. Conor must tell him a key truth when he is done with all of his lessons.

I will leave the summation at that. Sigourney Weaver plays his grandmother who has a hard time understanding her artistic daughter and grandson. Weaver does an excellent job in her role, as she must come to grips with her own angst and get closer to her daughter and grandson.

Give the movie a chance and don’t let the title turn you away. You may want to have a Kleenex close by, just in case. The simple truth may touch your core.

If you have seen it, tell me what you think. If you have not, you may want to avoid reading the comments. What other movies or books surprised you?

Four friends, one parent left

I have shared before that I am blessed to still have two friends dating back to elementary school with a third one being added in junior high school. We four visit when I return to my home town of Jacksonville, usually over much laughter and time well spent.

Unfortunately, some of the recent visits have been for funerals for our parents. Tomorrow, I will be headed down for the next to last parent funeral for our group. Glenn lost his mother this week.

That will leave Frank’s mother as the last parent. Unfortunately, she has been burdened with Alzheimer’s like my mother. So, she won’t likely remember any of us. But, she is a rock for us all, as we spent  more time with her as Frank’s father died forty years ago.

Glenn’s mother was a gem as well. One of my favorite stories about Glenn’s mother is while she drove any of her children, regardless of age, when she braked the car, she would invariably shoot her right arm out to restrain her child. For my British friends, think left arm. Picture an adult child being restrained by his mother when she brakes.

She was a caring woman whose husband was a minister. He passed away two years ago. Her several grandchildren called her “Nana.” I like that as it suits her well.

She will be missed by her family and friends. She lived a full life and raised a beautiful family. Please think a good thought for her. And, if still blessed to have your mother and/or father, give them a call. If not call a brother, sister or friend.

The biggest global risk to the west

Ian Bremmer, the President of the Eurasia Group and a CBS News Correspondent cited his group’s report on CBS This Morning regarding the greatest global risk. In essence, he said the number one risk is an emergent China filling the void being left by a retrenching US from the global leadership stage. Here is what Bremmer said in the interview about China.

“They  have the strongest leader in Xi Jinping they’ve had at least since Mao [Zedong]. And because the United States is America first, it’s transactional. It’s unilateral. It’s undermining a lot of alliances. You put those things together and suddenly you actually have a China that is willing to engage in what is increasingly a geopolitical vacuum,” Bremmer told “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday.

“In other words, this is the first time we’ve ever seen as U.S. leadership erodes, no one else has been standing up. Now the leader of China is saying we’re prepared to stand up whether it’s on climate or the global economy, you know, regional security, you name it, that’s a big change for the world.”

Bremmer cited an easy example. The US President said he is going to cut funding to Pakistan as they are not doing enough to combat terrorism. The sad truth is it really does not matter that much, as China supports Pakistan more than we do and will step up. I mentioned in a recent post that twice now, Xi Jingping followed the US President at two world events in Davos and Vietnam. The Chinese leader gave the speech the US President usually gives regarding working together globally. Trump spoke of maximizing only American interests.

Not only is this counterproductive, it will actually hurt our share of the global pie making us less relevant.There are two things to note. First, the position that Xi is advocating used to be a foundation of the US Republican Party. The party sold its soul to support the short-sighted and bullying President who gives the illusion of being a populist.

Second, the US cannot shrink to greatness. We are actually doing pretty well as a country and were so when Trump took office. It is the distribution of wealth that is the problem and this President has done very little to resolve that problem. Lessening our global position not only will hurt our economy, it will make us less safe.

If Trump continues in office through one term, this period will be viewed by historians when the US made an unforced error and ceded its global leadership position. This is the exact opposite of what the President should be doing.

 

 

Be not afraid – a memorable hymn

We attended a funeral today for the father of my daughter’s friend who passed way too early at age 53. Growing up Catholic and singing harmony with her father in a small church, my wife recognized immediately the encouraging hymn “Be not afraid” that the congregation was asked to sing.

I knew this would be both memorable and melancholy for my wife as she sang it beautifully next to my whispering voice. She and her father sang well together. Here are the words, crafted by English author Alfred J. Hough, which are poignant next to the beautiful music of Charles Hutchinson Gabriel.

“You shall cross the barren desert but you shall not die of thirst
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand
You shall see the face of God and live

Be not afraid, I go before you always
Come follow me and I’ll give you rest

If you pass through raging waters in the sea you shall not drown
If you walk amidst the burning flames you shall not be harmed
If you stand before the power of hell and death is at your side
Know that I am with you through it all

Be not afraid, I go before you always
Come follow me and I’ll give you rest

Blessed are the poor, for the Kingdom shall be theirs
Blessed are you that weep and mourn for one day you shall laugh
And if wicked men insult and hate you all because of me
Blessed, blessed are you

Be not afraid, I go before you always
Come follow me and I’ll give you rest”

Whether you are religious, the words offer a great example of the comfort that be gleaned at a time of grief and need. These hymns are mileposts in our lives and can remind us of earlier moments. To me it reminded me of the times my wife would rehearse on Saturday evening with her father and perform in the church service the next day.

“Be not afraid” are comforting words. I hope they were for my daughter’s friend and her family.

 

Sentimental Journey

The older I have gotten it seems the more sentimental I have become. Certain scenes from movies will cause me to tear up or become emotional no matter how many times I see them.

Watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the umpteenth time on Christmas Eve, I am sucker for the ending. Especially moving to me is when Harry Bailey arrives and makes a toast to “My brother George, the richest man in town.” Seeing how George made such a difference through kind and courageous acts is compelling.

Another movie scene that gets me is the end of “Field of Dreams” with Kevin Costner. Ray Consuella, played by Costner, asks his father if he wants “a game of catch.” My Dad played catch with me often. So it gets me every time.

Yet, it is not just tears that can be evoked. There is no harder movie to watch than “Sophie’s Choice.” For those who have not seen this, it is Meryl Streep’s finest performance. Without giving away the plot, the movie climax will be as troubling as any you will witness.

The same holds true about a pair of movies that have similar themes. “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” and “Life is Beautiful.” They both are about Nazi persecution. While the latter is in Italian with subtitles, it is both terribly sad and uplifting at times, with the love of a father for his son and wife.

There are certain movies where we know the endings will be tough. “La Bamba” and the “Buddy Holly Story” are sad for the same tragic event which took the lives of three entertainers. “Terms of Endearment” was heading toward the ending from the outset. All are wonderful movies.

Yet, what seems to impact me most are parent/ child moments in movies. For that reason, I will end with “Steel Magnolias,” which had a wonderful cast surrounding the mother/ daughter relationship of Sally Field and Julia Roberts. Two scenes stick out – the first is the scene in the beauty parlor where we first realize Roberts’ character is diabetic as she goes into insulin shock. The second is the cathartic moment when Olympia Dukakis’ character offers up her sour-puss friend Weezer (Shirley McClain) as a punching bag for comic relief to the grief stricken mother.

This is by no means a complete list. What are some of your favorite sentimental scenes?

 

Threatening others is not a great sales strategy

The US President made an ill-advised move to declare Jerusalem Israel’s capitol saying the US would move its embassy there. The dilemma is it’s a lightning rod of a change, with Palestinians laying claim as well. Yet, after the UN Security Council voted 14 to 1 against this declaration with the US being outnumbered, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, extended the President’s threat to cut funding to the countries who voted against the US.

Well, in a show of defiance, the entire UN body voted 128 to 9 against the US decision. Some small African nations, who heavily rely on US funding, acquiesced to the threat. Several countries abstained since the did not want to unsettle the sensitive President, but the sizable vote count should serve as an embarrassment to him. In sports and politics that would be called a rout.

It is my guess the President will remain defiant as it is not in his nature to admit a mistake, but one thing the President absolutely detests is being made to look bad. We should not forget his recorded comment that asked Enrique Peña Nieto, the Mexican President, to say openly Mexico would pay for the wall as “it was making him look bad” if they did not.

We should remind the President that his decisions and comments are what are making him look bad. When he announced that the US would be withdrawing from the Paris Climate Change Accord on June 1, it was the day after Exxon-Mobil shareholders voted against a management recommendation to require management to disclose what they are doing to battle climate change, the third fossil fuel based company to be so required in May following shareholder votes at PPL and Occidental Petroleum. The shareholders did what the President would not, go against the wishes of a petroleum company’s management.

To further illustrate US isolation on this Paris withdrawal, we are the lone county not to participate once the withdrawal becomes effective. We are also one of the biggest polluters, which seems fairly un-neighborly to thumb our nose at the rest of the world. Our country was also not invited to a climate change planning conference earlier this month in France. The US did have representation from several states, cities and business leaders who have picked up the baton the President dropped, but our government was not represented nor wanted.

My biggest fear going in with the bullying President was his not supporting climate change action. But, the greater fear is making the US a pariah in the world, someone who threatens other countries. If a country has a choice to deal with the US President or not, unless avoiding pain or accomplishing gain is compelling, the answer may be “no, thank you” more than it would have been before this President took office. Threats will not help in this cause, as illustrated at the UN.

China is benefitting from our retrenching position in the world. Xi Jinping is a more rational and trusted leader than the US President. Even domestic US leaders know not to trust the President at his word, including Republicans who suffer in silence. Lying and bullying are not admirable traits. Fortunately, leaders like Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron are picking up the mantle as true leaders of the Western world.

In closing, if there is a visual metaphor of the bullying US President, it occurred during a meeting with fellow NATO leaders in Brussels earlier this year. President Trump appeared to shove Prime Minister Milo Dukanovic of Montenegro aside in order to position himself front and center for photographers. A bull in a china shop, so to speak.