A second Saturday in 2022 – a plethora of potpourri to ponder

Since I woke up to a plethora of thoughts and news nuggets, let me offer a potpourri of topics to ponder. In no particular order:

  • This headline says it all – “Ahmaud Arbery’s killers get life sentences; no possibility of parole for Travis and Gregory McMichael.” A black man should not fear for his life when he is out jogging. Given we are almost sixty years removed from the passing of the Civil Rights Act, it would be my hope that stuff like what happened to Ahmaud Arbery and countless others should not be happening anymore. We have made progress, but we seem to have backslid some.
  • The world lost one of its finest actors in Sidney Poitier yesterday. Several outstanding movies include: “To Sir with Love,” “The Defiant Ones,” “Guess who’s coming to Dinner,” and “In the Heat of the Night” to name only a few. “To Sir with Love” ranks on a short list of the best teacher movies. Seeing Poitier in the final scene tear up his offer letter to go teach elsewhere is poignant. Also, to see him and Rod Steiger in the last film is powerful as they showed what institutionalized bigotry looks like. He won an Oscar for the movie “The Lilies in the Field,” but I think each of his roles in the above films were more impactful.
  • In the midst of all the year-end deaths, the world lost a peacemaker and humanitarian in Desmond Tutu. Along with Nelson Mandela, Tutu helped bring attention to the rights of the disenfranchised during Apartheid. God bless the peacemakers. Seeing Tutu interviewed always brought a smile to my face as he seemed to ooze joy and kindness. Here is one of many wonderful quotes of Tutu’s along those lines: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
  • Reading Tutu’s quotes and knowing what he has overcome, I encourage folks to find ways to look past differences and find some commonality. There is far more good in our world than people realize as the bad news makes the headlines – “if it bleeds, it leads.” This may be one reason Tutu’s passing went by too unnoticed. Look beneath the headlines and find the good in people. We should celebrate those peacemakers, the truth tellers, the kind spirits that exist in our world. They usually don’t beat on their chests with false bravado, so sometimes you have to look harder.

Have a wonderful 2022. Be safe. Be wise. Be kind. Be civil.

A little bit of this and that for 2022

Happy New Year everyone. May your resolutions last longer than your hangover. I have celebrated New Year’s in a number of ways, but this old soul is less inclined to stay up until midnight these days. Living on the east coast of the US, we have resorted to celebrating the New Year’s on Greewich time, so we are done early.

I learned yesterday the legendary actress Betty White left us just shy of her 100th birthday. She has always been a character and has played many different types of roles over the years. She played nice girl roles for the longest time, so when she played the back-stabbing Sue Ann Niven in the 1970s on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” it was a shock. Yet, she went onto many other roles in the 1980s and 1990s on the “Golden Girls” and “Hot in Cleveland.”. And, she was a terrific humanitarian and friend to animals. May she RIP.

Going in to 2022 and its insane campaign season which started about eleven months ago, we must try to regain some level of civil discourse in our society. Since changing politicians and opinion entertainers seems nigh impossible. we will have to make this a ground up change and force them to notice.

Here a few rules of the road that might help:

-if someone speaks or writes with name calling, labelling and cursing as their modus operandi, do what I often do and stop reading and do not respond. If this is the how the person wishes to argue, then his or her argument is poor.

-cease watching opinion entertainers who are dressed-up spin-doctors at best and disinformation peddlers at worst. Some do their homework more than others, but you are being told an opinion, often times not a well-supported one.

-if you are getting your news from someone on social media who you like because you agree with them, please do not consider that news and refer to the first two items above.

-if you are getting your news from a politician, check other sources; some have more veritas than others, but too many are just spouting BS without doing much homework. I used to think elected officials knew more than we do (and some did), but I stopped thinking that long ago. They also expect us to have short memories.

-you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion. Ask more questions of people and listen to their answers. Listen to understand, not to respond. Only then can you follow-up with comments, but make sure you give like you want to get. Calling a person an idiot is not a good sales pitch.

-be civil to each other. Sometimes the best thing to say, is not to say it. Look for common ground, by doing that listening thing noted above. You may disagree on five points, but agree on two. That is a start.

One final thought to drum in your head. An old friend used to say “you can never have enough cups of coffee with people.” Engage. Converse. Catch-up. And, thank the other person for their time and interest. Time and interest are the best gifts someone can give you.

Be safe in 2022. Be well and be wise.

Mean girls need to go to detention according to Kathleen Parker

An important opinion was written by right leaning Washington Post columnist, Kathleen Parker, about adolescent acting elected female officials in Congress called “Opinion: The mean girls in Congress just can’t quit each other.” When we should be writing about policy solutions to real problems, we need someone like Parker to tell these eighth graders to go to detention and think about their behavior. Not to pick on the well behaved eighth graders, but a middle school counselor once told me, “generally speaking, eighth graders are not very nice people.”

Here are excerpts from Parker’s opinion piece which ran on December 4, 2021.

First, it was the Squad. Now, it seems, we have the Plastics.

I’m referring to the four-way kerfuffle that began when Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) made an anti-Muslim remark about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Then Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) tweeted her disapproval of Boebert, which prompted the inimitable Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to defend Boebert by smearing Mace as ‘the trash in the GOP conference.

…The Squad, you’ll recall, was the name given initially to four super-left Democratic women elected to the House in recent years: Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All are women of color and two, Omar and Tlaib, are Muslim, which may partly explain, but does not in any way excuse, why Boebert and Greene refer to them as the ‘Jihad Squad.

One needn’t be a great wit to create a nickname, but being witless is surely helpful to hurling racial and religious insults. As to the latter, Boebert and Greene proudly excel.

Which brings us to the Plastics, the infamous high school clique in the 2004 movie, “Mean Girls,” about a bunch of bullying young women in high school. The Twitter war that evolved among Boebert, Greene, Mace and Omar has all the markings of chick cliques gone wild. I wish it weren’t so, but what else to make of such underage behavior by some of the nation’s most visible females?

To think that the Republican Party was once home to greats such as Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine. Among other achievements, she was the first public figure to challenge Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist fearmongering in her 1950 “Declaration of Conscience” speech. Just imagine, if we still can.

That said, today’s four gladiators aren’t equally errant in the ways of manners and protocol. Omar was the victim of more than one inexcusable racist, Islamophobic attack by Boebert. The first came when Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) tweeted an anime video showing him stabbing Ocasio-Cortez in the neck. As the House considered censuring Gosar for his appalling judgment, Boebert tried to defend the indefensible, saying that stripping Gosar of his committee assignments would be unfair since Omar “the Jihad Squad member from Minnesota” sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee ‘while praising terrorists.

Later, Boebert told a story at a private event about boarding an elevator when a Capitol police officer came running toward her. When Boebert realized Omar was standing nearby, she quipped to the officer: ‘She doesn’t have a backpack, we should be fine.

Mace, who might have kept her heels glued to the high road, then entered the fray to defend Omar following Boebert’s tasteless elevator remark. But you know what they say: Never wrestle with pigs. They have more experience in the mud and, besides, they like it there.

So along came Greene, no slouch in the mudslinging department. A devout Trumpian, she alternately praised the former president and called Mace “the trash of the GOP conference.” Those would be fighting words without what happened next, but it got far worse. Greene accused Mace of not being a true conservative because, she claimed, Mace is ‘pro-abort.

…Greene’s lucky she escaped with a mere counter-tweet from Mace instead of something more fitting a woman who was the first female graduate of the Citadel. Mace is, indeed, pro-life with exceptions for rape and incest, perhaps because she is, herself, a rape survivor.

Then something rather splendid happened. Greene tweeted at Mace, ‘your out of your league.’ Mace simply tweeted back the correction: ‘you’re.

Anyone who will plant a flag for “you’re” instead of “your” as a contraction of ‘you are’ has my undying admiration and loyalty. (I have a cartoon in my office in which a smart dame says to her courtier: “You had me at you’re.”)

Suffice to say, the ‘conversation’ devolved from there, or, depending on one’s point of view, became even more delicious. Mace ended the exchange (for now) with ‘Bless her f—— heart,’ which is clear enough, but usually expressed more modestly by Southerners as simply ‘Bless her heart.

Bless all their little hearts, I say, and the wee spirits that guide their fingers across keyboards in a land called Twitter. May they all receive a biography of Margaret Chase Smith as a gift for the holidays, and may they begin their New Year’s resolutions accordingly.

Note, I only edited a few paragraphs for brevity, but the entire article and can be found below. I love her reference to Margaret Chase Smith, as that is what political courage looks like. I think Parker defines clearly what these other folks are doing. I did call Rep. Mace about ten days ago and thanked her on speaking out, as it showed courage to be critical of poor behavior in her party when the party leaders passed on that role. By the way, being the first female graduate of The Citadel showed courage, in and of itself.

One final note, we should always remember if someone wants to be taken seriously, then he or she should act like a serious person. Name calling, labelling, and being snide is not conducive to what a serious person would do. And, it certainly is not what we should be getting from our elected officials. We deserve more.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/12/04/omar-boebert-mace-greene-women-in-congress/

Negative news has a larger echo than positive news

We should remind ourselves that bad news has a larger echo than good news. This is why good news articles and social media posts are so needed. News agencies publish “conflict” as it sells better. The doctor who does things well 19 times out of 20 is not newsworthy, until he messes up that one time. The best offensive tackle is not newsworthy unless he is penalized or his opponent gets by him to the quarterback.

No question, division exists and civility is lacking to too many in discourse. But, what we don’t see and hear are the countless folks who are living their lives and getting along. Most people do not pay attention to the blathering untruths of people named Carlson, Hannity, Ingraham, et al. We are too busy paying attention to our own lives.

If we do watch news, it is more often entertainment or sports news or something someone shared on social media that was more provocative than accurate. In fact, much of what finds may way into my browser could qualify as gossip – some one reacting to the inanity said by an opinion host who is just trying to sell ratings. My reaction before I pass on reading it is “Oh, (insert name) must have said something stupid again.” Next.

Some have prophesized this will cause our extinction. It does threaten our democracy, but will likely not cause our extinction. On that front, what we need to worry about is too many people chasing too few water and food resources. So, before we are pronounced extinct, please note it is not as bad as portrayed, but it still needs to be a lot better. Our real problems are hard enough without some opinion host masquerading as a news person making up inane things. My advice is to ignore blather and check other sources.

Let me be blunt

People are craving leadership. They will listen to anyone who appears to be one, only to find the person lacking. Just because a person is in a position of leadership, does not make them one. We have a few current events to draw from, so allow me to be blunt and state the obvious. It matters not your political party, as poor leadership can occur anywhere, anytime.

The easiest example is what the Queen of England failed to do. She truly blew a lay-up to be a leader missing an opportunity to educate. Her grandson’s wife was subjected to racist criticism from the press and in social media. The message could have been so simple and people would have respected her for saying something like the following.

“My fellow citizens we in the public eye are subject to criticism. That is more than fine as a free democracy should allow for such criticism, as long as it is civil and hopefully fact-based. Yet, the attacks on my grandson’s wife are beyond the pale. To use racist symbolism and name calling is highly inappropriate and not in keeping with the ideals of our nation. I do not condone such offensive language. The Duchess of Sussex is an important part of our Royal family and attacks on her are the same as attacks on me.”

Another key story involves New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. He has two issues, one involving fudging numbers on nursing home COVID exposure and the other involving sexual misconduct. If found culpable on either, his resignation can be rightfully demanded. It matters not the party affiliation. When an incumbent dishonors the office he holds, action should be taken. That could range from censure to removal.

Which brings us to the former US president who incited an insurrection on another branch of government and continues to lie to this day about wide-scale election fraud which he cannot prove in court. He is the most corrupt and deceitful president in my lifetime even before adding the word seditious to his list of descriptions. The fact he was impeached twice is not a surprise. The fact only seventeen Republicans voted to impeach or convict this traitor is. When an incumbent dishonors the position….

Leadership is lacking. The US now has a president who actually is trying to lead and do it in the right way. He is not perfect, but deserves a chance.

Two emails – civil discourse

The following is an email response (to my earlier email) from a friend who I would say is a reasonable person and who has served his community helping folks in need. Following his response to me, I share my response with him.

What I want people to note is the civil tone we both tried to convey, even though there are areas of disagreement. My thrust is not to say what could have been said by each, but to say we can disagree without taking each other’s head off.

My friend’s response to an earlier email

“To say Donald Trump is different is to make an understatement. He’s not conservative, he’s a populist. He doesn’t believe in fiscal constraint, and that’s why he loves tax cuts AND fiscal stimulus as needed this past spring to address the pandemic. Just watch, we will have another fiscal stimulus package (even if it is Speaker Pelosi’s moderate wing that has signed a discharge petition to move forward narrow stimulus items forcing the issue before the election).

Donald Trump has many flaws (which is why I don’t feel the need to list them), but I think he really does care about regular people. I see this in his commitment to fixing the VA, even if stepping on toes. I listened to his caddy of thirty years ago turned personal assistant in his remarks at the RNC convention, and you know he’s not just self-immersed, even if he always talks thru that lens.

He doesn’t pull blue collar voters because he doesn’t listen. And similar with black and Latino voters. For a guy who’s had economic comfort his whole life, he oddly has an ear for their complaints. (A similar wealth comparison is Great Britain’s Prime Minister Clement Attlee; very rich, who after learning of British slums, became a populist Democratic Socialist who advocated for national health care, nationalized businesses, etc.)

Trump’s not different in that way. Just different in the timing of what’s been tried and what’s likely to work now. You see this in his making Obamacare less expensive so more people can afford it. This is where he’s within the fold to repeal Obamacare movement, but also for its streamlining. This is also evidenced in his desire for health care pricing transparency. And his instincts are right here. Any time one is able to price shop, it changes your behavior.

On Joe Biden, I wish he were the Joe Biden I recall from the late 80’s and early 90’s. The way he got his nomination with a consolidation of liberal endorsements doesn’t reinforce his moderation. It underscores it is at risk.

That said, there is much to be thoughtful about. And I do see the election process forcing both sides to moderate…”
************************************************

The following is my response.

“Many thanks for your thoughtful response, which is not a surprise. While he has accomplished some good things (the reduced sentencing, the first COVID-19 stimulus, eg.), I could argue policy decisions on several fronts, but I won’t. What frustrates me most is the divisive rhetoric he uses on a daily basis and the name calling as a substitute for civil discourse. I hold a lot of conservative writers and public servants in high regard and their concerns about the incumbent president are worth noting.

General James Mattis, whose departure as Secretary of Defense was of great concern to Republicans and Democrats, noted a few months ago the president does not even try to unite us. To me, that is mission one, which is a key reason I gravitate to Joe Biden, whose career is one of bipartisanship. He is getting killed by the far left for not being progressive enough and killed by the right for being too progressive. He is a moderate. You are correct, he will get pressure to be more left than he wants, but so did Obama. We should not lose sight that the two most successful Democrat presidents of late have been moderates.

David Brooks, George Will and Michael Gerson are three of my favorite conservative pundits and each are advocating for Biden to win, as are Republicans for the Rule of Law, Republican Voters against Trump and The Lincoln Project. While you were watching the Trump convention, these folks held another Republican convention also from Charlotte. I also find of interest Cindy McCain is on Biden’s transition team, should he win. That speaks volumes.

I recognize Biden is imperfect, but we need a galvanizing influence, not a divisive one. Per a Pew survey, trust in America from abroad has fallen significantly, to the extent, Putin and Xi are more trusted than the US president. This concerns me as our allied relationships have been a strength. As for socialism, many in our country do not realize our economy is one of fettered capitalism with socialist underpinnings. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment, Workers Comp, eg. are socialistic programs. As Brooks touts, we need a healthy discussion on what is the proper balance of all of these programs and how do we monitor them.

Thanks again for your thoughtful remarks.”

Let’s follow the example John Lewis lived

The following is necessarily short, as my local newspaper was kind enough to print it in its “Letters to the Editor” section this morning.

Watching the memorial service for Congressman John Lewis, I noticed the words kind, caring and courageous were used often. A staff member noted he was a great boss with several people working with him for over 10 years (a few over 20).

Lewis embodied the words spoken about him. Civil and nonviolent protest will be his lasting legacy. His example is followed by a significant majority who participate in the multiracial Black Lives Matter protests.

Those few who choose violence may make the news, but they dilute the message. Steadfast resolve is a much greater weapon. It galvanizes people.

Let’s honor Lewis for the person he was and how he conducted himself. Black lives do matter.

She looked the hater in the eyes

Peaceful protests are happening in huge numbers around the country regarding Black Lives Matter. There is danger from both the COVID-19 virus as well as counter protestors. From what I have seen, most of the protestors are wearing masks and they are outside, but they still need to be very careful.

As for the other risk of counter protestors, here is what one young black woman named Samantha Francine did. Her actions are captured in an article written by Asta Bowen in the Jackson Hole News and Guide on June 10 called “Looking hate in the eye in Whitefish.” Here are few paragraphs. A link to the article is below.

“What happened here was much less dramatic. On a fine afternoon in the pretty ski town of Whitefish, a group was gathered to raise signs of support for Black Lives Matter. One large, angry man descended on the scene, cursing in people’s faces and grabbing at signs, as the group chanted, ‘Peaceful! Peaceful!’ Within minutes a policeman had escorted the man from the scene.

But amid the commotion, one image burns bright: We see the intruder from behind, towering over a young black woman, as he gets in her face. Her sign, ‘Say Their Names,’ has dropped to her side, but her feet are planted firmly. She has just put up her sunglasses, meeting his assault with a steady, silent gaze. Though the encounter lasts only a moment, the impression is enduring. Her name is Samantha Francine, and she embodies the change we need. As we adjust to life under the pandemic, it is time to accept that yet another plague is upon us, and that is the disease of dehumanization. We condemn first and ask questions later — or never. We judge on sight, we dismiss and damn; we polarize and partisanize until the rift has grown so wide there is no reaching across.

Samantha just held her ground, looked the man in the eye, and listened.

She explained why: ‘I grew up with a single white father who taught us from a young age that things were going to be different for us just because of the color of our skin. He would constantly remind us that ‘no matter the threat, always look them in the eye so they have to acknowledge you’re human.’ In this moment, those are the words that went through my head. When I lifted up my glasses, he saw me. I saw him.’”

Peaceful protests are key. Violence is not the answer as it distracts from the message. But, acts of civil disobedience are immeasurable. She looked the hater in the eyes and let him rant. She listened to what he had to say, but she looked him in the eye to let him know she was there and she saw him.

I will add what she did was a daring and took nerve. It may not be the solution for many. But, listening to someone is an appropriate action. Then, you can ask questions about what they said. “Help me understand why you feel that way?” you could ask. If a black man named Daryl Davis can talk over 200 KKK members to cede their robes and quit, then anything is possible.

A message I want to leave with people is one I often repeat. One does not need to be a jerk to get a point across. In fact, the message will likely be heard if it is not shouted. It will also be likely heard if it is made after listening to the other’s point. As a parent, a truism is if you want your children to listen, lower your voice.

https://www.jhnewsandguide.com/jackson_hole_daily/state_and_regional/writerrs_on_range/looking-hate-in-the-eye-in-whitefish/article_8508e894-4871-5ad8-ad9a-6ee94820fbfb.html

A message for our black neighbors – by Charlotte clergy and community leaders

The following brief editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer on June 2, 2020, signed by about 80 clergy and community leaders.

In the wake of yet one more unjust killing of an unarmed African American, we clergy and community leaders who are white say to our Black neighbors:

We feel outrage, grief, disgust and remorse.
We stand with you in horror, lament and weariness.
We’re fed up. It’s time.
We confess our complicity, inertia and timidity.
We own our responsibility right now.
With God’s help, we will change ourselves.
With you, we’ll change our institutions and our community.”

Having worked in the human services agencies as a volunteer Board Member, I support these words and have benefitted from working with a few of these voices to help people in need. We all must be the part of the solution. We cannot stand silent when injustice is being done to people who feel their voice is not being heard.

We must ask our police officers and leadership to police their own, identifying and improving on non-exemplary behavior or actions, painfully investigating all deaths to ferret out and punish unjust actions (the Pilot’s Union has a good model with their involvement in investigating plane crashes). Police officers have a tough and dangerous job, and even the best of intentions can go awry in a moment’s decision. But, every group has some bad apples, as well. The repeated and unchecked actions of those bad apples paint all officers with a broad brush.

So, police officers must be empowered and supported to call out their own, especially in the heat of moment of questionable actions. It is hard to call your own on the carpet, but that is what is needed and necessary. There is too long a list of names where such behavior led to a death (Floyd, Arbery Taylor, Cooper, Bland, Garner, Scott, Martin, Garner, Brown, Gray…). Eric Garner was also choked to death and the officer was not charged by a grand jury. But, if the others present had told the officer to “cool his jets” or “the man said he can’t breathe,” Garner or Floyd would still be alive.

I am encouraged by police officers participating in and being supportive of the civil protests. I have seen more than a few officers call out the bad actions that killed Floyd. I am encouraged by the diversity of the civil protestors. I am encouraged by people around the globe also protesting racial injustice.

Yet, I am also discouraged by protestors who have conducted violence and looting. That is harmful to their message and punishes the wrong people. We must speak out against such violence, while shining a spot light on the greater majority of peaceful protests. But, we must seek and get change.

We are all fixer uppers

In the age of the rise in social media and decline in truth, an underlying theme is overlooked. We are all fixer uppers. There are no perfect people, leaders, institutions, organizations, or companies.

Yet, being critical of other people and entities is increasing. I am not saying being critical is not warranted, but the volume and venom seemed to be turned higher than it should be.

When I see or hear hyper-critical commentary, I have a few thoughta running through my mind.

– The person doing the criticism is not perfect either. A good retort is “you are no day at the beach either.”

– The venom sometimes is mismatched with the accusation. The venom equates with someone who has killed your mother, when the accused transgression is much milder.

– The accusation sometimes is based on spurious information. The claim is so outlandish, people think where did you get that? Fake news permeates social media because it is like shooting fish in a barrel. This is a key reason the president deploys it so often.

– Even more reputable sources write evocative things. A retired editor once said the media is biased toward conflict. This is a key reason bad news gets far more airplay, when the frequency is by far reversed.

Yet, if you take away only one thing, please take away the following – give like you want to get. It is OK to say I do not agree with those points or find that criticism unfair. But, we do not need to take someone’s head off in so doing.