Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Donald "Biff" Trump

There was a story in the news today about someone sending Ricin to the White House.  It occurred to me that I would never think well of that action or the person who did it - and I hate Trump (something I have never felt toward any President).

It made me remember how Trump gloried in that journalist getting shot in the knee the other day.  It was a "beautiful thing" Trump chortled to the crowd at his rally and got a laugh.

Trump behaves this way because he is, at his foundation, a bully.  He really is Biff Tannan, looking for someone to pick on so he can get a laugh from his toadies.

Trump does not want to be President because he loves America.  He wants to be President so he can bully people.

That's it.

If you support him, do some soul searching.  There is a part of you that is ok with that, maybe even longs for it.

I never realized in the 80s when the Back to The Future movies came out that a third of America was rooting for Biff.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Brain Buzz

When I was a teen, I was part of a competitive Bible quiz league.  We had competitions locally and went to a few national tournaments around the country during the year.

Essentially, you would commit a book of the Bible to memory and be asked questions about it.  Not just any questions, the question had to come directly out of the scripture.  You would never hear a question like, "How many disciples did Jesus have?" because that did not come word for word out of the scripture. 

Instead, they would take a verse like John 11:17 "On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days." and pull a word or a phrase out and stick an interrogative in its place (they could add a helping verb if necessary).  So, a question might read: "Who had already been in the tomb for four days?" Answer?  Lazarus.  Three teams of three to four "quizzers" would compete over 20 such questions.

However, most competitors' level of memorization was so complete, they didn't wait for the full question to finish.  They would buzz in on just a few words of the question: "Who had al..." and hope from that bit of the question, they could figure out where the verse was in 21 chapters of John and answer inside the 30 seconds given from the initial buzz.  You could formulate a question and answer or quote the entire section to be called correct.  (There is a story to my question example that a few Detroit quizzers MAY remember).

Anyways, sometimes over a few days of competition, your brain kind of went to mush.  You spent so much time concentrating, that after it was all over, there was just a low buzz in your brain.  Unlike the usual scattered thoughts that crowd for space, after a quizzing tournament, there was a weird brain silence.

It has been decades since I have felt that phenomenon, but I recognized it today.  After a week of remote teaching, my brain was just on fire.  This week I spent so much time focusing.  Much of what I do in teaching nowadays is 2nd nature... but there was none of that this week.  Every detail had to have my attention.  I wasn't just thinking, I was concentrating.  Nothing was automatic, the whole week was on manual control.

I am really tired... but it was all strangely satisfying.  Not saying I want to do that all the time... but it was like seeing an old friend experiencing that brain buzz again today.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Baby Killer?

I have friends and relatives who come at the abortion debate the way Mia Love did against Representative Ben McAdams - throw around talk about "murdering babies" and the thinking is done.  This is one of the reasons why Trump can literally get away with anything.  For some, once a candidate has said "pro-life" nothing else matters.  

They wonder why "baby killer" does not affect me more.  It is simple.  I know they are wrong.

They are focused on the optics of being pro-life.  To them, a lot of it is about the piety they get from the phrase... and the fact that it costs them nothing.

Recently, the Supreme Court upheld keeping some women from getting their birth control through their insurance.  Conservatives cheered this move.  They don't feel they should have to pay for women's "immorality".

This WILL cause abortion rates to go up.  If conservatives are against abortion, why support policies that increase it?  They are against it for the optics and piety part and in this scenario, those do not get touched.

Abortion threads its way into many issues - sex education, housing, wages, insurance, equal pay, child care.  How we handle these things as a society directly influences whether abortion rates go up or down.  

Conservatives tend to be loudly opposed to abortion rights and yet consistently back positions on issues that will cause abortion rates to rise.

Liberals tend to be loudly in favor of abortion rights and yet consistently back positions on issues that will cause abortion rates to fall.

This topic always reminds me of a question Jesus posed - “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?”

This is why I went to the "other side" after being "Pro-life" for a lifetime. I still have the same wish to reduce abortion, I just find that supporting women is more effective.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

That Is Simply Not Right

"If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the Lord your God."

This is the Word of the Lord, thanks be to God. It is the command from Jehovah who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is unchanging. This is the Holy Bible Deuteronomy 13.

Belief is a funny thing. If you quoted this verse to a typical right-wing Christian but switched out God for Allah and told them it was from the Koran they would have a much different reaction than if they knew from the start it was from the Old Testament. There are examples of this exercise on YouTube.

As bad as I think most right-wing Christians can behave while using the bible to justify their words and actions, I have never met one who would accept this verse at face value and carry it out. If pressed, they would start a song and dance about context and wiggle their way around it. However, I doubt they would allow a Muslim to have such wiggle room about similar scriptures in their Koran.

This is an example of Cognitive Dissonance - the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change. Any attempt to resolve the inconsistency results in distress. It is easy for anyone to slip into and only relentless self-reflection and a willingness to have one's ideas critiqued can keep it at bay.

I say this of right-wing Christians because most of mainline Christianity is comfortable saying the Bible is inspired... but not inerrant. To a lot of Christians, much of the bible is the human take on God. This is why in the Old Testament a believer could beat his slave to the point of death, whereas in the New Testament believers are commanded to treat their slaves well. If we had gotten to a part 3, slavery would have probably been forbidden.

But, as I said, even right-wing Christians don't go around killing folks who "try to turn them away from the Lord". Their conscience, which has matured beyond such brutality, knows that is simply not right.

It gives me hope that those same folks can start applying that conscience to other areas of the Bible and realize, "That is simply not right".

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Bernie AND Kasich for Biden

It was interesting seeing Bernie Sanders AND John Kasich speaking for Biden last night. I know that sent some folks on the edges into stress. For progressives, seeing Kasich confirmed their worst fears about Biden. For Republicans who don't wear a Maga hat, seeing Bernie makes them nervous.

As someone who works with the public daily, I take away a more hopeful view of Biden being book-ended by those two. As a teacher, I get students who are all over the academic map. Some start 2nd grade reading Harry Potter while others find Clifford the Big Red Dog to be challenging. They have different temperaments and learning styles. Beyond that, each of their parents has different ideas about academic priorities and engagement.

I can't be everything to everybody. However, every kid can know that I support them and will work at meeting their needs. Every parent can know that I am on their child's side in this effort. They can all be confident that I will move this class along the path from point A to point B.

I know Biden cannot completely satisfy Bernie or Kasich. However, he is showing that he will hear them, that he will work with them to meet the needs of Americans.

That is a 180-degree different message than the Trump team is putting out there. Looking at their convention's developing speaker list, it is clear they do not want all Americans with them. They have their narrow following and they are set with that. Their goal is to accentuate the gap between their base and the rest of America.

For me, this is an easy choice.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

When You Pray, Go Into Your Closet...

A lot is being said about the loss of religion in America. I suspect there is not so much "loss" as folks are no longer faking it or going along just to appease the social fabric. In reality, there are probably the same amount of believers and "nones" as there were fifty years ago... people just have more freedom to say "no thank you" than they did in the past.

When you look at what the conservative Christian Right is bemoaning, it tends to reflect things like in the meme - an inability to pressure people to do as they do. If you track the behavior of fundamentalist religion around the world, considerable effort is put into establishing the religious practices of certain sects into law and to apply pressure culturally where legal means fail.

I really like Marvel movies, but if you don't that is ok. I won't try to change local laws to make you go see Marvel movies.

Last fall I went to see GHOST in concert. No one I know is into them, so I went by myself. It was great and none of my friends felt any pressure to go with me.

If you are a religious person who feels that religion is treated less friendly in America today, I would ask that you consider that maybe it is simply your attitude and perception that need adjustment.

Monday, August 10, 2020

They Want To Microchip Us!

I was reading a thread on Facebook by old church friends and it drifted into the whole vaccine, microchip, mark of the Beast rabbit hole. I definitely would not want to get into that sticky web but I did toss in my history. After all, at 18 I was living in Texas at a religious commune called Last Days Ministries -

"Man, I was raised on Chick Tracts. Every new medical gadget or piece of wireless technology was an indicator that the Beast was surely around the corner. Every shift in geopolitics brought out another round of books from LaHaye, VanImpe, Wilkerson, etc.. showing how it was all predicted in Revelation. THEY were going to put a chip in our hand or barcodes on our foreheads. The Rapture was imminent. Another year or two, three at the most, before it all ends. Any day now... any day...

I bought into it. But the 70s went by, the 80s went by, somewhere in the 90s - even as a believer - I realized all of this had an element of conspiracy thinking in it and that I wasn't going to be flying skyward in a trumpet blast. Barring any disease, I was going to live to a ripe old age and die. That was quite a difference from the 18-year-old me who ALMOST didn't go to college because Jesus was surely coming back within the next year... two at the most.

There is a great scene in National Treasure where Jon Voight's character explains the attraction, and the trap, of conspiracy theories - "There is always another clue." Looking back over the decades, I can see where my religious community was always chasing down or promoting that new "clue". When nothing ever came of it, there was never a pause, never a time of reflection, never a call to maybe get off this train. We had already moved on to the next clue.

So, although there is a touch of nostalgia to seeing talk of microchipping and the mark of the Beast, I have lost the ability to be moved by it. :)"

Friday, July 17, 2020

When did America become Fredo?

Fredo Corleone: I'm your older brother, Mike, and I was stepped over!
Michael Corleone: That's the way Pop wanted it.
Fredo Corleone: It ain't the way I wanted it! I can handle things! I'm smart! Not like everybody says...like dumb...I'm smart and I want respect!
If you haven't seen The Godfather, Fredo is the eldest son of the "Godfather". Fredo is not the sharpest guy but he is sharp enough to realize it - and this makes him resentful. He is caught in a cycle of making bad decisions, hating everyone for noticing, which drives him to double-down on even worse decisions.

While the rest of the world is pulling itself out of the Covid pit, America is enthusiastically digging further down. We walked into this fight emaciated by the choices of our past and we further the damage presently with bad leadership and collective idiocy.

But, like Fredo, we demand respect. I watch the anti-mask crowd shake their fists in anger, resenting the world for looking on them as stupid. Talking heads like Limbaugh and Carlson fuel the Fredos of America and give them cohesion. Unlike the Godfather, in America's story, Fredo is taking over.

The American Fredo is now on the world stage making bad decisions while everyone else looks on in horror. And, like Fredo, we double down, frustrated that we are not getting the respect we believe we deserve. In our anger and desperation, we shout, "I can handle things! I'm smart! Not like everybody says...like dumb...I'm smart and I want respect!"

Friday, June 12, 2020


Think you might be harboring some unacknowledged racism? Here are some items that might point in that direction. No one thing, in and of itself, is a sure lock... but if you are stacking up on a number of these, ya might want to do a little reflection. I am sure I am missing a few, so please add.

1. The phrase "Black Lives Matter" sends you into a defensive response.

2. You ignore thousands of black people giving testimony about their experience with discrimination to find that one black person who says there is no such thing as racism.

3. You can't understand why people would think Trump is racist.

4. Since the murder of George Floyd, you have explained to about a dozen people that you aren't racist but...

5. Seeing a Confederate flag gives you a warm feeling of pride.

6. Out of the hundreds of thousands of people peacefully protesting, you are an expert at finding the ones who aren't.

7. Even though the meaning of White Privilege has been explained, you still refute the phrase with tales of how rough things have been for you as a white person and that you worked hard for what you have.

8. You gripe about protests being violent, but you also gripe when they are peaceful. In fact, it just gets under your skin when black people air a grievance.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Do Atheists Worship?

This is a common trope among some believers, often served in the form of "Atheists are religious too" or some other such delivery.

If challenged on this point, what usually follows is a watering down of the word "worship". As just happened in a discussion on the original thread, a person responded to me:
"...I view worship as whatever we deem worthy of our time, attention, adoration, money, and resources. Not all worship is bad, for believers “it” shouldn’t be worshipped more/higher than God. I do sincerely believe for example, modern sports obsession “for some” is a form of worship. From decals to literal idol statues, blankets, hours of focus, clothes, people will spend their time money and focus to a point of obsession... almost like we are hardwired that way..."
So they are now putting on par that what they think and feel about Jesus with what I think and feel about disc golf. Is that really the digression that believers like Keller want to make?

I don't think it is. I think their elevation of the word worship is much higher in usual circumstances... but for some reason, it bothers them that unbelievers don't "worship" anything. So, when this topic comes up, they broaden the definition of the word. Lots of believers I know partake in this linguistic sleight of hand. I think these believers need to do a little introspection into what drives them to such an approach.
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