Sunday, February 19, 2017

True | making sense of too much, too fast

When I feel overwhelmed by what ocassionally seem like too many words, too fast, from the 45th president of the United States, I find it helpful to recall several things we know:

1. In public, the 45th president of the United States has demonstrated no preference for truth over lies - and in some instances has demonstrated a preference for lies (e.g. birtherism, or any number of claims about political opponents).

2. When checked on obvious lies, the 45th president routinely makes excuses by shifting blame to unnamed sources (e.g. characterizing the 2016 Electoral College margin as the largest since Ronald Reagan, then saying he'd been told that).

3. The 45th president apparently expects to be held to a different sourcing standard than he holds for media outlets whom he has insisted are fake news if they choose to protect vulnerable sources.
Note: The above is not to be construed as cover for single-source, rumor-has-it, people-say reports from journalists, any more than from the White House.
4. POTUS45 has no history of self-correcting or retracting faulty, misleading, or provably false statements.

5. POTUS45 could begin turning this problem around at any time - not a rapid fix, in my opinion, but he's only 70, so maybe there's time.

Conclusion: Unless there is a verifiable change in these pattern, wisdom recommends quarantining statements from the 45th president of the United States and individuals and agencies who speak for him until such time as they are properly sourced.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Is it clear yet? | Women + Gun Violence

Are we clear that gun violence is a women's issue?
  • American women are 16 times more likely to be killed with a gun than in other high-income countries
  • In an average month, 50 women are shot to death by a current or former partner in the United States
  • Approximately 4.5 million American women have been threatened with guns, and guns are the weapon of choice in domestic violence murders
h\t Every Town for Gun Safety

Monday, January 09, 2017

Elementary Facebook Commentary on Obamacare

So, a friend comments on the post of someone who's made what I think is probably a fact-free assertion about The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is how that post lands in my Facebook feed - because my friend commented on it. Basically, then, when I comment that I need to see original sources on that assertion and will give it no more weight than dinner party gossip until such citations are supplied, my comment pushes the post I was reacting to into the feeds of other friends ... friends of friend of friends, or something like that.

I go away for the day and return to find that one of the friends who saw the post I saw because that first friend saw it, has vented ungenerously and at length in response to my response to that post. Not venting at me, you understand, because he knows me, and would almost certainly never say the things he said to friends of friends of friends of friends on Facebook. There are literally dozens of comments, many of them escalating back and forth between who don't know each other and don't want to.

That about gets you up to speed on how I came to write the following on the Facebook page of a friend of a friend:

We're all nominal adults here so I won't apologize for having a sometimes abrasive friend, but maybe I teed him up with my offhand remark about dinner party gossip. If so, I'm sorry about that. I'm sad to think this particular thread may be too far gone in the tall grass to find the way forward. 

Nevertheless, since so much of what's being said lies somewhere between hearsay and personal anecdote, I'll drop my own anecdote here, FWIW. 

I've lived in two, very different, states during the years The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been law. Both these states - California and Washington - went all-in on The Affordable Care Act from day one, and both have made a successful transition from what was to what is. 

What was - for my household - was insurance premiums going up between 26 percent and 39 percent every year, year after year. What was, for us, was rising deductibles and diminished benefits. What was, was my spouse paying a higher premium than me because she's a woman. What was, was hospitals and labs charging whatever they wanted, with no obligation to disclose their rates in advance, nor any obligation to make clear the details of those charges after the fact. What was, was the threat that we might see our coverage dropped because of long term health issues. What was, therefore, was the prospect of medical bankruptcy if, say, the economy tanked at the same time one of us suffered a high-cost medical crisis. And, if you're still with me, what was, was the shared hit every taxpayer took if her neighbor declared medical bankruptcy. 

What is, protects every one if us from medical bankruptcy; ensures that none of us can be disallowed coverage, period; requires that healthcare providers disclose and justify their charges or suffer marketplace consequences; guarantees that women and men are charged equitably; demands reasonable value for fees from insurers and healthcare providers, and makes them give us money back if they under-deliver.

Premiums continue to rise under what is, but far more slowly than under what was. At our house, that looks more like 10-12 percent in these years. And we're getting more for our money with what is, because the law was written to include basic preventive care.

So, two things:
  1. If your state declined to fully implement the Affordable Care Act, take it up with your near neighbors. The law was written to ensure that every state has every opportunity to take every advantage on behalf of every citizen. If your state has failed to do that, then your state has failed. Only you can fix that.
  2. The Affordable Care Act shoulda, coulda, woulda been better for everyone if everyone worked on it, instead of so many working against it. It still can be better...all the way to great, if we make it so. All that requires is looking each other in the eye and saying, "I'm for you...and if you're for me, then we're in this together, so how about we get this solved so we can move onto something less obvious - less elementary - than, "Hey, my neighbor and I would both like to be as healthy as possible for as long as possible so we can do as much good as possible for our families and communities, and so on..." I mean, that just seems like basic stuff to me, to the point that I find it shocking that people are screaming obscenities at each other over such a kindergarten concept as love your neighbor as yourself. 
Just between us adults, I suspect there may be much more interesting problems to solve than whether everyone should and can have access to decent healthcare. I say let's get that solved and move ahead with the interesting stuff.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Task Teenagers Can Do Better Than Anyone

Christian Youthworker friends,
As reports of post-election hate speech, harassment, intimidation and violence against racial, religious and sexual minorities continue to roll in — and given that more than a few of those reports involve school children and teenagers — there's much that youth workers can do to guide their groups to a fresh understanding that there is nothing Christian (nothing authentically American for that matter) about hate speech, intimidation, vandalism, or personal violence.
Going a step farther, if the biblical text is to be believed, there's something profoundly Christian about defending the weak, the poor, the sick, the broken, the captive, foreigners, widows, orphans, strangers....
You know that the teenagers you serve are better positioned to see and respond quickly to hate speech, harassment, intimidation, and student-on-student violence than anyone else.
If you don't have a better idea, do something with safety pins.
Put a largish safety pin on your shirt, dress, or jacket, and offer one to anybody willing to identify himself or herself as a safe person at school and in the neighborhood for friends and neighbors who feel unsafe because of the present turmoil ... in particular: Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, immigrants, pretty much anyone with dark skin, women and girls, sexual minorities - whoever in your community feels at risk ... in some communities it may be Trump supporters who feel at greater risk this week than before the election.
Safety Pin people will protect anyone who needs protecting by 
  • standing with them
  • eating with them
  • walking with them
  • sharing a ride with them
  • dialing 911 for them
  • recording video of anyone who threatens them
  • taking screen shots of anything that expresses violent intentions towards them online
  • standing up to online bullies and trolls
  • not allowing them to be physically isolated or cornered by anyone who means to harm them 
At the end of the day - whoever they are - if people who need help can't get it from folks who say they know a little something about God, then where exactly are they supposed to turn in your community?
There may never be a more teachable time to help your group understand and embrace this sort of proactive peacemaking than the space between now and the weekend of Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017.
Consider doing something to engage your group in caring about and speaking up for our dispossessed neighbors:

  • this week, to strike while the iron is hot
  • during Advent as we anticipate the coming of God with us
  • at Christmastide as we explore the meaning of God's intervention on our behalf
  • as we celebrate Martin Luther King, jr. Day, just before the Presidential Inauguration
  • the week, or weekend of the Inauguration
IMHO, sooner is better than later. And from now on, would be best of all.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Stop It | meanness + violence are not free speech

Michael Vadon cc
Two weeks ago, the President of the United State took pains# to correct Hillary Clinton supporters who were jeering at a Donald Trump supporter at a Clinton campaign rally. President Obama told the crowd to  respect the man as an apparent veteran, as an elder, and because we live live in a society that respects free speech.

Last night, President-Elect Donald J. Trump looked directly into a 60 Minutes camera and addressed supporters who have treated the outcome of the election as a license to harass, threaten, and even assault brown-skinned Americans, religious and sexual  minorities. He said, "Stop it!"

 That should take care of it, right? We're in this together.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Speaking Up | a burden we bear for each other

I'm deep in conversation the last couple of days with white friends who are deeply aggrieved that anyone would suggest they should, could, would, disavow the racism embodied in the one they voted for, and the acts of otherizing, intimidation, and violence committed by people who openly invoke his name and the violent, racist, sexist, chauvinist, classist signs and symbols he employed in gaining the election. They are hurt and seem angry that anyone asks them to account for any of that.

Now, I'm about to tell a true story. If you twist this story to say I am calling Donald Trump a terrorist, you will be consciously and deliberately misrepresenting what I'm saying and what I mean by what I'm saying. (For the record, the president-elect has threatened terrorist acts - e.g. killing the families of terrorists <http://www.nationalreview.com/article/428719/kill-terrorists-families-gangsta-trump> and torturing prisoners, "even if it doesn't work" <http://theweek.com/speedreads/590700/trump-bet-ass-approve-waterboarding--even-doesnt-work> - so that makes him someone to keep an eye on, but he is not alleged to have carried out acts of terrorism.) Anyway, reading further constitutes agreement that you will not represent me to have called Donald Trump a terrorist.

I'm friends with an American imam who patiently and graciously bears the burden of being lumped in with terrorists - who faces, and has faced for 15 years, constant demands that he disavow terrorists and terrorism. He has repeatedly, consistently, and passionately disavowed terrorism and terrorists with his spoken and written words, and by his actions as a Muslim and as an American. He never cast a vote for a terrorist, and he never would. But people outside his community still demand that he account for the demonstrable truth that people whose skin is brown like his, and who use religious language that, on the surface, sounds like the religious language he uses, have done, and say they intend to continue committing, acts that are commonly referred to as crimes against humanity. So the imam keeps disavowing the philosophy and practices of these people he never voted for and never would, because he sees how frightened the people outside his community are, and because he values the truth, and I suppose because he knows not everyone is going to read the Qur'an carefully enough and engage practicing Muslim neighbors deeply enough to find out what faithful Muslims value and what sort of people observant Muslims truly are. So he puts himself on the hook to speak out against wrongdoers for whom he did not vote, who he does not support, and, in fact has opposed since before 9/11. It's a burden he bears for others.

In that spirit - a burden lifted and carried for the sake of others - I'm asking my friends in the white majority who voted for Donald Trump to do just once what people demand of my Muslim friends all the time: Reassure us that, though your skin is the same color and you use religious language that sounds on the surface like the language of wrongdoers who presently feel empowered to harm people of color and religious and sexual minorities, that you disavow, clearly and unambiguously, the misogyny, racism, religious hate speech, classism, cultural chauvinism, and violence that seem to have come with the package - and in some cases seem to BE the package - your candidate and some of his supporters sold in this election ... because, while I'm not afraid of you personally, I am afraid that, if push comes to shove, you might not defend some people I love as much as I love you.

Friday, November 11, 2016

working for the common good | or not

ANARCHY IS NOT PROGRESSIVE.

Sorry, I didn't mean to shout but, 
if you practice 
hate speech, 
intimidation, 
vandalism, or 
personal violence, 
you are not my protester.

Youth Workers may never see a more teachable moment than this weekend to talk about Christian behavior toward classmates, friends + neighbors

Youthworker friends - this weekend is your clearest shot at guiding your group to a fresh understanding that there is nothing Christian (nothing authentically American for that matter) about hate speech, intimidation, vandalism, or personal violence. Going a step farther, if the biblical text is to be believed, there's something profoundly Christian about defending the weak, the poor, the sick, the broken, the captive, foreigners, widows, orphans, strangers.... If you don't have a better idea, call it Safety Pin Sunday. Put a largish safety pin on your shirt, dress, or jacket, and offer one to anybody willing to identify himself or herself as a safe person at school and in the neighborhood for friends and neighbors who feel unsafe because of the present turmoil ... in particular: Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, immigrants, pretty much anyone with dark skin, women and girls, sexual minorities - whoever in your community feels at risk ... in some communities it may be Trump supporters who feel at greater risk this week than before the election.

Safety Pin people will protect anyone who needs protecting by 
  • standing with them
  • eating with them
  • walking with them
  • sharing a ride with them
  • dialing 911 for them
  • recording video of anyone who threatens them
  • taking screen shots of anything that expresses violent intentions towards them online
  • standing up to online bullies and trolls
  • not allowing them to be physically isolated or cornered by anyone who means to harm them
At the end of the day - whoever they are - if people who need help can't get it from folks who say they know a little something about God, then where exactly are they supposed to turn in your community? There may never be a more teachable moment than this weekend to help your group understand and embrace this sort of proactive peacemaking right where they live.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Keep It To Yourself | Blind White Theologizing



My FaceBook feed is awash in, I presume well-meaning, platitudes from White people about just how all right everything is going to turn out in the wake of the 2016 elections. This strikes me as a particularly unfortunate form of whitesplaining.

Daniel Lee at Fuller Seminary posted overnight:
If your basic humanity is not threatened by Trump, does it make sense to invoke Christ's Lordship at this moment? Theological truth misused becomes a lie.
Wisdom for those with ears to hear.

It seems to me that any authentically Christian theology is necessarily incarnational - it's baked right into the word, "Christian," isn't it.... 

I don't see how any White - especially male - Christian who will not do everything possible to enter into the anguish of everyone who perceives the President Elect as an existential threat has any standing to speak theologically in this moment. And I think such people may forfeit that standing perpetually until the lessons of incarnation are internalized and subsequently expressed as compassion, and solidarity with those who suffer today.

To extend Daniel Lee's construct, "If you can't say something genuinely true, please don't say anything at all until you can." And I'll add that I'm pretty sure the promise of pie in the sky in the sweet by-and-by is cold comfort to people who hunger to see the self-described followers of Jesus embody the values and practices of God's kingdom right here and right now for the common good. Pie in the sky is junk food.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Friends + Neighbors in the Age of Trump | Vote

Jim Henderson | Imam Kamil Mufti | Rabbi Daniel Bogard | Pastor Jim Powell in Peoria IL October 30, 2016
Just back from Peoria, Illinois, where we premiered selected clips from the forthcoming No Joke documentary, in which a rabbi, an imam, and a preacher find out what it means to live together in peace as neighbors and Honest-to-God friends for life.

Running in parallel with the good-natured, often joyous, exchanges between the Rabbi Daniel Bogard,  Imam Kamil Mufti, and Pastor Jim Powell, I found a distressing thread of apprehension among American Muslims and Jews I talked with at the end of the evening: They are afraid for their safety from followers of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, and they are afraid for their wellbeing should Mr. Trump be elected.

And why wouldn't they be afraid?

On January 6, 1941, in his State of the Union Address to the 77th Congress, Franklin D. Roosevelt declared:
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. 
The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world. 
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world. 
The third is freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants - everywhere in the world. 
The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor — anywhere in the world. 
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.
Donald Trump has pledged to selectively dismantle each of these freedoms at the expense of all who are not White Christian Americans.

And so, it is White Christian Americans who must stand against Mr. Trump on Election Day to protect our fellow citizens of every race, every religion, and every economic condition from the assaults we would never, in a thousand millennia, wish on ourselves or our children.

If Rabbi Bogard and Imam Mufti are not, explicitly, my neighbors, then I have misunderstood, or distorted, what it means to be a Christian.

I can — and perhaps should — express this commitment to every Black American, every Native American, every Asian American, every Latin American, every Pacific Islander; and to people of every religion and no religion ... to every one among us ... but this is not a list-making exercise. I think the idea is reasonably clear.

If I do not stand up for the rights and protections of my neighbors as vigorously as I stand up for my own rights and protections, then I'm afraid I am a sorry excuse for an American.

Standing for the four freedoms — applied equally to every one of us — begins with the ballot I cast. My vote is not everything, but it is the first thing that makes protecting and advancing the four freedoms easier, or harder, in 21st-century America.