Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Man in the mirror

I'm still contemplating a two-panel cartoon I saw on Facebook earlier this month.

The one panel displayed a preacher asking his congregation, "Who wants change?" Every hand was raised.

The other showed him asking, "Who wants to change?" No hand was up, perhaps not surprisingly.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem with much of our modern political discourse. Few folks these days want to come to the table in humility and work with those who disagree and those that do are often considered turncoats.

Tonight’s Republican presidential debate showed Ted Cruz blaming “[liberal] media bias” for the questions he and the other hopefuls had to answer — but what it that’s really not the case? It’s an easy thing to say, but does he have the proof? I doubt it.

But not just politics, either — I’m also seeing it as a spiritual issue as well. Many folks say they look forward to the return of Jesus Christ; trouble is, they do so for the purpose of cleaning everyone else up or out so that they can live in peace with what they believe to be true. Thing is, when He does come He will change them as well, and they’ll see just how much they need to change.

And that can be painful and humiliating, but at some point the buck has to stop and we have to understand and accept our part in the mess and eventually make amends. That takes real guts, not to mention maturity.

Just ask anyone who’s ever attended 12-step recovery meetings, which I used to do. The process of recognizing and admitting one’s sins — getting specific, that is — is by definition humbling because it means having to take responsibility for one’s own actions and attitudes, something often not encouraged in a previous life. In other words, we simply don’t like to admit fault, often preferring to blame the “other guy.”

But, to solve problems, that won’t do. I’m reminded of the Michael Jackson song “Man in the Mirror”: “If you want to make the world a better place / Take a look at yourself and then make that change.”

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Asking the wrong question

Earlier this week former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified about the Benghazi situation two years ago at the House of Representatives — for a good 11 hours. As it happened at work I didn’t have the opportunity to watch any of the proceedings, but if reports are to be believed she stayed cool and composed while her questioners went off the rails.

And that didn’t surprise me in the least. For this reason: When you’re so filled with hatred toward someone you will eventually do or say something stupid that makes you look like the persecutor that you are.

That became clear when GOP congressmen said, inexplicably, on the Fox News Channel that their intention in holding all these hearings all along was to drive down Clinton’s favorability ratings. Which they’ve done, but in the process they exposed themselves as partisan hacks less interested in the four people that died on Sept. 11, 2013 than in keeping her out of the White House. But precisely because she remained cool under fire the entire process backfired, making her look like the best choice.

“So, how do we take her down?”, people might be asking at this point.

That’s the wrong question.

Too many of us have such a focus on defeating an “enemy” that we don’t consider what we might do differently and positively. We should have learned that when her husband Bill was president but didn’t do so, and it’s a factor in President Obama’s enduring popularity despite Democratic losses in last year’s midterms.

So, at this point what was intended to be a situation where Hillary was supposed to slip may turn out to be a nail in the coffin of whomever might run against her in next year’s general election. Moral of the story: Don’t put all your eggs in the basket of hoping the other person loses.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Might making right? Not so fast …

“But you’ve got to kill the terrorists before the killing stops. And I’m for the president to chase them all over the world. If it takes 10 years, blow them all away in the name of the LORD.”

— Jerry Falwell, CNN Late Edition, Oct. 24, 2004

Oh, really? Killing terrorists will destroy terrorism? Whom did he think he was dealing with, really?

Falwell’s inane comment, however, was a sign of a bigger issue: The idea that simply threatening to use force will cause people to behave the way we want them to and, combined with the arrogance that we’re always right, that can lead only to trouble.

I’m specifically referring to two things: Militarism abroad and the large number of recent mass shootings, primarily but not exclusively in schools.

In the latter, it’s been suggested that if people, most notably teachers, were armed such mass shootings wouldn’t even take place. The theory goes that snipers would think twice about shooting up places if the public were packing heat.

The trouble is that we’re not dealing with rational people, many of which likely have a death wish as it is (recall that most of them take their own lives during their respective rampages). And in the case of the shooter in the theater in Aurora, Colo. two years ago, he had the foresight to spray tear gas before he started shooting, making such self-defense impossible. Besides that, it’s several times more probable that an innocent person will be killed with a gun at home as opposed to a criminal — and, on top of that, if someone burglarizes a house a gun might be the first thing he looks for.

And then, with the advent of the so-called Islamic State, others are saying that we should send in troops and take it out. Trouble is, as President Obama said correctly during this year’s National Prayer Breakfast, ISIS is a “death cult” that won’t be stopped by simply killing its members. According to its twisted interpretation of Islam, dying in battle is the highest good — and that in its own right makes it attractive to potential recruits. Besides, we’re already in the hole due to our excursion into Iraq to settle a personal score President George W. Bush had with Saddam Hussein.

When Jesus walked this earth the Roman Empire was at peace, relatively speaking. But it was the “Pax Romana,” enforced by the point of a sword — that no one messed with Rome. Trouble was, Israel in that day was undergoing a revival of patriotism, with plenty of resentment toward Rome and a desire to defeat it. (Rome of course was eventually defeated, not by military might but because the then-nascent Christian church simply outlasted it.

I’m not taking a position on gun control or military strength; we just need to think about what we have and how to use it judiciously lest innocent people be victimized by them. See, intimidation has its limits.