When California deems other states’ laws as discriminatory, what do they do? They pass discriminatory laws to fight these discriminatory laws.
“Our country has made great strides in dismantling prejudicial laws that have deprived too many of our fellow Americans of their precious rights,” trumpets California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
So in the spirit of prejudicial law dismantling, California has assembled a prejudicial law (AB 1887) that restricts state-funded travel to Tennessee, North Carolina, Mississippi, Kansas, Alabama, Kentucky, South Dakota and Texas.
“While the California DOJ works to protect the rights of all our people, discriminatory laws in any part of our country send all of us several steps back,” says Becerra. “That’s why when California said we would not tolerate discrimination against LGBTQ members of our community, we meant it.”
Make no mistake—California is committed to the intolerance of intolerance. Especially with beliefs they cannot tolerate.
It seems that California lawmakers considers any community in any state as their community and will not tolerate discrimination against any LGBTQ member in any community…because they’re part of California’s (global) LGBTQ community, you see. Wait…what?
We are the world. Or at least the nation. Or maybe just the state.
Which discriminatory laws of other states prompted heroic measures like AB 1887? Here’s one:
Mississippi’s “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” (House Bill 1523) prohibits the state from discriminating against churches and businesses that believe marriage should be between one man and one woman and who decline to provide services to facilitate same sex marriages because doing so would violate “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”
South Dakota’s Senate Bill 149 shields faith-based and private child placement agencies from state-sponsored discriminatory measures. This means that if these agencies refuse to provide any service, including adoption or foster care services, on the basis of their religious convictions, the state will not retaliate against them.
So rather than “opening the door to discrimination” as opponents claim, the bills actually close the door on state-sponsored discrimination against the free exercise of religion—in theses cases—the violation of religious entities sincerely held beliefs.
Chucking the discriminatory First Amendment
State retaliation against religious entities, which violates the First Amendment separation of church and state, is an unconstitutional practice California champions and demands that other states employ…or…dun dun DUN! They’ll wield the incredibly intimidating travel ban.
It seems that Texas and the other pariah states are shaking in their boots. Here’s a response from the Texas Governor’s office: “California may be able to stop their state employees, but they can’t stop all the businesses that are fleeing over taxation and regulation and relocating to Texas.”
Snark attacks and giggles aside, the crux of this debate is this:
California considers faith-based entities sincerely held beliefs concerning gender, marriage and sexuality backward and discriminatory. They will not tolerate discrimination in any form, but don’t seem to realize that using state power to discriminate against entities they deem discriminatory is a form of discrimination. And so is their silly travel ban.
Or worse—they know very well that they’re doing the very thing they decry, but justify it based on their sincerely held beliefs. Beliefs that run counter to theirs “send all of us several steps back,” as California Attorney General Xavier Becerra so sanctimoniously pronounced.
According to Becerra, California will not tolerate people being “deprived” of their “precious” rights—except those people whom California seeks to deprive of their constitutional religious liberty rights.
Dear Governor Brown and California lawmakers,
If your voters allow you to abuse the power of your state to discriminate against citizens and private businesses, that’s their failure. Why would you expect other states to believe as you do and jettison the constitutional separation of church and state? Do you truly believe that your beliefs about gender, marriage and sexuality trump others’ beliefs?
A travel ban? Really? AB 1887 makes you look arrogant, small-minded and silly. Sorry, but your bill is as impotent as it is self-important.
Here’s a time-tested truth: Your sincerely held beliefs about marriage and gender are the product of a relatively recent zeitgeist and are shared by a minority. Notwithstanding, the Constitution protects your right to hold them.
Vast majorities in societies worldwide for centuries have embraced sincerely held beliefs regarding marriage and gender. Don’t they deserve the same protection?
I’ve noticed something about California lawmakers: They don’t trust us citizens to be good people on our own. So they create laws to help us become better people … with their help.
As a doofus Texan, do I need the enlightened folks in Sacramento to help me be a better person? Nope. When it comes to lightbulbs and handguns, I need a nanny state like I need a hole in the head.
Take the legislative push to help Californians use less energy, for instance. If you add floodlights to the outside of your home, by law they must have motion sensors that kick them on when the neighbor’s cat triggers them at 3 a.m.
Why can’t you just leave them turned off when you go to bed, you ask? Because this is much too commonsensical. You see most Californians can’t be trusted to turn off their floodlights before turning in.
The folks in Sacramento know this right well, which is why they created a law to help mitigate our thoughtlessness.
However, if you buy newer, more efficient LED floodlights, you don’t need a motion sensor built in. It’s kind of a carrot, you see—do the right thing, and buy an energy efficient LED floodlight, and it doesn’t matter that you’re still likely to leave your floodlight on. This way, thoughtlessly burning it all night uses much less energy.
I have LEDs because they use a fraction of the energy fluorescents and incandescents use. It’s smart and cheaper. Do I need a law to be wise and thrifty? Do you?
Guns Guns GUNS!
The handling of the “gun issue” in California is the mother of all efforts to make us citizens better people. And here’s an irony—once a part of the Old West where saloon disputes were solved with revolvers on main street, California has become an overprotective, hyper-legislative wuss of a state.
Texas is the rootinest tootinest shootinest hombre east and north of the Rio Grande. And for some reason, I take a heap of pride in this distinction. Mostly for this reason—through all its bluster, Texas runs on common sense.
Funny thing is that for years as a Texas resident, I didn’t give a hoot about owning a gun. But after moving to California and experiencing the angst and annoyance many Northern Californians felt during the Obama years, I now exercise my Second Amendment rights with grit and gusto.
You see when a silly pseudo-Old West state like California tries to force itself on me for my own protection, I’m likely to protect myself from it. It’s called Freedom, and it’s mighty scarce ’round here.
A matter of trust
It all boils down to this: California lawmakers, many of them hailing from the Northeast either directly or one or two generations removed, don’t trust their citizens—or anyone for that matter—to do the right thing. This goes for energy use and for self and/or property protection.
In the case of firearms, these Yankee know-it-alls think California citizens don’t need those dangerous, treacherous things. Do you know how many people guns kill people in California annually? A big, fat zero. Criminals kill people…with guns.
Not sure the folks in “Sac” as they call the Cali capitol ’round here understand something elementary about guns: They need a finger to trigger them. Otherwise, they’re just pieces of steel or alloy. And limiting their magazines to 10 rounds won’t do a thing.
You see, it’s not like bad people are gonna abide by the law and make sure their magazines are legal capacity. They don’t follow the rules in getting weapons; why would they give two shakes about a 10-round magazine limit?
Logical state: Criminals will always have and use guns. Logical measure: Allow more good guys and girls to have guns. Logical conclusion: Good can more effectively combat evil.
Update: Well, what do you know? This happened in Texas on Wednesday, May 3, 2017—just three days before this post:
Good guy with gun stops bad guy with gun and saves others.
In the rare instance a background-checked and trained conceal carry licensed citizen can use his or her weapon to protect others and him or herself, the 10-round limit gives the criminal the advantage in a firefight.
Here’s an idea: Instead of forcing citizens to carry more magazines (which negates concealment, by the way), why not let conceal carry permit holders use magazines that hold as many rounds as the handgun can manage?
Level the playing field between good guy and bad guy, right? Common sense? Nope.
California lawmakers don’t consider this commonsensical; they think it’s dangerous. Why? The answer brings us back to an earlier point: If they don’t trust us to turn off floodlights, why would they trust us with guns?
The truth is they would like to forbid gun ownership in California … period. It’s that simple. They think citizens who want to own and use guns shouldn’t.
Their legislative message is this: Don’t be a right-wing, gun-crazy nutjob. That’s what Texans are for.
Talk about hogs running the proverbial animal farm. In North Korea, a prodigious propaganda machine powers a chubby pseudo-deity with a funny haircut who runs the whole stinking show.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), commonly referred to as North Korea, maintains a cult of personality that venerates three generations of dictators: grandfather, Kim Il-sung, father Kim Jong-il, and current man-god, Kim Jong-un.
Its depth and scope of misinformation and brainwashing surpasses even that of Stalinist Russia. Like all cults and dictatorships, North Korea elevates flawed, capricious men and transforms them into semi-gods in the minds of citizens who come to believe their leaders can do wrong.
North Korea’s tandem of propaganda and cult of personality is especially effective because it leverages a national identity of civic duty and loyalty to leadership.
Propagating a god
The Kim family cult began around 1949 during the rule of Kim Jong-un’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung. Through ubiquitous propaganda and “education,” North Korea’s youngest citizens were taught that they were fed, clothed and nurtured in all aspects by the “grace of the Chairman.”
One of these children, defector and author Kang Chol-hwan, describes the state-sponsored delusion like this:
“To my childish eyes and to those of all my friends, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il were perfect beings, untarnished by any base human function. I was convinced, as we all were, that neither of them urinated or defecated.
Who could imagine such things of gods?”
Cra cra? It’s not that simple. The power of propaganda and the cult of personality are immense and virtually all-consuming. Brainwashing is an effective mind-control tool. Just ask former Scientologists, cult members and defectors of totalitarian regimes.
Glorious leader forever
Kim Il-sung is the Eternal President. Eternally. Why? Because after becoming the nation’s first president, he had the position retired. It’s like when an American sports team retires a legendary player’s jersey number. Another legend can follow; but none can ever wear the first legend’s number.
The Eternal President’s likeness also is virtually eternal. There are a roughly 34,000 statues of him in North Korea. His birthday is the equivalent of the American Fourth of July. And, of course, his greatness is taught in the classroom.
Students memorize Kim Il-sung’s speeches and marvel at his state-imagined accomplishments, like when he single-handedly defeated the Japanese at the end of the occupation of Korea.
Over the course of his 46-year rule, Kim Il-sung was granted many titles such as Sun, Great Chairman, Heavenly Leader and others. He also was awarded the “Double Hero Gold Medal” because, after all, a double hero is twice as good as a single one.
The North Korean state even created a calendar just for Kim Il-sung. While the rest of the world operates in 2017, North Korea’s current year is “Juche 105” (105 years after the Eternal President’s birth).
Rainbows and uniforms
North Korea’s propaganda machine engaged in myth-making for Kim Il-sung’s son, Kim Jong-il, as well. According to legend, his birth was heralded by a swallow and caused winter to change to spring, a star to light the sky, and a double rainbow to spontaneously appear.
Propaganda has it that Kim Jong-il could walk and talk before the age of six months and control the weather based on his mood, among other state-issued accomplishments.
Like shooting a 38-under par the first time he picked up a golf club. This epic links outing included no less that 11 holes in one. Reportedly, it was so easy that he quickly grew bored with the game and ceremoniously retired.
According to Kim Jong-il’s official biography, he authored 1,500 books during his three years at his father’s college, Kim-Il-sung University. Somehow between his book writing and studies, he found time to pen six full operas—”all of which are better than any in the history of music,” declares the biography.
When Kim Il-sung died in 1994, Kim Jong-il declared a national mourning period for three years. Three years?
Man, that’s a long time to grieve—legitimately or otherwise. To help his people maintain a tearful facade, the Dear Leader punished those who faltered in following state-written mourning rules.
Not to be outdone, the current despot Kim Jong-un holds at least six titles, one of which makes him “Wonsu,” the second highest rank in North Korea’s military despite having no military experience. And this “promotion” is in addition to his title of Supreme Commander.
Apparently, Kim Jong-un, like his father, was also a prodigy. North Korean students are instructed that he could drive at three and win yacht races at nine. And that he’s a skilled artist and composer of musical scores.
Life as a god-king
Kim Jong-un enjoys unworldly opulence while most in his locked-down nation live barely above or in abject poverty. He smokes Western cigarettes, plays video games, rides jet skis and indulges an NBA basketball fetish while his communist comrades feed the machine that powers his imperial fun.
But he does put down his Xbox controller and cigarette long enough to order up some real-world destruction. According to South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, Kim Jong-un has executed at least 70 officials since taking power.
And to keep his own family members in line, he whacked his uncle, Jang Song Thaek and had his older half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, assassinated in Malaysia.
Kim Jong-un’s seemingly favorite method of execution is death by anti-aircraft guns. Cute. How Dr. Evilesque—but without the funny.
Like all dictators. Kim Jong-un wields a crazy amount of power and more than any mortal can handle. Especially for someone who’s lived an unreal and kingly life for all of his 32-35 years. (We can’t be sure of his age because the exact year of his birth seems to be a state secret.)
One thing’s for certain though—Kim Jong-un’s upbringing and sheltered existence makes Donald Trump’s childhood seem mundanely normal. But it’s his ideology that makes the portly man-god dangerous and unpredictable.
And here’s the scariest part: Kim Jong-un has his pudgy finger on the nuclear and chemical weapons buttons of the DPRK. Worse, he’s seeking intercontinental warhead delivery capability. Scary stuff, indeed.
Update: 4.20.17 breaking news in typical DPRK style…
So now the world waits to see if our loose cannon of a president can stare down a porky young ruler with a questionable grip on reality and pressure him into giving up his nuclear weapons aims. Fat chance.
Call me crazy, but it seems a fool’s errand to get this nutty guy to back down now when he’s never had to before. Trump would do better to offer him lifetime courtside tickets to any and all NBA games.
I fear force is the only pressure point to which the Supreme Leader will respond. Apparently, Kim Jong-un doesn’t listen to cautions from big brother China. Meanwhile, his people starve and suffer under yet another Communist failure of a state.
Socialism is a nice idea that does not work precisely because its tenets run counter to human nature. People will always want to rise above others and take more than their share of the loaf of bread. It’s just how we are.
We’re bent by greed, malice, selfishness and a corrupt, broken world that’s incompatible with the empty promises of socialism.
Communism is socialism with teeth; and it provides a barnyard for the strongest pigs to take over the farm. It happened in Russia and Cuba and China and elsewhere. Sadly, swine rule is firmly in place in North Korea even as its soldiers blindly goose-step for state cameras while grinding the hopes of true freedom underfoot.
While watching Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s Senate hearing, it hit me like a bolt out of the blue—our BIG issue as a nation is not Russian election meddling or LGBTQ rights—it’s our embrace of subjective truth.
I watched a senator say our Constitution is a living, breathing document that should adapt to the times. As if the principles of American liberty require adjustment because things have changed so much in a mere 229 years.
Does the senator truly believe we should reinterpret meaning in a static document simply because it’s more to her liking? And more to the liking of people who pretend that the truths woven into the Constitution are somehow less true with the passage of time?
The notion that truth is subjective is an absolute non-starter—and it’s faulty thinking.
If truth doesn’t exist, then it would be true that truth doesn’t exist, and once again we arrive at truth. ~Nabeel Qureshi
Truth is, we all operate in a world of absolute truth, and we all affirm its supremacy a thousand times a day whether we realize it or not.
During the same hearing, another senator described the type of Supreme Court justice American needs right now.
It went something like this:
America needs a Supreme Court justice who will look out for the downtrodden. One who will protect our children and keep the rich from taking advantage of the poor.
Excuse me, senator, protecting our children and the poor is your job, not a Supreme Court justice’s. You draft and vote on laws; our justices make sure those laws are Constitutional. This is how our democracy works.
Progressive beliefs, regressive truth
Similarly, the progressive wing of the emerging church believes that the Bible is not Scripture because, as a “library of books,” it was written by men whose prejudices and viewpoints make it unreliable as a guide for Christian living.
Question: If the Bible is a library of books, who’s the managing editor?
But rather than reject all Scripture, emerging church leaders cherry-pick Bible truths they can live with it. Like the uber-easily digestible maxim that God is love. But to them, God is only love. He doesn’t ask anything of them in terms of obedience or justice or sharing truth, no matter how unpopular.
To these spiritual progressives, we all have carte blanche to live for others without structure and without guidance other than what we feel is right. This eliminates personal responsibility and accountability.
Is not spiritual life without the truth of Scripture like self-governance without a timeless Constitution?
When either incompatible state is taken to its logical conclusion, the result is anarchy.
If there is no objective truth, how can we know the Constitution OR the Bible is reliable?
In the minds of progressives—in culture, government and religion—truth is purely subjective. Except when it comes to bolstering an agenda; then helpful truths quickly become absolute.
Like these convenient truths:
All men are created equal. This truth actually means that everyone is created with equal worth to the Creator. It has been subverted to mean that everyone IS equal and thus should be given every opportunity to act upon this equality through denigrating measures such as affirmative action.
God is love. According to Scripture, love is only one of God’s attributes. The Bible also says God is holy and just and righteous and pure. These characteristics, if true, call for accountability and responsibility—just as our Constitution calls for rule of law based on self-evident truths.
When progressives disregard the Constitution’s or Scripture’s authority, there is no rule of law—civically or spiritually.
Care for the poor. This is where progressives in religion and politics coalesce and differ most strongly with evangelicals and conservatives. But it’s not a question of if we should help the poor; it’s how.
Progressives think the federal government is best suited to help the poor. Conservatives think state and local government and religious groups and churches are best suited to help the poor.
I receive care from the federal government—the Veteran’s Administration. Trust me, the federal government is a ponderous, inefficient caregiver; it’s far from ideal. Local volunteers and people on the ground who can help poor people help themselves are much better suited to make a real, lasting difference.
When we leave caring for the poor to the federal government, we wash our hands of them.
The poor become enslaved to a system that crushes their spirits and keeps them dependent.
If political progressives think we should give people what they need without encouraging them to give themselves what they need, they do not understand human nature. If religious progressives think the Creator is all love and is not holy and pure and just and that the Bible is not reliable, they do not understand God’s nature or human nature.
Because our topic is subjective truth and its effect on the rule of law and the reliability of Scripture, allow me to offer these concluding arguments:
But first an observation:
I’ve never seen such a starkly obvious difference between those who rely upon Constitutional and Scriptural authority for governance and interacting with God and others and those who seek to create their own framework for the same. This self-created framework is based on feeling rather than thinking, emotion rather than cognition.
Today’s progressives in the political and religious arenas seem to have forgotten this objective truth: What feels right is not always what is or ought to be right.
Subjective truth is by its nature not true. If a tree falls in a forest, it’s irrelevant whether anyone is there to hear its crash. And no, God cannot create a rock that even he can’t move. The size and weight of the rock is irrelevant. If he can make it, he can move it.
Subjective truth is the pig that doesn’t fly.
It’s a sideshow clown who distracts and pleases childish minds with colorful balloon dogs. It’s a non-entity that binds the minds of many.
And sadly, its effect is on full display in our Senate chambers as we seek to confirm a Supreme Court justice whose job is to ignore subjective non-truths in favor of the rich tapestry of truth and human dignity found in our Constitution.
My message to Congress and my fellow politically- and/or spiritually-minded Americans is this:
Let go of the lead balloon of subjective nonsense and soar on the wings of truth. It will truly set you free.
That pesky Putin and his friggin’ Fancy Bear hackers … did they help Trump win? The startlingly shallow exposé that follows uncovers nothing, but answers everything. Enjoy.
Election interference. A KGB connection. An East-Meets-West Bromance of Trumputinian proportions. It reads like a scintillating spy novel and plays in the press like an international crime of the century.
Did the Russkies influence the outcome of the election? Did the press blow it? “Fake news” hurt Hillary?
Here’s the cold, hard truth—it doesn’t matter one whit who did what—Trump is our president, and there’s not a dang thing we can do about it.
But it IS fun to point fingers. And conspiracy theories about Russia haven’t been this juicy since the Cold War.
Let’s dig deeper
Suppose the Russians DID influence our election. How’d they pull this off and why? Does Putin despise Hillary? If so, perhaps it’s because of that silly RESET button that translated to “overload” in Russian.
Did Putin take this as a subtle snark attack on his manhood? Like maybe he thought Hillary was zinging him for his many manly shirtless horseman photos? Or for his overcharged martial arts machismo?
Granted, Putin and Hillary don’t seem to like each other. But I figured it’s because he’s a man and she’s a woman. Does the hatred run deep enough to sic his Fancy Bear hackers on her?
What we know and don’t know
The DNC servers got hacked, and WikiLeaks laid bare Hillary’s operatives’ election misdeeds. Did this influence the election? Probably. Should whoever hacked the DNC servers also have hacked the RNC’s? Who says they didn’t?
If they did, but chose not to release Trump’s nefarious election dealings, is it because there was nothing to release? Okay, I know what you’re thinking—are you kidding me? Trump and his Trumplings are as crooked as the day is long. You’re probably right.
But we don’t know they’re crooked based on any hard evidence. We DO know about Hillary’s minions’ odious dealings concerning Bernie Sanders. Everything else is innuendo and blind Trump hatred. You can run with innuendo all you like—it’s a free country. Uber Doofus rolls with facts.
But it isn’t FAIR
What does fairness have to do with anything? The virtue making of fairness is a uniquely American construct. The rest of the world doesn’t play that way. And if we’re honest, neither do we. For sure, Putin’s (former?) KGB operatives don’t trouble themselves with fairness.
How hackers “interfered”
Let’s analyze this election interference stuff.
Hackers hack DNC servers. In doing so, they uncover bad and “unfair” stuff. WikiLeaks publishes it. Hillary takes hits in the form of distractions that slow her momentum. Trump capitalizes by bloviating nonstop about her untrustworthiness.
Seems like politics as usual.
Did the hackers make this stuff up about Hillary’s campaign? Did they create fake emails and disguise them as John Podesta’s or Debbie Wasserman Shultz’s? I haven’t heard or read any denials from either of these schmucks. Have you?
They screwed up and got caught.
Hackers uncovered damaging information, and WikiLeaks simply revealed it to us voters. Is this election interference? Nope. Did it influence voters? Yup. But there’s a big difference between influence and interference.
If this “interference” is actually influence by information giving, please, Russkies, interfere EVERY time. And make sure you do so with both or all the candidates.
When voting for president, I like raw information. We don’t get it from our media, so why not get it from WikiLeaks? It’s funny how every other scrap of info WikiLeaks has provided—NOT Hillary-related—is praised with none of this handwringing over fairness.
The BIGLY question answered
Did the Russian (or whoever) hackers help Trump win? Who knows? But here’s what we DO know:
Damning emails helped Trump win. Sleazy Hillary operatives helped Trump win. Hillary’s arrogance, secret server and elitist and dismissive deplorable comments helped Trump win.
Trump’s capitalizing on an eight-year anger build helped Trump win. INFORMATION helped Trump win.
American voters helped Trump win.
Does Putin have a bromance with Trump? I don’t know, and I don’t care.
But I doubt it because Putin is all about Putin. He’ll do or say whatever he thinks will best preserve and expand his power while, secondarily, furthering Russia’s interests. Trump’s probably the same way, except for a niggling streak of patriotism that may counter his power trip.
Perhaps that’s why Putin and Hillary hate each other. They’re more alike than they are different. Maybe it’s a matter of conflicting interests:
Hillary wanted to reign in Putin’s power and Russia’s influence through sanctions and pressure. Putin wants to do the same to us by any means possible.
Trump wants to work with Putin by schmoozing and making deals. At least for now.
Siberian-cold, hard election truths
Those who keep beating this dead horse wouldn’t give a Russian rat’s arse about any election interference, if their candidate had won. Stop whining, and give our electorate a little more credit.
But they don’t and won’t because they can’t accept the idea that Trump voters may not ALL be the caricatures the “resistance” and our media portrays them as: Angry, ignorant, deplorable Bible-clingers and gun toters.
Maybe, just maybe, many are thoughtful, value-driven, high-information voters who carefully consider any and all information about the candidates—no matter how it’s acquired—and then vote accordingly.
Is it possible that some Trump voters voted for the platform and not for the pervert? Should they have voted for his criminal opponent? If they had, there’d still be a pervert in the palace—a prowler of interns with a presidential wife to protect him by destroying even more women.
Hey, Russian hacker/Putin monster makers—Get over it. The election is done and in the books. Instead of chasing Russian ghosts, let’s secure our servers.
Intelligence agencies—Show us what you’ve got on this election interference jazz. Otherwise shut up and stop hassling Americans who don’t deserve your carte blanche surveillance.
Angry protesters—Hack this: Your candidate lost because she sucked a little more than her opponent.
It’s high time to let it go.
Trump’s our president. Like him or not, we’re stuck with him until 2020, at least. Let’s make the best of it.
Trump’s war on the media is a THREAT to democracy? Please. Here you go again with hysterics, hyperbole and chicken-little reports.
Dear, media, your estimation of your importance to our democracy is vastly overblown.
As a journalist, I know. Here’s one reason why:
Too many of you journalists are way too full of yourselves. Your vaunted “objectivity” is an antiquated notion believed by numbskulls. I don’t blame you for this—you’re only human. But humans are incapable of objectivity. Especially those who scribble in newsrooms.
And, most especially, those who still fancy themselves part of the … dun dun DUN! … Fourth Estate. What? Is this a secret snobby society? It’s not secret, but it IS secretive … and, yeah, kinda snobby.
The Fourth Estate can be defined as: A societal or political force or institution whose influence is not officially recognized. The Fourth Estate commonly refers to the news media, especially print journalism or “the press.”
In 1841 England, Thomas Carlyle, borrowing the phrase from Edmund Burke, used it to trumpet the power of the press in the reporters’ gallery in Parliament. He saw the press as an essential fourth estate tasked to “check” the three traditional estates of the realm: the church, the nobility and the commoners.
In the U.S., the fourth estate—better known as “the media”—has no direct equivalent to the English estates of the realm. But it DOES serve as an independent check on our three government branches.
How it’s supposed to work
Let’s say the executive branch, the president, acts in ways that are potentially criminal or “undemocratic.” Journalists ferret out information and evidence that exposes wrongdoing. They “blow the whistle” on the president just like they did when breaking the Watergate scandal. Boom! Busted.
By the way, members of the fourth estate—I’ll call them “Estatesmen” because it’s fun—raise the specter of Watergate any time they perceive an abuse of power by an administration. After all, breaking Watergate is the American press’ 20th-century crowning achievement.
Justices have more fun
So, what of the other two government branches? The judicial branch seems untouchable by Estatesmen. But then, legal decisions take much more time and effort to understand in order to attack. Plus, many of the big rulings have lately gone the way Estatesmen think they should.
The legislative branch—Congress—has always been open season. And it’s easier to take them down than it is a president. So, in a sense, the media does serve as a check on at least two of three genuine branches of government.
Which begs the question: Who CHECKS the media?
Check, yes. Government branch, no.
The notion that the modern media is a “Fourth Estate” that functions unofficially as a branch of government is merely a rhetorical device, not a serious statement of fact. It’s used to describe the power of the press in the realm of politics.
The American media is supposed to be this—a standard bearer for our right to freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment. Journalists, as citizens and members of the press, simply exercise their freedom of speech for a living—and are SUPPOSED to do so to INFORM us.
Specifically, journalists are trained to ask effective questions and craft stories for our information consumption. They inform us about our government by gleaning information through access to politicians, press conferences, and other info-gathering opportunities.
This should be the media’s function. There’s no mysterious, monolithic “Fourth Estate.” The fourth estate nonsense sounds impressive, but it’s fantasy and the stuff of Hollywood. It’s merely a media self-importance construct borrowed from an old English idea.
From informers to influencers
The fourth estate biz is silly. But it’s not dangerous like this truism:
Our media no longer merely provides information; they seek to shape public opinion. And what’s worse—they use their power to influence government policy so that it conforms to what they think is best for us.
That’s why, as a trained journalist and thoughtful citizen, the following relatively new teaser headline approach irks me … to the fourth estate.
It goes like this:
“Issue X: Here’s what you need to know” yada yada. Uh, excuse me; don’t tell me what I need to know. I can decide what I need to know based on raw information.
Hey, media—just do your jobs—INFORM me. Don’t try to INFLUENCE me by telling me what YOU think I NEED to know. The attempt to influence us and shape our opinions used to be more subtle. Not anymore. It’s obvious, ubiquitous … and dangerous.
The media’s self-appointed mission to shape opinion and effect change—change they deem best for us— THIS is the threat to democracy.
Journalists not entertainers
Just to be clear, when I refer to the media, I’m not talking about entertainment/partisan media—Fox, MSNBC, HuffPo and others. O’Reilly, Hannity, and Maddow aren’t journalists; they’re personalities and “opinioneers.”
It’s not about you, Bill. O’Reilly: Passion and pompousness in one “pithy” package.
I’m talking about hard-core news media like ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, BBC, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, et al.
We should expect over-the-top, red-hot, partisan and biased “news” from “opinioneers” and those who are under no illusions about what they provide and the bias they bring with it.
The real pretenders are the “venerable” journalists—the stodgy Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Woodward and Bernstein and now Jake Tapper types who claim objectivity and professionalism, but deliver biased, often overwrought opinion news.
And, by the way, media bias is not a right-wing conspiracy theory. Bias transcends media—it’s a uniquely and inextricably human characteristic.
Giggling grad student
While sitting in classes earning my master’s degree in journalism at the University of North Texas, I often had to stifle giggles when listening to one of my professors teach Media Ethics. As if the seriousness of the fourth estate stuff wasn’t funny enough, he ventured this hot opinion:
“You know, this thing about the media being biased, it’s not really true. The media is remarkably objective.”
I nearly fell out of my chair. At the time, I had recently finished a few months of internships at two local TV stations. The freshly tenured professor, I’ll call him Dr. Lane, was 10 years or so into his career, first in media development in Africa and the previous three years on faculty at UNT.
The professor probably had less recent newsroom experience that I did.
Typically, I would’ve challenged him on his ludicrous statement, as I had on a few others, but I couldn’t trust myself to choke down laughter. Plus, from the looks of a few of the other grad students, I didn’t have to. It was rich.
How do newsrooms seek to influence public opinion and, by extension, government policy? Allow me to show you the ways.
Media bias: Tricks of the trade
Story/no story Now this is timely. Have you noticed how the media treats virtually identical circumstances involving Republican and Democratic presidential administrations in polar opposite ways? Positively/neutrally or negatively?
Look at these photos and tell me; is there an issue? And if there is a legitimate issue, how are the circumstances any different?
Conway and Obama. Both work(ed) in the Oval Office. Both have at least either a foot or a shoe on a piece of furniture in the Oval Office.
Judging from media coverage, one is a HUGE story; the other is a non-story. Granted, the press covers stuff that sets Twitter and partisan media on fire. I get that. But if they cover one instance, shouldn’t they cover the other? They should, but don’t because they’re biased and agenda driven.
If either is disrespectful, shouldn’t the President of the United States be held to a higher standard? Wait? Is it disrespectful of a race? Does this look disrespectful?
More media bias
Story selection Subjective editors select stories, headlines and photos that reflect their news entity’s voice (politics). Reporters write stories that push viewpoints they hold.
Perspective omission This is the practice of omitting a perspective by ignoring it. Try this: Familiarize yourself with conservative and progressive perspectives on an issue. Then look for both viewpoints in an article. This is Journalism 101.
Story placement Hiding a story is as simple as burying it. Because most people read only headlines, one can downplay stories supportive of an opposing view by burying them deep in a Web or printed page.
Photo bombing Want to make someone look foolish? Drop in an unflattering photo. Better yet, match it with a subtle dig in the headline.
The bomb above offers a two-fer bias benefit: Unhinged “hate” and small-handed compensation.
Want to suppress a story that could hurt your candidate’s election chances? Don’t cover it or give it short shrift even though you know that if it were about the opponent, you’d run it with everything you’ve got.
Labeling The media’s power to label people is subtle, but potent. Conservatives are stigmatized as “alt or far right,” “ultra-conservative,” or “right-wing extremists,” while far lefties are “progressives,” “liberals,” or “moderates.”
Wait a minute, doofus—I haven’t noticed any of this. Prove it.
You prove it—to yourself. Gather information. Make up your own mind. But don’t be influenced by anyone you don’t know and/or respect.
It only takes a tiny twist to turn information dissemination into influence shaping. I’ve worked in newsrooms. I understand journalists and what many think about government. They’re smart and passionate, which makes them prone to activism.
Think journalists aren’t biased when it comes to politics? Trust me—they are. And like most persuasive, passionate people—they want you to think like they do. And they’re willing to help you think like they do by shaping your opinions on the issues.
Journalists know that influencing today’s media consumer is child’s play.
Most media members aren’t hacks. They know exactly what they’re doing. Activist journalists are blinded by their sense of the “rightness” of their causes. And whether they realize it or not, they sacrifice journalistic integrity for it.
Objective journalism? Humanly impossible
Journalistic objectivity is an impossibility. We all have our bents, perspectives and preferences. Objectivity is merely something to strive for. The problem is that many in the media don’t even bother striving anymore.
They seem more interested in helping craft the nation into their version of what America should be. And they want us on board. If for no other reason than to help elect leaders who share their vision.
This is activism not journalism. And IT, not Donald Trump’s silly, immature war with supposed “fake news,” is a threat to our democracy.
Hey, media, will you please stop the over-the-top apocalyptic warnings about threats to democracy and focus on your true calling? Strive for objectivity. Leave your politics in the break room. Inform us.
No president can revoke the First Amendment. Trump’s press war is nothing but thin-skinned, childish behavior. The threat you face is our distrust.
Warning: This post is intended for mature readers who can disagree agreeably, resistance soldiers and those who are considering joining the resistance.
I’m trying desperately to understand what drives your resistance.
It seems that you’re watching the implosion of our country and its values at the hands of a misogynistic, bigoted, ill-suited-for-the-job monster of a new president. You’re still reeling from the loss of your preferred candidate and feel galvanized to resist the tyrant at every turn.
You witness the 120-day ban on immigration from seven countries, and you see a “Muslim ban” that reeks of discrimination and bigotry and fear of a religion. But let’s consider—Is this a ban based on a religion or on points of origin? Muslim emigrants and refugees from Libya, Egypt, Turkey and Afghanistan can come.
If it’s a ban on a religion, why are they welcomed?
Discrimination is not always a dirty word
This temporary ban IS discrimination. But it’s discriminatory not of a religion, but of citizenship. And though the seven listed countries are majority Muslim— Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Scientologist emigrants from those nations would also be denied immigrant status under the ban.
Also, let’s be factual—this discrimination against citizenship doesn’t apply to green card holders or to those with legal status—only to those seeking a path to citizenship via immigration.
The ban also discriminates based on behavior. Consider this hypothetical scenario:
Let’s suppose you have a guesthouse on your property, and you advertise it for rental. Among the applicants are three guys, let’s say, who are devout Satanists. You do some research and discover that according to their satanic bible, they’re required to offer animal sacrifices to their god.
You also discover that other Satanists have used house cats and dogs captured in neighborhoods where they live as sacrifices. You have dogs and cats—and young children. And there are other applicants—one is a retired schoolteacher and the other is a “gearhead” who was sporting a greasy t-shirt when he came to see about the rental. What do you do?
You discriminate against the gearhead because you don’t want drip pans filled with oil sitting around the back yard. Now you’re left with two applicants: the retired schoolteacher who could be a potential positive in the lives of your young children as a very close neighbor and three young committed Satanists. How do you choose?
You discriminate based on potential behavior and politely tell the Satanists that you’re renting to someone else and secretly wish them bad pet hunting—somewhere else.
Actions AND words
How does this relate to the behavior of Muslims?
While most Muslim refugees who seek to immigrate are fine, upstanding, good-hearted souls in search of a better life, there are other Muslims who may want to come who’ve pledged to follow Islam to the letter of the Quran and who burn with desire to force infidels to embrace their religion or die.
What do you do, resistance? What does a president who’s responsible for protecting Americans—Muslim or of any other faith—do to prevent those committed to perpetrating more 9/11s, more San Bernardinos, and more Orlandos from coming here posing as immigrants?
We can agree that the ban is discrimination. Do you truly believe it’s based on religion? Do you care what it’s actually based on? I fear that you don’t care—that you employ the ban-on-Muslims narrative for effect. Tell me the truth—I want to believe you.
This temporary immigration ban is NOT a ban on a religion. It’s not a Muslim ban. And we have yet to see if all its provisions will become permanent, or if it can stand up to legal scrutiny. In my view, At THIS POINT, it’s not a legitimate reason for resistance.
Here is, to my mind, the logical, rational truth:
Your resistance is a farce. You’re fighting phantoms. You’re breathing fire because you’re fearful of what you think a president will do based on his foolish words and an equally frightened media. Please get a grip and some perspective.
Worthy of resistance?
Is this temporary country-based ban on immigrants worthy of resistance?
How about past and potential discrimination by high-ranking officials in government agencies toward businesses and religious groups they disagree with?
How about Muslim Americans who push for the adoption of Sharia law, which calls for the subjugation of women and sanctions honor killings?
Or resistance to the drug cartels who exploit open borders and use human beasts of burden to provide drugs to addicted millions? Do you really think resisting the building of a wall that could help reduce this double enslavement is more worthy of your resistance?
How about resisting terrorist-sanctioning theocracies’ that want to wipe a country and an entire race off the map?
Do you actually think that resisting attempts to get sanctuary cities to enforce state and federal laws regarding illegal aliens more worthy of your resistance?
Here’s a challenge
Try explaining your reasons for resistance to someone who understands real racism. Talk to people who have experienced the hatred and intolerance and fear that genuine fascists use to foment the murder of “undesirables” and infidels and Jews.
Could it be that partisan political and ideological agenda drives your resistance, not a reaction to real injustice? Do you not see the absurdity of your resistance when compared to resistance to the Third Reich or to the Pol Pot regime or to Stalin’s reign of terror?
You’re clamoring for resistance to “fascist” actions that have yet to happen. And you’re calling for others to join you based on fears filtered through election disappointment, ideological bias and personal disgust.
Your fear and loathing of a thin-skinned, heavy-handed, loose-cannoned neophyte of a president has shaken your grip on reality.
Yes, Trump says foolish, objectionable things. And I know—his thoughtless words and machismo do nothing to allay fears. But is it possible that he uses bravado to mask inexperience and dispel doubts about whether he’s up to task? Have his actions risen to the level that warrants the intensity of the resistance thus far?
It IS possible that you’re resisting a bogeyman. Let’s wait until the bogeyman shows himself a tyrant, then let’s resist him. With everything we’ve got.
But until then, open your fists, and get a grip.
Suppose the tyrant orders suppression against Muslim Americans with a form of Kristallnacht—German for “night of crystal”—during which hordes of Nazis broke windows and vandalized Jewish-owned stores and property throughout Germany and Austria.
Say that devil Trump signs an executive order to round up and illegally deport Mexican Americans suspected of harboring or aiding undocumented workers.
I’ll join you in a heartbeat.
Now I’ve heard about fascist Trumplings smashing windows and scrawling swastikas on mosques and minority-owned businesses. This monstrous stupidity is worthy of all our resistance. To the point of resorting to our resistance fists, if necessary.
Here’s my point:
In my view, at present, your “resistance” is much ado about nothing. I grant you—Trump’s actions have crossed ideological lines. But they haven’t crossed legal or moral lines, in my opinion.
I know. You probably hold that Trump HAS crossed legal and moral lines, or that he’s about to. That’s your perspective, and I invite you to persuade me on this score. Persuade. Don’t dodge questions and call names.
Let’s talk about it. But first, let’s talk about words.
Racist, bigot, hater, intolerance
You in the resistance hurl these words like toxic grenades to neutralize and demonize opposition. Do you realize the damage you’re doing to honest debate?
Scroll up to the five-fisted recruitment banner at the top of this page. Spread the deliria? Really? Do those in the resistance even know what they’re calling for or to what they want us to join?
To “spread the deliria” is to propagate:
Amoreorlesstemporarydisorderofthementalfaculties, asinfevers,disturbancesofconsciousness,orintoxication, characterizedbyrestlessness,excitement,delusions,hallucinations, etc. A state of violent excitement or emotion.
I hope that you those in the resistance who crafted this message simply couldn’t be bothered with the meaning of deliria. Or maybe they just thought it sounded rad. I fear it’s worse—to them, meaning is irrelevant—it’s all about effect.
Is it possible that most of you in the resistance have yet to face real bigotry or genuine hate? Will you consider the possibility that much of the intolerance is coming from your side?
I posted a question on the Facebook page of John Pavlovitz, a former pastor and now blogger, speaker and author who appears to align closely with the resistance. I also posted a link to my Trump is not the devil. And God is not a clockmaker post, in which I argue that God rigged the election.
Based on the tone of his answer, I made the mistake of commenting (subjectively) that he seemed angry and arrogant, for which I later apologized. He hasn’t responded, but one of his followers did. I’ll call him Tim.
Here’s a portion of Tim’s opening comment:
“Realistically, no politician in America is going to FORCE you to do anything, but in the case of many of the things Trump has done and continues to do, it really is a choice between his views and God’s. Trump’s immigration policies are plainly contradictory to what the Bible teaches about loving refugees and welcoming immigrants.
You can’t be a strong Christian and succumb to fear of Mexicans and Muslims. You feared that Hillary would be the one to make you choose between your faith and the US government, but in fact Trump has done just that. You probably don’t regret your vote just yet (I’m quite sure you voted for him) but you will.”
Here are the top and bottom sections of my reply:
“Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I agree that American politicians don’t force us to do anything and didn’t mean to imply that in my blog post. Glad you pointed that out though, so I can tweak it. I think we just disagree about Trump’s immigration policies.
To my thinking, placing a temporary immigration hold until extreme vetting processes can be developed and implemented is wise. I think many who decry Trump’s immigration policies are assuming the worst and inflating his intentions based on bias and actions that have yet to happen.
I don’t regret anything about my vote—my vote is irrelevant—I live in California. Unless you’re into the popular vote nonsense. I don’t regret it and won’t regret it because I believe God is in complete control and that he appoints leaders—good and bad—not for our comfort or sense of rightness, but for his master plan.”
“I believe you’re a coward. Sorry, I know that’s blunt, but i believe it to be true for a couple of reasons:
1. You believe more “vetting” of refugees is necessary- even though NOT ONE SINGLE American life has ever been taken at the hands of a refugee. This means your fear (yes, it is FEAR) of those refugees is based not on facts or reason but by something else completely–the fact that they look different and worship differently than you, perhaps. Irrational fear of different cultures is cowardly.
2. You refuse to take responsibility for your vote. If Trump leads us into WWIII, I am 100% sure people like you will throw your hands in the air and say “It’s in Gods hands” when in fact YOU were the one who elected him.
Take responsibility for your part in this. I don’t care that you live in CA. You’re sitting here blogging about how we should “submit to our new leader.” You did this. If you’re not comfortable with that, then repent. It’s not too late. The resistance is just starting.”
I added italics because it’s more spooky and fun that way. Not to mention creepy. The resistance is just starting? V for Vendetta?
After repeatedly telling me what I think and how I feel, Tim proceeded to call me—sprinkled throughout our combined 18 comments and replies—coward, fearful, irresponsible, irrational, hypocrite, foolish, apathetic, denier, satanic, and an embarrassment.
From this point our “conversation” plunged downhill and eventually off the cliff despite my many attempts to engage him respectfully and ask clarifying questions. I spent most of my time trying to get him to stop telling me what I think and to accept my telling him what I think.
During the free fall, Tim came up with these highly empirical stats and predictions:
“Trump has proven himself, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to be 100x more dangerous than any Syrian refugee.
Trump’s careless pen stroking has already cost the lives of over 30 civilians and a US Navy SEAL. So yeah, trump has killed more Americans than Syrian refugees have. It’s proven and measurable. Perception doesn’t change the fact that those people are dead and many thousands more will die if the ACA is repealed.”
Does a president “cost lives” by “pen-stroking” (signing executive orders)? Did Trump’s predecessor’s pen-stroking cost lives?” Is the costing of lives based on your agreement or disagreement with the merits of an executive order?
These are the kinds of questions I asked Tim. Ad nauseam. Each and every time, he either ignored or twisted my laser-focused questions into assumption-bloated, over-generalized and absurdly false caricature.
It was like playing catch with someone who kept throwing the ball AT me, instead of TO me, and so ruined the game.
Had Tim reigned in his zeal and buffered his bias for a nanosecond, had he addressed my questions and points, had he taken me at my word concerning my thoughts and feelings, we both might have learned something.
Instead he engaged in talking points, bullying and name-calling—the most uncivil of discourse. We missed an opportunity to better understand one another’s perspectives on some crucial issues.
Here’s a question for you, resistance: Is Tim the exception or the rule of the resistance? To me, he seems to have embraced the call to spread the deliria by waving and brandishing both fists.
The resistance’s call to spread deliria is apparently being taken quite literally by groups like the actionnetwork.org. Here’s their statement of purpose from their Website:
“This election has shaken us to our core. Millions of Americans are feeling desperate to find ways to get involved. We need to show the whole political establishment that there is a massive progressive force that will fight against Trump’s extreme agenda of greed and hate every step of the way.”
Agenda of greed and hate? Really? It’s silly, lazy fighting phrases like this that make the resistance difficult to take seriously.
Here’s a more militant sounding call to action from The Donald J. Trump Resistance (at least they’re respectful in adding his middle initial.) And they seem to think that making Each Word Start With Uppercase Letters Makes THEIR Tagline That Much More Impressive:
“Where WE Make Hatred, Bigotry, Xenophobia, Sexism, Racism, and Greed Pay the Price”
What IS the price, exactly?
Here’s some advice for you, resistance that, if heeded, would make your cause much more attractive to doofuses like me:
Shelve your exertions until the time comes when resistance is truly necessary. Wait for genuine governmental abuses of power—and then act. If presidential overreach in the form of executive orders is the standard, shouldn’t we have resisted during the last eight years? Where was the “resistance” then?
And finally—and perhaps most importantly—resist the urge to engage in uncivil discourse. We can disagree agreeably. Ask and ANSWER clarifying questions to better understand another’s point of view. Listen, THEN talk.
I believe in resistance. If I were in the Star Wars universe, I’d join the Rebellion. Or better yet, the Jedi Knights. Or even as a third with Han Solo and Chewbacca.
But I won’t join a joke.
I resist you, resistance. In fact, in light of events as they stand AT THIS TIME, I wouldn’t join any of you jokers—even if you offered me the Millennium Falcon.
Stop muddling meaning and lobbing word grenades. Get a grip on the gravity of our issues. Save your powder for the real battles, if and when they come.
We’re killing it with fear-fueled anger and disrespect for opposing viewpoints. Honest discourse has been shackled by intolerance, ignorance, and name-calling. This is a relatively recent but dark phenomenon.
There was a stretch of time in our nation’s history—oh, about 224 years—when healthy discourse could be passionate—even heated. It could also be intelligent and sensible and helpful in hammering out good ideas while discarding bad ones.
It was a time when words meant what they mean. When they weren’t hurled about willy-nilly in fits of emotion-charged ignorance. During this relatively civil epoch, people were offended by libel and slander and profanity, not—horror upon horrors—by disagreement and logical, position-threatening argument.
Words were used to express ideas, not to name-call or as conversation enders. Where does one go in a spirited back-and-forth, when he’s called a “hater?” He’s stopped dead in his tracks and must circle back to defend himself rather than a point or position.
Here’s a scenario that I haven’t experienced, but that happens every day. Just plug in whatever hot issue you want; it’ll work. Here’s the scenario:
John, a racist xenophobic Islamophobic fascist Nazi “debates” Jill, an open-minded, big-hearted modern progressive thinker:
John: “Let’s talk about this. I don’t hate you or your opinion on this issue, I just—”
Jill: “Haters gonna hate.”
John: “What? No, I’m not hating ANYTHING here. What I’m saying is that I disagree with your take on the immigration hold because—”
Jill: “You’re spewing hate because you don’t like Muslims—you’re afraid of them. To me, you seem Islamophobic and bigoted. And racist.”
John: “What? What the … NO! I am NOT racist OR bigoted. I’m not afraid of Muslims. I’m just not sure the immigration hold is an evil idea. I just—hey, where are you going? I’m not trying to offend you—I just thought we could talk about this.”
Jill: “I’m sorry, I can’t talk with you. I AM offended. If you aren’t against the Muslim ban, you’re a fascist and a racist and a bigot. Just like that Hitler in the White House. Hater.”
Our lost words
Words like hate have lost their meaning. As has bigot, any type of real or fabricated phobia, fascist, Nazi, intolerance and others. Here are some examples of our lost words with original definitions crossed out followed by new, culturally correct ones:
HATE |hāt| verb
intense or passionate dislike for someone or something
Opposition or disagreement to my firmly held belief about … anything
BIGOT |ˈbiɡət| noun
a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions
a person who is intolerant toward MY opinion
NAZI |ˈnätsē| noun
a member of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party
a person with extreme racist or authoritarian views (close, but …)
a person with views I find extreme or that oppose mine in ways I “feel” are mean, black and white, narrow minded and intolerant (boom!)
FASCIST |ˈfaSHəst| noun
an advocate or follower of the political philosophy or system of fascism
a person who is extremely right-wing or authoritarian (almost there …)
unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own
the expression of backward, incorrect and extreme views, beliefs, or behavior that oppose my views, beliefs, or behavior
DEBATE |dəˈbāt| noun
a formal discussion on a particular topic in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward
an argument about a particular subject, especially one in which many people are involved
an argument that can be won by name-calling, fake news dissemination, misinformation, or vilification
Our words have been warped and their meaning distorted to prop agendas. When this happens, they become meaningless. And without the objective ground rules that words and meaning provide, real discourse is impossible.
We’re destroying discourse in America. No longer interested in civil give and take, we “win” arguments by vilifying opponents with toxic words. Instead of engaging opposition, we shout it down. Rather than persuade, we degrade. We don’t win over, we run over. Instead of listening, we filibuster.
Is it any wonder we’re divided, disillusioned and disappointed with our political system, our prospects as a nation, and our ability to communicate? The vitriol slung about in mainstream and social media belongs in fetid sewers not in news outlets, on Facebook and Twitter, or at protests.
Why is our civil discourse so uncivil? Here are some popular possibilities: liberal education, progressive leaders, entitled millennials, political polarization, political correctness, free speech-resistant college kids, helicopter parenting … yada yada.
What about safe spaces? This is a particularly puzzling construct this middle-aged writer finds virtually impossible with which to relate. I catch myself grumbling like an old guy on his porch watching a protest:
“Safe spaces? Whaddya want—a force field? Back in my day (insert old-man trill), your safe space was a tough constitution. Don’t agree with an argument? Win it by persuasion. Don’t be offended. Put on your big boy pants, punk. Safe spaces … pah! The only safe space you need is between your eyes and the back of your head.”
How did we become hypersensitive to points of view with which we don’t agree? Even I, a committed Gen Xer, have to resist the urge to tiptoe around feelings when discussing opposing opinions.
What are we so afraid of? If we believe strongly in our positions about important issues, we should be able to debate them with confidence AND passion. What happened to our ability to engage in respectful debate?
Here a truth, there a truth …
And now for the postmodern “truth” analysis. You knew it was coming. It has to. Here goes: All viewpoints are valid; truth is relative; therefore your truth is valid; my truth is valid. All truths are valid even—and especially—if two or more are diametrically opposed. Which means that as painful as it would be to Jill-of-the-open mind, John-the-Nazi’s truth is just as valid as hers—IF she truly believes in the postmodern truth-is-subjective construct.
This is what makes real discourse impossible—if all viewpoints are equally valid, challenging the logic or cogency of a viewpoint—challenging its validity, which is the essence of discourse in debate—is anathema. And is often considered intolerant, even offensive.
So here we are—seemingly unable to disagree agreeably—or effectively. Effective discourse is persuasive, not degrading. Here’s how:
In the real world, a viewpoint’s validity is based on its soundness—its ability to withstand criticism. In fantasyland, a viewpoint’s validity is equal to that of any other viewpoint regardless of merit (except those deemed intolerant or bigoted or hateful). Sadly, to challenge a viewpoint is to flirt with giving offense and is a breach of politically correct social decorum.
Thus, real debate is impossible. Opportunities to gain understanding through clarifying questions, to ponder the possibility that one’s viewpoint is weaker than first thought, or to come around to another’s way of thinking, are lost—tragically. What isn’t lost, but should be, is this obsession with taking offense, which only increases polarization and division.
Truth: An immovable object
Even more critically, we’ve lost the meaning of the most essential word in honest discourse—truth. Modern dictionaries are of little help. They define truth superficially. Mine defines it as the quality or state of being true. Or concisely, that truth is truth.
And here we have yet another crack in the postmodern temple of relativity—truth is defined AGAINST itself. When accepted definitively, truth is an immovable object because, by definition, its immutability relies upon its nature. And, for once, “it is what it is,” has meaning. Truth.
This is where the postmodern freight train of relativity, specifically, the myth of equally valid viewpoints, collides with the unyielding wall of truth. If truth is objective, there are winners and losers in debate. Jill’s position CAN BE less valid than John’s. Or vice versa. One viewpoint can be more sound, more cogent, more based on TRUTH and MORE VALID than the other.
But we may never know which is what because open debate and honest discourse are rare birds—and becoming ever more skittish. Especially when we continue taking offense where there is none and calling names and assigning labels and warping words beyond meaning.
Where do we go from here? We thicken our skins. We accept that our words mean what they mean. We ask clarifying questions to better understand one another’s point of view. We listen. Then, we talk. We discuss important issues with patience, controlled passion and intellectual honesty.
And, most importantly, we accept the truth that our way of thinking may not be the best way of thinking. If we persuade effectively, we secretly exult in winning the argument while helping one another revive and restore respectful, honest discourse to what has been—and should be—an essential element of communication and community.
If this article stimulates, encourages and/or annoys you, please tell me how and why below. I value your feedback.
Resistance. I’ve been called to resist posting about politics. By my wife. By my peaceful nature. But today, I was called to resist—wrongly. And by people I love and respect, but who, I believe, have lost perspective on what warrants worthy resistance.
They’ve done so for worthy reasons—sympathy for refugees, respect for women, a desire for the elimination of racism and reaction to the oft-misused-now-talking-point-words like hate, bigotry, intolerance, ad nauseam.
My friends have tolerated the ridiculous and insulting comparisons to Hitler and fascism—ridiculous when examined in light of historical perspective and insulting to reason, logic and intelligence— and, most egregiously—to victims of the holocaust, genocide and real racism.
Donald Trump is a flawed person and president. So was Barack Obama, FDR, John Kennedy—and yes, even Ronald Reagan. Trump is a short-fingered vulgarian—a cleverly concocted cut-down by Graydon Carter, the long-tenured editor of Vanity Fair. He’s thin-skinned and vindictive, which means he’s insecure and petty. Trump is also charismatic (in person only, I believe), persuasive, pugnacious, clever and patriotic.
I wish the Russians would disable his Twitter account—permanently. And his reliance on the shadowy Steve Bannon, who reminds me of Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s ruthless spymaster, troubles me.
Is Bannon to Trump as Vader is to Emperor Palpatine? Or is it the other way around? Hard to tell with these two. And Trump’s shrill press secretary, Sean Spicer, doesn’t impress me.
Not a Trumpling
I, like many other citizens, never thought it would come to this. A billionaire, misogynistic, orange-yellow, cotton-candy-haired former (former?) reality TV star is now the most powerful man on the planet. Oops.
I’m not a Trumpling. He doesn’t inspire me like Reagan did. He doesn’t carry himself with dignity like Obama. I wish Huckabee or Bush or Rubio were president. Not Hillary. Never Hillary. If she had won, I would’ve avoided watching her or reading about her or thinking about her and would’ve cringed every time I heard Madam President or President Clinton uttered.
But I would not have resisted her authority … UNLESS. If her actions prompted a choice between submission to government or obedience to God, then I would resist. As I will do, if Trump’s actions prompt the same choice.
I have qualified my resistance to Trump’s authority because, ultimately, it has not been granted solely by Congress nor by the constitution nor by any other founding document nor by the American people—but by Almighty God.
Let me explain. Or better yet, let the Apostle Paul explain. In his—and God’s—own words:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
As a Christian and a believer of Jesus Christ, I trust that the words of the Bible are true and reliable. And, here’s the kicker, that they reflect God’s sovereign will. Essentially, they are his words, written by men he appointed in order to make his will known. If God is truly God—all-powerful, pure and good—he is intimately involved with the affairs of this world.
Trump is a chump. Not because he’s easily deceived, but because he’s a foolish man. But he’s not evil. He’s a sinner—like me, like you. Here are some “bigly” questions that emerge from the Romans passage above as it relates to Trump:
Did God make him president? We know that God doesn’t vote; did he influence voters to vote for Trump? Rather than influence voters, did God create and manipulate circumstances to cause voters to elect Trump?
Does God care about elections? If he does, did he want Hillary elected and is now wringing his hands? Is God above politics and merely uses presidents to work his will? How does free will fit in?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. But I do know this—God is in complete control of everything. He’s an active, loving, holy, all-powerful, omniscient God with an agenda that trumps (pun, not cared about) all others.
I think God allowed/facilitated Trump’s win because more people in critical electoral states voted for him than voted for Hillary. More voters exercised free will to vote for Trump in states that mattered most.
Two options, both bad
Did God influence voters to vote their consciences? He did me. I faced two disagreeable options:
One, a career political criminal who strikes me as an arrogant, condescending power-tripper and serial liar and who embraces ideology that I cannot stomach and with which I disagree utterly.
The other, an arrogant, buffoonish, sexist creep who is thin-skinned, petty and a political neophyte, but who embraces ideology that, in some ways, I agree with. Such as, but not comprehensively:
Smaller, less-intrusive government, reduced taxes and regulation, pro-life, pro-law and order, pro-business, pro-truth concerning hot issues regarding gender, morality, education and the environment.
In short, I voted for a platform, not for a person. And I voted my conscience. So, there.
The clockmaker maker
I know, I have yet to offer any opinions regarding my questions about God’s role in the election. I can offer this—my opinions will not be satisfactory—to me or to others. Allow me to offer what I KNOW about God:
He made the universe and has a hand in everything. God is pure and good. If her were not pure and good, but merely all-powerful, if he were the clockmaker God; his interest in creation would begin and end with construction and maintenance. We would be as cogs for his machine. Or worse, playthings for his pleasure.
God’s character is one of pure goodness, which means that he cares about people, nations and leaders, about every aspect of creation. God is active, not passive. He’s not a clockmaker—he’s a clockmaker maker.
Free will and free grace
God allows us to exercise that which makes us in his image: Free will. And he gives us insight to parse candidates’ words and to form opinions on critical issues—insights based in truth and goodness and rightness.
God cares about elections because he cares for his children. If you’re a Christian, you are his child, and he loves you dearly. If you aren’t his child, you can be—God has made a way to forgive your sin and to adopt you. He loves you so much that he sent his son to die for you.
We all have a sin problem. So does Trump. So does Hillary. Our sin separates us from a holy God. But God’s grace and Jesus’ sinless life and death bridges the gap. All you need do is come to him in repentance and be forgiven and adopted.
Fear God, not Trump
At this juncture, I cannot, in good conscience, resist President Trump. Not because I wouldn’t want to, but because I want to obey God more than I want to give in to fear or outrage over immigration bans or so-called hate speech or perceived intolerance.
Donald Trump is our president and authority. And if Hillary Clinton had won the election, she would be our president and our authority. Until he abuses his power and/or his actions warrant resistance, I’ll submit to God-given authority.
Resistance is not futile
Meanwhile, if you want to resist someone, resist the devil. If you want to fight Trump’s policies, do so respectfully—don’t misuse words like hate, bigot and racist. Pray for him. Pray that God draws Trump to himself, and that he becomes a new creation and God’s redeemed child, and that he listens to God’s leading while leading us.
Resistance against authority, when unwarranted, is for pagans. Now if Trump orders the killing of civilians or the internment of muslims or something somehow more evil than a temporary travel ban, then, yes, let’s resist. I’ll lead the charge. If he forces me to choose between civil obedience and spiritual disobedience, it’s on.
But until then, submit to God by submitting to the one he placed in the presidency. Don’t give in to the fear mongers and fascism flingers of the world. God is our ultimate commander-in-chief, and he knows what he’s doing.
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