On A Serious Note, An Appeal To Help Out Puerto Rico And Others

The NFL and Donald Trump put in quite a show this weekend. Everyone, it seems, was talking about them. It came to a dramatic conclusion Monday night with Jerry Jones and America's team adding to the drama. The whole country has been captivated. I haven't been immune. 

Now that the show is over, let's talk about something serious for a moment: Puerto Rico and the desperate help they need. 

Below the NFL headlines, you'll see that Puerto Rico is in trouble. A picture on the news aggregator Drudge Report sums it up well: written in the middle of a street intersection so that it can be captured by aerial photographers, "S.O.S. Necesitamos Agua / Comida!" ("S.O.S. We need water / food!")

Much of Puerto Rico is without power and may be for a month. Water and food are still scarce. Many people in the mainland United States who have friends and family there have not been able to hear from them since Hurricane Maria struck; the communication infrastructure has practically been obliterated.

Puerto Ricans are Americans and need our help. So, too, do so many others right here in the states and nearby. Many other Caribbean islands have seen massive destruction from the recent hurricanes. Parts of the gulf, including Houston, will be recovering from Harvey for years. The western United States has had a terrible wildfire season. Mexico has been hit by two strong earthquakes. 

No doubt there are numerous ways all individuals can help, whether through their church organizations or established charities across the country. In the Catholic church my family attends, there will be a second collection this Sunday for disaster relief after Cardinal Nicholas DiNardo, Archbishop of Houston-Galveston and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, appealed to diocese across the country to do so. 

Our lives are busy, and our attention spans are limited, and there will no doubt be other distractions in the news this week and in the weeks ahead. Through it all, please do carve out some time to keep those affected by natural disasters in your thoughts and prayers, and to give some consideration to how you can help out.

I'm a politically independent blogger and highly imperfect Catholic who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. You can follow me on Facebook here or at the link below.

Let's Admit It: Coming Together Is Kind Of BS Right Now, Isn't It?

I walked out of the store and there it was, in plain English, what felt like the most absurd statement I had ever seen.

"We are all one human family." It was a bumper sticker on a car driven by, I can only assume by the other stickers, a Bernie Sanders supporter.

It had been month's since the election. Had this person come to realize just how out of touch that statement seemed today? I myself have written similar garbage somewhere, but it wouldn't even cross my mind to write those words today.

I get the sentiment.  What it's really trying to say is, "We are all one human family and we need to come together and respect each other and listen to one another, especially those who aren't like us, such as people of different races and religions and sexual orientations and on and on and on and blah blah blah."

You know the speech. Of course, being the independent progressive that I am, I agree with all of that. 

But, let's be honest. Coming together right now is kind of BS, isn't it?

I wonder if that Bernie supporter feels the same about the conservative Republican Trump voter, who prosthelytized for years about the importance of having Christian values in the White House, who then watched as the candidate who represented those values the least then went ahead and cast their vote for him anyway. 

Does Bernie Boy really want to hear them out some more? 

I've never been a fan of dishonest conversations, and this is one of them. When I hear the left asking that all viewpoints be respected, it's really the left telling the right to respect the viewpoints of marginalized groups. It's never the left telling others on the left to respect the viewpoints of the right. 

More than any group today, however, the people actually using the words, "come together," seem to be those on the right, and often times the use of that phrase is just as preposterous as it is disingenuous. When the right wants to find common ground with the left in the culture war, the people they mock with disdain by referring to them as snowflakes, the desire for common ground is often them wanting the left to validate their positions.

Trump calling for both sides to come together after Charlottesville was an example. One side in the debate was sticking up for white supremacists and defending Confederate monuments they didn't want taken down. The other side was condemning them. 

I saw it again yesterday with a conservative woman on Facebook who couldn't understand why NFL players wouldn't stand for the national anthem. "We all need to come together," she said. Of course, by "come together," what she really meant is that people should stand and stop protesting. 

When conservatives say we need to come together, what they really often mean is, "Your point of view is either making me angry or uncomfortable, and you either need to shut up about it or come back to my point of view." Taken literally, "come together," should imply movement on both sides towards each other. In the real world hearing it from conservatives, it never seems to involve movement on their part.

But this is all so tiring, isn't it? The, "I don't want to listen to you, you don't want to listen to me," game we play back and forth where whoever's winning is best defined as who got in the latest cheap shot. 

So, what are we to do? How are we to live and function in a society where "coming together" can be seen as a validation of a worldview that is completely at odds with your own, yet even if you are in the middle politically, no less than 40% of the population thinks differently from you?

At the end of the day, I think it involves peaceful and respectful focus and leading by example. You don't have to get caught up in the back and forth and the finger pointing and the yelling and screaming to make your point. If you want to kneel during the anthem, kneel. If you want to display the flag, display the flag. 

God forbid, what if you did both?

And while we don't have to concede ground where we don't feel it's warranted, we do need more listening and understanding. I don't mean that in the patronizing, "You have to listen and understand and ] let's all give everyone a big hug," kind of way. I mean it in the tactical sense of you really do need to listen to, and understand, the point of view of others if you ever want to seek out common goals. 

And maybe that's what's wrong with the country today... that somehow people have gotten into their heads that listening and understanding are a concession, and that doing so means you agree with someone else, or worse yet, have conceded some ground.

So perhaps maybe what we need is permission to listen without concession, and perhaps that permission starts with an admission that the idea of coming together, in this current environment, really is kind of BS.

An uncomfortable admission, perhaps, but there's a certain peace that comes with clarity. If it helps us move on, it could be those words are more healing than we think.

I'm a politically independent blogger and podcaster who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. If you enjoyed this post, please help support my work by following me on Facebook here or at the link below.

Do We Want Agreement Or Do We Want Submission?

"Say it. Say Black Lives Matter."

"Do it. Stand and show respect for the flag."

What are we doing, America? What are we trying to accomplish with our political debates, anymore?

Are we past the point of trying to get others to agree with us? 

In today's America, it seems what we really want from the other side is submission.

Donald Trump, the President of the United States and one who should be focused on more lofty affairs, couldn't help but weigh in on NFL players not standing for the national anthem. Trump said that when a player refuses to stand, the owner should say, "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he's fired. He's fired."

When Black Lives Matter protests erupted in St. Louis last week after the Jason Stockley verdict, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson's house was vandalized. Reports at the time said that it was because even though she expressed outrage at the verdict, protesters were angry she wasn't out on the streets with them. 

America was founded upon free speech. That's why we allow peaceful protests against verdicts they find unjust and allow people to where Confederate flag t-shirts without fear of government prosecution. And yes, that also gives us the right to publicly pressure those who are silent on key issues into speaking out. 

But more and more it seems we also demand some sort of punishment not just for another person's seemingly disrespectful comment, but for that person not specifically speaking out on our behalf in the specific way we want them to do it.

While the begrudging validation that might eventually come may feel good, we need to realize that you can't bully someone into speech and have them mean it at the same time.

That person isn't an ally, but a hostage.

Time for some on both sides to decide if that's what they really want.

I'm a politically independent blogger and podcaster who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. If you enjoyed this post, please help support my work by following me on Facebook here or at the link below.

Did The White House Use Hurricane Harvey to Distract from the Sheriff Joe Pardon and Transgender Military Enrollment Ban?

It's Saturday morning here in the Midwest. A serine morning with a clear blue sky and cooler air. 

My attention, like that of many others, is captivated by news reports of Hurricane Harvey barreling down on the Texas coast. Lots of damage in Corpus Christi. Lots of flooding expected in Houston / Galveston.

Perhaps my attention is drawn to this storm more than other people. I've visited and spent time in Corpus Christi and Galveston, and I'm familiar with the locations I see on TV. And, if we're being honest, I'm a weather and disaster junkie. 

But I know I'm not alone in being temporarily distracted from a couple of other items on the president's agenda on Friday.

The first was the pardon of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt for continuing to detain suspected undocumented immigrants, despite a court order to do so. 

The second was finally putting, in writing, a ban on transgender individuals from enlisting in the military. President Trump had already signaled a ban in a Tweet. Friday he made the policy official.

With such a major event going on in the country (Harvey is the first hurricane to strike the U.S. mainland in years), one would think that preparation and response would be the top priority for the president of the United States. 

Yet, these were the items the White House deemed to be a priority despite the hurricane. Elizabeth Warren sums it up pretty well.

Warren's indignation, while perhaps self serving for someone with presidential ambitions of her own, nonetheless brings up the broader questions: why this, why now?

Aside from the rote liberal response of, "Because he's evil and prejudiced," let me add another: the White House knows it's wrong.

There's an old theory in politics that says it's best to release bad news on a Friday. People are more distracted and less engaged on the weekends. TV ratings are down. The end game is that anything controversial is less likely to stir up strong blowback if you put it out on a Friday. 

How much better with a hurricane captivating the nation's attention?

Here are a couple of things I can say about how I would operate if I were giving the president political advice:

  1. I wouldn't want anyone to question where the president's attention was during a major hurricane
  2. If I wanted people to notice a move the White House made, I would make the announcement after the weekend and outside of a major disaster event

Those two items are so common sense that what the White House actually did can only lead us to two conclusions:

  1. The White House knows these moves will cause controversy, and while they will make the president's die hard supporters happy, they want everyone else to ignore it
  2. It is so important that these announcements be under the radar that they are willing to risk having people question the president's attention to the hurricane to make it so

These aren't the moves of an administration that is operating from a place of moral high ground. They have few friends right now and want to give their die hard supporters some red meat.

I know it. You know it. Everyone knows it. 

The White House is simply hoping that you'll have too many other things on your mind to care about it. 

I'm a politically independent blogger and podcaster who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. If you enjoyed this post, please help support my work by following me on Facebook here.

To My Trump Supporting Friends, Part II

Back on election night, when I watched this travesty that is the Trump administration finally become a reality, I told you I knew why you did what you did

For some of you, it was about Hillary. For others, it was a protest against the elites. You said you lived through 8 years of Obama, so others would just have to live for a few years under Donald Trump. He would be a better leader once he got in office, you said.

But what I knew, and so many others like me knew, was that Donald Trump was a man who used veiled racism and bullying to work enough people into enough of a lather that he got put in office. We knew that his election would only further embolden racism and hate. 

Perhaps you dismissed those concerns as liberal hysterics. 

Yesterday was the day that the President of the United States, the one you perhaps voted for, couldn't bring himself to specifically call out Nazis and white supremacists after the violence in Charlottesville.

By condemning only the violence "on many sides," Trump failed to distinguish between the two groups of protesters that clashed in the Virginia town. While neither side should engage in violence, the president decided to ignore that one group was there to promote racist views, and the other was there to stand against it. 

It's an omission that matters. Given the baggage he brought into the office, the American people needed to hear from this president that the vile and disgusting views promoted by the Nazis and white nationalists had no place in America.

He refused to do it. The first time I hoped beyond hope that it was an omission due to political inexperience and off-the-cuff remarks.

Then, when given a second chance, the White House refused to do it again.

If this was your candidate, today is the day you have to ask yourself why. Why can't the president of the United States call out racism when politicians across the country, both left and right, are doing so? Does he agree with these racists? Is he afraid of them? Does he covet their political support above the desire to do the right thing?

I don't know. All I know is that this is your candidate, the one you helped put in office.

And I know that you know in your heart of hearts that this is wrong. 

Let today be the day that you decide that putting this man in the White House was a mistake, and that you do everything you can to fix it.

I'm a politically independent blogger and podcaster who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. If you enjoyed this post, please help support my work by following me on Facebook here.