Respect, Tolerance, and Being the Example

Yesterday, over on Facebook, I shared a meme from the group No Labels, a movement for people who are fed up with the dysfunction in Washington, and will no longer put up with a government that does not represent the interests of most Americans. The meme consisted of four lines:

  1. I put my country first.
  2. I vote for the person, not the party.
  3. I respect everyone’s opinion, even if I do not agree.
  4. That’s what it means to be an American.

Hoo, boy! You should have seen the responses. Yes, it wasn’t worded exactly correct (which memes are); in particular, line 3 should have been “I respect individuals, and I tolerate everyone’s opinion, even if I do not agree”. But still, it made me realize that I have a number of progressive readers that, while they profess tolerance of a wide variety of dimensions — religion, skin color, orientation, size, etc. — they don’t extend that tolerance to the political or idological realm. If you are a Conservative, if you are a Trump support, especially if you are on the far right of Trump supporters, they won’t tolerate you. They feel obligated, in some ways, to belittle and insult, to scream yell and fight. I’ll note that I haven’t heard much on this from my few Conservative readers — I don’t know if they are the same way for the folks on the far left. I’d expect they are.

This baffles and bothers me no end. I have always been taught that repentance is always possible. One can turn away from evil ideologies and make restitution. There have been numerous cases of White Supremacists doing exactly that, and turning around and working against the ideology. This has happened because they found people that accepted them as people, and convinced them of the errors of their ideology. They were treated with respect and not dismissed.

I believe there is a large undercurrent of Trump supporters that support him not because they necessarily agree with all he says, but because they are pissed at how Liberals have treated the Conservatives. They see us dissing and disrespecting them, so why should they listen to us at all? I’ve seen people who have voted for Trump, or for similar politicians, for the reason that it would piss off the Liberals, not because they like the politician. Why do many Liberals behave this way? Because the Conservatives behaved that way when Obama was President, dissing and disrespecting the Liberals. And they did it because of how the Liberals behaved when Bush was President. And the Liberals behaved that way because of how the Conservatives behaved when Clinton was President. See the pattern. We’ve got to break it.

There were some good articles of late relating to this. In an opinion piece about Robert DeNiro’s “Fuck Trump” at the Tony’s and how that turns off voters, the author wrote:

You’re right that Donald Trump is a dangerous and deeply offensive man, and that restraining and containing him are urgent business. You’re wrong about how to go about doing that, or at least you’re letting your emotions get the better of you.

When you answer name-calling with name-calling and tantrums with tantrums, you’re not resisting him. You’re mirroring him. You’re not diminishing him. You’re demeaning yourselves. Many voters don’t hear your arguments or the facts, which are on your side. They just wince at the din.

You permit them to see you as you see Trump: deranged. Why would they choose a different path if it goes to another ugly destination?

In an interview with Trevor Noah in the LA Times, when asked about his most important on-the-job lesson, he said:

Many of the people you deal with in politics are doing what they think is right, according to their point of view. There are a few disingenuous bad actors who know how they’re contorting facts or reality or issues to mobilize people in the direction they desire. But it’s really, really hard, and it took me a while to realize, that many people genuinely are pursuing the direction they believe is correct. So I had to learn how to deal with those people in an empathetic way as opposed to in a condescending way. I don’t have to agree with you; I don’t have to think that you are right. But I will do my utmost to treat you as the human being I hope you would treat me as.

I want to emphasize that ending: ” I don’t have to agree with you; I don’t have to think that you are right. But I will do my utmost to treat you as the human being I hope you would treat me as.” We can disagree and argue about ideas and behaviors. We can insist that those are wrong. But the underlying person — whether brown, black, white or green; whether MS13 or Phi Betta Kappa; whether Conservative or Liberal — is worth respecting, for if you dismiss them out of hand, you have no chance of turning them around. Respect doesn’t mean agreement. It means listening to what they say, showing that you have heard what they said, and then based on what they said convincing them of a different viewpoint. It is the exact same respect you have been taught to show for your spouse.

If we want to have any chance of changing the administration to something that approaches something somewhat normal (and remember, when compared to Trump, even  such past bad examples as Nixon and Bush 43 look good), we can’t have people voting out of spite. That’s true whether the person is a Trump-ista, a Bernie-crat, or a Hillary supporter. We need to listen, we need to understand their concerns (which are often multifaceted, and not just a particular bad ideology). We need to accept the person, even as we reject the ideas. If we do that, we may be able to move that person (or people observing the discussion) between the partisan divide based on labels alone, and get them to see how close to the brink we have gotten.

Going along with this should be the notion of consistency: If something was wrong for one side, it is wrong for all sides. If, for a given behavior, it was unacceptable for Obama to do it, it should be equally unacceptable for Trump to do it. The “rightness” or “wrongness” of an action doesn’t change “because it’s our guy”. There are numerous examples of this that I’m sure you can think of. Private email servers. Unsecured phones. Attempts by Communist governments to interfere in our elections. Working with dictators and those that impinge on human rights. We need to be consistent on what actions are acceptable and what is not. That also goes for our behavior. If you are behaving in a way that you would have criticized if your political opposite did it, then don’t do it. Did you get upset when Conservatives made fun of Obama’s looks. Then don’t do it for Trump. Be consistent. Consistent approaches as to what is the correct behavior, independent of whether you politcally agree with the person you are criticizing, is another form of respect.

OK. I think this rant is done.


The Danger of North Korea

userpic=divided-nationPresident Trump has just met with the leader of North Korea, and we need to be very very careful and be cautious…

…lest we shoot ourselves in the foot.

Perhaps I should explain. When I got up this morning, I was greeted with a barrage of posts from my friends on the right talking about the achievements of Trump in North Korea. I was also greeted from a barrage of posts from the left dismissing everything Trump has done there — he’s sold us down the river, he’s doing this to get a hotel, he’s doing this because I loves Kim, he’s being naive. Reading both side, it started this post welling up in me.

To my liberal and progressive friends, I want you to think back to those wonderful days when Obama was President. Are you in your happy place? Good. Now, think about how you felt when the right — the opposition to Obama — dismissed anything and everything he did. How in their book, Obama was a disgrace and it was impossible for him to get anything — a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g — right. How did that make you feel? How receptive did that make you to anything the other side side? How did that contribute to the growing divide between the left and the right?

Most of you are too young to remember Richard Nixon. He was a President during the Vietnam War, the man behind Watergate, and the only President to resign. He was an ardent anti-Communist, the VP under Eisenhower, at the height of the Cold War. Yet it was Richard Nixon that first went to China, and got us talking to that nation. It was often said, “Only Nixon can go to China”.

It may be that “Only Trump could go to North Korea”.

Whether initiated by the Democrats or the Republicans, talking to your enemy is a good thing. Establishing the dialogue. Remember when we were all in favor of it when Obama was President? Remember how we wanted him to talk to North Korea, but it was dismissed as dangerous by the right because he was too naive? Remember.

If we, as progressives, do not acknowledged the few things that Trump somehow does that are movements in the correct direction, anything we say will be dismissed out of hand. I like to say that even a broken clock tells the correct time twice a day. Think of Trump as that clock. If Trump is able to open a dialogue with North Korea, he has achieved something. He may not be the reason the dialogue has opened, but if it serves to increase understanding between the two countries, if it reduces nuclear tension, that that’s a good thing. More important, if we do not acknowledge it as good thing, we will be doing something the Democratic Party has been expert in: self-sabotage. We won’t need the Republicans to lose us the upcoming the elections, we can do it to ourselves. We did it in 2016, and we can do it again.

It is vital for the success of this nation that we do not self-sabotage, that we acknowledge that “Only Trump could go to North Korea”.

There are also some important things to remember:

First, Trump and Kim have supposedly signed an agreement. But remember, if it is a treaty or an agreement, Congress must ratify it. How many treaties have past Presidents signed that Congress never ratified, and thus the country was never committed. Right.

Second, it could very well be that Trump is doing this so he can personally gain by building in North Korea. That, actually, is neither here nor there. Remember what I’ve said about collusion: It could very well be that Trump didn’t collude with Russia. Collusion means there is conscious working together to achieve a particular goal. But two organizations can have the same goal and not work together. Russia could have been working to get Trump elected and to get Trump in power for their own reasons — and that includes behind the scenes subtle manipulation of Trump. But that doesn’t mean that Trump was working with them; he just had the same goal. This is the same way that “Independent PACs” can work to get a candidate elected without being in coordination with the candidate’s campaign. Similarly, Trump might be doing this for the personal gain, but that doesn’t mean the end result might not also lower the tension in the region.

The key point here is this: If we are so “knee-jerk” that we can’t acknowledge an occasional stumble into success, we (i.e., we progressives) will be dismissed out of hand by the other side. That, in turn, will make it even harder for us to gain any concessions or make any compromises. It will further solidify the divide in this nation. It could very well keep Trump in power and hurt the Democratic party.


Respect – It’s More Than an Aretha Franklin Song

Today, while eating lunch, I was reading the news and came across Giuliani’s slam against Stormy Daniels, where he says:

I respect all human beings. I have to respect criminals. I’m sorry, I don’t respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance or a woman who has great respect for herself as a woman and as a person and isn’t going to sell her body for sexual exploitation.

This is a subject I touched upon in my rant about Trump referring to some people as “animals”, and it is something I will keep emphasizing over and over: All people are worthy of respect. It is a characteristic of their being human; it is part of our shared humanity. That means we do not denigrate them based on the looks, their skin color, their religion, their orientation, their sexuality, their sexual behavior (or lack thereof). Anything that is a characteristic of the person — don’t make fun of it. And, yes, that includes those who you disagree with politically. Just as we progressives were upset when people made fun of Obama for looks, we shouldn’t be the ones fat-shaming Trump — or making fun of his skin color. We certainly shouldn’t be discounting the opinion of someone just because of their profession, or what society, circumstances, or economic position has driven them to do.

When they were a infant, were they worthy of respect? When a child? When a young adult? When an adult? Why should our ability to treat someone with respect change because of a career choice, or what they wear, or any other aspect like that?

Disagree with someone for what they say, but discuss the issue with them respectfully? Disagree with someone for how their positions influence their actions, but respect their humanity when doing so? If you dismiss them out of hand, they will ignore anything you have to say, and you move from a dialogue to a screaming match.

We have an administration that judges based on the superficial. Giuliani has made that clear, and so has Trump. But just because they do so does not make it acceptable behavior, and we need to point out just why that is unacceptable.

No one is less than because they have done sex work. No one is less than because they’ve been in a gang. For those of a religious bent, religion teaches that repentance is always possible. If they are worthy of respect after repentance, they are worthy before as well.

Treat people with respect. That is all.


Some People Just Don’t Think Things Through: Trump, Pardons, and Indictments

userpic=trumpThe Internet-verse has been filled today with commentary about Trump’s statement that he can pardon himself but he won’t, and how this is such a miscarriage of Presidential power and such. I call Bullshit. Most of these folks don’t understand what the Constitution actually says; they are pontificating based on what they think it says or what they want it to say. A few points of clarification, based on my admittedly limited knowledge in these areas:

  • The only thing the Constitution prohibits the President from doing is pardoning from impeachment. It also restricts the pardon to be for Federal crimes.
  • Whether the President can pardon himself has never actually been tested. Presidents before have followed normal behavior and haven’t run into this.*
  • Whether the President cannot be indicted while in office has never actually been tested. Presidents before have followed normal behavior and haven’t run into this.*
  • However, what is clear is that even if the President does pardon himself, he can still be impeached and removed from office. Impeachment and removal is a pretty bad stain on one’s reputation, even with a pardon.
  • If the President does pardon himself, that is an implicit admission that something was done for which a pardon was required, increasing the likelihood of removal from office.
  • If the President does pardon himself, he can no longer ‘”take the 5th”, as there is no longer any risk of self-incrimination. He must tell the truth about what happened and answer the questions. By the way, this is also true for anyone he pardons.
  • If there is enough material to indict and convict the President, there is likely enough evidence to get him impeached and removed from office.
  • Once removed from office, the President is no longer the chief law enforcement officer and can be indicted and convicted, unless pardoned for the specific crime.
  • Once removed from office, the President can be indicted and convicted for state crimes, and can still be subject to civil suits and damages, even if pardoned for Federal crimes.

So, folks, please think things through before pontificating on subjects. Not every statement is what it appears to be.

*: There may have been opinions issued. However, as no President has actually issued a pardon for himself, and no indictment has been brought against a President while in office, the opinion has never been tested.

References: What Trump Can Teach Us About Constitutional Law. Episode 14, Prosecuting a President. Episode 13, Criminal Justice and the POTUS. Episode 5: Presidential Immunity. Episode 3: Pardon Power. Episode 10: Impeachment.


And Don’t Call Me Late For Dinner

Perhaps you remember the old saying, “I don’t care what you call me, but don’t call me late for dinner.” The truth of the matter, however, is that it is vitally important what you call me (and still, don’t call me late for dinner). A number of news articles and incidents have brought this home to me.

USA Today is reporting that President Trump has ramped up his rhetoric, and is now referring to undocumented immigrants as “animals”: Specifically, in a White House meeting, the President said, ““We have people coming into the country or trying to come in, we’re stopping a lot of them, but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.”

Think about that last sentence. And then think about how we treat animals. We put them in cages without their permission. We euthanize them when they are terminal. We take their children away from them and give them to others to care for. This is how we treat animals. NPR reported back in 2011 how Germany during WWII refered to Jews as rats to dehumanize them. Referring to classes of people as animals opens the door to cruely, genocide, and other horrors.

Now put this into the context of the latest policy change of ICE: separating children from their parents at the border. That is the act of someone that sees an undocumented immigrant as an animal, who isn’t worthy of being a parent or capable of loving their children.

I’ve written before about the importance of treating people with respect, even if you disagree with their ideas. Even Conservatives will argue that human life has value — after all, I don’t see Conservatives arguing that abortion should be legal for undocumented immigrants. So why isn’t the entire country up in arms about this? Why don’t we insist that there is a minimum level of treatment any human on this planet deserves. People deserve to not be treated like animals, people deserve not to be forcibly separated from their children. Even if you feel you must refuse entry to this country, at least don’t separate families, provide humane living conditions, and treat people with respect during the process.

Mass murderers and serial killers start small, on animals, and work their way up. It desensitizes. Similarly, starting the treatment of undocumented “others” as animals is only a first step. Next comes similar treatment for documented others whose otherness we don’t like. I”ve already personally seen more hints of that against Jews; I’ve seen posts detailing that treatment against other minorities.

We fought against people who did that during WWII. We must never let that happen here, and so we must protest the treatment of undocumented immigrants as animals.


Core Values

Let’s get this out of the way. My core values are 0 and 1.

Are we going out on that joke? No, we do reprise of song. That helps, but not much.

I’m here all week folks. Try the fish. Early in the week.

Being serious, a recent discussion on a friend’s FB threat that devolved into a discussion of religion and values got me thinking about my beliefs and values. As this is a discussion that comes up on a regular basis, I thought I would write them down so I could point others to them. Your values may differ, and that’s fine.

Respect. Let’s start with the basics: I attempt to respect others, and to keep discussions focused on ideas and not individuals. I encourage others to do the same. What this means is that I do my best to eschew ad hominem attacks and name calling. I do not feel it is ever appropriate to make fun of people, nor do I feel that someone else making fun of someone is an excuse to make fun of that person. And before you ask: Yes, that does extend to the President. As this post will discuss later, I do not agree with President Trump’s policy and approach. But I do not feel it is appropriate to make fun of his appearance or his children or staff’s appearance. There’s plenty to criticize on what they do that we don’t need to make fun of what they are.

Especially in my interactions on the Internet, I ask for (nay demand) mutual respect. Listen and consider other arguments, and let people make them (within reason). You do not have to agree to listen, but through listening there can be at least understanding.

This is something I have learned over many years, and I will admit that even 15 years ago, I wasn’t as good at living up to these ideas (translation: I regret how I behaved in political discussions during the Bush 43 presidency).

Belief. I am a life-long, 4th or 5th generation Reform Jew (not “Reformed”), which is called Progressive Judaism outside of the US. For those unfamiliar with term, I direct you to the FAQ. The key notion is that the Tanach (Torah, Prophets, and Writings) is not the literal writing of God, but divine inspiration written in the language and mores of its time, subject to reinterpretation to adapt the timeless values to today. With respect to God, I tend to take the Deist view of a disinterested God who may have started everything in motion and inspired the moral and legal system, but then let us take it from there. I strongly believe in personal choice and its importance, and that it is up to us to choose to do the right thing. More on that later.

As a result of the above, there are only a few places where I am truly spiritual. For me, Judaism is the moral and social justice precepts, which I find vitally important, and the community and the shared values and culture.

Is there a God? That’s an interesting question, and an issue that cannot be proved one way or the other (and please, don’t try). Those who try to prove God exists invariably do so by pointing to faith texts, which are not proof. Those who try to disprove God point to science, but science cannot disprove God — especially a disinterested God. Hence, to me, atheism is a belief system just built on a different faith. Some call that religion; I reserve the “religion” term for organized, structured, and formalized belief systems, often with central organizations. I’ll argue that the existence of God may not matter, for we should be good and moral whether or not God exists. I believe we have the capability to do good without the promise of reward or the threat of eternal damnation. To quote Penn Jillette, a noted atheist:

The question I get asked by religious people all the time is, without God, what’s to stop me from raping all I want? And my answer is: I do rape all I want. And the amount I want is zero. And I do murder all I want, and the amount I want is zero. The fact that these people think that if they didn’t have this person watching over them that they would go on killing, raping rampages is the most self-damning thing I can imagine. I don’t want to do that. Right now, without any god, I don’t want to jump across this table and strangle you. I have no desire to strangle you. I have no desire to flip you over and rape you. You know what I mean?

Legislating Morality. This leads to the next subject: Is it our place to legislate morality? Do we need laws to prevent abortion or homosexuality or any of these myriad of things that various religions have taught over the years. To answer that question, we need to go down a few paths first.

Mutual respect, in my eyes, goes hand in hand with freedom of religion. That means you are welcome to practice your belief systems, and I mine, and we should be able to do so without interfering with each others. It is not your place to impose your religious values upon me, nor me to impose mine upon you. Furthermore, it is not Government’s place to impose a specific religion’s values over a different religion.

Morality means nothing when we do not choose to do the right thing. Even if abortion is legal, that does not mean it should be done or encouraged. That is up to the woman and her values, and most woman do not want to have abortions — situations and circumstances (often not of their choice) force them into it. We should build a society that values more than just the unborn life, but that supports life through out the lifecycle: from the children born into poverty and degradation to our seniors.

But if we legislate that only what we think is the right thing, then we remove the ability for people to be good and to choose the right thing. For those that so believe, I’ll note this is fundamental in Deuteronomy: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring will live;” You shall choose — not that society shall choose for you, but that you need to choose to do the right thing. You can’t choose if society takes that choice away from you.

In this, I subscribe to the talmudic and kabbalistic notion of ha-Satan, which the Christians mistakenly treat as Satan, the Devil. ha-Satan is a different notion: the notion that ha-Satan puts temptations in our path specifically so we have to make that choice to do the right thing.

Does this mean that I think murder should be legal, or that rape should be legal? No. I do believe there is a distinction between crimes against others without their choice, and things we do to ourselves. Murder, rape, theft, and such, are non-consensual crimes against others. Things like drugs and such are choice we make to ourselves. This invariably leads to the question of whether abortion is murder, and that really devolves quickly into when there is an other to commit a crime against. Note that I did not say “when life begins”, for cell division arguably begins the mechanics of life. But living — existence — being — is something different. There is a time during gestation — quite likely not exact — when that begins. When that occurs is a matter of belief, and this then becomes a matter of not pushing your beliefs onto me. Legally we impose a compromise: a time when we believe that existence independent of the mother is possible.  Recognize that is what it is: a compromise between differing beliefs, and one that — even though we might not like — it is what we can accept for society. Does that mean we should encourage abortion? Of course not, but it ultimately should be the mother’s choice, dictated by their beliefs and their relationship with God as they understand God. We must respect their beliefs. Does this mean some promising lives will be lost? Quite probably, but we seem to have no problem as a society when equally promising lives are lost on the battlefield or to poverty or to sickness. Argue with me about the sanctity of life and that we must value life when you demonstrably and through actions value it equally after birth. Then, and only then, will I respect your call for valuing the unborn life throughout its lifecycle.

Christianity. This, then, brings us to my views on Christianity. As I noted at the start, my fundamental value is respect. Judaism does recognize that other religions exist, and that other paths to enlightenment are valid. The Mi Chamocha prayer, recited regularly, acknowledges this when it asks, “Who is like unto you, O God, among the Gods that are worshipped?”

I have no problem with Christian beliefs, nor people who follow Christianity. I do not view them a backward or archaic. Their belief system is simply that — theirs. It is not mine, and as long as they do not attempt to “save” me or impose their belief system upon me, we can live harmoniously. I do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God or the Messiah (he doesn’t meet the job qualifications), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in his teachings. Just as the Torah contains divine inspiration, so do the teachings of Jesus (as a child of God, as are we all). They deserve study and interpretation for modern times.

On the other hand, there are some Christians….

I do believe that many Christians today do not act as Jesus taught. My understanding of Jesus is that he taught love for one’s fellow man (as a general term), to treat others as we want to be treated, to care for the fallen and the sick, to treat the least among us as an equal. It was Jesus who reached out to the whores and beggars to help them. It was Jesus who saw the good in people.

Far too many Christians in name fail to recall those ideas. Too many believe in the gospel of prosperity, and worship the god of wealth instead of the god of compassion. I think that notion — which is practiced by far too many of our political leaders — is wrong and non-Christian (at least as I understand things). I’ll gladly debate those ideas. Note that I didn’t say anything about the individuals — it is the notion I disagree with. They are welcome to their beliefs, but I don’t have to agree with them.

Armageddon and the End Days. One of the key differences between Judaism and Christianity is the view of the end days and the afterlife. Some have characterized the difference as Judaism focusing on this world and the rewards in this world, and Christianity focusing on doing good for the rewards in the world to come. The latter explains why Christianity became so popular during the middle ages: in horrible and horrid times, one gains comfort in trusting the world after you die will be a better one.

But does believing in the end days, Armageddon, and an uplifting of the dead to heaven a reason to hasten the end? Some in Salvation Christianity appear to believe that, and there appear to be leaders who are pushing that — or at least acting that way. I’ll argue that to do so is presumptuous and to put yourself in the place of God. If there is to be an end of days and such, it is God that must establish the timetable and bring it about, not man. Man’s job, as noted above, is to make the conscious choice to do the right thing and to make the world a better place. It is our job to be responsible stewards of the world and ensure its survival. It is our job to treat our fellows on this planet the best we can, to make this a world of justice and respect. If God then wants to end the world, it is his or her choice and timetable, not ours.

Life on Other Worlds. Is there life on other worlds? Probably, but it doesn’t make a difference. Given the billions and billions of worlds and conditions, it is statistically unlikely that some other form of life didn’t start on another world, and likely even evolved to be intelligent. But given how short of a time period intelligent life, able to communicate, has been on this world compared to the life of this world, the odds that our time period coincided with that on another world is small. Further, the distances between planets would make it such that even if our intelligent life periods overlapped, we likely could not communicate. As such, it really doesn’t make a difference. We shouldn’t think other worlds are coming to destroy us; nor should we believe that another world will come and get us out of our dilemmas. We have to choose to do the right thing.

Similarly, we should not be so presumptuous as to assume we are the only intelligent life on this planet. Other species do communicate with each other — in different ways. Other species are intelligent, but we just can’t communicate with them in the same way. Treating each other with respect includes doing the same for other species. I don’t go so far as to be vegetarian, but I do believe we should treat animals humanely, not kill just for the sport of it, and if we eat other animals, we should ensure that their life does not go to waste by wasting the food that they give us. If God exists, we can’t presume to fathom God’s plan for us and our world. In particular, we don’t know what species God might choose to promote next, and we shouldn’t put a stumbling block in front of those plans. We will be judged, if we are judged, by how we treat others, and that includes our animal brethren.

Wrapping It Up with a Bow. Ultimately, it comes back to where I started: Respect for others. Discuss the ideas and the actions, not the person. Consciously make the choices to do the right thing, as you have been taught through your belief systems; don’t depend on the law to impose it on you, nor use the law to impose what you think is the right thing upon others.

Oh, and my favorite adage: Never ascribe to malice what you can to stupidity.



Criticizing the Message | Attacking the Messenger

userpic=trumpTwo thoughts on the current kerfuffle regarding Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Michelle Wolf:

  1. I think it is wrong to make jokes about anyone based on how they look (or other similarly protected categories) … ANYONE. In terms of doing it in a political venue: If you would be bothered if the “other side” did it to you, don’t do it to them. There’s plenty legitimate things (actions) to poke at and make fun of.
  2. I think it is wrong to attack the messenger when it is the message that bothers you. If Trump had sent a member of his staff that actually creates policy in some way, go for it on that policy. But SHS is just a mouthpiece attempting to report on that policy; she doesn’t create the policy. You can make fun of over the tops effort to defend the policy, but attack Trump if you disagree with the policy. Again, remember the real source of evil.

In this day and age — the age of #MeToo and worries about cyberbullying — I find that much of what passes for comedy is veiled bullying by those who were likely bullied in school. I’m referring to comedy that makes fun of people for their attributes, looks, size, intelligence, job, etc. Perhaps it is fun in the moment, but it is teasing and bullying none-the-less, and we are better than that. I prefer the gentler humor of folks like Bob Newhart, Red Skelton, George Carlin, Steven Wright, and such. There may be an argument that that aspect of the Correspondent’s Dinner might have outlived its day. I’d disagree with that — the last thing we need to do is censor reporters — but I do believe the comedy that is there needs to poke at the message and the press/newsmakers role with respect to it, and not do attacks on the messengers.


Essay Prompt: What Did You Learn in School Today?

userpic=divided-nationI can always depend on my Conservative friends for essay prompts. Here is today’s:

Why are schools acting like they own our children? We are not sending them to school to be indoctrinated! They are there to learn…. we want history math grammar NOT walkouts … gun control .. and Hate towards our President.

Oh, there’s so much to unpack here.

I. That’s right, the place to indoctrinate our children is at home, where you get to teach your children your prejudices and your religion, your hatreds and biases. But then again, some do send their kids to school to be indoctrinated: witness the rise of private and religious schools, both of which indoctrinate children with specific values and beliefs systems. So what you are really saying is that you don’t want schools to indoctrinate children with values different than yours. Remember what they sang in South Pacific, “You have to be carefully taught.”  But then again, I don’t want my children to be indoctrinated with YOUR values.

II. You do want your children to learn history, and how to read and write. Guess what? That exposes them to the fact that protests and walkouts are a part of American History. It teaches them that guns have been a problem throughout American history, and that there have been numerous attempts to control them. It teaches them to read, and to be able to find political analysis and read that. It teaches them to write and to find their voice. It teaches them math, so that they can see the numbers of how many other children are being killed, and how much money the NRA is spending to prevent any regulations on weapons. Any regulation.  It teaches them to think critically, which is what a school should do. And these critical thinking students learn the power of their voice from history, and they use it.

III. There’s something that people (and especially the NRA) forgets: gun control isn’t all or nothing. Gun control does not mean the government is coming for everyone’s guns. Gun control is increased regulations on some guns, and perhaps the inability to purchase new models of some other types, and increased energy to go after the illegal guns out there. But it isn’t going after the legal gun owners that follow the rules. They aren’t the problem. However, the NRA wants you to think the government is coming after you, so you buy … well, you get it.

IV. As for teaching Hatred of the President: I think if there were staff actually teaching hatred during school hours, they would be called out for it. In fact, many have. These children may observe this hatred from society, or their parents, or for that matter, much of the free world. But the meme said specifically during school hours, and that rarely happens from school officials. Official school curriculum does not teach like or dislike of particular politicians. After all, that isn’t on the test. It might teach students about issues that are relevant to their education. But even this gun control debate is not necessarily hatred of the President, it is hatred of his policies. Yes: there is a distinction between policies and the person saying them.

In closing, again, we have Tom Paxton and Pete Seeger to take us out on a song, demonstrating that “indoctrination” has been more on the right, in any case:

What did you learn in school today
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today
Dear little boy of mine?

I learned that Washington never told a lie
I learned that soldiers seldom die
I learned that everybody’s free
And that’s what the teacher said to me
That’s what I learned in school today
That’s what I learned in school

What did you learn in school today…?

I learned that policemen are my friends
I learned that justice never ends
I learned that murderers die for their crimes
Even if we make a mistake sometimes
That’s what I learned in school today
That’s what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today…?

I learned Newt Gingrich has a plan
Of healthcare for every woman and man
It’ll cost far less and the reason why
Is all you have to do is DIE DIE DIE
That’s what I learned in school today
That’s what I learned in school

What did you learn in school today…?

I learned that Hillary Clinton is bad
For taking a thousand dollars she had
And running it up to a hundred grand
When that should only be done by a man.
That’s what I learned in school today
That’s what I learned in school