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Who Are We?

Who do we want to be?

I’m not sure who we are anymore. 

I’m sitting here on a Thursday morning in late April watching the rain, which isn’t all that unusual for late April, and as I’m going through my morning reading, which has become more extensive in the past month, I’m noticing a disturbing trend: We’re no longer pretending to be nice.

Put a strong emphasis on the word pretending in that last sentence. I’m not naive enough to believe that we, as a society, have ever actually been nice. While the subjective term has always been applied on a bit of a sliding scale depending upon the person to who it was actually applied, most people have long known that much of the niceness we see in a public setting is fake. We were taught a certain set of manners, a distinct level of public decorum to which we all, or at least most of us, adhered. How we behaved privately, however, has always been in opposition to that public face, and knowing whose word could or could not be trusted was valuable capital in navigating the social landscape.

As most of us have been forced to stay at home for well over a month now, or otherwise socially distanced from the level of population that we might normally encounter, cracks in our social veneer have become major fault lines and many people are no longer making the slightest effort to be nice either in their tone nor in their behavior. To some degree, the public face that has been worn by so many for so long is falling completely off and we’re seeing people for who they truly are. 

Perhaps we should have seen this coming. One might argue that it was predictable. We have known for quite some time that herd mentality is neither stable nor predictable and we always expect it to be centered toward some vision of self-preservation; such is the nature of the beast. Beginning in 2007, and expanding more across the field after 2013, economic models have stopped assuming that people act inherently logical, putting the growth of their own economic interests ahead of everything else. That we don’t necessarily value profit above all else played a large part in the 2008 recession and is going to be a significant factor in determining when/if the economy gets back on its feet now. 

When our herd response to the chance of a lockdown coming was to hoard toilet paper above all else, we sent a strong message as to where our values lie in that, for the most part, we have none. This is self-preservation in hyperdrive. Old people can’t get what they need? Screw them. People with critical illnesses can’t get the medications they need to live? Screw them, too. We turned the grocery store into a battleground. If the fights in the aisles weren’t enough, now people are creating bots to snatch items out of store inventories and taking up delivery spots so that, once again, those most vulnerable can’t get what they need. The number of online hacks has increased substantially, putting more people’s private data in danger, and the trolls who have always inherited the seedier places of the Internet have grown to the point of being a public nuisance.

What is ultimately most damaging, though, is that our elected leaders, those who we depend upon for guidance and leadership through difficult times, have ripped off their masks as well and we’re seeing that this land of the free and home of the brave is more like The Bad Place, a facade based on evil with the intent of inflicting as much pain and torture as possible. We see this in the actions of the Mayor of Las Vegas, eagerly desiring to re-open the town’s casinos, not caring how, or if, they choose to enforce any precautions against the spread of disease. We see it in the words of the Texas Lieutenant Governor who callously says, “There are more important things than living.” We see it in the decisions Governors who are ignoring data and science and re-opening commercial activity in their states long before adequate testing makes those actions safe. We see it in the Senate pro Tempore saying that he’d rather see states go bankrupt than pass another stimulus package. 

Most critically, we see the evil in the actions of a president who made it his practice to ignore the earliest warnings of the virus possibly as far back as November of 2019, continually downplaying its severity and questioning the recommendations of medical and scientific professionals, and considered only 30,000 deaths a winning situation. His callous disregard for the volume of human life his actions effect, the demeaning manner in which he speaks to reporters attempting to clarify the situation, and the self-centered insistence on turning every press conference into a campaign rally, proves he cares nothing for anyone but himself and those who are giving him money.

That there remains anyone who still supports this president and those who are committing similar acts of evil proves that we have lost our soul, our national identity, and our social morality. There is no valid claim to greatness in a people who stand on statehouse steps holding automatic weapons in defense of their “right” to move about freely with full knowledge, whether admitted or not, that such actions could impact the health and welfare of hundreds (exponentially) of innocent people. There is no valid claim to righteousness in religious leaders who choose to test God’s sovereignty in order to preserve their pocketbook while potentially infecting thousands. There is no valid claim to morality when pastors and debt holders and even some employers demand people to turn over their entire stimulus checks to them.

I’m not ignoring the fact that there are plenty of people who are doing good within their communities. People who are sewing masks, giving free rooms and meals to medical staff, delivering meals and wifi to children home from school, and many others are demonstrating that there remains some hope that we, collectively, have not lost all humanity. 

What bothers me is that there are apparently not enough of those people to overwhelm the evil and drive it into oblivion. If we were a humane society, our shouts and objections would have forced a change in the president’s behavior from the very beginning. If we were all so intent on doing good and caring for those in need, there would be no one facing eviction or worrying about being able to pay for the medication. If we truly cared about the safety and welfare of our friends and neighbors, we wouldn’t need a forced shut down of businesses, we would all simply stay home until the medical and scientific data determined it was safe to do otherwise. That NONE of those conditions exists tells me we are not who we claim to be.

We sit here at a crossroads where we have to make some difficult choices, putting what’s humane and safe and appropriate above our desires, our wants, and our selfish proclivities. There’s nothing “reasonable” about wanting to re-open business that cannot safely enforce social distancing. We are not “protecting jobs” when the first businesses we want open are those that pay the least and employ the most vulnerable. We are not “doing what’s best for America” when our actions overwhelmingly endanger people of color and those who exist below the poverty line.

We are not who we thought we were or who we claimed to be. The masks are off, the charade is over. America, we see you for the evil you are. 

Now, you get to choose. Who are you going to be?

cats on a couch
Social distancing is not something cats understand. Humans don’t have the same excuse

Reading time: 6 min
What If We Don't

I hesitate to publish something that interrupts the flow of our ongoing serialized novel, but this has been a pervasive thought for some time now and I don’t think Facebook or any other social media is the best place for it. Please allow me this one indulgence as I momentarily direct our attention to more urgent matters.


Anxiety has risen around when we’re going to break free of the COVID-19-related shutdowns and “get back to normal.” While the US president is pushing for an unrealistic May 1 date for business to reopen, other experts are projecting much longer time periods. One bioethicist predicts it could be autumn of 2021 before large crowd gatherings such as concerts and sporting events can be resumed. The underlying question on everyone’s mind is, “When are we going to get back to normal?”

But what if we don’t?

What happens if “normal” as we knew it on January 1 of this year never returns? What could that look like? Could we create a better society for everyone if we don’t allow normal to come back? I don’t think anyone would say that our world we perfect before the pandemic struck. There’s absolutely nothing in the world that says we have to go back to the way things were. This is our opportunity to build something new, something better.

What if we don’t return to a society where people are segregated socially, financially, opportunistically, educationally, perceptively by race, religion, gender, sexuality, or any other arbitrary denominator base on traditions of hate, jealousy, and outright stupidity? 

What if we don’t return to an education system that is demonstratively better for those in some neighborhoods, cities, and towns than it is others, leaving many undereducated and lacking the skills they need to survive and/or hopelessly in debt for the majority of their adult lives?

What if we don’t return to a financial system that preys on the poorest of the poor, denying credit to those who need it most, charging fees to those who can least afford them, and rewarding those who hoard the most wealth with opportunities and resources the majority can never achieve?

What if we don’t return to a workforce that undervalues people we now see as critical to everyone’s survival: grocery store workers, food service employees, delivery drivers, postal service workers, first responders, pharmacy technicians and assistants, warehouse workers, and others?

What if we don’t return to a healthcare system that can deny care to anyone because they don’t meet a list of arbitrary and unnecessary qualifications such as insurance, or pre-existing conditions, or ability to pay, or where they live, or their chances of surviving, or their age, or the gender by which they identify?

What if we don’t return to a political system that denies anyone over 18 the right to vote because they don’t live in the right place, don’t have the right ID in their wallet, can’t physically get to the poll, were once in jail, didn’t meet a deadline for registering, or haven’t jumped through all the restrictive hoops?

What if we don’t return to churches, synagogues, and mosques that teach divisiveness, elitism, racial separation, retaliation, warmongering, theocracy, bigotry, sexism, xenophobia, disregard for science and medicine, authoritarianism, and complete disregard for the entire LGBTQ+ spectrum of people?

What if we don’t return to a disregard for climate and other evidence-based sciences, underfunded medical research, the obliteration of our natural resources, complete destruction of entire ecosystems, willful ignorance of climate change, underfunded science education, and pay-for-play publication systems?

What if we don’t return to an entertainment industry that makes its fortunes by exploiting the worst qualities of humanity, finding humor in our ignorance, celebrating irrational stereotypes, greed, corruption, nepotism, class warfare, racial disparity, injustice, and blatant misrepresentation of history and people groups?

What if we don’t return to a music industry that steals songs from songwriters, exploits performers, promotes live-or-die competitions, makes live music inaccessible for the masses, creates profit for labels over musicians, minimizes the role of women, and replaces talent with gimmicks?

What if we don’t return to an art industry that relies too heavily upon a system of corrupt curators and collectors hoarding art and controlling access to galleries and museums, diminishes the role of indigenous arts and gives unwarranted preference to eurocentric elitists, denigrates illustration and graphic design to lesser class status, and blocks access to financial stability for artists?

What if we don’t return to a world where more than 700 million people are food insecure, where 78% of workers live paycheck-to-paycheck—struggling to provide basic necessities, where as much as half of the world’s population does not make a living wage despite endless hours of work, and where workers’ rights are continually diminished?

What if we don’t return to a world where taxes are imposed on those with the least to give while billionaires escape with no taxes at all, where the efficacy of representation depends on the size of one’s political donation, and the voice of corporations dominates over the voice of individuals?

What if we don’t return to a world where any form of sex is illicit, where nudity is prohibited, where personal forms of pleasure are shamed, where professional sex workers have no legal protection, where protection against sexually-transmitted infections is arbitrary and optional, and where individual choice is superseded by antiquated laws based on unjust morality?

What if we simply refuse to return to the dysfunction that previously defined normal? What if we refuse to participate in something that is broken, inept, and unsustainable? What if we say no? What if we consider the possibilities of our own actions, collectively and individually, to change the world and create a new normal?

What if we take this opportunity to disrupt the political systems of the world, to demand more open and honest elections for everyone, to destroy the very concept of party restrictions and the misrepresentation inherent to their existence, to recognize the interdependence and cooperative necessity of every individual on this planet?

This is our opportunity to take control. We don’t have to accept the ineptness of our politicians. We can say no. We can demand resignations where resignations need to happen. We can refuse to support an economy built on corporate greed. We can demand more. 

We can create a new normal—something better, something lasting, something sustainable. All the cards are on the table. What do you choose to do?

The Old Man in the rain

Where we pass the hat

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spirit of the holidays

Note: The photos heading each section were taken during the year being reviewed. That doesn’t impact the content in any manner but we thought you’d want to know.

Four inches of snow lie on the ground outside as I begin writing this week. More snow is coming. Assuming this publishes on Sunday, December 22, Hanukkah starts tonight and after that, it’s one seemingly endless stream of holidays right through January 1. This is, in theory, the most festive time of year, a celebration not only on religious terms but also of the ending of the year and the decade. There are lights blinking everywhere, including the racetrack, but you have to pay an ungodly amount to see them. Same for the art museum. Same for the zoo. No one wants to drive from neighborhood to neighborhood to look at lights anymore because you might accidentally stumble into gunfire. 

Holidays are here and with them, we’re supposed to feel happier spirits, a sense of thankfulness for having survived and a delight in being able to give to others. Yet, too often that’s not what happens. Charles Dickens, a person with an abidingly deep love for one holiday, in particular, wrote:

Christmas time! That man must be a misanthrope indeed, in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused – in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened – by the recurrence of Christmas.

If Dickens is correct, then we have perhaps become a population filled with misanthropes. The end of our years now are filled more with dread than decadence, worry more than wassailing, regret rather than rejoicing. Many approach the holidays in sorrow, moaning the loss of one unjustly taken from them this year. Each calendar exchange seems to take us another step further away from the giddiness and anticipation that came not only with opening presents but also with seeing our favorite relatives, enjoying the company of cousins we hadn’t seen all year, and setting aside the stresses that had kept our brows furrowed the rest of the year.

Some might suggest that as thoroughly modern individuals we are simply more in tune and aware of reality than were our predecessors. We are too keenly aware of earth’s problems, from foreign wars that have no purpose to climate change that threatens our existence to the burden of insurmountable debt before one even claims their first job. Being “woke” comes with a price that leaves our spirits and our wallets too broke and broken for celebration.

I feel oddly obligated to at least attempt to correct this malaise that is set upon us. Surely, somewhere in the ethos of time and space there still exists some overriding reason to spend the remainder of this decade a little less curmudgeonly, a little more spritely, and perhaps, dare I use the word, happy. Taking a cue from Dickens’, I’ve summoned the Ghost of What-The-Hell-Happened in a search for meaning that might lighten our spirits just a bit. I’m not necessarily looking for a Frank Capra ending, but at least, perhaps, a grin.

It Started In 2010

 Spirit of 2010
2010

The decade started with the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Having the games so close without having to actually suffer the insurmountable costs ourselves made the games so much more fun for Americans, and the Canadians, being everything that they are, did a wonderful job playing host. American skier Bode Miller finally won gold, and the US took gold in the snowboarding halfpipe as well thanks to Shaun White. The Olympics were a good start to what seemed as though it might be an outstanding decade.

We were listening to everything from Eminem’s Recovery to Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now, Drake’s Thank Me Later and Lady Gaga’s Fame. We watch a lot of sequels, from Toy Story 3 to Shrek Forever After and started the long and emotional process of ending the Harry Potter series. 

New Orleans made permanent enemies of the Colts when they beat them 31-17 in the Super Bowl, something many will never forgive. When it came time for baseball, the San Fransisco Giants made short work of the Texas Rangers, taking the World Series in only four games. The Lakers dominated the NBA and the Blackhawks took home the Stanley cup.

This was also the year that President Obama was able to sign the Affordable Care Act into law, giving millions of previously uninsured people a shot at healthcare coverage. While politicians have been arguing over it ever since the bottom line is that a lot of people have benefited and would be severely hurt if it is ever taken away.

All in all, it wasn’t that bad a year if you don’t look at the bad stuff. Most of the bad stuff happened on other continents making it easier for Americans to ignore. Sure, we had that one guy that crashed his plane into an IRS office in Austin and a brief bomb scare in Times Square, but we also ended the military’s Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy and put limits on the use of nuclear weapons. So, overall, as years, go, this wasn’t an especially bad one, which makes it good. Right?

Terrorism Takes A Bullet

Spirit of 2010
2011

Without question, the biggest news of 2011 was the killing of terrorist-in-chief Osama Bin Laden. The photo of President Obama in the war room as the event unfolded gave many people confidence that we had a competent Commander in Chief who was making good on the quest to hold responsible the person who masterminded the 9/11 attacks nearly ten years earlier. There was a lot of celebration in the US… and a lot of other people went and hid under their covers.

Oh, and Britain’s Prince William married Kate Middleton, which the biggest wedding since William’s own parents’ event. There was all manner of discussions about succession and tradition but at the end of the day, it was the bride’s sister’s butt that got a lot of attention and sold a lot of dresses.

I should probably mention the hope and joy and came with the Arab Spring movement, but given that ten years later we’re seeing how that didn’t turn out so well, maybe we’ll just skip that part.

More to our liking, the White House defined the Defense of Marriage act barring same-gender marriages as unconstitutional, saying that the Attorney General’s office would no longer defend it. On cue, the state of New York says “thank you, very much” and passes a law allowing same-gender marriages, setting off a tidal wave that would dominate conversations on holidays for the next four years.

We were still watching sequels in the movie theater, still listening to Adele, Gaga, Drake, and Lady Antebellum, and a whole bunch of people picked up The Help by Kathryn Stockett which set off a reading frenzy that lasted a couple of years. Not a bad thing at all.

Rangers made it back to the world series and this time it took all seven games before the Cardinals disappointed the Texas team again. Packers took the Super Bowl, Mavericks won their first NBA championship, and the Bruins took the Stanley Cup in a brutal beating of the Canucks. 

The downside to this year came in the loss of some wonderful people, such as Amy Winehouse, Steve Jobs, and Christopher Hitchens. We wouldn’t have minded had they stayed around a while longer. Still, overall, the year was positive enough to leave most of us feeling good about ourselves and about the future. We were going to the New Year’s Eve dance with a positive outlook.

Some Years Are Just Rough

Spirit of 201
2012

Being a presidential election year made 2012 a tough one from the very beginning and while the end result was positive it took a toll on the American psyche that is still playing out. This was a tough year to be in charge of anything, anywhere, and by the time it wrapped pretty much everyone, myself included, was glad it was over.

This was a bad year to be a kid. The horrible mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut was preceded by the mass shooting at a movie theater in a Denver suburb. This was a turning point in the national conversation on gun control that ended in mass frustration as elected officials across the country ran and hid.

The topic of same-gender marriage was frequently in the news. President Obama expressed his support for it and the state of Washington made it legal, but the state of North Carolina banned it. The Supreme Court agreed to take up the matter and while everyone in the LGBTQ community was publicly positive, there were still plenty of state initiatives to provide angst to the whole scenario, and nothing started a family argument any faster, except maybe gun control.

We did find some bright spots. The Summer Olympics in London came along in the middle of July and distracted us slightly for a couple of weeks. The biggest news was American swimmer Michael Phelps breaking the record for most gold medals ever. Yay! In fact, the US dominated swimming events for both men and women, which made us quite proud. We were also quite proud of Gabby Douglas for taking the women’s all-around gold in gymnastics and US women for taking the team gold. There was plenty of good news here and we were quite welcome for all of it.

Our music taste became questionable as Brit boy band One Direction dominated rather uncomfortably in what some wanted to term as a second British invasion that, thankfully, never materialized. The one highlight was Lionel Ritchie’s Tuskegee but too many people missed it and the opportunity to benefit from the conversation was lost. 

On the big screen, we watched our backs while Batman, James Bond, Spiderman, a Hobbit, and a talking teddy bear captured our imaginations. Security was a lot tighter in movie theaters the second half of the year, but we coped by buying more popcorn.

The New York Giants offed the Patriots in the Super Bowl, the World Series got tense as the SF Giants took game seven after ten nail-biting innings, Miami Heat took the NBA championship, and perhaps one of the most emotional games came when Roger Federer took the Wimbledon Championship from Andy Murray. There are Brits still heartbroken over that one. 

President Obama won his bid for a second term, of course, but one could feel the division growing across the country. This whole American experience began getting really uncomfortable and in the midst of it all, we lost Dick Clark, Etta James, Donna Summer, Whitney Houston, Andy Williams, Sally Ride, Davy Jones, Don Cornelius, Dave Brubeck, and Ray Bradbury. 

On the plus side, Kat and I met at a not-a-holiday-party party on December 6. That’s working out well, so far [evil grin]

Love Wins, Sort Of

Spirit of 2013
2013

The most important event of 2013 came on June 26 when the US Supreme Court determined that the Defense of Marriage Act prohibiting same-gender weddings was unconstitutional. Celebrations occurred. There were still battles to fight, though, as the decision tossed authority back to the states, damnit. 

Much of the rest of the year was a wash, though, as we saw blatant stupidity grow as the National Voting Rights Act was gutted, George Zimmerman was somehow found not guilty of murdering Treyvon Martin, and the whole Bradley/Chelsea Manning thing went down in one of the biggest debacles ever. Ick. Let’s just move on.

There was a 34-minute blackout during the Super Bowl, and no, it wasn’t because everyone had too much beer. Baltimore Ravens eventually won the game, but no one outside Baltimore seemed to care. Boston Red Sox took the World Series in six games and the Miami Heat took the NBA championship for the second year in a row. This was a great year for East coast sports, but the rest of the country responded with a massive, “Meh.”

Movies this year were so disappointing I’m not going to bother listing any of them. Music was slightly better, although we, nationally, listened to far too much Justin Timberlake. The rest of the time we were listening to Pink and Bruno Mars and Imagine Dragons and Florida Georgia Line. We read Dan Brown’s Inferno because we can’t stop. We also read Bill O’Reilly’s, Killing Jesus, Veronica Roth’s, Divergent, and John Grisham’s, Sycamore Row because we were largely scared of new authors.

Stuff falling from the sky was particularly big news this year, to the point one might begin to wonder if the deities were hurling things at us, quite literally, from their distant thrones. Debris from a meteor hit Siberia, killing 1,000 people. One doesn’t expect that on a normal day. Ever. A massive Category 4 tornado flattened Moore, Oklahoma again. Why they bother rebuilding at this point defies logic. They keep getting flattened. They’re not getting the hint. Then, to round out the year, November 17 comes alone and Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Tennessee see at least 60 confirmed tornadoes. 119 tornadoes were reported. The damage across the Midwest had FEMA managers feeling quite confused as to where they should be. 

We understand that feeling far too well.

There is practically nothing else about 2013 that is uplifting except Kat and I move in together and three weeks later I hurt my leg and haven’t walked right since. This year was a bitch.

Spies Love Us

2014
2014

2014 was the year the whole CIA domestic spying scandal broke wide open. When it was found that they had hacked and spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee and everyone else. As a result, Congress unanimously passed a law requiring a search warrant to access information on anyone’s cell phone. What that had to do with the Senate Intelligence Committee is still baffling but it made everyone feel good at the time.

The Supreme Court struck down laws in several states, including Indiana, making same-gender marriage legal in more states. This was a HUGE win for the LGBTQ community but simultaneously sparked another debate over transgendered people using public restrooms. Republicans ride the fear-mongering train to re-take the Senate and increase their dominance of the House in mid-term elections. This should have been seen as proof that the majority of Americans don’t give a shit about anyone’s civil rights but their own.

This is also the year the NFL gets nailed for failing to deal adequately with the violence issues of their players, primarily Ray Rice and Adriene Peterson. There are a lot of charges, a lot of press conferences, and in the end, nothing demonstrably was changed to reduce the amount of violence within the league. 

Hobby Lobby showed that privately-owned businesses can get away with any stupid thing they want, particularly failing to pay for contraception as required by law, as long as they claim a religious exemption. That they’re still in business doesn’t say anything positive about the American people. 

This is also the year an unarmed Michael Brown was shot by a cop in Ferguson, Missouri. We’ve yet to solve that problem, either.

The Seattle Seahawks win their first Super Bowl ever, which made something like 15 people happy. Giants barely defeat the Royals in seven games to take the World Series. San Antonio prevents Miami from doing the “three-peat” thing in the NBA. No one watched any other sports because we were either hiding from spies or afraid of the police.

We did go out to see Guardians of the Galaxy and Big Hero 6. This was also the year that Disney took the “on ice” thing literally and the song “Let It Go” became firmly ingrained in the minds of every six-year-old in the country, making it impossible for any adult to ever use that phrase again, ever. We also listened to Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and for reasons yet to be explained, One Direction. We went to the bookstore and became obsessed with John Green’s novel, The Fault In Our Stars and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.

I should probably also mention the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. They were the most expensive ever and more people began questioning whether it was worth hosting. Women’s hockey was a big deal, but so was doping on the part of the Russian national team, which eventually caused a number of medals to be vacated. This is yet another problem that continues to plague the games even into 2020.

We lost a lot of cool people this year. Robin Williams, Maya Angelou, Oscar de la Renta, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Joe Cocker, Pete Seeger, Ben Bradlee, and Harold Ramis are top among a very large list. 

We did land a space ship on a comet this year, though, so we have something of which we can be proud.

No Place To Hide

2015
2015

2015 sets a new bar for being scary. From massive earthquakes in Nepal to terrorism in Paris, this year was all kinds of fucked up in ways we hadn’t seen before. A co-pilot locked the pilot out of the controls of a Germanwings aircraft and flew the plane into a mountain, killing all 150 people on board. “Death by cop” became a real problem, and then some smarmy white kid walked into a black church in Charleston, SC and started shooting during a Bible study. A reporter and cameraman were murdered live, on-air. 

The Supreme Court finally made same-gender marriage legal across all 50 states. The feeling of glee was almost immediately ruined, though, when a self-righteous court clerk in Kentucky said it was against her religious beliefs to issue marriage licenses to same-gendered couples. She spent a week in jail and lost her battle but not before soiling what was rightfully a major win for humanity.

The Pope came for a visit. Catholics went nuts, but everyone else kept saying, “Hey, while you’re here, why not do something about that whole pedo-priest problem ya’ll have?” He didn’t. It’s still a problem.

Mass shootings were a bigger problem than ever. 10 people killed on a college campus in Oregon. Five people killed at a military recruiting office in Chattanooga. Three more at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. Then, to round out the year, a married couple shot up San Bernadino. After all this, try telling your kids that yes, it really is safe to go somewhere. Anywhere. 

We were feeling a bit nostalgic as Star Wars, Mad Max, and Jurrasic World took over the box office while Inside Out introduced our kids to their inner emotions, giving them a sufficient vocabulary with which they started therapy. 

Adele said Hello, Rihanna wants to know if you have her money, and Silento ruined ever wedding reception with this whole whip and nae-nae thing that just got completely out of hand. We got all excited when a second Harper Lee book, Go Set A Watchman was published, but then came the question as to whether Ms. Lee was tricked into signing the papers allowing the book to be published. We felt confused, so we turned our attention to Paula Hawkins’, The Girl On A Train

Patriots cheated their way to a Super Bowl win. Kansas City finally got the World Series win they’d been wanting, then silently slipped into relative obscurity. The Golden State Warriors took the NBA Championship from Cleveland. A surprising number of people didn’t know the Warriors were a team.

This is the year we lost Leonard Nimoy, B. B. King, John Nash, Christopher Lee, Omar Sharif, Yogi Berra, and Jackie Collins. 

The year finished with a second terrorist attack in Paris. We never should have left our beds.

Electing Rich Oranges

2016
2016

2016 picked up where 2015 left off, further cementing the concept that, collectively, we’re a bunch of dumbasses who think killing innocent people solves things. The worst included three simultaneous bombings in Brussels, Belgium (35 killed); a shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, (50 killed); a bus that plowed into a parade in Nice, France (80+ killed); and a truck that ran through a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany (12 killed). How did we respond? Why, with thoughts and prayers, of course. 

We weren’t the only killers, though. Hurricane Matthew came along and killed approximately 1,600 people before it was done. I can’t help but note that we’re getting a lot better at forecasting when and where these storms are going to hit but we’re not getting a lot better at preventing deaths. The disconnect there is rather bothersome.

We were afraid of catching the Zika virus that was running around everywhere and that kept some people from attending the most disastrous Olympic games ever in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This was the perfect time to highlight the impossible burdens the International Olympic Committee places on host cities. Venues weren’t ready. Where venues were ready, guests and athletes had to venture through slums of people living in lean-to shanties without enough food to eat. Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, and Usain Bolt still put forth amazing performances that inspired everyone, but shortly after the games word of abuse on the part of the gymnastics team doctor began to spread and the fallout is likely to be felt at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

There was some softening in US relations with Cuba but since most of those have now been rolled back they’re hardly worth mentioning. Don’t you hate it when you do something good and someone else comes along and ruins it for everyone?

Broncos (Denver) beat the Panthers (Carolina) in the 50th Super Bowl that was more spectacle than game. The world nearly ended, though, when for the first time in over 100 years, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. The curse was broken! Everyone was happy for about three minutes. It was the Cavs and the Warriors again in the NBA championship but this time the Cavs took the series, thanks largely to MVP LeBron James. 

Our taste in music this year was as questionable as our electoral choices. We listened to a lot of Beyonce but we also listened to far too much Justin Beiber. Sia, Ariana Grande, and a bunch of dudes all named DJ something-or-the-other were in the mix as well. This was a year when Shakira and Rihanna made more sense than most musicians.

We were much more content to escape to the theater, where Moana was inspiring, Dr. Strange was mystical, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them kept our Karry Potter hopes alive. Then, Marvel brought us the one hero with which most of us could relate: Deadpool. THIS was the hero we needed and we embraced him.

2016 was also the year most of America became aware of Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical, Hamilton, which largely swept the 2016 Tony awards. The impressive work inspired us to not only take interest in Broadway again, but also US history as we checked out who this Alexander Hamilton guy was. The roadshow continues to sell out theaters everywhere it goes.

Our reading got introspective and somewhat convicting as Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad took most the attention and Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Mathematicians by Margot Lee Shetterly were the hottest things on bookshelves. We were also rather interested in Max Porter’s Grief as social media puts a new spin on how we work through the loss of a loved one.

Then came that damned election. Reasonable people failed to understand how an orange made its way to the nomination. They certainly didn’t expect it to win. But then, to demonstrate that stupidity isn’t just an American personality trait, the UK voted to leave the European Union as well. Both countries have suffered ever since. 

Wait, What?

2017
2017

2017 was the year of the double-take as the reality of our 2016 errors set in and news came at us so fast we hardly had time to react to one thing before we were being hit upside the head from something else. Once again, there was way too much violence and this time the numbers were among the most shocking ever. This was the year some jackass took to the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel and killed 58 people attending a country music festival. The focus quickly turned to how-the-hell no one saw him taking an arsenal of weapons up the elevator, but no one did and a lot of people died, so Congress responded by eventually getting around to banning bump stocks. Yawn. That wouldn’t have stopped the jackass who walked into a church 35 days later and killed 27 more people. Congress responded by saying, “Well, maybe we’ll ban bump stocks.”

Oh, this was also the year that a bunch of fucking Neo-Nazis took to the streets of Charlottesville, West Virginia carrying fucking tiki torches and wearing polo shirts and chinos. Things did not go well. They met with considerable opposition. Then, one of those fucking Nazis drove a car into a crowd of protestors, killing Heather Heyer. Emboldened by the election of the orange, these fucking imbeciles seemed to think this was their time to shine. They seemed to have forgotten that we have a license to kill Nazis, a practice we might consider taking back up.

Mother Nature wasn’t much kinder to us, though, as we were hit with hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria all back-to-back. Massive failures of every kind happened, the most egregious of which came in the government’s lack of aid to Puerto Rico, apparently forgetting that they’re US citizens as well. To this day, we’re still not sure exactly how many people were killed by the storms and their aftermath.

Women factored strongly this year, starting with the Women’s March on Washington, DC one day after the orange was inaugurated as president. There were arguably more people at the march than there were at the inauguration. Women were pissed and that didn’t stop as they decided that if they were going to call out the president for his dirty and immoral deeds, they’d call out everyone else, too. The #MeToo movement began and while Harvey Weinstein was the biggest name to be held accountable, there was a crap ton of other men involved as well. For once, we listened and all those men immediately found themselves out of positions of power. It would be fantastic if this was the one thing for which 2017 is known.

But it’s not. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had decided a year earlier to take a knee during the national anthem to protest police violence against blacks. It made some people a little uncomfortable but the opposition seemed minor. In 2017, football players across the league joined in and suddenly the protest was mislabeled by the orange as being disrespectful to the flag and the movement became a problem for the NFL. What did the NFL do? Blame Kaepernick, of course. The quarterback was blackballed and hasn’t worked since. Meanwhile, police violence against people of color continues unabated.

There was a huge solar eclipse this year which got everyone excited. There were, of course, the demented leftovers from the Dark Ages who warned the world would end (it didn’t) and despite countless warnings from every medical source on the planet, the orange looked directly at the eclipse without any eye protection. Other than that, though, it was fun to see everyone get excited about science for a couple of weeks. 

We were listening to Ed Sheeran, Imagine Dragons, DJ Khaled, and occasionally Taylor Swift or Salena Gomez, but there was a significant imbalance in the number of music awards given to male performers over women and when we realized that we … just kept listening to the same things because that’s what we do.

At the theater, we were thrilled with Gal Godot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman and scared in a whole new way with “Get Out.” We were largely confused by the 8th installment in the Star Wars sage, though, and despite the Academy Award win, “The Shape of Water” still leaves a lot of people wondering if the movie is promoting sex with fish. The answer is no. 

To escape the lunacy, we read George Saunders, Lincoln on the Bardo and Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward among many, many others. 2017 was a good year for book sales.

After 51 years and only their second Super Bowl appearance, it looked as though the Atlanta Falcons might win one for once. No. The Patriots came back from a 25-point deficit and disappointed the entire nation. The Astros took the World Series for the first time ever in seven games against the Dodgers. In a routine that was starting to get boing, the Warriors beat the Cavs again for the NBA Championship. Hey guys, maybe let someone else play?

There was a whole giant truckload of political trash as well. Things we’d just as soon forget, such as the orange using Twitter to set policy. Delving into that mess would just be too depressing at this point. 

Getting Out Of This Mess

2018
2018

There were actually some decently good things happen in 2018, though they’ve largely been overshadowed in our memories by all the stupidity and nonsense in Washington. Let’s start with the fact that it was a united Korean team competing in the PyeongChang Olympics. That was a major milestone of diplomacy that hasn’t been seen in Korea in over 60 years. Norway’s Marit Bjørgen ruled skiing, taking home five medals. American Shaun White repeated as champion of the snowboard halfpipe, and Japan’s Yazuru Hanyu was the first figure skater to repeat gold since Dick Button did it in 1952. The games were a wonderful break that hardly anyone remembers anymore.

Fortunately, there was also a wedding to distract us and this time American’s felt as though they had a stake in the game as Britain’s Prince Harry married American actress Meghan Markle. There was some controversy, of course, because we can’t let love be love. Some were upset that Ms. Markle is biracial. Others were upset that she was divorced. Drama with her family didn’t help matters, either. In the end, though, the wedding was a spectacle and the couple wasted no time making babies that have practically zero chance of sitting on the throne but still get to go to the parties at the palace.

That’s pretty much where the uplifting news ends, though. Robert Mueller’s special prosecutor team handed down dozens of indictments and sent people to jail. There were two more school shootings that no one did anything about because apparently, kids’ lives only matter before they’re born. Sears and Toys ‘R’ Us both went bankrupt, driving home what we’ve known for several years that brick-and-mortar retail has a massive problem that no one’s solving. A racially-insensitive rapist was given a seat on the Supreme Court for the rest of his life. And then, to top everything, the government started separating immigrant children from their families and holding them in cages. Sure, there are some subtleties there but history doesn’t give a shit about subtleties. When Democrats took back control of the House of Representatives in November, the rookies started immediately making the Speaker uncomfortable with talk of doing something about the orange. Someone mentioned the word “Impeach” and all of Washington went nuts.

So, we looked for distractions. We listened to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper over and over because their remake of “A Star Is Born” made everyone feel all gooey inside. Donald Glover countered that with a gritty “This Is America” that made us uncomfortable facing reality but not enough for us to actually do anything. Again. There were a bunch of other songs but, honestly, 50 years from now no one is going to remember them.

In addition to “A Star Is Born,” we were thrilled as Wakanda came alive and the “Black Panther” became everyone’s hero. “Avengers, Infinity War” left us crying, but fortunately there was “Spiderman: Into the Multiverse” and the long-anticipated “Incredibles2” to dry those tears and make us happy. The theater was a great place of escape in 2018.

We emersed ourselves in books such as Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry, Confessions of The Fox, by Jordy Rosenberg, and Lisa Brennan-Jobs memoir, Small Fry, which is so raw that at times it feels as though she’s carving up her father, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, and feeding them to the wolves, then immediately apologizing for the just criticism. 

The Philadelphia Eagles denied the Patriots a comeback and won the Super Bowl, showing some cracks in the Belicek/Brady armor that may hint at the decline of the Patriots empire. The Dodgers returned to the World Series but this time it was the Red Sox who took the series in an uneventful five games. NBA finals were a repeat of 2017 and the entire world is wondering if anyone else in the league even matters at this point.

Solidifying our angst was the number of really important people who died, people who shaped our youths and our understanding of the world. By the time we reached December 31, many of us were wondering if we could just skip 2019 and go straight to 2020. The answer would be “No.”

Crushing Any Spirit Left

2019
2019

Let’s be honest, by the time we got to this year, many of us were feeling beaten, discouraged, and ready to give up. This decade has been hell and we entered it without much spirit or hope for anything more than what we’ve seen every year: bad politics, mass shootings, international terrorism, racism, gender inequality, bigotry, religious abuse, and a deeper ideological divide than any of us can remember.

This is the decade that took David Bowie and Prince IN THE SAME YEAR. It also took Maya Angelou, Aretha Franklin, Stephen Hawking, and Neil Simon. All the nice people, all the people who encouraged us to think, all the people who made us happy, were gone.

Suicides skyrocketed this decade as well and it did so on every level, in every age group, among every socio-economic condition. As a result, there was practically no one in the US who was unaffected. Everyone lost someone.

Even sports didn’t have a lot to offer. The Patriots beat the Rams in the Super Bowl, the Toronto Raptors finally beat the Warriors in the NBA finals, and the Washington Nationals won their first World Series, but all those seemed to be little more than background noise thanks to all the garbage being spewed not only by the orange but everyone on Capitol Hill, resulting in an impeachment investigation that made it clear that not only is everyone in Washington a crook, no one outside Washington gives a damn as long as their team seems to be winning. 

So, where do we look for hope? Now that we’ve suffered through this exercise is there anything left that has a chance to lift the spirits that we pretty much buried in 2016?

A handful of things come to mind. Probably chief among those is the fact that SAME-GENDER MARRIAGE IS LEGAL across the US. Ten years ago, I doubt even the most ardent LGBTQ activist thought we would see this milestone happen so quickly. Transgender rights have improved dramatically as well, though there remains a lot of work to be done on that front. Acceptance has increased to a point where those who still want to argue the point are quickly shouted down by a chorus of LGBTQ allies before those directly affected ever get involved.

There were some serious medical breakthroughs this decade as well, particularly when talking about cystic fibrosis and Ebola. Where AIDS was once a near-certain death sentence, we have reached the point this decade where the disease can be prevented in most cases simply by taking a pill. 

While much of sports have seemed repetitive and dull, the US Women’s Soccer Team proved that they’re worth watching and deserve to be paid just as much as the men, pushing forward the debate about pay equity not only in sports but across the table for all women.

A teenager taught us about global warming when we refused to listen to actual scientists. She stopped flying in planes, made train travel popular, and, perhaps more joyous than anything, beautifully trolled the orange when he tried to belittle her. We’re still dangerously close to reaching the point where we cannot backtrack on the damage done to our planet, but there’s one voice of reason that’s shining bright in the darkness.

We’ve come to understand and accept a lot more about autism and how to respond to people who have it. As a result, schools have become places where therapy and help are available, kids are getting assistance rather than being kicked out for being disruptive. We’ve also paid more attention to nutrition and how food deserts affect kids’ ability to learn. We’re still not paying teachers anywhere close to a sufficient wage but we’re making improvements that mean kids that were left out in previous generations will survive in this one.

We’ve become more conscious than ever of the food we eat, thanks in part to a number of listeria and ecoli breakouts that forced us to pay more careful attention. At the same time, though, we’ve continued to overeat and are looking at nearly fifty percent of the country being obese by the end of the next decade. We have a long way to go, but raising awareness is the first step to solving the problem.

We’ve realized that there’s more to life than work and that a college education doesn’t mean you’ll get a job that pays enough to cover the debt created getting that degree. This led to a sharing economy boom with Air B&B and ride-sharing companies taking off in ways few saw as possible. Travel has once again become big business as more people are concerned about the quality of the experience over other concerns.

We carry in our pockets or our purses the answer to almost every question ever asked and it’s all available at a touch thanks to the new generation of smartphones that double has handy cameras. As we create memories, we capture and share them not only with family but everyone. We see more of how people want to live and sometimes that drives us to improve our own lives in the process. 

There ARE good things here. There are ALWAYS good things, every year. The problem is that the noise around all the bad things is so loud we lose the sound, and the memory, good things. That cheerful spirit of the holidays isn’t gone or dead, it’s being drowned out by a choir of Scrooges who want us to fear them and the possibility of what they might do if they don’t get their way.

Perhaps, just maybe, the way to get that spirit back is to respond to the Scrooges by turning down their volume, don’t give them the platform, and reducing their importance in our lives. Sure, we’re going to vote for president this next November, that is important, but we don’t have to let that conversation dominate our lives anymore. We know the orange is a thief and a crook and that there are other fruits that are just as bad and we need to remove them all. So, come November, we fix that.

In the meantime, we can work on regaining the happiness and the spirit we lost this decade. We can tell more stupid people to fuck off, focus more on getting good things done, supporting more medical research, being allies for those who are disadvantaged, buying more art (not just looking at it), singing more songs, meeting more people who are different than we are, and paying more attention to our own health so that we’re not killing ourselves off faster than we can procreate. Perhaps we can also take this opportunity to stay the fuck out of other people’s business, let people love who and how they wish, care more for the children after they’re born than before, do more to make healthcare universal for everyone so that no one is dying because they can’t afford to live, and getting more exercise for ourselves because we’re too damn fat and we’ve got to deal with that. 

We can do this. We can make the next decade so much better than this one we just barely survived. We can create more good things, do more things that matter, and shut down the old men who have lost their usefulness as our country’s leaders. 

On your mark, get set, LIVE!

Reading time: 34 min
Old man, talking

This is not the article I had planned on publishing this morning. I had planned a rather involved treatise challenging that political conservatism and Christianity do not go together. That article will have to wait for next week.

In the course of working on that article, I had reason to stop by Rachel Held Evan’s website. There, I discovered that she was in a medically induced coma after suffering seizures resulting from an allergic reaction to antibiotics. At that particular point early in the week, the tone was positive and hopeful, but it did not stay that way.

Rachel Held Evans died early Saturday morning, surrounded by her family and a host of dear friends at the age of 37. She leaves behind her husband, Dan, and two very young children.

There has been a flood of sympathetic response, a GoFundMe to help defray medical expenses and all the kind responses one might expect for someone who was loved and respected both within and external to the Christian evangelical community. That is what is appropriate for now. Many will have justifiable questions later but at this moment, there is a grieving husband and two confused babies who have lost the dynamic center of their universe. What matters right now is that they have the support they need to pick up the pieces and continue.

I focused on a Twitter rant from Mrs. Evans back in January of 2018. In it, she challenged church patriarchy and the climate of sexual abuse it hides and too often excused. Hers was but the first of many voices on the more progressive side of the evangelical movement to call out not only pastors but entire churches and denominations for their complicity in the abuse plaguing the Christian church.

Mrs. Evans was one of maybe four people in public Christian circles for whom I still have some respect. While I certainly didn’t agree with everything she wrote, she was one of the few voices of reason to stand up and object while the rest of the Church careens off a cliff following the path of Pharisees.

The world needs more voices like Rachel Held Evans, voices willing to stand up to religious traditions that make absolutely no sense, voices willing to call out the patriarchal nonsense embedded in contemporary Christianity, voices that don’t give in to political conservatism that flies in direct opposition to the teachings of Christ. Her passing is a tremendous loss to the community of people who want to believe but aren’t buying the bullshit of the religious right.

To remember Mrs. Evans, I decided to re-publish the article from January, 2018, that first brought her to my attention. Some of the social and political references feel a little dated now because we’ve suffered through so much other nonsense in the interim. Still, her words ring as strongly now as they did then. They always will. Rachel Held Evans had an incredible voice and we are blessed that, for a while, she shared it with us.

Here is the complete article:

Old Man Talking

Rachel Held Evans on Sexual Abuse & Patriarchy in the Church

Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) went on a Twitter rant in response to the standing ovation a Memphis megachurch pastor received after admitting he had sexually assaulted a teenager.

Let’s be very clear from the beginning that I don’t know Rachel Held Evans. I know she has authored three books: Searching For Sunday, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and Faith Unraveled. She’s married, has a baby boy, and her online presence is carefully managed by her publisher. Honestly, she strikes me as the type of overly zealous “I came back to Jesus so you should too” type of millennial who is attempting to re-work Christianity so that it fits more comfortably with the worldview common to her age group. That’s not a criticism, necessarily, but an acknowledgment that, like most millennials, she has difficulty accepting the status quo and chooses to re-fashion the existing structure rather than chucking it and starting over. People her age are doing similar things in fashion, retail, beer brewing, banking, advertising, and even politics. So be it.

Until this morning, I had no reason to be interested in Ms. Evans or her books. I seem to vaguely recall seeing a publisher’s blurb for Searching For Sunday (or maybe a reference from John Pavlovitz?) but her story is her story, not something an old apple like me is going to find inspirational. I do best just letting those things be. I’ve no reason to comment. 

Then, I open Twitter this morning (@ThOldManTalking) and find Ms. Evans has responded to a news item in the way that is now most likely to have a wide-spread affect: Twitter Rant. The rant comes in response to news reports (I’m looking at the story in the NY Times) that members of the Memphis megachurch Highpoint gave pastor Andy Savage a standing ovation after he admitted to having sexually assaulted a teenaged member of his congregation 20 years ago.  No, I’m not kidding. They actually stood an applauded his admission of sexual assault. There’s video to which I won’t like because, frankly, it’s disgusting.

Obviously, and with good reason, the Internet did its collective spit take when the news came out and every pastor worth their salt, all four of them, condemned what happened, recognizing that the action is symptomatic of a Church that is woefully out of touch with Christianity, let alone the society it purports to serve. Ms. Evans’ tweet storm, though, goes a step further in addressing one of the root causes of many of the Church’s failings: patriarchy. We mention patriarchy as one of the sources of unwarranted privilege just last week. She hones in specifically on its role in maintaining an acceptance of abuse that the rest of society sees as untenable.

Here are Ms. Evans’ tweets, hopefully in the order they appeared:

This week: 1 James Dobson encouraged Christians to fast & pray for the protection a serial sex abuser (Trump). 2 When a mega-church pastor’s criminal sexual assault was exposed, he received a standing ovation from his congregation. 3 One of Roy Moore’s victims’ house burned down.

— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) January 10, 2018

All of these stories point to why I’m sadly pessimistic about a #metoo-style cultural shift in evangelical Christianity (and, to an extent, the broader Church). I’m pessimistic because of the deadly combination of patriarchy & (as discussed recently) evangelical exceptionalism…

— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) January 10, 2018

As I’ve stated before, evangelical exceptionalism understands “the world” or “the culture” to be filled with darkness & sin, teeming with people who are “lost,” and evangelicalism & evangelicals to be the sole bearers of light, the counter-cultural path to salvation…

— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) January 10, 2018

…White evangelicals perceive “the world” to struggle with racism & sexual immorality, but not themselves. Because of this, it’s rare to see serious efforts made at examining the ways racism & toxic masculinity/patriarchy are embedded in evangelical culture…

— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) January 10, 2018

…You see this so clearly in the fact that Andy Savage’s church rejects LGBT people, yet gives their abusive pastor a standing ovation! (This points to the reality that anti-LGBT sentiment is usually more about prejudice than a commitment to “sexual purity.”)…

— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) January 10, 2018

The fact is, evangelical culture (and, generally speaking, the Church culture at large) remains mired in patriarchy. So someone who is perceived as a “man of God” doing “God’s work” will almost always be protected over women & children. It happens all. the. time.

— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) January 10, 2018

When Savage’s victim came forward, who did she face? Who was in charge of her church? Men. All men. When churches sideline women from leadership, a culture of patriarchy is inevitable and toxic, abusive masculinity flourishes.

— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) January 10, 2018

But you won’t see many churches challenging patriarchy or abuse or toxic masculinity in Christian culture. Instead, you hear sermon after sermon railing against immodesty, cohabitation, sex before marriage, LGBT people – all those real or perceived “sins of the culture”…

— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) January 10, 2018

In order to turn #metoo into #churchtoo, the Church in America, and specifically evangelicals, are going to have to muster some humility and take a serious look at how patriarchy, sexism, and toxic masculinity have infected their culture…

— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) January 10, 2018

It’s great to see women like @BethMooreLPM & @KayWarren1 speaking out. But as long as church leadership & evangelical culture are dominated by men (who believe God wants it that way!) I fear the voices of women & victims will not be heard and nothing will change.

— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) January 10, 2018

TLDR version: In the name of Jesus, smash the damn patriarchy. / End thread.

— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) January 10, 2018

Hold on, she’s not really done quite yet.

So I feel like this thread was too pessimistic and Oprah says we should be hopeful. So some hopeful thoughts: While the Church in America is perhaps not positioned to lead the charge against sexual harassment & toxic masculinity…

— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) January 11, 2018

…there are some significant generational differences within the Church, including evangelicalism, that suggest attitudes are changing on gender & sexuality. I’m hopeful this means more introspective conversations about consent, inclusion, & patriarchy in the near future.

— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) January 11, 2018

Also, our present cultural moment, as tough as it’s been, seems to have emboldened some voices of dissent among evangelical women. If evangelicals yield to their wisdom, there’s hope.

— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) January 11, 2018

Wow. I fully agree with everything Ms. Evans says in that rant and more. Patriarchy is a significant part of what makes religious privilege so very dangerous to a fair and equitable society. As long as the prevailing thought is that women need to “stay in their lane and do what they’re told,” we’re not going to see any progress within that portion of society. Even evangelical women are supporting this abusive nonsense, which is symptomatic of long-term abuse.

Ms. Evans makes a couple of references in her rant that probably need some clarification for anyone not glued to multiple news feeds.

Re. James Dobson (sorry, I just threw up a little): The founder of the ultra-rightwing group “Focus on the Family,” Dobson said in a conference call, ” I’m calling for a nationwide movement to pray for him [the president]. I’m calling for a day of fasting and prayer. I hope that Christian people from coast to coast will join in that time. The date is your choice, but we do need to be praying for our president.” Dobson is afraid that the president is impeachable which would result in a loss of power for religious-based hate groups such as his. [source: Newsweek]

Re. Roy Moore: According to the Washington Examiner, “the family home of Tina Johnson, one of the several women who recently accused the failed U.S. Senate candidate of sexual misconduct in the 1990s, was destroyed in a blaze.” The fire has prompted an arson investigation. One has to admit it looks highly suspicious.

Re. Kay Warren: The wife of Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback megachurch, tweeted:

The church must lead the way in cleaning house over sexual abuse. We dishonor God if we expect those outside the church to be held responsible for their sinful/criminal behavior and applaud those guilty of the same actions in the church. https://t.co/CFypUVYcc7

— Kay Warren (@KayWarren1) January 10, 2018

While the words are nice to the ears of some, she still bows to the patriarchy defended by her husband.

Re. Beth Moore. Ms. Moore is the founder of Living Proof Ministries, one of those organizations directed specifically toward evangelical women. Some claim the purpose of these organizations is to keep evangelical women in line, but I’m not familiar enough with this one to comment further. I’m not seeing any tweet from Ms. Moore that directly references matters of abuse and/or patriarchy but she did post this:

Grateful for brothers asking what you can do for your sisters. This would be my shot at a short answer: treat us with the same dignity with which you want to be treated. Don’t talk down to us. Value what we bring. And know that most of us have zero desire to reduce or seduce you.

— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) January 10, 2018

I’ll be honest, that tweet makes me very uncomfortable and I’m not sure it’s the one to which Ms. Evans refers. If it’s not, I apologize. Something tells me Ms.Moore and I don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues, though.

I’m going to restrain myself from commenting further and let all this information stand on its own merit or lack thereof. Arguing belief systems with people is a pointless waste of time and misses the greater issue that both religion and patriarchy establish and maintain a level of privilege that is unjust, unfair, and unequal on a grand scale. So long as such a system of privilege exists people are going to suffer in more ways than can be enumerated.

Consider this a sidebar to the greater conversation regarding a doctrine of fairness. More on that particular issue is coming soon. I hope. Depending on the weather (quite literally).

Abide in Peace,
-The Old Man

Reading time: 11 min
It's Friday, But Sunday's Coming - old man talking

The late S. M. Lockridge was pastor of Calvary Baptist Church is San Diego, CA from 1953 to 1993. A big man with a powerful voice, his sermon “It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Coming” wasn’t long, a mere 15 lines as it was originally written, was one of the most stirring pieces of poetry I’ve ever heard. I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Lockridge deliver the sermon twice when I was young. The way he started slow, almost as though he wasn’t sure he wanted to continue, set up a powerful and thunderous ending that left goose bumps on the skin of everyone within earshot. He would occasionally alter his text to fit a particular situation, but his message was always the same: No matter how dark and hopeless things seem, hold on, there’s a Sunday coming and there’s hope in that resurrection.

The world we live in today Is dramatically different from when I first heard the sermon, but the struggles that allowed Lockridge to deliver such powerful words, from Jim Crow laws and public lynchings to the struggle for civil rights are, sadly, just as real and prevalent today as they were across the 20th century. I cannot help but think that the pastor would look at where we are today as a society and be profoundly disappointed.

As this is Holy Week on the Christian liturgical calendar, I found the sermon coming to mind yet again but couldn’t help but feel that were he writing today Rev. Lockridge would possibly take a slightly different direction. I don’t claim to have the gift of poetry or clarity that he did by any stretch of the imagination, but perhaps, just maybe, if the sermon was being delivered today, it might go something like this.

Click here to listen to the Old Man read the poem

It’s Friday.

People are praying,
A party is sleeping,
An ogre is betraying.

But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday.

Judge’s struggling,
Congress is conspiring,
Church people are vilifying,
And they don’t even know

That Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday.

Immigrants are running
Like those whose homes have been destroyed,
Mothers are crying,
A government’s denying,
But they don’t know

That Sunday’s a comin’.

It’s Friday.

Racists beat people of color,
They tell us to go home,
Police kill us in the streets,
But they don’t know

That Sunday’s a comin’.

It’s Friday.

See our LGBTQ brothers and sisters,
Making their way up that Capitol Hill,
Their spirit’s burdened with ev’ry step,
But you see,
It’s only Friday.
Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday.

The ogre’s winning,
Church people are sinning,
Evil is grinning.

It’s Friday.

Police nail the black soul to the cross.
ICE nails the brown soul to the cross.
The gay soul is held equal with criminals.

It’s Friday,

But let me tell you something.

Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday.

People of compassion are questioning what has happened.
The Ogre’s advisors are celebrating
That their scheming
Has been achieved,
But they don’t know

That Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday.

The soul of a nation
Has been hung out to dry;
Feeling forsaken by their leaders,
Left alone, Democracy is dying.
Can nobody save it?

Oh, dear soul, It’s Friday,

But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday.

Skies grow dark,
Storms rage stronger than ever,
An abused and misused planet
Yields to it’s changing climate.

It’s Friday.

Hope is lost.
Death has won.
Evil has conquered and
The ogre’s just a laughin’.

It’s FRIDAY!

Democracy is buried.
Minions stand guard.
A wall is rolled into place.

But … It’s Friday.

It’s only FRIDAY.

But SUNDAY IS COMING!

My dear friends, resurrection and revolution can look an awful lot alike. While situations may seem dark and hopeless and the situation could very well get worse over the course of the next year, this is only 2019.

2020 is coming.

There’s an election around that corner that no wall can stop, no Russian interference can sway, and no attempt to obstruct justice can prevent.

It may be Friday,

But our Sunday is coming.

Reading time: 3 min