Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Presidential Debate I Would Like To See

Someday I would like to watch a presidential debate in which the candidates did not spend the whole time attacking each other's policy proposals (even civilly) but instead discussed what they appreciated about the other person's perspective and vowed to honor the valid and important concerns that the other candidate's platform represented. I would like to see candidates (and a voting public) who feel that whichever of the nominees were to win would make a fine president, worthy of the full support of the nation.

Right now, the debates don't seem worth watching because all we get to see is a big show of disagreement which obscures the hidden agenda that both of our reigning parties share: protecting the interests of big business. What we are seeing is the dominance of a tiny elite class over the rest of the world and somehow people don't realize they're being manipulated because they've been offered a spectacle of competition, much like a sporting event, in which they were encouraged to root for one team over the other. But in reality, both teams are owned by the same corporate conglomerates.

Someday, I would like to see us move beyond this kind of farcical drama and begin an era of genuine collaboration between leaders who truly represent the diverse and varied interests, values, hopes, and aspirations of the American people--and the rest of world, on whom we have such a huge impact.

Some people may think it's no use imaging such a world when that reality is so very far away, but picturing new ways of doing things is the only way that innovative change came come about. If everyone spent half the time that they currently spend complaining about the way things are discussing instead their vision for the way things ought to be, I think we'd start to see positive changes happening a lot quicker.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Problem with Facebook and Politics

In theory, it seems like Facebook could be a wonderful tool for equipping the voting public with relevant information and analysis and for generating political discussion at the grassroots level. And sometimes it is. But at other times, political speech on Facebook seems to be doing more harm than good. Here are some of the problems I see:

-        Human beings have always been prone to make judgmental (and often nasty) comments behind each other’s backs. And what better arena in which to judge people than politics? The thing about Facebook is that somehow people feel free to make exactly the kind of judgmental (and often nasty) comments that have always been made in private, but now in a semi-public setting. People on the left and right are now party to all the mean, uncharitable, deliberately ignorant remarks made about them by the other side. The kind of ad hominem attacks that would be considered extremely rude at politically mixed in-person gatherings is normal online.

-        The tone of righteous self-expression tends to preclude discussion. People often feel they have a moral obligation to share highly combative political statements. Such individuals feel that they are standing up for a worthy cause. But what are they really accomplishing? The tone of self-righteousness indicates to people who disagree that their views are being summarily dismissed. It is apparent that the poster has no interest in finding out why people might disagree with her or him and whether there might be any merit in arguments against his or her position.

-        Even when discussion happens, it tends to be of a strident, polemical nature. When we get into debates on Facebook, we are not addressing each other as individuals—we are addressing the crowd. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we feel pressured to write whatever will make us look good to our imagined sympathizers in the audience, rather than actually trying to communicate. We are less likely to admit we were wrong or ask for clarification. We feel we should write concise “zingers” for the crowd to applaud.

Perhaps others can add to this list. But anyway, what to do? Well, for myself, here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

-        I try not to post or write anything that would be rude to say in-person to someone who disagrees with me. (If you’re not sure whether something is okay, you might picture someone you know personally who is on the “other side” and ask yourself whether you would say this to their face.)

-        I try to cultivate an attitude of humility. I make it a point to actively fight the natural human inclination toward self-righteousness. I remind myself that I don’t know everything, that I am sometimes wrong, and that I have a lot to learn from people who disagree with me.

-        When I engage in political debates on Facebook, I repeatedly tell myself that I am not writing to make myself look good; I am trying to understand what the other person is saying and to make myself understood. I try to write only what is conducive to clear communication.

-        If I find that a discussion has degenerated into a polemical tit-for-tat, I call a time-out. I do whatever I can to clear the slate and start over. This may include apologizing for my part in taking the conversation down an unfruitful path; stating that it was not my intention to pick a fight and what I really want is to understand what the other person is saying and to share my thoughts and feelings; and my latest strategy, which I’m just now developing is to TAKE IT OFF FACEBOOK(!)—perhaps by switching over to private messaging, but probably even better, by meeting in-person, writing a physical letter on actual paper(!!!), or even talking on the phone.

I know a number of people who are very political on Facebook because they have a strong desire to make a positive difference in the world. That is highly commendable. I think it would help a little bit for such people to move the tenor of online political discussions in a kinder direction. And I think the biggest difference we can make in the world is by loving our “enemies” one-on-one. That is, by taking the time and making the effort to communicate meaningfully with someone we think needs to change.  And if we’re doing it right, we’ll find out from them what we didn’t know we were missing ourselves.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Melancholy Poem with Postscript

It's like a promiscuous lover,
he said.
How we kept moving all over the country
Leaving a trail of broken friendships
Every time
It was a tragedy

It had been a poignant meeting with friends
only on our side of the continent for singular reasons

Of course, he was right
and we've been torn many a time

the little piece of you
that was planted in my heart
may keep on growing, however far we are apart

And when we meet again
--we will--
may it be a gentle pleasure
to see what has flourished
of the seeds from your garden


For my dearly beloved faraway friends
who have sown
kindness, generosity, happiness, care,
piety, reverence, and warmth.
I will tend the garden
as best I can.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

End Of Year Retrospective

For friends who use the internet but not Facebook, here is an end-of-year photo retrospective intended to serve basically the function of a Christmas letter.

December 20, 2014 - One sweet little Hattie-cake fresh out of the oven.

She was an early smiler.

5 days old: best Christmas ever!


Tuckered out from Game Night the previous day.

Chinese Lantern Festival at the zoo.


Post-baptism fellowship hour

This was at about 6 months, when Hattie's horrendous acid reflux issue was at its worst. During this period, she could only nap when being held in an upright position. She would still wake up choking and crying, but could be lulled back to sleep by walking/rocking.

Father's Day

Enjoying a beautiful sunset/twilight walk around our beautiful apartment complex in Florida. Such walks were always one of Hattie's favorite activities and often the only thing that could keep her happy. Unfortunately, it was often too hot and/or stormy to be out during the day.

Hattie was just crazy about the ducks that lived in the ponds outside our apartment.

Another of Hattie's favorite activities: grocery shopping. There was a checker at this Publix who was just nuts about Hattie. "She's my favorite baby that comes in here!"

Hattie's hair takes after her Dad's.

Summer in Florida was not a good time for Hattie. We were stuck indoors a lot.

Last day of summer. Hooray!

First pair of shoes. Characteristic pose. I used to take Hattie into the church office with me and we'd hang out with the secretary and the treasurer, a delightful 80 year old gentleman who liked to sit back with his hands behind his head. Hattie would mirror his position. It was super duper cute. I wish I could have gotten a picture of them together.

The wonderful folks at Keystone's final worship service.

One last trip to the beach ...

One last trip to our local library ...

Our dear friend and one of Hattie's favorite people, over to help us with the move.

On the road! At a rest stop.

Tallahassee Auto Museum. (Costumes I ended up throwing together in the car on the drive there.)

Hattie in the French Quarter.

New Orleans again: reaching for Daddy's praline.

We stopped at a lot of grocery stores on the trip--both to eat cheaply and healthily and to make Hattie happy.

Halloween in Dallas.

Real dinosaur footprints in New Mexico. Incredible.

Largest model train store in the world (Denver).

"IT'S SNOWING!" (Cheyenne, WY)

Antique in the hotel lobby (Jackson, WY)

Butte, MT

Hattie was just charming the socks off people all the way across the country. This guy at a diner in Butte was particularly taken with her--she reminded him of his fourth(!) daughter (and he also has 3 sons!). Super sweet guy; bought us breakfast! 

Hattie visits Whitworth (where her parents met).


Thanksgiving - with turkey and stuffing.

Super excited ...

... about the Christmas tree!

We moved from one rainy locale to another ... This was during a period of flooding. Impressive volume at Snoqualmie Falls.

Hattie helps sell Christmas trees at the family farm.

December 20, 2015. Happy birthday! You've got lots of family around now, Hattie!