Circling the Drain

About this time eight years ago, my friends on the right filled my inbox with e-mail comparing Barack Obama to Adolph Hitler. Now I’m seeing Facebook posts from friends on the left comparing Donald Trump to Adolph Hitler.

Yesterday a new Facebook friend, whom I’ve never met and about whose political persuasion I know nothing, posted a documentary-style clip explaining the factors that enabled Hitler’s rise to power.

The Facebook friend did not compare anyone to Hitler, he just posted the clip.

I shared my observation that both sides seem to use Hitler as a scare tactic.

This morning someone replied:

“Yes, that’s true. That was irritating because it showed how little we understand history. And here we are again not understanding why a facist in the White House could be dangerous.”

I asked for clarification, which I have not yet received: “Did you mean to type fascist or racist? You’re just one letter off from each possibility.  We’ll never understand anything, past or present unless we seek to understand.”

Our downfall will be that most of us don’t care to know. We don’t ask for clarification, we don’t ask questions, we don’t listen with open ears to opposing views, we don’t want the truth to get in the way of our hate. We feed on soundbites. We feed off ratings-getting media-promulgated hate.

Round and round it goes.

Back when the Flint water crisis dominated the local news, I witnessed ignorance in all its infuriating glory.

I was wrapping foil strips onto a small plastic board as fast as my stylist could paint highlights into my hair.

The woman in the chair across the aisle was chattering away at her stylist.

The noon news was playing on a tv mounted in the corner.

Another story about the water in Flint.

“Where’s the mayor in all this?,” her stylist asked.

“He’s vacationing in Florida,” the woman replied.

The mayor of Flint is a woman, I thought to myself.

The woman went on about the male mayor.

The mayor of Flint is a woman, I wanted to say in a matter of fact voice to John, my stylist.

But I didn’t.

She continued on about the male (now adding white-privileged) mayor vacationing in Florida during a water crisis in his city.


And then I almost laughed.  Adding the white-privileged brought her opinionated, knee-jerk ignorance to a nearly comical level.

A couple of weeks ago I was back at the salon.

Another blatantly fact-distorted discussion on another topic between two customers.

Please John, put me under the dryer and turn it up LOUD, I can’t take any more.

I watched some of the RNC speeches last night.

I wonder how many people who did not watch them will be discussing them at the office, at the salon, on Facebook today.

I wonder if the woman who replied to my Facebook comment was referring to Donald Trump.

I wonder whether she meant to type racist or fascist.

If she meant fascist, I wonder if she has asked anyone who has worked for him whether or not he runs his companies in a fascist manner.

Because that would be helpful to know.

I wonder if she knows that he generously invited all of his primary opponents to speak at the convention. I wonder if she knows that he allowed Ted Cruz to speak without vetting his speech, to speak without the promise of an endorsement. Because that would be something to consider.

A fascist would allow none of that.

I’ve watched  a couple of interviews in which longtime friends of Trump’s say he is not a racist. I wonder whether she has heard any of those interviews.

I wonder if the statements of those who know him well have any weight with her.

But since I don’t know whether she meant fascist or racist or whether she was referring to Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders or none of the above, I won’t jump to any conclusions.

Obama is Hitler, Trump is Hitler, the mayor of Flint is a privileged white man.  Yesterday, in a woman-on-the-street interview, a senior citizen said Trump is pure evil. When asked why she had no answer.

My guess, in the absence of an answer, is that he is pure evil because someone told her he is pure evil.

Because someone pulled out the pure-evil political-opponent-bashing template and compared him to Hitler.

Round and round
and round

God help us.


Fun With Parables: Political Edition

On one occasion a political pundit stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What does the Law say about it?” He replied. “What’s your read on it?”

The pundit, quoting the Law, answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You nailed it,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But the pundit, wary of the implications, said, “Define neighbor.”

In reply Jesus told His now-famous parable:

“A democratic superdelegate was heading to Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center when he was attacked by a mob. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead in the middle of the road.

A senator from Vermont happened to be walking on the far left shoulder of the same road, and when he saw the man, he inched a little further left as he passed. No way was he going to be seen anywhere near the middle of that road.

So too, a long-time representative from California, when she came to the place and saw him, hugged the far left edge of the left shoulder a little more tightly as she hurried past.

But a conservative republican, as he traveled along the far right shoulder, came where the delegate was; and when he saw him, he braved being seen in the middle of the road.

He went to him and bandaged his wounds and then carried him several blocks to Kindred Hospital.

‘Do whatever it takes to save him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any expenses his insurance doesn’t cover.'”

“Now,” Jesus, asked, “which of these three do you think was a neighbor to that superdelegate?”

The pundit replied, “The one who was pro-life.”

Jesus nodded, “Exactly!”


Fish Fry

I know very little about FBI director James Comey. Very little. One thing, actually, and only through hearsay. In the week or so leading up to his report some who know him said he is an honest man.

So it was with that one bit of information that I listened to his indicting non-indictment.

The hub and I speculated:

Blackmailed? No, I countered, if he is honest then there would be no injurious information to hold over him.

Threatened in a Washington mafia sort of way? He and his family? The Clintons do have a bit of a reputation. Not out of the realm of possibility.

Bought? I hope not. Time will tell.

Bigger Clintonian fish to fry? I hope so.

Whatever the reason, he looked like a man speaking under duress. And even though he played us for stupid with his “misinterpretation” of the requirements of the statute, I am giving him the benefit of the doubt. I am believing that he was trying to tell us she is guilty even though he wasn’t permitted to indict.

Today’s prompt word is “false.”  I looked it up in the dictionary hoping an obscure definition would inspire me.

There beneath definition 4, in the phrases section, was a picture of Mr. Comey along with this phrase:

false position
a situation in which one is compelled to act in a manner inconsistent with one’s true nature or principles.

Honest? Perhaps.

Brave? Maybe not.

Something up his sleeve? God I hope so.


Givers, Takers, Receivers, Squanderers

I’m just thinking out loud here and I have a splitting headache, but if I were still a social worker, I would teach my clients how to receive.

Julian’s sleeping bag.

I invited a group of young adults to four days at a posh retreat center in Traverse City.  All expenses paid. It cost them nothing but their stories.

One of the invitees was a young man my daughter met when she worked at Wildwood Ranch.  Wildwood Ranch is run by Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries. It is a camp for inner city Detroit kids, located 50 miles north and west of the city. The young man, who was doing a two year, year-round internship there, was granted a furlough in order to join us.

As we were packing up to go home, I noticed that the gear he threw into the trunk of my friends’ car was light.

“Julian, where’s your sleeping bag?”

“I threw it away.”


“It’s in the dumpster.”

“Wasn’t that a brand new sleeping bag?”

“It’s okay. I got it from the camp. It was donated.”

“Go get it.”

“It’s okay, it was donated,” he repeated.

“Yes, it was donated, and that is exactly why I want you to go get it. It cost someone something. Someone went to a store, bought a brand new sleeping bag so a kid at camp would have one. They sacrificed buying something for themselves or for their own kids so someone else’s kid would have a sleeping bag. And if I were that donor, I’d be really bummed to know that a staffer slept in it three nights and then threw it away.”

Every single thing that is donated costs someone something.

Takers take, grabbing with one hand, faces turned away.

Receivers receive, palms up, looking the giver square in the eye, recognizing that the gift they are receiving is at the expense of another.

If I were still a social worker I would teach my clients to look for the face of the giver.

Craig’s boat.

Years ago my old friend Craig took a bunch of us water-skiing.  At the end of our really fun day, it occurred to me that our fun was at Craig’s expense. Boat gas, wear and tear, etc. So, as I was exiting his boat, I looked at him with gratitude and said, “Thank you.”

“No one has ever thanked me before,” he replied, a bit floored and with gratitude of his own.

“No one has ever thanked me before.” Pitiful words that have stuck with me.

Takers take like it’s owed them.

Receivers say thank you like it’s a gift.

My condo.

When I married the hub, I had to figure out what to do with my condo.

Thought maybe I should hold onto it awhile….juuuust in case….…… just kidding, hub.

I was pondering what to do with it when one of my co-ministers at the pregnancy center mentioned that her church had just hired a new youth pastor from the other side of the state. He and his wife would need a place to live.

The condo is only 1/4 mile from her church.

The couple was young and had no money so I offered it at a discount. I charged only enough to cover the association dues, taxes and insurance.  I made no profit from the rental.

Everything was fine for the first several months. And then the rent was late.

And then it was late again.

And then it didn’t come at all. I called, left a message, called again, left another message, called again, left another message.

I called the church.  The young man no longer worked there.

I drove over to the condo and knocked on the door.  The young woman eventually answered, with a baby in her arms, and explained that her husband had lost his job and was unemployed for awhile.

I told her that if she had called and explained, I would have gladly worked with her to come up with a payment plan. I would have understood.  Not returning my calls was rude and disrespectful.  “Be honest with people,” I said, “and they will work with you.”

Don’t treat givers like they are the enemy.

She promised, now that her husband was working again, that they would catch up on their rent.

They didn’t. They owed us five months worth when they moved into her parents’ basement and stuck us with their past due electric bill.

A few years later, I offered the condo again.

My daughter was dating a young man with a sob story.

If only he didn’t live in Detroit…

If only his parents would help him….

If only he had a car…

So I offered my condo. Out of Detroit in a safe, affluent suburb. So he could get a job. I offered it at half the cost of the dues, taxes and insurance. The hub and I were paying the other half.

As he was moving in, I overheard him tell his dad he was thinking of getting a roommate and charging the roommate rent, make a little money off the deal.

Uh, no.

He got a job at a dealership 6 miles away. There was a bus stop real near the condo and another one real near the dealership.

But taking the bus was beneath him…

My daughter’s dad sold him a car. He didn’t make the payments. He used the car to drive back into the city on the weekends, where he blew his money and showed off to his inner-city friends.

Turns out his parents did try to help him.  They enrolled him in a private school when he was in eighth grade, at great expense to them and his six siblings, because he was being beat up almost daily in the public school. He didn’t study. Dreamed instead of being the next Eminem. Squandered the opportunity his family gave him.

Fortunately, all the help we gave him, all the help he squandered, clearly showed my daughter that his failures weren’t for a lack of help, they were for a lack of character. She watched him grab the condo with nothing but contempt; grab the car with his face turned away.

She ended the relationship and a few months later he moved out of the condo. Owing us several months rent and owing her dad several car payments.

I’m sure to whomever would listen he was once again the victim.

The victim of his ex-girlfriend’s mean old parents who charged him a whole $300/month to live in a very pleasant place. The victim of his ex-girlfriend’s dad who took him to small claims court. (Her dad isn’t as forgiving of debts as I.)

Poor, poor him. Couldn’t catch a break.

Had he made the most of the opportunities we afforded him, done his part, acted responsibly, we would have gladly invested more. Darn shame. I pray he eventually  matures to the point of understanding.

So here’s what I would teach my clients:

  1. Everything you get for free costs someone something. Be grateful for their sacrifice.
  2.  Make the most of the help and opportunities given you and people will want to give you more.
  3.  Those who give are not your enemy. Don’t treat generosity with contempt.
  4.  No one owes you anything. Not even God. So say thank you.
  5.  There is a flesh and blood person just like you – with feelings and hopes and struggles – attached to the hand from which you are taking.

Government giving has generated an attitude of entitlement.  The game is to get as much as you can for free.  When it’s from the government, it’s from the government and few stop to think about who “the government” is.

When givers are faceless, gifts are devalued, disposable.

When giving is forced, i.e. through taxes, givers are robbed of the heart to heart, face to face blessing that Jesus spoke of when He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

The church used to be in charge of social welfare. I would love to see us resume that responsibility. It would give us something more useful to do than build youthtastic climbing walls and sit around gazing at our theological navels.

Let’s allow people in our communities to receive. Let’s allow them grateful hearts and an eye on one day giving back.

Let’s allow people in our communities to give. Let’s allow them to watch their gifts grow and flourish.

And let us ALL be grateful.


Correlations: Some voters refuse to make them.

bad boy

I’m usually really good about not going political in public, but insanitybytes has gotten me so revved up that I am going to go against my better judgement and share a hilarious and horrifying paragraph from the Matt Walsh article she cited:

Right down the list, you are blithely embracing every single thing you say you’re so angry about. Trump is the very embodiment of corruption, deception, cowardice, and elitism. He is precisely the sort of man you supposedly detest. Trump is exploiting America’s frustration with men like Trump. Trump is running against Trump. You are voting for Trump because you hate Trump. You are angry at politicians because they act like Trump and make deals like Trump and go to cocktail parties with men like Trump and look down on the little guy like Trump and possess the integrity of Trump, and so you’re solution is to elect Trump. Your anger at Trump leads you to Trump. Perhaps this explains why you’re so worried about politicians who are “controlled by donors,” but you aren’t at all concerned about a politicians who is the very donor you didn’t want controlling the political process. “I’m sick of these donors influencing the government! I have an idea: let’s make one president!”

Insanitybytes asked, “is it really a good idea to chase the bad boy and sign up for a one night stand you may regret later?

It’s as foolish as dating a married man, marrying him and then being shocked that he is cheating on you.

The majority of voters turned off their brains in 2008 and continued their wishful thinking in 2012. So now the country is draped over the arm of a chair in angst.

The solution: More wishful thinking.

Correlations: Some people just refuse to make them.


Jesus, Light

Love & Good Deeds

I’ve been going to a new church. For three weeks now. Last week the pastor spontaneously called a few people forward, anointed them with oil and prayed for them. Two of the few were a couple, the woman’s father died that week and they were grieving. Another was a man who had just been released from prison. The pastor prayed a fresh, healthy, not-going-back start over him. It was beautiful. The fourth was a woman who lost her home and is living in a shelter.

When the hub and I walked into church yesterday, I spotted C – whom I had chatted with last week – sitting in the last pew. I touched her shoulder as I walked by and said hello. ‘Cuz I think we might become friends.

At the start of the service, the pastor walked down the aisle with two envelopes in his hand. As he walked, he shared that there were some who gave offerings for C after he prayed for her last week. After they became aware of her need. He stopped in front of her in that last pew and handed her the envelopes. She reached out and humbly took them without a word. Her face registered gratitude. It registered the love that was in those envelopes.

Darn it, I thought, I wish it had occurred to me to actually help her when I was chatting with her. On the way home the hub shared the very same thought.

Live, learn and love.

We’ll be ready next time.

And that’s what church is all about, Charlie Brown. The Holy Spirit spurring you on toward love and good deeds.

The pastor said something brilliant in his sermon. He said that when it comes to helping people, we often hope someone else will do it. When we come upon a person or a group with a need we ask, “Why doesn’t someone…”

But if we come upon a $100 bill on the ground, we don’t walk past it and ask, “Why doesn’t someone pick that up?!” We stoop down, grab it and shove it in our pocket. (Or turn it in to the police station and shove it in our pocket 30 days later if we are an honorable human being.) We scoop it up because we recognize its worth.

The pastor’s point: The need we come upon, the need we have the privilege of meeting, is worth more. We come upon treasure when we see a need.

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” – Jesus


I should end this post right here, give Jesus the last word. Instead I’m going to go political for just a sec.

The stereotype I hear all the time is that Democrats care about the poor and needy and Republicans don’t. I could write a whole post refuting that notion, and perhaps as the general election draws nearer I will.

Today I just want to point out that insisting the government take care of the needy is the equivalent of asking “Why doesn’t someone….” It’s hoping someone else will do it. It’s being comfortable with not doing anything yourself because the government is taking care of it.

I don’t want the government to take care of it. I want to do it. I want the church to do it.

Fellow Christian bloggers lament on Sunday mornings that people aren’t going to church. If the government wasn’t doing our job they would.

The needy would go to church to get their needs met. Those who are not currently needy would go to church to find treasure. To look into needy faces and find Jesus.

Jump right in.