Category Archives: culture

Why Aaron Rodgers’ call to link arms is a good idea

At the moment the United States doesn’t seem so united. In fact, the country seems to be tearing itself apart.

We seem to be at war with each other. The conflict isn’t so much physical yet, although there are signs of it with recent rioting. It’s more of what University of Virginia scholar James Davison Hunter called a “culture war.”

The recent hubbub about professional football players refusing to stand for the national anthems is just a symptom of this struggle.  The kneeling is starting to spread to other venues.

“Taking a knee” is becoming a hashtag and is either praised or vilified. Some think doing so is a protest of injustice in American society. Others think this gesture is unpatriotic.

The nation is not only threatened from within. We also seem to be walking on the edge of a possible armed fight with North Korea, one that could easily go nuclear.

Our president seems to be provoking not only the battle with North Korea,  but also the ones with his own citizens. Some of these Americans are not going quietly into that good night.

Some people seem to enjoy a scrap. Donald Trump apparently is one of them. I could easily name some of his enemies in the media and Congress who are just as happy to get down in the mud with him.

While politicians and competitive athletes seem to enjoy the contents of a chamber pot, most of us try to avoid kakka. Count me as one of them.

Because of my aversion to cultural rot I plan to avoid tonight’s planned “linking of arms” in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has called for fans at Lambeau Field to do this in order to display unity. I would just prefer Aaron and the rest of the guys just play ball. I am sure that his intentions are good but I just think the NFL is the wrong venue for political statements and such displays in stadiums just enflame the culture war in a hugely divided nation.

The Bible tells the story of a young fellow who found that the road to hell was indeed paved with good intentions. He didn’t plan to end up in dung-filled waters, but found himself in a pig pen because of his actions.  He goes by the name of “The Prodigal Son” in modern vernacular.

This youth asked his father for his inheritance early and wandered off into a “far country”. There he squandered all his resources and as a result had to slop pigs and eat their food in order to survive.

Why did this wayward child leave his safe space at home? 20th century preacher J. Vernon McGee said that he bid adieu to his home because he was drawn to the far country, a place of mystery.  It held a certain allure for the boy.

War and fighting holds a similar attraction to some. Young men are fascinated by it. Older ones are as well.

Confederate general Robert E. Lee was 56 years of age at the time of the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862. As he watched Union troops advance on his army’s entrenchments, he said to General James Longstreet, “It is well that war is so terrible. Otherwise, we should grow too fond of it.”

Lee’s assessment on the horror of war was correct, especially during this battle. The North’s soldiers would be slaughtered as their own general sent them wave after wave into Lee’s unconquerable defenses.

Yet, the generations after General Lee seemed to shout “hurrah” and march off to battle when their governments called on them to do so. But they too learned of the terrible reality of combat once they were there.

Many cultural commentators are saying that the US is reaching a crossroads in its life as a nation. When they look at the landscape they see a country where the internal strife has put it on the eve of destruction unless something is done.

However, America has been up against it before. The Great Depression in the 1930s was one of those times. It was a period of extreme economic and social upheaval, yet we came out of it and became the leading power on Earth.

One of the reasons is that capable people have been trying to draw lessons from that period ever since. One of these experts is Christopher Burns,  who has authored a book on how supposedly knowledgeable people made wrong decisions that lead to some of America’s greatest disasters, such as the sinking of the Titanic and war.

In a documentary about the Depression called “When the World Breaks”, Burns discusses how societies reach their breaking points. But he also suggests a positive consequence that come from these emergencies.

“I think we progress in lurches. I think we lurch forward. I think we adopt a set of rules and a vocabulary and a standard for truth and that serves us well. This is certainly true in science. It serves us  well right up until the moment where all of a sudden it isn’t working and the whole world comes apart.  We don’t know how to change it gradually. We just have to wait for the iceberg. And then a wonderful thing happens: the world falls apart. And we are able to stand there and say ‘what are we really trying to do here? What is our world really like?’ And one of our most important resources in our country is creativity. 

Like the Titanic, America has hit the iceberg and is at risk of sinking. Instead of working together to plug the leaks, Americans are at war.

We have to stop fighting before we all drown. To get to the point that we put down our weapons, we Americans have to change our thinking.

Traditionalists have to see that the ship has sailed on change in America. Like it or not, the US is not the country it was, even 50 years ago.

Progressives need to comprehend that people who have views different from theirs are by and large decent human beings and not bigots or fascists. In the midst of change, America should not throw the baby out with the bath water.

If we don’t get creative together we will continue to fall apart. Our war will destroy us. On the other side of war is darkness.

NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers has called for fans at to link arms tonight at his team’s game in Green Bay, Wisconsin in order to display unity. The National Football League has become ground zero in the culture war lately.

My first inclination when I heard about this was to become dismissive because I would just prefer that Aaron and the rest of the guys just play ball and avoid politics at a sports event. But now I think that Rodgers is onto something.

I think it’s better that we lay down our rhetorical arms and link them together than keep battling each other. If that’s the purpose of this demonstration, I am all for it.

 

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The Confusing Nature of the NFL Protests

You can learn a lot about people, organizations and government by how they respond when they are threatened or in a crisis.

Look at the National Football League (NFL), the professional American sports league, for instance. The commissioner’s office and the owners are caught between a rock and a hard place at the moment.

It’s all over the news today, but if you left on Planet Nine this weekend, here’s a summary of the situation.  Teams were confronted with how to react to comments by President Donald Trump last week. The Donald said that an owner should fire a player who kneels instead of stands when the national anthem is played. Mimicking what this owner should say, Trump shouted “Get that son of a bitch off the field.” He added his signature line from his reality TV days: “You’re fired!”

The original protest of kneeling while the anthem is played was originated by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a mixed race man who is now out of the league because his abilities are not worth the distraction caused by his presence. His view is that the anthem and flag represent a country that oppresses his fellow minorities and are therefore not worthy of respect.

Trump’s outburst exacerbated a situation that seemed to be dying down, fanning the flames anew and sending players into a tizzy. One team even held a four hour meeting on Saturday to decide what to do about the president’s statement.

The result on Sunday was varied, but suffice it to say that in every stadium players, owners and coaches all engaged in some form of protest. The commissioner and owners issued separate statements decrying Trump’s remarks.

After these protests the league made the announcement that there would be no punishment for those who engaged in protest while the national anthem is played. One of the things being reacted to on conservative talk radio is the fact that the NFL does indeed have a rule that states that the national anthem is to be played before each game and that players and coaches are to stand in allegiance to the flag of the United States. Suddenly, the rule doesn’t seem important.

One radio personality, while opposing the players actions, didn’t seem to think the rule was that important. “Rules schmules!,” he said.  Obviously, to the players their protest outweighed any rule that got in the way.

Why is this?Why is it that even the NFL administration threw out enforcement of the league’s  own rule when it was violated?  The answer is expediency. The Google dictionary’s definition of this term is “the quality of being convenient and practical despite possibly being improper or immoral.”

The immediate answer to the pressure the league and owner’s faced over the Trump-caused brouhaha was of the knee jerk kind.  Already facing declining attendance and TV revenues over the league’s allowance of politics into their realm, NFL leadership decided to side with the players.

This seems wise over the short term given that over 3/4 of the players in the league are African-American and that the sports media that covers the NFL is primarily left wing and are thus proponents of social justice. Over the long term this could mean disaster, however.

One little piece of anecdotal evidence supports this. Jersey sales for one Pittsburgh Steelers player, a decorated military veteran, have gone through the roof after he made a point of defying his coach and coming out of the locker room to stand for the anthem.

There are a lot of issues involved in the protests of NFL players, so much so that it is unclear to me exactly what they are upset about. I have heard many reasons for their outcry, including opposition to alleged police brutality against blacks and the need for some ephemeral unity.

In such a situation as this, when the cause is not defined, the cultural battle lines can be blurred. Further adding to the fog is the disinformation campaign of those with a political agenda.

For example, those supporting the player protests over the racial issue have claimed that President Trump’s statement was racist, thus further inflaming emotions. The president has denied this, stating  that his remarks were about patriotism, and on the surface the words he used make no reference to race.

Everyone chooses (and perhaps even “cherry picks”) facts on which to formulate an argument.

Mr. Trump does it. The NFL players do it, too. So do media folks.

But what is important is the truth. What is the difference between facts and truth?

A post from the Focus on the Family offers a clear answer:

There is an important difference between facts and truth. In some ways it’s analogous to the difference between a pile of bricks and St. Paul’s cathedral, or between a list of dates and Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History… An isolated fact is like a stray piece of a puzzle. It’s an object, an article, a fragment of information, a bit of trivia. Truth, on the other hand, is all about meaning.

To put it another way, discerning truth is a matter of interpreting the facts. In a courtroom setting, the same facts are available to both prosecution and defense. Each attorney puts his own spin or construction upon the evidence, but this does not imply that both sides are right. There is still one truth.

Getting at the truth behind these protests will go along way in deciding if the NFL remains a major influence upon American culture. This is what those who care about the NFL need to get straight after the media moves on from the events of this weekend.

 

 

 

 

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Americans should quit dreaming and change the way they think

I was raised in the South. When I was a kid there were still remnants of the War Between the States around. (We southerners preferred that moniker for the American Civil War.)

I recall for example a couple of bumper stickers I saw as a youth. One said “Hell no, I ain’t forgettin’.” Another exhorted, “Save your Confederate money. The South rise again.”

The Confederate battle flag, known as the “Stars and Bars” was prevalent in my area. Vestiges of Jim Crow still lingered.

As an adult I became a Civil War buff. Living in Virginia I could tour numerous battlefields where Union and Rebel soldiers laid down their lives.

I enjoyed going to reenactments, where people dressed up in the blue and grey. There were even “civilians” who took part in the living histories. They came costumed as sutlers, camp followers and even ministers of the Gospel.

In the 90s I worked for a small college in South Carolina. In their main parlor the most prominent painting was of Confederate general Robert. E. Lee.

Fast forward about 20  years. General Lee is now a controversial figure. A statue of him in Charlottesville was this summer the catalyst for a confrontation in the streets between white supremacists and so-called anti-fascists.

This week the general’s descendant, Rev. Robert Wright Lee, denounced his own great uncle.  He told the press that he felt shame at General Lee’s role in the Confederacy.

There is now an outcry from some to do away with any and all memorials to American heroes who owned slaves. The most prominent Founders now being maligned include George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both slaveholders.

In his will Washington freed his slaves. Jefferson did not.

Yet, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. He even included in one of the early drafts a condemnation of slavery.

Yet, 15 years ago historian Stephen E.  Ambrose published a piece for the Smithsonian that was highly critical of Jefferson. He wrote:

Jefferson knew slavery was wrong and that he was wrong in profiting from the institution, but apparently could see no way to relinquish it in his lifetime.

Ambrose didn’t stop at these unflattering comments. He was even more condemning:

Jefferson owned slaves. He did not believe that all were created equal. He was a racist, incapable of rising above the thought of his time and place, and willing to profit from slave labor.

When I have thought of the Founding Fathers who owned slaves, and of the southerners who fought in the Civil War, I have tended to excuse them. “They were men of their time,” I think. “Everybody thought like they did.”

Ambrose did not excuse Jefferson . He saw him as a hypocrite who espoused equality for all, but did not express it in his own behavior. Ambrose said:

Few of us entirely escape our times and places. Thomas Jefferson did not achieve greatness in his personal life. He had a slave as mistress. He lied about it.

As a man with southern roots, and someone who considers Virginia his native soil, I find Ambrose’s comments deeply troubling. I also recoil at attacks on men like Robert E. Lee,  a revered son of Virginia. It is as if he is attacking my own personal world view.

However, I have now come to the conclusion that Ambrose is correct.  While I still consider Jefferson and Lee great public figures, I cannot excuse their racism.

How could these bigger-than-life figures have been so wrong? I think it might have something to do with our human natures.

The Bible portrays us all as sinners, i.e. people who are in rebellion against God. It describes us as people with corrupt natures who do corruption.

Yet, the Scriptures also call on us to master our sin. For whatever reason, men like Jefferson and Lee did not master theirs when it came to racism and bigotry.

Ambrose wrote that Jefferson had a “great mind and a limited character.” I think this was probably true of a lot of mythological characters in American history.

It is also true of many of us in modern life. I am not an intellectual by any means, but I do like to think and analyze. Unfortunately I tend to “overthink.”  This leads me to indecisiveness.

Like Jefferson I muse and write on subjects, but take little action in my own personal life.  I have recently thought that this is due to a lack of faith in God and His Word, the Bible.

I have for  most of my life agreed with the truth that Jesus died to pay the penalty for my sins and rose again from the dead to reign over me. I have also espoused intellectual assent to the truths of Scripture.

The reality though is that my life does not reflect these beliefs.  I have not done what the Bible has told me to do.

I have a myriad of excuses for this neglect, but the crux of the issue is that I have preferred doing things my way, perhaps out of convenience, or perhaps out of lust of the eyes, lust of the  flesh or pride of life.

I have determined of late though that God means  what He says. The Scriptures say “do not be deceived; God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows that He will also reap.” In many ways I have sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind.

The Roman philosopher Seneca wrote, “Why is it no man confesses his vices? It is because he has not yet laid them aside. It is a waking man only who can tell his dreams.”

J. Vernon McGee, a popular pastor and radio personality from the last half of the 20th century said of Seneca’s quote, “A man in sin is like a person still dreaming.

He alone (Jesus) can give comfort and understanding to the afflicted as well as extend mercy and grace.”

I have now after a lifetime awoke from my dream and seen my sins. The dream is to me more of a nightmare.

I should have obeyed God and His Word and listened to the men and women over my lifetime who taught me the way to live.

There’s still time for me, though. Thankfully, I have taken a first step.

The Bible says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

I have begun to change the way I think. I am trying these days to think about how I can please God.

That in itself pleases Him. McGee said, “God in interested in what we think when we lie upon our pillows.”

Changing the way we think would be a good start for a lot of Americans today. But first, we have to wake up from our dreaming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Social Justice Warriors are hampered by intellectual dishonesty

“Twilight Zone” host Rod Serling would open his show with the following:

You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s a signpost up ahead. Your next stop: the Twilight Zone.

As I recently wrote, all the signs currently point to the world entering the Twilight Zone. What I  mean is that it is really difficult to determine whether a lot of people are living in reality or fiction.

For example, when I turn on my computer and choose to watch the news instead of entertain myself with science fiction, I see protesters explaining to a reporter why they are out in the street. What comes out of their mouths are best termed conspiracy theories, devoid of logic and truth.

The media aids and abets this warped thinking with its twisted reports. Their reports are seductive, for they pose as news.

Further, news organizations are in charge of what we see and hear on our devices. We may not be getting the most important news.

To be fair to the mob, we are full of false beliefs and memories. As I was writing this an article popped up in my Twitter feed from the Wall Street Journal which discusses research about individual self awareness.

“Most of us are not as self aware as we think we are,” writes author Elizabeth Bernstein.

Reporting on the research of psychologist Tasha Eurich, Bernstein notes:

When it comes to self-knowledge, she says there are three types of people: those who have it, those who underestimate how much they have (she calls them “underraters”) and those who overestimate how much they have (“overraters”). Underraters beat themselves up unnecessarily. Overraters believe they do everything well.

Some of us think that we have wonderful memories, also. I personally think mine is flawed, but I do have a close childhood friend who I believe has an exquisite ability to fill in the blanks for me on my lost memories. However, he may not be as astute as I think he is.

In a 2013 piece, The Atlantic asked “How Many of Your Memories are Fake?” Erica Hayasaki reported that even people with something called Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory sometimes have their remembrances wrong.

One of the reasons for these mistakes in memory is that that our minds are subject to manipulation.

Simone Weil, one of the great philosophers of the first half of the 20th century, wrote that imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our real life. Unfortunately, she herself was evidence of this.

During World War II Weil contracted tuberculosis while in England.  She was there hoping to be sent to France to work for the Resistance. As a show of support for the French, she only ate what she “believed” the French person under German occupation would feed on. She died.

The coroner’s report said:  “the deceased did kill and slay herself by refusing to eat whilst the balance of her mind was disturbed”.

Despite this sad end,  Simone Weil is credited with seeking for truth during her short life.

 

A great student and thinker, she had a higher degree in philosophy. Weil also studied several religions.  In 1935 she was drawn to the Christian faith.  She wrote in her “Spiritual Autobiography” that her concept of life was Christian.

In the same work, Weil described Jesus as the truth. She also had a high regard for the Bible. Weil wrote:

Christ made promises to the Church, but none of these promises has the force of the expression “Thy Father who seeth in secret.” The word of God is the secret word. He who has not heard this word, even if he adheres to all the dogmas taught by the Church, has no contact with truth.

Weil chose to live out her faith outside of the traditional church. She believed that Christianity was “catholic (i.e., universal) by right but not in fact.”

“So  many things are outside it, so many things that I love and do not want to give up, so many things that God loves, otherwise they would not be in existence,” she wrote.

Weil was not only an intellectual and devoted person of faith, but she was also politically active. Like a lot of young people, she was a political leftist. At the age of 10 she decided she was a Bolshevik.

Weil supported Communist movements in Europe. She wrote articles debating both capitalism and socialism. Although she was a terrible soldier, Weil tried to fight for the republicans during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

 

If she were alive today, Weil would grasp the attraction of modern groups such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter to today’s youth. She chose to try to reach the revolutionaries of her day and with truth outside of the Church.

Social enthusiasms have such power today, they raise people so effectively to the supreme degree of heroism in suffering and death, that I think it is as well that a few sheep should remain outside the fold in order to bear witness that the love of Christ is essentially something different.

Would that our latter day young social justice warriors, so full of a desire to change the world, add the zeal for truth possessed by Simone Weil to their repertoire. They could do it if they wished.

Weil wrote:

After months of inward darkness, I suddenly had the everlasting conviction that any human being, even though practically devoid of natural faculties, can penetrate to the kingdom of truth reserved for genius, if only he longs for truth and perpetually concentrates all his attention upon its attainment.

I can only hope and pray for this kind of effort toward intellectual honesty today. It is severely lacking.

 

 

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Today’s world resembles the Twilight Zone

In “22”, an episode of the old TV series “Twilight Zone”, Liz Powell is having a recurring nightmare, except to her, it is all too real.

The events are the same every time. It begins with Liz lying in a bed in a hospital. She is there due to nervous exhaustion.

In the dream Liz awakes to the ticking of a clock.  She reaches for a water glass and knocks it onto the floor, where it shatters.

Liz hears receding footsteps and follows them out into a hallway. She catches a glimpse of a nurse getting on an elevator.  Liz watches as the elevator indicator lights reveal that it has reached the hospital basement.

Liz takes the elevator to the basement and sees Room 22. It is home to the hospital morgue.

A smiling, smug-looking young nurse walks out and says,”Room for one more, honey.” The screaming Liz scampers down the hall toward the elevator.

Despite the assurances of the hospital psychiatrist, Liz believes her experience is not a dream. She insists that it is genuine.

In his imitable way, “Twilight Zone” host Rod Serling tells after the initial showing of Liz’s dream: “At this moment we have just finished walking with her in a nightmare.

In a moment she’ll wake up and we’ll remain at her side. The problem here is that both Miss Powell and you will reach a point where it might be difficult to decide which is reality and which is nightmare. A problem uncommon perhaps but rather peculiar to the Twilight Zone.”

The “Twilight Zone” aired in the early 1960s. Five and a half decades ago, the depictions of horrific ambiguity were clearly fictional.

Viewers at the time watched the show to be entertained, knowing that afterwards they would return back to a world of truth and clarity.

The problem in the first quarter of the 21st century is that we have reached a point  where it IS difficult to decide like Liz Powell whether we are living in reality or a nightmare.  We ARE living in the Twilight Zone.

We all know about fake news.  There is propaganda everywhere.

But sometimes the news gives us absurdity that is unbelievably factual. This week, for example, ESPN took an Asian American announcer by the name of Robert Lee off a University of Virginia football game because his name could trigger the weak.

This poor man had a moniker that was identical (sans middle initial) to that of the Confederate general whose statue created the controversy which resulted in riots on the UVA campus. Antifa leftists clashed with white supremacists over the validity of  honoring a man who fought to keep slavery.

Robert E. Lee was a hero in Virginia at the time I was a child there. No more.

Part of the reason this is so is because today’s young person lacks knowledge. They either are being given a warped view of history in the classroom or they have chosen to see only one side of a man people of my youth thought of as a noble person.

It is easy to get suckered into false beliefs. I am exhibit 1 for this statement.

I was in my mid-thirties when I earned a graduate degree and changed careers. My father came to my graduation.

During a party in my home I showed him a brochure of the school where I planned to work. It was a start-up language program at a small college.

My father got one look at the name of the school, which identified it as one which had a Christian focus, and he quickly issued this judgement.

“You’ve never had a steady job your whole life and now you want to go work for this Christian group.”

I was shocked and offended. Never mind that the event was supposed to be celebratory. For crying out loud (a phrase I have inherited from Dad), I had just received a Master’s degree.

For probably the first time in my life I contested what Dad had said to me. I argued that before coming to grad school I had worked 11 years for a company where I had been steadily promoted.

I had had two kids through this companies health insurance for basically nothing. My savings there had helped pay for grad school.

This conversation with my father was a catharsis for me. Through it I came to understand that just because he said it didn’t make it so. I had been very much tied emotionally to his opinion of me.

To be fair to Dad, my opinion of him was also flawed over the years. It has taken me a lifetime of hard knocks to comprehend that in many ways he was a good man. For example, Dad helped me with expenses as I pursued my graduate degree.

It is not surprising that a show like the Twilight Zone presents stories filled with weird twists and ambiguity. After all, it was supposed to be science fiction.

Sadly, today’s “truth” is stranger than fiction at times. We see it not only in the news media, but in our personal lives. Individuals, for example, are now being called racist if they hold a view that history is worth saving. It is helpful if you become a target of such an accusation to state “just because they say it is so does not make it so.”

Theodore Sturgeon, a science fiction author, coined his own law in the 1950s which states that “ninety percent of everything is crud.” He developed a precursor to this adage which says that “nothing is always absolutely so.”

Much of what we absorb today is like Liz Powell’s nightmare. It is crap.

Yet, we may be able to receive a warning through our encounter with the crud. Liz did.

(Spoiler alert)

At the end of “Room 22″ Liz is shown boarding a plane to Miami after having been released from the hospital. The flight number is 22.

As she enters the airplane, she is greeted by a flight attendant who looks exactly like the nurse in her dream. The woman says to Liz,”Room for one more, honey.”

As in her dream, Liz scurries away, but this time back to the terminal. She watches as the plane she was to be on explodes on takeoff.

It’s important in the midst of our cultural decline into the Twilight Zone that we seek to learn what we can from the light we do have.  It could save our lives. More on this in the next post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The muddled mess of truth today: introductory thoughts

Lately, I’ve noticed that news organizations configure their headlines in such a way that only half truths or even falsehoods are told. Here’s an example

Woman to be deported after traffic violation

The story is accompanied by a picture of the lady and her children.

This limited information evokes an emotional reaction of how unfair it is for this poor lady to be thrown out of the country because of such a trivial incident.

Only after you go beyond the headline and read the details of the story do you get a clear picture of the facts.

This woman has been living in the United States illegally for two decades. She was found out when she was stopped by police and ticketed for operating a vehicle without a driver’s license.

Commenters on this story note that the woman brought this situation on herself by entering the country illegally in the first place and then staying for so long.

Illegal immigration is of course a hot button issue in the US.  There are extremists on both sides.

Some believe that all those who have broken the law by coming here should be sent back to where they came from. This would include “dreamers”, the children who came here before the age of 16 and probably had little say in the matter.

Others think that we should just have open borders. Anyone who wants to live and work in our nation should have the right to do so, they say.

Based on my training in journalism school in ancient times, I would have reported this story with the 5 W’s and H. Just the facts, ma’am. Give ’em who, what, when, where, why and how.

Editors don’t function that way in today’s society, however. What used to be suitable  only for the editorial page is passed off as headline news.

The result is that America is inundated with propaganda.

One of the reasons this is happening is that how we perceive truth is changing.

We used to be a culture based on a Judeo-Christian world view. Thus, the generation after World War 2, for example, tended to see things through that lens.

Nowadays,  young Americans talk about presenting “my truth.” I take this to mean that what they are going to tell me is not the “truth” per se, but their own view of reality.

In  modern America, the state of truth is similar to the condition of my favorite major league baseball team. Baseball writer Ken Rosenthal recently called my Baltimore Orioles a “muddled mess.” I would maintain that truth in the US is in the same shape as my beloved Os.

What is occurring in the media today is that reporters are now giving us SOME facts, and then interpreting them with “their” truth. It used to be that the reader was supposed to do the interpreting.

I can’t philosophize about this phenomenon. I’m not a philosopher. I’m trained in journalism, linguistics and to some extent in practical theology. So I can only look at the problem through those grids.

In terms of language, my observation is that people can’t even get their terms straight. For example, slurs with fully charged political electrons are freely being thrown around like darts, especially in social media forums such as Facebook and Twitter.

In the immigration debate, the left likes to accuse the right of being  “fascists”, “bigots”, “racists” and “Nazis”. The right tosses out equally inflammatory terms toward progressives. Insults such as “loon”, “nut job” and “bomb thrower” come to mind.

From my perspective, it would be appropriate in some cases to question who is actually the fascist or the loon.

I know that questions about truth are not new. Neither are discussions over the meaning of certain vocabulary words.

Even popular culture contains the story of  Pontius Pilate asking Jesus, “What is truth?”.

As a student of the Bible, I like to go a little deeper than what a film at Easter might tell me. I want to know the context, i.e. the whole story

In context, Jesus is being examined before Pilate before he was to be delivered up to be executed by Roman soldiers.  The trumped up charge made by the chief priests of Israel at the time was that Jesus was a rebel trying to overthrow the Roman government. The Jewish leaders, who had a stake in trashing Jesus, claimed that he wanted to be a king. Here’s the text from John 18:

“Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.” Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.”

The last statement by Jesus prompted Pilate’s question about truth. The excerpt reveals that  Pilate not only did not understand truth, but that he also had no idea what Jesus meant about being a king.

The effects of such miscommunication can be devastating, especially when a politician with authority is involved. Pilate ended up bowing to popular demand and having Jesus nailed to a cross.

In future posts, I will discuss the effects of this kind of confused thinking on our society. But first, I will try to ascertain exactly what we mean when we discuss the term “truth” and how it is related to other words we currently like to bandy about.

I also hope to propose some solutions that could help us work through the murk and gain a clearer picture of reality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Argument, Christianity, Communication, culture, immigration, Jesus Christ, language, Media, religion, Uncategorized

Culture shock at the 99 cent store

The local 99 Cent Only Store is quite an experience. It’s the only place I go shopping where I get a sense of panic as I mill around.

I don’t care for shopping in general, but I mostly tolerate it. But at the 99 Cent Only Store in my community, I seem to actually suffer psychological stress.

I believe I have pinpointed the cause of this angst. The place is literally a cross cultural meeting zone.

Having lived in a small city in the Midwest the last few years I am encountering some overall culture shock out on the West Coast anyway.  The 99 Cent Only Store is just part of my transition from traditional America to a place that seems to be a separate, multicultural nation. My anguish at this shop is just a symptom of the kind of response a cultural transition triggers,

Some of the my uneasiness isn’t due to differences in culture. It is provoked more by the  more universal experience of moving from a rural area to the big city. Unlike my fly-over country town, in this Pacific megalopolis there are crowded highways and crowded parking lots. Further, there are heavily populated shopping malls. Even the hiking trails are loaded with people.  Back home I am used to isolation and peace and quiet.

The 99 Cents Only Store is just a part of this local phenomenon of commotion. The shop has its own set of noise and clatter caused by its masses. Every aisle and checkout line is full.

As I do when I drive in traffic,I have to stay totally aware to avoid a collision as I cruise around this repository of cheap goods.

Going to buy the elements necessary to living at a 99 Cents Only Store in this locale is not only similar to driving the freeway, but also a bit like shopping abroad. In a recent trip there, I had a list of items and had trouble finding them. The Latino lady I asked for help didn’t understand my English. She didn’t seem to comprehend my question about the location of radishes and green onions. A fellow Anglo, probably a more experienced expat with perfect language skills told me where to look as she passed by and observed my struggles.

After I picked out my treasures, I maneuvered my shopping cart through the herd to the cashier line and waited as the people in front of me checked out. It was there that the event I have dreaded since I have been out West occurred. I had a wreck.

This accident was not my fault and it was only the equivalent of a parking lot fender bender, so it was really no big deal. It was only a nudge from behind.

Although the rear-ender was minor, I still felt as if my personal space had been violated. As a result I began to feel annoyed. Then I turned around and was totally disarmed.

Before me stood a short, wiry Asian fellow. “I need a walking license,” he said smiling. I laughed and replied, “So do I.”

Like an old friend, this man began to talk. He told me his name was Pham.

This senior citizen asked me, “How old do you think I am?” I looked him over and answered,“Oh, I would say early to mid 60s.”

My new Vietnamese pal answered with a look of glee and a sparkle in his eye. “I’m 80.”

I was astonished because he clearly had taken a drink from the Fountain of Youth. Pham was a good-looking guy, slim with an appealing face and a non-descript coloring to his hair.

“That’s incredible. You’re a handsome guy!”, I said. He kept smiling.

A senior Vietnamese lady came to his side and I asked Pham, “Do you know this lady?” He said, “That’s my boss.”

Pham’s wife said without missing a beat, “He’s 80.” I expressed my amazement to her as well.

Pham proceeded to tell me about his life. He told me proudly and with his continued smile that he had been a fighter pilot. “I flew 600 missions,” he said. That seemed like a lot to me. But Pham confirmed to me that he was telling the truth because he rattled off the designations of the planes he had flown. Having been around Navy pilots as a young man, I knew that HE knew what he was talking about.

I wondered how a Vietnamese guy could be a fighter pilot and wanted to ask him about it. Guesses flashed through my mind. I surmised that he had fought for the US in Vietnam or that he had immigrated and joined the service.

I wish I had had time to have a long talk with Pham about his four-score life. But the throngs kept pressing and we had to move through the checkout line.

I also found myself to be disoriented, one of the symptoms of culture shock. As a result, I stopped at an empty cashier station to make sure I had all my purchases and the things that I brought with me.

Sure enough, the cashier who had checked me out saw me and brought over the cell phone I had bought the day before. (I can tell you it was more than 99 cents.)  As I went through my backpack and purchases Pham and his wife passed behind me and exited the store.

I was sorry to see him go, for he was a gift from God. My positive meet up with this elderly Asian man has helped me to  move on from my cultural fatigue in the Pacific States. It also reminded me of why decided to work cross culturally years ago: I am intrigued and fascinated by the customs, language and people of other nations. I feel re-energized and feel the allure of international life once again.

My last visit to the 99 Cent Only Store was far more valuable than the inexpensive items sold there.

 

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Filed under Civility, culture, language, Shopping, Uncategorized