Category Archives: culture

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

Westerners don’t understand the danger they’re in

“We don’t revolt because we don’t understand.”

Phillip K. Howard wrote these words 20 years ago as he decried how overbearing regulations put forth by government have crushed American freedoms.

Howard didn’t believe that our leaders have ill intent in making all the rules that dictate everything we do today. In a view toward being fair to everyone, the author believes they just thought that laws should be as specific as possible, with a view toward being fair to everyone,

However, he says that our lawmakers’ efforts toward being precise have produced the opposite effect. In trying to cover every eventuality by making blanket rules for all, they have created huge costs and imbalances.

This is why I almost hate to read the news today.  Stories of injustice imposed on the majority of inhabitants of the western world by elite politicians in order to deal with a problem affecting a few are prevalent in the media.

One of the most recent examples of such inequities involves the rape of a 15-year old girl in an Austrian town. She was attacked by three male “refugees” from Third World countries, people who purportedly were in the little nation through the benevolence of the government.

If you follow the news, you know that European leaders are taking in people fleeing the war-torn hellholes these men came from. I don’t know the motives of the politicians, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they are just trying to alleviate the suffering of some of the folks who suffering from war in other places.

But in performing what seems to be a righteous act for the sake of some escapees from among the millions in these wretched countries, these office holders have put their own people at risk. Instead of owing up to this malfeasance, some of Europe’s public servants are trying to cover for the crimes of the migrants.

For instance, when a 10-year old boy was raped by one of these “refugees” in a swimming pool last summer, officials asked that Germans try to understand that the attacker comes from a different culture. One of the excuses offered and concurred with by leaders was the migrant’s statement that he had not had sex in four months and felt pressure.

As someone who has worked cross culturally for over a quarter of a century, I appreciate anyone who tries to put themselves in the shoes of another person who might have different customs than they do. But citing differences in cultural norms for pedophilia is of course ludicrous.

I do wonder though what makes these evil people think they can get away with their transgressions in Europe.  Somehow I think the power- that- be need to dig a little deeper for the cause of the motivations behind the assaults.

Could it be that “refugees” arriving from these strict Islamic countries feel free to rape and pillage after they spend a while observing European society?  After all, they watch television programs and view internet sites full of all kinds of immorality.

Perhaps the pols could learn something from television, too. I know I do.

I recently caught part of a M.A.S.H. episode in which Colonel Potter (played by Harry Morgan) becomes kind of a father figure to an injured soldier cared for by his doctors and nurses.

Private Danielson is getting harassed by a couple of men in his unit who are also in the M.A.S.H. ward. It seems he doesn’t believe in sex before marriage and has let the other guys know that he treats his girlfriend back home with respect. These men haze him with jokes and pranks, including tricking him into playing poker with a deck of cards with naked women on them.

Danielson tells them,”Why don’t you guys just leave me alone?”

One replies,”Danielson,  you don’t like women, you don’t like to drink, you got the old man looking out for you. You’re about the sorriest excuse for a man I ever saw.”

To defend himself, the private tells his abusers that he has been accepted into a unit responsible for the dangerous job of defusing bombs.  It’s a lie, but Danielson then seeks to cover it by asking Major Houlihan how he can get into the ordnance disposal unit.

Potter gets wind of his plan and argues with Danielson, who becomes angry. Potter ends the soldier’s ill advised course of action by keeping him in the hospital. In the end, he comes by to apologize to the Colonel.

Before Danielson leaves for his original unit, Potter tells him “Make sure you stick to those values.”

The Western world ought to take Potter’s advice. But first, its leaders and people should evaluate what those values are.

What is it exactly do European countries and their cultural descendants in the  United States and Canada stand for today anyway? Answering that question could go a long way in determining whether or not our leaders will handle our problems without violating common sense, or at least what used to count for sound judgment.

This morning as we drove down the freeway a  friend of mine and I were discussing the complete disconnect between people in the US these days. He hit on the cause of all this strife.

“People’s world views are so different, we will never have unity in this country,” he said.

I do believe what my pal was referring to was the idea that in America we are in a “culture war”.  The term was coined by University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter  a quarter of a century ago to define the conflict between conservative (traditional) and liberal (progressive) values in our country.

Pat Buchanan, who ran for president in 1992, made a major issue of this culture war, adding to its definition by calling it a battle of religions.

There has been no letup in this collision of beliefs . The battle has only increased as the country changes, a metamorphosis fueled by unbridled immigration from countries which heretofore have not had much representation in the States.

 

 

Until this clash of civilizations in the West has a clear winner, we will continue to see such outrages as are occurring in Europe now.  The only reason we have the disgusting events of late on our hands at all is that the majority of the citizens in western countries either haven’t understood what is happening to their nations, or don’t care to.

Until we begin to understand that we are in a war and care to do something about it, the outrages will go on.

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Filed under culture, politics, religion, Uncategorized, United States