Table Talk

Heavy envy envelopes objective relatives.

Persistent resistance distances verbal dancers dissing dug in positions with similar stubbornness. 

A win is immenent. 

The brethren can’t conceive concessions. 

Opponents must own their own arguments. Humble tears in tents; A clown smoking cigarettes. 

But who wins at some point with troubling anger on the table among us? Hurt hearts are contagious. 

Grab an ale and a napkin and make space for a feast, cousin. Let go this fight we’re waging. Eating time in session. On the plate is crow. 

We never got where it would have gone. Dangerous angling averted. Where’s dessert, then? 

Believer B(ee)

 Christianity IS crazy. It’s full of cracks and crackpots. It’s enthusiastic and absurd. It’s preoccupied and impractical. All of this and more is true, from certain objective points of view. This should be acknowledged up front by Christians debating those outside the faith. The core tenants of the Christian faith are, on their own, ridiculous. For example:

1. God created a son, which is actually Him and the Holy Spirit, who has to die and be born again to absolve all men (and women) of their sin (i.e. selfishness, greed, pride). Why should He have to die at all?

2. People have to believe Jesus was resurrected – a perfectly difficult thing to believe for anyone who has never seen anyone come back to life – to gain their own lives after death. Can’t God just be nice and give them heaven without the fuss?

3. God calls on Christians to, above all else, love other flawed people and Himself – a jealous God who seems, at times, far from righteous or all-powerful. Is God selfish and egotistical?

How did Noah get all those animals on the ark? Am I supposed to believe the world is only 6,000 years old? Is God a bigot? And on and on it goes; the facts on which the faith rests appear most suspicious and flimsy to the non-believer.

YouTube’s “Theoretical Bullshit” does the best job I’ve seen of pointing out objective dilemmas that too many Christians are blind to in “God’s Checklist.” 

But facts in isolation can be deceiving. If someone is reading the Bible to find fault, to judge its moral authority and proscriptions, they’ll have a mountain of evidence to back them. It’s a collection of stories from different authors; demonstrating incongruity is not hard. That doesn’t mean believers are wrong to pray, to take shelter from life’s storms in the church. Context is key. And so is perspective.  

The Bible is one moral narrative after another. It’s Aesop’s Fables, but centered on God. And Israel. Written by a lot of Aesops. A long time ago.  

Over the course of the Bible, a larger narrative takes shape. A story of redemption. Of forgiveness. Of sacrifice. Time and time again, God calls on His free-willed children to be selfless, to care more for others, to value their gifts, to rein in their darker natures and be more like Him. And He is Love. I know, it’s crazy.

And, of course, imperfect people wrote the books of the Bible. Even if you are a Christian who believes the Bible is the inerrant word of God, surely you can acknowledge that the vessels of the Word themselves were flawed.

So, it’s only natural that caring, thoughtful, fair-minded people might dismiss it as a relic. There really are plenty of reasons to do so. And Christians would be wise to acknowledge as much.

A younger me would likely be disappointed that I count myself as a Christian today. For the reasons I mention above and more, I thought Christianity was a crutch. Followers, often well intentioned, are taught the faith in a ritual setting. People like rituals. They also like believing the end of life isn’t really the end. Christianity soothes the problems of an evolving and emotional mind; it provides a measure of control; it brings meaning to an otherwise random existence.  

Logical atheists might say we evolved slowly from simpler forms of life to more complex after the Big Bang. They might say religions are a product of evolution to mitigate fear or incentivize working for the collective good. And I’m not here to tell them they’re wrong. Honestly, that all makes sense. 

Life certainly evolves. Morality itself evolves across the Bible. And fighting evolution is not only a losing proposition, it’s rude. If you would argue against logic in favor of Christianity, you’re only serving to stunt it. This, I think, is pushing people in need of love, and answers, away.

The real question I feel many atheists and agnostics want to ask is, “Why do you believe?” It seems so illogical. So they point out the inconsistencies, hoping to get an answer they learn to expect isn’t coming because defensive posturing kicks in. Ironically, I think it’s a question most Christians would love to answer.

Why do I believe?

I was saved around the age of 12. A pair of college students from a nearby evangelical school approached me and a friend at the mall. They talked to us about Jesus, and I was horrified. My friend made fun of them. What I didn’t realize at the time was they had planted a seed of fear in me. ‘If I don’t believe, I’m going to hell…’ So, after a few days of thinking about it, I asked Jesus into my heart one night before bed. I woke up the next day and felt great. I went through something of a honeymoon period as a new believer.

During this period, I remember a specific, heartfelt prayer request. Hell wasn’t my only fear. I also have always been terrified of bees and wasps. With my newfound faith muscles, I asked God to please protect me from stings until I was 40. I imagined by 40, I would be hardened by life enough to handle a bee sting. Such is a child’s way of thinking. 

While the “honeymoon” didn’t last and I questioned everything well into adulthood, my silly little covenant with God did. At the age of 41, last summer, and with my wife battling with her health, I got stung by a bee for the first time cleaning out our car. 

I can feel the pullback. Those two things don’t necessarily correlate, right? Objectively, yes. But in the context of my full life, they do. I thanked God right away and welled up with tears. … And there’s more to this I can’t unpack quickly. The big picture is: God is working with me. He’s personally involved. I can’t fully explain it, so I don’t expect you to understand. I follow Jesus because of the story of the Good Samaritan; I follow Him because of Mark Chapter 6; I follow because women found the cave-stone removed and people saw him risen and Paul and Peter were martyred in Rome; I believe because if God sent the world a lamb of peace, it figures threatened people in power would kill him; I believe because my grandmas went to heaven; and I’m a Christian because I was stung by a bee last year.  

Hello, my name is Brian. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t need them. I’m crazy. It’s nice to meet you.


 

Keep Calm and Cry Softly

Just as soon as I began to give Trump some credit for his drive and power (check my last post), more unfolding details about the firing of FBI Director James Comey rear their ugly head. 

I haven’t been this scared since “The Day After” came out it in grade school. And I know shit has officially hit the fan because even FoxNews anchors are expressing concern (check out Chris Wallace on Shephard Smith from today’s show if/when it posts). 

I’d like to say with a bubbly English accent: ‘Keep Calm: Trump is just a nincompoop.’ But I don’t believe that. 

It feels like some of my deepest fears about Trump – he only cares about power; he’s deeply corrupt – might be true. I lean left, and I don’t want to believe it. 

What we know: Trump says now it was his decision to fire Comey; Comey led the department investigating Trump associates for their ties to Russia; Trump officials originally said recommendations from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein provided the impetus for termination. 

This is enough to be troubling to any thoughtful American. There’s more, of course. It has been reported Trump had asked the FBI director for his loyalty before the pink slip; Trump has implied a private conversation with Comey may have been taped; and he threatened to release dirt on Joe Scarborough and other perceived threats. 

It’s all unnerving. And so unnecessary. Trump has all the power Obama had in 2008 with congress on his side. Why is this his focus? 

When you watch FoxNews tonight – and many of you will – do me a favor: replace the name Trump with Clinton. Would you be freaked out if Hillary had just fired the director investigating her ties to Russia?

But I don’t want to add to the fear. I’m sure this Wonka boat will land at the testing lab soon. 

‘Keep calm and cry softly.’ It’s not great, but who wants the current state of things to carry on? 

Ratings Bold: An Unfortunate Truth

Dear Resist Movement and all Americans and others rightfully concerned about our President, 

Can we have a moment? 

I want to apologize formally. You’re great people — better than me, in fact. You see, I think I like Trump. 

Yes, I know that’s terrible. No, he shouldn’t grab pussies. Yes, he’s an unashamed greedy egomaniac. He might be racist, too, which upsets me. He’s almost the Anti-Obama, and more than once I’ve been overcome by the same pangs of fear you feel … like the world is going to end, ransaked by Deatheaters.  It’s a shame. 

Also, it’s worth noting, I didn’t vote for him; his conflicts of interest are a far bigger concern to me than Hillary’s emails; his critics are right most of the time; and he probably shouldn’t be running the country.

On the last point, veteran conservative columnist George Will nails the reasons why. I can’t argue. 

But please hear me Democrats (left-leaning independent here) and other fine people: Donald Trump is to His supporters what Bill Clinton is to liberals. He’s what Kanye West is to music (Love you, Kanye!) He is, in a word, untouchable. He can say and do anything and the people who love him still will. 

And this, I admit shamefully, is part of the appeal. Maybe all of it. But if we are ever going to win power back for the good guys, I think we need to be bold ourselves and admit he’s not the boogeyman. 

When I was younger and dumber, I once wrote a blog featuring a picture of brass balls. I’d declared myself the best reporter in Springfield (Mo.) as I was exiting my first job in journalism and ready, with gusto, to take on my second. It’d be another six months before I was hired to write. 

Here’s the thing: I believed it was true. Looking back objectively, I can think of five reporters in the area who were better than me and there may have been more. But at the time, I had blinders on. That self-confidence, that belief in myself, eventually helped me secure a position with a better well-respected publication.  

While I am embarrassed now by my early swagger, my boldness furthered my resolve to be great, which helped me secure a larger platform from which to operate. “Fortune favors the bold,” said Virgil. “Freedom lies in being bold,” said Robert Frost.

Back to Trump: this guy is nothing but brass balls. For those not paying attention, here are a few (too many regrettable) examples:

1. He ran for president with no government experience.

2. He’s been involved in six business bankruptcies and ran based on his business acumen.

3. He called Sen. John McCain, a former Republican presidential nominee and war hero, “a loser” while running for the nation’s highest office. 

4. While launching his campaign, he insulted Mexicans and alienated a key voting block – Hispanics – just four years after their strong support for Obama gave him a narrow victory (no political expert I know of thought this was a good idea). 

5. He has reorganized his debts in the past based on the power of his name. 

6. He ran for president without releasing his taxes. 

7. He has bombed Syria, thumbed his nose at Kim Jong Un, and hosted several successful seasons of “Celebrity Apprentice” (a TV show premise that should have never reached the air). 

And on and on it goes. I’m not saying this is a great man. But I get it. I get why people like him. 
Oh, btw, he seems to have fulfilled every dream he could have had for himself. I can’t say that. Think about it: he sits in the most powerful office in the world; he’s married to a model; he’s filthy rich; and he’s so bombastic and charismatic that historians will be saying his name for centuries.
This week, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was investigating Trump appointees and their ties to Russia. Already, calls for impeachment and comparisons to Richard Nixon are getting attention online. But be careful Dems: the last time Congress moved to impeach a sitting president, that president finished his second term with a 65 percent approval rating. 
Clinton’s lowest rating, in case you’re wondering, was 37 percent. It came about four months after he took office. Trump has been as low as 35 percent, according to Gallup, but he currently sits at 40 percent.   
Regarding “The Apprentice,” I wasn’t a huge fan, but I watched a few seasons like anyone else. And, yes, I mostly agreed with his takes. Here’s the problem: I can see 1,000 stories about how Trump is a nightmare, but there will still be a part of me that says to myself, ‘you know, Joan Rivers did deserve to win Season 9.’   

#justsayin 

Bold prediction: Amid WWIII, which Trump will help bring to fruition, The Donald will be viewed like Gen. Patton and leave a second term with a 67 percent approval rating. (Sorry, Dems. I need a shower.)

Death to Dinosaurs 

This poem was the inspiration for the Death2Dinosaurs blog. After months of neglect — I took a job as an adviser with three local cemeteries and thought the name seemed disrespectful — I’m jumping back into blog action. Enjoy! 

———-  ———  ———  ———  ———-  ———- 

Death to dinosaurs is what I see

in my dreams, and it seems 

fair to care why they die.

Large and leathery, wheezing,

stumbling, falling, and then

melting away. Vanishing.

They chased me, and I hid one of

the dogs they wanted to eat.

It felt like the right thing to do.
I don’t know how to make sense

of these places, these dinosaur

faces, fading away over 

entertainment centers. 

They’re random, they say. 

They’re the future, they say.

It’s gray to me, and still it seems

to be something I somehow knew. 

A place no less real than you.
In a land where dinosaurs die, or 

tornadoes fly, or a land where

I’m still in school, how do I know

where my home is? What a home is? 

What is true?

And if that passes as a home there, then

how do I remember to care?

 In those places, with those faces. 

Fading. Dying now.

The mother of all conspiracy theories 

I’m not saying real estate mogul Donald Trump has spent the past year and a half doing everything in his power to undermine the Republican Party and get Hillary Clinton elected. That would be one crazy conspiracy theory. 

But if he were, the following facts would surely go a long way to explain what has been one of the most unbelievable presidential races ever. It also would make Hillary everything many Republicans already believe her to be: the most diabolical political candidate our country has seen in decades — maybe ever. 

Consider the following facts: 

  1. Trump and the Clintons were friends before the race. No one denies this, btw. The Clintons attended The Donald’s wedding in 2005. The notoriously cheap Trump has given money to both the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s senate campaign in New York. In fact, before this race, Trump always spoke highly of the Clintons. So when did he change his mind exactly?
  2. Bill encouraged Trump to run against Hillary. Ask yourself: why would he do that? Maybe he thought Trump was beatable. Or maybe he KNEW it. Out of the gate, Trump insulted Mexicans — a growing demographic and powerful voting block for the left. After the 2012 election, it was clear to anyone paying attention that Romney’s strategy of appealing only to white Christian voters was antiquated. Political experts agreed: the only way Republicans could win in 2016 was to broaden its appeal to minorities. Isn’t it odd then that Trump has taken the exact opposite approach. And it’s genius, right? Think about it: Trump is a well-known celebrity from “The Apprentice,”saying all the things the distraught and neglected Republican-core voters want to hear, making this political “outsider” an instant threat to stand out in a crowded field of primary candidates. Even if Trump failed, the long-term damage he could do to the Republican brand would be irreparable. Haven’t you seen more than a few stories about the death of the Republican Party this election cycle? Why would that be? I guess it’s just a coincidence that the Clintons’ loyal supporter and friend could be responsible for dismantling their opposition. 
  3. Trump allegedly said Republicans were suckers. While fact-checkers haven’t confirmed this, there are those who say the proof Trump believed he could easily hoodwink Republicans has gone suspiciously missing — plucked from YouTube. Conspiracy much, bro? 
  4. Trump appears to have done everything he could to lose. Usually after the primaries, candidates move to the middle. That is to say once they’ve secured their party’s support, they soften their stances to appeal to those on the fence. Not Trump. If anything he has doubled down on decisive rhetoric, even applauding cronies such as Newt Gingrich and Rudy Guilliani — who have terrible track records with women themselves — when they insult women like FoxNews’ Megyn Kelly for even questioning how Trump could answer charges of sexual assault from a dozen accusers. Look at the big picture here: From promoting illegal torture, to proposing that all Muslims be at least temporarily banned from entering the U.S., to saying Mexicans would pay for his wall, nothing he is doing matches any expert’s winning strategy. This is a guy who called John McCain a loser for being a POW. You can’t make this stuff up. 

Or can you? 

If this conspiracy is right, a vote for Trump is a vote against the long-term viability of the lone major party fighting against an oversized federal government. And a vote for Hillary accomplishes the same thing.  

The liberals and their media win no matter what. That can’t be right? That would be crazy. 

Reagan’s lost Republicans 

For reasons I don’t understand, the Republican Party seems to have no interest in my vote. 

I was raised a Republican. Reagan was the president of my childhood, and my younger self identified with his speeches centered on self-reliance, the American dream, and reducing the scope and influence of government. Those themes fit like a glove in my mother’s household. Her very biggest rule for me was “be honest.” Nothing could make her more upset than a liar, but certainly I knew she also valued self-reliance. Growing up, I knew I shouldn’t expect others to do for me anything I could do for myself. Although my mother was socially more progressive, “liberal” was a dirty word in our home. I’d be well into my teens before a guy named Bill Clinton made me consider the possibility that not all Democrats were freeloaders or misinformed; I began to consider some people might actually want to use the government to lift up society’s most vulnerable. 

Still, in ’96, my first chance to participate in a presidential election, I cast my vote for Ross Perot. I was going through a libertarian phase, worried about the size of our federal government and believing that people could do a better job of pursuing their own ideas of happiness if government would just get out of the way. Twenty years later, I still largely feel the same. 

In the late 90s, right-leaning radio grump Don Imus became a hero of mine. I found him on US97 and enjoyed his disdain for elitism while working the dough room at a pizza restaurant where I made $5.75 an hour. This was the hardest job I have ever had. My young family was very poor at the time despite the fact my wife and I both worked. For a while, we utilized food stamps, which freed up money for rent, and my kids were born on Medicaid. I remember just how grateful I felt that there was a safety net for people like us. I don’t know how we could’ve made it otherwise. Despite my admiration for the I-Man, I’d vote for Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004. I felt government health care, in particular, lifted a huge burden off working poor people like myself, allowing them to better care for their families and pursue their American dream. By 2004, we were off Medicaid, off food stamps, and I had returned to college, determined to carve out a middle-class life for my family.

In 2008, I would graduate with a degree in journalism. My first job was with a biweekly newspaper run here in the conservative Ozarks by a staunchly Republican family. This was not a problem for me. The editor and publisher trusted me to guide our ’08 election coverage fairly, and I did my best to cover local, state and national elections with an even hand. I’m still proud of the work I did. Though I supported government investments in infrastructure and education, I considered myself an independent. 

A fan of John McCain – based on my familiarity with the senator and POW as a regular guest on Imus – it was the 2008 election where I began to feel the charismatic Democratic senator from Illinois was not getting a fair shake. The market was tanking at the time and all of my research indicated keeping interest rates low and stimulating the economy through FDR-like spending was the best course of action for our nose-diving market. I quietly voted for Obama, and I’ve never regretted it. 

When the Tea Party sprung up in ’09 and ’10, I was exposed through my job to much of their rhetoric. While they would rail on about out-of-control government spending, the economists and contractors I’d talk to were much more supportive of the needed stimulus. Reining in such spending could actually cause a Depression and debt levels were still quite manageable compared to the size of the GDP. In WWII, for example, the ratio of debt to GDP was much higher. Here in southwest Missouri, I didn’t understand the anger I was exposed to. Couldn’t conservatives see what I was seeing? Bush, who I loved in early aftermath of 9-11, had cut taxes and started two wars. Now the economy was free-falling and debt spending was keeping it afloat. This was not the time to dig in heels. Obama’s course was not only not radical, it was the right course. 

And then there was health care. I supported Obama’s public option, which I thought would be the best way to drive rising health care costs down. But my Republican friends and colleagues freaked! This was subsidized care v. the free market — a completely unfair fight, they said. But Obama had what I thought was a strong backup plan: the Affordable Care Act, modeled after Republican “Romneycare” in Massachusetts and the proposed alternative to universal health care in the 90s. Surely, that would be agreeable. 

Not so much. 

The whole premise of Obamacare was that everyone needed to get insurance to help reduce costs for all because too many people weren’t covered, which puts the burden of costs on too few. My libertarian leanings didn’t like penalties for not securing coverage, but Medicaid expansion would at least protect the poor. Expansion also was made attractive to states with the federal government shouldering startup costs. I’m sure Obama thought opponents would fall in line. But he misread the room. 

The Supreme Court would rightly find states weren’t obligated to expand Medicaid, and so red states like my Missouri turned down billions of dollars to undermine the president’s efforts, ignoring or neglecting their often rural base, which could have benefited hugely from expansion. 

Now, over 60 times congressional Republicans have tried to overturn the ACA, the very system many prominent members of their party have championed in the past. Not surprisingly, rates continue to climb and it’s hard to imagine this system surviving as-is long into the next administration. 

And now we have Donald Trump, whom I once enjoyed on “The Apprentice.” The billionaire adept at avoiding taxes and securing bankruptcy protection, who has used in his campaign a fear of minorities and Muslims to solidify a base of support, has privately joked about sexual aggression against women, openly questioned the president’s citizenship, allegedly bilked small-business owners with the threat and promise of frivolous lawsuits and called war hero McCain a loser for getting caught behind enemy lines — a man who has built his business empire through media promotion — says he’s not getting a fair shake from the free press. 

Last night, in furtherance of his ongoing campaign nonsense, former Speaker and current Trump-waterboy Newt Gingrich, implored FoxNews show host Megyn Kelly to call adulterer and former president Bill Clinton a sexual predator, unsuccessfully, to make good I suppose for covering current sexual allegations against Trump. Kelly, rightfully, stood her ground. Has there been any acknowledgement on Gingrich’s or Trump’s behalf that Republicans in the 90s were wrong somehow to railroad Clinton for his unsettling indiscretion with a White House intern, which now looks positively tame compared to the allegations against Trump? Nah. I guess they’re too busy looking hawkishly toward the Middle East, planning to build a wall to keep out Mexicans all while cutting tax revenue for peers in their tax bracket. How can we pay for that?! Where is the outcry from debt-focused Tea Party conservatives now? 

The Republican Party of my youth promoted personal responsibility, eliminating government red tape and dependence, free markets and free people regardless of race, creed or nationality. Remember: Reagan called for tearing down walls, not building them. Just how is it that his party today easily demonizes those among us who fight for the upward mobility or the poor, good infrastructure and an educated workforce — things that actually open up the American dream to more people and create an environment for ripe for entrepreneurship and innovation. 

I never wanted to be a Democrat, but I guess that’s what I am. 

If the Republican Party ever begins to resemble Reagan’s type of thinking again, please let me and mom know (even she can’t stand all of Trump’s lies and posturing). We are just waiting for that ticket to earn our votes.