Reblogging Max Lucado

I had been thinking a lot about the presidential primary coming up in Texas, and have been very troubled by many of the things that are being said and done. I had been trying to come up with a way of saying what was on my heart, and then I found this blog from Max Lucado.

Let me say, in reposting this blog, I am using copyrighted material. His people may contact me, and tell me to pull it down, which I will do if asked. But this is good, and says what I was thinking, and says it better than I could, so at least for the time being, I’m borrowing it.

His title for this piece is, “Decency for President.” To that, I would simply add, “Amen” and “Hear, hear.”

As the father of three daughters, I reserved the right to interview their dates. Seemed only fair to me. After all, my wife and I’d spent 16 or 17 years feeding them, dressing them, funding braces, and driving them to volleyball tournaments and piano recitals. A five-minute face-to-face with the guy was a fair expectation. I was entrusting the love of my life to him. For the next few hours, she would be dependent upon his ability to drive a car, avoid the bad crowds, and stay sober. I wanted to know if he could do it. I wanted to know if he was decent.

This was my word: “decent.” Did he behave in a decent manner? Would he treat my daughter with kindness and respect? Could he be trusted to bring her home on time? In his language, actions, and decisions, would he be a decent guy?

Decency mattered to me as a dad.

Decency matters to you. We take note of the person who pays their debts. We appreciate the physician who takes time to listen. When the husband honors his wedding vows, when the teacher makes time for the struggling student, when the employee refuses to gossip about her co-worker, when the losing team congratulates the winning team, we can characterize their behavior with the word decent.

We appreciate decency. We applaud decency. We teach decency. We seek to develop decency. Decency matters, right?

Then why isn’t decency doing better in the presidential race?

The leading candidate to be the next leader of the free world would not pass my decency interview. I’d send him away. I’d tell my daughter to stay home. I wouldn’t entrust her to his care.

I don’t know Mr. Trump. But I’ve been chagrined at his antics. He ridiculed a war hero. He made mockery of a reporter’s menstrual cycle. He made fun of a disabled reporter. He referred to the former first lady, Barbara Bush as “mommy,” and belittled Jeb Bush for bringing her on the campaign trail. He routinely calls people “stupid,” “loser,” and “dummy.” These were not off-line, backstage, overheard, not-to-be-repeated comments. They were publicly and intentionally tweeted, recorded, and presented.

Such insensitivities wouldn’t even be acceptable even for a middle school student body election. But for the Oval Office? And to do so while brandishing a Bible and boasting of his Christian faith? I’m bewildered, both by his behavior and the public’s support of it.

The stock explanation for his success is this: he has tapped into the anger of the American people. As one man said, “We are voting with our middle finger.” Sounds more like a comment for a gang-fight than a presidential election. Anger-fueled reactions have caused trouble ever since Cain was angry at Abel.

We can only hope, and pray, for a return to decency. Perhaps Mr. Trump will better manage his antics. (Worthy of a prayer, for sure.) Or, perhaps the American public will remember the key role of the president is to be the face of America. When he/she speaks, he/she speaks for us. Whether we agree or disagree with the policies of the president, do we not hope that they behave in a way that is consistent with the status of the office?

As far as I remember, I never turned away one of my daughter’s dates. They weren’t perfect, but they were decent fellows. That was all I could ask.

It seems that we should ask the same.

© Max Lucado
February 21, 2016

Enemies, Foreign and Domestic

(Anybody else here a Mike Rowe fan?  I loved “Dirty Jobs” when he was doing that show, and the quality of his voice-over work on “Deadliest Catch” is amazing.  And today, I’m going to reblog something he wrote on his “The Real Mike Rowe” Facebook page, then I’ll make a few comments at the end.  For clarity’s sake, the quoted section is printed in navy blue, with the links presented in a lighter blue.)

Photo: [Bob Reidel: "Mike - Saw you hangin with Bill Maher. I had no idea you were a liberal. Really blew me away. Love everything you do but now that I know who you really are, I won't be tuning in to watch anything your involved with."]Well, hi there, Bob. How's it going? Since your comment is not the only one of its kind, I thought I'd take a moment to address it. Bill Maher is opinionated, polarizing and controversial. I get it. So is Bill O'Reilly, which is probably why I heard the same comments after I did his show. ("How could you Mike? How could you?") Truth is, every time I go on Fox, my liberal friends squeal. And every time I show up on MSNBC, my conservative pals whine. Not because they disagree with my position - everyone agrees that closing the skills gap is something that needs to happen. No, these days, people get bent simply if I appear on shows they don't like, or sit too close to people they don't care for. What's up with that? Is our country so divided that my mere proximity to the "other side" prompts otherwise sensible adults to scoop up their marbles and go home? Back in 2008, I wrote an open letter to President Obama, offering to help him promote those 3 million "shovel-ready" jobs he promised to create during his campaign. (I suspected they might be a tough sell, given our country's current relationship with the shovel.) Within hours, hundreds of conservatives accused me of "engaging with a socialist," and threatened to stop watching Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe if I didn't come to my senses. When I made the same offer to Mitt Romney (who actually responded), thousands of liberals chastised me for "engaging with a greedy capitalist," and threatened to stop watching Dirty Jobs if I didn't take it back. You may ask, "But what did these people think about the issue at hand?" Who knows? They were too busy being outraged by my proximity to the devil. (Poor Ed Shultz at MSNBC nearly burst into tears. "You were on the wrong stage, Mike! The wrong stage!! With the wrong candidate!!!") Oy.Here's the thing, Bob - Profoundly Disconnected (http://profoundlydisconnected.com/) is not a PR campaign for Mike Rowe. It's a PR campaign for skilled labor and alternative education. PR campaigns need ... that's right, PR, and if I limit my appearances to those shows that I personally watch, hosted only by those personalities with whom I personally agree, I might as well start a church and preach to the choir. Point is, I didn't go on Real Time to endorse BM, and I didn't go on The Factor to endorse BO. I went on because millions of people watch those shows. I approached our liberal president for the same reason. Likewise, his conservative opponent. And I showed up on Sesame Street with the same agenda that I took to Congress. Closing the skills gap is bigger than you or me or any particular venue, and Real Time gave me an opportunity to reach 5 million people. I'm grateful for that, and I'll do it again if they want me back. As for Bill Maher off-camera, you'll be pleased to know that the guy was a perfect gentleman. His staff is excellent, and his after-party included an open bar with a spread I've never seen in such a setting. Bill took the time to hang out with his guests and their friends after the show, chatting about this and that for over an hour, and taking pictures with anyone who wanted one. Trust me, that's rare. Yes, he's outrageous, inflammatory, and to many, a jagged little pill. But he's also gracious, generous, engaging, and taller than he appears on TV. Which, frankly, surprised me.
[Bob Reidel: “Mike – Saw you hangin with Bill Maher. I had no idea you were a liberal. Really blew me away. Love everything you do but now that I know who you really are, I won’t be tuning in to watch anything your involved with.”] Well, hi there, Bob. How’s it going? Since your comment is not the only one of its kind, I thought I’d take a moment to address it.Bill Maher is opinionated, polarizing and controversial. I get it. So is Bill O’Reilly, which is probably why I heard the same comments after I did his show. (“How could you Mike? How could you?”)Truth is, every time I go on Fox, my liberal friends squeal. And every time I show up on MSNBC, my conservative pals whine. Not because they disagree with my position – everyone agrees that closing the skills gap is something that needs to happen. No, these days, people get bent simply if I appear on shows they don’t like, or sit too close to people they don’t care for. What’s up with that? Is our country so divided that my mere proximity to the “other side” prompts otherwise sensible adults to scoop up their marbles and go home? Back in 2008, I wrote an open letter to President Obama, offering to help him promote those 3 million “shovel-ready” jobs he promised to create during his campaign. (I suspected they might be a tough sell, given our country’s current relationship with the shovel.) Within hours, hundreds of conservatives accused me of “engaging with a socialist,” and threatened to stop watching Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe if I didn’t come to my senses.

When I made the same offer to Mitt Romney (who actually responded), thousands of liberals chastised me for “engaging with a greedy capitalist,” and threatened to stop watching Dirty Jobs if I didn’t take it back.

You may ask, “But what did these people think about the issue at hand?” Who knows? They were too busy being outraged by my proximity to the devil. (Poor Ed Shultz at MSNBC nearly burst into tears. “You were on the wrong stage, Mike! The wrong stage!! With the wrong candidate!!!”)

Oy.

Here’s the thing, Bob – Profoundly Disconnected (http://profoundlydisconnected.com/) is not a PR campaign for Mike Rowe. It’s a PR campaign for skilled labor and alternative education. PR campaigns need … that’s right, PR, and if I limit my appearances to those shows that I personally watch, hosted only by those personalities with whom I personally agree, I might as well start a church and preach to the choir.

Point is, I didn’t go on Real Time to endorse BM, and I didn’t go on The Factor to endorse BO. I went on because millions of people watch those shows. I approached our liberal president for the same reason. Likewise, his conservative opponent. And I showed up on Sesame Street with the same agenda that I took to Congress.

Closing the skills gap is bigger than you or me or any particular venue, and Real Time gave me an opportunity to reach 5 million people. I’m grateful for that, and I’ll do it again if they want me back.

As for Bill Maher off-camera, you’ll be pleased to know that the guy was a perfect gentleman. His staff is excellent, and his after-party included an open bar with a spread I’ve never seen in such a setting. Bill took the time to hang out with his guests and their friends after the show, chatting about this and that for over an hour, and taking pictures with anyone who wanted one. Trust me, that’s rare.

Yes, he’s outrageous, inflammatory, and to many, a jagged little pill. But he’s also gracious, generous, engaging, and taller than he appears on TV.

Which, frankly, surprised me.

I like his comments.  Very much.  And I want to add a few of my own.

First of all, when and from where did we get the idea that people we disagree with politically are the enemy?  We may have a differences of opinion about what is good public policy, or how the government should or should not respond on a given issue, but that does not make us enemies.

As some of you know, I used to work for Rick Perry back when he was in the state legislature.  One of the first things they taught at orientation was that the job should not be personal.  The guy you were opposing today on issue “A” might very well be the guy whose vote you need tomorrow to help you with your bill on issue “B.”

I used to love to read Molly Ivins, may she rest in peace.  Yes, she was loud, brassy, obnoxious, and as liberal as the day is long.  But she was also outrageously funny, and she made me laugh, and and she made me think.  Molly used to love to tell a story about John Kennedy and Barry Goldwater.  They had served in the Senate together in the 50s and were good friends.  In the early 60s, when it became that Goldwater was going to be running against Kennedy in the 1964 Presidential election, they were looking forward to it, and had already begun having discussions about a sort of traveling debate roadshow.  The idea was for a series of debates, where the two of them would slug it out over public policy before the cameras, then go out for a drink together after the show.

Democrats. Republicans. Progressives. Conservatives. We need to listen to each other.  We NEED each other.  Compromise is NOT a dirty word.  It means recognizing that sometimes the other fellow also has a good idea, and maybe we are not perfect in our judgments and opinions.

Are we so afraid of the weakness of our political views that we cannot stand to have them questioned?  Are we so intellectually lazy that we can’t form a decent argument in support of our position?  Or have we just completely lost all sense of common decency and respect, so that we simply can’t talk with each other anymore?

Standing with our fingers in our ears and yelling “NO” to those who disagree with us is the behavior of a three-year-old throwing a tantrum, but we need to do better as a nation.

Especially a nation whose founders believed in the power of ideas.

A Movie of Immense Power

Not that it needs anything from me, but I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of praise for Spielberg’s “Lincoln.”

It is a movie of immense power.

First of all, a couple of notes.  This is NOT a movie for people who go to the show to see special effects, or to see stuff blown up.  There’s an actual story here.  Second, if you don’t like movies where you have to pay attention to dialogue, save yourself the $8 and stay home.  If you didn’t like “The West Wing” on TV, you almost certainly won’t like “Lincoln.”

But: if you enjoy history, if you like movies where words matter, if you enjoy seeing incredible actors at the top of their craft, then you owe it to yourself to go see this.

Here’s the story: It is January, 1865.  The American Civil War is in its fourth year, and Lincoln has just been reelected.  Two years earlier, he had issued the Emancipation Proclamation, but now he is seeking to abolish slavery once and for all through the proposed 13th Amendment.  The amendment has passed the Senate, but does not have the necessary two-thirds majority to pass the evenly-divided House.

They say there two things you never want to watch: one is how sausage is made, and the other is how legislation gets passed.  Make an exception in this case.

Daniel Day Lewis is simply phenomenal to watch, and he is surrounded by incredible talent – Sally Field, David Strathairn, Tommie Lee Jones, Hal Holbrook, just to name a few.  When his advisers are whining because they’re still two votes down, Lincoln thunders,  “I am President of the United States, clothed with great power. The abolition of slavery by Constitutional provisions settles the fate, for all … time, not only of the millions now in bondage, but of unborn millions to come – a measure of such importance that those two votes must be procured.  I leave it to you to determine how it shall be done, but remember that I am President of the United States, clothed with immense power, and I expect you to procure those two votes …”

It’s an actual quote, as cited by John B. Alley, Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln, ed., Rice, 1886 ed., p 585-6.

And then there’s Sally Field.  The fact is, Mary Todd Lincoln had battled mental illness for much of her life, and when their middle son died, she never fully recovered from the loss.  The scene in the privacy of their bedroom, when she and Mr. Lincoln have a screaming fight, is in my opinion, one of the most powerful ever put on film.  Watching her and Daniel Day Lewis go at each other is like watching Frazier and Ali trading punches.

And I don’t have time to tell you how amazing Tommie Lee Jones is here.

I love the way Spielberg structured the storytelling here.  The movie opens with remembrances of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and closes with his Second Inaugural.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

I’m telling you, words matter, and they absolutely shine in the hands of this director, this script, and these actors.  “Lincoln” is a gem.

The Column I Didn’t Want to Write

I’ve been meaning to write something for over a week now.  Intending to do so. Putting it off, because I really didn’t want to write about this.  But I find that whenever I start to try and write about something else, that little voice in the back of my head shouts me down, and keeps bringing me back to this.  So, rushing in where angels fear to tread…

I’m so sick of politics, I could just vomit.

Now, you have to understand, I’ve been interested in politics for as long as I can remember.  I actually remember the anti-Goldwater TV ad from 1964 with the little girl and the nuclear explosion.  It’s probably on Google if you haven’t seen it before.  And I remember well the ’68 election between Nixon and Humphrey, and George Wallace’s 3rd party candidacy that gave the election to Tricky Dick.  And I never fail to vote.

So when I say, I’m sick of politics this year, that’s big to me.

I have dear friends who are on the right, sending me vast amounts of emails about how absolutely disastrous it will be for the country if President Obama is re-elected.  And I have dear friends on the left politically, warning of the horrifying social catastrophe that would follow a victory by Governor Romney.

People, get over yourselves.  Frankly, I can’t stand either one of those guys.

When did the party of Abraham Lincoln become so filled with so much greed, hatred and xenophobia?  When did the party of Teddy Roosevelt – an arch environmentalist and trust-buster – become so devoted to hyper-individualism, at the expense of balance and common sense?

When did the party of Franklin Delano “All we have to fear, is fear itself” Roosevelt, become the domain of professional victims?  When did the party of JFK become the party of the guaranteed handout?  Wasn’t it Kennedy who famously asked, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”  Still sounds like a good idea to me.

I guess there are two things that really bother me about the current political dialogue discourse arguments that I see.  One is the notion of political enemies.  They say politics is the art of the possible.  The fact is, our nation was built on political compromise.  COMPROMISE IS NOT A DIRTY WORD.  It just means recognizing that the other guy might also have a good point.

When the framers of the constitution couldn’t agree on whether the national legislature should be based on the states or the people, they compromised, and gave us a bicameral system – the Senate, where members are chosen by the states, and the House, with members chosen by population.  (Am I the only one who remembers 8th grade American history? Jeez.)  It was a compromise, and 200+ years on, it still looks like a pretty good one.

The other thing that bothers me, and maybe even more so, is the meanness with which Christians are attacking each other other this.  Right wing Christians don’t understand how people can claim to be believers, yet support progressive positions on various social issues.  Left wing Christians can’t see how conservative believers can fail to support programs to help the poor and the marginalized.  Both sides need to get off of their moral high-horse and realize our allegiance to Christ must supersede our political affiliation.

Yes, we should use whatever means we have to bring make the Kingdom of God come on earth, as it is in Heaven.  On the other hand, the problems we deal with are often caused by poor individual choices that bring terrible consequences.  Yes, the scripture is very plain that God expects us to help the poor, the widow and the orphan.  On the other hand, it is equally plain that the poor were expected to glean their own food, and that, “if any will not work, neither let him eat.”

It’s not either-or.  It’s both-and.

Both sides like to use fear to whip up their supporters.  But how often in scripture does God say, “Don’t be afraid.”  Over and over again.  So I am not giving in to fear.  I am trusting that whoever wins the election, God will still be in control of the future, of nations and events.

If this has made you mad, I’m sorry.  Both sides can make good arguments for their guy, but I’m not interested in turning this forum into a political debate.  In Romans 14, concerning other controversial issues, Paul said, “Whatever you believe about these things, keep it between yourself and God.”  Sounds like good advice to me.

Jesus is my Commander-in-Chief, regardless of whatever temporary occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue may be making noise at the moment.