Monday, April 17, 2017

First 100 Days in Office: Nonsense!

The President, the Media, Republicans and Democrats alike, they all make a big hoopla over what is done within the first 100 days in office.  I say, “What of it!”

So what?”

What’s so important about the first 100 days?  Why not the first 50 or 75 or 300?

If I remember my history well enough, it all started with F. D. Roosevelt.  It was a good PR scheme on his part, and it stuck.  It was his way of boasting about his accomplishments, boasting about how fast and quick, how constructive and productive he was in his, well, his first 100 days in office.

Apparently it’s a measure that’s been used ever since.  “Mr. President,” reporters eagerly ask, “what have you, what will you, what do you plan to accomplish in your first 100 days in office?”  “Oh, I’m so glad that you asked,” The President replies, “First I plan to do this, then I plan to do that; you’ll see, I’m going to change the world in my first 100 Days in office!”  And I say, “Please!!  Get real.”

Enough already!  It’s manufactured.  It’s artificial.  There’s nothing magical or extraordinary or super special about a president’s first 100 days in office.  It’s a false start, a set-up for media applause or derogation, a meaningless measure when it comes to the real significance of a president’s term of office.

Turn on the news and what do you hear: “It’s now day 51 of the president’s first 100 days….  It’s now day 75 of the first 100 days in office….  We’re now only one week short of the president’s first 100 days in office!”  Oh my!  The Media refers to these first 100 days with such earnestness that it’s as if it were enchanted, hallowed time to be revered by all.

I for one am tired of this false artificially constructed measure of a President’s success or failure in office.

First of all, it puts ridiculous and unwarranted pressure on the president to show that he (or she) is productive and really getting things done.  It can (and often does) lead to sloppy work due to rushed procedures in order to see quick results.  And, for an office like the presidency, that’s a bad way to go about getting one’s business done.

Secondly, it is a poor measure for what really counts in the office and work of the presidency.  Real time lasting change requires properly applied procedures with adequate processes, along with a substantial amount of patience.  In other words, to produce anything of value usually requires a good amount of time.  The first 100 days in office just won’t cut it for quality time with an aim toward quality results.

Thirdly, it’s myopic, that is, short-sighted in its perspective.  It is probably safe to say that one cannot really measure the quality of the person holding the highest office in the nation until he or she is well into his or her 3rd year of office.  Why is this?  The first two years in office are essentially formative years, where the office is shaping the individual (as much if not more so than the individual is supposedly shaping the office).  Indeed, most presidents who have had the opportunity to hold a second term in office will admit that they did not find their stride, come into the fullness of their office and position, until after they entered their second term of office.

For these reasons and more, the first 100 Days in office is a very poor indicator of how or what or how well the president is, was, or will be doing in office as president.

So I say to the Media, let it go.  Stop using it as a marker or a handle to make or present the news of the presidency.  It’s a gimmick.  We don’t need gimmicks.  We have enough of them already.  Get real and keep it real.  I don’t care about the first 100 days.  I care about each and every day, week, and month, especially as they add up and become seasons and years and turn from one term into two terms.

Soon the so-called president’s auspices first 100 days in office will come and go, and it will mean little compared to the next three and half plus years he has left in office.  Let’s focus on the big picture and not lose sight of what really counts as the days, months, and years add up.  There’s a lot more to the presidency than the mere first 100 Days that the Media seems to be so focused on.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Extreme Politics, Neither Side Wins in the END

Can we talk?  Apparently not, it’s too risky.  If I’m on one side and you’re on the other side of the political spectrum, it’s too explosive to talk about our differing views.

Why is that?

We don’t want to hear it.  We don’t want to hear our side put down, nor do we want to hear anything good said about the opposing side.

We also don’t want to look dumb and stupid for the views that we hold or for believing what we believe.  We don’t want to risk being out argued; fact is, we know what we know, believe what we believe, and that’s that!—no matter how good the other side may argue their point.

Another reason is that it’s just too emotionally draining.  The other side makes us so angry, irritating us to no end.  We wonder why they can’t see what we see.  We’re frustrated at what appears to be nothing less than self-imposed blindness on their part, resulting in what we see as willful ignorance and stubborn stupidity.  And so it is emotionally exhausting and taxes every ounce of whatever patience we may think we have.

Another reason is that we may literally lose friends and gain enemies because of our political differences.  “Them there words are fighting words; take back what you said!”  There are many on the right who can’t stand those on the left and vice-versa.

And finally, though not final, there is no room for and no respect for those in the middle, for those who may see the good as well as the bad of both sides of the political spectrum.

And that is a core problem for us.  So for example, few people on the right are willing to see Hillary Clinton as anything less than a witch on a broomstick.  And few people on the left are willing to see Donald Trump as anything less than a conceited egotistical trickster that would be laughable if not pitiable if he were not so dangerous, given his position.

We’ve lost the ability to respect people of opposing views.  We resort to the total vilification of the opposing side.  Furthermore, we no longer see the idea of “working together” as an honorable and valuable approach to partisan politics.  We now consider such cooperation between opposing sides as weak and traitorous.  We leave ourselves with no room for negotiation.

This can change.  WE can change this.  But we have to own that this is where we are and embrace the desire to do better than this.

Yet, I don’t see that happening.  We are failing to keep this nation balanced and inclusive.  We are unwilling to back down from our extreme positions and our extreme demands of the other.  The way in which the Senate recently handled the Gorsuch nominee for the Supreme Court position is a blatant and sad example of this failure of ours.

And it is OUR failure, the failure of a nation and its people and the peoples’ representatives.  We are sliding downward as a nation in the way we operate as a democracy.  It will be years before we see and actually experience the consequences of this downward trend and its terrible effects upon this nation, but they will come.  But for the present, we are just too full of ourselves to notice how badly we are actually behaving.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Behind Health Care Policies

What are the principles, values, and truths behind our health care policies?

Think this through carefully; for, when Republicans say that they want a market driven approach to health care coverage, what truth or value is ultimately being promoted?  For example, a market-driven approach to medical coverage results in one immediate truth: only those who can afford health care will get it.

In any market driven economy there will always be the “haves” and the “have-nots.”  It now becomes a question of principle.  Are there things of which all people, regardless of economic status and/or the ability to pay for it, have a right to receive?  So for example: Does everyone have a right to clean drinking water?  It’s a simple straightforward question with a yes or no answer.  But it’s more complicated than that, isn’t it?

If our answer to the above question is “no,” we are essentially supporting a market system for people’s access to clean drinking water, meaning that only those who can afford it have a right to receive it.  That being the case, what we are saying is that only the financially well-off have a right to live—for who can live without access to clean drinking water.

This is the inherent flaw with the promotion of strict Capitalism and the total negation of any policy that we fear smacks of Socialism.  In strict capitalism, private property rules the day; there is to be no public ownership for the good of all—no public water, no public land, and/or no public access to various other goods and services—such has medical services.  In short, if you cannot afford it, you must go without it—even if the inevitable result of “going without it” is death.

Thankfully we do not live in a strict or absolute capitalistic society.  My guess is that there is no country in the world that does.  But there are many who believe that we here in the U.S. have swung over, or are in danger of swinging over, too far to the left and have in fact become too socialistic in our economic policies, citing our Social Security benefits as an example, like Medicare and Medicaid, which are commonly called “Entitlements.”

But what are these programs other than an acknowledgment that access to certain basic human resources cannot and should not be left to private means or personal affordability?  Indeed, what good is our Constitutional right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness if one has no ability to obtain or is unable to afford access to basic foundational life-sustaining necessities such as pure drinking water, or minimal basic food items, or even clean breathable air?

Before “Obama Care,” our approach to health care basically said this: “If you can’t afford health coverage, you’re out of luck.  So, if you’re deathly ill, too bad!  Just roll over and die.  And do it quickly, if you want to save your family money.”  Obama Care tried to soften this a bit, but the underlying truth is still there: only those who can afford health care coverage have a right to receive proper medical help for illnesses so as to live longer and avoid death if at all possible.

This is the crux of the matter.  Do we believe that all persons have a right to medical care, especially in life or death situations, or do we believe that only those who can afford it have this right—is it a privilege or a right?

What surprises me is that most Evangelical Christians support the Republican approach, which basically says that health care is a privilege for those who can afford it, not a communal right for all persons, poor or rich.  That’s not the Jesus I know.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Is Trump a GOOD Leader?

What makes a good “leader”?  It’s a simple question, but can it be answered simply?

A good leader leads well.  Okay, but that’s not saying much.  We might then ask, what does it mean to lead well?

So, I offer a few sound principles around good leadership that might help us get a handle on what makes a good leader.

One: leaders are responsible for the people they lead.  For example, they are responsible for the direction they are taking their followers, those being led.  In other words a good leader leads in such a way that the wellbeing of his/her followers is a priority.  Thus, a good leader is selfless: more concerned about the people and their needs than his/her own self interests.  A good leader takes into account the overall welfare, health and safety and prosperity of the people—so that all that are affected by his/her leadership (or at least most) are able to thrive.

Two: a good leader is not only knowledgeable but wise and skillful in the application of that knowledge.  Knowledge is one thing, but the wise use and application of knowledge is another thing altogether.  Thus, a good leader is measured in his/her behavior and comments, and is insightful and discerning in his/her communication and understanding.  Hence, a good leader helps his/her followers see and understand more clearly the necessity of certain actions and choices over others.   Hence, a good leader not only inspires but also informs, instructs, and enlightens his/her followers.  People are not left in the dark; neither are they left confused or puzzled or bewildered by what is being said or done.  They are able to connect the dots and are able to see the wisdom of a leader’s actions and statements.

Three: a good leader is thus transparent, has integrity and is therefore trustworthy.  A good leader communicates well and hides nothing, especially of great import.  A good leader leaves no doubt and immediately clears up questionable action (or words).  A good leader most certainly says what he means and means what he says.  There is no double-speak.  There is consistency in both action/behavior as well as in word and speech.  And there is full ownership of contradictory words and actions with appropriate correction or re-alignment.  Hence, a good leader unites, rather than divides, and extends confident assurances rather than spreads anxiety.  Indeed, the words and actions of a good leader effectively results in peace and calmness within a people, rather than worrisome, troubling hearts and minds among the people.

These are just three good leadership traits.  There are certainly more.  I wonder, just using these three traits as a measure, how would you rate President Trump as a leader?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Trump Has No Evidence and Gives No Apology

To this day President Trump provides no real hard evidence that the previous president, Obama, “wiretapped” Trump at Trump Towers.

It would seem that Trump supporters believe Trump, taking him at his word, rather than accept the truth that it did not happen, given the lack of evidence after appropriate investigations have been made.

In short, President Trump is getting away with making unfounded serious and profound accusations against a previous president without political, social, or legal, consequence.

What’s next?  Who’s next?

When the president of the United States of America can get away with making a baseless and outrageous accusation of this kind against a former president, we are in big trouble.  Yet, few Republicans seem to own how serious this really is.  Yes, this is serious!!

What’s worse is that, through his spokesman, Sean Spicer, Trump has now accused one of our greatest allies to be in cahoots with Obama in this so-called wiretapping scheme that Obama supposedly perpetrated against Trump.  The scandal is getting worse, not better as time goes by!

This action cuts to the core as to what kind of man we presently have, holding the office of the presidency.  At first, Spicer said, “The Tweet speaks for itself,” and it does!  But then, Spicer/Trump saw the need to redefine and reinterpret what Trump really meant by his tweeted accusation.  So now we are to assume that, no, the tweet actually does NOT speak for itself—it now needs, as I Love Lucy’s Ricky Ricardo use to say, “some esplaining.”

I’m a pastor.  I know without a doubt that if I were to make a false accusation of this magnitude against another or former pastor I would be forthwith dismissed, let go!  I would be held accountable for my unsubstantiated accusation including my poor choice of words.  Minimally I’d most certainly be required to apologize, among other things.  No doubt I could also be sued for libel in a court of law.  Yet, here we are speaking of a man who holds the office of the President of the United States, and he’s getting away with it!!  Is President Donald Trump above the law?  NO, he is not!

And Trump hasn’t even completed his first 100 days in office yet!

Wake up people.  Trump is dangerous, very dangerous.  We’re heading for trouble.  If we don’t hold him accountable now, we will greatly regret it later.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Health Care and Caring for our Sick and Weak

Do we care?  How do we care, for the sick and the weak?

This is what our national health care system really touches upon.

Given our national attitude, it seems that we actually have little compassion and little care for the sick and weak among us—it’s more like “every man for himself.”

We know that the world can be harsh and unkind.  People get sick, there are unexpected accidents and unanticipated illnesses that hit many families.  That’s life.

So, the point is this: we are either in this together, as a national community, or we are not.  If not, it is the wealthy that will stay healthy.  And as to everyone else, it’s “Tough luck; that’s life!”

The greed of some resists the needs of the many.  We tend to reserve available health care resources for only those that can afford it.

We seem to prefer an imbalance, inequality when it comes to who receives and who does not receive adequate, even basic, health care services.

All do not care for the sick, the weak, or the old (and the very young), that is left only to the few.

Thus, not all life is equally valued (consider how we treat nature and its creatures).

Contrast this to a Shabbat Prayer:

“And then all that has divided us will merge

Then compassion will be wedded to power

And then softness will come to a world that is harsh and unkind

And then both women and men will be gentle

And then both men and women will be strong

And then no person will be subject to another’s will

And then all will be rich and free and varied

And then greed of some will give way to the needs of many

Then all will share equally in the earth’s abundance

And then all will care for the sick and the weak and the old

And then all will nourish the young

And then all will cherish life’s creatures

And then all will live in harmony with each other and the environment

And then everywhere will be called Eden once again.”

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Trump Versus Transparency

To be transparent is to be completely open and honest.  It is a core characteristic of integrity, the assurance of trustworthiness.  It is being sound and true.

Technically speaking, something that is transparent is best viewed when light shines through it, as for example a slide film.

And so, a transparent person is one who has nothing to hide and therefore has no fear of exposure.

Thus, by definition, a transparent person has no need to hide behind impenetrable walls of secrecy; no need to hide behind dark shadows of mystery and inscrutability.  That is, to be transparent is not only to have nothing to hide, it is the willingness to deliberately step into the light of examination in order to be validated as authentic.

Now, the truth is, human nature being what it is, we all want and need our privacy.  There is an old saying I’m sure you know: “everyone has a skeleton in the closet.”  In short, everyone has something to hide, something of which they might be guilty of, would be embarrassed by, or ashamed of, should it be exposed.  (In the Christian worldview it stems from our sinful nature.)

It is for this reason we humans have wisely learned to apply such principles—best summed up by such phrases as “being held accountable,” or “submitting to checks and balances,” or “the avoidance of conflict of interest,” or “reigning in the abuse of power,” or “trust but verify,” and so-on and so-forth—in the conduct of our social relationships.   That is to say: we humans cannot be inherently trusted without the application of an external means of verification and validation.  It’s just the way it is; the way we are.

No one likes to be taken as a fool, to be bamboozled, lied to, cheated, taken advantage of, short-changed, used and manipulated, left in the dark, seen as an easy take, or to be treated as just plain ole stupid and gullible.  This would be true not only in our personal and family relationships but in our social and political relationships as well.  All human relationships require a certain amount of trust; even a network of thieves working together need to trust each other.  This is why an independent means of validation and verification of one’s truthfulness and authenticity is often so important—as in “trust but verify!”

In comes Donald Trump.  He is the first president in modern history to consistently and deliberately and openly side-step and avoid independent scrutiny and verification.  He won’t reveal his tax statements.  He maintains ownership and therefore inherent conflict of interest in terms of his business engagements.  He stonewalls the media if they probe and examine or question his words and actions in light of conflicting facts and evidence to the contrary, and so-on and so-forth.

In short, Donald Trump is anything but transparent!

In crucial areas, areas of concern and of great consequence, Trump tends to hide under a cloak of darkness, behind shadows of mystery and inscrutability, skillfully and adroitly dodging the actual light of accountability in critical aspects of his presidency.

What is worrisome is that we, the American people, are letting him get away with it!

It will be to our detriment.

The longer we let him get away with this, the more troublesome and damaging will be the consequences to all Americans.

Mark my words!  There will be a day when we, all Americans, will greatly regret ever having elected him as president of the United States of America.  It is only a matter of time.  However long or however short that time may be in coming; that time will come.  For the light of truth always has a way of breaking through the darkness and becoming transparent.