Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Pence pensiveness

There was a story that came out a few days ago about Vice President Mike Pence and that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife.  Apparently the Twittersphere blew up on both sides over this (of course, there is an aspect of redundancy in that, as blowing up is apparently what Twitter is about these days).  The Right extols the practice, while the Left ridicules it.  And I end up with mixed emotions, but with a sense of unease that bothers me.

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On one hand, I think there are times for this sort of approach to life.  In particular Rev. Billy Graham has lived by this rule for his entire ministry.  In his case, it makes sense.  So many are willing to cast aspersions at even the smallest issue or sense of hypocrisy that avoiding even the opportunity for someone to create even the appearance of an issue seems appropriate. For the job he has, and the way ministry works, this seems right.

The article in the Post that has raised this whole issue is a bit odd. The sentence that started this is standalone, not part of a paragraph, and not directly related to either of the two sentences around it.  Simply, “In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.”  The reasoning is that this builds a zone around the marriage.

It leaves a big question though: how does he interact at non-dinner events with a woman?  If that answer is out there, I haven’t seen it. And it’s important because if it is dinner events only, it’s much ado about nothing.  If it is all types of meetings, it becomes a concern.  If he doesn’t meet with a woman or women without someone else around, what he has done is relegated them to a secondary status in the political machine.  Much political work is done in private discussions with senior staffers,chiefs of staff, private staff, etc.  If a woman in those roles can’t meet with the politician, then she effectively can’t be in those roles in his office or in anyone else’s office that needs to meet with him.  And that seems unduly restrictive. And totally patriarchal.

I think what has caused my sense of disquiet has been the reaction of the (religious) right (of which I know many) saying that this situation is as it should be.  It bothers me because it conveys a sense of impropriety/danger/problem inherent in individual male-female interactions. It has to be a pair reaction or it’s the appearance of something untoward.  It makes it seem as though neither gender can be safe around the other. I ‘get’ that people do wander, stray, cheat, etc.  But not everyone, not even most.  I have married female friends at work that I talk to one-on-one regularly.  At least one of them was a major reason I survived a nervous breakdown 7 years ago (thank you L1!). I value and seek female perspective, especially in a male-dominated work world.

If he wants to value his marriage, great and good.  But don’t do so at the expense of others.  Take a position where there isn’t the impact on women that comes from politics.  Take a position where you don’t limit the role and value of women.  Excluding half of the population because they have X not Y seems like bad solution.The world has enough problems; it would be nice if we could bring all our combined resources to deal with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melting on the roof of the world, Tibet.

I follow environmental and sustainability news fairly closely (alright, not as closely as I’d like to given a work schedule) and I tend to be reasonably well-informed.  However, this particular article brought me up short. It showed me how little we really know about what is going on in the world, how few people appreciate it, and why they need to.  An area of the world that is difficult to access, that we in the US and the west don’t understand well, that impacts billions (with a “B”) of people, is having its own crisis.

What do we do if Tibet goes dry, and takes the Mekong, Yellow and Yangtze rivers with it? We don’t see it, but the results could be staggering in terms of geopolitical stability.

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https://www.chinadialogue.net/blog/7422-Tibetan-plateau-faces-massive-ecosystem-shift-/en

https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/9654-Source-of-Mekong-Yellow-and-Yangtze-rivers-drying-up

 

 

Shades of Color

As I watched the election unfold, and the reaction (mine and others) since then, I realize that compared to many, I’m very lucky.  As I look at the friends and acquaintances I have through the variety of my connections, they run an interesting spectrum of colors from far right to far left.

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I have friends to the right of me.  Far, far more to the right than I, both politically and religiously. I know folks who believe the Bible literally in every aspect, others who are strong believers in the Doctrine of Ultimate Depravity (which is almost as scary as it sounds). A couple are fervent advocates of the 2nd Amendment above almost all other rights.  And there are others who are just biased (pick a category, every category) and focused only on themselves.

I have friends to the left of me, some to the far left of me.  I’ve known some who are gay or bisexual, while others are ethically polyamorous.  Some are agnostics, some atheists, some just seeking or defining their own higher power. And there are those who are gamers, cosplayers, and even a couple of friends who are furries (look that one up if you don’t know it 🙂 )

Each one gives me aspects of their lives to think about. Each adds a shade, a color, a nuance, a perspective to my own view or positions.  My views on abortion, gay/LGBTQ+ rights, alternative lifestyles, have all changed by knowing people in those communities. There has been at least one case where a columnist has helped me to understand the view of the world from the life of someone of a different color.  In the end, what I had been harboring as a white,male, hardcore fundamentalist view has broadened to include, and care about, a variety of others that I didn’t know before.  It seems difficult, if you don’t know anyone outside of your pale, your tribe, your mindset, to appreciate the diversity as much as you can with broader contacts.

I’m glad for shades of color that help broaden and enliven my world.

Shades of Gray

In a sense, it’s a bit odd that while I am an engineer that you would expect to have a very rigid and formulaic mind, I don’t see things as black and white; rather, I see them in a whole spectrum of grays (not where you thought this was going is it? 😀 )

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One of my major issues with the talking heads and politics these days is that the details, the intricacy of issues, is lost.  No one wants to look at a discussion in-depth, everyone one wants to solve it with a simple pronouncement, one that ignores the raft of depths and complexity of every issue.  Every issue has some degree of intricacy to it, many are incredibly complicated. Reducing a topic to single aspect, a single fraction of the entirety, a single wavelength, violates the integrity of the whole.  And the tendency of society to move from detailed analysis to 140 character tweets or two-line memes isn’t helping to find solutions or even in defining the problems.  It’s like describing an impressionist painting by one dot of paint, trying to build a plane with one pieces of metal, defining a person by a 2-second interaction.

We need to learn to embrace the larger, more diverse, more expansive, more accurate and complete picture. The bigger, fuller picture allows us to find more appropriate solutions, ones that might actually work.  Looking at the bigger picture may allow to avoid more, or even worse, problems in the future.  But that requires us to consider hundreds or thousands of words, to consider the past and the future, to examine ourselves and others.

It requires us to look beyond a world of 140 character. The shrinking world of characters is already the bane of thought, and it may be the death of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standing with….

The flow of history is strange, with the eddies and currents that form, disperse, and come back to form again.  I’m mindful a commitment that I made, and now need to fulfill.

I just finished an abridged biography of the amazing Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which reminded me of another  great German name, Martin Niemoller.  He is most famously known for the poem “First They Came”

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I made a post on a smaller social media site there I quoted this, and made a commitment to remember this and to support it. And so to fulfill my commitment, I need to speak out and state that….
I stand with the LGBT community, for civil liberties, for civil ceremonies of loving relationships, and against discrimination and hatred.
I stand with Muslims seeking the peaceful practice of their faith and their lives, the way I am able to practice mine in this country.
I stand with the immigrants, who seek the type of life that I have and are willing to risk everything in the journey to here to have it.
I stand with the refugees who flee all they have ever known, all that they have, in order to simply live.
And, I stand with America in continuing to be the land of Liberty, the land of welcome, the land of waves of immigrants assimilating into society, strengthening us, and helping us to be the beacon of light we have been for so many years.

 

 

General Concern

As I have watched the unfolding of the selection of various Cabinet and high-ranking officials in the new administration, I find I have a General concern about three of them.

Three generals have been selected so far, and more could be tapped.  In general principle, I do not have an issue with the selection of military officers for Cabinet and other positions.  But I have concerns with aspects of these three.

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The selection of Lt. General Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor concerns me, on a couple of fronts.  First, his anti-Muslim views are too broad and run the risk of isolating the US from the world Islamic community.  I get that we are fighting radical Islam, and that the failure of the current administration to use that term has galled a number of people. Still, there are millions of Muslims that are not radical, not terrorist, not beyond the pale of our connecting.  It doesn’t appear that LTG Flynn has that nuance in his view, and that is a concern.  Second, his experience with Islam has been as a warfighter, which may not transition well to dealing with the diplomatic aspects of national security.  And then there are issues of managerial style, handling of classified information, and a tendency to alt-right positions.

The selection of General John Kelly for DHS is also disconcerting.  The DHS is a disparate, civilian, law-enforcement focused agency with a bad morale problem.  While a highly successful Marine Corps general, Kelly is a combat commander.  How that skill set will mesh with an organization that includes the US Secret Service, TSA, ICE, CBP,and FEMA, among others, will be challenging.  An individual with law enforcement experience would seem to be a more logical choice, or even a head of a multinational conglomerate where diplomacy and politics help make an organization operate.

The selection of a Warrior Monk to run the Pentagon would, at first blush, seem to be a smart option.  General James Mattis is a highly successful, highly regarded (almost worshiped) combat general with a reputation as a great leader and great thinker.  The role of Secretary of Defense should, however, be a civilian in order to provide the proper checks and balances on military authority, to ensure the realization of civilian control over military matters.  And least any think that clash doesn’t happen, remember Truman dropping McArthur because the general forgot that it was the President who made decisions.

Finally, all three are veterans of the long war in southern Asia.  The military, and indeed the government, tends to focus on getting the last war right and learning the lessons from it, and not so much learning how to prepare for the next one.  While we need to end this conflict and prepare to solve the accompanying mess in Iraq and Afghanistan, we also need to be prepared for the cyberwar that is coming, for dealing with the next generation of warfare and challenges.  None, including Flynn, are heavily focused on cyber. Or Russia.  Or China.  And if these leaders aren’t focused on these areas, how will they be able to advise their newly elected boss?

Time will tell.

 

 

No, God didn’t….

One of the more disturbing quotes I’ve seen since the election came from Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and an evangelical leader in his own right. I have, until now, had the greatest respect for Franklin Graham and the great good that has been done by Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child.  However, his politics has become increasingly far right in recent years.   The quote I found upsetting was “….I believe that God’s hand intervened Tuesday night to stop the godless, atheistic progressive agenda from taking control of our country.”

No, God didn’t.  At least not the God I’ve known and worshiped.

I do not believe that God intervened in the election  on the politics of one side, because it would mean that God would be endorsing the politics and morals (or lack thereof) of the winning side. I do not believe that God intervened for the prayers of hundreds of thousands of Trump evangelicals and ignored the prayers of the hundred of thousands of anti-Trump Christians (yes, you can be Christian and be anti-Trump). I understand that the political evangelical community supported Trump over Clinton because of Trump’s anti-abortion stance (although it’ll be interesting to see how that works out).  I understand that many of that community would support a perceived pro-Christianity/anti-Muslim stance (from a man who has said he hasn’t had to ask God for forgiveness, because he hasn’t done much wrong, according to his own words in the campaign).  But did God intervene in the election to support a man who doesn’t need to involve God (Trump’s words)? A man who was unfaithful to his first two wives? A man who failed to render unto Caesar what was Caesar’s in his taxes, or render unto God what is His? A man who has said he has little to ask God’s forgiveness for? Or whose whole campaign was the antithesis of the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control)?  A man who used blatant lies about a birth certificate and faith to denounce, challenge, and belittle an intelligent, faithful man?

I am tired of the evangelical “christian” community invoking God’s name for all manner of things to make some political statement, usually one with some aspect of hate, division, self-righteousness.  This isn’t the first time the evangelical community has done this.  It has happened with California droughts, with AIDS, with Katrina, with Sandy.  And now this.  I see no respect for God or His word in this politicizing of events, especially in a case where the alleged benefactor is so totally an anathema to the Gospel of love and grace.

I wonder, though.  Perhaps the evangelicals should consider a case where God did answer the prayers of a people…prayers that were perhaps as equally based politics.  The Israelites wanted a king, they wanted one badly.  So God gave them one, Saul.  He was not what they hoped for, and in their answered prayer their relationship with God was forever altered, for the worse.

Whether in direct actions by the new President, or in the inevitable backlash of the rest of the country, I wonder if this “intervening” will work out the way they think.

#HoCoFaith