Wednesday, January 10, 2018

One word, one verse 2018: persist

My word for this year is persist. My verse is Luke 18:7, from a parable of Jesus:


Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Previous years:

2017-life
2015-give
2014-love
2013-prayer
2012-simple
2011-wisdom
2010-refuge

Monday, May 15, 2017

Who cares? I care!

I was drafting a very serious blog post two nights ago and remembered that Saturday Night Live was on, so I turned it on. I didn't see the monologue, but I watched the show from about 10 minutes in, and I really enjoyed it for the most part.

SNL had some funny political skits that I tended to agree with, especially the crazy lady discussing Pres. Trump on Weekend Update. They also had a skit making fun of moms who embrace their "inner animal," and even a mockumentary making fun of a "work marriage" behind-the-scenes at SNL. So, they were equal-opportunity satirists, making fun of everybody. There were a couple of times that I felt a little uncomfortable (I laughed at the fake Alexa ad making fun of older people, even though it was stereotypical), but good comedy is uncomfortable and takes risks. You can't do a funny show without offending somebody. Satire should afflict the comfortable.

The contrast between the SNL version of the White House press briefing and the one that just happened today couldn't be greater. Sean Spicer did nothing funny in his actual press briefing, but it was clear after a while that he was sent out there not to answer questions. It was clear from his demeanor and his words that he had no intention of giving anyone additional fodder for poking fun at him or the White House. Sean Spicer is a public figure, so he is fair game for satire, and I have no problem with the SNL writers doing that or with Melissa McCarthy impersonating him. The President has undercut his spokespeople to the extreme that it takes only a little imagination to come up with the kind of skit that SNL did on Saturday.

With the risk of being called too serious, I (surprise, surprise!) have some serious thoughts about politics I just have to share.

For those counting, there are 8 Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. They are:
  1. Chairman Richard Burr from North Carolina
  2. Roy Blunt from Missouri
  3. Susan Collins from Maine
  4. John Cornyn from Texas
  5. Tom Cotton from Arkansas
  6. James Lankford from Oklahoma
  7. James Risch from Idaho
  8. Marco Rubio from Florida
These honorable Senators have a job to do: investigate Pres. Trump's ties to Russia and present any evidence that Russia was responsible for Pres. Trump's election or "compromised" Pres. Trump through spy craft before, during, or after the election to the people.

Pres. Trump's public statements are enough to cause concern. The President was in favor of Russian President Vladimir Putin during the campaign, saying Putin was a better leader than Pres. Obama because he had better poll numbers, and responding to Bill O'Reilly's statement that "[Putin]'s a killer" that our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are, too. 

A typical opinion essay on these matters published by some newspapers would explain that these leaders need to step up and call for an independent prosecutor or someone with the authority to bring Pres. Trump down. They might look at where these 8 leaders stand ideologically and geographically, and point out that only one or two, Susan Collins or Marco Rubio, has any kind of vulnerability from the liberal side of the spectrum, and none of them are up for re-election in 2018.

What does this have to do with SNL? I think some of the point of SNL is to wake people up to what's happening in our country. I would argue that it's long past time for voters to start voting a little more unpredictably. Our political machinery is so "advanced" that most Congressional leaders have "safe" seats. It's time for that to start changing. Why not start a movement like "We Care" (maybe something a little more catchy), which would use all the tools at our disposal to disrupt those safe seats? Let's talk about redistricting after the 2020 census, and why it's important for our communities to be represented in all districts. And, for that matter, how segregation by income allows electioneers to "focus" on certain census tracts and "predict" how people will vote based on where they live. It's time for white, middle-class Americans like me to get out of our comfort zones in cities large and small, hang out in the parts of town we don't normally frequent, and figure out for ourselves how free and fair our economic system really is.

I don't exempt myself from this -- I need to get involved downtown or with a charity that helps out. I am getting more involved at church, and that's good, but I need to put my actions where my words are, and really get off my couch and do something good. One SNL skit that really hit home, entitled "Thank you, Scott" (ironically), has me thinking about doing just that. So, I guess satire does have its useful purposes -- afflicting the comfortable, including me.

Friday, March 31, 2017

A new book, an old book on inequality (an old problem)

This New York Times book review points to a new book about income inequality in the U.S. and how it is shaping up to threaten our democratic institutions.

On the theme of inequality, a global perspective on the problem is reviewed here, with my review of The Bottom Billion. The phrase refers to the poorest billion people in the world, and the book is written by a World Bank official with wide-ranging expertise in the area.

Also of interest: the One Campaign to get the U.S. and other developed nations to devote 1% of GDP to world-wide efforts to combat poverty. It's unlikely to get much traction with Pres. Trump in charge, but I thought I'd link to it anyway.