When a Legislator Puts Her Foot in Her Mouth

Wow, U.S. Representative from Minnesota Ilhan Omar really got herself into trouble. Some might accuse her of having a big mouth. I think one lesson to be learned is that when someone takes on a public office, their freedom of speech is put on hold. I think this is probably a good thing. When one gains the power of office, including the power to influence people’s thinking, one needs to be cautious.

One of the human characteristics that drives me crazy is when someone hears a statement about one person in a group they assume that it applies to everyone in that group. This is what happens to statements about Muslims. Omar should understand this. Even if what she said is true, she must realize that those who are already anti-Semitic will fly with it. This is why those in leadership have to be careful about their words. It is one thing to talk about a particular criminal act by an organization such a lobbying group. It is another to make general statements about their over-all activities or intentions. She did the latter.

There is another issue here that is more important to me than people putting their feet in their mouths. It is the issue of what it means for the United States to have allies in the world. I have been to Israel and stayed behind the wall built to contain the Palestinian people. There I heard many stories about abuses against innocent people simply because they were Palestinian. Our group witnessed abuses by Israeli police against teenage boys who were doing nothing but heading off to school. The room I occupied at St. George’s College overlooked the parking lot where Palestinians had to leave their cars and walk through the gate into Israeli territory to bus or take a cab to their jobs. I have also read extensively about the history of Zionism and how it led to the establishment of Israel as a nation over the objection of those occupying the land at the time.

In short, I think the solution of Israel to build a wall around the Palestinian district of Israel is appalling. It is akin to us building a wall around a Chicago neighborhood because of the gang violence there and condemn the innocent families that live there to suffer the punishment that should be aimed at those who actually do the violent acts. I get steamy thinking about what Israel is doing to the Palestinians.

But Israel is our ally. We pledged to defend them when they need it. We help them out in numerous ways. We share Intelligence for mutual protections. We do the same with other allies but our bond with Israel seems especially strong. I won’t get into why this is true because that isn’t related the point I want to make. My point is this: does being an ally with another nation mean that we have to put a stamp of approval on all of their actions or on their policies? We establish sanctions against human life abuses in the countries we consider our enemies, yet we turn our eyes away when these are done by our allies. I compare it to friendship. Those with whom I have a deep friendship, if they see me doing something harmful to myself or others, would tell me. I in turn would be honest with them. We have not been honest, it appears to me, with Israel. They have been oppressing the Palestinian people and it is wrong.

Having said all this, I appreciate that slapping an ally on the hands should not necessarily be done in public. I like to think that our leaders who deal with foreign relations hold high American values in all situation and call out human abuses when they see them…behind closed doors. But we need to be firm and at least not support abusive actions, even establishing some sanctions. I think what Ilhan Omar needs to learn is the power of her new office to influence people including the power to reinforce preexisting prejudices. But, while surrendering the right to speak her mind in all situations, she is now in a position to effect change that she didn’t have before. I hope she listens to the wisdom of those who have already learned the lesson of when to speak and when to keep your thoughts to yourself.

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Comments on the Cohen Hearing

Just a couple of comments about the hearings yesterday when Michael Cohen appeared before the senate committee once again. Yesterday was the only day when the public could listen and watch. I was on the go but I watched it in the morning on TV and whenever I was in my car after that. Anyone who listened probably could memorize the Republican questions. They basically said one thing, “You are an admitted liar. You are going to prison for lying. Once a liar always a liar. Therefore you are lying now and we should not believe a thing you say.”

I suppose there is something to that. except that I know that “Once a liar always a liar” is a lie in itself. Anyone who is in a recovery program will tell you that liars can indeed become non-liars. Around the tables of AA or NA, you will hear stories of men and women whose whole lives were a lie in which they spoke lie after lie, usually to keep their stash in tact or to keep family and employers off their backs. Once they came to the truth, not only did they change, but those who stayed sober often turned into the most honest of people. Anyone who has had or witnessed a spiritual conversion knows this as well. People are capable of change. In fact, I would say change is inevitable. Change goes with maturing. One could say Cohen’s mind before was that of a seven-year-old until he faced some fierce consequences that shook him to the core. In recovery programs that is called “hitting bottom”.

The second comment I want to make is that there is an assumption that a person who lies about one thing will lie about everything else.  In a court of law, this is why statements made by witnesses have to be corroborated. That is, there need to be other things that point to the truth or non truth of what a witness is saying. These could include phone calls, texts, e-mails, bank statements, travel or hospital records, other witnesses, DNA tests – the list goes on. Cohen had documents with him and he named individuals who he said could prove the truth of what he was telling the committee. I don’t know whether the committee will follow through on these to find out if they are legit. This was done by the courts who already dealt with Cohen and will continue in the State of New York.

One more observation. I have thought a lot about what judgment means. I try to call it out when I see it. Judgment means getting into the intent of another person, into their thoughts and motives. We don’t yet have the scientific capacity to figure out what a person is actually thinking. The world of our thoughts remains a secret place. There are tools, such as a lie detector, but these don’t see thoughts, they just measure bodily activity. They are based on the assumption that people have physical reactions when they know they are lying.

Judgment looks like this: “You don’t care about me.” That is a judgment because it speaks to what is going on in a person’s mind. A non-judgmental statement has to do with actions or words. “You didn’t give me a gift for my birthday.” Judgmental: “You only cleaned the house to get something out of me.” A non-judgmental statement is “You cleaned the house.” Here is another one, “Your motive is to get a book deal that will make your rich”. A non-judgmental statement is: “You made a deal with a publisher.”

God only knows what comes next. There was one highlight of the hearings yesterday that I almost missed, but someone posted on Facebook. It was the closing remarks by Representative Elijah Cummins, the moderator of the hearings. First he spoke amazing truth to Cohen about the choices he’d made and how it harmed his family and his country. Then he appealed for a return to normalcy in America where people can disagree without demonizing one another and where rhetoric is respectful. “We are better than this,” he said. I yearn for such a day.



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Message in Unexpected Places

I read a story in my morning meditation book this morning that I thought was interesting. I thought I would share it.

A man once had a flat tire right outside the gates of a mental hospital. As he removed the lugs from the flat to switch them with the spare, they slipped off the curb where he’d placed them and down through the grill of a sewer drain. As he realized there was absolutely no way to retrieve them, he began to swear in frustration.

Just then, an inmate, who had been standing at the fence watching him said, “Why don’t you remove one lug from each of the other wheels and put them on the spare?”

“My gosh,” said the man, “what a brilliant idea! What in hell is someone as smart as you doing in there?”

“I may be crazy,” said the inmate, “but I’m not stupid!” 

(Step by Step by Muriel Zink)

The concluding remark: My Higher Power speaks to me through others in unexpected ways.

My thought: I will hear what God has to say to me when my ears are open to listening.

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Our Amy for Presidency

I rarely write about candidates running for public office. I prefer to address issues and I can get pretty passionate about that. But after listening to our own Minnesota senator, Amy Klobuchar, speaking at a town-hall meeting, I can’t help myself. This is not an endorsement. It is about how Amy rattled my thinking.

Generally, Amy holds the same positions I do on gun control, health care, education, etc. But she was painfully honest and realistic.  I have never heard a candidate that didn’t talk about what they were going to do in office as though they were actually going to be in control of everything after their election. No one who seriously hoped to get elected ever suggested that they might have to compromise or take baby-steps when they get there. Amy wouldn’t even guarantee that what her constituents wanted could even be achieved. I wanted her to at least say that her long-run goal was what I wanted, namely single payer health care. Instead, she talked about fixing what is broken in Obamacare and tackling the problem of the drug costs. Her goal, she said, is to make health care affordable to all. She wouldn’t add much of anything to that. She said that we have to begin where you can expect to be successful.

She did the same thing with the Bernie Sanders idea of free education through a four year degree. She was speaking on a college campus and a student, whose monthly loan payment was more than his rent, questioned her about this. She talked about making junior college free because industry so desperately needs people trained. Because of this, she said, these students can almost be guaranteed  jobs when they graduate. She also said that those buried in student debt should to have a way to renegotiate their loans to make them affordable. When the moderator reminded her that she was speaking on a college campus and that her answer might not be exactly what the student wanted to hear, she said, “I have to tell the truth. What is being asked is not attainable at this time. I want to focus on what we can do now.”

Amy has the best record on Capital Hill for getting legislation passed into law. After she announced her candidacy, a number of republican senators spoke about her as someone they could work with. One even added that he hoped his speaking on her behalf doesn’t hurt her campaign. She seems to understand that legislators represent different needs and finding solutions to problems can be a challenge. But she has never shied away.

As I have listened to candidates for public office, I used to smirk a bit when I would hear their promises, “I will…blah, blah bah.” “Yeah, right,” I’d say. “Wait until you get into office. No way in hell will you  be able to do all that.” I understand how government works. Even in the perfect situation with everyone vying for a piece of the American pie, getting a broken bridge fixed in your state means some other state might not be able to invest in building public housing. But Amy did just this and could because she understands about cooperation and compromise. All legislators know this but they won’t tell you this when they are running for office.

I am as guilty as anyone and I felt guilty as I listened to Klobuchar speak. I know what I wanted to hear. I wanted my hopes lifted. What Amy was doing was shaking my tendency to not accept the realities of life as life is. Life is messy and making laws is messiness at its best. I feel challenged. I will support Amy Klobuchar because she has been so good for Minnesota. She visits every county in the state every year, not to campaign, but to listen to her people. My guess is that, if at all possible, she will do the same for each state if she becomes our next president.

I said this is not an endorsement. It still isn’t. This writing is more about me as a person and as a citizen. Am I really ready to accept such truth from a candidate?

I am working on it.

Posted in Life | 10 Comments

Lie We Believe about God: “You Need to Get Saved”

I look forward to discussing with my book club our most recent pick: Lies We Believe About God, by Wm Paul Young. I am leading the group discussion this time and plan to ask the members which of the lies about God they themselves have believed and perhaps still believe. I look forward to the discussion.

The lie I once believed is this one: “You need to get saved”

Young is author of the book The Shack and if you have read it or seen the movie, it is easy to appreciate his comment about this lie.

“The Good News is not that Jesus has opened up the possibility of salvation and you have been invited to receive Jesus into your life. The Gospel is that Jesus has already included you into His life, into His relationship with God the Father, and into His anointing in the Holy Spirit. The Good News is that Jesus did this without your vote, and whether you believe it or not won’t make it any less or more true.”

It took me a long time to come around to this way of thinking, that all are saved, whether we believe it or not. The challenge is to see it and when we do, it changes everything.

It was interesting how Young, a devout Christian, speaks about his early days of preaching his belief to others about salvation through Jesus. He felt an obligation, he said, to save others from damnation. It never felt right, though, he said. (That Theology) “leads to selling Jesus and coercing people, tricking them into hearing the word. Everyone is a potential customer (victim), rather than everyone being a child of God and therefore our brother or sister.”

I was reminded of the early days in our marriage when Bernie was a struggling insurance man. Everyone, friend or relative or friends of friends and relatives of relatives, were potential clients. We were so poor at the time, a policy purchase meant bread and butter on our table. Needless to say, his hidden motive tainted every relationship. He was out to get something rather than enjoy relationships.

I have been on the receiving end of this type of salesmanship from Christians who may be sincerely worried about my salvation. God bless them for caring, but I know where I stand with my God. I was saved from day one and finally came to believe what was already true.

Posted in Life, Spirituality | 3 Comments

On Negative Posts on Facebook

It has happened only a couple of times since I began blogging that I began a response to a comment and decided that the response is a blog. This blog is one of these. The person who comment was kind. She was concerned that I was taking negativity too personally, messing with my own sense of peace. If you want to see what she said, look at the comment section in yesterday’s blog. Here is my response to her:

Thanks for the constructive suggestion. The fact is that I am not personally bothered by the kind of posting I talk about here. If you note the topics I choose to write about on my blog, you can see that I am very interested in politics and religion. I don’t even mind extremist views. Extremists actually help me think. I ask myself questions like “Is there some truth in their position?” or “Why are they so angry?” But extreme and negative statements like the ones I cited in my blog fail to solve any problems. They only push people to further extremes because they are on the defensive.

The really strange thing is that often people have no clue they are doing this. They see a post that is a bit sarcastic, maybe funny, and post it. The problem is that they may be bashing people that they actually like in their day-to-day goings-on. I read over and over again statements that demonize liberals. I mean, DEMONIZE. I am a liberal. I think I am a nice person. Those who know me might even say that I am a loving person. I just have a particular opinion on ways to solve some of our social problems. To me that is what liberal and conservative or libertarian is about…problem solving.

In my blog writings, I often address the issue of extremism, usually launching from a particular situation. I do this a lot during campaigns. As we gear up for another election, i anticipate a lot of hate speech to fly around again. I try to use my writing as a way to make people think about what they are actually saying. We need to be conscious of the words we use and who they hurt. This time, I thought I would just tackle a whole bunch at a time. I want people to see what they are doing when they post things that demonize others. Just because they are wrapped in humor or pictures of animals or babies doesn’t mean they can’t be used to reinforce hatred and fear that is festering in peoples’ hearts.

Some of the people who post these kinds of things are dear friends or relatives. Often I don’t respond at all. Occasionally I comment but try to be as respectful as possible. I do my best.

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From Either – Or to Both – And

I am not an either-or person. Not always popular. Often misunderstood. I get upset sometimes over what people post on Facebook, especially if the post is expecting something of me. Here are some examples of what I mean:

If you don’t repost this you are not patriotic.

If you don’t give a like, you don’t care about the person who posted.

People who support care of animals don’t care about human beings.

Those who are anti abortion, don’t care about live babies and children.

Those who are pro-choice don’t care about the unborn.

Those who are anti-war don’t support our troops.

Those who have money don’t care about the poor.

Those who are pro-business, don’t care about employees.

Those who are anti religious, don’t have values.

Those who don’t support the president are anti-American.

All liberals are…(you fill it in) All conservatives are…(you fill in). Either way, the other side is evil.

Taking a stand for something does not require that we take a stand against something else.

If one’s position has merit, if it is useful in some way to others, it will hold its own.

We should not have to manipulate a system or deceive anyone to get our way when our position has merit.

Other people’s ideas flow from their experience…it makes sense at least for them. We should not bash them personally.

Other people’s perspective is simply their perspective. Not all differences in recall require that someone is lying or deliberately trying to hurt someone.

People make mistakes. We don’t always have to share our mistakes but should not lie about them either.

People change. If they change at heart level, you can usually tell if you pay attention.

Bad people sometimes do good things. Good people sometimes do bad things. We should wait to see what unfolds.

Truth tends to emerge slowly. But sometimes we are challenged to speak before we know the whole truth of something.

I am open to your thoughts. What kinds of comments come up on Facebook that make you angry?




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