I Got News for You: “Fake” News Ain’t The Problem!

201016msmI’ll confess, I’m a news-aholic.  I watch and listen to a lot of news.  I like staying informed and current about what’s happening in our world today.  I consume news from all flavors, views and biases, from Fox to CNN, Drudge to the Huffington Post.  I enjoy commentary, whether it was CBS’s Andy Rooney or my new favorite flavor Tucker Carlson. I grew up watching NBC News and DVR every newscast.  Like mac ‘n cheese, the Peacock network is my “comfort” news channel…even if it’s horribly bad for me.

There’s a lot of talk right now about “fake news.  President Trump has repeatedly used it to brand the leftstream media, but he wasn’t the first to trumpet that idea.  During the Obama administration, many liberals proudly promoted Fox News as “faux news.”  In fact, the go-to clincher argument these days is to slap your detractors as “haters” or “ignorant.”  You see it on both sides.  Which, when you think about it, makes us ALL “haters” and ALL “ignorant.”

But even in fake news there’s a hint of truth. One of the greatest tragedies of modern education, particularly higher education, in the past half century has been a seismic shift from information to indoctrination. School assessment became more about filling in the blanks than solving a problem or explaining a solution.  Consequently, professors and teachers taught to the test and left out the rest.  The hard truth?  Most USAmericans who graduated college since 1960 were simply not trained to THINK (not, at least, until our post-graduate studies). Most of us just learned a skill or profession.

No college or university–secular or sacred–has been immune to this shift. Conservative religious schools routinely indoctrinate more than inform their students. I know, as I’ve watched and experienced it firsthand. Most Christian college graduates (including myself) are woefully ignorant and unskilled to communicate anything more than the core “doctrines” their particular theology school promoted (although these seminarians will debate you to the death that they’re “right” and “know it.”). They just quote their favorite preacher or professor if they get in a pinch. Secular universities are equally ripe in indoctrination, favoring Darwinism, communism/socialism, agnosticism/atheism and other liberal socio-political world views. It’s a tragedy when supposedly open-minded young people today view life and their politics through a Stephen Colbert-Bill Maher-Whoopi Goldberg looking glass lens and can’t logically defend why. Most Millennial university students I meet today know very little history except the narrative their profs (liberal or conservative) opined to them.  High school students are worse.

Now don’t misunderstand: it’s not wrong to hold a view (liberal or conservative). We all see life through the shades of our experiences, education, background and community and that creates a WORLD VIEW. I actually think there’s great value in OPPOSING  world views. We need contradiction, opposition and disagreement. If the only radio station in town plays conservative talk radio all day it’s easy to “rush” to judgment on all things liberal. But I’ve seen the same intolerance from the leftstream media too. When CNN (who claims to be middle of Fox and MSNBC) is 97% negative in its coverage of a President, it’s hardly “fair” or “balanced” either. Every news outlet–and most of the major ones today do lean left–have prejudices and biases. The wise will learn to find the truth in all the noise.

The problem, again, is our educational and media institutions no longer INFORM people about our world, but rather desire to INDOCTRINATE a particular narrative. Information is just the facts, but indoctrination paints a specific story (like Russian conspiracies and anti-Christ theories). In recent years the narratives, particularly from the former peace-loving left, has been one of hate. FYI: It’s hard to convince most people in the conservative and moderate camps that you’re in a “peaceful” march (hoisting “Love Trumps Hate” placards) when your companions are spitting, kicking, punching, breaking, cursing and tossing firebombs. When a comedian hoists the severed head of President Trump it’s not funny and neither is a New York play that reinvents a Shakespearean tragedy into a Trump assassination. These are all attempts to indoctrinate or create a narrative.  Conservatives aren’t excused either. There was plenty of mockery and epithets tossed around about former President Barack Obama. If there’s any silver lining for conservatives it’s their political protest strategies, generally, tend to be less overtly hateful, degrading and violent.

But here’s my point: Our NARRATIVES matter, folks. What we assume to be true influences our attitudes and behaviors. What we believe is rooted to how we perceive everything. There’s always been “fake news” by the way (hint: George Washington didn’t cut down any cherry tree). People have always lied, shaded, colored, whitewashed, expanded and branded truth. It’s just today we live in such an information-soaked culture where news happens so fast (as do the op-eds, commentaries and news “spin”) that our heads are in a continuous whirling cycle. If you were never trained to analyze, synthesize and evaluate information (and most of us weren’t) then we always fall back on our “narrative” or world view.  It’s natural. It’s comfortable. It’s secure.

Think about this insight: a NARRATIVE is just an “ism” for life. Conservatism. Liberalism. Creationism. Darwinism. Racism. Nazism. Marxism/Communism. Socialism. Capitalism. Anarchism. Feminism. Mysoginism. Masochism. Catholicism. Evangelicalism. Calvinism. Arminianism. Dispensationalism. Mormonism. Islamic Fundamentalism. Buddhism., Etc. Etc. An I-S-M is an acronym for “internal security mechanism.” It’s our inner beliefs (i.e., accepted doctrine) that operate, dictate and propagate our ideas, doctrines, world views, biases, prejudices, attitudes, speech and behavior. When we are attacked, we fall back to our I-S-M. When we attack, we rely upon our I-S-M. It’s how we feel “secure” in who we are. Consequently, we will censor, prohibit, downplay, ignore and disregard information that attacks our “ism.”

Most I-S-Ms are largely innocuous and innocent.  They promote a world view that’s different but generally positive.  Buddhists, Mormons and gays believe radically different from orthodox Christians but there’s room to accept and live peacefully together.  In most communities, ethnicity no longer matters.  Whites live next to blacks who live next to Asians, Hispanics and Indians.

Nevertheless, every “ism” harbors extremists that damage the whole. A fundamentalist Christian crusader who bombs an abortion clinic is as wrong as a anarchist throwing bricks through a window.  “Racism” is universally wrong because it assumes superiority over another race, to the point of discrimination, exclusion and hate.  Radical “Islamism” preaches a hateful destruction of all persons who do not bend the knee to Allah.  Some feminists clearly despise men. Communism in eastern Europe, China, North Korea and the former Soviet Union has left a historic trail of bloodshed.

To be honest, it’s very difficult–even impossible–for people to make major shifts in their world view, as it requires a deconstruction of the I-S-M.  For an atheist to convert to theism demands dismantling the I-S-M that God doesn’t exist. For a Republican to switch parties requires dismantling the I-S-M that Democratic policies are evil or bad for America. Even for a Catholic or Mormon to convert to evangelical Christianity requires dismantling the I-S-M that Catholicism or Mormonism isn’t the “one True Church.”  That’s not an easy, nor necessarily a desired, process.  I’ll leave it to you, and your world view, whether it’s even a productive one.

The problem in America today isn’t fake news. Our problem is the inability for MOST of us to allow another view, idea, proposition, doctrine or fact to challenge our I-S-M or narrative for life. This inability initially created AWARENESS, then CONCERN, then FEAR and now, unfortunately, HATE, as shown in this past week’s shooting rampage upon Republican congressman.  In today’s political culture, for a Democrat to consider the possibility that Donald Trump might actually have a few good ideas is anathema…and that’s a problem. It’s even worse if the final political answer is to correct the perceived injustice with violence. Nobody has the right to take another human’s life or steal/break property.

The problem with world views–especially those that promote peace, love and unity–is someone won’t like it.  Even the most open-minded can be horribly intolerant.

Mahatma Ghandi taught non-violent civil disobedience…and was horrifically gunned down.  Martin Luther King, Jr. preached a dream of peace to inspire civil rights for black America…and was senselessly assassinated. John Lennon once imagined a world without religion, boundaries, possessions or war…and was tragically murdered.

Imagine how incredibly beautiful this world could be if we humbly and respectfully LISTENED first, argued second. If we walked a mile in someone’s shoes before we criticized and condemned their soul. If we simply confessed when the problem was too big, the answers too murky, or the situation too dark that we simply “don’t know.”  If we leaned on Love more than harassed with hate.

I really do believe Love trumps hate.  It’s a good idea.

I also believe knowledge liberates and binds.

The problem is the more I know the less I know.

And in today’s world there’s a lot I don’t know…even though I think I know a lot.

How about you?


Bye, Bye Miss America Pie (Saying So Long to Those We Lost in 2016)

goodbye2016Don McLean was wrong.

The music didn’t die in 1959 in the tragic plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper.  It didn’t die in 1970-71 with the drug deaths of rock gods Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin or Jim Morrison. Nor was it buried in 1977 with Elvis or Lynyrd Skynyrd or Bing Crosby.

The music didn’t die in 1980 when we lost John Lennon, Bonham Scott (ACDC) or John Bonham (Led Zeppelin). And it somehow lived through 1998 when Sonny Bono, Carl Perkins, Carl Wilson, Linda McCartney, Frank Sinatra and Gene Autry left this earth.

The music played on in 2003 when icons Maurice Gibb, Edwin Starr, Barry White, Warren Zevon, Johnny Cash and Robert Palmer passed away.  Five years later, in 2008-09, the music survived the tragic deaths of Bo Diddley, Michael Jackson and Les Paul.  Somehow the music even continued after 2012, when we lost legends like Dick Clark, Whitney Houston, Donna Summer, Robin Gibb, and Jon Lord.

But the music is dying now.  Well, at least the original artists who carved a genre and created a mystique.  The truth is every year from now on will possess a tragic sense of loss.  When we were young we said goodbye to our musical gods who drank themselves to death, overdosed, committed suicide or died tragically in some crash.  Occasionally we said goodbye to musicians who died younger than we expected, like George Michael did this past week.  But the grim reality is we now have to say goodbye to the rock and roll generation more and more.

These musical icons are now salty and seasoned elders. And who knows how long they’ll remain with us.

For example, in 2016 alone, we watched some of our greatest songwriters, artists and musicians leave this life, including:

  • David Bowie (January 10)
  • Glenn Frey of the Eagles (January 18)
  • Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane/Starship (January 28)
  • Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire (February 4)
  • George Martin, who produced the Beatles (March 8)
  • Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer (March 10)
  • Merle Haggard (April 6)
  • Prince (April 21)
  • Leonard Cohen (November 7)
  • Leon Russell (November 13)
  • Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer (December 7)
  • George Michael (December 25)

But we’re losing more than just the rock ‘n roll generation, we’re also losing those who created the culture in which Boomers and Gen Xers, in particular, came of age.

The tumultuous 1960s launched the age of television while the 1970s anointed “superstars.” Boomers and early Xers watched men walk on the moon, Hank Aaron out-homer the Babe, and the emergence of a “pop” culture that made pet rocks, disco and streaking (naked people running around) suddenly hip. The 1960s and 1970s unleashed civil, women and gay rights. Living together was no longer a sin. Our Watergate government leaked with scandal and coverup. Spirituality was cool (from Hare Krishnas to Dianetics to Jesus People to the “Force”). Movies were bigger, better and bloodier. Star Wars. Jaws. Rocky. The Godfather. Saturday Night Fever. The Exorcist. James Bond, Monty Python and Superman sold millions of tickets.

The wide world of sports carved a national obsession. The Steel Curtain Steelers, Silver and Black Raiders and America’s team “The Cowboys” ruled the NFL   The Minnesota Vikings went to four Super Bowls in the 1970s and lost them all. They’ve been losers ever since. In baseball, superstars by the name of Rose, Ryan and Reggie reigned supreme. Olympians like swimmer Mark Spitz and gymnasts Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci were golden. Meanwhile the sport of boxing was never bigger. Muhammad Ali. Joe Frazier. George Foreman. Sugar Ray Leonard. Leon Spinks. And don’t forget the most fearless of them all…Evel Knievel (who launched his motorcycles over everything imaginable and created bone-cracking crash highlights).

Maybe that’s why 2016 is growing old on those of us growing old.

For those 50 years or older, this year has been a sobering reminder that even “the greatest” cultural kings (like Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer, Gordie Howe and John Glenn) are not eternal. In the past twelve months we lost former first lady Nancy Reagan, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and famous surgeon Henry Heimlich. We saw several foreign leaders pass away, including: Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egyptian statesman and UN secretary), Shimon Peres (former Israeli prime minister) and Fidel Castro (a Cuban dictator and U.S. nemesis for half a century). We also lost television and movie celebrities like Alan Thicke (“Growing Pains”), Florence Henderson (“Brady Bunch”), Gene Wilder, Doris Roberts (“Everybody Loves Raymond”), Zsa Zsa Gabor, Patty Duke and Garry Marshall (the creator of “Happy Days”). We gave a galactic farewell to Princess Leia (Carrie Fischer) and R2D2 (Kenny Baker). We lost ESPN broadcaster John Saunders, CBS journalist Morley Safer and PBS anchor Gwen Ifill.

The rock ‘n roll generation is slowly passing away.

The heroes of 60s and 70s screen and film are saying goodbye.

The gods of sport are growing old, much too old.

I’m grateful to have been born in the early 1960s and experience adolescence in the “Me Decade” of the 1970s. I’m 53 years old, the same age as George Michael and Michael Jordan. Like these former superstars, my beard is now mostly gray and I also battle the midriff bulge. My eyes no longer are as sharp, my coordination as clean nor my hearing as good. Wrinkles now form more easily, my joints hurt more often and my brain seems foggier.

I get more mail from the AARP and wonder if it’s time to stock up on Geritol.

George Michael breathed his last on Christmas Day.  And God only knows where Michael Jordan is.

But the good news for me is I’m still here. And I’m still standing.

Every day I’m vertical it’s a good day. There are plenty of people who would love to have one more breath, one more heartbeat, one more moment to enjoy this grand carousel we call life.  I’m not afraid of growing old as much as growing old alone.  And maybe that’s why the loss of Carrie Fischer, Glenn Frey and the others in 2016 have given me pause.

These people were the cultural names that framed my youth.  I taped their photos to my bedroom walls. I wore out the grooves of his or her song that soothed my soul.  I circled their shows in the TV Guide.  Friday and Saturday nights were as sacred as Sunday morning.

So, yes, I say goodbye to these friends of my youth. Their music brought me peace. Their acting brought me joy. Their athletic ability inspired me. Their writings influenced me. Their heroism changed me.

Their passing has taught me to squeeze every drop I can out of this life because one day the last drop will come.  Last drops always come.  We will all have that day.

And on that day I pray I left this old world a bit better and, hopefully, with a smile, too.

Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda (The Last Words of a President)

obama-vacation-2014 The war of words is in full bloom.  Evidently the Trump-Obama love fest is over.

President Obama claims he “could’ve won” a third term race against President-Elect Donald Trump, citing that his vision for America remains the one people really want. He then blames Hillary Clinton’s election night demise on coasting (because she figured she “coulda” won). And while there’s no doubt that Mrs. Clinton skated a bit in overconfidence, can anyone suggest that President Obama “woulda” had an easier fight?

Sorry Mr. President, but I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid.  Every U.S. President wants to leave a legacy and President Obama is no different.  But let’s be honest.  What has he truly accomplished?  In the past few weeks, I’ve asked dozens of Americans on both sides of the political fence one simple question:  What has President Obama done to IMPROVE America (or even your own life) in the past eight years?  

What answer do I mostly get?  Crickets.  Stone-cold silence.  Ums and ahs.
   In reality, Barack Obama’s “vision” for America is seemingly an abject failure and his presidency will likely be viewed less favorably as history rolls on.  After all, he’s done relatively little to “better” America.  Consider the following:
  • Our country is more divisive, angry and violent.  Mass shootings under President Reagan?  Only 6 incidents. President H.W. Bush?  8.  President Clinton?  18. President G.W. Bush?  15. President Obama? 37 incidents.  Islamic terrorist activity on American soil rose significantly under President Obama’s watch: Fort Hood, TX (2009), Boston Marathon (2013), San Bernadino (2015) and Orlando (2016).  In comparison, Presidents G.W. Bush and Bill Clinton presided over two Islamic terrorist attacks on American soil over 16 years:  World Trade Center (1993) and World Trade Center/Pentagon (2001). No one can deny the vitriolic anger (much of it arising from the Left) since Donald Trump was elected. Evidently “Love Trump Hates” unless you lose, then all bets are off.
  • Obamacare has failed.  Despite promises, costs have gone up for most Americans and coverage has gone down. Many people can’t even pick their own doctor, despite the promotional promises.  The President’s namesake legislation is a bust and a financial albatross.  It was also a ruse and railroad job. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) argued in 2010, “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”  That’s right, move on. Nothing to read here. We’ll pass it and then answer any questions. It’s like buying a car sight unseen. Caveat emptor.
  • The Obama foreign policy has been anemic, confusing and sometimes toxic.  No one will know for sure who ordered the “stand down” in Benghazi (or if it was ever ordered) but military chain of command dictates such orders stop at one of two desks: then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or President Barack Obama. From China to Russia to Syria to Israel, Obama’s foreign policy is largely questioned, occasionally ridiculed and often dismissed.
  • Many Americans are still un- or under-employed.  While the unemployment rate has fallen, most of the jobs added are part-time or government-paid.  During Obama’s presidency, hundreds of factories closed and dozens of companies moved production overseas, while the U.S. government became the largest employer of Americans.
  • Most of Obama’s political maneuvers have come through executive orders. To be fair, this President has used executive orders less than other recent Presidents (266 times), which is also troubling as it suggests apathy and/or loss of vision.  Since 1945, only three U.S. Presidents have used less executive orders, and all three served one term or less (JFK, Ford, HW Bush).  Surprisingly, the king of executive orders was FDR, with a whopping 3,721 in his twelve-year presidency.  Many of Obama’s executive orders will likely be rescinded by Donald Trump.  An “order” is a command. Legislation is law.  It’s easy to order but much harder to create law, as Obama will soon discover.
    I’ll confess that President Obama is a likable person with a great family.  He’s got charisma, attractiveness and passion.  But he’s also been coddled, cajoled and crowned by a leftstream media that’s never truly challenged him (like they do, rightly, Donald Trump). This President campaigned on “hope and change” but clearly lacks the leadership acumen to persuade political opponents to his “vision.” Most of Obama’s major ideas were legislated between 2008-2010 when the Democrats controlled both House and Senate. But when the American people held a mid-term Tea Party, the Democrats lost six Senate seats, 60 House seats and 10 governorships (the most ever for any mid-term election).
    The 2010 mid-term elections derailed the “hope and change” train and dumped Obama’s visionary reforms.  His remaining six years has been stalemates, silence, stagnation, shenanigans and stalwart partisan politics.  The President has roundly blamed Republicans for resisting his ideas and preventing his legislation, but that’s sour grapes. When has this President ever worked “across the aisle” with the Republicans?  Shortly after assuming office, President Obama almost gleefully stomped on Republican minority resistance with a clear rebuke:  “I won.”   And he was right in 2009.  But since 2010, all he’s done is LOSE.  He “lost” the House in 2010 and four years later the Senate flipped by 9 seats from blue to red.  He’s largely been a lame duck president, taking vacations and playing golf, relying upon those executive orders to do his agenda.
    In contrast, President Reagan pulled his own “trump card” and beat Jimmy Carter in 1980.  The people had mandated change.  But Reagan was up against a House and Senate that remained firmly and safely in Democratic hands (until 1984 when the Senate turned his way).  Nevertheless, Reagan’s winsome and engaging style won over his political critics and opposition.  Reagan’s massive “supply-side” economic vision–The Economic Recovery Tax Act–was the fruit of his leadership ability (signed into law in 1981).  President Reagan concluded his two-term presidency by ending the Cold War, working once again with critics and opponents.  President Clinton also learned to work well with a Republican House after 1992.  That’s politics.  You don’t quit just because you’ve lost.  And you don’t battle your critics using reporters at the golf course.
    President Obama claimed Donald Trump was unprepared and unfit for office, and that may be true, but to quote a childhood retort:  it takes one to know one.
    In eight years of office, President Obama has managed to submit a budget on time only twice (2010, 2016).  Maybe that’s because he loves to spend taxpayer money.  Or maybe it’s because he’s never governed or led.  In 2008, then Senator Obama said, “The bargain that any president strikes with is, you give me this office and in turn my fears, doubts, insecurities, foibles, need for sleep, family life, vacations, leisure, is gone. I am giving myself to you. The American people should have no patience for what’s going on in your head because you’ve got a job to do.” 
    Candidate Obama eagerly promised “no vacations” or “leisure” if elected, but has now spent $80 million of tax-payers money jetting his family to Hawaii, Mexico, New York City, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Martha’s Vineyard and Africa.  Previous U.S. Presidents retreated to personal ranches and private homes.  President Obama hotels it high-class, with Secret Security in tow.  In contrast, President-elect Donald Trump has promised “no big vacations” and no presidential salary ($400,000).
Essentially, there’s ample evidence to suggest President Barack Obama’s eight years were at best a “nice political experiment” but, at worst, an utter failure. He has accomplished very little except further divide a fearful nation.  Naturally he’ll take credit for the 2015 gay marriage ruling, but this was likely to happen anyway, as the Supreme Court was leaning this way.

Consequently, President Obama’s quip that he “could’ve won” a third term is slightly delusional, if not entirely narcissistic. Given the 2016 political climate, he might have lost bigger than Hillary.

Ultimately, history will judge this President against his peers and his time.

Woulda, shoulda and coulda means nothing if you’ve done little though.

And I predict the Obama presidency will largely be forgettable in 100 years.  Much like William Howard Taft (1909-1913).  Can anybody name what he did?


Remembering Pearl Harbor, Hope and Change and Making America Great Again

on War Fatalities in HawaiiSeventy-five years ago today America was attacked by Japan.  Pearl Harbor, like the Alamo and Gettysburg, became a rallying cry for freedom.  America rose to the occasion and within four years derailed a Nazi regime and decimated Japan as a world power.  For WW2’s G.I. generation, America’s best days were clearly ahead. Suburbia. Interstates. College educations. Middle class jobs. Disneyland. Social Security. Retirement.

Three quarters of a century ago America was a much different place. Her values, her perspectives and her story were different. Life was simple, but still very hard for a nation struggling to emerge from an economic Great Depression. Only half of Americans finished high school.  “In God We Trust” and “One Nation Under God” were cultural beliefs but still fifteen years from tattoeing our nation’s money and pledge. The cultural institutions that framed Americans were the Church, Hollywood and baseball.  It truly was a wonderful life, even if we were still hunting for Oz.


Less than a year prior to Pearl Harbor, in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s State of the Union address, he outlined four freedoms for all Americans:  freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.  The four freedoms were inspirational but still rang hollow for many USAmericans.  After all, racism reigned, especially in the South. If you were black, you couldn’t play major league baseball, vote or expect fair trial, but you could fear a lynching. Jews were vilified, Italians scorned, Indians segregated and Japanese interned. On the home front, men brought home the bacon and women cooked it. Children were marginalized.  Gays were institutionalized.  Overseas, Europe was under siege by a Nazi tyrant bent on creating the perfect race, while an Italian fascist flamed trouble in the Middle East and northern Africa.

In 1941, Americans had a lot to fear and plenty of want.

Seventy-five years later, fear and want continue to be societal concerns for most Americans, even though we live in one of the safest and richest nations on earth.

What’s truly impoverishing America is our partisan ideology.

America is deeply divided between Right and Left, conservative and liberal, MSNBC and Fox, Huffington and Drudge. Every election seems to polarize us even more and each side blames, labels, castigates and crucifies the other (especially if they’re on the losing end). The 2016 presidential election ended relationships, cancelled dates, defriended peers, divided families and burned cities. Love trumps hate unless Trump wins…and then all gloves are off.  The Fourth Estate, a.k.a. the national press, no longer reports the news.  Rather, these news hounds manipulate, twist, soften and even censor the facts through clearly biased and prejudicial lens.  It’s no surprise that many Americans watch little to no news.

Even more personally, Americans now seem to value stuff over people, entertainment over God, violence over peace. We Americans are often narcissistic, irreligious, hateful, angry, greedy and foolish. Our pets live better than most people in the world.  Celebrities guide our lives and guard our loves. We buy what they buy, we eat what they eat, we watch what they watch and try to live like they live.  Most American homes have more televisions than Bibles.  Fifty years ago John Lennon famously quipped, the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.”  His point was misconstrued back then, but today it’s tragically clear when more people can quote a Lennon lyric than a Bible verse.  Imagine there’s no heaven…(see what I mean?)

We’ve had eight years of a President who promised “hope and change” and now have a President-elect who promises to “make America great again.” And yet, our schools haven’t had a prayer since 1963; the same year Martin Luther King marched on Washington and John F. Kennedy was tragically assassinated. Since the 1990s, church attendance has declined as more Americans marked “none” for religious preference.  Our homes are in disrepair, ripe with dysfunction and riddled by abuse, neglect and divorce. Even though the “Great Recession” officially ended in 2009, and unemployment rates have dropped, more and more Americans actually live downsized, under-employed or work multiple part-time jobs to survive.  The middle class has collapsed.  The rich only get richer while the poor get poorer.

In our communities, race wars still rage from Ferguson to Baltimore to Chicago to Charlotte.  Yes, black lives matter, but so do white, red, yellow and brown. Women, gays, and now evangelical Christians are oppressed, harassed, victimized and marginalized. The Right likes to exclude, ignore and de-fund. Exclude the illegal, ignore the transgender, and de-fund social services. The Left likes to demonize, label and create fear.  If you disagree with homosexuality, you’re a homophobe. If you think Islamic fanatics promote terror, you’re an Islamophobe. If you believe in a Divine Creation or question global warming, you’re ignorant, narrow-minded and anti-science.

It’s no wonder we hope for change, but I must ask you, honestly, when was America ever all that “great?” Certainly not in 1750. Nor 1850. Nor 1900. Nor 1950. Nor 1970. Nor even 1985 or 1995 or 2005. At every demarcation in American history there was trouble, trial, prejudice, political demagoguery, economic struggle and institutional decay.

Most of America’s greatness is legend and myth, wistfulness and patriotism, ironic and oxymoronic. America has NEVER been great and America has ALWAYS been great. It all depends on the America you want, liked or voted for.  It’s understandable to want what we had or criticize what is lost.

So much has changed in seventy-five years…and yet, in many ways, nothing has changed.

Nevertheless, I still believe America’s best days are ahead. The most potent American maxim is and always will be “we the people.” We the UNITED states of America. We, in a desire to create a more perfect UNION, can change, improve, enlighten and lead America forward. We always have and we always will.

Maybe that’s why tragedy brings us all together.

Like it did on December 7,1941…or November 22, 1963…or September 11, 2001. When America mourns, we let down the guard, forget our differences and open our doors. We choose our goodness over selfishness, unity over divisiveness and hope over fear.

Now I’m not praying for another Pearl Harbor or presidential assassination or terrorist attack, so please don’t misunderstand…but I do hope that “we the people” (of every age, gender, race and creed) will start building bridges rather than walls, finding solutions rather than creating problems, learning to live together rather than working to keep everyone apart. Too many teachers, pastors, politicians, journalists, commentators, bloggers, tweeters and Facebook posters today prefer hate over love, division over unity and fear over peace.

Enough is enough, my friends.

Our kids need a free, stable, healthy and beautiful America.
We need a free, stable, healthy and beautiful America.

We don’t need a revolution or a reformation or even a restoration. What we need is for every American to humbly forgive, respectfully embrace and gently trust.

We each need to be the CHANGE. We all need to be the HOPE. Every American needs to be what truly “makes America great.” Just be an American. One people. Under God. Indivisible. With LIBERTY and JUSTICE for all. It’s okay if we agree to disagree on the solutions, argue the nuances, even protest peacefully, but let’s give people and their ideas, a chance, even if we don’t like them or want them. Let’s let our Constitution lead and our values work.

That’s what is truly AMERICAN.

And, yes, may God still bless the U.S.A. because He has in the past and He will in the future, if we simply ask for the blessing.

Why America Is Burning

“The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” (Abraham Lincoln)

Does it bother you to see young America in tears, unable to work or go to school, because their candidate lost an election? Do you find it strange that a radical minority protests with violence, epithets and threats? Are you concerned by the vitriol posted by so many youth—on either side of the aisle—in this last election cycle?

I am not. This generation is simply reflecting a tragic tale they were taught.  They learned and now live with a historical bias that influences their apathy, angst and anger.  It started in the 1980s when the long-held historical narrative for America exceptionalism (America is unique, special and blessed) was slowly replaced with a new American frame: shame and guilt. We Americans are a “bad” and evil people.

But where did they get that idea?  Look no further than the zen of Zinn.

Historian Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” (1980) created an alternative (not to mention deeply flawed and inaccurate) revision of the U.S.A. story: Americans were (and still are) thieves, exploiters, imperialists, racists and oppressors.

Zinn’s book would be forgettable if wasn’t for the fact it became a cult best-seller and Hollywood fave (the movie “Good Will Hunting” gives a glowing recommendation). Zinn’s history has now replaced conventional American history books in many universities and high schools as the best (and only) interpretation of our country’s history.  It’s what young America reads to understand our story.  Unfortunately Zinn’s history, despite Damon’s review, is wrought with problems. Numerous historians and scholars, from both the left and the right, have reviewed Zinn’s analysis as inaccurate.

Zinn’s flawed historical analysis was further aided by leftist history professors and media who censored or revised the American story to fit their socialist and liberal narrative. These false histories have found widespread appeal among young Americans. Hollywood often revises history to create a box office smash. The inspiring movie Unbroken chronicled the soldier life of WW2 prisoner of war Louie Zamperini.  The blockbuster spent hours telling Zamperini’s survival story but missed the whole reason he was “unbroken.”  After all, Zamperini returned from his war experience with PTSD, broken, lost and eventually trapped in alcoholism.  Zamperini only escaped his past and changed his future when he converted to Christianity at a Billy Graham crusade in 1949. Zamperini credited his Faith to being “unbroken.”  The movie producers gave a single post-it note line to this change.  It’s truly a shame.  Want the real story, young America?  Read the book.

American schools, especially in higher education, have become cesspools for leftist ideology since the 1960s. Throw in a liberal national media and narcissistic celebrity culture and you have a perfect recipe for ignorance and insolence. That’s why what you see in Seattle or Los Angeles or New York shouldn’t surprise anyone. These disaffected (or should I say “infected”) young people who spew anti-Trump epithets and anarchical rhetoric are the product of an education system that failed them. They learned their (revisionist) lessons well and are only exercising the objectives of the toxic propaganda they (tragically, even unknowingly) ingested.

It’s truly time young (and old) Americans heard less of Zinn and more of French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville, who penned his epic work “Democracy in America” in 1835. Tocqueville was commissioned by France to tour America and study her prisons but instead discovered what makes America truly great:  democracy, entrepreneurship, faith and liberty.  Listen to Alexis de Tocqueville’s historical analysis:

“The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”

“Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”

“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”

“The Americans combine the notions of religion and liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other.”

“As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?”

“The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.”


An honest and fair review of the American story will reveal many truths that contemporary historians and professors overlook, dismiss or deny because the facts don’t fit “their” narrative.

  • They won’t tell you the Republican Party (of Abe Lincoln) was the party for black America until the mid/late 1960s.
  • They won’t tell you the real Ku Klux Klan was founded and ruled by southern Democrats.
  • They won’t tell you there were as many black slave owners in the South as white slave owners.
  • They won’t tell you about Sarah Breedlove (a.k.a. “CJ Walker”), a freeborn black woman who was orphaned at 7, married at 14 and a widow/mother by 20. They won’t tell you how she then built a business that employed thousands and became the richest black woman in America by the early 1900s. And she did it without a penny from anyone. She succeeded without any government loan or handout.
  • They won’t tell you in the war with Mexico (1846-1848) that America actually occupied Mexico City and controlled the country, but then forgave their debt and returned most of Mexico to our friends south of the border except for the territory north of the natural border of the Rio Grande river.  Nor will they tell you how we have restored and “unoccupied” many nations once law and order (and democracy if they desired) was restored.
  • They won’t tell you Republicans (and Christians) were the ones behind the abolition of slavery, woman’s suffrage and other social movements and institutions (from YMCAs to hospitals to schools).
  • They won’t tell you Harvard, Yale and other Ivy League schools were founded to train the clergy.

There’s a lot they won’t tell you, because it contradicts their narrative. It’s far easier and effective to demonize those who disagree.  Love trumps hate is just an empty slogan to the left. Their vitriolic and violent reaction to this election only proves the soullessness of the Democratic Party and the radical left.

I get their angst.

In 2008, I watched in sadness as Barack Obama captured the presidency with a call for “hope and change.”  I disagreed vehemently with his vision for America.  Backed by a Democratic House and Senate, President Obama began to dismantle and reform various American institutions.  Between 2008-2010 Americans were placed under “Obamacare” (nothing narcissistic there), and were allowed to get “cash for [our] clunkers.”  Obama ran up the national deficit and debt.  In fact he has added more debt to our children’s futures than every president before him combined!

And yet, you never saw conservatives protesting in the streets, violently burning our cities.  Yes, there are some on the right who can get salty in their rhetoric but I don’t recall a single “Kill Obama” sign or burning effigies of his image.  Barack Obama, himself, stoked the hate for Trump in the campaign with his own heated rhetoric, something unheard of by a lame duck president.  Most outgoing presidents (at least in my lifetime) have been passively and mostly silent on who will replace them.  Not Barack Obama.

How did the right respond to the left’s 2008 victory?  It produced the Tea Party revolution that swept away both the House and Senate from Barack in 2010 and 2012.  President Obama’s radical reforms were neutralized by the ballot box.  That’s how it should be.

That’s the American way.

Peaceful, non-violent protest is also the American way.  But don’t kid yourselves.  The left isn’t interested in peaceful protest.  They never have been.  Just study the history of the Weather Underground.  The modern Democratic Party, including both Hillary Clinton and President Obama, were highly influenced by the pioneers of American hate.

It’s truly time we changed the story and rescind Zinn’s failed historical narrative.  It’s time we taught the emerging school children the true history of America.  It’s not hard to find that history either.  Just read a history text from 1950 or 1920 or even 1875 (they exist).  There’s still time to make America great again, my friends.  I’m not sure Donald Trump can deliver on all his promises but “we the people” should at least give him and the Republicans the same courtesy Barack Obama received.

Otherwise we are seeding the next great American Civil War.

Yes, history can repeat itself too.  And it will if we aren’t careful.

When Hate Becomes Habit

I’ve got news for you.  All people are not created equal, even in these great United States of America. This founding ideal is how it should be, but often Americans fall far short of this Divine standard (among many others). In America today, no man (or woman) is born “equal.”  From the moment we arrive kicking and screaming on the planet, the ONLY advantage we possess is that we are born in America.  America provides opportunities no other country can.

Even if you are a “fortunate son”–born into wealth, power or fame–no one escapes prejudice.  We all naturally face bias, discrimination and dismissal. Some of us have the wrong skin color or last name or address.  Some of us are too fat or too skinny, too short or too tall, too much hair or not enough. Some of us are under-educated while others are over-educated. Some of us lack experience while others hold too much experience. And even “fortunate sons” grow up to face prejudice. Celebrity has its own critics and haters. Money can buy time but not love, and riches eventually fade or fail, erode or end.

Prejudice happens every day in many ways.  Who hasn’t lost a job to someone less qualified? Or been unjustly detained? Or mocked, insulted or hated for a biological, cultural or emotional blemish? Who hasn’t felt the sting of prejudice when a teacher decides you aren’t smart enough? Or a girl/boy you “like” doesn’t “like” you back? Or an employer chooses another more capable? We all get rejected, shut down, turned away, let go or refused. It’s a part of life and love and making a living.  I’ve faced my share of discrimination for being too short, too poor, bald or pudgy.  A few years ago, out of work and on my last dime, I applied at Wal-Mart and McDonalds.  Both looked at my resume and refused to hire me.  Why?  I was over-educated. Shoot, some of you will stop reading these words when I confess I’m a political conservative. Or a Christian. Or white.  Or male. Or heterosexual.  Sometimes the most open-minded people can be very close-minded. Including myself.

Where does prejudice (pre-judging) originate?  Why does hate happen?  It’s a simple cycle that starts with a negative experience:

  1. Somebody hurts or hates us FIRST.  We experience refusal, resistance or outright rejection (or are injected with a narrative by others who’ve experienced these negative moments).
  2. We interpret the experience into feelings.  We conclude or interpret we’re not liked, wanted or valued.
  3. Our feelings are reinforced by additional negative experiences of refusal, resistance or rejection.
  4. Multiple negative experiences produce negative beliefs, attitudes and value systems (i.e.., hate).
  5. We act out and act upon these negative beliefs, attitudes and value systems (i.e., do hateful things).
  6. Our behaviors (producing new experiences) influence others to hurt or hate. And the cycle starts again.

It’s very clear that refusals, resistance and rejections produce a counter prejudice. Our societal dismissals can eventually conceive attitudes against an ethnic group, certain lifestyle, economic status, biological condition or educational/life achievement. Some of the most hateful racial rhetoric today comes from black America.  The civil dialogue and inspirational call to a dream is now replaced by hateful, profane demands, accusations and warrants. Consequently, ALL hate (like love) is learned. We are born equal but learn to despise, denigrate and divide. Every bully has been bullied. Every hater has been hated. Just look in their eyes.  You can see the pain.

The irony is America’s beauty is its FREEDOM.  We are a free country.  We were also founded upon a FAITH that God “created all men equal.”  When we lose the unity and love of Faith, we reap dissonance and hate. Finally, the most basic and essential component of the American fabric is the FAMILY.  As the family goes, so goes a neighborhood.  As a neighborhood goes, so goes a community.  As a community goes, so goes a state.  As a state goes, there goes the American nation.

And America ain’t doing so well these days.

Our freedoms create chains.  Our vices create victims.  Our lusts create lifestyles. Our pride creates prejudice. In contemporary America, we are FREE to explore “life, liberty and happiness” but unless we remain moored to the Divine standards as “a nation under God,” we risk falling into disrepair, economically, socially and politically.  Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. We hate because we choose to hate.  We hurt because we choose to hurt.

Consequently, I suspect America will continue to struggle against racism, discrimination, hate and other social evils.  It may possibly destroy this great nation. We may be “created equal” but few men (and women) honor this Divine standard, an ideal that even the Founding Fathers recognized was open to flaw, fault and failure. What makes America strong (freedom, faith, family) is also America’s greatest weakness, for when freedom, faith and family fails, America fails.

And when USAmerica fails, the world feels it.

So here’s three simple things you can do today to break the habit of hate and hurt and create a better America for the children of today and tomorrow:

  1. Watch your words. Prejudice comes from the heart and out of the heart comes our attitudes. Words have meanings.  Just because it seems “innocent” doesn’t mean it is.  For example, as one who grew up among Native Americans, I can tell you that “redskin” is an offensive word to this people group.  “Indian” isn’t offensive. “Seminole” isn’t offensive.  But “redskin” is. I even hate to type it! It’s time to change that NFL nickname.  Words matter.
  2. Watch your traditions.  Until recently, I was completely unaware how offensive the confederate flag was to the African American.  And did you know many southern capitals didn’t even fly that flag until the early 1960s as a direct response to the emerging civil rights movement?  Is the confederate flag a part of American history?  Yes. But like the Nazi swastika (also a historical symbol) its a projection of hate.  It’s good to see the confederate flag finally coming down. Some symbols need to be retired. Traditions matter.
  3. Initiate a conversation. Most Americans rarely talk about controversial issues with someone other than their own “group.” I believe inter-dialogue is the only solution to the racial divide. Honest talk. Respectful talk. Forgiving talk. Productive talk. Recently, in an airport van, I struck a conversation about racial issues with a sixty-five year old black preacher from Mississippi. We both learned from that dialogue…and we both agreed to change. I’ve also had substantial conversations with gays, lesbians and transgender individuals (several of whom are good friends). We may disagree on points but that doesn’t mean something can’t be learned.

The bottom line is hate is a habit only when we let the seeds sprout.  For hate isn’t safe, benign or weak. It’s a killer. It scars a soul. It’s fractures families. It cripples communities. And it strangles the state.

America is too grand and great to lose the race race. It’s the defining issue of our age.