Confessions of A Creepy Hugger: Thoughts About Joe Biden and Me

For as long as I can remember, I have been a “hugger.” And growing up in a family who wasn’t particularly physically affectionate, I kind of stood out. At my grandfather’s funeral, one of my great aunts told me a story about me being at their family’s cottage when I was a little kid, and when it was bedtime for the kids, how I insisted on going around the room and hugging each person goodnight… Even the ones who didn’t do a whole lot of hugging. I was oblivious to the fact that my hugs were out of place, but I was a kid… I didn’t know any better.

Fast forward to high school and college and beyond, and next-thing-you-know, I’m just a creepy dude who thinks he can hug whoever he wants. I can’t tell you how many girls and women I insisted on hugging… even when I sensed an awkward resistance. I would comment on times when girls would hug me while leaning over (keeping their breasts away from pressing into my chest). I would point out how stupid “side hugs” were, and insist on giving them a “real hug.” Or I would “come in for the real thing.” Or I would pick her up off the ground with my hug… even over protests. As far as physical contact was concerned, I thought I knew better than they did what they needed. I DIDN’T know better.

But here’s the thing: Adults SHOULD know better.

Joe Biden Swears In New Defense Secretary Ashton Carter

I can’t imagine standing in front of people at an official ceremony, and rubbing a woman’s shoulders. Can you? 

Years ago my wife told me about an incident which she observed at a friend’s house. I had greeted a friend’s wife by hugging her and picking her up off the ground. While I hugged her, my wife saw her make a face to her close friend… Kind of a cross between a “Please help me” face and an “Oh great, here we go again” face. My wife was embarrassed… For me, and for herself. When she told me, I probably responded with some sort of “Aw, c’mon” or “That sounds like her own issue.” At some point, she told me that I needed to ask people before I hug them, and I was like, “Really? That seems pretty weird.” I think I said, “People need hugs.” And she yelled at me, “YOU DON’T GET TO DECIDE THAT! YOU DON’T KNOW HER STORY!” (As an aside, I’d like to say Thank God For Strong Women)

And the thing is, I BELIEVE that people need more physical contact. I believe it is a good and beneficial thing for human beings to practice… But if I am imposing those beliefs on other people, that is NOT good. It is NOT beneficial. It is harmful. We are subjecting women to daily indignities. And it might not bother everyone… I have some female friends who are like, “PLEASE give me one of those good hugs.” But the existence of women who are not bothered by your unsolicited shoulder massages doesn’t excuse you rubbing some woman without her asking you to. Just like the fact that you have a “black friend” who isn’t bothered by your racist “jokes” doesn’t allow you to impose your racism on everyone else without consequences.

Anyone who knows me knows I would never intentionally cause harm or distress to a woman by making her feel uncomfortable with physical contact. But there comes a point where my refusal to listen to the things women are saying renders my “intent” worthless. Women all around us are standing up and saying, “Hey. Asshole. I am in charge of my own body, and you don’t get to touch me without asking.” And if they’re not saying it that directly, they are saying it with their actions. It’s a no-win situation for women, really…  If they ARE saying it that directly, they are labeled as a “bitch.” And if they aren’t being that direct (and trying to be “nice”), then it’s the woman’s fault for not letting him know.   

We men need to pay more attention to how much more comfortable we are touching women than we are touching men. Read this tweet (and the thread that follows):

Women’s bodies are NOT communal. Maybe we should say that as many times as it takes to allow it to sink in and become the Truth…

c_scale,fl_progressive,q_80,w_800

Seriously… Look at every single person’s face in this picture. Each of the five faces tells a story.

 

There are now FOUR different women who have come forward saying that Joe Biden’s inappropriate touching has made them feel uncomfortable. I am 100% certain there will be more. None of those women have accused Joe Biden of sexual assault. But as Jessica Valenti writes in her amazing article, “Is it really asking so much that our standard for treating women well goes beyond ‘don’t sexually assault’ and ‘don’t pull your dick out at the office’?” The fact that no one has accused him of sexual assault (like so many have accused the current president) does not change the fact that his touchiness with women is a problem. And it’s a problem he needs to take ownership of.

And yes, I am aware of Joe Biden’s work fighting sexual assault and violence against women… But that should be even MORE of a reason for him to have long ago changed his handsy habits. There is plenty to be concerned about without even mentioning Biden’s refusal to take ownership of the role he played in the humiliation of Anita Hill and putting the sexual assaulter Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. He recently said, “I regret I couldn’t give her the kind of hearing she deserved… I wish I could have done something.” Which is different than him taking responsibility — as the CHAIR of the Senate Judiciary Committee — for what happened.

He has said he owes Anita Hill an apology, but Anita Hill has yet to receive one

And for those of you who are all “Why are we just hearing about this now?!?” Listen — I don’t know if there are women out there who feel violated by my insistence on a “real hug.” If there are, I doubt they are feeling the need to make my creepy actions public right now… But if I were being considered for a powerful position as a congressman, a Supreme Court Justice, or the freaking president, it would not be at all surprising for them to come forward. Do I think that my creepy-ass hugging past should disqualify me from ever holding a political office? No. However — AND PAY ATTENTION HERE — If I refuse to take ownership of and responsibility for my past actions and creepiness, that SHOULD be disqualifying. The same is true for you, Joe.

It should be mentioned that a photocopied picture of Joe Biden’s wrinkled, white ass — made while sitting on a printer — has more character, integrity, honor, and ability to lead this country than Donald John Trump. And if Joe Biden somehow makes it through the primaries and is the only legitimate chance of removing Trump from office, I will rally around him and run to the poles to vote for him… And you should too. But right now we are not comparing Biden to Trump. We are comparing Biden to the other democratic hopefuls. I believe there are many better choices for president than Joe Biden… And when one is picked, I can’t wait to vote for her.

 

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In Tennessee, Teaching Kids About Inclusion Is Now “Radical Leftist Indoctrination”

Just south of Nashville, Tennessee, there is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation: Williamson County. It is a county whose population “coincidentally” swelled right around the same time the government said school segregation was unconstitutional. I’m sure it was just a coincidence… Just kidding, it was totally due to White Flight. Williamson County (and to a lesser extent, the other surrounding counties) is where people from Nashville move when they start magically start being concerned about “good schools.” And again, people “coincidentally” seem to only start worrying about how “good” the schools are around the time that that they have kids of their own who are zoned for one of the schools without as good a reputation…

Recently, a Williamson County school made national headlines when teachers gave their (majority white) students a writing assignment that said, “Your family owns slaves. Create a list of expectations for your family’s slaves.” It was part of a larger assignment, but certainly an assignment that was startling in its tone-deafness. It came to light when the brother of one of the students (who is one of a handful of black students at the school) posted the assignment on social media…

Personally, I think that the assignment asking kids to “Create a PSA informing citizens of hazards living in urban areas” is even more problematic, culturally insensitive, and harmful. Nevertheless, in response to the national uproar and outrage, the school apologized, and two teachers resigned (which I think is a shame. When we mess up, we should apologize, learn from our mistakes, commit ourselves to doing better, and move on). Which brings us to what has been happening in Williamson County this past week…

Before any of this brouhaha with the “Your Family Owns Slaves” assignment, Williamson County was working on creating videos to train teachers and staff about Cultural Competency.  Among other things, “Cultural Competence” encompasses…

  • being aware of one’s own world view
  • developing positive attitudes towards cultural differences
  • gaining knowledge of different cultural practices and world views
  • developing skills for communication and interaction across cultures.[citation]

… and  it “requires more than becoming culturally aware or practicing tolerance. Rather, it is the ability to identify and challenge one’s own cultural assumptions, values and beliefs, and to make a commitment to communicating at the cultural interface.” In addition, “Principles relevant to cultural competence include fostering secure, respectful and reciprocal relationships, partnerships, high expectations of equity and respect for diversity.”

So after having one of its schools make national headlines for its LACK of Cultural Competency, it makes sense that Williamson County Schools would focus a bit right now on teaching and training its staff on this important issue. Well, apparently some people did not like this idea… A couple of participants in the training on Diversity, Inclusion, Bias, Privilege, & Cultural Competency felt slighted when they were “forced” to watch a video which referred to the reality of “White Privilege.” And true to form, white folks cried “REVERSE RACISM” and called the press…

When I used to have a regular day job (working for a non-profit, partly office, partly in the schools — in addition to working as a server) we used to have trainings in Cultural Competency. They were challenging, and sometimes uncomfortable, but they were always worthwhile. I can NOT wrap my mind around the crazy amount of snowflakiness that would compel a white person to complain about “having to learn about diversity” as being “indoctrination.” It is the “Why is there no WHITE History Month?” of corporate trainings. But this is where we are… Especially in Williamson County in Tennessee, and PARTICULARLY concerning Debbie Deaver, who is the Chair of the Williamson County Republican Party.

 

Debbie-Deaver_840x480.jpg

Here is Debbie Deaver, looking literally EXACTLY the way I had imagined her…

In the 2016 election, 65.1% of Williamson County voters voted for Trump, but it has been a powerful republican stronghold for decades. Williamson County MATTERS to Tennessee politics… And not just because it is the center of wealth in Tennessee. Its influence has only gotten stronger since the election of Williamson County’s Bill Lee as Governor, as well as the election of the objectively awful Marsha Blackburn (formerly a state representative from the 7th district, which includes Williamson) as State Senator. Debbie Deaver did NOT LIKE the fact that teachers and staff in her county (a county that is nearly 90% white) were being forced to hear about “White Privilege.” In an eMail she sent out to Williamson County republicans, she asked, “Are you concerned that WCS is training teachers to promote a politically charged agenda in our schools and indoctrinate our students?” That’s right… For Williamson County republicans, teaching about diversity, privilege, & cultural competency is now “indoctrination.” It seems these are controversial things she believes should be “taught at home.” Like sex. And “science.”

diversity-in-the-contact-center-1200x700

Photos like this are leftist indoctrination… Only FOUR WHITE PEOPLE?!? Out of NINE??? That’s “fake news,” baby. Also, there are no bald people in the photo! REPRESENTATION MATTERS!

Deaver wasn’t the only republican raising a stink about the training in Williamson County (by the way, you can see some of the training videos HERE). Williamson County Commissioner Barbara Sturgeon posted on her Facebook page a link to a “Tennessee Star” article about the story and made a suggestion that teaching about privilege is illegal (FYI, the “Tennessee Star” is an unethical, far-right “Baby Breitbart” media source posing as actual journalism. It is gross, and anyone posting links to it is probably the sort of person who uses coded language about “ghettos,” “thugs,” & “urban areas”). Even though Deaver wasn’t alone, she was certainly the main voice of criticism…

She also was very angry about a “Teaching Tolerance” workshop being offered by the Southern Poverty Law Center, because for her, a group which documents and maps the rise in hate groups (a statistic which has increased THIRTY PECENT since the emergence of Trump) and has dedicated itself to “Fighting Hate, Teaching Tolerance, & Seeking Justice” is apparently too “radical” and “leftist.” In response to the criticism, Williamson County Schools superintendent Mike Looney cancelled any staff participation in the “Teaching Tolerance” workshop which was scheduled in May. Tolerance — not even Acceptance — TOLERANCE is now considered “radical leftist” ideology! “Tolerance” is seen as “too political.” WHAT. THE HELL.

Though, it is not THAT surprising, I suppose, that Debbie Deaver is opposed to trainings teaching people about cultural sensitivity. This IS the same Debbie Deaver who included this racist meme on an official party newsletter she sent out this January…

Yup. Debbie Deaver included this on the official party newsletter. I guess no one told her Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is of Puerto Rican descent. In Deaver’s defense, AOC doesn’t have blond hair, her skin is a little darker, and she DOES have a “Mexican-sounding” name… All of these things, plus watching Fox”News”A network which this week described the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, & Honduras as “Three Mexican Countries” — can lead to mistakenly making “Mexican jokes” about Americans of Puerto Rican descent. FYI, in a response to The Tennessean she defended the meme. She wrote:

“Allowing a few people on the left to whip up media outrage over political satire is just another example of the left manipulating the press to present their narrative as truth and all other views as wrong or worse racist. The Republican Party of Williamson County will not let those outside our organization tell us what we can or can’t say.”

And really, this statement says a lot about Debbie Deaver’s (and much of the republican party’s) stance on discussing the morality of diversity and the inherent immorality of white supremacy. They don’t want “the left” presenting “their narrative” that making racist jokes makes you “racist.” They don’t want “the left” presenting “their narrative” that simply wanting to preserve and promote White Culture and White Privilege is “wrong.” They don’t want “radical leftist” groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center presenting “their narrative” that just because a group is driven by hatred of minorities, is explicitly anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQIA, & WILDLY Pro-Trump, that such a group should be designated as a “hate group.” And they CERTAINLY don’t want schools in their precious, 90% white, richest county in the state to be “indoctrinating” their kids with such nonsense. That sort of thing makes people so angry they might just decide to pull their kids out of those public schools and put them in a private school! Better yet, HOMESCHOOL!! Because saying that racism exists is the “REAL” racism… Right Debbie? Right Williamson County? Right Republican Party?

 

If you’d like to contact the Williamson County Republican Party, you can give them some feedback at 615-790-7642, or post on their Facebook page… I’m sure they’d be excited to hear from you. If you’d like to write Debbie an eMail, you can reach her at DebbieDeaver@comcast.net or debbie@williamsongop.org… (I called to ask if Debbie wanted to comment on this. I’ve had no response yet. I’m betting she’s about as big a fan of people like me as she is of diversity trainings). And if you’d like to SUPPORT THIS BLOG because you think it’s awesome, you can BECOME A PATRON… Or you can LEAVE A TIP ON PAYPAL… Or you can follow me on Facebook and on Twitter.

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This Is How Much A Billion Dollars Is…

If you made $50k a year, and you didn’t ever spend one penny of it — you just put that money into safe keeping and saved it up — do you know how long you would have to work to save up a BILLION dollars? TWENTY THOUSAND YEARS. That’s right… Roughly 4X the length of recorded human history. Or, for my Biblical literalists and creationists out there, just a little over 3X the span of time since God created the universe and put dinosaur bones and fossils in the ground just to fake us all out.

A billion dollars is a LOT of money. If you manage to make a billion dollars, don’t plan on keeping your money under your bed… A billion $1 bills would weigh over 10 tons, and if you piled all those bills in one neat stack, it would reach somewhere around 400,000 feet into the sky — Technically into “space.” If you had a billion dollars, and you decided to spend $10,000 a day, it would take you 274 years to spend all your money. And right now, there are 2208 billionaires in the world, with an average wealth of $4.1B per billionaire — A record high. So if you’re making $50k a year, keep saving up… It’ll only take you 20,000 years to make it to a billion dollars.

And again, this is if you’re SAVING $50k a year… Not if you’re using that money to pay rent and utilities and car payments and the occasional guacamole at Chipotle. Now, some of you out there are probably thinking, “$50,000/year is not that much money.” Well, congrats, Scrooge McDuck… To a lot of us, it is. In the United States for example, the median income per capita is right around $31k-$32k per year. So if THAT’S all you’re making, you’d have to keep saving your dollars for about an extra 12,000 more years (give or take) to declare yourself a billionaire. The good news is you’re still doing way better than the worldwide average, which is in the neighborhood of $18,000/year. And when you consider that over a third of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day (about $730 a year), there are obviously some very rich people out there.

amazon-zero-0

He’s laughing because his tie costs more than your car.

People like Jeff Bezos, whose net worth Forbes lists at $131.4 BILLION. Let’s just consider, for a moment, how much money that is… Let’s say Jeff Bezos was counting his dollar bills (which is a giant hypothetical, because if you were to count all day, every day, it would take about 31 years, 251 days, 7 hours, 46 minutes, and 40 seconds just to count to ONE BILLION… so multiply that times 131.4). And let’s say that every THOUSANDTH dollar bill he counted, Jeff agreed to give you one shiny penny… YOU’D GET $1,314,000. One more: Amazon has been around for 24 years. Let’s say that the bulk of Jeff Bezos’ money was earned in those 24 years. This would mean that each second of every day –waking or sleeping — ol’ Jeff is making $173.61/second. Or $10,416 per minute. Or, if that’s not impressive enough for you… About $625,000 an hour. <– That’s how much he makes while he’s SLEEPING AT NIGHT. If he slept for eight hours, he made $5 million. Okay, last one… If you took Jeff’s $131.4B and put it in a savings account with a 2% APY, the interest alone would earn you $2.6 billion per year.

Then, after all that, consider that last year Bezos’ Amazon reported a $129 million tax REBATE, effectively making its tax rate -1%. And I get it — Amazon (like Netflix, which paid zero dollars in taxes after making a record $845M in profits) is just taking advantage of tax loop holes which are there by design. So the point of this is not to say that Jeff Bezos or Amazon is the Devil… Although, paying yourself more PER MINUTE (adjusted for an 8 hour work day) than what your median employee makes IN A YEAR (the median full time employee working for Amazon made $28,446 in 2018) is certainly a colossal act of immorality. The point I’m trying to make here is this: 

YOU. ARE. BEING. SWINDLED.

The republican party is not the party of anything resembling “fiscal responsibility.” The republican party is about nothing more than worshiping the rich while demonizing the poor (and immigrants, and Muslims, and People of Color, and people who are LGBTQIA). The national deficit has ballooned under this administration. Trump said he could eliminate the national debt “over a period of eight years.” Instead, the debt has risen over 2 TRILLION DOLLARS in just two years, and thanks to the republican tax cuts for the wealthy and a fiendishly immoral budget, the man who used to bankrupt casinos looks to add $9.1 TRILLION to the national debt over 8 years… As the super rich enjoy record profits. All this while the average tax return for poorer and middle class folks in America is down 17%. Republicans will say things like this…

But republicans are not “for” letting people keep more of their hard-earned money as much as they are AGAINST systems and programs designed to promote equality & even the playing field. So when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks about raising the top marginal tax rate to 70% under the “Green New Deal” to help fund the process of combatting man-made global climate change and creating green & sustainable jobs, republicans would like you believe that this “leftist” witch wants to take 70% of every dollar you make. This is beyond deceptive. It is a lie designed to scare people who don’t understand Marginal Tax Rates. Please take 2 minutes and educate yourself by watching this video:

Here are the marginal tax rates by president (since WWII) for the top income brackets:

  • FDR — 81% – 94%
  • Truman — 82% – 94%
  • Eisenhower — 91% – 92%
  • Kennedy — 91%
  • Johnson — 70% – 91%
  • Nixon — 70% – 77%
  • Ford — 70%
  • Carter — 69.13% – 70%
  • Reagan — 28% – 69.13%
  • Bush (H.W.) — 28% – 39.6%
  • Clinton — 39.1% – 39.6%
  • Bush (W.) — 35% – 39.1%
  • Obama — 35% – 39.6%
  • Trump — 37% – 39.6

And we can see that as the top marginal tax rate decreases, so does the strength of the middle class… The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. And they give any attempt to correct this trend the evil & scary-sounding moniker of “Socialism.” But during the biggest economic boom the United states ever experienced, the marginal tax rate for money earned over $200,000 was OVER NINETY PERCENT… As was explained by Dutch historian & author Rutger Bregman at the World Economic Forum in Davos. PLEASE watch this amazing video (and also enjoy watching Winnie Byanyima artfully destroy the former CEO of Yahoo).

So where am I going with this? In America, we are currently able to vote to remove officials who support policies which reinforce unjust systems. Let me give you an example of one of these systems: We find the money to spend more on military spending than the next ten countries COMBINED…

… but people act like young adults are wanting “something for nothing” when they want to change a system which forces so many kids to graduate from college with $80k – $100k of debt. In America right now, there is over $1.5 TRILLION in outstanding college debt. In addition, the poorer you are, the more you have to pay for higher education. A person with all kinds of money can simply pay $30k for their kids to go to college for a year… Poorer families are forced to take out college loans and pay back interest. So for a college loan of $30k (at 6% interest), poorer folks, who end up on a payment plan, end up paying $39,967 for the same year of college. THIS IS A SYSTEM DESIGNED TO PREVENT ECONOMIC MOBILITY. By design, it is meant to protect the power and privilege of the ones with all the money.

And like the man on the video above, the rich will flaunt a low unemployment rate like it means people are happy. People aren’t happy… People are scared. Sure, most everyone has a job, but no one can afford anything. Healthcare is unaffordable for most people. A year of college costs about as much as most people make in a year. Our schools continue to fail, as people with money either put their kids in private schools or move to whiter neighborhoods & counties. States continue to pass legal barriers to unionization, and big companies (and the billionaires who own them) move their businesses to those places because they are considered more “business-friendly,” allowing their stock prices to go up, and making them ever richer. And then those same people use their obscene wealth to get people elected who will appoint “business-friendly” judges and pass laws which even FURTHER expand income inequality… Making an increasingly uneducated electorate even MORE scared, and more easily manipulated into voting for dishonest, narcissistic tyrants who are willing to exploit those fears. And on and on and on…

And to top it all off, it’s getting rarer and rarer to find someone with an attention span long enough to read 1600 words in a blog post, or even watch a four minute video… Let alone read an entire book on a complex problem with a complex solution. Meanwhile, we’ve got a lying moron in the White House who is calling the press “the enemy of the people,” and scores of spineless republican representatives silently looking on as an inept, immoral billionaire attempts to destroy a once great nation under the guise of making it “Great Again.”

Things are not good, and sometimes it seems like they are heading in an even worse direction. For example, the fact that whole groups of people would go to the polls and continue to elect an awful human being like Mitch McConnell should give us all reason for genuine concern. But the good news is IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY. The good news is WE CAN FIX THE THINGS THAT ARE BROKEN. The good news is WE HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE THE SYSTEMS WHICH DISPROPORTIONATELY BENEFIT THE RICH. The good news is that WE CAN VOTE THESE A-HOLES OUT. Together, we can make the crooked places straight, and we can raise the valleys & make the high places lower. We can enforce policies which plow money back into the lives of the people on whose backs the billionaires made their fortunes. And when we look at a system which creates CEOs who make more in a minute than their workers make in a year, we can stand together and call that system what it is: Broken. Harmful. Immoral. And Evil.

 

As I was writing this, I kept thinking about the “debate” that is going on here in Nashville about giving teachers raises… Let me just say this: If you are ever in a position to vote for raising teachers’ salaries and you vote against it, you are an awful, Mitch-McConnell-level human being. They teach your smelly, ungrateful little kids how to think, and hopefully how to tell truth from a lie. If salary is just a number representing how much society values the work you do, we need to start paying these people better. They are heroes. I say TAX THE RICH, AND GIVE THE MONEY TO TEACHERS. And speaking of money, if you’re a billionaire (or a regular person) who’d like to support this blog as a Patron, you can DO THAT HERE. If you’d like to leave a tip on PayPal, you can CLICK HERE. Also, you can follow me on Facebook and on Twitter.

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6 Things You Can Say To Let Your Server Know You’re A Horrible Tipper

I have worked as a server in a restaurant for a really long time. Seriously… Like, just a ridiculously long time. Some might say “an embarrassingly long time.” And if working as a server has taught me anything, it is that some people are cool, and other people are just… Not. There are so many truly great human beings out there, but for others — regardless of the level of service that is provided to them — some people were ALWAYS going to be mean… or rude… or cheap. And if you are a person who is attempting to pay your bills by bringing people food in a restaurant, you know that “CHEAP” is by far the worst of those of those descriptors. I would much rather have a person be a total and complete asshole and hugely generous, than have someone who goes all out on being “nice” and then leaves a shitty tip. And I’m betting the same can be said for just about every person you’ve ever had a a server…

I’ve learned that if you try to pre-judge people based on what they look like, you will constantly find yourself being surprised and disappointed and foolish. As much as I can, I try not to make any judgements based on what people look like. There are a few exceptions… For example, if people come in decked out in a bunch of University of Tennessee orange clothing (I live in Nashville), my expectations for their tip percentage drop a good five to eight percentage points… MORE for people who dress their kids in those gaudy orange outfits. I keep waiting for someone dressed in orange to surprise me with their generosity — It just hasn’t happened yet. Anyway, there are few jobs that will teach you the lesson that people’s WORDS and their ACTIONS mean way more than “what they look like” than one where you rely on the generosity of strangers to earn a living. That being said, I’ve compiled a list of some things that people might say at a restaurant that will “tip” their server off (seewhatididthere) that he or she is going to get completely screwed when it comes time for leaving a gratuity:

  1. “Don’t worry, I’m a really good tipper.”
    No. You’re not. People who say these words think that 20% is a startling act of generosity. If you can’t wrap you head around how lame it is to “brag” about what a good tipper you are while someone is taking care of you at a restaurant, then you are CERTAINLY not going to be able to figure out the ins and outs of the social contract surrounding the relationship between patron and server. If you are a person who has ever uttered these to your server, be assured: You are NOT a good tipper. You’re a person who makes your friends feel embarrassed. Stop it. Don’t ANNOUNCE that you’re going to be generous… Just BE GENEROUS.
  2. “Can you bring me a BOWL of lemons?”
    “No. Also, I hate you.” <– This is what every server to which you have ever said this is thinking. And I swear to Caucasian Jesus that if you follow it up with, “Oh, and also can you bring me some Sweet & Low?” you are a terrible person, and you belong in prison. Dude… You don’t get to make your own free lemonade at the table. We get it — You think drinks are too expensive… But the REASON they are so expensive is because of cheap A-holes like you who use up $4 worth of lemons in their free glasses of water. Anyone capable of this level of asshatery was never going to leave a decent tip.
  3. “Can I order from the Kids’ Menu?”
    Well, that depends… Are you a freaking KID?!? Oh my gosh, lady — WE GET IT! You need everyone to know that the normal entree size is too much food for your petite frame, or you don’t want to waste food, or WHATEVER… That’s why there are To-Go boxes. I used to just say “NO” when grown-ass adults asked me this. At some point, I was just like, “What do I care?” and I started saying yes. I thought maybe they would be so grateful that I bent the rules that they would tip like they had purchased a grown-up’s meal. I thought wrong. Your garbage tip tells me your decision was based more on “thriftiness” than on “not wanting to waste food.”
  4. “What is the cheapest beer you have?”
    Seriously??? Did you just ask me that? I mean, I can tell just by looking at you that this isn’t the first time you’ve ever enjoyed a cold beer. Basically, what someone is asking here is this: “Do you have anything shittier than Bud Light, Coors Light, or Miller Lite? Because I have so little self-respect that I am willing to ask that question in front of people I call my friends, and I am willing to pour whatever horse piss you hand me down my throat… so long as it saves me 25 cents a beer.” Don’t worry, sir — When you round hand me $24 on your $22.75 bill and loudly proclaim that I can KEEP THE CHANGE, it will come as no surprise to me whatsoever.
  5. “Make America Great Again.”
    I don’t think anyone has actually said this to me out loud, but I’ve had some folks who were actually wearing one of those godforsaken hats… And let me assure you: They are not good tippers. And before people freak out on me, I’m NOT saying “Everyone who voted for Trump is a bad tipper.” What I AM saying is that people who loudly, vocally, and proudly support Trump are exactly the same kind of people who think, “Screw this server — I’m going to get MINE.” They probably think tipping is some kind of socialism. “America First” is just “ME FIRST” on a global scale.
  6. “Dear eight pound, six ounce Newborn Baby Jesus…”
    People who make a spectacle of their before-meal prayer are some of the worst tippers on the planet. I have written about this before, so I’m not going to go into it at length… But suffice to say, some of the worst PR that “christians” get is due to people who give a loud, LOOK-AT-ME prayer, and then follow it up with a shitty tip. I’m a big fan of Jesus, but people who hold hands and make sure the next table over can hear them say “AND JESUS, WE JUST…” are “just” the worst. Do all the rest of us a favor: If you’re not planning on being generous — SKIP THE PRAYER. You’re doing about as much for Jesus’ reputation as the Catholic Church right now.
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“… don’t even know a word yet, just a little infant — so cuddly, but still omnipotent.”

So there you have it. I’m sure there are more. If you have other examples of things people say that will let their servers know they are horrible tippers, maybe leave them in the comments. Also, this is not the only time I’ve written about restaurant stuff… If you’d like, you can read about “How To Not Be A Jackass.” Or you can read one I really love about Human Nature and Fear and Politics. You can read one about the time I received a $500 Tip from Aaron’s Last Wish. Or, if you’re just looking to laugh, you can read about “How Not To Do A Wedding Reception,” or laugh at what happens when idiots don’t know what an anchovy is.

 

Thank you again for reading! This blog is one of the ways I take care of my family. If you’d like to LEAVE A TIP ON PAYPAL, you can totally do that. If you’d like to BECOME A PATRON for this blog, that would be so very kind. And if you like what you’ve read, and you want to share it with others, that would be amazing. You can also keep up with me on Facebook and on Twitter. Love you all…

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Now That The United Methodist Church Has Voted, Here Are A Few Things To Consider:

What kind of a dork spends three days (and a whole box of Kleenex) watching the livestream of a denominational conference for a Church he doesn’t even attend, you ask? Well, the answer is THIS kind of dork. As I wrote about HERE, the United Methodist Church had a Special Session of their General Conference this week, with the goal of hopefully finding a way the Church could move forward, despite varying views on human sexuality… Especially with regard to inclusion of LGBTQIA members. The UMC’s leadership promoted a plan (the “One Church Plan”) which would allow different conferences, congregations, and pastors to make different decisions regarding LGBTQIA inclusion. Instead, the delegates voted to adopt an exclusionary plan (the “Traditional Plan”), doubling down on the current restrictive and marginalizing language in the Book of Discipline regarding people who are LGBTQIA, and deciding to punish Clergy who disobey even more harshly than before.

I have been thinking about this non-stop for four full days. Now the General Conference is closed, the delegates have had their say, and the UMC has chosen a direction. And for all of my friends — both my friends within the UMC, and my friends looking on from outside of the church… both my friends who are straight, and my friends who are queer… both my friends who call yourselves “Christians,” and my friends who now see that word as a synonym for the worst kind of hatred and bigotry and hypocrisy the world has to offer — I have some things I’d like for you to consider…

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“You keep using that word… I do not think it means what you think it means.” ~ Inigo Montoya

FIRST — This General Conference was heartbreaking to watch… I can assure you. And as hard as it was for me to watch from the outside, I can’t even imagine how hard it was for those who call the United Methodist Church their HOME. Still, as difficult as it must have been for those inside the UMC to see your church home split before your eyes, as you are mourning this process, please, PLEASE consider how Hard… How Harmful… How HUMILIATING it must have been for the LGBTQIA members of the UMC to sit and watch as others discussed whether or not they are welcome. Consider the heartbreaking, soul-crushing humiliation of having to wait on a VOTE to find out whether or not the people in your denomination recognize your full humanity and worth. Consider the fact that there are certainly closeted members among you, looking for an actual welcoming and affirming community with which they can speak their truth. And THEN consider how it must have felt, over and over again, to have a majority of those they call brothers and sisters say with their vote: “NO. You are not welcome… Not as you are… Not without changing your sexuality.” Because that is what they were saying. Which brings me to my second point…

SECONDYou cannot claim to be “welcoming” while excluding LGBTQIA people from full membership within the Body of Christ. That is not welcoming… That is HARMING. “We’ll accept your tithes, but we won’t accept your orientation” is NOT “welcoming.” It is a three fifths vote. It is the stuff of “Reparative Therapy.” It is the stuff of self-harm. It is the reason why the suicide rate for LGBTQIA kids in non-affirming families is EIGHT TIMES the rate for kids in affirming families. This whole “Love the sinner; hate the sin” thing is such obvious bullshit. Yes, we all struggle with selfishness and fear and disfunction and brokenness and “sin.” But for people to describe a same-sex couple’s committed, life-giving, Christ-centered marriage as SIN… Can you not understand how utterly cruel that is? To equate an honest, loving relationship with LYING or STEALING or ADULTERY?!? Jesus never said ONE THING about homosexuality. He said quite a bit about divorce, though… And there are a lot of divorced people in positions of leadership.

Honestly, even this discussion is an act of violence. How utterly degrading to make people wait while you discuss whether they are worthy of being full members of a Church who is supposedly called to LOVE THEIR ENEMIES. There are calls for patience. There are calls for people to “hold the tension.” But as William E. Gladstone once said, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” And while our LGBTQIA brothers and sisters are waiting, people are literally dying… A truth so poignantly depicted in this amazing cartoon by David Hayward (The Naked Pastor):

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So much for leaving the 99 to find the one…

THIRD — I don’t want to get all “Not All Methodists” on you, but please know there are MANY people within the United Methodist Church who are heartbroken over this… Not because of the end of an idea of “unity,” but because they are deeply and passionately allied with the LGBTQIA community who is being excluded. They wanted NONE of this. When there were people at the General Conference who spoke in favor of inclusion, the applause and cheering overwhelmed the microphones. That being said, this can’t be explained away because of votes by the African or Central Asian delegates… There were many people from the American UMC who campaigned hard against anything other than the Traditional Plan. This disaster cannot simply be blamed on the cultural differences in Africa and Central Asia… There is plenty of bigotry to go around in America as well. And just like in this nation, there are people in the the UMC who are acting out of fear, and there are people in the UMC who are acting out of Love. And though it seems that fear won this battle, Love Wins in the end.

FOURTH — This will almost certainly result in a giant schism in the UMC… In other words, the United Methodist Church will no longer be “United.” But this has been true of the UMC for a very long time… Especially with regard to human sexuality. Church splits over different views on inclusion are nothing new, and the Methodist Church is no different. Methodists parted ways over the issue of slavery… Methodists parted ways over the issue of women in positions of leadership… Now it seems people will be parting ways over the issue of LGBTQIA inclusion. And though this is certainly — and will continue to be — a difficult time for many, this is not the end of the world. I believe it is better to be divided for the right reasons than united for the wrong reasons. If there are LGBTQIA-Affirming congregations who leave the UMC because of this, I see that as a GOOD thing. It is an act of love to say to the LGBTQIA members of a congregation, “We love you and affirm who you are… So much so that we are willing to risk leaving (or getting booted from) the safety and covering of our denomination.”

“We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” ~ James Baldwin

FIFTH — There are those who will stay, despite deep doctrinal differences regarding same-sex marriage, LGBTQIA inclusion & equality, and what the Bible says (and doesn’t say) about human sexuality. Some will choose to stay and work to change the Church they love from the inside. Staying in the UMC is not a betrayal… But staying SILENT on this issue IS. Now is not the time for silence. Now is not the time for “riding the fence.” Now is not the time for staying away from controversy. Now is the time for bravery. Now is the time for leadership. Now is the time to stand up and risk afflicting the comfortable for the sake of comforting the afflicted. There are MANY pastors and leaders in the United Methodist Church who are very aware of what the Bible says about this issue, but they don’t preach on it, because they are afraid of losing their conservative members (and those conservative members’ money).

PREACH on this issue! LEAD on this issue!! TALK to your congregations about the fact that the word “homosexual” was not in an English Bible until 1946. TEACH them about how, when the Bible talks about “Sodomites,” that the Biblical text says Sodom’s sin wasn’t “being gay” as some have been taught, but Sodom’s sin was that “She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49)DISCUSS with them the homosexual “clobber verses” that so many people cling to… SHOW THEM how 1 Corinthians 6:9 is actually part of a larger section in Paul’s letter where he ‘s actually saying that Christians shouldn’t be suing one another — saying that it is better to be cheated and wronged than to sue… SHOW THEM that what has been translated as “homosexuality” was actually originally “abusers of themselves with mankind,” and talk about the definition of ABUSE… SHOW THEM how that term is one of a long list of examples of those who will “not inherit the Kingdom of God,” including people who are greedy, or get drunk, or are verbally abusive, or swindle others, or even being effeminate. I mean, the “effeminate” can’t inherit the Kingdom of God?!? That’s going to make it awfully hard for women! (Unless they’re super butch, I suppose)… SHOW THEM!

The main problem the Church has (and I’m talking about the WHOLE Church, not just the UMC) is that it is filled with mostly Biblically illiterate people, and led by pastors who are so afraid of people leaving that they are afraid to teach them what the Bible actually says. The thing which makes Jesus so offensive and scandalous is NOT who he keeps out… The thing which makes Jesus so offensive and scandalous is who he welcomes IN. You want to have a brave talk about “SIN” and “INCLUSION?” Talk about the fact that the Bible — from the front to the back — prohibits the practice of lending money at interest (“usury”). The Biblical text is WAY more clear about that practice being “SINFUL” than anything the Bible says about same-sex relationships… and CERTAINLY way more clear than anything it says about committed, Christ-centered, same-sex marriages (which is absolutely nothing). Ask them to imagine if we denied sacraments to all the bankers in the way so many are trying to do with people who are LGBTQIA. Ask them to imagine what would happen to the U.S. economy if all the people who called themselves “christians” stopped supporting businesses that lend money at interest.

So for those of you who feel compelled to leave, may you go with God… (Because God might actually be leaving). For those of you who decide to stay, please do not stay silent. For those of you celebrating the passage of the Traditional Plan as some sort of “win” for “biblical christianity,” I’d like to remind you that this is the result the Westboro Baptist people were hoping for. You’re on the Westboro Baptist side. Consider that, for a minute… Or longer. For those of you lucky enough to lead, please lead bravely and compassionately — challenging those you lead to practice A Holy Empathy before attempting any sort of “holiness,” and reminding them (and yourselves) often that Jesus’ words were always the most offensive to the religious folks. And most importantly, for those of you who are feeling rejected and hopeless as a result of this decision, please know that you are loved — EXACTLY AS YOU ARE — by God, and by me, and by SO MANY OTHERS… Even when the Church gets it wrong.

 

Many of the folks I have been following have been calling people to pray… But these days, writing here on this blog is about as close as I get to praying. Thank you so much for reading. If you are interested in supporting my work and my writing, you can BECOME A PATRON. If you really like this post, and you want to LEAVE A TIP ON PAYPAL (to help me fix or replace my broken computer) that would be swell. Otherwise, if you’d like to keep up with me, you can do that on Facebook and on Twitter.

 

 

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Dear United Methodist Church: Do The Right Thing — Let The Bigots Leave.

Leadership from the United Methodist Church will gather this week in St. Louis for a Special Session of the General Conference. Usually the General Conference only happens once every four years, but the Council of Bishops can call a “Special Session” to have delegates from the church (usually about half laity & half clergy) tackle pressing issues. The issue they will be discussing and voting on at this week’s Special Session will be surrounding the UMC’s official position on matters of human sexuality… specifically reexamining the passages in the Book of Discipline which set a policy of exclusion from leadership for people who are openly LGBTQ+. And though I am not a member of the United Methodist Church (or ANY church right now, for that matter), my kids attend a UMC youth group, I have many good friends — both laypersons and clergy — who call the UMC their home, I have a great respect for the denomination, and I believe I have something of value to say about all this… And this is my blog, so deal with it.

First, let me say that even though I have personally come to a place of peace and clarity on the issue of LGBTQ+ inclusion within the church, I acknowledge that — for many — this issue is far from simple. The UMC is a giant denomination, with almost 7 million members in the U.S., and just shy of 13 million members worldwide… And this already divisive topic is made even more complicated by the presence of members from cultures and places in the world where LGBTQ+ discrimination and oppression is even MORE commonplace and accepted than it is in the United States. So it is no surprise that when they attempted to wrestle with this issue during the 2016 General Session, they basically kicked the can down the road by creating a “Commission on a Way Forward” to reexamine all of the places in the Book of Discipline (the BoD is basically the collection of official UMC law & doctrine) which address human sexuality. This Special Session is to respond to the Commission’s ideas and recommendations of a path forward which maintains church unity. I mean, it’s right there in the name: UNITED Methodists.

Right now, the Book of Discipline says (among other things) that “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” And without boring you with the specifics (you can read more about them HERE and HERE), they basically came up with four options…

  1. “One Church Plan” — This would remove the restrictive/exclusionary language from the BoD, while giving conferences, churches, and pastors more “flexibility” to make decisions regarding LBGTQ+ inclusion. Basically, it allows for local and regional groups of Methodists to be inclusive or exclusive as they see fit, and though there is would be nothing officially preventing UMC congregations from, say, performing and blessing same-sex marriages… There is ALSO nothing officially preventing other congregations from excluding LBGTQ+ folks from places of leadership and, for example, firing a worship leader who comes out of the closet. This plan was endorsed by the Council of Bishops, and is the one the Commission is recommending.
  2. “Traditionalist Plan” — This plan would keep things the same, basically affirming the restrictive/exclusionary language in the Book of Discipline.
  3. “Connectional-Conference Plan” — This is more complex, but my understanding is that it would sort of set up three different conferences with which local churches and congregations could affiliate themselves, assumedly with different conferences representing different places on the spectrum from Inclusive & Affirming to Exclusive & Rejecting … All under one connected & “United” Methodist Church. And then when people say, “I attend a United Methodist Church,” the follow up will be, “What kind of United Methodist Church are we talking about, here?”
  4. “Simple Plan” — Basically, this plan would remove the “incompatibility clause,” as well as all prohibitions limiting the roles of homosexual people in the church. It would allow, but not require, same-sex weddings in churches.

Notice there is no option for a plan which appropriately labels a policy of LGBTQ+ exclusion & rejection by the Church what it is: HARMFUL. HATEFUL. SINFUL. And DEADLY. There is no option for a plan which officially repents and asks forgiveness for the harm done by years and years of the Church’s LGBTQ+ discrimination. And there is nothing which rightly describes this policy of exclusion & rejection as “the deepest unkindness” and “horrid cruelty” and “barbarity.” And if you’re wondering why I chose these words, it is because these are the words John Wesley himself — The founder of Methodism — chose to describe the Church’s policy of exclusion & rejection toward THE ORDINATION OF WOMEN AS PREACHERS.

I don’t think most people know about the deep history and tradition of inclusion within the Methodist Church. At a time when most people in the world thought “the Bible was clear” about its instructions for women to be silent and the “sinfulness” of women in leadership, John Wesley was the first in the Methodist movement to authorize a woman to preach. In 1761. A full 159 years before women in the United States earned the right to even VOTE. He confronted traditional ideas about female submissiveness, and in 1784, he even removed the word “obey” from the marriage rite he sent to North America. After Wesley’s death, there was much division within the Methodist Church over the issue of women in leadership. You can read more about that timeline HERE.

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After their sign was vandalized, this UMC in Florida decided to surround the hatred with love. This is way better than one that says, “Choose the Bread of Life or you will be toast.”

And now the UMC wrestles once agains with the issue of INCLUSION. And there are many questions looming on the horizon… Who is “in?” Who is “out?” Who gets to lead? Who gets full privileges? Who is three fifths of a person? Which people deserve to be second class citizens/church members? Is the Bible actually as “clear” on this issue as we have been told? Are the “Traditionalists” actually confident in the infallibility of scripture… or are they simply confident in the infallibility of their OWN INTERPRETATION of scripture?

People act like LGBTQ+ Inclusion in the Church is some sort of “abandoning of scripture.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. The story of the Bible has ALWAYS been a story of movement from exclusion to INCLUSION. Inclusion is the trajectory of the Bible. It is the story of a small tribe who thought that God was only on their “side.” It is the story of a God who sends Jonah to tell the sworn enemy of the ones who were “in” that God loves them too. It is the story of an Enemy-Loving God, who calls us to do the same. It is the story of a baby who would bring “good news of great joy that would be for ALL PEOPLE.” It is the story of a Rabbi who — when asked about how to inherit eternal life — pointed to a Samaritan who got all of the theology wrong, but wasn’t afraid to love someone who society said was “unclean.” And it’s the story of a Jesus who — as one of the last things he said to his disciples — said, “I have so much more to tell you, but you you wouldn’t be able to handle it right now.” 

Yes, there are ways to read the Bible which would lead some to conclude that LGBTQ+ exclusion is part of “God’s Plan.” But this would be like citing Huckleberry Finn as a defense of using the N-word… Any competent reading of Huckleberry Finn would lead us to conclude that the text is pointing us in the direction of supporting the full humanity, respect, and inclusion of Jim. And all people like Jim. The real distinction between groups has less to do with differences in theology, and more to do with differences in an understanding of how to READ. When we read the Bible, we are reading a book which was written in a startlingly barbaric and misogynist time. Imagine reading in such a way that when you read about a small movement toward equality and justice, you decide that THAT amount of movement — and NO MORE — is all the author was advocating for. The Bible doesn’t provide a destination… It points us in a DIRECTION. And that direction is one of inclusion and respect and love.

What do we do about “the gays?” What do we do about women who want to lead? Or simply vote? What do we do about divorced people? What do we do about interracial marriage? What do we do about slavery? These issues are nothing new. The earliest members of the Church struggled with whether to include Gentiles (non-Jews). Many of the “Traditionalists” of that time thought you had to become Jewish BEFORE you were able to become a Christian. The early church leadership sided with inclusion.

What they DIDN’T do is they didn’t chicken out and say, “In the interest of ‘unity,’ if some individual ‘Traditionalist’ conferences, congregations, or pastors want to keep on excluding Gentiles from full membership, they can.” I’m sure some people at that time were upset. I’m sure there were some who were convinced the church leadership was “abandoning scripture,” and some of those people probably left. But… Oh well. I mean imagine the Church attempting to come to a place of “unity” around a decision to “leave it up to the churches” as to whether it was sinful to marry interracial couples during Jim Crow. The people who thought it was “sinful” for blacks and whites to marry thought they had a “Biblical basis” for that belief as well.

I realize that these things don’t change overnight. One thing is for certain: The current verbiage in the Book of Discipline is the stuff of Reparative Therapy and self-harm and suicide. It is the stuff of “the deepest unkindness” and “horrid cruelty,” and it needs to be changed. If the UMC can’t muster more courage than this weak sauce “One Church Plan,” then so be it… But the United Methodist Church has been far from “united” about the issue of LGBTQ+ Inclusion for quite some time… And regardless of how the Special Session of General Conference decides, that is unlikely to change. But the United Methodist Church wasn’t necessarily “united” around the issue of ordaining female pastors in the Methodist church either. There are always going to be people who are angry about letting others in. Regardless, there is a difference between Unity and Unanimity. And today, there are 16 female UMC Bishops, and over 12,000 female clergy.

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Don’t let the church door hit ya where the good Lord split ya…

In my last blog post, I wrote that “Unity is not the goal… Justice is the goal.” It is so interesting to me how so many of these things are connected… Political and Religious. It is Political Correctness, it is Heaven & Hell, and it is Trump’s Wall. It is everywhere, and it divides us… But make no mistake: It is a necessary division. This whole issue is really about The Morality of Inclusion… About whether Inclusion is better than Exclusion. LISTEN — If you’re part of an all-white country club that decides to accept black members, and some current white members throw a fit (citing “tradition”) and threaten to leave, you do the right thing, and you let them leave. See ya. Take your money… Take your bigotry… Take your Tradition… BYE. There are always going to be people who confuse their bigotry with their theology. I have been through the process of a church taking a stand for inclusion. It will not be easy. There will be people who are hurt. There will be people who will leave. LET THEM LEAVE. If this means a less “united” Methodist Church, then that’s what it means. At least there will be a place where LGBTQ+ kids can grow up knowing that a large part of the Methodist Church affirms and values and loves them exactly as they are. And that is more important than any cosmetic “Unity.”

 

Thank you so much for reading. If you are part of the UMC — both laity and clergy — I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter in the comments. And if you are a person who values this blog, I’d love for you to consider supporting it by BECOMING A PATRON. Or if you want, you can LEAVE A TIP ON PAYPAL. Now is a great time for that, because I recently broke my laptop (on account of plain old stupidity on my part), and that has made writing a lot more difficult. If you’d like to keep up with me, the best places to do that are ON FACEBOOK and ON TWITTER. Peace.

 

 

 

 

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“Both Sides.” The New BS

This Covington Catholic/MAGA Teens video was such a perfect storm for Liberal Outrage. It had everything… Young men, privileged and white, wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats, in D.C. on a “field trip” to the “March For Life,” in front of the Lincoln Memorial, on MLK weekend, during the Indigenous Peoples March, openly mocking Nathan Phillips, an Elder from the Omaha Tribe who was playing his drum and singing a prayer during a confrontation between the MAGA Teens and a small fringe group known as Black Hebrew Israelites. And an abbreviated video emerges of a smirking white face, staring down an old Native American man, and it bought up the still fresh trauma of another smirking face of white privilege…

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… and many people lost. Their damn. Minds. They wanted this kid’s NAME, they wanted his ADDRESS, they wanted his future RUINED, they wanted BLOOD.

Then, as people viewed longer videos of the confrontation, the picture of what happened became a little more nuanced. There was name-calling by some of the members of the Black Hebrew Israelites. Mr. Phillips approached the boys instead of the boys approaching the man. And just as immediately as the outrage started on the left, the political right was FURIOUS over the mischaracterization by the “main stream media.” “PROOF OF MORE FAKE NEWS!” they yelled. But really, it wasn’t the MSM that was propelling the story. It was Social Media doing what Social Media DOES: Making a perfect storm of outrage go instantly viral.

And for most people, that is where things ended. Very few people have the time or patience to view close to two hours of unedited footage to see how things actually went down… So what most of us do is decide that the point of view we had before is STILL RIGHT. People who needed there to be a reason why these good, white, Catholic boys would act that way GOT their reason (conveniently enough, there were some black guys to blame)… And just like Trump defending the “very fine” Tiki Torch-carrying nazis in Charlottesville, they start talking about “BOTH SIDES,” and “Whatabout Antifa?!?” Meanwhile, the folks who needed these smug little shits to be the Devil Himself stayed furious… Until their (admittedly, sometimes OUR) next outrage fix comes in.

But the fact that there was more to the story doesn’t mean that the young men from the all-male Covington Catholic weren’t TERRIBLY in the wrong. The REAL story isn’t the behavior of these wound up boys on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The REAL story is the CULTURE in which they were raised… A culture which allows and encourages actions like THIS:

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The real story in this picture isn’t the kids yelling with their faces painted black… The REAL story is the man in white looking on in silent approval.

A culture which allows and encourages kids at the National Mall to do something like THIS:

A culture which stands by while the kids you are in charge do THIS to very old Native American man playing a drum:

A culture which produces boys who harass and scream “MAGA” at girls passing by (well before there was any confrontation with the BHI or Mr. Phillips):

And a culture that wants the world to see these young men as “victims” in this situation after one of them yelled out, “IT’S NOT RAPE IF YOU ENJOY IT!”

If these young men are “victims” of anything, they are victims of a CULTURAL FAILURE.

The REAL story is not one about some smirking teenager in a MAGA hat… It is about the CULTURE which raises so many boys to be the sort of people who want to wear a MAGA hat. It’s about the CULTURE which leaves so many young men blind to the inherent racism behind that slogan and that stupid red hat. It’s about the CULTURE that protects its white boys at all costs (including hiring a PR Firm to pen and release the kid’s statement… A PR Firm with HEAVY republican ties, and co-founded by Mitch McConnell’s former aide), while apparently not noticing that when black and brown boys get shot and killed, those same people say “I’m not racist” while looking for justification for the death… Like a young person acting foolishly, or marijuana use. HOW MANY OF THOSE BOYS FROM THAT SCHOOL DO YOU THINK WOULD FAIL A POT SCREENING?

And the REAL, real story is how SO MANY of these private and religious schools appeared (coincidentally) right after school desegregation became the law of the land… Born of a desire to provide an educational environment for their white kids which did NOT include People Of Color… And born a VERY SHORT TIME AGO in our nation’s very racist history.

Yes, we shouldn’t be watching a 30 second video clip and decide that some kid’s life needs to get destroyed. But if the “lesson” you learned from this disturbing video is that “both sides” are to blame, you are getting it SO wrong. There is almost always MORE TO THE STORY, but this does NOT mean that “both sides” were right, and “both sides” were wrong, and we can “never know which is which.” We can look at this event and learn from it, and we can get closer to the truth.

Instead, people will use this example of an Outrage Avalanche as a “proof” that we need to be more open-minded… As if “open-mindedness” is an absolute moral good, and as if drawing conclusions about something is an act of hubris. They’ll look at this debacle and claim that “division” is the enemy… But some things SHOULD divide us. Unity is not the goal. JUSTICE is the goal. Morality is the goal. Truth, Equality, Goodness, Compassion. There is a name for “unity” that comes at the expense of Justice and Morality and Truth… It’s called TYRANNY. It’s called despotism and totalitarianism and fascism. It’s called injustice.

They’ll tell you that “Everyone has a right to their own opinion,” and “BOTH SIDES” are a little right and a little wrong. They’ll act like the problem is “Tribalism.” They’ll act like the problem is “Taking Sides.” But the problem isn’t that people are on different sides… The problem is that so many people are on a side which has it’s foundation in injustice and oppression. This is not to say that one side is totally “right” and one side is totally “wrong.” But we can certainly say that one side is BETTER… And the reason we can say this is because Goodness EXISTS. Everyone’s opinion is NOT equal. Both Sides is BS. There is truth in the world, and we can know something about it.

And the Truth is that Trump is the villain in any story anyone could write, and if you are raising young men who want to wear the villain’s hat, you are raising them WRONG. If you are raising young men in a culture which okays harassing young women and screaming “MAGA!” at them, you are raising them WRONG. If you choose to send your kids to a school with zero diversity (actually zero on the staff, and close to zero diversity within the student body) and deny them the opportunity to grow up around different cultures, you are raising them WRONG. If you have enough money to send your sons to an expensive, all-boys private school, and you aren’t teaching them to use their privilege to HONOR and STAND UP FOR the rights of oppressed people, but instead they use their bodies and their voices to openly mock and disrespect them, you are raising them WRONG. If you aren’t educating your sons about the objectively racist past of religious and private schools in this country, you are simply doing it WRONG.

Covington Catholic is doing it WRONG… And if you are defending them, you are too.

 

This week has taken a lot out of me. It’s exhausting to to care this much, but this blog energizes me and fills me with Life… And part of that Life is the people who care enough to help support my writing. I seriously love you all. If YOU would like to support this blog, you can BECOME A PATRON. It’s easy, and it makes a big difference in my life. If you’d like to LEAVE A TIP ON PAYPAL, you can do that too. Please follow me on Twitter and on Facebook. Stay hopeful, get some rest, do good work, have some fun… Don’t give up.

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I Refuse To Let That Gillette Commercial Make Me Cry

No! Nope. No, goddammit. I mean, yes… Of COURSE I’m going to cry while watching it… That was a given. I have watched it three times so far, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t TELL SOMEONE about that commercial a month from now without tearing up. But that was always going to happen. What I’m saying is that I’m just not going to spend time in tears over the fact that there seem to be so many people who see something like this commercial — something so clearly Good, and something so clearly a moral step in a better direction — and yet they react with offense and anger and hatred. Here is the commercial that has everyone in an uproar:

There have been times in the past when something like “the political right’s” reaction to this would leave me feeling disillusioned and hopeless. I would have tried in vain to figure out how people could look at an ad showing men stepping in to hold each other accountable, calling on us to not equate masculinity with violence, and calling for better examples for young boys as something which could make people ANGRY.  I would have despaired over the seemingly insurmountable gulf between two groups of people — pulled in opposite directions — who can look at the same two minute commercial… One group seeing Goodness, and the other seeing an evil attack. But not today. Not this time. And here’s why: The people who look at this add and see an “attack on masculinity” are totally outnumbered.

When a company the size of Proctor & Gamble decides to invest money in a commercial like this, it is not because they are necessarily “trying to do the right thing.” Although, it should be mentioned that P&G is the same company that made this wonderful ad that aired during the Super Bowl…

They are making a business decision. They have done their research. Yes, there are going to be a bunch of misogynistic Jordan Peterson disciples who are going to get loud and angry. Yes, some trumpers are going to call for a boycott. And yes, there are going to be a few imbeciles taking pictures of their razors in the toilet…

But the vast majority of people who see this commercial see it for what it is: An obvious step in the right direction.

If you’re like me, it wasn’t Trump himself who was so disheartening… He is nothing more than a sad, hopelessly broken man who never learned to love anyone but himself. The REAL heartbreak and hopelessness came from the shocking number of people who could bring themselves to vote for such a person. Because it’s not the existence of a bully that will break your heart… It’s when so many people either support him or are indifferent to his bullying. And that’s why the election affected us (me) so much: Because it felt like we (I) might be wrong, and the Moral Arc of the Universe might NOT be bending toward justice.

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“Boys will be boys” is some serious bullshit.

But here’s the good news: If you find yourself despairing over how it is that so many people could be so backwards as to find this ad offensive, consider these 3 things: 1) Russia (and other countries) pay people and creates countless “bots” to get on comments sections of these sorts of issues and make horrible comments. Do you know why? Because those kinds of comments make people feel HOPELESS, and hopeless people are way less likely to participate in a democracy. A LOT of the awful comments (and the “likes” awful comments get) are created by bots and trolls. 2) Could Gillette have made a commercial like this even 10 years ago? Never. Think of how far we have come in the last decade. And yes, we all know how very far there is to go… But we are living through a GIANT shift in human consciousness. 100 years ago, women couldn’t even VOTE. When it feels like everything and everyone is getting worse, find a history book… And be encouraged. And last, but not least, 3) Proctor & Gamble is not in the business of losing money. They have done their research, and their research has shown them that speaking out against toxic masculinity is a GOOD business decision. Supporting the #MeToo movement, supporting women, speaking out against Toxic Masculinity — These are WINNERS when it comes to big business. Because that’s the direction human consciousness is heading… And that direction is GOOD.

So, sure… I’ll shed a few tears while watching the commercial — Though having a commercial make me tear up is nothing unusual for me. But I’m not going to let the angry reactions to that commercial succeed in making me feel sad or hopeless.  People who have become accustomed to privilege are always going to feel “oppressed” when they see others gaining equality. And fear is always going to make some people react with anger and hatred as humanity learns to be more compassionate. And there might even always be some white supremacist idiot somewhere serving fast food “hamberders” to a national championship football team… But don’t give up. And don’t be sad. There’s too much to celebrate.

 

Thank you so much for reading. You might have noticed I took some time off over the holidays. I hope the holidays where peaceful and sweet for you as well. If you value this place, and you’d like to help support me and my writing, you can BECOME A PATRON. If that’s not your style, but you’d like to leave a tip because you really liked something I wrote, you can LEAVE A TIP ON PAYPAL. Or you can just follow me on FACEBOOK or on TWITTER. Either way, if you read something you like (here or somewhere else), share it with the people in your life… Exposing people to new, different, and better ideas can change the world.

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My First Christmas As A Non-Believer

Last night I sat with some friends, and we talked about our favorite Christmas songs. For whatever reason, ever since I was a little kid I have always loved the version of “Little Drummer Boy” with David Bowie and Bing Crosby. I used to think I was one of the only ones who knew about it (the sort of thing people — especially we Enneagram 4s — used to think before social media), but now I know I’m am FAR from the only one who is aware of this beloved Christmas classic…

I just love it. It has just the right mix of playfulness and reverence and harmony and Hope. You probably don’t know this about me, but I can sit down at a piano and play just about any song by ear (As long as it’s something I’m familiar with)… It’s just something I can do. Anyway, one of my favorite Christmas traditions is sitting at my keyboard and doodling on the piano and filling the house with the sound of Christmas songs and carols. Maybe that’s why I love that video so much. I don’t know…

There are so many good Christmas songs. A friend reminded me of this one… It’s a song by Chris Rice called “Welcome To Our World.” It’s a precious song. I hadn’t thought of it in a while, so when I got home last night, I listened to it… Even if you’ve heard it before, you should listen to it again:

It’s strange for me to think about how much my theology has changed over the past 10 years. Last night I thought about the fourth verse of the song, where he sings…

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born

… and I found myself thinking about the God and the Christmas story of my youth… The one with the God who impregnated a teenager with a perfect child — God’s own son — All with the plan to have that perfect child grow into a perfect man, just to have him necessarily tortured and sacrificed on a cross, so that his “blood will save us.” And I thought to myself: “If that is the story of Christmas, I don’t believe anymore.” I don’t believe in the God who requires a blood sacrifice in order for us to be safe.

Because for most of the history of Christianity, this has been the story:
1) We are hopelessly broken and sinful, and deserving of an eternity of hell…
2) God is unapproachably holy…
3) God sends Jesus to die for our sins…
4) The son’s blood saves some of us (if we believe the right things) from the consequence we deserve, which is an eternity of torment and torture in Hell.

But this version of the “story” is based on the idea that there has to be a TRANSACTION. There is a PRICE that has to be paid… and that price is BLOOD. This is based on the foundational belief that there is no such thing as a free lunch… That there is always a transaction… That there is no way God could be so good as to not require one. Because — as the story goes — God is perfect, we are not, and the only way we could ever hope to get close to God is by someone paying a very steep price. And in the story we have told ourselves, the God of the universe uses a currency of blood. Something — SomeONE — has to die. That is the transaction.

And so, for the majority of human history, we have believed in a transactional god who requires our best… Who requires a sacrifice… Who requires blood. It is the Volcano God who requires a “pure” virgin to end the rumblings that shake the mountain… And even THEN, sometimes the Volcano erupts, the lava burns the village, and we tell ourselves that it must have been because we are so Totally Depraved that we DESERVED it. Human consciousness realizes that a god who needs us to sacrifice our kids could NEVER be called “Good,” and so — just like in the story of Abraham and Isaac — God provides a ram to be the blood transaction. But here’s the truth: God never needed the blood. WE did.

And then along comes Jesus, trying to convince the world that God is so much better than that Transactional God Who Requires Blood, and he gets killed for saying it… Killed by the very people who need that picture of the Transactional God Who Requires Blood to maintain their positions of power. And THEN, the people who were unable to imagine that God was actually like the Good Father Jesus described looked at Jesus’ death and said, “See? One final transaction! Except for that OTHER perpetual transaction of us having to believe all the right things (instead of making all the right sacrifices) in order to be safe, that is…”

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Umm… Is that a PALM TREE?!? Are there palm trees in Bethlehem? Also, is there a tiny camel/wiseman on top of that donkey? Are Mary & Joseph looking at their phones? WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING HERE?!?

I don’t believe in that story anymore. If that’s the story, I am a non-believer. But here’s the good news (the “gospel,” if you will): That is not the only story! They want you to believe that that is the only story, but it’s not. They told us that in order for people to believe that Jesus was worth anything, we also had to believe in the Volcano God. In order for Jesus to save us, he had to save us FROM the Transactional God Who Requires Blood. In order to believe that we needed saving, we needed to believe that God, as the song says, “saved a wretch like me.” But what if they got it wrong? Who told you you were a wretch? What if Jesus saves… Not FROM the Volcano God, but instead saves us from feeling like we need to believe that THAT’S who God is? And who we are?

What if the story of the baby born in a manger is about saving us — FREEING US — from the belief that our brokenness is too much for the God who loves us and longs to be close to us? A love so true and a longing so intense that it is willing to lower itself… For an eternal God to enter time… For an omnipotent God to limit their own power… For God to make herself vulnerable, and feel our pain… For God to reveal himself as Emmanuel — The God Who Has ALWAYS Been With Us…  The beautiful story of a child born in a manger, a king who rides on a donkey, and a God who flips the script by telling us that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

I don’t know if an angel spoke to shepherds. I don’t know if a great multitude appeared in the sky and started singing in Latin to a people who spoke Aramaic. I don’t know if a star appeared in the sky. I don’t know if wisemen from the East traveled from afar and followed that star (It would have taken them over a year to get there… and why in the world would Jesus, Mary, & Joseph still be hanging out in a Bethlehem manger a year later when they just visited for a census?). I don’t know if Herod heard of a newborn “king” and tried to kill all the male babies… It sounds a little too suspiciously like the story of Moses. I don’t know WHAT I believe anymore. But here’s something I DO believe: This video right here is pure magic. I can’t get through it without crying.

And I believe that God loves diversity. I believe that music can change the world. I believe that love and hope are stronger than fear and hatred. I believe that humanity is slowly but surely learning what it means to be made in the image of God. I believe that the hope represented in Jesus is bigger than Christmas or Christianity or the name “Jesus.” I believe that God is Good, and I believe that our brokenness is not too much for the Good God who loves us. I believe that it is not our right theology which saves us, but that we are safe because God is so very good. I believe we love God best when we take care of each other — Including the “each others” outside of our borders… And I believe that if the Nativity can’t teach you that one simple lesson, you’re probably not going to understand much else. And even though I don’t believe in the old Christmas story of my childhood anymore, I believe that something deep inside me still longs to stand with you and sing, “Oh come, let us adore him.”

I’ll leave you with David Bowie’s part from my favorite Christmas song:

Peace on Earth, can it be?
Years from now, perhaps we’ll see
See the day of glory
See the day when men of good will
Live in peace, live in peace again
Peace on Earth, can it be?

Every child must be made aware
Every child must be made to care
Care enough for his fellow man
To give all the love that he can

I pray my wish will come true
For my child and your child too
He’ll see the day of glory
See the day when men of good will
Live in peace, live in peace again

Peace on Earth, can it be?
Can it be?

So yeah… Maybe Christmas isn’t a statement. Maybe Christmas is a question. And maybe that question is “Peace on Earth… Can it be?” Regardless, my prayer and wish for us is that we give all the love that we can… And teach our kids to do the same. So Happy Holidays, and Merry Christmas… From this non-believer.

 

Thank you so much for reading. If you love this blog, and you want to leave a Christmas tip because of how much you appreciate it, you can do that ON PAYPAL. If you’d like to become a Patron and give a little each month, you can DO THAT RIGHT HERE. Otherwise, you can follow me ON FACEBOOK and ON TWITTER. And remember to get into an argument this Christmas (as long as it’s FOR ALL THE RIGHT REASONS).

 

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Dear Evangelicals: Here’s Your “Christian” President

I’ve known the Apostle’s Creed by heart since I was about five years old. It’s one of the things that happens when you grow up in a conservative little Christian Reformed Church in small town Michigan. We said it every Sunday. But really, anyone who’s ever spent any time in Church before has probably heard it. There are other Creeds, but the Apostle’s Creed (along with maybe the Nicene Creed) is probably the most famous. It’s meant to be a sort of bare-bones, bare minimum of beliefs people profess who want to call themselves Christians. Here are the words to it (though there are certainly different versions out there):

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

I remember the mesmerizing rhythm to it… The way the congregation magically knew EXACTLY how long to pause between phrases… The way we all took breaths at the same places… The way the S sounds danced in the words “communion of SAINTS, the forgiveness of SINS,” and then hung in the air for a bit…

For us, the thought of having to LOOK AT THE WORDS was just insane. EVERYONE who was “in” knew them by heart. If someone had to actually open the hymnal to read those words, they had to be a newbie. But good for them, you know? Cute little baby Christians. They’ll get it some day…  But the thought of someone standing there in silence as we recited that profession of faith was just… UNTHINKABLE. They would be outing themselves as a non-believer… Rebellious and Hell-bound… An apostate. Now take 10 seconds to watch the person 80% of White Christian Evangelicals voted for:

In fact — It’s short… watch it a few times. I’d be willing to bet that he and Melania are the only people in that church who are refusing to say the words to the Apostle’s Creed. And like I said before, there are multiple different versions of the AC, so reading the words in a setting like this is certainly understandable, lest you find yourself being the only one in the place saying “Catholic Church” while everyone else is saying “Christian”… or you find yourself being the only schmuck blurting out the word “Begotten.” But just observe how defiant he looks. This is the guy you chose. This is the guy all those FAKE “christian” leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress and Paula White (among MANY others) ASSURED you was “born again.”

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My beliefs have changed A LOT since my days of proudly reciting from memory the Apostle’s Creed while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other conservative Christians. If I broke down that Creed line by line, there are many of those lines I wouldn’t be able to sign off on… at least not without an asterisk or two. There are many people in the world who would say that I’m not a Christian anymore, because I don’t believe the “right” things… Because I’ve let go of the need for Hell, and the Monstrous God who would send us there with no hope of redemption… Because I believe there is nothing inherently “sinful” about being someone who is LGBTQ+… Because I believe that God ISN’T in control of everything… Because I believe that following Jesus is wholly incompatible with supporting the horrible and immoral man defiantly standing in silence as a whole church recites the Apostle’s Creed. But even though I may never darken the halls or sanctuary of a Church again, I still BELIEVE… I still FOLLOW… I still LOVE JESUS. And I could still stand next to them and corporately confess that fact.

What a total and complete shame and embarrassment it is that so many people calling themselves “christians” still support this broken, narcissistic man… A FAKE and FALSE Christian man willing to lie to ignorant church folks to win their vote, but not even willing to say the words at a funeral honoring a former president. And even though I whole-heartedly believe in God’s profound Goodness, I say this as sincerely as I ever have: Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.

I’ll leave you with this amazing tweet from an amazing woman. It’s the truth. I co-sign…

 

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