The Falseness of Dichotomies

I took a break from this blog for a while.  Seemed like everyone needed a cooling off period after the election.  I had a lot to say, but am trying to practice a very unnatural behavior for me–listening more, and telling less.  So I’ve been working a lot in the past month or so on listening (or more accurately, observing–engaging all of my perceptions to try to better understand).  One of the most significant observations I’ve made involves dichotomies.  I’ve been considering writing about this topic for weeks, but hadn’t fully formed the idea, so I kept observing, with the intent of developing a complete understanding of the idea, and the key learnings from the idea, which I would then inscribe in the electrons so that all could share in this well-packaged lesson.  Unfortunately, the writing style and underlying thought patterns of my 9th grade English teacher (thesis statement, three main points, each with three to four neatly packaged sub-points, all proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the thesis is true and fully described) just can’t seem to encapsulate the many branches, inconsistencies, dependencies, and variation of the idea rolling around in my head.  So, I’m giving up on neat packaging, and instead I’m going to embark on a thought-journey.  This will transpire across multiple posts–don’t know how many, how frequently, or, unfortunately the exact course it’s going to take.

Lest you think you’ve stumbled onto the digital footprints of a meandering fool, wandering aimlessly with no purpose or destination, I do have an objective for this journey.  I intend, when I’m done, to be better at  loving mankind (and thereby loving God).  I am going to continue to follow the compass that God gave me when I started this blog–the two quotes at the top of the page:  “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness” and “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Before I digress even further off course, let’s get to the topic at hand:  Dichotomy. defines the word as:

  1. division into two parts, kinds, etc.; subdivision into halves or pairs, or
  2. division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups: a dichotomy between thought and action.

That same website goes further to cite the entry from (who knew Britannica still existed?):

(from Greek dicha, “apart,” and tomos, “cutting”), a form of logical division consisting of the separation of a class into two subclasses, one of which has and the other has not a certain quality or attribute…. On the principle of contradiction this division is both exhaustive and exclusive; there can be no overlapping, and no members of the original genus or the lower groups are omitted. This method of classification, though formally accurate, has slight value in the exact sciences, partly because at every step one of the two groups is merely negatively characterized and is usually an artificial, motley class.

So where am I going with all this?  There is a strong tendency in human thought, particularly Western human thought (as opposed to Eastern thought–a dichotomy in and of itself, pointed out here as an example) to classify and characterize everything in an attempt to better understand it. (If you want to dig deeper, do some research into the closely related concept of binary opposition.  If you want to go really deep, I highly recommend the book Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman).  If you don’t want to do a lot of research, I’ll summarize (and somewhat overgeneralize) to say that we tend to be very efficient in processing the infinite amount of information we are constantly exposed to.  Our nature is to quickly analyze a thought, event, or person, and quickly classify them into a category, or series of categories.  Generally, these categories are mutually exclusive, which further enables us to place value judgments on the thought, event, or person.  In many situations, this is a useful process–back to the very basic friend/foe survival instincts.

What’s the problem?  While useful at the basic level of information processing, it can become dangerous when it precludes higher levels of thinking.  All of us witnessed examples of this (most likely externally and internally) during the recent US election cycle.  Red/blue, liberal/conservative, right/wrong…  the extreme occurred when red/blue became viewed as black/white; as polar opposites, rather than variations in a spectrum.

To avoid turning this into a political thread, let’s look at another potentially divisive issue in current events.  The news has been filled in recent weeks with brutal, unexplainable death.  Whether it’s the Samantha Koenig abduction/killing here in Alaska, the Jessica Ridgeway abduction and murder in Colorado, the Jovan Belcher murder/suicide in Kansas City, or this week’s brutal killing of innocent children in Connecticut, our universal reaction is to classify the perpetrator as evil, and to look for an easy explanation which will allow us to place the event and the perpetrator in a neat category so we can process the situation and move on.  Guns? Violent video games?  Poor parenting?  See, if we can place the cause in a nice, neat category, we can then either eliminate it, avoid it, or at least judge it.

I’m probably the most judgmental person I know.  I classify people all day long, starting with the commute to work each morning.  When I am not vigilant about my overwhelming tendency to make binary decisions, I can quickly categorize everyone I encounter throughout the day as incompetent, self-serving idiots, who are terrible drivers.  But, when I get to know those people, I find out that they’re not so easily characterized.

I’m going to close today’s post with an example from the headlines.  Jovan Belcher was a football player for my favorite sports team in the entire world, the Kansas City Chiefs.  Most of you had never heard of him until two weeks ago, when he made national news by shooting and killing his girlfriend and mother of his 3 month old daughter, then driving to the Chiefs practice facility, and in front of team leadership, pointing his gun at his own head and taking his life.  Many were quick to categorize Belcher:  murderer.  Evil.  Monster.  Some went so far as to pronounce that his suicide was a good thing.

I didn’t know Jovan, but I knew of him.  He had a great story.  Undrafted, worked his way up to starter.  Set the example on the field and at practice for his dedication and work ethic, his passion.  None of that excuses what he did.  But if you read much more than the headlines following that tragic event two weeks ago, you found that his teammates, many of whom were close not only to Jovan, but also to his girlfriend, were torn.  They couldn’t classify him as an evil monster.  They knew him.  They went so far as to say that they had no indication that he was capable of such brutality.  When it became personal, it wasn’t easy to categorize the man.

I’m going to stop here for today, with a request:  be aware this coming week to the dichotomies you use to make judgments and decisions.  How many of them are legitimate?  How many are oversimplifications?


Another Christian voice. Well said.


I am involved in politics, because I hate politics.

I hate politics because most people see it as their way of making a difference in their nation. If they get the person they want in political power then maybe things will look up. And in a democratic republic if everyone thinks this, then the losers will feel discouraged or offended – as though someone wanted their opinion but then ignored the advice they had to give.

I hate politics because people think that ALL of the principles they hold dear have some foundation in objective truth. Some policies and principles do. However, if you want to biblically talk about an economic structure and what would be ideal for our country, it seems that the bible is pretty silent. Christ told his disciples to pay high taxes to Caesar, the disciples and followers of Christ shared all their possessions within their…

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Today won’t fix anything

The final assault on my Facebook page began Monday, with political pictures, video links, and vitriolic diatribes against all things represented by each candidate, posted by determined acquaintances who are convinced the fate of the free world will be established Tuesday night.  Claims that will brand me as un-American, regressive, or non-Christian have sprouted everywhere.

Regardless of whom is announced as the next President of the United States, we won’t be any better (or worse) off tomorrow night.  What will make (or break) this country is what happens Wednesday, and beyond.

I really don’t care who gets elected President; I’m not particularly impressed with either candidate (FWIW, I’m not a fan of Ron Paul either).  Both Obama and Romney are career politicians, who ideologically aren’t really that far apart, if you objectively examine what they do.  They’re nothing more than blank canvasses painted up by their respective political handlers to resemble the picture which best represents their party’s opinion.  Neither candidate displays much leadership, much ability to work collaboratively to build a workable solution to the very real and complex problems that confront our nation.

If your hope for the future is hanging on the outcome of this election, you’re most likely going to find the next few years very disappointing.  No matter who prevails tomorrow, we’re very likely going to see four more years of the same stuff we witnessed for the last 12:  The prevailing party claiming a mandate for their divisive platform, and the losing party will immediately set out to attack, hinder, and smear any accomplishment of the new President, with a stated principal objective of defeating the President in four years.

Mr. President-elect (whomever you may be):  This country needs an Oval Office leader who can restore some unity and common purpose to our nation.  If you take Tuesday night’s results as a “mandate,” as some sort of ringing endorsement by the electorate for the full implementation of the divisive party platform you’ve been touting for the past months, you’re a fool.  Right now you’re in a statistical dead-heat, with less than 24 hours to the finish.  Particularly given the dissidence of this campaign, you can effectively expect that half of our nation is vigorously opposed to whatever you have in mind.

I pray that Wednesday morning, you, Mr. President-elect, will begin the process of healing our nation.  That has to start with an apology:  requesting forgiveness for labeling your opponent and half of the populace of this country as anti-American ignoramuses.  If your presidency starts with gloating, or pontificating about how you’re going to bring about a bright and glorious future under your brilliant leadership, we, as a nation, are royally, and quite possibly irreversibly, screwed.  If, on the other hand, you begin working with your counterparts, recognizing that we need to develop comprehensive solutions to complex problems in order to bolster our economy, provide jobs for our workers, and health care for all our people, you might just actually make a difference in the next four years, unlike your predecessors during the previous 12.

Both parties have done a great job in the last three presidential terms stonewalling progress in the name of political and ideological purity.  Until being an “American” is more important than being a Democrat/Republican, we will not see progress.  Bush wasn’t able to build his vision of the perfect nation because he had to spend much of his time fending off attacks from the opposition party.  Obama hasn’t been able to bring about “Change” for the same reason.  Guess what:  Romney won’t be able to make a difference either, until the climate in our homes, our churches, our Facebook pages, and our halls of government are cleared of the poisonous crap that we’ve been breathing and spewing for the past 12 years.  We need to stop demonizing those faceless forces of evil that occupy the opposite 49% of the political spectrum from you, and instead recognize that we’re all Americans, citizens of this nation who all have a right and privilege to be heard, considered, and respected, even if we don’t always disagree with them.  Romney can’t save our future.  Neither can Obama.  Only when we, THE PEOPLE, start respecting one another, stop fighting and bickering, finding fault, and castigating our neighbor, will we start seeing improvement.

I’ve spent this political season sitting on the fence, for reasons that are vitally important to me, and won’t completely make sense to any of you.  And I have to tell you that the view from here stinks.  No matter which direction I look, I don’t see brotherly love; I see xenophobic hate.  Wednesday, it’s time for a national attitude change.

Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.  -Jesus Christ, Matthew 12:25

Stop being so Irrational!

A few months ago I read a most intriguing, intellectually challenging book that provides incredible insight on how people think.  Written by Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist who won the 2002 Nobel Prize for Economics, Thinking, Fast and Slow is an amazingly informative read if you’re remotely interested in how people think and make decisions, and why.  Based on Kahneman’s several decades of professional research, the book is also an incredibly difficult read that will make you painfully aware of just how lazy your System 2 can be.  So what does this all have to do with my insulting imperative in the title?  Did you catch the part about him being a psychologist who won the Nobel in Economics?  In part it’s because Kahneman’s research stood all of modern accepted economic theory on its ear.  See, economics is based on an assumption that humans are rational decision-makers.  Kahneman proves that assumption is glaringly false.  You are irrational (and so am I).  Worse than that–we like it that way.

So what, you say?  Well, for starters, your irrationality causes you to make some really poor decisions.  I won’t attempt to try to summarize all of a 498 page book on how people think, but one concept Kahneman and other students of decision-making have explored is extremely relevant today.  I’ve been struggling for quite some time to understand why large numbers of extremely intelligent people who I know (and many more that I don’t) can be so easily deceived by information, statistics, and sound bites that are sensational and powerfully emotive, that with minimal basic research will prove to be manipulatively misleading, if not totally inaccurate.  Kahneman, and those who have built upon his research, have given description and supportive research to a behavioral bias that I have observed on my own: our human tendency is to look for evidence to support what we already believe, and to avoid or discount any evidence which contradicts our beliefs.  Referred to in decision-making as the supporting evidence bias, variants also appear in scientific research (the systematic positive bias).

Two (potentially) big problems here:

1)  WYSIATI:  Kahneman identifies a phenomenon in thinking that he refers to as “What You See Is All There Is.”  When operating in our “fast-thinking” mode (System 1), we tend to make snap, intuitive decisions based on the information readily at hand, as if that’s all the information that exists.  Unfortunately, it’s those things that we don’t know about which can often cause us the most harm (as former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld so famously and accurately opined).

  Example:  A school teacher living in the Midwest earns $30,000 per year.  In an effort to improve her standard of living, she seeks teaching jobs in other parts of the country, and takes a job teaching in Bush Alaska paying $60,000 per year.  While expecting to double her income and her standard of living, she fails to take into account that the cost of basic necessities in Bush Alaska can be double to quadruple the cost of the same items in the Midwest.  By failing to consider the unknowns, and failing to seek evidence to disprove her assumptions, she inadvertently lowered her standard of living.

2)  Failing to seek contrary information can lead to inaccurate results:  A more clinical example here.

“Students were given the sequence of numbers 2, 4, 6 and told to determine the rule that generated the numbers. To check hypotheses, they could choose a possible next number and ask whether that number was consistent with the rule. Most students asked whether a next number “8” would be consistent with the rule. When told it was, they expressed confidence that the rule was, “The numbers increase by 2.” Actually, the rule was, “Any increasing sequence.” A better test would have been to check whether a next number incompatible with the hypothesis (e.g., “7”) was consistent with the unknown rule.”

In other words, you’re irrational.  But so am I, and Dr. Kahneman even acknowledges that he is too.  Now you’re aware that you have a problem-what are you going to do about it?  Here’s what I have done:

1)  Make it a habit when facing difficult, important, or costly decisions, to deliberately seek to disprove my preferred position.  This is incredibly difficult to do, but it’s powerful.  First, though, I have to acknowledge I have a bias, and make a concerted effort to set the bias aside while I attempt to prove the opposite.

2)  Deliberately seek experiences that are outside my comfort and familiarity (within reason here…).  Read things I disagree with.  Listen to both Fox News and MSNBC.  Better yet, seek primary sources to understand the full details of what was said or written, not just the selectively re-broadcast sound bites.  Cultivate friendships with people who believe differently than me.  Notice I said “friendships.”  They’re my friends.  I love and respect them.  I get to know them for who they are, and I appreciate them.  Then when I find myself in disagreement with them over an idea, I can more readily seek first to understand and appreciate their position, even if I still disagree.  Sometimes, I even find out that I’m less than fully informed!

3)  Assume that I don’t have all the information, and when I find that I am dumbfounded by the stupidity of others who can’t see the solution that is so right and obvious to me, recognize that I am almost assuredly operating under WYSIATI.

I’ll leave you with what is arguably my favorite quote from almost 500 pages of deep, intriguing thoughts:  “We know that people can maintain an unshakable faith in any proposition, however absurd, when they are sustained by a community of like-minded believers” (Kahneman, 217).

Supporting evidence bias is inherently irrational, and it’s hurting our culture today.  I want to think better.

Sharing a Post: Why I am a Christian Democrat

First, I am NOT a Christian Democrat (or a Christian Republican, for that matter), and thought quite a bit about changing the title, but thought it might get more people to look if I left it as is.  I read this blog, and found it an interesting, well thought counter-perspective to folks who believe that if you’re a “real” Christian, you must vote Republican.  Part of the theme of this blog is to seek first to understand, meaning we should make a real, concerted, objective effort to understand the positions of others, so I share this for your consideration.

Why I am a Christian Democrat.

Christianity and Presidential Politics

If you look back at the history of this blog, political issues seem to give me something to write about.  The thing is, the more I see of political discourse today, the less interested I am in participating (this from a guy with a Bachelors in Economics, a minor in Political Science, and a penchant to argue about anything).  I’ve resisted the urge so far to comment, pontificate, or otherwise engage in the acrid cesspool of 2012 American political discourse.  If you know me at all, you should admire my restraint, because I’ve seen the gamut of name-calling, stereotyping, and general human-bashing, and at times been the victim of it, from both sides of the political battlefield (it’s no longer a spectrum–it’s two fairly neatly polarized ideologies, with little tolerance for moderation, let alone differing opinion).

So why don’t I just keep my thoughts to myself, and not add to the cacophony?  Several reasons:

  • What’s getting represented as “Christian thought” in the debate doesn’t align with my understanding of Christ’s teachings.
  • I believe when we personalize the beliefs we’re discussing, applying them to real individuals that we actually know, we have the greatest chance of considering a differing viewpoint as something more than the misinformed understanding of a bumbling idiot, or the evil scheme of a mastermind intent on ruining the world.  I’m hoping that those who know me can look past our disagreements (and I’ll bet that not one of you will agree with me on every point) and consider the validity of the thought, and more importantly the person who had the thought, even if you choose not to adopt it.
  • I believe that the biggest threat to our nation today is not Iran, Al Qaeda, the budget deficit, abortion, health care reform, big business, illegal immigration, or the restriction or proliferation of guns.  It’s the de-humanizing and depersonalization of our fellow man.  By withdrawing from the debate, as much as I would prefer to do so, I am abdicating the fight against this threat.  And that’s not my way.

Christians in America today have lost our focus, and in the process of trying to “reclaim” America for God, we’ve given away our credibility in our culture.  We are mocked for our lack of compassion, lack of intellect, and lack of moral values.  Jesus healed the sick…we rail against government-funded health care for our poor (more commonly referred to as the welfare bums), yet offer no solutions of our own.  Our nation is hungry for hope and change, yet we offer them nothing more than stifling restrictions and government intervention.  Jesus didn’t give us a set of rules, he gave us a change of our very heart.  The rules method didn’t work out so well in overcoming man’s evil nature in Jesus’ day, why should we think that outlawing abortion, gay marriage, etc, will induce Godly values 2000 years later?  Our morality is totally inconsistent:  We mourn the death of millions of unborn children, yet advocate for the death penalty and dehumanize birthed humans who don’t ascribe to our religious or political beliefs.  Most frighteningly, we tell the world that Jesus is the only hope for mankind, yet wring our hands and proclaim our doom at the prospect of a nation ruled by a political candidate whom we don’t agree with.

Before all of my Christian acquaintances de-friend me, let me say that I’m first and foremost accusing myself.  I was the worst offender in almost all of these areas not all that long ago.  Those are stories for another day, but I can assure you that in my past, I could out-Conservative just about any one of you reading this, no matter how far right you are.  But God has taken me on a journey where he keeps confronting me with Jesus’s teachings contrasted with my attitudes and actions, and then gently asks me, “Which will it be?  You can’t serve both.  Is Jesus Lord of your life, or are you?  If Jesus is your savior, then Mitt Romney (or Barack Obama) can’t be.”

So where is God in presidential politics?  I honestly don’t know.  And it really doesn’t matter.  No president is going to win America for God.  Billy Graham couldn’t have won America for God if he was president.  And if the Christians in our country today keep thinking we’re going to transform this nation through politics, we are going to fail our God.  Because if you believe the Bible you read, God “deposes kings and raises up others“, not us.  Depending on your exegesis of that passage and  your particular theological bent, you can interpret it to mean that God picks every political leader, or that he chooses at times to intervene to empower or depose particular leaders.  Regardless of your interpretation, I don’t think political campaigns are where God wants us focused.

While it’s true that the concept of democratic election of leaders wasn’t relevant in Jesus’ time, I see nothing in his teaching that should lead us to focus on political solutions to our nation’s problems.  Jesus’ world was rife with many of the same cultural issues we face in America today.  He didn’t solve them by political action (much to his followers’ chagrin).  He transformed hearts with the love of God, manifest in the real, practical outworking of that love, impacting the lives of those around him.

Voting in the election of our next President is a foundational attribute of the nation that I dedicated most of my adult life to serving, and it’s my civic duty.  I don’t take it lightly, and haven’t missed an opportunity to cast my vote in any election since I voted for Uncle Ronnie’s re-election (man, I miss that guy!).  But my hope is not in politics, and my energies aren’t there either.  My spiritual commission is to make disciples (committed followers of Jesus), teaching them (meaning all I have influence with) to practice the things Jesus taught.  He didn’t teach political activism, he taught us to love God and love our fellow man (all of them, even the heathen Muslims).  And we demonstrate that love not by imposing legalized morals on them, but by walking out God’s love in front of them, and manifesting it to them, in such a compelling way that they can’t resist his love.

Me loving God and my neighbor won’t change the world, but it will change my neighbor.  And if each of us were to love our neighbor, and they did the same, pretty soon, God’s love would spread across this nation, and that would change the world.

Hawaii Senate ends daily prayer in chamber

This news article ran yesterday in the Washington Post. It seems the ACLU was threatening to sue to halt prayer the daily practice of prayer to begin each day’s session.

I have several thoughts on this.

First, if you read the comments section of this article, many of those who appear to support prayer (which one would presume mean they claim to be Christian) certainly don’t help the cause by making comments declaring God’s judgment on the state, it’s government, or its citizens. Last time I checked, God was pretty clear that judging was his responsibility, not ours, and that those who falsely proclaimed his judgment (in other words, say “Thus saith the LORD” without clearly hearing Him direct them to say it) are not looked on favorably.

Second, Although I’m a ferocious advocate of prayer in ALL situations, I’m not certain that prayer sanctioned by the government is what God desires, or is even very effective. The article stated that they were already prohibited from prayers that mention a specific deity. What good is that? I believe that the fervent prayers of the true believers within that legislative body, offered up in the name of Jesus, will be much more pleasing to God than milquetoast happy thoughts addressed to whatever random spirits that happen to be listening to the formal, mandatory invocation that ceremonially (religiously?) starts their work day. If that means that the believers in their midst should gather together in Christian fellowship BEFORE the legislative session begins, to jointly offer corporate prayer to GOD asking for his protection of their state and their legislative body, his wisdom and guidance for their actions throughout the upcoming day, then PRAISE GOD and THANK YOU ACLU! Maybe, just maybe, if they started doing that, God might unleash his power and favor in their midst, and the believers might see their numbers grow… possibly to the point that all of the Senators might voluntarily join in their prayer group out of their devotion to God, not out of compulsion.

Third, many Christians in America today want to protect what we perceive to be Christian principles in our government, be it through “In God We Trust” on our currency, or “under God” in our pledge, or corporate prayer in our official assemblies. But our Founding Fathers had broad views on the relationship of religion and government, reaching recorded consensus only to direct that

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

It’s my humble opinion that the Hawaii Senate is only following the intent of the Constitution and their citizens. If the only way to comply with the prohibition of establishment is to water down our prayer so that we can’t call on YHWH or Jesus, then who needs the prayer? Christians should also consider this: If we insist that prayer should be an established beginning of government assemblies, are we OK when that prayer is offered to Allah? Because it’s not inconceivable that one day the majority of citizens of some local government might be Muslim. I personally would rather have NO corporate prayer than be a part of corporate prayer offered to Allah, Buddha, or Mother Earth.

Are we really protecting Christian principles or merely Christian practices? I would submit that we can and should be more interested in the principles (compassion for our fellow man, maybe even a little love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control) and maybe the practices will take care of themselves.

No, Sarah, you’re wrong on this one…

Just finished reading the transcript of Sarah Palin’s “America’s Enduring Strength” video.

Following some well-spoken and I’m sure heart-felt words of sympathy, Sarah missed an incredible opportunity to speak for positive change. Instead, she felt the need to defend herself against opinions that took offense to some arguably offensive political rhetoric.

I am no longer a fan of Mrs. Palin, although I was for quite some time. I began to have mixed opinions of her during the presidential campaign. I was sorely disappointed in her when she resigned as governor, but held out hope that she would take advantage of her unique position and popularity to make a positive difference. She has made a difference, but I personally don’t see it as positive, and in the process she’s demonstrated what I perceive to be poor judgment.

Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions.

Yes, but there are limits to what is considered “spirited” debate; too much symbolism of weapons might just start blurring the lines.

…within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

So is using a term so full of hatred and discrimination to respond in your own defense. What might have been useful was a little self-reflection. As tempting as it is to immediately defend one’s actions when criticized, it’s a better idea to consider if the criticism has some value. I don’t think anyone who criticized Palin’s targets (“surveyor marks”? Seriously?) was accusing her of deliberately or maliciously contributing to the attack. I think there was a legitimate point that her inflammatory speech probably crossed a line that thoughtful people attempt to refrain from crossing. Perhaps Mrs. Palin didn’t see that line until it was too late, or until someone pointed it out to her–I’m guilty of that error all too often. And I’ve often been defensive about it, particularly if I speak without thinking first. But I’m trying to work on becoming a better, more self-controlled, less offensive member of society, so my previous behavior shouldn’t be held up as a model. Since Mrs. Palin’s every public move these days appears to be considered and polished, I’m sure she had time to think about whether or not she might have crossed a line. Obviously she doesn’t think she did. I respectfully disagree.

There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those “calm days” when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols?

Apparently, Mrs. Palin sees the line as somewhere in the vicinity of the use of dueling pistols, although she doesn’t clearly state which side of the line said illegal activity falls on in her eyes.

In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial.

I agree! Unfortunately, Mrs. Palin’s next sentence starts with “But…” and she begins to tell us how the Founding Fathers seemed to be approving of less than civil discourse because they created a system that allowed for it. However, Mrs. Palin, I believe our leaders should set an example of how we should all aspire to behave.

No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent, and we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good. And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults.

At this point I wanted to go running to “Google”. Couldn’t this have been turned around to apply to some of her reactions to dissenters?

“…Those who embrace evil and call it good.” Huh? Where did that happen? Did I miss someone calling this incident good? Sorry, this doesn’t make any sense, and it seems inflammatory to me.

We are better than the mindless finger-pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy. We will come out of this stronger and more united in our desire to peacefully engage in the great debates of our time, to respectfully embrace our differences in a positive manner…

The irony screams at me from these two sentences: How can we be “united in our desire to peacfully engage in the great debates…” when a dissenting opinion is labeled “mindless finger-pointing” to be endured???

I’m sorry, Mrs. Palin, but just because down at the Mug Shot Saloon, people start calling names, speaking in hyperbole, and denigrating their opponent in a disagreement, that does not make it acceptable for the leaders of our nation to do so. You aspire to leadership, but leadership demands a higher standard of behavior than that of the common man. Our Founding Fathers were not common men, they were statesmen. They understood that just because something is legal doesn’t make it right. If you hope to be a leader, you need to demonstrate that you understand that words have power, and leaders’ words have influence, and must be considered carefully. You also could stand a large dose of humility; you should consider that you might have made a mistake. It’s OK, all of us humans do. The more noble humans will admit to mistakes, and learn from them.


“But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized -– at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do -– it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds….

“But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other….

“As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.

“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate — as it should — let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle….

“… if, as has been discussed in recent days, their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy — it did not — but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud.

“We should be civil because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American Dream to future generations.” -President Barack Obama, 1/12/2011

Well said, Mr. President.

"We have arrived at the moment of truth…"

19 intelligent, experienced leaders from US government and industry spent 8 months studying the current US economic situation for 8 months with a a mandate to “identify to the President policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run.” More specifically, The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform was tasked to produce a plan to balance the Federal budget by 2015, and to address the long term growing gap between revenue and expenditures of the Federal government.

Their report is 59 pages long. It’s not overly complicated, and it’s not a cure-all, but it is a worthwhile read for EVERY American. Too many of us are standing around, wringing our hands, attending rallies, and ranting on blogs, but not really doing anything to educate ourselves on the problem or possible solutions.

They have some radical recommendations. They call for shared sacrifice. Guess what? They recognize that we’re not going to be able to balance the budget on the backs of “the other guys”. We all get to share in the pain.

I like it. Some smart people put aside self-interests, and came up with some concrete proposals. Unfortunately, it seems just in the short time since their report has been published, very little has been taken seriously. I’m afraid we’re going to see this one dry up and blow away, and we’ll be in a deeper hole in 5 years.

Have you read it? What are your thoughts? What are you willing to give up, or are you hoping that everybody else sacrifices so you don’t have to?