Random DJB Thoughts, The Times We Live In, Weekly Reader
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Weekly Reader: Are we as divided as the press suggests?

The Weekly Reader is an occasional feature with short descriptions and links to a variety of articles that I found worth considering this week. I hope some of them will interest you as well.

From John Stoehr at The Editorial Board we learn that America Isn’t as Divided as You Think.

“The language we use to describe political reality can create its own reality so we end up fighting over a fiction, not a fact,” notes Stoehr. “(W)e’ve always been divided in one way or another, because the United States is a federation of different regions and states.” But using the anti-democratic Electoral College to describe our division is using the wrong frame. Remember, Trump could have won the Electoral College but lost by 7.1 million votes.

What each stood for and against matters, too. Biden for order, union and cooperation. Trump for chaos, disunion and negation. Biden stood for equal human rights and against fascist collectivism. Trump stood for inequality in all its forms and against republican democracy. Talking up a divided America is privileging the loser over the winner. The privilege ought to go to the candidate who brought as much unity as it’s possible to bring to a country as heterogeneous as ours. It should go especially to the 81,283,485 people who smashed all the old records to save our democratic republic.

In Religion Dispatches, Chrissy Stroop writes that America’s National Conversation About Christianity is “Fundamentally Unserious” — But Not in the Way You Think.

Stroop argues that “the United States, an ostensibly secular country, has a de facto Christian public sphere.”

If we want to have a serious conversation about Christianity in the United States, we must consider the ways in which Christian hegemony harms others, including through its normalization of Christian extremism. Instead of systematically silencing the voices of leavers, nonbelievers, and religious minorities in discussing Christianity and “religious freedom,” any serious discourse on these matters must include us as stakeholders in hashing out a fair and equitable approach to American pluralism.

Indeed, any serious discussion needs to start from a place of acknowledging the ways in which the often unacknowledged white Christian hegemony in this country harms those who are othered by conservative Christians—not least youth raised in conservative Christian environments who are unable to conform, and LGBTQ youth in particular.

We may have a winner for the article that shows how utterly insane our values have become in America. Writing in Slate, Jason Kirk observes that Alabama’s Highest-Paid State Employee in a Pandemic Year Will Be a Fired Football Coach.

After nearly a decade of Auburn fans bouncing between Fire Gus years and Keep Gus years, the Tigers fired coach Gus Malzahn after their regular season–ending win over Mississippi State. Per his contract, Malzahn—who had eight winning seasons in eight years—is now due $21.5 million in severance, half of it within 30 days. That means Alabama’s highest-paid state employee during this fiscal year, a pandemic year, will be an unemployed football coach. (Counting salaries plus buyouts, fired coaches top several state budgets every year, though those funds largely come from athletic department revenue and private boosters.)

I’m sorry, but no football coach is worth anywhere near that type of money. Ever.

Robert Glazer, in a recent Friday Forward, speaks to what Being Credible means in the real world (and not politics).

“(Former Trump lawyer Sidney) Powell and (Denver Mayor Michael) Hancock’s examples prompted me to consider the importance of credibility in leadership and how it is defined,” writes Glazer. Leaders must show competence and character to be credible, “both of which were absent in these two examples.”

Competence is demonstrated through expertise, consistency and objective factual evidence. Think about someone in your life who you consider competent. Do they change their story every day? Do they peddle conspiracy theories? Would you give them your life savings to manage or trust them with your kids?

Similarly, demonstrating character requires being trustworthy and authentic. It means a person’s word can be relied upon, and that there is consistency between what they do and say.

In a story originally on Quartz but reposted to Pocket, Cassie Werber has a fascinating look at How Non-English Speakers Learn This Crazy Grammar Rule You Know But Never Heard Of.

(S)ome of the most binding rules in English are things that native speakers know but don’t know they know, even though they use them every day. When someone points one out, it’s like a magical little shock.

In 2016, for example, the BBC’s Matthew Anderson pointed out a “rule” about the order in which adjectives have to be put in front of a noun….” 

Werber quotes “professional stickler Mark Forsyth” in noting that adjectives…

“absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac.”

Mixing up the above phrase does, as Forsyth writes, feel inexplicably wrong (a rectangular silver French old little lovely whittling green knife…), though nobody can say why. It’s almost like secret knowledge we all share.


And in my “graphic language warning section,” I’ll end with the notorious Shower Cap in his American Madness Journal. If you can take the language and the frat house humor directed toward Republicans, you can read the entirety of Please! No More Winning! It’s Like a Goddamn Kesha Song in Here! But the paragraph I really want to highlight deals with the right wing outrage theatre, which is surely going to zoom into high gear now that they no longer hold the presidency.

The weekend provided an insightful little lesson on the mechanisms of Wingnut Outrage Theatre: the Wall Street Journal dug up some crusty old chauvinist to puke out an almost satirically condescending op-ed shi**ing on Dr. Jill Biden, that uppity broad, for having the audacity to use the title she earned through years of hard work. Following the entirely predictable (and deliberately provoked) avalanche of pushback, the editorial page gleefully published a non-apology so cynical they surely had it prepped in advance, bemoaning the thousand tyrannies of “cancel culture,” because the tree of conservative victimhood must be refreshed from time to time with the crocodile tears of mediocre white dudes.

That last line is so delicious, I pulled it out and put it in as this week’s “More to Consider” quote. We need to remind ourselves of this fake outrage at least once per week for the next four (and hopefully more) years of a Democratic administration. Remember the audacity of tan suits?

That’s enough for now. Enjoy!

More to come…


Image by USA-Reiseblogger from Pixabay


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.

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