All posts filed under: The Times We Live In

Addressing the challenges of our polarized times

Stop Reporting on the Impeachment Inquiry as if Nothing has Changed Since Watergate

The Mainstream Media (MSM) is largely taking it on the chin for their coverage of the first day of the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry. They earned the ridicule, from my perspective.  Here are two quick examples. First, NBC News and Reuters both complained about a lack of pizzazz in the hearings. They were rightly taken to the woodshed by thoughtful commentators and by late night comics (who, come to think of it, are now among our most reliable branch of thoughtful commentators.) That “If it doesn’t involve sex or drugs, it is dull” type of coverage isn’t just lazy, it is irresponsible journalism, and the MSM should be better than this. As is often the case, Alexandra Petri in the Washington Post had one of the best satirical responses to this nonsense in her, “Hey, I got your first draft of the Impeachment Hearings. Here’s what it needs!” My thought was, who died and left Eric Trump—with his “horribly boring” and “Snoozefest” tweet—to set the ground rules for how to cover the impeachment inquiry of his …

Connecting to Our Best Selves

The Honorable Elijah E. Cummings, who represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District which included his beloved city of Baltimore, passed away on October 17th. His was an especially difficult death for many of us to process, because he regularly and effectively spoke truth to power at a time when that trait is sorely lacking in our civic conversation. Yesterday’s Washington Post had a Cummings op-ed written in July entitled We Are in a Fight for the Soul of Our Democracy. It began, “As I pen these words, we are living through a time in our nation’s history when powerful forces are seeking to divide us one from another; when the legitimacy of our constitutional institutions is under attack; and when factually supported truth itself has come under relentless challenge. I am among those who have not lost confidence in our ability to right the ship of American democratic life, but I also realize that we are in a fight — a fight for the soul of our democracy. As an American of color, I have been …

Something More Significant

In her 2018 study Leadership in Turbulent Times, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin tackles a subject that could not be more relevant. Drawing on the life and lessons of four U.S. presidents, Goodwin holds up the achievements, foibles, and resilience of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. She examines how each came to be known for leadership as they dealt with civil war, the inequalities of the Industrial Age, the twin crises of global economic depression and war, and, finally, the struggle for civil rights. Leadership, in other words, in times of crisis and transformation. Something like the times we are in at the moment. I’m in the midst of reading Goodwin’s study. However, her examination in the opening chapter of the young Abraham Lincoln, and one quality she calls out from that period, came to mind this week after hearing the hate speech of the current resident of the White House directed at Somali Americans in Minnesota. In contrast to the powerful having a sense that they can bully and hurt …

Religious Freedom and the American Experiment

Few things set my father into action more than news of some fellow Baptist or other Evangelical Christian trampling over the doctrine of the separation of church and state in order to advance the views of their personal brand of religion or to persecute a faith community they saw as un-American. That rare breed of liberal Southern Evangelical Christian, my father was a regular on the Letters to the Editor page of the local newspapers, as he worked to tell his neighbors why Baptists—of all denominations—should cherish religious freedom. Just before he died, my father—a proud member of the Religious left—sent in his last letter on the topic, in response to Tennessee’s consideration of naming The Bible the official State Book. As one of his neighbors described the letter to me at his funeral, “It was a good one!” Suffice it to say that Tom Brown would have appreciated Steven Waldman’s new book, Sacred Liberty: America’s Long, Bloody, and Ongoing Struggle for Religious Freedom as a welcome addition to our understanding of this important right. Waldman’s 2019 …

Resisting the Pressure of Reality

Labor Day is a time to refocus and rejuvenate. Facebook feeds are full of pictures of students heading off to the first day of school. Summer vacations are wrapped up and business activity picks up. After the news lull of the summer months . . . Wait . . there was no summer news lull? Unless you were disciplined enough to cut off your electronic devices and stop your newspaper deliveries, I suspect you know about Greenland and Denmark. The proposed nuclear (as in bomb) response to hurricanes. Our where-do-we-stand-this-hour trade war with China. Immigrant children dying in U.S. custody. Home-grown domestic terrorists killing men, women, and children in never-ending mass shootings. An unwillingness on the part of one of our political parties to protect our system of electing the country’s leaders. Dismantling of critical environmental protections. Selling off public land to the highest bidder. Disarray in the G-7. Staggering income inequality and a wildly fluctuating stock market. And that was just last week. I fear we are coming to a point where many will …

Why Labor Day Matters

We may hear more about “Back to School” sales this weekend than we do about why we celebrate Labor Day. I’ll do my little part to rectify that problem. Labor Day has been around in one form or another since the 1880s, highlighting the work of trade and labor organizations and their members. However, unions and workers have both taken a beating in recent decades, as financial interests have fought to rollback or restrict the gains made by the working classes over the years. I grew up in the South and saw first-hand the open hostility to unions. The powers that be wanted cheap labor and they used all sorts of tools to ensure that they succeeded. I was reminded of the promise and challenge of Labor Day while reading one of my posts from 2015 on the designation of Pullman, just outside Chicago, as a National Monument. Pullman, if you do not know the history, is a remarkably intact industrial town of historic buildings and landscapes. Located 13 miles south of downtown Chicago, it …

All Men Are Created Equal, Except . . .

Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter in 1855 to Joshua F. Speed that became famous for the future president’s stand against the anti-immigration Know-Nothing Party. Lincoln and Speed met during the 1830s and remained friends even though their views differed on slavery. Speed grew up on a plantation and owned slaves. A turning point in Lincoln’s life that rekindled his interest in politics was the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and opening the territories to slavery. It was in this context that the 1855 letter was written. In referring to the nativist Know-Nothing Party—which came out of a secret society in the 1850s and was primarily anti-Catholic, xenophobic, and hostile to immigration—Lincoln used his letter to make his point of view very clear: “I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. . . .Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we begin by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except …