John Pavlovitz is a minister in Wake Forest, NC. I share one of his recent blog posts in which he expresses amazement at the discord and bitterness now being sown throughout the country. I could not agree more.
“I’ll never understand it.
As long as I live, it will never really make sense to me.
Yeah, I’ve read all the research, analyzed all the data, digested a thousand think pieces, and watched countless late night cable TV commentaries over the past four years—and all of them together still don’t add up to this.
They don’t explain once rational, otherwise decent, educated people fully taking leave of their senses: people I’ve grown up with, served on mission trips with, families who’ve had my kids over for sleepovers, older relatives I spent decades aspiring to become, ministers I once respected for their compassion—a rapidly growing army of people who I was sure knew better than this.
Nothing adequately explains their complete rejection of Science. Nothing completely accounts for them instantly embracing the most nonsensical of conspiracies. Nothing truly prepared me for their social media explosions of racism. Nothing fully connects the dots between their past goodness and this present ugliness.
I can microscopically parcel out every conceivable contributing factor: white supremacy, the pro-life lie, Fox News propaganda, toxic masculinity, Evangelical indoctrination, intellectual laziness, manipulated nationalism, unchecked capitalism, hatred for Hillary, political fatigue, disenfranchisement, fear of replacement, and celebrity worship:
They fail to adequately explain how I lost people I loved and respected.
They don’t cushion the pain of these separations. They don’t make it easier for me to grieve the loss of living people. They don’t comfort me in these relational funerals.
And as much as I am in mourning, I know that these people are likely similarly grieving me right now; that they too are lamenting their own list of ways they imagine I’ve changed or lost the plot or abandoned my convictions or betrayed my religion—and they’re wondering where they lost me.
I think that’s the smaller, more devastating story we’re not telling right now; the one far below the bold type trending news.It isn’t America’s clear compound fractures of partisan battles, issue differences, loud tribalism, and attention-stealing sideshow press conferences that are doing the greatest damage right now.The real mortal wound to this nation is coming from the relational internal bleeding measured around kitchen tables and in church pews and in neighborhoods.It is the interpersonal separations that we’re all experiencing: hundreds of millions of losses to collectively mourn every day.
We’re not just being pulled apart along political lines, but the fragile, time-woven fabric of our most intimate connections with people are being torn in two right now.Marriages, families, lifelong friendships, faith communities, and social circles that survived every previous assault from within and without—may not survive this presidency.
And the worst part, is that the election results aren’t going to fix this.
They’re going to leave half of us elated and the other half sickened—and that emotional divide is only going to grow and strain to sever the already tenuous ties between us.There will certainly be a massive wave of ghostings and unfriendings, more silent disconnections and explosive middle-finger send-offs, more aborted family gatherings and cold silences with our neighbors.There will be a greater separation in the small and the close spaces where life is truly measured—and I’m not sure how we prevent or repair it.
I imagine some relationships will manage to survive this beyond November—if we invest in them, if we keep listening, if we have willing participants in mutual understanding—but others will not, and that’s probably necessary.Maybe we’ve simply seen too much about the deepest contents of people’s hearts to ever feel safety in their presence again.Maybe we’ll never feel like they are home for us anymore.
Either way, we need to name and reckon with this very specific and metastatic grieving: the accumulating losses of people we love who are still here, the death of our relationships.
For decades the U.S. has pounded it’s chest and justifiably been viewed as one of the free world’s brightest lights. However, a recent report by the Pew Research Center that surveyed more than 13,000 people in 13 countries shows that our image is rapidly falling.
Here is an excerpt from the report:
“Since Donald Trump took office as president, the image of the United States has suffered across many regions of the globe. As a new 13-nation Pew Research Center survey illustrates, America’s reputation has declined further over the past year among many key allies and partners. In several countries, the share of the public with a favorable view of the U.S. is as low as it has been at any point since the Center began polling on this topic nearly two decades ago.
For instance, just 41% in the United Kingdom express a favorable opinion of the U.S., the lowest percentage registered in any Pew Research Center survey there. In France, only 31% see the U.S. positively, matching the grim ratings from March 2003, at the height of U.S.-France tensions over the Iraq War. Germans give the U.S. particularly low marks on the survey: 26% rate the U.S. favorably, similar to the 25% in the same March 2003 poll.
Part of the decline over the past year is linked to how the U.S. had handled the coronavirus pandemic. Across the 13 nations surveyed, a median of just 15% say the U.S. has done a good job of dealing with the outbreak. In contrast, most say the World Health Organization (WHO) and European Union have done a good job, and in nearly all nations people give their own country positive marks for dealing with the crisis (the U.S. and UK are notable exceptions). Relatively few think China has handled the pandemic well, although it still receives considerably better reviews than the U.S. response.”
Amazingly, while ratings for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are bad, they are not as bad as those for Trump.
Countries surveyed were: Spain, Italy, Canada, United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Japan, Australia, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and South Korea. Some 76 percent of respondents expressed confidence in German chancellor Angela Merkel. By comparison, only 16 percent had confidence in Trump.
There it was. A slight September breeze with a whiff of freshly-mowed grass. And as so often happens at this age, you are suddenly jerked back decades. This time it was to the fall of 1960 when you were 17 and playing your last football season for the Theodore Bobcats.
God, such a different time and place. The mind is boggled at what has transpired since.
For one thing, our team was all white. Truthfully, I was totally unaware of whatever was black culture back then. Had no idea where black youngsters went to school and what happened when they were there. Had someone mentioned “separate but equal” I would not have known what they were talking about.
Not only were we all white, for the most part we were not very big either. I think our largest starting lineman was perhaps 180 pounds. I played left end and probably weighted 160 pounds. In addition, I was also slow.
Technically I could get it. If i was supposed to try and block a certain man a certain way, I could do it. But the lack of pure athleticism prevented me from doing anything outstanding.
I do know that in some game that season I caught a pass from quarterback Charles Bryant and scored a touchdown. I do not know who we were playing. I do think we won. In fact, we won the majority of our games playing teams like Grand Bay, Alba, Baker, Semmes, Satsuma, McGill, etc.
I also recall getting the kickoff playing McGill at Ladd Stadium and fumbling it. Hardly a highlight. Later in the season Coach C. A. Douglas called for us to run a reverse on a kickoff. Again the kickoff came to me and this time I did my job pitching the ball to Jimmy Darnley going in the opposite direction and him running for a touchdown.
This was before playoff games. And for us, it was before weight training or game films or trying to be a mini-version of some college or pro team. We were just a bunch of kids playing a game. We were there because we wanted to be. Not because we had visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads and thousands of fans cheering for us.
We huddled after each offensive play. And amazingly, the quarterback called the next play, instead of someone on the sideline signaling what we would run. We just had a handful of plays. If the quarterback called “Bill’s play left”. we all knew what to do.
And had you asked any of us what the world would look like in 60 years, no way would we have talked about cell phones, the internet, holding something in our hand that put the world at our fingertips. Heck, we were less than ten years from sending men to the moon and we could not envision that either.
It now seems a far more simple world back then. At least one where we were much more protected from the onslaught on “news” we get today. I’m sure there were plenty of bad things going on around the world, but we didn’t click on a computer and have them fall in our lap.
We tended to believe that Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley were honest-to-goodness newsmen. Not the one-sided “spin doctors” of today’s cable news networks who are simply shills for certain politicians they support, be they Republicans or Democrats.
Some of my Theodore team mates from 60 years ago are still around, many of them are not. But I hope that in some way or other, they know that a September breeze brought them back to me.
Like most, I knew Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. But I had no clue of who she really was or what she did in a remarkable lifetime until her death. But I have certainly learned a lot about her in the last few days and now realize why she was so revered by so many, especially females.
Obviously she had a spine of steel and simply would not take “no” for an answer. No doubt the fact that she was tiny was a benefit. How could something that small be such a fierce opponent?
But she coupled her resolve with a brain that never seemed to turn off.
She definitely saw the world through the eyes of a woman and often enlightened her male colleagues with a viewpoint they had no way of relating to on their own. In so doing, she became a champion for females and impacted their lives in ways most never understood.
Time after time a TV clip showed her speaking to young women and they were enthralled by her. Many said that she became a “rock star” and I’ve seen nothing to make me think otherwise. Someone gave her the moniker of “Notorious RBG”, a play on words from the name of a rapper. She seemed amused by this and must have realized that it was a term of endearment used by young women.
She was devoted to her husband Marty, one of the top tax lawyers in New York City. They were married for more than 50 years. Like her, he also died of cancer.
He was quite a chef and said at an interview one time that she didn’t tell him how to cook and he didn’t tell her about the law.
An extraordinary woman who lead an extraordinary life.
The death of U.S. Supreme Count Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg shocked the country, Even though she battled a number of health issues in recent years, her passing came as a surprise. Appointed by President Clinton in 1993, she had been a consistent voice for equality and women throughout the land hailed her for often leveling the playing field for females.
Accolades from both Democrats and Republicans echoed throughout the country.
It was remarkable to me that after her death Friday night, hundreds and hundreds of citizens gathered in front of the nation’s Supreme Court building to pay their respects, at one point uniting in singing Amazing Grace.
But what really got my attention was her great relationship with the late Justice, Anthony Scalia.
Philosophically they could not have been farther apart. More often than not, their opinions were at opposite ends of the spectrum. However, this did not prevent them from having a genuine respect and admiration for one another. One of their bonds was a great love of opera.
One of her former law clerks talked of how close their relationship was and that Scalia always came to her office to sing Happy Birthday to her.
What a contrast this is in these days when winning is the only thing that seems to matter in politics. Rather than seeking common ground, those on the other side of a political divide must be vilified and conquered. Campaigns are viscous, take no prisoner affairs. Truth is thrown out the window.
And how well I know this to be true. When I ran for a seat on the Montgomery County school board in 2018, my primary opponent’s ENTIRE campaign was to trash me with phone calls and mail. When this is what happens in a local school board race is it any wonder that such lack of tolerance and civility is vastly escalated in bigger campaigns?
Unfortunately the nation lost an outstanding jurist with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Just as it did when Judge Scalia passed away.)
While they passionately disagreed on their interpretations of the law, they did show us a great example of respect and dignity.
Editor’s note: In these very, very weird times, stories such as the one below from The Washington Post are worth their weight in gold:
“Johara Benrahou grabbed a red-white-and-blue blanket, a mask with dinosaur designs and three books as she ran outside the front door of her home in Denver.
A few feet away in her front yard, Johara set the blanket down on the grass to prepare for her first reading session of the fall. Soon, three of her friends joined her on the blanket as Johara read aloud “Because a Little Bug went Ka-Choo!,” by Dr. Seuss, and other children books.
Without in-person school because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Johara sought to teach and engage children while being safe. The 8-year-old’s solution was a small reading program that would occur twice per week in her front yard.
“I was getting really emotional when I heard I wasn’t going back to school,” said Johara, a third-grader at Cory Elementary in Denver. “I was wondering whether I could start a nonprofit to help other kids go through this, because I think they would be feeling the same way. If a third-grader would feel that way, I would think a kindergartner or preschooler would feel the same way.”
In early-August, Johara received news she wouldn’t return to her public school until October at the earliest. She sat in her bed crying and slammed toys on the floor. She had been craving social interaction while stuck in her house during the coronavirus pandemic, and she has always loved school.
Her mother, Leigh, sat down with her daughter to discuss how other children missing school have worse home environments, such as not owning a laptop or having numerous family members living with them — and that they will also suffer. Leigh Benrahou asked Johara how she wanted to help.
Johara decided she wanted to be a tutor, and after more discussions, the idea holding reading sessions with other children emerged.
Right away, Johara sat at her desk with colored pencils and created a flier for her reading sessions. She listed her address, that the sessions would occur Mondays and Wednesdays between 4 and 4:30 p.m., that masks would be required and that only five children were permitted to attend each session.
A message on the flier read: “My name is JOHARA. I love little kids, I am in 3rd grade and I am 8. My inspiration for this program is to help kids have something to look forward to. I really want to go back to school but as we all know, we can’t. I hope this can help all of us feel more connected.” She asked her mom to make 50 copies and post about the program on Facebook.
The next day, Benrahou drove Johara down their street. Johara searched for bikes or toys in front yards as an indication children lived there. When she saw some, she taped a flier on that family’s front door. The program is intended for children between 3 and 6 years old. She hopes to continue the sessions after the pandemic passes.
“When she found out that she wasn’t going to school, honestly it was like seeing a person for the first time experience desperation or grief or sadness,” Benrahou said. “We’ve all experienced it, but at 8 years old, these kids, the worst they’ve ever been told was you can’t have a toy, you can’t have a snack. At this age, they’re old enough to realize that this is a real loss for them and an impact on their lives.”
Johara’s reading sessions provide Juan a chance for hands-on learning.
“My kid never wants to leave. He could listen to in-person stories forever,” Tammy Alvarado said. “But if you try and put him in front of a computer to do that story, forget it.”
Johara has always loved reading. She grew up enjoying bedtime stories, and she often reads books about famous women and minorities, such as American civil rights activist Ruby Bridges and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. One day, when Johara stayed home from school sick, she read four biographies.
She has also always thought of helping others. Instead of asking for gifts from friends for birthday parties, she asks if they can instead donate books. At her request, she and her mother have visited and donated food to homeless shelters.
That’s why Benrahou thinks her daughter will make a difference when she grows up, working in social justice or a similar field.
“Kids naturally want to be kind, and that’s how we are as human beings,” Benrahou said. “We all get away from that because we get into our self-interest of working or what we need to do. Most kids, they want to help and they want to be helpful and they want to make people happy.”
The circumstances that lead to the phone call are incidental. Suffice it to say that the female on the other end of the line lives in Montgomery, is in her 70’s and like me, is Caucasian
We were doing the usual “who’s your mama and ’em” when she wanted to know if I was voting for Trump or Biden..
“Biden,” I told her.
She went off like a Roman candle. Immediately questioning my manhood, patriotism, heritage and God knows what else. Suddenly I was a 2nd class citizen, unfit to even cast a ballot.
She told me that masks worn for protection during the pandemic were worthless, that most deaths attributed to Covid-19 were from something else and that all she watched was Fox News. (Which explained a lot to me.)
I told her that grandpa fought in WWI and daddy was in WWII and that I was not a draft dodger like Trump. She did not want to hear any of it. According to her, Biden is a socialist and that “black” woman will be running everything if he is elected. I was jolted by her total lack of tolerance or civility. I was the only “white” person she knew who was not voting for Trump..
I told her that if she wanted to vote for Trump, fine. That this is a free country and therefore we can vote for whomever we wish. Which includes me.
No doubt there are Biden supporters who are just as vocal and obnoxious as she was. People who have forgotten what civility is and what it encompasses.
They are just as disturbing as she was.
Auburn University and the University of Alabama will play football against each other on Nov. 28. It is an intense, storied rivalry, some say the fieriest of any in college football. Young athletes will spare no effort to best the other team that day. But watch what happens as soon as the game ends. Men from both sides will shake hands afterwards, they will hug one another, share a laugh. They are both civil toward and respectful of one another.
It’s an example a great majority of our citizens should follow.
Before Sept. 12, the last wedding I recall attending was my son’s in the fall of 2006. But on Sept. 12, 2020 I came out of “retirement” to be there when Lauren Donaldson of Opp married Bill Paulk of Lowndes County. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
For reasons none of us can really explain, as we travel this life’s journey we occasionally come across people we become attached to. That’s Lauren. As best I can tell, she was 10 years old when I met her, younger brother Timothy and mother Kay. She was full of life and always at the center of something she and her friends schemed up. Back then she was mostly arms, legs and blond hair. She was not athletic. Soccer was not her thing..
However, she was smart, full of energy and often the leader of the pack.
She decided to run for president of her class in the 8th grade. A friend of hers also chose to run. Lauren’s reaction, “Let the games begin.” She and her buddies went all out on her campaign. The final vote was not close.
At some point during that year she called the school system superintendent and told him that she had an “issue” she wanted to talk to him about. So he arranged to see her. Turns out her “issue” was a proposal that they have school four days a week, instead of five. She did her homework and made her presentation.
And though the superintendent did not agree to go along with her, he told her mother (who was a teacher) that she made quite an impression.
She finished at Opp high school, then the University of South Alabama, then Cumberland School of Law. She is an attorney in Dothan and my little buddy of 10 is now 32.
She was a beautiful bride. Still tall. Still blonde.
The wedding was at the Oaks Plantation, east of Montgomery at Pike Road. It was outside at noon. It is said that sunshine is good for helping you have vitamin C. If so, a lot of people became healthier at the service. I felt for those wearing coats and ties. (I was not one of them, though neither did I wear coveralls as I often do.)
This event has consumed Lauren’s life for months. (Too bad folks in Washington didn’t devote the same attention to defeating Covid-19).
Now it is over. And Lauren is beginning life as Mrs. Bill Paulk. But to me she will always be my middle school buddy and thoughts of those days will always bring a smile.
Editor’s note: Like it or not, one of the realities of today’s world are passwords. If you are like me, it is easy to get lost in the world of creating passwords. So when I came across the chart below, wanted to share it in hope it might give you some guidance.
The closer we get to election day on Nov. 3, the more the news will be engulfed in charges and counter-charges about both candidates for president.
The latest blockbuster was an article in The Atlantic magazine by editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg on Sept. 3. Titled, Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are “losers” and “suckers.” The outcry was both immediate and loud. The president said the article was total nonsense. However, this did not stem the reaction from Democrats, as well as retired military.
However, I did do some background checking. The Atlantic has been around since 1857. So it is hardly a Johnny-come-lately publication. It has 500,000 subscribers. It was selected as “magazine of the year” in 2016 by the American Society of Magazine Editors.
Goldberg became editor-in-chief in 2016 after being on staff for a number of years. A native of New York, he went to the University of Pennsylvania. An award-winning journalist, his specialty has been foreign policy and it is interesting to note that he served in the Israeli Defense Forces.
The only thing I do know is that the next few weeks will be painful to watch and listen to. And it will certainly not be one of our prouder moments.