Silver Linings and Points of Light

I share many Americans’ gloom in the present political moment. My conservative concerns are legion. But I see points of light in the night sky. I see silver linings to the dark clouds, suggesting the light still burns beyond them.

To be sure, I don’t always write cheerfully.

  • Four posts ago I wrote about not giving ourselves permission to hate people. Hatred is as dark as darkness gets.
  • Three posts ago I wrote about social media censorship and possible measures against it — for a future day when we may have a government which isn’t in bed with Big Tech.
  • Two posts ago I wrote about the rush to reimpeachment and its motives. My thoughts were not sweetness and light.
  • Last time I described a dark and detailed dream about freedom, truth, and their enemies’ raging lust for power. I’ll let you decide, when you read it, whether you think it was really just a dream.

In one or two of those sober posts, and in private conversations with several readers, in person and online, I promised happy thoughts to come — because there are some.

I have three potentially therapeutic things for you. (In some cases I may have to explain the cheering effect.) They are danger signs we don’t see yet, those happy thoughts I promised, and things to do.

Thank God It Was Just a Dream

You know those dreams we have occasionally (at least I do) that are so horrific, humiliating, or bizarre — and so detailed — that our first waking thought is, “Thank God it was just a dream”? And our second and third thoughts echo the first?

Thank God it was just a dream.

Some few may think my dream was idyllic, but I knew right away that for me it was a nightmare. Here was an early clue: I dreamt of a world where hatred was okay, even encouraged, as long as you hated the right people. (Or would that be the wrong people?) And hatred could justify practically anything.

It was a vivid, multifaceted dream.

Something We All Can Do: Stop Hating

I wrote very recently of the 2020 election and its aftermath, and I didn’t plan to write today. I try to avoid politics on my Sabbath, in my reading, writing, and posting. Today I’m making an exception, as hatred rages through our public square a little more overtly than before — an exception for a thought which for some is religious, and for others is at least moral, not simply political, I hope.

One Nation, Not So Much

Whatever sources you choose to consume and believe, the news abounds with evidence that Americans are not a united people. Unity for its own sake is of limited wisdom and value, but unity based on true principles and righteous purposes is precious beyond rubies. Disunity is unstable, uncomfortable, and often dangerous, if cultivated.

Why I’m Voting for President Trump

I recently urged those of us who can to tell others how we’re voting for president this year. I promised to do the same. I’ll be voting for President Trump.

I’m not saying you should cast the same vote. I’ve made the choice I think is best for the long-term freedom and welfare of our nation and my family. You could do the same, and vote differently.

If your vote differs from mine, I’ll still respect you as a person, and I won’t accuse you of being more loyal to your ideology than to your loved ones, or valuing politics more than you value truth itself.

If we vote differently and your guy wins, I’ll pray with all my American heart that you were right. If my guy wins, I’ll pray I wasn’t wrong.

I wonder what we’ll think of this moment two years from now, or five or ten.

Meanwhile, I’m not here to convince undecided voters or change anyone’s mind. So I won’t be explaining every point to my own satisfaction — or yours, probably. My first draft included what felt like a bare minimum of explanation. Then I cut it in half.

16 Things Americans Can Do in October

We’ve made it to October — but many Americans worry about November. I’m one of them. Which of the things that aren’t supposed to happen will happen on or after Election Day this year? Will the inevitable legal and political wrangling pass quickly or completely overwhelm the country for weeks? How much violence will there be?

But my point today is not what may happen. It’s the worry and fear with which we anticipate both the election results and the aftermath.

When we’re worried or afraid, it helps to have things to do. Actually doing them helps even more. So here are 16 things Americans can do in October 2020. I have more for you in a few days.

Some of my suggestions are directly political, but I’m trying to be mostly nonpartisan here. Most of the following can cut both ways; they’re things at least some people on all sides can do in their own way. See what you think.

I’ve divided this set into two categories, “The Overtly Political” and “Feed Your Soul More Than Politics.”

Cloth Masks and the Death of Nuance – Part 1 of 2

To mask or not to mask? Cloth masks, I mean. The nature of the debate suggests a larger problem.

Some people’s views of cloth masks are reasoned and nuanced, but extreme responses on both sides are frequent. Even dwelling on the question may seem extreme, when … but you don’t need me to list the world’s or a nation’s troubles. Do we really have time and mental energy to spare for a sustained quarrel over cloth masks?

Beyond health considerations, the cloth mask has come to symbolize for me the death of nuance in our thought and discourse. We’ve lost our taste for complexity, for seeing more than one side of a question, for reserving judgment and forming a balanced view. From our family dinner tables to our national politics, we reject depth and perspective, and weaponize the shallowest version of everything against our political enemies … er, opponents.

We’ve downed those trendy cocktails of fear and anger until we may be too drunk to self-govern. Perhaps we’re drunk on trivia too, in Mark Steyn’s phrase. The almost-ubiquitous cloth mask is a tangible talisman of our inflamed, intemperate time.

I’ll try to explain. And before this two-parter is done, I’ll discuss some remedies — or at least muse on some things we could do that might help. (I don’t want to oversell.)

American Ideals Will Endure

Drawing freely from the Declaration of Independence and the passing scene, and dividing roughly by topic, I hold these truths — these American ideals — to be self-evident:

Individual Worth and Dignity

  • That all men and women should be equal before human law, as they are equal before the law and mercy of God.
  • That each human individually is endowed by the Creator, not by earthly government, with certain inalienable rights.
  • That among these rights (it’s a partial list) are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This is the fundamental American ideal: we should be free to live our lives according to our own individual senses of happiness, as far as that is compatible with a free society which credibly attempts to balance the competing, legitimate rights of all individuals and to defend itself from enemies foreign and domestic.

Why I (Still) Love the United States of America

I’ve been poking at these thoughts on why I love America for a while now. Once you see what they are, you’ll see why Constitution Day seems appropriate for posting them.

More broadly, this is either an especially good time or an unusually bad time for these reflections. We’re several weeks from a midterm election; those are never pretty. We’re two weeks into the Kneel for the National Anthem regular season. We’re in the throes of another nasty Supreme Court nomination battle. We’ve been watching — has it been forever yet? — the ongoing attempt to overthrow a duly elected President I heartily dislike by a  bureaucratic coup I dislike even more. We’re seeing (still? again?) just how ugly our politics can get, when we’re more committed to obtaining political power over each other than we are to truth, justice, freedom, and the rule of law.

And yet I love my country. Here are some of my reasons. (They don’t have to be yours.)

On Inauguration Day: 15 Things I Didn’t Blog About Lately, 9 Wishes for Our Future, 8 Points of Gratitude and Pride, and 3 Gifts for You

As I post this, one President of the United States is in the last minutes of his second term. (Much of the chattering class said this as New Year’s Day approached, but now it’s literally true.) Another President will call this the first day of his first term. Yet I will finish the day much as I begin it: a citizen of a country whose chief executive’s political aspirations and principles, or personal qualities, or both, I expect to be more harmful than beneficial to the freedom and welfare of my nation and the world.

Ten and a half weeks have passed since Election Day; one day less has passed since I last blogged here. True, I’ve been caught up in personal, professional, and church obligations; I spent more than half that span at least slightly ill (due to nonpolitical causes); and there was a holiday season stuck in there somewhere. So I have plenty of excuses for not blogging here. But they are only excuses. Obviously, I had some time to write, as you can see at my non-political blog, Bendable Light. I just didn’t want to write about politics enough to finish anything I started. I’m not sure what that means.

But here we are. I propose to do four things during our time together here today. First, I’ll briefly mention most of the political topics on which I’ve considered writing in recent weeks. I don’t know what that will do for you – paint a picture of my current political thoughts, perhaps, without belaboring any of them – but it will probably make me feel better and help me move on. Second and third, I’ll try to lift my eyes and words above grim politics, mostly, to some hopes and some points of pride and gratitude we’re more likely to share. Fourth, I have three small gifts for you.

I Declare Amnesty (No, Not That Amnesty)

We’ve entered the post-Labor Day season, during which, by tradition, many voters will begin taking our presidential race seriously.

Meanwhile, many of us have already been paying attention, and we like what we see far less than usual. We’re doing things like leaving our political parties and wondering if our deluded country isn’t worth our political exertions any more.

It’s time for me to make an announcement.

My friends, I am neither God nor the government, so I don’t expect you to think this is earthshaking, but . . .

I hereby grant you amnesty.

Perhaps I should explain.

To Whom and for What?

Yes, amnesty.

To all of you.

No, not for everything you may have done lately. For example, some of you primary voters got us a choice between Trump and Clinton. I’m not presently offering amnesty for that.

Today’s amnesty is mostly preemptive. It’s for your vote or lack thereof in the presidential race this November — and for any reasons, opinions, or gut feelings you may have or offer in support of that vote (or nonvote).