Why Liberals “Overreact”

lindsey-lamont-1309647-unsplashBy now everyone in America has heard about the encounter between a Catholic high school student and a Native American man this past weekend in Washington DC, both of whom were in town for separate marches. You could predict how Americans would part like the Red Sea in their interpretation of the events.

As you may have guessed by now, I hold some pretty liberal views. I heard about the latest controversy, and then checked a few different news sources so I wouldn’t get an unfairly unilateral story. And when I was done, I shared a meme on Facebook in support of Nathan Phillips who appeared to be a peacemaker in the situation.

My high school friend – let’s call him Doug for purposes of this story – responded to the meme. What struck me initially is that I heard from him at all. We both moved away from home to different cities and have seen each other rarely over the last 30+ years but we’re friendly when we do see each other. We don’t have a lot in common but I would say there is genuine affection for one another.

I’m a prolific Facebook user; he is not. I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand how many times I’ve interacted with him on social media over the years. Despite not having a lot of interaction with Doug, we’re still friends and I like that.

The second thing that struck me is what he said in his post.

“The only thing I saw in the video was the kid standing there as [Phillips] beat his drum in his face.”

To which I replied, “Then you don’t know the whole story.”  I had planned to leave it at that. Doug was more of a jock back in the day, not one to be interested in current events. So not only do I never hear from him, the one time I do, it actually has something to do with politics.

That’s C U R I O U S. But ok.

I still hadn’t planned to get too engaged on the topic. See, I have a tendency to explain my points rather thoroughly, shall I say. I’ve learned that no one cares, thinks about, or dissects anything to the degree I do, so I figured it was better off limiting my response. (Case in point: I am writing a blog post about this, a couple of days after the fact!)

However, I do know that Doug is a Trumpster, and right or wrong, I took his response as short-hand he thought the whole high school kid/Native American thing was being blown out of proportion.


Yeah, well you know what I did. I engaged, and the conversation played out pretty much like I thought it would. He remained unmoved in his viewpoint and I in mine, but he made a couple of comments that resonated with me for a couple of days. I didn’t bother responding at length on Facebook, because again, he made it known how little he cares, in contrast to how much I do. To paraphrase, here’s what he said:

  1. The Native Americans and the Black Israelites were “nut jobs” (direct quote) and the high school kids were passive victims.
  2. I/Liberals believe name calling by the Black Israelites is “ok” whereas smiling on the part of the high school kid is “cruel”.
  3. Left wingers blow things out of proportion.
  4. Chants of “build the wall” were redacted and it was clarified that the students were doing school cheers.
  5. Liberals lose their mind over everything.
  6. Who has time to get upset over every little thing?
  7. “Smirks” are considered offensive.
  8. Liberals act like Trump is the apocalypse…but has he actually made my life that miserable?

So here we go:

  • From the sounds of it, the Black Israelites were disruptive and rude, and trying to get a rise out of anyone within earshot. Maybe they are “nut jobs”…I don’t know. I should have called out their bad behavior, and I didn’t. However, I don’t consider the Native Americans present to be nut jobs, and I think it is wrong to call them that. These high school kids were not passive victims. They were wearing MAGA hats, which I consider to be today’s equivalent of the KKK white hood, the only difference being they have no problem being SEEN wearing one.
  • What the Black Israelites did was wrong. I should have called it out. We should all be calling them out on it. However the high school kid was not simply smiling in a friendly gesture. He was smirking and defying Phillips in a non-violent but very active way, and it was wrong.
  • Trumpsters think “left wingers blow things out of proportion”. Blowing it out of proportion? No, I wouldn’t say that. I would say liberals are calling out every instance of hate, fear, and lack of normalcy every chance we get because social norms and values are disappearing before our eyes in the proverbial death by a thousand cuts. Maybe this is the time I came of age politically, but it seems to me that Mitch McConnell established an environment that involved complaining and criticizing every.single.thing the (Obama) administration did, even when the administration was doing good. Republicans accepted this sort of hyper-critical behavior as normal a decade ago; they just don’t like it now that the tables are turned.
  • Perhaps chants of building the wall were not said. But their high school chants were not benign and innocent. Shall we link to the photos of the students in blackface mocking a black opponent during their high school basketball games?
  • Liberals lose their mind over everything….yes, yes they do. Who has time for that? I do! Social norms are eroding before our eyes. I will not remain quiet. There is a famous circa 1950s poem by Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller as follows:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


Let me tell you a little story, circa 2008 give or take a couple of years. The exact date is marginally important because we all know how the financial markets tanked in 2007 resulting in wide-spread job loss in 2008 for years thereafter.

I was a trustee for our small church. We were trying to sell a piece of land on the church’s property. We struggled to find buyers, but we had at least one.

Shortly after learning this news, our church president, who I’ll call Thomas for purposes of this story, stood before the congregation during a parish meeting to tell them we had been given an offer, but it was well below our asking price. Still, it was an offer. What he shared next stunned me.

He went on to say the buyers were Indian and that made them notoriously stingy. Cheap. And he was inclined not to sell to them.

I was shocked to silence. I couldn’t believe my ears. Here was a man I respected in the big scheme of things, who stood before a body of Christians and stereotyped the buyer based on their ethnicity.

I was so shocked, but I said nothing. I didn’t want to derail the proceedings because it was really about whether we should accept, negotiate, or decline the offer. But I was horrified by what I heard.

And then I was ashamed of myself for saying nothing in front of that group of people. It was the first in a long time that I heard anyone display prejudice toward another ethnic group. I thought as a society we were past that. Remember, this was ten years ago. How wrong I was!

Fast forward a few months later to a subsequent board of trustees meeting at the president’s home. Thomas did it again. He mentioned the “cheap Indians” who continued to extend an offer he refused to entertain.

I can’t remember if it was official board business or the casual socializing that happened afterwards, but this time, I couldn’t stay silent.

I approached Thomas, trembling, chin quivering, with tears in my eyes. This giant of a man listened to me. I told him how shocked I was that he had to bring ethnicity into the conversation about the buyer each time he did it. I asked him why it was necessary to do that. Why couldn’t he just describe them as buyers who submitted an offer that was too low for our consideration, in his opinion. I explained that he didn’t need to disparage an entire ethnic group based on the actions of one party. I told him if they were recent immigrants, they may be supporting a family back in India, in which case it was entirely possible they were simply being frugal, and we didn’t need to be bitter about a whole ethnic group when we declined their offer. I told him I was ashamed that we characterized these buyers this way in front of our parishioners…what kind of Christians does that make us? What year was this anyway? I mean, didn’t this sort of Archie Bunker talk fade into the sunset decades ago?

I admitted to Thomas that he likely wouldn’t understand why I took umbrage with his blanket insults directed toward these people, but from the very youngest of age, I always tried my best to evaluate the character of a person and not their skin color. Was this the influence of Sesame Street? I don’t know… I told him I was ashamed I didn’t say something the first time I heard him make these comments. I told him I questioned what message was I sending as the mother of three bi-racial kids when I allowed someone else’s ethnicity to be disparaged publicly. Was I sending the message that my kids’ particular brand of Asian-ness is OK, but Indians, huh Indians (!)… THOSE are the people you need to avoid?

I told our Thomas that I could no longer stay silent because doing so meant I was sending mixed signals to my kids, and it was time I got crystal clear with them. They are watching me, and integrity is everything. I admitted to Thomas I had a lot of nerve calling him out about this matter within his own home, but it was something I had to say.

There I was, in my early 40s, cancelling my white privilege membership. “White privilege” wasn’t even a thing yet… It was years before anyone named it “white privilege”. But I realized then, if I am not an advocate for racial equality, who will be?

Thomas heard me out. He thanked me for telling him. He explained that he was speaking from his personal experience with Indians, as a long-time businessman who had lived overseas for several years with his family after getting an international transfer with his employer. I can’t recall if he apologized for his behavior, but he certainly had the largeness of spirit to understand where I was coming from. We hugged after this talk and I thanked him for listening. He helped me make this transition into a baby social justice warrior just a tiny bit easier.

Who am I kidding? I’m no social justice warrior. I’m a social justice cross-walk guard.

Like I said, this story happened over 10 years ago. Thomas passed away three years ago. I loved that guy. And to this day, I send air kisses to heaven to thank him for listening to me, and loving me even if I ticked him off.

But my God, if Thomas could so easily say things like that, anyone could. And so I’ve learned how true that is.

There is a certain level of irony that this particular church had selected St. Thomas, one of Christ’s disciples as its patron saint. After Pentecost, where did Thomas travel and settle to preach the word of God? India. Sometimes you just can’t make this stuff up.


  • Back to my friend Doug who wonders who has time to take umbrage with every little thing. I do. It’s my job now. Yes, I’m weary. Yes, it’s tiring. I need to take better care of myself. But I won’t let this sort of thing become ok.
  • “Smirks” are considered offensive? Yes….and at least Doug admitted that this high school kid wasn’t simply smiling in a congenial way. He WAS smirking. He knew exactly what he was doing.
  • Liberals act like Trump is the apocalypse. Funny you should say that. If you read the Book of Revelation in the Bible, and really listen to the description of the anti-Christ, he sounds awfully familiar!
  • Has Trump actually made my life that miserable? Funny you should ask that question of me too. So far, things for me personally are status quo. I’m a white woman, after all, so things are decent, but not fantastic. I’m not a white male. But make no mistake, freedoms are eroding. Social progress is reversing. And I have never been one to care exclusively about what’s in it for ME. I care about what happens to society as a whole. Plus Jesus said, “Whatever you do unto the least of you, you do unto me.” So I care about what happens to Americans, to refugees, to children, to people of all races… So what’s happening, and has been happening these last few years, is killing me.

These are the things I wanted to say to Doug but honestly, I don’t think he cares. If I had to guess, all he really wants is what is in front of his nose: a job, his friends, and some beer. He doesn’t really want to have a conversation about social justice and progress and American ideals and integrity and economics and prosperity and competition and world leadership and grace and integrity and #MeToo and race relations and truth. Obviously I can go on and on. No, these are not conversations Doug is really interested in having. Hell, he isn’t even interested in saying, “Hi, how have you been these last few years?” I could be wrong, but I’ve learned to trust my gut on stuff like this.

I can’t help the way I’m wired. And I can’t really fault the people who don’t feel as strongly as I do but I don’t have a whole lot in common with them. I long to talk to people who believe in the things I do. It’s not as much fun for me to fix broken things. It’s WAY more fun for me to take average or so-so things and make them AWESOME. However some days, you gotta operate in triage mode, and that’s where I’ve been for over two solid years.

If you want to call that liberal over-reacting, you go right ahead. I’m not the least bit ashamed.

 

Photo by Lindsey LaMont on Unsplash

 

 

Celebrity Talk Is Cheap, So They Say…

I’ve noticed a trend among conservative or right-leaning individuals in the US to bash the opinion of celebrities which are often more left-leaning and liberal. This strikes me as really odd.

I’m not even one to be awestruck by celebrities…I’m kinda put off by our country’s celebrity worship culture…but to bash celebrities for having an opinion? Something about that rubs me the wrong way.

gritte-346468-unsplashThe arguments against celebrity opinion have had a couple of different facets, regardless of whether the celebrities in question are artists like singers, actors, and comedians or athletes:

  1. Celebrities have a huge following among the national and even the world population, making their extracurricular activities particularly vile because their opinions contaminate the thinking of large swaths of people who look up to them.
  2. Celebrities get paid money to do whatever it is they do and therefore they should simply stick to that and nothing else. Like a certain Fox News person coached Lebron James recently, “Shut up and dribble.”
  3. Celebrities live in gilded mansions with bodyguards and have no idea how common people live so therefore their opinion has no value in the real world.
  4. Celebrities by and large exhibit a liberal point of view, one where anything goes and any manner of amoral behavior is perfectly acceptable.
  5. Celebrities contribute nothing of value to society, unlike the common man who holds down a “real” job, so the very platform upon which celebrities exist in the first place has no merit whatsoever, destroying any credibility they could possibly have to express their opinions.

Let’s break these arguments down.

1. Celebrities have a huge following and unduly influence whole populations of people.

Yes, people become famous for all kinds of reasons. And other people will follow the antics of the rich and famous for all sorts of reasons. For heaven’s sake, there was even a show about this on TV several years ago. I never watched it. The showcasing of how people flaunt their wealth never appealed to me. Instead I admired people who used their wealth or their talents to positively impact the world around them. But I digress.

Sometimes a celebrity’s efforts are awe-inspiring, like Olympians who train for years to hone their skill. Olympians understand sacrifice, humility, teamwork, sportsmanship, rules, endurance, strength, failure, perseverance, disappointment, success, luck, and glory. Other people are eager to connect on a personal level with these individuals, to understand what it takes to be a champion, what it takes to be the best in a given sport. Because more often than not, the characteristics these athletes exhibit are transcendent, traits that can be applied and lead to success in real life. Despite the Herculean efforts these athletes exhibit, the common man connects deeply to these stories of human triumph.

Even if someone isn’t Olympic caliber, as an athlete they still have a talent, and a passion or zest for the sport that got them to national or sometimes international levels of recognition. Many of the same attributes apply.  There is a reason why so many parents want their kids to play a sport because of the life skills it teaches them. Sure, some parents only see dollar signs and want their kids to make it big, but there is inherent value delivered via sports that is realized later in life. Certainly it’s inspiring for a kid to see someone who happens to look like them also be the best they can be.

Much of the same could be said for actors and musicians, really. Those kinds of celebrities touch people’s hearts in an altogether different way, an emotional one. But that’s just like life, isn’t it? It takes all sorts of people to make the world go round, and some people value the heart over the body and vice versa.  Actors and musicians and writers literally tell the stories of our humanity. They elicit a huge range of emotions and replay the ancient tales of what it means to be human. To be able to do that well, to touch us or get us to laugh even in dire times, is a gift.

So sure, actors and musicians, comedians and writers, are admired for their work, and they are asked about what it takes to get there. But it doesn’t stop there. These artists are often inspired by the people whose stories they tell, inspired enough oftentimes to want to be an advocate for change when they aren’t on stage. Sometimes their art is a parallel to what goes on in American life. How can these artists tell a story and avoid talking about what it means to them personally, especially when they are interviewed and asked those very questions? They are gifted storytellers of their chosen medium…of course they are asked about their work, and use their gift to tell the story yet again and again but in a different way.

Now granted, there are celebrities who are famous simply for being famous. Take Paris Hilton…whose only claim to fame was her family money. Her antics were ridiculous. And yet she somehow got her own “reality” TV show which only served to prolong and heighten her fame. I saw no redeeming value in Paris Hilton. I couldn’t understand people who wanted to emulate her, or who just outright adored her. Maybe she was adorable, but she mostly played dumb. I wasn’t a fan of her for all those reasons…I tried to avoid her but it was hard to escape her influence on pop culture for those several years she was the It Girl.

And then there are the people who become celebrities for infamous reasons…like the over-tanned mom, or the over-zealous, misguided, trigger-happy vigilantes like George Zimmerman. Go figure. Our First Amendment gives all kinds of people a platform to use their voice for their 15 minutes of fame or to prolong it even further on Twitter and social media as they now have the option to do.

No doubt, if you have a way to touch millions of people, you’ve been given a gift beyond the art or the physical prowess that got you there in the first place. The Bible says we should not hide our light under a bushel. For better or worse, celebrities use a gift that was given to them.

2. Celebrities get paid to do what they do. They should do that and nothing more. I.e., “Shut up and dribble.”

Yeah. I have a problem with the “shut up and dribble” kinds of statements. It sounds so incredibly sinister to me, like a master to a slave, not to mention the overtly racial overtones directed toward Lebron James.  This is akin to saying, “Shut your piehole. I don’t care one wit about you as a human being. You are here purely for my entertainment and enjoyment, period. I command you do to what I want and nothing more!”

Ew.

Can you imagine saying something like that to a waiter? “Shut up and deliver my food.” Or a teacher? “Shut up and teach my kid.” Or a mechanic? “Shut up and service my car.”

In a society where we recognize that we should acknowledge each other as human beings, see the whole person, connect with one another and engage in dialogue….we have a part of society that looks down on others as if they were servants instead of equals.

Even if that isn’t what people mean, that’s how it sounds. And that’s downright ugly.

Good thing Ronald Reagan didn’t follow that sort of advice long ago. Where would we be as a nation without The Great Orator? Should he have stuck with acting? Was it wrong for him to evolve into a governor, and then a president?

3. Celebrities live in gilded mansions with bodyguards and insane amounts of money. They have no idea how the common people live and couldn’t possibly speak on their behalf.

Certainly there are certain celebrities who were born into rich and famous families, and they could very well be out of touch with the average American. Jane Fonda, I’m looking at you.

However the vast majority of celebrities grew up in average families like you and me. They didn’t have gobs of money growing up. They didn’t have bodyguards. They didn’t jet-set around the world or live in mansions. Sometimes they struggled for years before they made it big…struggled on a level that the average American with a steady job can’t appreciate.

And there are celebrities who have been rich and famous for decades, part of that enormous Baby Boom generation that has so strongly influenced American life for 40-50 years now. Over time they may have forgotten what it was like when they were young. They hire bodyguards for sure, because even benign crazy people don’t respect personal space or personal property, and some level of protection is completely reasonable.

But to bitch and moan that celebrities are out of touch with the common man? As if these people don’t deal with illness and sorrow, insults and betrayal, death and destruction… These unhappy events come for us all over the course of a lifetime. Some of us become more somber and wise because of it, and some of them embrace the joy of life even harder as a result.

4. Celebrities by and large exhibit a liberal point of view where anything goes, including all kinds of amoral behavior.

Yes, all kinds of celebrities exhibit a liberal point of view, and a whole bunch of them are conservative too. Perhaps we should disregard the esteemed opinions of Scott Baio, Clint Eastwood (who was talking to an empty chair on national television a few years ago), and Stacey Dash, who’s now running for Congress. Should I list a few more? Who was it that visited the White House last year? Kid Rock and Ted Nugent? Role models, are they?

And what about this criticism of amoral behavior? I struggle with this one a bit. Is it amoral when pastor Joel Osteen refused to open his enormous church to hundreds of Houstonians in need of shelter post hurricane, even though that is exactly what Christ coaches us to do?

Or is “love is love is love is love is love is love” amoral?

I’m confused by this. One man’s morality is another man’s sin. It isn’t quite as binary as you might want to believe it is.

5. Celebrities contribute nothing of value to society, rendering invalid their platform to speak, unlike people with “real” jobs.

Really? I suppose I could repeat all of my earlier points on this one. As a society, we place value on what celebrities say and do, for good and bad. Some of us have exerted a certain level of effort to be in the spotlight…a moving piece of art, a sacrifice and precision in sport that enthralls us, an ability to communicate that connects with our souls and minds. These celebrities came from somewhere to get where they are. They come from us.

If you had a platform, you’d use it too. You use it every time you share your own opinion at the coffee shop, water cooler, or Facebook. Celebrities just happen to have a much larger audience than you.

Maybe I just have a soft spot for expressive types, since I am one myself and I feel most at home around those sorts of people too.


Surprise! Now I want you to go back through each of my points. You could easily make the argument that Donald Trump is one of those celebrities that people disdain so much. For heaven’s sake…he came from money he didn’t earn himself. Lived in a bubble his entire life, a gilded penthouse literally. Never held a common man’s job and avoided military service when he was needed. He is a reality TV star and that was the extent of his celebrity to a very large degree until he graduated to the biggest stage in the world. Until this election, he held a liberal point of view. ANYTHING goes with this guy. He is the very definition of amoral.

Tell me again how celebrities ought to shut up. It would be a boring world indeed if they did. It seems to me you can’t complain about some celebrities and not all of them. Like it or not, their opinions are here to stay.

Image by Gritte on unsplash.com