This is very difficult for me to write, perhaps insanely so, as you seem unable or unwilling to read. I guess this letter is not so much for you as it is for those literate individuals who I’d like to see step up their game when it comes to guarding the gates.
Barbarians: the most important thing I want to say to you is that we know you’re here. We don’t think that you’re “coming”. We don’t think that you’re “approaching”. We don’t think that you’re “closing in”. We know that you’re here, among us. And yet we’re not afraid.
I also want you to know that we know you can win. You’ve won time and time again. You probably don’t know this, but it’s true.
We know this because we are the ones who recorded it in the hopes that we might learn from our mistakes.
Here’s the main point: You seem to think you are entitled to keep everything you brought with you when you came to our home. You want to keep your clothes. You want to keep your food. You want to keep your language. You want to keep your gods. You want to keep your behavior. You want to keep your government. You want to keep your attitudes. You want to keep your family name. You want to keep, keep, keep, keep.
We don’t want anything. Instead, we hope. And here’s our hope: We hope that you will see that there is something greater to be gained than merely keeping what you already possess. We believe this because we are the group that chose to give up, chose to release, chose to exchange, chose to trade, chose to adopt, chose to change. Perhaps the better way to say it is that we are the group that chose to learn. Will you join us? Will you let us teach you? Will you learn the better way? Will you learn our way?
We believe you can. And we hope you will.
But we’re not going to force you. That’s your way–it always has been and it always will be.
Last post, I wrote that I believe I am an expert on defense and gave some advice on the subject due to my feeling that there is a sharp rise in falsehoods with President Trump’s election. This post is additional defense advice. Bluntly, I am going to teach you how to be brave.
Many of you know that at the end of my time at the seminary I was fortunate to purchase the full set of Britannica’s Great Books of the Western World. I have slowly but steadily been reading through the set since last summer. I am officially on book five, having skipped the two “Synopticon” volumes.
In short, I am still in the (Trojan War-centered) plays of Greek Antiquity, though through Homer and Aeschylus. One line from Sophocles’ Trachiniae furnished unto me the motivation for this post.
(These plays are always filled with great tragedy and accordingly the line is thus:)
“Which woe shall I bewail first, which misery is the greater? Alas, ’tis hard for me to tell. One sorrow may be seen in the house; for one we wait with foreboding: and suspense hath a kinship with pain.”
“…and suspense hath a kinship with pain.” That’s the part that leapt off the page.
When H-‘s mom and I were in lamaze class, the nurse leading the class informed the mothers (and fathers) of the relationship between pain, fear, and time. Apparently, we learned, part of labor pains–and fear of labor pains–in first-time mothers is simply created by some admixture of fear of the unknown, and the fact that the moments and duration of the pain are unpredictable and do not bend to the patterns of the clock. But if the new mother knows this, then supposedly her fears will be abated and the concordant pain lessened. At least that’s the theory.
H- is about to turn nine.
Although I have a bachelors degree and three years of graduate study under my belt, it fascinates me that only now do I read something which renders modernity’s lamaze class ineffectual.
“…and suspense hath a kinship with pain.”
But this got me thinking. I’m brave. I mean, I flew planes and helicopters. I even flew helicopters into combat. How does that work? Why didn’t I fear? Why didn’t the unknown cause me to tremble? Why didn’t the suspense, the waiting, cause me to fear like the new mother?
Then, as a Christian, I also got to thinking about the bible writers’ thoughts on fear, which range from “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” to “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?”
Why was David able to live without fear? Why was I able to be brave? The answer is found in righteousness. The answer is found in walking according to the law of the LORD, that is, the law of Christ.
While I served in the Air Force, I had no fear because we knew we were on the side of truth. We studied long and we trained hard. We assessed our capabilities and limitations astutely and without embellishment. Then we imposed our will on evil men who slept under the false security blanket of darkness.
Now, as a Christian, I see how the LORD and his son Jesus the Christ have ordered our steps. Do you see it?
When I walk in love, I do not fear. The result is predictable and immediate: blessing.
When I walk in joy, I do not fear. The result is predictable and immediate: blessing.
When I walk in peace, I do not fear. The result is, again, predictable and immediate: blessing.
When I walk in patience, I do not fear.
And on and on. When I walk in kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, I do not fear.
I do not fear. I am brave.
Or as David put it so long ago, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?”
From the ancient Greek poets down to registered nurses of our day, those with eyes to see have observed that there is a time element to fear and pain. But fearlessness isn’t bestowed in the hospitals or in the theaters. It is found in the Word of God. It is given by the LORD; it comes from walking with the Holy Spirit.
As an officer in the United States Air Force I defended more than an idea. I defended more than a way of life. I defended more than a nation. I defended individual people. And I believe that my experience qualifies me as an expert on defense–at least of individual people. The following is one particular defense tip for daily use.
The national politicians are going to use whatever words they believe will help gain and retain their power. But you and I are not national politicians, so our game is different. Our goal is not obtaining power, it is encouraging people to think for themselves. Our goal is encouraging people to become individuals.
Last night, I heard what I’m beginning to hear more and more as the election nears.
“I agree that Russia and Venezuela are bad socialism. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the good socialism–like Sweden and Norway.”
Now, on the national level, President Trump has declared, “America will never become Socialist,” while his opponents respond, “Yes, I am, in fact, socialist. It is the best way.”
(Again, you and I are not national politicians or pundits. Stay in reality.)
At this point, I could have (and shamefully began to, until I quickly retreated) discussed socialism with this individual. That never works. Never. Instead, I volunteered, “The government should not be able to take my money. It is my money. Not theirs.”
As any good socialist would respond, he said, “They’re not going to take your money. They’re going to take the rich people’s money.”
I must have gotten a look that said, “What if I become rich?” because the man, while not instantaneously converting to truth, seemed to realize the immorality of his suggestion (that someone besides me gets to have my money) and we paused the discussion.
To recap: Unsuccessful defenses of the individual include, “Have you read what socialism is?” “We are not Sweden.” “Socialism is always evil.” “There is no such thing as ‘good’ socialism.”
Successful defenses of the individual include, “The government should not be able to take my money.” And, “Gas tax and tolls (the answer to his additional clarifying query, “How do we pay for roads?”).”
To be clear, this is not my attempt to re-frame the “narrative” of climate change. Neither am I going to give you a new “lens” through which to view climate change.
In the below you will not find scientific facts or debates as to whether teenagers have power. You also will not find prophecies about the future. Lastly, you will not find any black-and-white distinctions between the meanings of “hope” and “action.”
No, this is simply one man’s declaration that the parents of youth-who-skip-school-March-15th-in-order-to-attend-the-Youth-Climate-Strike-rally must join their offspring at the rallies. Parents, you must join your children. Do it. (H- is only 8, so this plan isn’t for me. But you can be sure I’d execute it flawlessly if she was going.)
It strikes me as more than likely that many parents might not know their kids’ intentions regarding such things, so your first step is to ask them if they’re going. If you are lucky enough to have a child who asks if they can go, say, “Sure.”
Next, tonight or tomorrow night, here’s what you do. You make a sign. On this sign, write, “My daughter, my son, I love you. Come home.” Of course, when it comes to rally signs, the BIGGER and BOLDER the lettering, the better. So try, “MY DAUGHTER, MY SON, I LOVE YOU. COME HOME.” Yep, that’s better.
Then, whether you drive with them, drop them off, whether you walk, bus, bike, or have separate travel arrangements entirely, take off from your job and go to the rally. Here is the map.
Here’s where it gets tricky, but I trust you’ll sense the proper course of action. Position yourself so as to be seen by as many people as possible, and root yourself there. Now hold up your sign.
Clarification: It is imperative that you do not write your child’s name on the sign. You have a small window of opportunity here. Don’t waste it. There’s a physicality to “parenting” that most of you miss. Make your son(s) or daughter(s) incline their neck to find you.
When they do find you, hug them tightly–as tight as you can.
At home, it’s time for baby steps. I do not believe in trying something new like “conversation” at this point. Instead, read to them. Pick one of your favorite books. Tell them why you like it. Then begin to read the book aloud to them. Maybe just the first chapter, maybe more. No earbuds, no phone, no tablet, no youtubers, no nothin’. Beseech them to just sit in the same room for a while and listen.
Hopefully your reading voice isn’t too out of practice and hopefully you like good books.
But, then, I know you do. Good luck.
Metallica broke attendance records in both Wichita and Kansas City last week. As most of you know, H- and I were at the Kansas City show.
During the concert, as usual, James took a moment to thank the audience. He then said something like, “I want you know that I don’t care who you are, what god you worship, or what is between your legs. I do not give a shit.” For the uninitiated, this is about as political or current-eventee as Metallica ever gets. (Thank you, Jesus.) It’s about the music, people.
Last week also was a big week for the United Methodist Church as their conference had voted to essentially fire Ministers if any of them subsequently ordained LGBTQ folks or performed marriages between anyone but one man and one woman.
Reverend Adam Hamilton, pastor of the largest UMC congregation–located in KC–in America, voted against this change and spent many hours last week explaining his reasons to his congregation. For our purposes, it is enough to say that he has declared that the LGBTQ community is still welcome at his church while the UMC figures itself out.
Why the comparison between Mr. Hetfield and Rev. Hamilton?
I recently told one friend that I am uncomfortable at almost every group setting I attend. I am uncomfortable at my church (it’s a black church–I am as white-bread as it gets). I am uncomfortable at most of the other churches I have visited (I prefer African churches, even if they’re in another language, but I usually visit churches from different cultures if I skip my service as I nearly reject my culture outright–I am as white-bread as it gets). I am uncomfortable at work (I work with what other white-breaders call ‘low-skilled immigrants’ and if my co-workers aren’t immigrants they are usually addicts, ex-cons, uneducated, or family members of one of the above).
My friend then queried, “Where are you comfortable?”
After a long pause I answered, “Ha. Truth be told? Metallica concerts. That’s when I feel like I can simply let go and be me.”
Rockstar James Hetfield would probably enjoy hearing this fact. And Reverend Adam Hamilton would probably be thrilled for the chance to compare notes with James and see what he could learn from him about creating a welcoming environment.
The trouble, of course, is there is one big difference between the Christian church and Metallica concerts. Can you name it? I’ll help. The one are entertainment. The other believes this world is going to burn. The one are fun. The other believes the shedding of Jesus’ blood altered the course of history. The one are going to end in less than fifty years. The other, with or without you, is never going to end. (Hallelujah.)
Can we tell the truth? It goes like this, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Are LGBTQ folks welcome in the Christian church? Before I could ever answer, I’d need to hear what their intentions are.
But if you’re looking for comfort, I’d try to catch the next Metallica concert.
Well, technically we’ll be on the road to the Sprint Center in three hours-ish. (We drove here from Denver yesterday–8 hours.)
Here’s a conversation that will set the scene.
I asked a lady I work with, “So everyone keeps responding, ‘You are taking your daughter to Metallica?!’ I cannot tell if they are questioning my taking a near-nine year old to Metallica, or if they are in disbelief that I, Pete, would enjoy Metallica. Which do you think they mean?”
She laughed hard and said, “I think they’re surprised that you like Metallica.”
I’m kinda embarrassed by that fact. I don’t just like them, I love them. And tonight I get to share them with my progeny. From the moment H- was born, if not the moment she was conceived, I plotted the course that would have to happen for this night to occur. I knew they’d be in their fifties. I was hoping she’d be ten. But we’re close enough.
This past Saturday my own little future-Joan-of-Arc said, “So tomorrow we have church and then packing for Metallica?”
Yes indeed. \m/
Stephen Covey famously wrote, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” In the case of Flat Earth Lunatics, this sagacious suggestion falls flat on its face. In other words, I’m ashamed to admit that I cannot seem to win one single debate with FELs, despite putting the best success advice into practice.
If up until now you have avoided the pleasure of engaging an FEL, count your blessings. If not, then you will surely know my pain. I feel like I’m a fairly sharp cookie and yet I have always left the encounter a failure. So after much thought, and an even greater desire to not lose the day to these fellas, the following is the best I have come up with when it comes to silencing the recently mad.
Believe me when I say that, like you, I would have thought that, “Does your basement have a bathroom, or do you always have to use one of the one’s upstairs?” or, “A lifetime lived and still no friends?” or, “Okay, then where’s the end of the Earth?” would have had a much stronger affect on these folks. Unfortunately, experience proves that these approaches simply do not work. Regarding debate skills, it seems FEL’s might be the most potent group of lonely men in America.
(Before I pronounce the surefire strategy to silence them, I want to say one thing. When talking with one of these guys, my aim is no longer to win the argument. Instead, my desire is to simply bring them back from the edge. They have clearly been hurt, and I believe it is my duty–I believe it is our duty–to love on them until they release their stranglehold on sanity.)
The strategy is simple. It came to me while fabricating circuit boards at the A&D manufacturing factory where I work.
Step 1: ASK, “Can I ask you a question?” (Most FEL’s love to answer questions about their theory, so this will work flawlessly.)
Step 2: ASK, “Have you ever manufactured something, and then sold it for a profit?” (The outcome of uttering this question will be new and unexpected each and every time. Think ahead. It wouldn’t hurt to position yourself out of arm’s length beforehand.)
Step 3: ASK, “So what you’re asking me to believe is that the thousands upon thousands of people who manufacture and fabricate and test and assemble–not just the individual components of space-bound vehicles and satellites–but the materials of the buildings that shelter those people from the elements as they work, plus the materials that house the final products and their necessary rockets and all their parts and pieces, not to mention the specially designed railways, runways, and launchpads, and all their associated construction materials–including manpower–you’re asking me to believe that all of them operate apart from the otherwise observable influence of value?”
Step 4: SAY, “Noooo, I don’t have to answer your questions or explain anything to you. I have heard you and I have seen your animations. Now it is your turn. You said you would answer a question, so I asked one. Now answer it. Or don’t. But know that I love you and unlike people from your past, I am not giving up on you. I just don’t think you’ve thought through what you’re suggesting, and so I’ve now given you a very precise weak link to your theory that you need to answer in order for me to agree that I’ve been lied to my whole life.”
By my thinking, that should do the trick. They’ll have come across a question they can’t answer, and as they YouTube it, they should be able to imagine putting it into play against other FEL’s, which of course they’ll desire to do when they feel the joy of no longer disagreeing with everyone on the globe.
I don’t know exactly where the time went, but the other day I just realized that I am thirty-seven years old. Wow.
After considering the matter, it occurred to me that I aged three years while at Seminary. (To be clear, this means I now have righteous reading skills, not major math skills.)
Additionally, I just realized that I finally have the clearest and most truthful answer to the question that has been nagging at me for some time.
The question: What did you do at Seminary?
The answer: I got older.
What?! You’re kidding me, right? Dying newspapers are banding together against President Trump?
Most Americans cannot even read.
Even more do not read.
Rather than joining forces against perceived attacks, newspapers and other written news mediums would be more likely to defeat President Trump’s attacks by publishing early-readers like Dr. Seuss’s Fox in Socks. Or Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever.
The president’s words cannot possibly threaten the literate.
As a child I remember hearing and repeating one disparaging joke about Ethiopians. That was the breadth of my awareness of that people. As an adult I find myself working alongside them. Just before taking this job, for a different reason, a white South African friend shared with me that what he knows of Ethiopians is that they fight, meaning they still have backbones–regardless of which side they’re fighting for.
A seemingly unrelated second memory from when I was a child is that my dad owned his small business. One day he came home from work and shared with my mom that his secretary essentially gave him the what-for about how he didn’t know how to do anything right. I can’t remember all the details but I remember how angry my mom was that my dad didn’t stick up for himself. My dad would tell you to this day that he does not like or believe in confrontation, and that he intentionally searches for the way forward that includes everyone being happy.
So, here’s the memory merge. Just over one year ago I began this new job. Shortly after beginning in one department I was moved to another. The man that trained me in this new department, on day one, lambasted the workers in our department on the earlier shifts. (It’s a 24-hr factory.) I remember thinking, “If he’s saying that to me about them on day one, then what’s going to stop him from saying that about me if I’m ever on another shift than him?”
Suffice it to say my suspicion was correct. The minute another worker quit, I switched shifts and subsequently discovered that my former-trainer was talking shyat about me during the pass-down every morning.
Dread, in any form, is no fun. Over the course of time I shared the situation with my Ethiopian co-worker and friend, and at first he thought I was probably not assessing things accurately. After a bit of contemplation he changed his mind and said, “You know what? If you’re complaining about him, something is off.”
To my sheer delight, my Ethiopian friend later initiated the following conversation. He said, “You know what, Pete? K- and I used to argue and get into it with each other every day. Then one day I said to him, ‘K-, if you have a question, something work related, you can ask me. Other than that, do not ever, ever, ever, ever, ever talk to me again.’ After that he stopped talking to me. These days we talk, sure. But it was only after a long time had passed.”
The funny thing about the entire thing is that when it comes to watching someone else be attacked, I won’t stand for it for one second, and I will shed any and all concern for myself and my circumstances as I move in to defend. But when I’m the recipient, I just absorb it.
Other advice includes the following gems. My mom says, “Be happy there is only one.” One of the Reverends from church says, “A lady once told me she had a similar situation at work. She prayed that the LORD would bless the co-worker. In three days they were promoted to supervise another department and peace was restored.” A friend from school, also randomly South African, said the biblical course of action would be address the dude one-on-one, then escalate to supervisors and HR when he doesn’t change. He also exhorted that I ask the LORD to change both our hearts.
Here’s what I did. Well, first, you need to know this. One night at the club, one of the girls told me that some guy was getting a little too handsy during the lap dance and so she stopped and then he stiffed her on the money. She came to me because I was the manager at the time. I asked her what she wanted and she wanted both her money and him to be thrown out. After entirely too much talking with the dude, I got her the money, but decided that he could have another chance. When I reported this news to the woman, well, let’s just say that the look this woman gave me was something I would not wish on anyone. I said to her, “Okay. You’re right. He’s leaving now. I’m probably gonna get slugged though.”
Sure enough, I told him I changed my mind and his friend and him had to leave. While looking at his friend, I felt the dude’s knuckles against the back of my skull. After slight and inconsequential chaos he was then escorted out. (It never ceased to amaze me how the party never hesitated, no matter if fights were happening, or where–including on stage between girls. Customers just wanted to get wasted around women, girls just wanted money. But everyone expected these things to happen and the company to have staff that was able to handle them surely and painlessly.)
The lessons were many, but most notable for my current predicament was that I went alone. I should’ve had another guy with me. And I did from then on.
So I didn’t have the one-on-one chat with my co-worker last week. I prepared to head to HR and get the third person involved from the get-go, especially because the problem is exactly that this guy is a hot-head and totally unapproachable. Upon resolving to get HR, I decided I wanted one more instance before I went, and as these things go, the week went off without much drama, especially considering there’s a new trainee that keeps him occupied.
What’s so funny to me about it is that I know myself so well that I know I won’t refrain from answering his BS responses in words and tones that must-needs compel him to action during the consequently never-gonna-happen one-on-one chat.
Is this self-awareness what my dad felt? Is he a all-or-nothing guy that just chooses nothing? Who knows. Pretty sure we’ll chat about it after he reads this.
Okay. Not to be picky, but I’m really only looking for stories about how you got the person fired. We’re fooling ourselves if we think these people change. I can only think of one sure way, but I don’t feel like getting hit. Whatcha got?