Saturday, April 02, 2016

"Life is Messy"

"Now my life is in turmoil, but should I say, 'Father, rescue me from this moment'?  No, it was to face this moment that I came.  Father, glorify your name!"  Then a voice spoke out of the sky, "I've glorified it and I'll glorify it further."

The crowd there heard this, and some people remarked that it had thundered, others that an angel had spoken to him.--John 12: 27-29, SV.
When I entered seminary, it wasn't long before I realized this was what I was being taught about scriptures and interpretation was what I'd been looking for all my life; and shortly after that revelation, I knew it was what people in the pews were waiting for, too.  My seminary professors, wiser than us in the ways of the pulpit, warned us against such hubris and self-regard.  Alas, most of us had to learn the hard way that the world wasn't just waiting for the right interpretation of the Gospel to finally come along before getting on with making the empire of God on earth.

Elias Isquith points out that Sen. Sanders doesn't seem to have learned that lesson yet:

I think if we had a media in this country that was really prepared to look at what the Republicans actually stood for rather than quoting every absurd remark of Donald Trump, talking about Republican Party, talking about hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for the top two tenths of 1 percent, cuts to Social Security and Medicare, Medicaid, a party which with few exceptions doesn’t even acknowledge the reality of climate change, let alone do anything about it, a party which is not prepared to stand with women in the fight for pay equity, a party that is not prepared to do anything about a broken criminal justice system or a corrupt campaign finance system, I think, to be honest with you—and I just don’t, you know, say this rhetorically, this is a fringe party. It is a fringe party. Maybe they get 5, 10 percent of the vote.

Shorter Bernie:  if everybody just knew what I know, they'd all think like me.  Except for 5-10% because nobody's perfect.

It's the kind of reasoning I see on the internet all the time.  In fact, the comments at Isquith's article are a case in point:  the Sanders supporters don't even take on the substance of what Isquith says:  they attack Clinton, Clinton's supporters, and defend Sanders for being right about, well, everything.  One even blames the media for racism.*  The problem is all these people who don't think like "we" do, because of the media or whatever!  It's mind control, man!  MIND CONTROL!!!!

Whaddya gonna do with folks like that?

As Paul Simon said:  "A man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest." Or, as Isquith says, would that it were so simple:

People are a lot more complicated than Sanders gives them credit for, here; and they’re also less easily duped.  Your stump speech is good — there’s a reason you so doggedly stick to it. What it isn’t, however, is absolute truth. That isn’t to say that Sanders is wrong to believe that the media influences voters’ behavior, or that the cult of “objectivity” can lead the media to engage in false equivalence. He’s right on both.

But to the degree he’s imagining? To the extent that one of the two major parties — which millions of Americans believe in — will essentially disappear? That’s not just a stretch. That is absurd. “Sanders,” as Murphy writes, “seems to miss a far more obvious takeaway. People vote for Republicans not because they’ve been brainwashed, but because they actually like what Republicans like Trump are proposing.”

But many of the responses to his article don't want to see it that way, and so they don't.  Period.  To them what that final quote can't possibly be true, so they dismiss it entirely, proving either they are brainwashed, or they actually like what Sen. Sanders is saying.  But they can't imagine anyone else disagreeing with them and having a reason to do so.  Which must mean the "other" is corrupt, or venal, or stupid.

As my Pastoral Care teacher loved to say:  "Life is messy."  That's a harder lesson to learn, however, than the simple phrase makes it seem.  Life is messy because people aren't like you; and they aren't much like other people, either.

Just ask Jesus, and all those people who were with him, according to the Gospel of John.  That time, nobody in the crowd got it right.  It's not even clear they heard what was said.

*No, I'm not kidding:
The power of the media is impossible to comprehend.
Where would racism be if the media did not identify anyone by their skin color?
Could the media trigger a skin-color-neutral reality?
So the media is God; or the Devil.  Two conditions which often appear alike, I guess. 


  1. I'm on my last nerve with Bernie Sanders and his supporters. I had determined that I would not say anything negative about the Democratic candidates, but I'm about to start. Isquith's article is a dose of reality, which Sander's loyal fans will attack or ignore, as the comments show.

    "It is a fringe party. Maybe they get 5, 10 percent of the vote."

    Down from 47.2% in the last presidential election? Quite a drop. I saw the interview, and Rachel Maddow asked excellent questions. She steered Sanders away from his standard rally speech a number of times, which, in itself, was a breath of fresh air. I almost didn't watch, but I'm glad I did.

    Maddow asked Sanders about Trump's comments on punishing women who have abortions:

    SANDERS: But because media is what media is today, any stupid, absurd remark made by Donald Trump becomes the story of the week. Maybe, just maybe, we might want to have a serious discussion about the serious issues facing America. Donald Trump will not look quite so interesting in that context.

    MADDOW: Are you suggesting, though, that the media shouldn't be focusing on his call to potentially jail women who have abortions? Because that's another stupid --

    SANDERS: I am saying that every day he comes up with another stupid remark, absurd remark, of course it should be mentioned. But so should Trump's overall positions. How much talk do we hear about climate change, Rachel? And Trump? Any?

    Now Sanders is whining that Clinton took his comments out of context. Sanders didn't pay much attention to Louisiana during the primary, but I'd like the senator to know that ongoing efforts to limit access to abortion and the health care that Planned Parenthood provides is a deadly serious issue in my state.

    Sanders does not contribute to down ticket candidates, but he is trying to woo super delegates to support him. I guess he doesn't know that a number of super delegates are running for reelection.

    Sanders is about Sanders and how he will save the country because millions will rise up. If his millions don't rise up to elect Democratic candidates to Congress, he will accomplish nothing if he is elected. He is not and never has been a team player. He became a Democrat to run for president, because it was to his advantage.

    Don't get me started on his single-payer Medicare for all, because it is no such thing. The information on his campaign website is deceptive.

  2. If you wander over there now, you'll find tremendous consternation about blacks who seem determined to ignore the racial justice legacy of Sanders (whom most blacks have probably never heard of). Stuff like this:

    "So many? Really?? We have seen numbers like 85-15 or even 90-10. These numbers are, on their face, completely absurd. There is no other demographic in America that has broken so lopsidedly one way or the other. I doubt that even Trump gets 90% of the KKK vote.

    "90%? That isn't "so many of my black brothers and sisters" that is essentially ALL OF THEM. Those who don't have been reduced, so far, to background static.

    "What we have witnessed this primary election cycle is astounding, and it must be taken note of with sober eyes. We have witnessed the black community invest themselves abjectly to the task of preventing a Sanders nomination.

    "Has anyone here ever before seen the black community take it upon itself to be the defender of the conservative DLC blue-dog wing of the party?? I know I haven't.

    "It is as pathetic a spectacle to witness as is watching rednecks vote Republican against their own interests."

    it's both paternalistic and racist, as well as condescending. How can those blacks not realize Bernie is their salvation?

  3. How dare the black community take anything upon themselves! I had to stop reading. Sadly, I find a number of Sander's supporters and even Sanders himself about as rational as Trump and his supporters...though with the supporters, probably not 90%.

  4. And, of course, don't point out how racist the attitude is (among commenters, not by Sanders; let me be clear).

    Because, as Charlie Pierce says, it's not about race because it's never about race.


  5. People from the South may tend to be more racist, though I'm not even certain about that, but I think those of us who try not to be, understand racism better. Speaking for myself, as much as I would like to be, I know I will never be entirely free from knee-jerk racist responses that come unbidden.

  6. In what you said there, you speak for me, too.

  7. Great post, great comments.