Apology: No Qualifications Or Justifications Accepted

I’m sorry.

On Friday, in the wake of news reports detailing Donald Trump’s comments regarding Haiti and undetermined African nations, I published a post that was meant to satirically comment on how far our national discourse has fallen. That post was in bad taste and although no one has reached out express displeasure, I want to proactively say that I apologize to anyone that was offended while reading my blog. I am fine with people being made uncomfortable by what I post here at times, but I think in this instance, I crossed a line into commentary I am uncomfortable leaving my name attached to.

Also proactively, I wish to apologize to anyone who may have not recognized my attempts at satire for what they were with regard to communities mentioned in my post. I love where I live, where I grew up and recognize that all communities have much to offer.

If anyone felt as they read my post that I had lost my mind and believes I deserve a good verbal or written smack down for what I said, or believes this apology is not enough, I will be happy to receive your comments with no argument or attempts at justification.

Finally, to those who were supportive of my post, I hope you do not believe I am trying to disparage you in any way. Two things have led to me removing the post and publishing this apology. One, I have been critical of Mr. Trump for years now regarding what I believe to be his devaluing of decency. I don’t apologize for the sentiment of what I posted on Friday, but I fear that the form in which I chose to make my argument actually causes me to be guilty of the very thing I have be so critical of, and in short, makes me a hypocrite. Don’t get me wrong. I recognize that as a person who advocates the teachings of a deity who commands us to be perfect, I am a hypocrite in hundreds if not thousands of ways already. I have very likely been a hypocrite on this blog previously. But I also believe that is a moniker I shouldn’t actively seek if I can avoid it and should try to remedy when I can.

Secondly, I had to ask myself if I would be comfortable defending my words to one of my children should they want to take a similar approach in speaking out regarding something they disagreed with. In the end, I felt I wouldn’t. Ultimately, this realization is what led to my removal of the post and this apology.

I don’t know what else to say, so I will finish as I began. From the bottom of my heart, I truly am sorry.

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The One Old Grey Lady Thomas S. Monson Wouldn’t Worry About

This may not be a popular sentiment, but here goes.

To all of my dear LDS friends who are highly incensed and worked up over the recent NY Times obituary of President Thomas S. Monson, may I offer a word of advice?

RELAX!

Take a deep breath…exhale…and then, just let it go.

I mean, c’mon. It’s a newspaper article.

For some context, I would refer to one of my absolute favorite conference talks ever given. President Gordon B. Hinckley in his General Conference address from April 1994, quoted from a book entitled¬†History of Illinois,¬†by former Illinois Governor, Thomas Ford. Thomas Ford was governor at the time of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom and was largely insensitive to the needs of the Mormons who lived and eventually evacuated his state at the time.

In his talk, President Hinckley noted how Governor Ford held little respect for Joseph in his writings. He even quoted the following line directly from Ford’s account: “Thus fell Joe Smith, the most successful impostor in modern times; a man who, though ignorant and coarse, had some great natural parts which fitted him for temporary success, but which were so obscured and counteracted by the inherent corruption and vices of his nature that he never could succeed in establishing a system of policy which looked to permanent success in the future.”

Huh. Seems the esteemed former governor kind of missed the mark on that one. And that was exactly President Hinckley’s point. Who cares what Thomas Ford thought? So he thought Joseph Smith was an impostor whose legacy wouldn’t last out the year. He was wrong. Big deal! Should we go demand a retraction from Lakeside Press?

Of course not. Because that would be stupid and completely unproductive.

With regard to the NY Times, I believe people have a right to be incensed. It does not, in my view, provide a very accurate description of the man we as members of the LDS church have loved and revered for almost half a century.

But starting a petition demanding a rewrite? Spouting angry diatribes across social media calling the obit lies and fake news? That’s a worldly response. That’s a political, social media, 2017 natural man response. And I seriously doubt it would be the response of the man whose life we’re debating.

Furthermore, how many of us actually read the NY Times on a daily basis? I would be willing to bet that 99.5% of LDS church members who are signing this petition did not learn of this obituary by reading about it either in the paper itself or through casual perusal of the paper’s online site. So what’s the plan here? Demand a retraction and a rewrite or we will all cancel our…oh wait, none of us actually have a subscription to cancel.

Lastly, we need to be looking at two aspects of the bigger picture here. One, we get one week to remember, honor and reflect on the life of one of our greatest heroes. Is this really how we want to spend it? Arguing with people we don’t know who work for a publication we don’t care about on behalf of a man who spent his entire life avoiding these exact types of confrontations so that he could quietly go about serving those in need?

I don’t know, it just strikes me as..off.

But secondly, there is this to consider. I don’t know anything about Robert D. McFadden, the man who wrote the NY Times obituary. I don’t know anything about his family, his friends, his life experiences that have shaped him-nothing. In fact, the only thing I truly know about this man is this: He is a Child of our Heavenly Father. Just like me. And if the tenets of my faith are true, then God cares just as much about Mr. McFadden as he does about me, about you, and about Thomas S. Monson. According to LDS doctrine, God would ultimately like for Mr. McFadden to come home.

And again, if I understand everything correctly, it is incumbent upon those of us who know better to act in a way that displays God’s love for each of his children…including Robert D. McFadden.

So I would ask, is anger and hatred spewing freely over social media from a large contingent supposedly representing God’s church an effective way to portray that love?

When the Jews railed against the Savior with lies and untruths, what was the Savior’s response?

Nothing. He said absolutely nothing. He just took it. I’m fairly confident the President Monson I loved would do the same here. He would be more concerned about showing love to Mr. McFadden and helping him return home to our Heavenly Father than whether or not he was accurately portrayed in a newspaper.

Thomas S. Monson spent his life going about doing good. Quietly serving while expecting no praise in return. I think I will try to honor him this week by looking for opportunities to do, in some small way, the same thing. And not worry one minute more about an article that is of no eternal consequence.

The REAL Dark Knight

Apparently we have developed a rite of passage at my house. It wasn’t intentional, it just kind of…happened. So what is this rite? No, it’s not getting to drive my truck to the recycling bin (necessary because I haven’t been successful in my role as a town councilman in articulating the need for individual bins for each residence), and no it has nothing to do with hunting. I don’t hunt, therefore neither do my children. I know in my neck of the woods that makes me just a little bit less of a man, but…I can live with that and apparently so can my kids.

No, the rite of passage is actually pretty benign. It simply consists of getting to watch The Dark Knight. That’s it. Not much to it.

But somehow it has become a big deal.

I think it has to do with the fact that it’s probably my favorite movie of all time. Conversely, my wife absolutely hates it. And I have to admit, with good reason. By that I mean, her reasoning is sound. It’s incredibly DARK. And in the end, there is no sunshine or roses. Everything is mostly resolved, but it’s still so bleak. And it’s violent. But even more than its violence is the unsettling feeling that is left when it’s over. It shines a mirror on aspects of our society that we would rather not acknowledge. It addresses issues that have no positive resolution, if any resolution at all. In short, I get why she doesn’t like it.

But because of our differing views, my children hear about this movie, but are forbidden to watch it until they are “of age.” The problem is, we’ve struggled to adequately define what “of age” means. For my daughter, I think it meant 15. For my oldest son, he weedled his way into seeing at 13, but then didn’t like it. That is, he didn’t like it until he re-watched it again at 15. Now he is intrigued by the moral questions it raises.

Which brings us to this last weekend. My second son, aged 13, has been asking and asking to see it. We finally let him. He liked it. I don’t know what that says about him, me or anything else, but I think this movie is more about the individual than it is about what age they are.

Regardless, all of the above has little to do with what I really want to talk about other than, I sat down this past weekend and watched The Dark Knight for the first time in three years. It was just as good as I remembered. But what is truly caught my attention this time around is a line that Alfred says to Bruce Wayne early in the film. A line that after last night suddenly feels very profound.

Bruce is lamenting the fact that the mob has turned to a mad man who doesn’t play by the rules. In his words, they raised the stakes. To which Alfred reminds him, “Yes, but Master Wayne, you raised the stakes first.”

Well, last night, I believe the political stakes in our country may have just been raised. And Republicans everywhere had better get ready.

Whether she meant to or not (and I believe she probably meant to) last night Oprah Winfrey gave her speech as a political candidate. It may not have been as grandiose an entrance as say…I don’t know, a glide down a gilded escalator, but it was effective. And for the first time, I believe Democrats and liberals throughout the country have been given something they haven’t felt in months. Something beautiful and something dangerous. I speak of HOPE.

Two years ago, this would have seemed absurd, but not today. Republicans “raised the stakes” first by flouting the conventional wisdom and electing an outsider to the most powerful position in the land. A man who “told it like it is.” A man who would “drain the swamp.” A man, who despite multiple financial and moral failings, was deemed by his followers as the perfect person to take the reins of a party built upon financial conservatism and moral superiority. No one, including his biggest supporters, knew what he would say day to day, but they knew it would be entertaining and they knew it would likely be a big fat kick in the groin to the evil political establishment.

Never mind he had no experience governing. Never mind that his temperament seemed ill-fitted for interacting with foreign leaders. Never mind his facts seemed…illusive. Never mind any of it. He was change. He was the anti-Clinton, anti-Obama, anti-PC, anti-all that is wrong with Washington candidate.

Those of us who expressed reservations about him were told his immaturity and no-holds-barred-attack-everything-never-apologize-for-anything approach was an act. “Don’t worry,” we were told. “He will become more presidential when we reach the general election…I mean when he actually takes office…I mean, well…you kinda have to ignore all the twitter stuff and just look at all he’s accomplished.”

Uh-huh. A supreme court justice and a tax cut. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure I got the exact same thing with George W. Bush during his first year and I didn’t even have to hear him allegorically compare his penis size with a North Korean dictator once.

Which brings me back to Oprah Winfrey.

If she runs for president, there will be endless mocking and ridiculing from conservative news outlets across the board. Fox News pundits will derisively demean her as a lightweight. Matt Drudge will discount her for being a friend of the Obamas and Hillary Clinton. Steve Bannon will subtly use words designed to remind his minions that she is 1. Black, and 2. Female. I mean really, what more does he need to say.

And they will forget everything they should have learned in 2016.

Because let me tell you what ought to have scared the living daylights out of Trump supporters everywhere last night. Despite what many on the right seem to believe, not everyone thrives on being angry. Not everyone lives to be reminded how mistreated they are. For certain there is a contingent on the left that fuels itself on anger, just as there is on the right, but most of us don’t want to stay there indefinitely.

Which is why it is so curious that Republicans everywhere have forgotten what it was that got Ronald Reagan elected. It wasn’t his promises of tax cuts or ending welfare. Yes, those issues resonated with some voters, but really it was his eloquent way of describing hope. It was his ability to talk about a shining city on the hill. It was his ability to connect with the ordinary joe and help him see the potential that lay just beyond the horizon despite the bleakness all around. That’s what got him elected. Jimmy Carter was talking about “a malaise” of the American people while Ronald Reagan was talking about the greatness of the American people.

Now, remind me, where else did we hear a successful campaign anchored in hope? Barack Obama won in 2008 for precisely the same reasons that Ronald Reagan won in 1980. He could articulate a better existence than what voters were currently experiencing. In short, he provided hope. Some suggest that he never provided any evidence, he just talked a good game. Which just proves my point. People aren’t interested in how. That’s one reason why Romney lost. He was so interested in trying to show people how, that he forgot to inspire them with the vision of what his “how” would produce.

Donald Trump, conversely, tapped into an anger in America. But hidden inside that angry rhetoric was the promise of hope. He promised hope to individuals who felt they had been forgotten.

However, hope encased in anger only gets so far. And let us not forget that Hillary Clinton was not an inspirational candidate. She made no effort in the general election to inspire hope. She simply scoffed at the idea of people voting for Donald Trump. She ran a smear campaign believing that there weren’t enough “deplorables” out there to elect such a hateful individual. And sadly, she’s spent the last year telling anyone who will listen that even though she was wrong, she really was right. Umm…Not inspirational!

But Oprah is no Hillary. And now that Republicans have let it be known that the White House is open to any billionaire American with enough celebrity to take it, the Queen of Everything might just be the worst case scenario for The Donald.

Think about it. Who were the Democrats going to run? Elizabeth Warren? Kirsten Gillibrand? Joe Biden? Bernie Sanders? (Sorry my Democrat friends for making you cringe just now.)

But Oprah? Oh boy, Oprah is everything they’re not. There would be no more man on the street interviews where ordinary citizens have no idea who their presidential candidates are. She’s beloved. For heaven’s sake, her charitable giving is more than the GDP of several South American countries. As opposed to Mr. Trump who promises to be charitable, but as is well-documented, often stiffs those he promises to help.

It would be the closest thing ever to seeing a presidential election that pitted Ebeneezer Scrooge against Mother Theresa.

But, but…she isn’t married to Steadman Graham. She’s living in sin.

Have you heard the TMZ tape that came out just weeks before the election? Voters don’t seem to care about that kind of stuff much anymore. I mean heck, wasn’t it the moral voters of the Christian right that ended up putting Trump over the top in spite of that tape?

Nope, Republicans made a choice in 2016 to turn our political system into a reality show. Now the stakes have been raised and it would seem that their decision might ultimately translate into facing the Queen of Television in the General Election of 2020. A woman who has, in her own way, provided hope to millions for more than three decades. That’s not what I would call an enviable position.

And I didn’t even bring up the wild idea of her naming Michelle Obama as her running mate. Oh my goodness, the entertainment possibilities are endless.

So buckle up, America. Have the stakes really been raised and is it truly #TIMESUP for the The Donald? Tune in to any cable news channel near you between now and November 2020 to find out.