Month: December 2022

The art of concession

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) kept a journal that became a syndicated column on 12/31/1935 published as “My Day” in many newspapers until 9/26/62. Her column for November 4, 1954 describes a visit by an old friend, Britain’s Queen Mother.

The column also includes two brief paragraphs:

I am writing this column on election day, so I know nothing as yet about the final results. Being a pessimist, I always expect to lose and therefore, if I happen to win, it is that much more of a surprise. I hope with all my heart that we are not going to lose, but whatever happens in this world one has to accept it and go forward with the intention of doing better next time.

If one wins one has to put the best one can into one’s service because that is all one can do to repay the voters who put their trust in a candidate. If one loses one must struggle equally hard to build up one’s party and to use one’s time usefully in business, even though one does intend to go back to politics in the future.

From “The art of the concession speech,” by Al Tompkins, Poynter, November 6, 2020

Taking Fox seriously

In the early days, the Fox News Channel declared themselves “fair and balanced.” I still cling to that expectation, even if Fox no longer strives for that goal. I’m not a regular viewer, though sometimes I record Fox to get their take on a news event and I get plenty of exposure through its ubiquitous presence of Fox in fast food restaurants.

A few months ago, while in Tennessee to visit a hospitalized relative, I was eating breakfast at a Comfort Inn. The TV was tuned to Fox. My ideological filter was activated, just as it is when I view MSNBC or CNBC. If “objective” news coverage is no longer a realistic goal, then “fair and balanced” remains a good expectation.

One of my 2023 projects is to become more familiar with Tucker Carlson in case we ever bump into each other at McDonald’s. I would enjoy engaging him about what it means to be a true conservative, my view of which was shaped by William Buckley, George Will, Bill Kristol, David Brooks, Charlie Sykes, et al. I don’t view Carlson, Sean Hannity, Marjorie Taylor Greene or Donald Trump as conservative.

It’s a worthwhile conversation. A good place to start is his book, Ship of Fools.

From “From colonialism to Putin: what did Tucker Carlson defend in 2022?“, by Adam Gabbatt, The Guardian, December 28, 2022

Consider the source

Elise Jordan’s October focus group conversation with Pittsburgh-area voters included an interesting comment by one of the folks about his sources of information. In my final years as a church staff person, I became increasingly aware that conversations with parishioners tended to be heavily shaped by their choice for TV or Internet news.

My two most recent posts (about Joyce Vance) reveals that she is one of several voices that help shape my understanding of current events. Others include Barbara McQuade, Chuck Rosenberg, Neal Katyal, Admiral James Stavridis, Ambassador Richard Haass, Ambassador William Taylor, and Eddie Glaude, Jr., to name a few.

Today, much of our information comes from a plethora of unvetted, sometimes anonymous sources on the Internet, supplied by individuals and organizations, including propaganda from various governments. Who and what are your information sources?

From “Trump voters in focus group say he couldn’t have stopped Jan 6 violence,” by Elise Jordan, Morning Joe, MSNBC, October 24, 2022.

A change of heart

From yesterday’s post about Chuck Rosenberg’s conversation with former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance, she tells about the 1989 death of her father-in-law, Robert S. Vance, Sr., killed by a serial mail-bomber. He was a judge on the US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Her mother-in-law was seriously injured, but able to drive to a neighbor’s house to alert Vance’s colleague, Frank M. Johnson, not to open any mailed packages. Vance’s husband, Robert S. Vance, Jr., serves as an Alabama state judge.

In 1991, a man was sentenced in federal court to seven life terms for Vance’s death and other crimes. In 1997, a state court sentenced him to death for Vance’s murder. He was executed in 2018 at the age of 83. Joyce Vance said to Rosenberg:

I was strongly in favor of the death penalty …. I loved my father in law … I was … very much eye for an eye … as was his sister and a number of other family members. My mother-in-law never was a supporter of the death penalty and her point of view was it wouldn’t bring Bob back.

… I ultimately came to believe that my mother-in-law was right … and it really was part of a change in my viewpoint about the death penalty.

I think there is an instinctive reaction … where you’re searching for some way of making sense, some way of restoring order to your life. … I was mournful … but ultimately in addition to having some really pragmatic concerns as a prosecutor about whether the death penalty serves the deterrence interests that we think it serves, it just felt like the wrong way to address this situation of loss.

From the University of Alabama School of Law

My Jewish sister

Radio, TV and other media create an immediacy that augments face-to-face human interaction. Many who sat by the radio for FDR’S fireside chats felt like he was speaking directly to them. Some never knew he was in a wheelchair.

Joyce Vance is a frequent digital guest in our home via her Civil Discourse blog and as a contributor for MSNBC. I feel a kinship with her on several levels, including her Jewish faith, which I have adopted by way of Christianity.

In Vance, I hear Old Testament prophets’ unwavering commitment to justice. Yesterday, I read the transcript of her conversation with Chuck Rosenberg, which included this excerpt about her service as a US Attorney:

There was nothing like standing up in a courtroom and saying: “I represent the people of the United States.”

…the most important thing is your integrity, and what we always said in our office was there was no case that was more important than the integrity of the office.  

From “Transcript: Joyce Vance,” The Oath with Chuck Rosenberg, MSNBC, September 24, 2019

The work of Christmas

At Saturday’s Christmas Eve candlelight service, I was flooded with powerful sights, sounds and scents. The liturgy proclaimed a radical acceptance based on unconditional love and a renewed hope for peace on earth.

Friends and strangers knelt to receive an ancient-yet-new gift. The range of emotions was embodied by one communicant who radiated a joy that couldn’t be contained while another wept with deep sobs of brokenness.

My mind went to war-ravaged Ukraine, to migrants at our southern border, to China’s current COVID-19 surge, and to folks in grief. The “hopes and fears of all the years” meet on Christmas Eve, and then our work begins.

From “The Work of Christmas,” by Howard Thurman (1899-1981)

The Blessed Youngster

As dawn breaks this Christmas morning, my mind is on Mary’s contribution. She has been called “The Blessed Virgin” and “Theotokos” (Mother of God). Can’t top that! But, do those accolades draw her closer or make her seem more distant?

History has placed several layers of cultural veneer around Mary’s sexuality, freighting “The Blessed Virgin” with baggage that likely would feel foreign to her. At heart, her story is about a profoundly faithful, powerful simplicity.

So, this Christmas, my focus is not on Mary’s sexual history or her divine motherhood, but rather her blessed youthfulness, which radiates eternal dedication to simple truth and justice in a world dominated by the ethical complications of elders.

Without creating an unnecessary comparison or pedestal, a simple tip of the hat to youngster Cassidy Hutchinson for a 2022 example of freedom from a complicated web created by the ethical compromises of those older but not wiser.


Incarnation: messy, but redemptive

On Thursday night, as Winter Storm Elliot arrived, Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” lost all nostalgia. The final report of the January 6th committee was released about ten minutes before Lawrence O’Donnell began Thursday’s edition of “The Last Word” on MSNBC. He described how Cassidy Hutchinson was inspired by Alexander Butterfield to tell the whole truth in her testimony.

Then, Andrew Weissmann, Dan Goldman and Barbara McQuade gave their first impressions of the 845-page report. It was the best hour of live television that I’ve seen in a long time. I downloaded a pdf of the final report and began reading it myself. I concur with other first impressions. The committee has produced a thorough, compelling report, based on the testimony of mostly Republicans.

The story of the magi’s search for a new king and the treachery of the old king, Herod, became eerily relevant as I read passages like page 75 of the report, which described Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and his Deputy Richard Donoghue, refuting President Trump’s claims of fraud, culminating in: “Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen.”

From “The Three Magi,” Biblical Archaeology Society, December 15, 2022

Dressed for the occasion

On December 26, 1941, Winston Churchill said to a joint session of the US Congress: The fact that … here I am, an Englishman, welcomed in your midst, makes this experience one of the most moving and thrilling in my life, which is already long and has not been entirely uneventful.

On December 21, 2022, Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered–in English–to the same assembly, in the same chamber, a memorable, well-received speech. He and Churchill were on the same mission: to thank America for help with resistance to a warring dictator, and to ask for more help.

This was Zelenskyy’s first trip outside Ukraine since the Russian invasion began almost a year ago. Given the current winter hardships being endured by Ukrainians, the simplicity of their president’s clothing lent a sense of urgency and authenticity to his presence and to his message in Washington.

From “Full Transcript of Zelensky’s Speech Before Congress,” The New York Times, December 21, 2022

After the “longest night”

What a privilege to be alive during the era of lunar exploration and the James Webb telescope! These technologies amplify the beauty of this oasis we call Earth. The ancients intuitively understood this blessing from ground level. Jeremiah spoke of the God who lights up the day with sun and brightens the night with moon and stars, who whips the ocean into a billowy froth.

Two millennia before Jeremiah, around 3200 BCE, some people built a tunnel to direct the sun’s rays at the winter solstice to a special “passage tomb” at Newgrange, Ireland, 66 kilometers north of Dublin. Today, it’s a popular, year-round tourist site. Each December, a lottery is held to allow a small group of people to participate in a special sunrise winter solstice celebration.

Newgrange is one of the more fascinating places on Earth. Several short videos provide a glimpse into this historic tribute to ancient mystical ingenuity, including a 2 1/2 minute clip from National Geographic, others from Irish Central, and an essay by Ciaran Vipond with a brief video.

From “Winter Solstice at Newgrange–Inside the Passage Tomb,” a 2 1/2 minute segment of an interview with Professor Tom Ray of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, by RTE, the Irish public broadcast service.