Finding Hope in a Divided World

It Starts with Human Nature

We all have a very human tendency to want to feel that we are right, that what we believe is true, that our perceptions are accurate. We gravitate towards those who share our view of the world and feel our perspective validated by them. Sometimes this goes to the extent of only surrounding ourselves with those who agree with us and excluding those who don’t. We live in a bubble.

Traditions of the Fathers

Often our belief systems, political positions and general view of the world are passed down to us through our parents and our education. Many people hold firm to such beliefs and positions. It becomes part of our identity – what and who we are as a group or a people. Such positions are self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating.

The biggest hope for that to change, is an opportunity to get outside one’s bubble or even take a step inside another bubble, to begin to see another perspective. Just a peek at an opposing view, and especially having one pushed upon you to educate you as to what is correct, usually has the opposite effect. We become defensive and hold more firmly to how we see things.

Judging Individuals

There is a real problem when such firmly held beliefs extend to judgments and feelings about an individual. People are complex. I believe we all have within ourselves a good core. We all started out as pure, innocent babies. We are all children of God. Yet, we also are all human. We all have faults, weaknesses and flaws. Not all choices we make are good. We all say and do stupid, insensitive, even cruel things with the potential to do others great harm, intentionally or not.

There is real danger in judging any person as inherently or completely bad. It can also be unwise to judge someone as totally good and incapable of doing wrong. Either way, everything is viewed through a narrow filter of our own bias, reinforcing a judgment we already made.

When we view an individual human being as purely good or bad, based on a preconceived belief – one that by nature we seek to reinforce and validate – we fail to see them as the complex human beings that they are. We fail to judge or treat them as we would want to be.

The Unjust Judgment of Evil

If our judgement of someone is bad – based on tradition and the beliefs of our group, or even what we think is our personal, objective assessment – we will naturally want to have that judgment validated. We will seek out messages that reinforce that belief. We pay attention to and enlarge on anything negative and ignore or dismiss anything good, forgetting that even bad people are capable of doing good. In fact, much of what we judge as bad in others, are actually good qualities taken to an extreme, or used in a way that we don’t agree with.

We judge the intent of someone we dislike to always be negative, forgetting that we don’t have the ability to read minds. Someone judged as evil cannot be capable of good, we think. If we open our minds to the thought that they could do good, then we might have to question our own judgment of them.

Being in a group that feels the same way about this person, negative messages are constantly reinforced. Even the slightest expression of doubt about something negative or consideration of something good is met with condemnation of us, so we shrink into silence. We see how the defense of this awful person by those OTHERS, has resulted in their vilification.

The Nonobjective Judgment of Good

If our judgment of someone is good – based on tradition and the beliefs of our group, or what we think is our personal, objective assessment – we will want to have that judgment validated. We will tend to give that person the benefit of the doubt when we hear anything negative. We dismiss or ignore negative things, thinking them uncharacteristic and therefore must not be true.

Such a person may do or say things very similar to someone we hate, yet are still judged as a good person. Their intent is always judged as good, even when they might act badly. We make excuses for them and deflect blame to others. We feel offense that they have been unfairly attacked when something negative is pointed out. We will defend them fervently, because we in effect are defending our perception of them and our sense of being right, as much or more than we are defending them personally.

Polarity Problems

Is there hope for a society which is polarized to such an extreme, with such certainty from both sides that they are right? If there truly is one right and one wrong position, then for one group to be right, the other must be totally wrong. Then it follows that one half of us are being deceived by and about the other. Which is really right? Who is being deceived? None of us want to believe that we have been sucked in, fooled or deceived.

But is it really an either/or? Is one position completely right and the other totally wrong? Or are we all being deceived? The better question would be to ask ourselves how we, in particular, are being deceived or mislead. But then, this requires the need to look at things with a more open mind, and to be open to the possibility that we may be wrong.

Perhaps the deception is in seeing only a selective part of the picture, and what is needed is an expanded vision? My fear is that too many of us are past the point of open minds. Crushing the opposition seems to be more the direction.

The Real Enemy

If we can stop looking at the world as US and THEM – with US being the good guys and THEM the bad guys – and see that we are all basically good guys with a common enemy seeking to destroy us all, there might be hope.

There is one who seeks to divide and destroy. That has been his aim from the beginning. He is cunning and devious and has had lots of practice. He fights not only openly against what is right, but he uses opposing ideas of right and wrong to turn us against each other. If he can convince us all that we are right and especially that the OTHERS are wrong and even evil, then he can just sit back and enjoy watching us destroy ourselves. I am sure that the devil is laughing much these days.

Change of Mind?

As I reflect back four years, I recall trying to prepare myself for what appeared to be dark days coming. At that point, I saw only two bad options, and no real good outcome. I do recall saying when I came home on election night and got a glance at the shocked faces on my TV screen, and then the numbers displayed: “Oh, so we are in for a different kind of nightmare.”

The interesting thing is that in spite of not necessarily seeing a good result, I did accept the result. And I think because of that acceptance, through the process of time and observation, my mind changed. I guess it was open a little crack. Without clinging to the belief that the outcome was wrong – kind of like the belief of a certain people in the Book of Mormon who felt that they had been wronged and the government had been stolen from them (see Alma 54:17) – I accepted it as what it was. I had enough faith in the system that we could survive for fours years. We as a country had survived much already and we had a system that hopefully would keep things in check.

That bit of an open mind allowed me to see the good that has happened. It did not change a certain personality, but I could see good fruits from a less than perfect individual’s efforts. Being freed from the need to maintain a negative judgment also opened my eyes to the unfair process of constant negative focus reinforcing the hatred. I saw a larger picture.

What is Ahead?

As I have found myself increasingly anxious about conditions in our world today, my tendency has been to try to persuade others to share my concerns, maybe with some faint hope that things might shift in the direction I see as best. After reflecting back to my resignation four years ago, I am starting to look at the future differently.

Though I would have liked to have changed the past four years, I survived it. WE have survived it. This may be just the beginning of many unpleasant things we will have to go through before the end. Our divisions may likely increase, maybe to the point of no return.

As I read the Book of Mormon, I see that things really deteriorated in just the few years before Christ came (see 3 Nephi 6-7). The government completely fell apart. Maybe our government will collapse? It was a good experiment in self-government, but successful self-government depends upon the goodness, honesty, and virtue of the citizens, and their unity around common principles. When the voice of the people chooses that which is wrong in the sight of God, we are in trouble (see Mosiah 29:27). “A house divided against itself cannot stand“, as Abraham Lincoln said. Maybe we will lose the freedoms we take for granted? We just might have to live under socialism or communism. Maybe we will have an outright civil war? Our divisions may weaken us to the point that we are easily invaded and conquered by another nation, as was the pattern in the Book of Mormon. Things could get really ugly.

Hope

So where is our hope? Where it always has been and always will be. Our hope is in Christ. He will return as prophesied and all of this ugliness will come to an end.

What will matter at that point? I hope I can get past the point of wanting to say “I told you so.” Being “right” will not really matter. It will only matter if our hearts are right. If we are prepared to be with Christ and live in a better world, not successfully or comfortably in this imperfect, and too often unjust and cruel world. Preparation for that will require becoming a better person. Will that be our focus going forward?

Who is Being Deceived?

I have found myself asking that question when observing the certainty with which people affirm what appear to be polar opposite views of a situation or event. In fact, we seem to be living in a parallel universe where half are seeing things one way and the other half seeing something totally different. Yet, both sides are certain that they are right. Which is reality? If one is viewing reality, then the other must be deceived into seeing something false as real. Or could we all possibly be deceived about some things? It is enough to make one feel crazy.

Gaslighting

I saw an anonymous piece about Gaslighting shared on Facebook. I was reluctant to share it, not wanting to start any contentious discussion about details in it. I will share the beginning and the end which present the phenomenon in general terms.

“The term [gaslighting] originates in the systematic psychological manipulation of a victim by her husband in Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 stage play Gas Light, and the film adaptations released in 1940 and 1944. In the story, the husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly, or delusional when she points out these changes. The play’s title alludes to how the abusive husband slowly dims the gas lights in their home, while pretending nothing has changed, in an effort to make his wife doubt her own perceptions. The wife repeatedly asks her husband to confirm her perceptions about the dimming lights, but in defiance of reality, he keeps insisting that the lights are the same and instead it is she who is going insane.”

Having spent a period of my life studying addiction and working with families experiencing it, this is very familiar. There is a common joke said among them which goes like this: “How can you tell if an alcoholic or addict is lying?” “You can see their lips move.” Yet, family members have a common tendency to repeatedly believe what their addicted family member tells them when it contradicts what they observe with their own senses. I understand the feeling of craziness and doubting one’s own perceptions. We want to believe and trust, so we even convince ourselves that we must be imagining things, or our perceptions are off. We feel we are going crazy. And in the process power shifts from us to the deceiver.

Gaslighting on a Societal Level

On a societal level we want to be able to trust organizations to give us accurate information about events in our world. In taking sides, we tend to trust only certain sources and see others as the source of misinformation and lies when they differ. Have we lost trust in our own perception and judgment? Do we need, as Bari Weiss pointed out, the “enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else” of the truth to interpret the world for us? Feeling secure in a bubble with your trusted sources, you can dismiss alternate views as obviously the wrong ones without even seriously considering them.

We also have the added influence of peer pressure. It is like we are living the old fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes. When everyone around us, especially those who are supposed to know, are raving, we want to go along. Speaking out about the reality that we see results in our being treated like the crazy ones, or worse vilified, censored or cancelled. It is easier, and safer, to not even think about it – just silently and without question accept the narrative, reflexively parroting approved sound bites. It seems better to believe than to feel crazy. And of course, that is the point.

Think For Yourself – Trust Your Gut

I learned from alcoholics that the best course is to look at behavior/actions/fruits rather than listen to flattering words. With much that has happened recently, I try to trust myself, my first gut reactions, and what I see. When some sensational bombshell is tweeted, I try to sit back for at least a few days to see what develops. Usually, with looking at a variety of sources, facts gradually come out that paint a more complex and sometimes a very different picture. Things are too often taken out of context and it takes some effort to listen to more and varied voices to understand the context. Like dealing realistically with addicts, this involves using one’s own senses, observations and perception, rather than just accepting what you are told as fact.

Too many things this year have left me feeling that something is not right. The picture being painted does not fit with the reality that I personally see and experience. Reactions seem extreme and out of proportion. Things presented as spontaneous feel rather orchestrated and unnatural. I ask myself questions. Does this make sense? How does this fit with what I already know about history, government, natural laws and human nature? Where is this coming from? Who wants me to believe this and why? Who stands to benefit from people believing this? What about the money? It is always good to follow the money. I come to a conclusion of what is true and real based on my own observations and reasoning, rather than simply what I am told.

I will conclude with the conclusion from this anonymous post:

“Gaslighting has become one of the most pervasive and destructive tactics in American politics. It is the exact opposite of what our political system was meant to be. It deals in lies and psychological coercion, and not the truth and intellectual discourse. If you ever ask yourself if you’re crazy, you are not. Crazy people aren’t sane enough to ask themselves if they’re crazy. So, trust yourself, believe what’s in your heart. Trust your eyes over what you are told. Never listen to the people who tell you that you are crazy, because you are not, you’re being gaslighted.

Maybe the crazy ones are the ones so readily believing the lies?

Thoughts on Freedom of Assembly

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Ammendment 1

Through experiences of the past months, I am seeing that there is something profoundly valuable about being able to assemble as a group of people with a common purpose. Though business can and has been conducted remotely, there are added benefits to gathering together–feelings of unity, bonds, and synergy, that are lacking in the virtual world.

I remember back some decades to my time as a social worker. I observed that dysfunctional, and especially abusive families, were often isolated. This is largely due to efforts by abusers to maintain power and control. There are the obvious dangers of a lack of a support system or the ability to seek help, but there is another less obvious danger–isolation.

Isolation deprives us of needed reality checks. It is the casual observations and exchanges with others that give us our sense of what is normal. They give us opportunities to question our perceptions when they are different from others. We see common feelings and ideas and relate to shared experiences. Without these outside interactions, abused spouses and children come to see their restricted, abusive world as normal. Fears of outside dangers become magnified when interpreted only through the abuser.

After months now of social isolation and the absence of many of our routine group activities, the few and rather small gatherings of late have given me an unexpected emotional boost, almost like a cold drink after a long hot day makes me realize how thirsty I was. It feels wonderful! It brings back a feeling of normal. I suddenly have again a chance to feel validation for my thoughts and feelings through hearing others share theirs, with emotion conveyed as it only can be in person. An emoji can never convey what a smile, slightly raised eyebrow, or the hint of a tear in an eye can.

Humans are social beings. We need to be with each other. This is how it is supposed to be. There is great wisdom in the Founders recognizing and protecting the inherent rights of citizens to assemble for various peaceful purposes. Probably the most important purpose being to gather for the free exercise of religion. My soul is starved for that interaction now.

Division and fears are magnified when we are kept apart. Through isolation, governments can too easily exercise excessive power and control and in the process deprive us of those experiences which reinforce our shared humanity and foster unity. I hope this is a lesson from this experience that we do not forget.

Overreaction of Outrage

We have all probably at some time pointed out to another person that they were overreacting to something. The reaction appears disproportionate to the precipitating act or event. You would think we would be able to recognize that when it happens, with others if not always with ourselves. However, overreaction has become so common and routine, that to many it seems more like an appropriate reaction, even presented as the socially acceptable reaction. Failing to panic or share outrage therefore reflects a flaw in the calm ones.

2016

I think it started four years ago. We had a national election. This has happened every four years for over two centuries. Each time there is a winner and a looser. Sometimes the outcome has been pretty one-sided, but for the most part, roughly half of the country’s population is not happy about the outcome of any election. There have been complaints and some whining, but people generally accepted the outcome and tried to make the best of it, knowing that in four years there would be an opportunity to make a change. This is the way of our system.

The reaction to the 2016 presidential election seemed to me not only pointless and unnecessary, but way out of proportion. It wasn’t just a moment of upset and it was much more extreme than previous sore losers. The media has continued and fueled the overreaction by focusing on and blowing every possible negative out of proportion. It has been one outrage after another, ad nauseam, for four years. I think this has conditioned us, so that many fail to see how inappropriate and unwarranted most of the outrage has been.

Looking back at those outrageous reactions and the incidents that spurred them, were those situations really that dire? Actually, each crisis blew up and then kind of disappeared from mind and view as the next incident fueled another outrage. Yet, the angst remained waiting, almost anticipating the next thing to unleash the outrage on.

Irrational and Unnatural

The overreaction to these events appears irrational if one looks objectively at facts and data, in the context of history and considers multiple perspectives. The outrage probably seems reasonable after listening only to selected facts and exaggerations as part of the awfullizing narrative. Since these reactions are so emotional, what I have come to notice is my own gut reactions, which are a sense of something not right, something unnatural, contrived, even orchestrated, rather than an authentic and proportional reaction.

COVID-19

Then amid these repeating overreactions came a real threat – a serious, potentially deadly new disease. Something real to react to. At first, it seemed crazy to me that the world was suddenly shutting down. Sure this was a bad disease, but historically there have been worse. I was reading at the time a biography of Benjamin Rush in which was recounted the 1793 yellow fever epidemic which killed 10 percent of Philadelphia’s population. Even the worst – and now recognized to be unrealistic – predictions avout this new virus weren’t near that kind of death toll.

I remembered H1N1 not too many years ago. Nothing shut down. Life was normal. I went to a funeral for a victim of that virus, stood in a line with hundreds of people right next to other who all shook hands and hugged the family members who had been with her through her illness. No masks, no gloves, no hand sanitizer, no panic.

This reaction to COVID-19 felt so out of proportion. Sure, it was wise to take precautions and prepare, but was it necessary for life to stop for so long? We are beginning to see that the negative effects of shutting down may be worse than the effects of the actual disease. Yet, reacting to those actions is deemed inappropriate.

Black Lives Matter

As if we have not had enough, or possibly because isolation, economic hardships and anxiety are making people crazy, we have another overreaction of outrage. No one is arguing that the precipitating event was not horrible. Outrage at such actions is appropriate, as with other horrible incidents that have happened. We have had vigils, memorials, and demonstrations and people have made their voices heard in peaceful ways. Action has been taken.

But this has turned into something else, something way out of proportion, something very destructive. It is going on and on and getting worse. Instead of all joining in common outrage about behavior unacceptable to everyone, it has turned us against each other. Why? There is something more here than normal outrage at a horrible incident. It does not feel right. It feels contrived, manipulated, orchestrated, like a real tragedy is being used for a larger agenda.

People will say there must be an extreme reaction to accomplish change. But what change is really needed? Are things worse than they were 20 years ago? Are they worse than they were 60 years ago–the 1960’s? Though racism does still exist, the proposed solutions/demands seem way out of proportion to the problem. This dos not warrant destruction of our whole system.

So, I go back to my gut feelings. Something is not right here in America. I don’t think it is what the outraged are attacking as the problem.

Their Souls are Precious

It was by chance – or maybe not – that I read again in the Book of Mormon this week the prayer of the Prophet Alma as he and others began a mission to the wicked Zoramites. The phrase that jumps out at me and has at times pricked my conscience, struck me as such an important reminder today –

“Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious”

(Alma 31:35)

Which Souls are Precious?

This wicked community turned out to be comprised of two groups. One was disadvantaged, marginalized, oppressed and excluded from full participation in society. Thinking of their situation does resonate with the concerns and objectives of #blacklivesmatter. Maybe #theirsoulsareprecious could be just as appropriate a reminder.

Yet, Alma’s prayer was not just for these poor, oppressed people. His prayer was for the whole community. It was also for the prideful, privileged who were persecuting the others. Their souls were also precious to their Father in Heaven. They were His children too.

I am aware of reactions toward #alllivesmatter and the feeling that it misses the point and trivializes the injustices of so many years. But can you say the souls of some who may not have been treated as precious, are indeed precious, without recognizing the preciousness of all souls?

Questions

Hasn’t the problem all along been the human tendency to put people into a category judged to be somehow worth less than others or inherently bad and then using that judgment as justification for depriving them of privileges or treating them badly? Is it really any different when that judgment is made based on the color or one’s skin or the uniform one wears? Or maybe even the color and words on a hat they wear?

Yes, some people do horrible things to other people and they do need to be held accountable for their behavior. Does this justify putting all who share some identifying characteristic with an offender, into a category judged as bad and therefore deserving of disrespect, contempt, attacks and mistreatment?

Does mistreating others make one’s soul less precious to their Father? I am sure such behavior offends and pains Him. Seeing all souls as precious and condemning unacceptable behavior are not mutually exclusive. Any good parent knows that the preciousness of the souls of their children is the very reason they must learn right from wrong, even at times through suffering hard consequences.

A Plea

Maybe, whenever we have feelings other than love toward a group or an individual human being, or a tendency to ignore or discount someone, we need to get on our knees and pray to the Father of us all, acknowledging to Him as Alma did, that “their souls are precious.” Pray for them, for their needs, but also pray for ourselves, that our hearts may be softened and that we may see others as He sees them – as the precious souls they are.

Public Panic as a Political Tool

Youthful Hysteria

Today, we have young people taking to the streets protesting in panic that they might not have the chance to grow up unless drastic measures are taken now. I remember. I was there, back in the 1970’s. I sacrificed to ward off the crisis. But now I am old. I grew up. The world is still turning. The hysteria has returned.

Panic is used to shift political power. It can make ordinary, reasonable citizens willing to give up their rights in exchange for protection and security. Politicians don’t usually panic themselves. They stir up panic among the people, then when people demand action, they are ready to step in to do what they wanted to do anyway– things that increase their power.

Panic fuels mob mentality. By pointing fingers at the perceived source of the crisis, we divide into us and them. Hitler was master of this. He used words to create fear about Jews taking from the rightful citizens of Germany. His words made them the enemy and justified their dehumanization.

Crisis?

Of course, there are genuine crises. But not all result in panic and panic usually does not do much to resolve them. The worst thing that can happen in a real emergency is panic. When people panic they don’t think clearly. They do stupid things which make things worse. Emergency training always involves learning to stay calm and prevent panic.

Some crises do require swift, decisive action. Pearl Harbor was such a situation to spur the entrance of the United States into World War II. But the public panic that ensued encouraged and justified the denial of basic rights to Japanese Americans.

Most crises do not happen in a moment. The drug crisis has been ongoing for decades, yet it has not engendered panic. I saw the opiate crisis coming over 20 years ago. Why did others not see then? Why was nothing done to prevent its spread? Who benefited from it continuing? Who influenced the lawmakers who define crisis? These are questions which could be asked of any “crisis”.

The breakdown of the family is a genuine crisis that has been ongoing and worsening for some time. It is a contributing factor to other crises, which have resulted in panic. But the panic is often directed to promote political causes, not to address core issues.

What to Do– or Not Do

Sure, it is wise to see potential dangers and take action to prepare for what might be devastating. Preparation is best done with thoughtful planning way before the crisis is upon us. “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” (D & C 38:30) Such preparation involves thinking through possible scenarios and planning ahead for those contingencies, making it possible to react to a real crisis cautiously and purposefully rather than in panic.

Sometimes the goal of inciting panic is continuing a crisis, because that justifies the need for whatever action is politically advantageous. Being able to keep pointing fingers of blame to the other side is more important than resolving the problem.

True crises require action. But they are complicated and seldom have one single solution. They are best dealt with through thoughtful discussion and consideration of all factors and interests of parties involved. This process takes time and effort. This is what a healthy two-party legislative process is supposed to do. But what we have instead is each side rushing to create panic that will serve their purposes. Both sides do this, but one side seems to be more practiced and possibly more skilled at it. In fact, they were able to turn around the attempted panic about our southern border being invaded– actually mocking it as false panic– into panic of a different sort. Neither resolves the real issues.

Though politicians usually encourage public panic, they often don’t panic themselves. I doubt they are having nightmares about human extinction over global warming. However, one party has been in a continual state of panic for over three years now. I expect that there are nightmares about a repeat of 2016. These politicians have encouraged public panic repeatedly for so long that they seem to assume that everyone in this country shares this panic. The media has worked hard to feed the panic. Yet, strangely life has gone on pretty routinely for the past three years for most of us. For those in panic mode, however, thinking is getting clouded.

Monument to Panic

There are water pumps out in the desert to serve as a monument to panic. A whole generation has grown up and another began without their need and without much awareness that they are there. Those old enough might remember the Utah floods of 1983. At great expense these pumps were built to pump flood waters into the desert. But more floods have not come– yet. The Great Salt Lake has shrunk. The panic subsided and areas previously flooded have now been developed.

Will younger generations look back with regret at what was done or what they gave up because of their panic today? Or will they forget in the face of new panic created for a new crisis and intended to shift power. The true crisis may be the loss of freedom and quality of life which the panic produced.

Celebrate The United States of America!

Flag of the United States of America

A Cause for Celebration

A big anniversary is coming– Our great United States of America is approaching its 250th! It is a privilege for me to become involved in very early preparations for this momentous event for one patriotic organization. I remember well the Bi-Centennial Celebration of our Nation’s founding in 1976. I felt pride and patriotism as I was able to visit sites of historical significance in Boston that year. Now as the 250th approaches, I reflect on some of the rapid and troubling changes in our country over the past decade. I begin to wonder if there may not be so much to celebrate come 2026. What will our Nation and our government look like then? I see things that threaten our Constitution and run counter to the principles upon which it was founded. Some have suggested that the deep divisiveness occurring now is a precursor of civil war.

I feel that there are some things that we as a Nation, and as individual citizens need to do, starting now or sooner, to ensure that when 2026 and its planned celebrations arrive, we will feel that our great Nation is something to be celebrated and to be proud of. Will we be committed to help preserve it for another 250 years? We owe that to our patriot founders and all who have sacrificed to preserve our freedom and government.

Remember

It is imperative that we remember our history. That, for many of our young people, means first learning about the history of our County. For others it requires diligent and honest study and reflection. The shift to include voices which had not been previously heard in the telling of history is noble and worthwhile. Yet, somehow this has become a re-writing of history with judgment and condemnation of our predecessors based on shifting social standards of today. The result is citizens, especially young ones, who are ashamed of our history – and ashamed to be Americans.

We need to remember the patriots who founded our country and those who have served her. They, like all of us, were flawed humans and products of their particular time and environment. We need to understand that context. Those patriots, in spite of or perhaps at times because of those flaws and conditions, showed great courage and made tremendous sacrifices to preserve and defend our freedoms. There is much we can learn from them. We will always be indebted to them and should be grateful for their contributions.

We need to remember the history of the world and other countries. An understanding of the government and history of other countries, will make obvious the contrast with ours. There is a reason that those early Colonists desired a different form of government than a monarchy. There is a reason that people from other countries have flocked to ours, escaping oppression. They recognize America’s greatness and see the freedom and opportunities that we too often take for granted.

We humans naturally have celebrations to help us remember significant events. Yet, somehow the significance of celebrations becomes faded or intentionally changed, and we are left with just another day off. We humans erect monuments to help us remember. Yet, we now have movements to remove monuments to erase memories that some feel are unpleasant. What will we have left to help us remember?

Remember, Remember– I hear the echos of these words from the mouths of prophets. Why? Because when we forget, history repeats itself– not the good parts of history– the destructive parts of history. We must remember to hold on to all that is good and to be grateful for it.

Return to Principles and Values

As we remember, we need to recognize and reaffirm the principles and values upon which our country was founded. These principles and values are the “why” of our government– the reason for its existence. Citizens of other countries may feel united over a homeland, predominant ethnicity, shared language or cultural identity. Since early colonization, America has been a melting pot of cultures, languages and ethnic groups. What unites Americans are those principles which we have treasured and fought for.

The principles are eternal and detailed in our founding documents, yet too many are losing sight of them. Do we still value life and liberty? Do we value individual self-determination, self-expression and self-reliance? Do we see government’s role in preserving individual rights, with all being treated equally, rather than controlling people and behavior?

Those core principles and values are being replaced by shifting standards, changing values, popular opinion, relative truth, political expediency. Without the foundation of shared principles we are vulnerable to those who would seek to destroy us.

Respect

We need to return to a respect of our country, its flag and other symbols, its elected offices, and each other. There is no good reason for any citizen of this country to disrespect duly elected officials or the process by which they were elected. Throughout our history we have had many great leaders, and many who were not. They are all human and flawed. The process embedded in the Constitution allows us to have a voice in our representation. It is our privilege, right and duty to hold elected leaders accountable through our votes.

We need to return to talking to each other with respect. There is way too much attacking and taking offense. This fuels divisiveness and hate. Have we forgotten how to talk to each other civilly? We need to listen– really listen with the intent to understandthose with whom we disagree, not just hear enough to come up with a stinging comeback to post on Social Media.

Breaking the Silence

Earlier this year, I wrote a number of blog posts about disturbing things happening in our country today. I shared articles and posts on Social Media and joined in discussions. As expected, there were some unpleasant reactions. Though I think I have a tough skin, I do have feelings. Mostly, I found it all very exhausting and unproductive. I felt I had better things to occupy my time. Other worthwhile things did keep me away from blogging for a good part of the year. At one point, a blog post kind of wrote itself, yet I did not follow through and post it.

I became one more of the many silent Americans. We all have a valuable perspective. We do have something worthwhile to say. Yet, too often, we don’t speak out of fear of being attacked, “educated”, or shamed because we don’t have the “correct” view.

So, I now feel that it is important that I speak up, regardless of the reaction. I have heard the call for some time, but I guess I needed to hear it at 4:00 a.m. on the night we were supposed to get an extra hour of sleep. I will now commit to myself to blog more about topics that I feel are important and in my small way, help to prepare Americans for our 250th in 2026. Who knows how many will hear my messages, or how they will react, but I can speak up. It is my right– even my duty– as a citizen of the United States of America.

Identity, Diversity and Oppression

The Dream

I share Martin Luther King’s dream of people being judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Sadly, I have seen that in recent years we seem to be moving further away from that dream.

The dream is of a colorblind world where are all given equal opportunity, with character and skill and ability forming the basis of determinations of accomplishment.

A dream of a world where job applications, promotions, scholarship and University admissions are based solely on ability and objective qualifications.

A dream where we all see and treat each other as individuals with the same consideration and respect.

Sure things like gender, ethnicity, etc are a part of what makes a person unique, but they are not what a person is. If we can’t get past those identity markers, we can not form real relationships with each other. In getting to know people and forming relationships, we come to see a person as a unique individual – we see their personality, character, strengths and weaknesses. Just as we would want to be known and treated well because of who we are, not what we are, we would treat others well.

The Privilege Pyramid based on Oppression Points

After I started writing this, I read an article by Matt Walsh where he describes “The Left’s Victimization Flow Chart.” White men are at the top, followed by white women, then non-whites, then various LGBTQ combinations. He explains leftist thinking as oppression can only go from the top down, with higher groups oppressing those lower down. It is impossible with this thinking for someone in a lower group to oppress someone in a group above.

One way to look at privilege and oppression is an inverse pyramid. The larger majority at the top have greater privilege and oppress the gradually smaller minorities toward the bottom. Those at the top – white males – are seen as the most privileged and the greatest oppressors. An inverse pyramid is top heavy – it looks oppressive.

What I see happening is that now that inverse privilege pyramid has been flipped. It now looks like a regular pyramid, with reversed privilege and oppression. “Priviledged” white men are now at the bottom, with non-white LGBTQ people at the peak.

This is because society now awards people “oppression points”. Those acquiring the most have greater actual privilege in the way of political power and social influence. These greatly oppressed are able to claim victimhood to get what they want – things ordinary and even formerly privileged people must rely on their own efforts to obtain, or may not ever be able to have or do.

These at the top of this new Oppression Pyramid (formerly the bottom of the flow chart) are automatically believed and do not need any facts or evidence to back them up. Their “oppressed” status gives them freedom to pretty much say what they want. They can spew hate speech. They can claim discrimination and accuse others. They can ruin people’s lives if they don’t get what they want. The thinking is that they can’t really “offend” anyone, because they are the most offended.

Conversely those who are considered “white privilege”, especially rich white males, find themselves now on the bottom – the most despised, least believed and less able to use what had been considered advantages to their own or to society’s benefit. Definitely judged by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character.

I don’t think this is what Dr. King had in mind – the oppressed turned into oppressors.

Irony of Diversity

I find it ironic, baffling and disturbing that this is all occurring at a time when diversity has never been so great. The US is especially a nation of immigrants. We have neighbors from all nationalities and ethnic groups. We have intermingled and produced people with all kinds of ethnic and racial combinations. We have easily accessible DNA testing providing evidence of our multi-racial and multi-ethnic combinations. There are fewer and fewer people who can claim to be pure anything. We are almost all mongrels.

Why then, are we putting people into pigeonholes of identity based on characteristics that have become blurred? How hard has it become to accurately identify someone on first glance – by race, religion, or even gender? Yet, assumptions and actions are taken based on such superficial instant judgments.

Why do some people have a need to identify as an oppressed group? Why do some judge people, and others want to be judged, by the hyphenated part before American or the alphabet letter they choose? Wouldn’t they rather be judged by their unique personality or character?

Why can’t we just see each other as individuals with multi-faceted identities? Why can’t we be a people who judge others based on their actions and the content of their character? It is the dream, after all.

Ominous Warning Signs

History provides some ominous warning signs. Looking back on the Holocaust, the Jews were initially targeted, not because of their oppressed position, but for their privilege. Rather, it was the perception of their privilege – having wealth and power and influence that they did not deserve. Resentment for their perceived privilege fueled and justified others oppressing them. Then having been stripped of all privilege they became totally oppressed.

The great communist regimes didn’t target those lowest on the socio-economic ladder, though peasants eventually suffered greatly. The largest regimes were largely racially homogeneous populations, so race was not really a factor. Communists and Socialists targeted the privileged – the elite, the wealthy, the educated.

The presumed oppressed became the oppressors – or were used by those with some power seeking greater power to remove and destroy those previously having social and political power. The results were disastrous. The elite were destroyed, the poor remained poor and oppressed now by the government. But the newly elite party leaders enjoyed the spoils.

Our Choice

The challenge and choice for us in America is to find a way to recognize and accept differences without value judgments and accusations. We need to return to the principles upon which our government and country were founded. We all have the same God-given rights. Justice requires that we be judged by our actions, not our identity. Can we give up the competition for victimhood? Can we replace identity politics with justice and liberty for all?

Bubbles & Bias – On Being Informed

I wonder if liberals (Democrats and those leaning left) truly do not see media bias. It is understandable that when the media reflects your personal world view, bias would not be obvious to you. You would tend to see news as exactly that – news presented in a straightforward, factual manner. It is just the way it is.

I also think it is entirely possible for someone to remain fully within the Blue Bubble. If all the news and commentary about social issues you hear comes from liberal biased main stream media, how would one even know that there are other perspectives? It would be easy to see any mention of opposing views as being totally right wing nut stuff – tabloid journalism/fake news – and dismiss it without consideration.

There is No Red Bubble

Alternately, I think there really can be no real Red Bubble in America. While there is conservative bias, there is ever-present awareness of another perspective. Every time an American turns on a TV, opens a newspaper, glances at magazines in the rack at the store, or thumb through them in the waiting room of a Doctor’s office, they get left biased information.

So it is rather difficult for someone to stay within a Red bubble. You would have to live a very isolated life, with no internet or TV to even come close to avoiding liberal news. You can’t even watch a movie or a TV sitcom without being bombarded with liberal ideology.

It takes intentional effort to find, read and watch conservative news reporting and commentary. You have to become educated about reliable sources and where to find them. Google searches put liberal stuff at the top. You have to scroll way down to find something conservative. Some conservative information is actually filtered and censored by liberal platforms. You are just not going to see it at all. I have even read stories, then tried to go back for another look and it was nowhere to be found.

The Same Story?

For conservatives, there is constant awareness of the obvious left-leaning bias of main stream media. There have been times when I have read about a current event through a conservative platform, then later read an article or heard a news report about it, and I literally asked myself if this was about the same thing.

After seeing main stream media reports, there is little incentive for a liberal to seek out more conservative commentaries, and ample motivation to dismiss them before hearing them as right wing biased criticism. This happens all the time.

Headlines

The media realizes that most people today don’t have the patience to read lengthy articles. They like short news reports. They mostly read headlines. So the headlines send the message. And those messages are not generally neutral. Look closely at the value based wording. They are telling us, through the headline, not really what happened, but more what we should think and feel about what happened.

Unbiased news should of course, present all sides of an issue in a neutral way. They should tell us the facts of what happened – the general facts in the headline, and critical details in the story. We can then think about and come to our own conclusions about whether it is good or bad.

Usually one must read an entire article to find somewhere, usually about 2/3 to 3/4 the way through, some critical details. There might be a brief statement about a counter argument or opposing point of view. Or these “hidden” details might actually lead one to question the conclusion of the headline. Such details might even lead someone to a very different conclusion. Media is counting on readers not making it to the point where they might encounter something which really makes them think. And they can feel justified that they presented both sides.

Finding Balance

The more friends you have on social media, conservative or liberal, the more likely you will see articles that they share. Some of these are good sources and some may be radical. Unfortunately, it seems that liberals tend to throw all of conservative sources in the radical right-wing trashbin, because they are not what they hear from main stream media. It can be a good thing to read what others are reading. It might lead you to question whether your opinion is right. Even if it doesn’t change your mind, you at least might understand others better.

I find it sad to see someone “unfriend” those who post something they disagree with. This tends to shrink their pool of ideas and settle them more firmly into the bubble. Why can’t we have different perspectives and opinions and respect each other?

I have been pleasantly surprised by my local newspaper. Not too long ago, I think because of a change in editorial staff, they started including occasional conservative opinion pieces. Nothing like reading a few of those to realize how lacking those voices had been. It was almost like suddenly seeing colors among the gray. Reading a liberal and a conservative piece on the same topic next to each other is very enlightening – I highly recommend it. It gives one the opportunity to hear both sides and actually form an independent opinion. That is, of course, if one reads them with somewhat of an open mind.

I think it would be wonderful to have a civil discussion of all sides of an issue. But first, we must get out of bubbles and realize that there are multiple perspectives.

The Sky is Not Falling

I am reminded these days about a little story I was told as a child. Maybe children of later generations missed it? It was about a chicken – Chicken Little – who ran around in a panic saying “the sky is falling”. Now we have little chickens running around in a panic saying the world will come to an end in 12 years if we don’t radically change our whole way of life.

I have a few things to say to those panicking young people. I was young once too. I believed things I was told, especially by knowledgeable professors. However, through time, more learning and life experience, I have come to see many of those things as erroneous, misguided or even deceptive.

Some Perspective from the Dark Ages – the 1970’s

I was a College student back in the 1970’s – almost the dark ages. Actually it was kind of the dark ages. I remember going to school in the dark. Someone, I think wise politicians, decided that perpetual daylight savings time would save great amounts of energy. So we went to school in the dark during the winter. I even recall the Bell Tower on campus playing “Oh, what a Beautiful Morning” as we found our way to class in the dark. I never really understood how that was supposed to work.

I also dutifully car-pooled to campus. There were seven in our car-pool who drove from across town. I had a Volkswagen bug. Yes, we crammed seven bodies into that and drove to school. Why? Because we were told that we would run out of fossil fuel, likely by the end of the century. Yes, we were told there would be no more. It would be all gone. And these predictions were based on “science.”

Me and my VW in 1974

I also have recalled lately my Senior research project. It was titled “Attitudes of Weber County, Utah Residents Toward Government Intervention in Limiting Family Size.” I pulled it out the other day and read the summary of literature we studied at that time. It included lots of doomsday predictions. The world and its resources just would not be able to sustain increasing populations. We would all starve if something wasn’t done. And yes, there was discussion about forced – that means “anti-choice” – family planning measures.

I’ll share a little quote from the time defining Natalism as:

“The belief that individual couples have the right to have as many children as they please despite the scientific conviction that unchecked population expansion is by far the most potentially disastrous problem facing mankind in the middle of the Twentieth Century.”


(Silverman, Anna and Arnold. The Case Against Having Children. New York: David McKay Company, Inc.,1971 italics added)

What Has Happened Since

Somehow the disastrous problems facing mankind in the Twentieth Century did not destroy us. Overpopulation didn’t turn out to be the nightmare predicted. We haven’t all starved. Scientists were wrong, or at least not right. Maybe there was a reason we were deceived? Possibly it has more to do with politics than science?

The population hasn’t grown out of control without government intervention. Population growth rates have gone down. In fact, fertility rates in some countries have dropped below replacement levels.

The United States didn’t take steps to restrict family size. Legalizing abortion and changing attitudes accomplished that. Now we have young people too scared to have children because we are all going to die.

China did adopt and enforce – being communist made it easy to do the forcing – a one-child policy. Now four decades later, even they are seeing that it was not such a good idea. Not only did it destroy the family structure which took care of older parents, but the whole system is unbalanced, without sufficient young workers to sustain growing older populations.

We are not all starving to death. In fact, in the US we have a huge obesity problem. Yes, there are hungry people in the US and actual starvation in some countries. But that is not because we cannot produce enough food. This also, has more to do with politics. People are starving in Venezuela, while humanitarian aid is blocked from reaching them.

We have not run out of fossil fuels, but they are still the villain. It makes me wonder if this is just another attempt to shift power and wealth, because earlier attempts didn’t produce lasting results.

Power to Control Weather

I recently re-read the bible story of Jesus calming the seas. I recommend studying that one. (Matthew 8:22-27; Luke 8:22-25) My thought was this: Yes, there is one who can control the weather. He is the Creator. He has knowledge and power over the elements of this earth. He has power to change the climate. But He works according to laws and principles which may be foreign to scientific man. Those principles include faith and obedience. The elements obey Him. People don’t always.

The world mocks God and faith. Some laugh at the mere idea of appealing to God to temper the elements, as something primitive, uncivilized people would do.

The Choice to Believe

People, especially today, have made science and man their god. They willingly put their faith in scientists. The same kinds of scientists who misled us 40-50 years ago with their dire predictions. The same science that was used to convince us that tobacco was safe and that repeated concussions wouldn’t cause permanent damage.

People are willing to obey government over God. As if government really has our best interest in mind.

Why is it easier for some to believe the word of scientists and politicians than prophets of God? The world mocks prophets, but now people are paying attention to very similar “doomsday prophesies” from men in the name of science.

How consistent is it to believe that our world came into existence through totally random forces, yet we, puny humans, who randomly evolved from lower life forms, somehow have the power to control those random forces, change the course of nature and save ourselves?

I would not recommend totally disregarding science or attempts to be better stewards of this planet. We should use knowledge to make better choices and improve our environment. But why give in to fear-mongering and put blind trust in those who would ultimately cause more damage to our freedom and way of life?

Is there really a need to panic and rush forward with radical proposals that have not been well thought out? Some scientists have actually predicted that the proposed solutions may be more disastrous than the problems they supposedly address.

It seems reasonable to me that all things are in the hands of an omnipotent creator with a plan. Why then not appeal to Him? Why then not act consistently with His plan and laws? How could that possibly put us in a worse position?

The End

Yes, the world as we know it will come to an end. Not necessarily in the manner or the timing now being pushed by the hysterical chickens. The end has been prophesied since the beginning. It has always been part of the plan. The result will not just be an end, but also a beginning of a better world. Whether you are around to enjoy the better depends upon individual choice – whether to believe and obey God or man.

As the end of the world approaches, I don’t think we will be saved by solar panels. I believe our salvation will come as we individually choose to turn to the power of The Son.