Comfort those closest, entertain the rest.

Occupy Wall Street

I’ve held off writing anything about Occupy Wall Street for a lot of reasons, but I’m finally breaking down (One of my reasons for holding off is that I’m not entirely convinced I’m as informed on the movement as I could be, and I don’t want to speak out of ignorance - but that’s rarely stopped me before, so here we go…)


As near as I’ve been able to determine, the protest was originally organized or “suggested” by Ad Busters as a statement against how big of a role money plays in our politics. I find that admirable and assume that’s a position most people would have a hard time arguing with.


What I kind of hate about Occupy Wall Street is that they seemingly, by design, allow their movement to be kind of amorphous; letting other people to join them and add whatever social or economic complaints they have to the protest.


So now, instead of just being about money in politics, the protest has a larger, over-arching theme of economic disparity. Which isn’t necessarily bad. I think it’s a good idea to shine a big light on the fact that 1% of the population controls the majority of the wealth in this country - if for no other reason then just to ask, is the system working? Did the 1% earn their way to the top, or have we stacked the deck against the poor in this country? Unfortunately, “economic disparity” is a little too broad of a message and attracts voices that I think fewer people can relate to - like people advocating all out socialism, universal debt forgiveness, or pooping on cop cars.


The other big problem with letting your movement become so fuzzy around the edges is that it allows your enemies to define you by your lowest common denominator. Listen to talk radio for a few minutes and you’ll walk away with the idea that all Occupy Wall Street protestors are either lazy kids who don’t want to pay their own way or liberal trust fund babies who just want something to rebel against.


Along those lines, this week I saw several people post the following picture on Facebook. It’s a flier that was supposedly dropped on protestors in Chicago :


There’s a lot wrong with this letter - like the writer’s implication that getting payed to landscape his yard is a “free ride” or that tipping 35% makes him some kind of philanthropic super hero. Also, what’s up with not spelling out the word “asses?” Isn’t that kind of puritanical for a letter in which you state you’ll take food off someone else’s plate to survive?


What’s really wrong with this letter, though, that you have to partially lay at the feet of Occupy Wall Street’s lack of clear mission, is that whoever handed it out has suddenly cast the movement as democrats and teacher’s unions being upset at stock brokers. Really? Talk about marginalizing a message…


Ultimately, it’s not my place to criticize someone else’s movement. They can make it about as many things or as few things at they want. I’ve just really hated seeing stuff like the above letter or hearing talk-radio callers so easily dismiss a movement that I think, at it’s heart, has a pretty universal sentiment.

How John Darnielle taught me to Tweet

As a staff Crossroads has been having a lot of discussions about Twitter lately. It’s obviously become a significant part of our culture and, as such, it’s something we want to be aware of and somewhat involved in.


And for some of us, it’s something we enjoy apart from any obligation we feel to engage people where they are.


I’ve been on Twitter for a few years now and posting my thoughts and opinions to the internet for well over a decade in some for or other. At times I’ve done so with very little in the way of a filter or good taste. In the last few years, being on staff at Crossroads I’ve started to realize that not every thought that comes into my head needs to make it’s way onto the internet - sometimes because I have a startling moment of clarity and maturity and sometimes because the boss makes his way down the hall to talk to me about something I’ve posted (never in a controlling way, or demanding way - always in the form of a conversation or concern). The fact is, on any given weekend I can find myself on stage talking to a couple thousand people - so all of a sudden my sphere of influence is a lot bigger than the small handful of people that read my blog back in 2003. That brings a certain amount of responsibility with it.


I’m fine with the responsibility most of the time. I bristle against it, however, when it comes to certain issues. Like politics.


For the past week, I’ve had some thoughts about the world we live in and the people who govern it that are burning a whole into my brain. I have written and erased twenty tweets about these particular thoughts. Every time I tell myself that I need to be mature and not post about politics because it might alienate someone, I hear this little voice in the back of my head saying things like, “Yeah, but this is important!” “This is truth and people should be offended by the truth sometimes!” and “Chicken! This church has neutered you!”


Clearly I’m conflicted.


This morning, though, I was reading an interview with John Darnielle, lead singer of the Mountain Goats, a band I’m very, very fond of. Darnielle would probably describe himself as a leftist, a feminist, and all kinds of other words Rush Limbaugh hates. When asked why he doesn’t write about politics in his songs, though, he had this to say:


“…as important as politics are to me, the life and the spirit of people’s emotions are much more important. People live real lives where they love and grieve and feel pain and joy and that is a whole separate sphere. All that political stuff, I believe in it strongly, but not as strongly as I believe that at some point you or someone is going to need a song to sit with and comfort them in a hard time. That’s important to me, and if during that song I’m telling you how to vote, I’m not doing my personal job as a songwriter.”


Now I would never compare any of my tweets to a Mountain Goats song (though, Darnielle is pretty prolific, so they’re probably pretty equal in terms of numbers), but he does make a good point - ultimately, when you’re expressing yourself, you have to figure out what is most important to you. I didn’t choose to devote my life to politics - I chose to devote it to trying to love, comfort, and communicate with people (none of which I probably do that well, but that’s another blog post). Politics are important, but when I let them overshadow my real purpose, or take away from it, then I’ve made them too important.


Darnielle is simply rephrasing an opinion that a few people have shared with me before - but sometimes you have to hear something from an unexpected source for it to really take hold.


I’m not saying we can’t talk about politics - but it’s probably better if we do it outside of Twitter and it’s limited character count and when you can look at my real face instead of at a tiny picture of me.

Jon Stewart - National Treasure

I made Sara watch this last night because I needed to explain to someone, with illustrations, why I love Jon Stewart. Obviously Stewart has political leanings - everybody does - and yet, he’s able to take a step back and make fun, equally, of the pundits and morons on both sides of an issue, like the protests going on in Wisconsin right now. You hear folks (mostly people on news shows that are unintentionally funny) bemoaning the fact that lots of young people get their news from The Daily Show and Comedy Central. Honestly, that’s probably one of the most encouraging things I can imagine…

Millard Fillmore

There was a time in our country when this was an acceptable haircut for members of the executive branch of government.

My friend Doug Bruce, made a joke about Millard Fillmore on Facebook. This caused me to Wikipedia the former President. His page sent me to the page of an organization called The Know Nothing Party (which was formerly known as the American Republican Party - no comment…).

In 1855, right up the road in Louisville, Kentcky, members of the Know Nothing party killed 22 people in an attempt to keep Catholics from the ballot box.

Remember folks, as bad as political discourse has become in this country - it could always be worse…

Nope, still don’t miss him

Here’s a bit from a transcript of Matt Lauer interviewing G.W. Bush about his recent memoirs:

MATT LAUER: You remember what he said?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, I do. He called me a racist.

MATT LAUER: Well, what he said, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: That’s — “he’s a racist.” And I didn’t appreciate it then. I don’t appreciate it now. It’s one thing to say, “I don’t appreciate the way he’s handled his business.” It’s another thing to say, “This man’s a racist.” I resent it, it’s not true, and it was one of the most disgusting moments in my Presidency

MATT LAUER: This from the book. “Five years later I can barely write those words without feeling disgust.” You go on. “I faced a lot of criticism as President. I didn’t like hearing people claim that I lied about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction or cut taxes to benefit the rich. But the suggestion that I was racist because of the response to Katrina represented an all time low.”

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah. I still feel that way as you read those words. I felt ‘em when I heard ‘em, felt ‘em when I wrote ‘em and I felt ‘em when I’m listening to ‘em.

MATT LAUER: You say you told Laura at the time it was the worst moment of your Presidency?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. My record was strong I felt when it came to race relations and giving people a chance. And— it was a disgusting moment.

So, just to be clear - the worst moment of his Presidency wasn’t the 9/11 attacks, wasn’t the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, wasn’t leading our country into a war over weapons that nobody ever found, it was being insulted by a rapper.

I think our current President, Barack Obama, has said and done some pretty stupid things, from accepting a Nobel Peace Prize to recently using the words “enemies” when speaking about people on the opposite side of the immigration debate - but I don’t miss Bush yet. Not at all.

live-blogging the debate

"No litmus test, but I don’t think anyone who disagrees with me is qualified."

Did Obama just predict the death of multiple judges?

Obama seemed thoughtful and genuine about the topic of abortion. McCain kind of treated it like a club to beat Obama over the head with. I’m sorry, I know this’ll make some eyes roll, but I resonated a lot more with Obama calling sex sacred and admitting there are good people on both sides of the issue than I did McCain’s smug attempt to throw up a disproven story about Obama not wanting to give medical care to babies of botched abortions.

Live-blogging the debate

This isn’t as fun as the foreign policy stuff from the first debate.

"I’m not President Bush. I could be his grandfather for crying out loud."

You shouldn’t be able to brag about being against torture.

Bob Shieffer is friggin’ awesome!!! “Are either of you willing to say it to their face!”

So wait, McCain just said he turned the campaign slimy because Obama wouldn’t meet with him in town hall meetings? Yikes!

McCain has repudiated all out of bounds remarks except the ones he made.

Live-blogging the debate

I’d like to see some numbers on how much money Quincy Adams spent on negative ads.

Sara is freaking out!

We need to know the extent of McCain’s relationship with G. Gordan Liddy, an unrepentant, state-sponsored terrorist who broke into buildings, subverted the constitution, plotted to kidnap protestor and kill a reporter, aaaaaaand just years ago, gave out advice on his radio show on how to shoot federal agents.

Live-blogging the debate

I like that Biden is from Scranton. He should totally do a guest spot on The Office.

Sara just called McCain a dummy for doing something that I do constantly.

Sarah Palin has gotten people involved in the political process that have never been involved before. In that sense she’s kind of like a Fischer Price’s My First Politician.

"Cockamamie."

Live-blogging the debate

McCain, if you wanted to run agains Clinton you should have run 12 years ago.

Obama may have never gone south of our border but I hear he can see Columbia from his house.

A billion dollars > human rights?

I’m gonna make a t-shirt that says, “I’m Joe The Plumber.”

Live-blogging the debate

According to CNN’s tingle-o-metr, Americans hate plumbers.

STOP SAYING “JOE THE PLUMBER!”

In response to Obama, there’s a lot of distance between 200,000 a year and Exxon Mobile. You don’t do yourself any favors by responding to the plumber question with that particular example.