Candid Thoughts on Saving the Country

I just turned off the T.V. after watching the first installment of the public impeachment hearings. I didn’t watch all of it, only the last hour or so. I can only deal with so much of it since it causes me great anxiety. What I saw were many powerful and influential people putting on some kind of a show trial to a jury who have already made up their minds about the verdict.

I saw two consummate professionals who spent the entire time trying to avoid being smeared and discredited by one political party or flattered and used by the other. As I usually do in these public hearings, I felt most sympathetic to those being questioned and having their characters and motivations assaulted. I consider Bill Taylor a patriot. If I had been in his position, I hope I would have conducted myself with the same amount of honor and good faith. The Trump administration has put many patriots and men and women of honor in impossibly complex moral quandaries forcing them to choose between their careers and doing what is right; between the comfort of anonymity, and the unnerving spotlight of public scrutiny. When the difficult decisions had to be made, Bill Taylor did the right thing.

Although the last three years have been a time of profound disappointment as people like Nikki Haley, Marco Rubio, and Lindsey Graham have compromised their integrity in defense of this President, there are others who have shown their character in standing in defense of our country. Adam Schiff was the model of composure and decorum as he directed the hearings today. He has done the country a service by bringing the misdeeds of our President to the light of day. There were several Republicans who managed to avoid ad hominem attacks and stick to the important facts. A woman representing New York impressed me. She conducted a well executed line of questioning drawing attention to the support and aide that the Trump administration has given to Ukraine. Many of her other Republican colleagues were not so professional. To say I was disappointed in them would be a massive understatement.

It is one thing to question a witness’s recollections or even bring to light important character considerations that might effect whether or not they are credible. It is another thing, as Representative Chris Stewart from Utah did, to dismiss their witness as an expression of opinion with vindictive motive. He also referred to a constitutionally sanctioned and credibly warranted impeachment inquiry as an attempted coup. Such language from a member of the House of Representatives before the American people is inappropriate and dangerous. He is a member of my church and former missionary to Texas. He shares my alma mater, Utah State University. To see a man of such accomplishment and standing engage in such behavior sickens me. It makes me fear greatly for the future of our country. If men like Chris Stewart will abase themselves in this way to defend the indefensible, what hope do we have?

America, the world is watching. America, today your representatives spoke of the unending battle the Ukrainians have been fighting against corruption. Do you not see that we are fighting the same monsters at home? Do you not see that we are vulnerable to the same propaganda tactics that Putin has been using on Ukraine for many years? Why do you ignore and dismiss the free press who tries to warn you? Why do you resort to entertainment news instead of seeking to be educated and informed? Why do you label your friends as enemies and your enemies as friends?

America has too many grifters where she needs patriots. America has too many partisans where she needs statesmen. America has too many pundits when she needs journalists. Each one of us needs to ask ourselves the question, What will we do in 2019 to save our country?

What will you do to save America? What will you do to build a bridge with someone who believes differently than you? What will you do to support human rights and freedom abroad? What will you do to support the men and women who are trying to serve America while managing a corrupt and incompetent President whom WE elected? May I make a few suggestions?

First, question the narratives. In our modern time we have seen the rise of the entertainment/news media. I don’t have T.V. so I don’t watch it myself. I get my news from print media like Washing Post, Miami Herald, the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and others. I find that even if the author has a different political view, I can still learn from what they have to say. Twitter feeds, podcasts and some CBS and NBC streamed from my Roku device fill in the rest. In diversifying my sources of news, including both conservative and liberal perspectives, I feel I have a good grasp of what is happening in 2019. Sometimes what I read is uncomfortable. Sometimes it conflicts with my reality. That’s okay, that means I’m learning! I construct my own narrative. It may be flawed and certainly has bias, but at least it isn’t constructed by a meganews network. Contrast that to someone who only watches CNN or Fox News or MSNBC for their news. The narratives are crafted for them on the screen. Like a greasy fast food hamburger, its fast cheap and easy. You can feel informed while exerting little effort and making almost no decisions about what issues to focus on or whose voice is worth listening to. You cheer for your team and boo their enemies. You don’t really have to question your views because the network you choose agrees with you on everything. They put on token opposition which is deftly and swiftly refuted like a choreographed scene from a Marvel movie. You are written in as the hero of the national drama pitted against the evil opposition responsible for all the problems in the country. It feels good, but it isn’t real. Reject the narratives.

Second, engage in meaningful debate. My friend posted on Facebook about an experience he had in the state legislature witnessing a debate about nuclear fuel. He observed that often our opinions are not as firmly rooted in fact as we think until we are faced with hard questions from someone who believes differently. I second that observation. So much of what I believe is based in what I have been told and accepted as truth without real scrutiny. The political opinions we hold are crafted out of millions of observations, judgements, and assumptions. No one has an unbiased opinion based solely in facts. We are sculpted by our biology, our environment, and our choices. Debates, when respectful and measured, can benefit both sides. Often we avoid discussing political subjects because we are unconsciously afraid our views will be poorly represented either because of a lack of skill and articulation or a lack of substance. That’s unfortunate because a robustly informed citizenry is essential to our health as a republic and debate is really the only way to do it. The truth is, everyone’s perspective is important in a republic. We all need to speak and listen to one another for our society to function properly. I will continue to speak to and listen to others who are willing to discuss politics respectfully. I commit to question and reflect on my views with humility.

Third, come closer to God. I firmly believe that only God can bring people together. As we seek his spirit, we come in harmony with our fellows on this Earth. I don’t understand it, I just see it. When I notice a lot of fighting in my home, or discord in my marriage, most often it is because we are far from God. When we make adjustments to prioritize our relationship with Him, we have less conflict. There is something about the simple act of appealing to and connecting with a higher power that is more effective than anything else at resolving human differences. Religion, when based in the spiritual connection with deity, can be a unifying force for good. When it is tribalized and politicized, religion can be divisive and harmful. We need more of the first kind. It is not easy to cultivate an authentic relationship with God. We cannot hide our warts from him. An impressive show of competence and confidence will not impress Him. He has no use for fancy clothes or important titles. His gaze pierces the armor of the soul to the very core. His judgement is keenly accurate and cannot be deflected or deceived. In His powerful presence, human pride wilts and quickly dies. Perhaps that is why it unifies us, as pride is the source of enmity. God’s power and majesty dwarfs our abilities to such an extent that our works are nothing to Him. We are as babies drooling on the floor; loved not for our accomplishments but for our potential.

So those three things are what I will commit to do to save our country. I refuse to give up hope that we can rise above this moment of division and corruption. There is still much good in this nation and many people of good will who have yet to see that the solutions to our problems are within our power to solve if we set aside our differences and just work together.

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