Identity Partisanship

Without succumbing to the temptation of Google Search, who is the fourth-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate? How about the sixth-ranking Democrat? Many of us are well aware who Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are and we’ve probably heard all the ad hominin jokes about “Turtle Head” and “Crying Chuck” as well. On cable television, Sean Hannity will remind you how horrible liberals truly are; in print media, Dan Gainor will validate what we already know that the Left is disrespectful and encourages violence. Change the channel to the left and you can hear Chris Matthews call Donald Trump ‘Hitlerian’ while you read Roger Cohen describe our President as a “raging buffoon.”

But there is another way. There is a path through political vitriol and blinding media selectivity. There is a difference between political difference and political partisanship, between media bias and media blindness.

First and for the record, the fourth-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate is Richard Shelby (R-AL). You may not even recognize him. He’s a little different than Chuck Grassley who, after Orrin Hatch leaves office in January 2019, will become the senior Republican senator. In November 2017, Grassley said about allegations against Alabama Judge Roy Moore that it was too bad that the Clinton-Lewinski scandal “didn’t turn out to be a big deal.” Oh, and, in December 2017, Grassley lamented people who spend their money on “on booze or women or movies.” Conversely, Shelby unequivocally stated that the State of Alabama could do better than Moore and steadfastly refused to endorse his fellow Republican to serve alongside him in the U.S. Senate.

Across the aisle, Jack Reed (D-RI) is the sixth-ranked Democrat in the U.S. Senate. Reed is a bit more low-key and reserved in his comments than his presidentially aspiring colleagues Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (CA-D), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Not coincidentally, the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee invited Reed to be the only non-member to ask questions during the Comey hearing on June 8, 2017.

And civility still exists in journalism too. Look at Fox News’ Jon Roberts and Shepherd Smith. Take the time to listen to Friday Round Table on NPR between liberal E.J. Dionne and conservative David Brooks; the duo almost trip over themselves in an attempt to be understanding and respectful to each other. Yes, we can choose to read Jonah Goldberg of the National Review and Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal, instead of Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopolous (formerly) of Breitbart.

But, unfortunately, it seems Americans are attracted to the increasingly erratic and mocking attitudes of the liberals like Keith Olbermann and conservatives like Carlson Tucker. We seem to be unable to distinguish television personalities like Michael Smerconish and Lou Dobbs, from journalists like Don Lemon and Chris Wallace.

But congeniality does not score television ratings or political contributions as easily as condescension and condemnation. If only conservatives paid as much attention to media liberals like Eugene Robinson and John Harwood instead of obsessing about David Palumbo-Liu Yvonne Felarca. And perhaps the liberal media ought to have less Paul Begala, and more Paul Krugman? More Andrea Mitchells who are genuine reporters and fair commentators at the same time.

Perhaps Fox should spend less time booking Gregg Jarrett and Sebastian Gorka, and more time booking Ari Fleischer and Britt Hume? More Judge Andrew Napolitano and less Laura Ingraham? Sadly, the conservative base is more interested in the attempted resurrection of Bill O’Reilly than the attempted redemption of Glenn Beck.

Too few of us pay attention to the people and media sources that we supposedly follow. For example, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier are journalists, whereas the aforementioned Hannity and Dobbs are host/commentators like Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper. And among elite host/commentators, not all are equal: Rachel Maddow had a Rhodes Scholarship and has a doctorate in politics from the University of Oxford, while Anderson Cooper has a B.A. in Political Science. Sean Hannity has no college degree.

There is also a difference between traditional hosting (David Muir, Jeff Glor, and Lester Holt) and journalistic reporting (Jon Roberts, Jim Acosta, Major Garrett, Jonathan Karl, Kristen Welker, Kelly O’Donnell, Peter Alexander, etc.). Similarly, but more subtly, I think there is a difference between commentary and analysis. Perhaps is as superficial as commentary is on television and analysis is written? Adding to the confusion, commentators and analysts may come from political, academic, or journalistic backgrounds as well.

In terms of the medium of media, there is a significant difference between written journalism and television (though maybe Fareed Zakaria successfully bridges that gap). Of course, almost everyone who follows politics knows the names Hannity, Maddow, and Cooper, but we need to read Jonah Goldberg, Ezra Klein, and Hendrik Hertzberg to be true political junkies.

Yes, CNN’s Chris Cuomo is well known, but I would suggest CNN’s Chris Cillizza is far more important to follow. Instead of being distracted by gimmicks and soundbites by Chris Cuomo, Steve Docy, and Sean Hannity, we should be asking questions like what is the education level and corporate sponsorship of these television personalities? Is the program intended to entertain and distract, or educate? It is important to wonder what questions the television personalities are not asking as much as it is interesting to ponder what questions are being asked.

Similarly, what politicians do not say, can be as revealing as what is said. We can listen to McConnell and Schumer spin; we can listen to Sherrod Brown (OH-D) and Rand Paul (R-KY) entertain. We can even watch Tom Cotton (AR-R) makeup facts and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) avoid jail.

Regardless of what the sensationalizing media may suggest, the world is not divided between the armies of George Soros and the Koch Brothers, nor the manipulative powers of a liberal media conspiracy and the most watched cable news network, Fox News. And not all politicians of each political party are equal either.

No, Richard Shelby and Jack Reed are not perfect, but I would rest easier with more Shelby and Reed, Jon Roberts and Fareed Zakaria, as well as more Chris Cillizza and Jonah Greenberg. Perhaps, if we don’t recognize the name of a Senator or journalist right away… perhaps it is because, regardless of political party or media bias, that those U.S. Senators and media representatives are doing their job, not promoting themselves. Yes, Op-Eds and newspaper commentaries ought to make a focused argument, but it is not necessary to publish Op-Eds that generalize an entire party into a homogenous entity or make ad hominin attacks on parties or politicians. When politicians, cable news, and print media criticize partisanship, self-reflection not recrimination might narrow the gap that increasingly divides America.

June 1st Saints and Sinners

Hello June! What a month! What a day! Welcome to, This Day in Today!

When we look back at this day in history, June 1, 1762, we find that Edmund Ignatius Rice was born in Callan, County Kilkenny, Ireland. Rice was a Roman Catholic educator. He had a successful career in business but, after a tragic accident which killed his wife, and left his daughter disabled and with learning difficulties, he devoted his life to the education of the poor. Rice was born in Ireland at a time when Catholics faced oppression under Penal Laws enforced by the British authorities. He lived in a time before Catholic Emancipation; he lived in a time in which the Irish couldn’t speak Irish in Ireland; Irish Catholics could barely own land. The Irish could not enter seminaries in Ireland; Catholic Masses were curtailed, and Irish Catholics could barely vote. That’s one of the many reasons that Rice’s work was so important. As a layman, he could do more than the ordained clergy could in Ireland. Edmund was the founder of two religious institutes of religious brothers: The Congregation of Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers. Today, Christian Brothers and Presentation Brothers schools around the world continue to follow the traditions established by Edmund Rice.

The same say, but two hundred years later, on this day, June 1, 1962, Adolf Eichmann was executed. Eichmann’s body was cremated at a secret location, and his ashes were scattered in the Mediterranean Sea, outside of Israeli territorial waters by an Israeli Navy patrol boat.

Earlier that evening, at 8 p.m. on May 31, Eichmann had been informed his appeal had been denied. Eichmann’s execution was scheduled for midnight, but due to a slight delay, it happened a few minutes after midnight at a prison in Ramla. He refused a last meal (preferring instead a bottle of wine) as well as the traditional black hood. His last words were:

“Long live Germany. Long live Argentina. Long live Austria. These are the three countries with which I have been most connected and which I will not forget. I greet my wife, my family, and my friends. I am ready. We’ll meet again soon, as is the fate of all men. I die believing in God.”

Such a self-indulgent, self-absorbed view of the world, of history and religion. A man who actively participated in the murder of between 6 and 15 MILLION human beings… his last words were that he died believing in God.

Me? I remember clearly a few lines in the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhists, Sikh, Jain, Hindu, well, I dunno, ALL the sacred scriptures? I remember them ALL saying something about not killing and stuff like that. In fact, John 15:13 says that there is no greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. That’s what Edmund Rice did, metaphorically, and that’s precisely what Adolph Eichmann did NOT do, metaphorically or otherwise… he lay down his life for, well, himself. Eichmann was no Ricky John Best or Taliesin Namkai-Meche.

On this day, June 1, 2017, Micah Fletcher asked supporters to focus their attention on the girls racially and religiously attacked on a train in Portland, Oregon, and not on himself. Fletcher was one of three people STABBED when the trio of strangers confronted Jeremy Joseph Christian. Christian, what an ironic surname, described himself as a white nationalist, verbal attacked two young girls he didn’t know on the MAX train in Portland: Destinee Mangum, a 16-yr-old African-American girl and her 17-year-old-friend, who is Muslim and was wearing a hijab.

While Fletcher survived, Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche died from their wounds.

As I was saying, on June 1, 2017, Micah Fletcher asked supporters to focus their attention on the girls racially and religiously attacked on a train in Portland, and not on himself. “We need to remember that this is about those little girls. I want you to imagine that for a second being a little girl on that MAX,” Fletcher said. “This man is screaming at you. His face is a pile of knives. His body is a gun. Everything about him is cocked, loaded and ready to kill you,” he continued. “There is a history here with this. You can feel that this has happened before, and the only thing that was different was the names and faces. And then a stranger, two strangers, three strangers come to your aid. They try to help you. And that pile of knives just throws itself at them. Kills them.”

Even after experiencing such trauma, Fletcher had such a way with words. The now 22-year-old is a student at Portland State University and a poet; in fact, Fletcher won a 2013 poetry competition for two pieces of work: one that dealt with the blame rape victims face and another focused on the prejudice leveled at Muslims in America after the attacks on September 11, 2001. His work focuses on social injustices, and he wants his poems to inspire change. “We in Portland have this weird tendency to continue patterns that we’ve done forever and one of them is same old just to put it bluntly: white savior complex,” Fletcher said in the video. “I think it’s immensely, immensely morally wrong and irresponsible how much money we have gotten as opposed to how much support, money, love, kindness that has been given to that little girl.”

Yes, we live in the era of self-delusion and self-indulgence… And the Divider in Chief keeps coming… Rosanne Barr has “Freedom of Speech” but Samantha Bee doesn’t? Dinesh D’Souza is a patriot who deserves a Presidential Pardon to continue his expression of free speech and free press, but the media is the enemy of the people and NFL players who exert their right to freedom of speech are unpatriotic? …The Commander in Chief has become, not just the Divider in Chief, but is also the self-appointed Truthsayer-in-Chief? If Trump likes the news, then it’s true, but if Trump doesn’t like the news, its fake news?

We have collectively forgotten Daniel Patrick Monahan’s maxim: we’re all entitled to our own opinions, just not our own facts. In this Brave New World, perhaps we need the Fourth Estate of journalism more than ever? We live in a world in which the 2nd Branch has bullied the 1st Branch legislative majority into the submissive role of rubber stamping? We live in a world in which self-declared protectors of the judiciary, the Federalist Society, are sudden mute, having been bought in exchange for lifetime appointments that will outlast Trumpism… Their 30 pieces of silver…

Now, we live in the time of the tweeter of truth? The Factchecker-in-Chief who says it how it really is and stands up to the lamestream media? Hmm… truth… facts… accuracy… I wonder, Trump correct about Obama’s birth certificate? Mexican rapists? MK’s menstrual period? The millions of dollars secretly given to Iran? His own word that he would sign any DACA deal? The “millions” of illegals who voted in the 2016 Election? And immigrants are from shit-hole countries…

Was Trump correct about TTP being bad, or was he correct last month (4/13/18) when he ordered that we reconsider joining? I guess it could have been when Trump attacked GWB on 2/21/16, that MUST be it, right? He must have been right when he promised that Mexico will pay for a wall on our southern border? Or, maybe it was himself that he was correct about October 1999, when Trump on CNN’s Larry King Live that he was forming an exploratory committee with the intention of running for president, Trump said: “I’m a registered Republican. I’m a pretty conservative guy. I’m somewhat liberal on social issues, especially health care.” No, apparently, he’s not liberal on the Affordable Care Act… or transgender rights either for that matter… And you remember Charlottesville? A lot of good folks on both sides… Funnily enough, I don’t remember Trump recognizing that there are a lot of good people on both sides of the aisle in Congress?

The president can’t be believed about even what day of the week it is, as John Boehner said yesterday, it’s no longer the GOP, it’s the party of Trump. And I’m not talking about Republicans, I’m talking about the fringe Trumpers who are too busy being angry and loud to bother fact-checking anything. The 38% who are so desperate to be right in their vote for a con-artist, then taking personal responsibility for being duped. Where is the wall? Where is the return of American manufacturing? Is it America First to save a Chinese cell phone company, ZTE, while starting a trade war that will ultimately hurt US agriculture, particularly soy farmers? Trump supporters are like the audience in Mark Twain’s Huck Finn, they would rather pretend that the Duke and the King’s performance is legit and drag others into the con game that *they* fell for than admit they were wrong…

In the face of facts, the Angry Minority pivots and make comparisons to Obama, bring up Benghazi, and HRC’s emails… they will wax poetic about the liberal media bias, and then shut down from their high horse of victimization and righteousness…

I suggest we all need the Fourth Estate more than ever. I suggest we need less Adolph Eichmann’s in public discourse today. Less jingoism and more justice. Less being right, and more being respectful. Less vitriol and more virtue…

I wish *I* could be more like Edmund Rice and Micah Fletcher, I wish we all could, and less like the propaganda machines of right-wing populism, or left-wing populism for that matter too. I wish we could remove opinion from the pedestal we have placed it and replace it with facts as well as perhaps compassion.

Is the Visitor Catholic?

I was concerned and slightly amused by the editorial in the Providence Visitor (1/5/06).
While discussing the Catholic perspective for the upcoming General Assembly Session, the editors of the Visitor wrote: “We beseech legislators to address many important issues, especially a 24-hour waiting period for abortion, the right of conscience for pharmacists and health care workers, the plight of undocumented workers, the rising cost of heat for low-income families, the obligations of the state to Catholic school families and children and the protection of traditional marriage.” In what is obviously a simple lapse in grammar, the editorial seems to say that abortion is acceptable, if given a 24 hour waiting period. My point is not an attempt at gotcha-politics or gotcha-journalism, but an attempt to illustrate that everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt. Does anyone really believe the Visitor is suggesting abortion is acceptable? No. However, what if a speaker or writer does not have the clout of unquestionable Catholicity to shield him or her? Then the person in question is vulnerable to unwarranted attacks. We live in an era when half of American Catholics are given a carte-blanch in their words and actions while the other half must prove their Catholicity. Maybe we can return to the point when we took someone for their word and, if they say they’re Catholic, we accept them as Catholic.