Who Are We?

So I coming out of mass on a balmy day – sunny 37, baby! A nice lady says she watches ‪#‎NewDay‬ and then shakes her head and says how crazy everything is, that she wishes the ‪#‎GoodStuff‬ was more of the show (so many say that!), and that all the madness makes her wonder: “Who are we?”
The question is getting louder in America. It is not a new curiosity, especially with major movements dividing the country into polar opposites, like penguins and polar bears.

(FOR EXAMPLE: The 2016 election, being painted by the current political mess in which partisan opposition has not only removed progress and compromise from government but forced voters into right, left and left out as much as we have seen in recent history; The economy, highlighting have/have not in epic ways given the reliance on Wall Street instead of Main Street as a mainline for success; And then we have a war that shows division literally – are we in or out? Are we at war? Are we fighting amorphous “terror”, or agents of perverse Islamism? Is it the USA war or the Arab region’s war? Are other Muslims the main target or are we?

Social issues at home are also tugging on us: ferguson, gay marriage, media mores…they all test who we are as defined by what we tolerate, pursue and dismiss.

People keep sending me all these stats about how Christian the nation is and how wrong I am therefore to question the presence of God in our rights and laws as Americans.
One might suspect that given the known and pronounced catholic influence on my family and me that I am probably not motivated by atheism, and that just maybe there is more to how America is designed than just the religious preference of a majority of its citizens, especially given the first amendment to the foundational document of our democracy- which is not the Declaration of Independence, by the way. But let’s leave that to the side.

The main point of this post is to suggest, that the questions above matter and YOU have to answer them. You can’t leave it to electeds. There is no better informed, equipped and reasonable “THEY”.

And if you do abdicate the power, the answers may be slow coming, inconsistent and unsatisfying. Not because there are not good men and women working hard for you in government. In most cases there are, in my experience.

The one thing that is clear is that more ownership is needed among citizens. The constipation in DC is enabled by the lack of consequences at the ballot box. We ping pong between parties more than we seem to empower real change.

My frustration with social media is that it is too often consumed with attacking others with no real potential for progress.
I would love to examine the lives of trolls and see what in their existences works well given the completely useless way too many abuse social media.
Anyway, it is up to you. For all the talk about special interests, money, capitalism excess, plutocracy, oligarchy…it all grows out of the commitment of “we the people” to the collective. Our decisions, compromises and collective agreements make us what we is.
That goes for the rights a society embraces as well…but that is a fight for another day.


Ash Wednesday & Lent


So I am a few steps from my ash service, feeling the flush of a new chance to be better in observance of the religious season and this guy walks past me on the street and says “hypocrite”.
I turn to return the favor when i notice he seems to be saying it consistently as he walks through the ash faced exiting Catholics.
That made me feel better, but then I got to thinking. Too many “Christians” don’t strike a good talk/walk balance. Too many see religion as what separates us and what is absolute and put the actions that the faith truly promoted on the back burner.

How do you justify defending God while insulting the person you are talking to. Can’t try see how hypocritical that is even as a tiny thing? The bigger hypocrisy is thinking being religious means telling others that what you believe is the only truth. That goes beyond proselytizing – which is supposed to he about showing your faith as opposed to just lording it over others and condemning them for believing otherwise.

The main hypocrisy is when people of dairy, especially Christians, willfully ignore the profound humility of their savior, and how he lived and why he said what he said. Jesus was love. Everything he said and did was to that end. Love.

That’s what the pope is pushing time and again: don’t worry about what is wrong; do what is right. And the most important part of being Christian is NOT telling others you are right and they are wrong. Live your faith with your actions and not just your mouth.

You know the psalm: love is kind, merciful, etc.

The President created controversy by comparing the scourge of Islamist terrorists with those who commit crimes in the name of Christianity. That we don’t call them Christian terrorists so why call ISIS Islamic. Putting aside the obvious that they are acting in pursuit of what they call Islam and we are in a period where there is no real point of comparison (the Crusades were long ago and are instructive of how region can be a mantle for hate but not for a double standard today) and the threat today is clearly not from Christian terrorists (and no mcveigh doesn’t count, he was an admitted agnostic who was not acting under color of religion regardless of where he spent time).

But there is a point of comparison that can be made: when you tell people you are right and they are wrong when it comes to God and you use anger as your means of dispute, you are on the same path as the deranged theocratic killers. They are on an entirely different level but the comparison highlights that it is the same seed of intolerance. It brings only negativity.

So, I am all about trying to do more and say less – at least for 40 days. You will know what I hold dear but what I show, how I act, not what I say about my faith.

That’s what Jesus did. That’s why we revere his deeds, his ultimate sacrifice as love in action. Words are cheap.


I choose to believe in God. I am a catholic. I was raised that way and I rely on my faith to help me through my many failings and my worries and my desire for a better path and a hope.

So why do I say God didn’t give us human rights like it says in the Dec of Indep, etc. because the US does not draw on divine authority for recognition of rights.

Founding documents were the beginning of course but the first amendment in that seminal constitution, which has infinitely more authority than the dec of indep obviously keeps faith out of government. SCOTUS has said this repeatedly. That’s why people complain about society buying God sanitized.

Our jurisprudence is secular, meaning profane, meaning outside religion. When I said laws come from man and rights come from man and collective agreement I was not perverting my faith or the truth.
I was countering a judge who was insisting that marriage was defined by God and thus only who e says his faith should marry should be able to do so. My faith says the same thing as his.
But our legal system says something else. It says rights come from natural law, universally recognized rights, that mankind recognizes and in forming a society collectively agrees to respect
Hobbes, Rousseau, even Locke all saw that dynamic.

I am not saying men make rights. I am saying men recognize their innate freedoms in forming a society which requires coercive agreement and the idea that God must be the only one who can create right because if men could the man could take them away…simply fails in practice. Rights are often curtailed by govt for good and maybe controversial reason. I am not promoting that. It is true.

But law and political philosophy aside there is another reason keep sticking my big, piñata head in this beehive of religious thought about America’s foundation: because the more we insist that one religion become the rule for all in America, the more likely a chance that somebody will do that to us. No one religion can be the rule for the entire society. No matter what the founders wrote. That’s not how America works. Not his today, since the constitution. We have the freedom to believe what we want and do what we want, as long as those beliefs and actions do not hurt others. And I can even insist that my beliefs should be the beliefs of all. But that does not make it so.

Especially as the world continues to come together to fight a hand of terrorists that is trying to organize murderers on the basis of spreading one form of perverse Islam to dominate all other Muslims, and any iter faiths and peoples, we should be especially vigilant to remember what makes us special: we do not allow one religion to dominate. That is freedom.

I am a Christian, but I would never make you be one.

See these trending hashtags? ‪#‎dashcam‬ ‪#‎stlouis‬ ‪#‎bufford‬

ME EITHER. Sometimes when people charge that the media doesn’t care about certain stories enough, Or that we milk things for ratings point out that we are often driven by what YOU take seriously. Especially at CNN. . This story that just happened out in St. Louis (the one right next to ferguson). The cops make a traffic stop and gang up on an 18yo and then one reminds the others they are on camera and another turns it off allegedly.

No he said she said. You hear it on camera. The dept “disciplined” the officer or not following procedure but is not pursuing excessive force for the stomping and tazering of the 18 yo bufford but they did drop the charges against him because of lack of evidence – ironically because of the dash cam being turned off.

Now, the kid had grass and a loaded pistol in the car. But it was a group stomping and tazering and then we have the dash cam issue.

This episode goes to the heart of what mattered in ferguson regardless of the facts in the case: training, instinct, transparency.

People were incensed. And this happened in the same area. And the cops turned off the camera on purpose and apparently for bad reason.

No one is fired apparently. No accountability apparently. No word from chief or politicians. And also nothing from the audience in terms of interest.
Not saying there should be riots. There should not. Ever.
But wow what a difference a few months makes

Is that it, time? Not a homicide? Kid not sympathetic enough – not cast as a college bound gentle giant? Compassion fatigue? Tell me because we covering it but there is little traction with the audience and that makes it hard to continue giving a story preference.

NBC’s Brian Williams False Story

Yes, I have read the NBC anchor account of telling a false story about being in a chopper that was hit by and rpg in Iraq. I read Williams’ explanation/apology and it seems to be thorough.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there is drama to come – the media loves to eat its own –
and I get the instinct to believe he told a “war story” for his own aggrandizement. However, he says that’s not what it was about; that he “conflated” stories.
I don’t know the man so I am not covering for a friend. My take is I don’t think it is worth a lot of scrutiny. He came forward and apologized and admits to being wrong. Not sure what else there is to it.

Many of us journos were there. Many still are. Some for long periods and many trips. I was lucky to dip in and out several times without ever being hurt.
I don’t get the hype that surrounds seeing action in a war zone. I have seen some and I wish I never had, and I don’t think the experience made me special in any positive way.
I respect greatly those who put themselves in harm’s way to cover conflict and obviously the greatest respect is reserved for those who actually fight for our freedom, and I include service members’ famlies in that sacrifice and debt of gratitude.

Feel free to comment, as always, but I am not looking for a rolling convo on this. We have a lot bigger things to discuss.

FAQ Reply

A FAQ reply that takes the time to take you through the thinking behind a decision.

Yes I refer to ‪#‎isis‬ as ‪#‎daesh‬ increasingly because I think it is not necessary to call a terror group what it likes to be called. I prefer to call them a name that is also accurate (Daesh is the acronym in Arabic for the group) that the group does not like.
Some tell me that as a journalist we should be objective about everything.
I have never believed that. Fairness is the goal, not indifference, not forced equivalence – as if every side in every situation deserves equal deference.
Sure in US politics when the parties are raging at each other we often let you score the fight, but at other times we vet facts and arguments on an individual basis.

There is rarely an even split on the merits in most situations. The job is to expose the points of merit and demerit in each case.

But this is not about journalism, really. It is about decency. And disrespecting those who don’t respect human life. Objectively.

I try not to say the names of mass killers in US for the same reason. It is a way of balancing the responsibility to tell you what is going on with the desire to not glorify the bad guys.

And there are bad guys. Like mass murderers. And that’s what terrorists often are or aspire to be.

So why mention them at all? Why give Daesh and other terror groups the attention? Are we just fanning the flames and making them more popular? Tough questions. I wish it were as easy as ignoring them and they go away.

But it is a balance: telling you what matters – and the movements of those who want to rule the world and kill all who disagree matters, with the unnecessary hyping and legitimacy that often finds its way into selling a story.

We can do better in the balancing. And we will. Daesh is not dominant. Not anywhere. They are being disrupted and destroyed in most areas of ongoing conflict by most credible accounts. But the war is far from over, mostly or reasons that can’t be defeated on the battlefield.

They are not true Muslims, they are Islamists – an ancient perversion of the faith motivated by equal parts violence and ignorance. They are closer to a social disease than anything else – the result of ills like poverty, disaffection and lack of education.

And while they are taking losses on the battlefield, are we addressing the real causes of their existence?

That would require countries that are “allies” changing how they educate (or educating at all), attention to poverty and social structures of oppression.

Those changes will be much tougher victories than any military campaign. Not to mention that war plays into their false narrative of being victims and it encourages violence…as violence begets violence, doesn’t it?

So the move to #Daesh is a step toward proper perspective on a group that may capture headlines with its indifference to human life and the focus of sovereign nations when they hold their people hostage, but that makes them worth of attention, not respect.