Sometimes your usual one hour Sunday morning walk by yourself turns into five hours.
Sometimes your heart is heavy.
Sometimes your life sucks.
Sometimes you wonder what the point is.
Sometimes there’s a global health crisis. Hospitals are filling up. Health care workers are exhausted. People are dying. The next few months of winter could be absolutely horrific for so many. And a lot of people still can’t be troubled to care.
Sometimes the election is over. The result restores some hope. But some of the chaos continues as he tries to cling to power through dishonesty, denial, and desperation. And so many still don’t see it.
And sometimes, despite all of that stuff, the thing that really weighs on you is something even closer to home. With your own family.
You feel lost and angry and defeated. And you have absolutely no idea what to do.
So sometimes you walk alone for five hours.
And you want to just keep walking. Walk away from it all. But you know that you won’t. And that you don’t really want to. Because of a sense of duty? Responsibility? Loyalty? Maybe. Mostly it’s just stupid old love.
But you’re tired. Not tired of walking so much, even though it’s been hours.
Sometimes you don’t have the energy to deal with more information. So you don’t listen to your favorite weekly religious podcast while you walk, like you usually do. The one that regularly literally stops you in your tracks with its clarity and profoundness and new perspective, forcing you to pause to take notes.
You just walk in silence.
You walk halfway across the city. At least that’s what it feels like.
You scream a few times when you’re pretty sure no one can hear you. You hope the noise from the nearby freeway drowns it out.
You do some talking with God. And some yelling at God. And maybe some swearing at God.
But that’s ok. God understands. Trust me – if anyone can handle it, God can.
They can take it. We’re good, God and I.
Sometimes you struggle to find meaning as you walk for hours. Slowly. Why hurry? You’re not going anywhere in particular.
In silence. Wandering. Along walking paths. Through neighborhoods. Through the middle of empty desert lots filled with rocks and brush.
Why? To where? For what? Who knows.
You just keep walking.
You listen to a song after a couple of hours.
A hymn. The one performed at your friend’s funeral a few years ago. The one that always makes you feel something. The one that, when it hits those last few lines and you see that scene in your head of the singer just about breaking as she struggles to finish, still haunts you every time you hear it.
Haunts you in a painful but wonderful and holy way.
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.
You choke up and you want to cry, to let some of it out. But right now the stupid tears won’t even come.
The jackrabbit with the big ears runs away from you. But it stands up, ears high in the air, and listens. And looks back at you. Witness to your pain.
Sometimes you walk and notice little things. Things that don’t matter at all. And you take crappy pictures of them. Because you don’t know what else to do. Because maybe they mean something?
You’re not a photographer. And you apply bad filters to some of them to try and hide it.
But you notice these small things. And find them interesting.
You’re striving to find meaning. And purpose. And direction. And comfort, mostly. And you identify with them in small ways.
And it’s all really cheesy and dumb. But you don’t care.
You find tiny shards of hope.
A young hummingbird. Small. Alone. Messy hair. Maybe scared.
A small painted rock shrine to positivity. Rocks with messages like: Love. Shine. So Special. Peace.
A homeless man, resting in the warm morning sun.
A wheelbarrow, abandoned in the middle of an empty lot. Still useful, but no longer remembered.
A mangled golf ball.
A shopping cart. Tossed around and carried away by powerful monsoon flood waters outside of its control. Left for dead by the storm.
Then another positive rock shrine, a mile or two away from the first. Joy. Love. So Happy. Peace. Friends. Magic.
And by the end you’re somehow at least feeling a little better. Maybe a little more hopeful. Maybe you can make it through the rest of the day at least.
You find comfort in the embrace and concern of your wife. You know that, no matter how hard things get, you’ve got each other. That, despite the hell of the past few years, despite the hell of the past few months, together you are stronger than you’ve ever been.
And then you post your rambling and probably incoherent thoughts for the world to see. Is it a poem? A short story? A whiny complaint?
Part 4 – Why I Am Voting for Joe Biden (this post)
When it became apparent that Joe Biden was going to be the Democratic nominee for president, I was pretty…deflated.
I had caucused for Elizabeth Warren. I found her to be incredibly smart, infectiously energetic, tough in a debate, full of great progressive ideas, and possessing lots of detailed plans. She’d had a distinguished career as a professor and bankruptcy law expert and fought for and helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, not to mention her experience as a senator. She got things done.
Joe Biden seemed pretty, just…boring.
Anti-Trump Republicans Wanted a Moderate
Moderates, independents, and disaffected non-Trump Republicans were terrified of Bernie Sanders. And leery of Elizabeth Warren. “Give us a moderate Democrat as an alternative to Trump. Someone we can actually feel ok supporting,” they said.
And that’s exactly what they got.
Some of Joe Biden’s positions on some popular hot button issues:
Medicare for all?
Defund the police?
Abolish ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)?
Major military budget cuts?
Raise personal federal income taxes?
Only if you make over $400k a year
First of all, “socialism” is used *all* the time by conservatives as a scare tactic. We’ve had family members whip that one out on Janean when she said she wasn’t voting for Trump. “Don’t vote for Democrats unless you want America to turn into a socialist nightmare like Venezuela!”
Donald Trump keeps screaming that Joe Biden is a socialist. But it’s just not true. He’s a moderate Democrat. And has been for decades. That doesn’t mean his positions haven’t shifted over time along with society in general, but the man simply is not what he’s being painted to be.
“Socialism refers to a government takeover of industry, and Biden has not called for that. Experts say his positions on health care, energy and other areas are those of a moderate Democrat, not a socialist. There’s no support for the claim that Biden wants the U.S. to be like Cuba or Venezuela.”
Programs like Medicare for All or Obamacare don’t constitute socialism
” ‘Medicare for All is a proposal that would make U.S. health care comparable to that in other countries with capitalist economies, with a primary role for government with regard to social welfare,’ said Martin Gaynor, Carnegie Mellon University professor of economics and public policy. ‘I wouldn’t call that socialism.’ “
If you want to get a better handle on some of the scariness around the “socialism” threat, that Politifact article is a pretty easy read and does a really good job of breaking things down.
Social Democracy, Not Socialism
For what it’s worth, most Americans who advocate for more “socialistic” policies are really after something called social democracy. From this New York Times article:
What Americans who support “socialism” actually want is what the rest of the world calls social democracy: A market economy, but with extreme hardship limited by a strong social safety net and extreme inequality limited by progressive taxation. They want us to look like Denmark or Norway, not Venezuela.
And in case you haven’t been there, the Nordic countries are not, in fact, hellholes. They have somewhat lower G.D.P. per capita than we do, but that’s largely because they take more vacations. Compared with America, they have higher life expectancy, much less poverty and significantly higher overall life satisfaction. Oh, and they have high levels of entrepreneurship — because people are more willing to take the risk of starting a business when they know that they won’t lose their health care or plunge into abject poverty if they fail.
A lot of that sounds really great to me. Limited extreme hardship. Strong social safety net. Limited extreme inequality. Progressive taxation. High life expectancy. Less poverty. High overall life satisfaction. High levels of entrepreneurship.
But, as intriguing as that sounds to me, Joe Biden is not advocating for this or anything remotely close to it.
Settling for Biden
So, yeah. There just wasn’t a whole lot that really stood out to me about Joe Biden. Ok, he’d been Obama’s vice president. That’s fine. And he’d been involved in politics for a long time and had a solid reputation. Great. But there wasn’t anything that felt exciting about him. He just didn’t inspire a lot of enthusiasm.
A lot of left-leaning people, who’d had their hopes pinned on a Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, became resigned to the fact that they’d have to settle for Joe Biden. They didn’t like it, but when you’re faced with the existential threat that you feel that Donald Trump poses, you do what you have to do.
But the funny thing is that it feels like settling for Biden isn’t feeling so meh anymore. As time has gone on, it seems like quite a few people that felt he was pretty mediocre before are warming up to him.
The first presidential debate was a debacle. Donald Trump bullied, bulldozed, and constantly interrupted – both Biden and the moderator. Given the disjointed nature of it, not a whole lot of value came out of it. I didn’t feel that Biden really had much of a chance at getting into his policies at all.
One thing to consider about that debate as well: Joe Biden has a stutter. It’s something he’s worked long and hard to deal with. And it might explain some of the traits you may notice when he speaks, which some people try to pin solely on age or mental capacity.
This video shows the first time Joe met a 13-year-old boy named Brayden Harrington, who also has a stutter. He tried to boost Brayden’s confidence and told Brayden he’d help him work on that stutter:
And he did. And then Brayden shared this message during the Democratic National Convention this year:
I’ll get into more later about the type of person that Joe Biden appears to be. But I’ll let you start drawing some of your own initial conclusions from those videos.
Some people familiar with stuttering said that that debate environment was basically a worst-case scenario for someone with a stutter – getting constantly talked over, interrupted, etc. And at least one journalist with a stutter wrote and tweeted about it:
Listen to Biden Speak at Length
The second presidential debate was cancelled because Trump got COVID-19 from a non-mask super-spreader event at the White House (at least 34+ other people got it from that too, directly or indirectly, including Utah senator Mike Lee). Then Trump, with his administration still dealing with multiple internal cases of COVID-19, refused to participate in the debate virtually instead of in-person.
The Biden Town Hall
So on the night the debate had been scheduled, Biden instead did a televised town hall, taking questions from the audience.
For an hour and a half, Biden responded to questions, was asked follow-ups by the moderator, and actually got to talk. It was the first time I’d listened to him speak at length. And I thought that it was actually very good. Not perfect. But very solid. I was pleasantly surprised.
For a guy that Trump tries to mock as being mentally out of it, Biden:
offered very in-depth answers
spoke at length about his policies
cited numerous statistics related to his policies
admitted that he has made mistakes in the past, including, looking back now, elements of his 1994 crime bill
said “It is the presidential responsibility to lead” when it comes to handling the pandemic
Recently, Donald Trump has taken to mocking Biden for believing in…science? Which seems like a really weird tactic.
If Trump isn’t listening to the scientists when it comes to the pandemic, who exactly is he listening to?
I’d guess himself, mostly. And people telling him what he wants to hear. Instead of what he actually needs to hear.
Biden’s Pandemic Plan
Biden isn’t advocating for a national shutdown. Or anything like that at all. What does his plan include?
Ensure a coordinated national effort, instead of the largely ‘every state for itself’ approach employed up until now
Make testing widely available and free
Eliminate cost barriers for preventative care and treatment
Stop the flood of misinformation that is coming from the White House itself, of all places
Rely on public health officials, not politicians, when making public health decisions
Provide more financial relief for those affected – workers, families, and small businesses
Joe Biden has a plan for the coronavirus. He will listen to science. He won’t let his ego get in the way of the country’s safety.
Yeah, masks suck. Nobody likes them. But they can help us get through this.
Joe Biden diligently wears a mask when in public. Trump has routinely mocked Biden for it, taking a shot at him about it in the first debate. And right after that, Trump promptly caught the virus. After not wearing a mask at a large event. And had to be hospitalized for multiple days.
There is overwhelming evidence that widespread mask usage is an effective tool at limiting the spread of the virus. That was the conclusion that this BYU research study came to, taking into account data from 130 different scientific studies.
Joe Biden is willing to lead by example.
Endorsed by Scientists and Doctors
Scientific American, a popular and respected science magazine (also the oldest continuously published monthly magazine in the U.S.), said this:
And then there’s the world’s leading medical journal, The New England Journal of Medicine. In just the fourth editorial signed by all of its editors since its founding in 1812, the journal published an article called Dying in a Leadership Vacuum:
denouncing the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and calling on its readers to vote the president out, writing, “They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.”
The White House is also criticized for undermining the efforts of federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, saying the administration “has turned to uninformed ‘opinion leaders’ and charlatans.”
So that’s…not great.
And we’ve all seen how terribly the pandemic is going here. 222,000 deaths as of Oct. 22. New case counts rising again. Winter and cold/flu season coming.
It didn’t have to be like this.
I can’t either.
Rights. For Everyone.
This is my brother Spencer.
We usually call him Beeker.
(Maybe I’ll include the origin story of that nickname in the extra content at the bottom.)
There are 6 kids in my family. Just one girl.
I’m the oldest.
Spencer is the youngest.
Spencer is the tallest.
And Spencer is the gayest.
My History of Homophobia
I used to be that guy.
The one using gay slurs like f*g or fa**ot as insults. And playing a game called smear the qu**r in elementary school.
A few months ago my daughter was going through old family videos and showing us some of the clips. She was putting together a nostalgic movie about my parents’ farm ranch and house that they finally sold off a few years ago.
And then it happened. There was a video from probably 8-10 years back. And there I was, using a maybe slightly less offensive gay slur, directed to my youngest brother.
The one who told us, just after Christmas this last December, that he was gay.
I cringed. Hard. And I’ve since apologized to my brother.
I used to be that guy.
The one believing that being gay was a choice. And that people that chose that lifestyle must have something wrong with them.
The one annoyed whenever gay people popped up in movies or on a TV show. “Ugh, why do they always have to throw that in there? Is it really necessary? Can’t they stop trying to cram their gay agenda down our throats?”
I didn’t understand representation. I didn’t understand how important it was to have diversity in the media that we consume. Important for those that are under-represented – minorities, LGBTQ+ people, etc. That they have people they can look to. That they can be helped to feel accepted. Important for all of us to recognize their existence and their humanity and for us to accept and support them.
There is no ‘gay agenda’. Or if we’re going to say that there is, you know what I think the ‘gay agenda’ really is?
It’s to be accepted. And recognized as existing. And respected. And treated as equals. As people that God created a little bit differently than you. But that are equally valid and equally loved in God’s eyes.
Janean > Brett
Janean was never that guy (sorry, gal). She’s believed in equal rights for LGBTQ+ people at least since she made a good friend just after high school who was gay. There I was, telling her she couldn’t support gay marriage “because the church said so!” And her basically telling me to go to hell. She knew what felt right to her and was not going to back down. Looking back now, another proud moment.
I’m glad to say that I’m not that guy anymore. I’m glad to say that I was not that guy at the time that my brother, while visiting our house, asked to meet with me and Janean somewhere private. Where he closed the door and told us the good news. He was gay. And that after 25 years of pain and struggle, he was finally accepting and embracing it.
This tweet is the first in a series of 4 tweets, with 4 images each (click to open, then scroll), where a gay LDS man compares how each candidate treats the LGBTQ+ community. And it hurts to read.
The Trump administration has gutted LGBTQ+ rights in America. The Republican party platform still includes this: “Our laws and our government’s regulations should recognize marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
We’ve gone backward, not forward. They want to keep going backward.
Joe Biden’s administration will try to right those wrongs.
Now, I don’t know how my parents would rank their kids. And they’ll probably never tell us the truth.
But I suspect that God saved the best one for last.
And I am here to stand up and fight for him and his rights.
Empathy, Decency, and Leadership
Brené Brown is kind of a big deal in the mental health community. And in the business leadership community. A hero – maybe a legend – to a whole lot of folks. Her TED profile reads:
Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, where she holds the Huffington Foundation – Brené Brown Endowed Chair at the Graduate College of Social Work. She is also a visiting professor in management at The University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business.
“My thoughts on power and leadership, and a conversation on empathy, unity, and courage with Vice President Joe Biden, the 2020 Democratic Presidential Nominee.”
My daughter saw it first and sort of freaked out. She’s read countless books about mental health and listened to even more podcasts. She’s got a podcast herself, often covering mental health subjects, called In the Wake with Whytli. She’s a big fan of Brown. She listened to the new episode. And demanded that I listen to it.
Leadership and Power
There’s a lot of info below. But it’s extremely interesting. And extremely relevant.
According to Brown, Martin Luther King, Jr. defined power as “the ability to achieve purpose and effect change.”
In Brown’s view, there are two ways that power can work:
‘Power with / to / within’
The list of characteristics for each type are laid out below. The lists are long, but significantly different and the distinctions important.
Works from a premise that power is finite and has to be hoarded and protected
Protected by using fear
Goal is to leverage fear to divide, destabilize, and devalue decency as a sign of weakness
Gives those experiencing fear and uncertainty a false sense of safety, usually based on nostalgia or ideology over facts. Being right is more important than getting it right.
Gives people someone to blame for their discomfort, preferably someone different from the majority culture
Demonstrates ever-increasing capacity for cruelty, including shaming, bullying, belittling, especially toward vulnerable populations
Personal rights and freedom are used to polarize. Being in service of others is seen as weakness.
Dehumanization is used, implemented through language and policies
‘Power With / To / Within’
Power becomes infinite and expands when shared
No hoarding or protecting of power
Leverages connection and empathy to unite and stabilize
Decency is valued and seen as a function of self respect and respect for others
Gives those experiencing fear and uncertainty transparency. A culture of learning – critical thinking, evidence-based thinking, and information from multiple perspectives is foundational.
Normalizes discomfort and moves away from shame and blame toward accountability and meaningful change
Servant leadership – the responsibility is to be in service rather than be served. Goal is to empower others, not keep the power.
Rights and freedoms go hand in hand with responsibility to country and citizenry
Empathy-driven – places human value at the center
The Best Leaders
Do you know what Brown’s extensive research and experience, gleaned from Fortune 50 companies, military special forces, faith communities, non-profits, political groups, and sports coaches, suggests?
The best leaders are not interested in ‘power over’ – they are interested in ‘power with / to / within’.
Go and listen to her conversation with Joe Biden. And then come back and tell me what kind of power Joe Biden wants to use. And which one you think Trump uses.
Brené Brown on Donald Trump
This is how Brown ended the podcast:
The last 4 years under the Trump administration has been a demonstration of white male ‘power over’. And it made me kind of nervous having another white guy who’s been in politics for a long time as the alternative. But the issue is not white or male or power, because you know I’m raising a white male son, I was raised by a white male dad…
It’s not about white male power, it’s about white male ‘power over’. It’s about any ‘power over’. But the last 4 years has specifically felt like white male ‘power over’ making a last stand, like a last ditch effort to maintain that, and last stands are dangerous and scary. And the ever-increasing capacity for cruelty and dehumanization from the Trump administration is not something I can get behind from anyone, certainly not 4 more years of that. I wanted to have this conversation with Vice President Biden to figure out what his core belief is. I love that his mom, Catherine “Jean” Finnegan said, “Bravery resides in every heart and someday it will be summoned.” I think it’s being summoned right now in all of us and I think she was right.
Our brave hearts are being summoned. Please make a voting plan. Think through what you want for yourself, think through what you want for your families, for your careers, for your community. Hang in there. Walk with courage. Vote. And as always, stay awkward, brave, and kind.
What Kind of Leader Do You Want?
Donald Trump leads by spreading fear, never admitting mistakes, blaming others, cruelty, shaming, bullying, and dehumanizing.
Joe Biden is a real leader.
Tragedy and Empathy
We’ve touched on Joe’s challenges with stuttering. He also knows personal tragedy.
His wife and daughter died in a car accident just before Christmas in 1972. His 2 boys were critically injured. This happened just weeks after he was elected to the U.S. Senate. He was sworn in as a senator at his sons’ hospital bedsides.
This is a personal letter he sent to a recently-widowed woman in Delaware back in 2002. Personal empathy.
Fatherhood and More Tragedy
Joe started commuting by train back and forth from Delaware, where they lived, to Washington, D.C. every day so that he could get his boys up in the morning and tuck them in at night. It was a 2 hour trip each way. He was a single father for 5 years, raising his sons with the help of his sister and family. He eventually married Jill Jacobs, a high school English teacher, who would go on to get a doctorate in education and become a professor at a college. They added a daughter to the family.
His son Beau served in the military as a Major in the Delaware Army National Guard. He was deployed to active duty in Iraq and received the Bronze Star Medal. Beau suffered from a brain tumor for a few years and eventually died of brain cancer at age 46.
Donald Trump tried to shame Joe by bringing up the drug addiction of Joe’s other son, Hunter, in the first debate. This was Joe’s response:
“My son, like a lot of people, like a lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem,” he said. “He’s overtaken it. He’s fixed it. He’s worked on it. And I’m proud of him. I’m proud of my son.”
He responded the way a good, loving father would.
Joe Biden is a real person. He’s dealt with real challenges. Big challenges. Challenges I hope I never have to face. And he has survived and excelled.
Lindsey Graham on Joe Biden
Watch what Republican senator Lindsey Graham said about Joe:
“If you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, you’ve got a problem. You need to do some self-evaluation. Because what’s not to like? He is as good a man as God ever created. He’s said some of the most incredibly heartfelt things that anybody could ever say to me. He’s the nicest person I think I’ve ever met in politics.”
Republican Senator Linsey Graham
Religious convictions aren’t a requirement for public office. But for what it’s worth, Joe Biden is a man of faith – a practicing Catholic. He attends church regularly. He wears his deceased son Beau’s rosary necklace.
“I have not taken off the rosary Beau was wearing when he passed, since then. It is my connection with him,” Biden said.
This is a short story about Joe and faith in a series of a few tweets (click to open). It’s about when he was in Germany on a Sunday, and his simple request was to find a Catholic priest to say mass for him and his family:
He had a good working relationship with former Utah Republican senator Bob Bennett, nicknaming Bennett “Bishop” because of Bennett’s previous service as an LDS bishop.
Contrast that with Donald Trump mocking LDS people and other Christians behind their backs.
Joe Biden respects you and your faith.
A Change of Heart
When I first started on this project, I really thought this last post was going to be pretty short. I didn’t think I’d have a whole lot to say about Joe Biden. He was just…meh.
But I’ve changed my mind. I like Joe Biden.
If I could just pick a candidate and install them myself, with no election or anybody else involved in the decision, I’d still pick Elizabeth Warren. I think she’s great. And I’d personally like to see a more progressive agenda at the top. But that’s not Joe. And I can live with that.
Read his platform on his website. Go listen to what he has to say. You might be surprised.
As flattering as a lot of the things I’ve listed here are, Joe Biden is not perfect. If he wins, his administration won’t be perfect. I’ll still criticize him. I’ll probably get angry and annoyed. Our country has some holes we need to dig out of. It’s going to be tough. This isn’t a wave of a magic wand and suddenly we’re in a utopia.
We’ll need to hold him accountable. But I believe he is actually capable of being held accountable. Of admitting mistakes and trying to fix them.
Donald Trump is not capable of admitting fault. He’s a narcissist. When he both thinks and says out loud that “nobody knows more” about every single subject that comes up, how could he be?
And that difference is crucial.
Please Vote for Joe Biden
Joe Biden legitimately seems to be a good, decent, kind, empathetic person. I believe that is a great foundation to build on.
Joe Biden has an awful lot of leadership experience. And wants to use that leadership power in a positive way in our country, one that uplifts and shares. Using ‘power with/to/within’, as Brené Brown would say.
Joe Biden has policies that I can support. Even though I don’t see eye to eye with all of them.
Policies have checks and balances. Character does not.
Joe Biden wants to unite our country, not divide it further.
That’s somebody I can get behind.
Hearts, Health Care, and Pre-Existing Conditions
I have atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm problem more commonly found in old people. Sometimes the signals get crossed in the upper chambers of my heart, causing them to freak out and stop beating normally – they just quiver. I’ve had it since at least my teens. Left untreated it can result in blood clots and strokes. I had a heart procedure done in 2008 to try and help it, which it has quite a bit. But it’s still there and flares up now and then.
Once I was diagnosed, one of the first things the doctor told me was that I would never qualify for life insurance again – so once the current policy I got before my diagnosis expires, that’s it.
So yeah, I’ve got a pre-existing condition. Before the Affordable Care Act (the ACA or ‘Obamacare’), insurance companies weren’t required to cover your pre-existing condition. If you lost your job, you couldn’t afford COBRA (which is usually insanely expensive), and let your health insurance lapse, there was no guarantee that your next insurance provider would cover it. So that would suck.
Donald Trump has been saying that his health care plan is 2 weeks away. For years. It’s obvious that he does not actually have a plan. He just hates Obama’s.
Joe Biden did a lot of work to help get the ACA passed. Health care is still far from perfect, but coverage for pre-existing conditions is a pretty big deal. At least to me.
Really powerful plea and wise words about this election from the former First Lady
A few of the things I’ve done or am doing to try and be more proactive this election cycle:
I registered as a poll worker to help ensure we have adequate staffing at the polls. Still no final word on whether I’ll be needed.
I’ve volunteered and done phone banking for the Nevada Democrats, calling registered voters and encouraging them to vote, and vote for Biden
One Saturday I made time to stop by a location handing out assignments to leave Biden door hangers on the doors of registered voters
Like phone banking, but actually knocking on people’s doors. Completed a canvassing assignment of about 40 houses – knocking doors (safely and socially-distanced) to encourage people to vote for Biden and informing them about their voting options
Write 4 way too long blog posts
I’ve done 3 all-nighters. And I’m pretty ready to be done.
I’ve got 34 pages of notes that I’ve compiled over the last who knows how many months that I used as my main resources
At least some people have read them. I wasn’t too sure that anyone would. And feedback, for those that dare to give it, has generally been very positive
Beeker Origin Story
And, as promised, the tale of how Spencer got his nickname, Beeker.
My family (me, Janean and the kids), my parents, my brother Robison, and Spencer were driving from Utah to Disneyland. Spencer was maybe 8-ish? years old at the time. We stopped in Mesquite, NV to get gas. I pulled our minivan up to the pump and got out. My parents, with Spencer in the back seat, pulled up next to us for a sec. Spencer’s window was down and he was saying a whole bunch of stuff really fast in his little boy voice and we could not understand him at all. Someone (me? Robi?) said, “He sounds like Beaker”, the scientist sidekick from The Muppets that doesn’t so much talk as just squeak a lot. “Yeah, he does sound like Beaker.”
And thus he became Beeker.
Once we got to Disneyland, we went to see the Muppet Vision 3D show. And in the hallway leaving the show, there was a portrait of the real Beaker on the wall. So we got a picture of Beeker standing next to Beaker. I wish I could find that picture.
Pretty much all the nieces and nephews call him that. I think some didn’t even know his real name at some point. A handful of people on Janean’s side of the family might still call him that too.
And somehow we messed up the spelling I guess, Beeker vs. Beaker. Oh well.
First, let’s make one thing clear. You don’t like abortions. I don’t like abortions. Nobody likes abortions. Everyone wants fewer abortions.
The fundamental difference is in how we go about accomplishing that goal.
And no matter how much you might like it to be, abortion is simply not a black and white, easy issue. It’s just not. But if this subject makes you really emotional, which is absolutely ok, I need you to just take a step back, take a breath, and hear me out for a few minutes.
Why a Whole Post About Abortion?
So why do I feel like this is something I should discuss at length in its own separate post? Because there are a lot of single-issue voters out there whose entire vote revolves around a candidate’s stance on abortion. I’ve seen people, including family members, state that, even though they despise Donald Trump, that they simply cannot vote for Joe Biden because the Democratic party supports abortion rights.
(Note: for the people potentially planning a third party protest vote for Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen because they can’t vote for Trump because he’s awful and can’t vote for Biden because of abortion – I hate to break it to you, but the Libertarian position is to keep government out of it, i.e., keep abortion legal. Sorry if that complicates things for you.)
While I’m definitely not an expert on this subject, I feel like I’ve gone through enough research that I can at least give a fairly educated opinion on the topic and provide some useful resources that might be helpful for some people to discover new information and understand some different perspectives.
Like previous posts, a lot of this is going to be through an LDS/Mormon lens, so set your expectations accordingly. In this case, a big part of what I’m attempting is to offer *my interpretation* of the church’s stance on this issue.
Roe v. Wade Supports the LDS Church’s Abortion Policies
Say what? Again, stick with me.
First of all, do you actually know what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ official stance on abortion is? Here you go:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of human life. Therefore, the Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience, and counsels its members not to submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions.
The Church allows for possible exceptions for its members when:
– Pregnancy results from rape or incest, or
– A competent physician determines that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy, or
– A competent physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.
The Church teaches its members that even these rare exceptions do not justify abortion automatically. Abortion is a most serious matter and should be considered only after the persons involved have consulted with their local church leaders and feel through personal prayer that their decision is correct.
The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.
Ok, so the church opposes elective abortion. No surprise there. But did you know about all of those exceptions? I get the feeling that a lot of church members don’t. It certainly feels like a lot of people within the church think all abortion should be outlawed, no matter what. And that is simply not in line with church policy.
General Conference Protestors
It reminds me of when I was teenager. I remember going to the church’s General Conference in Salt Lake City a time or two. There were a bunch of protestors there. And do you know what they were protesting? Abortion. They had signs saying that abortion was murder and that the church was pro-abortion. I was pretty confused. I thought we were against abortion? What are these people talking about? Well, it’s because of the policy exceptions listed above.
The protestors were people who wanted all abortion outlawed, no matter what. But that’s simply not where the church stands on this.
Maybe you don’t agree with the exceptions the church makes. I do. I think that they are fair and compassionate, and should be supported and legal.
But you know what I find to be the most surprising line in the policy? The last one:
“The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.”
So while the church opposes elective abortion, it has chosen to remain politically neutral on the subject. Interesting. Politically, they’re not pushing for a total legal ban. They’re not even pushing for a partial legal ban. They’re not pushing for anything at all.
For a church that gives an awful lot of guidance about a lot of things and has been known to get involved with some sticky political subjects, it’s almost like they have decided, while warning against elective abortions, that non-LDS people in particular should have the freedom to make their own choices on this subject…
So the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, which gives women the right to have an abortion without excessive government restriction, helps enable the LDS Church’s abortion policies for those scenarios. Take that right away and the church’s policy of allowing those merciful exceptions will then support something illegal.
Surprise! The LDS Church can be seen as more ‘pro-choice’ than ‘pro-life’ on abortion
I stole that heading straight from the headline of this Salt Lake Tribune article. Read it when you’re done here. It’s very thorough and does a fantastic job covering this issue from an LDS perspective. And yes, you can certainly make the argument the headline suggests, especially when comparing some extreme anti-abortion stances.
That article also references a blog post on By Common Consent, a popular Mormon blog. That post also does a great job running through some of the complex questions related to abortion.
Is Abortion Murder?
One of the most common oversimplifications regarding abortion is that it is murder. Period. Anyone who is pro-choice is a baby killer. That term gets thrown out all over the place in anti-abortion attacks on social media.
So, is it?
Well, here’s where it gets complicated.
When Does Mortal Life Begin?
The simple answer up front is…”Who knows?”
When there is a heartbeat?
When the baby first starts moving?
After 20 weeks?
Once in the third trimester?
When the baby takes its first breath?
The LDS Church’s General Handbook states in section 38.7.12: “It is a fact that a child has life before birth. However, there is no direct revelation on when the spirit enters the body.”
So the church is again largely silent when it comes to these complicated questions. We don’t know.
We believe that a human soul consists of a spirit and a body. But we have no idea when that spirit might enter the body. Which ends up aligning pretty well with the following church policies.
Miscarriage is generally defined as the loss of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy. As far as I can find, the guidance is that miscarried babies are generally not entered on the records of the church, i.e., not recorded as a ‘real person’ (sorry – I think that term sounds very insensitive, but I’m not sure how else to put it).
Stillbirth is generally defined as the loss of a baby after the 20th week of pregnancy. Again, referencing the handbook in Section 38.7.12:
“Temple ordinances are not performed for stillborn children. However, this does not deny the possibility that a stillborn child may be part of the family in the eternities. Parents are encouraged to trust the Lord to resolve such cases in the way He knows is best. The family may record the name of a stillborn child on the family group record, followed by the word stillborn in parentheses. Memorial or graveside services may be held as determined by the parents.”
So it sounds like it’s left up to the family to decide what to do in this situation. Again, a grey area.
Repentance for Abortion
So can a person who’s had an elective abortion repent and be in good standing with the church? Yes, but it’s taken very seriously. See Section 38.6.1, which says, “As far as has been revealed, a person may repent and be forgiven for the sin of abortion.”
What about join as a new member? Yes, with an extra step. Section 220.127.116.11 states that it requires a double-check in the form of an extra baptismal interview by the mission president or one of the president’s counselors. I saw this happen with a wonderful lady I helped teach in my first city while serving a church mission in Argentina who’d had an abortion much earlier in life.
Does the Church Consider Elective Abortion to Be Murder?
The answer seems to be ‘no’, again according to the handbook’s Section 18.104.22.168 when discussing repentance for murder for someone desiring to join the church: “Abortion is not defined as murder for this purpose.”
Given the statement above, the fact that there is no official stance on when the spirit enters the body, and the fact that the church makes exceptions for certain situations, it feels like it’s pretty difficult to make the argument that the church considers abortion to be on the same level as murder.
I am not a lawyer. I don’t claim to know the ins and outs of the legal aspects of this. I am just working through this part with my own logic, considering what different scenarios might look like legally.
So What Happens If Conservatives Get Roe v. Wade Overturned?
There’s a lot of talk about conservatives wanting to get more conservative judges on the Supreme Court, often with the intention of overturning Roe v. Wade. That’s why some people are even more dead set on electing a Republican president.
So let’s say that, tomorrow, all abortion was illegal.
First, all of the exceptions in the church’s policy would now be illegal. No compassionate understanding of difficult situations at all.
Second, what happens with miscarriages? 10-20% of pregnancies result in a miscarriage. How does a woman prove whether the loss of the baby was intentional, or a miscarriage? Are we really going to consider subjecting women to criminal interrogations right after they’ve lost a pregnancy? During that already incredibly painful and traumatic time? That would be beyond cruel.
So We Should Just Adopt the Church’s Policy as the Law Then, Right?
We make it so the law allows for compassionate exceptions – rape, incest, mortal danger to the mother, or birth defects that won’t allow the baby to survive post-birth.
First of all, as stated in the beginning, the church itself is not even pushing for this.
Next, it starts to get complicated again. I assume that incest could be scientifically proven. Maybe that’s fairly straightforward.
What about the cases of danger to the mother or viability of the baby? Those are subject to the judgment of medical professionals. Who’s going to determine whether their judgment is correct? There’s probably not going to be any way to legally prove it one way or the other after the fact. Is the doctor potentially going to be subject to criminal investigation if someone disagrees? What about the mother?
What About Rape?
If you have to prove that rape occurred in order to legally justify an abortion, how do you do it?
What if there’s no police record of a reported rape? According to RAINN, about 3 out of 4 sexual assaults go unreported. Whether or not to report this type of crime is a much more complicated question than many realize. So if a woman is too scared, traumatized, intimidated, etc. to report the rape, are they out of luck proving their need for an abortion?
Does there have to be a rape conviction first? How long does it take for the rapist to potentially be convicted? With the woman waiting in limbo? What if there is no physical evidence? Just a woman’s word against her rapist? It feels like this starts to look very difficult.
In previous posts I’ve talked about how my daughter was mentally and sexually abused by her boyfriend, over a long period of time.
See, the thing is that rape isn’t always what people imagine it to be. Everyone imagines rape as a violent attack, committed by a stranger in a dark alley.
In reality, all too commonly, sexual abuse and rape are perpetrated by someone the person knows. A family member. A friend. A colleague. A husband. A boyfriend. In a familiar place. Not in a dark alley.
And rape is not always violent. It can involve coercion, intimidation, or threats. Just because sex occurs without a physical fight, it does not mean that the woman actually consented to having sex.
Abusive relationships are very difficult to understand. On the surface, it all seems so simple. If he’s treating you badly, why don’t you just leave? What gets missed is everything that led up to that point. The lying and gaslighting, making you question your own reality. The manipulation. The damage to self esteem. The convincing that you can’t be loved by anyone else. Making you believe that *you* are the problem, not him.
My daughter was psychologically beaten down like this. And coerced into doing things that she did not want to do. Repeatedly. As her anxiety and depression skyrocketed. And for reasons that will remain private, she chose not to report it after she escaped her abusive relationship.
Would you force my daughter to carry her abuser’s baby for 9 months? Because she can’t prove to you that she was raped? Can you imagine the kind of hell that would be? To carry the child of someone who violated you in that way? Or the fact that she would then be forced to maintain a relationship with her abuser for the rest of her life, due to the parental rights of the abuser?
I would absolutely support my daughter if she chose to have an abortion in that case. Without question.
Late-term abortion, defined by some as an abortion in the third trimester, by others as after 20 weeks, is a very hot button topic. I’ve seen multiple social media posts the past few months claiming that Democrats want to kill babies late into pregnancies. The president has sensationalized the issue, telling wild fabricated tales of late-term abortions. Again, gross oversimplifications of reality.
Listen to this short clip from former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg last year. He does a phenomenal job of summarizing the issue:
Here’s the transcript of the core quote:
“Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a woman in that situation. If it’s that late in your pregnancy, that means almost by definition, you’ve been expecting to carry it to term. We’re talking about women who have perhaps chosen a name, who have purchased a crib. Families that then get the most devastating medical news of their lifetime. Something about the health or life of the mother that forces them to make an impossible, unthinkable choice… As horrible as that choice is, that woman, that family, may seek spiritual guidance, they may seek medical guidance, but that decision is not going to be made any better, medically or morally, because the government is dictating how that decision should be made.”
So who are the women who are getting late-term abortions? Read these stories. They are heartbreaking.
“A few days before my baby girl’s birth, I signed medical forms stating I understood my actions, that I consented to the termination of my child’s life. Only our immediate families and my very closest friends knew the whole situation. We didn’t tell anyone else. Our hearts had already been ripped open and trampled on so many times the previous months, and I didn’t need anyone else’s judgments or shaming to add to this soul crushing experience.”
“I had to have a late term abortion. It was the worst moment in my life. What made it even worse was the State of Utah had made it illegal. I had one dead twin. The other had severe Spina Bifida, and would only have lived with life support, in great pain, for a few days. I lay on the hospital floor, bawling hysterically, for twelve hours, waiting for an ethics committee of the health care corporation to decide my case justified what had to be done. My health was in danger due to the dead fetus. My husband and I consulted our LDS Bishop, who assured me I needed to do what I had to do, that it was even within LDS guidelines to do so. He reminded me I had six kids at home who needed their mother to live.”
And here’s another story from Neena Earl, a 34-year-old married mother of 2 boys from Pleasant Grove, UT, who had an abortion (not late-term, but a very thorough description of the entire situation that led to her decision):
These are the real women we’re talking about. These are the women and situations impacted by decisions on this topic. Putting actual names and faces to those stories and understanding the excruciating processes they had to go through and the painful decisions they had to make helps give me a real context and a much more useful perspective than severely generalized social media attacks.
So What Should We Do?
Given the complications mentioned above, having the government create laws to govern how abortions should be handled in all scenarios is fraught with complexity. The grey area is extensive. And the rights of women to get to make decisions regarding health care decisions about their own bodies are impacted.
So let’s say abortion remains legal, which seems highly likely. How do we reduce abortions?
Long quotes from her (just go read the whole article after):
I am a medical doctor and an active sixth-generation member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As such, I am deeply committed to protecting the lives, rights and health of as many people as possible, both born and unborn.
I have also never voted for a Democrat for federal office. But, in keeping with my belief that every human being is a child of God of infinite worth and divine purpose, and that every life, both born and unborn matters, I will be voting this November for Joe Biden.
Fellow responsible pro-life voters must also put aside partisan rhetoric, thoroughly examine credibledata, and vote for the presidential candidate who will utilize evidence-based policy to most effectively prevent abortions.
(Note: the two links above share that the number of abortions is at its lowest level since 1973, rates have steadily declined since 1990, and that the sharpest drops in abortion rates have come under Democratic presidents)
Studies show that legally restricting access to abortion neither effectively nor efficiently reduces the abortion rate. Bans do, however, increase maternal mortalities. On the other hand, expanding access to comprehensive sex education and birth control, while addressing the reasons why women seek abortions, does reduce abortions and improves the quality of life of the mother. Given bans are ineffective and come with a significant risk of harm, it is our moral imperative that we stop wasting time pursuing bans in favor of solutions that actually work.
The most common reasons why women seek abortions are lack of financial resources, timing, partner-related issues, caring for other children, finishing an education, career constraints or not enough employer support, lack of mental or emotional preparation, wanting better for the baby, needing child care or support, lacking maturity or independence, housing insecurity, peer pressure and not wanting a baby or to put a baby up for adoption.
She proposes, citing numerous articles and studies, that those complaints can be addressed by the following (with some extras of my own added in):
Comprehensive sex education
This is a topic that conservatives and a lot of religious people don’t like, but abstinence-only just doesn’t work very well
Cheap, easy access to birth control
Under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), which the current administration is trying to dismantle, most insurance plans must cover all methods of birth control at no cost to you
Access to affordable comprehensive health care
Again, the Affordable Care Act provides coverage to millions who would be otherwise uninsured
Adequate food and housing
Care for domestic violence victims
Access to affordable child care and necessary accommodations to allow women to raise their children while pursuing an education or a career.
Like I said in the beginning, nobody likes abortions. Everyone wants fewer abortions.
So how do we reduce the number of abortions, especially elective abortions?
We help prevent unwanted pregnancies
We provide support for women who do get pregnant
We try to provide the services, environment, and support women need to give them the ability to either avoid an unwanted pregnancy, or to better handle a pregnancy when it occurs. Given those criteria, I am convinced that Democratic policies, which have a large focus on health care, social services and support, etc. can provide a better outcome than continued efforts to ban abortion.
And ultimately, after considering a lot of the uncertainties and complexities around the issue, I believe that the people best-equipped to make decisions about a woman’s health care, her body, and her pregnancy are:
and her doctors
And those are the reasons why I can say that I feel comfortable voting for Democrats and their support for women’s reproductive rights. And comfortable voting for Joe Biden.
Once again, I had a bunch of stuff that I couldn’t fit in. This post is already too long as-is. But if you want some more resources, here you go:
McMullin is the guy who got 22% of Utah’s presidential votes in 2016. He has endorsed Joe Biden and is actively campaigning for Biden.
Professor Frank W. Fox, creator of the BYU American Heritage program and lifelong conservative Republican, explains why he feels he has moral permission to vote for Joe Biden, even given his differing views on abortion.
And a quick comment about being pro-life. Pro-life should mean more than caring about the unborn. It should also mean caring for the living. Ways that Democratic policies can be seen as being more pro-life are:
Health care access
Immigration policy (Trump administration separating families at the border, putting kids in cages, and not allowing refugees)
Reducing the cost of higher education
Systemic racism – acknowledging it and working to eradicate it, instead of denying its existence
The list of issues I have with Donald Trump and his actions, policies, and behavior over the past 4+ years is long. Very long. I’ve got notes for days for this post. I could write pages and pages and pages. Other people have done a great job of that elsewhere. I’ll probably throw in a quick list of that garbage at the end, with a few links, etc. for those interested.
I’m just going to focus on some of the major sticking points that, for me, are sufficient reasons that voting for Donald Trump is absolutely off the table. And share some personal stories related to those points that also are big factors for me.
Some will argue that, despite everything I’m about to list below, that they can overlook it all. What they really care about are his policies, which they support. If he’s an awful person, says and does awful things, eh…we can turn a blind eye to that part.
I say that electing this man to the most powerful position in our country is damning evidence of what many in our country truly value. And it’s obviously not character. It’s not empathy. It’s not truth. It’s not decency.
I’ll state now that this is going to be uncomfortable. For both me and you. There is some deeply personal stuff here.
So I’m just going to go ahead and lead with my biggest point.
Donald Trump Is a Serial Sexual Abuser
I’ve got a couple of stories that I want to tell in relation to this point. And there are a lot of sordid details we could get into regarding his history of being a sexual abuser and sexual predator. In addition to that, Donald Trump also has a history of:
Cheating on all 3 of his wives
Cheating with a porn star while his wife was pregnant with his youngest son, then paying off the porn star to keep quiet during the election
Making disturbing comments about his own daughter’s body and sexuality
So. Here we have 26 women. They have made accusations ranging from groping, assault, and harassment to walking in unannounced on undressed teenage beauty pageant contestants to the rape of former magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll.
How has Donald Trump responded to these accusations? They’re lying. All 26 of them.
The Access Hollywood Video
And then we have the time that Donald Trump bragged on video that he sexually assaults women, kissing them and grabbing their genitals without their consent. Just to help back up all of those accusations.
Yes, I already went here in the last post. But I want to add something new. Here it is again if you want to listen to it in its unfiltered disgustingness.
I remember telling my wife Janean something like this after the video came out:
There is no way that I could look each of my 3 daughters in the eye and tell them that I voted for that man.
If I would have voted for Donald Trump, I believe it would have been one of the biggest mistakes that I ever could have made. And the reason for that is because it could have eventually affected my relationship with my oldest daughter in a drastic way.
My Daughter Was Sexually Assaulted and Abused
I’ll try and share the short version of the story here. My longer account, along with some podcasts I recorded with her and some videos she has shared can be found on her website.
At age 16, and for over a year, my daughter was in an abusive relationship. She was mentally abused, sexually abused, and raped by her then boyfriend. She developed severe anxiety and depression, self-harmed, and attempted suicide. Her life was hell. Our life was hell. And we had no idea why.
Eventually, after the relationship ended, she was able to slowly and painfully start understanding and sharing the why. She talked about how he gaslighted her, literally making her question her sanity and reality. How he had no empathy. He lied about absolutely everything. After a lot of study, she realized that he was a narcissist.
And she has been on a long journey of healing, strength, and advocacy ever since.
If I would have voted for Donald Trump, ignoring the fact that he was a serial sexual abuser, and then later found out that my own daughter had been abused, how could she ever respect me again?
I believe, had I done so, it could have fractured our relationship forever. After I found out what happened to her, I was so incredibly grateful for having made the decision to not support Donald Trump.
To My Friends and Family That Support and Vote for Trump
This is going to be hard to read. But it needs to be said. I know that shame isn’t an effective tool to cause changes in thought or behavior. But if you openly support and vote for Trump, it is my belief that you are actively harming my abused daughter. That is the way I see it. That is the way she sees it. That is the way that Janean sees it.
You know us. You know our story. And you are still choosing to support a man that is painfully similar to the person that abused my own daughter.
“I’ve just thought in my head many times that if someone were to ask me why I’m not voting for Trump I would tell them the biggest factor for me is that I feel me voting for Trump is like my daughter’s abuser running for president and voting for him.”
When I see Donald Trump, I also see Whytli’s abuser. They are the same type of person. A narcissist. A liar. A person with no empathy whatsoever. An abuser.
So when you tell me you are voting for Donald Trump, I hear that you just don’t care about that abuse. Or my daughter.
Does that mean that we will hate you? That we will never talk to you again? Or think you are a terrible person? No. But it absolutely means that it is always there, at the back of our minds, just about every single time we come into contact with you. And it affects our opinion of you. And it affects our relationship, whether you realize it or not.
You can say that this is unfair. That you have your reasons. Perhaps some very valid ones, in your mind. And that’s your right. But our lives have forever been impacted by our trauma. Our lives have been unfair. And your support of a serial abuser forces us to be reminded of and re-engage with that trauma with our own friends and family, the people that should be our safe spaces.
And that is tragic.
Janean’s First Time Voting
Janean, has never been one to get involved in politics. But I will tell you now that I have never been more proud of her than when she told me this story.
Janean has some family members that appear to be all-in on Team Trump. She’s always dreaded political discussions in extended family situations because she loves her family dearly and does not want to get involved in political-related drama, disagreements, etc.
But one day last year, while out of state by herself, visiting some pro-Trump family, the subject of the president came up while the news was on TV. And she decided that it was time for her to take a stand. She told me afterward that she felt that she needed to do it for her daughter.
So she told these family members that she has never voted in her life (despite their frequent suggestions to just vote all Republican). But this upcoming 2020 election would be different. This year she was registering to vote. Just so she could vote against Donald Trump. And she did register. And she will vote. For Joe Biden.
A friend of ours was raped during her college years. She shared her story on my daughter’s podcast last year. She talked about how difficult it has been dealing with multiple instances of sexual assault in her life.
When Donald Trump won the election in 2016, she was emotionally and psychologically triggered. She had a very real and very traumatic response to the fact that our country had chosen to put a serial sexual abuser into the highest office in the land. She had panic attacks. It triggered traumatic memories from her abuse. She’s had a really hard time with it for a long time.
Triggered. Snowflake. Libtard.
These are some examples of words used to mock people that may have sensitivities to certain subjects. Or are not conservative politically. They are often used as insults by *tough* conservatives to *weak* liberals. Heck, apparently one of my own nephews runs around social media trolling people and using those kinds of terms.
Having feelings is not weakness. Having gone through trauma is not weakness. Being triggered by traumatic memories is not funny. Mocking people for those experiences and sensitivities is cruel. Using insults like this is cruel. Period.
“Libtards” is particularly offensive to me, as a variation of using “retarded” as an insult. Janean and I lived and worked at a home for mentally disabled but highly self-sufficient adults for about 1.5 years early in our marriage. It was difficult at times, but rewarding. We have a lot of fond memories of the people that we got to know there. And it permanently removed any desire I had to use “retard” or “retarded” as a derogatory term ever again.
Donald Trump and Social Media
Donald Trump is not the cause of all of the meanness and coarseness involved in our political dialog today, but he and his campaign have absolutely made it worse, not better. “Owning the libs” has become the goal of far too many MAGA members, following the example of their leaders. For Christmas 2019, the Trump campaign even launched a website to help you win arguments with your “snowflake” relatives during the holidays.
This is something that Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States of America, retweeted (shared) on Twitter on Oct. 15, 2020:
At the time I’m writing this, a few days after he shared that, it is still live on his Twitter account.
Trump supporters – this is your guy. Make sure your kids see this. This is the example we’re giving them.
Misinformation and Conspiracy Theories
Donald Trump frequently retweets misinformation and conspiracy theories on his Twitter account. And apparently he takes no responsibility whatsoever for anything he shares:
This is what we are now ok with from the leader of our country?
The Salty Sailor Justification
A while back there was a letter going around on social media. The gist of it was that Trump was like the no-nonsense salty sailor. Or the fireman that drops an F-bomb while saving you from the burning building. Even though Trump was a walking disaster in so many ways, it was all ok because he was getting the job done.
A couple of family members have expressed their opinion that they can support Trump because of that salty sailor analogy. This analogy also suggests that Trump has been put in place by God himself to save our country. That God knew that a man like Trump was the only thing that could save us, even if the man himself is a human dumpster fire.
Does God work with imperfect people? Well sure. That’s all there is to work with. But I take issue with the suggestion that Donald Trump is God’s soldier.
Taking the Name of God in Vain
In the Old Testament in the Bible, one of the 10 commandments is in the book of Exodus, chapter 20, verse 7. It reads: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”.
For the longest time, I had interpreted this commandment in probably the most direct way – that we shouldn’t use the names of deity flippantly, as an exclamation, or as a swear word. That’s what I was taught as a kid in primary in church. That’s what I’ve taught my own children. It’s a common interpretation and it makes sense.
A New Interpretation
But one day within the past year or so, it dawned on me that there was a different interpretation that hadn’t occurred to me before. I don’t remember what the context was for this realization. And I’m definitely not the only one to whom this has occurred, as I’ve come across it elsewhere since.
I believe that taking the name of God in vain means using God as a justification for something wrong. It means trying to pass off something that is not of God at all as being godly.
Let me say this clearly and unequivocally. I wholeheartedly believe that:
Saying that Donald Trump was sent by God to save our country is taking the Lord’s name in vain.
Donald Trump is not godly. In fact he privately mocks Christians, including members and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (for what it’s worth, that report was written McKay Coppins, married LDS father of 3 and BYU grad).
Honest, True, Chaste, Benevolent, Virtuous
A comment on my Instagram post for Part 1 really struck me. It said, “A political candidate may not have all the attributes outlined in the 13th Article of Faith, but shouldn’t they have at least one?”
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
Honest? No. True? No. Chaste? No. Benevolent? No. Virtuous. No. Doing good to all men? No. Virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy? No.
God grants us our agency. We get to make decisions, individually and collectively. God is not micro-managing our lives or our country. God is not hand-picking every world leader. Otherwise we could blame God for all of those terrible dictators the world has seen. God is there to comfort, guide, and support. We are the ones making those decisions. And we get to live with those consequences.
God did not pick Donald Trump. We picked Donald Trump.
A Story About Our Muslim Neighbors
Before we bought a house and moved a little over two years ago, we rented a place next door to a family of 5. We lived next to them for 4 years, including the entirety of the 2016 election cycle.
The husband was a doctor with a practice in a city that was a bit of a drive from where we lived. The wife was a stay-at-home mom. Their 3 children ranged in age from middle school to high school, the oldest about our oldest daughter’s age, and their youngest a little older than our son, who is our youngest.
They were immigrants from Pakistan. And they were Muslim.
I remember the previous occupants of our house telling us about how, when those neighbors had first moved in, they played some morning prayer music *really* loudly, *really* early in the morning. Other neighbors asked them to dial it back so it didn’t wake people up, and they did. I heard that prayer music playing faintly a few times when I happened to wake up early during spring or fall when we’d leave our bedroom window open for the cool air.
When we moved in, we went over one day and introduced ourselves to those neighbors. And we had a nice, cordial relationship with them over the next 4 years. We’d wave when we saw them. We played basketball with their son at the park a few times. They brought over Pakistani food for us a few times (it was great).
One time when my sister-in-law was visiting, her baby wasn’t feeling well – I believe not breathing normally. She was out of state, it was either late or the weekend, and was worried. I think it was Janean’s idea to go next door for help. The doctor husband gladly did a quick checkup on him, listened to the baby’s lungs, which sounded fine, and helped put my sister-in-law at ease.
During this time, Janean felt uneasy for our neighbors. The rich, retired neighborhood MAGA Karen down the street had her Trump signs up. There was a lot of anti-Muslim rhetoric going around. Janean worried about how our neighbors felt and felt that she needed to reach out to them.
So one day when our neighbor brought over a *whole cheesecake* from Cheesecake Factory, for no reason at all, Janean decided that was the time to bring it up. Janean told her that with all of the awful things being said about Muslims, that we as a family did not believe or support any of that. Janean told her that she hoped that they were not receiving hate-filled behavior when they went out in public. Janean told her that we loved them and knew they were good people.
Later that same day, our neighbor texted Janean, worried that maybe her gift of chocolate cheesecake wasn’t compatible with some of the dietary restrictions that she was familiar with related to Mormonism, thinking that maybe chocolate having caffeine in it was problematic. Janean explained that it wasn’t, and why.
A New Friend and a New Perspective
Janean and our neighbor lady went out to lunch one day after that. And they talked for a long time. They talked about family. They talked about where they were from. And they talked about religion. I remember Janean telling me all about it that night. And the thing that had amazed her was that they had so much in common, especially when it came to religion. They shared principles of deity, of love, of family, and of being good people. Having not known much about their culture or religion, she was amazed at how much they shared.
After that they’d go out to lunch every so often. And they became friends.
Toxic, Infectious Attitudes
Donald Trump has frequently demonized immigrants, refugees, and Muslims. He’s described them as terrorists, rapists, and thieves. His words and his attitudes have infected others in our country with similar toxic and un-Christlike attitudes.
A friend of ours from our old neighborhood in Utah told Janean about an experience she had after the president took office. There was a man in our old neighborhood and ward. He was a local business owner. Well-liked. Seemed like a really great guy. I served in church callings with him for multiple years and we got along well.
And one day our friend overheard this man just going *off* about Muslims. She was shocked. They were all terrorists. They all wanted to kill us. Their religion was evil. How could this man be saying such awful and untrue things? Our friend stood up to him. She said she disagreed with his characterization. He doubled down and said it was all true. Muslim people and their religion were no good and not welcome in our country.
That does not describe the Muslim family that lived next door to us. At all.
And the anti-Muslim attitudes exhibited by President Trump are a big part of why that hate exists.
The Price of a Soul
You know, despite my shock and deep disappointment, I actually had hope on election night in 2016 after it was called for Trump. His acceptance speech actually came off as pretty reasonable and he made it sound like he’d try to bring our country together instead of tear us apart. Maybe all of that crap had just been a part of his act to get elected.
That disillusionment died the very next day, when he went right back to Twitter and right back to being the awful person he apparently truly is, and we’ve had almost 4 full years of that same dishonesty, divisiveness, and cruelty on pretty much a daily basis since then. And our country is cracking because of it.
Donald Trump is a narcissist. Donald Trump is a con man. Donald Trump is a liar. Donald Trump is a race-baiting bigot. So many people in the Republican world knew it back in 2016. They said so before he became the Republican party nominee. And then they just…forgot? Changed their minds?
Republican Senator Ted Cruz
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham
Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee
Did they change their minds, really? No. They sold their souls. In the name of tax cuts for the rich. In the name of conservative judges with lifetime federal appointments. In the name of “owning the libs”. And mostly, in the name of power.
I am convinced that Donald Trump cares about one thing – Donald Trump. I don’t believe he actually cares about Christians. I don’t believe he actually cares about veterans. I don’t believe he actually cares about abortion. I don’t believe he actually cares deeply about our country at all. I believe he cares about himself. Period.
That’s what narcissists do.
I had a lot of notes that just did not make the cut. I stayed up all night writing this as-is. I tend to sort of write forever if I don’t force myself to stop. So I’m stopping. Here are some of the leftovers.
The final comment: “It was recently reported that Vice President Pence in visiting Arizona, intimated that the general authorities of the LDS Church were quietly supporting the president. I will bet my eternal salvation against that.“
has failed us in handling the coronavirus pandemic.
A Cornell University study found that the president himself was the ‘single largest driver’ of coronavirus misinformation. THE PRESIDENT HIMSELF. (sorry for the caps, but it just blows my mind)
Our country has 5% of the world’s people and 20% of its COVID-19 deaths. That is nothing short of a failure.
is a liar.
He basically lies all day, every day. About everything. 20,055 times as of July 9, 2020 since he’s taken office, according to the Washington Post’s Trump fact checking database. The Toronto Star has its own list, which they last updated over a year ago. 5,276 times as of that point.
claims he is the law and order president. But over and over his close associates, advisors, lawyers, and campaign staff have been arrested and/or convicted of crimes. Roger Stone. Paul Manafort. Michael Cohen. Michael Flynn. Rick Gates. George Nader. George Papadopoulous. Steve Bannon.
has constantly undermined the validity of the press in our country. Everything that he doesn’t agree with is “fake news”.
disparages those who choose to serve in the military, including those who lose their lives in that service, insults their intelligence, calls them “suckers” and “losers”, and doesn’t want wounded veterans participating in military parades. He could not understand why someone would die for their country.
He also received over $413 million from his father over the years, which starkly contrasts with the story Trump tells of a one time $1 million loan from his father, which he then turned into a bigger fortune.
The LDS Church has released multiple different statements directly addressing the issue of refugees, calling for compassion and help for them, in direct response to statements and actions from the Trump administration.