Monday, October 3, 2016

Everyone Wants Everyone Else to Change


Here's the problem:

Everybody wants everybody else to change.

Think about it.  Muslim extremists want "infidels" to convert to Islam.  Evangelicals want everybody to embrace traditional Christian morality.  Gays want evangelicals to embrace same-sex marriage.

Liberals want everybody to let the government have more power.  Conservatives want everybody to force the government to downsize.

But nobody actually wants to change.  Who thinks they need to change something about themselves?  At least, besides losing weight, or eating healthier meals, or getting a better job, or somehow achieving some other sort of change that directly and tangibly benefits themselves?

We have become a world full of narcissists.  We know what's wrong with other people, and even though we'll readily admit our own minor faults, we can't possibly be as wrong about so many major things as so many other people are.

If there's one thing I've learned after seven years of writing this blog, it's that hardly anybody wants to be told what to do.  People will read blogs and articles and websites, but they don't read expecting to be challenged.  They read to see how much an author agrees with their already-set viewpoint.  People want affirmation, not confrontation.

For example, simply pulling from our bulging files of current events that never seem to go away:  Black men continue trying to evade arrest, and then when one of them gets shot by the police, suddenly it's the cops who are at fault.  Meanwhile white people scoff at claims of police brutality, but don't really push for investigations that could hold police departments more accountable for their actions.

And then, Donald Trump is found to have not paid taxes for probably many years, and his legions of supporters and apologists guffaw, chortling with only the mildest embarrassment that Trump's merely a master at exploiting our tax code.   Meanwhile, very few Republicans are saying that Trump's massive tax dodge is emblematic of a tax code that obviously favors the rich more than it does the middle and lower classes.  Why not?  Probably because so many Republicans feel beholden to the party and its celebrated wealth barons who don't want our tax code to favor the 99%.

It may be a new day, but the news is old.

In Los Angeles on Saturday, Carnell Snell Jr. was shot and killed while fleeing from police.  The 18-year-old black man knew the police were chasing him, yet when he was confronted by officers in a squad car, he refused to cooperate (as if running from the cops, up until this point, could be interpreted as any type of cooperation).

“They jumped out of the car and they didn't tell him to freeze or nothing,” a witness recounted to a reporter from the Los Angeles Times, describing what she viewed as the police's apparent impatience with Snell. “They just shot him... If they would have given him a command he might have complied.  But they didn't give him no option.”

This witness offers a common response from some in the black community after these police-involved shootings.  The police should let black suspects pretty much control the situation, according to subscribers of the "Black Lives Matter" movement.  Never mind the inability of police officers to read minds, or immediately process the entire context of the situation.  While white people get blamed for asking "why don't you simply stop and follow police orders," the question remains:  Why does it seem as though black men disproportionately feel entitled to write their own rules in situations involving the police?

It seems as though, day in and day out, week after week of hearing about these shootings, the same pattern plays itself out, with black men trying to achieve a different outcome than what usually happens.  The narrative we're told is that cops need to change their own behavior if police brutality is going to end.  But when the police order somebody to do something, whether you think it's degrading to your self-respect or not, what's the harm in doing it?  Stopping when cops tell you to stop.  Putting your hands in the air when they tell you to put your hands in the air.  Is that brutality? 

It might be demeaning, but it's not brutality.  Have you seen the videos of innocent victims in mall shootings and school shootings?  The police make everybody line up and file outside, with their hands in the air.  It's degrading for the people who've just witnessed a mass shooting, and are already upset.  Nevertheless, the police don't know who's dangerous or not.  Everybody is a suspect.  And everybody usually complies, because they understand the cops have a charge to protect the broader community.

Why is it so hard for black men to comply?  Is it the gangsta culture that is so popular these days?  Is it really the intimidation many of them feel directed towards them by the police?  We know that disproportionately, black men get shot by cops at a higher rate than anybody else, so there is a legitimate problem here.  But why should a black man in this day and age need to be told to "freeze"?

They're wanting the cops to change.  But for cops, an uncooperative suspect is what stands between that moment, and their desire to get home safely to their family tonight.

And as for Trump, isn't it obvious by now that Republicans need a serious "Come to Jesus meeting" regarding the GOP's tolerance of sloppy ethics?  Trump, perhaps far more so than Hillary, is the poster boy for "the ends don't justify the means," yet some conservatives are heralding Trumps' tax dodge as superlative revenue gamesmanship.  Hey - he exploited the tax code in legal ways, which shows how smart he is.  Or at least, how smart his tax lawyers are.

But look at how bad that makes him look!  He's the weasel many folks have already said he was.  He's the Leona Helmsley of New York's real estate community.  Remember her famous line, "only the little people pay taxes."

If Trump really had an ethical bone in his body, he'd have known that his loophole exploits could seriously snag his campaign.  So at the very start, he could have exploited his exploitations, holding a press conference and proudly announcing that he'd legally not paid taxes for years, and the reason is because America's tax code is horribly inefficient and stacked against the middle class, and by golly, he was going to change that, because he's for America's middle class.

He's always relished his status as the GOP's anti-establishment candidate, and vowing to bust up Washington's good-old-boy tax code would certainly have made him very unpopular inside the Beltway, not to mention exclusive country clubs across the country.  But no, he didn't even see that he could turn his sneaky accounting to his political advantage, because he's a hardened money-grubber who doesn't want the tax code changed.  He has no intention of paying one dime more in taxes than the current laws will allow.

And frankly, it's hard to blame anybody for not wanting to pay any more taxes than they're required to pay.  But the revelation of Trump's tax situation also revealed that thousands of millionaires don't pay federal income taxes.  They're part of the cohort of Americans who right-wingers have vilified for years as not paying their fair share to fund our government.

Oops.

Yet Republicans, ever since this story broke over the weekend, have generally been giving Trump a big free pass, parroting Rudy Giuliani who called Trump a capitalistic "genius."  They don't want to change their view of Trump as a worthy occupant of the Oval Office.

Not that Trump would be the sleaziest person to be president, but his tax dodge merely piles up alongside all of the other frustratingly bad examples of things by which the Republican Party used to not want to be characterized. 

So Americans keep clashing and thrashing our way through another presidential season, and through another cop shooting, as life becomes more fractured and fractious between people living in states that are supposed to exist as a union.  Mostly because nobody thinks they're wrong.

Everybody is doing what is right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25, Judges 17:6).  But how can we free ourselves from this destructive path?  What else sets us free, but truth?

Two simple things, at least for starters:
  1. Respect authority (Romans 13:1).  If cops are pursuing you, stop and comply.  This also implies that the authorities instituted by God are responsible to Him, and need to comply with His standard of justice.
  2. The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).  Trump is no exception to the rule.  So if you want to blame people who don't pay federal taxes for the state of our country's deficit, GOPers need to blame their own presidential candidate.  Awkward, huh?

It may sound awfully simplistic.  But who makes "truth" complicated, except us?  And if this is too religious for your tastes, ask yourself:  How effective are the secular ways we've been using to try to fix our problems?  Sometimes, the truth hurts, as they say.

Who do you think should change?  Did you immediately think of somebody else?


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