With my heart torn, I have gone over to the urban forest near me to pray. Sitting on a bench looking across a lake and in the quietness of nature, I'm grateful to receive strength enabling me to carry this fire in my heart.
To begin, these words from a recent Sojourners article by Jim Wallis echo my concern:
"The political polarization of our society has now reached a new and dangerous level. Honest disagreements over policy issues have turned into a growing vitriolic rage against political opponents, and even threats of violence against lawmakers are now being credibly reported."
Many are alarmed at the amount of hateful, unjustified rhetoric that has taken over much of our media fracturing our country--we feel that more than anything else, this hostility is in danger of destroying our democracy. In this climate good debate becomes impossible hindering the democratic process in finding the best solutions. What has happened to The Golden Rule? I am not writing to you regarding policy but rather of behavior and process.
Misinformation and lies swirl about on the media, confusing people. How can we know if we are for or against something (such as this health care reform) if there is this shouting mixture of truth and lies? Acting like unruly children, how can we expect God to bless such behavior?
Your death panel statement was like an avalanche, an explosion adding to the mob mentality which brought unreasonable anger against our president and our government. People couldn't even talk in the town meetings. We have to listen to one another, Sarah. People who trusted in you--who liked your sparkling vivaciousness--believed you.
"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Downs Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panels" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of 'their level of productivity' in society, whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."
"Obama's death panels are downright evil," you say. If this be true, no wonder people scream. But it isn't and wasn't true. You must clear this up, Sarah. So that the truth can be known, I am enclosing an article by the person whose bill supposedly turned into this false death panel accusation:
For good debate and solutions, it is important that the truth be known and you are the person who has the stage to tell it. Do you agree? Especially when you know many are listening and some are ready to follow your example and parrot your words, it is totally irresponsible to falsely accuse the President of something "downright evil." This is abusive power of your freedom of speech and democracy can't work this way. Before such a drastic statement is made--before one pours kerosene on differences, there is a need to double check and get our facts straight. I cannot express myself too strongly. Extreme harm has been done. and I feel you need to apologize to the President and to the American people. I feel you need to publicly explain since you so publicly accused. Is it not "evil" to spread things that are not true?
"These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren." (Proverbs 6:16-19).
There is more. You will remember your saying of Barak Obama, "He pals around with terrorists." Even John McCain knew such statements were unfair and said "Obama is a decent family man."
On the other hand, let's consider who you have been "palling around" with--being on their programs: Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, for example. Two agitators whose uncivil, abusive polarization is well known and now you have aligned yourself with them. Is this an example for our children in the handling of differences? Good debate is healthy and can lead to enlarging perceptions for the greater good. Passion in speaking what you believe is not wrong, but name calling, disrespect and misinformation is. For peace we must teach our children.
Mr. Beck called the president "a racist who secretly hates white people." Since you say you are a Christian, I'm sure you are familiar with Jesus saying, "Judge not, lest you be judged. . .Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment." Sarah, is Glenn Beck God--that he knows the President's heart? Or did God give him this discernment? It is possible for God to give discernment, but in this case, I'm sure you will agree, this is the wrong kind of judging.
There are abundant examples of Mr. Beck's incivility, rash statements and unkindness. When the United States lost the Olympics, he said most gleefully, "Please, please, let me break this news to you! Oh, this is so sweet! Our president flew all the way over there to fail!" He was so happy! Is this a Christian attitude, Sarah?
Likewise, Rush Limbaugh said with great alacrity, "The world has rejected Obama in the first round of voting! mmm! mmm! mmm! Why would anyone award the Olympics to such a crappy place as the United States of America?" mmm!mmm! mmm!"
Shortly after this they were most dismayed to learn of the President being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Rush Limbaugh said this was a greater embarrassment than losing the Olympics. Glenn Beck said, "It should be turned down and given to the tea party goers and the 9/12 project."
Glenn Beck, the 9/12 organization and the Tea Party goers have signs comparing the President to Hitler, Stalin, and calling him a communist. A sample of the signs:"Obama is a domestic terrorist." "Obama, the Exterminator: Killing Our Jobs, Killing Our Future, Killing Our Freedom." "Bury Obama with Kennedy." and here's one you can claim, Sarah, "Obama Lied, Granny Died." They are peacemakers? Are you, Sarah? Some answer, "These signs are not indicative of the Tea Party." If so, then someone on the platform needs to say so and distance from them helping people to express themselves in an appropriate way.
Glenn Beck also said, "If your church speaks of social justice, run." Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners gave a good answer to that.http://blog.sojo.net/2010/03/25/a-million-christians-for-social-justice/
I saw this cartoon from the Dayton Daily News by Mike Peters: If Jesus returned as Glenn Beck--"Don't heal the sick--that's socialism. Don't shelter the homeless, that's communism. Don't feed the hungry, that's Nazism.
Rush Limbaugh,referring to the President, says, "I hope he fails." We're supposed to pray for our leaders.
It's as though they watch like vultures to pounce on anything they can condemn and twist. The president gave a speech to the school children encouraging them to work hard, obey their teachers and parents--to inspire them, etc. I've read the whole text--a great speech. Surely nothing could be found wrong with this? However, Glenn Beck advised the kids to skip school that day. The President and the First Lady encourage volunteerism--this fact, along with the speech to the students, are given as examples that the President wants to control our youth just like Hitler did. There were the Birthers who say that President Obama isn't even a citizen. Sarah, I pray you will use your influence to speak out against these things. What kind of an example of proper behavior is this giving to our children? You may know that bullying in our schools has become a big problem, even resulting in suicide. When we support this kind of speech, isn't this "palling around with terrorists?"
Unfortunately, outrageous rhetoric which fuels our differences is encouraged since it pumps up media ratings. This is not news or entertainment. For the good of our country and as an example to our children and the world, isn't it imperative that we express our differences with civility and courtesy?
"But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another." (Gal. 5:15)
There's a saying that I'm paraphrasing because I can't remember the exact words or where it came from:
I can go with someone who has the right spirit but with whose views I disagree, but I cannot go with someone who has the wrong spirit even though I agree with his views.
"Know no man after the flesh but after the Spirit."
Sarah, in all my 70 years I have never known a public figure receive so much undeserved hatred and criticism as the President. Please understand--I am not writing in support of all of President Obama's decisions or policies. I am writing because I believe he has a right spirit. I am writing because I believe this hateful energy directed toward him cannot be good for his decision making ability as well as other leaders, or for our country--it's hurting all of us. I heard him say, "I'm trying hard and I want the best for this country." I heard Rush Limbaugh mock this. The President said he couldn't do it by himself--he needs us.
Robert Fuller said, " Obama got the prize not for doing but for being. Not for making peace, but for exemplifying something new on the world stage--the politics of dignity"
Maybe you've heard of the Coffee Party USA. www.coffeepartyusa.com/
Mission Statement: The Coffee Party Movement gives voice to Americans who want to see cooperation in government. We recognize that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will. . .
There's a civility pledge:
As a member and supporter of the Coffee Party, I pledge to conduct myself in a way that is civil, honest, and respectful toward people with whom I disagree. I value people from different cultures. I value people with different ideas, and I value and cherish the democratic process.
This pledge promotes the America I know and love. I'm sure that you will agree that the seeds of ill-manners, malice, non-listening, misinformation and screaming will result in suffering and destruction. Therefore, we cannot support any leader on the left or right who is wedded to ill will and misinformation.
"Death and Life are in the power of the tongue " (Proverbs 18:21).
Seeking the refuge of God and prayer, and loving my country and my children and grandchildren, with tears and weeping and heaviness of heart, I have gone over to the urban forest near me. I know if our hearts be right, God is able to give wisdom--to turn things around in a moment. As He stilled the angry sea, He can still the angry voices. God knows what to do with the deficit, the health care,etc. Security is in the Secret Place. (Psalm 91:1)But God needs us--He has given us freewill to be co-creators with Him--to be hands, feet, mouth through which His love may be given to a suffering world--that out of our innermost being may flow rivers of living water.
"If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek My face , and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (II Chronicles 7:14).
Lord, I pray for President Obama, our leaders, our people, our country and our media. We have been so fractured--many going this way and that way, not knowing who or what to believe. May You arise in us, and in our government and in our media and "Scatter those who delight in war"--not just with physical weapons but wars with words. May destructive stoning with words cease. You are the Prince of Peace. May truth, justice, love, mercy and grace prevail. May those who are careless with truth be ashamed and walk away even as the religious leaders did when Jesus spoke truth to them. I ask for Your forgiveness and thank You for Your redemption.
As Your word exhorts us, I pray especially for our President.
In contrast to the unfair accusations and to distill the negative energy directed toward him, I wish to express my gratitude and thankfulness for his many fine qualities. I'm thankful
for his love of country and people,
for his knowledge and intelligence--
that he has diligently studied our history, our founders, and our Constitution,
that he is appreciative of our diversity of cultures,
that he stays calm under pressure,
that he is a listener--that he wants to hear and consider opposing views and that he wants to be fair,
for his wisdom and speaking ability,
that he is forgiving and not vengeful, for his generous spirit,
that he knows, as he has expressed, the importance of humility,
for his sense of humor.
I'm thankful for how noble he is and that we can be proud of him when he travels to other countries and gives speeches.
I'm thankful for his dignity.
I'm thankful for his family--for Michelle and his girls to whom he is a good husband and father.
I'm thankful that he is a man of faith, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episoes/october-10-2008-campaign-what-the-candidates-believe/885/
for the message of redemption that he gave at Easter.
Help him not to lean on his own understanding or seek to do things with the arm of the flesh without You.
May he be given increasing wisdom and good counselors and may wrong counsel be defeated. May we be a people whose collective consciousness not only brings forth such a leader,
but nourishes and protects our young President with our prayers and goodwill.
May we see with vision the seeds of greatness within him,
even as those in other countries have seen--some having given him the Nobel Peace Prize believing in the things he can do.
May good seeds be watered and not uprooted with careless hands,
enabling him to lead with the audacity of hope and the greatness possible.
Still the voices of ranker and false accusation. We want to uplift our president and not wear him down. May we deal with our differences as assets to enlarge our perceptions instead of liabilities to divide us. Help us to be quick to hear and slow to speak. In Jesus' name, Amen.
OPINION November 15, 2009
Op-Ed Contributor: My Near Death Panel Experience
By EARL BLUMENAUER