Leonard Pitts Jr.

2014: The year of no ideas a/k/a red states vs blue states

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2014: The year of no ideas | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

Opposing sides of the field
Opposing sides of the field (Pixabay)

Syndicated columnist, Leonard Pitts Jr. did it again: he wrote about issues that most of us are very concerned about and at least for this one reader/writer, he spoke for me.  The above article addresses the precise way that I feel – and that many others feel – about red versus blue.  Here’s a few quotes from the article that you should take the time to read in its entirety.

First a quote from President Obama, a quote that he premiered ten years ago and reiterated after the recent mid-term elections:

“I continue to believe,” said President Obama, “we are simply more than a collection of red and blue states.  We are the United States.”

Now a few paragraphs from Mr. Pitts’ article addressing that statement:

“People for whom everything is about politics tend to forget that most of us do not see the world that way.  Red or blue, left or right, most Americans simply want a government that works, that gets things done, and a nation that stands for something, that means something in the world beyond just a parcel of land where a bunch of people live.  This is why Obama’s words electrified 10 years ago; they seemed to connect people to ideals larger than their own lives.

“And it is why the same words seem flatter than left-out cola 10 years later, the hope of larger ideals having been sequestered, government shutdowned, PAC’d and gridlocked down into a sobering realization of how truly small American politics can be.

“Cowardice squared off against cynicism Tuesday [2014 election day] and cynicism won.  But there is something wrong when those are the only options on the ballot.

“We are supposed to be united states, the president says.  But there are too many days lately when a sentiment that once grounded and ennobled feels fanciful and unlikely.”

And now my statement:

Whether we’re talking about State/local government or Federal – year after year, too many employees of each have failed to do their job.  These employees don’t work behind desks in the hallowed walls of government; they square off on the football field where at least two opposing sides refuse to give an inch for fear that the opponents’ goals might be reached.

And I might add, goals that could very well benefit the American citizenry, but are turned down simply because the other team proposed them.

Doesn’t that seem shameful to you?


Don’t take selfies in Auschwitz | Opinion | The Seattle Times

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Don’t take selfies in Auschwitz | Opinion | The Seattle Times by Leonard Pitts, Jr.  One would think that it is not necessary to publish rules or guidelines as to when or where it is inappropriate to immortalize your grinning mug via a selfie, but Mr. Pitts clearly indicates that such guidelines are necessary.  His column, attached above, tells the story of an Alabama teenage girl who took a “sunshine smile” selfie at the place that has been memorialized as the largest concentration and death camp in the world: Auschwitz, also known as Auschwitz-Birkenau.  (After much fanfare over social media and elsewhere, this young lady defended her action by stating that it was meant to honor her father – on the anniversary of his death – because he passed his love of World War II history on to her.)

Keep in mind, Mr. Pitts’ column is an Opinion piece.

I happen to agree with him.

It is my opinion that it is not appropriate to take a stupid-ass smiling, self-absorbed, thumbs up, V cooties sign above someone else’s head, sticking-out-your tongue selfie or photograph in the following incidents and/or places (this is just a partial list):

  • Auschwitz: a place where 1.1 million humans were tortured and murdered;
  • 9/11 Memorial: where nearly 3,000 human beings were killed by terrorists;
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial: where names of the dead – 58,286 as of Memorial Day 2013 – are memorialized, 1,200 of which are designated as MIAs, POWs, and others;
  • At scenes of destruction such as someone’s neighborhood post hurricane or burning into non-existence from a forest fire  (your selfie of non-involvement documenting your presence there is disrespectful to those who have lost everything);
  • At evolving crime scenes, such as the one that took place outside of a New Jersey McDonald’s restaurant (Mr. Pitts wrote an Opinion piece on that incident as well, see attached link, to which I also agreed) where one female employee beat up another female employee and while no one intervened to stop the violence, they did take photos and videos and oohed and ahhed at the unfolding action;   and finally,
  • It is not appropriate to take a selfie in front of a corpse peacefully laid to rest in a coffin at a viewing service.

Which begs the question: did this Alabama teenager take a selfie in front of her father’s open casket (if a casket was used and if it was open)?  I would bet that she did not.  Why?  Because it would be disrespectful, distasteful, and inappropriate.  But I have a confession to make.  My family is somewhat guilty of the latter.

My mother died on September 24, 1994 leaving my father a widow.  Within 24-hours of her death, I and my two siblings arrived from out-of-state to support dad and help him with the numerous required tasks leading up to the funeral.  Mom was cremated.

Because the entire family was present at the church funeral, including my sister-in-law and my adult daughter, someone suggested that we all stand around the urn (which sat on a table surrounded by six dozen pink roses at the front of the church) and have our picture taken.

At the conclusion of the service, our photo was taken.  It is a very awkward photo, evidenced by the strained smiles on our faces.  The inner dialogue went something like this, “Someone is taking a photo; you’re always supposed to smile for a photo; ergo, here’s my smile.”

Mom’s urn, placed in 1994. Dad’s urn placed in 2007.

But dad wasn’t smiling.  He just lost his bride of forty-seven years; what’s to smile about?  He stands there with an exhausted and grim look on his face, his left hand touching the top of mom’s urn: one last connection with her before the undertaker removes the container for appropriate storage.

I’m not showing you that funeral-day family photo because there’s no reason why you need to see that private family moment.  More importantly, that photo op just didn’t feel right to me.

Maybe that’s a pretty good barometer from which to gauge the appropriateness or not of our actions.

Spineless inaction: the bystander effect

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Courageous or spineless? Our actions, or inactions, decide | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

“Someone else will step in.”

“My God, this is horrible; someone should really do something!”

That someone is you and me.

from "The Colors and Letters of Jen Elek and Jeremy Bert" (Seattle)
from “The Colors and Letters of Jen Elek and Jeremy Bert” (Seattle)

In the attached article from today’s Seattle Times newspaper, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, Leonard Pitts Jr., poses a question that all of us should readily be able to answer.  If you see someone in need of help, do you wait for someone else to do the right thing, or do you step in?  Do you need to look to other people, watching the same emergency situation as you, to receive the correct “cue” as to what is required of you?  No, each of us should assume that if I don’t help this person, no one else will.  That’s what Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged us to do when, during one of his speeches, he relayed the story of the Good Samaritan from the Bible.

Pardon my paraphrase, but his message went something like this:

When I happen upon someone in obvious need of assistance, instead of hesitating and wondering what will happen to me if I render assistance, I should be asking myself, “What will happen to this person if I don’t stop and help?”

Some needs are obvious as detailed in one of the stories in Mr. Pitts’ article: Just outside of a New Jersey McDonald’s restaurant, a female McDonald’s worker was savagely beaten by a co-worker who was upset because the other woman gossiped about her.  During the beating, no one stepped in to help.  While the crowd exclaimed over what they saw – and even took photos and videos of the beating – the only person who came to this victim’s aide was her two-year old son who did what he could to get the mean woman off of his mommy.  Not one person at this McDonald’s eatery called 911.  I encourage you to read Mr. Pitts’ account to learn the outcome of this story.

Some needs aren’t as evident: in the heat of a summer’s day, you see an elderly man walking down the street when you leave the house to do some errands, and on your return trip a couple hours later, this same elderly man is sitting on a boulder at the side of the road – a bewildered look upon his face.  That’s when you need to trust your gut.  You say to yourself, “This isn’t right.  This guy must be lost and most certainly could be dehydrated,” and so you pull over the car.  I wrote an article last summer on this very subject matter, Trust your gut!, resultant from an experience that reinforced my belief that if something feels wrong, it is wrong.

Whether a need is obvious or not-so-obvious, you’re the someone who needs to step up to meet that need.  Life is too precious to be an apathetic bystander.

Theological bullying

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Forced faith is not faith | Opinion | The Seattle Times.  The syndicated columnist, Leonard Pitts Jr., has proven yet again how fabulously he writes.  His writing can only attain that quality, however, if what he writes comes from a sense of justice, compassion, and truth.  Therefore, hands down – his writing is fabulous.

The title for this blog piece comes from Mr. Pitts’ article where he quotes Martin Luther King’s definition of faith as being, “taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”  The columnist says that given what the Sudanese Parliament has done by imposing the death penalty on one of its citizens who wouldn’t disavow her faith, “faith has less to do with hope and assurance and the courage to take steps in the dark, than with justifying just this kind of theological bullying.”

This story centers around choosing one religion over another.  My writing on this story does not pit Christianity against Islam, (or vice versa) rather, it’s a story showing a conflict between two religions that very well might end horrifically.   It’s a dramatic story because the “guilty” party, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a mother of two who married a Christian man, will receive 100 lashes and then she will be killed after her youngest child has been weaned – nothing short of outrageous and barbaric.

Can you require/force someone to have faith?

Can you require/force someone to love you?

Mr. Pitts asks:

Can faith ever truly be faith if it is imposed by force of law or threat of violence?  Is faith faith if it is not freely chosen?  If someone swore at gunpoint that she loved you, would you believe her?

Faith can move mountains; religion can't.
Faith can move mountains; religion can’t. (Painting by artist, Mary Riesche)

The Sudanese Parliament has no concept of what faith is.  Again, I’m not talking about Islam in general, I’m talking about the actions of the Sudanese Parliament.  Its members are simply trying to force this 27-year old woman to leave her Christian religion and follow their religion, Islam.  They are proving that they are a bunch of fearful wimps – so afraid are they of any religion that differs from theirs.  But we all know the truth: the strongest person represented in this travesty is Meriam Yehya Ibrahim.  She’s not holding on to her religion, she’s holding on to her faith.

Bullies are weaklings in disguise whose only weapon is to assert a strength they will never have.