Why I Cannot Vote for President Trump

About a month ago, over the space of three days, I was asked by four different friends essentially the same question: why do you not plan to vote for President Trump? I agreed to answer that question. I began a long piece, going into detail, and then quit, having lost my enthusiasm for the task. Why? Because I don’t find it a lot of fun, or cathartic, or anything else particularly positive, to detail the many reasons why I believe as I do; I find it pretty depressing that Donald Trump is our president, and listing the reasons is a depressing exercise. There are other reasons I quit that initial writing as well, but I need to keep my promise, and so I am posting this and will keep it up for 3-4 days. That should give ample time for those curious to read my thoughts. I thought for a moment about just saying, “read anything George Will, Jonah Goldberg, David French, or Pete Wehner have written about the president, and then assume I agree with about 90% of their thoughts”, but I decided that was a cop-out, so here it is.

But first, several quick caveats. One, I have no interest in persuading anyone to my point of view, so I’m not terribly interested in arguing. Two, it’s obvious my “voting calculus” differs from those who will vote for Trump, such that I’m not going to be persuaded by your arguments (any more than I expect to persuade you). Suffice it to say that I have never changed my basic approach to voting, unlike, apparently, over 40% of evangelicals in the last five years. Three, I have been accused of “demanding a perfect candidate”; others have used silly canards like, “we’re not electing a preacher” or offering a seeming justification like, “he’s not perfect”. These are non-starters with me; they are poor arguments on their face and I won’t indulge in discussion of them. Four, I don’t hate Donald Trump. This is another canard tossed around, as though I somehow relish thinking the things I do, or they flow from some personal animus that colors my thinking. I do not; that’s demonstrably untrue. Five, I’m not about to vote for Joe Biden any more than I would have voted for Hillary or Obama; I reject, by the way, the Lincoln Project approach, but I don’t consider a third-party vote to be “a vote for (whomever)”; that argument, too, is a non-starter for me. Finally, to reinforce the idea that I just don’t want to argue these points, you need to know that as regards my decision, this isn’t a margin call, as though I’m going to change my mind about it if I just come to see a few things in a different light. No, I believe that Donald Trump is woefully unfit to serve as president, not “barely unfit” or “close to fit if he’d soften his style”. My best advice to the reader is to read to understand, rather than to argue; that’s futile. In that spirit and with those caveats, I briefly offer several reasons I cannot vote for the President:

I believe that Donald Trump lacks the character to serve as President. When I break down the component parts of “good character”, I don’t find any, in my personal observation, in which the president stacks up even as “average”. Honesty, integrity, loyalty, humility, self-control, accountability, courage; on and on the list could go, and he seems deficient, to one degree or another, in each sub-category. Sadly, hardly anyone talks about character; I have only read two opinion writers who delved into it. Erick Erickson handles it admirably, and Dennis Prager engages in goalpost-moving so blatant and silly that I am embarrassed for him. But beyond these two, I don’t see this even addressed, and it is Issue One with me. Instead, what I see is people talking about “style”, as in, “his language is rough” or “I wish he wouldn’t tweet like he does” or even, “he’s a jerk, but…” Character may impact style at points, but the two are significantly different. If my only beef were with his “style”, he’d almost surely get my vote, but terribly deficient character is very different from “offensive style”.

I believe that Donald Trump lacks the temperament and judgment to serve as President.

The tweets aren’t the problem; it’s what the tweets reveal, not only about his character, but about things like his temperament and judgment. He comes off as narcissistic (I would assume even his most ardent supporters would acknowledge this isn’t a crazy thought), petulant, insecure (hence the bullying), and vindictive. I can hardly name a political figure whom I would trust less with making a significant decision on national defense; I said in 2016 that as much as I found Hillary Clinton an awful candidate, I’d much rather have her finger on the nuclear trigger than Trump’s. His early response to COVID-19, I believe, cost American lives. His response to the racial issues that have reared their head this year has been poor as well, throwing gas rather than water on the fires. He was fortunate during his first three years not to have a significant crisis; now he has had two, and I believe he has mishandled both badly. The thought of this president being asked to handle some serious national defense crisis terrifies me.

I believe that he is a fundamentally unserious man who does not approach his role with the gravity which is requires.

This is the testimony of many who have worked with him. The reports (there have been many) of how inattentive he is to national security briefings, for instance, paint a picture of a person who doesn’t take his role seriously.

It is dangerous and wrong to make final pronouncements as to the motives of an individual, and so I won’t; nonetheless, it seems to me that the most likely explanation. for an awful lot of what he does, involves a calculation as to what will best benefit Donald Trump. That seems to me the correct explanatory filter, given his words, tweets, actions, and attitudes. If I am right in that, then I cannot trust what he does to be in the best interests of this country, the charge that he has been given.

I believe that he is a very poor leader.

He has proven to be a divider, again and again, instead of seeking to find agreement and bring Americans together when possible. And when I think about the traits of good leaders I have seen from those who I consider to be good leaders, this president seems to lack most of them.

I believe it’s more likely than not that he abused power and obstructed justice.

I don’t think the Democrats proved that, and I couldn’t make an airtight case, but I think the evidence points that way.

I disagree with some of the policy decisions he has made, but I could probably see my way clear to vote for him, did I not think the above were true.

Now, please note that there are some things that I have not said, that are judgments others have made. I am not ready to call him a “racist”, for instance (though people who are racists seem to love him to death and take his words as sympathetic). I don’t think he’s “evil”, in the sense that he has some grand strategy to do irreparable harm to the institutions of this country (he doesn’t seem to me to have much of a plan at all; he seems devoid of much of a governing philosophy or a set of principles which guide his decision-making). Comparisons with Hitler are outrageous. In short, I don’t buy anything or everything that some have said; in fact, I have on a number of occasions supported things he has done as president and have said so. But I cannot vote for him.

Here’s the problem with all of the above: I do not, cannot, see no reason to and plenty of reasons not to, trust this man. It baffles me that anyone would. I think that this is a bigger issue in 2020 than it was in 2016, yet I see no one raising the question: why, given that Trump will never face voters again, would he continue to pursue whatever conservative initiatives he has pursued during his first term, particularly if I am right that he has few bedrock principles? He has little incentive to continue the policies that conservatives see as good. I see it as a crap-shoot at best.

Finally, let me be very clear: I very much understand why people would vote for Donald Trump; I have consistently defended people who have made this choice, and I will defend you. I understand well the calculus behind such a decision. It is simply one I cannot make. I respect the consciences of all who choose differently than do I; I only ask that same respect. I hope my taking the time to outline very briefly my rationale will help with that.

How to Elect a President

Short answer: NOT the way we are doing it.

As I write this, Americans are looking at a choice that many find very unappealing: Donald Trump or Joe Biden will be sworn in on a cold Wednesday in January. This on the heels of the election of 2016, where both candidates were loathed to a historical degree. For what it’s worth, my opinion isn’t that Donald Trump is the “only person who could have beaten Hillary Clinton”, but rather that “Hillary Clinton was the only person who could have lost to Donald Trump”…but of course, that’s only speculation, and it serves no purpose now to dissect it further. This time around, Joe Biden doesn’t arouse the visceral disgust that Hillary did–you may not care for Joe, but he certainly doesn’t produce nearly the vitriol summoned by Hillary–but there are concerns that he’s aging quickly, that his long-standing proneness to gaffes is now something well beyond that, that he’s really losing it. I honestly think that if Joe were elected, it’s about 50/50 that he has the chops to finish even one term. And then there is President Trump; I won’t belabor this point, but suffice it to say that there are a whole lot of people who dread having these as the only two people with a realistic chance of being sworn in in 2021. The question is, why do we now seem to be finding ourselves again in the position of having two candidates that a significant percentage of Americans find to be some degree of awful? And what can we do about it?

I lay the blame in large measure on the process. We have a process perfectly designed to achieve the results we are getting…and so if our results are poor, then if we were smart (unfortunately, if by “we” I mean “our two primary political parties”, then the answer is, “we are categorically not smart”), we’d fix it; we’d overhaul the process. A futile endeavor, then, might the writing of this turn out to be, but it won’t be the first time I offer suggestions that will go unheeded, and I doubt seriously it will be the last.

The fix, as I see it, begins with our primary system. How do we fix it? Pretty easily, in my judgment: with the largest wrecking ball we can find. With strategically-placed explosives. With a wipe-the-slate-clean-and-start-over approach. In short, we abolish the entire primary system as we know it. No more of this inanity of pandering pols pretending that Iowa and New Hampshire actually matter to them. No more of these states’ inflated-beyond-all-sense-of-proportion influence on our presidential election system. No more of worthless primaries held well after outcomes have been decided. Yep, just burn down the primary system and don’t look back.

Next, limit the choices that party voters have to choose from. “What? We’re ‘Murricans. We want to be able to vote for whomever we darn well please!” To that I’d ask, “how’s that workin’ out for ya?”

Instead, the parties should limit the choices we have…to three, I would suggest, but no more than five. Period. Full stop. No more of these ridiculous 16-25 candidates being presented to voters. Chuck that. Forever. How to accomplish this? Let party leadership–make it a broad representation, sure, but the people who have risen to leadership roles within the party–engage in a vetting process. Instead of silly/pointless “debates” (that term is only barely descriptive of the charade that goes by the name), where voters get to see snippets of contenders sniping at each other in a made-for-TV extravaganza, where little substance issues forth and where the main thing seems to be to avoid some gaffe that could doom a candidacy, let those policy differences be discussed behind closed doors. No cameras. Let each candidate explain in detail his/her position on various issues. Let there be a free-wheeling discussion, but in front of the people best positioned to know what they are looking for in a candidate–and what they aren’t.

Further, let the party fund advertising that is divvied up equally between its 3-5 candidates. On as level a playing field as possible, we get to know where the candidates stand on the issues rather than slickly-produced silliness such as most political commercials are. If a political party is functioning as it should, it will do what it can to field electable candidates and inform the electorate on why its policies should be preferred; advertising could be used to accomplish this, were there the political will to do it.

Next, whatever replaces our hopeless primary system, whatever method of voting parties use, make that voting closed to all but people who are members of that given party. That means I (an independent) get no vote. This is a good thing. I don’t deserve a vote in these matters, any more than a person who is not a member of my church gets a vote on who our church’s elders should be. I am not disenfranchised by this; I get my vote in November like everyone else. But I am not owed a vote or any say in the affairs of any entity to which I do not belong, such as a political party. ‘Tain’t my business. Both parties, spurred on by Limbaugh-types, have had people who engaged in “crossover” primary voting, in states where primaries are open. It’s legal. It’s also wrong, and for that reason, it shouldn’t be legal. The determination of the nominee of a given party ought to rest solely with the members of that party.

So at some point, on one day all across the country, Democrats and Republicans head to the polls to determine which nominee they believe will be the best representative of their party in the general election.

Does this guarantee great candidates? No, but it should go a long way toward keeping us out of the situation that seems to be regularly presenting itself to us these days, the sense that, of 330+ million people in this country, these are the two we consider the best for this job?

Finally, in the general election, adopt ranked choice voting. It just makes sense. For that matter, use ranked choice voting in every election we have.

In the end, what do we have to lose? Seems to me that just about anything beats the way we do it currently.

The State of the Fame: 2020 Baseball Edition

One of my favorite sports topics is the question of sports “immortality”, as in, “who belongs in the Hall of Fame”, or “who’s the greatest of all-time” at a given position. Baseball and football are the two sports I feel most qualified to speak about, knowledge-wise, and with baseball gearing up to finally get going in 2020, I thought it might be fun to take this moment in time and consider current players in relationship to their chances at making the Hall of Fame. I’ve divided them into a number of different categories (each of which are explained); tell me where I’m wrong. Let the fun begin!

I’ll begin with the “locks”:

Hit by a Bus Tomorrow: (This player would be in the Hall of Fame if he were hit by a bus; he currently has already compiled a Hall of Fame resume, and it’s only a matter of time.)

Albert Pujols – The great Albert Pujols is the current active leader in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), and nobody is all that terribly close to him. There was a time when his pace was such that he could have made a run at Lou Gehrig as the greatest all-time first sacker. Ironically, his leaving my beloved Cardinals for the Angels–a move I greatly rued at the time–was perfect timing; he’s never really had a season in L.A. like the ones he had in St. Louis, and of course he never will. But he’s not only a first-ballot Hall of Famer; his election should be unanimous.

Miguel Cabrera – I wasn’t sure we’d ever seen another Triple Crown winner. Miggy pulled it off, and though he’s of course on the downside of his career, his place in Cooperstown is secure.

Clayton Kershaw – Kershaw is the premier pitcher of this era. His lifetime WAR is well ahead of Sandy Koufax, though he’s played more seasons than Koufax was able to. Still, for all his accomplishments, he’s only 31 years of age, and has time to cement a place, not only in Cooperstown, but in the high rent district of Cooperstown.

Mike Trout – There are simply not enough superlatives to say about Mike Trout. Babe Ruth is the greatest player of all time; I’m not sure it’s even close, and Mike Trout won’t displace him. That said, could we talk about Trout in the same breath as Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, one day? He’s that good. He has to stay healthy, but the numbers he’s putting up make him baseball’s best player, and he’s only 27 years old.

Justin Verlander – I think that this year put Verlander over the line. 90th all-time in WAR, with those numbers sure to rise, Verlander is already ahead of Hall of Famers such as Jim Palmer, Don Sutton, and John Smoltz. Nobody’s keeping this guy out.

The Numbers Say So, but I Just Don’t Know: (These guys are close and might make it, but…)

Zach Greinke – Greinke trails Verlander in lifetime WAR by less than one win, but honestly, he just doesn’t feel like a Hall of Famer; I just don’t think of him nearly the same way I do Verlander or Kershaw (whom Greinke actually leads, but who is four years Greinke’s junior). I think he makes it, particularly as sabermetrics continues to rise in popularity. But do you think of Greinke as a shoe-in? Maybe it’s me.

Robinson Cano –  Bonehead move of a career: getting caught with PEDs. Robbie is another guy who, I don’t know, I just don’t think of as a Hall of Famer, but his stats don’t lie. Unfortunately, Cano’s stupid move might cost him Cooperstown.

Missed it by THAT Much: (The Hall of Very Good)

I don’t see any of these guys getting in. They’re all pretty good ballplayers, and some have had one or two exceptional seasons, but I don’t see any crossing that threshold. If I had to pick one, it’d probably be Felix the Cat; Hamels has a stronger case than you might imagine, such that if he were to have a couple more really nice seasons, he might show up on some Hall of Fame radars. McCutchen is young enough to tally Hallworthy stats, but his career seems to have peaked, and he’s on the downside. Still, if he could turn things around, I’m not absolutely certain it’s too late for him. But it probably is.

Evan Longoria
Cole Hamels
Ian Kinsler
Dustin Pedroia
Felix Hernandez
Ryan Braun
Jon Lester
Andrew McCutchen
Adam Wainwright
Brett Gardner
David Price
Ryan Zimmerman

Keep Up the Good Work: (Stay on pace and they are in)

Joey Votto – He still has, in my judgment, just a little bit of work to do. If he fell off this season into mediocrity, I say he doesn’t make the Hall,  but if he can have a good short season this year and follow it by a reasonably good one or two (at age 37 and beyond), I think he gets the lifetime achievement award and the call to the Hall.

Max Scherzer – If I were to add a sixth player to my “Hit by a Bus” list, it’d be Max Scherzer. To me he’s right on the border of the Hall with his career to date, and if he were hit by that bus, he’d get enough sympathy votes to make it, I think. One more season of Max being Max, and he can punch his ticket, if it isn’t punched already; he’s that close.

Chris Sale – I grabbed Chris Sale early on my 2019 fantasy team, and he proceeded to ruin my season. Suffice it to say that if he keeps duplicating 2019s for a couple more seasons, his name falls off this list and onto whatever list Bret Saberhagen and Tim Lincecum are on. But he showed some signs of pitching better toward the end of the year, as I recall, so we’ll call 2019 an aberration and assume that if he resumes his pace, we’ll one day hear his name called.

Paul Goldschmidt – I could almost write the same things about Goldy as I did about Sale. The Cardinals didn’t get their money’s worth in 2019 by any means, but we’ll say he was just getting adjusted to being in St. Louis, and that he’ll bounce back to normal, which in his case means building a Hall of Fame resume.

Mookie Betts – In six short seasons, he’s already putting up incredible numbers. A lot can happen, of course; at this point in his career, Andruw Jones looked like a lock for the Hall, and now he’s an afterthought. Still, Mookie is well-positioned if he can keep it up.

Buster Posey – He’s 32, and so he has a few years remaining, we should assume. He isn’t in yet, and if his career tailed off pretty quickly from here, he’ll have to buy a ticket like the rest of us. That said, he shouldn’t have to put up massive numbers from here on out to have a good shot at the Hall. I don’t feel as confident about this pick as I do about most of the rest.

Giancarlo Stanton – Nor about this one. He had that one absolute monster season, and he’s still only 29. His career doesn’t scream “Hall” yet, and like several on this list I’ve already mentioned, he’s still got some work to do. I feel certain, by the way, that of these ones about whom I’ve expressed apprehension, some will make it and some won’t. It’s just hard to say who.

Nolan Arenado – We might be looking here at the most underrated player in the game. The glove, the bat; it’s all there. He’s still young (28), and is putting up great numbers (in a great place to do it). His name was linked to my Cardinals in off-season trade rumors, and I was salivating. Nothing happened, to my chagrin. But to the point: Arenado keeps up this for a few more years, and he could be a first-ballot guy.

Jose Altuve – As could this guy. But cheaters make me sick.

Manny Machado – Will the real Manny Machado please stand up? Hard to know what to make of this guy. He has the tools, but something’s got to click in for him to really reach all his potential. He might well belong on the next list down, but for now, I’ll keep him here.

Christian Yelich – He’s really come on lately, one of the ten best position players in the game, I think. I see a path to Cooperstown for him.

So You’re Sayin’ there’s a Chance: (Gotta pick up their game a bit)

Josh Donaldson – Time lost to injury hurts Josh’s chances, and at his age, he’d have to yet have several more years like this past year in Atlanta. The shortened season might be enough to doom whatever slim shot he had.

Freddie Freeman – As it stands right now, Freddie is a prime candidate for the Hall of Very Good. Every year, he’s very good. An MVP season and/or a Braves championship, and he might get enough oomph to make it over the line. Absent that, I think he falls a tad short.

Jacob DeGrom – He just got started too late. Great pitcher, but with only six seasons under his belt at age 31–and the shortened 2020 season–his only chance is to find a way to dominate into his late 30s, which is a tall order for most players.

Anthony Rizzo – See: Freddie Freeman.

Stephen Strasburg – Exactly the same lifetime WAR as Rizzo, but a year older. Hyped as the next Nolan Ryan, he is going to fall short of the Hall unless his 2019 season (along with the playoffs) represented Strasburg really getting it all together, in which case yeah, I’m saying there’s a chance.

Bryce Harper – When you make the cover of SI at age 16, the expectations are off the charts. He’s put in 8 major league seasons, and he’s only 26. And he’s got an MVP award as well. Still, is the career Bryce Harper is putting together the career you expected him to? Not me. Even yet, though, if you pinned me down, I think he’ll do enough–barring injuries, a big “if”–to make it to Cooperstown.

Anthony Rendon – He’s really playing great baseball now, and if he keeps this up in his new Anaheim digs, Rendon could hear his name called. Still got a lot of work to do, but the trend lines are all heading up.

I Just Really Don’t Know:

Yadier Molina – The Cardinals homer in me wants to say, “absolutely, Yadi belongs in the Hall”, but the numbers don’t really support that. If you look at all the players grouped around him in lifetime WAR, he’s in the company of the very good, but not the great; hardly any of these folks (people like Dave Concepcion, Andy Messersmith, Moises Alou, Dave Parker, and Albert Belle) made the Hall. He is just ahead of Ernie Lombardi, a Hall of Fame catcher. He’s not a bad hitter for a catcher, of course; he’s contributed offensively at points during his career. But of course his calling card is his glove and, particularly, that arm. He’s 36 years old, which is approaching ancient for a catcher, and he doesn’t hit enough to justify moving him to another position to prolong his career (plus, he still has the cannon). I’m honestly not certain he should be voted into Cooperstown, but my guess is that he will be, particularly if he can have a couple more reasonably good seasons.

On His Way to the Stars: (Two years minimum)

These guys are all off to great starts, putting up the type of numbers which suggest superstardom. I didn’t realize until I looked at the numbers that Alex Bregman belonged in this group, but he absolutely does; if there’s one player on this list I’m the least convinced about, it’s Aaron Judge. Soto is an absolute beast, and Acuna is right there with him.

Francisco Lindor
Ronald Acuna
Juan Soto
Aaron Judge
Alex Bregman

On Monuments

I didn’t use to call this blog “The No Kool-Aid Zone”. In fact, it wasn’t even me who changed it. “The No Kool-Aid Zone” used to be the subtitle, I guess you would call it, but one day I came to the blog and found that WebbieDude Paul, in doing some refreshing of my blog, had taken it upon himself to change the name. Either because I decided I liked it better, or because I have lived most of my life allowing myself to be abused in one fashion or another by WebbieDude Paul and am thus resigned to it, I left it as he had changed it. Now, I actually like it better, for sure, even though it’s a take-off on the now-discredited Bill O’Reilly’s “No Spin Zone”. Basically, I try not to drink the Kool-Aid for anybody. Or anything. Jesus is Lord; there are no sacred cows. I try my best to call balls and strikes, and it doesn’t matter who has taken the field. Double standards make me retch (part of the reason I claim no political party affiliation these days). But I digress…

The name of this blog, back in its infancy in the early 2000s, was “A Ticking Time Blog”, because I reasoned that it would likely eventually tick just about everybody off, one blog post at a time. Sometimes–foreshadowing here–if I were really on my game, I might manage to tick off just about everybody in the space of one single post; sometimes, contrarians such as myself tend to do that. Today’s post may well accomplish that, because I am going to weigh in on this whole tear-down-the-monuments thing, and it’s reasonably likely no one will agree with me totally. But I’ll give the truth, as I see it. In love, as best I honestly can.

One final caveat, before I dive in: the opinions at which I have arrived weren’t necessarily the opinions with which I began. Instead, to arrive at them, I tried to think through a Biblically-focused lens. I freely admit that these conclusions, at which I have arrived (indeed, perhaps am still arriving), are neither the “gospel truth” nor the be-all-and-end-all on the matter; they are my opinions. But they are opinions arrived at via thinking through these issues, not via some knee-jerk response. So…

There are several different items to address, and so I think I’m gonna hit ’em in enumerated form. Here goes:

1. I support the orderly removal of Confederate statues from public land. Good people might disagree on the question of whether or not removing them is an utter, absolute moral imperative, but I am sure that keeping them is not.

What are some reasons I believe that the (lawfully-executed) removal of Confederate statues to private property is appropriate?

* Public spaces are public. There is, as we all should appreciate, a distinct difference between spaces which are public, and those owned by private individuals. One issue that has come up, for instance, during this entire debate is the statue of Lenin to be found in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. Lenin is one of history’s leading murderers, and it’s abhorrent that he should be memorialized. Alas, the offensive statue is currently situated on private property though, which renders its display a different thing from memorials in city squares on public property. Ironically, one wonders if those eager to tear down statues (Confederate or otherwise) would tear down this one, were it on public property. Regardless, while there must necessarily be some degree of latitude accorded the maintainers of public property–we aren’t going to please everyone all the time with our choices (I would take everything down with the name “Rachel Carson” on it, for instance)–it stands to reason that there are some things that in public places that are beyond the pale. I am sympathetic to the notion that Confederate memorials belong to this class…keep reading.

* Symbols are important, to all of us. I used to laugh at the liberals along with Rush when he would talk about how “liberals value symbolism over substance”. Turns out, at least to some degree, we all value symbolism (witness those conservatives who hailed the President’s silently holding up a Bible recently; witness it, don’t get me started on it), or those who fight against placing Harriet Tubman’s likeness on the $20 bill (for reasons that elude me). Symbols matter. They don’t matter as much as people, but they matter; they indicate what we approve of, what we cherish, what we applaud, what we honor. When we place a monument bearing the likeness of a person in a public space, we are not simply calling others to dispassionately consider that person; we are in some measure saying, “this person is a hero; this person ought to be revered.” This was clearly the intent of those who placed such statues in the first place. We should remember the evil of Adolf Hitler, but we don’t erect a statue of him in Borough Park so that descendants of Dachau victims can simply reflect; to do so would be an abomination. Now, don’t misunderstand; I don’t use Hitler as a comparison to anyone, but rather to make my point: statues are not erected merely for their “neutral” marking of history. They are erected for a reason, and that reason generally is to lift up the person as some sort of hero.

Now, it might be easy for me to look at a statue of Lee and not be terribly bothered by it, but I’m as white as the driven snow; to my knowledge, there does not flow in my blood a drop that can be traced back to Africans brought to this country to be used as slave labor. I fear that of all the things we seem to have lost in this country, the quality of empathy has to be near the top of the list. I don’t have any idea what it is like to live with brown skin. I don’t know what it is to see the world through those eyes. And frankly, I need to listen to those voices, that I might learn, and then respond accordingly. Are all black people bothered by the statues? Of course not, and that’s absolutely great. But if the public square in my town memorializes a man who, if his side had won, the often-inhumane oppression of my ancestors would have continued a lot longer, I am not sure I’d be terribly thrilled about that.

I bet you wouldn’t either. If, that is, you are able to muster empathy for others (and for Christians, yeah, that’s not an optional thing). Part of being my brother’s keeper is that very quality: empathy. It’s not just blurting out my own opinion, but considering the experiences of others, seeking to learn from them, as best I can walk at least a few yards in their shoes, etc. For Christians, this is part of the deal; it’s endemic to the outworking of our faith. And so prior to simply declaring my perspective on these symbols, I need to consider how they are perceived by people whose experiences are different from mine.

Symbols do matter…to all of us.

* The Confederacy is inextricably linked to the slavery of our fellow human beings.. Yes, I do understand that the reasons for the Civil War were complex; believe me, I don’t dispute that for a second. Heck, I think you can make a good argument that Lincoln damaged the Constitution by some of the things he did, even that on certain Constitutional questions, the South was right. Further, I’m pretty sure that some of those boys rallying behind the Stars and Bars weren’t terribly concerned one way or the other with the whole issue of slavery; some were enlisted to fight against their wills, and fairness ought to demand that we consider the likelihood that some fought for reasons utterly untethered from a personal support of slavery. There were even, at the end of the war, a few–very few, but a few–black soldiers who took up arms for the Confederacy. So sure, there were other issues.

But it all comes back to slavery in the end, doesn’t it? Would those Constitutional questions have been raised in the first place, had there not been the heinous situation where men put other men in chains, demanding of them not only their labor, but their dignity, their pride, and their very lives? Of course they wouldn’t, not in this setting. And thus regardless of what we think of some of the men who fought for the Confederacy, the fact remains: those whom we “honor” by allowing their likenesses to grace public squares are men who led the army of a rival nation to the United States, a nation which existed as a nation significantly because of the depraved institution of human slavery.

Now, I reject cardboard stereotypes of these men; they were men with a mixture of good and bad, same as those young men who stared at them across enemy lines. We need not get into the nobility, or lack thereof, of individual men, in order to ask the question: should public spaces be used to honor these who represented the Confederacy, knowing what we know of why the Confederacy existed in the first place? I think not.

* Many of these statues were erected, not shortly after the Civil War, but during particular times of racial unrest in the country, further calling into question the motives of those doing the erecting. It gets harder to make the “don’t take down history” argument when we consider all of the history surrounding the erection of these monuments in the first place. For the several decades following the Civil War, relatively few statues and memorials honoring Confederate generals and soldiers were erected. Things began to change just a little prior to the turn of the century (over 30 years after Appomattox), until there was a veritable tizzy of monument-erection begun, particularly between, say, 1905 and 1915. Jim Crow laws had begun a few years previously. The legend of the “Lost Cause” came into being shortly before as well. The KKK was reconstituted in 1915. Lynchings had reached their high water mark prior to this, but there were still plenty going on. About 1920, the building of such monuments tailed off over for several decades, only to once again become popular between the mid-50s and the mid-60s. Since history is important, I might call the reader’s attention to two very significant happenings on the racial front during this time: Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark civil rights case, was decided in 1954; ten years later, in 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed by our Congress and signed by LBJ.

Now I suppose it could just be a grand coincidence that we got all excited about building Confederate monuments at just about exactly the time black folks was a-gittin’ all uppity.

But probably not. And we all know that the answer is probably not.

* For crying out loud, Robert E. Lee was against the Confederate monuments. He said so. Seriously. If history is important to you, research what he had to say about them.

Perhaps I could martial more arguments given time and further thought; perhaps my readers might add some of their own. But I find both each individual argument, and especially the combined force of them all, pretty persuasive. Yet there are some arguments, of course, against the removal of Confederate statues.

Arguments against removing the monuments (which I find weak)

* “We will lose our history if we take them down.” I am definitely concerned that we do not “lose our history”; there are all sorts of reasons why we should know our history better than we currently do, among them, “those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them”. Agreed.

But I didn’t learn my history from going to monuments (particularly ones in the city square).

If you cite “losing our history” as a concern, great; may I ask what you plan to do to address this in a real way? A friend lamented recently that several history faculty were being cut from an institution of higher learning with which she is associated. Perhaps this is a lot more problematic than taking down a few statues?

Now, I very much concur with the concern that there are some who would rewrite history to bring it in line with their ideological biases; I see this happening on the left (the 1619 Project, for instance), and I see it happening on the right as well (yes, I am talking about you, David Barton and Eric Metaxas). I don’t want to lose history. I want to strengthen its (accurate) teaching; I want to tell the whole story (I had never heard of Black Wall Street until this month). I want the people who play significant roles in our nation’s history not to be presented as one-dimensional, black-or-white, all-good-or-all-bad individuals. I want our children to learn why this country is great–and it is–and where it has failed to live up to its ideals. I want them to learn why this country is great, and why we sometimes have fallen short of the aspirations of our Founding Fathers. But if taking a few Confederate monuments out of town squares, and renaming a few buildings, means that we will “forget our history”, then let’s demand more and better teaching of history. Let’s turn off America’s drug-of-choice (television) and get our kids reading historical fiction and the like. Let’s teach more history, better. I am absolutely down with that. I just don’t think removing a few Confederate monuments is going to make a hill o’ beans’ worth of difference.

* “They left some of the concentration camps standing so that history wouldn’t be forgotten, so we should leave these monuments standing.” C’mon, friends, surely we can see the difference, right? Surely? Dachau stands today and can be visited, but nothing about the place honors Nazis. Memorials have been built through the years at Bergen-Belsen, but these memorials honor the dead, not the killers. The parallel to keeping Dachau standing might be seen in keeping Andersonville standing: these are places where awful things happened. But they are not memorials to those who fought on the side of those who dehumanized people.

There might be some other arguments, but I haven’t heard one yet that outweighs the many suggested above which support the orderly removal of Confederate monuments. One final caveat: while it might be convincingly argued that it’s been a long time since we’ve had a surfeit of common sense in this country, might I plead for a little? I’m not sure that even the strongest arguments for removing the statues demand going to extraordinary lengths to remove every single vestige of such things. Specifically, I think it’d be a mistake–on other grounds than above–to feel we have to obliterate the carvings on Stone Mountain (and here and there, there may be similar projects). Is that a tad inconsistent? Perhaps, but “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”, as Emerson said. Or maybe it’s the exception that proves the rule…

2. I am very bothered by monuments being torn down and defaced by mobs. Sorry, tear down the monument–any monument–and you’ve just surrendered whatever moral high ground you think you had. This is not the way we do things in America. In fact, the monuments, works of art as they are, should be preserved; I believe than once removed, in an orderly fashion, they should be re-positioned on private land, hopefully accompanied by historical explanations that tell the story–the whole story–of the awful Civil War that ravaged our nation.

Several times recently–and we are in the midst of this today–we have seen mobs take it upon themselves to topple, deface, or otherwise desecrate statues. I oppose anarchy and violence. The rightness of one’s cause doesn’t justify taking the law into one’s own hands. Yeah, that means that the Boston Tea Party wasn’t the right way to protest (the fact that an event occurred 250 years in the past doesn’t justify it). But I can’t do anything about the loss suffered by the East India Tea Company; I can today say that there are non-violent means which can accomplish purposes and ends absent violence (Dr. King did manage to accomplish a few things, did he not?).

3. I am also very bothered by the indiscriminate desecration and tearing down of monuments that have nothing to do with slavery or the Civil War. We have seen the images of statues of people such as Ulysses S. GrantUlysses S. Grant, for goodness’ sake!…ravaged by these vandals. Now, I am torn between explanations for this: on the one hand, I want to decry this as utter madness, as the work of unthinking mobs of people who want the thrill of feeling as though they are part of some violent revolution, and I do think that this is about the sum-total of it for some people. But on the other hand, I think that some of my friends who see in this scorched-earth, tear-it-down-no-matter-what-it-is approach a genuine desire to cast off the “restraints” of our history, are likely onto something. We know that there are some who advocate Marxism (talk about ignorance of history!), and don’t seem terribly concerned about who or what is harmed in the “revolution” (talk about history repeating itself). It’s not mere idle chatter to consider such things; as this mindless, evil system is (often uncritically) taught to generations of college students, it’s foolish not to expect that some would actually take university “intellectuals” seriously. Frankly, the damage done to all Americans–white, black, Asian, Hispanic, you name it–by the adoption of Marxism, dwarfs the damage done by leaving remaining Confederate monuments standing. We have managed to make an incredible amount of racial progress in my lifetime–a fact lost on some but undeniably true–even with these monuments standing tall. There remains a good bit of work to be done on the racial front–a fact lost on some but undeniably true–and choosing to promote certain symbols–and in an orderly fashion, to remove others–will play some role in moving us further down the path to achieving Dr. King’s noble dream. Adopt the Marxism advocated by some of those demonstrating today, and we should be absolutely certain of this from the unmistakable evidence of history: nobody’s life will matter.

I Quit Responding “All Lives Matter”–Because I Believe the Bible

All lives matter. I believe that with every fiber of my being. I believe it because I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and as a follower of Jesus, I am obligated to believe that the Bible is completely true, and that its precepts are binding on me. And the Bible teaches it, plain and simple. I believe that lives matter before babies are born; Scripture upholds that truth, I believe. Simply put: I cannot be a faithful Christian and not believe that all lives–pre-born until the natural end of life–matter, and this because all human beings are created in the image of God.

That may sound like a funny way to begin a piece explaining why “all lives matter” is no longer a response I use. But it is necessary. Because it is on the basis of the fact that all lives matter, that black lives matter. In fact, I would challenge you, if you do not believe the Bible, with the question, “WHY? Why do you believe black lives matter?” In particular, if life is simply the product of a series of highly improbable random events, not having originated from a Creator, how can we say, with any genuine certainty, that ANY life matters? Please consider that apart from a moral Lawgiver, we cannot speak of any universally-binding moral Law; in other words, absent God, there can be no binding morality, for each man ultimately becomes a law to himself; your ethical frame of reference is ultimately arbitrary, and I have no compelling reason to agree with you. In your (correct) concern to stand for the sanctity of black lives, have you taken the time to consider WHY you believe black lives matter?

Black lives matter, because all lives matter, because the Bible says so. But I no longer respond “all lives matter”, and the reason I no longer do that is because I believe the Bible–all of the Bible–is true. Allow me to explain. Several years ago, after I had posted, “all lives matter”–meaning well, I believe, and being Biblically correct–a friend explained to me why, my good intentions notwithstanding, “all lives matter” was not only not helpful, but was, in fact, hurtful in the way it came across to those who were attempting to draw attention to the issues of race that continue to plague our nation. It was at this point that I did five really, really radical things:

I shut up.

I listened.

I empathized.

I thought.

I changed.

Ultimately, I did these things because I believe that the Bible is true, worthy of being believed and lived by. Here’s are some things that my Bible teaches me:

I should always speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15)
This means that simply speaking the truth, with little regard for how it is perceived by others, using it as a club, absent a motive of love for other people, is disobedience to Jesus. That’s what the Bible teaches; I believe the Bible. “Speaking the truth” is an important part of what I say, but it is not the only thing that governs my words. Let’s think about this for a moment…I have always believed and taught that simply because something is true, doesn’t mean it needs to be said. And this is because of love: sometimes I refrain from saying true things because I love people. Every decent human being on earth does this, Christian or not. Let’s say you are 75 pounds overweight and smell like onions. Is it incumbent on me to remind you of this fact on a regular basis? Well, if I am your doctor, then sure; every time I see you, I should remind you that you are 75 pounds overweight, and encourage you to do something about it if you hope to live a long, happy, and healthy life. If I am your spouse, I should let you know that you smell like onions, that others might find that offensive, and that you should try to figure out how to fix it. But it isn’t my place to continually tell you, “you’re 75 pounds overweight and you stink.” You know it; the important people in your life who should be saying it likely are, and my continual harping on it by telling you the truth may well ruin our friendship…even though I told you the truth. “All lives matter” is absolutely true, but is it loving? Often, as my friend expressed to me, for all its truth, it is not seen as loving…or helpful (more on this below). Because I believe the Bible is true, I believe that saying things which are seen as unloving–when it is in my power not to–is to deny the love of Jesus that I should have toward others. I am reminded by I Corinthians 13 that if I don’t have love, nothing. Else. Matters. Nothing. Period. Full stop.

My speech should always be gracious. (Colossians 4:6)
Our words should be uplifting, helpful. What we say should add value to conversations, to reflect toward others the grace God displays toward us.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. (Proverbs 25:11)
This ancient proverb paints for us a picture of how beautiful it can be when we say just the right thing at just the right time.

Do you love people? The Bible, which I believe to be true, requires that I do so in every way I can, including with my words. I hope you agree; if so, please consider further.

Why, you may ask, does “all lives matter”, this Bible truth which we believe, come off as offensive to many people, when used as a response in the context of contemporary race relations? Is it because they deny that truth? Certainly, there are people who do not believe this truth to apply to the unborn; certainly, there are people whose belief of this truth is not based upon biblical revelation; I discussed both above. But with incredibly rare exception, every person essentially believes that “all lives matter”, at least extended to those already born. This is clearly not the reason they find “all lives matter” to be offensive; instead, the sense that I believe they feel is that “all lives matter” is a dismissive way to belittle the reality that black lives, in America, have not historically, and are not currently in practice, valued as highly as white lives. It is not of interest to me to argue this point, nor to dwell on the truth that great strides indeed have been made; the undeniable truth of these things cannot mitigate the other undeniable truth, that we have not arrived yet at the place where all lives are seen by all people as equally valuable. Skin color continues to be an impediment to equal treatment. This seems so obviously true that I need not argue the point; if you disagree–but care to know–the facts are out there. And so “all lives matter”, spoken in response to “black lives matter”, is seen as a way to dismiss the legitimate concerns of remaining inequality in our culture.

Let’s use an analogy. Suppose you lived during World War II, and became aware of the extermination of millions of Jews in Nazi concentration camps. Suppose there began a movement called, “Jewish Lives Matter”. Would your response be, “all lives matter! German lives matter as well!”. Would it be true that German lives matter? Of course. But the need of the moment would have been to emphasize the equal humanity of Jewish people, the preciousness of their lives; it was Jews, not Germans (by and large, with exceptions) which were being marched off to Dachau. It would have been entirely valid to support a “Jewish Lives Matter” movement, and a response to that of “all lives matter”, while true, would not have been seen as helpful. Or loving. Or appropriate. For reasons that should be obvious.

My point is not to compare the plight of concentration camp Jews with contemporary African-Americans; my point rather is to illustrate that, just as “all lives matter” would not have been helpful, or loving, in response to Nazi atrocities, neither is it helpful or loving in response to “black lives matter.” Because we speak the truth, yes, but we speak it in love. Always. Without exception. If, that is, we believe the Bible, and care about being faithful to Jesus.

I do. And so when I was confronted with how my truthful-yet-loveless words came off, I changed my speech…because I believe the Bible is true.

Now to the application: first, I acknowledge that some say it honestly, simply because it’s true, and they haven’t thought through the issues. My point isn’t to castigate or to shame; I am simply asking those people to do what I did: to stop, to listen, and to re-think their words, in the light of the Bible, and its call to always speak truth in love…graciously…fitly. In the end, do you want to be known as a person who used truth as a sledgehammer? Or would you rather be known as one who, never compromising truth, nonetheless used it carefully, conditioned by love for God and people? Better to be silent than to needlessly offend by our lovelessness (James 1:19).

Others, it should be said, seem to say it stubbornly, pridefully refusing to stop and consider the totality of what the Bible teaches, or because they seem more concerned to “prove a point” than to love people. I am asking you to repent. And to change. Because if that’s your attitude in “sharing the truth”, you are wrong. Period. Another full stop. I Corinthians 13 doesn’t have a carve out for your ugly pride.

The Bible, I believe, is true from cover to cover. And because of that, while there are many, many times when it is entirely fitting to proclaim loudly and clearly that “all lives matter”, I will never again use that term in response to the plaintive cry, “black lives matter.”

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Addendum: I use the term “black lives matter”. I am now willing to say that, to use those exact words. As I type this, it is currently a part of my Facebook picture. I do so recognizing that there have attached to the movement of this name certain folks whose philosophy, beliefs, and actions I do not always agree with. I recognize, then, the potential for misunderstanding; for this reason, I have been urged to reconsider using this term. I will not, but for this reason: I would prefer to stand with my black brothers and sisters, declaring the worth and equality of their existence, even at the risk of misunderstanding. I am happy, in turn, to answer questions anyone might have about parts of the movement with which they might take issue (and with which I might, as well). My calculation I would express this way: better for all to know my basic stance for equality–and then have to patiently explain where I might differ with a particular movement–than to allow a fear for potential misunderstanding to cause me to shrink back from declaring my love for my brothers and sisters. Black lives matter!