Category Archives: culture wars

Intent matters

Because it’s Christma…holid…December, it’s time for the year-end tradition of getting your nose out of joint about things that shouldn’t be things. Merry Christmas v. Happy Holidays. Can we have a manger scene? Should that teacher have told those first graders the truth about Santa? Can we watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer? Can we sing Baby It’s Cold Outside?

The last question is a good one to frame the overall discussion. The song was written by in 1944 a man named Frank Loesser to sing at dinner parties with his wife. In 1944, the world was a different place. Women didn’t spend the night–and you can make the argument that this woman wanted to.

But she clearly says no, and has to ask what’s in the drink?

Both of those things are true, and through 2018 eyes, specifically after the #metoo movement, they’re kind of creepy lines.

But in 1944, what’s in this drink? was it’s own kind of in joke. Often there was nothing in the drink. Or just a normal amount of alcohol. But again, this was a time when a woman couldn’t say I want to jump your friggin bones right here on the living room floor as a warm-up exercise for what comes next? And although she says no, the last line of the song is sung in unison, between the woman and the man, indicating ultimate consent.

And yet, it’s 2018. It’s a time when women have to watch their drinks, when a good father tells his daughter (I told my son, too) that if you set down your drink, consider it gone and get another one.

In other words, does intent matter?

Frank Loesser and his wife didn’t intend to sing about date rape. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences didn’t think it was about rape when it was given an Academy Award in 1949. (Ricardo Montalban was one of the people who sang it. I’ll let Star Trek fans dwell on that for a moment.)

But let’s say you got roofied and someone raped you? It wouldn’t be unreasonable for you to feel accutely uncomfortable at the lyrics, in spite of intent.

It’s been 74 years since this song was written. Times change. Norms change. But intent doesn’t change. Frank Loesser’s song is playful and flirtatious. He wasn’t writing about male predatory behavior. To make the song about date rape makes him an apologist for date rape.

Intent matters.

Consider that, please, when someone says either “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” to you. Consider it when thinking about how awful Rudolph’s story is (it’s just a Christmassy version of X-Men, if you think about it).

It’s a lesson we have to keep in mind during each succeeding round of the culture wars.

Thoughts and Prayers and Utes

My current church isn’t big on complacency. Over the past few months, the pastor has repeatedly called for us to examine what we’re doing, thinking, and spending time and money on–and challenging us about making sure it’s the right thing.

The latest of those challenges came this morning, in a call to have an unshakeable focus on the future, which is to say the utes.

The challenge was to consider strongly investing in the future with our time, talent, and treasure (the vaunted three Ts of pastorship) in supporting this church value, which he has identified as being the most important. Failing that, he’s also challenging us–very directly–to devote our prayers to the utes.

Devoting prayers is something that’s become looked down upon in the mass media most recently. It’s a sign of complacency, they say–and ultimately hypocrisy. If you really cared, you’d stick your worthless prayers where the sun doesn’t shine and freakin do something.

And while we’re at it, Chris, what the hell are you doing for the utes right now, other than throwing money in the basket?

I have in the past volunteered as a Scout leader, baseball coach, umpire, chaperone, and nursery monitor, not to mention driving three-quarters of the distance to the sun to ferry the utes to activities. But right now, I’m doing nothing. And maybe that’s a problem and maybe its not.

So I’m gonna pray about it.

Prayer isn’t a substitute for action, b–

But you just said you’re gonna pray rather than help the chillren.

I thought they were utes.

I like variety.

Whatever. You pray for a lot of reasons. One of them is because it’s all you can do. I have a friend who’s kind of antagonistic to the church. And yet my offers of prayers for her are always warmly accepted. I think they help. I personally believe in a God who loves her–and all the rest of his utes–extravagantly. But I also think they help her. Backed up with care and attention, they make her feel less alone.

Another is for discernment. I’d hope that all the people offering prayers for victims of gun violence, for instance, are also praying for discernment. In spite of the rhetoric from both sides on this issue–“it’s simple, you must agree with me”–this is complex. We do have a second amendment. And if you were to remove all legal guns from their owners, the bloodbath would be unprecedented. On the other hand, does the second amendment cover 30-round clips? Does it mean you get to keep the guns if you’ve had mental problems or domestic violence in your past? That’s just the barest surface of the issues to be worked through.

I’d sure as hell hope that any representative who believes in God is asking for divine guidance in performing his job. And that he’s humble enough to realize that God doesn’t typically agree with people. He’s a bit bigger than that.

So I’ll pray that the youtttthhhhs are taken care of. And I’ll pray that whatever my decision is in terms of involvement, it follows God’s wishes for me.

You may consider this silly, but it’s a free world and it’s the best I can do.

Dear Ted Nugent

Dear Ted Nugent,

I’m a Republican. I have been since my 18th birthday, more years ago than I care to admit. Among other things, I believe in border security, limited government, and freedom of expression. I believe gay people should have the same right to marry as straight people. And I believe that bakeries should be allowed to refuse to make their cakes, then take their chances in the free market.

I also believe in the second amendment.

In the picture below are my children. Only they aren’t children any more.

The woman on the left is Jennifer. She’s been working since sixth grade to make the most of her God-given talents. She was the best student in her International Baccalaureate middle school and the validictorian of her IB high school. She graduated from George Washington University Phi Beta Kappa. She spent a year in the Marhall Islands helping kids learn English. She’s now a doctoral student at UCLA. She wants to be an academic.

Since sixth grade she’s worked harder than anyone I’ve ever known to make her way in the world. I love her more than my words here can convey.

The guy on the left is Daniel. He currently attends Syracuse University. He’s worked hard, too, but in a different way. His life is chaos. He’s always working on something and he’s on track to graduate a year early from school. He’s a little surly sometimes, but he’s quick and witty and has a touch with people I’ll never understand. And I love him differently, but every bit as much.

For reasons I won’t pretend to understand, you went on Alex Jones’s radio show and called for the murder of my children, among other people.

If you were just some random nut case, I’d chalk it up as stupidity and move on. But you aren’t a random nut case. You’re on the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association. You consider yourself a spokesman for people in the party I’ve always belonged to.

I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton–a fact that caused strain in my relationship with my daughter for a while. And now a growing part of me wishes I had, because President Trump’s reckless, unpresidential public persona has encouraged people like you to say things like “There are rabid coyotes running around…every time you see one, shoot one.”

In the context of your remarks, you’re referring to Democrats, academics, media, and RINOs (Republicans in name only). I guess under the First Amendment, you have as much right to spout this horrific drivel as the Westboro Baptist Church has to show up and make asses of themselves at high-profile funerals.

But, Mr. Nugent, in your remarks, you called for people to shoot my children, along with approximately half of the rest of the country. Some of those people are very close friends of mine and better people than you could ever consider being.

You can have whatever political positions you want to have. And that’s as it should be.

But if one of your hair-trigger followers even considers harming my children because of your words, the so-called fake media will be the least of your problems. I will make it my avocation to make sure every second of your life–and I truly hope it will be a long one–will be filled with the realization of the effects of your reckless, ill-considered, murdrous words.

These are human beings, not some imaginary vermin you can put out of their misery and out of your mind. These are God’s children you want put down like a rabid dog. And two of them are my children.

I hope common sense will prevail and you will reconsider and denounce your words. Failing that, I hope the NRA will remove you from its board and rescind your membership. And should the worst happen to anyone. I hope the riches that you’ve worked for decades to attain are paid out as a poor, inadequate recompense for the cost of your verbal poison.

The God I believe in will surely forgive you for your words, should you ask it, and I’m happy for that. But my soul and my logic are weak where my children are concerned.


Chris Hamilton

Harvey Weinstein, my daughter, and the evil men do

Harvey Weinstein, it turns out, was a monster. A powerful, vindictive monster who could ruin people who stood in the way of what he wanted. A gaping hole of entitlement who saw other people as less than objects. After all, you take care of a nice car or mansion. A young actress? That’s another matter.

He’s hardly the first. Bill Cosby. Bill O’Reilly. Bill Clinton. Roman Polanski. Lawrence Phillips. Jimmy Savile. Any number of Catholic priests and administrators. People who saw those who were weaker as somehow less than human, to be used and thrown away–and ruined if they pushed back.

It would be shocking if it weren’t so commonplace. Back in the 1980s, when I did radio news, I’d call the local police agencies for any news each evening. The most common news was a middle-aged man–someone about my age–arrested for sex with someone too young to possibly consent.

Over the years, I’ve had a good number of women friends. And during those times, I’ve almost never wondered what they’ve had to go through. I’ve almost never considered that someone might have groped them, demeaned them, bullied them into bed, or even raped them–then enforced silence because of the power differential.

I’ve never let that soak in, never let it influence my view of the world.

And then this.

It’s not just Hollywood. It’s not just the church. It’s not just Roman Polanski and Cybil Shepherd. It’s not just the athlete arrest of the day. It’s not just the creepy-looking guy in the mug shot on the evening news.

It’s probably in my workplace and yours. It’s probably somewhere within a few miles of your house. It’s probably happened to women you know and respect and love.

And as my daughter starts her career, it could be her, too.

Not every man is a potential rapist. Not every man parlays his power into predatory behavior that would shock you. Not every man gropes, coerces, and threatens. But there are enough that it has to make a difference in the way the rest of us look at the world.

This isn’t about politics. It’s not about abortion or birth control or anything of the sort.

It’s about awareness. And it’s about being alert to the ugly secrets almost in plain sight.

It’s about listening and considering and allowing for possibilities you’ve previously dismissed. It’s enough to reconsider how my views and actions–and inactions–might contribute to making things harder for people I admire and care about.

To be clear, I’ve never raped or coerced or threatened. But I’ve dismissed. And in my own ways, I’ve objectified. This isn’t about not being attracted. It’s not about ripping heterosexuality. It’s about how you view other people.

No one deserves to be raped, coerced, and threatened. Not my daughter, wife, or friends. And not yours, either.


What’s really offensive about the Anthem protest…

Let’s say for a minute that every day when you got to work, you had to stand at attention in front of people and take what amounts to a public loyalty oath to your country. A lot of you are saying, “It would be my pleasure to do such a thing. I love this country. I would be proud, unlike those stupid ingrates in the National Football League.”

Okay, I hear you. But let’s change things up a little bit. Let’s say it was a condition of your employment. You okay with that?

Now let’s say it’s a condition of your employment because the Federal government paid your employer in exchange for you and your fellow employees to profess your loyalty. In other words, it’s not a spontaneous expression of respect and appreciation, but a marketing effort by your employer–not to mention a revenue stream.

Until 2009, players weren’t typically on the field for the national anthem. Starting that year, under the Obama Administration, the government started paying not just the NFL, but MLB and other professional leagues. In the grand scheme of things, the amount of money is insignificant. But part of what it pays for is players to be on the field during the anthem.

Suddenly, the anthem isn’t the symbol of national pride. Suddenly, you aren’t honoring America, as the PA announcer always says. Suddenly, you are selling your affection for your country–so your employer gets paid. Your mileage may vary on this one, but to me, this practice is cynical, ridiculous, and more offensive than what happened on the field this weekend.

My patriotism is meaningful to me. It’s not something to be bought and sold, and it sure as hell isn’t something my employer should count on as a revenue stream.

President Trump ill-conceived tirade against anthem protesters

It all started when Colin Kaepernick decided not to stand for the National Anthem in protest for police brutality against blacks. Kaepernick, it should be added, didn’t vote in the election and showed up for practice wearing socks that depicted police as pigs.

A few players here and there followed suit last season and into this season. Four players even demanded that the NFL set aside the month of November–typically used to honor the military, more or less–as a month to promote social activism.

To be clear, Kaepernick, who is currently unemployed, has every right to wear pig socks and sit down during the anthem if he chooses to do so. The NFL has every right to employ him or not. The fans have every right to vote with their wallets, as they seem to be doing, based on ratings and attendance figures.

This is what it is to be an American. People are going to push ideas you think are horrible and you’re going to push back that they’re wrong.

And then the President weighed in. He said to a crowd at a Senate campaign rally “wouldn’t you love to see one of these owners…say get that son of a bitch off the field now?”

When Roger Goodell pushed back, President Trump took to Twitter saying that the Commissioner was trying to justify “the total disrespect certain players have for this country.”

And now, the league’s players are more unified than ever, and more of them will protest during the anthem than ever. The protest has even spread to baseball as Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell took a knee during the anthem.

Again, if the collective bargaining agreement permits it, the players have every right to kneel, sit, or stand for the anthem. And a country that demands a loyalty oath as a pre-condition for employment doesn’t sound like a free country to me.

As this mess swirls around–and threatens to drain even more joy from following professional sports–one thing is clear: by his actions, the President has done more to draw attention to this effort than Colin Kaepernick and his pig socks could ever hope to.

On Being Jemele Hill

If you haven’t been following, Jemele Hill is the high-profile ESPN SportsCenter anchor who set off a firestorm about the Worldwide Leader earlier in the week when she posted on Twitter, essentially calling President Trump and everyone around him white supremacists.

SportsCenter anchor Jemele Hill

It’s true that white supremacists have become much more vocal in during the Trump Administration. It’s also true that the white supremacist movement is vocal and very public in support of Donald Trump. But taken as a whole, I don’t agree with Ms. Hill’s tweets.

Then again, I’m not Jemele Hill.

We can argue all we want over specific instances like Michael Brown and Tamir Rice and Philando Castile, but it’s lunacy to suggest that racism is dead. It’s lunacy to ignore people hanging Obama in effigy from trees or showing up at a Wisconsin football game as Obama being lynched.

This actually happened at a Uninversity of Wisconsin football game.

It’s unfair to ignore the responses that almost certainly came Ms. Hill’s way after the tweets and maybe even before. I couldn’t find specifics, but haters gonna hate and when you’re a woman and a black, that hate comes wrapped in racism and misogyny. After all, it’s less than a year since a West Virginia mayor had to resign for agreeing with a Facebook post that called Michelle Obama an ape in high heels.

Put quite simply, if you were to experience life as Jemele Hill’s experienced it, you might see the world the way she does.

That’s something we’re all to eager to forget in our hyper-judgemental world. It’s inappropriate to pass judgement on someone based on four 140-character tweets.

Quite a while ago, then-President Bill Clinton called for a national conversation on race. At the time, I interpreted that as a call for white people and conservatives to shut up and acknowledge everything thrown at them about racism. I’m not sure my view on that particular initiative has changed.

Not a conversation

But the fact is, we need to have conversations. True conversations. We need to understand why Jemele Hill feels the way she does. And we also need to understand what’s driving some of the opposition to Ms. Hill.

It isn’t enough to say that racism is a problem and if you don’t fully agree, you are the problem. And it isn’t enough to ignore the problem and pretend anyone who makes noise about it is the problem.

Listening is enough. Trying to imagine what it’s like for the person you disagree with is enough. Trying to reach across the divide and love anyway is enough.