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Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Let’s face it, humans are usually shallow in their thinking and in their arguments.  It is something inherent in being human. This is especially evident when trying to defend a strongly held belief, position, or person.  And it is even more evident when that belief, position or person is wrong.

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One example of this shallowness is how often we only look at the form and not the content. We see some points of similarity and ignore the even more points of dissimilarity, the differences that make a difference.

One example of this is how often I have been told by Trump supporters to get over it.  That I sound just like they did when Obama was President and that now I know what it’s like to have someone you don’t like in the White House.

Now, on the surface, they are right.  I am complaining loudly and long about Trump and his actions.  Just as they did about President Obama.  We both complain and shout that Obama or Trump is going to ruin the country, do in our rights, and harm our standing. The form is the same.  However, the content is different.  In other words, the specifics of what was said matter and not just that they both are proclaiming doom and gloom.

President Obama did not confiscate all guns.

President Obama did not invade Texas under the guise of a war game.

President Obama did bring the country out of a recession and left it in much much better condition than we he started.

Trump has caused the US to lose the respect and trust of most of the world.

Trump has caused global tensions to rise.

Trump has rolled back civil rights protections for the gay and transgendered community.

Trump has cut back on environmental regulations that protect us and keep us from becoming what China is now trying to get away from.

Trump has worked to improve the wealth of the already rich.

Trump has shown himself to be just as much a liar as president as he was as candidate.

Now, I freely admit that some of the things I have said have not happened yet.  Emphasis on the  word yet.  I have said for most of these it would take one to two years before it would be obvious enough for all to agree.  Trump is not even one year in, so give it time.

Oh, and the investigation that I said was justified and which was blown off as so much nothing – well, it seems as if it was not nothing but very much something. And that too is only in its beginnings.

Now, I should mention that this form matching doesn’t have to be a point by point match as in my above example. Sometimes it can have just one point in common and it will be loudly proclaimed to be the same. Of course, this not only ignores the content, but also the many differences in form too.  And the space left from ignoring all of this – the content and the other aspects of the form – is then filled with baseless speculation and, often, lies – the stuff of conspiracy.

 

Saying that since Hillary had contact with the Russians for the dossier then that is the same as Trump’s staff contact with the Russians.  Never mind that the Russians came calling direct to the Trump campaign, Hillary’s was through the research of a firm paid to do research.  Which means that in Trump’s case the Russians controlled the information. In Clinton’s case, not so much.  And that is just one difference in the form and content.

emptyOr trying to equate Trump’s administration problems with the Russians to Hillary’s uranium scandal.  The only point in common is Russia.  However, Trump’s administration has been shown to be active with the Russians. In the Uranium one, not so much. They ignore the fact that this decision was made by a committee of which she was just one member. And the fact that most of the time, if not all, she had a representative attend and vote. And that Canada had to buy off on it too.

 

Don’t remember seeing all of those items in regards to Trump’s staff dealing with the Russians.  Which is why now you are getting those blanks in the form that I mentioned earlier filled in with a grand conspiracy theory.

So, the form may be very similar, but content matters more.

Something to remember the next time you have two people shouting outside your window at 2 am.  Before calling the police on both, listen to what each is shouting first. For the one shouting that the Ice Cream King will leaving his home on the moon and landing on your house – yeah, go ahead and call the cops. And check to make sure you windows and doors are locked.

For the one yelling, Fire, Fire, you may want to pause and consider their words. Especially if you smell smoke. Look beyond the simple, the superficial, the shallow.

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What does the word father mean?  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary (slightly paraphrased), a father is:

  • A man who has begotten a child.
  • God, the first person of the Trinity
  • Forefather, such as the founding fathers of the United States.
  • One related to another in a way suggesting that of father to child.
  • An old man – used as a respectful form of address
  • A pre-Scholastic, a Christian writer accepted by the church as an authoritative witness to its teaching and practice – called also church father
  • One that originates or institutes, such as the father of modern science.
  • Source, such as the sun, the father of warmth and light.
  • Prototype, such as the father of all libraries in the country,.
  • A priest of the regular clergy.
  • One of the leading men (as of a city) – usually used in plurals such as a council of the city fathers.

Wow, so many meanings embedded within one word.

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Now, those wedded to the idea a person can read the words of a tract, book, articles, manuscript, religious work or political document and understand exactly what it means, will, upon seeing where I am heading with this, point out that while the word father does have many different meanings, which meaning being used is usually made obvious by the context of the word.  In other words, the words around the word help define that word.  And to an extent they are right.

However, words are not only understood as an abstract intellectual concept. In fact, most of the time they are not. People insert meaning  and values to those words.

For example, what a father is will be something quite different  for a woman who was raped and abused by her father since she was a young child versus what it will mean for a young man who had a loving father who played games and helped with homework.  Which means that how a person understands a word within a given sentence embedded within a paragraph that is part of a page which is just one page in an article or a book and all of whose words influence the meaning and understanding of that particular word is going to also depend on that individual’s own feelings and emotions in reaction to that  particular word.  And let us not forget, that each and every one of those words influencing the understanding of the word in question is also being interpreted and understood by that person’s past too.

Put that way, it is really rather amazing that we communicate as well as we do.

And all of this Is happening before we start applying that rather abstract understanding of a word in a passage in a paragraph, etc to real world questions and problems.  Thou 24stephensWEB-facebookJumboshalt not kill seems simple enough commandment when seen on a page, but what does it mean when faced with a 220 pound six foot man with blood in his eye as well as on his clothes wielding a machete?   What about a person running away from you with your money and jewels when you have a gun in your hand?  What about if you accidently kill someone by stumbling over your untied shoelace, bumping into that person and causing her to take a header down an up escalator?  Is that still a sin?  Or even a crime?

To avoid spending too much time and way too many thousands of words, let me just condense it to this: how we understand words, especially words that are accompanied by a great many words, and even more so when those crowds of words have to be applied to the world, are only partly objective. They also have a large subjective element to it, a subjectivity that is dependent upon a person’s:

  • Parents
  • Personal history
  • Education
  • Culture
  • Society
  • Political economic status
  • Own readings
  • Friends
  • Acquaintances, both of the friendly and not so friendly sort.
  • Movies
  • Music (one person I know was greatly affected by John Denver’s songs, another by Pink Floyd’s)
  • And anything else

So, to cut to the chase since I am now  trying to keep these blogs at 1000 words or less, what does this mean in regards to a definition of religion?  Which is, after all, the title of this blog.

A religion can be and usually is defined by its sacred works and doctrine. However, this never quite seems to nail it down. Take a look and you will find a great deal of variety within even a small seemingly well defined group of believers.  Even the most uniform of them will disagree on some issues. And some will prove to be more amenable to different understandings than others.   Which is strong evidence against the idea that there is some plain and literal reading to be had, and for my own view is that, while there are objective limits, they bracket a wide range of subjective understandings and interpretations.

For myself, I have read many works taken to be sacred by different religions – the Tanakh, Bible, Quran, Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching.  In every  one of the works I have read I found things I considered good and things I considered bad. Some of these were very very good, and some were very very bad.  How these often conflicting passages are understood and applied to the world is very dependent upon how a person choses to understand them.

6259220Given this, I think the most practical and relevant definition of a religion is that a religion is what its followers make of it – both as a group and as individuals within that group.

 

I believe that the most practical definition of religion is a religion is what its followers make of it. What they make of it is, of course, influenced by the history of that group, their society, other aspects of their cultures, geography, political and economic realities, and so forth.  To get even more basic, religion usually differs even between members of the same group, so that more properly a religion can be said to be what a follower makes of it.

For example, Rais Bhuiyan, the lone survivor of an attack by a man intent on getting revenge for 9/11, suing to prevent the killer’s execution because he believed the Qur’an required him to forgive.

Harman Singh, a Sikhs required by his religion to not take his turban off, taking it off and using it to help a young boy hurt in an accident.

And the list goes ever on and covers every variety of religion, and non-religion – Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Wiccan….

For me, I believe that often the most important definition of a religion is what does that person or group make of their religion. It is why, although very important, a particular religions sacred scriptures and doctrine are, to my mind, of secondary importance.

 

 

 

Well dang. 1,174 words.

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One of my pet peeves are people who believe in the literal meaning of almost anything. The argument is that people know what the words mean so there is no excuse for not understanding the clear and obvious meaning of whatever. Where I live the Bible and the Constitution are the most common items where this belief holds sway.  But it can hold true on other topics and areas too.

Just recently, a person used this argument on me in regards to the U S. Constitution. What follows is what I said to this person, in a slightly more organized and cleaned up (grammar and spelling, not what you are thinking) version of that response.

 

DictionaryYes, words do have meanings. However, when those words are applied to specific situations, fuzziness results. For those interested in science, consider it sort of a reverse quantum effect where instead of becoming more defined when measured or looked at, as happens with atomic particles, words become less defined and more fuzzy.

To illustrate this, let’s take a non-political, non-religious, and, hopefully, non-controversial example – colors. Haven’t most of us at some point disagreed with someone on the color of some object?  Is that dress red or pink, or is that car black or grey or Color testspossibly dark green. Some of you may have, at one time or another, looked at one of those  color perception tests where they lay out a large array of color circles– say blue on one end and green on the other with small differences going on in between. At what point do you say this circle is blue green, or that one green?  Yes, people can agree on the definitions of words, on the definitions of colors, but once you start applying that definition to what people are looking at, disagreements come about.

And that is the crux of the issue. Yes, people understand the dictionary definitions of words. But, in applying those definitions to the world and that understanding fuzzes.

It gets worse.

Words make sentences. Sentences make paragraphs. And paragraphs make pages.  Each rise in the number and ordering of words also increases the complexity of the meaning of those individual words since each word is modified and changed by the other words around it.   Because of this, when these masses of words are applied to the real world, greater fuzziness results.

Now, when talking about the Constitution, people who make this literalist sort of argument often also say that the reason people do not read the words as written is due to an agenda or politics or being lazy and not wanting to go through the process that the founders of this country created to change the Constitution.

However, these people never seem to consider the fact that the actual men who wrote Constitution-1250x650the Constitution disagreed, often strongly disagreed, on what those words meant and how they should be applied to real world situations.  One of many examples of this was the creation of a national bank.  Alexander Hamilton believed it to be Constitutional.  James Madison believed it to be unconstitutional.  Yet both men were there and helped in creating the Constitution. This fact alone should be strong evidence that it is not just a matter of reading the words and following them.

For another example, read a good biography of George Washington, especially his years as our first President.  He frequently worried and discussed what this or that passage of the Constitution meant and how it should be applied with his staff and advisors.  Although composed of well defined words, their meaning was not clear and simple to him. And he was the President of the Constitutional Convention.  Again, strong evidence that it is not just a simple matter of reading the words.  Words become fuzzy when applied to everyday life and reality.

This means that a person’s views of the world – of law, of the issues, etc. – are going to play a role in his understanding of what the Constitution means and says in regards to this application of its words or that application of its words.  There is no way it cannot.  But, and this is also important to understand, this does not mean that anything goes.  Fuzzy is not the same as having no shape or form.  A fuzzy boundary is not the same as no boundary.  Fuzzy means that the edges of meanings of the words are not clear and sharp and distinct, but are, instead, vague and blurred. This becomes even more true when they interact with the fuzzy meanings of other words.  In other words,  there is a great deal of room for honest disagreement and dispute.

As a final example of this fuzziness, let me use this a bit of this person’s own words in his comment to me; “we the people”.

This is a phrase used many times by people all along the political and social spectrum.  And each word of this phrase is easy to understand. And even the whole when looked at abstractly can be reasonably understood. But then try applying it to the real world, as I did with this person.

“What does that mean?  Do you include those who believe and think like me?  Or just those who think like you?  Do you mean everyone, rich and poor, educated and non-educated, communist, KKK member, John Birch Society, farmer, scientist, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, and Jew?  Or is its meaning more restrictive?”

Puzzled

 

I am sorry sir, but your meaning is not clear.

 

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I have been told I do nothing. That while on Facebook I talk about changes and issues facing our nation, that all I do about them is blog. I write the write but don’t do the walk. Usually this is when someone is in heated disagreement with me on an issue and are looking for a way to put me down, and minimize what I do.  Which, along with my experiences during Hurricane Harvey, got me thinking, and so this blog.

For myself, my critic is partially right. I don’t do any big earth shaking , country roiling , state rattling deeds. My words and actions are not going to inspire any great movements, or even any memories that will outlast me by much.  Which makes me just like most people.

However, that does not mean that what we do does not make a difference, or that the difference we make is unimportant.  In fact, one way of viewing this makes what we are doing the most important thing possible.

I know that when I view the actions and policies and statements of those who can influence and change the state, the country, the world, the bottom line of my evaluation is how will it affect people. Not people as a massive group, not people as an idea, but people as individuals. As persons.

And it is at that level that everyday people can and do make a difference.

Just a reminder 5

Stopping to help a person with a flat. Seeing a person struggling with a load and offering to help carry some of it. Pausing to let another driver in during heavy traffic.

Small things, everyday things, but they make a difference to that person at that time. They set a tone for our neighborhood, our town and help create our society.  Some examples that I personally know about during our time in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

A neighbor with a well has run a hose from her house for everyone to use since our city water is currently contaminated.

When out scouting for food and water, and too often standing in long lines, people share information and suggestions. There is water to be found there, that street is flooded, avoid it, this store is open until then, that one is not, etc.

People using grocery carts to take their water and food to their car returning that cart to those waiting in line instead of putting them in the parking lot cart corrals since there are no carts at the doors.

A co-worker with a swimming pool letting people know if they need water they can come get some from his pool – this was when we had no water, contaminated or clean.

On the neighborhood website, people in our addition offering help- from going to help clear the fallen tree, to passing on info about where to get water. One guy’s house flooded and another neighbor went right over with heavy duty vacuums to help clean the mess.

One woman got caught away from home when her street flooded and she couldn’t get back in. There was a litter of puppies trapped in her yard.Another woman managed to get through the water to the pups and rescue them.

And of course, this does not include the many people with boats and jet skis who rescued people from flooded homes.

Small things really, overall. Things that will be not only be soon forgotten, but are often not even covered to begin with. But, they helped someone, and made a difference for individual people.  Such actions not only create the bonds of a society, bonds which are essential for the survival of any society,  but are also the result of those bonds.

And this happens everyday everywhere in the US (and the world). It is not limited to times of disaster. Other examples from my life, my wife’s life, and from friends.

Having a stranger stop to help fix a flat on a rental car during a wet night in the middle of nowhere.

Providing a place to stay not just once, but twice to those displaced by tragedy .this-beautiful-random-act-of-kindness-was-photographed-give-this-awesome-guy-a-like-for-caring

Providing first aid to those injured by a tornado that was still there.

When seeing a man who had enough money for a gallon of gas but not enough to pay for the gas can the gas station insisted he had to buy instead of borrow – buying the gas can and the gas.

Paying the difference for a person in the grocery costs at the store when they were short of money.

Helping a neighbor look for a lost pet.

Along with other drivers who stopped, pulling a young man out of a car that had flipped just before it caught on fire.

And the list goes on. Nothing that by itself will change a nation. But done by the tens and hundreds of millions each day, they help cement the bonds of society. In all of the above, there was no concern about the person’s race, religion, gender, employment, or politics. Just a person in need.  And a person willing to help.

So, while it is well worth the time and effort to try to influence the ones who can shape and shift the country, to join together with other like thinking people to advocate and to press for needed changes, you and I can still make a difference on that most fundamental level, the person.

And as for my blog.  Well, even if I can just influence a couple of people with one or two of my blogs, cause a couple of people to think, or maybe even act, that would be enough. Especially since from small beginnings such as this, things can grow and grow large enough to make the bigger differences that so impresses people. But, probably not. And if it does wind up making a larger difference through a chain of hundreds of people, I will probably never know. And that’s OK.   I am fine with the small.

So, no, no earth shaking differences. Just small ones. And usually not original either. In Just a Reminder 2fact, the ideas embedded within my words here are not new, and have been expressed many millions of times by others.  But, then, perhaps they need to be. Just as a reminder.

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The other day I had finished eating my nice healthy lunch at Subway. In depositing the trash in the approved container I noticed a small magazine called Signs of the Times.  On its front cover it had the name of one of its articles, “Christian-atheist dialogue”.  Well, since it was free, I of course had to grab it and look it over.

cover

The article was actually not bad, and not what I was expecting going in.  It was, basically, an article about how too many discussions between atheists and Christians are not truly discussions because both sides are talking “past each other”.  Neither side is understanding what the other is saying and meaning – something that happens in many other areas besides atheist Christian dialogues.  The writer, Ed Dickerson, made it clear that this article was not about debates but about actual conversations.  And Dickerson does a good job of quickly laying out some guidelines for how to have a  meaningful and worthwhile conversation.

First, recognize it is a conversation and not a debate.  In debates most people are not really listening with the intent to understand what the other person is saying, but are, instead, listening for a weakness that they can exploit or a way to counter what is being said.  In other words, no true listening goes on.

So, the first requirement for having an actual conversations is to listen and understand before responding.  The next requirement is to avoid harsh language.  So far, so good. And it is good advice for any true dialogue on anything.  Dickserson also ends it well, with a bit about “respect versus ridicule”.

If that were the whole article then this article would fit nicely in my recommended reading list as a basic primer on how to have a dialogue.

But that is not the whole article.  There is a bit next to the end  where Dickerson takes a wrong, but instructive turn. It is, of course, his section on “facts versus assumptions”.

Dickerson starts out well, saying that the scientists use of naturalism has worked well – “If you don’t think so, try taking a ride on an airplane!”.  However, after this he veers off.  Which is to be expected I guess since it is a publication that supports young earth creationism.

Dickerson veers straight into the both sides rely on faith on some issues view.  Namely, in this case, the origin of life on earth.  Yes, says Dickerson, Christians have to accept on Rauserfaith the Bible’s story of divine Creation, but so too do scientists.  After all, there were no humans around to see it happen.

This statement is instructive in that it shows a basic misunderstanding of science and how it works, one that is very common among creationists, especially among the young earth variety. What is instructive, and frustrating, is that they honestly believe it to be true and do not see how their assumptions has caused them to support a false narrative.

Yes, no one was there. But that does not mean we cannot know anything.  Actions have consequences.  The eruption of a volcanoes leave their mark  The decay of atoms can tell us many things about the objects they are part of.  Skeletons leave fossils behind, and even soft parts can be fossilized.  Yes, we can only see things directly today. But the things we see today were formed by processes acting in our yesterdays. What we see today can be combined with what we know of physics and chemistry and geology to provide very good evidence of what happened in the past. Even as long as billions of years ago.

So, no, science does not have to take it on faith.  They take it on evidence.  And, although this was the only place in this article that broke down, it is a major break down, and instructive. It shows that there are times when we cannot even agree on what is fact and what is assumption (something that is not unique to just Atheist/Christian dialogues).   When that happens, it becomes much harder to bridge the divide on that issue. Note though my words at the end of the sentence; “on that issue”. Not agreeing on what is and is not fact on one issue does not mean that all issues are going to have similar divides.

Overall, it was a good piece about how to have a constructive dialogue.  As I said,  I find it interesting that it falls down in regards to what is fact and not.  I find it of more interest that in a publication in which I expected this article to be about converting the atheist, it was, instead, about how to have a “meaningful conversation”, “a respectful conversation, the purpose of which it to exchange ideas, inform each other, and clarify issues”.

In my last blog The Emptiness of Atheism, I had a bit in there about how it is not only possible, but likely, that there will be times when an atheist may have more in common with a theist, including Christians, than they do other atheists.  Christians who have the sort of goals in mind exhibited by the writers of this article may be one of them.

 

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Recently the library where I work finished installing new carpeting  as well as upgrading the building in other ways such as moving shelves around.  In that three month process we, myself and the other librarians, wound up moving the books numerous times; over here, over there, over here again, then over somewhere else.  In doing so I got to see in more detail how our books were organized.   And it got me thinking.

library-future

Let me start those thoughts with what I encountered when moving the African American fiction.  While doing that move I came across a book that had not only the author but who it was edited by, which gave me pause.  I had never seen a book, a novel, which had an editor’s name attached to it also.  In looking at it I found that The Bondswoman’s Narrative, by Hannah Crafts, edited by Henry Louis Gates, is the first novel written by a black women slave.  It is the only novel by a fugitive slave woman.  And it was written sometime between 1853 and 1861.

My first thought was to ask why this was put in African American fiction.  I would think this would be something that people beyond just African Americans would enjoy.   While a novel and fiction, it was based closely upon events that the writer actually experienced as well as the experiences of other African American slaves.  Although very much a product of its times, it is fascinating reading, both intellectually and, more importantly, emotionally.

I am not going to review it here, other than to say that if you are interested in people, the effects of slavery on people, and the human condition, then this is a book you should read.  Just as the Diary of Anne Frank’s appeal goes far beyond Jews and being a Jew in Nazi Germany, so too does this book have a message beyond just being a black slave.

And that is why I wondered why it was buried under African American fiction, where its light could not shine for those who may need to read it the most.

Then I came across Toni Morrison.  The Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award winning writer. The Nobel Prize winner.  A writer who I greatly admire and whose works I have enjoyed.  Why is she in African American fiction and not among the broader category of novels?  As if what she wrote could only speak to African Americans and not to all of humanity.  As if writers have to be first and foremost categorized by the color of their skin rather than the quality and scope of their writings.  As if blacks and whites and Asians and Native Americans and Hispanics, as if people, do not have a shared core created by all of them being human.

Now, I know that there are reasons, and some good ones at that, for having a separate African American section.  But, I think those two books also show the limitations and problems that doing so creates.

There was one other categorical head scratcher for me that I think worth mentioning. That was when I found Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karina” when moving the Romance books.  I know that the plot contains some elements of romance, but come on… Anna Karina is considered to be one of the best novels ever written.  Would you classify Romeo and Juliet under Romance?

But, there it was, with a call number of ROM TOL on its spine.

My thoughts on this paralleled that of finding Morrison’s and Craft’s books in African American fiction, how limiting.  But in thinking about it I began to wonder.  Would more people be  willing to pick up and read Anna Karina in the category of Romance than they would if it were in the category of Classics?  Instead of limiting the potential readers of Anna Karina, could this categorization of it., instead, expand the number of readers?

If true, then Anna Karina being categorized as a romance would be a good thing in that it would expose this novel to more people.  With Toni Morrison and Craft though, the opposite is happening.  Not many people other than African Americans look at the African American section, limiting these books potential audience.

Which got me to wondering how best to balance these needs, categorizing works so that those who are interested in one area but not the others can still easily find works that interest them while, at the same time, providing those who are just looking without a fixed goal in mind, a chance to read something outside their norm.

The problem with the easy answer of not having categories is that categories are useful.  There is a reason they come about.  If I am in the mood for a Science Fiction book, I really do not want to spend time finding the science fiction novels amid all the mysteries, classics, African American novels,  mainstream novels, romance, westerns, and religious novels.

Besides, creating and dividing things, and people, into categories seems to be a basic human trait, one that is not going to be going away until humanity is gone too.

That being said, the real question then is not how to get rid of all categories, but rather how do we create and maintain categories?   How to do so with the recognition that, like life, there is considerable overlap from one category and another, that the same book can be categorized in many different ways, and that all categories share the trait of being novels.

For example, in the library, perhaps it would be better to have all novels grouped together, but have the call labels be color coded to designate African American, Romance, Classics, Science Fiction, Mysteries, etc.  Yes, people would browse looking for the color code of their interests, but in doing so they have a better chance of seeing something, seeing a novel or author, that they might not have ever noticed before.   Proximity creates opportunities for something new.

The downside of doing it this way though is that those who come in and want to read only mysteries are now going to have to go through and look at those books that are not mysteries too, and in the process of using up precious time, you might not find that one mystery that would have made your year.  The upside is that they will have to go through and look at those books that are not mysteries, and so perhaps come across a treasure that they never would have encountered otherwise.

To me, since we live in a world that offers only imperfect solutions to societal issues and problems, this trade off would be a good one.  We need to learn to re-categorize things in order to grow.  We need to also learn that there are few hard and fast categories.  Instead, categories, especially as they relate  to humans  are fluid and overlapping.

For fun, here are the links to two videos, video one and video two, that highlight the fluidity and overlapping nature of human categories.

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Recently I got into a discussion with some die hard Hillary haters about Hillary’s honesty.  In some ways debating these people reminds me  of the days when I debated creationists; their use of cherry picked facts and evidence, the omission of relevant information, the slanting of the evidence, and most especially the overly simplistic and black and white nature of their views.  And just like creationists, if you concede a point they often take it and run with it, proclaiming victory is ours.

Lies

Which is one of the reasons why I got myself into the mindset of not ceding any ground in this debate about Hillary’s honesty, even at the expense of being completely truthful.

Another reason for why I let myself get into this position is that the truth is often complicated and takes some time to explain fully.  It is rarely purely black and white and even more rarely simplistic as the Hillary haters and creationists like.

So, for both of those reasons I overextended myself in my claims and defense of Hillary’s basic honesty.  Hence, this long mea culpa post – to more fully explain why, while not perfectly and totally honest, I consider Hillary a basically honest person and politician.

At the time of the aforesaid discussion with the Hillary haters, I had already pointed out that Hillary did not lie when she claimed in her website bio that “After law school, Hillary could have taken a high-paying job in Washington or New York. But instead, she went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund.”

As evidence that this was a lie the Hillary haters cited part of her memoir “Living History’ where she wrote:

“I had taken both the Arkansas and Washington D.C. bar exams during the summer, but my heart was pulling me toward Arkansas. When I learned that I had passed in Arkansas but failed in D.C., I thought that maybe my test scores were telling me something.”

The Hillary haters argued that this showed that her working for the Children’s Defense Fund was not a choice but a necessity since she could not have taken a ‘high-paying job in Washington or New York” since she did not pass the Washington D.C. bar exams.

However, these Hillary haters overlooked some facts in their rush to severe judgment.

First, read the bit from her memoir again.  Did you note that she said that her “heart was pulling me towards Arkansas”?

Now, combine that sentence with these two facts.

Fact one, anywhere from 10% to 40%, dependent on where it is being taken, of people fail the bar exam the first time they take it. Many subsequently go on and take the bar exam and pass it a second time.  This is not a one time test.

Further note, that she did pass the Arkansas bar exam.  I am not sure how many people take two bar exams at the same time, but very few I would imagine since the material covered and needed to be studied would vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  And I would also imagine this would increase the percentage of those who fail at least one of the two.

Fact two, her interest in children and working with them goes at least back to her high school days where she volunteered to baby sit the children of migrant workers.  During law school Hillary volunteered at Yale’s Child Study Center to learn about childhood brain development.  Further, she also took up cases of child abuse at the New Haven Hospital and provided free legal service to the poor.

In other words, working with children has long been a strong passion for Hillary.

Now, putting this all together, the one sentence and two facts, I would say it would be reasonable to believe that she purposely decided NOT to try for the Washington DC  bar exam again.  I would also say it would be reasonable to conclude that she chose not to at least partly on the basis of following her heart.

Which means that there is no rational basis to say that Hillary lied on this.  Unless, of course, you already have a strong aversion to all things Hillary.

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The other area where I felt I successfully defended Hillary’s honesty is, of course, Benghazi.  Specifically on the claim about whether Hillary told Patricia Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, one of the victims of Benghazi attack, was the result of a video.

Fact one, while Mrs. Smith and some of the other families did say that Hillary did mention a video as the cause of the attack, several of the other families do not remember her talking about a video.  They do, however, remember Hillary crying and being sincere in her sympathy.

Fact two, the family of Ambassador Chris Stevens have come out strongly in support of Hillary on this and on the whole Benghazi issue.

Fact three, after this meeting with the families of the victims Hillary did state:

“This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.”

Please remember there were attacks on two embassies that day, one in Cairo which most definitely was caused by the video, and the other by terrorists, although at the time she made this statement the idea that the video had a role to play in this attack was still in play.

Fact four, at the time of Hilary’s meeting with the families, the situation surrounding the attack at the compound was still unclear.  In fact, according to multiple investigations run by Republicans, the cause of the attack was not totally resolved until the day after Hillary’s meeting with the families.

Yes, but what about Hillary’s e mail to Chelsea stating that the attack was carried out by terrorists.  Well, that brings me to fact five.  Initially an al Qaeda affiliated group claimed 65989-56396responsibility for the attack.  This was the basis of Hillary’s e mail to her daughter.  However, this group later retracted their claim.

 

Fact six, there were several bits of conflicting information in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attack.  I know, because I was trying to keep up with them in real time.  Further, the multiple investigations also showed this conflicting information.

In fact, what is of interest is that Hillary, while believing that Benghazi was a terrorist attack does believe that the video did have a role to play, probably as a motivating factor.  A belief several other experts share, probably because of the fact that some of the actual attackers stated that the video was part of their motivation for attacking the compound.

So, I believe that Hillary sincerely believes she did not say anything about the video being the cause of the Benghazi attack.  However, in this emotional moment with the tears and the sorrow and the seeking of answers, Hillary may have mentioned the video without saying it was the reason for the attack.  Or, this could have been woven into the memory of those families who remember the video being stated as the causes through other sources, possibly even Hillary’s comments after the meeting that I quoted above.

Memory is not a fixed thing.  Our brains do not faithfully record events as they happen.  This is especially true when there are strong emotions involved.  Mistakes are made and remembered as true when they are not.

In this regard, it is important to note that someone can be mistaken and still not be a liar.  In fact, that is what Hillary has said of those families who remember her blaming the attack on the video, that they made a mistake due to the confusing and conflicting amount of information going around at a time of strong emotions.

Perhaps a simple example would help.  This is something that happened many years ago to my father.  He and a friend were walking in a city park (I cannot remember which) when they saw from across the park a car hit another car and then drive away.  When giving their statements to the police they both said they clearly remembered the color of the car that did the hit and run.  My father said one color, his friend said a completely different color.

Now, do I believe that one of them was lying?  No.  One of them had made a mistake, something quite common with memory.  In fact, it is quite possible that both of them are wrong.

The take away from this is that one can be wrong, but still not be a liar.  That applies to my father and his friend,  to those families who remember Hillary stating that a video was the cause of the attack, and to Hillary who states she did not say that.  For that matter, it applies to all of us.

Bottom line on this, I do not believe that either Hillary or the mother,  Mrs. Smith, are lying.

 

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Now, we come to my mea culpa.  The point at which I defended that which I should not have.  A lie of Hillary’s.  This lie involves her statements about not sending confidential e mails on an unsecure server.

Part of what makes this an interesting question is the Hillary haters have been using it to say that Hillary lied and perjured herself in testimony before Congress.  My answer was and continues to be that she probably did not.

What? I can hear you say.  This is the bit where you are supposed to be writing about Hillary lying.  And so I will, because I do believe that she is lying now in regards to not sending confidential e mails.   The reason for this distinction lies in FBI Director James Comey’s statements regarding Hillary’s e mail system, both his initial statement on the findings of the investigation and his subsequent testimony before Congress.

What is of most relevance here is that in his statement about the investigation and in later Congressional testimony is that only a few of these confidential e mails were marked as classified.  Further, the way they were marked is with a small “c” beside the classified material rather than a header proclaiming it classified.

In his Congressional testimony Comey further testified that if someone is not familiar with the rules regarding the handling of classified information, it is entirely possible that they may not have known what the “c” stood for and assumed that if it did not have Classified at the top that it was not.

As he said, this was sloppy and careless.  However, it does mean that Hillary may have honestly testified before Congress that she did not send any classified e mail.  At that time, she believed she had not.

An aside here – there are some Hillary haters that take being sloppy on security means being sloppy in all areas, a generalization that is not justified.  Especially since Comer in his report and the internal audit done by the State Department showed that the State Department had been rather lax about classified material.  This includes the time period before Hillary became the head of the State Department.  This would have also contributed to her belief that she was not sending classified material.

However, this was at the Congressional Hearings which were held before Comey released his findings and recommendations.  And this is where we now get into the bit where Hillary is lying.

She is still saying that she did not lie and was absolved.  Not quite.  And with Comey’s statement before her she knows it.  So, today she is lying.

And this is what I tried to defend.  I included it with my arguments about the Congressional testimony when I should not have.

So yes, Hillary is lying today when she talks about not sending classified material.

Now, what makes this instructive and interesting is the light it sheds on certain political truths.  This sort of lying is called spin and all politicians engage in it.  The only real difference is in how they engage in it and how often.

Hillary has taken note of part of Comey’s report while ignoring other parts to provide a narrative more favorable to her.  As I said, this is something every politician does and that every politician in a democracy has to do to a greater or lesser extent.

In fact, in my next blog I plan to argue that in any democracy – no matter the country, no matter the time – politicians have to lie.  It is an integral part of being a politician in a tumblr_m5hfehtGNj1r7wa9pdemocratic system.  I will only put this out there for your consideration here and wait for my blog to develop the argument for this claim.

However, that means that the divider between politicians is not between whether one is totally honest and the other lies, but, instead, between how often they lie and about what subjects.

As I have discussed above, on two out of three items in which Hillary haters have claimed she lied, she actually hasn’t.  On the third one, she probably was speaking truthfully at the Congressional hearings, or at least there is enough information from Comey to raise a reasonable doubt in any impartial jury looking at criminal charges for her for perjury.  But, she is not now when discussing these e mails.

Using that criteria, how often Hillary lies, Hillary is actually one of our more honest politicians.  According to Politifact, of all the Presidential candidates both Republican and Democrat, Hillary was the most honest (although both Bernie Sanders and John Kasich came very close to being as honest).

And that is part of why I believe Hillary to be a basically honest person.  I also believe this throws some light on something most have overlooked about our political system.  Namely that dishonesty is a basic part of the process and has always been so and will probably always be so.  But more on that in a later blog.

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