September 4th, 2020


Sweet Memories

So, I'm sitting here, eating a bowl of granola, thinking how sweet it is. But it's nothing compared to the breakfast cereals of my childhood. Marketing to kids was new in the 1950s, but our parents -- who all went through the Depression and World War Two -- were pretty indulgent toward their kids. They didn't want them to be deprived of anything. Plus, they remembered when sugar was rationed, so "sugar" was a selling point to adults as well as children. Everybody approved of sugar. (And we're talking pure cane sugar; high-fructose corn syrup hadn't made its appearance at this stage.)

So, we had Frosted Flakes, Sugar Corn Pops, Sugar Smacks, Sugar Crisp. New cereals were being developed all the time, with cute, cartoony characters like Cap'n Crunch, Quisp, Count Chocula. These cereals may not have trumpeted "SUGAR!" in their names, but all of them were loaded with it. And you know what we little Boomers did with those cereals? That's right, we took a spoon and started dumping more granulated sugar on top of it. Often, not just one spoonful, and every spoonful was heaped up as high as we could get it. When we got to the bottom of the bowl, there would be this thick sludge of sugar in the leftover milk. And more than a few of us then drank that off to finish breakfast.

It's a wonder any of us are alive today.
old whig

Voices, off

So, Donald Trump said something outrageous recently, and the media is aflame with it. The usual people express the usual horror, the other usual people make the usual excuses, and life goes on. Like many Republicans, I really wish that Trump could better control his mouth (and his Twitter urges). I am embarrassed and angered by some of the stupid things he says.

On the other hand, my friends who are Biden supporters seem blissfully unaware of the stupid and ugly things that he says. And he has said a lot. This is not "deflection," not "making a false equivalence," not "whataboutism." It's just the truth. Whether Biden's offensive statements are fewer in quantity or less offensive/stupid in quality than Trump's is a thing we could discuss, but it's not relevant here.

On the one hand, partisans tend to pick up on the outrageous things the other side's guy says, and ignore the outrageous things their guy says. As Paul Simon wrote,
All lies in jest
till a man hears what he wants to hear
and disregards the rest.
But I thought of another thing recently. It's not just what somebody says. What other people -- people who report and comment and publicize -- say about what somebody said, matters. It frames the event. It adjusts the focus. And the reporter/commentator/publicist has a point of view, too. Sometimes, an axe to grind. This is something I learned from reading the book of Judges in the Bible.

The recurring theme of Judges is, "In those days, there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes." In other words, the writer of Judges was a monarchist. He thought it was important to have a king. A king would stop all these outrages he's telling about. (Sure, he would.) I'm not saying the author is reporting anything he doesn't know or think is true, but he picks and chooses his stories to fit his narrative. He plays up some details, and plays down others. He has a point of view, an axe to grind. And even if you accept the Bible as true and authoritative, you've got to keep the author's POV in mind when you read this book -- and when you preach on it.

So when my eyes are assaulted by news stories and commentary and social media about the latest awfulness coming from Trump, I tend to wait to see if another shoe (one being deliberately withheld by the reporter/commentator/poster) is going to drop. So often, the first story told is not the whole story. That said, my personal opinion on this election is that both candidates are doing their level best to lose. Still, I'll take GOP control over the Democrats any day. I understand that other people see it the other way round. Spare me both pious denunciations and unctuous excuses either way. These are the guys we've got, God help us. We have to choose between them (or vote third party), but we don't have to like either guy all that much.