Archive for July, 2016

Loving heart, willing spirit can turn burdens of parenting into happiness

by David McElroy

Father and son

The little family stood out because of the mixed skin colors but mostly because all three children were so young — enough to keep both parents constantly dealing with one or another as they ate dinner at Chick-fil-A in Birmingham on a Saturday evening.

The parents were both white and appeared to be early to mid 30s. A boy who appeared Latino was about 4 years ago. A black boy and girl were both about 2 or 3, I’d guess.

The table was a constant buzz of talk — children asking questions and wanting help, parents correcting and guiding. But it was all orderly and the tone of voice was always loving and kind. One of the boys seemed fascinated by my MacBook and he had trouble understanding his mom’s explanation that it’s impolite to stare at strangers.

After they ate, they pulled out little books and read together. Each child had a different book. I couldn’t tell what the books were all about, but I saw the younger ones pointing to cows and dogs and pigs and correctly identifying each. Both parents worked with each child from time to time.

It was like controlled chaos, but full of love and happiness.

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Being treated with respect changed black teen’s racial beliefs in 1974

by David McElroy

Bank lobby-70s

Larry was 17 years old in 1974. He had lied about his age to get his first job, working at a steel fabrication shop. As he approached his 18th birthday, he had been working for nearly six months. Getting a loan to buy an inexpensive used car changed his life.

Race relations weren’t great between blacks and whites in Birmingham in 1974. Larry had started his education in all-black schools and then been part of integration, something that had been very controversial and at times confrontational. It was a time and place when many black people and many white people were suspicious of one another.

Larry’s attitude toward white people was guarded and suspicious. Who can blame him for feeling that way? He knew that many white people around him didn’t want him as part of their society. His attitudes hardened because of small battles, too. When he was in high school, the principal told him he had to shave off his afro or leave the school — so he transferred to a vocational school rather than comply.

By the time Larry had that first job, he was wondering whether a young black man could get a break from a society that had been dominated by racist white men. And then he needed to buy a car.

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Political systems built on coercion will always produce cheats, liars

by David McElroy

Ted Cruz speaks at RNC

Ted Cruz broke his promise to support whoever won the Republican nomination.

Hillary Clinton lied regularly about the circumstances surrounding her private email server (and many other things).

Somebody on the Donald Trump campaign lifted some ideas and phrases from a speech which was performed by Michelle Obama four years ago.

Bernie Sanders spent the last year telling us what an evil candidate Clinton is and now he tells his voters to support her.

In all four cases, I say, “So what?”

I hear some Republicans today screaming bloody murder that Cruz didn’t endorse Trump when Cruz spoke at the convention in Cleveland Wednesday night. On the other hand, people who hate Trump and are eager to see him embarrassed are calling Cruz principled for telling Republicans they ought to vote their conscience. Almost everyone seems to see the matter through the lens of what he wants to happen in November.

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What if we’ve completely missed the entire point of loving other people?

by David McElroy

Hearts

I don’t really know how to love human beings.

Not really. I can love those who are a lot like me and those who treat me well. That’s easy. I don’t know how to love those who seem unlovable to me.

It’s easy for me to condemn people with hateful attitudes, especially those among them who call themselves Christians. It’s easy for me to look down on them and say, “You have no idea how to love other people. What’s wrong with you?”

But when I’m honest with myself, I realize it’s easy to love people in theory. It’s easy to read the words of Jesus and realize very clearly that it’s my responsibility to love everyone — those who aren’t like me, those who treat me poorly, those who are my enemies, even those who cut me off in traffic and leave me seething like an idiot with bad priorities.

What’s not so easy is putting love for others into practice. I realized recently that I’m still not certain what it would look like for me to genuinely love those I’d rather not love. I’m not even certain I always want to love the all-too-real people around me.

But I had an epiphany recently about loving the unlovable — and it’s left me wondering whether we’ve missed the entire point of loving others. What if the people who are changed for the better by our loving other people isn’t those others?

What if we’re the real beneficiaries of learning to love? What if real transformation of the heart and mind isn’t even possible without learning that kind of love?

What if learning to love others is what saves us from ourselves?

• • •

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As world descends into madness, back away and guard your heart

by David McElroy

Descending into madness

I fear the devil has lit the fuse on a long-dormant stick of racial dynamite.

And now the shadowy figure with a red suit and a tail is in the shadows chuckling as outraged people on both sides of an ugly divide prepare to go after each other — completely uninterested in why the other side sees what it sees.

As the anger builds, more and more people are pulled into the maelstrom. Everybody is suddenly an expert. Everybody knows who’s to blame, but they all disagree with each other.

I’m no different. I have my own narrative. I place the ultimate blame on the idea that any group has the right to use violence or threats of violence to achieve their purposes. But even though I have my favorite explanation, I know it’s complicated and there are many historical factors — and that other people see things in very different ways.

Many books could be written on how we got here and who’s to blame, because the causes are tangled and go far back into human history, even though almost everybody tries to oversimplify the problem. I think it’s a tangled web of centuries (or more) of wrong thinking involving race, class, slavery, tribalism, populism, fear and the continuing desire of some people to control other people. (No matter what I include, I’m failing to include other factors.) They all blend together in a toxic stew — and whichever part happens to be nearest and dearest to you, that’s the part you tend to see and assume is the cause.

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As I grow and learn, I have to leave more and more of my ideas behind

by David McElroy

Transformation

Almost every day, I find myself disappointed about things I wrote four or five years ago — but I think that’s a good thing.

Even though I don’t publish many new articles anymore, my old ones are read hundreds and hundreds of times each day. The software I use tells me which articles are most popular each day and how many times each was read. The idea is that writers can see which things are attracting an audience and write more things like that.

In my case, though, I feel as though the numbers — and the old headlines — mostly serve to mock me. I certainly don’t shape my writing by what people want to read. Instead, the old titles serve as a roadmap showing how my ideas and my priorities have shifted radically since I started writing here.

The old things I wrote remind me how shallow my priorities once were.

Old articles frequently become popular again for reasons I’ll never know. Someone presumably finds something through an online search and then shares it on social media, where it will sometimes be shared enough to attracts tens of thousands of readers in a brief period.

There are times when it’s not so bad. Other times, the title jumps out at me and makes something inside me ask in an accusing voice, “Why did you ever bother to write that?”

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

Contact David

David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I rarely have the time to respond. (Sorry.) Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”

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