Categories
Current Events Politics Reflections

President Trump

This isn’t what I was expecting. There was no way Trump would win. He’s not going to win the primary. He did? He’s not going to win the general. But, he did.

I’m not sure how to proceed. If I lived in a vacuum and “Clinton” and “Trump” were just random names, I would say that while I disagree with the President-Elect on this or that, it’s important to respect the Office and important to work together toward a better America.

We don’t live in a vacuum. We have heard a lot from Trump. Being charitable, he’s been very loose with facts. He has mocked people with disabilities. He claimed to sexually assault women—and then play it off as “locker room talk”, as if the language used was the problem, not that bragging about grabbing women without permission, whether or not he was lying about it to impress an Access Hollywood reporter. He broke tradition and has yet to release his tax returns. What little bit was leaked out after deep investigation by the media suggests that his strong business sense that he campaigned on may not be sound. He claimed to give large amounts of money to charity while failing to providing any information to support the claim. After researching nearly 500 charities that he may have donated to, a reporter found extremely little to support that he’s given at all, much less to the level described.

For all of this extra work that the media has done, a public service given the lack of previous disclosure never serving in public office before, Trump has been extremely vocal about his hatred of the media. While they have flaws too, the four estate is an integral part of the American experiment. They are afforded the first amendment for a reason. Sadly, the media’s rapid attention to the train-wreck that is Trump and his campaign, from day one, propelled him. He plays people into thinking the media is corrupt while using them to get attention himself.

I could go on and on and on about his temperament, careless words, his tweetstorms, his absolute lack of class, and so on. It would just be too depressing to keep going.

None of our presidents have been perfect, but they all have generally been more honorable than not. I could trust them to think through the decisions before them and, while they might be different than what I would do in their shoes, I could still look up to them as the example of a leader. We say how we shouldn’t look at athletes as role models—they’re just really talented as a sport. Presidents are elected from across our country after an extremely long campaigning process, that includes being chosen as the flag-bearer of their party.

You’re right. Bill wasn’t always a great role model. His adulterous ways and his attempts to hide it did not live up to the expectations of the office. I’m not sure if they were worth impeaching him, but it’s incredible that the party that sought Bill’s impeachment nominated and led our country to choosing a man with a longer list of affairs, a list of sexual assault accusations that he said he would sue now that the election has past, multiple bankruptcies, with an open fraud suit before him. Let’s not question if his loose accounting between his foundation, campaign activities, and his personal checkbooks violated any FEC rules.

I want to support the President. I want to have an open mind. I want to be able to teach my daughters to respect the office while being able to respect the man in the office. I can’t do that when he’s talks about his success as a sexual predator who brags about walking into women’s dressing rooms. I can’t do that with a failure to offer a real apology for the actual actions and some sense of regret.

Oh, there’s so much. I haven’t begun to question if he would dismiss my daughter’s abilities because they are of Mexican heritage. Of the rage he inspires in his following that he does nothing to tame or direct toward positive action. He claims to want to bring us together after using and promoting incredibly divisive language. Of conflating so many issues and being incredibly causal on causation based on invalid facts.

A month ago, we were wondering if his VP pick would stay on the ticket with him or if his party would try to replace him because of the severity of what he said on tape. Today, we’re making plans for him taking the role of leader of the free world.

He brings out the worst in people with no attempt to help transform that for the greater good. He doesn’t take anger and outage to transform it into positive action. He takes anger and outage, encourages it, and unleashes it.

In 71 days, he will be our president. I truly hope Trump uses this time to demonstrate how he’s truly better than everything he’s presented himself to be.

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Categories
Church Current Events Reflections

Orlando

There isn’t a word for the event overnight in Orlando. To call it terrorism, which it was, makes it seem like something far away, isolated, and a something abstract that politicians will use to further their own ends (which they will anyhow). To call it a mass shooting, which it was, lumps it into the 160 or so other mass shootings we’ve had this year. Each murder is unique and the victim(s) are individual, unique, and special people whose untimely ends do not deserve to be lumped together with other savage acts. Mass shootings all the more with their large-scale impact.

It isn’t fair to the Orlando victims or their families to just consider this a random act of terrorism or one of far too many mass shootings. Sadly, there are so many mass shootings and acts of terrorism that they’re going to be lumped into and, all-in-all, forgotten as we fail as a society to work together to reflect on why this is happening here and what do we need to do to reduce and hopefully end it.

The victims and their families are in my prayers.

I’ve read folks saying, basically, prayers don’t matter and that’s only a cop-out to make myself feel better. I’ll grant hearing “thoughts and prayers” from NRA-supported politicians is pretty pathetic. John Scalzi covers this pretty well.

For me, my faith and belief system forms the foundation of my world view. I believe we are a spiritual people that have a connection to a higher being with prayer being the venue for exploring that connection.

My prayers are not a half-second thought or even just a “God, bring comfort to these people” moment. My prayers for Orlando—the murdered, their families and friends, the responding officers, the broader LGBTQ community, the murderer, the Muslim community, our nation and our political leaders—are on multiple levels.

Yes, part of that prayer is asking God to be present in this situation and for the people involved to seek love. Part of that prayer is critical self-reflection on how do we as a people and how do I as a person need to respond.

I believe that God is love, the font of mercy and justice, the one we are crafted from and destined to return to. The latest I read doubted the murderer was religious, just a homophobic bigoted asshole. That said, religion has played a role in hate and shockingly still does. How do we, as a religion, and as religious individuals, need to respond not only to the victims in a compassionate way—which is still good, needed, and required of us—but also form ourselves and our practices to ensure we are not creating an environment that fosters disgusting hatred. What could we do better to make beyond clear that hatred has no place within our communities?

Yeah, I know. I’m Catholic. I am not under any illusion that the Catholic Church is gay-friendly. This is something we must do better. “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” The more I think about that line, the more it is a disservice to everyone. Hate has no place here.

The Catholic Church is celebrating a “Year of Mercy” this year. Rome commonly declares a year for something every so often when there are special thematic elements to remind the whole church of that piece of our tradition. “Hate the sin, not the sinner” puts the focus both on the sin and hate (as the subject which is acted upon and the action verb) and a passing reference to the sinner without any clear direction of the action toward that subject—are we to ignore the sinner?, outcast the sinner?, somewhat kinda tolerate the sinner?, try to “reform” the sinner?, love the sinner?

No, instead, we should love each other. We’re all sinners, so there’s no need to even say that we should love the sinner. We can equally say “love everyone”, “love people”, “love all humans”. God is love and the font of mercy. If we start with love, we can act with mercy to those we interact with that we don’t agree with, don’t understand, or seem “different”, in some way in far greater and more beautiful ways than if we begin with hating the sin.

I have no interest in rehashing sexual theology today. This is more primal than that. We are all different than each other in some way and, in the end, I trust that the vast, vast majority of humanity are good people trying to do their best in the world as they understand it and to each other.

Too often, religious folks understand this to be combative. “My way is right, thus your way is wrong, and that’s the end of it. You’re weird and you’re different and that ain’t right.”

No, we need to stay focused on love and mercy. “Your way is different? Alright, well, I might not understand it or I might not agree with it, but I still love you. We can find common ground, we can be friends.” We’re all different in some way. For my Catholics, none of us could possibly fully live up to the Christian ideal and we all need love, mercy, and forgiveness ourselves constantly. Who are we to withhold that same love and mercy that we profess and need ourselves?

We don’t need to become the same. We don’t need everyone to agree with us in order to act out of a position of love. In fact, our faith demands that that we love unconditionally. We fail to do that far, far too often.

Back to the point, when I say I’m praying for everyone in Orlando, I’m not trying to make myself feel better for a few minutes or offloading the work to a deity that isn’t known for making grand obvious gestures. I am processing it, seeking inspiration on what I can do to make a difference, and offering to them my respect.

Categories
Austin Current Events

Visualized: How the insane amount of rain in Texas could turn Rhode Island into a lake

water-2What 8 million acre-feet of water actually looks like.

Source: Visualized: How the insane amount of rain in Texas could turn Rhode Island into a lake

The Washington Post has become my favorite dead pulp media outlet. Almost daily, there is a story or two I want to share here.

In today’s round, 8 million acre-feet of water has gone into Texas lakes with the rains. What does that mean? Acre-feet is an odd term by itself: the amount of water needed to fill one acre of area one-foot deep. One acre-foot equals 1,233 cubic meters, the non-US standard.

But, what that actually mean? WaPo helps us to wrap our minds around it.

Categories
Austin Current Events Emergency Operations

SXSW crash: One Tragic Night. One Year Later.

For many of those who were on or near Red River Street when Rashad Owens plowed into a late-night crowd of music fans, their recollections today are as sensory as they are mental, reminders of an event still felt as much as remembered.

Source: SXSW crash: One Tragic Night. One Year Later.

A well-done feature from the Austin American-Statesman looking back at the horrific crash at SXSW when a driver being pursued by police drove through a barricade down a crowded pedestrian way.

Categories
Church College Current Events

Father Hesburgh

Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., was president of the University of Notre Dame from 1952 to 1987. He increased the stature and size of the university, and greatly influenced the areas of civil rights and higher education in the United States.

Source: University of Notre Dame

Fr. Hesburgh passed away last night at 97. While plenty think he derailed Catholic Higher Education, Notre Dame is a shining example of an university dedicated to the whole person absolutely rooted with Christ at the core.

They way Notre Dame navigates remaining a national university while maintaining Catholic identity is unmatched and that’s largely due to the way Hesburgh navigated the early waters during our—both American and Catholic —social chaos of the 1960s.

Visit ND’s Memorial Site.

Update: Another nice memorial from ND Observer (student paper).

Categories
Austin Current Events Offsite Pieces

Congrats Bishop-Elect Danny Garcia! – Austin CNM

Fr. Danny Garcia, the vicar general of the Diocese of Austin and the former longtime pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in north Austin has been named by Pope Francis as the first auxiliary bishop of Austin!

Source: Congrats Bishop-Elect Danny Garcia! – Austin CNM