Silence

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018iceland

One of the things I’ve wanted to incorporate into this latest iteration of WWJD is to use it as a forum for some of my non-blog writing. Some of it may be experimental, a work in progress, or just plain unfinished. Some of it may end up in a book I’m working on. Or it may not. I hope you’ll enjoy it in the spirit it’s offered.

– Jack

For most humans, every moment of existence means being surrounded by noise of some sort. Life can be a symphony, a constant performance of sound and commotion unique to each of us. Even in what feel like quiet moments, a low-grade clamor inhabits the background. This is especially true if you live in a populated area. It reminds us that we exist on a living, breathing planet. Everything is agitating to make their presence known. Little in this world is or remains still or silent…certainly not for long.

From a crowded city to a deserted forest, one can isolate sounds, natural or man-made. Some sort of tumult will invariably make itself heard, reminding us we’re not alone.
Bustle and turbulence are characteristic of our day to day existence. It’s the norm, so accustomed are we to the soundtrack of life that we rarely think about it. I know I rarely did. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I’d never known true tranquility and stillness until I was in Iceland with my wife on our honeymoon.
It was our first full day in Reykjavik. We decided to drive out into the countryside to see what we could see. About an hour into our trip, I spied a gathering of somnolent sheep in a field and decided to stop for a photo. I turned off the engine and stepped out of the car…into something I immediately knew I’d never experienced before.

It was silence- total, absolute, and all-encompassing. Not just the lack of any sort of background noise. It was the complete absence of any sort of auditory input. Total peace, stillness, calmness. It was as if I’d been enveloped by absolute nothingness. It pressed against my body, seeping into every pore like shrink wrap. In that moment, I was completely at peace. I felt light, content, and at ease in a way I instinctively knew I’d never experienced before.

Without the background noise that’s the normal soundtrack of my life, I felt disoriented but not distressed. I existed in a vacuum. It was a place in which absolute silence felt almost tangible, as if I could wave my arms and cut through it.

My footsteps generated a muffled report, as if I’d found myself in the midst of a heavy, windless snowfall. I was fascinated to experience something so new and unexpected in a place so unfamiliar.
After a few minutes, my wife rolled her window down and asked me what was taking so long.

Oh, right…sheep…I said I wanted a picture of the sheep….

When I returned to the car, I struggled to explain what had just happened. Less than 24 hours removed from the familiar hum of life in Portland, I’d found something unexpected. I felt changed by it. I knew what it meant to experience, to FEEL silence and the stillness and peace that went with it.

Clint Eastwood: “DAMNED KIDS!! GET OFF MY LAWN!!!”

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Clint Eastwood is calling out the “pussy generation” for being too politically correct, and says anyone offended by Donald Trump’s history of racist remarks should “just fucking get over it.” In an interview with Esquire magazine, the Academy Award winner said Trump was “onto something” because “he’s just saying what’s on his mind.”…. “And sometimes it’s not so good,” Eastwood said. “And sometimes it’s … I mean, I can understand where he’s coming from, but I don’t always agree with it.”

It’s generally been true that Americans- particularly White males- become more Conservative and less tolerant as they get older. Few have taken this as far as Clint Eastwood (though Pat Boone is following in his footsteps).

What seems to escape Eastwood (and rest of the “GET OFF MY LAWN!!” demographic) is that the world isn’t set up by those seeking their approval. What he derides as the “political correctness” of the “pussy generation” is more than anything about respect. It’s about recognizing words have meaning and that how they’re employed matters. Steeped as he is in a world where White privilege is accepted as the norm, he seems unable to understand that not every American has the benefit of being born White, Conservative, and Christian. Though he may believe America (and the world) belongs to Those Who Look Like Us ©, no one “owns” America. It belongs to all of us, which means that Clint Eastwood is no more or less important than any other citizen.

Perhaps he should go back to talking to empty chairs. At least then everyone recognized him as the crabby, crotchety old man he is.

The GOP: now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the American Taliban- EXACTLY what Jesus would do, eh?

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The party is unable to shift their stance on social issues without alienating a significant section of their base, and this directly prohibits them from evolving…. Meanwhile, the United States is collectively evolving on social issues…. [P]ublic opinion on gay marriage has shifted dramatically in recent years. In 2008, only 39% of Americans supported gay marriage and that increased to 48% in 2012 and 55% in 2016. There’s clearly a trend occurring here. And, as data from Gallup shows, in 2015 50% of Americans identified as pro-choice, while only 44% identified as pro-life. This is the first time since 2008 that the pro-choice side has had a significant lead. Social issues do not hold as much sway as national security, the economy or health care, but they definitely have an impact—especially with younger voters. And as the Republican base has fractured and embraced the evangelical wing of their party, they have become representative of Evangelical views, which has handicapped the party from evolving on issues like gay marriage and abortion.

Watch Republicans today- including Donald Trump- and what you’ll see is a party becoming ever more beholden to a narrow ideology increasingly out of step with mainstream America. It’s easy to focus on the 800-lb. gorilla in the room (Donald Trump) and presume him to be the party’s big problem. In fact, the GOP’s travails predate- and go much deeper than- Trump. Yes, The Donald © sucks the air out of any room- or media outlet- he occupies, but the seeds of the problems facing Republicans were sown in the early ’80s. That was when Ronald Reagan and the then-Republican leadership sold their souls to Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority.

Thus was born the American Taliban.

Narrow-minded, intolerant culture warriors intent on attaining political power as a mean to implement their agenda, the American Taliban represents a deal with the Devil for the GOP. The Party needs the votes of religious Conservatives, but they’ve sold their souls and found themselves being dragged farther to the Right.

According to data from the Pew Research Center, the portion of white Evangelicals who identify as Republican has increased by 5% between the last two presidential elections (65% in 2008, 70% in 2012.) That’s a significant number. And during this time, white Evangelical support for Democrats fell from 28% to 24% resulting in the GOP creating a 46-point advantage within this powerful electorate. According to the same 2012 data, 80% of Mormons identified as Republican, up from 68% in 2008. And across the religious expanse, the GOP holds a significant advantage with all groups except Jews.

If you’re wondering how this dovetails with the separation of Church and State, welcome to the club. Truth is, the American Taliban and most of the GOP believe their God should be our government. The problem for them is that the wider (and moderate) electorate disagrees.

Unless Republicans wake up and smell the cat litter, they could be facing a painful march to obscurity- old men yelling at clouds, as it were.

By all accounts the Republican party is backing the wrong horse. Certain members are refusing to recognize the trend lines of our country and by doing so they’re tap-dancing into obscurity. By creating platforms and electing candidates that appeal to the Evangelical base, the party is mortgaging the future for the present. And they may still lose the present.

And the 800-lb. gorilla in the room is merely part of the GOP’s conundrum.

Trump is a problem because he’s a divisive, boorish, crude, small, dangerous, vile, anti-intellectual—but he’s really more of a micro problem. If he’s crushed by Hillary, the GOP should still be able to shuffle away and rebuild. However, social stagnancy is a macro problem—it’s embedded. For the GOP, the act of distancing themselves from their Evangelical base to widen the party’s overall appeal will be incredibly difficult.

The GOP has problems far beyond their orange torchbearer.

Not that party leadership is doing anything about it, of course. The prevailing theory seems to be that if they ignore it, the problem will disappear on its own.

Good luck with that, eh?