Trump as Christian

Dear Group,

A few days ago I called up my conservative friend and former neighbor for another chat. After we caught up on family news we circled around to politics. She offered that she and her daughter resolved to take “a vacation” from politics for the month of December, a vacation they found so calming they extended it through January. She volunteered she still listened occasionally to TV news. I knew from previous conversations that her channel of choice was Fox. 

With an even voice I inquired, “Do you still think President Trump is doing a good job?” 

“Oh, yes!” she replied enthusiastically.

“Can you give me examples of where you think he is doing good things?”

“Well,…the economy is great! Unemployment is really low. Even minorities have jobs! And President Trump is a good Christian. He hasn’t always been, but he has the approval of Christian leaders like, Billy…no, Billy died…Franklin, Franklin Graham and other Christian leaders. President Trump is a believer. And he moved the embassy to Jerusalem, something other Christian presidents have wanted to do, but President Trump really did it!

If any are wondering why this embassy move is so important to some people read CMR’s Worldview.

Please remember Christian thought is not now and never has been monolithic. Many from mainline denominations and some self-described evangelicals find Trump’s personal and presidential actions impossible to square with Christian faith. Thinking of all Christian church-goers as supporters of Trump and his actions is an intellectual trap to be avoided.

That said, there is a great desire among the most right wing of Christians to think of the Trump presidency as divinely inspired or divinely guided. For years conservative propagandists have been fostering a siege mentality among these people, beating the drum about gay marriage, the sins of the LGBTQ, the depravity and danger of bathroom laws, and the evils of abortion. Feeling deeply maligned, this group now has a savior who has shifted the makeup of the federal court system to come to their defense. Over the last eight years Mitch McConnell engineered vacancies in the Supreme Court (the Merrick Garland stiff-arm) and nearly a hundred vacancies in the lower courts, vacancies now mostly filled by Trump on Federalist Society recommendations. These are judges who will skew decisions in a conservative direction for decades. For many beleaguered right wing Christians this is proof enough of divine guidance of the Trump presidency.

My friend is among those who are sure Trump is truly Christian, a man who, like the Apostle Paul, has undergone Christian conversion from his former ways. After all, Trump chose Mike Pence as his running mate, a politician with impeccable credentials among right wing Christians. Trump burnishes his image with such believers at the National Prayer Breakfast, a venue once considered bi-partisan, but now infused with political rhetoric. One can think what one wishes about Trump’s sincerity in this conversion, but photos of Trump in prayer with evangelical leaders is proof enough for some.

It does not end there: Far right Christian conviction that the Trump presidency is divinely guided is promoted in a movie. The Trump Prophecy played briefly in major theater chains in October 2018, mostly in central and southern states. You can watch it here or buy a  DVD this March (websites recommended for perusal, not purchase). The Trump Prophecy was produced at Liberty University where the producer took advantage of student labor, The Trump Prophecy tells the story of a firefighter who received a message from God in 2011 predicting the Trump presidency. This strikes me as bald political propaganda, but it feeds a voracious appetite for confirmation among believers like my friend. (If you are not familiar with Liberty University, founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell in 1971, it is high time you become acquainted. It is a growing political and cultural player, developed expressly as a Christian fundamentalist contrast to “liberal” education.)

For those of a fundamentalist stripe who doubt Trump’s piety, there is a convenient alternative: Trump as a divinely guided tool, Tump as King Cyrus of Persia, the king who freed the Jews from Babylon. King Cyrus is”...the model for a nonbeliever appointed by God as a vessel for the purposes of the faithful.” (Isaiah 45) (The quote is from a NYTimes article well worth reading.)

Surely not every fundamentalist Christian consciously subscribes to one of these Trump justifications to explain their conviction that Trump is wittingly or unwittingly the answer to their prayers, but for many on the right Trump’s sincerity or lack of sincerity as a Christian is irrelevant. 

I urge you to engage in listening to Christian friends and acquaintances. Draw them out. Don’t argue, just listen. Once you find someone like my friend there is no point in argument. You will not change minds such as these. They are hermetically sealed. Like McMorris Rodgers, such minds find Trimp’s “positive disruption” as instrumental in furthering the aims of fundamentalist Christian. Instead, listen, learn, and engage with minds that are not yet closed. Offer the contrasting statement of your own values. (See George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant.) 

Keep to the high ground,


Tyndall, Trace Gas, and the Merchants of Doubt

Dear Group,

Science-based understanding of our world is based on reproducibility. A finding or conclusion is tested and tested again by both the original scientist and others in the same and related fields by repetition and exploration of other lines of evidence. (That is the primary difference between science and religion. Science is verifiable by repeated experiment.) When a commentator makes a statement of doubt that contests a fundamental fact of physics it is a sure sign we have entered a parallel universe. Such is the “trace gas” argument.

The argument goes: Carbon dioxide is a trace gas. Because it is a trace gas, comprising only 400 parts per million (PPM) of the atmosphere (0.04%), it cannot possibly be a major player in global warming. 

Sue Lani Madsen, a conservative guest columnist for the Spokesman Review, illustrates the “trace gas”  argument in her own Spokesman report of an NPR “On Point” Panel in which she participated on September 22, 2017. The topic was wildfires, but her fundamental denial of global warming became a glaring issue. In Ms. Madsen’s Spokesman report describing the event she wrote, “Carbon dioxide is 0.039 percent of Earth’s atmosphere, a trace gas from mostly natural sources.” A likely source of her denialist argument is the “Galileo Movement” in Australia (Galileo would be appalled). Visiting their website is eerily reminiscent of visiting the website of the Flat Earth Society. You can read a little about the Galileo Movement’s arguments and a point by point refutation in an article from Scientific American from August 16, 2011 entitled “Why Carbon Dioxide Is a Greenhouse Gas.” 

I was so riled by Ms. Madsen’s denial of basic physical fact I went looking for the original physics research. I found it in the story of the life and work of a British scientist named John Tyndall (1820-1893). Tyndall was a man from a time when men and women (See Eunice Newton Foote in wikipedia) of moderate wealth could advance basic science in home laboratories, a time when scientific discovery was the stuff of popular culture. 

The detailing of carbon dioxide as a major greenhouse gas (even when present in “trace” quantities) was simple in concept but challenging in execution. John Tyndall developed an apparatus consisting of a source of heat energy of known intensity, a tube to contain whatever gas or gas mixture Tyndall wished to study, and a device to measure the energy that passed through the gas without being absorbed. Tyndall published his experiments and results in a paper with the distinctly un-sexy name, “On the Absorption and Radiation of Heat by Gases and Vapours, and on the Physical Connexion of Radiation, Absorption, and Conduction.” You can read the actual paper here.  (See P.P.S below.) A great summary article on Tyndall’s painstaking work, courtesy of the BBC (on the occasion of the publication’s 150th anniversary) can be read here [highly recommended]. Carbon dioxide was only one of many gases Tyndall studied with his apparatus. This is physics. The results are reproducible, totally independent of denialist claims. 

I “know” Tyndall’s results are true not just because I trust the story of Tyndall’s life and work, but because I trust scientists who tried to prove Tyndall wrong…and instead got the same results. (That does not keep modern day denialists from offering nonsensical polemic to cast doubt.)

Had I been brought up to believe that truth emanates only from one holy book, had I not spent much of my youth reading stories of the lives and discoveries of great scientists, I suppose I might consider a 19th century researcher untrustworthy, his experiments somehow motivated by a political or pecuniary agenda and therefor suspect, his results inconsistent with my worldview.

We learn from stories. We “know” what we know because we trust the people who tell those stories. In the case of scientific knowledge we trust not just the people, like Tyndall, who did the foundational physics experiments of atmospheric gases, we trust him because countless others since Tyndall have reproduced and refined his work. 

Whenever the “trace gas” argument surfaces it is a marker for ignorance of physical fact.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Those who popularize anti-science narratives may be sincere, smug, and confident, motivated and bolstered by the accolades received from their tribe and followers. Projecting nefarious motivations (“Climate Change is a Chinese hoax.”) or delusional thinking on scientists and verified scientific fact is for these folks a satisfying enterprise…and so much easier than actually engaging in scientific endeavor.

P.P.S  Scientific papers of Tyndall’s time were presented as narrative stories of the experiments performed. Reading Tyndall’s paper reminds me of the stories that introduced me to the scientific method in my youth. Comparing Tyndall’s paper to modern, dry scientific papers reminds me of the power of narrative to engage the reader. Visit the actual paper here


Who is Speaking, Physician or Drug Company?

Dear Group,

Yesterday I posed this question:

Question: A paid opinion piece appeared in the Spokesman with McMorris Rodger’s name on it some time in the month of January, likely two to three weeks ago. The substance was a critique of a recently offered bill in the U.S. House that would regulate pharmaceutical pricing. The author insisted the bill was needless meddling in the operations of the free market. Can anyone put their finger on that piece and send me a link? 

Just one reader, Jim Wavada, emailed me with the ad that appears above. That tells me that most readers did not notice it or find it memorable (a good thing in my estimation). By word of mouth I had the impression the ad was BY McMorris Rodgers, not a plea to call her about an issue, So much for the accuracy of verbal impressions. This is an ad from a special interest group paying good money to raise fear and worry among Seniors over an unspecified “Risky HHS Medicare Plan.” 

So what is interesting about this ad? The “Alliance for Patient Access” claims it is “a national network of physicians dedicated to ensuring patient access to approved therapies and appropriate clinical care.” However, at the very bottom of the “About” page in fine print is this: Financial support of AfPA and IfPA is acknowledged here, Click that link and one finds an impressive list of pharmaceutical companies, the real money behind what is clearly a political/lobbying endeavor on behalf of drug companies, NOT independent physicians advocating for the benefit of patients. 

The Alliance for Patient Access Home Page shows twenty-six for official looking logos of organizations I, as a physician, have never heard of. The impression is one of physicians working together in a valiant effort to make sure the government doesn’t tamper with patients’ access to innovative medications. Only in the fine print do you find the logos represent “web pages.”

This ad, appearing in our local newspaper, likely cost something in the ballpark of $1500 to place. Even multiplied by tens or hundreds of other newspapers that money is still a pittance for drug companies to stir up angst among elderly readers and encourage them to call their Congresspeople. The Alliance for Patient Access is a cleverly disguised effort to push back against early efforts to rein in drug prices by promoting fear in the electorate.

In my estimation the Alliance for Patient Access fits right in with dark money non-profits like the Washington Policy Center and American Legislative Exchange Council, thinly disguised efforts to promote Republican/Libertarian policies.

Ads like these attempt to shape public opinion to suit the agenda of special interests. It behooves us to pay attention to the financial backing. They don’t make it easy.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Other readers pointed me to “Liberals dare Trump to back their bills lowering drug prices“, an interesting article I had also missed. Thank you to those who brought my attention to it.

Trust and Knowledge

Dear Group,

How do we know what we know? Most of us would say we “know” the world is round as scientific truth. Almost none of us have done scientific experiments to prove the earth is a sphere. We “know” the earth is spherical because we trust those who suspected the earth was round, assembled observations and did investigations like Eratosthene’s experiment and calculation of the earth’s circumference in the 3rd century BC. Eratosthenes was certainly part of the Greek elite of the time. In light of current events one wonders if his motivation for doing his famous experiment was questioned in an effort to undermine his work. (According to the wikipedia article Eratosthenes did have critics.)  The concept of a spherical earth was accepted gradually by humankind over millennia. Today the vast majority of us trust the honesty, the motivation, and the reporting accuracy of those who developed the concept of a spherical earth. Our modern way of thinking about time zones, NASA photos from space, and the movement of the sun are all based on trust in the people who developed the theory. 

Most of what we “know” is based on trusting other people. That is who we are as a species. If we are taught or come to doubt the motivation of a group of people or institutions, that is, if we lose trust, nowadays there are slickly presented alternatives only a few keystrokes away. For example, check out this page from the Flat Earth Society website, an interview (and transcript) with one Mr. Sargent. His “favorite proof” of a flat earth includes a dismissal of NASA photos, implying NASA is part of conspiracy to make us believe the earth is round.

A high school classmate of mine became a fundamentalist Christian preacher. His wife (possibly even more fundamentalist than he) insisted to me in the course of a discussion, “Wikipedia isn’t a reliable source.” She was unwilling to consider with me the references present at the end of any good Wikipedia article, so she was effectively saying, “It is all suspect, all unreliable.” Her only trust is in the Holy Bible or, better said, the interpretations thereof made by people she trusts.

Spend a few minutes with a search “How old is the earth?” on Google or You’ll quickly discover online groups not only offering slick presentations attempting to refute the overwhelming scientific consensus of around 4.5 billion years, but even groups actively debating whether the earth was created 6,238 or 6,106 years ago (or some other similar number). All this is presented in glossy format and at minor expense. Add a whiff of conspiracy theory to taint the trustworthiness of centuries of scientific endeavor and you are on the way to unmooring a susceptible person’s thinking, to separate off a group smugly dedicated to a completely different worldview. 

Of course Trump is the conspiracy theorist in chief, so much so that his bid for the presidency was founded on his promotion of birtherism, the idea that Barack Obama was ineligible to be president based the location of his birth. Almost daily he promotes “deep state” conspiracy to instill distrust in any institution that opposes him. 

Promoting distrust by pushing conspiracy theories is not just a Washington, D.C. phenomenon, it is endemic to eastern Washington politics as well.

Matt Shea (R-WA Legislative District 4, City of Spokane Valley plus) is a flagrant promoter of conspiracy theories, even serving as a speaker at The Red Pill Expo (See Matt Shea and the Red Pill). He uses conspiracy theory to break trust, to separate, to insulate from reality his followers fearful of “gun grabbers” and dedicated to hyper-“Christian” State of Liberty cult. 

McMorris Rodgers and Sue Lani Madsen (conservative guest columnist for the Spokesman), both insert references to George Soros in speech and writing, a way to discredit and promote distrust in Democrats and liberal causes by posing Soros as the evil puppet master of whose manipulation his subjects are unaware. Notably and ironically, McMorris Rodgers, sometimes in the same discourse, will claim she wants to “restore trust in government,” I guess she means government by her Republican Party…

The promotion of dismissal and distrust, distrust in government, higher education, the media, and the legal system is a political tool honed by Gingrich, Limbaugh, Prager, and a host of other right wing personalities over several decades. Trump by his very nature, has taken this tactic completely over the top in his pursuit of power. By so doing he has highlighted the danger and depravity of the tactic itself. 

When allegiance requires acceptance of “alternative facts,” the belief in which is dependent on distrusting reality, we’re in trouble, we’re drifting into cult territory.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. The study of how we know what we know is epistemology, a branch of philosophy. The word is not new to me but I understand it’s application far better after listening to a podcast interview from Chris Hayes’ “Why is This Happening, entitled “The Information Crisis with David Roberts,” It is well worth the time spent to listen to the podcast. There is also a transcript. This podcast helped congeal many of the ideas expressed above.

Shared Reality

Dear Group,

I offer a snippet from Doug Muder’s Weekly Sift from last Monday, December 10, entitled “Making Truth Matter” For those of you who have not yet signed up for Mr. Muder’s Weekly Sift, I encourage you to do so in the left hand column of the article linked above. I guarantee more thought and reason in one of his his posts than you will find in 99% of the emails you receive, that is, if your emails are anything like mine.

The next four paragraphs from Muder’s December 10 post express my primary fear over where Trump and the Republicans are taking us. Increasingly, I am convinced our attitudes and values are shaped by what we share, read, and watch, material we mostly passively absorb from TV, radio, magazines, newspaper and people with whom we interact each day. Insofar as 1/3 of the American populace lives in a non-self-critical, non-self-checking media bubble, we are headed for trouble.

“This week’s featured post is “Why All the Bush Nostalgia?” In the end, I [Muder] find that what I’m nostalgic for is a shared reality that is accepted by both major parties and forms the playing field for our political contests. Now 1/3 of the country lives in its own reality and is virtually unreachable.

“The David Roberts interview…plays a key role in that post. [click here for the full transcript of the interview of David Roberts by Chris Hayes] Near the end of that conversation, Chris Hayes sums up: The problem isn’t with conservatives as individuals — Roberts has just said that they’re not dumb — but with the social processes of the conservative community.

Remember: Everyone’s got confirmation bias. Everyone does motivated reasoning. We’re all doing that. But in the divorce, one side got the actual institutions that do a pretty good job of producing knowledge, and the other side didn’t get any of it. That’s the key here. … The institutional universe of developed rigorous processes of attempting to get at the truth, the entirety of that, more or less, ended on the left side in the epistemic divorce.

“By “institutional universe” he means the scientific community, academia, and mainstream journalism.

As I read the above extended quote I kept hearing a characterization of universities by a Bonner County Commissioner as “liberal playgrounds”. That man, Glen Bailey, lost his seat to a further far right wing ideologue, a “cowboy pastor” and Redoubter in the Idaho primary election last May.

Keep to the high ground,

CMR and George Soros

Dear Group,

There is a odd exchange in the debate at the Bing on September 19. You can watch it courtesy of KHQ, starting around 21:00 on the youtube post.

CMR: “The only dark money in this campaign right now is coming from…[turning to Lisa] some group in New York, I don’t know if you’re fa-familiar with who they are, uh…”

Lisa [helpfully]: “The Congressional Leadership Fund?” 

CMR: No! Um. They are, it is, some group in New York…they…they’re an outside group…I’m not sure who they’re funded by…[CMR points her hand toward Lisa] maybe George Soros! [Laughter, then some clapping]

Watch it again. You can almost see the wheels turning in McMorris Rodgers’ head. “Here’s my chance to insert George Soros!” 

Did you notice the trigger words, “George Soros,” when you first watched the debate? Did you wonder, “Why did she say that?”

If the name “George Soros” didn’t light up any image in your brain you live in a comfortable liberal news silo. Over the last twenty years in the fever swamps of Republican/Libertarian media Mr. Soros has been painted as the puppet master of liberals, the dark force that has deluded Democrats into thinking the way they do, the man fronting the money individually paying the busloads of protesters who came out for the Women’s March, for one small example. For people living in the right wing news silo the name “George Soros” lights up the image of a dark lord with a foreign accent manipulating gullible liberals. His name is shorthand for a vast liberal conspiracy bent on undermining American values.

This line of wing nut conspiracy theory is so well developed in the fever swamps of the right that Soros was invoked as hanging out with Dr. Blasey Ford in an eagerly shared photo on Twitter meant to assail Dr. Ford’s credibility. Never mind the woman in the photo looked nothing like Dr. Ford.

McMorris Rodgers coils in her news silo, coached by her handlers, and hurls her fireball, “…funded by…maybe George Soros!” she inserts, confident she has lit up the mind frame in her fully primed base. The name drifts by most people, who, if they hear it at all, wonder, “Who is this George Soros, anyway?” Could McMorris Rodgers explain in any detail the actual story of the man George Soros? You’d have to ask her. I suspect for her George Soros is nothing more than a coached soundbite.

George Soros is an 87 year old U.S. citizen, a Jewish immigrant from Hungary. He speaks with an accent. His Jewish immigrant background and accent, of course, make him an easy target for the xenophobic, anti-immigrant right. When Nazi Germany invaded Hungary in 1944, George was 13 years old. He survived the war masquerading as the Christian godson of an agricultural official, escaping the fate of nearly a half million of his Jewish countrymen killed in the Holocaust, The war left him with an indelible bias in favor of liberal democracy and a fierce critic of totalitarianism, fascism, and Marxism. Soros is wealthy, having succeeded as a hedge fund investor. He is the founder and major benefactor of the Open Society Foundations, groups with a presence in 37 countries that aim to support civil society. Of course, his internationalist, humanitarian globalist perspective has made Soros a target from the right.

Let’s define “liberal democracy,” since the Libertarian right’s propaganda wing is so good at twisting language. For George Soros (and for me) a liberal democracy is “characterized by fair, free, and competitive elections between multiple distinct political parties, a separation of powers into different branches of government, the rule of law in everyday life as part of an open society, and the equal protection of human rights, civil rights, civil liberties, and political freedoms for all persons.” None of this is possible without a free press. Donald Trump’s attacks on reporters and the Republican Party’s scorched earth assault to take over the Supreme Court should be setting off alarm bells…

Side note: It is ironic the Soros Foundation provided the funding for Viktor Orban, the nationalist, anti-immigrant prime minister of present day Hungary, to study at Oxford. Orban, one of few European leaders who is an open ally of Trump, has made Soros unwelcome in the country of his birth. “Orban accused Soros, who is an American citizen, of plotting to overwhelm Hungary with Muslim immigrants in order to undermine its Christian heritage. He attacked Soros during campaign rallies, and his government plastered the country with anti-Soros billboards.” 

I recommend two articles on Soros: “George Soros is a favorite target of the right — here’s how that happened” from the Business Insider and a more recent, and much longer and more comprehensive article in the New York Times entitled, “George Soros Bet Big on Liberal Democracy. Now He Fears He Is Losing.” The wikipedia entry on Mr. Soros is also useful (especially if you hit a pay wall at the other two).

At 87, George Soros’ story is complex, but he is nothing if not a stalwart promoter of the sort of democracy we are fast losing. Does McMorris Rodgers have the bandwidth to understand something of the man, his background, his viewpoints, his philanthropy or is she only capable of absorbing the caricature of him assembled in the Libertarian news silo? You would have to ask her. I hope someone will.

Keep to the high ground,



The Parallel Universe/No-Go

First, KHQ shows its colors. The first hour of Wednesday’s Lisa Brown v. McMorris Rodgers debate aired live on KHQ, Channel 6. Lisa Brown made the last statement, the debate closed with music, and as the music ended a particularly nasty and inaccurate McMorris Rodgers approved attack ad started up accusing Lisa Brown of being responsible for raising tuition at WSU by 80%. I was at the Bing, but I have listened to the audio. KHQ pretended to a non-partisan presentation. The ad placement, to say nothing of the ad’s content, makes a mockery of impartiality. I urge anyone who saw this attack ad placement to call KHQ to object and to submit a letter to the editor of the Spokesman.

Dear Group,

Last weekend I attended my high school reunion in Wisconsin. Several old friends whispered to me that we were in the most Republican county in the nation. Even so, it was not hard to find former classmates experiencing the same sense of dismay as I am feeling. So much for pervasive redness. 

All conversations were warm and cordial: kids, grandkids, retirement, what keeps one busy, the flood of fragmentary memories of place and people, the classmates who had died, the sense of mortality, of time moving on.

One classmate asked, “Are you still traveling a lot?” We talked a little of Europe and South America, and then he asked, “Isn’t it kind of scary, though, with those ‘no-go zones’?”

If you not have heard of no-go zones, take a moment and google the term. According to this image, there are pockets of population, usually inhabited by immigrants, often Muslims, into which the police have simply given up trying to maintain order. Such areas are often characterized as given over to sharia law. The overall painted image is one of a spreading cancer across the map of Europe (or Michigan or …), a cancer eating away at white christian society. It is an image cut of the same cloth as Trump’s memory of seeing Muslims celebrating on rooftops in New Jersey as they watched the twin towers collapse–a complete fiction. For the Fox news listener or frequent visitor to the right wing internet, “no-go zone” is a trigger term, easily conjuring a frightening image of any unfamiliar place. 

When I heard my classmate’s honest question I knew where I was about to tread. Anyone seriously asking such a question is not going to respond well to a direct challenge of his fact base. I spent a minute describing the ground I have covered in my travels, the foreign-ness of it.. I simply stated that in my experience no-go zones do not exist, that, in fact, I doubt their existence. I said I was suspicious that the concept of no-go zones was far overblown and may have been hatched for political ends. He seemed mildly surprised…and interested. 

The idea of scary “no-go zones” was injected into the public consciousness in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris in January 2015. Fox News first talked up the term, which even CNN picked it up briefly. The mayor of Paris threatened to sue Fox News over their inaccurate portrayal. The threatened suit was a blip in the media, mostly unnoticed. Listeners to mainstream media have rarely heard the term “no-go zone” since the Hebdo shooting. Not so on the right. The opportunity to paint Europe as suffering a slow motion takeover by Muslim immigrants was just too useful to let die. Once introduced by Fox News, right wing commentators like Rush Limbaugh picked up the meme, nurtured it, circulated it. Taking advantage of most Americans limited foreign travel experience it was easy to play up the threat, magnify the fear of “the other.” 

Like “moving the embassy to Jerusalem,” the term “no-go zone” is now code for listeners in the parallel media ecosystem. “No go” is shorthand for “be frightened, be worried” about the other come to take over our country. We listeners to NPR would do well to pay attention to the words and the associated image.

The right wing propaganda machine was painstakingly grown but not quite mature when Trump was elected. Fox News (launched in 1996) is the first example that comes to mind, but Fox is now only a small part of a whole ecosystem that includes Breitbart, the Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller, The Washington Free Beacon, and a broad network of well funded conservative talk radio and many (nominally) “Christian” radio outlets. This media ecosystem provided the platform Trump used to become President. The media ecosystem may not have been fully ripe when Trump and Bannon commandeered it. Many of us were reading National Geographic, watching PBS, and reading the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and almost willfully unaware of the growth of the right wing propaganda machine, vaguely hoping it contained only a few people on a lunatic fringe. Only when Trump threatened reporters, declared “fake news,” and welcomed sketchy media outlets to take part in White House press conferences did alarms began to ring. 

Now we find ourselves having conversations with former classmates who mention phrases like “moving the embassy to Jerusalem” and “no-go zones” that light up mental images for them, images of which we are mostly ignorant, not having been sufficiently primed. It behooves us to pay attention, to ask for definitions and expansions, and to declare it when our experience and values contradict the ideas presented…face-to-face, time and time again. We are losing our common language. We need to understand not just the words but the images that light up in the minds of the folks with whom we converse.

Knock on doors this weekend and have conversations. This November is our best chance to start on a path to understanding each other again.

Keep to the high ground,