One of my favorite love stories, the BBC adaptation of a Victorian era novel, North & South, features two very strong and compelling characters.
The first, Margaret Hale, the cherub-faced daughter of an English clergyman, is forced to move to the industrial North after her father’s resignation over a matter of conscience. The other is John Thornton, a mill-owner, a handsome man with piercing eyes, brooding and intense, and interest in the demure young woman.
Things started fairly well. But, that doesn’t last as the differences in their perspectives becomes clear. Margaret, compassionate and having lived a sheltered life, interprets the actions of John in a negative light and pulls away after witnessing his harshness towards an employee caught smoking. What she sees as just cruelty was actually Thornton’s concern for the safety and wellness of his workers given the extreme risk of fire.
It is in the last and final act where there’s a scene where the tension between the two finally disappears. Throughout the middle-act Thornton’s truly good character is slowly revealed. And, Margaret, having returned South, has reconsidered her own idealistic notions, now sees the merits to living in Milton, and decided to return North again. Meanwhile, John is going South, the two cross paths at a station near the midpoint and cue the music.
There is this wonderful part of the soundtrack in this climatic station scene, Northbound Train (listen here), that so perfectly accompanied the moment. It is understated and elegant, reflective, that builds in waves to crescendo and then slips away as wistfully as it came. Thornton’s steadfast devotion is finally rewarded with a kiss and happily ever after begins despite the painful struggle to get there.
When the Story Goes South…
During my pursuit of the impossibly (a preacher’s daughter, like Margaret) this story brought a little hope with the similarities to my own. It wasn’t that we were so terribly different in our desires as it was she never heard me. Her conclusions formed before the conversation even began. She had pronounced “you’re thirty years old living in Milton” (the actual name of the town) meaning, in translation, that I would hinder her big plans. And could not understand it was her boldness and ability to get out that attracted me.
My thesis then was that a composite of our unique strengths, seemingly incompatible, bound together by Christian love, would exceed what those of similar abilities could accomplish. My thinking outside the box combined with her represention of the Mennonite standard. And, while I’m never good at getting things started (hence being stuck in Milton) I’m extremely loyal and willing to sacrifice for the team. I knew my age and life experience was an asset. But she could not see my value.
Still, for the year or so following her initial rejection I believed. What a wonderful story we would have when all was said and done, right?
Anyhow, that music, Northbound Train, had seemed like the perfect bridal march. Partly in innocent faith, partly to bolster my failing confidence against the deluge of rational fears, this image of the impossibly walking the church aisle dressed in white. As would be the case in real life, tears would stream down my cheeks as the nightmare of the past decade was replaced by this wonderful dream of marital companionship and completeness.
The strong emotions that came with that gentle harp being replaced with one violin and then two, have now disappeared. The music is still beautiful, but my feelings of numbness have long replaced that panging desire for a well-defined conclusion to over a decade of struggle. What I got instead was a world more complex. The cynicism that I had fought tooth and nail was confirmed.
The sunshine through the clouds, endings sweet and perfect are not for everyone. And the reason we tell such lovely tales is probably because they’re so uncommon, the exception, and not the rule. Sure, we can see ourselves as the characters. But the impossibly will likely go on seeing me as the villain in her movie, her conventional guy as the hero, and has never once shared in my fairytale that love would prevail over our differences.
As Far As the East is From the West
It is hard to believe that nearly another decade has passed and I’m still alone. I’ve moved from Milton, left the religion of my childhood behind, even traveled to the complete opposite side of the world twice, and have changed from that guy perpetually unsure of how to find direction. No, I’m not a missionary, but I do genuinely love people and probably accomplish more of actual value than those duty-bound Evangelical types who see ‘the lost’ as their get-into-heaven projects.
More importantly, I’ve found another impossibly, a beautiful Filipina flower, a little lost sheep when I found her (struggling abroad, in Taiwan, to support her son back home) and now the one who keeps me strong despite our torturous wait. Unlike the Mennonite impossibility, we do not share a cultural or ethnic identity, our lives have been very different, yet we have our simple and devoted love in common—which has been just enough to sustain us through these past years.
However, after all I’ve been through, holding on to hope is hard. Could my visions of her arrival at the airport, on American soil, with Y-dran in tow, also be a delusion?
It has been over two years and eight months since we’ve held each other that one last time before we parted ways in Taoyuan International Airport. I had known the immigration process would be difficult, but could not have anticipated the pandemic and travel bans that make it nearly impossible to be with Charlotte. It really does start to bring those worries that I might be cursed to the forefront again and sometimes the despair does win.
The eternal optimism of youth wiped away by the rejection of the Mennonite ideal, now facing my rational fears and the fact that I’ve been hoping longer than Jacob worked for Rachel and without so much as a Leah in between, I can now fully identify with the wife of Job, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.” The frustration is real. How long does one go on dreaming? When is it justified to wither away into bones, with life never to return again?
As far as the East is from the West is an expression, in Psalms 103:12, used to describe an impossible distance that cannot be bridged. And it could seem that, despite the abiding love of my bhest to encourage me onwards, I’ve jumped straight from the frying pan into the fire. We have had a bit of good news since I’ve last published a blog here, the USCIS approved the application, and yet will this impossibly ever become possible?
I see the successful couples. So lovely together. To them it feels preordained, meant to be, a dream come true. For me, on the outside looking in, there is now more uncertainty than certainty, not everyone gets that music at the end.
I’ve always been a sort of magical thinker, my hopes always far outpacing my realities, and to the point that sometimes when my dreams would finally come true the pleasure had already been exhausted.
I had so wanted a go cart growing up. On the school bus ride home my mind would start to wander into the fantasy realm. I would picture a shiny new go cart, like the ones in the catalog, waiting for me at the end of the driveway and would actually be disappointed when it did not end up being true when we would finally pull up to to my stop.
That’s not to say that I didn’t love the old go cart that my dad would finally weld up, using a rusted frame as a starting point, and an old lawnmower engine. Anything with four wheels, that ran on gasoline, that could be slid around corners, definitely scratched that itch. Still, my vivid world of make-believe did not always end with any fulfillment.
In my adulthood this tendency to be way out ahead of myself did not get any better. I’ve cried, on more than one occasion, thinking of my beautiful bride walking towards me up the aisle. And not in sadness either, it was in bliss having momentarily put myself in that wonderful place. Of course, given that I never even so much as went on one date with this young woman, I pretty much ruined that music.
The world between my ears can be a paradise. A place where there’s such thing as innocent love and anything is actually possible. I used this as an escape. My school years spent doodling and hoping for some kind of rescue from the mundanity of the classroom.
These visions were often grandiose. A child scaled B-17 would land in the school yard. I would run out to meet my faithful crew as the teacher and 5th grade class would watch in disbelief, stunned, as we revved the engines and were on our way to the nation (later a planet with two suns) that I benevolently ruled along with my brother Kyle and cousin Mel.
Truly, I had always thought that Kyle and I would always be together, build a house with a chimney in the center, like the ruins that I saw on a Civil War battlefield. I’m not sure why, but it didn’t seem possible then (despite our fights) that we ever be separated, let alone hours apart, and I really can’t claim to have gotten over that disappointment yet. He moved on, it seems that I could not.
And I have lived a sort of Peter Pan existence. Holding on, hoping that some day the love that had eluded me, child-like and innocent, would finally magically arrive to rescue me from my torment for having failed to achieve. I long overstayed the youth group. Until I had my happily ever after, what choice did I have? Get old by myself and alone?
Unfortunately, hope is not a strategy and I lacked the necessary social tools to approach an attractive young woman—let alone convince her to date me.
Years would go by, where I would convince myself, “this time will be different,” and end up leaving the church retreat no closer to my goals and disappointed. These beautiful wonderful thought going in would slowly morph into a nightmarish reality as opportunity would pass me by and I would be left with only my profound loneliness again.
It was only in my mid thirties that this optimism would crack and the pattern of hope followed by disappointment would finally overwhelm me. Brimming with outsized expectations, I would arrive at the weekend, and suddenly shut down. The wheels came off, I would collapse into the nearest couch, curl up, unable to push myself to try again—eventually ending up a sobbing mess.
The pressure had become too much. The difference between my hopes and reality too insurmountable.
Sure, I could entertain my delusions, the right one was going to finally arrive, we would look at our feet, shy at first, we would talk, she would smile at my earnest thoughts, I would finally be at ease and soon enough we would be walking hand in hand out the back of a church. But the chances of that were as good as Gatsby somehow being able to turn back the hands of time and Daisy would be his.
My collapse from exhaustion came at the tail end of decades of forced optimism and sweeping aside my rational fears. I did not want a world where my being 5′-8″ tall and rather unathletic disqualified me. Love, to me, especially pertaining to my female religious counterparts, was supposed to be something transcendent. Unfortunately, what I got instead was a brick wall of rejection.
Life is especially cruel to those with a high ideal. If I were less able to see the marvelous maybe I could have more easily moved on to more practical aims. But I could never get my head out of the clouds nor was I willing to acknowledge the harsh truth about romance. The young women were also chasing their version of perfection and that perfect man wasn’t me.
Somehow, despite a mind that could span universes, I ended up being thirty years old living in Milton and thus ineligible for that kind of love. How does a dreamer, still holding to those childish notions of escape, ever recover from that terrible pronouncement?
It wears me out thinking about it.
It makes me think of another novel and protagonist, Ethan Frome, an injured ruin of a man. His house reduced in size as he limped, painfully, through what remained of his life. Not even granted the merciful end to his suffering of that suicide pack those many years before. Perhaps my life would have been better had my secret world been a little more stark, desolate and devoid of life?
The irony is that these moralizing finger-waggers, blinded by their arrogance like those self-righteous religious elites whom Jesus mocked in Matthew 23 (“If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood…”), are unwittingly aligning themselves with the modern variant of fascism. Their simple minds apparently cannot comprehend that the same evil, to avoid detection, can be dressed differently and that this time it is their turn to enable the tyrants and true fascists.
Real Fascists Please Stand Up
Fascism is a hard word to define, many dictionary definitions are insufficient or too narrow and do not give a sufficient description. The following quote (from an article, “What Is Fascism?”) gives a better picture of what the term is referring to and why some of us see this emerging in the current corporate and government institutional regime:
Mussolini coined the term “fascism” in 1919. The word “fascism” comes from the Italian “fascio,” meaning a bundle or group, and is considered a term for a militant brotherhood. The word “fasces” means an ax tightly bound with sticks, an image that became a symbol of the fascist movement, according to the History Department at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
How is fascism defined? Robert Paxton, a professor emeritus of social science at Columbia University in New York, who is widely considered the father of fascism studies, told Live Science that fascism is “a form of political practice distinctive to the 20th century that arouses popular enthusiasm by sophisticated propaganda techniques.
Two common themes of fascism that Paxton lists “anti-liberalism, rejecting individual rights, civil liberties, free enterprise and democracy,” also “exclusion of certain groups, often through violence,” and I’ll add that fascists have tended to have an obsession with what they consider to be impurities. A particular German leader saw certain groups as being vectors of disease and thus justified their elimination.
So, the two primary elements of fascism, distilling this down, are this obsession with contaminates and the merger (or bundling) of power. The only real difference between fascism and Socialism is that the latter had been more concerned with class distinctions and the prior with racial difference. But, in the modern era, when the ‘Socialist’ left regularly uses skin color to divide people, and seem fine using corporate power to advance their social agenda, and are the masters of propaganda, it is basically a distinction without a difference.
Sure, they can call themselves “anti-fascists” or “Antifa” and claim that they’re only assaulting Nazis. But, come on people, a guy at the mall can wear a red suit, black boots, and call himself Santa—he’s still not going to come down your chimney with Christmas goodies. And look who is behind most of the violence across this country in the past few years.
Hint: It is not those individuals, totally unarmed, many of them military veterans, who entered the Capital Building on January 6th.
Not defending that either, they should be held accountable, but the difference is that these rioters do not have the corporate media shilling for them nor free reign of the college campus with their demands or sympathetic prosecutors who look the other way at their criminal behavior.
Like it or not, Trump supporters are not anti-democratic, not in the least, and simply wanted allegations of fraud and abuse to be heard. I mean, isn’t it is a little strange that the most well-armed part of our population would go into January 6th planning to take over the government and forget their entire arsenal at home? If it truly was an “insurrection,” as our totally fair and unbiased political establishment would have us believe, why did they not bring any weapons with them?
Night after night a Federal building, a court house, was attacked by far-leftists in Portland. In Seattle we had a whole section of the city taken over and declared an “autonomous zone” in defiance of the government. Over two billion dollars of damages, dozens murdered, in a summer of violence that our corporate media called “mostly peaceful protests” and yet we’re only talking about the wrongness of this one outburst? Propaganda much?
But I do digress.
Fascism is “anti-liberalism, rejecting individual rights, civil liberties, free enterprise and democracy,” and basically Marxism on steroids. In other words, fascism is authoritarian, collectivist, my tribe versus yours, willing to close private business (or churches) and undermine the democratic process to achieve their ends. So, ask yourself, who was asking for mail-in ballots that are an invitation for fraud banned in most countries? Who is asking for collective judgment (or pardon) of people based only on their skin color? Who was creating the dictatorial mandates, in name of keeping us pure of disease, at the expense of our freedom?
Those Who Defend “Papers Please” Are Fascists
My reason for writing this is the response to the meme below by some exceedingly ignorant people from my own Mennonite tribe:
The first response, a virtue signal about those dying in India, a total whataboutism, was completely insensitive to those suffering under the current nonsense. I’m pretty sure this smug individual won’t bother to watch this video nor ever question approved content they spew on social media. They can’t, they were raised in and remain in a religious cloister that taught them, “go along with the group” and “do as your told.” They might eventually drop the cultural costume some day, and yet they have not demonstrated any ability in our brief conversation to think independently or beyond the narrative being pushed.
So now that we’re talking about vaccine passports and literally forcing people to get an injection that has little or not value, that should not be necessary for those who have natural immunity through infection, and comes with the unknown long-term risks of any experimental new product, they still don’t see the problem?
I’m sorry, but only a fascist would be okay with this, because only a fascist is okay with “exclusion of certain groups” and take no heed of the individual rights or civil liberties of those who wish only to travel freely without harassment. To see the religious elites of the Mennonites not only tolerate, but enthusiastically endorse such policies, should send a chill up the spine of those moderate or apolitical in their ranks. These ‘educated’ nitwits don’t seem to get that the Nazi party came to power and won Germans over with the good they were doing—the Holocaust came later.
What makes me a forever tortured soul is that I’m standing on the knife’s edge. On one side my ideal, my hopes, dreams and faith. On the other side my rationality, my anxiety, my knowledge and fears.
The current cultural paradigm tells me the prior things are built upon social construct, the latter upon science. They have first deconstructed meaning and purpose, now moved on to trying to even erase categories built upon biology, constantly destroying the rule by highlighting the exception.
The problem with me is that I’m not able to dismiss one or the other. In many regards I am a postmodern thinker, having rejected modernism, and yet not in the way of those out to destroy every religious tradition or cultural institution.
My own understanding is that social structures, like family, gender distinction or nation, do exist for a reason. Sure, they should not be an excuse for injustice or unfair exclusion. However, those who only see these things in negative terms or as unnecessary are severely mistaken.
There are things that can’t be viewed under a microscope that are as needed for human thriving as oxygen or water. Sure, it is easy to dismiss religion as superstition or redefine terms to suit the current demands of outliers.
But being unable to appreciate the balance of forces that keep a bridge from falling doesn’t mean that someone can keep removing structural members without consequences.
While being a critic of abuses by these institutions of culture and religion, my point has never been to destroy them. Sure, it is not acceptable, for example, that the word “modesty” in the Bible is misused to blame women for male lusts, nevertheless tearing down all expectations is an abuse as bad or worse.
Perhaps there are benefits to promoting healthy masculinity or a distinct feminine role?
Those trying to erase all difference in the name of equality are the most controlling and unpleasant people. In the name of tolerance, they are literally at war with everyone present and past trying to preserve an identity they cherish. They worship the exception while making life miserable for everyone else.
That’s where I differ from the ‘woke’ and the virtue signaling masses that empower their tyrannical edicts. Sure, I believe in recognizing disadvantages of some and making wrongs right. But that’s not what social justice is truly about. It advertises itself as being a solution, yet is only the same evil of intolerance in a new more ‘colorful’ form.
Still, I am not capable of being fully engulfed by the teachings of Christianity either. I tend to be philosophically in alignment rather than spiritually and that’s because I’m continually dismissing my own experience as invalid. I mean, so what if I got the warm fuzzies at a church service, right? I’ve also experienced euphoria on Adderall. Been manipulated by music, a rousing speech or what have you.
I can identify fully with H.P. Lovecraft:
“We all know that any emotional bias — irrespective of truth or falsity — can be implanted by suggestion in the emotions of the young, hence the inherited traditions of an orthodox community are absolutely without evidential value…. If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences. With such an honest and inflexible openness to evidence, they could not fail to receive any real truth which might be manifesting itself around them. The fact that religionists do not follow this honourable course, but cheat at their game by invoking juvenile quasi-hypnosis, is enough to destroy their pretensions in my eyes even if their absurdity were not manifest in every other direction.”
But this writer of horror, who lived in his own existential crisis hell, does not seem like an example to follow. What is the point of being ‘rational’ if it keeps one in a state of constant dread about how insignificant and out of control they are? Is this holding to an agnostic and meaningless interpretation actually intelligence or simply another form of ignorance?
I vote the latter.
Command of language, the ability to pull together a vast amount of information and sift science from superstition, these are things seen as signs of intelligence. And certainly they are measures of a particular kind of capability of mind. But, as a person can be knowledgeable and unwise, saying things that bring us pleasure or purpose are not real is simply ignorant.
Serotonin is as real as the stars in the sky, the feelings this hormone produces are no different from light. It would be stupid to argue that light waves are less important because they lack mass. Likewise, to say that the spiritual is non-existent, because it cannot be weighed or otherwise measured, is not brilliance either. Lack of appreciation or ability to comprehend things of emotional value is not intellectual strength.
Nevertheless, there is a sense in which seeing behind the veil changes things, there are things that can’t be unseen. And those Lovecraftian monsters do exist even if only in the mind of the author.
My own experience, unfortunately, has left me untethered from the comfortable and floating in space. My sincerest hopes rejected as being delusion by the very people who I had thought would appreciate such things. It is difficult to cling to the belief that “with faith all things are possible” when your former pastor’s daughter, encouraged by him, supposedly missionary minded, tells you she can’t love.
It is that disconnect between profession and action that keeps me still precariously balanced on bloodied feet.
Orthodoxy has brought me a firmer foundation than the ever shifting sands of Protestant theology and practice. It is certainly more ancient and authentic than the alternatives. Still, that loss of identity and innocence, that process of degradation of my child-like faith over time, makes restoration of my soul seem as possible as a return to my mother’s womb. How to become less cynical again?
I do envy the simpletons who can ignore such things. They suffer without swaying in the belief that God is in control. Wouldn’t we all live that way if we could?
At some point doesn’t logic dictate we take the advice of Job’s wife, curse God and die, rather than continue to push through the pain against all odds?
This blog site, Irregular Ideation, was a product of my dilemma. That is what to do when the happily ever after and meant to be fairy tales are insufficient to get us beyond our fears. What does happen when those teeth of quiet desperation and endless angst finally gnaw through what remains of the moral foundation. The eternal abyss opens beneath our feet, the inscription over our heads: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
Fr. Anthony, the spiritual mentor that met me in my time of need, boiled it down to a choice, either we choose to live a life of meaning or we do not. Charlotte, my bhest, has also urged me to be strong and that likewise suggests that we decide what is worth the effort. But none of that makes the choice easy or pain free. Adam and Eve never lost that awareness that biting from the forbidden fruit of knowledge gave them, the thistles of doubt and despair still remain.
It is both assuring and terrifying that the most notable characters in Scripture were tormented. Elijah, having witnessed literal fire from heaven, fled terrified into the wilderness because a wicked queen threatened him. John the Baptist, suffering in prison, sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3 NIV) And Jesus himself, in angish, speaking of his coming trials, prayed “take this cup away, and on the cross felt forsaken or abandoned by God.
St. Paul, with his undisclosed “thorn in his side,” suggested a division within, the ‘spirit’ being willing while the ‘flesh’ is weak. The book of Psalms and other Biblical poetry, a great comfort to many today, suggests the writers were experiencing travails and torment. In no way were these ignorant people living a life of bliss. They were fully aware, they had their moments of failure, and choose to keep going on in faith despite this all.
As my parish priest reminds us, “If you ain’t struggling you ain’t Orthodox.”
So while my life would be so much easier if I could be agnostic and accept that we’re all products of random chance, biological robots plotting a predetermined course, that everything is about sex and power. But I don’t give in to that existential dread and will stand against those who, with seeming sadistic pleasure, tear at the foundation of meaning and purpose.
I’m tortured soul because I am able to both see the fullness of beauty and also stare into the void of emptiness. I live with keen awareness that many have died, clinging to breath and hope, thinking their salvation was right around the corner. It could all be for naught. Still, I fight. I’m not in control, I never will be, and long for that final peace when my journey is complete. For now, though, I’ll dance on this blade, my persistent uncertainty on one side and strong desire for God on the other.
I can pretty much rationalize around any moral boundaries, maybe eventually embrace a life of self-indulgence and not giving a crap about those whom I’ve stepped on to gain a small advantage. I could, more easily, give in to self-pity or be overwhelmed by cruelty and give up. Lord have mercy! Still, something within, not even sure how to define it, pushes me to endure through hardships.
At some level it makes no sense, why must we go through hell to get to heaven?
It doesn’t make sense.
But then neither does my existence. How did I come to be? If my life is finite and time stretches infinity in both directions, there is essentially zero chance of being on this moment right now. So our existence is not rational nor that we extrapolate, from our pleasure and our pain, that there is something greater. Maybe belief in the divine realm, where all is made right, is merely a survival mechanism—so why then do we question it?
And so it goes on. There is no growth without pain, not triumph without suffering, our moments of glory would not be such a pleasure if there was nothing required to attain. So why not extend this pattern and conclude that our torment, if righteous, will be rewarded…
The past few weeks have been painful. I had a bad toothache on top of my chronic neck issues. Sleeping and eating became extremely difficult. Like a city that still hasn’t been able to repair the flood walls after the last devastating storm, it did not take much time before waves of despair washed over me.
Yes, I knew that eventually this round of suffering would likely end. Antibiotics did finally do their thing for the infected root after a few days of excruciating pain. But I’m also more keenly aware than ever of my own deteriorating condition. I have gone to the gym faithfully for years, live a generally healthy life, and yet it is all simply a matter of time before I’ll succumb to old age.
It’s been a rough year, maybe even a rough decade, as the strong have fallen and yet another romance seems to be up against impossible odds. The death of Uriah, despite my best efforts to prepare for the outcome of the terrible prognosis he received, is still difficult. And now the unexpected circumstances of the pandemic are a real threat to my most successful relationship.
It has been over two and half years, early January of 2019, since Charlotte and I have been physically together. I had visited her over the holidays two years in a row and might have done the same had a contractor, remodeling my house, not overstayed their welcome. So, thinking the immigration process would soon be underway, I had promised Charlotte that I would visit the next year if she was not here.
Unfortunately, as December of 2020 approached, it soon became very clear that I would not be able to keep my word. Travel into the Philippines, for a foreigner like me, had been banned. It was, to say the least, a huge disappointment. And, obviously, having not come through, my own credibility also took a huge hit. Sure, I could not have known, but then how do you assure of anything in times like these?
I’m still not allowed to visit my love and there’s no end in sight to our wait. The Philippines is unusually strict as far as allowing noncitizens into the country and the immigration process, already arduous, has slowed to a crawl in the current pandemic era. In any year prior to 2020 there’s a good chance that we would be buying plane tickets right now for her and her son. Now everything is uncertain.
It is torture. What has remained of my hopes is being severely tested. Sure, the first step of the K-1 Visa process may soon be underway (we submitted our paperwork at the start of the year) yet the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) hasn’t even started to review it. The estimated start of processing is 6 to 8 months, we’re on month 8, and they could deny our application. And that’s just the start, then it moves on to the US Department of State.
Very recently I’ve heard that the Embassy in Manila isn’t even doing the interviews right now and, if true, this would mean a tremendous backlog of cases. They’ll likely force Charlotte and Y-dran (her son) to get the experimental vaccine or at least make it exceedingly hard otherwise. I’m not completely comfortable with that and yet what choice does one have? They basically have us over the barrel. Even with full compliance we’re looking at possible years of additional waiting.
It is so completely unnecessary that Y-dran has to wait even longer to have a father in his life, so absolutely unfair that Charlotte’s patience continues to be punished with one more year of waiting, and that’s not to mention my own distress trying to decide what is best considering the circumstances. It seems every path I try to ease our suffering is met with a new obstacle.
Just today, as I further explored our options to visit or meet somewhere, I found the ticket prices for my go-to airline have about tripled from last time that I looked and are pretty much prohibitively expensive. I do not even mention that sort of thing to her right now because it is too depressing too talk about. Maybe I’ll do a GoFundMe to raise funds if there is actually an option for us to see each other.
At this point nothing else in my life matters besides my obligation to Charlotte and Y-dran. If it weren’t letting them down, it would be easy to jump off of a bridge given the current outlook. I’ve been stuck in this nightmare of having my most sincere romantic hopes be dashed by things unforeseeable for decades. I’ve already endured complications that extended our seperation for years and now this.
Prior to the pandemic we would likely have everything processed by now and would be purchasing tickets. Now it is perhaps foolish to believe that we’ll ever be together or at least not for many years. Which, given our current ages, and the ticking biological clock, could mean that we never have children. At the very least, I’ll be even older and in less favorable condition than I am now, which is a very hard pill to swallow for both of us.
I’ll admit that my resolve is being strained to the max. Given my physical battles and my history of seeing everything possible go wrong in pursuit of happily ever after, there is this nagging fear that the past couple of years have been wasted on a lost cause and that I’ve dragged down to other people with my own delusional faith. I know Charlotte could find another man. Am I selfish to hold on? How long do you keep dreaming before giving up?
The problem is, if I give up, I’ve given up on life and love—I have let cynicism win.
Then again, it does feel that the odds are stacked up against us. Why would this all happen right now, when we already had such a tough journey? We’re up against the world, a cold-hearted system that doesn’t care about our story nor our love. Those making these decisions, processing our paperwork, can hold out indefinitely without feeling an ounce of our pain. We’re not giving up although maybe we have picked a battle that can’t be won.
Simone Biles, arguably the best female US gymnast ever, decided to quit the competition at the Tokyo Olympics. This decision was as celebrated as if she had won gold and that caused some conservative friends to protest. The bulk of the criticism having to do with the glowing coverage of this choice. But then there was a lot that was aimed at her personally, calling her a deserter, “an entitled, weak, brat,” and part of the “participation trophy” behavior.
While I won’t call what she did stunning or brave, I will also withhold any sort of hard judgment concerning her. Maybe it was the right decision? If she isn’t feeling up to the task then it might be good to allow the next one up to fill the spot on the team?
Given that it was leaked, back in 2016, that Biles uses Adderall, a common stimulant used to treat ADHD, and banned by the Olympics, it is little wonder she is out of sorts. That’s a strong drug, in the methylamphetamine class, and going off of it could severely hamper a person mentally. Many people (conservatives, in particular) do not understand how much their mood and level of ambition are predetermined. During my brief stint using Adderall, I learned a lot about how easy it is to get things done when you have complete focus The withdrawal is something fierce too. For me it left a dead inside, can’t get out of my own way, feeling when in withdrawal.
So, rather than an indictment of Biles, this may be a concern about how we deal with life in the United States. Whereas previous generations and most people in the world cope without drugs, the US is very drug dependent. The US, in fact, is the world leader in prescription drug usage. The US produces and uses about 85% of the world’s methylphenidate. Rather than overcome by internal means, learning coping skills, or building mental strength by simply getting up and after it, we are relying on the take a little pill solution to problems.
Then again, we can’t know if Biles would ever be competing at this level without Adderall. But we do know that she has had many things to overcome. She has worked very hard to get to where she is. She has endured a childhood of hunger and sexual abuse too. This is why I’m not going to join anyone in calling her weak or anything else. Unless someone has competed at the highest levels of gymnastics and knows a little of the commitment and strength it takes, then it may be best to leave judgment to those who have been there and done that.
That said, the question of whether we are getting mentally weaker is worth looking into, but first another athlete’s story…
A hard-hitting and short career
Joey Julius stormed onto the college football scene with his big boot and his hit stick tackles.
Kickers are not generally known for their toughness. It is typical that they hang back and play safety on the kick coverage. It is expected that they might try to run the play out of bounds or go for a feeble attempt at the runner’s ankles.
But that wasn’t Julius. He was a big boy, 260lbs, and very quickly became a Penn State fan favorite with his ferocious coverage team collusions. He was a walk-on and seemed to be ready to entertain for years to come. Yet, right as his fame rose, he disappeared.
It certainly was disappointing for me, as a fan, to see this exciting and unique player off of the roster. And, of course, I had to ask why. For me being able to start for a college football team would be an amazing privilege and never something I would pass up. However, as one who saw my own cousin, a 6′-8″ 320lb lineman, confident as he was going in, get bogged down with injuries and the pressure of college life, end up off the team after one season, I understood that it isn’t an easy thing to be an athlete at that level.
As it turns out, Julius, despite his new celebrity, still struggled with body image issues and binge eating disorder. For all his success on the field, and the acceptance it brought, he felt he was not as he was supposed to be, was overcome by anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.
As for toughness?
I know for certain, at least at my own size and strength, I wouldn’t run full speed into a division one athlete. So it would be hard to call Julius a weakling. As with Biles dropping out, their fame and athletic pursuits, our want of entertainment, all come secondary to their well-being and only they know what is right for them.
I wish him well.
My own story of quitting early…
I was picked to be on the church council late last year. My congregation is small, yet a serious responsibility and, in my mind, an honor. I had planned to serve out my full-term and was even a little excited. It was the first time I would serve in a leadership position. I had not been so much as a youth officer in my old denomination and it did bother me a little. That said, I’ve never sought out mundane administrative duties, so being overlooked for the role wasn’t that big of a deal either. Nevertheless, I took the reminders of Father Seraphim to heart, that we were to be an example to the rest of the church, and that would eventually lead to me resigning my post.
I would love to see myself as being mentally strong and might be in some regards. However, the death of Uriah had taken an emotional toll and I really was not feeling up to the task of being a council member. I was simply not putting in the kind of energy that I thought would be right for the position and started to have second thoughts after the first couple of meetings. So I shared these thoughts privately with sub-deacon Anthony, who graciously responded, but then decided to continue the course. However, that resolve did not last long. The next meeting, for whatever reason, I was just feeling very discombobulated and even angry, it didn’t make any sense. It was at that point that I decided to send Father a message to ask if it was okay to resign and he accepted.
It was embarrassing to me.
As Jesus said, concerning discipleship:
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
(Luke 14:28-33 NIV)
Yes, perhaps the death, after a year hoping for a miracle, presented an extenuating circumstance. But then everyone on the council has their own crap to deal with and some of them possibly more than me. With a combination of perfectionism with some laziness, I had taken the easy way out. Sure, it was good that I took my job seriously enough that underperformance was an issue. And I knew when I agreed to the position that I wasn’t going to be a flawless participant. Furthermore, I don’t quit my day job because of a bad day or even months of struggle. So maybe it was all simply an excuse as soon as things got tough?
I do know this, my replacement on council is an elderly fellow who probably should be enjoying his retirement rather than pick up the pieces for this me-first generation.
Is weakness a choice?
There is a character issue to be considered. I’m the guy who can show up to work, in absolute agony, head ready to explode from an infected tooth, because someone has to do the job.
Diminished capabilities or not, I understand that my participation in the group effort makes a difference and also that my paycheck depends on showing up. In other words, maybe my quitting council was a sort of self-indulgence, or willing fragility, rather than an absolute reflection of my true ability to complete the task?
But then it is part and parcel of my generation’s ‘authenticity’ at all costs mindset. We cast this as being strength, the “you do you” mantra is repeated often. Still, it is also likely costing our greater potential when we choose to quit because of feelings of inadequacy or our lack of mental fortitude. The idea of “fake it until you make it” does not exist because other generations had it easier than we do. This learned helplessness, while comfortable, is essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy and keeps many people from ever reaching their full potential.
The name Jim Thorpe comes to mind. This Olympic athlete, the first of Native American heritage to win gold, was an incredible story of mental toughness. While in competition, having had his shoes stolen, he found a mismatched pair of shoes in the garbage—used an extra sock on one foot to make it work—and went on to win a couple of gold metals in this hasty arrangement. This is a man who had every excuse to give up. Have you ever try to run, let alone compete at the highest level, in shoes that don’t fit?
It would be worthwhile to read up on Thorpe, compare what he endured to the stories of Biles, Julius, and my own, then draw some conclusions. Perhaps the reality is that we could and we simply didn’t? In other words, we made a choice, picked an easier path, and missed an opportunity for growth?
My grittier moments…
I’ve had many setbacks in my life. I started struggling for breath, as a preemie, was a slow developer physically and late bloomer otherwise. Opportunities were often behind me before I even realized I should be seeking them.
I don’t recall, it was relayed to me, but apparently an elementary school teacher had told my mom about an incident, during a math test, where I jumped up beside my desk and screamed. Why that shy child would make such an outburst? Well, probably because I was so frustrated, trying so hard to focus, full of anxiety, and was barely able to do the work.
Obviously, like my eldest sister who blazed her path, I was driven. But, unlike my sibling, who could put her mind to something and do it, I would be overcome with my perfectionism and eventually defeated in various pursuits by my fear and doubt. The most crushing of those being my inability to pull myself together when things became uncertain in romantic hopes.
That’s not to say that my sheer will and determination gained me nothing. As a 112lb senior, I started and finished a season of football. I’ve comeback, on a couple of occasions, from injuries that might have caused some to put an end to their fitness regime. I had even walked in faith, against the odds, to pursue the impossibly, to the point that I became mentally ill and had nothing left to give. I’m still here.
At times I hated whatever made me want to keep going despite these setbacks. My mind, like Job’s wife, telling me “curse God and die.”
Fortunately, unlike many in this age that loves victimhood, I had a mom who would not let me slack off or quit. Sure, she could never do the work for me. But she could have easily nurtured me to death by catering to her poor Joel. I was a trouble child, especially as a teen, a tortured soul, someone always stuck in the mud, spinning his wheels as dreams sped away and vanished over the horizon. I didn’t actually know how to grow up or be independent. I would still be living at home had my mom allowed it. She didn’t.
The idea of a home mortgage had terrified me. Could I make the payments? What if I could not pay it back? It was too much for me to do voluntarily, without that push, because I didn’t have the mental strength. And yet, when the time came, when I finally did sign the papers, not only did I pay off the loan, I actually paid it off in half of the time!
Incidentally, it was this that made me more confident when facing the impossibly, that Mennonite female interest to end all, and also totally upended me when she said, “you’re thirty years old living in Milton.” In one sentence she had destroyed the meaning of the entire struggle up to that point.
Nevertheless, even then, when I stopped eating and holed up in that cracker box house, wishing to die. It was my parents, especially my mom, who continued to push. Yes, there was comfort and consolation, time given for me to grieve, rest and collect myself again, yet never coddling or agreement with my despair.
It is absolutely terrifying for me to imagine what I may have become had I quit the first time things required digging deeper. I mean, I would have likely died in that plexiglass box—the isolette—had I not been a fighter, had my physician uncle given up, etc.
Not to mention had my mom decided pregnancy was too much for her or my grandparents lacked the commitment of marriage.
Life is tough.
We would not get very far if we make quitting when things don’t go our way into a habit. That is why we should be concerned about the new turn towards making heroes out of those who do not finish. Sure, there are reasons to quit, to avoid injury or whatever, but when it is simply an excuse for not putting forth effort? That’s a problem.
Build strength—Do not coddle weakness
Our culture, sadly, is coddling many to their own detriment. Many young adults live as overgrown children, unfulfilled, because they’re encouraged to be mentally weak and their needs are being provided. By contrast, I’ve seen an Amish toddler herd cows, Chinese toddlers can cook meals, and humans have an amazing ability to rise to the challenge.
It is a sad day when we go from honoring strength, that hard work it requires to achieve greatness, to celebration of weakness. It is basically a suicide pact, a death spiral, and makes thriving impossible. By telling people that they’re unable, that quitting is okay, we are doing them a lifetime of harm. We are currently at a crisis point it is not sustainable to go the direction we are going.
We need more heroes like Jim Thorpe now more than ever. The future of our species depends on it. However, this mental toughness, it doesn’t start (or end) with elite athletes on the world stage. It means having the courage to get up and go again, despite our feelings, and repeat as many times as necessary until we’re able to overcome. There is no pill, no magic solution, only learning not to make excuses and push on.
The God-and-country religious belief system is the low-hanging fruit of compromised Christian types. These types, a branch off of Protestant fundamentalism, are easily identified and frequently lampooned by the cultural elites in this era of deconstruction and ‘woke’ self-loathing. It is highlighted, aptly, in this picture and the accompanying caption:
Sadly, many of us have an “uncle or aunt” in our lives who non-ironically post things like this on social media… thinking they are doing something good by obliviously spewing compromised civil religion thinking—that it is anywhere close to authentic Christianity.
This, of course, is correct. Jesus was not an American and civic religion is not the Christianity of the New Testament. Those of this category are pretty much putting Uncle Sam in equal standing with the son of God or, at the very least, blending two very different things in a way that only lowers the more significant of the two. It would sort of be like saying “I love my wife, and chocolate chip cookies!”
These are people similar to Peter in this passage and elsewhere:
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
(Matthew 16:21-24 NIV)
Peter, like all of the true disciples, had been oriented towards a worldly kingdom led by Christ. This is why he swung his sword to defend Jesus from being arrested by the corrupt religious authorities. He was misguided, yes, but also sincere and truly loyal to Christ despite his vastly incorrect understanding of the Gospel. Eventually he became the example of self-sacrificial love and led the church before his death as a martyr—crucified upside down on a Roman cross.
It is not my place to question the salvation of anyone. However, I will say that if anyone puts their faith in their nation for salvation they will be sorely disappointed in the end and many are learning this hard lesson as institutions fail them. As Scripture says, “put not your faith in princess or mortal men in whom there is no salvation.” Great leaders come and go, nations rise and fall, but there is one Lord and Savior of all who reigns supreme from everlasting to everlasting. Amen.
The More Sinister Betrayal of Christ
However, now that we covered the easily ridiculed simpletons, let’s move on to the more sophisticated. There are many critical of this latter type, who also profess to be Christian, and yet themselves are tools for a form of nationalism. Indeed, the rulers of our time are not those embarrassing older relatives called out on social media. No, it is those who reject all religion—Christianity most especially—or at least do until it is useful for manipulation.
Unlike the God-and-country religious types, who wear their cartoonish devotion to consumer Jesus on their sleeves, the subscribers to ‘woke’ nationalism position themselves in opposition to traditional American iconography, recast the stars and stripes as a symbol of oppression, and present love for country as being some form of fascist. The church of “social justice” being merely a branch of this popular political movement.
The irony being that they themselves, the ‘woke’ nationalist, are more in alignment with corporations and machinery of the national politics than those whom they most frequently condemn. Nine out of ten times, those using the word “Christian nationalism” act in alignment with the most violent (and excused by elites) elements in our time, have worked for the government in some capacity, and then, with prissy indignation, blast their working poor “blue collar” neighbors.
This ‘woke’ nationalism is the current civil religion of the Democrat party elites and establishment Republicans alike. The evangelists being the supposedly edgy late night hosts and corporate media. Their dogmas enforced via Big Tech monopolies with doctrines reinforced by their paid shill fact-checkers. Those at the top of this hierarchy mock Christianity and find more in common with Karl Marx than they do Jesus Christ. But they are happy for the help of the religious useful idiots.
Indeed, like Zionism takes eyes off of Christ to the nation-state of Israel, this woke nationalism also takes the eyes off Jesus and places it on those designated victims of oppression. Sure, they can claim that this as part of their obligation to the Kingdom of God—a fulfillment of the Christian mission prophesied by Isaiah 61:1: “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” Unfortunately it is anything but that.
No, woke nationalism, along with most of neo-Anabaptism, is the modern-day equivalent of Judas throwing the words of Jesus in his face. Under the facade of correct language and noble sounding intent, these are a scornful and nasty people who attack those who are actually most vulnerable in this present time. They, like Judas, use the words of Jesus as a means to attack even the good-faith efforts of others:
Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
(John 12:3-8 NIV)
Judas pitted the words of Jesus against him. Unlike Peter, who once unwisely rebuked Jesus, the betrayer spoke in arrogance. He, like Satan twisting Scripture to tempt Jesus, was malicious and a hypocrite (stealing from the collective pursue) under his phony virtue-signaling about the poor. Sure, Peter was also oriented towards a worldly kingdom, and yet Judas seemingly had a lust for power that he thought would be fulfilled in Jesus.
Who does this today?
How about the kind who attack those using the expression “thoughts and prayers” in response to tragedy?
Or maybe those who made their wealth at taxpayer expense writing Tweets targeting the projects and achievements of others couching this in concern for the poor?
The word of God is powerful and I believe that there is good reason why we have the detailed account of Judas attacking the worshipful act of this woman. It is to highlight the toxic mentality of those who can quote the words of Jesus when it is politically (or otherwise useful) and yet have a heart far from God. We are told that the Pharisees diligently studied Scripture. But they did it for personal advantage over others and to attain rank in their social or religious circle.
The reason that I have spent far more time trying to expose woke nationalism, as opposed to other forms of civic religion, is because it is both the more dominant force right now and also the most blatantly anti-Christian. Despite the clever packaging as being opposition to racism or concern for the poor, woke nationalism is all about political power and having absolute control over others.
These are people who can’t love their own literal neighbors and somehow delude themselves to thinking themselves saviors of the oppressed. They don’t merely misunderstand and mischaracterize Christ as the God-and-country religious types. No, they believe that they are essentially His equal and twist His words to their political ends while imagining themselves to be better than everyone else.
They are out saving the world and can’t even save themselves.
Many of us are defined by the hurts we have experienced. Truly, how we interact today, the anxieties we have, are often a product of something in our past, injustice or injury, that has warped our perceptions.
For many years of my life, I felt unloveable.
I had gotten off to a bad start in the romantic realm. After some failed efforts, stinging rejections, my confidence fell off a cliff, I would self-sabotage even when I had chances and spiraled even further into fear and doubt. With every “not interested” answer came increased feelings of shame and the stigma of being someone not good enough for even a first date.
I still apologize, sometimes, or actually more all the time, when asking to have dinner with a woman.
Well, not because I’m a terrible person. I’ve always been a good friend and respectful of boundaries. I have much to offer even in terms of platonic relationships and have proven myself in this regard over and over again. But still, because of the value others have assigned to me, I look at myself as possibly being a burden to the person I’m asking and that hesitancy can become a self-fulfilling prophecy because it makes the person being asked uncomfortable.
If you see yourself as being worthless it shouldn’t be a big surprise when other people agree.
Breaking free of these cycles can feel impossible when stuck in them. The most frustrating advice I’ve ever received was “be confident” as if I was simply choosing to see myself as garbage for no reason whatsoever. I mean, I had been confident enough to express interest, even overcome the oppression of my social anxieties, only to be swatted down one more time by young women who had their eyes set on 5′-10″ or over.
Of course my plight, as a shy person on the shorter end of male stature, was not at all helped by the conservative Mennonite culture that had been overcome by purity culture teachings. Young people had it drilled into them that dating that didn’t lead to marriage equated to defilement. So, if you didn’t have the superficial tools, there was really no means of building a relationship or mutual respect that could lead to a deeper commitment.
The Letters We Are Forced To Wear
The Scarlet Letter, a novel written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, published in 1850, is set in the 1600s, in the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony, and follows a woman, named Hester Prynne, who—through an out of wedlock pregnancy—was found guilty of adultery and is forced to wear a scarlet letter “A” for her sin. It contrasts her plight to that of the child’s father, the town’s minister, whom she protects with her silence and lives in constant fear of being exposed for his concealed sin.
Like Hester, some of us wear our shortcomings more visibly than others. Those who obviously lack something according to the prevailing social standard, whether exposed to public scorn and ridicule or simply excluded from institutions and driven to the margins, are forced to deal with feelings of humiliation. Of course, that’s not to say that those who appear to be outwardly pure and undefiled are free of pain, those with less visible faults often live with a tremendous fear of being discovered and guilt.
We all want to be accepted and yet have those letters to wear. It could be that we’re typecasted, “oh, that’s George, always big talker!” We have heard the labels, the declarations, “she’s a flirt” or “he’s desperate,” and sometimes it is hard to know if it is that person or the group making that reality what it is. It is not all completely negative, it could be “they’re meant to be” or any statement that builds an expectation, but it certainly can keep a person confined and limits potential.
Once you fill a particular role, in the minds of the group, it is often difficult to break beyond it.
For example, my biggest fear, when I took a job driving truck, was that I would be branded a “truck driver” and thus not eligible for other work. My concerns were fulfilled, years later, when I talked to a business owner friend about my desire to get off the road and they offered that maybe I could drive a truck for them.
These kinds of things aren’t necessarily even spoken. But we know there are those individuals or that don’t quite live up to the ideal of the group, who have a blemish visible or invisible, and are tolerated more than embraced. In some ways, it would be better if our chests could be emblazoned with these symbols of shame, that we could be told exactly you get told by an eligible young woman “you’ll make a great husband someday” and yet nobody (including her) seems to want that greatness.
However, not all of this is imposed. Some of this punishment, if not most of it, is self-inflicted.
Shamed No More
The most brilliant theme of The Scarlet Letter is that that this symbol of shame is transformed over the course of the novel. This letter intended to stigmatize eventually becomes a badge of honor for the protagonist and something she wears willingly rather than because she must. The letter “A” because of Hester’s diligent work, her charity, and listening to those lower social status, comes to mean “able” or “angel” as the story progresses. She, for her proven virtue, becomes well-respected as humble and wise.
My own life journey, with the investment of love and care of a few, has begun to take that turn as well.
I have begun to realize that my romantic failures were a reflection of a broken courtship culture and not my own lacking. Because of the drip drip drip of Charlotte’s confidence in me, I have become stronger. Not only that, but as a result of my struggle, I also have deep compassion for those who suffer and a desire to free them from the bonds of their insecurities. Now, even when snubbed, because I know who I am and don’t depend on this external definition of what I am for security, I barely care. It is on them, not me. I know I’m a good friend and focus my effort on those who appreciate what I offer.
The reality is that I’ve become a different person. I behave differently than I did when ruled by my anxieties and thus have become more attractive.
No, that doesn’t make what others did to push a person down a dead-end road any more right. The love of Christ should compel us to invest in the salvation of others and especially to help those who want to be helped. Things like slavery and denial of rights to people on the basis of outward appearance certainly do hurt and hinder. And yet, there’s also a way to live beyond our typecasting. to not be confined by the expectations of others, and transcend our circumstances.
For me, there was never that final triumph nor day of reckoning with those who hurt me. My hopes were shattered. My identity crushed. Those who caused my torment continued along their merry way and probably not with a second thought of how their attitudes impacted me. They never did listen to me when I tried to escape from the box they had put me in. But, nonetheless, I did emerge.
The Scarlet Letters others forced us to wear may remain emblazoned on our chest. However, we do not need to accept the meaning others have created for the symbol. In the novel, Hester’s daughter, Pearl, became upset when her mother didn’t wear the letter. For Pearl, the letter represented something other than shame. It represented her loving mother, not sin. That was a seed and very likely helped Hester to see her value beyond the opinions of the judgmental townsfolk. And, eventually, what Hester became changed the meaning of the symbol even for those around her.
Our Perfection Is Not Purity
One of the inspirations for writing this blog was a conversation about matters of sexuality and shame. My contention that the suffering of sexual abuse victims is a product of social expectations, as much as it is about the violation itself, and would be far less painful if we put less weight on perfection in terms of being ‘pure’ in a physical manner.
That’s where the shame comes in. It comes from this idea that by being physically violated, or even touched consentingly by another person, we have somehow become worth less as a person than we were prior. Of course, this is nonsense. Our value does not come from physical purity, a person who was raped is no less beautiful or virtuous even if she does now feel differently about themselves as result. It is this, this change in belief about oneself, that lingers long after the assault and is the real cause of suffering. We are conditioned to see those who have been through this as damaged or defiled.
And that’s not to say that the assault does not do real lasting harm beyond what is physical either. No, rather that a rape survivor is going to be re-traumatized hearing a sermon about saving yourself for marriage. It is going to add to their fears of being disadvantaged and may actually stigmatize them when they really should be loved and treasured. That’s what purity culture does, it heaps shame on those who themselves may have done nothing wrong and often forgives those who should be held accountable.
While holding sexual abusers accountable, like we would anyone who takes what isn’t theirs to take, maybe we should also take on this idea that someone is forever tainted because of sexual intercourse and therefore a perpetual victim?
It isn’t the abusers that define the worth of a person as being their virginity nor is it the abuser who assigns the value to what happened. No, we do that. And one of the reasons why sexual abuse is so painful for those who were raised in a purity culture is because they are convinced that their own value is somehow decreased because of something that happened to them.
Jesus, even in dealing with those who had willfully sinned sexually, was completely gentle.
Well, it is because Jesus valued the individual for more than their physical ‘purity’ and past behavior. Yes, he told the woman at the well, “go and sin no more,” but he did that for her sake. Her lifestyle was not good for her and, unlike the proud religious elites who can admit no wrong, she was already humble enough to know her own shortcomings and want the change.
So, if Jesus could forgive those who sinned of their own volition, why should those who were violated by the sin of another feel as if they are somehow damaged goods?
If we actually believe that our righteousness comes from being clothed in Christ, made perfect in him, then why do we place so much value on the physical and the past?
To be clothed in Christ means that our negative experiences can be redefined. No longer should the sins of the past (our own or by others) define who we are. Instead, we are new creatures. No, these things we have gone through are not removed, yet they can be redeemed and no longer a burden of shame that we carry, no longer a cause for self-pity or self-loathing, because our perfection does not come from our own abilities. Our purity comes from the inside, through spiritual transformation, and no longer by the reputation others give us or regrets we have.
The Symbolism of the Cross
When Jesus was stripped naked, his flesh cruelly shredded by scourgings, battered and bruised, finally mocked under a sign “king of the Jews” while he suffered unimaginable anguish, the whole process was intended to humiliate and shame.
He did not deserve the mistreatment nor was it a pleasant experience. It was the sin of others that put him there. It was a cross and a horrendous image of despair and death. There nothing worthy of celebration in that. But even this, intended to destroy him, could not.
Most of us, put through similar abuse, may curse God or at the very least we would not be in the mood to forgive those who torment us.
Jesus, by contrast, did not let the circumstances define his character. What they did to him was not a reflection of him nor could it be to his shame. And, most importantly, they could not keep him in the grave as much as they tried.
As a result, the cross, this symbol of their hatred and abuse, has now become something we can look to for healing. It is in the cross of Christ that we can see our worth as being more than what the crowd yells, more even than our broken physical body, and to have faith in God’s perfect justice.
Those ensnared in the world of sin and death, whether victims of abuse, self-declared advocates for victims or the abuser, cannot accept the message of the cross. It is foolishness to them. They are slaves of their twisted passions, prisoners of the past and bound to their own reasonings. And, for the victims who harbor grievance, their answer to being mistreated is always the same as what they feel was done to them. They want to take the marker of shame off of themselves and place it on those who harmed them.
But the message of the cross is that even shame itself can be defeated by the grace of God. Those clothed in His righteousness no longer have need to rank above their peers, no longer live for the acceptance of other people, and live for something altogether different from what many others strive for. No, rather than shrink in fear or fall into self-pity, they see their cross as something that is purifying, as the proving ground of their faith, and opportunity to serve.
If something as awful as the cross can be redefined to become a story of salvation, those letters we wear can also be changed in meaning and redeemed. We can be the Hester, in our own story, the one who proved that her character was about more than that one act those many years ago. In the end she was the better person, for what she went through, than those who had looked at her in judgment.
Part of my personal myth is that I was a “miracle baby,” spared from a very early demise by the medical intervention of nurses and physicians, including my uncle Elam, a pediatrician, who hand pumped air into my lungs while being transported to Geisinger Medical Center.
I had been born premature, suffered from a condition called Hyaline Membrane Disease due to my underdeveloped lungs, suffered a collapsed lung due to my hard breathing, and likely would have died without the advanced care that I received. I was a fighter, for sure, but my survival would depend on the skilled intervention of medical professionals.
My mother would tell me that story and also use it to remind me that God had a special purpose for my life. But what she didn’t tell me, until much later, is that my early trauma was actually caused by her doctor who induced labor.
My Medical Family
My mother had aspired to be a nurse. Even worked in a nursing home prior to marrying my dad. But life, including my sister and your’s truly, changed her plans.
However, as often is the case, these dreams of parents are sometimes fulfilled by the next generation and sometimes double. Both of my sisters are employed in the medical field and eventually even my mom found her way into a doctor’s office before eventually playing an instrumental role in the opening of Compassion Parochial Clinic.
My own role in all of this was to be my eldest sister Olivia’s first patient. Using her Fisher Price Medical Bag, she would check and treat my various imaginary ailments, and had her mind set on being a pediatrician like her well-respected uncle. And, after graduating high school, then acquiring a biology degree, she continued her education at Albert Einstein College of Medicine on Bronx, NY.
In fact, l feel that I may deserve a partial credit for having attended a lecture on the heart. Although, I may have missed the second half due to a terrible bout of drowsiness and was not the only one sleeping. Although, as a courtesy, I will not say whether or not my sister had succumbed.
Anyhow, my younger sister Lilian also picked a medical career, eventually became an RN, continued her education, and is now working on her licensing as a midwife. Her passion is welcoming babies into the world and is someone with a personality well suited for the job.
All of that to say that this exposure causes me to have deep respect those in this profession. One way to get on my bad list very quickly is to suggest that those in the medical field are only in it for the money and would deliberately keep people sick to cash in. Sure, there are bad eggs in every profession, some terrible doctors, but my sisters (like many of their colleagues) are there to help people get well.
That said, having family in medicine also removes some of the aura. My sisters are far more qualified to give opinions on medical issues than I am and yet they also are still human.
Doctors make mistakes, they’re fallible like the rest of us, with blindspots and bias. Plus they’re used to having totally ignorant people, who “did their own research,” challenge them on things they’ve spent years of their life studying, and can become tired of answering these inane statements—appear arrogant.
Physician: “Heal Thyself…”
People have very high expectations in regards to modern medicine. We’re supposed to go to the doctor and be completely healed.
But the reality is quite different from that. Once you get past the buzzing technology and laboratory developed chemical cures, the sterile well lit halls of institutions, our actual abilities are still quite primitive. Science may have given us better bandaid solutions than were available to our ancestors, yet there really aren’t that many miracles to be had.
My own expectations have lowered considerably after two injuries requiring expert examinations.
The first, diagnosed as Degenerative Disc Disease, brought me to the office of the renowned neurosurgeon, Dr. Rajjoub. I had terrible pain, loss of strength and feeling on my right side, my neck was really bad from what my family doctor saw on the MRI. My parents, after we waited what seemed hours, finally were escorted into the examination room and were full of anticipation.
Having done our own research, knowing the seriousness of my injury, it was quite certain that I would be under the knife soon. They would open things up, remove the bad, and fix me up better than new!
The physician strode into the room. He looked over the charts and images with intensity and then, without hesitation, “physical therapy” and started to turn towards the door. Stunned, my mom, speaking for the three of us, our mouths agape, “Wait, what?!?” It was as if he just told a blind man to rub mud in his eyes and was simply going to leave. He explained further, telling us about the risks of the procedures, how my neck movement would be limited after, and restated his recommendation.
Dr. Rajjoub was right. After weeks of therapy and further exercise at home, I was able to regain feeling and the use of my right arm. Sure, I occasionally have painful flare ups and may need the surgery some day, but the doctor had given me the right answer even if it was not the one that I wanted to hear at the time. Modern medicine has advanced, yet it is our body that still does most of the healing.
A Comical Contradiction
After tearing my ACL I met with an orthopedic surgeon to discuss the options available. Still active, I expressed my desire to get back in the game and he responded by recommending surgery. They grafted a part of my hamstring tendon in where the ACL had been and I spent the next few months becoming good friends with Rob and Bob at Keystone Care Physical Therapy and impressing the old folks there with my vertical leap.
Unfortunately, after a year of intense rehab, I was playing basketball and reinjured the repaired knee. So I went back to the orthopedic surgeon for a consultation and his advice? He suggested that maybe I slow down a bit, that I was no spring chicken anymore (a paraphrase) and should probably avoid strenuous activities. Excuse me?!? I had thought I went through the surgery and physical therapy so that I could actually use the limb, right???
But that’s typical of a doctor’s advice. He was trying to minimize the risk of my reinjuring my knee, to cover his own butt, and could I really expect him to say anything otherwise? To tell me to go full throttle again? I can understand why he would urge my caution. And still I can’t deny being disappointed. My thought had been that this surgery would allow me to pick up where I had left off and instead I got a cease and desist notice.
The Undiagnosed Nightmare
I’ve reconnected with an old school friend. I rode the bus with him for many years and we shared a first name.
It is quite astounding, actually, how we got reconnected. That being a story for another time. But one thing memorable about this old classmate is how he was always complaining about pain in his feet. At a younger age I had thought of him as being weak or a whiner. He had been diagnosed as being flat-footed.
However, it was a little clearer that there was something more seriously wrong when, in middle school, a fall, after a playful shove in the hall, resulted in a broken hip.
Anyhow, at our one-on-one reunion he would let me in on his the true source of his suffering and something that the medical professionals had missed. Something that doctors had initially told him was all in his head, that the genetic department of an area research hospital refused to even test, turned out to be Fabry’s Disease, a rare genetic disorder where the body is unable to produce a particular enzyme, which means the body is unable digest certain proteins, and is a death sentence if not properly treated.
He had gone through hell. A breeze on his skin felt like torture. They had treated him with addictive painkillers that basically turned him into a junkie. And his proper diagnosis came from an uncle who read a story about someone with similar symptoms, a revelation that prompted my friend to demand the diagnostic tests for the genetic disorder and only then did he finally receive the necessary treatment. The medical system had both failed and saved him.
The Miracle Hoped For…
Then there’s my cousin Uriah. Nothing, not the most advanced treatment in the world, could save him. The prognosis was never good, Synovial Sarcoma, but I held on to the hope that some new cure might come along, some miracle might happen, and he would survive.
It was hard to watch. First after one round of him taking poison, called chemotherapy and the only thing that will keep the corrupted human cells called cancer from growing, they decided that he would need to sacrifice his leg. This Uriah and his family did everything they could, he received top notch medical care at Walter Reed and elsewhere. But there was not much that could be done for him.
The limitations of modern medicine is a bitter pill. And those seeking ‘alternatives’ do not fare any better if diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. I know many strong-willed individuals, in partial denial of the graveness of their condition, who traveled to places like Mexico for some kind of breakthrough treatment and suffered the same fate. Better technology may come along soon and yet disease and death is as natural as health and life.
There is a myth, popular in some circles, that if a person eats right and exercises they will be rewarded with long life. Uriah was one of the most fit and disciplined people I know, there was nothing he could have done better, he was dealt a bad card.
“In 2002 James lost his 19-year-old son after he collapsed while running. He had been diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia by a cardiologist a few weeks prior and was released from the hospital with instructions not to drive for 24 hours.
“His death certificate said he died of a heart arrhythmia,” he said, but my son really died as a result of “uninformed, careless, and unethical care by cardiologists.” He explained: “If you have a patient with heart arrhythmias of a certain level and low potassium, you need to replace the potassium, and they did not. And they didn’t tell him he shouldn’t go back to running.” Communication errors, he said, are “unfortunately very common.”
What is left out of this story is that a century ago he would have simply died from the arrhythmia.
In fact, only half a century ago my great-grandfather died, a middle-aged man, of a heart attack because there were no surgeries widely available.
So, truly, modern medicine is a victim of it’s own success, things have improved so much from the time when many people died of many diseases, even at a young age, that we now expect perfection. Our ancestors, not too long ago, would have no treatment options, whereas we demand answers when the treatment fails.
Those who expect too much will be the most sorely disappointed. Those who expect to be saved from suffering by science will some day be faced with a harsh reality and, likewise, those who believe that there’s a cure for cancer being withheld are equally delusional. This idea that we have complete control, that there should somehow be a cure for everything, is a product of our success in medicine and also ignorance of what this success actually means.
Sure, some of us, like my grandpa, may have died on multiple occasions had it not been for medical advancements like Penicillin, prostrate surgery and pacemakers. But, even now, with the great progress we’ve made, we’re still all eventually going to wear out. Our bodies have a shelf life and all the intervention in the world isn’t going to do much to change that. Eat healthy, exercise enough, avoid getting hit by a truck, and you might see eighty years, maybe more if you have good genetics. But we won’t live forever.
So, before we become too critical, rather than only dwell on the failures, we should look at the advancement and appreciate the success. Results will always be a mixed bag, even those who have received the very best care, men like Steve Jobs, do not live forever nor will you. Even Lazarus, brought back to life by Jesus, eventually died. And my friend, the one with the missed diagnosis, would long ago have joined Lazarus had it not been for modern medicine.
Recently, through the Freedom of Information Act, by request of Washington Post and BuzzFeed News, a trove of Dr. Fauci’s emails have been released and the revelations therein causing a great uproar online. On one side there’s the “I told you so” crowd doing their victory lap. While, on the other side, is the supposedly unbiased ‘fact-checkers’ and corporate media denial professionals trying to argue that there’s nothing to see here.
So, is Dr. Fauci a national hero, a seasoned expert who helped the nation navigate a crisis, or should his head be on a pike?
Let’s start with who Dr. Fauci is and why he is the focus of national attention…
Doctor in the Spotlight
Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., was born in Brooklyn, NY, on December 24, 1940, to parents who operated a pharmacy in the city, his grandparents were immigrants, he was raised Catholic and now considers himself to be a humanist. He was a standout basketball player in the private Jesuit high school he attended, went to Holy Cross University for pre-med, and then attended Cornell University’s Medical School. He married Christine Grady, in 1985, who is described as “an American nurse and bioethicist” in Wikipedia, and they have three daughters.
In early 2020 Fauci was selected to be part of the Trump administration’s White House Coronavirus Task Force (now serves as Biden’s chief medical advisor) and very quickly was singled out by the corporate media for his sometimes seemingly contrarian positions with the President. If anything, his elevated role and becoming the face of the pandemic response has more to do with partisan politics of those desirous use him as a foil against President Trump than it does with anything else. Even Fauci himself, in the emails, seemed confused about his new celebrity status.
There were many stories lauding Fauci. There is no indication that he wanted to become the public figure he has become. He did not have the power to tell states what to do. But now, because he was portrayed as this unquestionable expert, he has become symbolic of the shutdowns and mask mandates to many Americans. Fame, even if unasked for, is a two-edged sword. One can quickly transition from hero to heel once the spotlight begins to reveal their blemishes. By putting Fauci front and center of the Covid response, the partisans have given us ample reason to scrutinize just who he is.
I personally, as someone with a sister who is a medical doctor and another who is a nurse, I am also not comfortable with many of those trashing Fauci’s reputation. I’m equally opposed to demonizing him or trying him in the court of public opinion. That said, as one who has some life experience, I also understand the value of second opinions when it comes to medical interventions. Fauci’s opinion should have been considered one of many, as part of a task force, and should never have been positioned as a rival to the President. That was dirty politics, completely a media creation, and likely hurt the pandemic response.
The Politics of Pandemic
Ideally, in times of national crisis, where many lives are at risk, partisan politics would’ve been put aside and the nation would rally behind the leaders elected no matter their party affiliation. In that world, the President, informed by various economic and medical advisors, would make the executive decisions and government agencies would do their best to put these decisions to practice. However, in the current polarized hyper-partisan environment, and with a Presidential election looming in 2020, the pandemic was treated by many as simply another divisive political tool.
No world leader’s response to Covid-19 was perfect. For example, had European governments followed Trump’s lead and shut down travel from China early on in the pandemic we might have had more time to prepare. It is easy to forget, but before social distancing and shutdowns became vogue, many social elites were minimizing the threat and calling Trump a racist for warning the world about the virus. In Italy, for example, they were urging people to give hugs to Chinese people to prove their own virtue. Our Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, urged her constituents to visit the crowded streets of Chinatown in San Fransico.
Trump was criticized for urging calm and being a cheerleader once the danger of Covid was finally realized. And, before that, was criticized for shutting down travel from China and accused of fear-mongering for speaking out. He could not win. He was resisted at every turn while trying to take steps to prepare and then accused of literal murder for the deaths in this country as if the world was somehow doing better. Few here would know that the US death rate is actually lower than that of Europe, per capita, but the stories here would focus on death totals to build the image of Trump’s failure.
Fauci, on the other hand, was not allowed to be criticized. He was praised endlessly as a representative of science, as bold and unbiased, a source of all truth and wisdom. His word was to be treated as irrefutable, god-like, his perspectives treated as the only one that mattered, and Trump asked over and over again, “will you follow Dr. Fauci’s recommendations?” It was presented as this horrendous thing that Trump may not take this one man’s advice on how to respond, as if there weren’t teams of other advisors to be heard and other concerns to be considered.
Every smart patient knows to get a second opinion on serious matters. Even the best physicians, experts in their fields, can misdiagnose or prescribe the wrong treatment. And this idea that “following the science” means worshipping or never questioning, men like Fauci is pure ignorance. It is dangerous ignorance.
But, as ignorant, is holding Fauci to an impossible standard because others put him on a pedestal.
On one hand, I completely understand the resentment that some hold towards this man that has come to symbolize the economic destruction brought on by state governors following Federal guidelines. However, much of what is being said now, in wake of the released emails, is as unfair as the coverage of the previous administration. Those against mask mandates and economic shutdowns are doing the same thing to Fauci as the corporate media propagandists did to Trump. His comments, like Trump’s comments, are being ripped out of context by many commentators, without explanation, and that’s a problem.
Yes, some of the emails show that Fauci withheld certain ideas about the origin of the virus and was initially dismissive of masking, yet nothing I’ve seen so far is smoking-gun evidence of his wrongdoing. Of particular interest is his involvement in funding the Wuhan lab, during the Obama administration, and whether or not this may have been a conflict of interest. And then there is the ethical issue issue with “gain of function” research that must be explored. My goal is to give fair treatment to the man and offer my own perspective as far as the content of the emails.
To Mask or Not To Mask?
One of the most contentious issues of the pandemic was the mask mandates. These state level policies, following the recommendations of the Federal government, were viewed either as life saving and scientifically proven or as terrible infringements on liberty and pretty much totally ineffective.
My own leanings, as someone who purchased a box of N95 masks in January of 2020, is that masks offer a marginal protection, if the correct type and properly used, and yet the mandates were basically useless. First cloth masks don’t offer the level of filtration that is necessary to trap the water droplets carrying the virus. Second, some countries required both a face shield and mask because they determined that masks alone weren’t effective.
The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through the material. It might, however, provide some slight benefit in keep[ing] out gross droplets if someone coughs or sneezes on you. I do not recommend that you wear a mask, particularly since you are going to a very low risk location.
And also saying this:
Masks are really for infected people to prevent them from spreading infection to people who are not infected rather than protecting uninfected people from acquiring infection…
Now, I believe he’s right in both cases. Masks only offer minimal protection. Covid spread through factories where everyone wore masks and states with mask mandates really didn’t fare better than those that did not. I understand that urge people have to “do something” and there are several flawed studies that back up the idea that masking is beneficial. However, I really do not see evidence that it makes a significant difference. Real life doesn’t match up with laboratory conditions. And thus that was likely behind Fauci’s pragmatic first take.
What is a bit unfair about the criticism about this apparent reversal in opinion on masks is that we all change our minds all the time. Sometimes I may disagree with some of my colleagues on something, state my own perspective, and then later amend as new evidence comes in. However, what is disturbing is where Dr Fauci explains this flipflop as being protection of mask supply for medical professionals. In other words, he is basically admitting to having lied to the American people about the effectiveness of masks. If that is the case then he should not be given a free pass.
The ‘Debunked’ Lab Leak Theory
One of those banned topics on social media was the theory that Covid-19 may have come from the lab in Wuhan, China. It made sense, a deadly virus emerges at a market within walking distance of Wuhan Institute of Virology, why not put that laboratory on the list of suspects? But for some reason discussion of this possibility was forbidden until very recently when it was revealed, through US intelligence, that researchers at this lab had become ill shortly before the virus turned the surrounding city into a warzone.
The Fauci emails also reveal that this possibility, even that Covid showed signs of being engineered for “gain of function” research, were discussed. Now, frankly, this is just good forensic science. It would be more shocking had this never been considered at all. And the batting this idea around alone is not proof that this is what had actually happened.
However, that so many literally conspired, with a foreign entity, to suppress this hypothesis (Big Tech censorship stifling the online conversation, corporate media fact-checkers claiming it had been debunked, etc) should be a cause for global outrage.
Of course, the most laughable claim of media propagandists, at the time, was that it was racist to link the virus to the Chinese Communist Party. Nevermind this was from the same people who had no problem with taking aim at wet markets and bat soup. But somehow that criticism of Chinese eating habits wasn’t a problem while taking a closer look at a laboratory that was studying coronavirus and bats was inappropriate.
Anyhow, given that Fauci had come out in full support of gain of function research and also been a force behind funding the Wuhan lab. Could it be this history explains the private discussion, in emails, and simultaneous public denial? Possibly, yes. It is very clear there’s a conflict of interest. Of course there’s a reason for him to keep a lid on what could be proof of his culpability for millions of deaths worldwide.
The result of Fauci’s silence, and corporate media stupidity and bias, is that something that should have been thoroughly explored months ago is only now being openly discussed. This has given a totalitarian regime, known for deception, more than enough time to cover up the truth and their role. Precious time has been wasted on what could be the biggest crime against humanity in the history of humankind. We have experienced a death toll and economic damages greater than twenty nuclear bombs, countless innocent lives destroyed, and the likely culprit was protected by a web of denial, collusion between Big Tech, the corporate media and high ranking government officials—like Dr. Fauci.
If the January 6th fracas is worthy of consideration for a Congressional Commission, then we really should dig deeper and investigate the true cause of a global pandemic that killed millions. No, there’s no smoking gun in the Fauci emails, or least none that I could see, and yet there is more than enough reason to suspect that one of our leading experts had tried to keep a lid on the Wuhan lab theory because of his own ties to the research. And still our corporate media speaks glowingly of him, as if he could do no wrong, the fact-checkers scurrying to tell us there is no bombshell revelation in the emails.
Dr. Fauci: Authority or Arrogant?
One thing that the pandemic has revealed and the emails only further confirmed, is the complete arrogance of our institutions. For whatever reason Fauci and others felt it was okay to mislead the American people, to tell the so-called “noble lie,” and then they wonder why trust is waning amongst the people they’ve deliberately deceived? Meanwhile, those who should be holding their feet to the fire, our ‘journalists’ (who now also see themselves worthy to pick winners for us rather than simply report), embarrass themselves with their fauning praise.
Is Fauci the sole source of all real science and truth?
No, absolutely not!
Is he a total fraud unworthy of his position?
Well, that is something worthy of investigation and yet to be determined. Innocent until proven guilty is still the law of the land. And I do not believe in trials in the court of public opinion. Again, while there are questions of ethics and culpability to be answered, that our corporate media should be asking rather than singing his praises, nothing in the emails implicates him of a crime.
My own thought, knowing what is known, is that making Fauci the fall guy would be letting too many others off the hook. Sure, he represents an accountability problem with the political establishment and elites who are protected by their own interests at the expense of the American people. No, they don’t simply “follow the science” nor are they invulnerable to group think or free from all bias. They’re human, like us, they make mistakes, they have political agendas and hidden motivations too. It isn’t about secret conspiracies so much as it is a matter of human fallibility, in general, and arrogance.
Over the course of the past year Fauci’s name has become synonymous with authority and science. But much of that is smoke and mirrors. He is truly only one qualified voice of many and was only made the face of the pandemic as a way to undermine Trump. This is pretty much the only reason why he is loved by one side and loathed by the other. Politics. The politics of the pandemic cloud good judgment. And those caught in this political fray deserve better than to be torn up by the mob or raised up like saints.
Fauci, given the voting patterns of NYC and government lifers, is probably as Democrat as one could be. That could explain some of the looks of tension, and tedious corrections, when Trump used his layman’s terms during press conferences. But, unlike the media narrative that constantly pitted him against the President, the emails showed this conflict between the men was massively overblown.
In the end, Dr. Fauci has the swagger of a Brooklynite, cocky or confident depending on who you ask, and amazing stamina for a man his age. But he should have never been made a celebrity, never turned into this unquestioned authority on matters of science or used as a tool of partisan politics.