Thursday, January 29, 2009

Civil Discourse Defended (Ethan & Micah are Wrong)

Recently, Ethan Millard's SLCSPIN and Micah Bruner's DeathKnell have published blog articles critical of a recent call for "civil discourse" in a Salt Lake Tribune editorial. I respectfully disagree with both Ethan and Micah on this issue.

In the case of Micah, I believe that he is misreading the article due to the fact that he was primed to do so by first reading Ethan's blog alleging that the call represented an effort to "coerce" civil discourse. In the case of Ethan, I believe that he is misreading the intentions of the vast majority of people in and out of office who call for civil discourse, because he sees such efforts as being an attempt by public officials to "escape questions and conversations that may be uncomfortable for them."

I personally have never heard nor read of any effort to "coerce civil discourse" by anyone accused of so doing by Ethan, and I see nothing in the Tribune editorial as advocating such. In my opinion, the people who could rightfully feel targeted and insulted by the paper's call for civility are the very political officials serving in the Legislature that Ethan believes want to deflect scrutiny by issuing the said call themselves. And, what I suspect is causing the perception difference between myself, and at least Micah, concerning the issue of legislatively coercing civility is the following line from the article:

". . . From passing well-crafted laws to shrinking Utah's religious divide to making sure people of all races, ethnicities, religions, ages, incomes, political parties and physical abilities are heard and represented. . . ."

From what he has written in the comment section of his blog, I suspect that Micah is interpreting this line as being a call for the Legislature to pass well-crafted laws mandating civil conduct in the future. But, my reading of it (in context) persuades me that, far from advocating future legislation to coerce civility from the public, it is actually the Tribune criticizing the Legislature for allegedly contributing to the current culture of incivility by making the following mistakes in the past:

  1. Passing poorly crafted laws and contributing to the religious divide. (I see this as being a reference to Utah's supposedly oppressive liquor laws, or anything else that appears to favor the Mormon majority at the expense of everyone else.)

  2. Preventing people of all races, ethnicities, religions, ages, incomes, political parties and physical abilities from being heard and represented. (Again, I see this as being a jab at the practice of the Republican delegation of holding closed caucus meetings where the real work supposedly gets done out of the public view, or government officials allegedly meeting with the Mormon Brethren to obtain their marching orders.)

Because I am a conservative, white, male, Mormon, Republican, I am not too critical of the Legislature. I feel represented well. But, some folks at the Tribune and elsewhere seem to have another opinion, believing that the Legislature has helped to cultivate the current climate of incivility by its alleged misbehavior. Thus, that is how I interpret this particular line from the editorial.

The authors apparently believe, beyond the general need for all of us to be more civil, that the Legislature should also embrace this call by making itself more friendly to diverse views. I do not agree, necessarily, with everything the Tribune would endorse along those lines. But, I will certainly defend that paper against any accusation that its call for civil discourse is actually an attempt to shield public servants from scrutiny. (Not that Ethan is attacking the paper as much as he is attacking in broad terms the call for civil discourse.) The Tribune is in the business of providing thorn-in-the-side scrutiny. I do not believe that it now seeks to do otherwise.

In the opinion of many of us who routinely call for such, civil discourse is actually the key to increasing scrutiny of public officials. Too often in our world, too many of us try to pass off hit and run insults and accusations as political commentary and analysis. For me, a call for civility is not an attempt to muzzle tough questions, but rather a call for even more questions, more thoughtfully asked, more responsibly answered, and more objectively reported.

I feel very strongly about this issue. I hope that Ethan and Micah (two of my favorite and most respected bloggers) will reconsider their attack on this call for civil discourse. And, I praise all those who are nobly seeking to promote civility within our community.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Goodbye, Mr. President.

Yesterday, the same day that President George W. Bush delivered his farewell address, it was reported in the media that his popularity in this state had finally dropped below 50%. That's too bad. For the record, I would like to say that I have only come to appreciate him more.

I love him. I consider him to be a fine man. And, I am grateful for his service to our nation.

I have been moved by the dignity with which he has conducted himself as his popularity has plummeted, his name reviled, and his character assassinated. I have learned a great deal from his example. And, I have been proud of the class he has demonstrated during the transition to the Obama administration -- providing access and support to the incoming president that has been nothing less than extraordinary. Maybe someday the world will come to truly understand who this man is, and what he had done for all of us, but I don't plan on holding my breath.

Goodbye, Mr. President. May God bless you!


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

President Elect Barack Obama

I was moved this evening listening to the inspiring speeches given by both Senator John McCain and President Elect Barack Obama. I was struck by the quality of the men.

They both hit the perfect chord, for me. And, in both cases, it was clearly heart felt. I was proud of them, and I was proud to be an American.

Somewhere buried in the Utah Amicus blog archives is a comment I left back in the midst of the Primaries, when the Democratic field was still fairly large. In that comment, I confessed that Barack Obama was my favorite of all the Democrats.

Since then, my admiration for the man has only increased. I love him. While I may not agree with him on every issue, I am convinced that he will be an outstanding president.

And, even though it was my honor to cast my vote for John McCain, I am proud that the American people voted for Barack Obama. God bless them for their wisdom!

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Today, the People Decide

Well, election day has finally come. And, by this time tomorrow, we will have a better idea of where our country is going. Good luck to all of you who have worked so hard to do what you believe is right for our country. God bless you for your noble efforts!


Monday, November 03, 2008

Move to Canada?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Stop Imperial Judges

The Effect of Gay Marriage upon Traditional Families

Proposition 8 in Plain English

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Mormon Apostle on Proposition 8

Elder David A. Bednar

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Friday, October 31, 2008

California Proposition 8

My Dear Friends,

As you know, California's Proposition 8 seeks to amend the state Constitution so that marriage would only be legal between one man and one woman. In supporting this measure, I believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is engaged in an extremely selfless act of compassion towards our homosexual brothers and sisters. I know it may not seem that way to some of you, but I am convinced that this is the case. Please allow me to illustrate why I think as I do:

During the time that I was in junior high I had two different English teachers. One was a seemingly ornery old-school-woman who insisted upon forcing her students to diagram sentences, memorize grammar rules, do homework and pass difficult tests. The other was an easy going old-hippy-man who gave us word puzzles to play all term long without much homework or testing ever. As a kid, you can imagine which teacher I liked better -- the fun one, the old-hippy-man!

But, as I have grown older I have come to better understand which one of the two really cared for me the most, worked the hardest for my best interests, and better served me as a teacher -- the one that actually taught me something, the old-school-woman.

Sadly, she was not a popular teacher. And, I remember how hurt she appeared when my friend and I asked her to sign the forms that allowed us to transfer out of her class and into the class of the old-hippy-man. Oh, how I now regret that! But, I have learned my lesson:

Today, I can clearly see the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints acting in a manner similar to this dear old-school-teacher. It, among the very few, has the courage, the integrity, the wisdom and the love necessary to tell the truth to a world that would prefer to be seduced by lies.

The Church is not trying to be popular. It is not trying to hide from the painful persecution that will surely follow. Rather, it is simply doing what is right -- for society today, for our future children, and for our beloved brothers and sisters who deal with same sex attraction.

The truth is that all of us have been given issues with which to deal in life. And, the truth is that all of us would prefer to take the course of least resistance. Homosexuals are not unique in that respect. We all deal with one thing or another.

The question, then, is: "Who do we believe when trying to decide how to live our lives?"

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, just as historical Judaism, Christianity and Islam, was founded upon the belief that God reveals himself and his will to prophets who then act as his messengers. For those of us who are believers, that is why we belong to the Church -- through profound personal and spiritual experience, we have become convinced that those who lead the Church are in fact "true messengers."

Apparently, those members who now find fault with the Church's efforts seem to be saying that they no longer accept that idea. Apparently, they have become converted to another paradigm.

That, of course, is extremely sad news to folks like me who remain convinced of the Church's truthfulness. We love these back-sliding members and we wish them well. But, this kind of apostasy is not something new to us. We have been dealing with it from the very beginning. And, we know that though many of these people may choose to leave the Church, they will not leave us alone.

Like some kind of obsessed and scorned lover, they will continue to stalk the institution, its leaders, and its faithful followers. They will misrepresent who we are and what we do. They will unite with and stir up our enemies to persecute us. And, as a people, we will suffer greatly because of them -- even unto the losing of our lives.

Bank on it.

We have seen it before.

We will see it again.

But, with the help of a loving Heavenly Father, enough of the Saints will survive that the work will go forth. Joyfully, some of these prodigals will return. And, soon we'll have this tale to tell: All is well.

That is my testimony.


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