Good Sports

Montage of Target and Hobby Lobby logos

Hey, America, how about we try to be better sports when it comes to communicating about political issues?

Let me give you a for instance.

Today the retailer Target took a public stand against people bringing guns into its stores.

“This is a complicated issue,” the company announced. “But it boils down to a simple belief: Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create.”

I am among the many hundreds of thousands of people who emailed, tweeted and otherwise called on Target to make this very decision.

I am very happy about it.

But I also understand there are people who are NOT happy about it.

So, it made me cringe when groups that have helped push for this decision crowed about our “victory” and those who were upset began the expected surly push back.

Do I think it is a “victory”?

Yes.

But I think offering a simple and sincere “thank you” and then moving on to the next opportunity to advocate for a gun-sense position is a better way to go.

Here’s another example.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that Hobby Lobby and other family owned or “closely held” for-profit companies can opt out of following certain law if they have religious objections.

I was not happy about the ruling.

Mostly because I fear we are going farther down the road of treating “companies” as “people” – which they are not.

Also, because it seems to set up a bad precedent for companies to “claim” religious objections in the future that may or may not be sincere vs. simply having an economic motive. Who gets to decide that?

But I also understand there are people who ARE happy about the ruling.

So, it made me cringe when the handwringing of some whose position did not prevail and the whooping victory dances of some whose position did prevail got underway.

Do I see it as a “defeat”?

Yes.

But a simple statement along those lines and then moving on to the next opportunity to advocate for a corporations-aren’t-people position is a better way to go.

By no means am I suggesting that we stop discussing the issues and stating our points of view.

I absolutely think we should keep talking, discussing and debating.

But why not try to conduct ourselves with some class, decorum, grace and “good sportsmanship” regardless of whether we prevail or suffer a setback?

You know the old saying…you win some and you lose some.

In the long run, relationships with those around you are more important than the winning or losing on any given day or on any given issue.

Most “winning” and “losing” is not permanent anyway.

Issues and problems and solutions tend to be cyclical.

They will come up again.

It reminds me of the game Chutes and Ladders.

The Chutes and Ladders game board – like life – presents opportunities to advance and to lose ground.

In moving from the proverbial “square one” to square one hundred you will climb up and slide back down along the way…multiple times.

The trick is to persevere without getting overly smug or sulky.

When you hit a ladder, smile and keep moving on – but without gloating.

Because – sooner or later – you will hit a chute.

And when you do…don’t cry. Pick yourself up, roll again, and keep moving on.

After all.

It’s not whether you win or lose.

It’s how you play the game.

Nobody likes a bad winner or a sore loser.

So if your hobby is to lobby…please try not to use your fellow citizens as targets.

Chutes and Ladders game board

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Bully

Opie, on his way to school, is being threatened by a bully

Netflix Screenshot

It’s possible to agree with someone and still disagree with them at the same time.

It happened to me just yesterday.

Our son and I watched an episode of the Andy Griffith Show on Netflix while we ate our lunch.

Opie Taylor was being bullied.

Every morning on his way to school he would have to cough up his milk money (5 cents) to a mean boy who threatened to beat him up if he didn’t give him the nickel.

Sheriff Taylor (with assistance from trusty Deputy Fife) caught on to what was happening, but struggled with how to help.

“I don’t want him to be the kind of boy who goes around lookin’ for a fight,” Andy Taylor muses. “But I don’t want him to run from one when he’s in the right.”

Without letting on that he knew about the milk-money-bully, he told Opie a story from his own childhood.

He stood up to a bully, took a punch in the nose (“I didn’t even feel that knuckle sandwich”), laughed at the bully and then “lit into him like a windmill in a tornado.”

Opie takes the story to heart, stands up to the milk-money-bully and appears at his dad’s office with a black eye.

He is proud of his black eye and strategizes how to make the swelling and bruising last as long as possible.

Sheriff Taylor supports the response by referring to Opie’s black eye as a “medal.”

So that’s how I agree with Andy Taylor and disagree with him at the same time.

I agree that we should never go around “lookin’ for a fight.”

And I agree that we shouldn’t “run from one when…in the right.”

But I disagree with the idea of lighting into our enemies “like a windmill in a tornado” and I cringe at the idea of then swaggering around with our injuries as if they were some sort of “medals.”

Opie flashes a big smile when his Dad tells him he can try to keep his black eye "medal" for as long as possible

Netflix screenshot

I prefer the lesson taught by Sister Benedict in the movie Bells of St. Mary’s.

She notices a boy being picked on and encourages him to turn the other cheek.

When the bullying continues, and the bully gets a pat on the back from the priest for being “manly,” she teaches the boy how to box defensively.

He successfully protects himself and then, instead of lighting into the bully “like a windmill in a tornado,” he offers his hand, helps the boy up, and invites him to be his friend.

There are lessons for us here in how we deal with disagreement in our highly polarized world.

  • We should not go around “lookin’ for a fight” with people who believe differently than we do. (Don’t be a troll.);
  • We should not run from debate with them when we feel we are in the right. (Participate in discussion and debate about important issues.);
  • We should not combat bullies and trolls by lighting into them “like a windmill in a tornado.” (Don’t stoop to their level.); and
  • We should defend ourselves, but then be willing to offer an open hand and a fresh start. (Take the high road.)

It is possible to agree and disagree with someone.

Even Sheriff Taylor.

Talking Rabies

List of dog vaccines along with rabies vaccine tag

Facebook reminded me I had an event on my calendar today.

A rabies clinic.

Not for me, of course!

Time to take our dog Tess and make sure she is up to date on her vaccines.

The event is for her benefit.

But it got me thinking…

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was such a thing as a rabies shot for people…politically speaking, I mean…?

A once a year (or every three years) inoculation against working ourselves into a foaming-at-the-mouth bite-anybody-and-anything-in-our-way’s-head-off kind of rage?

Want to get into an intense debate with somebody over politics or religion, preferred child-rearing practices, or whether the toilet paper should drape over or under the roll?

Show proof of your vaccination…and then discuss, debate, disagree, persuade and convince all you want.

Once you’ve had your shot, there will be no danger you will “lose it” and start demonizing or belittling the person you disagree with. You will stick to the issues and avoid that tell-tale “foaming-at-the-mouth” ridiculousness.

(A ridiculousness which I can assure you is highly unlikely to win anyone to your way of thinking…)

I’d be first in line for it.

I try to stay measured when expressing my views, but I know I am as susceptible as anyone to slipping into that rabid response trap.

Symptoms: increased heart rate, appeal of snarky comments and images, appreciation of humor that comes at the expense of others, etc…

Maybe somebody will be able to invent this vaccine…

In the meantime, I would suggest a non-medicinal inoculation:

It can be found in Ephesians.

 “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

Until they develop the vaccine, this should help.

Give it a try.

Recommended dosage: Read regularly. In some cases it might even help to print it out and stick it next to your computer screen. Reflect. Repeat.

Possible side effects: Improved relations with those around you, lowered blood pressure, and ability to consider a variety of perspectives.

Person acting silly with whip cream on their face, as if they have rabies.

 (No animals were hurt in writing this blog post, although some whipped cream did meet a timely demise…)