Of Good Report or Praiseworthy.

I have a half dozen political blog posts sitting in my drafts folder. Sitting there, unfinished. Some end after a few paragraphs, some end in the middle of words. These past six weeks have stymied my wit and eloquence every time I sit down and try to write what I’m feeling and thinking and know.

Part of the mental block is my job–I’m a teacher and I need to set an example of rational, logical thought. When I taught AP Lang and Comp, I stressed the importance of a balance in rhetoric; I didn’t allow my students to rely on pathos at the expense of logos. Yet lately when I try to write, my fingers bleed pathos from the keys to the screen, often accompanied by tears of rage or sadness.

Modeling positive behaviors aside, I know some students stumble on my blog, and while as a private citizen I have First Amendment protections, I’m aware that even posting on my personal blog from my couch, as a teacher I’m held to a higher standard of public discourse.

As I write this, two of the five presidential candidates are debating. I am not watching. I check Twitter occasionally to see sound bites and memes, commentary from people trying to convince themselves and their followers that the world might keep spinning on November 9. Part of me feels like a failure for not watching; ever since falling 2 classes short of a Poli Sci minor at BYU, I’ve felt a moral obligation to do all I can to be an informed voter. That includes watching debates. But I cannot.

The past 48 hours have filled me with sadness and panic.

Sadness: what do I say to my students? I’ve drummed into them all of 1st quarter how important it is to pay attention to the news–I didn’t think I needed a TV-MA warning on that instruction. What do I say to my newspaper staff, kids I encourage to consult the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics every time they aren’t sure about running a story? Save for the Washington Post, I’ve been disappointed in true journalism examples for my students to emulate.

Panic: Regardless of who wins, what will happen to the stock markets and economy? Can American politics recover from these toxic 18 months? In three years will public education even still exist? If not, what else can I do? If not, will I be able to home school my nieces?

Watching this debate would exacerbate that sadness and panic, so instead, I’m writing in between texts from friends who are watching the dumpster fire of a debate.

Today at church I taught a Sunday School lesson about remaining steadfast, about keeping positive and continuing to live as the world seems to burn around you. I’m struggling with that concept, whether I can actually live that way and not simultaneously take an ostrich approach to injustice and corruption.

I didn’t watch the second debate of the 2016 Presidential election. I’ll read about it, I’ll be informed from my trusted sources. But for me, to have hope for a brighter world, I need to follow Paul’s advice to the Phillippians:

“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil. 4:8)

I’m certain the debate was none of those things. But actually completing a blog post and hitting publish? Pretty sure that qualifies.




Going Nuclear.

I saw tweets this morning about Donald Trump and nuclear weapons and my defensive antennae perked up. Yes, his campaign has denied that Trump asked repeatedly in a briefing why we don’t use the nuclear weapons in our arsenal, but after reading the transcript of his interview with the Washington Post, I’m not as inclined to believe his spokespeople. Regardless, this is not something I take lightly, having grown up in the shadow of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.

I remember going to the beach at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to see missile launches leave trails of whipped-cream smoke in the blue sky. I don’t think these were nuclear missiles, but at my young age, I didn’t know the difference. I knew Daddy had missile patches on his flight suits and bomber jacket, and the Strategic Air Command logo–a metal-clad fist squeezing lightning rods that looked like missiles to me–was more familiar than the Golden Arches of McDonald’s.

I remember moving to Nebraska at 8 years old and the other Air Force kids at school telling me that our base and city was #2 on the U.S.S.R.’s nuke list. Why? Because of SAC underground–a giant missile control facility housed stories beneath the Nebraska prairie. Fun fact: my dad worked in the SAC underground, so the kids at school unwittingly gifted me with years of terror, wondering if my dad would survive a Russian nuclear attack safe underground while my mom and siblings vaporized into nothingness.

I was ten years old when, in a creative writing class, I had to identify my greatest fear. “Nuclear war,” I wrote, and pasted a bright orange mushroom cloud cut from a magazine next to the words. I was ten. At various times, I’ve asked my nieces and nephews when they’ve been around ten years old what they are afraid of. The high dive. Bees. Squirrels. Human extinction never made their lists. And I credit that to the work of my dad and countless other men and women who pulled alerts in various missile silos all over the United States. My dad spent his entire Air Force career “keeping the world safe for democracy”–a phrase he often said light-heartedly–a phrase that now, in the face of Trump’s complete lack of understanding of nuclear deterrence, is quite grave.

An adviser to Jeb Bush sent out a threaded tweet today about nuclear deterrence theory and what Trump does not understand. Start with this one, and read upthread until you hit #20. As I read his tweets, pictures of my dad in his flight suit flashed in my head. Memories of events he missed because he was pulling alerts crossed my mind. Stories he only recently started to tell me–because of legit national security reasons–flooded my brain.

I get that people hate Hillary with the fires of Mount Doom. I get that people are sick of establishment politics (which to them I say, STOP REELECTING THE SAME TWITS TO CONGRESS). I get that this election is like none other we have witnessed in our lifetime. But seriously. Consider the cost. My dad did not spend his Air Force career holed up in missile silos or in SAC Underground or on the National Emergency Airborne Command Post  so that a twitchy lunatic could, 20 years later, undo all the work my dad and his squadrons spent decades doing.

I’ve been incredulous at and mocking of Trump’s behavior for the past year. Today is the first time I’m absolutely terrified and incensed.