Tethered to the Truth

Rising above partisan loyalties

img_5715-1James Comey’s memoir, “A Higher Loyalty,” undoubtedly will be remembered for the final three chapters and the epilogue, in which the former FBI director recounts his interactions with President Trump.

Culled from since-released memos he wrote immediately after his encounters with Trump, Comey provides significant detail of his Presidential encounters, noting everthing from the firmness of a handshake to the location of the grandfather clock in the Oval Office. But more than just being there with Comey, the reader gets rare insight into how a career federal law enforcement official thinks. Tethered to truth and justice — a “higher loyalty” — Comey shows no deference to his former boss, calling the President “ego-driven,” “morally unfit” and a “mob boss.”

Many readers will do themselves a disservice and skip to the highly-publicized back of the book seeking to confirm their own criticisms about Trump, or discrediting the author as a self-righteous media hound looking to capitalize on Trump’s unpopularity. By doing so, they’ll likely see Comey as no different from any left-wing partisan who is critical of the President.

But if you read the book from beginning to end — starting with Comey’s time prosecuting the mafia (and Martha Stewart), his internal fights over spying and torture in President Bush’s administration, and finally his handling of the Hillary Clinton email scandal while serving under President Obama — you’ll see that Comey’s actions back up his assertion that he has “a higher loyalty.”

Democrat or Republican, mafia or Martha Stewart, Comey was never afraid to pursue the truth. Partisan pundits who criticize this demonstrated altruistic relationship with justice as being “self-righteous” simply reinforces Comey’s assertion that Trump — and his supporters — are “untethered to the truth.”

Joe’s Judgement: 5.0/5.0 stars

Fire and Fury … but fake?

Insightful book, but bad journalism.

img_5058-2“Fire and Fury” gives an unflinching look at the Trump White House. Wolff’s recounting of his conversations with Trump staffers reinforces several unflattering notions about the President: his inability to focus, he’s hot-headed and short-tempered, his narcissism and ultimately he doesn’t really care about the issues and only cares about being liked. It also sheds new light on the Bannon / “Javanka” rivalry, Trump’s frustration with a revolving door of Cabinet members, and how deep the Russian investigation may go. In the end, Bannon comes off like a genius mastermind — much to the dismay of the President — and the Trump administration is doomed.

The big concern with this book is that Wolff admits in his prologue that some of the content is essentially made up — what the author believes to have been said behind closed doors, rather than actual accounts of what was said. Wolff’s recollections align with popular perception, but is the perception feeding the narrative or the narrative building the perception?

As a journalist, the latter should be the case. But Wolff, a veteran journalist, breaks all journalistic rules by (admittedly) constructing some conversations with which he was not a witness, leaving the reader questioning what is actually true. And as President Trump continues to blur the lines between reality and “fake news,” this book does a disservice to credible journalism.

Joe’s Judgment: 2.0/5.0

I just wanted to swim with the other kids

Originally published on Patriot Not Partisan

BJ_1980
Me in 1980 – 4 years old.

When I was growing up, our neighbor had an above-ground swimming pool, a rarity in the tiny backyards of the homes on the Southside of Chicago. We could see the pool from our kitchen window.

I often played with the kids who lived in that house and considered them friends. But come summertime, they naturally spent their days in the pool. On any given day, lots of neighborhood kids could be seen playing in that pool. I wanted to play, too. After all, I was a neighborhood kid. But my parents said it would be impolite to ask — I needed to be invited. I watched them play from our kitchen window, sometimes even wearing my swimming trunks just waiting … but that invitation never came.

That’s the first time I learned that I was different from the neighborhood kids. Chicago was — and in many areas still is — highly segregated.  We lived in a white neighborhood. As a half-Filipino, half-white child, I was generally tolerated in my neighborhood, but never fully accepted (outside of my best friend and his family). At my Catholic elementary school, a few of my classmates would call me a “Filipino fart.” In high school, the kid who sat behind me in homeroom would often tell me to “go back to your country, wherever that is.” When I told the teacher about this, he told me to “just ignore it” and asked if I had finished my work. He completely dismissed my concerns, instead of addressing the situation.

Although I brushed off the racist rhetoric and actions, it did significant damage to my soul. I was severely wounded. I would bury myself in writing poetry, listening to heavy metal and dabbling in whatever substance I could get my hands on. One day, I wanted to end it all. And I almost did.

Twenty years later I found myself surrounded by people who accept me — and even celebrate me — for who I am. Of course, I knew there was still hate in the world. I wasn’t naive. I knew many people, especially blacks, Hispanics and gay people, still faced significant discrimination. And I always tried to stand with them. Although an ally against racism, I no longer felt like a victim. The wounds I endured in childhood were permanently healed, I thought.

Then Charlottesville happened, and more specifically, President Trump’s response. Like most Americans, I was shocked and saddened by the events of Saturday. And I was stunned by the tepid response given by the President. But I dug into my diversity training playbook and gave him the benefit of the doubt. As someone who has always been rich, white, straight and male, he cannot possibly understand what racial discrimination feels like. And on Monday, Trump at least made an effort to say the right thing.

Then his press conference on Tuesday happened. And the wounds in my soul that I thought were long healed began to flare up. When President Trump said, “there are bad people on both sides,” that little boy in his swimming trunks staring out the window occupied my mind. When the President said, there are “many fine people” among the neo-Nazis calling for an ethnic cleansing of our nation, the faces of the boys calling me a “Filipino fart” appeared. And when Trump promoted his winery in Charlottesville — “one of the largest wineries in the United States” — that teacher who dismissed my concerns was back.

In my diversity training, I learned there are actually very few racists in the world. Most people are just ignorant. I always thought our President fell into the latter category. But after his passionate statements Tuesday, and his continued unwillingness to consider the hurt his words have caused, it’s difficult not to consider him a racist.

And if you’re willing to overlook this fact and still support him, then you are no better than my high school teacher.

Trump, America about to deny Jesus

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 – “For the Lord your God…loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”


Donald Trump is likely going to sign an executive order tomorrow banning child refugees from Syria from entering the United States. Unlike his bans on other nationd that will last 100 days, his ban on Syrians is indefinite, a.k.a. permanent.

This means the families that are in the process of adopting parent-less Syrian children will not be allowed to proceed with their adoption. This means that Christian organizations that relocate child refugees to families in the United States, like Samaritan’s Purse and World Relief, will no longer be able to do their work. These children will likely die.

There is a lot of ambiguity in the Bible. Even contradictions. But the Bible’s stance on welcoming immigrants is clear.  There are more than 50 references in the Bible regarding “aliens,” “immigrants,” “foreigners” or “strangers.”
Remember, baby Jesus himself was a Middle Eastern refugee. And throughout his life, he was very clear on how we should treat refugees. In every instance Jesus comes across the downtrodden, he welcomes them.

His expectations of us in dealing with refugees is clear in Matthew 25: 34-46. This is the well-known passage where Jesus tells us that the key to pleasing God is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc. In verse 35 he tells us to “invite in the stranger.” Here, it’s important to note that Matthew was written in Greek, and the original word for stranger was “Xenos,” which can be translated to English as “immigrant,” “foreigner” or “stranger.”

Donald Trump is going to sign an executive order denying refugees tomorrow. And in the process, our nation will be denying Jesus.

Most Trump voters aren’t racist, but hopefully they can understand …

Three days after the election, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are still dominated by post-election chatter.

A well-written, insightful piece by college student Cassie Hewlett has popped up numerous times on my feed, shared by numerous friends who were Trump voters. Cassie states it perfectly:

With the results of the presidential election stirring up a vast amount of emotions, I think it is important to clarify something: just because I am Republican does not mean I am heartless.

She is right. I was heartbroken when a student of mine came to class feeling like she could not express her happiness with the election results in classrooms because academia is – let’s face it – dominated by liberals. And claims like “Trump voters are racist, sexist, homophobic” caused her to naturally become defensive, because she is not any of these.

Harsh rhetoric automatically shuts down any chance of conversation. It makes one automatically defensive.

Ironically, the frustration expressed by many Trump voters of being labeled “racist” comes from the same emotional place as the anxiety expressed by those disappointed in the election results. So many of my minority  (racially, religiously and sexuality) friends are posting messages of genuine fear and a sense that they don’t belong in America. These feelings stem from the harsh rhetoric Trump has used at one point in the campaign, for instance saying most Mexican immigrants are “rapists and murderers” or calling for a complete ban on Muslims.

Again, harsh rhetoric automatically shuts down any chance of conversation. It makes one automatically defensive.

For us to truly come together, those of us who dislike Trump need to stop applying blanket labels to his voters. And Trump voters need to understand that many minorities are scared, not because their candidate lost, but because of a genuine fear that has been instituted by the past rhetoric of our President-elect.

Please, tell someone who is genuinely afraid that you respect them, support them, love them and that you will be there for them.