How I Went From #AllLivesMatter to #BlackLivesMatter

I left Rush Limbaugh behind a long time ago. In high school, I served two years as the cartoonist for the school paper and I was known for working signature catchphrases like “Ditto” or “Rush is Right” into every editorial cartoon. Sometimes it was subtle, but most of the time it wasn’t. I still can’t believe they let me get away with it.

By the time I graduated from high school, I left Rush behind. I saw something in his rhetoric that reminded me of what the scriptures call “priestcraft,” and I came to think of him as someone who was less about ideology and more about himself. It didn’t take long for me to start seeing political parties the same way. When it came time to register to vote, I marked myself down as an Independent. I never looked back.

My value system still leans a bit to the right, probably owing a lot to my upbringing, and also my religion. I’ve never been able to completely buy into Progressivism, even though one of the tenets of my faith is an emphasis on change and progression. Though I don’t believe in being stagnant or getting things back to the way they were in “the old days” when, for example, women weren’t allowed to vote and redlining condemned multiple generations to poverty, I’m also wary of the constant drumbeat for change, which can become a moral value unto itself at the disregard of what I believe to be moral constants. We should be moving forward, always, but in the right direction and for the right reasons.

One of the big problems I’ve always had with Progressivism is something I’ve termed “temporary exceptionalism.” It’s this idea that in order for social reform to happen then we must make special allowances for underprivileged groups or bring down the majority in order for the minority to get a leg up (I’m oversimplifying a bit, but quotas would be the most basic example of what I’m talking about). I don’t believe in creating opportunity by taking it away from others. I don’t think we’re playing a zero sum game here and I think, as difficult as it would be to achieve, it’s possible for everyone to have equal opportunities at the same time. I don’t think you get to equality by lifting some above others the same way you don’t get it by pushing anyone down. Otherwise, you’re at risk of swinging the pendulum too far and that becomes another kind of injustice.

Years ago, when I first heard the term “Black Lives Matter,” I rejected it immediately. My first thought was, no joke, “Hey, wait a minute, all lives matter.” I saw Black Lives Matter as more of what bothered me–of lifting up one group over another. I saw “BLM” as saying, as I believe Progressivism often does, “The only way we’re gonna make this right is by giving more advantage to these folks over here than to those folks over there who have had it for way too long.” Elevating black lives over white lives? No, that’s not right—same way the other way around isn’t right. I saw Black Lives Matter as a different kind of inequality and isn’t that what we’re all supposed to be fighting against? My wife and I had a lot of discussions about this, debating it back and forth. I was on one side, her on the other, supporting #BLM. Both of us operating in good faith and trying to convince the other of what was right.

I was, quite obviously, wrong. As a concept, Black Lives Matter isn’t about excluding anyone, it’s a raising of a hand to be recognized. It’s a righteously angry plea for acknowledgement that black lives are the same as everyone else’s–they matter. All lives matter THEREFORE black lives matter, too. This is basic, and I missed it because, try as I might to be an independent thinker, I got infected by a rhetoric that said a particular advantage was trying to be achieved when that wasn’t the case at all. It never was.

It has to be said that Black Lives Matter because too many people are behaving as if they don’t. Particularly, unfortunately, people who have power. Black Lives Matter is a spotlight on an injustice and a plea for change–a specific, righteous change.

The best explanation I’ve seen going around (and that seems to be convincing a lot of Conservatives) is this one I saw on Twitter:

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It’s really as simple as that. My house isn’t on fire. I don’t have fear when I interact with white, bigoted, racist people, whether they have power or a gun or not, because they don’t see me as their enemy and they don’t see me as less than human. But if I were black? George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and so many before them prove there is a real reason to fear. It’s the fear of death, and, after all the strides towards equality we’ve made in the past 60 years, we should not be okay with anyone walking around in our country with the fear of death for the way they look, a thing over which they have no control and is of no consequence to their value as a human being. What inequality could be greater?

Another way of getting at this same idea (and this is another example I’ve seen going around) is to look at what Jesus doing when he left the 99 sheep to go after the one. He was, essentially, saying, “Lost sheep lives matter.” The 99 were safe, so he went after the one that wasn’t. White lives are not imperiled in the same way black lives are, so #BlackLivesMatter.

I’m encouraged by the sea change that’s happening. People are waking up to what Colin Kaepernick and others like him have been trying to say for years, and it’s important for white voices to rise up with them, so I’m adding mine.

I believe in change and progression. They are at the heart of the Gospel of Christ. It gives me a lot of hope in our country’s potential to heal what are some very old wounds when I see the movement that’s sweeping this country. To see mayors and governors and religious leaders and what seems like the majority of people in my social media feeds throw their weight behind Black Lives Matter is an encouraging thing and a positive sign at a time when it seems like we’re more divided than ever.

To anyone who also struggled at one time or another with #AllLivesMatter vs. #BlackLivesMatter, I would encourage you to add your voice. You’re not alone. However you arrived at your change of mind, it’s an important story to share. So, share it. This is the time.

Why I’m Not a Republican (Or a Democrat)

My father always said there was nothing worse than a Moderate. Fence Sitters, he called them. Can’t make up their minds, can’t stand for anything because they have no cause.

I’m a Moderate. Currently, at least. A couple decades ago you might have called me a Conservative. In some circles, simply by virtue of the fact that I voted for Obama, I would be known as a Liberal. What I definitely am not nor ever will be is a Republican. Or a Democrat.

Dad was hard right. He sold Impeach Clinton bumper stickers at his gun store and blasted Republican trumpet Rush Limbaugh through the stereo he kept near the register loud enough so the cows in the neighboring fields could hear it. Dad believed Rush was right about, well, pretty much everything. Back then, so did I.

I was the cartoonist for the school paper during high school and my signature was working in the phrase “Rush is Right” into each and every cartoon I did. Sometimes it was a shirt, other times a street sign. I did it because I believed in the political doctrine espoused by Rush. He was RIGHT. So was the National Review and William F. Buckley and George Will and all the rest.

Yeah, I had a subscription to the National Review during high school. And yeah, all the girls wanted me.

My attraction to the Republicans was deeply rooted in my religious beliefs and morals. Republicans were all about family values. So was I. They were against abortion. So was I. They were in favor of a strong military even in times of peace. So was I. They were for welfare reform. So was I.

And you know what? I still am, on all of that and more.

I’m also in favor of Universal Health Care and the Buffet Rule and I sympathize with what the Occupy movement is trying to do and say (even though I think they need to get a reality check, toss the drums, and break up the circle).

When the change happened, it happened fast. By the time I registered to vote at age 18, I did so as an Independent. “You’re throwing your vote away,” my dad said. “Only in the primaries,” I countered. “Bah,” he said in my imagination as he walked away shaking his head.

Dad died almost a year later, so he never really got the see the full transformation that began, oddly enough, because of Rush Limbaugh.

When I was 17, I started really listening to Rush. I mean really listening. He sure liked to talk about himself. Loved to tell his listeners how great he was and how blessed they were to be able to hear the incredible wisdom that fell from his lips like raindrops on barren soil. His arrogance and ego were so ridiculous that they played as comedy. But I noticed something. He wasn’t winking when he said those things.  He was never anything less than serious in his self interest. The comedy was just how he sold the idea.

So then I started really listening. A lot of the stuff Rush said didn’t make any sense. He betrayed the very basic rules of logic in order to make his points. He made huge leaps to get to some of his conclusions and accusations, and then didn’t back them up in any substantial way.  He presented inflammatory comments from the other side with no context and then spun off into wild speculations and tales of hidden agendas and master schemes for which I had to take his word. Didn’t matter what was true or not, what mattered was what could be true. And what could be true was probably–

–most likely–

–oh, let’s face is it was–

TRUE.

Rush’s loyalty wasn’t to the actual truth, I concluded, it was to his ratings, his followers, his political party and his money. Self interest was the current that ran through everything he did. And he was honest about it! I just, for a long time, didn’t believe him.

If Rush… then what about Republicans?  The Grand Old Party had money and power to protect, too. Was it possible those things could be more important than what was good for the country? Did the Republicans act out of self interest?

Well, duh.

It didn’t matter that the GOP shared many of the same values and beliefs as me. That started looking more like a flag they were waving and less like a genuine set of ideals. If their chief priority was the perpetuation of their power and influence, then the ideals would have to change according their degree of inconvenience and the times. How could I be a part of something I didn’t trust and that could be so fluid in its composition and purpose?

I was adrift. I looked towards the Democrats. Ich. No way.

So, I registered Independent. Years passed and, out from under the gun of a party line, my political views freely lined up more with my moral and religious understanding. I ended up a Moderate. Probably a little right of center, but a Moderate. Cue roll in Dad’s grave.

Dad never could have guessed things would get this deeply divided. I often wonder what he’d make of the political realities of 2012. Of clowns like Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann and “news” stations like Fox  News and MSNBC. As a guy standing in the middle, it’s super obvious to me that the two sides aren’t even having the same conversation or using the same language anymore. Would Dad see that? Or would he have grown and changed with the party line?

I have no way of knowing, of course. But I do know this: I resent being in the middle. I resent being a Moderate. I feel on the outside of just about every political conversation and, for the most part, I choose not to indulge the political side of myself anymore. I find it incredibly frustrating and exhausting disagreeing with everyone. That’s a lot of fights to pick.

It’s probably Dad in my head, but I’d rather pick a side. I don’t think the truth is always in the middle. Sometimes, one person is right and the other is wrong. Right now, unfortunately–in this country– it’s not that simple.

Maybe the real problem is that I picked a side a long time ago and I stayed there. It’s everybody else that moved.