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  • Reverend James Squire

Sticks And Stones And Being Proactive

Remember that phrase that we said when we were children and someone called us a bad name. “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Boy, did we get that wrong. In today’s culture, people don’t see the ramifications of their name calling. In fact, they persist in doing it as a reasonable strategy to address any group or person who disagrees with them. I think of one person and one group who have been on the receiving end of ad hominin (against the person) attacks, and statements against a group that will make my point.

I watched the cringe worthy attack on Dr. Fauci. Senator Paul has been passing as an attack dog during a recent committee meeting where the issue of the pandemic was front and center. He accused, demonized, belittled, and interrupted one of the greatest medical people in our nation.

Dr. Fauci responded with some degree of anger as he is always measured and polite. He and his family have been targeted by the radical fringe because of words and venom that Paul and others spew. Paul didn’t take a second to ignore Fauci’s plea to stop. Someone with an automatic rifle had been picked up in the Midwest as he was making his way east to shoot Dr. Fauci. I am pleased that a 100 of the leading physicians in our nation sent a letter calling Rand out for his egregious behavior and to have someone do something. Nothing Happened. People who offer criticism but no solutions are filling up the Republican party. When someone does not see a relationship between what they say or do and consequences, in the world outside of Washington as well, we would call them sociopaths. Words can be directed at an individual or a group. The heart of the matter rests in words spoken with no consequences seen. People and groups are put in a reactive mode which makes then more vulnerable.

Regarding the hostages held at the Texas synagogue, there is much made of the issue that the terrorist wanted to hold the people because he wanted a woman terrorist released. That’s how most of the reporting has framed the situation. Let’s dig deeper. There was more. Fortunately, I saw the interview with Mr. Cohen, a hostage, who was interviewed about what it was like inside that day. The interviewer raised the question, “Why did he target your synagogue?” The terrorist said, “Because Jews have all the money and power.” That is an antisemitic caricature that has made its way through the culture to the point that it was the real reason that he chose the synagogue. That was his perception. But I was struck by something else. Mr. Cohen wanted to make the point that they weren’t freed by the police, and they were not released by the terrorist. They escaped by being proactive. The Rabbi threw a chair at the terrorist and the hostages fled through a nearby door. Mr. Cohen demonstrated pride in his actions. He, the rabbi, and another escaped.

A number of Jewish people have sought counsel on how to handle such a situation from a security firm. In essence, the firm said that you have to have a plan. You have to be proactive. The lack of being proactive has become an ethical problem for our nation that is leading to our downfall. There were the usual condemnations from the White House, Governor Abbott, and that embodiment of courage, Ted Cruz. “We condemn what has occurred.” You do? So what? You killed the terrorist but you didn’t kill the idea that was behind his antisemitism. Recall that Trump reflected during the Charlottesville white supremacy march that we had, “good people on both sides” even as the white supremacists uttered: “We will not allow the Jews to replace us.” Only a few Republicans spoke against it. One who was Jewish left Trump’s administration.

I was raised on an often-stated quote “that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing.” Someone needs to tell Biden and Garland that perception equals reality. Both are racing to the bottom of the polls because of their inaction. Biden claims a working-class background, but he seems to have left it in Scranton. Nice platitudes don’t mean that much! All the American people see is all the public immoral actions of Trump have been played out in plain sight. You don’t have to state details but you can’t say nothing. Be proactive. It’s human nature for people to begin to side with the right because they see nothing but words coming from the cautious left and the White House. You can’t realistically expect people to “suspend belief for a year.” Do something to let people know that you are on top of this beyond what has been coming forward.

When there is a vacuum of perceived good, evil will flourish. If there is a word that may summarize working class culture, it is the word “proactive” and the phrase “don’t be all talk and no action.”

One of my good friends was the toughest kid in my high school. He was polite, kind, well mannered, and also a street fighter. He sublimated his personality and has been a lawyer all of his life. He has the same first name as President Biden. He was as empathetic and smart as Biden. My classmate was all action and no talk. He had a curious relationship with the mercy/ justice paradigm. He was not a great athlete, but he was a feared player on the football field because he was proactive. He took the action to the opponent. He fought fairly with those who would cause him to be angry usually because of something that was done to a friend. Joe did not have a phony bone in his body. I was the class president, and he was the vice president. We worked closely together.

Right now, we have a proactive culture on the right filled with mean spirited people who command a large audience because of their tough speech. Tucker Carlson is the talker in chief. The void will be filled by mean spirited people. If you want to see what Carlson is like when someone is proactive against him and his views, watch the brief video below when he is confronted by an average guy. He becomes a giggling fool. You can almost hear “Oh shucks, golly” coming from his mouth until he realizes he is being videotaped when he walks away hiding from the camera.

As I wrote in my memoir, one of my great memories was watching the Friday night fights with my father so that I could see the best in action to be a boxer along with what I was taught by my neighbor, Mushy Mushlanka, in real time. I was never very good. My favorite boxer was Carmen Basilio. I learned later in life that he fought against the mob and was the most offensive fighter in the history of boxing. He was proactive. He took the fight to others. He did not talk in platitudes. He was all action.

President Biden, you need to go back and spend some time in Scranton and take Merrick Garland with you. You need to relearn some lessons from working class culture.

If you don’t think that this is needed, listen again to Mr. Cohen’s words,” You didn’t rescue us. We weren’t released. We escaped.” He was proactive and filled with immense pride.

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