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Friday, December 12, 2014

I Can't Breathe

I saw where numerous NBA teams are wearing "I Can't Breathe" shirts. I understand that they want to raise awareness. Certainly if it diminishes the problems of inappropriate police techniques that would be a good thing. You can love the police and still want them to do better.

Of course, systems theory reminds us that there are unintended consequences. The NBA is allowing a precedence which may lead into future conflicts. What if a team wanted to stand against abortion? If they all wore tee shirts declaring it to be murder would the media still applaud? Or if other players agreed with the grand juries and wanted to put the message of Charles Barkley on their shirt ("without the cops we would live in the wild west")? Is free speech okay in that case? And if endorsing causes is okay, can players wear political tee shirts advertising a candidate? I understand how difficult it is to decide what the right thing is, but the people saying "free speech" is at stake here need to be consistent. My guess is the NBA will reign in any attempts to expand the 'rights" of players to break the dress code. Very, very complex issues....

In an interview a Black leader complained that the TV news only seems to highlight crimes done against white women. I agree with him. I often wonder how one particular girl (out of so many tragedies) becomes the total preoccupation of the news cycles, sometimes for months and years. Obviously, news reporting is connected to ratings, and pretty white girls seem to be more valuable to increase viewership, or the type viewers advertisers are seeking. The media is about making money, and news is not pure...

The words, "I can't breathe" resonate at another level in my parish. We have two parishioners with lung diseases which are slowly suffocating them. One died last week. I am counseling with the other. My mom died that way. It was awful. Reading psalms 56 & 57 yesterday I was thinking about that
have mercy on me O God for my enemies are hounding me...
whenever I am afraid I will put my trust in you...
be merciful to me O God be merciful for I have taken refuge in you...
he will confound those who trample upon me... 

We all share in that experience, in various ways. Overwhelmed and helpless, crying out "I can't breathe!" (literally and figuratively) and waiting for God to deliver us.

Our parish is moving to respond to those who "can't breathe" in inner city Memphis. We are working with a minister and are funding a shelter. The ministry of Jesus, God's response to people crying out, is done in and through humans. A white suburban church funding a black church will not solve every problem, but the people who are saved will think it worthwhile. Pray for God's mercy on this project. Helping people 'up and out' is challenging work. We appreciate the opportunity God has given us to do something positive.


  1. Jeff, I ought to be easier on you, since this post doesn’t descend to the usual level of your thinly veiled apologies for racism—i.e., “I once knew a black teen who grabbed me from behind, and you know, those guys are pretty darn scary, so…”

    It’s great that your parish is supporting inner-city outreach and that you are willing to acknowledge a black leader’s concerns. I think you must have gotten up on a different side of the bed this morning. I hardly dare hope my own posts pointing out your obvious bigotry have had any effect.

    Still, amidst the good, you just can’t seem to help yourself in one respect. You have a positive genius for seizing on the irrelevant in any issue, using it to obscure the salient point, and holding it aloft with a triumph akin to little Jack Horner displaying the plum he found in his Christmas pie.

    I’m sorry about the way your mom died, and I sympathize. One morning, years ago, I listened as my dad slowly drowned in his own fluids.

    What happened to your mom and my dad has nothing whatsoever to do with the “I can’t breathe” issue that is the ostensible subject of your post, and the fact that you would cite such a thing shows, sadly, the triviality and confusion that seems to dog your thinking on just about every topic—the same triviality, come to think of it, that led you to post the breathtakingly inane message, a year ago, that “Saving Mr. Banks” provided a sound heuristic for understanding the New Testament.

    Your mom’s and my dad’s, deaths were what most people would call “acts of God.” No human walked into their houses and smothered either of them with a pillow—and then, despite the fact that he had been filmed doing so, got off scot free. Nor did such a thing happen because either of them was seen as representative of a group that is often regarded as frightening and suspicious.

    In other words, the two deaths in question have as much to do with Eric Garner as the Indonesian tsunami victims have to do with the victims of the My Lai Massacre—unless you think that sufficient similarity is achieved on the grounds that in both cases, people died in Asia.

    You really tried to make a step forward with this post, Jeff—but you couldn’t help spoiling it with your inanity and immaturity.

    Indeed, on reading the heading of your post, it suddenly occurred to me that you could change the title of your blog to “I Can’t Think.” That would be very truthful on your part.

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  3. Jeff, poor fellow, as I say, you continue to prove my point for me. If this last is your idea of “reasoning,” it would really be better for you to stop embarrassing yourself.

    You write “You think it [the manner of your mother’s death] is irrelevant…”

    It is irrelevant, Jeff, to the subject of your own post this morning. “I can’t breathe” refers specifically to a deliberate act undertaken by a New York policeman, in violation of his department’s own stated rules, filmed by bystanders, and apparently to be unpunished. It refers metaphorically to the increasing immunity of police for violent, oppressive behavior often disproportionate to any crime or physical threat.

    So unless your mother was the victim of a deliberate and violent act, then yes, her death, tragic as it was, is irrelevant to your own topic.

    Tell me, Jeff: Am I really having to teach this to you? Are you honestly incapable of working it out on your own?

    You write “for me, human suffering is relevant.”

    Yes, but again, not to the topic of your post, bud. Really, Jeff—try to focus.

    If someone came to you and said “My husband was stabbed to death in an assault Saturday night,” would you then reply “Well you know, 29 people were stabbed and slashed in a knife attack by separatist Muslim Uighurs in a railway station in western China”?

    Would you say that, Jeff?

    And if your informant then looked at you in astonishment and exclaimed “What the H___ are you talking about,” would you then answer “For me, all human suffering is relevant”?

    Would you?

    Because if you did, that would be exactly what you have done here.

    And it is the possibility that you may honestly not even be able to understand that, that is kind of scary in a man your age.

    You simply don’t know how to think clearly, Jeff.

    Or, as I suspect, perhaps you actually do, but have a desperate determination to cling to your folly and immaturity. I really think it’s the latter.

    So please, Jeff, consider this very carefully:

    You introduced a topic that is universally associated with a deliberate, violent, illegal, and oppressive act by law enforcement on an unarmed citizen.

    You then tried to associate it with the topic of your unfortunate mother, who apparently died of an illness either caused, or exacerbated, by an occupational health hazard.

    The two things have N-O-T-H-I-N-G to do with each other, Jeff. Nothing at all.

    You write, “I am not a bigot.”

    Yes, Jeff, you are, as well as very badly self-deceived. No one but a bigot could have written, as you did in a post about Trayvon Martin a year ago July, that “the good news for young black men is that this sort of thing [being shot by a white] won’t happen often.” It’s bad enough that something of such astonishing insensitivity could come from the pen of a minister, but in any case, it is the complacent outlook of a bigot. Your own words convict you.

    You write that it is probably inane of you to show respect to my post. What is inane is for you to continue to post, Jeff. You are an ignorant fool whose opinions are worthless and who has nothing of value to say on any topic. Why are you still typing?

    When I was a boy in church, we used to sing a little chorus, “Brighten the corner where you are.”

    You could accomplish that simply by taking a vow of silence. Please, Jeff. Surprise me, your family, and your parish and do the right thing.

  4. Oh--one more thing--after reading the above, whatever else you think, puh-LEASE do not write back and say "Michael, your comments are beside the point--Eric Garner did not die in China." I know that.

  5. Michael, I will continue to pray for your successful trek on the road to happiness.

    1. You two are so funny to watch. You are so much alike. You both think that you are the smartest person alive and it bugs you to bump heads with someone with the same belief. We just sit back and watch your two over-inflated egos stumble over each other under the guise of intellectualism and theology. Your process speaks much louder than the content of your writings. Fascinating.

    2. >Michael, I will continue to pray for your successful trek on the road to happiness.

      Thank you. Even though there is no God, if there were, He and I would certainly have something in common. In Job 38:2, He said "Who is this that darkeneth counsel without knowledge?" If he read Jeff's blog, He would be forced to ask that all the time.

    3. >You two are so funny to watch. You are so much alike.

      That is a very strange thing to say. We are nothing alike. Jeff is a flip, glib, heedless 14-year-old boy in the body of a grown man. I am a person who thinks through the implications of things. Jeff has no time for that, which is just as well since, when he attempts it, he falls flat on his face.

      >You both think that you are the smartest person alive

      Even stranger. Jeff thinks no such thing about himself, and neither do I. Jeff's problem is that he has become used to people paying little or no attention to the actual content of what he says, so he blurts out just about anything and doesn't expect to be called out on it. My burden is that in the course of trying to right the world, one idiot at a time, I started with a particularly stubborn specimen.

      >We just sit back and watch your two over-inflated egos stumble over each other under the guise of intellectualism and theology.

      I'm not sure who "we" refers to. I believe that to the extent that anyone pays any attention to this at all, they think Jeff is a modern-day Christian martyr who is being persecuted by a nasty atheist.

      Jeff makes little or no pretense to intellectualism--indeed, no one can, who finds it worthwhile to spend his time watching "Sons of Anarchy." For that matter, he makes little or no pretense to theology, as he shows when he make primitive errors like proclaiming that God doesn't know the future or that when Joseph said in Genesis that his brothers had meant their persecution of him as evil but that God had meant it for good, Joseph was mistaken. Theology and intellectualism don't interest Jeff. For him, interpreting the Bible is Jeff's playtime. I, as an atheist, actually take it more seriously than Jeff does. It is a preposterous book, but not as silly as Jeff's misunderstanding of it.

      >Your process speaks much louder than the content of your writings. Fascinating.

      Your indifference to the content of our writings is part of the problem and is the only reason that dimwits like Jeff still have a public platform.

    4. Huggsie: if you are an atheist why do you care if someone says "god" predetermines or knows the future? Why would you waste your mighty intellect on such a trivial matter--if you really are an atheist? But, you point with glee at the seeming inconsistencies of others out of your rich personal experience with that particular intellectual flaw. I guess I can see how a you might get a cheap thrill from playing mind games about it, but wouldn't you at some point grow out of that and get busy building your atheist hospitals and founding your atheist charities? Or is this just a form of release you take in your sodden moments away from the serious and sober work you do to repair relations between blacks and whites? But, please, don't respond to my rhetorical question, I wouldn't have time to read it anyway, as I will be tied up almost indefinitely reading again your previous long drawn out self indulgent posts about the story of your obsession with Fr. Marx. It's not that I find it interesting, on the contrary I find it so much more effective than counting sheep, and I'm just settling down for a long winter's nap.

  6. Michael
    Why do atheists read Christian blogs?

  7. >Why do atheists read Christian blogs?

    Because Christians try to get their silly beliefs enacted into laws that affect atheists and everyone else. Christian blogs are the canary in the coal mine.

    1. Bwahahaha... Really? That's the reason you are thrashing around here? Be afraid, Huggles. Be very afraid!

  8. >if other players agreed with the grand juries and wanted to put the message of Charles Barkley on their shirt ("without the cops we would live in the wild west")?

    If they said that, they would be as ignorant and biased as you, Jeff.

    I understand that because you happen to know a police officer that you like and respect, you think that police are OK and that reports of a few bad apples are overblown. And because you were once grabbed from behind by a black teen, you think that blacks generally get what's coming to them.

    Meanwhile, back in the real world, it seems that you and Charles Barkley (and Pat Lynch, the unhinged president of the New York Policemen's Union) have it backwards, bud:

    "Being a cop is not even in the top ten most dangerous professions. There were 97 fatal injuries among American police in 2013, a decline of 20 percent since 2012 and the lowest number since the series has been collected, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Looking at the overall number of cops, that gives a fatality rate of about 12 per 100,000. A fisherman is over six times more likely to die on the job – and a logger 7.5 times more likely.

    "Crime is far, far lower as well. It isn't 1992 anymore, when thousands of New York cops swarmed City Hall and blocked the Brooklyn Bridge for an hour, in a similar protest again then-Mayor Dinkins' insufficient deference to the NYPD. Homicide has fallen by half since those days, and violent crime in general is down by something like 70 percent." - Ryan Cooper, The Week

    The funny thing is, Jesus said "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." If he had known you, he might have said "How long, O blind one, before thou gettest a clue?"