I was abused by my own preacher.
I’m promoting this political essay on the eve of 9/11 because since 9/11 our nation has been on a path that is still very much influenced by that event, because the greatest threat to the US is still from within, in the battle for the hearts and minds of everyday Americans, and not from some foreign group or ideology.
When I was in my mid twenties, long before I began a career talking politics or making videos & film, there was one voice that seemed to say everything I was thinking. I’d tune in to 1110AM in Charlotte, NC every day at noon to hear the opening beat from “My City Was Gone” by The Pretenders, and Rush Limbaugh’s voice would boom through my | Read More »
Let’s look beyond the message of Star Trek and see where it finds us. First I’ll argue that this is an entertaining blockbuster with mediocre aspirations as a science fiction standard bearer. Will you enjoy it as time and money well spent? Yes. Will you think twice about it as you leave the theater? No. If you accept the premise of mediocrity then ask me, why need we look further?
My answer takes the form of a postulated question. Did you hear the message that mankind is its own worst enemy?
SPOILER ALERT GALORE
ICYMI: Idris Elba aka Krall embodies the role of the villain as a human, albeit one who’s enhanced far beyond mortal man. You might say he’s kind of a cross between Frankenstein’s monster and scifi Dracula. My complements to the script makers. There’s nothing like mining the best, most often copied material for another bite at the apple, or the neck, or the box office. With the dollars at stake (2013’s Into Darkness more than $450 million in revenue- Beyond budget ~$185 million) would you risk original work when you can trot out tried and true formula?
And when our esteemed thespian, see Beasts of No Nation, asks as to his motivation, director Justin Lin’s reply; why you’re a disgruntled employee! Talk about going postal. And Krall delivers the mail with a rare combination. Can you say spider and bee fetish? His base of operations is a planet surrounded by nebula where spaceships maroon while their crews become entangled in a web-like comatose state which he uses to extract from them what he needs. The product here is not honey but hate. His forces, however, do swarm like no hive you’d ever want to stumble across. The Federation is nonplussed to wield any technology that can withstand Krall’s weaponry.
Here I suggest is where the message digs it’s foundation. When we lift the lid on his coffin we discover Krall was heretofore our model citizen, warrior, officer and gentleman. What happened was that the Federation took the highly trained and experienced combat veteran and gave him a civilian job, having ended all wars and the need for his old ways. It has been thirteen years since numbered American soldiers have faced a two front war; one in Iraq and another in the minds of those afflicted with PTSD and other related issues. Whether or not American combat veterans have experienced being more prone to violence once returned home, the message on screen was clear. Captain Edison struggled with the loss of his military identity. He faced a consequence of being rewarded for his sacrifice and bravery with being lost in space. He was left behind. Forgotten. Edison was ultimately left for dead with little or no sign that his employers cared about either him, his subordinates, or his service. As time passed his mental state deteriorated, eventually creating the fertile soil from which Krall emerged.
The direct line conclusion from the path laid out by Beyond is that societies bare the risks associated with placing soldiers in harms way. The results could reveal themselves long after the damage has been done.
I, or shall I say the filmmakers, offer you more messages than these.
The story’s overall theme that is revisited throughout hammers home one mantra. Families and friends who commit to unite will strive together and reach their potential to overcome whatever obstacles arise.
The danger that often occurs is when we forget this belief and sabotage it through self destructive decisions. Chris Pine’s Kirk does just that when the unending, unconquerable, infinite space defeats his sense of adventure, his desire to be challenged, and his dream of achievement. The subject of his failure: purpose. Zachary Quinto’s Spock takes a different route to reach the same end. Grief, perhaps the strongest manifestation of what causes us to question ourselves, to the point we completely derail, is this half human’s Achilles heel as well. He chooses to abandon his celestial family to serve what he thinks is his ethnic responsibility to the fatherland, or what’s left of it.
The biggest reason why 13 films and 37 years of the Star Trek saga resonate with moviegoers is the bond that built the original Gene Roddenberry TV creation. Beyond is on target with this piece and Karl Urban’s McCoy delivers the glue gun. The series explored not outer space so much as it did the relationship between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Their journey through the ups and downs of complex and conflicted emotions had more to do with their survival than any technological techniques they mastered.
McCoy reminds Spock why they mean so much to each other and why it matters. When they bring that message back to Kirk, he takes his exercise of trust, inspiration, and leadership to another level seeing Uhura, Scott, Sulu and Chekov prove once again that their place is on the Enterprise and his home is with them.
This is the best part of the science fiction Beyond offers. There is nothing new here. That is the basis for my grade of C. Star Trek gets a pass from me because it is a production that keeps the genre alive though it falls short of advancing it. I hail science fiction because I see it as the best genre for bringing together the moral and ethical dilemmas within the human condition as they intersect with apocalyptic aspects of advanced technology. The more we role play these hypothetical scenarios the more time we will have to consider them before we have to deal with them in our reality. Are we ready to face global warming?
So I salute Star Trek Beyond. Beyond’s success bridges the gap between great science fiction movies of the past…Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys, The Matrix…and the next great scifi story which will take a rightful place in cinematic history. As for the Star Trek franchise I offer only these words: Live long and prosper.
“When children are surrounded by a culture that values and celebrates literacy, there is a greater chance that they will develop a habit and love of reading.”
by Dr. Cory Heyman
This week, I am participating in the 60th annual Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) Conference, an event that fosters discourse and debate within the international education community about solving the world’s education challenges. I undoubtedly know that we will spend much time listening to novel and innovative ideas presented in research and best practices that focus on the child such as educator-child interactions — and there will be many more crucial topics to ensuring high quality educational opportunities are provided to deserving children around the world.
‘looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…’ Hebrews 12:2
Here are some tips that you can choose to apply to your writing. Decide for yourself.
Write so that your product will provide consumers with joy. Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Write what is in your heart. Don’t write what you think people will like or to please other people. Follow your heart when you write and be true to who you are and what you want to say. Luke 6:45 A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.
Believe in your vision for what you want to write. The Apostle John was directed in writing the book of Revelation to “Therefore write what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this.” Revelation 1:19
Learn the art of writing. Practice the discipline of writing. Proverbs 23:12 Apply yourself to discipline and listen to words of knowledge.
To communicate a message understand what you are saying. Be sincere, have a clear conscience, and seek to find the purist form in your words. Avoid abstract, vague, confusing language. The Apostle Paul uses this advice when sharing with Timothy how he should stay true to the message they are supposed to be teaching. 1 Timothy 1:5-7 Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. 6 Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.
Think of your writing as a sacrificial gift to others, and expect to be paid what it is worth. Acts 20:35 includes part of the Apostle Paul’s direction to the church elders in Ephesus. In it he states “In every way I’ve shown you that by laboring like this, it is necessary to help the weak and to keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, for He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”. Likewise when Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia he advised them similarly “For each person will have to carry his own load. 6 The one who is taught the message must share all his good things with the teacher. 7 Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap,” Galatians 6:5-7a.
Apply careful investigation to what you write. The Gospel attributed to Luke begins with this explanation: “Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. 3 It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.” Luke 1:1-4
Have a clear and specific purpose for everything you write. Joshua 18:4 Provide for yourselves three men from each tribe that I may send them, and that they may arise and walk through the land and write a description of it according to their inheritance; then they shall return to me.
Write when you find yourself most challenged. Write when it seems like it’s the last thing you should do. When in doubt, write. No matter what excuse you have not to write, write anyway. Here in John 8:6 is an example of what Jesus did: “They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.”
Write for a higher standard. 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 “It is of little importance to me that I should be evaluated by you or by any human court. In fact, I don’t even evaluate myself. 4 For I am not conscious of anything against myself, but I am not justified by this. The One who evaluates me is the Lord.”
A Sunday Morning Sermon For You
I’ve been getting pounded lately from Branch Trumpidians – the “Christian” sect – about Trump’s great relationship with God. He drinks the little bit of wine, eats the little cracker, etc… It’s no secret, and in fact, it is with a great deal of disappointment that many of us watched as the so-called evangelicals turned out in droves to | Read More »
Excerpt of Ken Burns Stanford Commencement Address
Our spurious sovereignty is reinforced and perpetually underscored to our obvious and great comfort, but this kind of existence actually ingrains in us a stultifying sameness that rewards conformity (not courage), ignorance and anti-intellectualism (not critical thinking). This wouldn’t be so bad if we were just wasting our own lives, but this year our political future depends on it. And there comes a time when I – and you – can no longer remain neutral, silent. We must speak up – and speak out.
“We must remain committed to the kindness and community that are the hallmarks of civilization.”
For 216 years, our elections, though bitterly contested, have featured the philosophies and character of candidates who were clearly qualified. That is not the case this year. One is glaringly not qualified. So before you do anything with your well-earned degree, you must do everything you can to defeat the retrograde forces that have invaded our democratic process, divided our house, to fight against, no matter your political persuasion, the dictatorial tendencies of the candidate with zero experience in the much maligned but subtle art of governance; who is against lots of things, but doesn’t seem to be for anything, offering only bombastic and contradictory promises, and terrifying Orwellian statements; a person who easily lies, creating an environment where the truth doesn’t seem to matter; who has never demonstrated any interest in anyone or anything but himself and his own enrichment; who insults veterans, threatens a free press, mocks the handicapped, denigrates women, immigrants and all Muslims; a man who took more than a day to remember to disavow a supporter who advocates white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan; an infantile, bullying man who, depending on his mood, is willing to discard old and established alliances, treaties and long-standing relationships. I feel genuine sorrow for the understandably scared and – they feel – powerless people who have flocked to his campaign in the mistaken belief that – as often happens on TV – a wand can be waved and every complicated problem can be solved with the simplest of solutions. They can’t. It is a political Ponzi scheme. And asking this man to assume the highest office in the land would be like asking a newly minted car driver to fly a 747.
As a student of history, I recognize this type. He emerges everywhere and in all eras. We see nurtured in his campaign an incipient proto-fascism, a nativist anti-immigrant Know Nothing-ism, a disrespect for the judiciary, the prospect of women losing authority over their own bodies, African Americans again asked to go to the back of the line, voter suppression gleefully promoted, jingoistic saber rattling, a total lack of historical awareness, a political paranoia that, predictably, points fingers,always making the other wrong. These are all virulent strains that have at times infected us in the past. But they now loom in front of us again – all happening at once. We know from our history books that these are the diseases of ancient and now fallen empires. The sense of commonwealth, of shared sacrifice, of trust, so much a part of American life, is eroding fast, spurred along and amplified by an amoral Internet that permits a lie to circle the globe three times before the truth can get started.
We no longer have the luxury of neutrality or “balance,” or even of bemused disdain. Many of our media institutions have largely failed to expose this charlatan, torn between a nagging responsibility to good journalism and the big ratings a media circus always delivers. In fact, they have given him the abundant airtime he so desperately craves, so much so that it has actually worn down our natural human revulsion to this kind of behavior. Hey, he’s rich; he must be doing something right. He is not. Edward R. Murrow would have exposed this naked emperor months ago. He is an insult to our history. Do not be deceived by his momentary “good behavior.” It is only a spoiled, misbehaving child hoping somehow to still have dessert.
And do not think that the tragedy in Orlando underscores his points. It does not. We must “disenthrall ourselves,” as Abraham Lincoln said, from the culture of violence and guns. And then “we shall save our country.”
This is not a liberal or conservative issue, a red state, blue state divide. This is an American issue. Many honorable people, including the last two Republican presidents, members of the party of Abraham Lincoln, have declined to support him. And I implore those “Vichy Republicans” who haveendorsed him to please, please reconsider. We must remain committed to the kindness and community that are the hallmarks of civilization and reject the troubling, unfiltered Tourette’s of his tribalism.
The next few months of your “commencement,” that is to say, your future, will be critical to the survival of our Republic. “The occasion is piled high with difficulty.” Let us pledge here today that we will not let this happen to the exquisite, yet deeply flawed, land we all love and cherish – and hope to leave intact to our posterity. Let us “nobly save,” not “meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.”
Let me speak directly to the graduating class. Watch out. Here comes the advice.
Look. I am the father of four daughters. If someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, take it effing seriously. And listen to them! Maybe, some day, we will make the survivor’s eloquent statement as important as Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
Try not to make the other wrong, as I just did with that “presumptive” nominee. Be for something.
Be curious, not cool. Feed your soul, too. Every day.
Remember, insecurity makes liars of us all. Not just presidential candidates.
Don’t confuse success with excellence. The poet Robert Penn Warren once told me that “careerism is death.”
Do not descend too deeply into specialism either. Educate all of your parts. You will be healthier.
Free yourselves from the limitations of the binary world. It is just a tool. A means, not an end.
Seek out – and have – mentors. Listen to them. The late theatrical director Tyrone Guthrie once said, “We are looking for ideas large enough to be afraid of again.” Embrace those new ideas. Bite off more than you can chew.
Travel. Do not get stuck in one place. Visit our national parks. Their sheer majesty may remind you of your own “atomic insignificance,” as one observer noted, but in the inscrutable ways of Nature, you will feel larger, inspirited, just as the egotist in our midst is diminished by his or her self-regard.
Insist on heroes. And be one.
Read. The book is still the greatest manmade machine of all – not the car, not the TV, not the smartphone.
Make babies. One of the greatest things that will happen to you is that you will have to worry – I mean really worry – about someone other than yourself. It is liberating and exhilarating. I promise. Ask your parents.
Do not lose your enthusiasm. In its Greek etymology, the word enthusiasm means simply, “God in us.”
Serve your country. Insist that we fight the right wars. Convince your government, as Lincoln knew, that the real threat always and still comes from within this favored land. Governments always forget that.
Insist that we support science and the arts, especially the arts. They have nothing to do with the actual defense of our country – they just make our country worth defending.
Believe, as Arthur Miller told me in an interview for my very first film on the Brooklyn Bridge, “believe, that maybe you too could add something that would last and be beautiful.”
And vote. You indelibly underscore your citizenship – and our connection with each other – when you do.
Good luck. And Godspeed.
Text of Commencement address
A copy of this article that appeared in Fortune Magazine is here in an effort to consider how we might continue the conversation to fix what’s wrong. Go to Nolabels.org for more.
60 Ways to Fix the Economy
Since we launched in 2010, No Labels has had a distinct focus: Bringing America’s leaders together to solve big problems.
For the past two years, No Labels has worked diligently to create a playbook for our next president that represents both good politics and good policy.
Working with our pro-bono partner Deloitte Consulting, No Labels conducted almost 20 policy workshops featuring policy experts, former senior government and military officials, and business and community leaders from across the political spectrum. Along the way we researched, debated and discussed hundreds of discrete policy proposals in areas including tax, budget, health care, Social Security and Medicare, investment and innovation, energy, education and regulation.
If an idea was deemed good policy in our workshops, No Labels took it straight to the people, conducting national polling to survey the American people’s feelings on strategic choices facing the country.
The end result is the No Labels Policy Playbook For America’s Next President, featuring 60 ideas, the vast majority of which poll above 60% overall and at least 50% among Democrats, Republicans and independents.
All 60 ideas are designed to help America reach four national goals focused on job creation, balancing the budget, securing Social Security and Medicare and achieving energy security.
GOAL #1: Create 25 Million New Jobs in the Next 10 Years
The Great Recession of 2008-2009 was so deep and damaging that total employment in the U.S. did not return to its pre-recession peak until May 2014. The American job market is in better shape than people think, with the U.S. unemployment rate dipping below 5% in 2016 and wages growing at the fastest rate in six years. But our next president and Congress can’t get complacent because there are still far too many American families who don’t feel an economic recovery.
Solving this problem will require a more creative and flexible response from the U.S. government—one that focuses on reform of taxes, education, workforce development, regulations and our infrastructure.
The U.S. isn’t sufficiently preparing our students for the job opportunities of the present or the future. College educations are often unaffordable, inaccessible or incomplete for many students. And a number of problems, including lack of effective worker training and expensive childcare, are conspiring to prevent far too many Americans from getting in and staying in the workforce.
The policy ideas below are designed to address all of these issues.
America’s roads, bridges, public transportation systems and electric and broadband infrastructure are in increasingly poor condition. The immigration system, a key component of a healthy economy, is broken. And while most Americans agree we need common sense rules and regulations to protect citizens, preserve our environment and promote public safety, the U.S. regulatory system is increasingly complex and incomprehensible and the costs are adding up.
Here are our ideas for tackling these issues.
GOAL #2: Secure Social Security and Medicare for the Next 75 Years
Social Security and Medicare are true lifelines for tens of millions of Americans. But these lifelines are fraying. Social Security and Medicare are not sustainable on their current trajectories due to the retirement of the enormous Baby Boom generation, falling birth rates and rising health care spending.
There are no easy answers to this challenge. But securing Social Security and Medicare is not impossible. There are a number of relatively modest and gradual changes to how benefits are paid and how these programs are funded that can keep Social Security and Medicare secure.
GOAL #3: Balance the Federal Budget by 2030
If the money we spend as a nation consistently outpace the money we bring in, the burden of our increasing debt—including the interest we pay on it—will crush us.
America’s public debt-to-GDP ratio is around 74%. That’s higher than at any time in U.S. history, except for a short period after World War II, and more than double what it was in 2007. The budget trajectory we’re on is unsustainable and we ignore this warning at our peril. That’s why America’s leaders need to commit to balancing the federal budget by 2030.
GOAL #4: Make America Energy Secure by 2024
In a global economy, the U.S. can’t expect to completely insulate itself from energy markets. What we can do is focus on the priority that really matters, which is energy security.
No Labels defines energy security as freedom from harm to our economy or national security from the energy decisions of other countries or acts of nature.
Here is a question I asked Jeff Pearlman and Amy Moreno based on her blog post explaining why she supports Donald Trump, which you can read below. In my question I basically imply that she never gave a tangible reason why she supports him!
Jeff, please ask Amy to answer this ONE question. I have seen Donald Trump speak in person during the primary. Why should I vote for him? I did not vote for Obama. He did not give me one reason to. Trump said NOTHING during the speech I heard to answer that question. He said two things: he would win, we had to unite the party…and, wait for it, he would win even if we did not unite. So his last words were essentially that he didn’t need my vote. Now, I paid a lot of money to see him speak in person. And that is all he said.
What perceived reality do you (Amy) have that explains why I should vote for him? Perhaps Obama wasn’t qualified. Perhaps Bush wasn’t qualified. Personally, I would never assume that Trump’s resume qualifies him for POTUS. If that is enough for Amy, so be it.
Jeff Pearlman has some strong arguments…
I have been thinking much about the rise of Donald Trump of late, but I’m tired of obsessing, worrying, fretting. So I just want to say something, and then I’ll try and (editorially) move on for a while. It won’t be easy, but—again—I’ll try. Because this isn’t healthy.
OK, here I go …