Christian Ross

You’re trying really hard to lose my vote.

Yeah, yeah, I know there’s a Presidential election going on but this post isn’t about that race. Frankly, that race is a dumpster fire and I’d rather not spend any more time than I have to thinking about it.

Locally, we have a school board election going on. And while it hasn’t been as bad the national stuff, it’s still been a little disheartening to see the levels some will stoop for positions of power.

In one shining example, we have one candidate who decided it was a good idea to set up a fake The Facebook account and troll citizens and other candidates: https://www.star-telegram.com/news/politics-government/article245638050.html — Yes, a grown man, thinking it’s okay to catfish people on the internet to help advance his cause of getting elected for a non-paid, school board trustee position. (more…)

I don’t have the answers. Mostly just questions.

Luke 15:3-7
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

I have zero claim to the answers. Mostly just questions. People are hurting and I hurt for others. I am very aware that I have privilege based on something completely outside of my control.

There were (and probably are) times when I have failed to recognize my fortunes. And times when I’ve been proud to announce that everybody’s got a shot. And while it’s true that in the country I live in — everybody does have a shot — those shots are not equal by any stretch of the imagination. In basketball terms, I’m shooting from the low block while others may be dealing with three-quarter court heaves. I got layups.

I’m not sure where you sit on the fence. Depending on what media you choose to follow or what social platforms or influencers cross your feed, you are reading/seeing this with a lens on. And frankly, it’s almost a sure bet that somebody else is viewing this exact same thing with an opposite lens. I think we should try and come to an understanding that in almost all cases, neither of you is wrong.

Yes, there are the extreme viewpoints of those that think violence, destruction, or hurting others is the answer, it’s not. If that is your viewpoint, you are wrong.

Seven days ago, a man murdered another man. It was unwarranted and uncalled for. The human life that gets to continue on in this situation now has to live with this fact for as long as he exists on this earth. He will never forget this moment. I have no way of knowing but I am open to the idea that he is completely remorseful and that he may never have the ability to even forgive himself.

On the other side, tragedy was struck in the hearts of many. Another life was needlessly taken. A son, a father, a brother, a community member, a human being. His family too will never forget. They only have the memories now. The good times and bad. The smiles and the tears. The laughs and the mistakes. They didn’t get the opportunity to say goodbye, and frankly, I’m sure they feel like they’ll never have closure in this experience.

I don’t have the answers. Mostly just questions.

What I want is to have conversations.



I see color.

I see people of different color. At 42, I haven’t figured out how not to. I believe in both my head and my heart that even though we are different in color, we are equal in the eyes of our Creator. We have to be. Otherwise, I’m professing to serve a creator that is only a construct of what makes sense to me at any given moment in my life.

I see color. I haven’t figured out how not to. I work very hard though to make it not about color. I fail, as I tend to believe all do. My boys have heard me say throughout their lives that color doesn’t matter. Hopefully they have heard me push back when others may inch towards a line says that it does. It doesn’t. I pray that they are even better than me in their lives; with their words right now they tell me color doesn’t matter and in their actions I’ve thankfully seen it as well.

I see color. I haven’t figured out how not to. I’m torn. On one side, I want to be the voice that says, “your color doesn’t matter, it doesn’t define you.” On the other side, I’m wondering if the voice that says, “you are colorful, you are loved, you are accepted, let it define you,” is the one that needs amplification?

I don’t have the answers. Mostly just questions.



I see the heaviness.

I see the lawlessness of situations. The anarchy. I also see the peace and have respect for those that gather together for a cause in a respectful manner. I believe that one of the opportunities that I have living in a free society, is one to a peaceful demonstration. Whether or not I agree with what you stand for, I will fight to afford you the opportunity to stand for it.

I see police officers who are good. And I’m keenly aware that there are police officers that are bad. In this moment, I want to do my best to start referring to them as peace officers. Officers who promote peace, who long for peace, who choose peace in times of conflict. Peace officers who are bad, no longer deserve to be peace officers. I don’t believe that they deserve extra protection for when they break the law.

Even in the strife, I know that there is good going on. It doesn’t always get amplified.

More and more, I am starting to understand that if you’re watching the news, you’re being told a narrative. And while you may sit there and agree with me — it doesn’t matter what side you’re on, what channel you’re watching, what website you frequent, or what social media stream keeps your attention — you’re being told a story. It is one that you agree with or otherwise you’d likely turn it off.

I don’t have the answers. Mostly just questions.

If I had the answers, I’d tell you to watch channel X or visit website Y. The problem is, they all have an agenda. Some agendas skew towards what you might see as positive outcomes and some skew the other way.

Agendas. I have an agenda. You have an agenda. A police-brutality protestor has an agenda. The president has an agenda. The “machine” has an agenda. Your church has an agenda. The parks and recreation department in your town has an agenda. Media has an agenda.

They aren’t the same. They aren’t all written down. Many of them aren’t verbalized or even in someone’s conscious state of mind. We all have a way of seeing things and a desire to watch them end up in a form that aligns with that.

My agenda today is trying to find common ground. To gain understanding. To ask questions and listen for the answers. Not to listen with intent to formulate a response.

If there was a peaceful protest in my town today, I would go, sit, and listen. I would ask questions. I would offer hugs. I want to believe that I’m not the shouting type or the type that uses force to get my way and that would shine through even in the tense moments.

I want to learn, listen, and find common ground. I want to be at the center. Extremism is a cancer. I have not found in my life that extremism has solved much of anything. I could be wrong. I don’t have the answers.



#BlackoutTuesday

If you decide today to put up a solid black image to show your support for the Black Lives Matter movement, I support you. If you choose not to, I support you. I don’t look down on you either way.

What I long for is open conversation with people who have strong emotional feelings about their situation. What I would ask for is that we can hopefully root our conversations in facts. Everyone has a right to have their feelings and words heard. It is my belief that everyone should also desire to have the most factual information as they continue to formulate their views, their plans, their agenda.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have all the facts. I recognize that I don’t and I will work to gain facts and historical context before speaking out of turn. When I am wrong in my facts, I expect to be corrected. When my opinion doesn’t align with the facts that I am aware of, I will hopefully have the humbleness and attitude of one who is willing to adjust.

I pledge to read. I pledge to ask questions. I pledge to try and amplify marginalized voices who have real things to say. Hopefully when I do so, I can amplify the voices of those who have agendas that push our society forward to one of love and coming together. Not one that is divisive and extreme.

Depending on your lens, the Black Lives Matter movement will strike a chord with you in some way or another. You might be on the side of, “all in.” You also might be on the side of, “I believe all lives matter, not just black ones.”

I believe that black lives matter. I believe that all lives matter. I am working to understand how one statement so often causes strife for the other.

The best analogy I have so far is one where I choose to find my roots in. It comes from the book of Luke in the New Testament.

It’s a parable — a story with a higher meaning — about a shepherd who tends a flock of one hundred sheep. He cares for them. He loves them. He regards their safety.

One day, one of his flock goes missing. He longs for it. He’s likely scared. He’s willing to take a chance that he loses more over this one single sheep. There is unrest in his soul.

He goes after it.

The shepherd wasn’t content that most of his sheep were there. If you had $100 in single dollar bills, would you set 99 of them on the sidewalk to chase the 1 that just blew away? I doubt it.

You and I aren’t the shepherd in the story. But I’m supposed to be. I’m called to be the image bearer of the God that created me. You are too.

I’m called to long for that one. That marginalized. That missing one. That one in danger. That hidden one. That one who got chased when he didn’t deserve it. The one who needlessley lost his physical life. That one who instinctively drives me to cross to the other side of the road or makes the hair on my neck stand. That one who kneels on a football field. That one who waives a rainbow in my face. The one who posts incredibly insensitive memes on Facebook, not understanding the ramifications they may have. The one who holds up a fist. The one who shouts them down. The one who puts his knee on the neck, yep, even that one.

— — —

When the shepherd returns with the missing (and safe) sheep, he rejoices. He calls others into rejoicing. He throws a party.

I am not given instruction or example to be one that ignores the sheep. I am also not called drive out evil by physical force or the threat of it. I am called to long for, to search for, to love enough to chase down missing sheep.

 
One last analogy… If I invited you to my house because you were hungry and allowed you to sit at my table but did not feed you while I ate, are you not still hungry? You will tell me, “I am hungry!” but if I say back to you, “we are all hungry!” and offer you nothing to eat; I have not done anything to understand or help your situation. We are all hungry. And I believe we all have an opportunity to chase those others who are hungry and offer them food to eat.

I don’t have the answers. Mostly just questions.

The best of what we have to offer.

I went to bed last night with a pretty bad taste in my mouth. And unsurprisingly, it wasn’t gone this morning when I arose. If you watched any of the debacle called a Republican Debate last night then you already know that I’m not talking about a literal taste, one that comes from onions or pickles.

I endured the mess that was 2.5 hours of adult males (notice I didn’t say grown men) shouting, arguing, and belittling each other at the request of my business partner yesterday who asked me to hold off one more day before venturing down to our local rec center and casting my early vote for the Texas primary. His desire is that by watching one more of the 9 (nine!) debates I would have a clearer picture of who I should be casting a ballot for and hopefully advancing the cause of moving America forward in the coming years.

The taste in my mouth this morning should be clear that I do not. 

 

— — —

 

I am fortunate. I’ve written before about the opportunities I’ve been afforded by my skin color, my upbringing, my surroundings; I am prosperous, affluent, and comfortable. This physical life of mine could be much worse. I have no desire to ‘move to Canada’ or any other typical rhetoric that you might hear when going through a process like this. Yet, I can’t help shake the (oft-entertaining) internet meme that keeps running through my mind today: 

 

“Go home America, you’re drunk.”

 

I recognize that we are a fairly young nation in the grand scheme of things. If my math is correct, we’re working towards a completion of year 240 this July. But within that 200+ years, we’ve done some pretty cool things. We’ve been innovators. We’ve been leaders. We’ve been peacemakers (and sadly, war-makers). We’ve been care givers. We’ve been invitors of people. We’ve raised up men and women who have done great things and who have set even better examples. We’ve ushered in change, though sometimes slower than some would have like to have seen. Nations have looked to us for guidance, assistance, example, help, protection, and yes, sometimes they’ve looked at us in disgust.

Today, I’m pretty sure they’re looking at us quite bewildered. Confused to the fact that what we now have to offer as direction for our nation has been boiled down to a sideshow of clownism, supposed ‘leaders’ who yell at each other and demean each other on national stages in an attempt at a power grab. 

The mess that is reality TV has now become reality.

 

— — —

 

Unintelligible Yelling - Republican Debate

https://twitter.com/rabihalameddine/status/703064538476736512

 

I’ve got to assume that the rest of the world — if they watched that mess last night — understood it in the same way that closed captioning did on CNN, as unintelligible yelling. And what they see today is that America is truly drunk, a laughing stock. And frustratingly for me, what appears to be a stock on it’s way down.

 

— — —

 

As sad as the fact is that these are what have arisen as our best choices, the worst part about the entire thing is that we are egging this mess on. Donald Trump is an absolute mess of a human being and he is polling higher and winning by even greater margins than he ever has. This is a man who is demeaning, misogynistic, racist, crass, rude, filled with very few moral standards (if any at all), quick to lie, and what appears to be full of hatred in his heart; and here we sit supporting him more and more! 

In states like Iowa and South Carolina, he has actually won the majority of votes of evangelical Christian voters — the ones who should see through his mess more than anyone!

This man — one who opens casinos and strip clubs; one who has defaulted on multiple loans and put as many out of jobs as he claims to have given jobs to; one who has broken the law in high-profile ways several times; one who blatantly discriminates; who seems to belittle every person that disagrees with him; that uses wildly inappropriate language while shaming others for doing so — is the man that the church has now decided to rally behind. The same church that was established by Christ, the man who embodies everything Donald Trump is not. The same church that claims to show love, and grace, and mercy to all. The same church that should stand up and be defenders of all those Donald has taken advantage of for the last 60+ years. Shame.

Sadly, as bad as it seems with Donald poised to come out on top of this primary season, I’m not in love with anything else that’s still on the table. It’s true, I’d take any of the other four Republican candidates up right now over Donald Trump but that’s like saying I’d take the least moldy piece of bread in the bag. It’s still smells bad and has the potential to make me sick. 

On the other side of the aisle, my choices are an even-more-corrupt-than-Donald candidate that should probably be spending time in jail for her numerous offenses or an 800-year old kook that would drive our country so much further into debt that we’d end up under the rule of whatever country that decided to call our note in a very short period of time.

We’re hosed.

 

— — —

 

I’ve always remembered a specific conversation I was a part of in college, one where embarrassingly I got a little heated, one that caused me to think outside of my little bubble, if nothing else.

We were in a Bible class and somehow got on to the subject of America as a nation. As a proud American, I was happy to stand firm in my understanding of the greatness of the nation that raised me. We were powerful. We were strong. We were like no nation that had ever come before us. I was 19.

Another student in that class — an instigator in my mind at the time — had surely just finished reading Nietzsche or some other philosophy book pointed to the strength and size, and ultimately the fall of the Roman empire. He made arguments that we as a nation were in a similar situation to Rome in their heyday. As I recall it, I quickly jumped into a debate with him to let him know he was most definitely wrong and I’m sure I pointed out to him that if he didn’t like America, he was free to leave. I’m also fairly certain it wasn’t my finest moment. Go ‘merica.

I left class that day feeling puffed up for shutting him down but what I didn’t recognize is that I’d remember our conversation and his argument almost 20 years later. (If I’m not mistaken, he was dismissed from school for hacking into the computers and gaining access to school financials and student information but what he said has always stuck with me.)

Twenty years later, I’m not sure he was totally wrong. Maybe a 240-year run is a good one but now we’re on the doorstep of change. Maybe history does repeat itself and America is the new Rome. Maybe. Maybe not. 

What it does look like in the short term is that come November, Americans will have the choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to ‘lead’ our nation for the next four years. If those are our choices, I choose neither. Neither one of those two candidates represent me. Sadly, as backed by current polling and election results, maybe I’m not the representation of America anymore. Maybe America is getting a representation of who they really are, what they deserve.

 

Congrats America, you’ve gotten Idiocracy. Life is most decidedly imitating art.

Why am I running?

Even more than the question of, “why should I vote for you?” I get asked about my reasoning for running in this election. I’ve given any number of different answers depending on my mood and the situation. As I sit here on the eve of Election Day, I am reflecting back on the last six weeks and all of the highs and lows that have come with it. Since I may never have the chance to speak to everyone directly here in town, I thought I’d list out a few of the reasons why I saddled up for this ride. The following list is probably not exclusive but it feels right for tonight.

1. I am running for myself.
This could come off sounding a little selfish but that isn’t my intention. I am running because far too many (including myself) live with an impostor syndrome that is really hard to shake. “You’re not smart enough.” “You don’t have enough training.” “You didn’t go through the right channels.” “You don’t know the right people.” These are the tricks we allow our brains to play on us to create self-doubt and often limit ourselves in terms of what we think we can accomplish. You aren’t alone, many people deal with it regularly. The best way I’ve found to shake the impostor syndrome? Push yourself into territories you never thought you could.

2. I am running for my city.
We chose Grapevine. Our decision to call it home was intentional. We plan on being here for a long time. It’s in our best interest to get involved and help Keep Grapevine Great.

3. I am running because I believe we are all called to serve.
You don’t have to be on the city council to serve. You can serve your neighbor, your family, your church, your co-workers, people living in distress, the less fortunate, or any number of other causes. When you serve, you get outside of yourself and gain perspective. The opportunities are endless, where do you find yourself feeling the desire to help out?

4. I am running for folks I don’t know.
I’ve noted several times during this campaign that there’s a disconnect between the average age of the current city council and the median age of the Grapevine resident. Almost thirty years. That’s a big deal to me. Families in this town deserve to be represented by somebody that understands them and their needs. I am running for my family and I am running for yours.

5. I am running because some people said I shouldn’t.
Who doesn’t love a little external motivation?

6. I am running because there’s a few things I’d like to see change.
An elected, representative government should listen to – and be held accountable by – the people that elected them. I believe we can do better. If you continue to allow the same folks to be elected, you will continue to get the same results. We can do better.

7. I am running to hear your story.
This wasn’t an original reason for me deciding to run but during this campaign I have had the privilege of meeting so many of you and hearing your great stories. Sitting down for meals, coffee, phone calls, emails, I’ve enjoyed them all.

8. I am running for my boys.
It’s a little counter-intuitive to think that taking on more responsibility is a good way to teach a lesson to my boys but hear me out. I want them to understand that they can do anything they want in life if they put their mind and efforts to it. The first step will be putting themselves out there and setting a goal. If I can’t model that, I don’t imagine they’ll pick it up all that well.

9. I am running for my business.
As a small business owner, it makes sense that I have a vested interest in the future of the city my business resides in. If Grapevine stays strong, my business has a better opportunity to stay strong. In addition, I have a vision for what the next Grapevine can look like business-wise and I’d love to be involved to help put that plan in action.

So there you have it, nine things that have motivated me at different points throughout this election season. I’m guessing if you ask me tomorrow, I could probably list out nine more.

Tomorrow you have one more chance to help direct the future of your city. Usually the voter turnout in Grapevine is less than ten percent of the population. Will you sit idly by and let others decide your future or would you be willing to take up a challenge from me and get out and make your voice heard?

If any of the above has resonated with you, I’d appreciate your support at the polls.

AIG from the other side

A NYTimes OP-ED piece from Jack DeSantis, an executive vice president at AIG, turning in his resignation and donating everything he stands to receive as a bonus from the company.

After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company — during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 — we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.

I take this action after 11 years of dedicated, honorable service to A.I.G. I can no longer effectively perform my duties in this dysfunctional environment, nor am I being paid to do so. Like you, I was asked to work for an annual salary of $1, and I agreed out of a sense of duty to the company and to the public officials who have come to its aid. Having now been let down by both, I can no longer justify spending 10, 12, 14 hours a day away from my family for the benefit of those who have let me down.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/25/opinion/25desantis.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=%22dear%20AIG%22&st=cse (via Rob)

While nobody on ‘main street’ wants to hear it – including myself – these bonuses were promised far back, and are compensation for work done just like the rest of us. And while $165 million dollars is a HUGE number for anyone to see, the graphic below put it slightly more in perspective as to what AIG has actually received.

AIG bailout / bonus - XKCD

 

I know I jumped quick when I saw the bonus headlines, the sensationalism got me this time.

Ready to heap the blame back on AIG and off the recipients of the bonuses? Think Congress might need to reconsider their 90% taxation rate?