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Stonewall Jackson Statue Coming Down At VMI, Sick Confederate Fetish Must End

October 29, 2020

Virginia Military Institute’s Board of Visitors has voted to remove the prominent statue of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. It is a most appropriate action to take. Anyone who cares to defend the continued presence of such statuary must then also defend the Jim Crow era when much of these items were put in place.

Jackson’s location in front of the student barracks has long been a source of great animosity from those who had to walk by, and even salute the memory of someone who wanted to destroy the Union and perpetuate the original sin of our nation.

I am continually amazed at how removed many of the defenders of such statues are from understanding our history. They seemingly failed at showing up to school on the day when lectures occurred showing the two primary periods where the dedication of these racist symbols spiked. That being during the first two decades of the 20th century, when this Jackson statue was erected during the Jim Crow era, and the later erections during the Civil Rights Movement.

I have challenged those who revere Confederate statues to show me the losers from other wars in our nation’s history honored with statuary–and done so half-a-century following the last battle. It is obvious the losers of the Civil War and their racist attitudes that drove Confederates to revolt believe they can still perpetuate a myth of superiority. If anything the placement of Confederate soldiers on the Courthouse Square underscores weakness and an aversion to modernity. Living in a delusional land of Confederate flags until larger national forces demand accountability makes those defenders even more impotent.

Consider the level of absurdity that exists from those who can not accept the fact the Confederates lost. There are 1,747 publicly sponsored symbols honoring Confederate leaders, soldiers, or the Confederate States of America in general. These include monuments and statues; flags; holidays and other observances; and the names of schools, highways, parks, bridges, counties, cities, lakes, dams, roads, military bases, and other public works. Many of these are prominent displays in major cities and at state capitols.

The reason to undercut the argument of those who will not update their thinking since 1865 is because this nation should not expect Black people to salute a slaveholder. We must not allow the facts about the war to get replaced with the absurd narrative that slaves loved to be protected by their owners or that slavery was not the absolute driving force for Southern aggression.

The idea that the war was ‘between the states’ as the Confederate side wishes to term it, and can be ticked off as a sectional fight over slavery or trade or a host of other matters, undercuts a fundamental fact.  Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote roughly 30 years prior to the Fort Sumter episode that the absolute sovereignty of the nation was contained in the people of the Union.  That is a powerful concept and one which needs to be understood in its entirety.  He argued that even as far back as the Declaration of Independence the document underscored “implicitly the act of the whole people of the united colonies.”

In other words, this nation was always a nation-state and never just a contractual agreement between an alliance of sovereign states–or even colonies.  It is important to understand that sovereignty lies in the nation rather than the individual states.    That is why it can be easily argued the people as a whole had the right to secede from Britain and also had the right–and I think duty–to cripple and destroy the attempt by Southerners who wished to secede.  The fact that, as an example, the Daughters of the Confederacy would try to spin away from a constitutional foundation by questioning which majority had the right to authorize secession–a majority in each state or a national majority–cuts to the core of what their real mission is.

In his first inaugural President Lincoln, himself argued this point and took his listeners–and the rest of us over time–back to the solid claim that the Union is and always will be perpetual.  I will let Lincoln’s words carry the argument.

“Again, if the United States be not a government proper, but an association of states in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peacefully unmade, by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it–break it, so so speak; but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?”

What the Confederacy attempted with succession was unconstitutional and some have argued treasonous to the United States.  There are moral, and without doubt, constitutional reasons as to why slavery needed to be fought and eradicated with the war.  While it is true the South fought to retain and even expand slavery and statues to the Confederate leaders underscore that motive, I think a more fundamental argument can be made for removing these monuments.  That is because succession runs counter to how a republic should respond to severe differences among factions. What the South was advocating was not so much a process to alleviate grievances but instead to foment a revolution.

That does not then rise to the level of expecting future generations too, in some way, honor or revere those who worked to undermine the Union.   While our revolution against the Brits allowed for republican ideals to take hold there is nothing noble or inspiring about Confederates who wished to increase their hold on fellow human beings.

As such Confederate statues and other relics of slavery need to be placed in museums where context can be given so future generations can have insight. This sick fetish needs to end.

Wisconsin Residents Urged to “Shelter In Place” As Pandemic Rages

October 28, 2020

Having grown up in Wisconsin where strong and severe summer storms were not to be scoffed at made the recent words from Governor Tony Evers even more pronounced. He called for state residents to voluntarily “shelter in place” as the number of coronavirus infections climbs to troubling heights. His words struck a tone and feeling that took me back to the days when the dark bluish-greenish clouds were bearing down on the Hancock home of my youth.

Just as folks in my rural upbringing did not stop to ponder if there was a need to take precautions against the advancing wind clouds neither should people now question the severity of COVID or the reasoning about being careful. This week the state reached a new peak of 5,262 cases, record death tolls reported, and hospitalizations now stressing our medical facilities.

This blog was been continuously on the side of science and medically-backed data in the struggle to make it through this pandemic. Like so many in Madison and Dane County who pressed for a more thoughtful way forward, other than the announced plans at UW-Madison, it comes as no pleasure to now learn the Badgers’ game this weekend against the Nebraska Cornhuskers has been canceled. It is reported 12 members of our football program tested positive for coronavirus in the past five days.

As of this morning, six football players and their head coach Paul Chryst have tested positive. All team-related activities are cancelled for this team for the next seven days. Common sense calls for the football program to be shelved for the rest of the season.

Meanwhile our state today reported 3,815 new COVID-19 cases and 45 more deaths. Clearly, more of our citizens need to take this virus far more seriously and adhere to the warnings.

State epidemiologist Dr. Ryan Westergaard stated the gravity of the matter by calling the virus’ trajectory in Wisconsin “a nightmare scenario, frankly, that this could get quite a bit worse in the next several weeks or months before it gets better.”

My perspective on a raft of issues has been shaped by decades of listening to information and basing my actions upon the advice of professionals. I have no way to explain the reluctance of people to accept facts. I can not fathom why anyone would not heed the words of someone steeped in knowledge. Do act so recklessly is absurd.

I know when the clouds shout that danger is near one does not take a tractor out to the ‘back forty’. When a governor says to stay home, that is where I will be found.

I trust my readers are equally as prudent.

My Doty Land Podcast Makes Front Page Of Newspaper

October 28, 2020

I woke up to see an episode of my Doty Land podcast made the front page of my home-county newspaper. I was not expecting that to happen, and found a genuine smile came faster to my face than a desire to pour the first cup of coffee.

I truly enjoyed the time in production of this episode about the 1918 pandemic in Hancock, my hometown. The warmth I feel about broadcasting is why there is a studio in our home. The fond memories of my radio days in Sturgeon Bay, and the way radio played a most important role in my formative years are still very much alive within me. Being able to turn all that enthusiasm into podcasts and have a platform (Buzzsprout) along with listening apps from Apple, Google, and others have been a truly rewarding experience.

Decades back it all started when as a boy I ‘played radio’ using my father’s pocket watch for timing and a copy of the Stevens Point Journal for my copy…..

Spitting In Face Of Science Will Cost Trump Election

October 27, 2020

It would take a profoundly creative and skilled author to plot a storyline that could match what is taking place in America in the closing week of the 2020 presidential election. Donald Trump is barnstorming key battleground states and holding super-spreader COVID rallies in defiance of coronavirus health recommendations.

The rallies are making some in the Republican Party who attend them turn all giddy. But the voters at home watching the rallies of Air Force One parked while music from the Village People is pumped up loudly–yes, conservatives are grinding their hips in tempo to gay culture this year–are only feeling more disdain towards an administration that continues to mishandle the pandemic. And again show complete disdain for science.

At the same time, Joe Biden grasps not only the medically-backed data and science surrounding the virus, but equally important in political terms the deep concern among the citizens about the increasing cases and deaths. The Democratic nominee is sending a very loud message when he refuses to hold political rallies and participate in spreading the virus. Voters are responding to his mature messaging.

While local leaders in places where Trump holds his rallies are pleading for him to stay the heck away the stock market has also sent this administration a strong message. With more than 40 states seeing stark increases in COVID cases with hospitals filling to troubling capacity Monday’s Dow Jones lost 650 points. Markets like stability but all they see down the road is economic distress as the pandemic rages. Without conservative Republicans able to realize the vital importance of more relief monies to state and local governments the markets will not be satisfied.

Nor will the voters.

The lack of logic from this administration or any regard for science was underscored when it was reported they had not spent $9 billion in funding for COVID-19 testing because of opposition from Scott Atlas, an advisor on the White House coronavirus task force. It needs to be noted Atlas is not an infectious-disease expert but has emerged as an influential and controversial advisor on the task force as he’s promoted ideas in line with Trump’s approach to the pandemic.

In other words, spit in the face of facts and medical professionals while discovering disco music at an airport hanger!

People are shaken by the crisis that has taken over the nation.  They are concerned about the economic impact, and the uncertain path forward over the next year.  They want a leader who can stand before the nation and be honest.  They are not finding that in Trump, who has butchered facts and honesty about every issue that has come before the public in the past four years.  Now when the nation needs to have confidence in a president there is no shred of credibility left in this White House.  Trump might as well walk out naked before the press as he has not one ounce of integrity remaining.

And given what we have seen this fall can anyone absolutely rule that possibility out?

And so it goes.

Madison Tradition Continues During Pandemic

October 26, 2020

A broad smile crossed my face while coming back from an errand this afternoon. While on John Nolan Drive I noticed that workers are again placing the Holiday Lights display at Olin Turville Park. It truly lifted my spirits to see the start of this annual event unfolding.

The past many months have been difficult for everyone. Health care concerns with beleaguered medical staff, businesses stressed with unemployed workers concerned about bills, and the general public anxious and uncertain about what lies ahead with this unrelenting pandemic. So it comes as no surprise we all need to find things that create lighter moments and hopeful feelings.

That is precisely what the few workers who were visible from the road provided for me. And I strongly suspect those emotions are to be felt by many others who use that busy thoroughfare each day in Madison. There is something most special about the way we feel this year over something which occurs each year.

The reason the event elicits such a response is due to what we have all lived through since early this year. And continue to experience. We often take much for granted in our lives, but with limitations on so much of our day-to-day activities means we are starting to understand the true value of certain things. So we drive by the site of the Holiday Lights, pause our mind on a warm memory, and know it can be re-lived this year within the safety of our car.

Having something to look forward to, and having a sincere smile is worth so much these days. It may seem simple and old-fashioned, but maybe this is a lesson we all needed to learn, again.

I trust you all feel better knowing this annual event will soon light up the park starting in mid-November.

The Grifters In The White House

October 26, 2020

Not for the first time does Caffeinated Politics call attention to the money-grubbing activities of the Donald Trump family. In years to come it seems fair to say that modern dictionaries will place the above picture alongside the definition for grifter.

From the start of Trump’s term in office reporters have covered the money-making schemes of his children. Readers of older literature might recall the term unsightly as one word that could be applied for the actions of this family.

The Washington Post has been researching how much taxpayer money has the government paid to the businesses of the Trump company. In other words, how much money has Trump’s family made off of government ‘service’? Needless to say the White House won’t reveal such numbers. The Trump family will not supply information about their shenanigans.

So it takes journalists and reporters to assist the nation in better understanding what their ‘leader’ and his family are doing. The Post is undertaking that task one receipt at a time.

And the nation thanks the newspaper.

Eric Trump took his Secret Service agents to Trump golf courses in Scotland, as he led transatlantic tours for paying customers. Donald Trump Jr. took his protectors to the Trump hotel in Vancouver, stopping over on hunting trips to Canada.

And Ivanka Trump took her Secret Service detail to the Trump golf club in Bedminster, N.J., again and again — even after she asked other Americans to “please, please” stay home during the coronavirus pandemic.

On trips like these, Secret Service agents were there to protect Trump’s children. But, for the Trump family business, their visits also brought a hidden side benefit.


That’s because when Trump’s adult children visited Trump properties, Trump’s company charged the Secret Service for agents to come along. The president’s company billed the U.S. government hundreds, or thousands, of dollars for rooms agents used on each trip, as the agency sometimes booked multiple rooms or a multiroom rental cottage on the property.

In this way, Trump’s adult children and their families have caused the U.S. government to spend at least $238,000 at Trump properties so far, according to Secret Service records obtained by The Washington Post.

Government ethics experts say that nothing is wrong with Trump’s children seeking protection from the Secret Service.

But, they said, the Trump Organization’s decision to charge for the agents’ rooms created a situation in which — just by traveling — Trump’s children could bring taxpayer money to their family’s business.

President Is Scared Of Lesley Stahl–A Strong Professional Woman

October 26, 2020

Donald Trump likes to bluster, bloviate, toss out nasty tweets, call others names, and snarl about the White House. But what the nation witnessed Sunday night on the longest-running newsmagazine show on television, when he faced a highly respected reporter was hilarious. Truly hilarious.

Also very telling about Trump.

Trump’s portion of the program made headlines and snorts of laughter because he cut off his interview, stood up, and walked out while the cameras were rolling. He did so because the reporter was asking “tough” questions.

I need to interject at this point that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris responded to hard questions from Norah O”Donnell in the same program without complaint. Just saying.

Trump tried to sell a line of blather concerning falsehoods and unverified claims about Biden and his family. It was the same type of lame attempt Trump spewed at the final debate last week.

But Stahl is an intrepid reporter and was not going to play any part in Trump’s low-ball scheme. She said evenly and to the point stated, “You know, this is 60 Minutes. And we can’t put on things we can’t verify.”

On Sunday night, the show remained true to its word. The program used Stahl’s in-conversation responses, narration, and clips of Trump from rallies to vet his statements. The news should be an honest broker of the facts, and that is precisely what 60 Minutes did.

Trump was bent out of shape from the start of the interview and remarked to Stahl that “Your first statement was ‘Are you ready for tough questions?’ That’s no way to talk.”


If a president can not take tough questions from a reporter precisely how does the person in the Oval Office expect to function when a madman with a nuclear bomb on the other side of the world wakes up on the wrong side of the bed?

What I most admired in the interview was the look and the eyes of Stahl. There was no glancing down or melting away or any unease on her part. Stahl was focused, determined, professional, and used her calm but firm words with a determination to make her journalistic point.

Stahl was doing the work the nation required.

There are many conclusions that one can reach after watching the Sunday night show. The first is that 60 Minutes remains a powerful news program that continues to undertake tough and essential reporting. Second, Stahl is a professional and tough woman who no doubt is being seen by young girls this morning as a role model. Third, Trump is all bluster and no substance. He was not made for the high office and is pretending to be a president. (Again you might notice his name and the office never appear in a sentence on this blog.)

We also should add that this is just the latest example of Trump not being comfortable with a strong woman.

And so it goes.

More Votes Cast Thus Far In Early 2020 Voting Than In Early 2016 Election

October 26, 2020

Make no mistake about it. Our nation will win this November. Democracy is working. The ultimate checks and balances is underway right now in America.

Late Sunday it was reported that pre-election voting for the November election has surpassed all 2016 early ballots cast with 9 days left until Election Day. That is staggering and beyond the wildest hope I had for early voting. Should we aim for 75 million? Lets go!

More than 58.7 million Americans have voted so far, according to a survey of election officials in all 50 states and Washington, DC. The data is compiled by CNN, Edison Research and Catalist.

In 2016, around 58.3 million pre-election ballots were cast, including ballots in the three vote-by-mail states that year. That early vote accounted for about 42% of all ballots cast in the 2016 presidential election. Pre-Election Day voting is skyrocketing nationwide amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and states are reporting record-breaking turnout as voters are energized to vote by mail or early in person before November.

Over the past months I have been following many times a day the reports from Dave Wasserman. Data-driven guy with keen insight and a proven track-record of credibility. What he reported today is equally stunning.

Breathtaking: statewide, Texas just surpassed 80% of its total 2016 votes cast, leading the nation. And there’s still more than a week of voting to go.

If you think Biden is about to win Philly by only 73%-24% after Clinton won it 82%-15% in 2016, I’ve got a Ben Franklin bridge to sell you. We’ve seen high-quality polls show Trump running well behind his ’16 margins in Bucks, NEPA, Lehigh Valley, Allegheny, Harrisburg, etc.

And this, too.

If you’re looking for a horse race narrative right now, you’re not going to find it here. There was a time when it was easy to imagine this race going much differently. Eight days out, it’s much, much harder. I’ve seen…almost enough.

Bill McCoshen Misses Mark About Downtown Madison

October 25, 2020

Everyone in Madison wants to see a vibrant and back-to-normal downtown. We need to have our downtown percolating so to create tax revenues, put workers back into their jobs, and again allow for customers to shop and the concertgoers to applaud. Sunday in the Wisconsin State Journal Bill McCoshen wrote a column containing portions which all readers could find agreement with about the downtown.

For instance, it is absolutely essential that a stronger and more aggressive law enforcement structure be in place to protect businesses and those who will visit and spend cash in the downtown. McCoshen is perfectly toned with his thoughts about the disgusting violence in our city this year.

But McCoshen is simply not grounded when he ticks off other items that should happen downtown.

  • Bring customers back Downtown.
  • Keep UW-Madison open and students on campus.
  • Gradually bring state, county and municipal employees back Downtown.
  • Safely bring events back — Overture performances, UW sports, Concerts on the Square — to give people a reason to come Downtown.

And I want a gold lame jacket for Christmas.

McCoshen’s hopes would be marvelous except for the fact most of that can not happen until the COVID pandemic is brought under control. And why is the virus so out of control?

Cases are surging in Wisconsin, hospitalizations rates are climbing, and methods to stem the virus are lacking. That is because of a complete and total lack of federal planning and oversight from the Trump White House against this virus. The problems in Wisconsin is also due to the lack of any involvement from the Republican controlled legislature.

The Republicans have paid for lawyers to fight medically-prescribed safety measures and sided with the Tavern League to further increase the spread of the virus. But to actually do anything of substance to stop the spread of the pandemic or work to alleviate the legitimate fears among the populace has not been of interest to the GOP.

McCoshen means well with his column, as the bottom line he pushes is what we all agree with regarding the downtown. We want it to come back and we want to be there for fun and food.

But McCoshen would have been more credible had he included a paragraph about the need of his party to do the work that the state is crying out for as we head into what medical professionals call a dark winter of sickness. He should have called upon the ones he helps raise money for and endlessly promotes to do their job at battling Public Enemy Number One.

The pandemic.

Here is a tip for Bill. No one is going to sit for the Madison Symphony Orchestra or cozy up for a leisurely meal–even on a safe and spruced-up State Street–until patrons and customers know they are not going to be served up a virus with Beethoven or pasta.

And so it goes.

Snow On Madison Isthmus Creates Colorful Smiles

October 25, 2020

The latter part of October often brings snow showers to our state. With the first taste of winter lightly falling this afternoon meant that with camera in hand I was outside welcoming the next season to the Madison isthmus. There have been too many tough times this year to not then take an opportunity to smile when given an opportunity.

The snow is on the roses…and with that I started humming outside a song…..

Endorsement: Joe Biden, As Character Matters

October 25, 2020

Every four years Caffeinated Politics has made an endorsement for president. Each of the past four elections my sentiments were sincere, and the policy highlighted met with the needs of the time. This year I again make my call for president, but the issue driving my reasoning is by far the most important of my lifetime. That is because presidential character is on the ballot. This is the one election in our lifetime we absolutely must get correct.

The continuous bombast, crudeness, and reckless behavior from Donald Trump over the past four years were far more than this nation should have had to endure. It was due to his rants and childish ways that I retreated during a portion of each day to read history. I simply sought refuge from his self-generated chaos. But the reading always underscored the stark differences about leadership, decency, and virtue from the past as opposed to the sad reality of Trump.

Earlier this year I read the 1912 nomination speech from Warren G, Harding, then an Ohio newspaper editor, for President William Taft at the Republican Convention. The following portion showcases one of those moments of the stark contrast between then and now.

The nomination speech declared that Taft was “as wise and patient as Abraham Lincoln, as modest and dauntless as Ulysses S. Grant, as temperate and peace-loving as Rutherford B. Hayes, as patriotic and intellectual as James A. Garfield, as courtly and generous as Chester A. Arthur, as learned in the law as Benjamin Harrison, as sympathetic and brave as William McKinley……”

No honest person in the Republican Party today could pen a similar type of statement about Trump. No one in the future will wish to have their political career attached to Trump. Character, after all, is not a word that anyone can employ in a favorable way towards Trump.

We have always had a president in our nation who was able to show empathy and use words from the office to bring a nation together during times of crisis.  That quality of a president has never, perhaps, been understood more clearly than now when we view its glaring absence.

I was on-air at WDOR the night President Reagan spoke to the nation following the horrific explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger. In my lifetime there is perhaps no other speech that so clearly demonstrates the role of a president at times of national crisis, or the heights of rhetorical balm that can come with the office.  I sat in the broadcast studio and was moved to tears.  Contrast national moments such as that one to the current occupant in the White House who continually stokes words to further the anger and resentments of people for partisan advantage.

Two episodes ring out that clearly demonstrate Trump’s lack of a sound character being most obvious, and troubling.  During the 2016 campaign, he made fun of a disabled journalist.  It was a truly pathetic display. During his term in office, he made one of the most gut-wrenching displays when he showed poor behavior toward the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in Niger.  Trump failed to offer comforting words and then petulantly defended himself on Twitter.  It was almost unbearable to watch play out on the national stage.  The lack of his empathy allowed for some of his lowbrow followers to bring down a withering barrage of abuse on the grieving widow during what we all know was the worst moment of her life.

Those two examples demonstrate that Trump is not able to either resist being mean or fails to grasp the requirement of the office to lift others up when they need the nation’s support.

The episodes where a lack of character was evident are all too numerous and well-known.   Veterans will never forget when Trump showed smallness when at first he refused to keep the White House flag at half-mast to honor the late Senator John McCain. 

Character matters.  We say those words often but also take the concept for granted.  When the lack of character is so obvious and smacks at us daily, it becomes a reminder of how much this nation lost when Trump secured the votes of the Electoral College last election.

This year we must do what is right for the nation when we cast a ballot for president. We must do so for our collective national soul.

I can state upfront and with pride of being a Joe Biden guy! I have long known Biden to be a smart and capable man.   In 1987 I supported him financially when he sought the Democratic Party nomination for the White House.  One can never forget his earnestness in fighting the atrocities that were taking place in the Balkans, or his great work on the Judiciary Committee in stopping Robert Bork from getting to the Supreme Court.  His background and breadth of knowledge on international issues make him a seasoned and remarkable public servant.

I can rattle off issues that Biden supports concerning climate change or tax policy which lands at my philosophical foundation. But all that is secondary to the core need of the nation. That is to again have a leader in the White House who understands why decency and virtue are vital for the strength of our nation. That is far and above thy most important reason voters must cast a ballot for Biden.

Voters can talk about their values or religious faith, but this is the time to prove all that is more than just mere words. After all, the idea of virtue is one that requires our diligence.

The idea of virtuous people in government was not lost on the Founders. They wrote and spoke of its worthiness repeatedly. Good character matters, and as individuals, we have a role to make sure the person sitting in the Oval Office is as solid and good as the people. In our republic, we have a responsibility to promote honest leaders in office who will make wise, fact-based decisions. When they fail at that most fundamental requirement of the office the voters must hold them accountable.

There is no way to pretend there are shades of a difference this year in choice for president. And there is no way not to fully grasp the call of our civics lessons from those many years ago. There is only one choice for the nation.

Joe Biden.

Pope Francis Takes Step With Gay Rights, Akin To Bill Clinton

October 24, 2020

It is clearly a sign of either how much weighty news or bombastic rhetoric is created each day when the words of Pope Francis expressing support for same-sex civil unions is not the event that would create continuing top-of-the-fold conversations. While following the news of a pope creating a major and truly significant break from his predecessors regarding gay people, a correct position for religion, and all of society, I was aware of just how hard it is to steer headlines away from the chaos of this year. That, in and of itself, is a story we need to ponder.

But the words from Francis are powerful and very important. He made a public statement that the world-wide church needed to hear. “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” Francis said in the documentary, “Francesco”.

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

As a gay man, but not a Catholic, I have a range of feelings about the pope’s words. While many in the world have moved far beyond civil unions for gay people to the socially responsible and correct legal construction of gay marriage there is still much work to be done for allowing freedoms with sexual identity. In regions of the world where bigotry still has a grip and the Catholic hierarchy is less tolerant of homosexuality, this message was most important to be planted by a pope.

Words matter, as I often note on this blog when talking about leadership. I have long approved of the tone and focus of Francis, knowing the Vatican requires more light and less dogma. But it also needs to be stated that until church doctrine is changed the words of a pope will not alter the harm that is done to gay members of that faith.

Traditional Catholics are wedded to the idea a smaller church that holds to never-changing doctrine is better than a larger church that wishes to adapt to a modern world. As a person of faith, I can grasp the over-arching argument traditionalists hold, but know the best path taken comes down to applying Jesus’ teachings in our lives.

I view the opposition to bigotry as more powerful and uplifting than the harsh restraints and words of damnation. I am inspired by those in religious callings who speak about income disparity, racism, or poverty, as this pope has done continuously. The old and worn-out tropes about contraceptives, abortion (and gasp!) homosexuality are not connecting to younger people who do not live in the cloistered world–and have no desire to do so.

I thought of President Bill Clinton this week when this news of Pope Francis was reported. In the 1992 presidential campaign, he spoke about the need to not dismiss or undermine gay people in our military. From his promise the Clinton administration moved to enact ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’. It was not a President Truman type moment regarding the military, but it was a start. From there larger steps were taken as the years progressed. That is how governments and large institutional changes begin and evolve.

With a first step.

When tolerance is too often threatened and marginalized in the world there is really only one way to greet the words of Pope Francis. With a smile and two-thumbs up.

Now step two……

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