Liberal Arrogance and the Ivory Tower

Before I begin, let me preface this with a short explanation of my political background. Many, upon reading the title of this post, would automatically assume I am writing from a reactionary conservative standpoint. This assumption would be furthered upon the revelation that I identify as an evangelical Christian. But this assumption is untrue; while I am, in fact, more socially conservative in many ways than my peers at UT Austin, the majority of my beliefs align more closely with liberalism, which happens to coincide with many Biblical teachings. What my degree of social conservatism does do, however, is allow me to step back from liberal culture and see more clearly the faults behind some liberal reasoning that my more reactionary liberal friends strongly subscribe to.

The fact is that many more privileged liberals, including myself, tend to view society from the viewpoint of the ivory tower. This is especially apparent when perusing the comments section of select New York Times articles; as broadly representative as the Democratic Party tends to be (a loose coalition of minorities and millennials), people tend to adopt a curiously uniform attitude towards members of the opposite party. The results of this are sometimes shocking. In a recent article posted by NPR entitled “When Sleeping in the Car is the Price of a Doctor’s Visit” (link at the end), a rural couple described the experience of sleeping in cars overnight to attend a free dental care clinic in Chattanooga, TN; they were one of hundreds of cars parked overnight for the same access. The couple was struggling to make ends meet with wages barely above minimum wage, but they were both self-described Trump supporters, along with many of the other people interviewed in line. One of the other women interviewed expressed a deep hope that Trump would confer with “people smarter than her” and come up with a sustainable health plan that would give her more coverage than Obamacare.

Of course, we have the sufficient political information to gauge that this would never happen; we understand the stark realities behind the attempted repeal of ACA that would kick millions off of insurance. But this knowledge manifested itself into pure ugliness, an outright revulsion of what liberals see as blindsided ignorance. Comments included the following:

“She voted for the “nobody is entitled to healthcare” party and is now surprised that she doesn’t have any healthcare? Am I supposed to feel sympathetic here?”

[In reference to an interviewee’s quote about hoping Trump would reform healthcare]

“And if you just clap harder, Tinkerbell will live!”

These are just a few of the comments I have seen roundly condescending the ignorance of Trump supporters, and these are relatively tame compared to the more vitriolic ones. How, I ask, has the party of supposed tolerance and understanding of diverse opinions become one that reacts with unmitigated hatred towards those with less education? It was obvious from the article that these rural individuals were politically ill-informed; the couple interviewed expressed a wish to move to Canada with a single-payer healthcare system but vocalized support for Trump’s policies. There is an obvious disconnect here fostered by political ignorance, but it is not something that should make the couple immune from sympathy for their plight. In a country as rich as America, there is no excuse that healthcare should be as restricted as theirs was.

Nowadays, it is easier than ever to be politically ignorant; now there are news media specifically designed to capitalize off of existing political ignorance. Candidates like Trump exude a populist appeal that is easy for many desperate rural voters to rely on in times of economic hardship. This is not new and not unique; historically we have seen populist autocrats arise in economic situations very similar to this– think Hitler in Weimar Germany or Juan Peron in Argentina. In this case, Trump supporters seem to be even further driven towards blind faith in him by the persistent condescension of the left, who treat rural voters as backwards, ignorant, racist, bigoted people. Years of being talked down to starting from H.W Bush’s term may very well have been a driving force towards Trump’s populist appeal: he talks to this rural voters in direct language and terms that they understand, seemingly empowering them instead of squelching their very real concerns about losing their jobs in a rapidly changing and globalizing economy. Liberals may very well have driven rural voters into the arms of Trump by stereotyping them as uneducated fools instead of listening to their structural concerns.

These structural concerns are ones that anyone can understand. It is completely natural that a West Virginian coal miner whose parents and grandparents were coal miners would feel threatened with talks of climate change. They may very well be so specialized in coal mining that they are not equipped to work in other industries, especially since coal mining is a relatively protected and lucrative one compared to fields such as retail. Entire towns and communities have been built off of coal mining; it is not just a job but a way of life. Growing up in circumstances like these make the coal mining industry tangible and real and something like climate change (no matter how scientifically backed) seem far-off and abstract, something no more real than a fairy tale. Think also of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: maslow hierarchy

While privileged liberals can look at climate change from a position of privilege and recognize the devastating long-term effects on the environment, the West Virginian coal miner still needs to satisfy the basic needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy: to ensure that his family is fed and that he is employed. This is a problem facing broad swaths of society, not just rural conservatives; many of our own fellow liberals face the same pressing struggles of keeping a sustainable source of income in an era in which prices are rising but wages aren’t keeping up.

The solution, then, is not to attack Trump supporters immediately by stereotyping them as racist, intolerant and backwards, but instead by reaching them with compassion and attempting to understand for the situations which drive them toward a populist leader. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that we not lose our capacity for sympathy in an increasingly polarized society. Our wellbeing is not a zero-sum game. We cannot sacrifice our humanity for the satisfaction of feeling right; we cannot gloat when others suffer misfortune for their mistakes. Then, and only then, can we begin to respect each other once more and unify to solve important problems together.

Link: “When Sleeping In The Car is the Price of a Doctor’s Visit,” (NPR). http://n.pr/2snQgoQ

Hands of a Mother

beach

My family just took a very enjoyable vacation to California. Along the way, we stopped at a beautiful, secluded beach. We played in the waves and enjoyed the view immensely, the sparkling waters and calm SoCal weather. 

Our bare feet were caked in mud and sand, so we stopped by the little water spouts next to the beach to wash off our feet. As I lifted one foot high to the fountain to wash it off, I teetered and tried to balance. Because I couldn’t reach my foot without losing balance, my mother, with utmost love and care, used her own hands to help me wash off my mud-caked foot under the water. Then she did the same for the other foot. She washed my feet gently and straightforwardly, making no fuss. Taking care of me, no matter for what or at what age, had become routine to her. 

I was suddenly overwhelmed by tender emotion. It brought to mind all the times Jesus in the Bible washed the feet of his friends- the most holy of men, God’s own son, our Savior, bringing Himself down in humble love to wash the feet of His friends. My mother’s hands had bathed me when I was an infant and raised me with loving care. The same hands had once scrubbed on floors with rags in a foreign country to support her family on a few marks, even sending back some hard-earned money to support her parents in China. Those same hands toiled endlessly to create the brightest future for her children, regardless of whatever cost it might have to her. My mother’s hands, I realized, were the most beautiful things I could think of. I had never stopped to think of how much she had sacrificed day by day to paint our happy lives. It was always, always children and husband first, her last, from the smallest of matters (saving the best morsels of each meal for us) to paying for my college tuition. I cried as I thanked the Lord for blessing me with such a truly beautiful mother. 

Classical Music: My Top 10 Tearjerker Pieces

 

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1. Tchaikovsky- Symphony No.6 (Pathetique) Finale

Hits like a ton of bricks every time, especially those brief moments of hope with tinges of melancholy yearning.

2. Barber- Adagio for Strings (Agnus Dei choral setting)

Holy reverence that just makes you want to curl up in the fetal position and cry your eyes out. Universal heartbreaker.

3. Elgar– Cello Concerto in E Minor (Jacqueline duPre)

With the opening, powerful chords, you can almost literally feel your heartstrings tugged with emotion.

4. Mahler– Symphony No.9, Finale

This is the reason I can’t listen to a g# minor octave slide without tearing up. MAHLER IS A BAWLER.

5. Barber- Violin Concerto in D Major, 2nd movement

BARBER’S ORCHESTRATION. Oh goodness. Tingles from the oboe’s golden, piercing solo in the beginning to the strains of the cellos to the solo violin’s desperate plea… oh Barber. Why do you do this to me?

6. Shostakovich- String Quartet No.8 

You can feel Shosty’s agony vibrating throughout the throbbing strings, peaking in a furious declaration of hatred (2nd movement) to just plain lifelessly sad (5th movement).

1st and 2nd movements: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDDNS4BM1xQ

3rd:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVAjB1TsMq8

4th and 5th: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBeDRSpyZvg

7. Purcell– Dido’s Lament

Just one really long soul crusher. Guaranteed to leave you depressed for at least the next hour. Baroque music is not supposed to sound this good, darn it Purcell!!!

8. Mahler- Symphony No.5, Adagietto

Mahler gets double representation! What I love about Mahler is the little catches and subtle nuances that make you gasp in any piece. This movement is magic.

9. Chopin- Nocturne in c minor, Op. 48

Here’s for all the pianists out there! Chopin breaks your heart in the exposition and then stomps over it with the passionate octave passages. 

10. Sibelius- Violin Concerto in D minor, 2nd movement

Melody quietly soars into your heart when you least expect it. Oh, those sneaky gorgeous harmonies.

Start at 17:18- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpS_u5RvMpM

 

Reflections on the Moon

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It’s such a mundane thing, to gaze at the moon, such a seemingly cliche action wrapped up in our busy daily lives with technology, social media, a blur of this and that all at once.

And I’ve absolutely been guilty of that. Just a few minutes ago, I was catching up with Facebook while simultaneously trying to finish a section of a composition and study some notes. Then I absently walked towards the kitchen in pursuit of a snack, when all of a sudden a stunning silver gleam caught my eye.

It occurred to me that I hadn’t actually taken the time to glance at the moon in weeks, maybe months. But something about tonight’s moon captivated me with its beauty. It was so bright, so beautiful, so shimmery in its pure white silver. It lit up the sky around it with its luminescence, and I couldn’t do anything but gaze in utter awe. To think this is what I’d been missing in the whirlwind of life…

It occurred me that this beautiful, ethereal sight seemed so, so far away… a shimmering orb that billions around the globe had looked at and wondered about so many times. I was just so amazed at the thought of people actually stepping afoot this beautiful place, something so solid and so real beneath their feet. It seemed so many millions of miles away, only existing in the fleeting dreams of us here on Earth… that thought I could barely comprehend. Watching the moon glow faintly, such a sense of divine peace washed over me. Here, again, was God’s beauty and God’s glory glimmering faintly in my heart- a subtle reminder that His beauty exists everywhere, through hard times and difficulties. Though passed by by millions, it still hopefully lit up the night sky with its simple yet mystical beauty. And that gave me a feeling of love and reverence that I’ve never treasured before.

 

Good Friday

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Happy Good Friday everyone!!! Oh Lord, what a beautiful day it is. Today is the day that our Savior in heaven wore a crown of thorns and sacrificed his life to bear our sins and shame. Today is the day that Jesus Christ went gracefully, LOVINGLY to his death because He loved us just that much. 

I was reading an article the other day that described exactly the physical pain that Christ went through while dying on the cross… it was gruesome. It was literally the most painful death someone could die, stretched out over six hours. Coupled with the weight of the entire world’s sins on his shoulder… Jesus Christ our Savior loved us more than we could ever imagine. This is so powerful and so true. Here is the Christ that was perfect in every way, blessed by the Lord, the king of all kings- yet he was mocked and tortured upon His death. Remember that He IS God, and He could definitely have escaped or brought fire down upon the Earth if He wished. But He didn’t. He willingly gave up his own life for us, something we never deserved for a moment, to give us a chance to be with our God in heaven forever. Jesus is so great. He died for every single child of God… not only those who pretended they were holy but the homeless on the streets, the Romans that mocked him upon the Cross, all those who have no love and only hate, all those who are consumed by sin, He died for every single one of them in a gift of eternal grace.

 

What a powerful message… so let us praise and glorify His holy name forever. Lord, I love you and trust you more than anything. Come into our lives so that we can show the world Your grace. Amen.

 

On New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions.

So many people ask me what mine are for each coming new year, and always I have the same, totally blank response. 

And then I always feel ashamed, because shouldn’t everyone have goals? Everyone has room to improve, an obvious fact. However, recently I’ve come across a few articles that point in a surprising way: goals are not necessarily the way to success.

In fact, those articles listed many reasons why goals would inhibit success. To name a few:

  • When goals are reached, one feels a sense of pointlessness and a lack of direction.                                                       For example, if your goal is to drop 15 lbs, what do you do when you reach that goal? Maintaining that weight provides much less of a clearly structured challenge, so many are likely to slip.
  • Goals are finite.                                                                                                                                                                               But life is much longer. One can compare setting goals to the disadvantages of a sprint runner; they are able to run quickly in short distances, but when confronted with a marathon lack the experience and determination to succeed.
  • Goals can be very vague.                                                                                                                                                             If you don’t set very precise goals, they are difficult to follow. For example, a student resolving to “pull up their grades”. There are so many minute steps that would go into achieving that feat, but they are blurred by a hazy big picture.
  • Unreached goals lead to great nonproductivity

           When goals are not reached, one has a sense of disappointment and a lack of will to keep trying.

So what would you do instead of setting up goals? After all, you do need a sense of structure and direction on the road to success. 

The answer to this is systems.

The creator of the popular “Dilbert” comic strips, Scott Adams, wrote a fascinating article on the concept of setting up systems instead of goals. He set up systems to make sure that he would keep improving and keep inching closer to the road of success in his life. He never let himself be complacent; as soon as he would land a job, he would be looking for a bigger, higher-paying, and better one. This constant drive of ambition never let him slack off, like he would have if he had just set a single goal, and as a result he became extremely successful and very wealthy. Setting up systems worked for him also because of how plausible and tangible they were; each system was comprised of a flexible amount of smaller steps, and gave him the opportunity to continually grow and improve creatively and financially throughout his life. Unlike the disappointment and confusion of unreached goals, a system allowed for continuous direction so he could keep improving every minute of the day.

So next time someone asks you for your New Year’s Resolutions and you draw a complete blank, worry not. Life is a long journey. When you find a system that will bring you steadily through it and let you grow, the path to success is not too far ahead.Image

On Faith (Redux)

Wow, the Lord is so great. His love is unwavering and so wonderful. 

I’ve found this especially true recently; as I became concerned with greed, materialism, religious hypocrisy and other sins, I felt myself becoming more and more distant from the Lord. In fighting what I thought were His battles, I started turning away from the things that He has taught us the most; the ability to love unconditionally, steadily, openly, through all things. Yet He gave me another chance, a chance out of a chance out of a chance, and let His gentle love wash over me and allowed me to praise His name even after all I’ve done. 

The truth is, Christianity is sometimes an uphill battle. Some people claim to have faith that comes so easily and so perfectly but for most people, it’s a messy process of doubt, sin, and then periods of praise and wonderful joy. But no matter what happens, the pain, the sorrows, we can’t ever measure up to the tremendous pain Christ suffered for us on His own cross, bearing all of humanity’s sins on His two shoulders. His gentle love is what keeps us going. He, wearing white robes, welcomes us, torn, battered and dirty with sin, into His open arms. He will always look for us, the one lost sheep, even though he has millions in his flock. And for this, I praise the Lord, I praise him each and every day. 

On Caring Too Much

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I care too much about people. That’s one painful lesson I’ve had to learn. Maybe from books and movies, I’ve learned that if you care about one best friend more than anything, and that you’re willing to do anything for them, that they’ll feel the same about you. So as a result, I’ve taken to caring deeply and wholly for my closest friends. Why in the world would that go wrong?

The answer is sad, but simple. The more you care about someone, the easier it is for them to take you for granted. Some people aren’t like that, but it’s a natural instinct to want what you don’t have more than what you already have. In that way, being a little colder and more removed makes friends more apt to stick by your side- to want your attention.

It’s human nature, yes, but what a sad lesson to learn for people like me who like to care with their entire hearts. Add that to being a naturally sensitive person, and one who cares the most openly also gets hurt the easiest as well. 

“Jesus, You Have Me Completely…”

The Lord is truly so good. Through daily struggles with faith, sometimes I’ll just see something that seems like the Lord is talking to me, and then I’ll experience his wonderful and gentle love all at once, again. Christianity is not always easy but the uphill battle is so, so worth it, and we always need to remember that. ❤ PRAISE THE LORD!!