born yesterday

Uncategorized Jan 13, 2021

I was recently watching the film “Born Yesterday”…the 1950 version with Judy Holliday, William Holden, and Broderick Crawford.  I’m quite familiar with it.  In the 1970s I acted in two different productions of the Garson Kanin play, originally written in 1946.  Trying to educate the ditzy showgirl Billie Dawn on the noble ideals of democracy, one of the main characters says, “The history of the world is the struggle between the selfish and the unselfish…all that’s bad around us is bred by selfishness.  Sometimes selfishness can even get to be a cause…an organized force, even a government.”  Another word for this extreme kind of selfishness is narcissism. 

When I watched this movie, the US Capitol Building had not yet been stormed by people whipped into a frenzy by one of the most powerful narcissists in the world.  One of the problems with narcissists is that they are charismatic while morally immature and emotionally manipulative, “grandiose and exhibitionistic…very resistant to taking blame for their own misbehavior.” 

Some people hold the opinion that all politicians are narcissists.  I’m not one of those people.  I believe that the job of governance is much too challenging for most people to undertake it with purely selfish motives.  I think that more people go into public service to be of “service”, to do good.  I’m sure they’re ambitious, and I may not agree with what they think “good” looks like, but I don’t paint all of them with the same brush.  To vilify everyone we disagree with and assume that they are just selfish human beings isn’t helpful to building democracy… or more importantly, to our souls.  

On the Senate floor last Wednesday night, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska said to his collegues, “We’re not supposed to be the most important people in America, we’re supposed to be servant leaders who try to maintain a framework for ordered liberty so that there’s a structure that back home where they live, [Americans] can get from the silver frame of structure and order to the golden apple at the center…which is the things that they build together.  The places where they coach little league, the places where they invite people to synagogue or church…the heart of America is about places where moms and dads are raising kids, and we’re supposed to serve them by maintaining order and rejecting violence.”

We should be angry about the violence at the Capitol. The Bible says, “Be angry, but sin not.”   Then what can we do about it?  Again, I quote Senator Sasse: “Organize, persuade, but most importantly, love your neighbor.  Visit the widower down the street who’s lonely and didn’t want to tell anybody that his wife died and he doesn’t have a lot of friends.  Shovel somebody’s driveway.  You can’t hate somebody who just shoveled your driveway.”  He’s describing servanthood again. 

We must try not to get cynical. When you give in to cynicism you start to excuse the worst behavior by saying, “they’re all like that.”  Start with the assumption that our public servants want to SERVE.  One narcissist in office does not mean that every office-holder is a narcissist.  Call out duplicity, but do so without hate and vengeance.  And remember that love and beauty really are more powerful than rancor and raw power.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.

A few bad actors bolstered by the proliferation of “information” that we find on the internet have created some of our cynicism.  Much of what we call information is misinformed assertion.  We must learn to discern one from another.   Endeavor to get your news from reliable sources…newspapers and reputable news services; people of faith must be better at discerning truth from false narratives and wish fulfillment. 

We must not excuse what happened last Wednesday by saying it was no different than other demonstrations. Any demonstration that devolves into a violent riot is not good.  But Wednesday’s event was a planned insurrection carried out in the halls of our nation’s capitol, egged-on by a president who spent months promoting himself over his country, working his supporters up to become a mob.  And it doesn’t seem that the threat is over.  

However, my husband suggested to me that it might be more effective to focus on decrying violence on our own sides of the political divides.  It is incumbent on conservatives to condemn extreme conservatives and liberals to do the same to their own extremists.  That is the essence of life-changing repentance and humility.  It is easy and satisfying to call out the other side, but not as helpful to quelling the hateful currents in our own hearts.   

God has chosen you to be his treasured possession.  Filled with his Spirit, bless the world as you have been blessed.

Here are some words that have warmed me, chilled me, challenged me and blessed me:

“Our freedom as Americans is not something that the Bible talks about.  The freedom that the Bible talks about is freedom to serve.”             
                     Justin Bailey

“I believe the president has disregarded his oath of office.  He swore an oath to the American people to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.  He acted against that.  What he did was wicked.”                                          Senator Ben Sasse, (R. Nebraska) 

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers…for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”           Psalm 1 

“[Trump] is one of gods greatest warriors…leading the way for us patriots to rise without fear against all we are facing…Nothing will stop us…they can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours…dark to light!”                     
                      Ashli Babbitt, dead insurrectionist 

“[Trump said] ‘We’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you…You’ll never take back our country with weakness.  You have to show strength and you have to be strong.’  Soon after, Trump retired to the White House and watched the unfolding chaos on television.”            Gustavo Arellano                                           

“Viewed via Instagram or a Twitter thread, a campaign or a crisis might have the outlines of something interesting, even operatic, but it can’t slake our thirst for the complete narrative… the beauty and enlightenment that can…be found in literature, theatre, music and art…Culture as culture, rather than a lever in a political war, can…crystallize who you are and ignite your curiosity or promote your well-being….I hope we’ll realize how deprived we’ve all been by…the phony culture war.”                                Virginia Heffernan

Though I’m not one who listens to many podcasts, my friend Mary shared this one about an inspiring musician.  If you have 50 minutes and want your thirst slaked, go to

Love, Liz
Photo from "Born Yesterday", 1975