The Thoughts and Musings of Tom Allain

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it

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Archive for the ‘Ranting’ Category

Vaccines: They Have Your Back (and Your Childrens’ Back Too)

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

National Infant Immunization Week Blog-a-thon with woman holding baby. #ivax2protect

This week we celebrate National Infant Immunization Week, sponsored by the CDC, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I’ve filed this post under both “celebrating” and “ranting” and with good reason. Two hundred and twenty one years ago Edward Jenner (1749-1823) began to explore smallpox, a virus that devastated populations at that time. Thirty percent of those who came down with the disease died of it and many of those who didn’t were scarred for life. Mr. Jenner noticed that those who suffered from a much milder disease, cowpox, appeared to be immune to smallpox. He suggested that if he could give people cowpox (which was virtually never fatal) he could ensure that they would not be in danger of contracting the much more dangerous smallpox.

He was right. And more to the point, he gave birth to the vaccine movement. Today we see vaccines as a treatment, a way to introduce something into our bodies that will protect us from dangerous diseases.

Vaccines stimulate our immune systems to protect us from dangerous diseases. You can find the list of these diseases here.

That’s why I’m celebrating. But I’m also ranting because in 1998 Dr. Andrew Wakefield published and article in The Lancet that claimed there was a link between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and autism.

As you can imagine this created incredible anxiety among parents of infants. Nothing frightens parents more than the idea that they are doing something that will harm their children.

In the immediate aftermath of Wakefield’s article, the percentage of children who received vaccinations plummeted.

But on further observation it became clear that Wakefield lied. Other doctors replicated his experiment and none of them replicated his results. The Lancet withdrew its support as did everyone who partnered with him and in 2010 he lost his license to practice medicine.

I’d like to tell you that Mr. Wakefield’s fraudulent claims had no traction and that parents once again vaccinated their children, but this is simply not true. The combination of Mr. Wakefield’s lies, his influence on American celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, and the general belief in health conspiracies leave us with the reality that thousands of our children are not properly protected from easily avoidable diseases.

Some of these parents mean well and are overwhelmed by bad information from sources who capitalize on their ignorance. Others find misinformation an easy way to punish the other parent in custody disputes.

Regardless, parents who refuse to vaccinate their children place them in needless harm’s way. They claim that vaccines are “poison” that will harm their child when in reality vaccines make their bodies work better. Vaccines have our backs in the sense that they make us stronger.

This week, if you’re the parent of an infant or know someone who is, please encourage them to keep up with their vaccine schedule. When these infants are old enough to talk they will thank you (and so will I). While I didn’t like getting shots as an infant, toddler, or child, I’m grateful to my parents that they protected me.

We live in a time of “alternative facts” and conspiracies, where bloggers and (so called) journalists find an income stream in lying. I don’t begrudge their income stream, but I do wish to call out plan to put children in danger to make a buck.

Don’t believe them. Vaccinate your children.

Expertise Needs Our Support

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

From my earliest memories I’ve recognized truth does not depend on our opinions or desires. Facts are facts, even when they’re inconvenient.

I’ve been blessed to have born into a time and place where knowledge was valued and the smartest people in the room should be heard and respected. Good leaders told the truth and journalists reported factually.

But in the last few decades we’ve seen this model challenged. The 24 Hour News Cycle recognized that they didn’t need their viewers to be informed, but instead they needed their viewers to stay tuned. On March 8, 2014 Malaysian Air Flight 370 disappeared and we still don’t know what happened. In the days and weeks after its disappearance CNN and other news outlets learned that as long as they covered Flight 370 they claimed high ratings. Their ratings plummeted when they left this coverage for other stories. And so they continued to cover Flight 370 long after they had anything to report.

On March 19th, 11 days after the disappearance, CNN reporter Don Lemon suggested that the plane was sucked into a black hole. I don’t think anyone believed this, but after 11 days he was running out of things to talk about.

We see countless more examples, but in the early 21st Century we need to recognize we are consumers who increasingly want to be told what we want to hear more than we want to be told the truth.

And that’s a bad thing. This doesn’t serve us well. We need to hear uncomfortable truths because that’s how we grow and learn.

As I child I was told about Adam & Eve, Noah’s Ark, and other events from the Bible. As an adult I learned that many of these stories were myths. They were true but not factual. But today I’m surrounded by fundamentalists who believe that every animal alive today entered Noah’s Ark in the year 1656 BCE and emerged 40 days later when a dove flew off and returned with an olive branch that spontaneously appeared after all the plants and trees were drowned in the flood. In a Gallup Poll from 2014, 42% of Americans identify as Creationists (ie, the world was created 6,000 years ago over the span of 6 days).

I’ve been thinking about this because a few days ago I heard an excellent essay from Tom Nichols, the author of The Death of Expertise. You can watch him here and I suggest you do.

In case you don’t, let me take some excerpts:

A few years ago a mischievous group of pollsters asked American voters whether they would support bombing the country of Agrabah. As you might expect, Republicans tended to support military action while Democrats were more reluctant. There’s only one problem: Agrabah doesn’t exist. It’s from the animated Disney film Aladdin. Only about half the people surveyed figured this out.

Increasingly…laypeople don’t care about expert views. Instead many Americans have become insufferable know-it-alls, locked in constant conflict with each other, while knowing almost nothing about the subject they are debating.

How did this happen? How is it that people now not only doubt expert advice, but believe themselves to be as smart, or even smarter, than experienced professionals? Parents who refuse to vaccinate a child, for example, aren’t really questioning their doctors. They’re replacing their doctors. They have decided that attending the University of Google, as one anti-vaccine activist put it, is the same as going to medical school.

We need to find our way back from this ego driven wilderness. Historically, all people return to valuing expert views in times of trouble or distress. We’re all willing to argue with our doctors until our fever is out of control. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. But that’s where we’re headed. And unless we start accepting the limitations of our own knowledge, then each of us is failing in our obligation to participate in our democracy as involved, but informed citizens.

Well put Mr. Nichols.

The Justice Chronicles, Volume 28: We Should All Be Concerned About the Holman Rule

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

The last few months I’ve written extensively on President Elect Trump out of a concern over where our nation is heading. I’ve also wanted to chronicle his Presidency for future reference; I got the idea from James Fallows who wrote The Daily Trump.

But in the last few days I’ve come across something that concerns me and it comes from the House of Representatives, something called The Holman Rule.

In 1876 the House passed a resolution (the Holman Rule) that allows individual members of Congress to target individual federal employees and reduce their pay to $1.00 per year (effectively firing them). On January 3rd this Congress voted to bring it back. Proponents claim this will allow the firing of dishonest, ineffective or lazy federal workers.

My fear, and the fear of others is that individual members of Congress will use this rule as a way of settling scores.

Career federal employees are often tasked with delivering bad news to elected officials. In it’s January 10th edition, The Washington Post spoke about Arthur Katz, who worked for FEMA, testified before a Senate subcommittee. He said: “I testified before a Senate subcommittee regarding the gross mismanagement of FEMA, including our lack of preparedness for natural disasters. My bosses weren’t at all pleased, but my civil service and union protection meant that I couldn’t just be fired. A few months later, Hurricane Andrew hit Florida, and my warnings about FEMA’s problems were proved correct. I kept my job and continued in federal service until my retirement.” Imagine if his bosses at FEMA were able to ask Congress to have him fired?

The General Accountability Office (or GAO) is tasked with overseeing that federal monies are spent properly. Since their job is essentially telling Congress when money isn’t being spent properly, can we imagine any scenario where they will feel their job is secure?

Can anyone feel they can speak truth to power when power has shown its eagerness to stop them?

Fake News: It Has Real Consequences

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Last month we learned about “Pizzagate.” Social media took off with the false account that the restaurant Comet Ping Pong, in Washington D.C., was a front for Hillary Clinton and others to molest and traffic children.

I have a hard time imagining anyone would believe something so preposterous, but on November 27th, Edgar Welch drove from Salisbury, North Carolina with an AR-15 assault rifle to “investigate.” He entered the restaurant and pointed the rifle at an employee who was able to escape. He fired it a few times before surrendering to the police. Mercifully no one was injured.

But it could have gone differently. Posting (and profiting from) fake news is getting out of control. One of my favorite podcasts, Planet Money recently tracked down the author of a fake news outlet, the Denver Guardian. He wants it to appear to be a newspaper and it’s not. But enough people go to this website that he’s able to sell advertising and he’s making a good living. You can read about it here: here.

Many of us grew up seeing the National Enquirer at the grocery store and I think most of us recognized their stories are false. But it now appears that the crazier the story, the more believable it is. The conspiracy theorists still hang on to false stories even when proven false.

America, do yourself a favor: next time you see a suspicious story, check it out on Snopes. They do good work.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 34: Why is Hillary Unpopular? You May Not Like My Answer.

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

This will surprise nobody, but we will elect a new President in less than 100 days. I’ve been eligible to vote since 1978 and I’ve never missed an opportunity. It’s the least I can do to express my gratitude to our Founding Fathers and everyone who fought in the American Revolution.

But in the 38 years since I’ve been an eligible voter, and the 56 years that I’ve been alive, I’ve never witnessed an election so polarized.

And let me say this as a Democrat: Donald Trump isn’t a bad choice. He’s a dangerous choice.

But that’s not my point. Instead, I wish to talk about why Hillary Clinton is so unpopular. I believe it’s latent sexism.

Eight years ago the election of Barack Obama unleashed racism that many thought was in our past. But we heard thousands of voices who criticized President Obama as someone who won’t lead all Americans because he is African American. He (and his people) care “only for their own people” and don’t care “for the rest of us.” In fact, look at him: he can’t be one of us. He must have been born somewhere else.

Now, his same party has (once again) nominated someone who cares only for “her people.” In the same way that the candidacy of Barack Obama uncovered latent racism, the candidacy of Hillary Clinton exposes latent sexism. Just as racism has informed much of our history with people of color, sexism continues to inform our belief in the relationship between men and women.

Most Christians, myself included, cringe at the belief that women are “temptresses” because in the Book of Genesis the character of Eve gives the forbidden fruit to Adam. I don’t think any reasonable person still believes it, but this was a common belief in the Middle Ages.

I find the idea of women as temptresses inane but archaic. But I’m more troubled by the persistent idea that women should not occupy positions of authority. You can read about it here. A small but noisy corner of the Christian world misuses the words of St. Paul to argue that women should not be in positions of authority over men.

But I’m most offended (as a husband, son, and brother of exceptional women) by the idea that women are, by nature, bitchy and conniving. They can’t be believed and they can’t be trusted.

Not only that, but strong, intelligent, and decisive women wish only to emasculate us. Women who want to “wear the pants in the family” are to be feared.

I first learned about Hillary when her husband Bill ran for President in 1992. Since then I’ve heard the following charges against her:

  • Whitewater: When Bill was running for President he faced accusations that he and Hillary invested in, and benefited by, a development in Whitewater, Arkansas. They didn’t. In fact, they lost a great deal of money in their investment. They were accused of throwing their partners under the bus but they didn’t. They lost money.
  • Health Care: In 1993 Hillary proposed universal health care for all Americans. It didn’t work and she was accused of trying to destroy America by sinking it in piles of debt.
  • Vince Foster: In 1993 Clinton friend Vince Foster shot himself in Ft. Marcy Park in Virginia. Even though he suffered from depression and feared that he would lose his security clearance if he sought help, Hillary is still suspected of killing him and dumping his body. She was devastated by his death but continues to be accused of killing him.
  • Benghazi: On September 11, 2002 four members of our diplomatic corps were killed in Libya by a terrorist attack. At the time Hillary was the Secretary of State. While she grieved the deaths of her friend Chris Stevens and others she was accused of causing this to happen. House Republicans, led by Darrell Issa have spent $7,000,000 in a failed attempt to blame her for the attack. Darrel, by the way, is in danger of losing his seat.
  • Email: The foolish investigation into Benghazi showed that Hillary used an email server not connected to her State Department account for emails that were not, at the time, considered secret. Given the false accusations of her in the past we can hardly fault her for her concern over her privacy. Nevertheless we do need to look into this. We all do email and most of us don’t worry about who is reading what we write. Our privacy depends on the fact that most people don’t care about our correspondence. Hillary does not have that luxury. I’m satisfied that she served us well in her positions as First Lady, Senator, and Presidential Candidate.

I will vote for her in November because I believe she will lead our country well. I also think that our first woman President will honor my wife, my mother, my sister who are exceptional.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 33: I Alone Can Fix It. Really?

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

This week we are watching the Democratic Convention but I have to confess I still can’t get over last week’s Republican Convention. Frankly it’s something I can’t unsee

But one line from Donald’s speech continues to haunt me. I wrote about this two months ago but Don is simply not a Republican: he is a Fascist.

Don himself made my point last week when he announced that I alone can fix it.

Taking aside the fact that no one alone can fix it, we should all be frightened. In a little over 3 months we will elect a president but Trump apparently believes he will be elected king.

I’ve spoken about this before, but the framers of the Constitution viewed our President as the leader of the Executive Branch, one of the branches of government.

Don does not. He calls on us, the voters, to give him the power to do whatever he wants with the promise that he will protect us from those who wish to harm us.

But in the end, he will harm us the most. Concentrating power in one person never works in the long run. That dictator, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, eventually makes decisions that benefits him at the expense of others. Even when the others helped him achieve his power.

If we truly listen to him, Don has spent his campaign telling us who he will benefit: rich, white, men.

He has spoken with contempt on women, Mexicans, Muslims, African Americans, and poor people.

Who has he supported? He has spoken well of Vladimir Putin. He tried to duck question about the Ku Klux Klan’s favorite son David Duke falsely claiming he didn’t know who Duke was.

Our Constitution famously opens with the phrase “We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

In a real sense, a vote for Donald Trump is an abdication of “we the people” for ” you alone can protect us.” He has made it clear that he has no interest in compromise, discussion, or shared leadership.

Vote for him at your own peril.

Brexit: See What Happens When You Use Your Vote To Send a Message?

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Last week citizens of Great Britain voted whether or not to remain a part of the European Union. The EU began its formation after World War II as a way to prevent events that caused world wars that informed much of the 20th Century. It found its roots in 1950 but most people point to 1993 when the “Single Market” was completed with the free movement of goods, services, people and money. Most countries adopted a common currency (the “euro“) and you didn’t need a passport to travel between countries in the EU.

Implementing these reforms hasn’t always been easy, but like the blending of any family, its members attempted to reach for the common good and recognized that each of them did better when they all did better.

But an undercurrent of opposition has always found its place among conservatives who felt individual countries traded away some of its sovereignty. They also felt it opened them up to unfair burdens imposed by immigrants.

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron supported membership in the EU. But facing opposition from his own party he promised, in January 2013, that he would call a referendum to leave the EU sometime before the end of 2017. This past February 22nd he announced June 23rd as the date of the referendum.

Smart money and bookies never thought the referendum would call for Britain to leave the EU. But it did, by a margin of 52% to 48%.

This led to great consternation and concern over the last few days. Virtually every economist believes that this will be economically devastating to Britain, and to a lesser extent Europe and the world (including the United States). There’s wisdom to this: limiting trade and immigration has historically devastated nations (history nerds like me point to the Smoot Hawley Act of 1930).

Panicked reaction to Brexit comes not only from those who voted against it, but also from those who voted for it thinking it wouldn’t pass. Simply put, they used their vote to send a message. Using an old, anonymous quote: If you want to send a message, use Western Union.

There is reason to believe that thousands of Britains voted to leave the EU not because they wanted to leave the EU but because they wanted to express their nostalgia for the 1800s when “the sun never sets on the British Empire.”

Now they recognize that their votes have backfired. As an American, what do I take from this?

Well, it’s worth noting that we’re in the middle of a Presidential election.

Hilary Clinton believes Britain should have voted to stay in the EU. She feels that Britain, and the rest of us, would have done better if they had remained. On the other hand Donald Trump claimed that the vote was good because it benefits him.

The same economists who fear Great Britain leaving the EU also fear Donald Trump. Nearly half of US voters tell us they will vote for Donald out of anger at “the establishment.” But many of them will vote for him not because they want him to lead our nation but because they want to send a message that they don’t feel their needs are being met.

OK, I get it. Many voters feel that the “American Dream” is gamed toward the wealthy and we need a revolution to even the playing field. But much like the vote to leave the EU, a vote for Donald Trump will make everyone’s lives worse, not better. Xenophobia and protectionism hurts everyone, but it mainly hurts those without a safety net. It hurts the waitress when her customers can no longer afford to go to breakfast after church. It hurts the local police officer, firefighter, or teacher whose salary depends on property taxes that fall of the cliff when property values plummet. And it hurts people who are depending on their 401(k)’s for a secure retirement.

This is my call to American voters: use your vote to decide who will best lead us for the next four years. If you want to express your displeasure over today and/or your nostalgia from a time when your life was better, send a telegram.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 32: No Don, It is Racism

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

I think most of us know this, but Donald Trump is being sued by former of “students” of “Trump University”. They claim that they were pressured to spend $35,000 to learn how to make their fortune in real estate. They were told that their investment would provide them with mentors “handpicked” by Don (who made his money in real estate). Further, they claim that the mentoring never happened and that his promises (once their check cleared) vaporized.

The lawsuit is being heard in Federal Court here in San Diego. Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel was assigned to hear the case. He was born in Indiana to parents who came from Mexico.

Reviewing the case, Judge Curiel ordered the release of the instructions given to the “mentors” of Don’s “university” and Don recognized how this damaged his case.

So what do you do if you are Don? Well, he looked at the judge’s first name and recognized an opportunity. Remembering his inflammatory calls to “build a wall” on the Mexican border he decided that his best defense was a good offense: claim that because the judge is of Mexican descent he can’t possibly be a good judge.

It never occurred to him that we would recognize the racism in his comments, even when House Speaker Paul Ryan did. He now claims that his words were misconstrued.

They weren’t. Don claims that Judge Curiel can’t do his job because he was born of Mexican parents. Simply put, this is not different from someone who says: “Don’t hire an African American because those people are lazy,” or “Watch that Jew who lives next door because they are known to steal.”

Today Don tried to claim that he charged the judge because he disagreed with the judge’s decisions.

Yeah, right. Don never charged that Judge Curiel wasn’t a good judge or that his ruling was flawed. He didn’t explain how he disagreed with the ruling.

He could have. But the fact that he didn’t tells us what we need to know about Don. Like bullies from the beginning of time he will do or say anything to advance his cause. Truth doesn’t matter. Facts don’t matter. Only his ambition matters.

But at the end of the day, he is subject to the voters. We have the power deny him what he wants most. And we should.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 30: We Need To Stop Calling Donald Trump a Republican

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

As I write this, Donald Trump appears to be the presumptive Republican nominee for President. Problem is, he’s not really a Republican.

I’ve written about this before, but the Republican party has undergone many changes. The GOP (Grand Old Party) rose from the ashes of the Whig Party when it split over the issue of slavery. Southern Whigs joined the pro slavery Democratic party while Northern Whigs formed the Republican Party. Both parties have undergone tremendous changes, but the last 40 years of the GOP centered on certain core values: lower taxes, smaller government, and Christian values.

But it also stood for a belief that government works best when all three branches (legislative, executive, and judicial) work together. Famously in the 1980s President Reagan, a Republican, and House Speaker Tip O’Neill, a Democrat, opposed each other on most issues, but at the end of the day they met and hammered out agreements that made us a better nation.

The days of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill are gone. Now a Republican victory is recognized only if accompanied by a Democrat defeat: a “win-win” is no longer seen as a win.

And the desire of Republicans to destroy the Democratic party has, ironically, turned on them. Donald Trump came into the campaign carrying the banner of hate better than any of his opponents, and now he is the presumptive nominee.

Last July he described Mexicans as “rapists.” Later that month he told us that Senator John McCain was not a war hero because he got captured by the North Vietnamese while fighting for our country. (Don stated: “I like people who weren’t captured”).

When asked by Fox News correspondent Megan Kelly about his treatment of women he chose to attack her.

In November he spoke nostalgically of “Operation Wetback,” the mass deportation of Mexicans in the 1950s.

And as much as he’s trying to distance himself from his remarks it’s not working.

Simply put, I (as a Democrat) need to call out Donald Trump. He is not a Republican: He’s a Facist. I know this word incites people, but hear me out. A fascist (even one who is elected) convinces people that democracy simply doesn’t work and they need a leader with unlimited power to govern. Only that leader will make his followers “great again.”

But he won’t. In the 1922 Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) was named Prime Minister of Italy by King Victor Emmanuel III. Mussolini then consolidated his power and was the sole ruler of Italy by 1925.

Meanwhile, Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) was appointed chancellor by President Paul von Hindenburg. Hitler then used his power to gain more authority, and when von Hindenburg died in 1934, Hitler proclaimed himself ruler of Germany.

I know this sounds far fetched in the United States in 2016 but few saw it coming in Italy in 1922 or Germany in 1933. Let’s look at some facts:

  • Donald almost never talks about working with Congress. He speaks often of how “I will build a wall” but I’ve never heard him talk about signing legislation from Congress to build the wall.
  • He insists he can do things that are not currently possible. He has often called for a ban on allowing Muslims to enter our country but he hasn’t given any indication of how he will do this. Passports don’t list our religion.

So what is President Trump to do? If elected he’s already proven he doesn’t play well with others. How long do you think it will take him to decide that Congress is getting in his way and acting as Commander in Chief of the military gives him the right to dissolve the legislative branch?

When told that we can’t ban Muslims because we can’t know their religion from their passports, how long will it take him to decide that passports should list religion? Or perhaps he will demand that Muslims wear a badge (like a crescent moon) on their clothing.

Ordinary citizens in Italy and Germany in the 1930s were horrified that leaders of their choosing became the monsters we now recognize. It’s easy for us, 80 years later, to criticize their blindness. But we can’t criticize them with any integrity if we vote for Donald Trump today.

A year from now if you’re horrified by President Trump, don’t tell me. I warned you.

Lead in Our Water? How Did This Happen? That’s Easy.

Monday, March 14th, 2016

In the last month or so we’ve been hearing about unacceptable levels of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan. How did happen?

First some background: Like cities all over the country, Flint looks to its past for it’s best days. In the first half of the 20th Century, Flint prospered from the automobile industry. But when their plants closed in the 1980s their population dwindled and it became harder to raise the money to run the city.

Previous to 2014 Flint purchased its water from the city of Detroit who got water from Lake Huron (you can read about this here). But in an effort to save money the leaders in Flint decided to switch over and get their water directly from the Flint River. Almost immediately residents of Flint noticed a change in their water quality. You can find an excellent article here.

But the real danger was not the color or smell of the water, but elevated levels of lead. In response to ongoing protests by Flint’s citizens the city began to test the water. There are a few heroes here, and one of them is LeeAnne Walters. She was a loud critic of the water and when the city tested the water coming out of her tap, they found something alarming.

The Environmental Protection Agency claims that no lead is acceptable, but by law 15 parts per billion (ppb) is allowed. The water coming out of the Walter’s tap: 400 ppb. When she had her children’s lead levels tested, they all tested positive and one of them received a diagnosis of lead poisoning. Lead levels in children cause irreversible brain damage.

LeeAnne, digging through city documents, learned that when Flint switched water providers they failed to provide “corrosive controls” that prevented lead from water pipes to leach into the water supply. During this time local and state officials continued to insist that the water was safe even when they knew it wasn’t.

So how did this happen? Alas, this has led to the hand wringing and finger pointing that has become all too common in our current political discourse. There are calls for the resignation of Governor Rick Snyder.

This won’t solve anything. I’m frustrated by the fact that whenever we uncover a crisis we look for a scapegoat instead of looking to a permanent solution. The phrase drinking the Kool Aid owns a place in our vocabulary for a reason. In 1978 nine hundred and thirteen people willingly committed suicide by drinking cyanide laced Kool Aid because they were told to by Jim Jones.

Since 1978 the phrase “drinking the Kool Aid” has expanded to people who sacrifice their integrity for job security. This, I believe, informs what happened in Flint. This, I believe, explains why officials in Flint and Lansing continued to lie to the good people of Flint about the safety of their water. They sacrificed the safety of children they will never meet to ensure they won’t lose their job.

Really? Yes. It’s hard to imagine but job security matters to people. Fear is a frighteningly powerful motivator and the fear of losing our job easily leads us into dangerous territory. Flint and Lansing are full of bureaucrats who lied about water safety and prayed they would get away with it.

The other factor is even worse. Those in power knew that they would likely never meet the people their decisions would affect. The African American population in Flint is currently 53.27%. They are poor and black and easy to ignore. Lying about the dangers to children you’ll never meet is easier than lying about your neighbors.

Sadly I’ve witnessed times where people I knew “drank the Kool Aid.” I’ve seen people who, under pressure to “not make waves” or “go along” or “not be a problem” have remained silent when they should have said something. And even more sadly, I have to admit there have been times when that person was me. I pray those times not happen again.

That said, there are heroes in Flint right now. I told you about LeeAnne Walters. I also want to give a shout our to Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha.

Let us all aspire to be LeeAnne’s and Mona’s and let us pray that no more children are damaged by cowardice.