Good Morning, all.
1 Fake news update. The news media’s daily efforts to poison public opinion against the President and everything connected to him is so—someone give me a new adjective,please, as I am sick of despicable, unconscionable, outrageous, unforgivable, even unethical—reprehensible that I feel pulled into the position of having to defend Trump in order to defend basic ethical principles.
Newsweek featured this headline yesterday:
Melania Trump Orders Removal of Near-200-Year-Old Tree From White House
Those monsters! These crude Trumps, with no respect for history or tradition, trash everything they touch–even the famous magnolia Andrew Jackson planted in 1828, in honor of his late wife Rachel, who died before he took office. The Trump Hate Mob picked it up from there, with one tweeter sneering online,
“A rotten dying Iconic White House tree is representative not just of Trump’s brutal attack on Mother Earth & science, but it’s symbolic of everything that Trump has done to our sacred Democracy since taking office.”
The tree had to be removed, as even Newsweek explained if a reader got past the misleading headline, which many readers don’t…
CNN obtained documents from specialists at the United States National Arboretum, which determined the magnolia tree must be removed. The tree is “completely dependent on artificial support,” the document read.
The document said, “Without the extensive cabling system, the tree would have fallen years ago. Presently, and very concerning, the cabling system is failing on the east trunk, as a cable has pulled through the very thin layer of wood that remains. It is difficult to predict when and how many more will fail.”
Moreover, only part of the tree, and not “the tree,” is being removed. From CBS:
A “large portion” of the Jackson Magnolia, a tree that has been a South Lawn fixture since the 1800s, is being removed, the White House says. It had become a safety hazard after decades of decay…A substantial portion of the Jackson Magnolia will be removed …including one tree limb which will be conducted by the National Park Service, CBS News has confirmed.
(Look at the photo above. I bet you can guess which portion is being removed.)
Wait…one tree limb will be conducted? What’s that supposed to mean? And back to the Newsweek headline: what’s a tree doing in the White House anyway? It should have been removed centuries ago.
Also, news copy apparently written by monkeys at a keyboard…
2. “You can’t handle the truth!” Yesterday’s update revisited the powerful and near-unavoidable scourges of the bias towards attractive people, leading to many societal inequities. That bias, however, is nothing compared to the near universal bias towards strength and size when people choose leaders, authority figures, superiors and role models. On Christmas morning, blogger Ann Althouse wrote about something that I had never considered, and suspect few have. Jesus was probably very short by modern standards: “From an analysis of skeletal remains, archeologists had firmly established that the average build of a Semite male at the time of Jesus was 5 ft. 1 in., with an average weight of about 110 pounds.” The Jewish historian Josephus described Jesus as even shorter, approximately 4ft 6 inches tall.
Yikes. If Jesus was short (Romans, having better nutrition, were taller), that makes his story even more remarkable. A short man had to have a lot of other outstanding qualities to be the leader of anything in the ancient world, and though it is better today, it isn’t that much better. Presidents of the U.S. as a group have been much taller than the average man; the short ones—the Adamses, Madison, Polk, Benjamin Harrison and Truman—were anomalies. Washington, Jefferson, Jackson and especially Lincoln were freakishly tall for their eras; it is fair to say that none of them would have progressed very far in politics or leadership if they had been 5’1″.
Jesus is always portrayed in dramatizations of his life as being taller than most of his disciples, and the actors who have portrayed him are always over six feet, sometimes way over. This has the effect of strengthening and perpetuating the height bias, which makes little sense now. It did make sense when physical size and strength conveyed confidence that a leader could prevail in battle, and in many cases, the leader had to prove that prowess by physically overpowering challengers to his authority. Nonetheless, being small is a significant handicap; shrewd or just mean, the taunts by Trump that Marco Rubio was “little” were effective. “Little” is not an adjective easily associated with power, trust and influence. In politics,the size bias is one more formidable handicap for women, even more than the attractiveness bias is.
Could Christians accept a realistic physical depiction of Jesus? The tradition of showing him with Aryan features is indefensible now, but that distortion is cosmetic (yes, and racist too); showing Jesus as a tall man in fact diminishes his story materially. My late father-in-law, a theologian and minister, had a powerful sermon about the doubts regarding historical Jesus, and his central point was that something very unusual happened that changed the world, and Jesus was at the center of it. Whatever he did and however he did it is far more impressive if the usual benefit of imposing size was not one of his advantages.
In misrepresenting Jesus as a typical leader type, our culture cheats out of his uniqueness and significance. It wasn’t size or attractiveness that allowed him to have such impact. What was it, then?
3. Finally..this brief note, brief because I will probably elaborate on it in a full post. The fact that so many journalists, commentators and Democrats are treating the President’s tweeted attacks on the FBI and Justice Department officials as well as Republican criticism in the same vein as if there was no substance to support it undermines their credibility, and signals that the President’s foes are more interested in taking down Trump than in truth, fairness or process. There is ample evidence that Meuller’s investigation has been compromised, that his investigators are riddled with conflicts and bias, and that the FBI has been shockingly unprofessional. Yesterday I saw a leftish website headline that said, “Trump has succeeded in politicizing the Mueller investigation.” What? The investigation was blatantly political from the start, triggered by Hillary Clinton’s alibis for losing, the Democratic effort to delegitmize Trump and hopefully find an excuse to impeach him, and a partisan FBI director’s unethical machinations. The fact that the mainstream media refused to report honestly about how political the investigation is doesn’t mean it isn’t political.
I agree that a President shouldn’t be the one to attack the integrity of his own law enforcement agencies while they are doing their job. That’s the task of a fair and responsible news media, bur we don’t have one. What is the alternative?