Archive for the ‘Political Statements’ Category

My Eleventh Anniversary of Blogging   3 comments

Above:  Lambda, the Eleventh Letter of the Greek Alphabet

Image in the Public Domain

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I created SUNDRY THOUGHTS on July 27, 2009.  In time, I spun off seven weblogs from it.

Much has changed since my tenth anniversary of blogging.

  1. I have completed and published lectionary-based devotions for dates through the end of church year 2020-2021.
  2. I have spun PUNS BLOG back into SUNDRY THOUGHTS.
  3. I have added more saints to A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.
  4. I have written the episode guide for seasons one and two of Starhunter Redux.
  5. I have written perhaps the definitive episode guide for The Chronicle:  News from the Edge (2001-2002).
  6. I have openly grieved for Bonny Thomas (1965-2019), whose death has forever altered my life.

One does hope to improve with experience.  My recent blog posts are of a generally higher quality than my earliest ones were.  Most of my earliest blog posts no longer exist, nor should they.  When I read an old blog post and think,

I can do better than that,

I may delete that post and seek to do better.

I plans for more blogging.

  1. I intend to return to lectionary-based devotions eventually, of course.
  2. I plan to revise and update A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days off-and-on until I can no longer do so.
  3. I have plans for blogging at BLOGA THEOLOGICA.  I intend to blog my way through 2 Kings 22-25, 1 Esdras, 2 Chronicles 34-36, Ezra, and Nehemiah, with a portion of Sirach 49 included, in one project.  The spreadsheet for that project constitutes evidence of my detail-oriented nature.  I also plan to blog my way through 3 Maccabees, with a portion of Sirach 50 incorporated into that project.  Furthermore, I plan to blog my way through 1, 2, and 4 Maccabees, with a portion of Sirach 45 included in that project.  The spreadsheet for that project is also ready.  The first and third projects entail parallel passages.  And, given that strict adherence to chronology is not the organizing principle of Ezra and Nehemiah, I will read those books out chapter-and-verse order.

I have read all 78 book of the Russian Orthodox canon of scripture.  However, I did that more years ago than some of my former students have been alive.  Reading some of these texts again has, therefore, been like reading them for the first time.

Blogging is a hobby and an outlet.  We should all be cautious what we reveal on the internet, which retains everything.  Stories of people fired because of posts on social media outlets abound.  My use of social media is limited.  I belong to my Nextdoor Digest group, for example.  My major contributions to it are helpful hints in response to other members’ questions.  I know I probably will not get into trouble for answering a neighbor’s request for information about which local thrift stores send out trucks to pick up furniture.  Likewise, I know that my weblogs are public.  I hope they edify others at best.  May other posts be merely harmless, perhaps amusing.  Calling a spade a spade, so to speak, is fine; I will not excuse the inexcusable.  However, I seek to call spades what they are without publishing content I should not publish.  And I feel no obligation to express most of my thoughts.

When 2020 began, I had high hopes for it.  So much for most of those!  We may yet save our republic from internal threats to the Constitution of the United States of America–and from one–Donald Trump–in particular.  The Constitution allows for elections, after all.  And we will eventually get through the Coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences.  We will do so sooner if we, as a people, act responsibly.

2020 may yet have a relatively positive end.  We, as a people, must accept our obligations to and for each other, though.  Mutuality must override individualism in the context of a public health emergency.  I do not like wearing a mask in public, but I do so.  This is about what I need to do, not what I want to do.  This is about what I have a moral obligation to do, not what I want to do in an ideal circumstance.

Next year, I hope to write about my twelfth anniversary as a blogger under much improved circumstances.

Be safe and well, O reader.  Take care of your neighbors and, therefore, of yourself.

Peace!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

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Anti-Intellectualism and Right-Wing Populism   1 comment

Truthiness, Alternative Facts, and Damn Lies

Stephen Colbert, during his years of hosting The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, spoke, in the character of a composite of most of the on-air talent at the FOX News Channel of “truthiness,” defined as

the quality or seeming or feeling true, even when being false.

“Truthiness” is the quality of anti-intellectualism, of the distrust of expertise and reference works.  Objective reality, the character of Stephen Colbert said on October 17, 2005, is

all fact and no heart.

The television persona of Colbert rejected objective reality.

Objectively, surveys revealed that more self-described conservatives than self-described liberals did not get the joke.  More self-described conservatives than self-described liberals failed to realize that Colbert was playing a character.

That which Colbert said in political satire has become the governing strategy of the Trump Administration.  One may recall that, in early 2017, Kellyanne Conway used a now-infamous term:

alternative facts.

Her boss is a proponent and purveyor of alternative facts, half-truths, conspiracy theories, and what Samuel L. Clemens called

damn lies.

Anti-intellectualism is a political and religious tradition in the United States and elsewhere.  (Traditions are, by definition, old, so I choose not to call anti-intellectualism an “old tradition.”)    Related to anti-intellectualism is another tradition, distrust of science.  I trust science and consider myself an intellectual, of course.  Another cousin, so to speak, is the distrust of expertise.  I like experts, people who have read, studied, researched, et cetera.  They are well-informed, by definition.  I do not pretend that they are infallible, but I trust them before I trust an uninformed person on the street.  If that makes me an elitist, so be it.

Right-wing populism embraces truthiness and alternative facts as it rejects intellectualism, expertise, and science.  This tendency is proving deadly during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Wearing masks in public and maintaining social distancing should NOT be controversial, but they are.  The Coronavirus will not vanish one day, magically.  No, it will remain with us for a very long time.  The Bubonic Plague still exists, but how often does it become a news story?  COVID-19 will eventually join the ranks of generally contained diseases that break out here and there, now and again, with limited effects.  We will get to that day sooner rather than later by acting responsibly, both collectively and individually, and by trusting that people who study this disease know more about it than people who do not.

Unfortunately, as human psychology proves, ego defense mechanisms are generally impervious to objective reality.  The least effective way to convince one to change one’s mind may be to present objective information, especially if one’s ego is invested in an erroneous belief.  Consider opposition to vaccination, O reader.  I understand why, centuries ago, when vaccination was new, that many people feared it.  However, given that vaccination has proven effective, fear of it is irrational and contrary to objective reality.

Aside:  I report that the worst reaction I had to an immunization was the exception to the rule.  My standard reaction is none, except for momentary discomfort; I despise needles.  I recall, however, that I passed out momentarily once.  On the other hand, I got a piece of chocolate, so I cannot complain.

This pandemic presents people with a choice:  Behave responsibly and reject misinformation or embrace conspiracy theories and racist, nativistic, xenophobic, and objectively false statements and those who peddle them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

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Allegedly Pro-Life Republican Politicians Who Are Pro-Death During a Pandemic   Leave a comment

ESPECIALLY THE GOVERNOR OF GEORGIA, WHO IN WORDS OF THE MAYOR OF SAVANNAH, GEORGIA, TODAY, DOES NOT “GIVE A DAMN ABOUT US”

Some politicians who claim the label “pro-life” with regard to abortion are pro-death with regard to COVID-19.

I will get a side point out of the way.  I am cautiously pro-choice.  On principle, I oppose abortion except in extreme cases.  Medical emergencies do exist.  Sometimes somebody will die, regardless of the decision one makes.  Life does not always spare people those dilemmas.  I hold that the people who should make those decisions are usually the ones closest to the individuals affected.  In certain circumstances, however, they may not be.  This can be a complicated issue.

Now, back to the main point….

Recently, the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, mandated that we who live here wear masks in public places.  This was a socially responsible order consistent with science.  This morning, while watching the news briefly (for the few minutes I could bear to do so), I heard that the Dishonorable, Excrable (to use an old word) Brian Kemp, the Governor of Georgia, overrode that ordinance and its counterparts elsewhere in Georgia.  He decreed that no local government may issue a COVID-19-related order stricter than state policy.

Kemp, elected in 2018, ran as a pro-life, pro-gun liability.  He captured what political analysts call the Bubba Vote.  I voted for Stacey Abrams, his main opponent, who came close to winning.

If Kemp were as pro-life as he claims to be, he would issue stricter statewide policies and support the mandating of wearing masks in public.  He is only one politician I condemn for hypocrisy related to being pro-life regarding abortion but not regarding COVID-19.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2020 COMMON ERA

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Feast of St. Alexander Schmorell (July 13)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Cathedral of Holy New-Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, Munich, Germany, Site of the Shrine of Saint Alexander Schmorell

Image Source = Google Earth

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SAINT ALEXANDER SCHMORELL (SEPTEMBER 16, 1917-JULY 13, 1943)

Russian-German Orthodox Anti-Nazi Activist and Martyr, 1943

Also known as Aleksandr Gugovich Shmorel and Saint Alexander of Munich

St. Alexander Schmorell comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the U.S.A. (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople).

Schmorell held dual German and Russian citizenship.  He, born in Orenburg, Russian Empire, on September 16, 1917, debuted during revolutionary times.  Hugo Schmorell, a dual German and Russian citizen, was a physician.  Nataliya Vvedenstkaya was a daughter of a Russian Orthodox priest.  Hugo and Nataliya had to leave Moscow because of anti-German hysteria during World War I.  Hugo had vital medical skills, though, so he practiced medicine in Orenburg, where Alexander debuted.  Nataliya died of typhoid fever when our saint was a year old.  Hugo married Elizabeth Hoffman, a nurse and a Roman Catholic, in 1920.

The family fled Russia and moved to Munich in 1921.  That city served as the geographical center of Schmorell’s life for the rest of his life.  Our young saint did experience difficulty adjusting to life in Germany.  For example, his teacher in the mandatory religion course at school told him to cross himself in the Roman Catholic manner (left to right), not in the Eastern Orthodox way (right to left.)  Schmorell disobeyed.

The Third Reich put Schmorell in some difficult situations.  Our saint always opposed Nazism.  He did not pretend that some Nazis were, to quote Donald Trump, speaking of violent American Neo-Nazis in 2017,

very fine people.

No, Schmorell understood that the “good Nazi” was an oxymoron.  Nazis, our saint knew, were deplorable.  He condemned evil plainly.  He could not complete his medical studies (begun in 1939) at the University of Hamburg because of the German military draft.  Schmorell entered the German Army as a medic.  Somehow, he got out of having to swear loyalty to Adolf Hitler.  The Army sent our saint to France, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union.

Schmorell was a German patriot; he opposed the Third Reich and worked for the destruction of that government.  In the summer of 1942, our saint and Hans Scholl (1918-1943) founded the White Rose, an anti-Nazi organization, in Munich.  They wrote, printed, and distributed leaflets encouraging people to rise up against the government.  Schmorell wrote of the Holocaust in one leaflet.  Another member of the White Rose was Sophie Scholl (1921-1943), sister of Hans.  Members of the White Rose, after having initially focused on Munich, spread out across the Third Reich in January 1943.  That February 18, Nazi authorities arrested the Scholls, executed four days later.  Schmorell, arrested in Munich on February 24, 1943, received the crown of martyrdom on July 13, 1943.  He was 25 years old.

The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia glorified (canonized) Schmorell in 2012.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2020 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ADALBERO AND ULRIC OF AUGSBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF CHARLES ALBERT DICKINSON, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN AND PEACEMAKER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PIER GIORGIO FRASSATI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SERVANT OF THE POOR AND OPPONENT OF FASCISM

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us [like your servant Saint Alexander Schmorell]

to use our freedom to bring justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-14

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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Disenfranchisement in District 6 of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia   Leave a comment

The State of Georgia has disenfranchised the residents of District 6 of the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County.

Until a few weeks ago, my councilman was Jerry NeSmith.  He ran for a third term, and I voted for him.  Why not?  NeSmith was a man who did much to build up the community, especially vulnerable members thereof.  He was, according to his colleagues, a bridge-builder.  And NeSmith was responsive to his constituents.  He even sent out nightly emails about COVID-19/Coronavirus, including the most recent numbers for Athens-Clarke County.  NeSmith died suddenly at home on the weekend before the election.

I understand that a dead man cannot be my representative.  However, I insist the fair course of action after a dead candidate has won an election is to hold a new election, not to do what state law specifies:  declaring the losing candidate the winner.  Per state law, the votes of the majority who voted for NeSmith are void.  The losing candidate will join the council forthwith and start his full term in January.  There will be a special election for the last two months of NeSmith’s second term this November.

I resent the State of Georgia for disenfranchising all of us in the majority of voters of District 6 who supported NeSmith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2020 COMMON ERA

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Remaining Positive and Focused on the Morally Justifiable   Leave a comment

Above:  The View from the Camera Built Into a Computer on my Desk, June 14, 2020

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We live in times of rapid social and political change.  Change–even that which is morally proper–causes disorientation and disturbance.  Sometimes we ought to be disturbed.  Injustice ought to disturb us. The root word of “conservative” is “conserve.”  Whether one’s conservatism is morally defensible depends on what one seeks to conserve.  Sometimes one should conserve x.  In certain times, reform is proper.  On other occasions, however, only a revolution is morally defensible.  Yet, even in those cases, nobility must extend beyond the cause and encompass the methods, also.

Call me politically correct, if you wish, O reader.  Or call me a radical or a fool.  If you call me a radical and a revolutionary for justice, I will accept the compliment.  I support what Martin Luther King, Jr., called

a moral revolution of values.

I favor the building of a society in which people matter more than money and property.  I favor social and political standards that brook no discrimination and bigotry while granting violators of those standards the opportunity to repent.  I favor altering society and institutions, inculcating in them the awareness that keeping some people “in their place,” that is, subordinate, underpaid, poorly educated, et cetera, harms society as a whole.  I support building up the whole, and individuals in that context.  I oppose celebrating slavery, discrimination, racism, and hatred, whether past or present.  I stand (socially distanced and wearing a mask, of course) with all those, especially of the younger generations, who are rising up peacefully for justice.  The young will, overall, have an easier time adapting to morally necessary change than many members of the older generations will, no matter how devout and well-intentioned many older people may be.  To quote a cliché,

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

St. Paul the Apostle offered timeless advice for confronting evil:

Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good.

–Romans 12:21 (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985)

May all who seek a more just society pursue that goal with shrewdness, courage, and goodness.  To create a better society without incorporating goodness into methodology is impossible, after all.  May all who reshape society remain positive and focused on the morally justifiable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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To Be Clear   Leave a comment

Shalom in Hebrew

Above:  Shalom in Hebrew

Image in the Public Domain

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Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.

–The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Riverside Church, New York, New York, April 4, 1967

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To be clear, I stand, without reservation, against police brutality, systemic racism, individual racism, the militarization of police forces, needless violence, and all excuses that cover up for not opposing and correcting these offenses against human dignity.  I also oppose all political dog whistles (mainly, appeals to law and order) that distract while they favor unjust order over social justice.  Furthermore, I oppose the use of force against peaceful protesters.  That unjust, oppressive, and repressive law-and-order “desert called peace” (as Tacitus referred to the Pax Romana) is NOT shalom.  It is not, in civil rights terms, beloved community.

I also understand that institutions infected with injustice change only when people force them to do so.  Society is people.  It shapes its members, who have the power to change it.

I favor a just social order.  I favor wise and necessary systemic reform.  I favor spiritual renewal, which must go hand-in-hand with the first two points.  I recognize that sin, guilt, reward, and punishment are both individual and collective.

I, as a self-respecting white liberal, also refuse to tell my brothers and sisters of color how they should feel regarding any matter related to racism.  I do not know how they feel.  I have not experienced what have experience and continue to experience.  I refuse to lecture them.  Instead, I listen to them and learn from them.  I respect them so much that I refuse to do otherwise.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

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This is post #2100 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

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Human Dignity   Leave a comment

Above:  A Yard Sign in Athens, Georgia, June 6, 2020

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Celebrant:  Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

People:  I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant:  Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

People:  I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant:  Will you strive for justice and peace among all people , and respect the dignity of every human being?

People:  I will, with God’s help.

–From the Baptismal Covenant, The Book of Common Prayer (1979), 305

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Below:  A Yard Sign in Athens, Georgia, June 6, 2020

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Political Empathy and Wisdom (and the Absence Thereof)   2 comments

On the Duty of a President of the United States to Be the Consoler-in-Chief

May we praise those elected officials and candidates for elective office who act wisely and with empathy as we condemn those who act to the contrary.  And, when the time to decide for whom to vote arrives, may we reckon wisdom and empathy as credit to those who possess them, just as we properly lambaste and vote against those who lack them.

I realize that empathy is not a constitutional requirement for Presidents of the United States, but I also argue that voters the right to insist upon it.  Presidents with whom I have generally agreed with with whom I have generally disagreed have mastered the role of Consoler-in-Chief.  In the wake of a hurricane in New Orleans, Louisiana, Lyndon Baines Johnson carried a flash light one night and knocked on doors, to greet his fellow citizens in distress.  Ronald Reagan consoled the nation after the explosion of the Challenger.  He used Peggy Noonan’s words, of course, but he had empathy.  Besides, Presidents have had speech writers for a long time.  Bill Clinton was a fine Consoler-in-Chief after the terrorist attack on the federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Barack Obama led the congregation in “Amazing Grace” at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina, after the racist shooting there.  Excelling as Consoler-in-Chief used to be a standard part of being the President of the United States.

Donald Trump is a self-absorbed and immature little man.  He should think about the country and the world first, not about himself.  The contrast between he and Joseph Biden is stark.  Biden, who has buried his first wife and some of this children, understands grief.  When he says he knows grief, he speaks accurately.  He also speaks with empathy.  Biden looks presidential.  He is already the Consoler-in-Chief.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

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Grow a Thick Skin   2 comments

One of my favorite scenes comes from Aaron Sorkin‘s The American President (1995).  After environmental lobbyist Syndey Ellen Wade, sitting in the West Wing of the White House, condemns the environmental policies of President Andrew Shepherd as weak, she discovers, to her dismay, that his standing behind her.  Then Shepherd invites Wade into the Oval Office.  She begins to apologize.  Then the President asks her,

Are you under the impression that I’m angry with you?

He is not angry with her.  He has a thick skin.

I have noticed that thin skins seem increasingly commonplace across the spectrum.  One may find thin-skinned people in positions of obscurity, in high offices, and in positions in-between at concentrations either greater or more obvious than in olden times in my memory.

Thin-skinned people have always been with us.  Why not?  Human psychology offers many constant factors.  I have offended people by politely disagreeing with them.  I did so in Sunday School in Sumner, Georgia, in the autumn of 1991, for example.  Those who took offense were to my right.  They probably spent much of their time upset, given their low threshold for taking offense.  I have also offended people to my right by dispassionately reciting facts of ancient comparative religion without offering any subjective content.  Those offended students were listening more to what they thought I was saying, not what I was saying.  On the other hand, years ago, when I went through a similar litany of objectively accurate information about ancient comparative religion in an article I wrote for an online publication considerably to my right, I seemed to have caused no offense.  The editor read what I wrote, after all.  It passed a fact-check.

I have also offended people to my left by using pronouns such as “he,” “his,” “her,” and “she.”  People need to get over taking offense at accurate pronouns.  Besides, I respect the difference between the singular and the plural.  In my lexicon, “they,” “them,” their” and “themselves” are always plural.  One can speak and write inclusively in singular language, as well as in plural language, while respecting the distinction between the singular and the plural.  One can, for example, use “one,” “one’s,”, and “oneself” in the singular.

Topics that expose one’s thin skin need not be political, religious, or gender-related.  All of them are psychological, however.  Some of them pertain to entertainment.  I state without apology that modern Star Trek, beginning with Discovery and extending through Picard, so far, is a steaming pile of garbage.  I make no secret of this opinion on this weblog.  This opinion offends some people.  Why not?  Increasingly, I hear Robert Meyer Burnett (one of my favorite people, with whom I agree frequently and disagree strongly much of the rest of the time) repeat on YouTube that not liking a movie, series, or episode someone else likes is acceptable.  Of course it is.  Why would it not be?  Obviously, many people have thin skins about their entertainment.  Burnett should not have to keep repeating that liking or disliking something is okay.

The following thought is accurate and not original.  Identity is frequently a cause of a thin skin.  To be precise, insecurity in one’s identity is often a cause of a thin skin.  I despise 2017f Star Trek.  This opinion has no bearing on my ego, however.  If John Doe thinks that Star Trek:  Picard is a work of compelling storytelling, he may watch that series all he wants, in my absence.  His opinion has no effect on me.

Life is too short to go through it with a thin skin.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 21, 2020 COMMON ERA