Don’t you hate it when people quote you back to yourself? Like when your spouse says, “I thought you said you knew the way.” Or your child says, “But you promised.”
A friend of mine nailed me a few weeks back. We were serving meals at the Welcome Table, and he said something like this. “You know, Buzz, we should avoid labeling people. Labels just get in the way. Words like liberal and conservative. They only divide us.”
Then, he smiled. “A very wise man once said that. Know who?”
I could feel the trap door moving underneath my feet.
“No,” I said cocking my head and drawing out the o to telegraph my uncertainty.
“You!” he said amping up the volume a few decibels. “And you were right. But then you had to go and label the governor a bully.”
“He is a bully when it comes to transgender kids,” I shot back.
“Well, couldn’t you just say that he shouldn’t have signed those bathroom bills and left it at that? I mean why did you have to label him a bully? It’s so divisive,” he said shaking his head and walking back into the kitchen.
“Sometimes you have to call people out,” I said, following him, but then I stopped. I closed my eyes and counted to 10.
“Hey, thanks for being a good enough friend to tell me that,” I said, trying my best to mean it. “We all need people in our lives who will tell us the truth.”
So I ate a little crow. Not the first time. And I can tell you that I’m still not very good at it.
Like revenge, crow is best consumed when it’s cold. It slides down easier. Problem is it’s almost always served up hot. Like when my friend called me out at the Welcome Table.
That’s a problem because crow is so often on the menu. Because we’re all so full of shibboleth.
We like to run our mouths. Talk before we think. So, if we’re paying any attention at all and actually being honest with ourselves, we’ll be eating crow about as often as we eat our fruits and vegetables. Four or five servings a day.
But hardly anyone can manage that. Not even the best among us. Our tribal leaders. Have you noticed? They hardly ever eat any crow.
Have you heard President Biden eat crow over the American withdrawal from Afghanistan though it is universally recognized by both Republicans and Democrats as one of the biggest screw-ups in recent history? Or how about his changing our border policy on unaccompanied minors without first ensuring we had the infrastructure in place to handle the influx of kids once they got here?
Nary a word.
And have you ever heard Donald Trump apologize or eat crow over anything? He’s still insisting that he won the election and that the mob he sent to ransack the Capitol and stop the certification of the Electoral College was just a bunch of “loving” tourists trying to take an unscheduled tour of the Capitol.
I honestly can’t remember a politician apologizing or owning up to anything since Jimmy Carter admitted to Playboy magazine that he had “lusted in his heart.”
Well, this is me finishing off my latest serving of crow. I was on to something when I said that stuff about labels and how they divide us. Most of us are switch-hitters anyway. Like my old dog Louie, we’re liberals when we’re looking for a bone, conservatives when we’re burying one.
My friend Doug Jenkins says if we can rise above the sound and fury that epitomizes today’s politics and public commentary, people will be drawn to it. Inspired even. That Americans’ outrage is exhausted. Hyperbole and hate speech have run their course, and people are ready for a change.
I hope that he’s right, but you wouldn’t know it watching Fox News or MSNBC. Big media is still betting big bucks on the culture wars and doing everything in their power to stoke them. Even our local school board meetings have devolved into shouting matches on occasion. Hats off to Blount County board Chairman Robby Kirkland for drawing down the curtain on one such meeting recently.
I’m selling something a little different from big media over here on aisle nine. Crow prepared seven different ways. You can bake, boil, saute, grill or fricassee it. Serve it on a cracker or with a bottle of Dom Perignon. But if we’re to continue as a nation, everybody has to eat their fair share of it. Just like in a church. Just like in a family.
I guess what we’re really talking about here is humility. That rarest of human virtues that often goes unseen because it never goes on parade. C.S. Lewis said, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.”
Our religions teach us that there is no health and healing — no forgiveness or reconciliation — without confession and repentance. In other words, without eating crow. King James didn’t put it quite that way, but it’s all right there if you know where to look.
I honestly think we could change Maryville, change Tennessee, maybe even change America if instead of taking offense so easily, we focused on our own faults and failings. Whatever label we choose to affix to ourselves, we’re all part of the same band of stooges.