Steve Torgerson

Do political disagreements really have to be as simple as “I’m right and you’re wrong?” Steve Torgerson begs to differ.

Colin Kaepernick and I share the experience of being baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran Church, where good people taught us to fight injustice. We don’t share a career in the military where I served with good people who stand when the National Anthem is played.

The news might convince us opposing views are dishonest, stupid or evil, which makes defeating the opposition paramount. I’m convinced however, that among the decent, our divide is mostly a matter of worldview: The standards are different but a strong sense of justice prevails.

When the flag passes, I honor sacrifices. Our country won independence, The Union freed slaves, and Nazis were defeated under the Stars and Stripes. For me, it is a symbol our highest aspirations and the debt I owe to those who made a nation “by and for the people” possible, but my boycott of the NFL doesn’t keep me from seeing the injustice Colin is protesting.

Our Union seems fragile. Big things divide us. When we draw battle lines over the core values of others we enlist only those on our side. The flag is an example but there are others. Abortion has been legal for decades, yet, it is a battle that will never be won in some good hearts. Family planning, stopping unwanted pregnancy and neglected kids the majority will support. We should pivot the conversation there. My conservative friends don’t object to gays having the same rights as husbands and wives but they’re fearful when someone is forced to abandon their Biblical beliefs to take part. My love for favorite teachers and friends enlists my support for gay causes: Here is where battles are won. Women’s health needs are a no-brainer until someone insists nuns break their vows.

We’ll never see things the same but it doesn’t take Einstein to see repeatedly fighting core values and expecting better results is insanity. Bad people win elections by convincing voters their high virtues are under attack.

The danger of valuing only one’s own perspective is headline news every day. Only empathetic people, from all sides, will keep powerful forces from exploiting our disagreements.

With a Perspective, this is Steve Torgerson.

Steve Torgerson is a retired Air Force chaplain. He served in Iraq and was wing chaplain at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield.

We were on our way to Garner State Park. It was after church, so my wife packed a lunch for the drive out. Everyone was enjoying each new treat until my youngest daughter discovered the Mint Milano Cookie she was eating would be her last. Her wail was heartrending. At two and a half-years of age, she knew the decibel limits allowed in the car, but she was distraught. Her sorrow knew no bounds.

As I turned to reason with her I was astounded to discover her mouth was full of cookie. It’s hard to cry with your mouth full of cookie. I thought, “What’s this? Your taste buds are slathered in scrumptiousness while your mind is roiling for want.” Weekly sermons make me mindful of illustrative material. I knew human nature was unveiled – we spoil good moments fearing future events.

During this time of National Thanksgiving, we can miss the pleasure of a thankful heart. Like my daughter we can miss joys of the moment worrying about the future. Likewise, past regrets can spoil good times. I’m speaking now in the comfortable offices of KQED. Most of you are listening from comfortable homes or comfortable modes of transportation. Our moments are mostly pretty good. I will return to a household where preparations are being made for a Thanksgiving celebration with family and friends. I have helped others to obtain rich fare for their tables. I live in a country of magnificent abundance and a spirit of giving that blossoms especially well in this season.

These examples are just a few of the blessings afforded to us as Americans. Abraham Lincoln was right to establish the 4th Thursday of November as a National Day of Thanksgiving. In the midst of a horrible Civil War, he knew life is made worse by failing to recognize the gifts we do possess.

We shouldn’t miss simple pleasures worrying about the future, regretting things that will not change or being caught up in frustration. So if that line at the supermarket gets you down, take out some Mint Milano cookies, share them with those around you and let everyone know how glad you are to live in a country where store shelves are full.

With a Perspective, this is Steve Torgerson.

Steve Torgerson is a retired Air Force chaplain. He served in Iraq and was wing chaplain at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield.

We were on our way to Garner State Park. It was after church, so my wife packed a lunch for the drive out. Everyone was enjoying each new treat until my youngest daughter discovered the Mint Milano Cookie she was eating would be her last. Her wail was heartrending. At two and a half-years of age, she knew the decibel limits allowed in the car, but she was distraught. Her sorrow knew no bounds.

As I turned to reason with her I was astounded to discover her mouth was full of cookie. It’s hard to cry with your mouth full of cookie. I thought, “What’s this? Your taste buds are slathered in scrumptiousness while your mind is roiling for want.” Weekly sermons make me mindful of illustrative material. I knew human nature was unveiled – we spoil good moments fearing future events.

During this time of National Thanksgiving, we can miss the pleasure of a thankful heart. Like my daughter we can miss joys of the moment worrying about the future. Likewise, past regrets can spoil good times. I’m speaking now in the comfortable offices of KQED. Most of you are listening from comfortable homes or comfortable modes of transportation. Our moments are mostly pretty good. I will return to a household where preparations are being made for a Thanksgiving celebration with family and friends. I have helped others to obtain rich fare for their tables. I live in a country of magnificent abundance and a spirit of giving that blossoms especially well in this season.

These examples are just a few of the blessings afforded to us as Americans. Abraham Lincoln was right to establish the 4th Thursday of November as a National Day of Thanksgiving. In the midst of a horrible Civil War, he knew life is made worse by failing to recognize the gifts we do possess.

We shouldn’t miss simple pleasures worrying about the future, regretting things that will not change or being caught up in frustration. So if that line at the supermarket gets you down, take out some Mint Milano cookies, share them with those around you and let everyone know how glad you are to live in a country where store shelves are full.

With a Perspective, this is Steve Torgerson.

Steve Torgerson is a retired Air Force chaplain. He served in Iraq and was wing chaplain at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield.

As a career military chaplain, Sarah Palin's recent comment, "Well, if I was in charge, they would know, water boarding is how we baptize terrorists," and then the crowd's applause, stuck in my craw. War is a terrible business. At very best, it is the second-worst choice. Every soldier needs to consider the humanity of those we seek to defeat or we will lose our own. There is nothing more demonic than to torture someone you've overpowered.

The Third Reich committed the farthest-reaching evil of the 20th Century. My dad was at the front when The Battle of the Bulge broke out. His tank destroyer was hit with a bazooka round. Even though the German Army pressed forward for days they took the time to pick him up, throw him in a boxcar and remove him to a prison camp. In the very few times my dad mentioned his POW experience, he always mentioned the skill of the German surgeon who restored his eyesight and hearing. He also said when Red Cross packages came they ate better than their guards. Even in the horror of war, against an evil enemy, humanity shined. Honorable soldiers fight men like Hitler. We don't become like him.

As a minister for The Prince of Peace I can't begin to tell you how wrong it is to use the word "baptize" as an introduction to torture. When I was baptized in 1973 it symbolized my understanding of my own weakness and a desire to rise to a new way of thinking. My ultimate goal: If someone were driving stakes into my hands and feet I'd say, "Father, forgive them. They haven't a clue about the purpose of life."

I'm not surprised people who think of themselves as "good" find relief in the thought of torturing their enemies. God knows, Jesus wasn't surprised when the "good people" nailed Him.

With a Perspective, this is Steve Torgerson.

Steve Torgerson is a retired Air Force chaplain. He served in Iraq and was wing chaplain at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield.
 

A retreat at Camp Victory was Saturday morning Bible Study. In addition to the troops attending, was a translator, born and raised in Baghdad.  It was an intimate group so I didn’t fear to inquire, “Waafa, why do Arabs hate the Jews so much?”

She was energetic, by nature, but my question put her on the edge of her seat. “I’ll tell you why Arabs hate the Jews so much, You can ask any Arab in any place and they’ll give you the same answer — we hate the Jews because they say they are God’s people!  And, if they’re God’s people, what does that make the rest of us?”  I was stunned, “That’s it,” I thought, “This goes back to Cain and Abel — who does Daddy love best?”

As hyperbolic as her statement appears, she spoke an observable truth — humans spend extraordinary energy competing to be Number One. But it’s a fool’s errand — the absurdity easily seen in monks throwing brooms at the Nativity.

Thoughtful people can’t belong to any group without a fair share of embarrassment. From my Christian tradition, we’d just get started with the Spanish Inquisition and the fact our largest Protestant denomination is called Southern because they disassociated from believers who were against slavery. Long before worrying about most-favored status, we should wonder why God doesn’t throw the lot of us out.

I’m not trying to offend everyone, rather, point to an obvious impediment — our singular perspective.

Peace is a high virtue in every major religion. It is never won in the simplest of battles: pointing out each other’s faults.  Rather, the brutal fight of dealing with our own.

Humbled by mistakes and miscalculations our approach is more winsome. When not under attack, weakness is seen as something we hold in common, and, thereby, bring to every discussion the much-needed element of grace.

People who believe in heaven should be the first to see this world for what it is — a place filled with erring human beings, fearful of losing what’s important.  It may turn out, like weakness, the most important things we hold in common, and with grace, we can gain them together.

With a Perspective, I’m Steve Torgerson.

Steve Torgerson was deputy command chaplain for Multi-National Force — Iraq for one year and recently retired as wing chaplain at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield.

I met Bill O’Reilly once. He came to Baghdad to visit troops. I said, “Say Bill, if you and Al Franken can figure out how to get along we’d have something to offer the Sunni and Shi’a.”

“Chaplain,” he replied, “he’d have to be converted first.”

Sunni and Shi’a feel the same. When the other side sees things their way, presto!  Peace on Earth.

The premise won’t ever be tried. There’s always disagreement — in our world, our country, our households, ourselves.  Peace is illusive, even when I’m alone.

Agreement has overcome monstrous dilemmas. We’ve walked on the moon. We’ve won wars, and made friends with those with those we’ve engaged in mortal combat.

Even so, disagreement seems preferred — winning our point the primary goal. Recently, a Senator said a claim he’d made “was not intended to be a factual statement.” Through the strained sieve of a politician, lying is deemed acceptable to win your point. I fear we’ve elected the wrong folks. “Hooray for our side,” works in sophomoric fraternities but has no value for governing a diverse people.

Theologian Frederick Buechner said if he could only preach two words they’d be, “Pay Attention.” Even casual observation shows we can’t afford to wait until others perceive things the way we do.

Some have much to gain by our divisions. Fear fills coffers. Humiliating evidence aside, we look at ourselves as “righteous” and the “other” as evil, but, if we stand in our perceived righteousness the world loses.

Every nation is here. Our differences are black and white and every shade in between. Yet, our needs are alike — clean air and water, pure food, nice homes and good schools. This is a start — we need the same things. When we work together for the common good our differences become less important.  We’re more apt to ask, “How can we fix things so you feel alright?” Then we would have something to offer the Sunni and Shi’a. In fact, the world may be more enriched by examples of how to get along than by invasions.

With a Perspective, I’m Steve Torgerson.