Greetings, sports fans. I took Friday and the weekend off so Mrs. B and I could informally formally (does that make sense?) celebrate our third anniversary, which was actually last Tuesday.
But time to get back in the saddle.
So take both the title phrase. It's ominous. It sounds gloomy. Read it again, and admit the slight twinge of discomfort you feel 'cause of what "judgmental declarations" implies.
The automatic assumption - because for decades certain segments of our society of beaten us to death with "judge not least ye be judged" - is that if you pass judgment on a person you are denigrating him.
Not necessarily so.
Take the case of retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark, a Barack Obama supporter and adviser, who said in an interview on CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday that John McCain's "riding in" a fighter jet and being shot down in combat did not qualify him to be Commander-in-Chief.
Before you explode - if you're so inclined - take a minute and think about Clark's opinion and assertion. He didn't say John McCain was not qualified to be President of the United States of America or Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. He called McCain a hero, but said that "riding in" a fighter jet and being shot down did not necessarily qualify him to be C-i-C.
Now, I'm not delusional. Clark is a Democratic operative on a mission to see Obama win the White House. His name has even been bandied about as a possible VP for Obama. And Clark is not a stupid man. He was a Rhodes Scholar for cryin' out loud. He does not use words accidentally. So I thought his choice of "riding in," as though McCain was just a casual passenger on the jet, was a cheap shot.
McCain is as qualified to be president as any president we've had in recent years. And in terms of commanding the military, you can't take away from the fact that he served...in active duty. Don't get me started on all the other government leaders on both sides of the political spectrum who can't make that claim.
But what's most fascinating about this hubbub over Clark's assertion is that Republican cheerleaders are calling on Obama to condemn the statement altogether.
For what reason? That it isn't true? That Clark's opinion was mean?
It seems to me that Clark's statement was valid. It didn't take away from McCain's patriotic hero status. It wasn't a "gentle" statement. But I think it was based on a fair question: Does being a prisoner of war make you better qualified to command the military? That you serve your country in the military is admirable and patriotic, that you got shot down from the enemy means that you're brave and that, unfortunately, the enemy had good aim, and that you survived a torturous captivity means that you are a rock and not easily broken. I could see supporters of McCain arguing that those qualities would make a perfect military leader. But I think I get the notion that Clark was trying to challenge.
How's this for devilish advocacy? Take that death row inmate who after a decade of torture and abuse behind bars is exonerated and freed. He's been in the system 10 years. He's seen the worst of it. Does that experience in and of itself qualify him to take command of and shepherd his state's prison system, or the justice system that sent him away in the first place?
I once told a dude sporting an arm full of needle tracks, burnt finger tips (indicative of crack pipe usage), a general rag tag appearance, and a bad odor to get his crack head behind out of my stuff. I was moving from one apartment to another and had sat some boxes on the curb, waiting for a buddy to swing back by with his truck. You know how this guy responded? "Hey! That's not nice. You shouldn't call people crack heads!"
Why not? It was true.
Passing judgment on another person isn't always a bad thing. Passing false judgment is a different story altogether. And there's no way to know whether Clark's opinion about how well P.O.W. status prepares you to lead the military is true or false. But it is valid.