Why Milo is Rising and Why You Should Care 

Berkeley burning.

I saw the images, and I was stunned.

I had already dismissed Milo Yiannopoulos, without ever hearing him speak, as an absolute show-off with fabulous hair.  But when Berkeley decided to burn itself down over his visit in January, I had to know what he was saying that was so terrible and incendiary.

I took a crash course in Milo over the next week. If you aren’t familiar with him, Milo is a gay Jewish Catholic British Greek journalist in the U.S. and the U.K.  Read that again if you need to.  I’ll say up front that he is R-rated, and I don’t agree with everything he says.  But, that much, I expected.

What did surprise me was how much of what he said, getting past the bear-baiting and f-bombs, that I did agree with.

I listened to Milo talk about the war on boys in public school.  A personal issue for me since taking my son out of a school that was humiliating him, lying to me, and certain to insist on medication as the path to his success.

I listened to Milo talk about the bullying tactics of third-wave feminism and the importance of truly giving women choices, also a personal issue for me since leaving an academic path to stay home with my kids.  When I had my first child, the academics I knew were visibly disappointed, and I knew the things that would be said behind my back.  A woman that had made the same choice before me had been called “a waste” and her choice “a shame.”  Older women that I knew called me during my baby’s first year and told me over and over, “You know you can go back to work now.  It’s time for you to go back.”  I didn’t want to go back.  I thought feminism was about giving women a choice?

I listened to Milo talk about women proudly videotaping abortions, his support of the Catholic church, his concern for the cultural confusion around the problems of radical Islam.  He was laughed at, screamed at, even assaulted onstage.

And I found myself cheering him on.

For standing up for stay-at-home moms?  For families feeling the pressure to medicate their otherwise healthy boys? For Christians and their right to free speech?

Yes.  I’m cheering him on.

I saw a post on social media saying, “shame on Milo.”  Many headlines emerged after the fires at Berkeley, incidentally, the place, should anyone forget, that birthed the concept of the peaceful protest.

Headlines that read, “Milo Incites Outbreak of Violence at University.”

Last time I checked, we still have a constitutional amendment that guarantees a person’s right to say what they think.  It’s called free speech.  And burning buildings is still against the law.  It’s called arson.

And yet, people are afraid to say much of what Milo is saying, even if they think it.  And as Milo is escorted out of Berkeley for a very real threat to his life, and police stand and do nothing, it starts to look like their fears are founded, that there is indeed a very real war on free speech in our country.

You should care about Milo, because if his right to free speech is threatened, censored, or reframed in the media, your free speech can be, too.

Let me repeat:  Protestors throw fire into a publicly funded building and the main media headline is “Milo Incites Violence at Berkeley”?

Here’s the thing:  Milo never spoke that night.

He didn’t get a chance.  Rather than shut down the violence, police let it rage, and Milo was taken off of the campus.

You should care about Milo, because if his right to free speech is threatened, censored, or reframed in the media, your free speech can be, too.

I hesitated to do this blog. Considered keeping my own mouth shut on this topic. Google is censoring Milo’s name, so anything containing it is damaged in SEO. But one great thing about being small is that you don’t have much to lose.

And this is Lady the Fearless.  I can’t be quiet for fear of speaking up.

True freedom is always associated with free speech. I’m for freedom.  I’ll support free speech whether I agree with all of it or not.  And I’m not running to a safe space if I feel challenged. I am an adult.  I do not need play dough to recover from hearing someone else’s opinion.  And I don’t plan on starting a fire if someone says something shocking.  Call me crazy.  I just don’t think play dough and fire are the right avenues for me.

But I do feel suddenly like raising my voice in a new way. It feels weird. All fluid and like I scare myself a little. Like I might say anything.

It feels like freedom.

***

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  2Cor3:17

Jr. High Gym Class. Oh, the Horrors.

Gym class was the worst.

No.  Wait.

Seventh grade gym class was the worst.

The heat.  The clothes.  The coach’s shorts.

Our locker room was concrete blocks, painted–no–slimed is a better word, a pale and institutional mucous pea green.  So shiny.

I hated it.  I can’t think of a strong enough word, so I’ll settle for hate, but I mean, I hated it.  I dreaded it.  It became nearly a phobia.  Maybe a full-on phobia.

I was never a great runner as a teen.  I discovered later that I had a mild case of asthma.  It would have been nice to know back then, why I always came in last, why I couldn’t breathe.  It would have been nice to be able to tell the coaches, with their barely restrained eye rolls, as they clutched their stopwatches and waved the stragglers in.

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At home we played some mean badminton on the weekends.  But softball, football, volleyball, basketball?  Ummmm, no.  Never.

And it didn’t help that I went almost my whole seventh grade year without glasses.  Even though my prescription is in the -5 category.

I did fine in my classes, I just couldn’t see a softball coming to save my life.  At least not until it was close enough to hit me.  Nothing like throwing a softball at a blind kid and telling them to run.  “Come on, kid!  Catch it!”

I spent that six-week-unit out in left field.

Literally.

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It didn’t help that I had gone to a friend’s house the summer before, and a bunch of kids there thought it would be fun to play softball.

I have learned that some things are not fun for me.

Softball is one of them.  Also Starbucks at 6 am.  I don’t get it.  Not fun.

They got a game of softball together in the front yard.  And I went out to left field.  My destiny.

But my friend forgot to tell me that her dad had strung up a single strand of electric barbed wire that was about knee-high on a twelve-year-old.  He put it there to keep the cows out of their yard.  I grew up in Arkansas and, hot wire, it’s a thing.  But I lived in town–no cows, no barbed wire.  I didn’t see it.

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When the ball came my way, I decided I’d actually try to play.  Unlike gym class where I usually wandered off to the bushes in the middle of an inning.

I took off running, stretched up, arms out, glove open like a cradle.  I was going to catch it, one more step, and I would be right under it.  The kids were shouting.  I thought they were cheering me on.

And then.

I connected with the barbed wire, and those electric barbs sunk deep in my knee.  And on a hot wire, I was stuck there a second, shocked and vibrating.

When I finally pulled back and broke the circuit, I was done. Just done. The little white ball rolled innocently to a dip in the pasture.  A cow gazed at me, chewing, and looked away.

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I heard my friend running behind me, “I was trying to tell you!!  So sorry!  I thought you would see it!”

Well, I could see it now, thanks, but just barely.  One string of wire against a green and brown lawn doesn’t exactly stand out.

I was over it.  I completely ignored her.  I dropped the glove on the ground and started walking to the house.  Forget softball.  Forever.

Blood streamed down my leg.  I wasn’t even embarrassed.  I was just done.

I went into the house.  I probably should have had stitches, but I didn’t want to deal with it.  I didn’t show my mom.  I stuck a bunch of bandaids on my knee and never looked back.

After that, I hated anything to do with Phys. Ed. even more.  As if.

I did the least activity I could and found all kinds of excuses to sit out.  I slow counted my crunches and my cotton pickers. I faked sicknesses.  I hung back.  I made it through with a B grade, some coach’s mercy.  And I still had to take two more years of gym class.  I limped through it and was never more relieved than when that last credit was done.

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Fast forward a few years, and my daughter asked me if she could play softball.  I said yes.  She had a friend on the team.  They giggled and wore matching shirts.  They liked meeting each other at the softball field and getting juice boxes after the games.

The first time I visited the field, the wind blew and shook the chain link fence.  The rattle of the metal was Pavlov’s bell, in a bad softball field kind of way.  I broke out in a sweat, and a mild panic rose  up in me.

Shame is an awful feeling.

It takes everything.  Freedom, joy, delight.

When that fence rattled, it took me back to all those years of being picked last, softballs flying toward me that I could not see.  I hated taking my daughter to those games.  I could barely watch, and the rattling of that fence rattled me.  I stood outside the group of moms, trying to focus on my daughter, sweating, and counting the minutes til the game would end.

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One afternoon, I stood and listened to the fence jangle, metal rings on metal rings in the wind, and I watched my daughter play.  She was the sweetest thing, eight years old, all unicorns and cupcakes.  Her smile was so big I could see her teeth from the sidelines.  She was having so much fun.  Out in left field.

The other kids were tearing it up.  Hitting the ball hard, running for dear life, sweating, red faced, focused.

And all the while, my daughter and her friend were lying down on the ground, looking at the sky.  Making dirt angels.  Picking daisies.

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No pressure.  No shame.

And something fell away from me, that fast.

My heart reconditioned in one soft and sunshiny moment.  And that chain link fence suddenly sounded like a song.

It has happened to me over and over again, walking through an old ugly thing in a new way with my kids.  Their joy heals me.  Everything is reframed.  New memories push the old ones away.

What a gift.

***

Children are a gift from the Lordthey are a reward from him. Ps127:3

A Willing Vessel: 9 Lessons in Courage from The Finest Hours

I love movies.

Not all movies.  But the well done and uplifting ones, I love those.  The wisdom of a lifetime compressed into two short hours:  Seabiscuit, Queen Elizabeth, and William Wilberforce, and now, Bernie Webber, from start to finish, in the time it takes to paint my nails.

I’m grateful.  I need all the life-school I can get.

The Finest Hours is based on the true story of the most daring small boat rescue in Coast Guard history (Spoiler Alert).  It’s a simple film, easy to watch unless you are upset by rollicking ocean scenes.  It is not complex in the sense of subplot or psycho-drama, but it is a great tribute to a group of heroes who faced their fears, not to promote themselves, but to save the lives of 33 men stranded on one half of a ship destroyed by a raging storm.

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If you’ve seen it, you’ll remember that Chris Pine, also cast in recent years as the new Captain Kirk, is almost unrecognizable as the windchapped and head ducking rule-follower, Bernie Webber.

I love seeing actors lay down their vanity.  It’s a different kind of bravery.

The movie takes place on a night rocked by terrible winter storms and is based mostly around a Coast Guard station in Chatham, Massachusetts.  Not only one, but two tankers were torn in half by the storm that night.  Most thought that Bernie and his crew were being sent out on a suicide mission when they went out to help the S.S. Pendletion.

Throughout the movie, I was struck with Bernie’s absolute unwavering determination.  He and his crew were in a tiny open boat, sometimes completely submerged in water, four men on a huge and angry ocean.  I watched it twice.  And some things stood out to me about courage in the face of a challenge.

9 Lessons in Courage from The Finest Hours

 

1. Face your fears, and then do it afraid.

Bernie’s fiancée, Miriam, is afraid of boats and water.  When he finds out, he immediately wants her to get on a boat.  Bernie tells her, “We all get scared out there.” Don’t stuff feelings, admit them.  Bernie does not cover up his fear.  He does what he has to do in spite of it.

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2. Keep it simple, and shrug it off if you have to.  

Miriam says in reply, “I’m not scared of the water, just what’s underneath.”  Bernie shrugs and smiles and says, “Just more water.”

And later, when everyone around him tells him that he will die if he goes on the mission, he shrugs again, respectfully, and responds, “The Coast Guard says you got to go out.  It doesn’t say you have to come back in.”

Whatever it is, don’t overthink it.

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3. Knowing your why helps with your how.

Bernie joined the Coast Guard to be a protector.

And so had his crew.  They all volunteered.  A Coast Guard officer has the ability to command a crew, but Bernie didn’t have to take unwilling sailors.  One volunteer, Ervin Maske, says, “Well, someone has to go out there and save those guys, right?  That’s why I signed up.”

If you’ve never written a personal mission statement, it’s a helpful exercise.  When life gets distracting, difficult, and confusing, I go back to my mission statement.  It helps me know what decision fits with my ultimate purpose; it helps me remember who I am when I’m being pressured to be something else.

It helps me choose my battles.

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4. So does being prepared.  

Show up, and work hard, even if you don’t know the end game.  Bernie had been on rescue missions;  he had completed his training and knew the local waters well from his patrols.  He could not have anticipated the shipwreck that particular night, but by doing what he was good at every day, getting better, gaining skill and knowledge, he allowed God to prepare him for the biggest rescue of his life.

When the time comes, it goes a long way to know that you have the skill you need to do the job He’s asking you to do.

The years of training and boating allowed God to use these four men.  At the same time, in some ways they weren’t experienced enough.  Just showing up with the knowledge you have is half the battle.  He can use a willing vessel.

As Heidi Baker says, “If you don’t quit, you win.”

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5.  Be singleminded.

Once the leaders in the film make up their minds, they stay with their decisions.  Bernie Webber, Station Sergeant Cluff, and Chief Engineer Sybert on the shipwrecked S.S. Pendleton, all are singleminded men, even in the face of raging criticism and undermining.  And they insist on unity from their teams, that everyone around them be singleminded as well.

Though these men are surrounded by doubt, they do not allow themselves to be distracted and lose focus. In this particular situation, it was key.

If any of them had wavered, many men would have died.

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6. Courage doesn’t come from our peers.

The men at Chatham Station tell Bernie that he should pretend to follow Cluff’s commands, to motor around the harbor, and then come back in and say he couldn’t get out.  Bernie tells them thank you.

And then he goes out anyway.

As Praying Medic said to me recently, “Most friendships are temporary.  I can’t change what I believe just because a friend asks me to.”

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7. At the same time, it helps to have at least one person that believes in you.

Chatham Bar, a shallow sandbar off the coast, was also known as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic.”  It was difficult to cross, especially in a storm.  Bernie pauses when they reach the Bar and looks at the huge waves crashing toward them.  Engineman Andy Fitzgerald calls out, “We got faith in you, Skip!  Anytime you’re ready you just go, ok, Bernie?!”

Bernie wants to go, but he is unsure at times.  He knows what is at stake, and he knows his decisions put his crew at risk.  Fitzgerald’s cheering strengthens Bernies’s resolve.

Courage doesn’t come from friends, but believing in each other goes a long way to bolster courage.

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8.  Don’t give fear center stage.

On the S.S. Pendleton, Chief Engineer Sybert plans to run the ship aground and wait for help.  Another sailor, Brown, berates him and questions his decision, implying that he cares more about the ship than saving the men.  Sybert replies, “I got a life, same as you.  I’m scared, too, Brown.  Just don’t see the point in sitting around and talking about it.”

At the same time, on the Coast Guard boat, Richie Livesey is shouting at Bernie everything that is wrong, that they should go back. But Bernie already knows that they are in danger, that they have lost their compass, that the storm is getting worse.  When Fitzgerald hears Livesey, he goes from supporting Bernie to agreeing with Livesey, “Maybe Richie’s right!  Maybe we should just go back!”

Once spoken, Richie’s doubt becomes contagious.

It’s the only time Bernie shouts.  He will not listen to doubt or make a decision based on fear.  “We aren’t giving up on ’em! Not on my watch!”

Don’t give fear all the air time.  Give hope the sound instead.

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9. Faith, not luck, is on your side.

The men on the S.S. Pendletion pray when the ship is torn in two.  Later Brown yells at Sybert, “This ship is just bad luck!”  Sybert replies, “It’s got nothing to do with luck.”

Bernie Webber’s father was a pastor, and Bernie considered the ministry before he joined the Coast Guard.  Bernie always said about that night, “The Lord’s hand was on my shoulder.”  (ChristianNews.net)

In one of the few scenes that is not completely true to the story, Fitzgerald sings an old sailor song, and all the men join in, a sign of solidarity and a way to strengthen themselves.  In reality, they did sing, but not a sea shanty.  They sang the old hymn, Rock of Ages.

Bernie had a strong inner life.  He leaned on faith to do the impossible.

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One last thing that struck me as I researched this rescue was the absolute humility of these men.  Bernie always gave credit to the whole crew, even refusing a gold medal unless the crew received the same honor. One of the men’s wives didn’t know the full story of the rescue until years later. They chose bravery and self sacrifice, it was how they saw themselves.  And then they just lived it, without asking for glory.

It’s a beautiful story.

If you’ve seen it, I’d love to hear what you learned from this film in the comments.

If you haven’t, it’s on Netflix right now.

Enjoy.

***

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends.  Jn15:13

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves.  Phil2:3

I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle–victorious.  ~Vince Lombardi