Sorry, but you just don’t have the Presidential Look

Sorry, but you just don’t have the Presidential Look

First up, allow me to make one thing perfectly clear. Despite the uproar about Donald Trump’s recent comments on Hillary Clinton’s appearance, there is definitely such a thing as a “presidential look”. Painful as it is for me to point this out, bald men are pretty much banned from occupying the Oval Office. In fact, Americans have only ever elected five follicularly challenged candidates to the presidency – John Adams (who was described by a contemporary as “old, querulous, bald, blind, crippled, toothless Adams”), his son John Quincy Adams (you can’t fight genes), Martin Van Buren, James Garfield and Dwight Eisenhower. That means Americans haven’t elected a chrome dome since 1956, when Eisenhower defeated the equally bald Adlai Stevenson. What a bummer that campaign must have been. Let’s face it, you need a full head of hair to be president. And a lantern jaw. And a killer smile. In the devastating after-effects of World War I, America was looking for a President to succeed the sick, drawn and exhausted Woodrow Wilson. They turned to the dashing, square-jawed (and hairy headed) Senator Warren Gamaliel Harding. His supporters declared “He looks like a president” and he subsequently won the 1920 election in a landslide, going on to become one of the country’s most inept leaders. You see, it doesn’t matter if you’re

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A parable about brotherhood on the occasion of the Presidential Debate

A parable about brotherhood on the occasion of the Presidential Debate

Once there were two brothers. The older brother was very rich. Everything he touched turned to gold. In fact, he was so rich he barely knew what to do with all his wealth. Only one thing was missing. He was childless. After many years of marriage he and his wife had been unable to conceive a child. The younger brother, although a tireless worker, had been unfortunate in life and he lived in abject poverty. But unlike his wealthy brother, he and his wife had welcomed many sons and daughters. One day, the brothers were summoned to their father’s bedside. The old man was dying. He explained he was leaving half his estate to each of them, a 50/50 share. He also added that because he didn’t want any unseemly disagreements after he was gone he had hammered a stake into his land as a way-marker to indicate the halfway point. There would be no disagreements that way. And with that he breathed his last. The brothers made the appropriate preparations for their father’s burial and then they both went home. That night the younger brother tossed in his bed. He thought. “What my father did was not fair! To grant us each half his estate when my dear brother has no children, no sons to carry on his name,

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In Praise of Eccentricity

In Praise of Eccentricity

When you were a kid did you used to have those anxiety dreams about going to school in your pajamas? Or without shoes? Well, I still have those, only my nightmares are about turning up to casual social events in a suit. It’s not that I’m anxious about drawing attention to myself (those of you who know me personally can stop nodding now). It’s more that I’m afraid of what wearing a suit represents to me: a kind of deadening, monochromed conventionality. Hey, if in your professional role you’re required to wear a suit, that’s cool. It’s not the actual piece of apparel I’m uptight about. It’s just that the older I get the more terrified I become of being straightjacketed. I genuinely fear I’m becoming a square. Did you know that the word eccentric comes from a combination of the Greek terms ek (out of) and kentron (center). When put together, ekkentros means “out of center”. The term gained currency in the late Middle Ages when astronomers like Copernicus dared to suggest that the earth was not at the center of the solar system. By claiming the earth in fact orbited the sun, Copernicus became the original eccentric. Enter Richard Beck, a professor from Abilene Christian University, who pushes the definition of eccentricity a bit further. In his book

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I am the direct beneficiary of White Privilege

I am the direct beneficiary of White Privilege

My father grew up seriously poor, but when he died over 30 years ago he owned our family home, a two-story, four-bedroom house with a pool on the side of a hill in a beachside suburb of Sydney. He had a portfolio of investments and had put me through university. To hear my dad tell it, he had dragged himself up by his bootstraps. Abandoned by his own father on the eve of the Great Depression, he was raised by a single mother in abject poverty. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he lost an arm during World War II and returned home a barely educated, physically handicapped kid with no prospects whatsoever. And yet, he made it. And he made it big! And I was the beneficiary of his hard work and graft. But, God love him, the way my dad used to tell it wasn’t the whole story. As a wounded returned serviceman, my father was entitled to a number of very generous benefits. For a start, our government gave him a medical benefits gold card (it was literally called a gold card). Every single doctor’s bill he and his family ever received was covered by the state. Every. Single. Penny. But there’s more. Veterans were entitled to no-deposit home loans on ridiculously low interest rates. Many were

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You do know the Irish same-sex marriage referendum got ugly, don’t you?

You do know the Irish same-sex marriage referendum got ugly, don’t you?

Have you heard the argument that Australians shouldn’t fear having a plebiscite on same-sex marriage because Ireland conducted a similar vote and their debate was peaceful and respectful? But is that true? A recent correspondent of mine, Richard Carson, an Irishman who ran a project that attempted to bring evangelical leaders and LGBT Christians into dialogue during their referendum, begs to differ. Here’s Richard’s reflections on the same sex marriage referendum in Ireland. He begins by asserting the campaign was awful: “The reason the campaign was awful (and why many Irish activists are currently in Australia advocating against a plebiscite) was not so much to do with a lack of civility as it was to do with a complete failure to acknowledge an intention-impact gap in what was being communicated. Pretty much every attempt to communicate on the referendum by Christians centred on talking about rather than with the LGBTI community. The concept that LGBTI Christians would be part of the New Testament ‘one-anothering’ that might engender a healthy debate never entered the radar of leaders. The idea that pasting posters on lamp-posts on your way to work each day that question whether you are an appropriate presence to children rarely struck Christian leaders as being out of place. Facebook shares were one of the biggest culprits as seemingly intelligent

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