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“If you can keep your head when all about you,
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…”

So wrote 20th century British writer Rudyard Kipling in his well-known poem, “If.”

If you can keep your head…not easy for me these days. Here are some examples why.

After giving damning testimony against Donald Trump to the January 6 Committee and the nation, including saying he believed the Constitution was “divinely inspired,” Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers said that if Trump were the nominee in 2024 against Biden, “I’d vote for him again,” vote for the man who has no respect for the document Bowers said was divinely inspired.

Honestly, I thought I might literally lose my head literally via implosion, but it didn’t end there.

There was the jackleg preacher of Stedfast Baptist Church in Watauga, TX named Dillon Awes recently told his congregation that all homosexuals are pedophiles “should be lined up against the wall and shot in the back of the head” ( https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-news/texas-pastor-says-gay-people-shot-back-head-shocking-sermon-rcna32748).

And the Texas Republican Convention last weekend where delegates approved a 2022 Platform that claims Joe Biden is not the legitimate President and calls for Texas to succeed from the United States and declare itself a country of its own.

Not to be outdone, former Republican Missouri Governor, Eric Greitens, who is running for the Senate posted an ad in which he is carrying a rifle pretending to be on the hunt for RHINOs (Republicans In Name Only) who don’t support Donald Trump.

Perhaps worse was Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton saying that if he had a chance to talk to the parents of the children killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, “I’d have to say, look, there’s always a plan. I believe God always has a plan. Life is short no matter what it is.”

If that weren’t enough, in the midst of mass shootings weekly killing thousands of Americans a year, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court just expanded gun rights de-regulation.

And then just today the Court overturned Roe v. Wade that will now allow states to force women to carry pregnancies full term, even when they are the victims of incest or rape.

Yes, keeping my head these days is one of the most formidable challenges I face, indeed, I would argue, we all face.

But the question is, how do we know when we’re losing ours? 

They say if you think you’re losing your mind, you’re not. Does that apply to keeping your head? Is one safeguard against losing my head the fact that I keep wondering if I already have?

I’m trusting that it is, but I also need some other ways to gage whether or not I or someone else has lost their head. To that end I came up with the following list of questions I ask about what I say and do that I am finding helpful in taking measure of myself.

1. Is it informed?

Much of the stuff I have named above as proof of people losing their heads, and so much else, is rooted in a failure of people to know what they’re talking about. It’s pretty easy to spot ignorance, and when you do you can be sure you are in the presence of someone who has lost his or her head.

2. Is it rooted in emotions or rational thinking?

I have no doubt that what I wish would happen to Donald Trump and his followers is raw emotions and not rational in the least. If I were to speak or act on those feelings, I can be sure I have lost my head.

3. Is it helpful?

Keeping my head means saying and doing things that are helpful to the situation. But there’s more to it than that. Is it helpful to me? Are my words swords that are cutting me as well as someone else? Are my actions something I will live to regret?

4. Is it responsible?

Kipling not only challenges the son in the poem to keep his head, but says those who are losing theirs will blame him for it. That’s what irresponsible people who are losing their heads do. They blame others for their words and deeds, as we are seeing today. Gun violence is the fault of liberals who coddle criminals. People support Trump because liberals have given in to “woke” politics. Voter suppression laws are necessary because illegal immigrants are voting by the thousands. The government must control women’s bodies because women who shouldn’t get pregnant are. When you lose your head you become incapable of taking responsibility for what you say and do. You always have an excuse, something or someone to blame. 

5. Is it selfish?

One unambiguous sign that Donald Trump has lost his head is the naked selfishness he reveals in everything he says and does. That’s what narcissists do. But all of us can be selfish, and when I say or do things that are motivated by selfishness, I know I have joined the crowd that is losing their heads.   

6. Is it extreme?

The word “extreme” means exaggerated, going beyond the ordinary or usual. Once in while that can be a good thing, but in most instances it turns out to be bad for everyone. Exaggeration is how extremists make their case or justify their action. Whenever I am tempted to exaggerate what someone has said or did to make my point, I can be sure I have lost my head.

This list of questions is not exhaustive, but they are a start for all of us who want to keep our head when so many around us are losing theirs.

They also offer us a way to judge the words and actions of our leaders and would-be leaders. Are they keeping their heads or are they among those who have lost theirs?

At this point in our life together, there may not be anything more important than making that kind of judgment about them and ourselves.