The New Yorker Festival 2014 - Neil Young In Conversation With Nick Paumgarten

I’m really puzzled.

Two days ago I published a Catch about what I had learned from something Neil Young wrote in an open letter to President Trump. Now I knew I was stepping into a political minefield that I probably should have left alone, but I learned so much from what he expressed along the lines of what I had been talking about all last week, that I thought we could all benefit.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I received more comments from that article than I have received in months, and some of the attitudes exhibited the very reason why I wrote the article in the first place.

In spite of his own personal feelings about the president and about politics, Neil Young came to the defense of the people he disagrees with, and that was all I wanted to point out, and, as the following paragraph clearly indicates, it was all about me, anyway, not Neil Young, or the president, or politics, and how something that he said pointed out errors in my own attitude and something I had hoped I could pass on to you.

Here’s what I took away from what he said: “Can I say I have the back of Americans with whom I disagree politically? Well … not until now. Can I say that I think those with whom I disagree are true Americans? Well … not until now. Can I say I don’t blame anyone who voted differently from me? Well … not until now.”

Does this mean I can only use people I like and agree with as examples of something I need to learn? I hope not. That would leave me a very small circle to grow in.

So I am copying that Catch below, because I would like everyone to read it again, set aside your political views (and whatever you think mine are, because you’re probably wrong) and get what I’m trying to get you to see that I learned from Neil Young.

I’m hoping, in this political minefield in which we live and move, that through whatever I might say or attempt to say, rightly or wrongly, that through it all, you would have my back too.

Thank you, Neil Young

Posted February 24, 2020 by John Fischer

I don’t blame the people who voted for you. I support their right to express themselves, although they have been lied to, and in many cases believed the lies, they are true Americans. I have their back. – Neil Young in an open letter to Donald Trump

Contrary to what it might look like, this is not a Catch about politics. It’s a Catch about attitude, and about what I wrote about all last week, and what I hope you’ve been talking over and seeking to do with your friends and neighbors — about loving our enemies.

Neil Young, popular singer/songwriter and rock star, who was born in Canada and has become an American citizen, published an open letter to Donald Trump on his website in which he disagrees with many of Trump’s policies and minces no words about what he thinks of his character, but towards the end of his letter, he has the statement I quoted above, and it caught me unawares. I must say, it not only caught me; it nailed me.

Can I say I have the back of Americans with whom I disagree politically? Well … not until now. Can I say that I think those with whom I disagree are true Americans? Well … not until now. Can I say I don’t blame anyone who voted differently from me? Well … not until now.

That’s right — not until now — because now I must say, Neil Young has taught me something. He has taught me something about respect, about no blame, and about what Jesus said about loving my perceived enemies. He has shown me a different attitude from the one I had.

And this is the reason I offer this to you, in case you might benefit from it as well. It matters not where on the political spectrum we find ourselves, this is how we should think about those with whom we disagree, and it’s about the only way we will ever move forward in this country — when we all, think like this.

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24 Responses to Puzzled

  1. Robert d'Albenas says:

    First time leaving a comment. I agree with you on this, John, and get what you were trying to show us: love and respect EVERYONE regardless of whether we like them, or their politics, or their attitudes, or even their lifestyles and actions. To do this is the definition of Grace Turned Outward.

    I also agree with what Sandie said a couple days ago:

    Sandie said:
    February 24, 2020 at 1:44 pm

    “With malice toward none”…
    I think John has grasped the spirit behind Neil’s imperfect expression of his feelings.
    Long ago I came to the realization that Christians don’t own the rights to truth and wisdom. God speaks through whom He pleases. When He pleases. What He pleases.
    It is our responsibility to look beyond the surface and remember everyone is created in His image; therefore deserving of our respect.

  2. Mark D Seguin says:

    Are u serious in this, Pastor John: “Neil Young came to the defense of the people he disagrees..” If so, you my friend are proving you have a blind spot! How ANYONE can’t understand his, Neil’s comments were a back handed comments!

    I sincerely suggest leave it alone Pastor John! B/C you have a bit of a problem, I believe in admitting to your errors!

    PS it’s coming close to when I once mentioned a TRUTH about one of your hero’s folk singer Pete Singer was a self described Communist – he said it -NOT ME!
    Yet you wrote to his defense! Which as I wrote back then, but was completely ignored by you when I wrote it simply doesn’t matter to be b/c his beliefs have no reflection of mine. Yet b/c I called him a Communist and you defended him! So what – He called himself A COMMUNIST – yet lived in a 5,000 sq. foot home in upper New York! OMG as I wrote back then, if you cannot see the hypocrisy in that & the money his good music will be passed down to his family b/c he lived in a Capitalistic system – Not a Communist one – where private property simply does not exist!

    • jwfisch says:

      So are you suggesting we throw out the legacy and contributions to American folk music of the man who wrote “This Land is Your Land” and “I I Had Hammer” and a host of other songs that reveal the plight of the poor and the homeless and the immigrant because he was a self-proclaimed communist and a hypocrite?

      • Not to go too far off-topic nor be too picky (or Pharisaical) but weren’t the lyrics to “This Land is Your Land” written by Woody Guthrie?

        In the squares of the city – In the shadow of the steeple
        Near the relief office – I see my people
        And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’
        If this land’s still made for you and me…

        This land is your land, this land is my land
        From California, to the New York Island
        From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf Stream waters
        This land was made for you and me!

      • Mark D Seguin says:

        OMG NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Plz quote me where I stated ANYTHING close to that???

        Are you that damn foolish I said he was a hypocrite b/c how he live in a 5,000 sq. ft (plz consider reading my post 10 more times!) to add, while living in a mansion on 50 acres in upper state of New York, yet told a lot of folks their American system was wrong – when he clearly highly benefited from it – That makes him a hypocrite!!!

        Now, I’ll freely admit there certainly are areas in my life that I prefer to be left in private, yet surely a hypocrite myself!

        Or are you suggesting Pastor John like Neil Young to have superior intellect to know how and not to believe lies? Not like us less intellect Trump supports have b/c after reading Neil’s comments that is how I felt!

        And please, pretty plz tell me what Politician doesn’t tell likes? U & Neil are in my opinion in this matter a couple of self-righteous Pharisee jackass..!

        PS one more time I’ll suggest to plz consider leaving this alone b/c we both know you often have trouble admitting to a mistake. – There how does that back hand comment make u feel?

        LOL maybe just maybe you can start to apply what I learned from a gentleman I didn’t really care for or like, while in College Alan Dershowitz (sp?) b/c he once was a Harvard Constitutional Law Professor & top ACLU lawyer, and would often say: (A Mark’s paraphrase) put it on the other foot and see how it feels…

    • Andrew P. says:

      Dear brother Mark,

      I’m quite sure that Neil Young has his blind spots (and even hypocrisies, but I’ll set that aside for now). I’m quite sure that John has his blind spots, too. I’m quite sure that I have my blind spots. But I’m equally sure that, even though you’re probably a great guy to hang around with, you have your blind spots, as well. And I can see some of them are on display right now.

      For whatever reason, you seem to be blind to the point that John is making. He may or may not agree with Neil Young about anything politically – I don’t know, you don’t know, and actually, that’s beside the point. What Neil Young was saying (and he may even be somewhat hypocritical about it) is that he respects the rights of those who disagree with him. He believes they are deceived, just as you (presumably) believe that he (Young) is deceived. But he at least says he respects their right to disagree, which is a good thing, a peace-promoting thing. And that was John’s point. John was evidently struck with the conviction that he, himself, hasn’t always been willing to give people that same respect, but that now he has learned (or at least is learning) to do so. I’m very grateful for that. I have thought for some time that I’ve learned to do the same, but I am always glad for the reminder, because I, too, am still learning. And, I’m always glad to hear a public figure like Neil Young at least paying lip service to the idea of respecting those who disagree with us.

      And that’s why I’ll add my hearty “amen” to John’s message, and will recommend that you do the same, brother. After all, don’t brothers give each other the benefit of the doubt, unless it’s abundantly clear that no such benefit is justified? So, please listen to the other commenters here who recognize the wisdom in the message, and join in. If all brothers and sisters in Christ will take the position that Neil Young at least appeared to be advocating, we can do a little bit of “Jesus work” in this world!

      Peace of Christ to you, Mark.

  3. Kathy says:

    The problem is that what you quoted implies that people who voted for Trump were lied to. I did take offence that you chose that quote even though I understand what your point was. I feel that it was not a wise choice.

    • jwfisch says:

      You’re right. It was a difficult quote. I almost took out that part of the quote since it was meaningless to my point, but I decided to leave it in because I thought it would be good for everyone to struggle over something they would disagree with while at the same time taking something of value from his other comments. Besides if he tells me he supports my right to my opinion and who I vote for and that I am as much an American as he is, don’t you think I should give him the same respect regardless of what he says?

  4. Don Broesamle says:

    Nicely stated, John, and thanks for addressing a cultural communications “crisis.” Only by adopting this biblical, Christ-like attitude can we adeptly adapt our hearts to the person and not the perceived “problem.” If our actions, efforts or agendas are not in worship, then they become a form of idolatry. Bravo, faithful servant of the Most High God.

  5. Well, John, I and most other Catch denizens can all agree with you on one thing:
    You certainly walked into a political minefield!

    Politics and Religion: Strange bedfellows…


    • jwfisch says:

      Yes, in fact they should never be in bed together and we are finding out why. Be it known that my only motivation here is to try and get us through the minefield.

  6. Sandie says:

    I feel your pain and confusion John. I’ve been there too many times to count. Ezekiel 2: 3-5 is the life ring I throw myself at those times.
    If we look to be offended, we won’t be disappointed. Likewise, if we look for a blessing, and to be a blessing…well, try it and find out.
    Thank you Robert D., for the affirmation.
    And many thanks to you John, for your courage and honesty, for your refreshing take on life in general, for your transparency, and for your respect and consideration for all of us.

  7. Years ago, while living in Washington DC, I was walking to the subway, thinking critical thoughts about something the current president (I won’t say which one, lest we wander into another minefield) had done, thinking “how could he do something that is so obviously wrong??”, and suddenly God (at least I think it was Him) brought me up short with the following thought: “How often have you prayed for that man? He’s a husband, a father, and, in his spare time, he runs the most powerful nation on earth. Pray for him.” It was very sobering.

    Those people on “the other side” are not our enemies. Dave Mason said it best: “There ain’t no good guy. There ain’t no bad guy. There’s only you and me and we just disagree”.

    • Mark D Seguin says:

      Amen David and TY for quoting from a great song: “Dave Mason said it best: “There ain’t no good guy. There ain’t no bad guy. There’s only you and me and we just disagree”.”

    • Mark D Seguin says:

      It’s just for shocking and to get attention, I’ll use colorful language: “self-righteous Pharisee jackass..!” and offer an apology & forgiveness if it offended anyone..

      • Sandie says:

        You do (owe apology), and it did (offend).
        I was trained in many programs while working for the State of New York in a public high school. One of them was Peer Leadership, which included building self-esteem. While I never agreed with the humanistic leaning(s) of these programs, I did come away with some gems that held me in good stead in various ministries ( teens, music and the biker community). A good example of how God can speak through anything…if we only listen. Here is one of those gems: BEFORE YOU STATE A NEGATIVE ABOUT SOMEONE (even if deserved), YOU MUST STATE THREE POSITIVES.
        Jesus had a lot to say on this subject. “Judge not, lest you be judged…”
        “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
        He didn’t hold with calling anyone a fool. James said the things that proceed from our mouths depict where our heart is.
        Mark, you have shared so many good things in this forum and showed a love for Jesus and for Pastor John. Whatever is going on now, I pray Jesus surrounds you with His peace…and I pray you let him.
        With all respect and prayer.

  8. dierama says:

    A second and repeated LOUD Amen to this.
    It is a Jesus call to living the Jesus way!
    He had two commandments love God and love your neighbor as yourself, that includes your enemies.
    He said to DO IT!
    Thank you for following Jesus and pointing us to the Jesus Way!

  9. soulransom says:

    John: Over the past months I have listened to The Catch I have found that I can trust your spiritual judgement. Please continue to challenge us with the teachings of Christ whether presented through music or elsewhere. I found spiritual insights can come to us through secular sources as well. God is in control. Blessings.

    • Very good observation!

      “It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry….
      [They] do not have pure motives as they preach…
      They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely…
      But that doesn’t matter.
      Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message [of] Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.”
      ~ Philippians 1:15-18 (NLT)

  10. jwfisch says:

    I will most certainly admit to being a self-righteous Pharisee, albeit a recovering one! [For more on this, read my book, “12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee (like me).”] I will also admit to being a Jackass. Worse than that. Many years ago someone called me a “F***-up.” He was right. I still am. Thank God for His grace!

    So for at least MY final word on this I will restate the words of Neil Young when describing people he disagreed with politically, and I will leave out the stuff he said about Trump and Trump supporters which I think caused this whole ruckus. This was all I wanted you to see — that I think this is a good way to think about Americans with whom you disagree no matter who said it:

    “I don’t blame the people who voted for [x,y,z]. I support their right to express themselves … they are true Americans. I have their back.”

    • Mark D Seguin says:

      Certainly wished you would had enough common sense, dignity and some sort of people skills to use you above quote of Neil Young’s – Could of and certainly would have saved much heartache!

      I too am a “a self-righteous Pharisee,Jacka..s”

  11. kellief4 says:

    Sorry you had so many issues with this. The immediate analogy I thought of yesterday (and unsuccessfully didn’t get to post thru my phone) is the idea of our military forces.

    If you are in the military, any branch, any job, but especially the front lines, you HAVE to have each others’ backs. You have to stop caring about their opinions, their personalities, their personal beliefs, and anything else about them. You have to make sure you are prepared to back them up and they are prepared to back you up. Then you have to be certain that they (and you) will follow through.

    This is how I see us as Christians. The song “They’ll Know We are Christians By Our Love” speaks volumes, both in how we treat each other and also by how others will understand Christ’s sacrifice and grace and yes, even mercy. None of us deserve grace or mercy, but we are given it anyway!

  12. tornveil2 says:

    I got it right the first time probably, at least partly, because of our common background.

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