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Stranger danger

Summer plot twists punctuate a weird season of politics and culture

Stranger danger

Four freshmen congresswomen (from left), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., respond to remarks made by President Trump. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Summer hit full stride in July, but backyard barbecues faced stiff competition from indoor pursuits: Netflix released the third season of its nostalgia-fueled hit Stranger Things on July 4 and reported more than 40 million households streamed the show during the first week.

The massive viewership broke streaming records, but a Netflix account wasn’t necessary to watch plenty of other strange things unfold during July.

In Washington, D.C., some Democratic lawmakers accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of being too moderate—a strange charge the congresswoman from California doesn’t often face.

Pelosi hit back at four freshmen congresswomen who criticized her for passing a border bill they didn’t deem sufficient. Pelosi questioned their reach of influence beyond Twitter. One of the four freshmen—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.—said Pelosi’s comments were disrespectful to “newly elected women of color.”

What sounded like a silly fight revealed serious fissures in the Democratic coalition ahead of the 2020 elections, as the party battles over how far left it will go: Its leaders know that moderate and independent voters will be crucial to electoral victories. But far-left lawmakers, like the four congresswomen Pelosi sparred with, have grabbed headlines with a slew of controversial statements and proposals.

Republican lawmakers likely didn’t mind the open display of disunity in the Democratic Party. But the dynamic took a stranger turn on July 14 when President Trump seemed to aim a series of tweets at the four minority congresswomen. He said they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came … you can’t leave fast enough.”

Three of the four congresswomen were born and raised in America. The fourth is a naturalized U.S. citizen. In a flash, the Democratic Party was united again—at least for the moment.

One could imagine a Washington version of Stranger Things, though it would be difficult to envision what’s next. One storyline does seem clear: The line between policy offensive and personal offensiveness—on both sides—seems to be fading even farther into distant realms.

In a closer realm, the border crisis continued to broil in the summer heat. Vice President Mike Pence visited border stations on July 12, including a location in McAllen, Texas, that was packed with adult males. Pence acknowledged conditions in the overflowing temporary facility weren’t acceptable, and he called on Congress to fix the immigration system.

Congress does need to act, but if that sounds like a rerun of an old episode in a yearslong debate, it’s hard to see a new season on the horizon.

Some Americans broke from politics to celebrate the Fourth of July, just as Nike scrapped its release of a limited-edition sneaker emblazoned with a 1770s American flag. NFL star and activist Colin Kaepernick reportedly complained the flag came from an era when slavery was allowed in America.

Nike via AP

Nike via AP

That’s true, but Betsy Ross, the Philadelphia seamstress usually remembered for her flag-making during the American Revolution, was also a Quaker—a religious group that moved to prohibit its members from holding slaves in the late 1770s.

Two replicas of the flag she’s credited with creating were prominently displayed during President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2013.

Corporate activism reached another strange level with another limited-edition product: transgender-themed Oreos. The snack giant gave away the cookies at a World Pride event in New York City, but reported it didn’t have immediate plans to sell them in stores.

Still, Oreo’s Twitter account encouraged consumers to share the pronoun of their preferred gender and imprinted the snacks with a range of possibilities: “she/her,” “he/him,” and “they/them.” The company packaged the Oreos in the colors of the transgender flag.

Customers can buy a transgender flag on, but they won’t be able to buy several books by a certain author anymore: Amazon officials confirmed on July 3 they had removed several titles by Joseph Nicolosi, an author known for his writings on homosexuality.

Nicolosi, who died in 2017, advocated reparative therapy—a form of counseling aimed at helping people reduce or change same-sex attractions. The therapy has been controversial, including among some Christians who don’t think it’s the best approach to helping those who battle same-sex attractions.

But banning books based on one approach to a problem could lead to banning books based on any approach to the same problem—and perhaps any titles that hold to a Biblical view of sexuality. Christopher Yuan, the evangelical author of the recently released Holy Sexuality and the Gospel, called Amazon’s move “chilling.”

Also chilling: Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization confirmed it had increased its uranium enrichment level to 4.5 percent and had fulfilled its threat to exceed the limit set in a 2015 deal with global powers.

Meanwhile, the Russian Orthodox Church debated banning its priests from blessing weapons of mass destruction. Religion News Service reported that Russian Orthodox priests have formally blessed surface-to-air missiles, nuclear submarines, tanks, and fighter jets.

A church committee has recommended priests bless soldiers rather than weapons, but some object to the change. Vsevolod Chaplin, an influential priest, told a Russian newspaper that nuclear weapons were the country’s “guardian angels” to protect Russians “from enslavement by the West.”

A debate over whether priests should sanctify weapons of mass destruction? Stranger things have happened.

Jamie Dean

Jamie Dean

Jamie is WORLD’s national editor based in Charlotte, N.C. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.


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  • VISTA48
    Posted: Thu, 07/18/2019 06:47 pm

    To be fair, the entirety of Trumps tweets was not just to go back and fix the totally broken places they came from, but also to return and tell us how it is done. Also, the context that they could not leave fast enough was because those countries needed help badly. If you read the tweets completely, it has a very tongue-in-cheek tone, especially when he suggests that Pelosi might like to make their travel arrangements.  I have read very few news stories that present the whole story. This type of cherry-picking gets us in all sorts of trouble with the Bible, and is very unfair to individuals, including the President. I rather hoped that World would be an exception. 

  •  West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Fri, 07/19/2019 11:16 am

    If Trump's tone was truly "tongue-in-cheek," why hasn't he specifically apologized for the misunderstanding his statements have caused? And if what you say is so, in view of the rucus ensuing upon his comments, why hasn't he clarified that he believes all law-abiding: Congress people, native US citizens born of immigrant parents, and naturalized citizens are equal and welcome in our great nation? Perhaps the president of the United States shouldn't be making such strongly emotive statements in 524 characters (3 tweets)? That's too short a space to develp a nuanced context. Finally, even if his comments were "tongue-in-cheek," do you really think this type of language befits the office of the highest leader of the most powerful nation on earth?

  • D J Duran
    Posted: Tue, 07/23/2019 02:52 pm

    Thank you very much for providing Trump's tweets in their entirety. They do read quite differently from what the ensuing brouhaha on the issue would seem to indicate.

  • Leeper
    Posted: Fri, 07/19/2019 04:55 pm

    The misunderstanding is due to the world view of the main stream media which is to hate President Trump and report everything he does and says to reinforce their views and narrative. It is deliberate. Mark Levin has a new book out titled "Unfreedom of the Press" where he documents this in a factual way.

  •  West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Fri, 07/19/2019 06:02 pm

    Leeper: It appears you may have missed something here. The original letter by Vista48 was a criticism of World's coverage, just above, of the president's tweets. Vista48, who in the context of his or her letter is not a Trump hater, said our favorite news magazine, which is Christian worldview conservative and by no means mainstream, was "cherry-picking" his tweets, and thereby giving a false impression of his "tongue-in-cheek" statements. Could it be that the tweets themselves are at fault and not the coverage, whether by World or any other news outlet? The tweets are now written history. Everyone may read them in their entirety. A Christian, as I myself am, does not have to be a "Trump hater," to find his tweets offensive and inappropriate to the high office of the president of the wonderful United States. It is because I love the United States and our democracy that I feel this way.

  • VISTA48
    Posted: Sun, 07/21/2019 04:55 pm

    The Trump tweets in their entirety:

    “So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly......
    ....and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how.... is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

    Contrary to what Gramma says, to take one sentence out of this and say he is simply telling the people to leave because of their race or color is absurd. It is, in fact, the very definition of cherry-picking.

    My criticism was that World did no better than the MSM in reporting on the whole of the tweets, in proper context.

    Nobody seems to want to acknowledge that Trump was responding to statements made by these four congresswomen that are anti-Semitic, anti-White and anti-American. Many of these comments are blatantly racist, and their attempts to project this racism onto Trump are a bit hard to swallow.

    Whether I like Trump or not is a bit of a different issue, but I do believe that the media in general has been extremely unfair to him.

  •  West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Mon, 07/22/2019 10:50 am

    Vista48: Your most recent comment illustrates why one cannot be too careful in assessing what other people say on political topics. You write, "Contrary to what Gramma says, to take one sentence out of this and say he is simply telling the people to leave because of their race or color is absurd. It is, in fact, the very definition of cherry-picking." Don't you realize that no one in this entire exchange, including World in their original article above, has even once used the word, "racist" or "race" or "color," except you yourself? World did not say as you claim they did, "...he is simply telling the people to leave because of their race or color..." I did not say that. You are reporting statements as fact that never occurred. This is how "news" gets warped and twisted.

    Have you never read any of the many Fact Check articles published by various news media? Many of these show that the president regularly quotes his political opponents out of context and actually changes what they say to suit his own purposes. You wrote that, "Trump was responding to statements made by these four congresswomen that are anti-Semitic, anti-White and anti-American." You don't find those labels pejorative? You state that Trump applied those labels. What makes you think they are true, or that they accurately reflect the political stance of those Congresswomen? Why is it patriotic for the president to defame other elected politicians with pejorative labels of his own creation, yet when called out on it, we are supposed to say that he is being unfairly criticized? Jesus taught that we are not to "call people names." Most unfortunately, our president has been doing that from the beginning. He sets a very bad example of how best to converse with political opponents.

    If you are interested in establishing context, this might be a good article for you: