Monday, November 5, 2012

Always making with the negative waves

One of my favorite movie characters is Oddball as portrayed by Donald Sutherland. He plays an eccentric, early beatnik-like tank commander in Clint Eastwood’s “Kelly’s Heroes.” In addition to trying to steal $16 million in gold behind enemy lines, Oddball continually condemns people that are “making with the negative waves.” Use this YouTube link to get a flavoring of these great lines –

While I am considered “odd” by some, many people are just like Oddball. Whenever we hear a barrage of negative statements we react; the hair on the back of our neck stands up, our blood pressure rises, we clench our fists.

I remember watching a Baltimore Orioles game on TV with my dad when I was very young. Yes, the TV was black and white, the picture was not perfectly square, there was no instant replay, there was an actual “dial” on the TV with only 12 possible channels and you had to physically get up and “turn the dial” with your hand. That day, Brooks Robinson was at bat against the most hated and evil New York Yankees. Brooks drove the ball deep to left; I jumped up and down screaming to help the ball go over the fence for a homerun. My dad sat quietly, never flinching and said “It’s just a fly ball.”

Well, in this case my dad was right; the ball fell short of the fence and safely into the leftfielder’s glove, ending the inning and my hopes for yet another magical Orioles rally. Downtrodden and depressed, I fell to the floor in a lump of discouragement, falling like wet laundry out of the washing machine. My dad, ever the stoic, didn’t move or show any emotion except to take another drink from his longneck.

I looked at him in complete and utter amazement; didn’t he understand the universal truth of baseball and life? If you yelled long and loud enough for something to happen, somehow your yell and energy made your wish come true. It applied to all areas of life and certainly there was nothing more important than the Orioles trouncing the hated Yankees. I asked him, “Dad, why didn’t you yell and cheer for the ball to go over the fence for a homerun?” His words were etched into my mind, memory and psyche as he said, “I’m always negative because I don’t want to be disappointed.”

Oddball would not have liked my Dad, which is probably good because my Dad would feel the same.

As Oddball reacted to “negative waves,” have we become a negative people as a whole, not responding as sharply to negative words or commentary? Have you noticed this in your conversations, that people are generally negative? I think this drift is driving some Pew Foundation findings regarding the election;

Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have received more negative news coverage than positive in the general election (source:

  • The public's one-word descriptions for Obama reflect the mixed views of his presidency, the most frequently used negative descriptions are failure and incompetent
  • One-word impressions of Joe Biden, more people use negative than positive words to describe the Vice President
  • With more than half having a negative reaction, two-thirds of voters (67%) correctly identify Mitt Romney as the candidate who said 47% of the public is dependent on government
  • Both Republican Paul Ryan and Democrat Joe Biden get negative marks as vice presidential candidates
  • Press Coverage of the Character of the Candidates Is Highly Negative, and Neither Obama Nor Romney Has An Edge
  • The tone of Political Conversation on Social Media is Mostly Negative

I’m certain that you have read and heard numerous negative comments about the election. But there is also a rising tide of disgust and exhaustion from the constant bombardment of negative ads and comments. People are just weary of “all the negative waves”.

In contrast, Jesus has lots of forgiveness and receives people with “negative waves” and pasts. While others would turn away, he never turns people away who are looking for answers, restoration, to be made whole again. Jesus;

  • Sits down with those that the self-righteous and proud turn away from – Matthew 9:10-13
  • Openly talks with people who are full of doubt – John 20:24-29
  • Helps people struggling with faith – Mark 9:24
  • Restores people that have failed big time – John 21:15-17

Yes, it may seem like the world is overflowing with negative people, making negative comments about everything and dragging you down. But Jesus is ready and willing to listen and help you sail over all the “negative waves” to a new harbor full of hope.

Blessings – Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.

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