Congressional Big Boy Pants

Congressional Big Boy Pants

Just when you think things can’t get more ridiculous, along comes a congressman from my district that makes an astonishing remark. Congressman Trey Hollingsworth, Indiana’s Ninth Congressional District actually said that we should all put on our Big Boy Pants and agree that protecting our lifestyle during this COVID 19 pandemic is more important than protecting life.

I haven’t published much on my blog recently as I know there are many other valuable voices during this time. However, the letter below captures my “energy” and my sadness at the irresponsible ways many of our supposed leaders are seeking to avoid responsibility and blame others. So — here is that letter:

Dear Congressman Hollingsworth,

Greetings, sincere best wishes, and prayers for you.  Hearing your comments on a WIBC Indianapolis radio interview regarding our society in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic left me dumbfounded.  I thought the news reports that you said we should protect our “way of life” as being more important than the “lives of our citizens” was a reporting error.  Then, this evening, you doubled down suggesting again that we have an either/or choice of life or livelihood.  You were suggesting that some should be sacrificed so that our lifestyle would not suffer. 

I don’t know your faith tradition – you are listed in religious preference for congressmen as an “unspecified Protestant.”  Your comments are far afield from the teachings of people of faith and moral persons everywhere.  Could you please send me information on the teachings you follow?  Exactly what kind of Protestant are you?  Are you familiar with the teachings of Martin Luther, John Wesley, John Knox or others regarding the sacredness of life?  I am certain your Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish constituents would find your stance outside their understanding of the central value of life.  Most non-religious folks I know have a stronger moral core. Would you say you get your moral clues more from Ayn Rand or Jesus the Christ?  I am just wondering if you value that silly idea from Jesus and other religious thinkers about each of us being “our brother’s keeper.”  I guess such ideas are to be jettisoned in the event of a pandemic.  Lifestyle over the life of some – is this what you are saying?

So, I am “putting on my big boy pants” as you suggested in your interview and writing you about your comments.  (BTW, I have been wearing BBP for over sixty years.)  Might I be among those to be sacrificed so you can proceed with your livelihood?  If not, what are you saying? 

Three reflections for you to consider:

1)  Which lives should be sacrificed, exactly?  Suddenly, persons on the lowest rungs of our social order are deemed “essential workers.”  Are these the lives we now sacrifice? I am speaking of janitors in hospitals and nursing homes, those who stock shelves, work at checkout counters of grocery stores and pick up our garbage. What about our nurses, medics and physicians? Many of these persons struggled to have decent food and lodging prior to this pandemic — and are even more threatened now.  What are YOUR PLANS to make certain these “essential” ones critical to a restart our economy will be rewarded and well treated now and in the future?  Please send me a copy of the plans you supported for the needed economic stimulus and point out how lives of these essential workers are valued in the plan.  The plans you and your Republican allies in the House propose don’t seem to include these good and essential folks in your desire to get back to “livelihood” of those you think who matter.

2) As with so many things, you set this dilemma up as a dichotomy, either life or livelihood.  Binary thinking seems to be the way of so many, especially in the Donald Trump era.  Sir, if this false dichotomy is an example of wearing big boy pants, I would simply say, it is small, immoral and dangerous.  Just where will you draw the line as to human sacrifice?  I would genuinely like to know.  Maybe this is the way you want our social order to be handled?  De we want our health care workers following such a false choice?  How about our public safety officers?  Our teachers?  Might we encourage them to think about who should be sacrificed so that the livelihoods of those you prefer can be secure?  I would pray that when you make decisions regarding our nation’s fate and future you consider multiple variables and shape arguments that are more than a simplistic either/or.  NOW is the time for humility and exploring the difficult calculus of saving both life and lifestyle.  In my experience, those who wear BBP are the ones who understand that we do all we can to save BOTH life and lifestyle.  Fortunately, Governor Holcomb, a Republican who seems to wear his BBP well, is modeling a more mature view and practice.

3) Over recent months I have sent you questions regarding our national leadership — and you have avoided answering them.  I now understand a little better why.  You must have thought these to be a bother because they might require nuance, a humble admission that life is complex and that you might not have all the answers.

Perhaps a clarification or apology is in order.  Or, perhaps you might want to go help carry bed pans at a hospital in Jeffersonville or work with medics on a life-saving run in Greenwood or sit with the preschool children of nurses in Bloomington and then tell us all about your belief that life-style is more important than life.  It is not a forced choice – it is a false one — I think you know that.  I will wait to hear you admit it.

Dear sir, please stop embarrassing those of us in the Ninth Congressional District of Indiana you were elected to represent.  See if you can find some genuine BBP that might look like they fit a United States Congressman.

Most sincerely yours,

Rev. Dr. Philip Amerson

19 thoughts on “Congressional Big Boy Pants

  1. Dear Phil,

    I was appalled by Mr. Hollingsworth comments diminishing the only precious gift we have and will ever have, our human life. It is not trade-able or exchangeable and he should know that. All of us deserve an apology from the congressman and his supporter.
    I appreciate very much your scholarly letter and I hope he will find it an enlightening and guide him for a better path to respect humanity and what stand for.
    Your Friend,
    Raj Haddawi
    Chapel Hill NC


  2. Dear Phil,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and well timed letter. Representative Hollingsworth does not speak for his constituents on this matter. For five weeks I have stayed home and sacrificed to protect my family, friends and our community. I have written to him as well and am astonished not to have heard from him or seen a public apology. I presume his father’s money was able to buy him a Congressional seat but not common sense or empathy for his fellow man. Be safe.

    Brian Beall


  3. Well said. Like you, I took sent Hollingsworth my thoughts although they were not as eloquent nor as thoughtful as yours were. Thank you!


  4. Wonderful! I write for Herald-Times on religion and this is superbly stated. To think we might have had Shelly Yoder makes me wonder about both the intelligence and faith understandings of our people. More prayer and prophetic writing like yours will surely help!🙏🏻


  5. I feel the pain you feel, Phil. Our own elected official! How could he! We are all better than that. I actually think he is, too. He just hasn’t troubled to dig deep enough in himself to find it and has spoken only from his most shallow self. I trust he is ashamed. I am ashamed for him.


  6. Phil:

    I’m not sure if you remember, but you officiated at my wedding to Ben Smith 26 years ago at First United Methodist in Bloomington.

    I was horrified and appalled at Rep. Hollingsworth’s comments and the fact that Jim Banks, who “represents” the 3rd Congressional District in northeast Indiana, is a fellow traveler. Your piece is beautifully written, and raises profound questions about how the human race can survive all this in the face of such inhumanity.

    Thank you.

    Julie Creek

    P.S. Ben says hi.


  7. Phil, Thank you for your response. I agree. I also responded in a much shorter manner. I also reminded readers in my comments that Hollingsworth was not a Hoosier but lived in Tennessee and moved to Indiana to run for the U.S. House seat which he holds in a gerrymandered district. He does not live out Hoosier values. I know we are in tough times with little national presidential preparedness. However, all Americans need to be valued equally because all are of sacred worth. Fortunately, Governor Holcomb will make the decision when we will return to a new normal. Grace and peace, Dan Gangler

    Sent from my iPhone



  8. Well said, Phil. Like you, I was aghast at Hollingworth’s comments. In a previous blog posting, you encouraged your readers to write to our Congress men. I did that on Jan 19. I could now add another paragraph but I’m still waiting for his reply.

    James F. Stark
    3217 S Coppertree Drive
    Bloomington, IN 47401

    January 19, 2020

    Representative Trey Hollingsworth
    Congress of the United States
    House of Representatives
    Washington, DC 20515

    Dear Representative Hollingsworth,
    I have been a lifelong Republican as my parents were before me. However, I am totally repulsed by our current administration in Washington.
    I find our President to be a total embarrassment. It is not only his obvious Ukrainian misdeeds, his support of Putin and Russia, and his unbelievable stand on global warming but it is his arrogance, bullying, schoolyard name calling, embarrassing comments about women, and lying that I find reprehensible.
    Even more astounding is the Republican acceptance of such incredible behavior. I know you and other respected representatives would never behave so poorly and yet I can’t believe you and your party apparently ignore such shameful characteristics.
    I struggle to find a Democrat I can fully support but almost anyone would be preferable to President Trump.


    1. Dear Jim, Your letter to the congressman is similar to ones I have sent him and our senators. As someone who grew up in a Republican household, who had friends like Hudnut, Lugar and Orr… and many others. This new reality is increasingly a tragedy.


    2. Such a great letter! I wrote to him yesterday but mine just basically said ‘did you seriously say that? ……………..’ He’s not a Hoosier and so he needs to go. He WILL NOT receive my vote!! He needs to go!! Thanks for your letter!! Well done faithful servant!


  9. Phil, thank you for this. We are living in a chilling time which the pandemic has not created, but which it exposes–the time Ayn Rand sowed the seeds for, seeds now bearing the toxic fruit reflected in the congressman’s comments. Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ is coming to pass as well. As long as we have leaders like Hollingsworth (Trump, et al), 1984 will be a definition of life, not just a year on the calendar or the title of a book.


  10. Hope this congressman rethinks his hasty sound bite. Which he said more than once.

    Big girl pants firmly in place.

    Glad this caught your “interest”. So well stated.

    Liked by 1 person

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