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Andrew Breitbart was, among other things, a compulsive tweeter. Just before his untimely death, nearly a year ago, he tweeted Apologize for WHAT?. This was in conversation with somebody, but as it was his penultimate tweet, and summed up so much of his philosophy, it became a rallying cry for many.

There are many well-known sayings about dealing with "differences of opinion". One of the most common is that "There are two sides to every story." Although usually not stated, the insinuation here is that no one is completely at fault for a disagreement; that both sides are obviously coming from some sort of rational position, but that there is a lack of communication between the sides that cause the conflict. The assumption here is that some sort of mediation can resolve the difference in opinion.

Another saying is "It takes two to tango." This saying insinuates that a disagreement or conflict has come about, and it has only continued to the point that it has because both parties are engaging in behavior to prolong the conflict. Hence, the assumption made is that if (and most often, only if) both parties change their behavior, the conflict can be resolved. This totally negates the very common occurrence where one party is constantly causing annoyance and harm to the other.

When there is an occasion of one party aggrieving the other, and that party finally deciding that they will take a step of an apology, although the apology may be sincere, it is often only for some small portion of said aggrievances, and there is very often the expectation that the other party apologize too. Not only does that fit into the idea of "it takes two to tango" but it leaves the aggressive party feeling some sort of moral equivalency - he is sorry for what he did, but he has also received an apology for the wrongs done unto him, which in his mind, proves that wrongs were done him.

So many of us fall into this trap over and over again. It's not that we shouldn't be generous to others, and, if we are Christian, it isn't that we shouldn't be quick to forgive. However, under the guise of generosity and forgiveness, and "keeping the peace" and "harmony" many of us, when expected to apologize for "our part" in a dispute, want the dispute to be over so badly that, like those tortured with days-long sleeplessness by the KGB, are willing to apologize for anything, including existence, promising to never again transgress in such a manner.

This is no way to live, always afraid of offending others. In the sphere of international relations, it is called a "negative peace". There is no way to walk through this life with any type of moral conviction, without someone having a problem with it. The choice we have is whether we stand strong in what we believe, or do we capitulate in order to "make nice". The specific situation Andrew Breitbart referenced is a little bit different, but "Apologize for WHAT?" is fitting in any case where one has honestly come up against someone whose purpose is to hurt or destroy the other. Sometimes it hurts terribly to keep up this stance, but ultimately, betraying one's self hurts a lot more.
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James 4:13-14 (ESV) Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

From reports on the internet, last night Andrew Breitbart went about his daily business, tucked his kids into bed, took a walk in the neighborhood, stopped by a local bar and talked politics, did some twittering, and on his way back home, collapsed and died. The man was 43 years old. He leaves behind a wife and four children, and thousands of fans as well as many who could not stand the man or anything that he stood for.

I had the chance to see Mr. Breitbart speak in 2010, and he was one of the most engaging speakers I have ever had the chance to listen to. Many have characterized him as a "happy warrior", someone who with all cheer confronted those who worked to shout or tear him down. His favored method of dealing with these people seemed to be holding up a proverbial mirror and letting them make fools of themselves in front of the whole world. At the event I went to, there were people who were bussed in to protest; Mr. Breitbart confronted them and asked them questions about why they were there, and the answers were completely incoherent. I don't feel that he ever had malicious intent toward anybody, yet he had skill in calling out the hate directed at him and making it ridicule. (Strangely enough, I think of a parallel between his methods and the way Boggarts are handled with in the Harry Potter series.)

Life is a gift. Forty-three years on this earth goes by in but the blink of an eye, and yet, by all accounts, Mr. Breitbart used the time he had to live life to the fullest, to make every day count, to actually go out and achieve something grand in the small amount of time allotted his lifespan. How many of us can say the same? I know there have been times in my life when days seemed to plod on, days of falling into despair, days of seemingly being put on this earth for no reason in particular. Mr. Breitbart may have had days like these himself, but in all the praise for him from those who knew him well to those who didn't, it seemed as though he had an indomitable spirit, a joie de vivre, that also served to inspire those around him.

Joy is a concept that is rarely discussed in this day in age; we may be amusing ourselves to death, we may be seeking the road to happiness, but joy is something much deeper, and is something that comes about not with self-esteem, but in the deep conviction that one is living the life that one was designed for and accepting the gift that life is every day and multiplying its blessings. None of us can be certain that we will even see tomorrow and so it is imperative that we take the talent that we have (or which we have been loaned) and really do our best to fulfill our potential in all that we do.

Mr. Breitbart's life shines forth so brightly because he took each day as it came, enjoyed it to its fullest, was bold in his beliefs, and was genuinely kind to others. In that sense, I'm sure he was more "ready" for being called away from this earth than most. Mr. Breitbart's death certainly is a sad event, however, even sadder are the legions of people who see this life as a wasteland, who, if they would die tomorrow, would not have accomplished anything that their lives were meant for.

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September 2013

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