Media Musings: Drawing a line in the shifting sands of time

No one told me it was National Draw a Line in the Sand Month!

HourglassActually, President Barack Obama drew a line in the sand with Syria’s chemical weapons months ago. Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad then crossed it and dared the U.S. to cross back. Obama wasn’t about to be badgered by the schoolyard bully and gathered his buddies to show this punk a lesson. But Obama’s buddies balked. Al-Assad’s allies jumped to his defense. Obama tossed the line to Congress and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin threw sand in Obama’s face to save it.

All’s well that ends well.

Then congressional Republicans drew a line between funding Obamacare and funding the rest of the federal government. Obama planted his toes squarely on the line and demanded to know what chemicals they’re inhaling. We’ll know the health of America on Tuesday when the line in the sand meets the immovable calendar. But whichever side of the line the budget falls on, that won’t be the end. Another line in the sand looms over the debt ceiling. And what’s more ominous than a line in the sand looming over?

Meanwhile, China and Iran noticed all the American lines in the sand could be erased with a good foot shuffle. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi even remarked that Afghanistan could be a “new highlight” in relations between the two superpowers. China has virtually no role in Afghanistan, which is a graphic example of how a line in the sand can loom over if the looming is very low.

For 30 years, the line in the sand between Iran and the United States was a chasm. America is the Great Satan and Iran’s leaders are satanic. That was before Friday, when Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shared a phone call, breaking the ice if not backfilling the chasm. Israel thinks Obama is burying his head in the sand over Iran’s true intentions.

Some lines in the sand are dug so deep they never can be foot-shuffled. Take the Catholic Church’s teachings on homosexuality and contraception, for example. Not only are they cut deep in the sand, they’re chiseled in stone. Not literally, of course. The Ten Commandments are silent on homosexuality and contraception, as is the U.S. Constitution. (The Commandments are also silent on abortion, capital punishment, and war. Sure there’s that little line about “Thou shalt not kill.” But God obviously meant that to be situational.) But wait. Is that Pope Francis dancing? You’re “not a right winger,” you say? Are you foot-shuffling and making allowances for diversity of opinion and lifestyles within the church Peter founded?

Can I hear a halleluiah?

I see some of you are still refusing to cross that line.

Some lines seemingly should never be smudged. Deadhead Alcoholics Anonymous groups for instance. Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? Or bikers for Jesus with names like the Anointed Horsemen. As in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Conquest? War? Famine? Death? How anointedly Christian.

Then there’s the line between industry and science. The latest exposé shows the line in the sand to be a mirage by busting of the eight-glasses-of-water-a-day myth. It seems that myth is being propagated by bottled water companies. They can get away with it because water is an excellent agent for washing away sand.

Confused? Allow me to sand this down for you. All the lines in the sand are built on sand and have caused sandstorms that only can be obliterated with the shifting sands of time. But don’t bury your head in the sand because you could get sand kicked in your face.

Can I hear a halleluiah?



Baker, Peter. Thomas Erdbrink, Mark Landler, and Somini Sengupta contributed. “U.S. and Iran Agree to Speed Talks to Defuse Nuclear Issue.” New York Times. 27 September 2013.

Boorstein, Michelle, and Tenety, Elizabeth. “Pope Francis identifies with regular Catholics.” Washington Post. 19 September 2013.

DeYoung, Karen. “China says it’s ready to cooperate with U.S.” Washington Post. 20 September 2013.

Gayomali, Chris. “Where Did the 8 Glasses of Water A Day Myth Come From?” mental_floss. 28 August 2013.

Goldfarb, Zachary A. Scott Wilson contributed. “Obama’s line in the sand is on the debt ceiling.” Washington Post. 26 September 2013.

Hunter, Jeannine. “Motorcycle ministry thrives on the fellowship of the road.” Washington Post. 19 September 2013.

Morris, Loveday. “Syria gloats over Obama administration’s delay on military strikes.” Washington Post. 1 September 2013.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at


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