Tuesday, January 30, 2018

I’d Rather Watch An Arizona Sunset

What a shock to drive from Las Cruces, NM where it was 30° yesterday morning to Casa Grande, AZ where it was 82° at 4 pm yesterday afternoon!  I’m not complaining.  I’m rejoicing with my “shorts” on! 

Every place we pass by or through reminds me of someone I know or once knew, making that place a sacred place.  For example, driving through El Paso, TX I think of my beautiful friend Alma.  Spending the night in Las Cruces reminds me of my friend Palmer.  Driving through Deming, NM I think of my brother, John, and his wife, Reola, who have often camped at the Rock Hound State Park there.  (My brother has become a rockhound in his later years).  Driving through Tucson I think of Marla (our daughter-in-law’s mother) who lives there and my memories recall Luke and Kim’s wedding held there some years ago.  I also think of my favorite author, Harold Bell Wright, who lived in Tucson back in the early 20th century and where some streets are still named after characters from his novels.  And when I drive through the Sonoran desert I sense an unknown Presence, a calling Voice, a mystery that seems to embrace me and our world as I drive along.  

Here in Casa Grande we are only a one-day drive from Flagstaff where Luke and Kim, along with our youngest grandchildren, Ethan and Eleni, live.  We plan to visit with them on our return trip, but there is a strong sentiment within me at the moment to just drive on up that way today.  How I miss them!

But we won’t go to Flagstaff today.  Instead I’ll drive south to Organ Pipe Cactus National Park where the temperature is to be in the mid-eighties and where we will spend a day of rest “off” the road tomorrow after ten days “on” the road.  

Tonight there will be a “State of the Union Address.”  I will not be able to listen to the President describe what he sees and what he thinks about America because there will be no TV, Cell or WiFi connections at the park where we will be staying.  Perhaps the lack of such connections will be good for my mind, body and soul.  Instead of watching the State of the Union,  I’ll watch an Arizona sunset.  My father loved the Arizona sunsets and at 80 years of age told me his only desire was to see one more Arizona sunset.  “Well, Dad, we’ll watch that Arizona sunset these next two nights together.” Every place is a sacred place.

Mom & Dad finally found time to
get on the road after raising seven
children. I'm so grateful they were able to
experience an Arizona sunset or two!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Don't Fence Me In!

The nights have been quite chilly along the southernmost Interstate (I-10) across the US.  It was 30° in Fort Stockton, Texas on Saturday night and about 32° here in Las Cruces, New Mexico last night.  This does to hinder us at all.  We simply disconnect the water supply on such cold nights and turn on the heat.  Usually by mid-day the temperature reaches 60° or better.  

Driving through west Texas the landscape changes drastically and becomes mountainous.  That section of I-10 passing through the Van Horn, Davis, Apache, Eagle and other mountain ranges is called “The Mountain Trail.”  The elevation ranges from 3000 to almost 6000’ and it is a beautiful drive if you take your time and just let the roadrunners pass by.  

We tinkered for several days with the thought of returning to Big Bend National Park for a second visit, but decided against it.  Perhaps another time we’ll make that long trek again down to the Big Bend of the Rio Grande. It is a wondrous place.

Today we continue westward, traveling through southern New Mexico and Arizona and the beautiful Sonoran desert.  We’ll spend tonight somewhere between Tucson and Casa Grande (following I-10).  Tomorrow we will take Interstate 8 westward from Casa Grande and then turn south to visit one of our favorite places:  Organ Pipe Cactus National Park.  There we will take a “day-off” after ten days of being “on the road again.”

Organ Pipe Cactus National Park--Feb 2017

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Last Day in Texas

We settled in last night at the Roadrunner RV Park in Fort Stockton, Texas.  The park has the bare necessities:  water, sewer, electric. There is no fancy camp store or office, and while there are restrooms and showers, they are not very attractive.  The Park does offer cable TV to the permanent residents (it appears that most of the RV/Trailers here are permanent).  When I asked Hank about the cable hookup, he said, “You can hook her up if you want’er, but there ain’t but two channels and they’s both Spanish.”  Hank, with his “Confederate” red hat with various ornaments attached, and with a scruffy, unkempt growth on his face, was truly a friendly fellow.  He asked if I were a veteran, saying, “Ya look like yer are.”  I told him I was and he said, “Fifty percent off for veterans chere!”  I do believe every resident here at the Roadrunner RV Park has a  big diesel pick-up truck. Those trucks make quite a noise as they pass by our little home on wheels this morning.

Speaking of roadrunners—the bird, I mean—I haven’t seen a single one this time crossing Texas.   The roadrunner is a bird that can fly, but prefers to run and can run up to 20 miles per hour.  It is a marvelous experience to encounter the other native “roadrunner”  here in Texas. This species of roadrunner is much more prominent and readily encountered on the roadways. He/she runs and flies at 90 to 100 miles an hour (normally in a big diesel pick-up truck) on the Interstate where the posted speed limit is 80 mph.  Odysseus typically stays in the right lane at 73 mph catching the air torrents as the roadrunners race by.

Driving into west Texas I was impressed by the scores and scores of windmills erected since the last time we passed through.  There is a lot of wind blowing in those barren areas—and I’m glad Texas is taking advantage of it.  But even among the fields of windmills the oil pumps and tanks can be seen everywhere seeking the fossil fuel that still carries our economy—and Odysseus, too!

Today we will drive to El Paso and on into New Mexico.  We’ll visit Texas and her friendly people again on our return home. 

Odysseus at Monument Valley, Utah--2015

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Comfort Found in Comfort, Texas

We came to roost last night near a little Texas town north of San Antonio called Comfort (just a wee bit east of Kerrville) in what is known as the Texas hill country.  The big Texan sky had darkened with clouds throughout the afternoon and by the time we reached the RV park the rain began to come down.  But we were near “Comfort” and we were not affected by the rain or the mud it produced.  Dry, warm, and cozy, we enjoyed a nice dinner in Odysseus and later a peaceful and restful night’s sleep.

The village of Comfort (population around 2,500) was established in 1854 by German immigrants.  These settlers were “freethinkers and abolitionists”.  Downtown Comfort (which I just might drive through this morning when it stops raining) is said to be one of the best preserved historic business districts in Texas.  The people who live in Comfort today are mostly descendants of the original pioneer families of the 1850’s and 1860’s.

During the Civil War thirty-five German settlers from Comfort were killed by Confederate soldiers (Battle of Neuces) as they made their way to Mexico in opposition to the secession of Texas from the Union.  In 1866 the Treue der Union Monument (Loyalty to the Union) was erected in Comfort in honor of those thirty-five “freethinkers and abolitionists.”  Some statues and monuments need to be removed and some need to be retained—and this is one that should be retained!

The word “comfort” is defined as “physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint; the easing or alleviation of a person’s feelings of grief or distress.”  A “comforter" refers to a warm quilt.  Thinking, reading about, and being near the village of Comfort,  Texas, eased and alleviated some of my distress about our country’s present direction and attitude.  Knowing Comfort, Texas, and those freethinking and abolitionist immigrants were and are still in existence, felt like a warm quilt over my chilled spirit.  How comforting to spend just a few hours near Comfort.

As the world is meant to be....
Brother and Sister consoling and comforting
one another.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Family Diversity

The weather cooperated nicely with a clear sky and bright sunshine as we crossed the mighty Mississippi from Vicksburg into Louisiana yesterday.  We arrived in Alexandria in time for lunch with cousin Tom. We were able to avoid any political discussion (well, almost).  Tom and I live in two different states—but politically we live in two different galaxies separated by ten thousand light years! 

Over the years I’ve always thought of Tom as Uncle Carl’s (my mother’s brother) son.  I seldom thought of him as Aunt Gladys’ son.  Tom looks a lot like my Grandad whom I admired.  As a young boy I also idolized Tom’s Dad, my Uncle Carl, whom I never met. Now Aunt Gladys was a wonderful person—and she was always gracious to me—but somehow her son, Tom, was (in my mind) Uncle Carl’s son (my side of the family tree).

Aunt Gladys’ family were Texans—but before they were Texans, they were immigrants (Tom’s maternal grandparents came from Germany to Texas in the late 1800’s).  Aunt Gladys’ family were pioneers who brought to Texas their German ingenuity, cuisine, language, and other customs. Many Texas towns have German names around the San Antonio area.  I never thought of my cousin Tom being FIFTY PERCENT (at the very least) German!  After his father’s death when he was only 5 years old, Tom lived with his German grandparents on  their farm.  He barely knew his paternal grandparents—or the rest of us on his father’s side of the family.  Tom is his mother’s son—perhaps even more so than his father’s! And I’m glad he is!  Americans are a diverse people—they are not one race, religion, or culture, never have been and never will be.  I’m very proud of my family diversity and which continues to diversify.

Today we will drive west toward San Antonio where cousin Tom and I first connected 58 years ago, and then lost touch with one another until just eight years ago.  Texas is a big, big place and we expect to be in Texas for several more days.

Uncle Carl, ca. 1941.
My cousin Tom looks very much like him,
but we all should know by now,
that looks can be deceiving.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Crossing the Mississippi

I want to share the view of Lake Martin I enjoyed in Pell City, Alabama, while writing my blog yesterday morning.  

From Pell City we drove west and southwest through Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and then through Meridian, Jackson, and finally into Vicksburg, Mississippi.  We have stopped many times at the Vicksburg Ameristar Casino RV Park on the eastern shore of that great river that just  keeps rolling along.  We’ve been here so many times, in fact, that the receptionist remembers us now and even provides us with “the same nice site I gave you last time.” (The words “site” and “time” almost sound alike given Pat’s southern drawl).  A shuttle bus passes through the RV Park every half-hour (all night-long) to pick up those who want to spend time at the casino.  We prefer to just stay in our little motorhome and save our money!

Today we will cross the Mississippi River and drive southwest into Louisiana through territory described in the book, “Twelve Years A Slave.”  We’ll be driving country backroads to Alexandria where we will meet my cousin Tom for lunch and then continue south to Lake Charles where we will link up with I-10 and go west.  We’re not sure where we will end up tonight—but we know we’ll be in Texas tomorrow and the next several days.  You just can’t drive through Texas in a day!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Pre-Flight Checklist

We had a short drive yesterday traveling only 260 miles from Augusta, GA to Pell City, Alabama.  We spent the afternoon and overnight at Lake Martin as we did last year on our winter trek west.  

Our normal travel day begins with a hearty breakfast (a few of the days, not all) of eggs and bacon, or sausage, or maybe blueberry pancakes, always expertly cooked in the microwave by the chef (that’s me). This is followed by washing the dishes which is usually the chef’s task though sometimes help arrives in time to do the drying.  Then, it is time to get the “rig” (Odysseus) ready for the road.  Now this may seem a rather simple task for some, but for me it requires a pre-flight checklist similar to that used by an F-16 pilot.  I really do have such a list, because getting the “rig” on the road is more complex than you would ever imagine.

I have to unplug the TV and insure that it is secure, turn off the antenna booster, and lower the antenna (all the way down!).  The curtains need to be opened and all the windows closed.  The bed and bedding has to be folded up (the bed is moved by a touch of a button). The boxes containing supplies (that will not fit in the cupboards) must be moved from the front cockpit to the back of the van.  The lid must be placed over the sink. The hot water heater must be turned off and the furnace as well.  The refrigerator must be turned from its  electric connection to the battery position,  The fan must be turned off and the vent closed (all the way down!).  All the cupboard and closet doors must be securely latched.  All the lights turned off.  Whew!

Now its time for the exterior chores.  Disconnect the sewer line and stow away.  Disconnect the water hose and drain.  Turn off the propane.  Disconnect the electric cord making sure to close the compartment door when finished.  The electric cord and water hose must be coiled and stored in what I call the “Bubble” (our cargo bin attached to the back of the RV) and the bin must be closed and locked securely.  Whew! I’d never remember all that if it weren’t for the checklist.  Now the big moment arrives:  Will Odysseus’ engine start up this morning?

This is in no way a complaint.  It is more a confession of how frail and limited my mind is these days.  (Ten years ago there would have been no need for a checklist!)  It is all worthwhile just to be able to stay at the Army Resort in Georgia and here at Lake Martin in Alabama even if only for a single night.  

Army Resort, Georgia

Lake Martin, Alabama

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Bridges, Walls and Army Resorts

Our Odysseus (mini motorhome) took us through the Carolinas to Augusta, Georgia yesterday (about 400 miles).  On the first day of any trip one discovers what it was he or she meant to pack and didn’t, what was on the list and wasn’t checked off, etc.  We forgot paper towels!  An essential on any road trip.  This need necessitated a visit to Walmart early yesterday morning.  Naturally, we left the store with far more than paper towels!

Have you ever noticed how many bridges are a part of our highway system?  We really do know how to build “beautiful” bridges to cross over creeks, swamps and rivers.  Surely we can build bridges over our differences, too?  We crossed bridges over Fishing Creek, the Tar, Neuse and the Great Pee Dee Rivers, and a number of swamps, including Bloomery Swamp.  We know how to build walls, too. Traveling through several of the urban areas we observed huge ugly walls along the interstate separating living areas from the noise and the pollution of the highway.  Walls separate and divide—bridges bridge!

Have you ever heard of the Army having or providing a resort of any sort?  I can now vouch for the fact that there is such a thing as an Army Resort and it’s located on Clarks Hill (Strom Thurmond) Lake, a preserve with 70,000 acres of water and a 1,000 miles of shoreline.  It is called “Pointes West Army Resort.”  This recreation area belongs to Fort Gordon some 30 miles away in Appling, GA.  We spent our  second night on the road at a Resort! An Army Resort, no less!  (Thank goodness, the government re-opened at noon yesterday!)

The really significant event of yesterday’s journey is that we changed our direction from the South (I-95) to the West (I-20).   We originally thought we’d travel south to Jacksonville and take I-10 westward, but I-20 will eventually get us to I-10 as well.  Westward Ho!  We can change direction—it is a matter of choice!

Hoping to visit Pipe Organ National Park just one more time.
I love the desert!

Monday, January 22, 2018

My Mind Dances

Our first day “on the road again” went well.  We traveled south on I-95.  Because Odysseus carries propane we have to avoid the harbor tunnel.  We detoured from I-95 to the inner loop (695) south and crossed the Chesapeake Bay via the Key Bridge.  How many times have we traveled this way?  Yet each time I drive this familiar route, new thoughts dance around in my mind, like: “I wonder what it must have been like for Francis Scott Key (this bridge I’m crossing is named for him) to be at Fort McHenry on that morning back in 1814 when he saw “that star-bangled banner” still waving “o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”  I wonder, too, if he ever had any inkling that his penned words would become our national anthem?  

On down the highway a  little way and we pass by Andrews Air Force Base where once I was assigned and where now we are forced to drive 75 mph on what I have always dubbed the “Capital Speedway” (I-295).   We cross the Potomac River into Alexandria, Virginia, and I remember a day spent there many years ago with my artist friend, Bill Renzulli, as he photographed the architecture of the city for future paintings.  The sun is shining.  What a glorious day to be on the road again!

Southward we go on I-95.  We pass by the sign pointing to Manassas and I think of that time  of conflict so long ago when our nation was divided politically even more so than it is today.  I see the sign for  Quantico and I quietly hum the Marine Hymn:  “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.”   Southward we go, bypassing Richmond, and as we pass it by,  I remember that this city, so close to our National Capital, was once the capital of the Confederacy.  Continuing our drive south on I-95 we pass through Petersburg, Virginia, where nine months of trench warfare were conducted by Union forces during the 1864-1865 (“Siege of Petersburg”)—in order to gain control over the town which was essential to Union plans to capture Richmond.

“The real voyage of discovery,” writes Marcel Proust, “consists not of seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”  I’ve traveled this way many times before, but each new time traveling these highways my mind dances and I find I have new eyes to see what has never been seen before.

Like my grandchildren--I am having fun!
It was 66 degrees in NC yesterday!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

On The Road Again

The cities, towns, villages, mountains, deserts, new roads, people and places are calling and off we go a’singin my version of the following songs.

On the road again
Just can't wait to get on the road again
I just love to see what's around the bend
I can't wait to get on the road again.
On the road again
Going places that I've never been
Meeting people that I may never see again
And I can't wait to get on the road again
On the road again
Like a gypsy I go down the highways
Driving Odysseus, my vehicular friend
We just lvoe to travel our nation's highways
And our way
Is on the raod again

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York island
From the Redwood Forest to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me
As I go wandering those ribbon of highways
I see above me an endless skyway
And see around me the golden valleys
This land was made for you and me
I'll roam and ramble every pathway
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me, a voice is sounding
This land was made for you and me.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

A Defense Mechanism—“Finger-Pointing”

Congress and the White House failed.  The government is in a partial shutdown as of about six hours ago.  A deal could not be reached in spite of the “stable genius” and the “best deal-maker ever” as our president.  Trump rejected a bipartisan immigration proposal last Thursday that could and probably would have cleared the way for an agreement on a continuing resolution  to keep government up and running.  Long before the infamous Thursday “bleep” meeting took place, however—on December 21, 2017—Trump twitter dumped, “the House Democrats want a shutdown…to distract from the very popular, just passed, Tax Cuts.”  Back in May 2017, Mr. Trump himself supported a shutdown of his administration as a pathway to repeal the Affordable Care Act, tweeting “Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!’”  Well, Mr. Trump, we have a “good shutdown” now!  But, as you say, Mr. President, it is all the fault of the Democrats because they “care very little about” our military and are not “interested in life and safety” and “what they are really doing is shutting down our military (this is not true, the military continues to function during a shutdown) at a time we need it most.”

Meanwhile, the Democrats are pointing their fingers at the President and at the Republican majority.  “The Republicans control all the levers of government.  There can be no disputing who ultimately is responsible for the grossly irresponsible act of shutting down the government,” said Maryland Representative Steny Hoyer.  House Speaker Paul Ryan sees it differently, “Senate Democrats have let down our troops, our children, and all Americans.” (Remember the GOP-led shutdown back in October 2013?).  “…Senate Democrats have brought us to a shutdown.”  

Who is to blame?  Is it “the Trump shutdown” or the “Schumer shutdown?” During a government shutdown Air Force One still flies and Congress still gets paid, while forty percent of the total federal civilian workforce is furloughed.  Federal workers essential to national security will show up and do their jobs.  That includes (contrary to Mr. Trump’s repeated assertions to the contrary) the military. These folks will not get paid, however, unless Congress authorizes, as they did in 2013, some kind of “Pay Our Military Act,” which I am sure Congress (Democrats and Republicans) will do immediately.

Psychological projection is called a defense mechanism, but it can really be quite destructive.  Projection is attributing thoughts, feelings, actions and ideas which are perceived as undesirable on to someone else (finger-pointing, scapegoating).  We are really good at it and getting better at it all the time!

Friday, January 19, 2018

California, Here We Come

In spite of the frigid temperatures here on the East coast we’ve  been busy making preparations for a winter sojourn across country.  Our Odysseus (mini-motorhome) is ready to hit the road again and I am, too. I’ve been humming the unofficial state song of California made famous in 1921 by Al Jolson for the last several days:  

When the wintry winds start blowing
And the snow is starting to fall
Then my eyes turn westward knowing
That's the place that I love best of all
California, I've been blue
Since I've been away from you.
I can't wait till I get going...
California, here I come.

I'm not sure California is "the place that I love best of all," but it is the place where my mother-in-law resides and for the last 54 years we've tried to visit her as often as possible.  Nita (my mother-in-law) will be 94 years-old next month.  Her birthday is just a few days after my own.  Its party time!

To get to California we travel through many other places.  The time of year determines which places we'll pass through.  For the winter trek we go south--as far south as we can get and we'll be singing as we go:  "Jacksonville, Pensacola, Houston, El Paso, Tucson, Yuma, here we come on Interstate 10."  There is no guarantee that we will avoid cold and wintry weather going south on I-10.  It was only a few days ago that this southernmost Interstate highway was closed for several days due to icy conditions!

There is no way one can get from here to there (whether traveling the highways or the journey of life) without risk, without unwanted, unexpected obstacles along the way.  There is no way one can get from here to there without traveling through other places (some pleasant and some not so pleasant).  How sad it is when we think we can’t get there from here anymore!  California, Here We Come!

Odysseus in Flagstaff AZ--2017

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Baby of the Class

My high school chum (aka Trotter) is celebrating his 76th birthday today!  He is a full-year older than me, but we were in the same class in school. We were very close buddies back in the day.  Known as Trotter and Dapper, we were an inseparable pair and shared many an adventure, most of which are best left untold.  

Next month I’ll be threescore-ten plus five!  That means I’m a whole year younger than Trotter.  That means I’ll have three quarters of a century under my belt or it could be said that I will be seven and a half decades old.  Whatever words might be used to describe my age doesn’t bother me a bit.  You see, I’m very fortunate to be threescore and ten plus five according to Holy Writ (King James Version) “The days of our years are threescore and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” 

You might want to read the passage again.  Am I really fortunate to be threescore ten plus five?  Charles Spurgeon (mid-1800’s) wrote a fascinating commentary on this passage.  “The unusual strength which overleaps the bound of threescore and ten only lands the aged man in a region where life  is a weariness and a woe.  The strength of old age, its very prime and pride, are but labour and sorrow; what must its weaknesses be?  What panting for breath! What toiling to move! What a failing of the senses! What a crushing sense of weakness!…Such is old age.  Yet mellowed by hallowed experience and solaced by immortal hopes, the latter days…are not so much to be pitied as envied.”   Since “by unusual strength,” I have “overleaped the bound,” or whatever it is that has carried me beyond threescore and ten, I sure hope my days will be “mellowed by hallowed experience,” otherwise, I would just as soon “fly away” given Spurgeon's comments.

I was four-years-old when I started kindergarten.  This is why my friend Trotter and all the others in my class were a year older than me.  Yet, in spite of the fact that in my first year of school I could not tie my own shoes or do a few other little things that my older classmates could do handily, I survived.  Perhaps it would have been better if I had started school at age five? But, if that had been the case, I wouldn’t be celebrating my friend Trotter being a whole year older than me today!  At this stage of the game, I don’t mind being the “baby” of the class!

Sandy was a baby of the class, too,
but still several months older
 than  the other baby of the class!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

His Time, My Time, Your Time, God’s Time

Dr. Benjamin Mays (an influential theologian and an outspoken advocate for racial equality) was President of Morehouse College in 1944 when a gifted 15-year-old student was admitted to the school. The young boy planned to study medicine and law, but under Dr. Mays’ mentoring, he changed his mind and decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and enter the ministry.  At the age of 19, the gifted student graduated from Morehouse and enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.  In 1950 he graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity degree.  He served as president of his senior class (predominately white) at Crozer and also received a prestigious fellowship which enabled him to enroll in graduate study at Boston University.  He completed his studies at Boston in 1953, and received his doctorate in systematic theology in 1955 at the age of 26! That student was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When the gifted 15-year-old Martin Luther King enrolled in Morehouse College, I was a one year old, just beginning to walk and talk!  Twenty-six years later in 1970 (just twenty years after Dr. King’s graduation)  I, too, graduated from Crozer Seminary.  Dr. King was not the Commencement speaker for my graduating class, though he might have been had he  not been gunned down in Memphis on April 4, 1968.  He was 39 years old then, and I was 25!  

King was arrested more than twenty times (I have never been arrested for any cause).  He was assaulted four times.  He received five honorary degrees.  He was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1963.  At the age of 35 he became the youngest recipient to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.  
Dr. Benjamin Mays delivered Martin Luther King’s eulogy, later known as “No Man is Ahead of His Time.”  “If Jesus was called to preach the Gospel to the poor, Martin Luther was called to give dignity to the common man.  If a prophet is one who interprets in clear and intelligible language the will of God, Martin Luther King, Jr fits that designation.  If a prophet is one who does not seek popular causes to espouse, but rather the causes he thinks are right, Martin Luther qualified on that score.  No! He was not ahead of his time.  No man is ahead of his time.  Every man is within his star, each in his time.  Each man must respond to the call of God in his lifetime and not in somebody else’s time.  Jesus had to respond to the call of God in the first century A.D., and not in the 20th century.  He had but one life to live.  He couldn’t wait.”

My morning pondering:  No! I am not ahead of my time, nor behind.  No man is ahead or behind his time.  Every man [woman] is within his or her star.  Each must respond to the call of God in his lifetime and not in somebody else’s time.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

He Said, She Said, They Said

It has been five days since the bipartisan meeting on immigration took place last Thursday in the Oval Office between several lawmakers and President Trump.  What Mr. Trump allegedly said has been the news for all of those five days. No one yet seems to know for sure what word(s) Trump used in that meeting.  President Trump on Friday appeared to deny he used the phrase “bleep countries” to describe Africa and other nations, including Haiti, tweeting “this was not the language used.”  He said, “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough…” Mr. Trump also denied he made derogatory comments about Haitians, tweeting, “Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country.” 

Senator Dick Durbin attended the Thursday night meeting and reported:  “In the course of his comments [Trump] said things which were hate-filled, vile and racist.  You’ve seen the comments in the press.  I have not read one of them that’s inaccurate.” Asked about Trump’s tweet on Friday “denying that he used those words,” Durbin said, “It is not true.  He said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly.” 

One of Trump’s advisers, Kirstjen Nielson (Homeland Security Secretary) was in the meeting.  She said on Fox News that she did not recall if Trump used “that specific phrase.” Senator Lindsey Graham said Durbin’s comments were “basically accurate.”  He also implied that he “said my piece directly” to Trump. Senators David Perdue and Tom Cotton said in a joint statement that they “do not recall the President saying these comments specifically,” and in response to Durbin’s accusation, “it seems that not everyone is committed to negotiating in good faith.” Senator Perdue was more explicit on  Sunday morning asserting, “I’m telling you, he [Trump] did not use that word.”

The “word(s)” matters of course, as do any denigrating comments about other nations and peoples, but what matters even more is that one group or the other is lying. Lying creates consequences. I know this because I’ve told a few and suffered from the lies of others. Haven’t you?  If Durbin is lying he is denigrating the integrity of the President and his fellow senators.  If Durbin is telling the truth, our President and those who have chosen to link arms with him, have denigrated the integrity of Senator Durbin.  But there is an even greater consequence—such lying (whoever it is who lies) denigrates the American people—you and me!  

The moon is there--so is truth
 in spite of an eclipse.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Diversion Strategy

I want to be a well-balanced person and it is my contention that such a person must be multi-faceted, a person who can divert or stray from those things that normally captivate his or her attention.  A diversion “diverts the mind from tedious or serious concerns.” A diversion is turning aside from the regular course (a rerouting, redirection, deflection, or deviation).  The word is used by the British as “an alternative route for use by traffic when the usual road is temporarily closed; a detour,” a bypass, or a deviation.

Yesterday I deviated from my typical tantrums on the social and political scene, redirected my daily schedule, deflected from my usual routines, and rerouted all important duties of the day in order to watch the NFC and AFC Football Playoffs.  For nearly seven hours I lounged in my recliner watching, cheering, cajoling, and rooting for the modern-day gladiators in their humungous and expensive coliseums in Pittsburgh and Minneapolis.  The Vikings/Saints game was a nail-biter right up to the last second. I was a fully engaged spectator and all those deep thoughts and serious concerns that had irked and burdened my spirit earlier in the day were deadened by this total and complete diversion.  By the way, the first “Super Bowl” took place fifty-one years ago today.

Are our modern gladiator games in humungous and ostentatious coliseums a manipulation strategy?  Are we as a people diverted, deflected, redirected, rerouted from the more serious issues of our time to the gladiator games?  Is not this strategy being used by Mr. Trump and his Administration—divert, deflect, redirect, reroute, deviate?  Norm Chomsky describes such a strategy: “Keep the adult public attention diverted away from the real social issues, and captive by matters of no real importance.”  Very serious and important things are going on, but Mr. Trump almost daily throws out another meaningless football for the media and the public to fixate on and kick around and around.  He and his team are not inept, nor are they stupid.  They know what they are doing.

We ought to be well-balanced persons who can stray or deviate from the serious issues of our time on occasion and enjoy a good football game.  But we must beware of allowing  our culture, our society, our institutions and corporations, and our government (the “Principalities and the Powers”) from using the manipulative strategy of diversion to keep us blindsided and ignorant of what is going on in real time.

Be engaged...not distracted.
Pay attention--not diverted.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

My Abnormality

George Rasley (editor of ConservativeHQ.com) writes, “‘This is not who we are’ is what the liberal elite—abnormal Americans—always say when someone, such as President Trump, expresses what ‘normal Americans’ think.  The President may have been inelegant and may have caused an unnecessary media storm by his remark, but he wasn’t wrong to ask the question:  Why do we need more uneducated immigrants from underdeveloped countries? We think all the establishment huffing and puffing about his remark is cover for the fact that other than achieving their goal of fundamentally changing America, they have no answer for why we need more uneducated immigrants from underdeveloped countries, and what’s more, we think the vast majority of ‘normal Americans’ out at the truck stops, construction sites and factory breakrooms agree with him.”

The liberal elite is a pejorative term (as is “abnormal Americans”) used by conservatives to describe people (supposedly suburban, urban, educated, affluent) who are politically left of center (supporting things as diverse as secularism, public education,  universal health care as a right, environmentalism, immigration reform, feminism, equality, social justice, background checks for gun buyers, gay marriage, etc.). The label carries with it the implication that libertards claim to support the working class, but are really a part  the “establishment,”whose goal is “fundamentally changing America.” 

Mr. Rasley is absolutely right when he says the goal of these ‘abnormal Americans’ (liberal elites) is “fundamentally changing America.”  America needs to change!  And if “Mr. Trump expresses what ‘normal Americans’ think,”  then these so-called ‘normal Americans’ need to change the way they think. If  these ‘normal Americans’ reject climate change, science, equal rights, other religions, etc., and think all immigrants are uneducated rapists, criminals and drug dealers, and continually put down people who are different or from underdeveloped countries, then they need to change!  Why?  Because “this is not who we are.”  Nor is it who and what we are meant to be as human beings.

To paraphrase William Stringfellow, those who do not resist this present darkness will be consigned to a moral death, the death of their humanness.  “That,” Stringfellow concludes, “of all the ways of dying, is the most ignominious.”

"O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw, confirm thy soul in self-control,
thy liberty in law."

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The "Facts" of the Matter

It was only yesterday that I wrote a blog titled “Just the Facts, Ma’am” suggesting that we needed to be careful about what we hear, the words we say, what we read, etc., for it matters and it matters a great  deal.   It was only yesterday that we heard from several people who sat together in the same room in the same meeting with a half-dozen others and came away with different stories of what transpired there.  President Trump said he “did not use this language.”  Senator Durbin reported in person that the President said things that were “hate-filled, vile and racist.”  Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue wrote a statement saying, “In regard to Senator Durbin’s accusation, we do not  recall the President saying these comments specifically…”  Senator Graham, in a written statement said, “I said my piece,” to whatever it was that he heard the President say at the meeting.  There you have it—the “facts” of the matter.

It was reported by CNN and other networks yesterday that the ambassador to Panama had resigned over differences with the Trump Administration.  CNN and others clearly stated the resignation had been announced in December 2017.  An MSNBC producer mistakenly tweeted that the resignation was a result of Trump’s alleged profanity in Thursday’s closed-room meeting, and then deleted the tweet after learning the facts.  FOX News reported on the MSNBC blunder.

Former President Obama told David Letterman, “One of the biggest challenges we have in our democracy is the degree to which we don’t share a common baseline of facts…If you watch Fox News, you are living on a different planet than you are if you are listening to NPR.”  Fox News reported, “The response got a big round of applause from the presumably liberal crowd…Obama has a long history of taking shots at Fox News but the recent comment marks his first public attack on the network and its views since leaving the White House.”  Isn’t that an interesting fact?  

Fox News reports House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes told Republican colleagues in two closed-door  meetings this week that he has evidence that shows clear  and major “abuse” of government surveillance programs by FBI and Justice Department officials.  Have you heard this from any other source?  Is it true?  Where is the evidence?  Nunes promises to share it with all members of congress soon.  There you have it—the “facts” of the matter.

Friday, January 12, 2018

"Just the Facts, Ma'am"

This morning I saw a Facebook post claiming that a Federal judge (appointed by President Obama) in 2015 ordered Brandon High School in Mississippi to remove the hymn “How Great Thou Art” from the marching band’s halftime show.”  That claim and that post is false!  There was a Federal Court Order enjoining the school from including, “prayer, religious sermons or activities in any school sponsored event”…stating, “administrators, teachers and staff of the Rankin County School District may not participate in any religious activity, or solicit or encourage religious activity at school or while performing duties as a (county) employee.”  This ruling did not and does not, impose or restrict parents, students, and spectators from their religious expression (including singing a song if they choose to do so).  The school district (not the Federal Judge, appointed by President Obama) opted to pull the hymn “How Great Thou Art” from the school-related event.  

The Federal judge (apparently it is very important to say the one appointed by President Obama) issuing that Court Order in 2015 was upholding the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.  

Today, it is reported that President Trump has canceled a trip to London to open the new US Embassy.   “Reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for ‘peanuts,’ only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars.  Bad deal.”

The truth, as best I can determine,  is that the embassy relocation decision was made by the George W. Bush Administration in the aftermath of embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. To upgrade the former embassy building would have cost $550 million and the building still would not have been secure.  The cost of the new embassy building, which is not “in an off location,” was entirely funded by the proceeds of the sale of other US government property in London and “not through appropriated funds.”

 What we say matters!  How we say it matters.  The facts matter.  Misleading statements will get us in trouble.  We are in trouble now!