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it is up to us
Last year’s viral internet debate over “The Dress” meme revealed peculiar limits to our perceptions. We argued ourselves silly about the dress’s “real” color, but no one’s mind was changed. We saw what we saw, and we found it bewildering that anyone could see differently.
Unfortunately, political discourse in the United States – if one dignifies it so – has come to resemble “The Dress” debate. Our ideological polarization, coupled with our tendency to validate our beliefs with our favored news sources, make it difficult for many of us to see how intelligent, moral, and sane people could possibly hold policy positions opposing our own.
each a time capsule
In Part I, we learned that life’s concerns three-quarters of a century ago were not that different from today’s interests. What strikes me most about these letters is how differently people communicate today. We send emails with the click of a mouse and they arrive in seconds. People back in 1944 put a lot more effort into their letters. And they were patient. They waited and waited and waited to hear from loved ones and a walk to the mailbox was a suspenseful time. Envelope and parchment held hopes and dreams and more. At times receiving a letter was a crushing experience. We’ve all heard about “Dear John” letters.
can i hear an amen?
Shortly after the advent of Christianity, the Church Fathers adopted a set of seven “Cardinal Virtues”: humility, charity, temperance, diligence, kindness, patience, and fidelity. These universally desirable traits, which establish the gold-standard for character, were borrowed partly from Greek philosophy and partly from the teachings of the Old and New Testaments.
Mirroring the Seven Cardinal Virtues are Seven Deadly Sins: pride, greed, gluttony, sloth, malicious envy, wrath, and lust…
for the people
Countless electrons are being agitated during this election cycle over what a voter who can’t stomach either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump should do. What’s being offered the conflicted and afflicted is pretty depressing.
One tortured option invites voters to simultaneously salve their consciences and save their country by trading their votes. This strikes me as so bizarre that I’m not sure I even have it right. But the idea seems to be something like this…
Are political courage and smart ideas enough to unseat an entrenched incumbent? Jeremy Salter is counting on a thoughtful electorate ready for overdue criminal justice reform as the challenger in the contest for Floyd County District Attorney against incumbent Leigh Patterson. That Patterson is the most prominent of the four local public officials in the county who recently changed their affiliation from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party adds an element of drama to the race…
That Hillary Clinton trounced Donald Trump in the first debate between the party presidential nominees on September 26, 2016 is obvious. She was clear while he was confusing. She was self-possessed while he was easily baited. The differences were so obvious that they tended to obscure what their responses revealed about their respective geopolitics. A bare bones content analysis of the number of references to locations reveals much about their perspectives on global politics.
the deceased speak
“Letters to and from the front lines were a lifeline for service men and women fighting in World War II. Few things mattered more to those serving abroad than getting letters from home, ‘mail was indispensable,’ one infantryman remembered. ‘It motivated us. We couldn’t have won the war without it.’ The mail, whenever it arrived, also helped reassure the worried families of servicemen back home.” – “The War, Letters & Diaries,” PBS
beauty, peace and healing
Our entire family has always been drawn to the water and boats and dolphins. We went to Marineland years ago, when David was four years old and Kathi was only one. David immediately fell in love with Nellie – the main performing dolphin in the late sixties. (Nellie was born at Marineland in 1953 and lived there for 61 years. When she died in 2014, she set a longevity record for the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins – free and in captivity. She loved to perform and interact with people until the last few months of her life!) We bought David a leather dolphin, which he named Nellie and slept with for years.
earth and its peoples
“Resistance to high-risk extreme extraction is building a global, grassroots, and broad-based network the likes of which the environmental movement has never seen.” Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything (2014)
Something extraordinary and unprecedented is happening within the environmental movement. The epicenter of this “Earth”-quake is Sacred Stone Camp on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. For some time, a small group of Standing Rock Lakota (“Sioux”) has gathered on the banks of the Cannon Ball River to protest the continued development of the “black serpent“…
what kind of person?
“Some men change their party for the sake of their principles; others their principles for the sake of their party.” – Winston Churchill
No one who feels allegiance to a political party wants to have to choose between party and principle. But sometimes history compels people to make that choice.
That is how a large group of prominent people, who describe themselves as “members of the Republican national security community,” see their situation in this year’s presidential election.
This is where we agree, I think: we both oppose people who harm others, who want to dominate, deny liberty, lie to make themselves look good and others bad, deny people their rights under the constitution and the bill of rights and also our rights under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed I think by all member nations (this latter item provoked immediate condemnation).
perception v. reality
A letter in the most recent AARP Magazine got me thinking. The previous issue of the magazine had a piece titled “Leading Ladies,” featuring several older actresses – Sharon Stone, Jane Fonda, and Alfre Woodard – who have done well despite Hollywood’s long-standing ageism.
The letter-writer, describing himself as a Vietnam-era veteran, felt insulted by the inclusion of Jane Fonda, whom he remembers bitterly “as the traitor ‘Hanoi Jane.'”
We were on a mission and there we stood at the dead end of a long Lowcountry road in searing heat. Anonymous Mysterious Florida Woman, Robert Clark, and yours truly were waiting on a ferry. Standing too long in a roasting September sun can evaporate resolve, but not ours. September no doubt pilfered some July heat. These days, it’s as hot as the hinges of … well, you know, and especially so where the continent runs into the sea, but the heat be damned. We were about to cross the Intracoastal Waterway and set foot on primitive South Island.
oneness of reality
The meaning of the word God, in my congregation during my formative years, was conventional, literal biblical, bearded guy in the sky taking notes, who’s been naughty, who’s been nice. This got challenged, or should I say devastated, when I walked into a design class in art school conducted by Myron Kozman – think Richard Dawkins mischievously assailing received wisdom.
The standard response to information that conflicts with one’s point of view is either denial or point of view adjustment. My congregation, confronted with Professor Kozman, would have chosen, hands down, the denial…
making a difference
Colin Kaepernick’s protest of injustice in America by not standing for the national anthem is absolutely his right, and we are now seeing a few more players following suit in support of his cause. All this is well and good, and while there are many who do not believe this is an appropriate method of voicing his position, how a person chooses to protest and their wiliness to accept any backlash that comes is a matter of their own prerogative and conscience.
Sadly, injustice, intolerance, bigotry and racism are a bane upon civilization that has been with us since man came out of the cave …
nipping at my curiosity
Every town has its own history and attractions; some well-known and some not very. Haunted houses, churches and other buildings are always interesting. Court houses and old jails, too. Sometimes small towns are more appealing and accessible than the bigger ones. Fewer people with less interest in what you’re looking for. The locals have sometimes lost interest in their own little treasures; that leaves more room for you and me us to touch, shake and sniff …
truth – google it
When President Obama said, at the Democratic National Convention, that Hillary Clinton is better prepared to occupy the Oval Office than any previous aspirant, he had no idea how right he was. This woman has powers that mere mortals don’t. She’s way past bitch all the way to witch. I mean literally. I know because I read it on the Internet.
Think about it. Forty people who were slated to testify to her criminal malfeasance in letting the American Consulate at Benghazi, Libya, get incinerated have all been murdered. And although my Facebook informant is kind of shaky on the details, he’s absolutely certain …
vp candidate, green party
Disappointment and boredom have left many Americans with the suspicion that something essential to democracy is missing from the 2016 presidential contest as it is covered by corporate news media… and they are correct. The presidential and vice-presidential nominees of the two major parties are painfully uninspiring and their ideas promise nothing but different versions of ‘more of the same.’ Americans are hungrier than ever for leaders willing to confront entrenched power. Which is why I was delighted to interview Ajamu Baraka, the Vice Presidential for the Green Party…
I’m not prone to posting video of myself talking. But, in this case, what I need to say isn’t something I could type now even if I wanted to. Still the words are ones I’ve been unable to stop repeating for 40 years.
The ability to recite the Prologue to Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in Middle English has perhaps proven useful in the waning hours of a few cocktail parties over the years. But, it’s never been something to feature on a resume or bring up in a job interview. I’m waiting, but LinkedIn still hasn’t included this as a skill to tag in my profile.
Everybody has reasons not to want to believe what scientists are saying about climate change.
For starters, who wants to believe that we humans are facing our greatest challenge ever? Life is hard enough, just meeting the challenges of taking care of our families.
And most of us resist change. It’s so much easier to just keep on doing what we’re doing.
And who wants to accept the troubling news that our children and grandchildren will be hurt unless we act responsibly in the face of the unwelcome truth.
Phyllis Schlafly has finally made millions of people very happy … she died. It was a simple, but gratifying act. Many hoped it would have happened much sooner, but as they say, better late than never. It occurs to me that there are a few others it would be nice to see follow suit. Are you listening Cheney?
Schlafly, a working women who hated women who worked, was an expert on self-loathing. She so hated her kind that she didn’t want to stop at shredding equal rights and equal pay for women; she hoped one day to become a Jewish Nazi and send herself to a death camp where she could have all her rights and humanity exterminated.
My “Old Maid Aunt” Naomi, prided herself on being “the only woman used car dealer in Atlanta.” Her car lot was on Lucky Street on the way to downtown Atlanta from where she lived on Piedmont Avenue. Seemed like thousands of cars passed her place daily – or hourly.
It was the summer of 1943 and I was a 14-year old. World War II was in full swing. I was scheduled to go into 8th grade at Christ School in Arden, a private school that was to cost $600 including room and board. My Dad was operating a grocery store, meat market and café in Fletcher, NC. I would have done almost anything that summer not to have to deal with killing cows and pigs and helping prepare them for sale in my Dad’s grocery store. I had that experience once, and that was enough.
The country was at peace; internally and around the world. We had issues; Russia was being aggressive, Central America was volatile, Israel and Egypt, of course. But America didn’t have a standing army fighting for some trumped up reason against people defending a place most of us couldn’t locate on a globe. In fact, Egypt and Israel would sign an historic accord to establish peace between the two countries during this year.
The Son of Sam had been convicted and John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy had been arrested. The first mobile phone was introduced and Carl Sagan won a Nobel Prize. While inflation was still persistent, things were looking up …
When I was growing up, the Chinese capital was pronounced “PEE-king.” There was no latitude in the pronunciation of this word. It was not POO-king nor PIE-king. It was PEE-king. To deliberately say the word otherwise would be risking a paddle swatted against your rump for cutting up or being a pest in class.
Then a few years ago, I noticed newscasters and politicians saying “BAY-sheeng,” instead of the well-worn, polished word implanted in my vocabulary. They would have a sneaky look on their faces like they were putting one over on us.
loved by all who knew her
My daughters’ last grandparent died last week. The call came in at 7:45 in the morning August 24. My daughter, Becky, delivered the sad news. “Daddy, grandmom died.”
Katherine Crane, “Kitty,” Ross had passed away August 23 near Athens. She was 91.
For many, losing your last surviving grandparent is a prelude to your parents’ departure to the Great Beyond. Call it training. The death of pets and grandparents paves the path to that sad day when we sit by the graveside and bid a parent farewell. That’s the route life carved out for others and me …
Dylan mocked, “. . . with God on our side.”
The Boy Scouts award a “God and Country” merit badge.
Nick Searcy sloganed, “God bless America – and no place else !”
And those longing for the “good old days” tend to lean to the right side of the political spectrum embracing “Guns and God.”
But who is this God?
And does he belong to the Republican Party?
I say there is proof in Genesis, that He does.
I dreamed that my husband and I had bought a caravan and were towing it up a steep incline behind his rather old banger. (In reality we bought a caravan twenty years ago and towed it to France.) We felt a judder in the tow bar and he pulled over cautiously to the left of the road, but at that moment the caravan broke free, rolled past us and as we’d just reached the summit, careened at gathering pace down the other side of the bumpy mountain. We followed it with mounting panic, hoping nobody would be hurt as it left the road and ploughed through hedges and fields of crops …
In “We Take Care of Our Own,” New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote last month about conflicting world views of nationalism and globalism. To these, he added the notion of moral particularists and moral universalists, borrowing ideas from an essay by NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt published in The American Interest. Paraphrasing, Brooks describes the nationalist/particular world view: “They’ve built moral systems on loyalty and support for their own kin and fellow citizens…
Whatever happened to simple weddings?
My wife Margaret and I got married 34 years ago in her parents’ living room, in Columbia, with maybe 10 people, tops, in attendance.
This past Thursday, Aug. 25, we drove to Athens, Ga., to make arrangements relating to our youngest son’s upcoming wedding featuring (at last count) 300 guests!
just political applesauce
More than a decade after South Carolina’s Fritz Hollings left the United States Senate, people still talk about how he would talk about things.
Whenever Hollings took the floor of the Senate to make a speech, staffers would often stop their day-to-day business and watch on the Senate’s internal television network to listen to what he would say.
“That’s like delivering lettuce by way of a rabbit,” Hollings could be heard when discussing something dysfunctional about government spending.
no atheists in hell
It was hard to resist the Morganton Baptist Church marquee headline I saw a couple of weeks ago during my Sunday bike ride: “There are no atheists in hell… they believe.” How could a pagan agnostic not walk into that one? Was it going to be feet first into a cauldron of fire? Dante’s Inferno, I wondered?
So last Sunday, I ditched the bike ride because of rain, took a shower and put on my Sunday best to blend in better with the congregation.
American novelists have been disturbing comforting denials about the evils of racism since the publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852. Ben H. Winters’ carries on that proud tradition with his latest novel, Underground Airlines, a brilliant exploration of the relationship between political compromise and personal complicity. Winters graciously offered to answer my questions about his writing.
illogical abuse of discourse
With the general election less than two months away, I’m exhausted almost daily putting new batteries into my thinking cap so that I can be a responsible, critical listener to the appeals of all candidates.
I was an English professor for 44 years before I retired in 2001, but I dare not place my brain on automatic pilot given the billions spent to persuade us. In 1958-59, my first year of teaching, without comment I gave to a class at Auburn University, then still under legally mandated segregation, a pamphlet circulated by the Ku Klux Klan …
When I was twelve, my first regular job was working in Dad’s saw shop on Saturdays. Back then the shop was a tin building with no insulation. Summers broiled its tin. Winters chilled its concrete floor. Neither heat nor cold stopped pulpwooders from bringing their dead and dying chainsaws to Dad’s shop where he and Bobby Cooper revived them. Before they could work miracles with vices, screwdrivers, and wrenches, it fell upon me to remove the gummy black pine resin from covers protecting the saw’s inner workings. They couldn’t work on the saws until I cleaned and dismantled them…
can't go home again
Dudley Snodgrass, called “Duddy” was a very intelligent boy. He learned to talk and walk at a young age, and in school his grades were perfect. His mother adored him, his teachers were constantly bragging on him. The other kids called him “Einstein” and “Brain” and some secretly resented him. Some not so secretly.
Painful, crippling shyness was the only chink in Duddy’s armor. When called on in class, he would turn beet red and stammer a stuttering answer. He would get physically ill when he had to stand before the class and give a book report…