Unredeemed it Would Seem

 

As I read the book, The Redeemers by Ace Atkins, a quote caught my eye and stung like an accidental splash of toothpaste to the same eye.  Am I the only idiot figuring out a way to get toothpaste in his eye and actually doing it more than once?

Is comparing a quote to a stinging eyeball a horrible analogy?  “His quote stung like toothpaste rubbed in my eye.”  It probably explains why I’m using an Ace Atkins quote instead of one of my own and why I try to avoid using analogies.  “Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.”

The quote from the book, “There is nothing that Southerners hate more than self-examination,” resonated and sparked my own self-examination of the paradoxes which seem to surround me.  The quote was thoroughly accurate as far as my own moral failings are concerned and honestly it is more about my own self-examination.

Before I’m accused of broad stroking an entire group of people, I’m not.  If this shoe doesn’t fit, don’t try to force your foot into it.  That is on you and you may find your foot, along with your shoe, stuck in your mouth and my foot stuck somewhere else…metaphorically of course.  I’m not talking to or about you if the shoe is not yours.  If the shoe fits…well that is between you and your lord and I just want you to ponder as I do.

The South has been accused of having many paradoxes, like pointing out someone’s moral failings while ignoring one’s own or railing against someone else’s corruption, moral or monetary, while disregarding the corruption or moral failings of your favorite politician as long as it advances your political agenda.  All one has to do is look at the histories of our state governments to find great examples.  Wilbur Mill’s reelection after running afoul of Fannie Foxe, the “Tidal Basin Bombshell” comes to mind.  Southerners haven’t cornered the market on moral failings or paradoxes, we just get caught with great style and dash.

Some paradoxes are quaint or cute, others not so much.  As you might imagine, my essay will eventually turn from the cute or quaint.  It will turn toward paradoxes that revolve around religion and politics.   I’m sure other parts of the country have their own paradoxes…and issues with religion as it relates to politics but again we Southerners do it with such elegance.  

“Religion, Religion! Oh, there is a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.”  The words shouted in Jimmy Buffett’s ditty, Fruitcakes came to mind when country-western icon Vince Gill and his wife, the “Queen of Christian Pop” music Amy Grant were discussing the paradoxes of their relationship during an interview.  Vince pointed out that they weren’t that different.  They were actually singing to the same clientele.  He was singing to the drunks and hell raisers on Saturday night and she was singing to the same drunks and hell raisers, now recovering and praying for redemption, on Sunday morning.

Not a direct quote but the crux of one paradox.  It’s also one of the cute or quaint paradoxes.  There are a lot of “Sunday morning and Wednesday night Christians” who will enjoy ‘several’ too many shots of brown liquor on a Saturday night and pray for forgiveness through a blinding hangover on Sunday morning.  Bless our pea-pickin’ hearts and please help me remember exactly what sins I committed last Saturday night…or maybe I really don’t want to know.

Saturday night might be relative.  I know Fannie Foxe’s foray into the Washington Tidal Basin took place on a late Monday night and while not stopping Wilbur’s reelection to the House of Representatives, might have derailed his dream of a much higher office.

I live in the Bible Belt and like a stereotypical big-bellied sheriff’s Sam Brown Belt, we wrap our religious mantle tightly around us…except when we don’t.  Sometimes we even make jokes about it.   “What’s the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist?
The Methodist will say hello to you in the liquor store.”  “How does a Baptist get into Heaven?  They bring a casserole.”

Only recently were we less conservative, Jesus loving, Agnostic, Deist, Buddhaptists allowed to enjoy a store-bought adult beverage during a Sunday lunch out on the town as Blue Laws were relaxed.  While I struggle with my religious beliefs I do believe in something, “I believe I’ll have another drink.”

Like the good Methodist turned Baptist that I am, anytime I publically order a beer I look around first to see if any of my former students or my church peers are in attendance.  I’m still gonna order, I’ll just make sure I avoid eye contact.

Religion even gets intertwined with our eating habits.  We had an advertising war that took on religious overtones.   An anti-LGBTQ, we ain’t gonna open on a Sunday, chicken sandwich chain was purported to have divine support over the spicy, straight from Satan’s “sin city of the South”, fried chicken chain.  Chanting and making the sign of the cross with crossed fingers, “My God loves X’s chicken sandwiches better than those of the Devil’s Minion!”  See, we can be insanely funny.  Accent on insane.  Yep, I like the spicy chicken place better…”Get thee behind me Satan!”

Insanity could explain some of our choices during election cycles.  I lean left in a deeply Southern red state and sometimes I believe we’ve lost our minds…just not as badly as some other deep red Southern states  In the most recent cycle a deep South state almost elected an accused pedophile rather than electing a…gasp…Democrat.  Politics over family values just as Jesus intended.

We tend to wrap our religion tightly with the flag along with our patriotism and tie them all together…I’m just not sure which flag, the national flag or the Confederate Battle Flag.  If we were on the side of the angels why did God allow us to lose?   Did someone sin?

Some Southerners will ridicule and threaten to tar and feather you if you don’t stand for the National Anthem at a football game while wearing a “Forget Hell” belt buckle and flying the battle flag from pickup trucks displaying several Son’s of Confederate Veteran bumper stickers.  Confusing ain’t it.

I have “bigly” concerns over our touting of the “sacred” Second Amendment while ignoring the parts of the First Amendment that include “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Certain more conservative than me religious groups would like to put iconic stone tablets into every government building or school but would get a might squirrelly if a coven of witches wanted to honor the goddess of fertility, Ostara…by dancing ‘nekid’ on the town square next to the Confederate War monument.  Beware of what you wish for, it may have unwanted repercussions.  One should be just as unconstitutional as the other and I don’t wish to live in your theocracy.

Paradoxes aside, a quote by Flannery O’Conner, “I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted” sparked more self-examination.

I am haunted by the days when I sat attentively beside my brother, in between our parents on the short pew no other church member would dare sit on because “That’s where the Miller’s sit.”  Haunted days before I began to think for myself and question motivations.  Days when I didn’t wonder if Jesus’s message was being bastardized and the Bible weaponized.  Days when religions had not moved so far right…or is that the paradox.  Have I just moved left?

Don Miller writes on a variety of subjects, non-fiction, and fiction.  You may access his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Fruitcakes by Jimmy Buffett

 

The featured image is from https://imgur.com/gallery/D0FKLsK/comment/1073493907.  I actually had this done.  A cyst on my wrist was thumped with the family Bible and for a time disappeared.  It came back, much like my self-examination and self-ridicule.

 

 

Tin Soldier

The grilled chicken thighs and fingerling potato salad are just memories now…even the leftovers.  Later in the day ribs and chicken wings were served at the Bennett Fourth of July fest along with Carol Ann’s killer potato salad.  I’m sure there will be lingering side effects to an evening of eating and drinking what I normally don’t eat or drink.  Still, I almost feel sacrilegious not having pulled pork as a side with the ribs.  Anti-American?  No, just trying to cheat the Grim Reaper a few seconds longer.

Despite the enjoyment of seeing friends, some for the first time since the last Fourth, I would prefer a small gathering with my bride and two blind puppy dogs to be my only concession to the celebration of the Fourth of July.  Very sedate until the crazies above us begin to set off M-80s and Cherry Bombs.  Not very patriotic by some people’s standards.  Typical…or rather than typical, maybe it is simply the new normal for me.  I celebrated my own birthday in the same way.

I’m truly not feeling it.  Not feeling it but certainly thinking about it…it being my patriotism.

I am patriotic and wish my country a happy birthday.  I simply don’t believe everything wrapped in a red, white and blue flag is patriotism.  I’m not blindly patriotic…odd perspective for a guy who grew up during the period of “American Exceptionalism” and the indoctrination I now associate with the Cold War Sixties.  “My Country Right or Wrong”, “The only good Commie is a dead Commie”,  “I’d rather be dead than Red.”  I remember my eighth-grade civics class being equal parts academic and propagandistic …maybe more propaganda than substance as I sit pondering.

I watched a recent news program, not fake news if we can still believe the black and white photographs the program featured.  I had certainly seen them before.  Black and white photographs high lighting certain moments in time…in history…my history.  Some were colorized photos but there was something stark and depressing about the ones in black and white.  The photos triggered memories of the old black and white film clips I saw featured during the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.  “And that’s the way it is…” or was.

John Kennedy standing in front of a map trying to explain where Vietnam was, later his son saluting as his father’s body rolled past.  LBJ looking haggard stating he would not run again.  A photograph of a naked Vietnamese child, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, running from a napalm attack.  Major General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner after Tet, bodies laying a ditch outside Mai Lai.  Much different photographs from the ones I saw from World War Two.  Different and as I look back, projecting the loss of a certain innocence I wish I could find again.

Growing up I always believed we were the stalwart protectors of what was right and just.  A courageous country wearing white hats or knights in shiny armor.  We were the virtuous and righteous battling the minions of the devil.  Shining a light on the cockroaches of evil and sending them scurrying from sight. Vietnam and Watergate took my innocence and not in a good way.  Bobbi Jo Bedell did that but I doubt either innocence will be returned to me.

Black and white pictures of Richard Nixon, arms raised with fingers veed in victory…later a finger pointed at the camera, “I am not a crook.”  A color shot in front of Marine One, Nixon’s arms raised with fingers veed despite his disgrace.  Like an alcoholic wanting to recover, I hoped we had reached rock bottom.

I feel I’ve witnessed our decline firsthand.  Like my vision, it has taken place in small increments.  My failing eyesight was gradual until sharp lines became fuzzy and my arms became too short to bring the written word in to focus.  I’m not sure if we can make lenses strong enough to correct the vision of our nation.

Declines of civilizations are usually slow and all civilizations decline.  It is inevitable. Some disappear totally. Most don’t disappear due to a cataclysmic event, but rather, they die rotting from the inside.

A rotting social, economic, political system mated with an ineffective and excessive military brought the Roman and French Empires to an end.  It was gradually at first before running downhill like a runaway freight.  They collapsed under their own excesses and attempting to maintain the status quo.

I’ve been witnessed our rot for fifty years and I wonder if we have reached the point of no return.  I certainly believe our white hats are stained and our armor dented and rusty.  We are more concerned about filling our pockets than being the “shining light upon the hill.”

Some reading this will say “We’re still the best country in the world.”  Maybe, but what are we doing to keep ourselves on our lofty pedestal?  Is it a pedestal that exists only in our minds?

We deny science and accept myth.  We politicize religion and use it as a weapon against our fellow man.  We choose partisan politics over the good of the many and create a bogey man and call it socialism.  We create social outcasts with our hatred and more and more enemies with our bombs.  Our greed is more important than the planet we live on.  As a country, we are living on other people’s money and giving it to people who don’t need it…or deserve it.

My biggest worry is our hatred and greed which seems to drive everything else.  I’m reminded of the old Billy Jack movie from the early Sixties.  Not the movie exactly, the theme, “One Tin Soldier Rides Away” by Caste.

As a battle rages over a perceived treasure, the valley people kill the mountain people, who would have given them their treasure had they just asked.

“Now they stood before the treasure

On the mountain dark and red

Turned the stone and looked beneath it

Peace on earth was all it said.”

 

Others will read this and suggest that maybe I should relocate to another country since I hate America so much.  I don’t hate America, I hate what America has become…if it was ever anything else.  To quote James Baldwin,

“I love America more than any other country in this world,

and, exactly for this reason,

I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Usually, essays have a closing statement which draws everything together and ties a bright red bow around it.  I can’t do that because the story is still being written and the end hasn’t been reached.  What that ending is, is up to us.  We must find common ground or “There won’t be any trumpets blowing Come the judgment day.”

 

Featured Image:  By The Late Mitchell Warren (Author of “The End of the Magical Kingdom” series) http://subversify.com/2010/10/15/who-is-the-one-tin-soldier/

Video:

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at http://subversify.com/2010/10/15/who-is-the-one-tin-soldier/

 

Embracing the Fringe

“Americans are being held hostage and terrorized by the fringes. That’s what’s going on here. It’s not like fifty percent of Americans thinks one thing and fifty percent thinks another thing. No, fifteen percent on each side are effectively controlling the conversation and seventy percent of us don’t hate each other.” -Arthur Brooks, president of the “center-right” American Enterprise Institute

I don’t know where Mr. Brooks got his numbers, or whether the number is dead on seventy, but I agree with the assessment.  There is a very vocal and active group on both sides of the political spectrum, far removed from the center, sowing seeds of division and we are allowing it.  We are embracing the fringe not realizing, it is the fringe…it is not the mainstream, but I fear the mainstream is shrinking because of it.

Any anarchist, white-supremacist, radical, reactionary, religious nut, atheist nut or Russian troll, can sit behind a computer, pound out a meme reflecting the worst-case scenario or out and out lie, and we just pass it along, accepting it is fact.  Any talk show or talk show host can scream at the top of their lungs and do the same.  Why?

One, we are lazy, and I’ve been guilty of assuming the source is on the side of the “angels” instead of assuming they are playing the angles.  After all, it must be correct, it’s on the internet.  It must be true, so and so has a radio program and he/she said it was true.  We are too lazy, or busy, to actually take the time to do research.  I suggest if you are too busy to research you might be spending too much time on social media.

We seem to be into worst case scenarios and conspiracy.  A recently proposed abortion law in Virginia brought out howls and vivid “pictures” of babies being ripped from their mother’s wombs and murdered.  The intent of the proposal was not to give women the last minute, “free out” to motherhood but to give them a choice if their life was endangered or if the baby could not survive.  The proposal has been put down, it is not law, but women in Virginia will not have the choice of saving themselves or saving their child.  A terrible choice at best, but one that has been taken out of the hands of the people who should be making the choice.

We broad stroke everything.  “All Republicans are racist or Nazis.” “All liberals want open borders and abortion on demand.”  “All Christians want to turn the US into a theocracy.”  “Muslims are taking over our country and want to institute Sharia Law.”  “The Trump administration is full of Nazis and everything is ‘fake news’.”  “This radical Representative wants to turn us into a Communist nation.” “The wall, the wall, ad nauseum.”

While there may be kernels of truth espoused by the fringe, it’s not THE truth for most of us in the middle are believing, those on either side of the political center, even most of our elected officials…but I fear the middle is shrinking…fearing the fear.

The hardest untruths to overcome are our own biases.  The extreme fringe plays on our biases.  Propaganda is not new, and it was never our friend.  We live in an age where propaganda assaults us in ways even Hitler and Goebbels couldn’t envision.  Whether it is a liberal or conservative bias in a news source, an active Russian agent, or little Johnny sitting in his momma’s basement trying to be cute, we must learn to recognize when a used car salesman or talk show host is puffing.  We must realize EVERYTHING IS NOT A CONSPIRACY, and every point has two sides and both sides may have valid beliefs.

What I’ve noticed?  Some of the worst offenders are “seasoned” folk like me.  We seem to want to hold on to what is more comfortable…what we are familiar with…even it is wrong.  We are uncomfortable with change or with different.  I understand why I really do.  The problem? The world is changing faster than we can accept and we don’t recognize it anymore.  The world we live in vastly different than the world we grew up in…and it is not going to change back no matter how much we kick, scream and drag our feet.  That doesn’t stop us from “wanting”.  We latch on to rabid headlines or graphic talking points supporting “the way it used to be” or the “way we think it should be.”

Despite a changing world, we don’t have to change our core values, but we must become aware that there are people living in our world trying to destroy us, internally and externally, using our core values against us.  We can also hold on to our core values without assuming everyone who does not share them are “out to get us and need to leave the country.”  They have core values too that may not too different from our own…if we get to know them.  We need to research over a broad plane instead of looking through the wrong end of a telescope.

I am much more assured we will withstand the external assault than I am the internal division.  I am saddened over our apparent hatred.  As we call each other inflammatory names, my heart breaks a little bit every day.  I am not a libtard and you are not deplorable but we can be hateful to each other.  We don’t have to be.  We can find common ground.

Words do carry weight.  Before you throw a verbal stone, at least check your sources.  Do we need to help Boris and Natashia catch “moose and squirrel?”  Do we need to help ourselves destroy each other?  Do we really need another civil war?

Postscript: This post was written prior to the State of the Union Address and will be posted the morning after.  I won’t watch the President’s speech and the Democrat’s response…or Bernie on YouTube. It is easier for me to read the transcript without hearing the emotion.  I fear both sides will be heavy on puffing and light on substance anyway.  I read that the President will call for unity and nonpartisanship. I hope he will follow through and that both sides listen.  I’m sure the fringes will explain everything you and I need to know in the days to come.

The initial quote came from an interview by Politico.  The entire article, ‘Americans are Being Held Hostage and Terrorized by the Fringes’, An exit interview with the American Enterprise Institute’s Arthur Brooks may be accessed at https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/05/13/arthur-brooks-american-enterprise-institute-interview-218364

If you are unfamiliar with the term, “puffing” refers to “extravagant claims made by sellers in order to attract buyers.” It is the exaggeration of the good points of a product, a business, real property, and the prospects for a future rise in value, profits, and growth.  https://definitions.uslegal.com/p/puffing/

Please take an opportunity to peruse Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

THE DAY I DIDN’T MEET GEORGE H. W. BUSH

 

I walked in the rain this morning thinking of George H.W. Bush’s death.  My earbuds provided a backdrop I was paying no attention to…until Bob Dylan’s nasal slur entered my ears…” The times they are ah changin’.”  My thought was, “The times they have ended.”

Men like President Bush are dying out and it seems there is no one willing to replace them.  Men who put character and the collective good above personal interest or gain.  A man who believed in compromise rather than partisanship.  Right or wrong.  A man whose legacy was only punctuated by his presidency, a presidency that did not define the man himself.  A man who honorably served his country for over seven decades.  Keyword, “honorably.”  I sure he had his failings but then so do I.

I know, he was a Texas oilman whose family is worth millions and who lived a life of privilege.  Somehow, he, like a certain peanut farmer, managed to rise above their privilege.  They both gave…or give back.  Bush Forty-One and Carter are the last…and maybe the best of their generation of politicians; those who believed service and honor were the most important legacies of man.  They are what politicians should aspire to be and unfortunately don’t.  Their greatest legacies may have occurred after their presidencies.

I almost met then Vice President Bush on a hot summer day as he campaigned in Greenville, South Carolina in the middle-late 1980s.  Almost but not quite.  It is a story I’ve told before but as I walked this morning, it brought a smile to my rain-streaked face and once again muted the music in my ears.

It was a bright late July or early August morning and I drove a tractor pulling gang reels to Sirrine Stadium.  In the Eighties, coaches didn’t have crews paid to keep up a field.  Coaching staffs were the crew.  This day I was my own crew, a crew of one.  Head Coach and Athletic Director or not, this was my day to cut.  Late July is prime grass growing season in upper South Carolina, requiring plenty of water and fertilizer…and cutting.  Lots of cutting as in three days a week.

Hot and humid, wavy heat thermals rose off the black asphalt into a cloudless, silver-blue sky and the milky yellow orb heating it.  As I drove our old tractor to the game field, I imagine my thoughts were on a young woman I was dating…one who became my bride for the past thirty-one years.  My thoughts certainly weren’t on the two men who stopped me at the entry gate.

I didn’t see them at first.  As I stepped off the tractor to unlock the gate, I dropped my keys.  As I stood, they seemed to materialize with the thermals radiating from the tarmac leading to the field.  Two fine specimens of American manhood.  Was I smelling melting asphalt or testosterone?

Despite the ninety plus temperatures and humidity, they dressed in dark suits, white shirts, dark ties, and dark wraparound sunglasses.  Shined black shoes reflected the sun back into my face.  Think Men in Black, except much better looking.

A blond man with a high and tight haircut played Tommy Lee Jones with a youthful and smooth complexion.  Long and lanky, I expected a Texas accent and got it.  His Will Smith counterpart was shorter but made up for it in wideness.  Both had muscles straining the fabric of their suits.  I wondered why they weren’t sweating in the oppressive sun.

“Uh…can I help you?” I stammered.

Tommy Lee didn’t smile but asked, “Who are you?”

“I asked first,” trying to assume a casual air while leaning against the rear tractor wheel.

Tommy Lee pulled his coat aside and displayed a gold and blue shield held in a pocket holder and a black holster on his hip.  Squinting in the glare I saw “US Secret Service” arched across the top and “Special Agent” arched across the bottom.  “Okay, you have my attention.”

“I’m the athletic director at Greenville High School and I’m here to cut the grass.”

“Not today.  This stadium is off limits.  Your principal was supposed to alert you.”  “Yeah, and my principal hates me and would like to see me shot.”

“May I ask why?”

Agent Tommy Lee glanced at Agent Will and simply shook his head.

It turns out Vice President Bush, a jogger, had scheduled a jog and my principal had failed to tell me.

During those days I was not a jogger and pretty much apolitical.  I had a football team to field, grass to cut and a pretty brunette to worry about.  With no more fields or teams to maintain, I became a jogger and more political, especially in the modern political climate.  The pretty brunette said, “I do” and we still are.  One era ends, another continues.

I don’t know if Forty-One actually jogged that hot day in July or not.  I like to think he did and that we traveled over the same ground, he jogging, me driving a tractor in circles, clipping the grass he ran over.  “I cut the grass George HW Bush ran on….”  Do I get a certificate?

I like to think that if there is an afterlife, and I believe there is, he has been reunited with the love of his life, his Barbara.  I’d like to think they are laughing together…maybe ridiculing the present forms of politicians while trying to look out us all from their “thousand points of light.”

Maybe, if I’m lucky enough, I’ll join him someday for a jog.  I wish I could have heard his Texas drawl in person.  Maybe I still can.   Maybe I’ll grow up to be just like him.  Rest in Peace George HW Bush.  I know you weren’t perfect but you were someone to be admired and emulated.  Other politicians…and humans, should take a lesson.

For more of Don Miller’s musings click on the following link,  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM.

 

True Believers?

 

True Believer?

true believer. noun. One who is deeply, sometimes fanatically devoted to a cause, organization, or person

  1. (ecclesiastical) A strict follower of a religious doctrine.
  2. (idiomatic) One who sticks to one’s dogma or beliefs irrespective of the facts

 

I wish I was a “true believer,” all smug and sure of my beliefs on politics and religion.  I’m not.  As I interact with those who are, I find myself questioning my own beliefs and other people’s motives.  They say I only need to read the Bible to find the answers.  According to Biblegateway.com, there are over two hundred different translations of the Christian Bible in over sixty languages…”Which translation is the true word?”

There has been a positive outcome to my self-imposed abasement, my metaphorical self-flagellation.  I’ve found I am continually trying to answer the question, “What do I really believe” and continue to question my God as I make my quest.  I also wonder if “questing” is a sin.  According to some of these same “true believers”…maybe.

I grew up in the Methodist Church.  A very structured, high liturgical Methodist Church in a then-rural area with very “give me that old time religion” religious values.  In a previous writing, I might have referred to the church of my youth as a very “tight-assed” church.  “Tight-assed” as in very conventional, very orthodox…just like me at the time.

I have become less so as I have grown older but still consider myself a ‘way too’ conventional person who’s a want-to-be flower child.  Know any flower children hiding in an inhibited and repressed body?  I just can’t seem to dance like no one is watching. No matter how much I wish to be the aging 60’s hippy, I’m still…just…too…tight-assed.  Maybe if they legalize that there “marijahoochie….”  My Mother is rolling in her grave.

I left my tight-assed little rural church in 1968 and went on to attend a tight-assed Lutheran school of higher learning and received a liberal arts degree in history and education.  Again, a very conventional ‘I went to Vespers and Chapel kind of education’, and even considered becoming a man of the cloth until Greek and Latin got in the way.

For some reason, some “true believers” have been deemed my education “totally useless” even a “waste of time”.  With my recently vilified “Liberal Arts” diploma, my equally liberal advanced degrees in secondary education, I taught and coached for forty-five years, warping the minds of our youth.

I taught in schools that are being denigrated by some of my political and Christian right (far right?) friends as “hotbeds” of liberalism.  According to them, instead of teaching the three R’s we quote Marx and Lenin, create project-based lesson plans on the ‘Joys of Communism’ and begin every school day with a silent prayer to the Vodun Goddess Mahu.

I might have exaggerated a bit, but one exfriend deemed I had no worthwhile, “real” life experiences and did not understand “day to day” struggles of “real” men.  “As weak as preacher’s piss,” he said.  I’m guessing his educational experiences weren’t very positive.  Another brought by vocabulary in to question, “Simply showing off” because I used the term cognitive dissonance.   Well, bless your heart.

Reality is: teachers do none of the above, they do have the day to day struggles and I’ve known few weak ones.  Teachers are forced to teach to a test they’ve never seen or been allowed to ask questions about and administered at the end of the year.  They have little time to devote to politics or religion, liberal or conservative.  Also, I talk like I talk.

Teachers do pray, silently just after cursing under their breath, every time there is a full moon, the day very being. Teachers pray to Jehovah, Yahweh, “Sweet Baby Jesus wrapped in fleece” or the patron saint of educators, Saint John-Baptiste de la Salle.  They pray to anyone listening for survival and until “true believers” walk in their shoes, they should be quiet and sit down.  Too strong?  Sorry…now be quiet and sit down.

I don’t like combining politics and religion…or teaching for that matter.  Tying “a” religion to politics is destructive to both…and is against the Constitution, something “true believers” seem to forget unless it is the Second Amendment.  The recent political battle between Progressives and Populists has pulled the middle toward opposite poles and taken religion with it…or maybe religion began the tug of war.  It bears pointing out, neither side is being productive doing it.

Despite my heresy…or blasphemy, I talk to God daily, multiple times.  As I ponder what I am typing now, I continue to ask to be “refreshed” and shown the true light.  I get no answer and take his or her silence to mean, “You’re on the right track, Bubba.”

Most of my conversations with Him revolve around my beliefs.  I continue to search for the path and question why so many “true believers” seem to express so much hatred toward their fellow humans.  Their expressions seem to be so contrary to the Good News I’ve read in the Gospels of Jesus Christ.

Let’s be clear.  I’m not speaking of all “true believers”.  Just those who believe theirs is the only way, those who are so sure of themselves religiously or politically, those who believe there is only black and white.  Those whose beliefs are hurtful to those who have no sin other than to be different.  Those who cross the boundary between deeply believing to extreme fanaticism.

My problem, if it truly is a problem, is that I view life in shades of gray.  There is no black or white…and no one hundred percent certainty.  There is no ‘ALL’ or ‘EVERY’.  There is only uncertainty.

An Indian philosopher, Bara Dada, in a quote restructured and attributed falsely to Gandhi, said, “Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians, you are not like him.”  I don’t believe this is true of all, but I believe the number of “not like Christ” Christians are growing to the point that I self-identify as a “Christ Follower” and not with a specific religion…I know, I still attend a Baptist Church.

Please don’t take my rant as being “holier than thou.”  I’m not.  Refer to the paragraph beginning “My problem….”  I just don’t understand why we are arguing our beliefs as if they were playing a rival football game…or a war.  “My god is better than yours?”  I should also point out, I have atheist friends and friends who practice non-Christian beliefs.  They seem to be more “Christ-like” and embracing than me.

I have just now realized my concerns are not about beliefs…it is about actions.  Your actions tell me all I need to know.  I believe words carry the same weight as actions.  My actions and words have weight.

It doesn’t matter what you call your God or god.  Be it Elohim, Jehovah, Yahweh or Joe, do you rationalize your hate with your religion?  How do you rationalize it?  Maybe I’m not the one who needs to self-evaluate…but I will continue to do so.

For more gentle rantings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is the Church of Uncertain sign near Uncertain, Texas 

 

 

Wake up?  I am Awake What About You?

I was told to wake up by a former student.  I hold no ill will toward him and am happy he gave me a topic and a reason to vent.

I realize I don’t know everything, but I am awake.  Sometimes I wish wasn’t, just caught in a bad nightmare or watching bad horror movies.

I was young, but I wasn’t asleep during the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, used to stoke up war fever against Vietnam and communism.  I watched Cronkite describe the Tet Offensive and the destruction of any belief in victory. I cringed at the Mai Lai Massacre and its attempted cover-up.  I read the Pentagon Papers which uncovered the secrets of our clandestine involvement in Vietnam and its neighbors from Truman to Nixon.

I watched hollow-eyed veterans come home to a disrespect they didn’t deserve.  I saw the aftermath of the student massacres at Kent State and Orangeburg…something we the people didn’t deserve.  I viewed the Vietnam protests on my black and white TV.

The evening news showed protesters threatened with thirty caliber machine guns in Chicago and journalist Mike Wallace thrown to the floor for asking a question before being escorted out of the Democratic Convention.  Carnage raged outside the convention center as Daily’s minions used batons and tear gas to disperse protestors.

I experienced the Civil Rights era with government attempts to discredit Black leaders and the Black Panthers…something we still attempt to do today unless we need a good quote to make a point or someone to focus hatred upon.  1968 WAS a time when we really shouldn’t have believed our FBI.  No J. Edger Hoover probably wasn’t a crossdresser, but he was a paranoid racist at his best.

In real time, I watched people of color marginalized, beaten, bombed, and their buses set on fire.  Their votes suppressed by men who looked like me flying a flag from old time’s there not forgotten.  With reports from several states, how has that changed?

I lived through the assassinations of two Kennedys, a King and attempted assassinations on two Presidents.  I don’t believe Oswald or Jones did their evil alone but have no definitive proof, so I don’t spout off about it or embrace conspiracy theories.  I don’t believe in conspiracy theories about bombs being sent through the mail.

I witnessed, in black and white, the murder of a sovereign Asian countries’ president and a military coup but didn’t know we were complicit until well after the fact.  Complicit in attempted assassinations on Castro and the Bay of Pigs?  Yeah, those two and others.  Still, until the Seventies, I believed we wore the white hat in our gunfights at high noon and were better than assassinations, coups, and invasions.

Watergate and Contragate?  I witnessed the hearings that followed, a President riding off into the sunset and a Marine Colonel falling on his own sword so another President didn’t have to ride off to California.

Wake up?  Bullshit!

Gerald Ford told the nation their great nightmare was over.  Bill Clinton comforted the people of Oklahoma City and the nation after a mad bomber killed over a hundred and sixty.  George W. Bush left an elementary school reading to reassure a nation when planes crashed into skyscrapers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.  Yes, as we continue to point out, they were imperfect men, but they knew how to act in times of national distress.  They knew how to calm and unify.

Why do I need to wake up?  There is plenty of evil to go around, and I’ve lived through much of it, much of it created and covered up by our own government.  I don’t need to embrace loudmouths who make a living spouting conspiracy and pointing fingers at the other side.  Maybe we should wake up and realize they are nothing more than small-minded hatemongers attempting to make a buck.

When you share their hatred and conspiracies, you become a part of the problem.  Maybe you should wake up and realize when you share hate you become the problem that is undermining the nation and your friends and neighbors.  We need compromise, not a conspiracy.

More rants and musings at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image was liberated fromhttps://www.lifehack.org/648887/how-to-detect-a-wolf-in-sheeps-clothing

Truth….

I was once asked to run for public office…not a high office…it was the county planning commission during the days of “Save Our Saluda.”  While flattered, I didn’t have to ponder running for even an instant.  “No way, no how!”  My refusal wasn’t that I didn’t care about the Saluda River or our environment.  I do and attempt to be a good steward of the environment I live in…or on.

My reason for turning the opportunity down was primarily what has played out in the news for the previous week(s), on social media and what will be played out in the tarnished halls of the Senate today (Thursday).

I feared copious amounts of dirty laundry might be made visible from the drying line that was my previous life.  I also admit to being lazy and somewhat apolitical at the time but my laziness and apoliticalism (word?) paled in comparison to what I perceived was my lack of morality from my rebellious twenties…and thirties.  When it came to rebellion I was a late bloomer.

Today there will be a hearing in the halls of the Senate, in fact, it has already begun as I write this.  The hearing won’t be for some low-level public office but for the highest court in the land.  At the center is a man accused of sexual assault thirty-five years after the fact.  That is worrisome.  Worrisome because thirty-five years ago I would have been a year away from enlightenment…and hopefully, atonement.

Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged dirty laundry will be displayed along with Christine Blasely Ford’s.  What will not be displayed are the facts.  The hearing will simply be “he said, she said” proposition at best.  No corroborative testimony will be offered.  On social media, both participants will be crucified along party lines and the outcome will have no effect on the confirmation vote to come.  My cynicism is showing.

Worse, I believe, the conclusions we arrive at today will be the same conclusions we had when we began the day…conclusions partly arrived at by our own personal cognitive dissonance and subject to party affiliation.  Conclusions that have little to do with the actual truth.

Blame will be laid, one’s sides blame will be different than the other’s and we will still be just as divided when this day ends as we were when it began.

A microcosm of the sorry state of politics and society in the United States today?  The outcome will be about the hypocrisy of the people in the room, those who support them and those who simply bought into a specific party line.  The idea that the only truth that matters is the truth you believe in.  The issue is partisan hypocrisy and neither group is without blame.  Truth is the biggest loser.  Whose truth I wonder?  When this day is over I still will not know.

The image is from The Foundation of Economic Education at https://fee.org/articles/the-media-and-trump-are-both-to-blame-for-the-death-of-truth/

Further musings by Don Miller can be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Our Hypocrisy

I am laughing to keep from crying.  People arguing why one side is less or more hypocritical than another side.  A strange Bud Light commercial with old white men in business suits yelling “Taste Great! Less Filling!”

To my unsophisticated taste buds, the reduction in calories is not worth the shitty taste light beer leaves in my mouth.  I feel the same way about arguments involving hypocrisy between those of the left and those of the right.  It’s not worth the shitty taste I get…but yet, here I am biting down on a turd.

The bad taste is about John McCain.  In death, a man of the right who is suddenly embraced by the left because he stood up to Donald Trump and now, maligned by the certain members of the right for the same reason.

Let me first admit to my own hypocrisy.  Anyone in politics standing up to Donald Trump gets my vote…well, like Doc Holiday, ‘My hypocrisy only goes so far’, I have no respect for Omarosa.

McCain?  I thought very little about McCain until he ran for the countries highest position…with Sara Palin.  Despite what I considered to be a poor choice in running mate, he intrigued me. Part of the intrigue was his service record during the Viet Nam War.  If not a hero, as some on the right are NOW trying to convince me, a heroic man at the very least.  I almost voted for him despite his running mate.

A heroic man in one respect and just a man in the other.  Heroic to have survived almost six years as a prisoner of war and yet somewhat prone to bad mistakes or at least bad luck.  He did survive five crashed airplanes in his career.

He was a war hawk from a military family and supported many military ‘excursions’ that I now deem misguided.  Again, my hypocrisy is showing.  At the time, I might have supported such excursions but now am blessed with perfect twenty-twenty hindsight.  As I have moved into the Autumn of my time, I am more prone to supporting peace over action.

As soon as McCain passed, maybe sooner, articles surfaced maligning McCain’s service record, both in the military and in Congress.  Rumors of Songbird, Presidential pardons, and causing a fire that cost one hundred and thirty-three lives were paraded over social media.  Many were shared by ardent Trump supporters, others by people I considered the middle of the roaders.  Regardless, they were rumors I’ve found no truth in.

Not so long ago, these were rumors supported and pushed by the left when McCain ran for Presidency and defended as “nothing but poppycock” by the right.  Fast forward.  These same rumors are NOW supported and pushed by certain members of the right and NOW defended as “nothing but poppycock” by the left.  Our hypocrisy has come full circle it would seem, but there is still little if any credibility to many allegations being circulated.

Even after saying, “I like people who weren’t captured,” our President made a tactical withdrawal by saying, “I respect his service to the country.”  I’m not sure this qualifies as hypocrisy but Mr. Trump first questioned Mr. McCain’s heroism publicly in 1999 despite having never having served himself…just like me, although I never sought or paid for deferments.  Is it hypocritical of me to say that?  If it is, I will wear it.

Our heroes don’t walk on water.  Some are heroes due to extreme bravery at the moment, others because of a lifetime of service.  They are all mere mortals prone to making mistakes in judgment, morality or ethics…just like me and I’m not the least bit heroic.  Just like you, just like anyone regardless of political affiliation.  Should we focus on heroic efforts without ignoring faults and missteps or should we just tell the truth?  Should we ignore our own hypocrisy while focusing on the hypocrisy of others?

I’m a retired history teacher and while I’ve allowed myself to be fooled, I do have a love affair with the truth…as long as it is the truth about someone else.  “My hypocrisy knows no bounds” I guess.  Maybe I’m choosing to believe the good about, or in, John McCain.  I believe there was a great deal of good to be found.

For more of Don Miller’s “stuff” that bothers him so… https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

A Little Humor Please…!

I yearn for the days when Chevy Chase fell…and everyone laughed.  Mr. Chase, a comedian, was poking fun at one of the most athletic presidents in our history, Gerald Ford.  Athletic, but a bit of a klutz.  Something I can relate to…the klutzicism, not the athleticism.  Wow, I just invented a word.  The thing is, when Chase fell, everyone laughed…including President Ford.  Our politicians, and “the two sides of one bird” aren’t making us laugh very much…nor are they laughing.

Are things so bad that we can’t laugh at ourselves?  Just look for a little humor.  Does everything have to be so serious…morbidly serious.  Do all jokes have to be divisive?  Must we insist that every political statement is followed by insistence we boycott the poor stiff who made it?

I know there are subjects we shouldn’t poke fun at but after seeing the American political experiment in action for over sixty years…the President ain’t one of those subjects.  I would say anyone involved in politics ain’t one of them.  Hey, remember President Johnson and his “Johnson?”  That was a real knee slapper.  Double entendre?  Possibly, I wasn’t there.

Just saw a news report stating that a train carrying GOP congressmen ran into a garbage truck.  Wish one of the passengers on the truck hadn’t died for many reasons, one of which is there is something humorous about boarding the “Trump Train” and hitting a garbage truck.  Am I terrible?  I’m sorry…for their loss.

It’s either humorous or President Obama owned the trash company, purchased through several shell companies, and bought with money loaned to him by Hillary from the bribes she received from the sale of the Uranium One business.  Again, I am sorry someone died. (Special thanks to Max Holland for starting me on this runaway train.)

I have hopes that when we elect a new president, he or she is a comedian…not red nose or floppy shoes funny, but funny…maybe Gerald Ford funny.

If you take offense to my humor I suggest you go look for yours and come back later.  Love and Kisses.

If you aren’t going to boycott me and are interested in reading more of Don Miller’s wanderings, try https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

DONALD TRUMP RACIST? STILL NOT THE PROBLEM

I wrote this piece eight months ago, well before the events of yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia.  I did update the post and believe my words rang true eight months ago and ring true today.

Countless people are pointing a finger, no not that finger…ok, maybe that finger…. Starting over, countless people are pointing out the racism seemingly enabled by President Donald Trump. Over a thousand documented examples of hate crimes have occurred since his election. Some people seem to believe somehow, this one man is responsible for it all. I also heard a similar argument regarding our previous executive, President Obama. “We are more racist now than ever” resounded through my social media accounts. Remember the old quote, “When you point your finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you?” I’m sure you do.

I believe both arguments are misplaced. I don’t know when the concepts of racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry, or any other -ism or -phobia de jure came into being. They may well have been around since a Neanderthal looked at a Cro-Magnon and said, “Hey man you are different.” Yes, Neanderthals had a language and could have said such although I’m sure we would have needed a translator.

I believe our bigotry, anti-Semitism, etc., etc., etc., were just covered up in the same way that a person might add a layer of fresh kitty litter to a soiled cat box. Everything appears well, might even smell well…until your favorite feline steps in and begins to cover up its leavings. The more it tries to cover, the more the unsavory stuff gets uncovered. When Felix gives up, nobody is happy including the cat.

Our racism, bigotry, etc., etc., etc. simply got uncovered. It had been just under the surface waiting to be exposed to the light of day. No amount of legislation or executive action can actually bury it until those three fingers point in some other direction. We must want to change and some of us have tried. The problem is, when the litter box gets uncovered, even those of us who are not overtly racist, anti-Semitic, etc., etc. etc., suddenly feel the need to defend ourselves with statements like “Some of my best friends are (fill in the blank)” or “People just need to let go of (fill in the blank)”

Just because we have a few (fill in the blank) friends doesn’t mean we are not part of the problem, so just quit trying to deflect from the problem and quit pointing fingers at Donald Trump. He is just the enabler.  The Alt-Right was there all along, they have simply embraced President Trump.  The League of the South or people like them have been there all along and they too have embraced him. Fear bred hatred of people not like us, has been there all along, President Trump’s campaign message just allowed it to uncover the litter box.

Our country has been anti-whatever since before we were a country. Until we actually believe, deep in our hearts, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, all men (women and those unsure) are created equal” it really doesn’t matter who is in the White House. We should worry about the cleanliness of our own litter boxes (hearts) before we point out another needs cleaning.

Blog Picture from ABC News, http://abcnews.go.com/US/unite-rally-virginia-sparks-counterprotests-state-emergency/story?id=49176243

More of Don Miller’s misplaced rantings may be accessed at http://goo.gl/lomuQf