Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Afraid in the dark . . .

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
                                                                                                -President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 
                                                                                                 First Inaugural Address, 1933

When I was very young, about three or four years old, my brother and I shared a small bedroom.  The walls were stained pine tongue and groove boards.  At night a faint light from the bathroom down the hall weakly rested against the doors of the closet and released the true terror contained in the grain of the boards.  The beautiful natural  wood grain of the day became nocturnal wolves with fangs bared, or bears or dinosaurs with teeth and claws, all poised to spring on all who would dare to leave the bed and pass by to the hall, which is where the bathroom was located.

And if that were not enough, there was a hole in the window.  A hole through which snakes would probably be crawling  from the back yard into my bedroom and onto my bedroom floor in the middle of the night. The reptilian portal was created by the impact of a bb shot from a Daisy air rifle (accident).  The hole might have been as much as 1/32 of an inch in diameter.  Everybody knows that snakes can crawl through really tiny holes if they want to. And I knew they wanted to.

So sometimes, in the middle of the night, in the middle of all of that fear, I was faced with a dilemma.  I needed to go to the bathroom.  But that would require getting out of bed, carefully avoiding the writhing snakes on the floor and the beasts lurking in the dark shadows of the walls.  I could have turned on the light, but my brother would yell at me.  And that was scary too. All those fears only heightened my need to go. But I would just lie there most of the time, hoping I could  go back to sleep and hold it until the morning light scared the demons of the dark away. 

Sometimes I couldn't hold it.  So, my fear caused me to wet my bed. 

 And that really stinks.

In the light of day I knew that was right.  It wasn't real wild animals that kept me in my bed. It was just fear.  Of nothing real.  

But in the dark of night, I just couldn't think right. It was scary.

And that is still true. Not the me wetting the bed part.

The fear. And the darkness.

In  darkness created by ignorance, and prejudice, in darkness created by the absence of the light of love with a capital L,  scary illusions appear.   All young black men are thugs.  All young white police officers are bigots  Illegal immigrants are taking over the country. Their children are spreading disease willy nilly.   All politicians are crooks.   All government is corrupt. All government is inept.  Gay marriage will destroy the family.  Muslims secretly want to kill us all.  Ebola will eat us all up by next week.  ISIS is taking over the world.  Someone is  coming to take our guns. .The homeless and poor are scamming us.  All  Democrats are communists. All Republicans worship money and war.  All Tea Partiers are nuts.   We will all have implanted computer chips in a couple of years.  President Obama is . . . there is not enough space to address the lies about him born of irrational fears..  Facebook is taking my picture all the time . . . okay, that might be absolutely true. You get the idea.  Feel free to add your own favorite irrational  fears in the comment section.

Sure, there are things in the world that are scary, and real.  LIke the snakes and wild animals I had been warned about when playing outside were real.   But my fears that kept me shaking fearfully in bed in the safety of my house were irrational and  ridiculous.

We can only know which is which by having the courage to pull our heads out from under the safety of the covers, get up and turn on the light.  But sometimes we  prefer to stay in the dark.    Because light will reveal the truth. And the truth is not always easy.

There are people who will yell when we try.  They want to keep the light turned off, and the irrational fears to mount.  They want us to be scared enough to be paralyzed, to keep us where we are, to keep us in the dark, to make us wet the bed.   Because let me tell you, wetting the bed is not exactly an empowering experience.  

And that is really what some people want.  To create fear.  Ridiculous, irrational fear. Of something that doesn't exist.

Because if you are controlled by fear, you are controlled. You are powerless.

And that really stinks.

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear . . ."
                                                                                            I  John 4:18 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Meet me in St. Louis

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

As it turns out, my sofa this week is in St. Louis.  I hope we get to look around town a little before we hitch up the wagons and head west  seeking a better life.  The giant Gateway Arch, the Gateway to the West, was surreal, looking more like a giant croquet wicket to the West as we motored into town last night.  For a moment I pictured Vulcan standing next to it with mallet in hand, in a sister-cities kind of joint effort between St. Louis and Birmingham.   Something to think about.  I've wanted to see the Gateway Arch up close since I first read about it in a fascinating "Weekly Reader" article a few years ago.  It is impressive, even from a few blocks away. Perhaps I can convince my traveling companions to indulge me and make closer inspection.

Our mini wagon-train of a 4-Runner and an Outback are on a one way road trip to Denver as my son, his wife, and my two month old grandson are moving there to pursue a wonderful career opportunity. The dad in me is proud of their achievements, but the grand-dad in me is sad to see my brand new grandson move so far away.  So, the offer to be a driver on this long trip was immediately accepted as  a great opportunity to get to spend some time with them on the way to the west.  And so far it has been.

I got my coffee this morning and sat down to watch a little news before I started writing.  As it turns out, crowds are gathering in St. Louis this morning and will grow for the rest of the day.  It is not to see the Gateway Arch.

It is a day of protest.  The protesters are gathering a few blocks away for the "Justice for All" march to bring attention to the now nationally famous case of Michael Brown, who was killed during an encounter with a policeman in nearby Ferguson. The crowds are protesting the killing itself,  the reaction of the law enforcement and justice system to Brown's death, and other similar cases throughout the country.

I have an opinion about Michael Brown's death.  But opinions so often get in the way.  And that is not what is on my mind this morning.

During the news coverage of the events at Ferguson several photographs of Michael Brown were displayed, over and over again.  They showed a young man of a large size, but with a face that looked more like a junior high kid. .His mother and father, family and friends were interviewed and their grief for their loss was on national display. Stories of Brown's life and personality filled out the picture.

 Michael Brown was not perfect. Nor was he a demon.

He was just a kid.

A son.

So today, as I look out the hotel window toward where the protesting crowds will gather I offer an awful prayer.  A prayer for Michael Brown's parents and their grief.

And a prayer of thanksgiving for my sons, my daughter-in-law and my grandson. And I feel guilty for that. Because I don't have to live in the fears known too commonly by the protesters in St. Louis today.

But guilt is a useless balm that convinces us that our self-inflicted punishment is action enough.

But it is not.  Guilt will never change anything.

But something or somebody must. Change something.

So anyway.  Time to load up.  Gotta make Salina by Bama kick-off. Westward Ho the wagons.  Have a good Saturday.  Love your children today.

And everyone else's too.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Thurvey 10/2/2014

It's Thursday.  Once upon a time that meant it was time for the Thurvey . .  .the Thursday Survey.   So just for old times sake the Thurvey is back.  Traditionally the questions range from light hearted to serious.  Try not to be mean or hateful, but well crafted satire is welcome.  Enter your response to any or all of the questions by commenting on this post, or comment in facebook if that is how you got here. There are no wrong answers except those that you do not write, or something like that.  It's okay to answer the questions on Friday or Saturday, or even Sunday.   Let the world hear your voice:

#1  Aretha Franklin has just released an album of cover songs . . . songs made famous by other "divas" of the recording industry.  For instance she covered "Rollin' in the Deep by Adele.  If you were making an album covering the great songs of others, what songs would you cover in your own inimitable stylings?.

#2  A pastor friend asked this question for sermon prep recently.  I won't mention any names, but this is the kind of preparation pastors do at Birmingham First United Methodist Church where all are welcomed home.  Name two things that are better together. Like fall weather and a convertible.

#3 I was blessed this week by a couple of parking deck attendants at the Birmingham Employees parking deck as I was walking down the sidewalk to court, preoccupied and a little tense.  They made me look up and laugh with their laughter and encouragement.  Then one did the Hump Day woop woop. And then said "God Bless you, it's gonna be a great day today."    When or where or by whom were you surprised by laughter or encouragement this week?

#4 The Blount County Fair is underway this week.  What is your favorite thing about a fair?

#5  My last post was in part about Congress' decision to be in session for only 12 days during the months of August, September and October, despite the nation considering war and fighting an epidemic, and weighty important issues left unaddressed.  How do you feel about the decision?

#5  The Alabama Legislature will go into session in mid-January.  I have learned that if you want to have a chance at getting them to take action on something, you must start early (apparently I never start early enough.  I don't think that early exists)   Anyway, enough whining. What challenges or opportunities would you like to see the Alabama legislature address in their next session?  Big dreams, serious problems, and of course, satire, are encouraged.

#6  What  other question would you like answered this week?

Ready. Begin.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Congressional Autumn Leave Tour . . .

It is autumn.  It is my favorite time of year, mostly for all the reasons that everyone else gives. In the past six years I have written a books-worth of Saturday Sofa Coffee posts about my love of this golden season, detailing my favorite things about fall.(See Chillin', from last year,  for example.)   But one event not included in many top ten favorite-things about-autumn lists is the November elections.  

I like it.  I think it is a wondrous thing that we the people collectively make choices that determine the future of our town, our state, and our nation. It is exciting. It is a privilege. It is an opportunity to advance civilization.

No really, it is.  I hear your snickering. I see your eye rolling. Shame on you.

Electing our representatives is our part, and the most important part, of making sure our representative government is exactly that, representative.  

And that it works.

And so it is important that we do our part of the work.  Dig for the truth and when you find as much of it as you can, make a reasoned decision.  We complain about government not working.  I suggest that is our fault. We have not done the serious work of being voters. There are plenty of elections when most of us don't even vote. And when we do, we may not be voting based on truth.  There are a lot of people spending a lot of money to control the things we watch, listen to and read who have no regard for the truth.  They are well trained at pushing our emotional buttons, with no regard for veracity.  They are hoping for our ignorance. And far too often we oblige.

Consider a couple of tonight's sobering headlines:  

A person who was infected with Ebola is hospitalized and quarantined in Dallas. The Center of Disease Control (CDC) is the primary agency of the federal government addressing the crisis.  Two weeks ago special American troops were deployed to Africa to assist in controlling the epidemic.

ISIS continues to hold its ground in Iraq despite continued air strikes from the United States in Iraq and Syria, and the UK in Iraq, assisted by other middle eastern nations.  Questions abound in the minds of Americans, like others world wide, about whose boots will be on the ground.

Domestic violence and particularly violence against women, failure of the secret service to protect the President and his family, and continuing incidences of violence that appear to be race based are the secondary stories.

The economy, which everyone is concerned about, barely makes the news. Immigration, minimum wage, fair pay for women, tax reform, poverty, health care,  the budget, the debt, all hot topics in the past few months, struggle for attention.

Struggle for attention, not only from the news outlets.  Not only from us.

But these critical issues long for attention from Congress.  The folks we will be voting on.  

We wonder whether we are at war.  We wonder if more is needed in the Ebola fight. We wonder if our nation's capital is safe for public officials and American citizens.

And during the months of August, September, and October, while the nation is facing crisis after crisis that cries out for the input of the people, our representatives are silent.

Congress has chosen to be in session for twelve days in the months of August, September and October. While we don't know if we are at war, in Syria and Iraq, or against a horrible virus, Congress is AWOL.

Fortunately, microphones can pick up their sound bites from anywhere.

But not in the halls of Congress.

It is empty.

I guess they're just chillin' the autumn away as well.

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