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.

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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.

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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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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Daylight saving . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

It was still dark as I dragged myself out of bed.  I would like to think that I am becoming more industrious, more Ben Franklinish in my early-to-risability.  But it is the sun that seems to be getting a little lazy once again. It is an annual thing, this solar sloth, inevitable after months of late nights and early mornings, rising and setting on the beach and the mountains and the playgrounds, keeping company with anyone who wants to stay out or get up and play.  It is a little irritating that these days become shorter with each sunset, because they are the best, the prime, the solid golden and deeply blue, these days between now and the middle of November.

This is my time of the year. I wake up. I breathe deeply.  I savor the gifts of this season, the long golden rays of the sun,  the deep blue skies that reappear after the summer humidity heads south for the winter, the inimitable potpourri of the forest floor, the cooling air that proves to me that I am still breathing, that I am yet alive,  and the ever changing palette of nature.

 I tend to think about more serious things.  Maybe the shortening days instinctively remind my inner consciousness of the need to prepare for winter, or perhaps of the brevity of life.

So maybe it is the season's fault. Or the sun's fault.  But it seems to me that there is a lot of silliness going on.  Don't get me wrong. I am a fan of appropriate silliness, even in these days.  Throwing a loved one into a pile of leaves. Tricking someone into eating a persimmon before the frost.   Football fanaticism.  And all things Halloween.

But seriously.

Time is running out.  The days are short. Daylight is fading.  And there is much to be done.  For the sick, the poor, the homeless, the oppressed, the imprisoned,  the widow, the orphan, and  the lonely.

Sure, the time is running out for them.  If help does not come soon, the pain will be greater, death will come quicker, or for some, not quickly enough.

But it is running out for us also, those who are not in such dire straits.  Those of us who are invited to help, are invited to come, to whom so much has been given..   Clever political soundbites, or bumper stickers will not ease the pain.  Sinful judgments by religious hypocrites  will not save anyone..

Not those in pain.

And not us.

Wow, I didn't mean to get so serious so early.

But really, it's later than I think.

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