Thursday, October 30, 2008

Maybe you and me were never meant to be, but Baby think of me just once in a while, I'm at WKRP in Cincinnati

I loved that show. Actually I loved the traffic girl Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers). Loni Anderson was beautiful too, but Jan Smithers . . . I won't be at WKRP and I'm pretty sure I won't see Jan Smithers. However, I will be taking a road trip this weekend. Saturday I'll head the trusty (hopefully) Sebring northward on I-65 en route to Cincinnati. I'll stop in Nashville and visit Vann at Vanderbilt, although I haven't discussed this with him. I will try to locate and visit a few old friends on the way, and visit the most interesting truck stops and coffee shops. I love a good road trip.

In Cincinnati I will be a poll observer. I received one of those emails from Barack. When the front running presidential candidate sends you a personal request (the email did start with the personal "Bob") to protect that most precious right to vote, a true patriot must answer the call. When I sent in those $25.00 contributions he kept guilting me into with those same personal emails, I also gave the information that I was a lawyer. Apparently they invited all us lawyer contributors to observe the polls. So I am a member of an exclusive club of about a zillion lawyers.

But still, it is important. And it is an adventure. And I really need to put some miles between me and my normal digs, if only for a few days. Sometimes geographical distance gives me a better perspective.

"What will you be doing?" many have asked in a voice that sounded like "Why?". Actually, like everything I have seen the Obama organization do, the operation is impressive. I have received real personal emails and phone calls from a real live person (sure I don't recognize her name, it not being Barack, Joe, Michelle, David, or any of the rest of the headliners) who has sent me a manual to study, guidelines, a packing list, and a weather report. Also a warning about non partisanship. Very impressive.

It seems that I have volunteered to serve the poll officials in any way I can. If there are problems I am asked to suggest solutions that have been used before in similar situations. If I see problems that are too complex to address i am to report them to my supervisor by phone.

I will also be outside most of the day. I suppose it could be a bit cooler in Cincinnati than it is in North Alabama. But I will just layer up and see how it goes.

Training will be held on Sunday afternoon and evening at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. That will give me a bit of free time in Cincinnati. I'll probably find me a cool church to visit, a cool place to brunch, and explore the town. I have previously spent two nights in Cincinnati. However, both nights were spent on the floor of the airport. I am hoping the rest of the city has more to offer.

But I really don't know what to expect on Tuesday. Precincts will be assigned this weekend. I suppose I could be sent anywhere in the Cincinnati area. I love this process we go through to choose our leaders. We have been taking it for granted for so long that I am afraid we have lost the notion of how great a privilege casting a vote is.

One ideal that is shared by the whole political spectrum is "opportunity." That ideal is manifested in different ways when it comes to public policy, which is a subject for another day. But the ideal is especially important in this election. There may be more sinister and underhanded things going on in efforts to "steal" the election. But one very real danger is the inequality in opportunity to vote. It is already known that areas of poverty may not have the capacity to handle the number of voters that will come to the polls. Areas with more financial wherewithal are better equipped. Not very democratic. We've known of the problem for at least eight years. The problem is no better. Wonder why that is?

One of the things I anticipate seeing in Cincinnati, depending on where I am assigned, is long, long lines at the polls. And particularly in Ohio, I expect that there will be confusion about voter identification that will effectively discourage new or less experienced voters from trying to cast their votes. Unfortunately an intentional misinformation campaign has been waged in states like Ohio to discourage voters.

So, I expect a blessing and a curse. Who'd a thought it. Long, long lines of people excited about casting one vote . . . one single vote, that alone will make no difference. But at its best an election reminds us that we are not alone, we are part of a wonderful, miraculous experiment that has been unfolding for a couple hundred years, an experiment that reminds us that it is the will of the people that ultimately controls our fate. I love that feeling as I stand in line to vote. My vote counts as much as anyone else, and everyone else's counts as much as mine. It is a blessing.

But, what happens if the lines are still blocks long when the polls are supposed to close? Will the officials allow the voting to continue? Will voters tire of standing in line after several hours and darkness falls and it gets real cold like it probably will in Ohio in early November?

What can a poll observer do about that?

I'll let you know. I hope to blog the road trip and the Ohio election adventure.

Monday, October 20, 2008

First they came for the Jews, and I sat and did nothing for I was not a Jew. . .

Sometimes I get very angry at God. I attempt to hedge my bet in my prayers by acknowledging even in my anger that God is perfect and all knowing, and I am sure that there are things that I am not aware of. It is tough for humans to be in relationships with perfect ones, be they other humans or be He/She God.

But God made us. What was She/He thinking? On the sixth day Genesis says that God made us and that it was "very good". The velvet night sky filled with stars, the vast oceans and their mysterious occupants, the majestic mountains, the rain forests, the elephants, platypus, tigers, snakes, the redwood forests, the gulf stream waters . . . all were just plain "good". I don't get it.

I won't go into the variety of times and reasons my anger comes up about this. Most of them have to do with mistakes in my life that I am sure God anticipated I would make but he created me anyway. Different stories for a time that will never come in this blog.

But tonight I am angry about the way we are as a group. We are eager to hate. I was born several years after World War II ended. As I learned of the events as a child, I could not comprehend how an educated, civilized, "Christian" nation like Germany could have committed the atrocities of the holocaust.

About the same time I learned about that same human trait close up and personal. On the nightly news I watched as the fire hoses and dogs were turned on real, live, peaceful citizens of Birmingham, just 36 miles down Highway 75. I watched in horror the news of the bombing of a church in Birmingham that killed children. Equally as horrible, I listened as people that I had been brought up to respect gave excuses for the violence and death rather than condemning the action and mourning the consequences. I saw the violence continue as deranged individuals gunned down several of our political leaders within a few years.

There are a lot of dangerous words. But here are five words when put together should make the top ten list of dangerous words.

"It could never happen here."

"Who is Barack Obama?" Socialist? Communist? Terrorist? Radical? Re distributor of Wealth? Muslim?. Not part of the "real" America? Is he one of the liberal members of Congress that should be investigated to see if they really have America's best interests at heart?

All of these things have been said over and over and over during the past week. At least twice an attendee at a McCain/Palin rally has yelled "Kill Him" in reference to Obama. A conservative member of Congress actually suggested that members of that body should be investigated to see if they have America's best interests at heart.

Maybe we won't fall over the precipice. According to the polls the majority of Americans do not like this language. But it only takes a few deranged souls whipped into a distorted patriotic frenzy to do horrible things. And it only takes apathy and timidity by us normal folk to allow it to happen.

In twenty years will children wonder what people like us were thinking when we let the persecutions begin? Communist? Socialist? Welfare? Immigrants? Gays? Christians? Jews? Atheists? Muslims? Liberals? Conservatives?

You see, we don't really know who the next group will be. Especially in an ever diversifying population. But it really doesn't matter who it is. When we as a group are afraid, there will always be some amoral leader who will use that fear to control us. That is why we Americans have sat quietly while our sacred rights that have more to do with our identity than almost anything else have been frittered away in the name of security.

Because we have been told that we need to be afraid. For eight years.

I don't want to have to hang my head in shame when questioned by the next generation.

I am sure God is right. I am sure He appreciates my endorsement. I am sure that we are "very good."

I believe it is time for us to show Him or Her. Fear not.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Vannderbilt and Madison

Reminder to you who seek information and opinion. Vann Bentley's blog at Vannderbilt has a new site location. Madison Underwood, an up and coming journalist in Birmingham can be read on Mixed Media (along with other good writers). Both links are over there.------->>

Sunday, October 5, 2008


I haven't seen Religulous yet, but I will. One of my pet peaves is folks who make assumptions about movies or books without taking the time to actually see or read. However, I have had ample chance to hear Bill Maher speak about the movie, as he has made every tv talk show and NPR. Reviews are in all the magazines, most of which include interviews with Bill.

I have been critical of religion myself from time to time. Probably once or twice a week. It is difficult to ignore some of the more destructive events in history that were done in the name of religion. You know, the Crusades, the Inquisition, 9/11, wars of many descriptions, oppression, etc. It is also difficult to ignore some of the pettiness of we who exercise religion.

So, a good critic, maybe even a prophet, is not a bad thing. It is a hard thing, but a good thing.

Lately though, the critics of religion that are getting the press seem to be those who are looking from the outside in. Not prophets. More like deriders.

If I can draw asssumptions from the interviews I have heard and read from Maher, I have to assume that he believes in no religion, and finds laughable those people whose inferior intellects allow them to. He is certainly free to think as he will. But, he claims such an intellectual superiority in doing so. Not unlike his political perspectives. Truth is, I like to watch Bill Maher. I think he is funny, smart, and says some important things.

But me thinks he doth protesteth too much. A tad presumptuous on my part, but I say, why not meet one presumption and raise it another. It is one thing to make fun of the foolishness of religion. It is another to call those people fools who believe. It can be a constructive thing to keep before us the ways that religion got off the path. It is another thing to completely ignore the good that religion has done in the world. Why would one who portrays himself as intellectual be so dismissive of religion, which has been a part of the human existence since before we learned to write about it? Does Maher believe that he has suddenly appeared as the next higher order in evolution that suddenly understands what billions before him did not? That must be a heavy burden.

I do not believe he is ignorant, which, it appears, is not a view he would share of me. Forget spirituality for a moment. Religions have provided inestimable amounts of health care, charity, education, and cultural advancement. It's just a simple fact. Religions have provided standards to live by that have advanced civility quicker and with more commitment than any other cause. But Maher has chosen not to address this side of the equation. Why would one who wants to be known for cutting through the crap ignore a significant percentage of the truth ?

Perhaps Bill Maher is afraid. If something is beyond his intellectual capacity to understand or obtain, then it cannot exist. Because if it did exist, he could never gain a superior knowledge or understanding through intellect. And then where would he be? Just like the rest of us?

Jesus realized this about Bill, and people like him, sometimes like me. Jesus said you have to be like a child to understand the truths that he brought. Did he mean dumb? Not on your life. He meant an openness to all possibilities, and believing that some realities exist that can only be experienced by faith.

It is not intellectual to be close-minded.

It is ridiculous.

So, now I will go see the movie. Perhaps I will have to eat crow. Perhaps I am being presumptuous and defensive. I'll try to have an open mind and let you know.
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