Monday, September 26, 2011

Just another liberal rant, business as usual . . .

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about social myths. I would like to apologize now to all you hundreds of freshmen political science students who have googled the phrase and been directed to that post as a source for your pape. And now there will be another one you will not find to be very authoritative. In the context of political science a social myth is a fear that is created by a person or entity in power for the purpose of maintaining that power. It is the creation of a fictitious common enemy, and insidiously plays upon the human weaknesses of fear, selfishness and prejudice.

One of the things that makes the strategy so dangerous is that the masses who are being misled and manipulated by the powers that be are like me. I would never be so foolish as to fall for such a thing. But I might.

It is still difficult for me to imagine that the good people of Germany fell for the rhetoric of Hitler prior to World War II. They were good people. And yet, somehow they became so convinced by the myth created by der Fuhrer that they at best allowed and at worst participated in the atrocities of the holocaust and the other outrages of his effort to conquer Europe.

Immigrants, minorities, liberals, intellectuals, homosexuals, religions, communists, unions, and witches, real or imaginary, have been the stuff of which social myths have been made, not only in the past, but in the present.

It seems to me that social mythology has become commonplace in today's politics. Perhaps the results are not as horrific as the holocaust, but it is certainly becoming an obstacle to intellectual discourse and progress in solving the problems that beset us. For example:

"Big government."

Makes chills run up your spine, doesn't it?

But why? What has big government done that is so odious, so evil?

I will tell you.

It has protected, or attempted to protect you from big business. The scary reality is that the power that is creating the social myth regarding "big government" is the real power in our society. That power is big business and big money. The only thing, and I mean the only thing at this point in time that can, or is, offering any protection to ordinary people from the soul-less will of big business is big government.

Perhaps you are thinking that Bob is just on another liberal rant. And you might be right. But it doesn't mean I am wrong.

If "big government" were not regulating "big business" in its use and abuse of the environment, water, air and natural resources, would "big business" regulate itself? Seriously?

If "big government" were not regulating the financial industry, would "big business" look after the best interest of the consumer as a matter of conscience? Did you sleep through the past ten years?

If "big government" failed to pursue safety standards for consumer products, like seat belts in automobiles and testing for medicines, would "big business" have foregone profit and done it voluntarily? Can you say Ford Pinto? or Monsanto?

If "big government" had no interest in protecting labor would "big business" have voluntarily addressed limiting work hours, safety, overtime, and minimum wage?

If "big government" ignored the constitution and turned a blind eye, would "big business" have dealt with discrimination against minorities, age groups and women?

If you believe that "big business" would have done any of these things, you may be in danger of swallowing the latest social myth.

"Business" is not bad. It is not good. It is just a structure for exchange of goods and services and amassing capital to do more business. It has no conscience, in and of itself, other than making a profit. The less it spends on compensation for resources, or for protection of or damage to the environment, or safety for labor, or for safety of its products, or for assuring justice in employment, the more money it can keep as profit.

Government, while far from perfect, has at least one component that business does not have. It must answer to all the people. If it does not, it will change. Ideally, big government does have a conscience, and that is the conscience of the people.

There is a common line that often surfaces in these discussions. "What is good for business is good for America."

Is it good for America to have a toxic environment? Is it good for America for its consumers to use inherently dangerous products? Is it good for America for its labor force to be at risk of physical injury or disease because of work? Is it good for America to allow discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or age?

Is it good for America that jobs, good jobs, have been exported to other countries?

Is it good for America that trillions of dollars of real cash are being held by "big business" while the country is in a recession and millions of people are unemployed?

That's crazy talk, you might be thinking. Those are just good business decisions. And you would be right. But those decisions, and others like them, are not good for America. They are just good for business.

Business is important because of the way our cultures and economies have evolved. It can be a very, very good thing. It can make our lives far better. Many do.

But I don't believe big business can be a good thing without strong government.

Maybe I'm wrong.

And maybe you're a witch.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pomp and our circumstance . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

A friend of mine is in New York City this week-end. She is meeting friends from Italy on their first trip to the United States. They arrived yesterday. This morning, around 8:00 a.m., they will visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

The image of these travelers standing in line when the gate opens this morning to see the Statue of Liberty evoked unexpected feelings in me.

The words I memorized way, way back at Oneonta Elementary (some said Grammar) School immediately came to mind:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Those are the closing lines of "The New Colossus," the poem by Emma Lazarus originally penned and published to raise money for the construction of the base of the statue, and now immortalized on a plaque inside.

I looked up the rest of the poem.

The New Colossus

By Emma Lazarus, 1883

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

I am certain that my friend's friends from Italy are not huddled masses yearning to be free, certainly not wretched refuse, nor homeless, but having recently flown in they are probably tired. I know nothing about them. Except, one of the first things they will do in USA is visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

One thing stands out to me this morning in the image of Lady Liberty created by Lazarus.

We were a nation of change. Emphatically and pridefully so. With disdain for the way the world had been run so far.

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp, she cried with silent lips."

"Pay attention world," it seems like she was saying, "you can keep your old, stale ways, we are going to do things differently here. We'll welcome those that you reject and then show you what you've lost."

That is what made America great . . .

I have heard the phrase a million times and I have said it about that many times, a few times seriously, and many times in jest. But I wonder if as the generations pass we are losing what really made America great. (For those of you rebels out there, yes, I am making the assumption that America is great. I believe it is. Not perfect, but great)

The United States has only been around for two centuries and change.


That is what made America great. A straining for the future, for something different, something better, even if, especially if, it seemed, it involved some risk. Even if things had never been done this way before.

It is hard to imagine a more radical change in a form of government than from the monarch of Great Britain to the Constitutional Democracy hammered out by those bold representatives of the States that became United as a result of their meeting in Philadelphia.

Freedom of speech, ideas and religion, even speech in opposition to the government. Expansion of the right to vote to all citizens over a long, sometimes difficult path. Exploration of new frontiers, first westward to the Pacific, and ultimately to the moon and beyond. Creation of an economic system that provided the capital for explosive growth and economic opportunity, as well as mind-boggling technological advancement. Education for all. Security for the elderly. Medical insurance for the poor. Protections for the ones who labor. Equality under the law.

And so much more.

All were advancements, meaning that none of the changes came from returning to the way things were in a past time, or even staying the way they were in the present moment. The status quo represented failure. If you stood still you were left behind.

Because it was believed that while things may be better than they were, they were surely not as good as they could be. So things were changed.

Is the United States as good as it can get?

Of course not. But we are acting that way as we look to the past for the security of familiar but failed and outdated solutions to our present day challenges.

But maybe that's what happened to those "ancient lands" Lady Liberty so pointedly addressed. Change became too frightening. The status quo became too comfortable. No new ideas were let in. Opposing ideas were exiled. Along with the people that carried them.

And the USA became stronger at the expense of those "ancient lands" and their "storied pomp."

Perhaps it would be good if the base of the Statue of Liberty were put on a swivel like a wind up music box. Then occasionally she would face not only the rest of the world out across the ocean, but would also turn and face our on soil, and say,

"Keep, ancient men, your storied pomp . . ."


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thurvey 9/22/2011. Just one question, and its not much fun

I am a criminal defense attorney. From time to time I represent someone who is accused of the premeditated intentional killing of another person who presents no immediate threat of serious injury or harm to another. Sometimes we call that murder.

Other times we call it capital punishment, or execution by the State.

If you have read this blog for a couple of years, you know that I am opposed to capital punishment. See That's Why I Cry. Or This One's for Billy Ray or Dead Man Walking.

But I know many people are in favor of it, some of whose judgment in other matters I respect.

When I defend a person accused of intentional killing, one of the defenses is justification. Self-defense. Defense of another. Another area of defense goes to the defendant's mental state, lack of the mental ability to form intent or mental illness sufficient to affect the ability to discern right from wrong or resist the compulsion to do wrong.

Under its own definitions the State is committing murder when it executes a convicted person. It just excuses itself by a statute that makes it alright.

So, since it is Thursday, I would like to pose one Thurvey (Thursday survey) question.

What are the reasons to continue the practice of capital punishment? Or what are the reasons to put an end to it?

Comment if you wish and I wish you would. I do not understand the value of this ancient and barbaric practice. But maybe I'm missing something.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Rick Perry said last week "I never struggled at all," when it came to the thought of an innocent human possibly being killed by the state Texas.

If he has not struggled with that possibility in light of his exclusive power to stop such a killing then he is hardly human himself.

I want my elected officials to struggle with matters of life and death. I want Rick Perry to struggle every time someone is executed in Texas. By law the governor is given the power to commute the death sentence. He is supposed to struggle with that weighty decision.

It is his job to be human, even if it does not come naturally.

I want my elected officials to struggle with the pain that will be caused to the poor, disabled and disadvantaged by budget cuts.

I want my elected officials to agonize every day over soldiers in harms way at war, hundreds or thousands of whom will not make it home alive. I want them to struggle over collateral damage of our bombs and bullets, collateral damage being an antiseptic name for the death of innocent mothers, fathers, children and grandparents who cannot escape the ferocity of our not so smart bombs.

I want my elected officials to struggle over injustice and inequality maintained by systems, institutions, and businesses supported by our elected officials.

I want my elected officials to struggle over inadequate medical care.

I want my elected officials to struggle over a degrading environment.

I want my elected officials to struggle over children who need guidance, education and a way out.

I want them to struggle.

I know they can't solve all the problems. But how can you solve any of them if you never admit that we have a problem.

So they have taken the easy out, and we have let them. You are familiar with this easy out. You may even really like it when you hear it. It goes like this . . .

"Sure, all of those things are important, but they cost money, and to get that money would mean a tax increase, and God knows we can't do that."

And He probably knows that we won't.

Too much of a struggle.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I believe . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

I believe you.

I believe in you.

Let me first be clear. I believe science.

For years I have seen bumper stickers and car magnets that make a statement in support of the science of evolution. The creative part of me appreciates the cleverness of the simple symbols. The one seen most often is the traditional Ichthys, the Christian symbol of the fish, modified in some way, usually filled with the name "Darwin", and sprouting small legs to allow it to scamper onto the beach and continue to evolve. Another more pointed version has a larger Darwin labelled fish approaching the smaller Christian fish with its large maw wide open ready to overtake and ingest the smaller, weaker of the species.

I have not studied the science of evolution, but the little reading that I have done over the years has been consistent with every other science I never really studied but know a little about.

And for me evolution is entirely consistent with my faith, which begins with a brilliant Creator.

While I appreciate the chuckle I get from creative car magnets, I don't understand the animus they represent between Christians and Evolutionists.

And I've got a little animus with both sides of that public disagreement. The Christians who so adamantly argue that the science of evolution is somehow excluded from God's method of creation have unfairly included me, as a Christian, on their side. I am a Christian. Therefore I must be a creationist, and opposed to the science of evolution, as if opposing a science has any effect at all on the phenomena it attempts to explore and explain.

And the Darwinists. Making a claim of open mindedness, all the while denying the possibility of an intelligent creator. I have seen nothing in the science of evolution that excludes that possibility. It cannot and does not attempt, as a science, to explain the beginning of the story. So the Darwinists have unfairly excluded me, as a Christian, from learning and believing the science because of their close mindedness.

Some people call evolution a theory. Some call it a science. I am not scholarly enough to know which it should be called. But no doubt it is a useful study of the world around us. And the more we understand these things, the more we can understand how to heal the sick, feed the hungry, restore our environment and be the caretakers of creation that we we were called to be in that beautiful Biblical creation story.

The rhetoric of the evolution/creation discourse has made me wonder.

Often the question is posed, "Do you believe in evolution?"

Do I believe in evolution? No.

Do I believe the basic science of evolution. Youbetcha.

Nor do I believe in capitalism, communism, or socialism, nor the federal government nor states' rights, nor any particular theory of psychoanalysis, nor any diet or exercise program.

Do I believe that some of the elements of these theories, institutions, methods and ideas are true and helpful? Yes, I do.

But I don't believe in them.

Because believing in them makes them more than they are. At least that's what I think. My belief in something give it a quality of having some value in and of itself, akin to life, rather than merely an intellectual or institutional construct whose value is derived from its usefulness.

And that makes it difficult to be open to needed change, to be open to new ideas.

You remember Galileo? Yes, the one who improved the telescope and gave us many of the formulas we learned in physics class.

At the time Galileo was doing all those wonderful things, the world, in particular the Church, believed in geocenticism. That is, that the earth was the center of the universe around which all the heavenly bodies revolved, including the sun. It was more than a scientific fact. It had achieved the status of a religious tenet. Galileo challenged geocentricism and the Pope's position on it. Galileo, this brilliant father of modern science, was subjected to an inquisition by the church and lived under house arrest for the remainder of his life.

But Galileo was right.

Had geocentricism been considered just a fact to be believed because of the evidence at hand, perhaps the work of Galileo would have been more easily considered and Galileo could have gone out for pizza instead of constantly relying on delivery.

But the world believed in geocentricism. It had life. It was sacred. And it was wrong.

So now we believe in evolution or creationism, and all those isms, institutions and ideas that we want to somehow breathe life into. And once we have become the creators, the ones who breathe life, the ones who give birth, we cannot change, we cannot allow our creations to die, even if they are wrong.

I believe a zillion things. But I believe in only a few. I believe in God (though things I believe about God change, and often I realize I am not sure what, if anything, I believe about God. It is a matter of faith, after all). I believe in Love as the only thing that can change the human heart. There are a few people I believe in.

And I guess that's about it.

So, do me a favor. Listen for the phrase "believe in" and ask, is the object of that phrase worthy of such trust?

Because what we believe does not change the truth. The earth never was the center of the universe.

And putting Galileo under arrest couldn't change that.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Pains . . .

I left the house a couple of times today. Both were mistakes. The highway resembled the old log flume ride at Six Flags, except the logs were automobiles.

Then I made a turn, or tried to make a turn. There was a large hickory tree lying across the street. I did not anticipate what the sight of a large hickory tree across a street would evoke in me. Dread. Sick. Fear. I was actually living in a house a few hundred feet from the downed tree a few years ago when a tornado threw trees around the neighborhood and left them stacked like pick up sticks. Then there is the fresh memory of too many similar trees to comprehend still vivid from last April. Some are still on the ground in remote areas of Alabama.

So, while I've enjoyed being ironically lazy on Labor Day, there has been a subtle disturbance in my soul.

Six years ago on Labor Day Benjamin, Charles, the bus driver, and I spent the day on a bridge to nowhere in New Orleans, made so by Katrina. A week had passed since the levees gave way, and there had been no way to reach the neighborhoods beyond the bridge. We watched and waited and handed out water and welcomed people into the airconditioned bus with a bathroom all day as hundreds of small boats, mostly fishing rigs, were brought in and launched from the edge of the bridge as it disappeared into the floodwaters to search house to house. We were to wait and take survivors to the hospital. We received no survivors from that rescue effort. I did find out, in response to my stupid question, that the refrigerated trailers up ahead were being used for morgues. We ended up bringing a bus load of Katrina victims north to Tuscaloosa and Oneonta, a story too long for tonight, but suffice it to say we were determined to help somebody after that miserable Labor Day of waiting.

I've had a lot of great Labor Days, before and after Katrina, and the memories of that Labor Day in 2005 do not dominate my thoughts on this holiday. I usually think about it for a few minutes as something reminds me. But today it was a little more than usual.

It has been a crazy six years since then. Hurricanes, sunamis, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes . . .
So many people are still hurting, from Katrina, from Haiti, from Mississippi flooding, certainly still from Alabama, now from fires in Texas, and so many other places.

It's no time to forget or let up in helping people who have been hurt or suffered loss from these natural disasters.

Cause outside my window it doesn't seem like nature is ready to let up.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

A good day . . .

After rising from the sofa yesterday morning I took off for Nashville, where my two sons and one daughter in law live.  I drove slowly so that I could hear as much of the Alabama game on the radio as I could before getting out of range in Tennessee.  I wasn't moving slowly enough, so I stopped at Cracker Barrel at the

Athens exit and ordered pancakes with maple syrup, eggs and bacon.  Sugar slows me down, more accurately puts me to sleep, so the maple syrup on top of the white flour cakes really over-did the job.  Thank goodness for caffeine to even things out.

I heard the first half of the game before the rolling hills of south Tennessee blocked the propaganda being beamed in from its southern neighbor. That was enough.  Roll Tide.

I drove straight in to Nashville, to the Vanderbilt campus, where Vann lives.  Correction, I did not drive straight to where Vann lives.  I should have gone straight at that intersection, but his apartment building was right there on my left, so I turned.   And so did the police officer that was behind me.  Ironically, this was in the same area I was driving in a few weeks ago when I posted about the one-way sign.  Unfortunately this time there was a sign, but I didn't see it, it did not pulsate like the one-way sign.  And it said, according to the police officer,


The blue light came on. I think he was worried that I might floorboard it in the Prius and try to get away, with a burst of low voltage, but I did not. The officer was very professional and friendly. I told him that the building we were stopped beside with his blue light flashing was where my son lived and was about to come meet me any second.  He laughed and said, "Well that's gonna be kinda funny, isn't it."  He wasn't being a smart aleck, he was just saying what I was thinking too.  It took a while to check my license, apparently everyone back in Alabama was at a football game.  He came back to the car window and we talked awhile about where I was from.  He advised me that the license check might have gone a lot faster if I had not chosen to wear my University of Alabama shirt to the Vanderbilt campus on the first game day of the season.  Vann was on the sidewalk by now and waved.  The officer laughed and told me to observe the signs.  I wonder if he meant this sign or the One Way sign.  I think he meant all of them.  He was a nice guy.

Vann is a gracious fellow and did not overly enjoy the moment of his dad being stopped by the police. Instead we drove, carefully and obeying the traffic control devices, to "Noshville", a local eatery, where we talked and he ate lunch.  I was not hungry, still being full of Mama's Pancake Platter, but I had a chocolate milkshake just to be sociable.   It was a real soda fountain milkshake, the kind that is served in a thick parfait glass with whip cream and a cherry, with the extra in the metal milk shake machine container on the side.

Vann caught me up on his classes, He is taking eighteen hours so he can finish up this semester.  He reminded me of me a few years ago, talking about his professors who professed to be communist, or strained to be eccentric, and the unsettling thought that one's future lies in how one feels on the day the LSAT is given.  Things have changed though.  In one class he is required to tweet.  If we tweeted in class we would have been in trouble, or possibly taken to the infirmary, possibly Bryce's.  From there I took Vann back to campus to where the pre-game party had commenced. Vandy's game with Elon was at night, so it was going to be a long party.  He disappeared into a crowd of young girls in sun dresses, looking older than the last time I saw him.

The rest of the day was spent with Benjamin and Kate.  We went to the American Folk Festival, which was in Nashville this year.  I really thought it was going to be mostly exhibits of regional visual arts, and there were a few, like a man who carved figurines out of peach pits.  He had created a whole baseball park with fans in the stands and the teams on the field.  And there was a woman who created  collages out of old discarded metal. But it was mostly music venues .All kinds of music.  It seemed that we timed our walk around the park perfectly to miss whatever act was just finishing or coming up next, but we heard and saw bits and pieces of several.  And a flea circus.  It was a great, albeit painfully hot afternoon at Bicentennial Park.  As we left we visited the farmer's market which is next to the park.  If I lived in Nashville I would visit that place at least once a week.

Then it was back to Benjamin and Kate's house for dinner and more Football in America on TV (or whatever Benjamin kept saying) while playing guitar and singing Alleluia and playing the geography quiz and talking and devouring a bowl of a great healthy dip with chips and a little wine..  A typical visit.  But typical is really good.

This is not a post that takes a turn at the end and makes a point.

Except that I am a very blessed man.



Saturday, September 3, 2011

The games we play . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

I slept late this morning, which is a bad thing because for the past few weeks the only tolerable part of the Alabama day has been early in the morning.  I missed the early part of the morning. Hold on, let me check the weather . . .

Oh, it is still nice out, a good sign that things are changing.  So I'll take the laptop and do a remote post from the yard this morning, unless the dust that is now my yard starts getting into my computer.  Autumn is my favorite time of year, but I am afraid that by the time the leaves are supposed to be changing color they will have already died and fallen.  Maybe a hurricane will sling us some rain in the next few days.  It is supposed to happen.  A rainy Labor Day would be the best holiday we could get. Okay, I'm awake now. The coffee is poured and maybe I can think more clearly.  Sorry about the delay.

The University of Alabama plays football today. I am a fan.  I won't be going to T-town for the big Kent State rivalry, but it doesn't matter.  Having an Alabama game to listen to or watch as the normal Saturday stuff is getting done is just fun. And we will begin to see how the quarterback situation is going to unfold.

I love my Alabama football, and my Alabama basketball even more.  So by no means  take what I am about to write on a metaphorical level as a criticism of the joy some of us get from athletic contests.

We could learn a lot from athletic competition. Many of us have.  I think I learned as much from practicing and playing basketball for endless hours as I did in any classroom, not about the substance of knowledge, but about life.  In fact, some of the ancient athletic games were designed to teach competitors about strategies for battle.  And many of our favorite games still do, we just don't think about it much.

Football is the best example.  One team is attempting to advance across the opponent's territory, to reach the ultimate goal.  The advancing team explores and exploits the weaknesses of the other's defense, attempting head on assaults, moves around the flank, aerial advancements, and occasionally deception.

The defensive team does the same.  Sometimes playing it safe, playing it straight up, every man defending his turf, but other times becoming as aggressive as the offense, making unexpected moves, gambling on which decisions the offense will make in order to get there first and disrupt the plan.

It is a battle.  Face to face.  A battle for turf.  Each team trying to protect their own and take as much of the other as possible.

It can be a thing of beauty for some of us.  Seriously.  We all have our favorites. I have many, but in the recent past I will just remember  seeing former Alabama receiver Julio Jones rise above defenders and make a catch look easy that, had it been a lesser athlete, would have resulted in an easy interception for the defender.  Or, dare I say it being an Alabama fan, watching Auburn quarterback Cam Newton last year frustrate teams. He was really beyond description. But I am glad I got to see him, except for one particular half.

And in America our favorite games are based on that same basic principle.  Defend your turf. Invade and conquer  the opponent's.

But there are other athletic contests with a different principle.  The purest is track.  The runners line up and race to the goal, unimpeded by anything except their own limitations of physical strength, endurance, skill and will.  The external obstacles are not provided by the other human opponents, but by the natural forces of the world, gravity, friction, sometimes wind and weather, and the limitations of the human body.

And there is another radical difference in these other contests.  The performance of the opponent does nothing but inspire and force the other competitor to run faster.  The end result is that the effort of all of the competitors to achieve their personal best, pushes the winner to the best performance of all.

I enjoy it all, football, track and tiddly-winks.

But sometimes I wonder if our culture, our politics, our religions, could learn from attending a few more track meets along with our football.

Sometimes we suffer because everything becomes a turf war.

Sometimes it might be better if so much of our energy was not put into being an obstacle to our opponent, but rather to push our opponent to do his best by pushing ourselves to do our best.

But that only works if we are running toward the same goal.

And by the way.  Roll Tide.




Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fair minded . . .

I was reminded tonight of a memory.  The State Fair.

The conversation evoked an explosion of sensory memories, Aromas mixed and stirred by the late summer breeze, of hot dogs and hamburgers, brats and barbecue, cotton candy, popcorn and peanuts, the grease of the rides, the stench of the farm animals and their product, the sweat of the man who fastened me into the Ferris wheel, and occasionally the very unpleasant smell of someone who had lost all of the above foods after a ride on the Bullet.

The fair was a great place to have a private conversation.  There was so much noise,  The grinding and creaking of the rides that you prayed were in better shape than they sounded.  The calliope of the merry go round and the squeeze box carnival tunes.  The screams and laughter of children and young couples in love.  The patter of the guys who tempted you to come and throw rings at coke bottles, or balls at pins, or pick up ducks, or come in and see the pretzel woman or the two headed chicken.  The stern rebuke of mothers to their children who wanted to do any of the above. The moos of the cattle, the grunts of the hogs, the clucking of the chickens, the bleating of the goats and the baaing of the sheep.

And the sights.  The bright colored blinking light bulbs that outlined everything.  The rides that soared high into the darkness.  Families and couples and carnival  workers and farmers and young girls travelling in groups followed by young guys trying to cut one out of the group like a cowboy after a calf.  Rows and rows of vegetables and fruits in canning jars on display shelves, some sporting white, yellow, red, blue, or the coveted Grand Prize Best Bread and Butter Pickle in the Show ribbon.  The cows,pigs, sheep, goats, roosters and hens, ducks, rabbits and the occasional emu. The barkers standing outside the sideshows trying to make eye contact with a mark. The soft pastel clouds of cotton candy, the candy apples that dazzled like Dorothy's shoes, and the young men leaning over the games of chance that most thought had something to do with skill, sometimes with a girl beside them with a stuffed animal.

And lots of kids crying from having too much fun too late into the night on a load of too much sugar.

But mostly I enjoy the feelings.  The thrill of the carnival rides or the fact that you are on the ride with the girl that you wanted to come to the fair with and ride the scrambler or the Ferris wheel.  The fear of throwing up under those circumstances.  The guilt of wanting to disregard your mother's warnings not to go into those evil side shows, the ones with scantily clad women who had strange features or could supposedly do things that normal women could not. At that age I was not sure what was normal, but I sort of wanted to find out.  The excitement.  The pure, plain fun.  The contented weariness of the walk back to the car.

I miss that.  Thousands of folk, all made ordinary no matter their station in every day life,  because we were all at the fair enjoying this gaudy, authentic, wonder-filled display together. After all, a two headed chicken is a thrilling thing no matter how simple or sophisticated the observer.

We have some formidable problems in America these days.

Maybe it would help if we could all meet down at the fair.

It couldn't hurt.


Thurvey 9/1/2011

Since I am having difficulty finishing a post this week, I am bringing back the Thurvey after a month hiatus.  For those of you not familiar with the Thurvey, it is a Thursday survey.  The Thurvey provides you, the reader the opportunity to respond to a variety of questions, or in the last question option, to raise one of your own.  To answer a question merely type your comment in the box below, let us know your name after the comment if you wish, click anonymous, and follow the instructions.  If there is no comment box below, click on "comments" and it should appear.  If it is not working for you, comment on my facebook post or just give up.

#1   Scientists regularly report that a particular food, formerly thought of as bad, turns out to have health benefits.  What food do you wish to be declared a health super-food, and what benefits would you like for it to confer?

#2    If you could have only five songs on your ipod or like device, what would they be?  Why?  If there were one song that you could erase from the library of songs of the world, what would it be?  Why?

#3   What is your idea of the perfect Autumn Saturday?

#4   Do you believe science?  (you know, evolution, climate change, gravity, etc.)  Explain.  Be careful if you have political ambition.

#5   Which Republican would you choose to be President?  Why?

#5  What question of your own would you like to be answered this week?

Real Time Analytics