Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thurvey Sequestions 2/28/2013

Time for the Thurvey . . . Thursday Survey.  In an effort to remain relevant, we will be answering sequestions this week.  Anyway, to relieve the stress of impending doom, simply vent your feelings by answering any or all of the Thurvey sequestions below, placing them in the comment box, click on anonymous, then click on publish, and send them off into cyberspace for someone else to deal with.  If the comment box does not appear below this post, click on the little "comments" below.  If it still does not appear I would suggest a hot bath and a glass of wine.  That's probably a good idea in either case.

#1  Muscle Shoals is receiving some much deserved recognition through a documentary of the same name being featured at the Sundance Film Festival.  The documentary highlights the amazing history of the small northwest Alabama town as a giant in  American music recording history.  Alabama has a rich musical history.  What or who is your favorite musician with ties to Alabama?  Or, where is your favorite live music venue in Alabama?

#2  Shelby County, Alabama, is in the national news this week, its petition to challenge the Voting Rights Act of 1965 being argued before the U. S. Supreme Court. (Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder).  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires, among other things, that states which have exhibited discriminatory voting practices obtain prior approval from the U. S. Department of Justice before making any changes that might affect voters rights.   Do you think the Voting Rights Act has had a positive or negative effect on the country?  Do you think it is still needed?  Do you think it should be done away with, or perhaps do you think it should be applied to the entire country rather than limited places?  

#3  Sequestration.  Just say what you feel.

#4  A brouhaha broke out in the Alabama State Senate today. There was cursing and shouting and accusations of sleaziness.  Basically the legislature has voted to give a tax credit to parents who take their children our of "failing" public schools and put them in private schools. They sort of did it in a sneaky way. Big shock.  Check it out on the brouhaha link if you want to know more.  This legislative session is swiftly moving along.  Lots of education, guns, abortion, predatory lending, taxes, and other bills being considered.  Surely you have one thing you would like your state government to do for you. What is it?

#5  A common theme, not very subtle, in this session of the Alabama Legislature, has been disdain for the United States.  Do you think this disdain for our country is justified?

#6  I believe Alabama and Auburn will both win the rest of their games in the SEC Men's basketball season this year, and one of them will win the SEC Tournament.  I believe that Congress and the President will come together, hold hands and settle the sequester stand-off.  I believe the traffic on 280 will flow freely from now on. No one else will be killed off on Downton Abbey.  Frank Underwood will donate his House of Cards for a homeless shelter.  Privet and kudzu will become cash crops.   I am intentionally being overly optimistic because maybe we need to be a little optimism.  What will you be willing to be optimistic about, against all odds .  .  . and reason?

#7  How do you get rid of Privet?

#8  What question do you want answered this week?


Monday, February 25, 2013

Alabama Ghosts

It has been over one hundred years since the cartpetbaggers and scalawags ruled Alabama after the Civil War.   It has been over forty years since Governor George Wallace flamed the fires of bigotry and justified a pride in ignorance by proclaiming that "no pointy headed northern intellectuals" were going to come down here and tell us what to do in Alabama.

The War of Northern aggression is over.  If the South, more particularly Alabama, is to "rise again", it is necessary to cut the cruel chains that anchor us to our burdensome past as certainly as the chains of slavery had to be broken before we could move into the future one hundred and fifty years ago.

It is sad that we cannot change history.  The good people of Alabama held the keys to unlock those most sinful chains of slavery voluntarily.  But our great- great-great grandfathers would not do it.  So those damn yankees  came down and forced us to.  Not in a very intellectual way.  The only pointy thing about it was at the tip of a bayonet or knife.

Here is an interesting historical note that is often lost.  In fact, I didn't realize until a few minutes ago.

In January, 1861, a Constitutional Convention was called by A.B. Moore, Governor of Alabama  to consider secession from the United States, the petition for secession passed.

But it was not unanimous.

It passed 61 to 39.

Hmmmm.  Those numbers sound familiar.

Romney - 60.5 percent.   Obama - 38.4 percent.   2012 U. S. Presidential election results.

The Alabama Legislature knows it cannot afford to secede from the union.  Literally. We can't afford it. The state would go bankrupt tomorrow without federal money.

And so, it does what it can to hang onto the past.  An example.

Common Core is a program to establish educational criteria for K-12, and adopted by the Alabama Board of Education.  It is under attack by the Alabama Legislature.  Proponents of the attack say that Common Core is an effort by the Federal government to take over public education in the States. They also claim that the radical Alabama State Board of Education is disclosing individual student's scores and data to the federal government. In an article on Alabama Live today it is reported that lawmakers claim the Board of Education is lying. They say CC is an arm of the federal "race to the top" educational initiative.  They are fighting this noble battle to protect our sovereign state from this insipid ploy of the demon federal government to take over the minds of Alabama children..

But all that is a lie.  Or inexcusable ignorance.

Common Core was formulated as a joint venture among states. Approved and supported by the National Association of Governors, which is majority Republican.   No federal government involvement. It is voluntary. Not required to be linked to Race to the Top, and it is not so linked in Alabama. .  Alabama gives no individual student data to the federal government.  The Superintendent of Huntsville's schools expressed his dismay over the attempt to outlaw Common core in a recent article.

The new civil war.  Education, health care, voting rights, and whatever else the demagogues on goat hill can find to decry the march of the United States of America into the lives of Alabamians and defend our constitutional right to remain ignorant.

Unless it is the money we need just to keep the State house open. U. S. currency is one immigrant we have no trouble giving amnesty.

Because Confederate money ain't worth a nickel anymore.

But I'm not giving up. 60 percent wasn't everybody during the secession convention.  And it isn't now.

Alabama will rise again.

As soon as our leaders quit rattling the old chains, and get rid of them forever.

And the rest of us quit being afraid of ghosts.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Showers of blessings . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee

It has been awhile since I have had a Saturday morning with time to write. Or time for the sofa. Coffee, on the other hand, or either hand, or both hands sometimes, is mobile, and so, I have not failed to enjoy at least one-third of my week-end morning ritual.

I stay pretty het up these days with sequestration politics and all.  But the het upness is even hotter when the Alabama legislature is in session.  There is so much opportunity for elation or disappointment, depending on how things turn out. The Alabama legislature and Governor Bentley have a bushel of important matters before them.  I will be writing about those issues  in the next few days, things that will greatly affect our great state's future in education, in addressing poverty, inequality and justice, the environment, and the economy.  I  hope you will join me in asking questions and voicing opinions. The actions or inactions of our state government really do matter in our everyday lives and in our children's futures..   It really does no good to complain after the votes are cast. Legislators really do respond to strong public opinion. If they are told what it really is. Your voice matters.

But this is Saturday. Those things must wait. Only till tomorrow. . But they must wait for today.

I haven't had time to do the necessary Saturday things for weeks, which means the list of things to do is pretty long.

But first on the list is fixing the water heater.  Some folks call it a hot water heater.  That is redundant in any case.  But in the case of my particular water heater, it is also a misnomer at the present. I suppose it would most aptly be deemed to be a little bit of water heater.

 My long, hot morning shower is the cocoon into which I retreat each morning to transform from a sluggish, nasty, sleepy caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly.  Okay, the hot water is not that magical, but, generally, I do emerge through the bamboo designed shower curtain as a passable, awake human, shed of the arthritic pains that accumulated overnight,  ready to suit up and head out into the big world.

But, a couple of weeks ago, I stepped from the cold morning air (I like to sleep with the heat off in a different cocoon otherwise known as my blanket laden bed), into the shower.  It was hot enough. I lathered up, applied the shampoo, and began to shave my face. Yes, I shave in the shower.  I was basically blind for much of my life, so a mirror was never any use to me in shaving. At about two minutes into my transformation process, there was an almost imperceptible change, a change that evokes dread in the heart of any dedicated showerer.  The water seemed to be just a little cooler.  Through soap covered eyes I hopefully reached to cut the cold water off a little.  A few seconds later my greatest fears were realized.  The water was ice-cold.  I was still covered with soap and my face was half-shaven.  There was no choice but to rinse off in the refreshing frigid cascade which would have made Coors brewers envious.  I had to finish shaving with cold water in the sink.  I cut myself three times.  How does anyone shave that way?

I have been ridiculously busy for the past couple of weeks.  Too busy to fix my shower. So every morning I adjusted my behavior, rushing through the morning transformation process.  No longer was my shower a warm, comforting cocoon, but a cruel stopwatch, clicking off a countdown of seconds until I was thrust into an arctic hell.  Yes, it was that bad.  I shaved at the sink.  The water was still cold, but at least my exposure was limited.  It was so bad that my hot shower at Camp Sumatanga last week-end seemed like a spa.

I could just learn to live with it.   I could save the few dollars for a new heating element, the scraped knuckles I inevitably get when I fix things, and a couple of precious Saturday afternoon hours, and just leave it the way it is.   The heating element that still works is fine to heat up a few gallons in the tank, even if the remaining water remains untouched, remains icily cold. I could learn to live with it.  And my friends could just get used to me being more cranky and cut up than I used to be.

But that is just silly. My water heater is plenty big enough to provide good, long hot showers for me and several others if need be.

So, I'll get to work. As James Taylor so famously said, you gotta shower the people you love with love." Maybe I can do that better if I have my hot shower.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thurvey 2/21/2013

It is Thursday.  And time for the ultimate survey.  The Thurvey.

The Thurvey is a carefully calibrated instrument for taking the temperature of above average Americans, also known as the readers of this blog, on the hot issues of the week.

Answer any or all of the questions below, in any form you wish, by commenting on this post. You do that by entering your Thurvey responses in the comment box below and following the instructions.  If the comment box does not appear, click on the word "comments" below this post and the box should open up.

1.  The State of Alabama has a marketing problem.  It seems that every week we make the national news as being the most obese, poorest, worst place to be a child,  most likely to end sentences with prepositions, or some other dubious top-ten or championship title.  While I am sure our legislature is working to resolve some of these issues, it might make sense to do some positive marketing.  What positive attribute would you promote about Alabama if you could get the attention of the national media?  Sorry, but football at all levels is excluded from this question.  It is too easy and really just makes the rest of the country mad.  Suggest a marketing strategy if you wish.

2.  Just among us Alabamians, we do face some tough issues which we need to address.  The legislature is meeting right now.  As usual they are focusing on taking courageous stands for motherhood, the flag, and apple pie.  Tell them what you want done the most. Hopefully you will be more courageous than them.   I promise I will make sure your answer is delivered to them and to the governor, unless the delivery of it violates some law. If you want to do a little reading on what they're up to, here are a couple of helpful summaries. Alabama Live    Alabama Arise.  If you are not familiar with Alabama Arise, it is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting public policy to address issues of poverty, which is also good for those of us more fortunate..

3.  Millions of dollars are available from the federal government for the expansion of Medicaid in Alabama. Governor Bentley has indicated he will not take the money.  Should Alabama take the money or not?

4.  Seems like the nation is about to drive off another fiscal cliff.  Perhaps we should trade in our drones for hang-gliders for everyone.  Anyway, have you paid attention to the "sequestration" problem at all?  If not, why?  If so, why?  What would you suggest to resolve this and like issues?  Vent if it makes you feel better. I cannot promise, but I will try to deliver you responses to Congress and the President, assuming I can do so without upsetting Homeland Security. For a little background, if you need it, Ezra Klein is usually straightforward and amusing.

5.  I recently watched all nine episodes of "House of Cards" and have become semi-addicted to "Downton Abbey", activities which I really didn't see coming.  What popular culture offerings are you investing your time in?

6.  I recently spent a week-end at Camp Sumatanga, the United Methodist Camp in North Alabama, just outside Gallant, Alabama.  It is and has been a "place of rest and vision" for me and tens of thousands of people. Where in Alabama are your favorite places of rest and vision?

7.  What question do you want answered this week?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

No hole in the apple for Governor Bentley on this one . . .

Governor Bentley has proposed that Alabama's budget for voluntary pre-kindergarten education be increased by 65 percent.  An increase of this amount would raise the percentage of Alabama's four year olds attending public pre-k from 6 percent to almost ten percent.  A recent story posted on the governor's website told of the governor visiting some of the pre-k's as part of his push to expand the program.

According to the story, Alabama's voluntary pre-k model is one of the top programs in the nation.  Access to the program has not been nearly so successful.  It appears that Governor Bentley is pushing hard to address that problem.

The governor has indicated that the expense of the program prohibits immediate expansion to one hundred percent of the state's children, but it is his stated goal to gradually expand it to do so with incremental budget expansions.

Thank-you Governor.

I have been critical of some of the Governor's policies.  But tonight, I want to give credit where credit is due.

I have not analyzed the program or the policies that back it up.  I am sure someone will be against it for some reason.

But, it appears that in this instance, the Governor has recognized that we are on the right track with something, and is doing what he can to help it be even better, even as our State is financially strapped. He did not insist on getting it all done in one year. I am sure he wishes that were possible. Instead, as the conservative that he is, he chose the slower approach.  It is the wise thing to do.

President Obama, in his State of the Union address a few weeks ago, listed universal pre-k as one of his legislative goals.

But this time it appears that Alabama is ahead of much of the rest of the nation in doing something good, something that the rest of the nation recognizes as excellent.

And that feels good.

It is a feeling I want to get used to.

As one who often discourages the Governor from certain actions, I want to encourage him on such positive leadership.  And I hope you will too.  Go to the Governor's contact page to do so. Do it now.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Posts of Valentine's past . . .

I've been posting a good bit lately, and I hope you will feel free to check the last five or six to see if you missed them. I liked the Groundhog Day post, but I think it got lost in the frenzy of the holiday.   Maybe you want to leave it that way, that's okay.  It is Valentine's Day today.  I wrote a couple of posts three years ago on the subject, which I looked back at today. Still some relevance there.   I don't have time to write tonight so I've posted the links to the 2009 posts below. Happy Valentine's Day, y'all.

Valentine's Musings

Valentine's Shopping Follow-up

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Consider the sparrow, how it tweets . . .

I made a joke today.

I was chatting about the use of hash tags on twitter and how that has migrated to face book and other social media to identify and index common themes and topics.

And then I was talking about going to the Ash Wednesday service at church for the traditional imposition of ashes at the beginning of Lent.

And I hadn't eaten much today after a big sugar load last night, so I was a little light-headed.

So, I  tweeted that I was going to a contemporary Ash Wednesday service, and, after the imposition, I would be leaving with an Ash tag.

Get it?  An Ash tag.  Instead of hash tag.

I'll give you a second to recover.

But it's more than a joke.

Many of us are familiar with Ash Wednesday as being the day which begins a time of intentional deprivation, such as fasting, which justifies the excess that we pack in on the preceding Fat Tuesday, more commonly called Mardi Gras.  Thanks to Bonnie and Justin I celebrated Mardi Gras with gluttony, mostly hot chocolate chip cookies. And their children ran through the house naked.  But that's pretty much an every night kind of thing at the Peavies.   Not exactly Bourbon Street.  But it was excessively fun, so it will do for this year.

Ash Wednesday actually marks the beginning of Lent, a period of forty days prior to Easter Sunday, excluding interim Sundays.  In Church tradition, Lent is a time of repentance, reflection and preparation.  Ash Wednesday emphasizes the recognition of our sinfulness and humanity, our repentance, and God's perfecting forgiveness.

So, all over the world, in all kinds of churches, praying in all kinds of languages, we walk to the altar and stand or kneel in front of a pastor or priest, who finger paints the mark of the cross with ashes on our foreheads, in a now ancient remembrance of our common plight.

The Ash Tag looks a little different than the hash tag.


And we remember who we are supposed to be following.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Reading is fundamental? Make that Ruger . . .

According to a report on Alabama Live The Alabama House of Representatives will take considerable time Tuesday debating a proposed constitutional amendment which will firm up Alabama's citizens' right to bear arms.  The right is and always has been set forth simply and clearly in our State Constitution.   Section 25 of the Constitution of Alabama states:

 "That every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state."

  But, now it is being proposed that the right to bear arms is . . .


The State of Alabama will have an obligation, even more than it already does, to protect the right to own, possess and use your weapon of choice. Any attempted restrictions would  be viewed with "strict scrutiny" by the courts.  The highest scrutiny there is.    That right is fundamental to an Alabamian.

In the article, there was a quote from the legislator proposing the amendment:

"It establishes it as a fundamental right. Those are the rights we hold in highest regard and we want to make sure that the government doesn't intrude upon that," said Rep. Mike Jones, the Andalusia Republican who is sponsoring the bill.

You know what is not a right in Alabama?  Much less a fundamental right?

Public education for children.

Throughout the history of Alabama legislators and governors have strained to prevent our children from having a constitutional right to public education.  That would raise all kinds of messy lawsuits regarding inequality in educational opportunity and, heaven forbid, the possibility that some court may require that the state provide more money to address that inequality in opportunity.

Section 256 of the Alabama Constitution states:

"It is the policy of the state of Alabama to foster and promote the education of its citizens in a manner and extent consistent with its available resources, and the willingness and ability of the individual student, but nothing in this Constitution shall be construed as creating or recognizing any right to education or training at public expense, nor as limiting the authority and duty of the legislature, in furthering or providing for education, to require or impose conditions or procedures deemed necessary to the preservation of peace and order. The legislature may by law provide for or authorize the establishment and operation of schools by such persons, agencies or municipalities, at such places, and upon such conditions as it may prescribe, and for the grant or loan of public funds and the lease, sale or donation of real or personal property to or for the benefit of citizens of the state for educational purposes under such circumstances and upon such conditions as it shall prescribe. Real property owned by the state or any municipality shall not be donated for educational purposes except to nonprofit charitable or eleemosynary corporations or associations organized under the laws of the state. To avoid confusion and disorder and to promote effective and economical planning for education, the legislature may authorize the parents or guardians of minors, who desire that such minors shall attend schools provided for their own race, to make election to that end, such election to be effective for such period and to such extent as the legislature may provide."

So, to put it simply, we in Alabama hold the right to our guns in the  "highest regard", as Representative Jones so nobly stated.  

And we hold the right of our children to equal opportunity in no regard.

In fact the only right regarding the education of our children that is contained in our Constitution is the right not to send our children to school with children of other races.  

I cannot imagine a lower regard for education, and more pathetically, for our children.

But at least now, our children can carry their weapon of choice in their school of choice.  Surely the legislature would not dare deny our children that sacred, fundamental right.

Because with the shape they've let our schools get in, they will probably need them.

And then they will be in juvenile.

But there's no money for that either, so, no big deal.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

They knew me not . . . Matthew 25 again

 I was reminded yesterday by an unlikely person about some important things.  The fact that I think he was an unlikely person is an indictment of me.  He reminded me of some basic things about our faith, like love and forgiveness, and how those things are more powerful than hate and vengeance.

I was also reminded by that experience of some things that Jesus said.  The least shall become greatest.  The last shall be first.  The weak shall be strong.  Bring the children close to me, do not keep them away. Feed the hungry, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, stand with the oppressed.and the widow.  Whatever you do to the least of these, my children, you do to me. Yeah, I'm back to Matthew 25 again. 

It shouldn't bother too many readers that I am talking about what Jesus said in the Bible. Most of you are from Alabama, or at least the southern U. S., which is the second Holy Land.  We believe in Jesus.  We believe in everything the Bible says. We wear it on our t-shirts and display it on our bumpers. Sometimes we even tattoo it on our bodies.

That is why we understand how it's going to be at the end times.  We've read the eternal script..

We know we are right, and alright, cause it says so, right there in the scripture. We have the keys to the kingdom.

We know it by heart.  John 14:6 says:

:Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Sorry about the rest of  you. We are part of an exclusive club.  Nobody's getting to heaven without meeting Jesus.

Who knows what that really means?  Okay, that was rhetorical, you can put your hands down, or comment at the end of the post if you wish.  

I got sort of a different mental picture yesterday as I sat still at the end of a rough afternoon..  A picture of Jesus, welcoming people just outside of heaven.  There wasn't any way to get through without going right by him.  He was having a great time with everyone coming home.

And then as I got closer I noticed who else was there with Jesus.  Lots of children.  Laughing, giggling, cutting up. But there were others there as well. Adults. But they were smiling and laughing almost as much as the children. Some had on prison orange. Many were Latino.  There were African Americans and white folks too. People of all races and ages and description.  Some were seated at a picnic table, putting away the groceries as if they hadn't eaten in weeks. Others were jumping and dancing, as if they had not partied in years.

As I approached, Jesus called out my name in welcome.  He seemed glad to see me.

"Here comes Bob,"  Jesus said.  "Y'all know him don't you?  He's from Alabama, too.  I am sure you've met, cause I told him to take care of you. I told him to love you.  Surely you remember when he came to feed you on the streets of Birmingham. Or when he came to repair your houses down in the Black Belt. Or when he visited you in jail or the hospital.  I told him that you were there." 

"Or maybe you know him because he spoke out loudly to the powerful when there was no money to pay for your school or your doctor, or they tried to make life miserable for you so that you would go home, or taxed your groceries so folks more well off didn't have to pay more taxes.  I know I let him know about your problems."

"I know he knew about you.  He prayed for you sometimes."

The crowd around Jesus became quiet and looked at me in silence.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Food for thought . . .plus nine percent sales tax

How do you feel about food?

I love food.  I believe beets may be the last food that I have a distaste for and I am working on it.  Acquiring that taste is taking a bit longer than others, but it will happen.  I like the taste of food. I like the smell of food. I love preparing food while I watch the news.  I like thinking about which food I'm going to eat next, a thought that helps me through my days.   I like getting to know someone while preparing food. . It is food that sometimes makes certain conversations easier to digest. Relationships grow over shared food.  Super bowls are better with food.  Food makes me jump higher and run faster.  Food is interesting.

And it is necessary to sustain life.

How do you feel about taxes?

I don't like taxes.  I know they are a necessary evil, but I don't like them.  I don't like it when I do my tax return as a small business owner and discover that, short of winning a lottery, I am going to have trouble coming up with the money.  Taxes cause stress.  Taxes are not good for relationships.  Taxes are complex.  Taxes are not interesting. Taxes are taxing.

Food is necessary for life.

Taxes are a necessary evil.

The state of Alabama collects sales tax on food.

Alabama takes money that you should be paying for groceries for your family to fund the state government.

Surely this is something that every Alabamian is against.

Maybe not.  If we were all against it, surely our food would not be taxed.

It's just not right.  We should stand up and make noise about it.  It's kind of like the original Boston Tea Party.

But that name has been used, and a little misleading in our present situation, geographically speaking.

We could call it the "Alabama Food Fight."  Or "Food Fighters" and we could get the Foo Fighters to do us a theme song.

I like these ideas, but I'm not married to them.  Let me know if you can do better. Popcorn people, popcorn. Pop out those ideas.  Or actual popcorn, another food I love, but is taxed.

If I can't reach you through your stomach, let me aim for your heart.

Lower income Alabamians, many working very hard at full-time low paying jobs, pay between six and ten percent sales tax on groceries.   Some probably have to make decisions on what they can eat, or what they can feed their family, based upon the six to ten percent loss of buying power due to the Alabama Sales tax on food.

Many also pay Alabama income tax.

Rich Alabamians also pay the sales tax on food.  But they generally pay little or no Alabama income tax.

That's just not right.  It is not good.  It cannot be morally justified.

I believe it is one good thing most Alabamians can agree upon.


Let's do something good.  Our legislature is in session now.  We should not wait another year.

Because Bama's better than that.

For a far better explanation of the problem, read this.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

On Ground Hog Day, come out and play . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

Happy Groundhog Day. I apologize for not getting out Groundhog Day cards this year.  I was afraid of leaving someone out.

I like Ground Hog day because the notion is just fun. No big deal, nobody takes it seriously, yet inevitably we all take notice of it for a few moments.  Perhaps the good natured interest continues because of our annual winter weariness and longing for the promise of the slowly arriving spring. That thought certainly crossed my mind as I stayed under the covers this morning dreading the twenty feet or so between me and the thermostat, which I have been cutting off since getting my power bill a couple of months ago. Plus, I just sleep better in the arctic cold.  I think my ancestors must have been bears rather than monkeys. I think my fore-animals must have trod the frozen tundra rather than the tropics.  Hibernation is something I enjoy, until I have to awaken, get up, and start foraging for coffee.  Come to think of it I must be of mixed heritage, since coffee is more of a tropical product, and that is also something I seem to innately like.  But I digress.  That's okay, because this is Saturday, after all.

Even though I do not buy into the myth, each year something inside of me hopes that the Groundhog will overcome fear, that he or she will stand up, shadow or not, and declare that no shadow is worth wasting time, and begin planting pansies.

It's just a shadow, after all.  And his or her own shadow at that.

In his first inaugural address in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said:

"This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. 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.   .   ."

Others have spoken of fear.  Fear not. Be not afraid.  There is no fear in love.  Love casts out fear. Those are from the Bible.  And then there is the great philosopher Babe Ruth:

"Don't let the fear of striking out keep you from stepping up to the plate."

The Creator wired  all of us animals, from the simplest to the most complex, to have involuntary reactions to perceived dangers.  Like deer in the headlights, unfortunately  frozen to avoid detection.  Or an injured owl, trying to rip to shreds any and everything in sight, including the hands of its rescuer and healer..

Sometimes fear can save our lives.  Sometimes it keeps us from being saved, or saving ourselves.

Groundhogs and deer and owls and amoebas can't help it.  They have little choice but to give into their instinctual responses to fear. Sometimes the result is survival.  Sometimes the result is a needless injury or death.

But humankind is different.  We are blessed to have the intellect to choose against the instinctual reactions to fear. We can overcome paralysis, make ourselves move.  We can deny the instinct to lash out in violence.

These cold dark days are becoming wearisome.  It is time to overcome the fears cause us to react with paralysis or mindless, indiscriminate violence.

It is time for spring, and new life, a new creation.

So what are we afraid of?

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