… was the son of a preacher man

Every now and then I get a really gay song stuck in my head, like “I’ve Never Been to Me” or “Son of a Preacher Man”, and I might hum or whistle the tune. When I was younger, if I caught myself doing that, I’d be mortified.

Oh My GOD, these people might think I’m gay! Should I kill them? Should I kill myself? Oh what I do? How can I go on?

It took 30 years and civil rights movement but finally, I don’t give a fuck if someone thinks I’m gay. So I can just hum away.

… yes he was, yes he was, yes he wahuzz …

The Farmer is Not in All of Us.

Maybe I was just in a bad mood about the way the game was going, but I might be the only one in the world who was annoyed by Dodge’s “farmer in all of us” commercial. It was nice to hear praise for people who work hard and sacrifice, but I don’t see the “farmer in” anyone who drives a three ton vehicle to the office. If you want to be a farmer, work on a farm. Just like if you want to be a soldier, see your recruiter. But if you’re thinking of spending 30 to 50 grand on a 4wd quad cab (like the one on TV) than you’re more into making money and showing it off than in making sacrifices and living rough. Most farmers can’t afford a brand new Ram anyway, so the real farmer in you would more likely get a used Dakota. At least that’s what the farmer in me bought. And I still drive the Camry (made in America) when I can because it’s safer for me and for others on the road and it uses less gas.

Santa for Seniors, Driver Days, and my Periodic Republican Attitude Adjustment

Every now and then I get to thinking that Republicans are just a bunch of mean, stupid lowlifes and I get ready to write a nasty post saying just that. Several weeks of dishonest smears by phone and by mail, along with a few stories about stolen or vandalized yard signs, canvassers getting an earful of racist and jingoistic nonsense, and a weekend in the Organizing for America tent at Driver Days in Suffolk, Virginia, can do that to a Democrat. Fortunately, before I finish such a post, I usually meet someone who reminds me that there are truly good people who don’t agree with me about important issues. This weekend, during Driver Days, that person was Deneen Evans, a representative of Home Instead Senior Care, and a good, compassionate person who will probably vote for Romney.

Deneen Evans speaking with visitors at Home Instead tent at fair.
Deneen Evans with Visitors, and Staff Coordinator Kathie Czerwinski

Driver Days is a street festival in the Driver neighborhood of Suffolk. It’s a nice festival, and I don’t want to scare anybody away from having fun in the good city of Suffolk, but the festival can be a little disheartening when looking at it from behind a table covered with Obama, Kaine, and Ella Ward literature. A big part of Driver days is a celebration of the confederacy, and not all of the confederates there are the “heritage not hate” types, unless you can convince me that the bumper sticker about picking cotton is actually some kind of an apology. Most of the people who passed by our booth this year were carrying Romney signs and wearing confederate flags.

Confederate Bikers walking near Confederate Memorabilia Tent at Fair

There were a good number of Democrats who stopped by, including a couple of bikers and guy with a big confederate patch on the front of his straw hat, but the Driver festival is, by far, Republican territory and the dirty looks and occasional rude comments from the Romney supporters can really lower someone’s opinion about Republicans.

It was nice to have a friendly native nearby. Home Instead had the spot next to ours, and Deneen and I had a lot of time to chat about politics, Suffolk, and the kind of care, or lack of it, that many seniors are receiving today. One of the things we discussed were the bleak conditions of a local assisted living facility which used to be called Nub Jones, but recently changed it’s name to Oakwood. Deneen not only works for a Senior Care company, she is a volunteer and an advocate for her company’s Be a Santa to a Senior drive, for which Home Instead collects gifts and distributes to them to seniors living in nursing homes such as Oakwood.

This year, as last, the Walmart on Main Street will have a gift giving tree for collecting donated gifts from customers. Here’s how it works (shortened, from the website).

  • Remove an ornament from the tree
  • Purchase the gift
  • Bring ornament and gift back to store and give to a store employee

Deneen and I won’t agree on the best way, as a nation, to ease the suffering of seniors who can’t afford an appropriate level of companionship and medical attention in the last years of their lives, but we do agree that something has to be done.

There is an article about the Be a Santa to a Senior program in the Suffolk News-Herald.

You’ve probably passed by one of those trees. It’s one of those things most of us ignore while filling our carts with corn-syrupy food products and Chinese made plastic trinkets. This year, take a little time to look at the tree and do something to help out. A small gift can make a big difference in the life of a lonely senior.

Repair the World

My previous post was short and rude but I’ve been a bit distracted lately.

My son is in love with a woman who he has never met. I have proven that she is not who she claims to be but he rejects my proof an continues to believe the silly fantasy that she is telling him. She is affecting his work and I’m afraid he’ll soon loose his job. My truck blew its water pump and I just spend a large amount of money getting it fixed. But afterward, it sounded like a dirt bike because of a bad fan clutch. Sasha and I parked the truck back at the car shop over the weekend so the mechanic could look at it when the shop opened, but while the truck was parked at the shop, the car broke down on the entrance ramp to 64 off of Greenbrier. Sasha and I got towed 50 miles back to the shop and swapped the car for the truck and drove the truck back home. The washing machine is broken. I tried to fix it but gave up, in part because we’ve been wanting to replace it for a while. But we haven’t been able to look at used washing machines because the truck is broken. This past couple of weeks also included poison ivy, 12 hours of driving to Maine and 12 hours back, the start of a new semester, and eight pigs ignoring the zap of the electric fence and running around freely, tearing up our yard.

In the middle of this bizarre few weeks, Sasha got “Machine Gun Preacher” from Netflix, and despite all of my extraordinary events, I realize that nothing bad has actually happened to me.

It’s hard to put the realization that I am not unlucky into proper context. While I shouldn’t wallow in self-pity, I should also avoid saying, “There but for the grace of God go I” because that phrase is one of the most extraordinarily self-centered phrases ever spoken. The Glory of God is not proven by the fact that such terrible things happen to other people that my own troubles pale in comparison. Terrible things happen not because God wants me to count my blessings, but because the world is broken. And the lesson that we should take from that fact isn’t that we should be thankful, but that we have an obligation to repair the world. My crime isn’t lack of appreciation but lack of action.

“Repair the world” is a Jewish phrase, “tikkun olam” in Hebrew. Despite my heritage, I had to look it up. I was reminded of it when it was used in another movie, “Leaves of Grass”. Watching such a horrifying movie as “Machine Gun Preacher” at a time when I felt I was worthy of pity has renewed my commitment to repair the world.

In the movie, Sam Childers looses balance between obligations to his family and his mission to help those who desperately need it. I don’t know how to find that balance, myself. I don’t see myself traveling around the world and fighting vicious militants who are breaking everything. Perhaps it’s enough to shed light on some of the horror and toss a few bucks to the people who are doing something about it. But while I may never figure out the perfect balance, I do know that self-pity isn’t part of the formula.

A Busy Couple of Days For Me

This week started with some family struggles concerning my son. I won’t go into details but he missed a couple of days of work and we’ve been fighting about him living in the house as a bum. It involves a girl, and it’s still ongoing.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Some time around Monday, I picked up some poison ivy – a pretty bad case all over both arms. That’s also still ongoing.

On Wednesday, there was a reception for Ella Ward, and I awkwardly refused to shake anyone’s hand for fear of giving away what was rightfully mine.

Thursday, still with itchy arms, I drove my daughter 650 miles to the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. We stopped in Massachusetts overnight and arrived Friday morning. When I was able, I did some website updates for Virginia CURE and worked on the invite for a fundraising event for Ella Ward, (which will be rescheduled to September so if you click on the link and it still says “August 27th”, wait for the new date).

I stayed with my daughter for a few hours of check-in and unpacking and then, in part because of the aforementioned problems with my son, rather than staying another night I turned around and drove all the way back, and got home in time to make sure he went to work this morning.

Then I took a three hour nap.

This afternoon, at 2:00, I have a get together with the Suffolk Democratic Committee to host at the OFA office on Main Street. You’re all invited, contributions are requested. Following the get together will be an OFA Open house, and if I’m still standing I’ll say a few words about phone banking and data entry.

Memorial Day

I rarely do much for Memorial Day and I find it perverse that the day should be be dedicated to cookouts and sales. Each year I see more and more messages about how we should take time to remember those who have fallen on our behalf. In my opinion, it’s not enough to overcome the perversion.

I wouldn’t mind celebrating in honor of our fallen fighters, if it were like one of those New Orleans or Irish funerals that I see on T.V. (never actually been to one), where part of the day is spent mourning and part of the day is spent creating joy. But that’s not what we do here. During Memorial day the joy is due to having a long weekend during the Spring and mourning is nothing more than a break in the celebration. What we should be doing is celebrating the bravery and sacrifice of our heroes and then, as an aside, enjoying the long weekend. The difference may be subtle to an observer, but it’s a matter of aligning priorities.

As for me, since I don’t much of either, I perhaps shouldn’t talk. I’m spending the day like any other, and taking a moment to write a blog post. If I were at a cookout right now, I’d probably be a bit of wet blanket, so perhaps it’s best that I’m home.

I don’t agree with every war and while I take the time to remember those who have sacrificed everything for my freedom, I also take the time to remember that innocent people die when we drop bombs or shoot at buildings. For me, the day must be at least a little bit sad so that we are motivated to reduce, as much as possible, the horrible practice of using our military to solve our conflicts.

I won’t be spending the day visibly mourning the fallen, watching parades, or visiting cemeteries, but I will use this day to remember the sacrifices of better people than I and to contemplate the horror of war.

So that’s my Memorial Day message. Don’t just take a moment to honor those who have fallen, take the day to do so, and take a moment to enjoy the day.

Back to School

I’ve been going back to school, and I feel like a kid. I took a class in American History, from Jamestown to the Civil War. The lectures were three hours long, but the course was only eight weeks. I fell behind in my on-line calculus course and have been struggling to catch up. Other activities, like blogging, had to stop for a while.

I had no interest in history when I was in high school. Now I’m fascinated. Perhaps watching this country split into kind of factions that predated the Civil War is making me realize the importance of information that I used to consider useless.

Here’s a couple of things that I learned in history class. Of course this is filtered through my instructor’s bias, and filtered again through my own bias, attention, and interpretation.

) The Indians weren’t the ecological saints that a lot of us think they were. Many of them were very wasteful. They engaged in clear-cutting, hunted more than they could use, and caused a lot of environmental damage.

) “Indian Nation” is not just a politically correct way of saying “Indian Tribe”. It’s an apt description of what, in many cases, were large, complex, unique, and functional societies.

) Champions for the little guy, like Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, were generally pro-slavery and anti-Indian. You should be careful when you choose your early American heroes.

) Although the emancipation proclamation was a purely symbolic document which didn’t really free anyone, it’s still true that Lincoln hated slavery. His arguments against slavery made him well known and popular in America.

) England had a complex and somewhat representative government. Although most people had no say in their government, there was regional representation. I always had a false image of England as a simple top-down monarchy. Representation for the colonies was difficult because intercontinental telecommunications and air travel wouldn’t appear until somewhat later. The American revolution was the result of an escalation of Britain’s attempt to maintain control of a distant region, and the needs of the colonies which could not be met by a distant government. It wasn’t really about taxes.

) The debate about how much control the federal government has over the states has been raging since the first days of the constitution. It was never very clear. Whatever your opinion is, people who are and were far more intelligent you have been disagreeing with it for over two hundred years. So don’t be so smug.