Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Blessed Thing

It's become a tradition here at "Blogs Are Stupid" to post this each Thanksgiving. For those that are new; it's a true story. We still drive by that house occasionally, and I always think of that day so very, very long ago. When I'm feeling sorry for myself, I think of Miss Jimmy, who had nothing, and yet, was thankful for everything. Happy Thanksgiving one and all.

We are traveling down a rutted, sun dappled, tree lined street in a sleepy little Southern town. It is so picturesque that it could easily be mistaken for some utopian 1950's TV town.

If a person didn't know better, they might almost expect to see a primly coiffed woman in a pill box hat and day dress walking to market with a shopping bag over her arm, or a freckle faced boy with a slingshot hanging from his back pocket climbing an aged oak, far above the sidewalk.

On the surface, it's the kind of town that makes outsiders long to pull up stakes and move there, happily sacrificing 24 hour convenience for Rockwellian charm.

As we turn the corner however, the view turns to images gravely at odds with the initial impression of a picture perfect whistle stop town. There are barefooted and big bellied children playing in front of sagging, dilapidated homes; doors propped open with cinder blocks to dispel the gloom inside. There are dogs wallowing in yards devoid of a single blade of grass. They snarl and snap at anyone who ventures near; fierce from hunger and neglect.

There are stoop shouldered women hanging out threadbare laundry, there are overalled men tinkering beneath the hoods of late model automobiles. An infant wails and it is a plaintive sound, as if it doesn't really expect to be heard; doesn’t expect any solace or comfort. This street is also sun-dappled and tree lined, but it does little to combat the air of dejection and destitution. It is a profoundly hopeless place.

In this part of town, white and black live side by side in a kind of desperate harmony. It seems that poverty is a great equalizer.

As we approach an intersection, I recognize a small house with peeling paint and crumbling stone columns. The graying boards of the front porch are bowed with age and rot. A torn screen door swings to and fro in the breeze. It has not changed much since the first time I saw it, except that it is empty now, and even more forlorn. No curtains grace the windows and no cheery light shines from within as it did that bitter November evening almost 12 years ago......

My mother-in-law and sister-in-law seemed oblivious to the abrupt change of scenery. Their faces were bland with acceptance, while mine undoubtedly registered shock and horror. Never had I seen such profound poverty, such pervasive and immeasurable need. It made my underprivileged childhood seem affluent in comparison. In an unconscious gesture of protection against something I could scarcely comprehend, my hand stole to my swollen belly.

Dear raise a child in this filth.

I thought about the clean and cheerful nursery at home; the piles of tiny, snowy underthings and receiving blankets washed in Dreft, the AAP approved baby equipment impregnated with Microban, and the carpet I had steam cleaned myself with scalding hot water in an effort to eradicate all traces of pestilence left behind by former occupants. I thought about the pediatrician I had already selected and the vaccinations I had already scheduled.

As I thought about these things the happiness I usually felt was replaced deep and aching sadness. I was ashamed at how I had taken them for granted, and I was angry that anyone should have to live the way these people do. But there was also a creeping melancholy and a little resentfulness at having my warm and comfortable holiday marred by such ugliness. The baby kicked hard as if to punctuate these thoughts.

"Here we are!" my mother-in-law chirped brightly. I was puzzled by her cheerful tone.

Doesn't she see?

She opened the trunk and extracted bags and boxes which she divided among us. I got two enormous shopping bags from Sears. My unpregnant sister-in-law got a huge plastic crate full of canned and dry goods, with a large foil covered platter balanced on top. My mother-in-law carried an unwieldy autumn floral arrangement and several gaily wrapped gifts.

She knocked on the weathered door and called out, "Miss Jimmy? It's Linda. Can we come in?"

There came no reply, but after a few moments the door creaked slowly open, and a wizened face peered out into the night. In a quavering but emphatic voice she exclaimed over God's goodness at bringing her visitors and flung the door open wide in welcome. We traipsed in and laid our spoils down on a bed covered with an old chenille spread. Aside from a listing bureau, several mismatched chairs, and a small drop leaf table, there were no other furnishings in the ramshackle little room.

There was a microwave and a hotplate on the table. A pitcher and washbasin were at her bedside. A worn but heavy quilt covered a sagging doorway. I realized that she must be living in this one room.

She embraced my companions, and as I turned to introduce myself I stopped and stared. Standing before me was the personification of Mother Abigail. So precisely did her appearance match my mental image of the fictional character that I was momentarily speechless, and I know that my jaw dropped open as I studied her.

Her sparse hair was gathered into a tiny little bun atop her cottony head. Her kindly brown face was heavily lined and her smile revealed pink and toothless gums. Her faded robe was belted beneath her low slung bosom, and fuzzy slippers matted with age peeped out from beneath the frayed hem. She was diminutive, but stood ramrod straight. Her eyes, though hooded by prodigiously wrinkled lids, twinkled with humor and intelligence. It was impossible to guess her age. She was both infantile and ancient; an ageless and sexless being that exuded quiet dignity despite her squalid surroundings.

"So, this is Linda's first grandbaby." she said. "That is a blessed thing."

She laid a gnarled hand upon my belly and caressed the bump of my baby's behind. I am not the sort of person who encourages or cultivates physical contact with strangers. So ordinarily, uninvited belly fondling, which is disconcertingly common, would arouse irritation and resentment in me. Her touch however, was curiously comforting and I did not object as she continued to follow the contours of my baby's body with her warm and capable feeling hands. She cupped them together just above the bowl of my pelvis, cradling the baby's head; almost as if preparing to gently coax the tiny form from my body.

She looked me in the eyes and said "God has given you a strong and healthy boy. He is good to you, child."

She held my gaze as I weighed her words. She couldn't know how I struggled with faith. She couldn't know that I felt like a fish out of water here in the South, where religion is a way of life and beliefs are handed down from generation to generation like a wedding gown or baby blanket, cherished, unchanging and uncontested. But I felt as if somehow, she did know.

Since my unborn baby had stubbornly refused to reveal its sex on the ultrasound, I did not know if her assertion in that regard was correct, but again, I had the uncanny feeling that she had not simply hazarded a guess, but rather stated an unequivocal truth. I admonished myself for being taken in by such foolishness. She had a 50% chance of guessing correctly after all.

Stop being ridiculous! This old woman can't see into your womb or your soul.

And yet, the feeling persisted.

After serving us hot tea and butter cookies from a battered tin, the rest of the visit was spent examining the treasures we had brought. Her thin and faded robe was exchanged for one that was brightly colored and heavily quilted. One bag yielded several sets of fleecy sweats, an array of matching turtlenecks, a multitude of flannel nightgowns, sturdy cotton underwear, heavy woolen socks, and a pair of thick soled house shoes that made her sigh with pleasure.

The other bag contained two new pillows and an electric blanket with dual controls. There were creams and lotions and soaps that made her giggle like a young girl, and necessities such as deodorant and Fixodent. Even the toilet paper was exclaimed over, and she allowed that her tough black fanny wasn't accustomed to such quilted softness.

I was humbled watching her, and a little surprised at myself. I am not an emotional person by nature, nor am I often given to flights of fancy. But this tiny, shabby little black woman had affected me deeply, and I didn't know why. Reflecting on it years later I came up with the same ridiculous answer that struck me that day. Neither skepticism nor pragmatism could dispel the notion that there was something otherworldly about her; a spark of divinity that could not be diminished by her poverty.

When it was time to leave, she hugged us all and said "Praise Jesus, for he has truly blessed me today."

Linda didn't seem to mind that Jesus was getting the credit for her generosity, though I knew that she had spent many hours choosing things that would see Miss Jimmy through the winter in her drafty, decaying old house and paid for it all herself. It didn't seem quite fair that she received no thanks for her effort.

But Linda only smiled and said "Jesus can't help blessing you Miss Jimmy."

She patted my stomach once more and murmured "Bless this baby Lord, that he may do thy service."

We left, and several months later I gave birth to a baby boy, seven weeks early. The neonatal team was standing by, ready to deliver life saving measures to my premature infant. They didn't hang around for long, however. My son was a whopping 5 lbs. 14 oz. and came out complaining loudly about the state of things. After they had established that he was breathing well, I was allowed to nurse him. He latched on easily and maintained a vice grip on one breast or the other for most of the next two weeks. He was indeed, strong and healthy.

After the hubbub had died down and I was alone with my baby, I thought of Miss Jimmy, who had died quietly in her bed several weeks earlier. I never saw her again, and she never met my son. I had envisioned placing him in her thin arms and watching her face as she cooed to him. I couldn’t have said why I felt compelled to take him back to her, but I was gripped by inexplicable sorrow at not being able to do so. I tried to console myself with the knowledge that he had already been touched by her.

Many years later I learned that when they found her, her teeth were frozen in a glass beside her bed. That little detail lay on my heart like a stone, heavy with the indignity.

I return to the present with a start. My son is talking to me, but it takes me a moment to clear my head enough to respond to him.

"Mom. Mom. Mom! Why are you staring at that old house?"

"You and I went there once." I reply. "Nanny took us there to see a lady."

"The one who predicted I would be a boy?" he asks. He knows the story well.

"Yes, that's the one."

"Was she a sorceress?" asks my youngest.

"No." says my oldest. "She was an angel."

I never told him that. I look at my husband who shrugs. He's been around this stuff his whole life and doesn't find it strange at all.

"Maybe." I say. "Maybe she was."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

One More Time

Sometimes a book is just a book; an innocuous collection of pages and prose. But sometimes it is so much more. Its a friend, a lover, a companion. It's a warm place on a cold night, a crowded room in an empty house, or an island of solitude in a sea of chaos. It's an escape, a rescue, a saviour. Its an adventure, an odyssey, a sojourn.

Sometimes, it's a memory and an emotional touchstone.

My Mom has been dead a little over two years now. It should have fully sunken in by now, I suppose. And in some ways it has. But I still think and speak of her in the present tense most of the time. I guess that's a coping mechanism...I don't know. I'm sort of new to the grief thing and I'm trying not to overthink it, because in case you haven't noticed, I do that sometimes. So I'm trying to just let myself feel what I feel when I feel it.

Most of the time, I'm okay. Often, I'm able to think of her and smile. But sometimes, when I least expect it, something triggers a flood of grief that's almost as powerful as the one I experienced the day she died.

Today it was a weasel.

My Mom loved clever or beautifully illustrated children's books. She bought my kids oodles of them, to which they were largely indifferent. Although Diminutive One did enjoy "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" because it appealed to his irascible nature. Which she knew it would. She was really proud of that selection.

She read to us a lot when we were children. I can hear her voice still...although I suppose that will fade in time too. She had a lovely speaking voice and it made for a lovely reading voice as well. She always had just the right amount of inflection and animation, not too much, not too little.

She read us "Gus Was a Friendly Ghost" and "Miss Suzy Was a Squirrel" and "I'm TERRIFFIC!" which featured a narcisistic young cub by the name of Jason Everett Bear. 

I credit her with my own love of children's books. I have all my favorites from childhood, and those of my boys as well. Truthfully, I cherish them far more than my boys, who never did develop such a deep and abiding appreciation. Those books are in a box in the attic, waiting for the eager ears of my grandchildren. One of my particular favorites from their era was "The Napping House." She liked that one too, because it was both clever and beautifully illustrated.

But her very, very favorite and thus, ours as well, was "Never Tease a Weasel" By Jeane Conder Soule.

With wisdom like.....
"You can knit a kitten mittens
And perhaps that cat would purr.
You could fit a fox with socks
That exactly matched his fur.
You could make a goat a coat 
with a collar trimmed in mink
Or give a pig a wig
In a dainty shade of pink.
But never tease a weasel;
This is very good advice.
A weasel will not like it
And teasing isn't nice!"'s the rare child who isn't completely charmed. And the rare adult as well.

After I was grown and had kids of my own, my Mom casually mentioned that she wished she had kept our copy of that book, because she loved it so much. She recited it word for word right then and there which didn't really surprise me, since I myself can still recite "Barnyard Dance" from beginning to end, having read it to my boys at least a million times. (Stomp your feet and clap your hands, everybody ready for a barnyard dance! Bow to the pig, bow to the cow, bow to the chicken if you know how....)

That was back in the early days of Ebay, when you could still get a real bargain and rare treasures were still relatively easy to come by. I got online and found a copy in mint condition, selling for $40. I thought it pricey, but I knew it would make my Mom happy, so I paid it. And it was worth every penny. She was tickled to death and to this day I think it's one of the best presents I ever bought her.

I got it when she died. I put it away in a pretty keepsake box, to "keep it safe". But the truth is, for a long time, I really couldn't bear to look at it.

Today I dropped an earring back and when I bent to retrieve it, I noticed the box, shoved under my jewelry armoire. It was covered in dust and the lid had sunken inward just a bit. I couldn't remember what was in it, so I flicked away the dust and opened it up with very little ceremony.

It was on top of the other vintage editions of my childhood favorites. The dust jacket, which was understandably a bit worse for the wear than the book itself, was encased in a plastic sheet protecter, where she had carefully placed it.

And there it was...that wave of grief; the kind that pulls you under and holds you helpless on the bottom while battering you to and fro in a maelstrom of longing and loneliness. I sat on the bedroom floor and cried for the loss of her lap and her words and her spirit. I fought the urge, but just for a moment, because I've learned that if you don't let it come, it will rear it's ugly head again and again until you acknowledge it and let it have it's way with you.

And then it was done. I picked up the book and began to read to myself, hearing her reading voice in my head and remembering the way I felt when she used it. Safe. Loved. Happy.

(That's me on the right)

I can only hope my boys felt that way when I read to them. I hope someday, they will confer that feeling to their children. I hope my sons will know the feel of silky just washed hair beneath their chin, and the crinkle of disposable diapers against their legs as they breathe life and love into words on a page for their babies. I hope they grow to cherish the words..."One more time, Daddy."

"Never tease a weasel, not even once or twice, the weasel wouldn't like it, and teasing isn't nice."

One more time, Mommy.

I won't ask again. I promise.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


A friend of mine posted the link to this story the other day and I literally laughed out loud.

Puh. Leez. This happens every election regardless of whom is elected and to which party they belong. You read it on all the social media outlets, you hear it declared in beligerent tones in public gathering places, you see it reported on the nightly news:



You know what I liken that to? When my boys were little and they threatened to run away from home because I made them brush their teeth or eat their broccoli or go to bed at the mandated time.

"THAT'S IT!" they would say, crossing their matchstick arms and thrusing out a tender lower lip. "I'm running away from home because you're SO MEAN! You won't let me do anything I want! You'll be sorry too because I'm never coming back and you're going to miss me!"

Hey, I tried it too. I think every kid has. Because childhood may be a magical time, but it's also a fairly powerless one. We had few tools at our disposal to effect any real change and so, we exploited those we did have; removal of our fabulous selves, with ruthless, if misguided determination.

But I think it's safe to say that none of us absconders ever got very far. Because we forgot, in the full throttle misery of our oppression, that while freedom is intoxicating, it doesn't do much to fill an empty belly or warm frosty fingers and toes, or chase away the boogeyman when the shadows grew deeper and darker than we were accustomed to. And then, we began to appreciate what we had left behind. Safety, comfort....home.

And this is what these erstwhile seceders fail to consider when they proclaim all the evils of Government. Government is trying to deny our rights! Government is tyring to stick it's nose in our personal business! Government is taking our tax money to do things we don't agree with! Government won't respect our religious beliefs!

These things may or may not be true. No Government is without it's foibles. But part of living in a Democratic society means that sometimes we have to accept things we don't agree with. We have to take the good with the bad. We change what we can, we accept what we can't. And we go on with life.

Because "bad" in our country means a candidate we do not support got elected to office and now we have to live with him for four more years. He might implement some policies we don't exactly agree with. He might appropriate some our tax dollars for things we don't support. He might not consider the tenets of our chosen religious beliefs when serving the greater good as he sees it.

"Bad" in other countries means that people die of starvation. They die for lack of clean, safe drinking water. They die for lack of basic medical care. Women die in childbirth. Infants die in infancy. Sons and Husbands die in Civil Wars and families recieve nothing to compensate for the loss. They beg. They steal. They prostitute themselves to feed their children. "Bad" in other countries means no hope, no help, no future.

These seceders will never actually secede. Why? It's very simple. Because as much as they like to villify  Government....they need it.

They need Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. They need law enforcement, fire and rescue, and people to direct those personel to their homes when they are in crisis. They need paved roads, stop lights, potholes repaired. They need schools built, staffed and maintained. They need libraries and post offices. They need running water, sewage treatment, parks and recreation, animal control and trash removal. 

These are things they use and enjoy and even consider their due as tax paying citizens. But they take them for granted and don't really think about how all these things come to them; through Government auspices and and the toil of public servants.

So they will grumble and petition, but they will stay. And in another four years, perhaps the other half of the populace will be bemoaning the fate of the country. 

The friend that posted this link expressed her grave concern over the fact that this country is so divided. And I've seen the old adage "United we stand, Divided we Fall" cited over and over these last few weeks as though it were gospel. I don't think it's gospel. I think it's bunk. America has always been divided. We emigrated to the New World expressly for the right to be divided without losing our heads for it. And although we may disagree on respective candidates, we value our right to do so above all else. It is that core belief that unites us in the only way that really matters. And it is that right that makes us stand up and defend this nation together when the need arises. History has proven that several times over. 

We have faltered, yes. We have fractured, yes. But we have not, nor will we ever...fall. 

So, let them threaten. Let them sulk and stomp. Let them run away if they can actually summon the courage to do so. It's the only way they'll learn. 

Just as I learned and you learned and my kids learned. We learned that we needed our Mommies and our Daddies. We learned that maybe complete and total autonomy is just a little bit overrated and the comforts of home are worth the relatively inconsequential sacrifices that we have to make. We learned that safety and security don't come cheap. 

We learned that despite the battles we may fight amongst ourselves, we are only part of a whole and we kind of like it that way. 

And they will too.  

It's all part of growing up.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Old Hat

Part of my job as a Weight Watchers leader is to do what we call "at works". These are meetings at various places of employment; mostly corporate, but also medical offices, schools, even car dealerships. I do an at work meeting for the teachers at a local  high school. Coincidentally, it is the same school which both of my boys now attend.

They love it.

The point is, you get a lot of insider information when you get up close and personal with teachers. You learn a lot about their joys and frustrations, their dedication, their commitment and their deep and abiding love for the kids they teach. They may hate them, but they still love them. They have to. Nobody would stay in a profession with horrible hours, horrible benefits, and horrible pay if they didn't love what they do and the people for whom they do it. .

I've always believed this, but now I am even more convinced; teachers are the most underpaid professionals in the world.

Our regular meeting day is Wednesday, which this week, happened to be the day after the election. I had an unusually small group. I asked what could possibly keep the absent members; two Assistant Principals and a Student Liason teacher as well as one or two others, away from the fabulosity that is me, their fearless leader. Despite the stress and the long hours, they are a pretty raucous bunch and  normally they would laugh, but today my question was met with sighs and muttered "Oh boy"s.

I got the scoop, but I sort of wished I hadn't.

A student had apparently gone on a shockingly racist, homophobic, hate fueled and misanthropic rant on Twitter. Now, the school administrators have no authority to punish students for things said on Twitter or Facebook, unless there are threats made against other students or teachers. So it wasn't about punishement.

It was about keeping the kid alive.

Word spread quickly, as word is wont to do in the information age. Within moments, not only the student body of that school, but that of other schools, those with larger minority populations, were privvy to his outburst.

To put it simply, they were pissed. And rightly so, given the nature of his diatribe. Threats were made, and though some of them were empty, not all of them were. The kid was escorted into school  the following day by two armed policemen. The students were incensed that he was allowed in at all. Things were getting ugly, and from what I understand, riot control personel were on stand by.

All that is pretty shocking, but not that new or different. We've seen it before, too many times. And too many times we've seen bloodshed as a result.

No...what shocked the teachers, was the fact that this kid is a well behaved, studious sort, from a good Christian home with two parents. They just couldn't fathom it. But I could.

In my 25 years here in the South, I've seen this kind of thing more often than I ever though I would. Something grips the people here, something deeply rooted and sinister. It's more than bigotry, it's a pro forma rejection of anything different; anything that threatens to undermine the incontrovertible truths and traditions which with they have been raised. Whatever this thing is, it gets dressed up in Christian clothes and passes for morality, righteousness and even patriotism. THAT is what's shocking to me.

I'll tell you honestly, that some of the ugliest, most intolerant, and bigoted things I've ever heard, came from the lips of Christian people. Those who praise God on Sunday, but spend the rest of the week spewing vile, vicious, hateful things about people they call friend and neighbor. Just because they are different.

I unfriended a person like this recently. At first the insults were vague, the tone more sarcastic than truly vicious. But as the election drew nearer, the tone of his posts changed and became increasingly malevolent. He hurled invective, slung insults and passed judgment with righteous fervor. Who is this man? He was once my oldest child's baseball coach. He held prayers before each game. (long time readers might remember a post about that). His wife was a preschool teacher at a local Christian school when my children went there. According to all criteria by which we measure such things, he is a pillar of the community, moral, principled and Godly.

And yet, he is clearly filled with hate.

I didn't know this about him until we became friends on Facebook. But was I suprised? Absolutely not. For the same reason I was not surprised that a Christian child would be filled with such hate that it finally became too big to be contained within the justification of his beliefs and spilled over into the secular world in such a spectacularly shocking manner.

They are not rogue Christians, they are not extremists, they are not zealots. They are the face of Christianity in the South. And they are not alone.

What is the point of this post? There isn't one really. I'm just sad all over again at the way our differences drive us apart and also the knowledge that regardless of my own behavior, I will never be good enough, smart enough, moral enough, or principled enough for those who hold themselves above me simply because their Christ says they can.

The irony is almost perfect, if there is such a thing.

Christians...PLEASE take note. This is why people are turning away from you and your houses of worship in record numbers. This is why people are abandoning their faith and casting their lot with the "damned".  This is why we do not want the of taint Christianity infiltrating our schools and our government offices. This is why we turn down your invitations to church and vacation bible school and Wednesday night youth group. This is why we want absolutely nothing to do with Christianity in any shape form or fashion.

There are good Christians out there, so forgive me if it sounds like I'm painting all of you with the same brush. I know some wonderful Christian people who are kind and accepting and willing to learn about and embrace other ways of thinking and doing. They live as they believe, quietly and without fanfare. These people I admire and respect. These people I feel, have something to teach me. But they are also, sadly, the exception rather than the rule. Even more sadly, all Christians will think it is them of whom I am speaking in this paragraph and none of them will think it is them of whom I am speaking in the rest of this piece.

My kids are shocked by what happened at the school but like me, not surprised. They've already, at 14 and 17, seen enough of this kind of thing that it's quite old hat. They don't even get terribly upset about it, they just accept that this is how it is.

And that is probably what I find the saddest of all.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Angels Among Us

Today, a black woman came in to the Weight Watchers store with a portly little white woman in tow. The black woman was well dressed, well groomed and well spoken. She had warm eyes and beautiful, dazzling white teeth. The white woman was unkempt and dishevelled. She had lank, greasy hair and wore stained clothing. She didn't smell bad exactly, but not terribly fresh either. She had few teeth. But she had a sweet disposition and a shy, sunny smile.

They were a curious pair.

It turned out that the black woman was the white woman's "life skills facilitator". She was a state employee; her job, helping disadvantaged people learn how to care for themselves. The white lady, her client, having been diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure, needed to learn how to eat more healthfully. They were joining together. The facilitator said, "We're so much alike. That's why God put us together." It struck me as an odd thing to say...then.

They both asked me many questions; the facilitator about program details, how to use the various acoutrements, and how much exercise is recommended for a beginner. The client wanted to know if she could still drink Co-Cola and whether macaroni and cheese is healthy. I answered their questions as thoroughly as I could and they both listened very carefully. The facilitator took her charge's hand and squeezed it. She said, "We're going to do this thing, aren't we baby girl?" And the other woman, hardly a girl, but heartbreakingly infantile nonetheless, nodded emphatically, her eyes glowing with love and admiration.

I spoke with them for a long time, and by the time they left, it was clear that they were indeed alike; both with huge hearts, both with the utmost faith in the other, both optimistic and resolved. Neither saw color, race, class or physical attributes when they looked at one another. I am often moved by my members but this pair...they moved me nearly to tears.

The sweetly simple white lady likely had no idea of the turmoil currently taking place around her in this country and the more pragmatic black lady likely didn't care. All they cared about was being together, helping one another, and "doing this thing".

I needed to smile today and thanks to them, hours later when I think of those linked hands, black against white, one maincured, one grubby and gnawed...I am smiling still.  

I told this story on Facebook and my wonderful friends complimented ME. But people...I am just a witness. And humanity sometimes gives me some amazing stories to tell. They're out there, those stories. And angels do walk among us. We just have to recognize them.

Monday, November 05, 2012


With election day on top of us and the chasm between right and left becoming ever wider, it disheartens me to see the unkindess escalating. I know intolerance and judgmentalism exist on both sides, but living in a red state, my perspective is pretty heavily anti-liberal. And I won't lie...I feel like a target. I don't now, nor will I ever understand the need to force one's views on others; to bludgeon them over the head with opinions and epithets, to impugn and malign and condemn.

Social media fuels this fire of course, and offers even more incendiary potential than in previous elections.

We've all seen the cute little quotes, sayings and jokes; those thinly veiled judgments couched in "humor", the blows delivered by blithe witticisms from the lips of cartoon characters. Or babies. Who can take issue with a baby? Awwww, look at that cute baby!! He's so cute, it scarcely matters that he's being used as a poster child for intolerance and bigotry!

But the message is there and it's no less vicious for all the pithy internet window dressing.

Because a vast number of my Facebook friends are Conservative Republicans and staunchly religious to boot, I've been subjected to all kinds of nasty little jibes on my very own feed. I'm ignorant. Deluded. Immoral. Uninformed. Stupid. Damned to hell. That last one is really no surprise and I accepted that fate long ago. If indeed there is a hell, then I am certainly going there. But the others....those hurt.

I've refrained from posting anything too overtly political and I've avoided commenting on others' political posts, except in the most general sense possible. There's just no point to debating politics unless your objective is to alienate friends and family, fracture relationships, and paint yourself as someone who is more concerned with the right to express an opinion than the effect that opinion might have on other people. There have been times when I have felt almost irresistably compelled to defend myself against an onslaught of recrimination. But I don't. Because I care about people more than politics. And that won't ever not be true.

But it's really interesting to sit back and watch. It's also interesting to note how closely religion is tied to politics and what a polarizing force it seems to be.

As you all know, I'm an Atheist. I strongly believe in separation of church and state. For me, religion just isn't a factor in selecting a candidate, unless a candidate is using religion as a platform for issues that contradict my own beliefs. For that reason, choosing a candidate simply because of his religious beliefs is a concept that I just don't grasp very well. Nor do I understand supporting a candidate simply because your Pastor or Priest said you should.

Perhaps you can understand why that (free thinking) sometimes get me in trouble, given that I do live in the Bible Belt, especially when I express my thoughts on "One Nation Under God". I won't go there right now, because it would require an even more lengthy dissertation than this has become, but suffice it to say, I don't agree. This nation is first and foremost about freedom. Freedom to worship as we please, or not at all.

And of course, about freedom of speech, which gives me numerous opportunities to observe that some of the most vile, malignant, hateful rhetoric is being spewed by people who are supposed to be Disciples of a loving, benevolent God. They are the purveyors of the most persistent unkindess, the most unrelenting judgment, the most purposeful intolerance.

Here's what I think about that....

I believe Jesus was a real guy. I think he was a leader of men, and a humanist. I think he wanted people to be nice to each other, embrace diversity, celebrate our differences and learn from one another. I think he wanted us to care for our sick, our poor, our infirm and our elderly. I think he promoted strongly socialist beliefs in that respect. Do I think he walked on water and multiplied the loaves and fishes and turned water into wine? I think there's probably a smidgen of truth in there somewhere, but most folklore is founded in truth of some kind, no matter how marginal. So, no. I don't think he was divine, but I think he was probably pretty awesome.

And it occurs to me, that if the Jesus I believe in is true to who he really was, then folks...I and my liberal bretheren are a damn sight more Christian than many Christians.

Ouch, huh?