Saturday, August 21, 2010


On a very cold March day in 1933, something that had been sorely needed happened that changed this country for the better. Having won the Presidency because of the abject failure of Herbert Hoover to deal with the collapse of the nation, Franklin Roosevelt - bis legs braced so he could stand at the podium to give his first inaugural address standings - said a few things that can be most wonderfully summed up with that memorable phrase concerning fear. In doing so, Roosevelt did something that endeared him to the hearts of the American people. He told them the truth they knew in their hearts, showing that he understood what lay at the heart of the American malaise.

Not too long after, in the midst of the near-collapse of the banking industry, he did something else that was unprecedented. He got on the radio to tell them what his Administration, with authority granted by Congress, was doing to keep the banks alive. He did so not in the funereal tones of approaching apocalypse or the haughty tones of a professor. Rather, he explained the complicated nature of the bank holiday, why it was necessary, and most important what the American people needed to do to help in a way that did not insult the intelligence of the American people. In this, and many other speeches and "fire-side chats", Roosevelt showed an appreciation for a basic virtue of democracy. While economics had become quite baroque, only to become nearly unintelligible to most people by our time, Roosevelt talked about the banking crisis, and many other issues, as if he understood them; and more important, he talked about them as if it were possible the American people could understand them.

If there is a most important difference between that time and ours, between that man and our current President, it lies right there. During the campaign, Barack Obama seemed to demonstrate a visceral faith in the American people, their intelligence and insight, and to bank on the voter's trust in his willingness to work with them to make this country run again. Since assuming the Presidency, and most especially since having his first bruising battles with Congressional Republicans (and one or two recalcitrant Democrats), he has retreated behind a wall of silence, and worse, compromise. As the country continues to stagnate, he speaks of "recovery". As social and cultural issues flay nerves frayed by economic distress, he has attempted to appease those who will never be appeased, and to give pat answers on topics that need more explanation.

The American people are afraid right now. We are, many if not most of us, afraid that despite our best efforts and the President's best intentions, headed toward further dislocations and decline. Rather than rallying the American people to work together, the President has operated as if the American people, their feelings and thoughts, are secondary. "Trust me," it seems, despite all the evidence that trust no longer exists, continues to be the theme the President offers the American people.

The screeching of so much of the country on the Manhattan Islamic center project, on illegal immigration, on gay rights are symptomatic not so much of the intrinsic importance of these questions for our nation's future as they are of the knife's edge upon which the nation's emotions are balanced. We are a people terrified of pretty much everything, and this fear is being played upon by political opportunists and demagogues to undermine the possibility of making this country better, of healing our economy and social and civil and physical infrastructure.

If the President would acknowledge this fear; if he would simply tell people what they know inside is true but have yet to hear from a person in authority, things might change for him. It seems, however, that he has lost touch with that electoral base that is most important - the emotional connection with those who saw in him the promise of something new. Not "the Messiah" the loons on the right talk about; just a President who made an emotional connection concerning possibility and promise that resonated with so many Americans. This emotional connection is now gone, and with it much of the good will and forbearance the American people had for the President.

Yet, really, all he needs to do is something that hasn't happened in a generation or more. All he needs to do is, in a few speeches, let the American people know that he knows their fear. Tell them what they are afraid of, and explain, as best he can without patronizing or insulting them, what he has done and will do to address the real issues at the heart of the American fear.

I just wonder if he either can or will do it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

More On The Power Of Prayer

I've been in a serious funk/borderline depressed the past couple weeks. Not to belabor the point, a combination of factors had led to the point where I felt helpless, trapped, and alone.

The past few days, however, has seen a sea-change. I've reached clarity, separating out those things that I can control from those I cannot, and reaching a healthier, if not exactly pacific, place in my mind. While talking about it with my wife has been a huge factor, I am convinced that even more has been . . . that she told me she has been aware of my changed mood and attitude and has been praying for me. After I awoke this afternoon, and she came home, we sat and talked. It is impossible to relate how much more relaxed, more clear, I am in my mind than I have been.

Because someone was praying for me.

While immediate change is not possible, I do think that both clarity and possibility exist, at least in the near term. Being in the midst of a busy, eleven-straight-day work mini-marathon (and for those who do not work overnights, eleven days in a row will take a toll on your life and mental health, trust me) has not helped, but I am now not quite a week through it, which does help. Also, getting my old, Sunday-Thursday night schedule back helps, too (for some reason, management decided to change everyone's schedule without consulting anyone; from growls to howls, the reaction hasn't exactly been positive, so, at least for the next couple weeks I will be back on my old schedule).

While I believe that prayer is more than simply a way to "fix" our moods, to "cure" those with illness, to make our minds at ease in our bourgeois discomfort, I am nevertheless convinced that personal intervention does occur because of the prayerful please of others. I am grateful for it, and wanted to acknowledge it publicly.


It's been hot and muggy for the past two weeks. Therefore, global warming is real.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

France Does The Gypsy Switch

The Roma, more commonly referred to as "Gypsies", are among the more despised ethnic groups of Europe, for a variety of reasons. The Nazis targeted them for extermination. The communist governments of Hungary and Romania tried to eradicate them.

Now, France is shipping their Roma population back to central Europe. You gotta love those open-minded Europeans.

Sacred Ground

If I hear those two words used in reference to the World Trade Center site one more time, I'm going to scream.

Just for reference, when the US signed and ratified a treaty with the Lakota after they kicked the US Cavalry's collective butts, part of it left the Black Hills as Sacred Ground for the Lakota, which the US would honor in perpetuity. Then, gold was discovered there, and all of a sudden there were all sorts of reasons to abrogate the treaty. Today, with Mt. Rushmore there, what was sacred ground for one people is now a tourist trap for another.

So, spare me all the crocodile tears about sacred ground. It's a hole in the ground. The best way to honor the dead is to live fully and honorably not cowardly and hate-filled.

In Which I Copy And Paste An Entire Post From Another Blogger

Here it was. Now, here it is:
For me, the most depressing thing about contemporary politics is how despite everything that has transpired in reality, in Villager Years, which are like Dog Years only more gristly, it is always and forever October 2001 and George Doubleyew Shithead Reigns Eternal.


Adding, if you detect a tad bit of anger, frustration, what-have-you, you are one hundred percent correct.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Just Asking

Has the right lost its mind on the Cordoba House? Seriously. These same Tea Party conservatives who insist they sleep with the Constitution under their pillows at night seem to forget that freedom of religion includes Muslims (of course, they also want to get rid of the constitutional clause that allows for birthright citizenship and simply repeal the 14th Amendment outright).

In the midst of all sorts of troubles needing serious attention, we're getting this kind of crap. I truly wonder about this country some days.

Monday, August 16, 2010

One Step Up, Two Back

Since the initial engagement with China in 1979, the argument that our engagement will benefit them socially and culturally has been trumpeted as part of the intangible benefits that will accrue from mutual engagement. A generation later, and most folks are still waiting for real social and cultural change.

This article offers part of the same, tired nonsense. This is not to suggest that we shouldn't have formal relations with communist China. On the contrary, ignoring them for thirty years was insanity. All the same, we shouldn't kid ourselves that a society as old and deeply averse to change, in particular change coming from outside the cultural boundaries of China, will be open to non-Chinese social and cultural norms.

Furthermore, I have always been of the opinion that we should formally recognize Taiwan as an independent nation-state, supporting their presence in the UN. Also, we should open formal diplomatic relations with Cuba, lifting the generations old embargo (the sugar lobby isn't a big fan of the open market competition from Cuban sugar). If engagement can lead to change in China, why not Cuba? After all, it isn't like the embargo has succeeded in Cuba, right?

Holding up a change in one particular practice of domestic justice in China as indicative of a sea-change is the kind of thing that people who want to see change grasp without any real thought.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Power Of Prayer

I was truly moved and honored today when one of the older gentlemen at Cornerstone UMC came up to me and invited me to join him with a small group for prayer before the 10:30 worship service. I walked in to the prayer room, just off their worship space, not quite knowing what to expect, and was even more moved and honored after I sat down and joined with them. I came away from this short experience more moved, and even changed a little, than by any spiritual experience in recent memory.

These men sat and prayed. They prayed for this person and that person. They prayed for individuals and the church and the Church. They asked for God's presence and peace for those suffering. Most of all, what I felt in that little room, with those four other men, was a sense of the presence and the power - the real power and might and majesty - of God. The clarity of the voices lifted in prayer, the real yearning for the Spirit to descend, for the presence of God in the worship and lives of the people of Cornerstone UMC was really moving.

I don't know if this is a formal or informal thing, but I think it is the kind of thing more churches need to do. I know it meant a lot to me.

But . . But . . . I APPROVE Of Him

Shorter David Broder:
"Tom Vilsack can't be a dumb putz because I have said and continue to say wonderful things about him."

Virtual Tin Cup

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