Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Remembering Bobby

There are moments in your life for which you always remember where you were and what you were doing.  Like Pearl Harbor was to my parents' generation, and 9-11 to more recent generations, the Kennedy and King assassinations were not just historical events. They were personal - part of our lives - especially since their words live on and resonate in our lives.

I don't have a specific memory about Martin Luther King, though I love to read his speeches - such passion!  I don't have a specific memory about JFK, though again his words invigorated a nation and called us to a better place. And though I don't recall hearing Bobby Kennedy speak,  I remember very vividly where I was the night he died.  It was 45 years ago this week.

The summer of 1968 my parents and I traveled from Oregon down to Arizona to pick up my youngest sister, Betty, after she finished her freshman year at the University of Arizona in Tucson. We  did a day trip to Nogales, including my first foray into Mexico, and then returned to Tucson. While we were resting at a little motel we heard the news on the radio that Bobby had been shot. The next day we traveled several hours north to the town of Cottonwood and stayed the night with family friends. It was there that we heard the news that Bobby had died (it was 26 hours from when he was shot till he was pronounced dead).

In the years since I have learned and read more about Bobby and John and Martin and though all three were flawed, they spoke to the better part of us, inspiring us to rise above the ordinary and challenge the status quo. They accomplished much in their all-too-short lives. They were masters at persuasion and focused on being "for" things, not just "against" wrong. We really need more people  like them today and we need to remember their words.

As the late Teddy Kennedy said in his eulogy of his older brother Bobby, "My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world." Teddy strove to live out his brother's legacy.

And he closed with words that I have taken as a mantra: "Some men see things as they are and say why?. I dream things that never were and say why not?" I believe we need a little more "why not?" thinking today.

text of Edward Kennedy's eulogy of his brother Robert

Monday, May 27, 2013

remembering Arlington

I remember years ago visiting my uncle's grave in Arlington National Cemetery. He was a Navy ensign pilot during WWII and was killed in a plane crash while he was training a new pilot. He had just gotten married a few weeks before and so it was especially hard on my grandparents and my mom (as well as his widow). I never got to meet him, though I played his cello in school and heard many stories from my Mom about this creative, fun-loving brother of hers.

I remember seeing a group of kids walk by and I remember thinking "Oh God, please no more stupid wars. Please protect these kids from those who would throw their lives away as a way to make political points or settle personal scores".  The Iraq war was still going on then and I was opposed to it from the beginning because it was such a stupid war.  We had a bumper sticker which said "Support the troops, Bring them home". Those who serve should have their service honored, in part by using that service wisely.

We have had in our history too many wars and other military engagements which squandered many lives and should have been avoided. One of these was the Mexican-American War, which was opposed by Congressman Abraham Lincoln, later one of our greatest Presidents. He believed that it was contrived and not in our national interest. He was one who agonized over war, not gloried in it, something that our political leaders should remember and emulate.

Gazing over the field at Arlington should be a requirement for anyone who contemplates political office. And remembering the lives those graves represent should be a requirement for everyone. Honor the dead and be resolved that, as Lincoln said, "these lives should not have died in vain".

Saturday, May 18, 2013

faulty memories

For those of you in the Pacific Northwest do you remember how  several years ago Mt St Helens rumbled to life again with ash plumes and lava dome buildup? It was a nervous time for many, but after a time it all quieted down. No repeat of the 1980 eruption whose anniversary we remember today. Anyone who would say the mountain's recent activity was like the 1980 event would be laughed at, since such a comparison would be ludicrous.

Well, it is also ludicrous to compare the current administrations scandals/misdeeds to Watergate as some have recently done. While I have issues with some things the  Obama administration has done or not done, particularly in the civil liberties arena, there is no comparison to Watergate and the actions of Nixon. It is personal for me, since I politically "came of age" in that era and remember well the events. Just as with 9-11 I remember where I was and what I was doing the day President Nixon resigned (the only time that has happened in American history) and remember the days of listening to Senate and House Committee hearings involving Watergate. That was much worse than anything today, by far.

The problem is that those who would make such comparisons today are the same ones who back in the 70's were whitewashing any wrong Nixon. So of course they would paint Obama as worse than Nixon. They have faulty memories of the past  because of their bias. Those of us who lived through eras such as Watergate must stay true to what we know and help others to learn the truth about the past.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

beware of pointing fingers

Once again leave it up to Sister Sarah (Palin) and friends to point fingers and ignore the irony. Recently the IRS had to issue an apology because they had been giving extra scrutiny to any organization with "tea party"or "patriot" in their name on applications for tax exempt status during the 2012 election. I agree that the IRS should apologize, but at the same time I think it is a bit much for Palin and friends to try to make political hay out of it.

Why? Well, they are the same kind of people who absolutely no problem with warrant-less wiretapping of phones, traffic stops and workplace ICE raids based on suspicion of illegal alien status, and measures that forced people to "prove" that they were not up to something wrong (like voter ID laws). Their response when confronted was always "well, if you have nothing to hide you won't have a problem with it". Now they sing a different tune.

We're not talking about increased penalties, just examination. Perhaps they are afraid some IRS person will find out they are a fraud? I don't agree with what the IRS did, but I think in light of past statements certain political figures should refrain from protesting when it's their "goose" that's getting cooked.

As a wise person said, when you point your finger at someone remember that four other fingers are pointing back at you. ....Just my two cents for today.

Friday, May 3, 2013

organized for success

Many people have issues with unions and think poorly of the term "organized labor". They point to reported abuses of power (like Jimmy Hoffa, etc) or the influence of union money in politics. Or they are so "pro-business" that they think company management should be able to do whatever it wants and that people should just "be happy that they have a job". While there no organizations are perfect, why should that be a reason to oppose organization? I mean, businesses organize so why shouldn't workers?

The influence of organized labor has brought great and beneficial changes in the workplace. The 40 hr workweek (5 day week of 8 hr days), payment for overtime, paid sick leave, and workplace safety standards (OSHA) are just a few of the reasons we should be thankful to unions. And we need to remain vigilant because unions are under attack across the country - Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, all have governors strenuously opposed to workers organizing. I know from experience how not having a union can be detrimental to workers. Let's not forget to be thankful and continue to push for better workplaces through an organized workforce.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Goldilocks Politics

You know the story of Goldilocks. A little girl enters the house of three bears, examines their porridge, chairs, and beds before falling asleep in on bed, then gets discovered by the three bears and flees into the woods. The tale is very old, but I'd like to apply it to a very modern issue....political discussion.

On one level it illustrates finding the right fit : not too hot, not  too cold; not too hard, not too soft;
not too big...oops, too small (chair breaks). And it is true that it is important to make sure we are not going to extremes and instead are finding the right fit that will work for us.

But as I pondered using this fable as an example of that I was struck by how there is something that is usually missed in this cute little tale. The girl entered someone else's house and was messing around with their furniture and food. She had no business there and at the end was chased out by those whose house it was.

What does this say? Sometimes we argue over details and miss the big picture. We argue over the details of law and policy and forget that there are real people affected by our actions. There is no human face to our discussions. We talk about immigration without considering immigrants and their situations. We talk about gun violence and forget the shooting victims (case in point: the NRA response to the Newtown shootings). We talk about healthcare without discussing the sick.

We often criticize younger people for doing something hazardous...saying that they think they are invincible, that bad consequences will never happen to them.  This type of thinking is not limited to the young. We do it every day when we debate policy while thinking it is about some "other" group, not us. And even if we would never be affected by it, we still must think how it will affect others.
As the English poet John Donne once wrote, "no man is an island, entire of itself....we are all a part of the whole"

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

celebrate May Day

Remember "job creators"? It's been the big buzzword the last couple years. The conservatives take on the economy is that the "job creators" (businesses) are the driving force and so we have to remove anything (like pesky regulations) that stand in their way. But I say it is the workers that drive the economy  because they are the ones who do the work. We should be watching out for their welfare, and if they are happy and productive and motivated then business will thrive and everyone will benefit.

Today is May Day, a day recognized world wide as a time to celebrate workers and their contribution to our world.  Many jobs go unseen and unappreciated and some of those are the most important. Please take time today to show appreciation for the hardworking staff wherever you go, whether you are shopping, going out to eat, or even interacting with a government agency.  Treat your coworkers, companions, and loved ones with respect and honor them for the work they do, even if they aren't getting paid for it (like many mothers - thanks Mom!:)). And don't forget to respect yourself and honor the work you do.

Happy May Day!

For Scripture says, "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

guest post - the cake and the couple

Here is an example of two people who are doing their part to make our world better. A couple in Oregon wanted to get married and went to a shop to get their wedding cake made. The "Christian" owners refused because the couple was lesbian. In response to the coverage, a nationally known Baltimore cake maker Duff Goldman, known as the "Ace of Cakes" on the Food Network, decided he would offer to make them a cake for free and drive it out to Oregon for them. My hat is off to both Duff for doing the cake, and to my dear wife for the following email she sent to the owners gently but firmly calling them out on their un-Christian behavior. Rosa Parks and my mom (my previous post) would be proud.

Dear Aaron and Melissa,

You look like a lovely Christian couple and your cakes look absolutely scrumptious!

Therefore, I was extremely disappointed to learn that you refused to make a cake for a lesbian couple’s wedding. As a Christian myself, I think this is just the wrong way to go about things. In everything we do, Christians should be sharing and demonstrating the love of God by our words and behavior. How does it show God’s love to this couple to deny your services to bake them a cake for their special day? They are not asking you to officiate their wedding. They apparently have been previous customers so they liked your cakes and baked items enough to want *you* to make their cake, and not someone else. Denying them your services was like slapping them in the face.

Instead, the “Ace of Cakes”, Duff Goldman, has stepped up to the plate with an offer to do the cake for this couple at no cost. He is showing love, where you only showed rejection.

As Christians, we need to be bringing people *into* the circle of God’s love, not shutting them out. My husband and I have a gay nephew who resides in Gresham. When his time comes to marry, I seriously doubt he will be patronizing your shop. If nothing else, this is costing you business. But more than that, every time you turn a customer away because they are gay or lesbian, you are missing the opportunity to share a little bit of God’s love with them, and to help make their day special.

I would ask that you would seriously consider what Jesus would do in your situation. He embraced the tax collectors and other outcasts of society; I certainly believe that He would make wedding cakes for gay couples.

Debbie King

doing the little things

Yesterday was the 100th  anniversary of Rosa Parks' birth. She died in 2005 but her legacy lives on. She is remembered for doing a small thing with a big impact, and it is important that we remember that. We often feel that nothing we do really matters, or that we can only do small things, but we must remember that all we do really does matter even though we may never know exactly how it will.

Rosa Parks lived in Montgomery Alabama in a time of segregation. People of color like her were supposed to sit in the back of the bus and even give up their seat in the "colored" section to a white person when the "white" section was filled . One day in 1955 she refused and was arrested. She and others like her became the inspiration  for a citywide bus boycott which lasted 381 days and resulted ultimately in a Supreme Court decision overturning the bus segregation. It also helped launch the career of Martin Luther King Jr, and that led to a host of changes for people of color as well as the enriching of America.

I am continually amazed, and ashamed, of what my country allowed and promoted in terms of racial segregation and discrimination during those years. It was about the time when I was born (1956) and I guess being in Oregon and young I was not aware during my childhood of the climate in the South. But over the years I have become much more aware and  try to do my part to combat similar things from happening today. As a country we have come far, but there is still so much to do to combat prejudice.

I learned two big lessons from my mother. One was that you treat everybody with the same kindness and respect, no matter who they are, where they are from, what their "status" is. It is basic human decency. She really believed that we were all created equal, not just saying it, but living it out every day. And she believed that every day you should do what you can to make this world better. She didn't have a "high" position in the eyes of most, just a mom raising my four sisters and I. But she delighted in doing the many small things that she could. My sisters and I grew up to do as she did and that is her legacy.

You may not be a Rosa Parks, or a mom with a family to raise, but you can make a difference even though you may see your efforts as small. Do whatever you can to make this world better, to make someone's life better today, and I will do the same.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Abraham, Martin, and John

Abraham, Martin, and John...what do these three names have in common and why should we be thinking about them today? If you are a baby boomer like me you probably remember the 1968 song by Dion whose title was simply these three names. If you aren't a baby boomer you may not have a clue. Regardless we all need to understand the stories behind the names in the song. Especially on Inauguration Day... since two of the names refer to US Presidents.

The Abraham is Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, who in 1865 gave one of the most memorable Inaugural Addresses in our history. The country was nearing the end of the Civil War and many were calling for harsh measures against the South even after victory was assured. After fighting to keep the Union together physically Lincoln wanted to restore the unity of our country and so urged "with malice toward none and charity for all, let us bind up the nation's wounds".

Martin is Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights activist whose birthday we celebrate today. In 1963,  the same year as the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, he gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. He called for action to "make real the promises of democracy"so as to "live out the true meaning of the creed ...we hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal" He appealed to faith and hope, and dreamed of a day when his "four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character"

And John is John Fitzgerald Kennedy who,  having survived combat in WWII and religious prejudice (Catholics were still viewed with suspicion in his day), became our 35th President. He came into office in a time of transition and in his Inaugural Address he stated "the torch has been passed to a new generation" committed to "explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us". He encouraged public service as a duty to the nation and to the world and through his efforts created the Peace Corps which to this day does just that.

All three of these were guided by faith and hope, unity and compassion, service and sacrifice for the common good. All three were gunned down in their prime by other men guided only by hatred and a violent opposition to their ideals. But their ideals live on. They have a legacy greater than their killers and their words are etched in our hearts as well as in stone. We have made progress on their dreams but there is much more work to be done.

I urge all to re-read their words today and take them to heart. If you can I would also encourage you to visit their memorials. Lincoln's and MLK's are close together on the National Mall and JFK's is in Arlington National Cemetery just across the Potomac River. I have stood on the spot where Martin gave his "Dream" speech (his memorial was not yet built then) and have read the words etched in stone for Abraham and John....my eyes were not dry long that day.

And there is one more name in that Dion song--Bobby. Bobby is Robert F Kennedy, brother of John, who served his country as US Attorney General and Senator. His words live on long after him as well, at least for me. He once said "there are those that look at things the way they are and ask why? I dream of things that never were and ask why not?" It's time to work, to pray, to debate ....and yes, to dream... along with Abraham, Martin, and John.

(p.s. - I have included the links to lyrics and texts below so that you may read the full version of each)

Abraham, Martin, and John lyrics
Lincoln Second Inaugural Address text
JFK Inaugural Address text
MLK I Have a Dream speech text

Monday, January 7, 2013

new year's gratitude

After this past grueling political campaign year we need to pause and reflect in gratitude for all we have in this land we call home. We have had harsh words, and endless political ads on radio and TV and billboards. But we had no military hardware involved, no social upheavals, no threat to public safety caused by uncertainty over legitimacy. I know... we do have the birthers still, but they are marginalized ....a laughing stock to most.

It is not the same in the rest of the world. I can illustrate by citing three countries and their current crises:
  •  In Egypt there is contention over a new constitution and new president Morsi.  
  •  In Venezuela there is uncertainty over who will replace Hugo Chavez, should he die, and  what will happen in the power vacuum that most likely will occur. 
  •  And in Syria there is open civil war, with a power vacuum most likely developing as well, since President Assad's days are clearly numbered. The citizens of that country have been repeatedly bombarded by their own government and many thousands are refugees in other countries.

In light of that we should be thankful that we have a system of government that, while it is not perfect, has served us well for over 200 years. We have peaceful transitions from one administration to the next. We have established procedures that all agree on, both for who governs and how they do it. We fight  our political battles with words, not guns. Our conflicts are in Congress, not in the streets. And at the end of the day, the losers swallow their pride, instead of bandaging their wounds or burying their dead.

We have a new year and a renewed government. There are many issues to discuss and debate. We will not agree on everything, and we will not like all the outcomes. But at the end of the day we are all Americans and we are committed to peaceful resolution, not painful revolution. We have been given a great gift. Let us not squander the opportunity we have to participate in the political process, nor neglect to remember how blessed we are to be able to do so in peace.