Dept. of Alternative Facts: Reputation

reputation: (n) the knowledge and esteem in which people hold someone

Our local weekly paper ran an editorial in the January 6, 2021 edition, which questioned how sullied the reputation of evangelical Christian groups has become because of backing President Trump through two election cycles. This might seem rather ho-hum in the populated regions of our country, but here in West Virginia expressing such ideas is rather radical.

Our states vote when 3:1 for Trump. According to the editorial in 2016, nationwide the evangelical vote was 80% in favor of candidate Trump. In 2020, 75%. As a demographic block, this is pretty strong support for a candidate who did not act in a Christian manner for about 70 years. And, what bones he tossed to the evangelicals (pro-life judges, pro-Israel agendas, and probably bringing their expectation of Armageddon a little closer to the Rapture…), were more pandering than heart-felt convictions.

We collected that edition of the news paper on Wednesday January 6th from our mail box on our daily walk after lunch. When we came in from the day, we learned about the rally to support the idea that the presidential election was stollen, the call by Mr. Trump (I shall no longer give him the honorific title of President) for the rally to march to the Capitol Building as the procedure to certify the election was occurring, and the subsequent attack on the building, disruption of the Congressional proceedings, and threats to members of Congress. After the news cycle has spun and began to repeat itself, we turned off the news and checked in every few hours for updates.

I opened the local paper to see what had occurred around here over the two weeks of the holidays since the last edition.

My method of reading the paper is to start with the front page, follow those articles into the middle of the paper, then go to the last page and read everything back-to-front. The editorials are the last articles that I read.

I came upon the editorial about the evangelical Christians supporting Trump. How could people who claim to believe in God support such as God-less man? I pondered.

My brother has been reading the Hebrew Scriptures backward (see a trend here?), and recently read through Ester. We have communicated about his journey through the shame and agony of the prophets.

Ester. How does a book which really does not mention God reinforce the idea that God is acting through God-less leaders? (hint, it probably does not have to do with he Deep State).

After several days of pondering that editorial and the various voices spinning the march-riot-plot-insurrection of the Capitol, I sat down to write a response. From my perspective of Christian thought, proclaiming righteousness or delivering retribution are the wrong impulses. Forgiveness is the message. Without forgiveness we might as well just invest in BitCoin, cash out, move to Singapore and have a massage with a happy ending. Hey, there is still a couple of days to get a Presidential Medal of Honor for such actions, or at least a pardon (cynicism, cynicism, I’m starting to sound like a minor prophet…)

Letter to the Editor

The editorial in 1/6/2021 edition, asked how do I get my reputation back?  The writer poses this question specifically about the Christians who have supported a God-less leader, whose immoral actions have culminated in inciting a riot and attach on our nation’s Capitol Building and Congress on that very same day.  As we can see a series of small errors, lapses in judgment, character flaws lead up to great evil results.

The questions behind the question have to do with those offending, those offended, and the potential for forgiveness and reconciliation between the individuals or groups.

I will assert that rarely is a conflicted situation one-way.  Tiffany tells Dalton that Miss Miller is calling for him so that she can get the swing during recess.  Dalton figures out that Tiffany lied and pushes Tiffany off the swing.  Miss Miller sees Dalton’s offense and punishes him.  Tiffany feigns innocence.  Who wronged who in the kindergarten example?

This brings up a first level of forgiveness: forgive-and-forget.  That was primarily useful during recess to keep kids playing.  But we all know it is rather useless because Tiffany and Dalton will hold grudges, gossip, and these days probably post a TikTok video soiling the other’s reputation which may be found by some future employer or fiancee two decades later.

A second level of forgiveness I call: repent-forgive-sin-no-longer.  This has historic roots for Christians and Jews in the Hebrew scriptures.  From Adam and Eve through the prophets, God had given people freedom to do good or evil actions, and waited patiently for his people to do good.  God must have been disappointed through thousands of years to people messing up.

Repentance requires recognition of one’s behavior, not rationalization.  To assist with this God gave Adam and Eve one law.  They blew it, then pointed the finger at each other and the serpent.  God gave his chosen people 10 laws, but then had to elaborate to around 600.  They did not get it, or at least until they had created lots of problems for themselves and others.  Occasionally, they recognized their error and acknowledged this.  

John the Baptists taught the message of preparation for the Messiah through recognition of sin, repentance, and baptism to cleans oneself.  But repentance is only one step.  One must stop doing the wrong action.  Jesus taught this on numerous occasions when he he forgave sins, literally healing people, and instructed them to go and sin no more.  He also illustrated that those pointing fingers were often the offenders. When he saved the woman by telling the men who threatened to kill her, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.  Remember that Tom T. Hall song, “Harper Valley PTA”?

But, often those offending, or those who might offer them forgiveness, refuse to do so.  Unless Tiffany and Dalton recognize and acknowledge that each has acted badly, neither is going to be able to forgive the other.  And, they are not likely to learn to be friends and play well together.

This brings up a third level of forgiveness, discussed by C. S. Lewis: the offended person bears the burden of the sinner.  In the Christian tradition, when God realized that all those laws were not making much progress, he became human, pleaded for us to wake up to our flaws and change our ways, and ultimately brought atonement by taking on the burden of our sins through Jesus’ death.

We may not need to go so far in acts of forgiveness to those who cannot or will not repent, but we may take on the burden of their errors in many ways.  We can be kind to those who snarl at us.  We can be patient.  We can offer to get together and talk through the situation to recognize how both sides of the situation have failed each other.  We can do a favor without expectation of return. We can pay-it-forward.  We pay a debt, cook a meal and drop it by, offer to help with cutting and splitting wood for winter heat.  These are the action of forgiveness and may lead to reconciliation.

We are not likely to forget that Christians and Christian organization have supported a God-less leaders.  We can offer them the opportunity recognize these mistakes (which go back decades, not just the past four years), repent, and change their message and action.  And, we can pick up the burden of the cross they seem to have left along the way and build a better society.

We need less flag waving and more linking of arms in unity, well, okay, elbow bumps.

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Dept. Alternative Facts: Epiphany

epiphany: (n) a sudden realization, discovery, or awareness usually of something divine, spiritual, or metaphysical

Epiphany: (n) the feast day to celebrate the day on which the Magi found Jesus

I will let the letter speak for itself. Cut to the chase, contact your Senators and Representatives today or tomorrow.

Representative M,

As the date for Congress to certify the Electoral College results of the 2020 presidential election approaches, I request that you vote “yes” to move this procedure along.  We need a peaceful transition of power.  

I believe that accepting the results and developing working relationships with the incoming administration is more important than endless challenges, lawsuits, and political tricks.  We cannot use power for its own end, regardless of which party we affiliate with.  Revenge politics has not gotten us anywhere in the past few decades.

Please do not misinterpret my intent.  I do not see President Elect Biden and Vice President Elect Harris as saviors of our nation.  They are people who have a lot of difficulty decisions to make.

I do not see the Democratic nor the Republican parties, with their various agendas and caucuses as saviors of our nation.  Each has its merits, its vulnerabilities, and frankly these days absurdities, naves, and clowns.

For those Christians who follow a Liturgical Calendar, this week is the Feast of Epiphany.  This celebration of the Magi seeking and finding Jesus comes the day before you will vote to certify the election results.  While we usually focus on the discovery, celebration of Jesus and the hope that his birth brings, and the gifts the Magi bring, I am drawn this year to contemplate the dark side of this story.

A weak and insecure King Herod, when approached by the Magi about their quest, takes the news of the birth of a king as a threat to his power.  His response is to scheme how to discover and destroy this boy.  Later, he will go so far as to have all boys under the age of two killed.  The endless pursuit and holding onto power, here and in so many other examples throughout history, leads to destruction and death.  Have we not learned this lesson again in 2020?

The message of Christianity is that of repentance, forgiveness, and the freedom to do good, and for those who are leaders to lead well.  Ultimately, King Herod cannot hold onto his power and he will die, yet another insignificant provincial Roman governor of a contentious territory.  Would we recall him at all other than his brief appearance in Matthew chapter 2?

Consider your options this week.  Repent of the foolishness of this election cycle.  Forgive your colleagues for their offenses.  Lead well.  Demonstrate that good relationships are more important than being in control at any cost.

Posted in Reflections | Tagged | 8 Comments

Poem: What If

What if,
when Gabriel called,
Mary said, “No”;

And, John baptized
with water
for repentance,
but no baptism
of the spirit
followed;

And, he lost his head
after Salome danced,
to be forgotten
as one more fanatic;

And, no one was
healed in body or spirit, and
had no need to leave
the shores of Galilee
to catch anything
other than fish;

And, the Pharisees and Sadducees
vied to dominate
Jewish thought and custom,
while various rebellions
threatened the Roman occupation;

And, Barabbas was executed
between two thieves,
who cursed and spit on him
without one to at least
admit guilt and ask for
repentance;

And, no one
needed to meet
in the upper room,
wondering and fearing
about their fate;

And, women did
not need to go to
the gravesite,
for no entrance
needed to be found open
to an empty tomb;

And, no one needed
to follow They Way,
for there was no
good news to proclaim,
nor tongues of fire
nor message to present
in every tongue;

And, Saul merely
gathered those who
started sects of Judaism
and brought them for
trial at the Sanhedrin;

And, Gentiles continued
to be Gentiles with
their pantheons of gods,
and philosophy,
and unanswerable questions,
and idols to unknown gods;

And, Roman Emperors
were just rotten leaders
who blamed fires on minority
groups of displaced people,
killing them for bread and circus
to appease the common folks;

And, no martyrs
nor miracles needed
to gather stories
and letters to become
a new collection of scriptures;

And, no traditions
or rituals needed to provided
structure and organization
to a people’s faith;

And, no churches,
nor basilicas,
nor cathedrals
needed to be designed
nor built to house
those traditions
nor symbolize
that faith;

And, no false
prophets or herisies
arose for there
would be no orthodoxy
to challenge;

And, no reforms
nor protestations
would arise
for leaders were
merely men trying
to impose their will
without authority;

And, war would
just be war
for there would be
no justification
of a good war,
with evil being
irrelevant when
power would merely
be held by those stronger
than others;

And, no one
would have questioned
whether civilians had
rights, or voices, or votes,
as most would merely
be slaves, or servants, or serfs
doing the will
of those who claimed authority;

And, we had no message
to lover our neighbors,
nor do good,
nor put our faith
into works;

And, we had no opportunities
to see mysterious
situations, in which
we could say “Yes”.

But, Mary did say “Yes”

Posted in Reflections | Tagged | 7 Comments

Dept. of Alternative Facts: Injection

injection (n): something that is inserted into something else, such as a method of administering a vaccine with an injection; or, a method of distributing public funds to stimulate economic activity.

Spoiler Alert, we will cut to the case: Tuesday, after work, we received the first of two injections of the coronavirus vaccine!

As health care workers, granted in a support role of those caring directly for patients with Covid-19 in the hospital, we were offered the opportunity to receive the vaccine. We had the option to opt-out if we chose. We will continue to follow Covid-19 precautions. Getting vaccinated is not a hall pass to do as we please. Hundreds of millions of folks in the USA, and billions around the world do not yet have the options we have.

The same day Congress passed another stimulus package to send the President’s desk. I will not rehash the past half year to wrangling, posturing, back-room-dealing, or Twitter-storming; nor, dissect the feel-good-to-some-special-interest-group amendments that it took to secure votes. Politics as usual.

What is on my mind is the concept of liberty. For some years, I have been observing that any time “the government” (usually vaguely defined) promotes something, those who most loudly proclaim liberty refuse whatever simply because the government offered or required it.

Prior to the first round of coronavirus vaccine becoming available a week ago, about 40% of those polled said they would get it. A week later, those polled now is about 60%. That suggests that 40% of us and our neighbors will opt out. I speculate they will claim they are asserting their liberty. I would speculate that they are the same group who refuses to wear masks, wants to go to the store/restaurant/bar/sporting event/church at will, etc. all in the name of liberty. Would getting vaccinated be more acceptable if the pharmaceutical company made it, insurance paid for it, or someone could pay directly, without the government weighing in on the decision?

I do not spell “L I B E R T Y”: “S T U P I D” nor “S E L F I S H”.

Part of the road-block on the federal stimulus bill seems to be also around concepts of liberty. Democrats have advocated that individual citizens should receive assistance through unfettered additional unemployment benefits, to use for whatever financial priorities they chose. Similar ideas that individual should have the liberty to spend the money revolved around another possible lump-sum payment to all tax payers (like the $1200 payment earlier in the year). Again the idea was individuals can make decisions about how to spend the funds, which would go into the economy thereby helping businesses, utilities, etc.

Republicans have argued that giving money to individuals does not assure that it will be spent wisely. (When the first stimulus check came out the first purchase that I heard someone make was for a slip-and-slide for herself and her boyfriend to have fun this summer… sort of seemed like a good metaphor for how people would be stimulating the economy if left to their own liberty of choice). Republicans argued that the stimulus money should go directly to businesses, who seemed to be better positioned to make wise choices… like the tax breaks a couple of years ago which they used to buy back stock which jacked up the stock market so that the CEO’s and board members who got stock options could cash out on the high selling market?

Okay, cynicism aside, this all begs the question of whether people can actually use liberty wisely. If you have read the Hebrew prophets recently, you probably will bow and shake your head.

We will see how the American Experiment of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness progresses.

Posted in Reflections | Tagged | 6 Comments

Poem: Dad Had A Good Life

Born, as he was,
in the depression
and the world at war,
he grew up without,
and learned to make do.

Family, friends, neighbors
make communities,
and were the focus
of his life,
as a background
of stability 
and security.

He came of age
in the era of American
prosperity and aspiration.  
Education and career
provided for his wife
of sixty-plus years,
and children, who
in turn learned to learn,
and took the prosperity
and aspiration
to another generation.

He found Jesus,
forming his faith,
on old-time, simple
principles.  
No complicated
theology.  Believe, 
testify, do good.
“Blessed Assurance”
and “When the Role
is Called Up Yonder”
were as much 
joyful noise 
as he needed.

The third pillar
of his adult life 
was finances,
the bread and butter
of providing
for family and
the church.

Had I not known,
I might of thought
that Dow Jones
was his beer-drinking,
poker-playing buddy.

But, beer 
was not plentiful
in our household,
though Freecell
and Hearts would
be his passions
up to the end.

While Total Control Charlie
may have been his
college nick-name,
and such his life
may have appeared to be,
his stayed family life,
spirituality,
and stock-market picks
had one over-riding
characteristic:

Loyalty.

Any family event
was his top priority.
For all the world
travels that he and Mom
did, his objective
was to visit with
someone whom 
he knew.

In his last years,
my visits were more
about going to his
Men’s prayer breakfasts
than any tourist destination.

While I might not
view his accumulation
of wealth as enjoyed 
in this life,
he was generous,
putting up numerous
people who were
between situations,
purchasing them
vehicles, helping
funding education,
and finding jobs.

The mission
of every generation
should be to
hold on to 
and build upon
the best of those
who come before us.

Some years ago
my brother and I
mused on our
legacy from our father.
Loyalty was the trait
which we both found
that we have
inherited from Dad.

Maybe our families
are a little less traditional,
and our spiritual quests
pursued on different paths,
and our appreciation
of money a little
more fluid,
but were are in essence
our father’s sons.

Dad had a good life

Charlie Louis Larson, December 6, 1931 – December 14, 2020

Posted in Reflections | Tagged | 10 Comments

Dept. of Alternative Facts: Or, And

or: (conjunction) the option of one of two possibilities

and: (conjunction) the possibility of two, linked options

I overheard a co-work and client talking about the pandemic the other day. We often banter about various topics while working. The client quoted, “Give me liberty or give me death” regarding government (not clear at what level) restrictions on business and public spaces.

I joked back, “I don’t think that Patrick Henry said, ‘Give me liberty AND give me death”.

I understand the knee-jerk responses that we have developed regarding various hot-topics especially regarding government decisions. But, we often interpret the present distress, discomfort, and inconvenience as future condition. Rarely does the elation of something we like last; nor, the misery of something we dislike last.

Also, rarely does our present methods of doing some task stay the same over time. Punctuate history at any given time and rigidly hold to those attitudes, customs, and routine, and society would not progress. Would you prefer to do you laundry in you home, out on the porch or down the street at the laundromat, dropped off with the fuller, or in a stream on a rock (of note, I have washed clothes in a laundromat, see the remains of the fuller’s laundry in Pompey, Italy, and watched villagers in South Africa clean their household clothes on rocks in streams).

Rigidity of attitude, customs, and routines usually leads to death. Flexibility leads to liberty.

In a recently, local newspaper letter to the editor, a writer expressed rigidity of belief in a questions. I like to answer questions

Dear Editor

Mr E, in his Letter to the Editor, 11/18/20, asked the questions, “Many other conditions kill far more people, but we do not alter our way of life to the extent that Covid-19.  Why is Covid-19 so special?”.

This sparked my curiosity to investigate some possible answers.  With a quick Yahoo search, I found that in  2018, the death rate for various reasons were (rounded to the nearest thousands):

Heart Disease, 665,000

Cancer, 599,000

Accidents (not defined, but possibly motor vehicle and falls), 167,000

Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease, 159,000

Stroke, 148,000

Dementia, 122,000

Diabetes, 85,000

Pneumonia, 59,000

Kidney Disease, 57,000

Suicide, 48,000

If we accept that the USA has about 250,000 deaths attributed to Covid-19, it would have rated 3rd place in 2018.

Does anyone care about those other medical conditions? Certainly.  We have plenty of foundations to fund research into cures for heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, strokes, dementia, diabetes, etc.  In addition to seeking cures for progressive illness, they are advocating healthy lifestyles to reduce risk for individuals.  On the federal and state levels, we have health departments which also fund research, follow health trends, and encourage behaviors which we can do to be healthy and safe.

While Mr. E did not state directly, many folks whom I talk with who question the serious nature of Covid-19 also assert that most of those who have died are in vulnerable risk groups and would have died any way.  They simply had heart disease plus Covid-19, pneumonia plus Covid-19, etc.

If this were the case, than the death rate should be about the same this year compared to prior years.

However, statistics of all deaths in the USA for 2020 up to October (10 out of 12 months, compared to the full year) indicate that the USA has about 300,000 more deaths than usual.  That is pretty close to 250,000 deaths attributed to Covid-19.

So, if we put those heart disease plus Covid-19, etc. deaths back into the other categories, how does we explain why so many disease categories had higher numbers than prior years?

Furthermore, if we look the increase of deaths within age groups, we find that people 45-64 years old died 14% more often, people 65-74 died 24% more often, and those 75-84 died 21% more often in 2020 

But, back to Mr. E’s initial question, why are we altering our lives so much Covid-19?

Except for pneumonia, all of the other medical conditions are not contagious. 

If I go to the gas station, a local store, or a school sports event, and someone keels over from a heart attack, stroke, or fall, that would be tragic for the person, their family and friends, but I do not worry that I will have a heart attack, stroke, or fall a week later.  But, if someone who is infectious for Covid-19, most likely pre-symptomatic, is talking joyfully or cheering enthusiastically, I could get sprayed with Covid-19 droplets or vapor.  Maybe I would have a mild case of Covid-19 and lose a couple of weeks of income (I doubt the person who infected me is going to compensate me).  Maybe I could end up in the hospital for a few weeks to months and have thousands of dollars in co-pays from my insurance bill (I doubt the person who infected me is going to compensate me).  Or, I might die.

But, I do not choose to live under a rock.  No one else needs to either.  There are many good tasks that we can do, if we follow precautions (I will not say more about masks, physical distancing, hand sanitizing, etc.).  Those of us who work in health care, food production, transportation, and other businesses deemed essential, can do our jobs.  Those who can work from home can keep their client’s services going.  Those who are staying home can use on-line ordering and carrying-out meals to support our local businesses.  Those who have children, nieces or nephew, grandchildren, et al can help them with their on-line classes. Those who are bored can support bookstores and artists who are at home or in the studios by following them on-line, purchasing their products, etc.  Those who can work in charitable organization can distribute resources to help folks who need food, clothing, shelter, etc.  Those who ministers to our spiritual needs can use on-line connections, phone call visitation, and church membership bubbles.  Those who govern can use their positions of authority to provide education, safety nets, and legislation which support those whose lives are most restricted by this pandemic.

Let’s get on with good parts of life.

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From the Bookshelf: Myrtle and the Big Mistake, by Cynthia Reyes and Lauren Reyes-Grange

Wednesday, I took a vehicle to the dealership to get some service done. While waiting, I got to watch (only half way as I was reading too) two episodes of Law and Order on the lounge TV. I have never seen this program, and shall not seek out more episodes. Basically, some murder/sexual assault starts out the plot. The detective team starts interviewing people, catches some other bad people, and eventually finds the really bad people, who end up in court and prison. Some of the good people turn out to be bad people. Some bad people are victims of other bad people, but they happen to be the one that pulled the trigger, we might say.

I’ll stick to my farming magazine next time.

Thursday, a suspicious package arrived in our mail box. It was an Amazon Fulfillment Center padded envelop addressed to me. Hmmmm. Our account is the Mrs. name, so I never get Amazon packages. Being Christmas time, I thought that maybe someone ordered something and sent it directly as a gift.

Once, home, I broke the seal to find my author friend’s latests Myrtle the Purple Turtle Series book, Myrtle and the Big Mistake! I guess Cynthia knew that I needed some holiday cheer after this year’s series of events (and non-events).

No spoilers here. Myrtle and friends are playing some games. Something happens. Someone mistakes what happened. Other animals around the pond treat one of Myrtle’s friends badly. In the end, things get sorted out.

So many stories, children or adult, end up being basic morality plays. Bad people do something. They get caught. They get punished. Law and Order.

But, Cynthia and Lauren, do the story justice. For justice is not just catching bad people. Justice is making the situation right. And, this is what Myrtle and her friends do. They help the offending bird understand what was done wrong. Apologizies go beyond sentiments. The bird recognizes the mistake. They go together and tell the other animals what actually happened.

This story is about forgiveness. And, more importantly, as Myrtle has done in the other books, the story gives the reader an example of how to forgive and correct the error. This is justice.

Cynthia has a gift for making people feel special. Every child needs that, both when wronged and when offending others.

Looking over the details, I noticed that publication date for the book was 01 December 2020. I got my copy on 03 December 2020. Wow, thanks Cynthia.

After a year of dodging Covid-19, and two episode of Law and Order the day before, I needed to feel special.

Hmmm. I know of a six year old boy who is having a birthday this weekend. I think that I can get my copy wrapped up in time for his special day. I know where Amazon.com is to get another copy. If you know any children, let them feel special by getting a copy and reading it with them.

Posted in From the Bookshelf, Reviews | Tagged | 4 Comments

From the Bookshelf: Farming While Black, Leah Penniman

Let’s start with a quiz to establish essential knowledge and philosophy for reading Mrs. Penniman’s “Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land”

“Food Apartheid” is:

a) a system of organizing one’s garden, pantry, and menu plans

b) a system of constructive engagement, advocated by President Reagan in the 1980s to transform the agricultural system in South Africa

c) the method of manumission that Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson advocated for freeing their slaves, in their wills

d) a system of food production and marketing, in which certain populations live in food opulence and others cannot meet their basic survival needs

If you answered, a), you probably want to pick out a different book with pictures of beautify vegetables and smiling (white) women in the kitchen.

If you answered b), you probably want to want to tune into Homestead Rescue and watch a bunch of stereo-typical white people helping out poor back-to-the-land minded folks, since they obviously they can’t manage without white people rescuing them.

If you answered c), you probably really want to change society, but are benefitting from the system as is, so you can leave a legacy endowment which will make those changes after you are dead.

If you answered d), you should contact your favorite, local, black-owned book seller and start reading “Farming While Black”.

In “Farming While Black”, Ms. Penniman chronicles her journey of developing her philosophy of food production, then building Soul Fire Farm near Albany, NY with her husband and the local community. The books is part history, part spiritual inspiration, part technical manual, part social commentary and criticism of our industrial food system, and all comprehensive argument for changing how we grow, preserve, distribute, prepare, and eat food. This is a book which nurtures us on many levels.

Ms. Penniman has organized the topics of how people of color view farming, can educate their communities, and provide food as a way of caring for each other into easily read and referenced chapters. But, how you read this book may depend on your ethnicity and culture. To be honest, if you are not someone of color, start with the last chapter, “White People Uprooting Racism”. This will give you (myself included) a context and perspective for how to read this book and what to do.

First, people of color and empathetic people of European descent must recognize that relying on the dominant culture to solve the problem of food apartheid merely perpetuates dependence and implying inferiority of people of color. They must solve their own problems. And, by Ms. Penniman’s view, the first step is realizing that their ancestors brought the solutions across the Atlantic and implemented them during their period of enslavement, to only have the masters (with their educational, government, and religious systems) then claim that they discovered and developed these practices.

Mama Karen explained, “Anytime Black and Brown people do something to be self-reliant, the system does something to buck it, dismiss it, or co-opt it. ‘Look at those monkeys, look at what they live in, they live in filth’, said the white police officers. I heard it with my own ears.”

– Karen Washington

Quick Quiz:

What is the most common crime for which black youth are arrested, thereby first introduced to the criminal justice system, jail, parole, etc.?

a) loitering

b) distributing cocaine

c) armed robbery

d) domestic violence

If you picked a), continue reading, particularly chapter 13, “Youth on Land”.

If you picked b) you better check out your average white fraternity or office party, as this is where most cocaine is consumed.

If you picked c) ask the CDD or FBI for statistics on black gun ownership, criminal use of guns, or mortality rates by gun deaths… oops, Congress forbade keeping federal agencies from keeping any statistics about guns, thanks to the NRA (while you at it, ask how many NRA members are people of color).

If you answered d), ask who used the guy in Kenosha, WI.

Okay, I’ll stop ranting. But, obviously, even as an outsider, I found “Farming While Black” to be an engaging book on many levels. Yes, I like history especially from a variety of perspective. Check. Yes, I like the concept of community and that neighbors caring for each other provide more security than… Congress. Check. Yes, I like confirmation that many of the gardening practices which we have adopted grow great food and also great soil. Check. Yes, I like finding books which I can endorse, and even purchase a few more copies to send on to like-minded folks in all shades of white, grey, and brown.

“Farming While Black” has exceeded my expectation.

Posted in From the Bookshelf, Reviews | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Dept. of Alternative Facts: Thanks Giving

thanks (n): an act or statement of gratitude

giving (v): to offer an object to someone else

This Thanksgiving season, I have been hearing al awful lot of grumbling. Those making such statements fall into two opposing groups.

One grumbles about their sense of loss of the holiday because of following CDC guidelines for safety in the context of 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic. No travel. No family gatherings. No reason to cook a Thanksgiving meal for 10 to 20 people.

The other grumbles because they plan to travel, have a large family gathering, and cook a large meal… and they see the glare of guilt from group one.

Recently, I have a client who, we will say, comes from a different branch of the tree of Judio-Christian denominations. We have been having a lively exchange of ideas while doing our rehab. While, technically, staff are advised to not discuss controversial topics, such as politics and religion, with clients, I view the sanction as not the topic but the attitude that we bring to the conversation. Open minded exchanges of ideas and explorations of traditions are fine. Rigid boundaries and dogma are the problem.

With this in mind, as Thanksgiving approached, this client recommended that I read a section of 1st Timothy. As my hands were busy providing therapy at the time, I had to remember which chapter and verses, she recommended. By the time I got home, all I could remember was it was verses 1 – 4 of one of the six chapters in 1st Timothy.

As our guests are asleep at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning, this has given me time to read the whole letter. It only takes up five pages in my Bible, this is not putting me out much. Anyway, my preferred way to read one of the epistles is beginning to end, so that I can see how specific sections fit into the larger flow of ideas.

“…. everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving…” (1 Timothy, 4:4)

Certainly this fits the seasons. Fill in the blank for “everything”.

“The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden.” (1st Timothy, 5:24 – 25)

Thanksgiving is not a time to dwell on sins (turn off the news about the election results for today, please), but the first statement is part of the argument that Paul is making that some good is obvious and others will be recognized not in the deed, but in the results that will emerge in the trail of the deeds. Give thanks for the good deeds whether we can see the result now or later.

“… godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But, if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1st Timothy 6:6-8)

This Thanksgiving, whether you are observing it by yourself, with phone calls or Zoom/Face Time/Skype chats, e-mails/text messages, or in your social bubble, find contentment.

Maybe rain is refreshing the landscape, or sun lets you get out for a walk. Maybe you have some quite time for contemplation. Maybe you can watch “Miracle on 34th Street” to start the Christmas season. Maybe you have the turkey dinner, or can skip all that cooking. Maybe you can give a loved one a hug, or an elbow bump. Maybe you can check on a frail family member or neighbor. Maybe you can count how many people you know who have slipped by Covid-19’s grip, or recovered from infection. Maybe you can send some energy and prayers to someone you might know in the recovering at home or in the hospital.

Maybe we are missing out on our Thanksgiving traditions this year. Maybe we can consider the many possible good deeds that we can to today, even if we may not see the results for some time in the future, along the trail that follows us.

Posted in Reflections | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

From the Bookshelf: 1919, Eve L. Ewing

For whatever alignment of the stars, with the Black Lives Maters protests after George Floyds’ death, I happened to read a cartoon by an African American cartoonist which dropped the phrase “Red Summer”. I did not know the reference. Then, I heard Terry Gross interview (Fresh Air program on NPR) the author, Eve L. Ewing about her book of poems, “1919”… about the events in Chicago one hundred years ago… during the Red Summer. Sounded like a must-order book to get the details.

By the way, if you decided to purchase books on African American history, culture, etc, support a black-owned, local book store. Mine has become Sankofa in Washington, D.C. which is only a couple of hours away, should be drop by in person.

What Ms. Ewing has compiled in her book is a series of quotes about the events lead up to and during 1919, which illustrate official accounts. She then creates a poem about the ideas related in those events. She extracts many of the quotes from the official commission in Chicago. These may seem sterile community analysis, but in reflection should make us wonder, “Why did they (we) not get it”. That is a whole additional discussion… so many official reports are moldering in official archives… wait until I get to ranting about the Hawks Nest Tunnel commission of 1935!

As I wrote about the Great Migration, from the turn of the 20th century to the 1920’s, millions of African Americans moved from southern farms and towns to northern cities. This created economic, housing, social, and culture conflicts and pressure. Yet, millions of black folks, particularly older generations, remained in the south. In early 1919, a series of attacks by white folks started against individuals and communities. Homes, churches, and business districts owned by blacks were burned or looted. Men were lynched in prominent places as warnings. As the hot summer weather moved north, so did the conflicts.

On a hot day in August, 1919, a black boy drifted from an unofficially segregated black beach on the shores of Lake Michigan across the line to the white beach. Various accounts assert what happened, but the end results was that the boy drowned, the police refused to arrest the teenagers who were part of white athletic clubs who were accused of attacking the black boy, and the tensions escalated between the unofficially segregated neighborhoods of blacks and white. Even the official accounts agreed that the white folks, supported by the white National Guard, were the aggressors going into the black neighborhoods, burning the homes, looting the businesses, and arresting only black folks who attempted to defend their homes and families.

Do we, will we, ever learn… in this Red Summer of 2020?

But, history is history. What Ms. Ewing has generated is a series of poems that take the agonizing points of history and makes them into words that engage us in the narrative. These poems can be read for comparison to the official texts. But, after doing a read-through to get the sequence of events, go back. Read them out-loud. Read only one, or two at a time. Reflect. Our history is not something to numb our selves with sound-bites.. then go back to gardening, or the Food Channel, or The Bachelor.

These poems read delightfully, as tormenting as the content may be. Some sound like a canter reciting passages from Exodus. Others an Amen-Gospel-Song in an African American church. Others jump-rope rhythms keeping time with the double-dutch ropes. Or, the banter of two guys telling tall-tales about how hot the summer is, or the accusatory snarls of those justifying killing blacks.

For those participating in the Black Lives Maters marches now, these should be read as inspiration and precautions. When white supremacists infiltrate protests with intent to incite riots and encourage looting, and National Guard members push citizens back with tear gas, and 2A self-proclaimed militias stand behind them waiting for the protesters to turn into their guns… I foresee a 2022 Federal Commission report, regardless of whether convened by second-term President Trump or 79 year old President Biden, dryly chronicalling the Red Summer of 2020. Who will be the poet in 2120 to ask why we did not get this a hundred years ago?

Posted in From the Bookshelf, Reviews | Tagged , , | 5 Comments