Miss Mary

28 09 2011

As far back as I can remember Miss Mary was part of my life. It was unusual for a white family to be as close as we were to a black couple in the south where I grew up.

John and Miss Mary lived across the field from us from the time I was about two years of age until I was about 10. Many times my mom would send me over to borrow a stick of butter or a cup of sugar. Many times Miss Mary walked across the field to do the same. We shared Christmas celebrations together. We traded food and baked goods. We shared life. Our families got along fine in spite of the southern traditions that surrounded us and asked us to live somewhat separate lives. And Miss Mary was my best friend.

It was always a wondrous thing in the spring, when the field would be disked up. The soft, sandy soil felt like feathers as I walked across it. There was no path! But over the next day or so there was so much traffic across the field that soon a smooth path emerged, patted down by my bare feet, mom’s shoes, and Miss Mary’s flip flops.

Their house was small, a former rail station. Behind the kitchen was the room where she cured her meats. The aroma was incredible. On many occasions, when I would sneak over to her house to share breakfast with her, Miss Mary would hone her knife to a razor edge and slice a slab of bacon off the edge of her hanging side of pork and the sizzling would begin.

She was a jolly woman, big and round, with arms that jiggled. And she had a mysterious snake tattooed on the inside of her left forearm that seemed to come to life as she moved her arm. For an almost Amish kid that snake was a big deal! She once told me how when she was a young woman she had a pet snake and after it died she had the tattoo done because she was so heartbroken.

Miss Mary and I talked together as equals; me a tow-headed kid whose parents had been Amish, and she a black woman with some Cherokee blood. We talked about everything from TV shows she liked to her reliance on horoscopes (about which I had no understanding). We talked about what really mattered in life, like the kind of fish she liked to fry and how to clean them, or the best way to pick peas. We would talk and laugh together like two old friends. I followed her around as she fed her chickens, geese, and pigs. And each time we went past their outhouse, I would wonder at that mysterious, dark building; knowing what happened there, but not quite able to put it together with the bathrooms in our house.

Miss Mary taught me how to drink coffee. At each of our many breakfasts, we would make a game out of who could drink their coffee first. She put lots of sugar and milk in it, which I didn’t like, but I would drink it with her anyway. She was my friend.

I was six when my beloved dog King died. My mom and dad were away. I came home after school to find him gasping his last breath. Old age finally caught up with him. My older brothers were no help at all. So heartbroken and sobbing I ran across the field to Miss Mary. My sobs were those deep racking sobs that made me gasp for breath in that jerky way kids do when they cry that hard. I was so hysterical that Miss Mary didn’t even know what was wrong with me at first. She finally got me calmed down enough that I could tell her King had died, then she wrapped her big jiggly arms around me, snake and all, and hugged me tight. She fixed me something to eat and began to talk me through the crisis. She told me how when she was young she too had lost a friend, her uncle, and how she had been so sad she crawled under a porch to hide from the world. But, she said, someone had coaxed her to come out. Then she talked to me about how one had to face life, and that loss was part of life. That hiding from pain was not the answer.

And then one day, when I was about 10, mom told me that John and Miss Mary were moving to Charlottesville. This was something I could not comprehend! I had never known life without her comforting presence just across the field. I remember walking through her empty house after they moved. Looking around that lonely kitchen where we had shared so many breakfasts, going into the room where she cured her meats, that was now empty of that tantalizing aroma. I guess inside I felt as empty as her house had become. She was gone.

Once they moved, I only saw Miss Mary one other time as we passed by Charlottesville while on a trip. But she remains frozen in my mind, where she has never aged; jolly, loving, giving, wise as Yoda, and always my friend.


This Week’s Three-fer Wingnut Award

26 08 2011

Today is a three-fer. Try as I might I couldn’t limit the Wingnut Award to just one or even two people. Today I had to offer three awards. Hang on your hats friends here we go.

So let me see if I have this right.

John McCain (Senator from AZ) and Lindsey Graham (Senator from SC) have stated that Obama’s approach to Libya was a failure. Somehow, while congratulating the American people for overcoming that evil dictator, Gaddafi, they managed to express disappointment that the way Obama went about it was wrong, because the “full force of the United States” was not brought to bear. In their opinion, a six month conflict was “too long.”

That means that a revolution by the Libyan people and for the Libyan people (assisted by NATO), would have been better accomplished had the United States gotten more involved with troops.

Hmmm. Can anyone say Iraq or Afghanistan? These are the two longest running wars in American history, where much greater force was brought by our service men and women, where far more lives were lost (both ours and theirs), where untold trillions of dollars have been spent, where very messy situations continue to exist; these are Ok to McCain and Graham? But a six month, more minimal engagement, without a boot on the ground, to defeat the man the grandfather of the conservative right, President Reagan, wanted desperately to defeat is somehow a failure. I don’t get it unless this is just politics as usual.

For this opinion these two “gentlemen” get my Wingnut of the Week Award.

DISCLAIMER: I really hate all wars and I wish we would not get involved policing the world. I do have the utmost respect for people –soldiers and pacifists- who are willing to die for others. And I hope, should the need arise, I would be so courageous.

Finally our old friend Pat Robertson is at it again. This week, on The 700 Club, Pat suggested the earthquake induced crack in the Washington Monument might be a symbol from God like the biblical account of the rending of the veil in the temple as Jesus was being crucified.

Uhhh Pat. You sure you want to put those events together in the same paragraph? It seems a bit over the top…even for you. So we have the death of the Son of God and a very minor earthquake with a bit of damage. Seriously dude. Lighten up.

There you have it folks. Three awards for three outrageous people.

Another Wingnut Award

18 06 2011

I voted for him, and will likely do so again, unless a better choice shows up. But this week’s “wingnut” award goes to President Obama for ignoring the counsel of Justice Department and Pentagon lawyers and not getting the approval of Congress to pursue the war in Libya.  Sunday is the deadline.

See. I remember when another president acted in similar ways, and got his closest advisors to say that torture was Ok. I was outraged and disappointed then and I am outraged and disappointed now. In spite of his many good points, in this case, our current President seems to be acting much like his predecessor and I expected more.

Truth be told, few in the Republican controlled house have met a war they didn’t like. But, because our President is a Democrat, most likely they would have denied him the authority to act. I guess this week we could be a double award, but I’ll leave it for now.

Please Mr. President, please do not act in the same way “W” acted.

Wing Nut of The Week Award

20 05 2011

I am thinking of starting a weekly Wing Nut of the Week Award. It would focus on goofy statements made by people in politics. I probably won’t actually crank out something every week, but when the goofy statements inevitably come out I may highlight them.

You have two great contenders for this week. One is Newt Gingrich. His answer to David Gregory question regarding the Ryan budget plan was actually quite reasonable and made a lot of sense. “I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.” His goofy stuff was much of what he said trying to backtrack away from his reasonable statement. He even called Gegory’s question a “set up” when all the records show it was simply a good interview question. Dear friend Sarah chimed in to Newt’s defense by saying another question Gregory had asked was racially tinged, but she is so far out of orbit, that we won’t even consider her this week.

But it was another one of the gentlemen seeking to become our next president who has proven himself to be more the most qualified for the wing nut of the week award; the erstwhile Senator from my own state of abode, Rick Santorum.

Rick Santorum, in his eagerness to support the euphemistically phrased “enhanced interrogation methods” (known as torture by any reasonable or unbiased person’s view) as key to how we found Osama bin Laden, opened up on poor old John McCain.

McCain, who spent five years in a Viet Cong prison camp on the receiving end of torture (enhanced interrogation methods); stated in a Washington Post Op ed piece that torture had played a very small, if any, role in locating bin Laden. Furthermore he has a letter from the head of the CIA regarding bin Laden’s case stating the same. McCain has also made statements regarding the unreliable nature of information gathered with by torturous methods. Really folks. The man should know! He was there. He gave unreliable information as he was tortured.

Santorum, during a radio interview, parroted the view that enhanced interrogation aided the United States in its capture of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. As if it alone were the key. And now for the wing nut award statement. Referring to McCain, who suffered horribly under enhanced interrogation Santorum said “he doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works.”

If ever allegiance to one’s own perspective blinded a person to reality, this would be it. God help us if that man ever become our president.

Thank’s Mr. President

4 05 2011

Thank you President Obama, for not releasing those photos.

Seeing people who have experienced a violent death is not something we need. I still remember looking at pictures from WWII in an old LIFE Magazine. There, half covered in dirt, were skeletons, clad in tattered uniforms and helmets; clutching their useless weapons. It was a gruesome sight and I was happy to be 25 or 30 years removed from the event.

 I remember visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp when I lived in Germany. I wondered why the Nazis felt it was important to document, with photos; piles of people they had gassed, worked, and starved to death. Again it was gruesome.

When I saw images of people dancing in the streets after 9/11, rejoicing in the tragedy of loss of life in our country, I was stunned. What motivated that kind of hatred? What was it about the death of all those people that inspired such revelry? How did the images flashed all over the world make people who had never met those victims feel victorious? And when several years later, as bodies of American soldiers were desecrated, I saw people who danced and rejoiced. It was gruesome in a whole new way.

Then I saw people dancing and chanting on Sunday evening after the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death reached the public, and I felt very sad. How is it that we can dance and chant at the demise of our enemy and it is considered a legitimate expression of victory, but just a few years ago when they did it, it was gruesome? I found our celebration of Osama Bin Laden’s death profoundly disturbing.

Simply hearing that Osama Bin Laden was dead caused people here in the USA to have a party.  Feeding our collective voyeurism by seeing the graphic image of a dead man is just gratuitous lust. And stirring up terrorists by releasing those photos would have only made things worse around the world.

So thank you President Obama. You have done our country a service by not releasing those photos.

What a Hoot?

19 04 2011

What a hoot!

To hear the Republican leadership and talk radio you would think that President Obama is the meanest, snarkiest man in the land. His crime? He dared to challenge the Ryan budget plan the House voted on recently.

These are some of the same people who have promoted the lie that our president was born in Kenya and is a follower of Islam. These are some of the same people who have said our president is a radical socialist. These are some of the same people who intimated that our president pals around with terrorists. And now they have hurt feelings? Because President Obama has critical words for a budget plan he disagrees with? Boy oh boy! Are these cry babies for real?

Additionally, President Obama had the gall to say if the opposition party wants to overturn Health Care Reform they should give it a try. He invited them to an open debate on the matter. How dare he use that tone of voice with them! How dare he issue such a challenge? Who does he think he is the leader of the executive branch?


That’s right folks. There are different branches to our government and it is actually Ok for them to offer dissenting opinions. Many Republicans feel perfectly free to distort the truth and/or legitimately challenge the Democrats on all manner of legislation, why is it not Ok for the same thing to happen in return?

Lest we forget, it was not that long ago when the Republicans were in power and VP Cheney (among others) said “deficits don’t matter.” There is more than enough blame to go around to both Democrats and Republicans as to who ran up the deficits. But a $1 trillion misguided war and Bush’s tax cuts for the most wealthy among us, really drove up deficit numbers. And for Republicans to now claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility seems a little goofy. To top things off, the current Republican plan has us running significant deficits for a long time to come. So there are legitimate questions to be raised.

I say allow both sides to present their plans for how to move to a more fiscally sound future. And let the people decide on the merits of the respective arguments. But please have a reasonable debate. Feel free to disagree with each other. Challenge each other, but do it in an adult manner. And stop acting all hurt when the other side dares to challenge you.

I, for one, was happy to see President Obama taking a firm stance and laying out a plan. It needs more details though, a lot more details. I look forward to hearing more. I am not naïve enough to believe all the promises of any politician.  And if the Republican plan turns out to be a better plan I will support it, but so far I have not been convinced.

So let the adult conversation begin and stop acting like teenagers.

What a hoot. Yeah. It would be a hoot if it was not such a serious matter.

Do We Really Need a Government Shutdown?

8 04 2011

So here we are facing a shutdown of the government. Attempts at compromise have not yielded positive results; both sides are to blame. And, to be sure, both sides will try to earn brownie points by blaming the other. All I can say is that as long as the government is shut down; NO congressperson, cabinet member, or even the President should draw a paycheck.

In the end I do believe that the political right will bear the brunt of the blame for this fiasco, but those who will suffer the most are the regular folks. These are the workers, the poor, the elderly, and children. The sad thing is that all this fuss over the country being broke is mostly a fairy tale anyway.

Noted economist, Friedman, has long contended that the debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio was much worse after WWII than it is today, and that we may need to encourage short-term deficit spending, to spur the economy to long-term growth. But many people simply do not like Friedman or anything he says, because of his placement on the left of the political spectrum.

Recently I came across an article by Sally Kohn at foxnews.com/opinion/2011/04/06/federal-budget-crisis-hoax/. She agrees with Friedman and make great points about the current budget crisis; and while I find myself less “freewheeling” fiscally than she seems to be, she is worth reading. Below are a few excerpts from her article that I find interesting.

“…the extent of the federal budget crisis as a whole is being wildly overblown to scare us toward drastic measures rather than rational solutions.”

“…politicians of both parties…tell us that the government is broke and our debt level is unsustainable and, therefore, we’re going to have to cut things like unemployment benefits and funding for public school teachers.”

That does seem to be the way things happen. You would think teachers are greedy thugs the way they are spoken of these days. I have yet to see a public school teacher who chose their career as a scheme to get rich. And most people who are unemployed would far rather work than sit around and receive a check. And I say that as someone who is only marginally employed and receive not a dime from our government. Kohn continues,

“There’s a reason the Founding Fathers designed things so that the federal government can borrow money and carry debt — because, at times like these, that’s precisely what’s needed. When the economy recovers, the debt is resolved.”

Kohn then quotes economist Dean Baker to illustrate her point in the above quote.

“In spite of the deficit hawks’ whining, history and financial markets tell us that the deficit and debt levels that we are currently seeing are not a serious problem. The current projections show that even ten years out on our current course the ratio of debt to GDP will be just over 90 percent. The ratio of debt to GDP was over 110 percent after World War II. Instead of impoverishing the children of that era, the three decades following World War II saw the most rapid increase in living standards in the country’s history.”

Obviously long-term deficit spending is not a sustainable path, and certainly not something for which I would lobby. But just maybe the current howling about deficits is more closely related to who is leading the country than the fact that we are carrying a deficit. Perhaps it is more closely related to what our President wants to spend money on than the fact that the money is being spent. Kohn speaks to this in the following excerpt.

“… big business interests lobbied for the extension of monstrous tax giveaways to the super rich…” “…and then they turn around and say government is broke and can’t afford to help poor and working families who are really struggling.

“Those who are trying to convince us that our government is broke and cannot afford to borrow more are, consciously or unwittingly, reinforcing the vastly unequal society that we have become, where the size of the silver spoon in your mouth when you’re born matters infinitely more than how hard you work.”

“Yes, our level of national debt is in the long-term untenable. And yes, the fact that large swaths of that debt is owned by China and Saudi Arabia is deeply problematic. The solution, however, is to use government spending on innovation and new industries not only to kick start a private sector that has been reluctant to create jobs but also retool the American economy so we actually make things again and have a broad middle class with good wages and benefits who can afford to buy the stuff we make, creating the kind of demand we need for long-term sustainability.”

Sally Kohn is the Founder and Chief Education Officer of the Movement Vision Lab

So I hope our legislators can avoid the crazy shutdown. It really is not necessary. And I wonder how those who advocate for “getting the government out of our lives” plan on making sure water is safe, roads and bridges are in good repair, and that our skies are being watched by well qualified air traffic controllers. I pray that the politicians can stop playing to their political bases, and do what is best for the country. I hope those who proudly shout out, “Shut her down.” will stop and consider how such an action will hurt the most vulnerable among us.

So for the sake of all that is sane, please don’t play with our country. Please don’t play with our people. Please don’t play with our economy.