Subsequent events have shown that we—as a country and individually—are not much more prepared to have our world turned upside down in an instant than we were on September 11, 2001, and I include myself as chief of sinners. (Five-minute video. Warning: some language, and it will probaby tear you apart.)
Somehow, we must do better.
Living unprepared is foolish. Living in fear is faithless.
Somehow, we must do better.
Every comedian knows what it's like to have a joke fall flat. It happens. But do they all receive lectures when their jokes fail?
I love our choir. We're casual, a bit wacky, and not all that good—it's a good fit for me—but we love each other and our work. We also cover a very wide spectrum when it comes to political, social, and even religious views, and one of the things that keeps us from being at each other's throats in these troubled times is humor.
You know what else I like about our choir? They laugh at my jokes. They tell me they like my sense of humor.
Maybe it's a choir thing. Maybe I've been in Florida too long. Maybe this is what happens to everyone as they get older. But it came as a shock to me that some people think I'm more demented than funny.
During our recent trip to the Northeast, I kept running into people who most definitely did not appreciate my sense of humor. Not only did they not laugh, but they reacted as if I were a particulary dense child with no understanding of the world. I'm not griping about specific people here; in fact, I don't remember who they were, nor what particular jokes fell flat. But the following examples are illustrative of the phenomenon.
I came upon this jar of mayonnaise while sorting through our food supplies and checking expiration dates. I posted it to Facebook, with the caption, "What do you think? Is it time to rotate the stock in my pantry?"
And people laughed. They did not look blank and condescendingly explain to me that the date does not mean October 1821 but rather October 18, 2021.
As I was sitting in a doctor's office waiting area, I noticed that they had thoughtfully provided a small refrigerator, which sported the following sign:
Had there been anyone else in the room, I would probably have noted, "I guess the Impatient Water must be in another room." Due to my recent experiences, my mind filled in, "No, you don't understand. The sign means that the water in this refrigerator is for patients only."
My choir would have laughed. Maybe that's because they are a choir, in Florida, and with an average age that is, shall we say, elevated.
But it sure is good to be among people who think me clever rather than stupid!
Based on what I've written before, you can probably guess that I'm fed up with people (and especially organizations) who think they have the right to ask me questions about my race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, political affiliation, and other personal information on the flimsiest of excuses. I haven't thought of any clever non-answers to most of the questions other than "Decline to Answer," an option that is not always given.
But I'm ready for race/ethnicity/ethnic background.
I've decided I'm Native American.
If you go back far enough, everyone has come to a given place from somewhere else. In my case, I have traced most of my ancestors back to when they first came to North America, and nearly all of their children were born here before the United States of America even existed—often more than a century before. Almost all of my family has been living on this continent for nearly 400 years, and the few "recent immigrants" for more than 200. In genealogical research, there's always room for surprises, but my roots here are very deep and very wide.
That's "native" enough for me.
It won't get me any tribal benefits, but at least it will make answering those pesky questions more interesting.
President Biden's new vaccination mandate is blatantly unconstitutional, to use the most polite words I can think of at the moment. And it is becoming abundantly clear that this doesn't bother him. As with the eviction moratorium and several other recent Executive Branch actions, the courts will no doubt rule against it. But as with the others, by then the damage will already have been done. Even the courts can't unvaccinate someone, can't undo the stress of job loss, can't make up the losses of the small landlords who depend on regular rental income, and certainly can't fully restore the faith of small business owners who have discovered just how easily the government can take control of their lives.
Here is Canadian lawyer David Freiheit's nine-minute legal analysis of the situation.
The Constitution exists for a reason, and when our elected officials stop respecting the supremacy of the Constitution it is a big, big problem, and that is as much true for the United States as it is for Canada.
I don't care whether it's Prime Minister Trudeau, President Biden, President Trump, Governor Cuomo, Governor DeSantis, or the lowliest city mayor—I fear an increasingly powerful Executive at all levels.
I fear even more those who think this executive power is a good thing as long as they are in favor of whatever is being mandated.
Back in 2008, I first posted the clip that is pretty much all I remember from the movie, A Man for All Seasons. I brought it back again in 2012. I don't know if it says more about the State of the Union or my own mental state that the third, fourth, and fifth reprises are all in 2021.
What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ... And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you—where would you hide ... the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast ... and if you cut them down ... do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
I'm reminded of a story from an otherwise long-forgotten sermon of my experience: Martin Luther, we were told, was once asked by a member of his congregation, "Why do you preach justification by faith every week?" Luther replied, "Because you forget it every week."
It would make a somewhat confusing hand-me-down, but I think this is a great t-shirt. You can see where a black cloth marker has been used for updates.
Not a meme, but part of an actual conversation a couple of decades ago. The second speaker was Porter, the first one of his co-workers.
It was our eight-year-old grandson's first solo sail. He had passed all his dad's tests the day before, and was eager to go solo, despite the strong wind and tide, which were at least pushing him into the cove, rather than out into Long Island Sound. So off he went.
It was, indeed, a strong wind, which made the small boat difficult to control. He capsized twice, gamely righting the boat and climbing back in each time. After a while, however, his lack of ability to make progress toward home began to frustrate and frighten him. I would not have handled that situation at all well.
Instead of giving in to panic, however, he assessed the situation, and discovered a patch of reeds he could head for with full assistance of the wind and tide. That's where he went, planning to pull the boat up on land and walk back to the cottage for help. He grounded in the reeds, lowered the sail, removed the daggerboard and rudder, and began pulling the boat up onto the land.
He didn't quite get the chance to finish. Watching from the shore, determined not to interfere with his very own adventure, but ready to render assistance as needed, we finally decided that a "rescue party" might be of some use. When they arrived (by land) he had already done all that was necessary except for securing the boat. Mission (nearly) accomplished, both boy and boat safe and sound—then, and only then, did he give in to tears.
Kudos to the security guard who had stopped by to see what was going on: he could have said so many wrong things, but merely commended the boy for his courage and clear head, telling him he had done exactly the right things.
It was a much more satisfactory reaction than that of my own sailing adventure six years earlier: the panicked onlooker who called 911, the fire boat officials who told me they were under orders to "take me in," and the ambulance crew persistently ready to pounce on me as soon as I set foot on shore (but I outwaited them).
Don't panic; keep your head; make a plan and execute it. Save your emotional reaction for when the job is done. If an eight-year-old can do it, so can we.
For the record: I don't care—well, actually, I do care very much, so let me start again. Whatever the situation, whatever we may dislike or regret, Joe Biden is our duly-sworn-in president and as such must be accorded the respect due that office. Detest and decry his policies all you want, but speak with respect. And if you pray, pray for him!
Also for the record: This is a non-partisan stance. I said the same thing about Donald Trump. And our previous presidents.
When Saint Paul urged Christians to pay "respect to whom respect is due" he was talking about governing authorities, and he was writing to Romans in the time of the Emperor Nero. If he can say that about such an emperor (who later beheaded him), I think we can manage a little basic courtesy now.
Our doctor's office has yet another set of forms for us to fill out, and this one just has me wanting to throw up my hands and scream, "NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!" Plus, some of the questions make no sense, in some cases giving far more options than reasonable, and in some cases too few.
For "Ethnic Background" I am given these options:
I understand that there are certain diseases that are more prevalent among Ashkenazi Jews, so maybe that's an important question. But there are also diseases that are especially prevalent among other populations, e.g. the Amish, and there's no opportunity to indicate that, other than the non-informative "Other." And just who are the No people—an obscure tribe of Papua New Guinea, perhaps? And is my own diverse ancestry, which took up some dozen slots on the 2020 census form, of no medical interest at all?
One ethnicity gets its very own question:
- Hispanic or Latino/a
- Not Hispanic or Latino/a
- Unknown or Not Given
I find that a curious question for a doctor to ask. Just how many diseases divide themselves by this criterion? If my lungs are congested, how much does it matter whether my ancestors came from Spain versus France? "Not Given" is beginning to look like the best answer for most of these questions.
There's a good deal more choice when it comes to Sexual Orientation:
- Choose not to disclose
- Don't know
- Lesbian or Gay
- Something else
- Straight (not lesbian or gay)
- (You can hold the CTRL key while clicking to select multiple options)
Frankly, unless I'm indicating problems of a sexual nature, I don't think even my doctor needs to know this information, though she's welcome to guess based on the fact that I'll admit to being female and having a husband. "Something else" sounds attractively bear-poking, however.
But even Sexual Orientation has nothing on Religion!
- African Methodist Episcopal
- Assemblies of God
- Christian Scientist
- Church of Christ
- Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Decline to Answer
- Disciples of Christ
- Greek Orthodox
- Haitian Vodou
- Indian Orthodox
- Jehovah's Witness
- Messianic Judiasm [that's how they spelled it]
- Russian Orthodox
- Seventh Day Adventist
- Unitarian Universalist
- United Church of Christ
There are so many things wrong with this list I won't even try to ennumerate them, other than to mention that my Seventh-Day Baptist ancestors would be feeling left out. And to note that it's just plain weird to have so many choices yet list "Islam" as one-size-fits-all. For myself, being unable to choose among Anglican, Christian, Episcopalian, Multi-Faith, Non-Denominational, Protestant, and Other—and not having the ctrl/click option for this one—I might have to go with that fascinating new religion, Decline to Answer.
But really, of what possible importance could the answer to this question be for normal medical care, other than the above-mentioned correlation between being Amish and certain diseases? Even that is an ethnic difference, not a religious one. Do Wiccans require different cancer treatments from Zoroastrians? True, Jehovah's Witnesses don't want blood transfusions, so that's important to know, but I think it would be safer and more efficient to ask that question directly, rather than make the assumption. I suspect not all JW's reject them totally, and for all I know, some other religion frowns on them as well.
Maybe these questions are required by Medicare. I have had more patience with my medical caregivers (though less with the government) ever since I learned that the very annoying questions they started asking at every visit were government-imposed: Have you fallen at all in the last year? "I have grandchildren. Falls are the natural consequence of fun." Have you been depressed during the last year? "I'm here for a physical, not a mental."
It's a good thing we like our doctors. The bureaucracy is rapidly eroding my confidence in the system.
Many a true word hath been spoken in jest.
As a friend of ours expressed, "I thought the [Babylon] Bee was satire."
Three generations of raw cookie dough fans here!
Even if you think "refreshing politics" is an oxymoron, you may appreciate the following video as a break from the horrendous news from Afghanistan. I've mentioned before that David Freiheit is running for Parliament in Canada, and while I can't vote for him, or support him financially (Canadian election laws about funds from foreign countries), I loved this 12-minute video on his experiences going door-to-door and talking with fellow Canadians. It's positive and encouraging—something we all need right now.
How is it anything less than criminal to pull our troops out of Afghanistan without first making a concerted effort to get our own citizens and their families home? Granted, it would be wrong to force them to leave, and I know that here in Florida there is always a handful of people who refuse to evacuate even with a Category 5 hurricane bearing down upon them. But 15,000 people left behind? That's the NBC News estimate; others vary, but still put the number in the thousands.
We've had 20 years to plan for this exit. We've been telling everyone—friend and enemy—for months that we were going to leave, and this absolute disaster is the best we can manage?
Lord have mercy.
There is room for debate as to whether or not the United States should ever have gotten involved in Afghanistan. Even if you acknowledge (as I do) that there is a legitimate place for countries, as well as people, to help those who are suffering, we do have a most embarrassing propensity for blundering into places with little to no knowledge of the culture, to their detriment and ours.
But once there, how many times can we promise people our help, accept the sacrifices of those who put their lives and families on the line for us, then decide it's too much trouble to keep our promises—how many times can we do this and still have any friends (or integrity) at all? Ask the Hmong, ask the Kurds, ask the people of Iran, ask the Native Americans for that matter.
It's like making marriage vows and bailing when life gets difficult. Oh, wait—we do that a lot, don't we?
I'm giving my computer files a much-needed spring summer cleaning, and came upon this, which I post here for my own future reference as much as anything. Unfortunately, I don't remember where it came from. The odds are it was from someone on Facebook, but that's the best I can do for now.
It's a clear, concise, visual guide to the seasons of the Church Year, as celebrated in the Episcopal Church and many other churches. The latter may differ in small details; I'm not familiar enough with them to say. But when I refer to the Church Year, this is what I'm talking about.
Finally, someone—someone whose work I respect—has said what I have been saying since the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns. I'm tired of being laughed at, and much worse, when I point out that it is inconsistent to excoriate people who resist some of the anti-pandemic measures, while at the same time themselves not thinking twice about driving a car. Both are actions that can endanger others, but most of us have decided to give automobile dangers a pass. We think so little about them that we tolerate, even joke about, impaired driving, speeding, road rage, poorly-maintained cars, and driving without a license or insurance coverage. Cracking down in these areas would no doubt make a huge difference in automobile injuries and fatalities. But even then there would be dangers from weather, from carelessness, and from that wasp that flew in the window and is crawling into your ear. (The last really happened to a friend of ours, who managed to get off the road safely—I'm not sure I could have.)
You want to protect yourself and others? If you can't walk to where you are going, stay home.
But of course we don't do that. The consequences would be too great.
I want people to understand that the various measures we are taking against this pandemic also have great consequences, ones that are not as immediately obvious as ending up in a COVID hospital ward.
George Friedman says it well in his article (from which I took my own post title), COVID and Cars. Unfortunately, it is behind a pay wall, but I've extracted a few quotes.
Every year in the United States, about 40,000 people die in car accidents. Some 1.35 million die in car accidents globally. In fact, they are the eighth-largest cause of death in the world. In the United States, about 3 million people are injured in automobile-related accidents.
These numbers exist despite all the efforts made to make cars safer. The reason cars aren’t banned is because the economic and social consequences of doing so would be devastating. The supply of food and other essentials requires trucking. Maintaining friends and seeing family require cars. In the United States, our ability to use land efficiently depends on cars to sustain a dispersed population. Yet this dependency carries a risk. In the back of your mind, you are aware as the ignition is turned on that you may die. You dismiss this possibility, of course, and proceed with your life.
What has happened is that a known risk of death and injury has been measured against the necessities of life, and a calculated risk has shown that tolerating the chance of death and enjoying the benefits of the car is preferable to seeking to eliminate car deaths by eliminating the car. The principle that death must be fought by all means is not practiced in the case of car deaths because a more subtle calculation takes place.
It’s a reminder that in most actions of human life there is a possibility of death or injury, but a life without those things would be impoverished. You can live without many things for a short and predictable period. Living without them indefinitely creates pressures on individuals and society. The trade-off between death and life is the human condition.
The idea that we can go on indefinitely with each new chapter forcing us to shelter in place is a superficial view of what will happen. As with automobiles, where we risk death on every ride and where many find it, the risk of COVID-19 will be integrated into our thinking, and we will make choices.