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.