Go Set a Watchman

I just finished listening to the Audiobook of Go Set A Watchman, read very effectively by Reese Witherspoon. The manuscript was written in the 1950s but never published until it was discovered in 2014. The story is set after To Kill A Mockingbird, when Jean Louise (Scout) is a grown woman of 26. Go Set A Watchman was written before the more famous book, the main theme of which is summarized in a brief section.

Mockingbird was a gentler and more effective way of dealing with racism. Had she published the Watchman manuscript in the 50s, it would probably have been banned and its author blacklisted.

Mockingbird is probably a more perfect artistic accomplishment. Go Set a Watchman, though, has its literary moments, with some colorful characters and amusing scenes.  The scenes of the motherless child reaching puberty and the anxiety it causes should be required reading for every teacher or youth worker who deals with middle school children.

The last few chapters resemble a platonic dialog more than a dramatic story and consist of a series of intense exchanges between Jean Louise and those closest to her.  Her angry speeches against racism are countered with genteel defenses of the way things are and why it is necessary to go along and get along. It is this social commentary that we need now.

You remember back in November when everyone warned us to avoid politics and religion at the family gathering for Thanksgiving? Jean Louise’s speeches are the models for what we should have said.

My Experience with Cults

I came out a while back on Facebook and admitted to belonging to a cult.

My kids suspected it almost twenty years ago when I started wearing lycra cycling shorts, which back then had a chamois pad made from real leather, by the way.  When I built my new bike this summer and found a killer deal on the top-of-the-line, Campagnolo  Super Record carbon crankset with ceramic ultimate level technology bearings that spin in Cronitecht steel races, I realized there was no need to hide it any more, no covering it up with black tape.

I have joined the Campy Cult.

(By the way, google “campy cult” and you are likely to get “Rocky Horror Show, campy cult classic.)

Campy Crank

Ceramic Ultimate Level Technology

I admit it’s a bit ridiculous for me to have elite racing equipment on my bike.  Kind of like Danny DiVito thinking if he wears the same shoes as Michael Jordan he can beat him in a slam dunk contest.

Bicycling Magazine in the current issue (December 2011) has a great article on the Campagnolo company, one of the last hold outs against the pressures of globalization.  While everyone else is chasing cheap labor and outsourcing production to the far east, the family owned company continues to use highly skilled, well-paid craftsman in Vincenza, Italy.

It used to be that nearly every rider in the Tour de France–always the winners– used Campagnolo components.  But that changed with Lance Armstrong.  Never faithful to the women in his life, he was steadfastly monogamous in his loyalty to his sponsors.  Shimano parts worked well enough for him to win seven championships.

When Campy first came out with a ten-speed set of rear sprockets, Lance continued to win with only nine cogs in the rear and waited patiently for Shimano to introduce their own ten-speed cassette.  We devotees of the classic Italian components concede that Lance was just that good–he was able to win on inferior equipment (with one gear tied behind his back, you might say).

We just hope the company survives the coming economic Armageddon in Italy.  As one cycling legend said in the Bicycling article, “I’d rather walk than ride anything else.”

I’ll be back in a day or two with a report on the other cult I’m in danger of being drawn into . . .

What Are You Thinking?

My friends in Topeka, Kansas, tell me they have seen a bumper sticker that quotes Psalm 109 in reference to president Obama.  It’s not funny.

Maybe I’m sensitive because of where I live.

I sometimes have coffee in Aggieville and wonder if the ghost of Timothy McVeigh is lurking in the shadows.  Aggieville was the first place America’s worst domestic terrorist was arrested.  It was just a bar room fight when he was a soldier stationed at nearby Fort Riley, but he went on to worse things.

A few years after that incident, McVeigh and his accomplice rented a big white truck and filled up with gas in Riley County  before they drove it to Oklahoma City and killed 19 children at America’s Kid’s Daycare Center, along with 150 adults.

During the nineties fanatics were speaking in apocalyptic terms about the evils of Bill Clinton and his wife.  They were talking about concentration camps in the Southwest and Blackhawk helicopters.  They were painting David Koresh as an innocent victim whose righteous blood called for vengeance.  For most it was just talk.  But Tim McVeigh was listening.

Or maybe it’s the hideous figure of America’s worst living hatemonger, Fred Phelps, whom I sometimes have to drive past.  Fred and family give hate speech a bad name.  In February I attended a conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls at Midwestern Baptist Seminary.  One of the seminary’s graduates had been murdered in church, and Fred and his pitiful band of followers came to picket.

After fifteen years of hate speech directed at physician George Tiller–someone finally listened.  The doctor who performed late-term abortions in Wichita was finally murdered.  It happened on a Sunday morning as he was serving as an usher at his church.

Late term abortion is a gruesome and traumatic procedure–and sometimes a tragic necessity.  Under Kansas law at the time Dr. Tiller was murdered, it was legal only when the mother’s health was endangered.  The law was not strict enough for some, but too strict for others.  But my point is this–murder was not the answer; but people kept chanting “Tiller the Killer” until someone took it seriously.

We have a peaceful way of changing national leaders every four years.  In the meantime, the Bible tells us to pray for our leaders–it doesn’t tell us to take a curse out of context and pray it.  You are entitled to your political opinions–but think about the effects of hate speech:

  1. It may set off an unbalanced person.
  2. It reflects on all Christians and makes us look like ignorant bigots.

In Romans 2:24 Paul quotes from Isaiah, in a passage referring to the people God chose to represent his love and goodness to the world–

God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.

How about that for a bumper sticker?

How Many White Men Does it Take . . . ?

OK, the answer is–whatever the punchline–

That’s not funny!

I was going to ask, “How many white men does it take to say a bland and boring prayer?” But it turns out that white guys are more sensitive than I realized.

Some of my brethren were offended and hurt by the Rev. Joseph Lowery’s rhyming conclusion to his inaugural benediction.

That’s right, the same people who are afraid that Hate Crime legislation might stifle their freedom of speech, the good ol’ boys who laughed at all the wrong places in Gran Tourino, the gentlemen who can sling around racist and sexist remarks and then respond to anyone who raises an eyebrow–

Oh, I forgot–it’s not politically correct (snicker) to say that!

All my rowdy buddies might not be able to enjoy Superbowl Sunday, because their feelings have been hurt, their inner child wounded.

And what were the offending words? Well, it was more what he implied than what he said . . . But when Rev. Lowery implored the Lord to help–

White embrace what is right–

why some sensitive souls took that to suggest that maybe some white folks some of the time might not always embrace what is right.

Surely he wasn’t thinking of way back in 2008 when crowds at Republican campaign rallies shouted, “Kill him!” when Obama’s name was mentioned.  That’s living in the past, man.  Why can’t he get over it?

Me? I can’t shoot a jump shot and I can’t dance, but I do have a sense of humor.  Lowery’s rhyming cadences were a light-hearted reminder that the times are a’changing, but there are still some  changes needed.  It made the prayer, colorful, even fun.  The two prayers that were broadcast, and the one that HBO censored, represented the diversity (sorry white guys, didn’t mean to offend you again) that makes up our country.

(Click here for the text of Lowery’s Inaugural Benediction.)

A Post-Racist World

Two years ago Jürgen Moltmann was interviewed on his 80th birthday.  The interviewer asked him if young people need to be given more evidence for belief in God.  Looking back over the horrors of the earlier years of the twentieth century and then the amazing changes that came in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he said,

We’ve seen so many signs and wonders in our lifetime.

He referred to the peaceful end of apartheid in South Africa, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Velvet Revolution in Prague, and the end of oppressive regimes throughout Eastern Europe.

Forty years ago it was just a dream that people would be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.  Now it is a reality.

Tomorrow we will inaugurate our first Hawaiian-born president.  The nationality of his father and the complexion of his mother did not matter.  People voted either for or against Barack Obama based on their perception of his leadership qualities and the political platform he espoused.

Of course, there were a few during the campaign who tried to appeal to the race card, those who appealed to base motives, those who promoted racist jokes and songs.  There are still a few who always include his middle name–pronounced with a sneer.  But they had no influence.  The belong with the shrinking crowd of those who still deny that cigarette smoking causes cancer.

Philip Yancey’s book Soul Survivor tells how his faith survived in spite of the failings of the church of his youth, an openly racist church.  The story is heart breaking.  But he also tells how he was inspired by those churches that supported the civil rights movement, those churches and Christian leaders who formed the heart of the movement.

I was asked yesterday what the Bible says about racism.  Racism, in the Nazi sense, was a twentieth-century mythology, a modern invention.  But there have always been ethnic, cultural, religious, and nationalistic divisions among people.  The Apostle Paul devoted his life to proclaiming the reconciling Gospel of Jesus Christ.  One passage that sums it up is Colossians 3:11.  Speaking of God’s intention to create a new humanity, he says,

Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.

The day after the election, my daughter, who lives in Harlem, saw an African-American boy, about ten years old, who was beaming.  “That means I can be president some day!”

It really is a miracle that I have seen the end of racism in my lifetime.

Yes We Can!

Bob the Builder

Bob the Builder

Here’s the link to Bob the Builder’s official website.  My grandson has been listening to his theme song for about a year now:

Can we fix it?

Yes we can!

Here’s a little tidbit my daughter passed on: President Obama website:

You can submit you ideas and be part of the “change we need.”

http://www.change.gov/

This is pretty neat, I hadn’t heard about this Web site until my friend Melissa mentioned it yesterday. It’s the Obama web site for the transition. It’s supposed to have a lot of information about appointments in the future, but it already has a lot on different issues and places to submit ideas.

Here’s the energy environment page too: http://www.change.gov/agenda/energyenvironment/

Soldier and Mom

Our friend Margaret passed on this exchange of emails she had with her son Klint, who is stationed in Iraq, regarding the election of Barack Obama as our next president.

Mom to Soldier the day after the election

Klint,

I got your message yesterday evening on my cell phone voice mail.  Did you send it on Tuesday?  Anyway, good to hear your voice!

Don’t know how you feel about the elections, but I am so excited, I could “pee my pants” so to speak.  I’m so tired of “Old white men” running the country  This is an incredible breath of fresh air.  Hope Obama lives up the my expectations!  What a chance for change!  Feels like the 70’s!

Love, Mom

Klint Replies and Mom Answers

Mom,

I will try and call again later this week. I am running a school that includes driving, shooting, sneaking around in the woods etc. There is a tremendous amount of labor put into this thing and lots of moving pieces all coming together at once, so I am stupid busy and not getting much sleep. No probs though.

The elections. Hmm, I like Obama and I think there will be a lot of positive things that come from his presidency especially as far as international relations go. My concern is a democrat controlled house and senate to go with him.  I feel that socialism is a threat to liberty and as far as I am concerned it is fascism in disguise, a wolf in sheep’s clothing so to speak. So, having all three houses controlled by people who view government as a redistribution center for others peoples money greatly greatly concerns me.

As far as “old white men”, umm if we are going to use racial terms to describe culture then it should be noted that old white men are the reason that our country has one of the highest standards of living and has generated the most wealth and the most stable govt in the history of the world.

The colonial settlers created a cultural blend of entrepreneurship, egalitarianism and protestant work ethic that was unique in the history of the western world  and they formed that culture into a government.

Those principles should not be thrown out nor should they be mocked by those who do not know history or just how horrible life is in so many other parts of the world.

But as with any complex system, there is room for improvement.  This financial crises has exposed the flaw in under-regulation. That does not mean the whole concept is flawed, it just means that the system needs a tune up. Its a matter of not throwing the baby out with the bath water i suppose, but im afraid that populist rhetoric and mentality will give the three branches too much power to change the system towards socialism and we will end up like England with a 50% income tax rate and so many public funding programs that the govt can not keep track of them.

This type of system by its nature can not generate wealth, it only stifles initiative to create wealth or to excel, especially if you know that the govt will strip you of your earnings in order to fund more govt programs that are staffed by people that can not be fired and are not subject to the standards of achievement that are inherent in private enterprise.

I am, however, excited by the prospect of some real change in environment regulation, because as far as that goes the environment is one of those public arenas that affect everyone and is within the realm of govt to monitor and regulate. I am also happy to have someone that is not in the business of personal morality legislation as i feel that what consenting adults do in their own property is their business and should not really fall within the scope of govt regulation.

Anyway, we shall see, I know that the Iraqi army guys are scared to death that we are going to abandon them before everything has become stable.

The changes this year are amazingly dramatic and for these guys it is night and day. Last year they basically expected to die in combat. They almost viewed it as inevitable. Now, they are buying houses and planning weddings and thinking about life other than violence and death. They view Obama’s win with great concern because they think that if we go home now, then it will be back to the meat grinder for them if the Sunnis decide to try and re-take power.

I for one have spent too much of my time and effort over here to see it fall apart because we decided to leave the job 90% finished.   So, these are my concerns here, and I hope they are ill founded.

And you will have to excuse me for not viewing the late 60s and 70s from a viewpoint other than tragic.

I’m sure it was fun, however. At least you weren’t in China or Russia then.   Wow, umm so that’s my rant.   I will try and call this week if my connection is worth a crap.

Love, K

Ok time for Mom’s rant.

First,  while the 60’s and 70’s were definitely scary militarily, i.e,. Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam war, etc.  It also had some incredible leaps in science and humanity.  Space travel, men on the moon, civil rights – holy cow!  As a kid can you imagine what it meant to watch the space program evolve!  As a black person I can’t even begin to fathom their coming into a new era of equality with all they had endured in the past.

Alright, “old white men” might have been a bit harsh and yes, our founding fathers were “old white men,” but they had a dream and a plan.  I haven’t seen that since Kennedy.  Time for some new ideas.

As far as socialism and redistribution of wealth, Klint, you’re smarter than buying into that bunk!  Taxation, that we have had since the beginning of the civilized world, is about redistributing the wealth, to the causes that keep a civilized world.

It builds infrastructure, builds programs to help the less fortunate, funds our entire social structure from the local police, firemen, schools,  . . .  and so on.

And the problems we are having with the economy, I believe in part is because the government didn’t get involved and put a kibosh on some of the loan programs.  There is a place for government intervention and yes it is a fine line, but it is still needed.

In some ways we are very similar to the 30’s and the President at that time made some far reaching decisions to turn the nation around that probably looked very “socialistic” in it’s scope, i.e., Social Security, public works programs, banking.  But it worked and we are not a socialist  society, at least as far as I can tell.

Yes, having a president and congress all of the same party could have the potential for bad decisions, but in the same light it could have the potential for passing some far reaching reforms.  Let’s hope that is the case.  I do understand your concerns about Iraq, and undoing what we’ve accomplished. Hopefully Obama will listen to his military advisers, unlike the last president!

Ok I’m done, gotta go to work.  Take care,

love these discussions, can’t wait to have them around the dinner table when you get back!

love,

Mom

love,

Mom

Soldier and Mom Reply

Good reply mom, but i would also point out that

American taxes were not meant to “redistribute the wealth”.  Taxes were implemented to meet the infrastructure needs of a civil society.

On that note, most of the examples you listed are things that should be taxed at the local or state level to meet the needs of that particular area, not redistribute.

Yes, some of the financial problems would have benefited from a lot more oversight, especially the loan insurance programs. That is why we have a flexible government, we see a problem, we take measures to correct it. It won’t get any better as technology keeps progressing, new problems that we havnt’ even thought of will happen. And we will react. Keep in mind however that the government pushed the banking industry to give sub-prime mortgages in an effort to get the poor into homeownership roles. Good intentioned idea, but great example of why “Good ideas” by the government do not always translate to smart economics.

Just because some taxation is necessary to provide social infrastructure does not mean that we should say “well, while we are at it, lets go ahead and become socialists”. Its not really “bunk” to be bought into. Its just a different philosophy. The amount of government intrusion into our lives and pocketbooks has steadily increased since Roosevelt. It would seem to me, that there should be a stopping point somewhere along the way. I know how government budgets work, if there is money there, it will be spent. It would seem to me it would be better to limit the budgets and force the programs to accomodate or become more efficient. You can see how the opposite attitude would easily lead to lots and lots of wasted money and bloated ineficiency.

Im also not sure how Kennedy plays up as this ideal to be compared to our founding fathers who would be considered Libertarians by todays standards. He was in office a very short amount of time and other than his handling of the cuban missile crisis did not accomplish very much as very few of his programs were passed by congress. Not to disparage the man, but he really was more of a romantic ideal than someone who dramatically changed society.

Worthy of note however are the facts that he proposed tax cuts, not an increase, created the space program, and, he directed the CIA to support the Baath party in Iraq as they conducted a coup against their leadership. This resulted in the executions of thousands of educated Iraqis who were suspected of being leftists based on lists given to the Baath party by our government, as well as Saddam Hussein taking over the party shortly after. This was done in order to maintain Iraq as a stable oil producing region.

He spoke well and was a very romantic figure. Inspiring as well. I would say Obama meets at least those criteria. I am not really concerned as much about those attributes though. Abe Lincoln was one ugly dude. But he did have the fortitude to see our country through its darkest hour by making cold, callous, calculating and very unpopular decisions. Also very necessary.   Anyway, you are right, there is a line to be balanced, and in the end, that is the goal of most of us in the middle of the country. For me the line is not as thin, that’s all.

Chat with you later

Mom Replies

Well Klint as usual you have some very well thought out responses, and you are taxing my brain, as I am not a trained historian, but I did live during the time periods you talked about, and have some comments based on my observations.

To start with, Kennedy may not have lived long enough to implement some of his programs, but in the short period he did have, he accomplished an amazing amount.  lf all he accomplished was the “Space Program” that would have been substantial.

His info from the CIA was apparently misleading or “warped” about Iraq, I can only say that his decisions were based on what he thought was accurate info at the time, and  history lessons have led us down a path that were twisted to say the least based on “intelligence info.”  Perhaps you have more insight into this particular matter, but it doesn’t change the outcome.

As far as my remarks about Kennedy, I was trying to capture a “feeling” at the time of his inauguration that I believe is somewhat similar to Obama’s election.  We have a  relatively young president with a young family and what appears to be some new and refreshing ideas.  Kennedy gave us that “breath of fresh air” and new ideas and hopes and  dreams that Obama seems to also have; only time will tell.

As far as taxes and redistribution, I believe by definition redistribution means to reallocate, which pretty well sums up taxes.  I do believe the military and “your salary” are funded by federal taxes, but I’m sure you can correct me if I’m wrong.

Was the government pushing the poor into home ownership based on sub-prime interest loans, or was it the lower middle class that perhaps could have used some government funding to help them into home ownership?  This is the class that is usually working with two incomes and no health care, unlike the poor (Medicare) that can walk into any medical institute and receive health care at any given time and you and I are paying for it.

I have some very bitter feelings about our health care system, and yes I am very ready for change when it comes to health care.

I believe we can take the best from all the different systems out there and make something that works so that all our citizens are covered, and if that is socialized medicine then I am all for it!   I have talked to too many individuals that have experienced “socialized medicine’ in other countries that have had wonderful outcomes to say that “it doesn’t work.”

Well those are my thoughts at the moment,

later,

luv,

Mom

That’s Disrespectful

Maybe I’m naive, but I assume people’s good intentions until proven otherwise.  I assume senators McCain and Obama are both honorable, decent men with a genuine desire to serve their country.  But now that the race is coming down to the wire, the campaigns on both sides have started slinging a little mud.

Senator Obama commented that trying to put the Republican party’s failed economic policies in a good light is like putting lipstick on a pig.

What were you thinking, Senator Obama?  How do you expect to get the votes of Iowa hog farmers if you go on insulting their pigs like that?

(By the way, if you like images of pigs–check out Kerfuffles.)

While Condaleza Rice was meeting with Moamar Kadafi, Bill O’Reilly was interviewing senator Obama.  I watched a few minutes of the interview/attempted ambush.  Mr. No-Spin kept trying to indict candidate Obama for his associations.  He kept saying, “you’re comfortable being around some pretty radical people.”

It seems to me, anyone who works in inner city, poverty-stricken areas is going to run into some angry, bitter people.  Anyone who tries to bring diverse groups of people together for the common good is going to associate with some controversial people.  I’m sure Chuck Colson, in his work in prisons, has associated with some unsavory characters.  But Mr. Fair and Balanced kept smiling and interrupting, trying to nail Barack for his associations.

Earlier in the day O’Reilly had criticized those who criticized governor Palin’s church affiliation.  He said as long as they aren’t hurting anybody,  it’s nobody’s business.  I tend to agree with that.  I love the pastor of my own church, for example, but (no disrespect intended) I wouldn’t want to be held accountable for every remark he ever made in a sermon.  And, even though he has allowed me to cover for him when he was away on vacation–I’m sure he would say the same about me.

I’m pretty suspicious of conspiracy theories myself.  But if my ancestors had been kidnapped and forced into slavery, if I had counseled people who had experienced police brutality or profiling,  and people who had experienced discrimination in other forms, I might be a little more cynical.  In light of the Tuskeegee experiment, I might even suspect the government of having something to do with AIDS.

There is disrespectful distortion of the candidates’ words and positions on both sides.  Sarah Palin has been misquoted as saying that the war in Iraq is God’s work.  What she actually said was we should pray for those in uniform that they do God’s work.  A prayer for something and a claim that it has been accomplished are two different things.

If governor Palin slashed funding for teen mothers in Alaska, on the other hand, that is fair game.  It is a matter of policy not personality.  If Obama is committed to his party’s position on abortion, that also is a matter of policy.