The Trouble with Erosion

Erosion is a big problem, isn’t it? The internet tells me there are four basic types of erosion: hydraulic action, abrasion, attrition, and solution. Storm surge and flooding can cause dangerous erosion, and weathering and deposition of soil can create serious problems for our planet.

But my readers know me well enough to know I’m not interested in that kind of erosion.

When I was in high school in Arizona in 1969 I had a substitute teacher in English class, a substitute that was there for an extended period of weeks. He was a small, frail man who always wore sweaters, and he trembled almost constantly as he taught. [I learned before he left us that he had been a Marine with extensive training in karate, and he trembled because of hypoglycemia; this information came out after a German Shepherd went berserk and attacked him one Saturday – he killed the dog with one strike as it leapt for his throat]

And in that class there was a rather large boy who always sat in the back of class. He was extremely belligerent, uncooperative, and disrespectful to the substitute teacher. One day, after being reprimanded, he shouted some profanity, threw his classroom textbook, and stormed out of the classroom. I couldn’t believe his attitude, his lack of respect, his incorrigible manner.

Even though the 1960s were years of protests about police brutality and government abuse of power (against hippies, Vietnam war protesters, blacks, etc.), there was still a sense of propriety, and a respect for authority that prevailed in most places. The Berkeley and Kent State disasters were not the norm. There was still an overriding respect for authority.

I didn’t begin teaching high school myself until 1979, but the topic of respect for authority still surfaced regularly. But when we had a teacher from Vietnam join our staff he expressed his dismay at the difference in level of respect for teachers that existed between Vietnam and the United States. [BTW, we were on the low end of that comparison]

After nine years of teaching I was away from it for a number of years before returning to it in 1993. And the difference in respect had eroded markedly during that time. In fact, the administration of that school did not agree with my approach to education and suggested I reward students with candy when they complied rather than punish them when they did not. Erosion. It’s a problem.

That was 27 years ago. I wonder if things have gotten better . . . .

What I hear from teachers, of course, is that it has not! Erosion doesn’t improve without erosion control methods. And our society has become more lax with regard to control methods. As Allan Bloom pointed out in his monumental book, The Closing of the American Mind (1987), Americans have their minds closed in the open position. And that was over three decades ago.

When I was last teaching I had a student (not one of mine) who was distracting my class by looking into the small window in our classroom door. I stepped outside quickly to get him to stop, and I took hold of his arm as he walked away. He said, “You can’t touch me!” I was shocked. I didn’t have the presence of mind to say, “Why? Are you invisible?” (as a seasoned south Chicago area teacher suggested later that I should have).

We have reached a time in our society where “authority” is equated with “enemy.” Many feel they have the right to question anyone in authority, and have their queries answered to their satisfaction before they comply with authoritative instructions. And no one seems to care that this free wheeling (and often cavalier) attitude is eroding the foundations of our society.

We are so drunk on our own definition of FREEDOM that we define everything in terms of how it affects us as individuals, and not us as a corporate body, as a nation.

This lack of respect for authority has colored our sight so much that anything that smacks of restriction, or limitation, or anything verboten, is immediately suspect. For many years now the entertainment industry has battled against anything forbidden, and our society is showing the effects of that “freedom.”

Many think they are standing up for justice. But they do not see the ground eroding underneath where they stand. Erosion is often gradual. We notice the times when it isn’t, and we are appalled at the damage. But when it is slow . . . we are like the proverbial “frog in the kettle” (thanks for that phrase, George Barna), we are cooked before we know what has happened!

Erosion can occur in any sector of our society. It can occur in politics (and it has), law enforcement (and it has), legislature (and it has), religion (and it has), private enterprise (and it has), and social organizations (and it has), etc.

Pervasive erosion.

We need to get back to basics. Before it’s too late.

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The Other Side of the Sheets

Years ago a good friend of mine took her RN degree to another level by earning a Master’s degree in Nursing. We were so proud of her. And it made her a much better nurse, I’m sure. But shortly thereafter a congenital heart defect put her in the hospital for a surgery to repair the abnormality.

She did well, and healed beautifully. But her experience as a patient honed an aspect of her nursing skills far more than classwork ever could. As a result she was prompted to write an article she entitled, “The Other Side of the Sheets,” which focused, of course, on patient perspective and perception. Personal experience can teach lessons that can hardly be learned any other way.

Much of life is that way, isn’t it? We think we know things: about ourselves, about family, about society, about life in general. Then experience tests what we think we know, and often . . . we gain a new perspective, and a new understanding.

Now, I’m not a police officer, “but I play one on TV.” [pardon the overused proverbial joke] We all have perceptions about various occupations, sometimes valid, sometimes far from the mark. Right now a large number of citizens have similar perceptions about law enforcement officers and even the whole law enforcement system. Are they correct?

No doubt, law enforcement officers are responsible for a number of errors and even deaths of citizens in this country, sometimes by accident, and sometimes due to negligence or ill intent. This is not only true now, but it has been true ever since there has been law enforcement.

One of my relatives has been in law enforcement for over four decades, has worked in various agencies (both county and federal), has a vast experience in dealing with a variety of persons in compromising situations, both law abiding and criminal. My own experience is much more limited. I have ridden along with officers in Arkansas, Alabama, and Arizona, but I have had to deal with them in car accident settings, stops for moving violations, and various other situations that warranted police investigation in New York, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Montana.

When I was fourteen years old Arizona tried Daylight Savings Time (it has never been repeated), and I could play volleyball at our nearby park till 10:00 at night and still be able to see. On one such occasion that summer several of us  heard sirens; we were taking care of a neighbor’s house, so we headed in the direction of their house to make sure everything was all right. Police cars seemed to descend out of nowhere, boxed us in, and apprehended two of us (myself, and a 21 year old friend) for allegedly stealing a Ford Mustang.

The officer who first grabbed me was red faced, nervous, sweating and shaking (I later heard he was a rookie); we were cuffed and put into the backseat of one the numerous patrol cars there (there were 12 officers I could count), just steps from the duplex my family lived in. My older friend complained about the rough treatment and vowed to have his father contact someone to file a formal complaint.

No! I didn’t steal the car. And after about 45 minutes it became clear to them that they didn’t have the right guys and they released us. Odd, but I watched a video a few days ago where a man was being questioned by police in a restaurant. He is bitterly telling them he is not the one they’re looking for [much like a “You can take my word for it” kind of defense], incensed that they would disturb him like this. After all, HE KNEW he was innocent, so why didn’t THEY?

The relative I mentioned (above) came to visit the high school sophomore classes I taught in Memphis, TN sometime in the 1980s, and he asked a question I thought odd at the time. He said something like “So, what do you students expect from your police officers?” Personally, I had never even thought to ask the question before. But it did provoke some thought. You mean, we actually get to ASK that? Yes, indeed!

And people are definitely asking it NOW in 2020, right? In fact, many are answering as if they’ve already asked this question and come up with the answer. Defund! Take away camouflage outfits, high powered weapons and armored vehicles for law enforcement! They only antagonize the citizens and make us feel as if we are enemies!

I think it’s time to talk about what it’s like to be on the other side of the badge. In fact, if I could work my will . . . at least every person who receives a driver’s license would be required to ride along with police for a full shift, or better yet on multiple partial shifts. Perspective would be gained.

Law enforcement does not exist just to “go and get the bad guys.” It also exists (among other things) to protect YOU and ME from dangerous persons/situations. That’s why persons who are belligerent, recalcitrant, uncooperative and combative with officers are dealt with severely. If a person is tased and continues to fight, or tries to escape, they potentially endanger the public, i.e. you and me.

Unlike it is on television, police are instructed to shut down a potentially volatile situation as quickly as possible. To protect you and me. Can that reaction be overdone? Of course, it can! But an officer has a split second sometimes to make decisions that will either protect or endanger the public, i.e. you and me.

If you are “in” the proverbial “wrong place at the wrong time” (as I was as a fourteen year old) you must accept that you will be detained, questioned, and (given the situation) treated as a law breaker until exonerated. Remember, “the streets” we live in ARE NOT THE COURTROOM; you are not innocent until proven guilty!

Abuse of power is deplorable. Unnecessary violence or excessive force is not OK. Racially motivated retaliation is despicable. But today, many of the examples touted as police abuse and excess are a combination of: (1) police attempts to protect the public, i.e. you and me from dangerous persons, (2) human error, (3) unfortunate misjudgments, and (4) some truly unwarranted retaliations, all strategically packaged together (as if they are part of a systemic problem) to create public outcry. And it has worked quite well.

We are making it nigh to impossible for ANYONE to police us as a society! And sometimes I wonder if that has indeed been the goal all along.

Put yourself on the other side of the badge. What would YOU do in our current society?

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20/20 Vision

What the average adult can see if he/she is 20 feet away from an object; “20/20 vision” is the shorthand way we say that, right?

When I was a young boy growing up in Chattanooga, TN I would look up at the stars at night and see a corona of light around a spot in the sky. I saw that same corona when I looked at our Christmas tree lights. I didn’t know it then, but I was nearsighted, and eventually had to get glasses, because I couldn’t read the chalkboard at school.

Now that I’m older I’ve added farsightedness to the mix, plus the inability to see well in the dark, so I’m a real combo now. (Don’t laugh! Because this picture show just might be viewing in your area sooner than you think. Ha!)

Amidst all the jokes and humorous memes about the year 2020 and how we might remember it, I have been pondering the difference between how people feel at the very moment something is happening, and how historians describe that same time period many years hence.

And it caused me to think about our expression 20/20 vision. Because whatever you may think about the year 2020 right now . . . I dare say in the future you may not necessarily see it the same way.

Right now some think they have 20/20 clarity about the pandemic, the politics, the racial unrest,  and the financial woes of this year. But historically speaking, that’s bound to change.

I don’t mean that most of us will end up saying, “My goodness, 2020 was my favorite year after all.” But it would be foolish to think our attitudes and points of view toward it have no chance of changing.

I remember when 9/11 happened in 2001, and the country was united, and we wanted someone to pay for what had occurred, the sooner the better! But with time . . . although our hurt and disgust remained, our resolve to “go get ’em” was slowly diluted by the scandal surrounding supposed WMDs.

My first well remembered tragedy was John Kennedy’s assassination, Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, followed two days later by the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, TX. Outrage, grief, and unity possessed our country. But with time . . . although our hurt and disgust remained, more details and conspiracy theories emerged. And what seemed clear, simple, and forthright began to change into something complex.

How many historical “facts” can you think of that changed when more information was available? Or when unbiased information surfaced?

It will be more than interesting to see what history says about Covid-19 in the year 2020; I can hardly wait. Was it as bad as some said it was, or was it (as some wager) the biggest hoax of all time? Were the numbers inflated (as many assert), or even fabricated? Was it used as a political ruse?

No matter the answers to these important questions one thing remains historically true — we won’t see it the same way we do today!

Some will find that their vision of 2020 was profoundly impaired, others that their view of things was only moderately impaired. Few, if any, will have had 20/20 vision with regard to the year 2020.

We love to rush to judgment, catch the deceiver in the act, nip things in the bud, be the early bird that catches the worm, and stop bad things before they even get started. But time will tell if we were “drunk off the smell of somebody else’s cork” (Mark Twain), if “The Storm” is real or fake, or if Paul is dead (Wait! We already learned about that one!).

When I finally got corrective lenses I didn’t want to wear them. Clarity of vision meant less to me than my vanity, I guess. And the same will hold true for the history of 2020. When we DO learn the truth (and that will have to be qualified and ferreted out, of course), we will still have to decide what to DO with it! Some will choose their pet theory even then.

I wear my glasses now when I drive, and I wear other glasses to read. I want to see clearly. But I confess, there are many times I try to go without my glasses, because . . . well, I just don’t always value 20/20 vision over convenience, or vanity, or something.

BTW, there’s still 4 1/2 months left in 2020 to shape its history; that’s just over 1/3 of a year left. Let’s let it play out. Then, at some future point, maybe we can look back at it with clarity. But not now. Not yet.

June 2, 2010 in the East Room of the White House. Proof positive that Paul was not dead when the Abbey Road album was released.

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Anger is All the Rage!

If you’re not angry about something right now . . . you need to be! And there are so many options from which to choose: (1) effects of the Covid-19 virus, (2) racial injustice, (3) conflicting advice about Covid-19, (4) politicians denigrating their opponents, (5) different names for Covid-19, (6) financial catastrophe looming on the horizon, (7) varying symptoms for Covid-19, (8) enormous forest fire damage out west, (9) conflicting reporting about Covid-19, (10) several refugee crises around the world, (11) the exit of beloved cultural icons like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben, (12) SARS Co-V2 damage,(13)  the absence of a number of sporting events to which we are accustomed, (14) defunding the police, (15) the scarcity of weight-lifting equipment in stores or online, (16) the inability to stockpile toilet paper, etc. And need I mention Covid 19?

The fact is: if you’re not angry about something right now you are doubtless going to make someone else angry with you because of that!

And that’s because ANGER IS ALL THE RAGE right now!

I have seen many fads in my lifetime, and those of you who are older have seen even more. When I was young we all wanted to have long hair like the Beatles. (Funny, but their hair wasn’t even long compared to the coiffures that followed them). When I was in high school we went through a faze where white jeans and fluorescent colored socks were all the rage. But there have been bell-bottoms, mini-skirts, granny dresses, tie dyes, baggy pants, etc. And at one time they were all the rage, too.

The non-religious are angry about the Ten Commandments having a prominent place in courthouses across the country. The religious are angry they aren’t allowed to go to church in some states because of the danger of Covid-19 spreading. Black Lives Matter is angry because White Supremacy is causing blacks, transvestites, homosexuals, women and undocumented persons to be disenfranchised. Women are angry because of men. Workers are angry because of bosses. White skinned people are angry because people of other colored skin are angry at them. Republicans are angry at Democrats, and Democrats are angry at Republicans. Liberals are angry with Conservatives, and Conservatives are angry with Liberals.

And everyone is worried that Covid-19 is going to hold back the entertainment industry and deprive us of live concerts, or new Amazon Prime or Netflix shows.

You see, anger is all the rage right now, isn’t it?

Twenty-five or more years ago I used to listen faithfully to talk radio. And every time I did so I found myself ANGRY about something. Anger has some pretty damaging (even life threatening) effects on me. I am a slow learner. But it soon began to dawn on me that if I wanted to avoid the damaging anger in my life I might start by NOT listening to radio personalities whose whole aim is to make others (like me) ANGRY right along WITH them. So, I stopped. And I haven’t listened since then. What a relief it was!

But now I find myself encompassed with a constant barrage of anger almost everywhere I turn. I have to say that our flower garden out back is pretty safe, even though there are regular visits from bees, wasps, and even hawks (just to name a few). If you go to a grocery store you will find people angry about having to wear a face mask, or you will find people angry if someone isn’t wearing one. If you go to a hardware store you sometimes find people annoyed that they have to wait in line longer than they used to, and at “a safe distance” from other customers.

No longer can you waltz with your pet into the neighborhood veterinary clinic; you must wait in your car while someone deals with your pet, and even pay on the phone from your car for the desired service for your pet. There are similar restrictions at the dentist’s office, or the hair stylist’s salon.

Sometimes, I think, people are just sitting on a powder keg of anger, fear, and untold emotions.

BTW, I have found the local cemetery to be quiet, free of social distancing issues, and anger free (in case you are looking for respite from all this anger).

If you need anger to help you cope with the turmoil in our world today, that is your choice, I suppose. But I, for one, don’t think that really helps. This relentless, fault-finding, condemning, vitriolic, hateful, vengeful, misguided and damaging diatribe must be silenced.

Anger is all the rage right now. But if it remains in vogue much longer . . . we will lose far more than we think we might gain by it. Far. More.

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Anachronistic Morality

When I was growing up we attended church regularly. And as we listened to sermons and/or attended “Sunday school” one thing became clear: the Israelites (ancient Jews) “just didn’t get it!”

I mean, they might cross the Red Sea, miraculously rescued from the Egyptians by the hand of God, then turn around and grumble and complain about the manna they were given to help them survive in the desert.

Or Moses would go up Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, and by the time he came back down (40 days) they would be worshiping a golden calf in the valley below.

As Christians we would read these stories, always perplexed at how clueless the Jewish people were; they would be delivered from harm by their Deity, and then (in the words of Isaiah 57:5) they would turn and “burn with lust among the oaks and under every spreading tree.”

They were recalcitrant, rebellious, incorrigible and ungrateful (see Psalm 106 for a more comprehensive indictment)!

Sometimes we would look at how they treated Jesus, and how their leaders were able to turn them into an unruly and riotous crowd shouting “Crucify him.” And we would be aghast at their callous, uninformed, peer-pressured actions. We felt we were so much wiser, had so much more character and loyalty about us.

Then . . . on occasion . . . someone might refer to the phrase, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12)

But falling is what we had done. We had fallen victim to (among other things) what I would coin “anachronistic morality,”  i.e. imposing our modern morality (which we had assumed was on a higher plain) upon people of the past. In other words:

we thought they knew better, but wouldn’t do better.

And in a similar pattern we are now living in a time when the heroes of past generations are being judged by current moral ideals. We must avoid promoting illegitimate historical revisionism.

It is nearly impossible to put oneself accurately in the place of someone living in another time period, and fairly judge his/her point of view, mindset, prejudices, motives and contradictions. And obviously, the further away that person is from our own time period and culture, the difficulty increases.

Honor is awarded at specific moments in time; the specific moments may not be celebrated for all time. Monuments are created to commemorate the work or sacrifice of persons engaged in what is deemed valiant, worthy, and courageous in a given time.

Clearly, there are always parameters kept in mind. But those parameters are determined by the collective moral compass of the individuals giving the honor. Around the world there are commemorative monuments and plaques, and you would be hard-pressed to find one that either honors someone/something never embroiled in controversy, or was created by someone whose personal moral compass does not match your own.

We seem not to be disturbed by this when we honor celebrities: entertainers, scientists, writers, etc. But outside that realm our tone and tolerance changes.

Over fifteen years ago I visited Mauthausen with a group of home school teenagers. It was an unforgettable reminder of the horrors of the holocaust. I am not glad so many died there (their pictures covering the wall where the ovens were). But I am glad that it still stands, today, and that it can be visited by tourists. Because it makes the fact of the atrocities more of a reality to people in current generations.

I do not know the answers to all the social questions that are inundating us in America, today. We seem to be floating in turmoil right now, our heads barely above the surface. But I don’t think our current struggles are helped much by reaching into the past and trying to find new ways to denigrate the heroes of our past. We need them now more than ever. They are our life preservers.

And so, ancient Israelites . . . I will let up on you a bit. I may be as unpliable as you were. Maybe more so.

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The Deification of Time

Have you ever noticed how time-conscious we are?

We sing about the passing of time (Yesterday, The Beatles; A Hazy Shade of Winter, Simon & Garfunkel), the consistency of time (Time After Time, Cyndi Lauper), the changes brought about by time (The Times they are A-Changin’, Bob Dylan), etc.

Authors write about time travel (The Time Machine, H.G. Wells; Time and Again, Jack Finney), explore the depths of time (A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking), postulate the very nature of time (Time as a Geometric Property of Space, J.M. Hartnett, et. al.), etc.

And those of us who aren’t singing about time, or writing about time, are usually thinking about time in some form or fashion. It doesn’t seem to matter if we are in the developed world (where clocks control us) or the less developed world (where we pay special attention to the position of the sun and other heavenly bodies); mankind seems to be preoccupied with time.

We attribute amazing powers to time: we claim that it HEALS; we equate it with MONEY; we say it is the wisest COUNSELOR; we claim that it can’t be STOPPED. On and on. We talk about time . . . all the . . . time.

And it’s not just the artsy, right-brained folks who are enamored with time; the technical, left-brained, scientific folks are the truest believers when it comes to describing the omnipotence of time. In fact, many scientists believe (if you ask them they say they know, but . . .) that every living thing now in existence finds its origin in, well . . . ultimately . . . nothing.

How could that be, you ask? How could something so complex and multifarious as human beings and the universe surrounding us come from nothing? Ex nihilo?

That’s easy to answer!

TIME. Yes, the passage of time with its omnipotent power.

If you give time enough . . . time, . . . ANYTHING is possible. Life from non-life. Matter from non-matter. Complexity from . . . well . . . nothing.

Congratulations! You have deified time.

In the wake of the enormous wave of modern thought many have discarded the old, worn-out, outmoded, anachronistic concept of God. Many think they are “going it alone” now, no longer tethered to an antiquated moral compass; rather, informed by the latest advances in scientific and philosophical thought, they are blazing their own trail. But the truth is –

They have just made TIME their deity.

Nothing is impossible with billions of years, right? Now, it might be tough to go from simple to complex in a thousand years. But what about a million? Not to mention a billion! Imagine the possibilities. And in fact, this IS the only explanation if you’ve already erased alternative explanations.

Just think of it: we worship TIME, the beneficent yet effacing, unstoppable yet limited, all-powerful yet impersonal. I think we may have found the real life Wizard of Oz, amplified voice, smoke machine and all.

If you can find the time, while in COVID-19 quarantine, think about it. One thing’s for certain: we are, all of us, devoted to our chosen deity.

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My Tribute to Pop on Pearl Harbor Day

December 7 has been a reminder all my life of the horrific Sunday morning attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941. But today . . . it will take on new meaning. My father-in-law, Martin Henry Glynn will be laid to rest today in Portsmouth, OH. His funeral service is just beginning as I begin to write this morning.

Marty Glynn was 95 when he passed away on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 2019; he was born in 1924. Both his daughters are present at his funeral, of course, as well as a host of family and friends. But not me. I am sick. Too sick to travel safely there and back in the cool Ohio winter. It had been the plan that I would be healthy enough to make the trip, but the wee hours of the morning of departure told another story. So, I am here.

When each of my parents died (several years apart) my wife was there beside me, supporting me, comforting me. And it is only right that I be there for her. It seems so unfair. And although I am sobbing at a distance as I see a picture of his flag draped coffin sent by text message, I am more than aware that I am 525 miles away. It is agonizing. It is nothing like what my wife and daughters are experiencing there, of course, but something more akin to watching your child stumble and fall, and supposing that if you were near enough you could prevent the hurt, or at least diminish it.

So what can I say about this man, today? I wrote a poem describing him decades ago: his entertaining story telling, his infectious laugh, his house filled with friends, and the party atmosphere that seemed to be part and parcel of his personality. I said he was “generous to a fault as the old saying goes,” and his home was open to strangers and friends alike.

When I came into his life 44 years ago I was just another young man who was interested in his beautiful daughter. And when my wife spoke with him about marrying me, he said, incredulously, “You want to marry a preacher?” (which was what I intended to be at the time). As the years went by he softened to the idea. And I softened as well. We met somewhere in the middle (as they say), and began to enjoy one another immensely. I was “the favorite son-in-law,” I would say. And he would chuckle and then say my brother-in-law’s name instead of mine.

“Pop” never had a name until we had children. I didn’t feel comfortable calling him “Marty,” and “Mr. Glynn” just seemed a bit too formal to me. So, once we had kids the name “Pop” worked just fine for me.

The most fun you could have with Pop was to get him talking about his experiences in WWII. He was a belly gunner on the B-17, and his real life stories depicted him as a young, and wet-behind-the-ears soldier, who found the mirth in situations others might find humorless. They sounded quite real because they didn’t always show him in a larger-than-life way. He adored John Wayne, but it was clear he didn’t seem himself as a John Wayne.

He never held a particularly impressive job, but worked through the years in a variety of occupations, most beloved of which was neighborhood milkman. He loved planting his tulips every spring, and displaying his American flag with pride. And he loved his wife . . . for just short of 71 years.

The last time we were together, just over two months ago, his hearing had gotten so bad the only way you could successfully converse was on his special hearing-enhanced telephone. So, after numerous failed attempts to answer questions, my voice tiring of repeating the same words, I called him on my cellphone. [NOTE: we were sitting within 3 feet of each other, mind you]. Pop turned in his wheelchair to pick up the receiver, and said, “Hello.” I told him it was his favorite son-in-law, and he turned back to see me holding my cellphone. He chuckled. And he loved it!

As we departed, on a rainy morning at the end of September, we visited one last time, not knowing if we would see him alive again. I called him on my cell phone as we sat there, the four of us (Marty, his wife, my wife, and me), and I prayed for him. As we said goodbye he kissed me and we hugged with tears. Then down the hall we went for the last time before we would receive the word of his passing in just two more months.

If I had the power . . . I would not do anything to change that visit; it was perfect.

The hour has passed as I write. And his service is likely done. The family will go to the burial site now, and the body of this sweet man will arrive at its resting place. I believe his spirit will be elsewhere, of course, and I know that it will live on in the lives of those who knew him, too.

Rest in peace, Pop. I love you.

Martin H. Glynn
1924-2019

Posted in Aging Parents, Assisted Living, Family History, Fathers, Nursing Homes, Stories, Uncategorized, World War II | 6 Comments

Community?

There’s a small city called Monroe (pop. just under 14,000) near where I live. If you drive down the main drag you may notice a sign that gives it’s identifying slogan, i.e.

                               MONROE: INTEGRITY – COMMUNITY.

One would be hard pressed to come up with two words that present a higher societal goal. But the usage of words often changes with time, doesn’t it?

The Latin word, communitatem, originally had to do with the idea of “fellowship,” and eventually was used to refer to a “society,” or a group of people living in a given area. The people in a community might be different in many ways, but what united them was their locality. They solved common problems together, socialized with one another, and struggled with one another, too.

The community was a melting pot. People who were more alike found it easier to be around one another (homogeneous groups and all that sort of thing) because of language, customs, temperament, etc. However, when there was a threat from outside the community they rallied together to defend their neighbors. This was especially true in agrarian societies where the threat of inclement weather, wildfire, or infestations of insects presented a regular threat.

Fast forward to the present day usage of “community” in this country. In Monroe . . . at least on a city sign, it still represents the group of people who live there: black, white, oriental, etc.; rich, poor, middle-class; religious, non-religious; Republicans, Democrats and independents. Inclusive.

But on the airwaves the word has taken on a definition that is anything BUT inclusive. And I fear it is unraveling the fabric of this nation. I fear it will be our undoing.

“Community” now is often an exclusive term, because it no longer implies a melting pot of different people united; rather, it accentuates the differences in people, and seeks to divide them. It promotes a subset of the population as if the whole has less value than the parts.

And so, by way of exaggerated illustration, I want to announce two new communities and add them to the fray.

(1) I am concerned about that lack of attention given to the particular needs of third generation Swedish immigrant males in their mid-60s (especially those with orphaned grandmothers).

(2) Don’t get me started on the total absence of press given to the 8 year old adopted southern white male population.

Now you can say that I am being insane . . . and I would not disagree (that might be my point). But when a nation such as ours tolerates the whines and antics of more and more fragmented special interest groups it endangers the future for everyone, just like a parent who elevates the demands of a two-year-old and fails to guide them into maturity.

We are a splintered nation, rallying around, blustering about, spouting forth our uninformed cries for justice and equality as we slowly erode the foundation upon which we stand. It is the quicksand of modern times; like anger, it eats the purveyor from within while it antagonizes those it attacks.

We are learning to hate our law enforcement officers, distrust our politicians, seek for damages and reparations whenever possible, because you never know when you might have been wronged but you are pretty sure you probably have been. We are reducing ourselves to the lowest moral component – selfishness; and we applaud it.

I think we need to rethink what it means to be a community. We need leaders in ALL our so-called “communities” (LGBTQ, Latino, Native-American, etc.) to promote unity instead of division, to work for equality not endless paybacks, to value the whole more than the individual parts.

In a recent NPR broadcast regarding marijuana attention was given to the fact that a disproportionate percentage of minorities are incarcerated for possession of small amounts of the substance. The proposed solution? Stop making it illegal, because it clearly punishes a particular “community.”

Really? That’s the solution?

Think of how many needless federal, state, and local laws we could abolish. And silly rules in our educational system.

Yet, that is the growing point of view in America. We promote bad behavior and fluctuating standards. If not enough minorities earn Academy Awards then there must be something wrong with how we award them. Right?

Is equality important? Yes! Is justice worth fighting for? Indeed! But achievement is cheapened when standards are lowered, and self-esteem is damaged by privilege, not enhanced.

That’s where the City of Monroe has it right. Integrity . . . and Community. But . . . that is for another blog post.

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The Running Joke

There’s been a running joke in my family ever since my wife and I married 43 years ago. You see, my father-in-law, Marty Glynn had begun to cook a good bit soon after we married, since his wife, Mary, suffered a brain aneurysm that year and was in recovery for some time after that.

The joke had to do with his inaccurate name for the fruit (considered a vegetable in culinary circles) I had grown up calling “green pepper,” or “bell pepper.” Pop (as we call him now) always referred to the aforementioned food item as a “mango,” and the family’s handwritten recipes preserved the same incorrect name.

It was laughable to me that he persisted in using that term, since everyone knows that a mango is a Malaysian fruit distinctly different from a bell pepper. I just added that mistake to a list I was making, since in Ohio (where they have always lived) they also went trick-or-treating one night before Halloween night (they called it “Beggars Night”), and I figured if you could be that wrong about when to trick-or-treat you could be wrong about almost anything!

Through the years we have joked about this, and each time I read ingredients on one of their recipes I chuckle. I’ve even gotten a bit snarky about it all (in my superior knowledge), and when a new recipe we are trying calls for bell pepper I will say mango instead, just to be cute.

Well, more accurately . . . I used to make that joke. But no more.

After about 40 years of making this joke I was reading about mangoes (for some reason) and I happened upon an interesting historical fact that caught my eye. Truth be told, it floored me.

It seems that when mangoes were first shipped to the United States in the 1600s they had to be pickled since there was no refrigeration. Other food products (bell peppers, for instance) were preserved by pickling as well and soon many pickled food items were referred to as mangoes.

If you search the internet now you will find many corroborating stories about the use of this term mango in the U.S.A.

So . . . my father-in-law was just using the term he had grown up with, just as I had.

But I was so sure . . . . I was certain, in fact. No question about it!

Yet, I was wrong.

We live in a culture right now that allows for almost everything. We are all about inclusion. [Correction: we don’t like including the excluders, but that’s another article]. The historical pendulum has swung to the open-minded, everything is subjective, nothing is absolute side, and we are enjoying the freedom wrought by that, and beginning to suffer the freedom lost by that swing, too.

But it is never wrong to ask WHY you believe a given thing, WHY you take a particular stance, WHY you are so sure about your worldview. This is not just true for the dogmatic religious fanatic, but for the easy-go-lucky, live-as-you-please skeptic as well. The truth about a thing is not swayed by how strongly you support it, or how passionately you reject it.

Now, I have a decision to make, of course. I can persist in bad-mouthing those who call bell peppers mangoes. Or I can function with a fuller understanding of the terms. I choose the latter.

And what about you? Where in life have you drawn the lines so boldly that you will not even dream of taking a second look? Sometimes (I have learned) . . . there is more to see than I ever dreamed possible.

As to trick-or-treating a day early . . . you can forget about it!

Uh oh! I may have to do some research.

photo by Ray Bouknight

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Officer Krupke: A Social Disease

When the juvenile delinquents in the musical West Side Story break into song, pleading with the local beat cop, Officer Krupke, to understand why they’ve turned out the way they have, the blame gets passed around and around until it lands squarely on society itself.

“In my opinion, this child does not need
To have his head shrunk at all.
Juvenile delinquency is purely a
Social Disease.”

And we laugh at their antics as they make fun of the police officer, and run circles around him. After all, it’s entertaining, right? [Anyone remember “Car 54, Where are You?“]

As the decades have passed the shows involving police have evolved into something quite different. We are enamored with forensic investigation programs, and the “us” and “them” dichotomy has intensified. No longer is there much of a humorous exchange between the good guys and the bad guys; instead, the two sides are clearly in a battle to the death.

Increasingly, our society, which takes its moral cues from television and movies, has taken up the same anthem of “us” against “them.” So now, sometimes for valid reasons of abuse of power and harassment, and sometimes simply because of the attitude we have been taught, we look at law enforcement officers with an distrustful eye.

The same is true in the school classroom where teachers are not only not allowed to touch students without reprisals, but are evaluated by students themselves as to whether or not they deserve respect and deference. I am reminded of a fellow high school teacher I worked with in the 1980s who had recently moved from Vietnam to the United States. He was shocked back then (almost 40 years ago) at the reduced level of respect afforded to teachers by students in the states.

I wonder what he would think now, in our present circumstances?

I know the pendulum swings back and forth from extreme to extreme in society, but we are desperately in need of a change in the direction of the current swing. When an 18 year old boy gunned down a Gwinnett County police officer days ago and an enormous manhunt ensued I was reminded of some things my brother (in law enforcement for over four decades) taught me years ago, e.g. THE BADGE (no matter who is wearing it) carries with it the FULL WEIGHT of the government it represents.

When you fight a county police officer you are not merely tussling with an individual; rather, with the whole county. He or she presents the civil body he or she has been entrusted to protect. It is not within your authority to evaluate whether or not you should obey the instructions of an officer of the law (certainly not in the moment he or she is instructing you). If you choose to disobey then the full weight of the governing body he or she represents will come crashing down upon you. This is the only way people in the society can have their freedoms protected.

In television, police often work alone or with just one partner. There are many skirmishes, and wrestling matches where the bad guys often get the upper hand and get away. This keeps you watching until the next program comes on a week later. In reality, even though the bad guy sometimes escapes capture, he or she does so only for a time, because the truth is it is not a competition. The law will be enforced. Your defiance of it will last only a short time (whether you agree with it or not). If this were not true it would rend the delicate fabric that holds society together.

We can blame society, just like The Jets in West Side Story, but that is a ruse, a ploy that simply does no one any good. If our homes are devoid of respect for authority, or if our entertainment celebrates defiance and rebellion, or if our school teachers are on trial by their students to gain respect and affect obedience, or if our political officials and law enforcement officials are not held to a high standard of morality we are in deep trouble.

The pendulum needs to swing soon . . . and swing hard!

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