On Tuesday, voters in Virginia went to the polls to select a new governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, delegates to the General Assembly and a handful of local offices. Since the Supremes allowed Citizens United to stand, the people of this nation have been subjected to mud-slinging that would make even the men of Jefferson's era blush. They have been subjected to the wills of a pair of billionaires wanting to seize control of the government for the purpose of dismantling it - for their own gain. The voting districts have been gerrymandered beyond any semblance of common sense, and the result is the hijacking of the sacred right and duty of every American to go to the polls to vote.
Does this surprise you? If so, you need to subscribe to a newspaper and keep up with things.
In today's Roanoke Times, Dan Casey, my favorite columnist since Mike Royko, wrote about how a woman from Salem had a Liberty University graduate come to her door to gather information. Later she received some mail from Americans for Prosperity. According to Dan the Man, they are linked to the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. In this piece of official looking mail, they noted that her neighbors had voted in each election, but that she hadn't.
Somebody, quick! Tell me why that is anyone's business but the lady's?
So Dan, being the sucker he is for a good righteous cause, decided to get to the bottom of it. Needless to say, he got some stonewalling here and there, but the important part is that he has put out there the story for others to read. There are bound to be some other folks who also got a similar letter.
On Tuesday, the old Sprawler was an election official, so I fired off an email to Dan, telling him about my own experiences with voter intimidation (let's name that elephant in the living room, shall we?), and I also sketched out for him what happened to Jake and TD when they went to vote on Tuesday. Here is their story:
"Thought you might enjoy hearing TD and my Election Day story.
We had our voter ID cards and photo ID's. Not a big election, only 9 amendments to the State Constitution, and a bond issue (No repugs to vote against!) We went to our local "sub-courthouse" where you early vote? "Sorry, you can only early vote here. On Election Day, you have to go to your precinct..."
So we went to Cana (Baptist Church) (you'll soon see a theme here), where we voted last time. "Sorry, you are in precinct 7, Johnson County, you don't vote here..." The (helpful not) poll worker couldn't tell us where to vote as his computer was down. Somebody in line suggested "Retta" (Baptist Church), and I think we voted there once recently, but we were turned away from there as well.
Note, we had our voter ID cards, WHICH DID NOT TELL YOU WHERE TO GO TO VOTE!!!! (Apparently they like to mix it up in Texas!) I finally googled and called Johnson County board of Elections. (TG for I Pad and internet!) Telling the helpful woman who answered the phone that I needed the polling place location for "Precinct 7" was not enough, as she had to verify my name address etc on the phone before she would give me the desired info. Finally she told me, "Bethesda Baptist Church!". It was quite far away, we had to get on the interstate, and we have never voted there before....
What's up with this nonsense? I mean, I was ready to give up after being turned away twice, and this was a "throwaway election" and accomplished nothing more than putting me on the list to be called for jury duty, again!!!!"
As I told Dan, this is, thankfully, not the case in Virginia, and especially not in The Star City of the South. When we bring up a voter in the electronic poll book (EPB), it will tell us if the voter needs to be at a different precinct. Often the voter has moved, or there is some other hiccup that is easily solved by looking up on our handy spreadsheet where it is the voter needs to be in order to cast a ballot. If all else fails, we call the registrar's office, where problems can be cleared up - such as the voter providing social security number and the office telling us she was listed under her maiden name. "Let her vote and make her fill out a new voter registration for the name change."
We also employ other tricks, such as affidavits that voters must fill out to certify that the information they have supplied is the most current and correct. There are a lot of variables, but the point is, it is our duty to make sure people can vote if it is possible. If it means they must vote with a provisional ballot, then that is what we have them do. We are patient. If they don't have identification, we have them search through their pockets for items that qualify from our list of approved identification tools. (electric bill, etc.) We do everything we can to help them cast that ballot.
Why? Because it is our job to run the election process by the book. When we protect the sanctity of the vote, we are also protecting the integrity of the election.
Unlike my friends, though, many voters show up unprepared. They don't know what they need to have and some are flummoxed by the process we must follow. They are shy about telling the official their name and address aloud and shocked when the official repeats that and then checks for a match on the voter's identification. Some move and do not keep up with changes of address for voting and the DMV. Some don't understand why it's a big deal. Come July of 2014, many will be in for a rude awakening. That's when our picture id law kicks in.
As it stands, Virginia had a voter purge that took place right before this election. We officials braced ourselves for the inevitable mess it could engender when people who never bother to read their mail showed up to vote. Luckily, our precinct didn't have any glitches along those lines, but it's clear that the party in control of the General Assembly was attempting to tilt the vote in their favor for the gubernatorial race.
The bottom line is that two days after the election, I have already fielded a call from Wisconsin that was going to give me that mythical free cruise to the Bahamas, if only I would give them the right answers on their tea party-slaned questionaire.
The Republicans' latest wedge issue is the Affordable Care Act, and they are doing everything they can do to torpedo it. At this point, I'm ready to say, "The only way you can take it away is if you replace it with a single payer program like Medicare."
They will continue to buy elections until Americans wise up and clean out Congress. In the meantime, we officials will have none of that nonsense. We will protect the integrity of the vote with every fiber of our beings. Well, as long as we're not in Texas....
Tried the pumpkin scone recipe in the 50 things you can do with canned pumpkin insert. 20 minutes of baking was inadequate given the amount of wet stuff - pumpkin is wet and there was a lot of cream on top of it. 30 minutes was closer to the mark, but even at that, they were still a little gooey on the inside. Flavor was not exciting. Final tally? Not a keeper.
It's that time of year for those of us who subscribe to cooking magazines...the wishbooks should be getting thicker. Sadly, the only one to have gotten the memo is the Food Network mag.
Years ago, Gourmet led the pack with a November issue that was one mouth-watering page after another. The lush centerfold made many a cook's dreams come true. Bon Appetit held its own in those sweepstakes. But, with the demise of the elegant taste-maker, Gourmet, Bon Appetit has suffered from an identity crisis, and it really doesn't do much of a job keeping up. It's turned to trendy, rather than tasty. Ingredients that no one west, north or south of New Jersey can find...that kind of thing.
Fine Cooking's fall issue that combines October and November is never a disappointment, unless you count the fact that everyone I know wishes it was a 12 month magazine, instead of 6 month. It loses a lot of the timeliness by being bi-monthly.
And then there is the Food Network magazine. Holy moly! Fat, full of seasonal stuff, easily found ingredients and accessible recipes.
Those of us who like to cook are already thinking ahead to the holidays. We're already making lists of who will be in town, who will be traveling and who might be alone. I'm doing my fall cleaning so that I'll be ready with polished silver, clean kitchen cabinets stocked with fresh ingredients, and a purged fridge. It's essential if there is going to be a lot of kitchen activity.
The other day, while looking for something else (as is often the case), I ran across something I've saved. It's the November 1986 issue of Gourmet. Why, pray tell? We were married in November of 1986 on Thanksgiving weekend. I had gone through 20 years worth of Gourmets because they were taking up shelf space I needed for other things, but I could not tear up that issue.
This is the season when we plan our baking marathons, the table settings, the things that must be ordered ahead of time and so on. The fat cooking magazines used to inspire this kind of homekeeping creativity. You think Martha Stewart is that innately talented? Gimme a break. She studied those old Gourmet centerfolds with the zeal of a social climber. Here in the South, there are still a few generations who rely on Southern Living. Indeed, newly transplanted to the Star City, I subscribed for a while, until I realized it was the same old same old made with a can of cream of mushroom soup. And seriously, the decorating? There was only so much 18th Century Light, Revisited that I could stomach.
So, these days, I take comfort from those fine people at the Food Network who focus on ingredients we can find easily, fresh foods and accessibility. They know we are busy, they know we want to have a really tasty feast, but they also know that we don't all live in McMansions with Great Halls worthy of Henry VIII. The vibe is more casual than you will find at our house on a holiday, but that's okay. If it gets people into the kitchen, that's fine by me. If it gets some of them to understand that the glass electric cooktop is for lightweights, and that the microwave isn't their most important appliance, I'm all for it.
Stay tuned for what's up on the menus. Right now I have a big collection of squash, so I'm thinking squash lasagne, squash soup, squash mash... Stuffed eggplant, spezzatino with greens, beans and root vegetables... Fall is in the air. Aaaa-choo!
Aw, geez. I'm having a deja vu all over again moment here at the Sprawl. When I was in grade school, I used to have lunch with either Aunt Mary or Grandma Theresa. Grandma was my dad's mother, and she was a cranky old doll who made the world's best apple strudel. She also cheated at cards and bunco!
I always looked forward to lunch with both of them because it was nothing short of fun. Sometimes when I arrived at Grandma's she'd have the kitchen closet completely emptied. There would be stuff everywhere! Baking pans, pots, pans, big bags of flour, sugar, brooms, mops, ironing board... And there would be Grandma, in the middle of that mess, swearing in Slovenian. (I know she was swearing because she made it a point to speak English when I was around. Slovenian was reserved for when she didn't want little pitchers with big ears to hear what she was saying.)
The whole reason for the closet being torn up was that she was looking for something and all the usual places had been checked.
Today I am looking for a box of old photographs. Most of our family candids are on slides, but somewhere in this disaster of a house, there is a turquoise blue notebook that has old black and white photos. And in that box is a picture of Grandma Kate that I want for the Italian Club's cookbook.
So, today, I am Grandma Theresa's clone - there is stuff everywhere, while I excavate all the possible nooks and crannies in search of the darn box. I'm having no luck, but I sure have found a lot of stuff that we could get rid of, and that might be the whole reason why the universe has sent me on this fool's errand!
The House Goddess was watching me fold the dishtowels and we were both remarking on how we were switching to all white because we could bleach the bejeepers out of them with impunity. I help up a great towel that is pretty old, but noted the now lavender design was formerly bright blue. She nodded in assent on the issue of why it no longer pays to have pretty colored kitchen linens. Then she pointed to a rather oddly shaped and disreputable looking rag. "What's that?"
I giggled and admitted that when my Jockeys reach the point of no return, I cut up the salvageable parts for silver polishing. She grinned at me and announced that I was old school.
Here is how old school I am not. My mother and her sister kept house by a strict schedule. Monday was wash day. Tuesday was ironing day. The dishtowels said that Wednesday was for mending, but that was kind of flexible. So was Thursday marketing, given the fact that by Thursday my mother's hair wasn't presentable. (Aunt Mary's hair was always perfect, but she was good at doing it herself.) Friday was for cleaning, but that went on every day from what I remember, and Saturday was for baking. Now, again, that was negotiable. Aunt Mary baked whenever she wanted to, and you always knew what she was up to because you could hear her whistling when she baked. On Saturday, Mom was at Josie's getting her hair done.
The dishtowels decreed Sunday was for church. Sunday was for a roast that was ready when Uncle Eddie and the Mopstick came home from church. (Aunt Mary went on the High Holidays, as did my mother - dressed to the nines, of course in their shoes and matching purses.)
The Monday and Tuesday drill was the same, though, and one thing I learned early on in my apartment living days was that most tenants did laundry on the weekend. On Monday night, the laundry area was available. I had a show I watched on Tuesday night, so I ironed in front of the television. (I still iron in front of the television!)
In my current status as chief cook and housekeeper, I get some odd looks when people find out I pay the House Goddess to come every other week. I guess they wonder what I do with my time. But think of the women in The Help - and the women who live in a certain neighborhood of The Star City. They have someone who shows up every day, in a uniform, to make beds, launder, clean, polish silver and cook. In The Help, there was silver polishing day. That wasn't on the dishtowels, but I'm thinking my mother did that on Wednesdays, if she wasn't in her sewing room making up something nifty or changing the hemlines in our skirts.
The House Goddess keeps me honest. Big Kitty and I are slobs. We are also accumulators of the first order. When HG is due, it forces us to pick up after ourselves. She'd laugh at the idea of keeping house by the dishtowel schedule, but I happen to know that at her house, Thursday was clean-the-house night! Just ask her kids.... She ran that show with the zeal of a drill sergeant with a batch of new recruits!
But, we are on the dishtowel schedule. Today is Friday, and we're cleaning. She's doing her jobs and I'm doing mine. Oh, geez. Here she comes. If she catches me on the computer I'm sunk!
Here we go again. The plethora of pink products that scream Guilt Trip! Guilt Trip! Buy pink or feel guilty! The good news is that the brand name foundation that was revealed to be right wingnuts who wasted donation money on preventing women from access to health care has become somewhat marginalized in this annual color competition. The irony of my antipathy toward this band wagon is, of course, the loss of my mother to breast cancer.
Wearing or buying pink ribbon emblazoned items won't bring her back. Sound research that focuses on the cause
of the disease versus money funneled to a cure will bring millions of women more peace of mind. Determine what causes
the cancer and the cure will follow. This is not the protocol that Big Pharma wants to hear. It isn't what the probably causers of carcinogenic conditions want us to focus on, either. Finding the causes - and yes, they most definitely are likely to be plural - might cost greedy corporations profits, after all. However, the why of any disease
or condition is always the thing that nags us, and drives our uneasiness with the subject. For example:
- What if my mother's breast cancer originated with the cobalt radiation she received for bursitis a few years prior to the cancer diagnosis?
- What if my mother's breast cancer originated in exposure to fertilizers and herbicides used in the fields on two sides of our yard?
- What if my mother's breast cancer originated in living too close to the property where the Radium Dial Co. was located in Ottawa, Illinois?
- What if my mother's breast cancer originated in her genetic code?
- What if my mother's breast cancer originated in exposure to asbestos, or other airborne particles, when she lived near the Charleston Navy Yard?
- What if my mother's breast cancer orginated in the pollutants that were routinely released by the chemical and zinc works into the water and atmosphere when she lived on the east end of LaSalle?
See? The questions are many and the answers not forthcoming. It's too late for my mom, but it's not too late for us. If we know the cause
, we will have a cure, and we will never have a reliable cure without the list of probable causes
. Instead, we have the color pink offering us false promises. Think about it. Cause and effect. You had that in kindergarten. We won't get at the cause until we women rebel against pink marketing campaigns for a cure, and demand scientific answers to the elusive causes. And THAT'S a cause I can get behind.*In memoriam, Tom Clancy, whose thriller inspired the title of this piece.
Requiescant in pace.
Yesterday, Marcella Hazan, the doyenne of Italian cooking, passed away at the age of 89. She was a chain-smoker with emphysema, but somehow she managed to have a very long and rich life. I credit her good genes and good food.
Thanks to a little dance we did with Uncle Tony, I wound up with Grandma's noodle machine. And, thanks to the third floor book store in Marshall Field's, I found Marcella's first volume on Italian cooking. I had Grandma's table in my tiny kitchen in my first place here in Virginia, and I decided to try making noodles. I used Marcella's formula: 3/4 cup flour per egg. The only difference, was that Gram never dusted her pasta dough with flour. She put it in a bowl with a little olive oil. I did what Gram did and as I got into the rhythm of cranking and hanging fettuccine, I felt so darn proud of myself.
I've never been able to let go of the synergy I felt, working at that little table, kneading noodle dough, clamping the Imperia onto the extension, and cranking out the strips of dough that would become incredible thin noodles. And I remember well the excitement generated by a call from my crabby dad when he received the dress box of noodles I mailed him.
The first Italian dinner I made for friends included fettuccine with Marcella's tomato cream sauce, a rosemary and garlic studded veal roast, garlic sauteed broccoli, insalata and a dessert made with pound cake soaked in espresso and filled with a whipped cream mixture and covered with chocolate. It was a big hit and from then on, I never strayed far from Marcella's side.
My mother-in-law used to put a Stouffer's frozen lasagne in for the holiday dinner and whine incessantly about how it wasn't as good as my lasagne. I kept telling her I had never made lasagne, that my grandmother never made lasagne and that we ate Stouffer's at our house. She kept up with the same whine and I needed some wine... About ten years later, I'd had enough. I made Marcella's recipe for lasagne. It was quite the departure from Stouffer's, that's for sure! I wasn't sure I liked it, but the looks on the faces of the others convinced me that it was a keeper.
And so it went. Recipe after recipe. Never a failure. Her instructions were precise. And by following them exactly, I experienced the sweet smell of success ~ not to mention a kitchen that smelled divine!
Marcella had a reputation for having an abrupt manner. Indeed, reading her cookbooks, you get a feel for the autocratic attitude she likely conveyed in her cooking classes. Yet, she was pushing Americans to eat the foods of the rest of Italy, not just the corrupted foods of the southern part of the country. She was a reformer, in many ways, and we needed that. Our idea of Italian cooking was mired in red sauce and meatballs.
Ironically, it was just this past Friday night that I attempted the kind of pizza Marcella would have likely abhorred: The Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. Yep. All caps. What I was aiming for was a memory of pizza at Gino's on Rush. The cellar restaurant with the sign over the door that read, "Watcha Thy Head!"
It was around 1964 or '65. My mom and I had taken the train into Chicago to visit my sister. She was very excited about an Italian restaurant and the idea of getting to eat food that Dad wouldn't touch. When my 5'1" mother saw that sign, she cracked up. Nevertheless, in we went, the pizza was ordered and an eternity later, it was served up with a clamped on handle, a wedge shaped serving spatula and in a blackened pan. My mother looked at it and smiled. "Oh, Jeane," she said. "This is just like what my grandmother used to make!" My sister's face fell. She thought she was introducing Mom to something really new and great. It wasn't new, but it was certainly great, and Mom made sure she knew it.
As the story goes, in the coal mining towns that dotted Illinois (and likely everywhere else there was a collection of Italian miners), there were boarding houses. Her grandmother ran one. In the morning, she would make bread dough and put it in a big black skillet on the back of the cookstove. As the day went on, she added leftovers to that thing. In the early evening, it got baked and that was pizza. A cheap way to make sure nothing went to waste, and something that was very filling.
My effort turned out pretty well. I see how I need to tweak it, and I've already made the notes in the margins of the recipe I tried. This is one I'll never find in a Marcella book, but I still owe it to her to have had the courage to try it. Julia Child may have taught my sister to cook, but Marcella was my teacher. I am eternally grateful, and so is everyone who comes to dinner.
Grazie, Dottore Hazan. Riposi in pace.
“Known to many as “Mr. Cub,” Ernie Banks is one of the greatest baseball players of all time. During his 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs, he played in 11 All-Star Games, hit over 500 home runs, and became the first National League player to win Most Valuable Player honors in back-to-back years. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, his first year of eligibility.”
Those are the words of the official White House press release announcing this tremendous honor.
As a Cub fan, I am overjoyed. As a citizen of the United States, I am proud that this honor is being bestowed on such a worthy recipient.
Baseball has had a rough and tumble past, and in recent years, the scandals surrounding players who have “juiced up” because they felt such pressure to perform, have only served to remind us that the game isn’t exactly populated by geniuses. To be sure, I did a little looking up and I found eleven players with Ivy League educations, among them Lou Gehrig (Columbia) and Moe Berg (Princeton). In more recent history, the Cubs employed a catcher with a degree in industrial engineering from Northwestern, Joe Girardi. But for the most part, players are drafted straight out of high school – or the rough neighborhoods of places like the Dominican Republic – and then they are trained through the farm system. Nowhere along the way are they taught how to behave or carry themselves.
Nevertheless, the game has enjoyed many, many players who were men of distinction and dignity. They were honorable people on and off the baseball diamond. They played alongside the party boys like Babe Ruth, the stinkers like Ty Cobb (hey, the Peach filed his spikes to a point and slid into basemen) and big egos like Johnny Bench (yes, I do have a story about him…). They played alongside those who gave their teams bad reputations, but they still showed up and did it the right way.
I became a Cubs fan after Ernie had retired, but he was always around and part of whatever the Cubs were up to. The excitement of Jack Brickhouse was part of being a Cub fan – even when it was the bottom of the ninth, two outs and two runs down, he was still pulling for his team, the quintessential Cub fan who taught us how to persevere.
You never would have heard men like Don Kessinger or Ryne Sandberg whining like the current crop. Never would they have been so dreadfully stupid as to use a corked bat for ANY reason, never mind to pop big ones for the fans to catch before the game, as Sammy Sosa alleged. Heck, we were there one day when Dave Kingman hit a batting practice ball into the left field bleachers, pasting a little girl with braces right in the kisser! Obnoxious as he could be, Kingman was honestly distraught.
Ernie Banks did hit over 500 homers, and he didn’t need to be juiced to do it. One might argue that today’s pitchers are a different breed from those Ernie faced, but for his day, he did what he did against the best of what baseball had to offer. So, no excuses. In the off season, he worked a second job in order to provide for his growing family.
Can you see A-Rod going to work as a car salesman in the off season?
No one got paid supersized salaries in Ernie’s day, and yet the man showed up and played his heart out with a positive attitude no one could touch! He mentored the younger players and he was good to the fans. He gave back to the community and he was never too busy to lend a hand to a good cause.
We still have some players with Ernie’s integrity and sterling character, but we don’t hear about them as much as we do the bad actors. And, that’s precisely why a guy like Ernie Banks needs to be honored.
The President is sending a subtle but stern message to the rest of the cry babies who make more money than they deserve. Nice guys finish with Presidential Medals of Freedom.
I want to close this with something Ernie once said he listened to when he felt a little down. It’s The Voice of the Chicago Cubs, the incomparable Jack Brickhouse, calling the game when Ernie hit his 500th:
"Jarvis fires away ... That's a fly ball, deep to left, back, back ... HEY-HEY! He did it!! Ernie Banks got number 500!!! The ball tossed to the bullpen ... everybody on your feet ... this ... is IT!!!! WHEEEEEEE!!!!!"
I used to think it didn’t get any better than that, but today, in the words of Jack, Hey! Hey! President Obama hit one out of the park!
Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient. Hey! Hey! indeed.
My Northern readers will need to forgive that quaint Southern title, but it was one I could not resist. The news is rife with the rats abandoning the sinking ship known as Paula Deen. Her use of racial slurs was compounded by her apparent unconcern for the inappropriateness of her usage of them. And now I am hearing from people who say, "What's the big deal?"
Here is the big deal: It is not, nor has it ever been, right.
I just left my hometown, where I was visiting The Uncles and The Bubbas and Skinny Sarah and Caregiver Sarah, et. al. Uncle Doc hangs out in the Lock 16 Cafe, where the waitstaff treat him well and cater to his every whim. People come through there all the time who know him, and they chat. I met a lot of people I didn't know and it was fun. But notably, I noticed a propensity for people to want to brush off this incident. They could not imagine why The Food Network and all the various sponsors have been ditching Deen. They think too big a deal is being made of this.
Let's be clear. A lawsuit was brought alleging a hostile workplace due to inappropriate racial talk. It's no different than a lawsuit brought by a woman who finds it inappropriate if her male boss discusses her lady parts jokingly. It just IS NOT DONE. It's tacky, it's poor manners and it is wrong. Ya don't do that kind of thing at work.
But more importantly, Deen brought the sky down on her head when she shrugged it off and said she didn't know anyone who didn't make racial jokes.
Guess what, lady, I live in the South and I honestly do NOT know anyone who does. If they do, it's in the privacy of their own homes where I cannot hear it. Furthermore, if I did hear it, I would respond with a very tart rebuke.
The question now is whether the Food Network erred in dumping her. From my point of view, not having to have her nasty voice blathering away is a gift from the heavens above. I never liked her show, muted it if I was ironing in front of the television, and have never bothered with any of her recipes because when it comes to Southern cooking, I don't need to do it. My Southern husband, The Estimable Big Kitty, doesn't much care for it! I eat more Southern foods than he does! He does like greens, but he likes the way I make them - Italian style - better. No grits, no biscuits, no country ham and red-eye gravy, no biscuits smothered in sausage gravy, no okra... I, on the other hand, love grits. I also appreciate biscuits, even if the only way I eat them is with butter and jam. And summer isn't summer unless I can make a batch of okry 'n maters, just for myself! I can do without the rest of that stuff.
The rest of her empire can rot, as far as I'm concerned. She's made a small fortune on very little talent, lied about her health to her fans, and managed to rebound from that peccadillo. This latest, however, is far more serious.
Combined with the lie about her diabetes and her propensity for making obese people feel fine about eating food that is completely wrong for them, the racial issue pretty much shows that the woman is lacking in character. I don't like saying that about people I don't know personally, but the way she tried to blow off the issue in the deposition shows she cares very little for anything beyond her own self. That kind of self-absorption indicates to me that she believes her own hype. I'm going to lump that in with the Kar-trashian bunch in terms of having no shame and no sense of decency.
So, a word of warning to "y'all," who want to blow this off. You try that with me and I'm going to be all over you like a cheap suit. Your mama raised you to have good manners. Talk like that isn't good manners and, for you super religious types, will NOT earn you a ticket to heaven. What Paula Deen said was wrong. She is a public figure and she doesn't get a pass. Far from it. A public figure is expected to behave with integrity and honor. She ha
The other day the paper published an op-ed piece by some guy who was scratching his head in disbelief regarding atheism. He simply could not accept that there are people out there who don't give in and say a prayer in times of crisis.
I thought about that throughout the day as I weeded, planted and otherwise beautified my trashy old brick patio. A few thoughts came to mind that were hardly groundbreaking, but did cause my rambling mind to consider a few out of my ken types of ideas.
Personally, I cannot lay claim to atheism. My version of a divine being is one that is not simply the paternal figure, but rather one that also encompasses the maternal. Why else do we refer to Mother Nature, if not as the feminine aspect of the divinity? But I also don't see the divinity as some individual up on a cloud somewhere. The spark of the divine resides in all creatures, human and otherwise. The single exceptions, in my view, are daylily-chomping deer and groundhogs.
That said, the idea the man put forward was that in times of crisis, he does not believe that anyone does not offer up a prayer to his god.
If a person doesn't believe in his god or anyone's god, then that person has no need of sending a prayer in that direction. That person is more likely to be hoping that the doctor performing surgery, the EMT applying CPR or the police officer facing down a gun-wielding nut has the best possible training and will be using all his or her skills to their best advantage. The idea of applying to a religious construct outside of one's own beliefs for support isn't likely to be a part of that individual's arsenal.
We really were not founded as a strictly Christian nation, in spite of the Bible thumpers' loudest claims. (Those are people who refuse to accept written history, so you just have to ignore the poor sods and hope they leave you alone.) This gives us all the government-given right to explore religious thought, or not. For the people who give up on the concept of a god, there is often a set of mitigating circumstances that have led them to that pathway. The overriding question for all of us is this:
Is anyone else's religion really any of our business?
I would argue that it is not, given the rights granted us in the United States Constitution, not to mention just those that constitute good manners.
That said, why is this guy even given a forum in the newspaper to blather on about his inability to accept the fact that people who claim to be atheists honestly do not offer up prayers? What the heck does anyone care about that guy's opinions? And why would the opinion page editors even bother with such drivel?
In my own religious journey, I rejected the trinity long before I had any notion of Unitarianism. Poor old Reverend Kleffmann was conducting Saturday catechism classes at Trinity United Church of Christ, still using the box of antique Evangelical and Reformed Church catechism books. (God forbid those tight-fisted Krauts on the church board would ever let loose of a few sheckels to buy UCC materials!) Anyway, our job was to memorize the answers to doctrinal questions. My mother was making me attend and I therefore saw no reason to put forth any effort.
One Satuday morning, he called on me to recite something that had to do with Holy Ghost and I responded, "I don't know. I don't believe in ghosts." My classmates gave me dirty looks and Reverend Kleffmann's bald head smacked down on the table. It's a wonder he didn't smash his glasses. Somehow or another, I was confirmed on Palm Sunday and allowed to take communion on Easter. (They used Mogen David, just in case you wondered if we were juicers or winos.)
And that, my friends, was really the end of religion for me. I didn't revisit the idea again until my first run of graduate school when I would attend church periodically with a UU minister friend, who for some reason unknown to me, never took me to a UU church in spite of his assertion (privately, I guess) that I was a Unitarian. A Presbyterian minister boss later told his church board that I (a secretary to a pair of the staff ministers) was not a Christian. I didn't agree with him.
On the other hand, when I gave it some thought, I realized he was absolutely correct. But it surely did not make me an atheist.
So here it is: the paper publishes junk like this man's disbelief that anyone is truly an atheist. People like me wish they would quit allowing these pointless religious discussions on the opinion page. Christian friends think it is okay to grab my hands and force me to go along with their table blessings (damn, but that is so utterly rude of them!). And unless confronted with these types of behavior from time to time, people like me pretty much don't think too much about religion - at least not the way the rest of the folks appear to.
On a beautiful Sunday like today, my thoughts don't turn to church as much as they do to feeling a great deal of gratitude at being alive to enjoy the day and to love those around me. Rather than concern myself with the beliefs of others, which is none of my damn business, I would much rather be happy that people are able to find solace in times of sorrow through whatever means bring them the most comfort. As humans, we have a lot of means available to us. The real crime is in not tapping into that.
Wishing all of you readers the best of June Sundays...Happy Fathers Day to the dads, and......
Happy Birthday, Scott T. Mouse! Auntie, Unc, Charlie and Simon all love you!