Sunday, August 31, 2014

Good Morning Justin

Letter to my Son
Sunday, 31 August

Good Morning Justin…

It’s the Labor Day weekend.  I don’t care how hot it is there’s the feel of Fall in the air, like it’s the first day of school.  We’ve turned a corner and there’s no going back.  Halloween get-ups are beginning to creep onto the retail shelves, taking the place of notebooks and other school supplies.  Swimsuits are marked seventy percent off in this part of the country.  All community pools will soon close.  It’s near time the leaves begin falling from trees.  Are you ready for another round of family gatherings for the holidays?

Hold everything.  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  The acorns are still locked in the crowns of their trees.  I haven’t yet heard the sound of a single one land on a roof and roll off into a rain gutter.  The day I hear that sharp thunk followed by its tailing uneven rolling rattle is the day we can officially mark as the start of Autumn.  It won’t be long.  It arrives before the first votes are cast.  Yes, this is an election year.  This is good.  I’m a someone again.  My Senator can’t stop thinking of me.  She’s always in need of my money.  If only I can open my wallet one more time we can maybe meet our monthly goal.  Please.  Even five dollars would be so gratefully received.  Surely I won’t miss such a trifling amount.  Won’t I take a moment of my time right now and wire off the money immediately?  By the way… am I aware a gift of another twenty dollars or more will place me on a list of donors deserving special thanks from the Senator and her family?  The Senator hopes I realize how important a person I am to her.  That’s why she feels good about asking me for an additional hundred dollars.  After all, I am just like family.  Yes, these are desperate times.  No, I certainly don’t want to see my freedoms eroded.  I can make a difference.  People have turned to me to help put things right.  The campaign is at a critical juncture.  It’s up to me, now.  I stand tall.  I’m big enough to meet this challenge.

Doesn't a hundred dollars seem a bit small for the task at hand?  The Senator knows I won’t let her down.  I’ll simply juggle these bills a bit and see what’s left to give.  It’s a tidy sum for a man living on social security.  My heart swells with humility knowing the appreciation felt towards me.  Please don’t embarrass me by unduly fussing over my generosity.  Let’s just say I've made a wise investment in democracy and the future of our nation.  I’m feeling quite the statesman right now.  Yes.  May I suggest we not publicize the extent of my contribution?  I've come to appreciate that my role in saving western civilization is all the thanks I’ll ever need.  Each dollar freely given from my wallet acts now as a sentry protecting justice and fair play. 

I’m overwhelmed.  I've scaled heights too dizzy even for me.  Maybe I've over reacted.  Am I truly ready to take on all this responsibility?  You did say five dollars, right?  Listen, you know I’d love to help but I don’t get paid for another week.  If only I hadn't bought that Starbucks latte the other day.  I swear to you here and now I wouldn't have bought it had I realized you needed another five.  Five bucks seems so little.  Gee, there’s got to be plenty of people other than me that can swing you a five.  Why don’t you ask around.  Maybe I know someone that can help.  I can’t promise anything.  Most people I know are voting for the other guy.  They’re all good people, though.  Guaranteed they’ll feel just terrible knowing five dollars can mean so much and yet be so far out of reach.  A horse!  A horse!  My kingdom for a horse.  Mark Twain, I think.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Good Morning Jacob

Letter to my Son
Sunday, 24 August

no remedy

Good Morning Jacob…

It rains and it doesn’t rain.  Sometimes it’s day.  Other times it is night.  We don’t know why we’re here.  We make up stories to explain.  What appears the more plausible depends on how we are cooked inside.  Sometimes I just want to stop troubling myself.  Why should I care why the formula for discovering the hypotenuse always seems to work?  Be happy with a comic book and a cookie.  What is so wrong about tilting toward a less purposeful fantasy?  There is just enough room to curl up and sleep in this boat filled with people.  I will close my eyes and listen to the sound in words rocking back and forth until they all roll off the page.  We are settled on our fate.  We’re in this all together.  It’s nothing, really.  It just seems otherwise.

Keep busy always.  Even meditation is an exasperated effort at holding back calculated thought.  What do you find in the space between the notes?  My words are strictly laid down in linear sequence.  They serve as wooden ties – keeping the rails parallel.  My mind dare not deviate from the tested path.  Were I to jump the track I would soon be exposed.  Numbers no longer require the tool of addition.  The concept of quantity is lost from vocabulary.  I can no longer group like instances.  I have no need to.  I prefer to no longer discriminate this from that.  What is separation, anyway?  The need to sort is lost when one chooses dissolution of the matter of subject. 

Nothing exists separate enough to call it an event.  Time loses its distinctions.  Boundaries of every type only seem to dissolve because they never were in the foremost term of reality.  The mind has lost all focus.  The mind itself is lost.  There is nothing to think of as mine.  What happens to be me is nowhere to be found.  All is simply as always was.  Being isn’t something contained.  What can be made of this isolated perspective called mine? 

Words again.  I remain safely restrained within my tracks.  Choo choo!  I’m busy.  I work for my living.  I metabolize safely both material and nonmaterial elements locked within my sealed realm.  I walk the streets fully clothed and, by all appearance, sanguine.  You do, as well.  We meet and greet.  Another hot one today.  Keep your clothing loose and your emotions cool.  Say hello to the family for me.  We’ve both got it right.  Looking good.

It’s too soon to slip away into that which is without notice.  Mornings still hold overwhelming reward.  Memory serves well enough for me to find a fascination in the processing of age.  We live from day to day an accumulating change.  I could here and there strategically nip and tuck my suit of well-worn flesh but would it provoke a more succulent accounting of this life?  Perhaps.  Maybe I prefer bearing a likeness more compliant with the life I’ve obstinately lived, with its misguided dents, patchwork colorations and my ever-present vanities that loom over this personage like a thunderhead’s shadow cast on dry, laggard terrain.  Take a good look if you like.  Yeah, this is me.  Kind of funny, isn’t it?

See!  Now doesn’t this vision of life lived somehow feel more rewarding than forging a pathway to a nebulous sense of spiritual being?  We do appear to have been born into a highly corruptible existence, after all.  Is there something terribly wrong in allowing ourselves to chronicle the physical facts resulting from nature’s pull on the course of our life?  We each appear magically upon this scene and immediately proceed to etch the passing of our very existence.  We are each but one of umpteen billions of falling drops.  We are so many beings appearing always alike.  Yet, confronted together as just you and I alone, we are each refreshing and, dare I say, spiritual – in a disarming, human way.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why Ferguson is Republican in a sea of Democrats

Black majority elects white Republican mayor

The tragic death of Michael Brown has focused attention on the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department’s lack of diversity.  Of the fifty-plus personnel there are only 3 black officers on the force.  It is further pointed out that the Police Chief is white as are the members of the Board of Education.  The Ferguson City Council is all white except for a single Hispanic councilman and the Mayor of Ferguson is a white Republican.  How is it that a town of 21,000 is ruled by whites while the population is 67 percent black?  It has to do with voter turnout.  Municipal elections in Ferguson are not held simultaneous with presidential elections, midterm or gubernatorial elections.  Elections to fill city positions are held at odd times other than November when, historically, turnout of registered voters runs under 12 percent.   While this election scheduling may be by design to suppress minority turnout the fact remains that all citizens have equal opportunity to exercise their voting franchise.  The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.  2014 Ferguson, Missouri is not Selma, Alabama or Tupelo, Mississippi of some Jim Crow yesteryear.  People put their lives on the line so that people of all color and creed have access today to the power of the ballot box.

In the last municipal election to fill government positions in Ferguson, Missouri a mere 6 percent of eligible blacks turned out to vote.  White participation wasn’t much better at 17 percent but it was enough to ensure that long-standing policies remain firmly in place.  These are the very policies that have brought about historic racial embitterment and the unrest we witness today.  You don’t like the make-up of your police force?  Change can be brought about at the ballot box.  You feel city government doesn’t understand your community?  You feel they give you no respect?  Change the government .  Run for office.  Vote. 

The black community of Ferguson has a comfortable voting majority.  African-Americans can largely determine how they are to be treated by their city officials.  The mayor of Ferguson, members of its city council, its Board of Education, its Police Chief can all reflect the vision and hopes of this community.  This is the power of democracy.  It is within reach.  Citizens of Ferguson need not march in the streets and plead for understanding and respect.  It is yours for the taking.  You can organize.  You can pick candidates from your community.  You can vote. 

If there is to be a lasting lesson learned from the untimely death of 18 year old Michael Brown it is that protest marching is no substitute for having the political power of being a voting majority.  If you don’t believe it just ask those who have been running the show all these years.  They will tell you.  They prefer being where they are right now rather than where you happen to be today – and any day of the week.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Good Morning Jessicca

Letter to my Daughter
Sunday, 17 August

Blind Justice

Good Morning Jessicca…

The courtroom serves as the final arbiter of our most impassioned legal disputes.  Every attempt is made to dissipate emotion among the parties involved yet the heavily choreographed search for truth and guilt results in a theater of high drama.  One such proceeding involving judge, jury and advocates for the plaintiff and the defense will be tasked with determining whether there is a justified legal basis in the killing of one Michael Brown, resident of Ferguson, Missouri.

The legal system attempts to provide a setting for the impartial hearing of facts in order to arrive at a judgment as to a defendant’s culpability in crime.  Every effort is made to ensure a fair weighing of the facts but this, unfortunately, makes for no guarantee that justice will ultimately be achieved.  The law, as practiced in the United States, theoretically presumes the innocence of any defendant brought before the court and sets a high standard for establishing guilt in order to minimize the chance of convicting an innocent individual.  It is the task of the government prosecutor to establish the defendant’s guilt in the minds of all twelve members of the jury – guilt beyond reasonable doubt.  If there is but one member of the jury entertaining doubt about the defendant’s guilt then there can be no conviction.  This holds true even if this panel member feels in his heart that the defendant is guilty, yet his mind remains uncertain. 

A false conclusion of guilt results in punishing the innocent.  It is an abhorrent fact that this is sometimes the case despite our legal protections to prevent this injustice.  It is also true that these protections occasionally enable heinous criminals to escape punishment and walk freely back into society.  The courts may blindly weigh the scales of justice but this doesn’t always result in the appropriate outcome.  We place the rule of law above all other considerations but these laws are interpreted and administered by mere mortal humans, dedicated to a righteous calling but also universally fallible.  Such is the nature of the progeny of all who eat from the Fruit of Knowledge.  We discover the science that serves up miracles and, by so doing, we reap a stinging humility that comes with the generous bounty.  Our justice system serves this society remarkably well but we mostly take note when it serves to stoke our outrage. 

How is it OJ could return to the golf course scot free?  Where was justice for Trayvon Martin?  Did the Supreme Court really elect George W. Bush? 

There is relevance in the videotape of Michael Brown’s actions in a convenience store ten minutes prior to his death.  It goes to the credibility of the patrol officer’s account of a struggle with the deceased.  Is it plausible the young man would struggle with the policeman for his gun?  Forensics should add to the body of evidence that will either serve to collaborate the officer’s account or refute it or leave the issue contested.  This incident is particularly important in establishing the states of mind of the two individuals but it is not the ultimate determinant of guilt.  The legal key to this case rests on whether Michael Brown had his hands raised in surrender when he was fatally shot.  Witness testimony to this effect will be damning for the defendant if it holds up under cross-examination before the jurors.  If the policeman, sworn to serve and protect the community, shot an unarmed, defenseless man then the question becomes one of determining punishment appropriate for the crime.  What was the officer’s frame of mind at that fatal moment?  Was he coldly executing a young man as some would claim?  Did he fire in a moment of uncontrolled anger?  Was his adrenalin pumping following a life-or-death struggle and he inadvertently discharged his weapon?  What is the likelihood involving each of these possibilities?  These are all questions left for the court to decide.  In the meantime we will all hotly debate this issue – in the context of race, in the context of law and in the context of what we feel in our heart.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Good Morning Jack

Letter to my Son
Sunday, 10 August

Richard Nixon works the crowd

Good Morning Jack…

August is the beginning of the end for kids running free during summer vacation.  Back to school sales are hard to avoid.  Paper, pens and all the items needed for homework assignments are pushed right to the front of the store.  It’s like a call from your boss on the last Friday of your vacation wanting to know if you can make it in especially early Monday morning because of the oversize stack of assignments waiting impatient for your return.

August also begins the serious push for candidates in the coming fall election.  Between now and the first Tuesday in November there will be almost no days off for paid campaign workers.  Organizers typically start in May and are given three days off during the period leading to Election Day.  As of today, Sunday the 10th, there are 85 days remaining until ballots are cast.   Chances are these organizers have used one of their days off by now which means they have a long stretch of 12 hour days ahead of them.  Democracy is a fundamental principle of a free nation.  The campaigns to elect a candidate for office are a particularly demanding business.  Politicians serious about their profession expect to win their job once the votes are cast.  Campaign managers, like the candidates they promote, are among the winners and losers.  Winning keeps you on track for a shot at the title – a race with national prominence.  With back to back loses you’ve earned the right to manage a city council contest in Palookaville.

It’s always good to start with a quality candidate – someone who relates well with the voters and has a message that resonates.  Someone verbally sure-footed and dynamic is going to attract money, which is good since state-wide campaigns are going to be expensive.  Big money flows to those who have a realistic chance of winning.  There’s little upside to having influence with a politician out of office.  Keep the race close in the polls and money is there.  Fumble during the campaign allowing your opponent to take a double-digit lead and you economize while your rival cashes in.  The race becomes theirs to lose.  You’re left being the goat in the media narrative and that’s tough to shake.  You call for a debate, hoping a couple of choice zingers will right your sinking ship.  Why would the other side allow you such an opening to get back in the game?  Unless the voters absolutely demand it, your opponent’s campaign will ignore your plea, sit on their lead and ride out the clock, all the while buying expensive air time to mercilessly trash your image with negative TV ads.  Your audience dwindles and TV news loses interest in what you have to say.  Here’s where we pull out the script that we don’t believe in polls.  The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day.  Only the die-hards retain any hope.  Everyone else has bailed.  The show is over.  Curtain down. 

Volunteers are fundamental to a winning campaign.  People need to work for free on your behalf if you are to be a credible democratic choice.  Making phone calls to voters for hours on end and spending weekends going door to door in unfamiliar neighborhoods requires a personal conviction in your candidacy that can’t be bought.  Your volunteers aren’t slick professionals.  What they bring to your cause is simple sincerity.  Their importance is not in switching anyone’s opinion but in emphasizing the importance of casting your ballot.  Grassroots campaigning is about making sure your supporters are sufficiently energized, if not totally enthusiastic, to take the time and vote.  This is important because the candidate better able to rally their supporters to the ballot box is the one getting the job representing the people.  That is no small accomplishment.  By the first Tuesday in November people are sick of hearing about the campaign.  They just want it over.  Often they are filled with disgust.  They don’t like their choices.  Get over it.  Hold your nose.  Mark your ballot.  Vote.  Saints don’t run for office.  Just folks like you and me.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Good Morning Justin

Letter to my Son
Sunday, 3 August

Good Morning Justin…

There are no magazines in Lord Christo’s waiting room.  It is a simple room having a few chairs, curtains drawn shut, a thick aroma of incense and a gargoyle, with wings like those of a bat, peering down from a ledge above the door.  An elderly cat sleeps curled at the base of a Gothic-carved pedestal.  It holds aloft the steady burn of a stoic white candle, thick in its own drippings.  An apparition from another century appears at the door.  He is tall, severe in features, dressed all in black.

“Yes, how can I help you?”
“Hello.  I’m Delores from the Reelect Cory Fletcher for Senate Campaign.  Are you Ldchris Carew?”
“I’m Lord Christo.”
“I see.  Thank you.  Are you familiar with Cory Fletcher?”
“And he is… ?”
“He’s our Senator.  He’s working to make government more responsive to people such as yourself.”
“How would he do that?”
“Oh, there are any number of ways.  I’m sure you are aware of the crisis in higher education.  Cory Fletcher would provide more money for schools.  Is this something that would be of interest to you?”
“I can give it some thought.”
“Can we count on your vote then for Cory Fletcher in November?”
“Listen, you’ve caught me at a bad time.  I’m about to perform an exorcism.  Maybe you could come back later this afternoon.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.  I don’t know if I’ll still be in the neighborhood.  How about I leave you our Cory Fletcher on the Issues information pamphlet?”
“Yes, that sounds fine.”
“Do you think you can support Cory Fletcher?”
“I’m definitely considering it.”
“That’s wonderful.  Would you be interested in doing volunteer work for Cory Fletcher?”
“I’m sorry.  There’s a soul in terrible pain in the next room.  I must return to my work.”
“Yes, of course.  You have a beautiful home.”
“Thank you.  Bye.”