Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Last Best Hope?

Once in a while someone really special enters your life and, if you’re lucky, you realize it when it happens, cultivate them and become grateful that another human has taken the time to make you feel special. That’s how it was when Phil Dodson asked me if I wanted to write for The Telegraph.
It was a simple call that took little effort on his end of the phone but meant so much on my end. I told him so, and now I am so glad I did. Mark Twain was once asked what it took to be a writer and he said, paraphrasing, “It’s easy, all you do is sit down with pen and paper and open a vein.” Phil wasn’t afraid to “open a vein” because what he wrote came from his heart. That personal “still small voice” of his could be heard each time he sat down to read his offerings.

I can’t say I knew him well personally, but I learned more about him through his writing about the things he cared about. He knew how to take a stand on any issue and allow you to do the same. He was about giving opportunity and a hearing for those who needed it. He will be missed, particularly in a time in an America where each one’s opinion seems to be the only opinion that any one cares about.

These last few days have seen tragedy in Arizona, and as I sit here thinking about Phil, I can’t help but wonder what he would have said. In a column written just a few days ago, he said, “After observing foibles of the human condition over many years, one axiomatic rule that emerged early is that there are some subjects in which consensus cannot be reached.” He mentioned abortion, religion and the “approach some take to those who are different racially.”

If we have indeed reached that point in the political life of America -- the point where our minds are made up, convinced we are the only ones who are right, correct and true -- it’s time we stepped back and began to, if not agree with, then at the least, respect each other’s point of view. Maybe we need to realize that if no one seems to have the answer to a particular problem, we all need to keep searching and be open to each others’ ideas.

I have a feeling that one day, maybe after the three score and ten we are allotted, some of us are going to be greeted not with, “well done thou good and faithful servant,” but “what in the world were you thinking?”

A friend of mine said of the Arizona incident, “Such senseless loss at a time when we as a nation need to come together and build for tomorrow’s challenges. There are among us, obviously, those whose demons cannot be controlled.” That rings true for me also as it seems we can’t get past personalities these days in order to solve important problems. Are we not the same people Abraham Lincoln spoke to in 1862 when he said, “We hold the power, and bear the responsibility. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of Earth”? Are we still the last best hope for mankind, or will we lose our freedom because of a lack of our willingness to allow it to survive for all?

After a weekend of tragedy seldom seen since 9/11, perhaps it’s time we found a little of Phil Dodson in each one of us -- our better side -- and became people not only willing to hear about, but understand the concerns of others.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Relatives, Fish, and Vacation

For a winter vacation this year, we decided to test a theory: Do fish and relatives really stink after three days?
The perfect opportunity presented itself when my daughter and her husband, (the alleged driver), managed to “drive” into a ditch while the four of us were vacationing with a relative who used to like us -- my wife’s sister.

Our vacations sometimes involve going to a nearby relative’s house and hanging out for a day or two. Free food, no flying, no frisking and we can keep our shoes on. At 8:30 a.m., shortly after they left the mountain house, I hear this over the phone, “Dad, we’ve driven into a ditch.” We jumped into the aunt’s four-wheel drive and sure nuff, they/he had driven into a ditch.

The snow had begun that morning so, in blizzard conditions, we hauled them back to the house where we holed up with a ham, a turkey, two dogs, two cats and a yard full of anorexic squirrels. Had it been me, I would have said we either slid or were pulled into the ditch by a mysterious force. I would not have admitted to actually driving myself into a ditch.

Before I go on, yes, I’m very thankful they were not injured. But how does one drive into a ditch when going uphill? But I digress. Now my concern is how long it can snow in North Carolina, whether or not the food is going to last and how long it will be before the Scrabble game fight breaks out. The cats are eating the dog food, the dogs are eating the cat food and the humans are cheating at Scrabble (a family tradition) and eating anything they can swallow.

I keep reminding them that it’s a long walk to the local Dollar Store. It snowed all day, so the four-wheel drive vehicle has been reduced to something less than a good-size sled. A trip down the driveway would require a vote, as travel outside the “petosphere” has become a major decision. We can go down the driveway, but we can’t go up. We do have some quiche, but Warren Selby (The CrimeStopper guy) is the only real man I know who eats that stuff.

As the days pass, I’m afraid the dogs and cats are no longer going to look like pets. Until that happens, I’m wondering how long it will be before one of the dogs finds a cat claw in his jowls. Scruffy, the Dumpster cat, found (you guessed it) beside a Dumpster looking for a meal, was raised in the ghetto and knows how to take care of himself.

After we run out of the good stuff, I suppose we’ll eat dog and cat food and then dog and cat. I hear some countries consider them to be delicacies, and there’s really no place to hide around here. The interesting thing is going to be the humans. So far, so good, but it’s just a matter of time before someone accuses someone of less than honorable behavior and then, since there’s nowhere to go. You can see where this is going.
Do fish and relatives stink after three days? I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’ve scheduled the waiting room of the local proctologist for next year’s winter “vacation.” I don’t foresee another invite here next year.