Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Protecting the Unworthy

Years ago there was a young man who was called to care for a people in a country called America. To him many gifts were bestowed, among them the gift of insight.

He understood and fell in love with a race of people whose ancestors had been brought to a place called America aboard ships from lands far away. He loved these people because he knew them to be a gentle folk above all else.

He became their leader, guiding them, not for personal gain or historical merit, but because he knew at that moment in time, there was no one else to stand and protect them. They were his people and when he looked down from a speaker’s platform, a pulpit or out from a jail cell, he felt compassion few of us have known.

His compassion was great because his people had suffered much and were suffering still in America, a land where something called “the American dream” was a reality for many, but not for a child with ebony skin.

She stood there, down front, looking up with dark innocent eyes, waiting for words of hope from the man who spoke of a dream. Looking down from a pulpit into those dark eyes, compassion like water flowed from the man in the pulpit. For an instant, he saw her as many in America saw her -- as something less than. Not a slave, but less than free. Not helpless, but less than able. Not ugly, but less than beautiful. Not ignorant, but less than brilliant. Less than worthy of something called “the American dream.”

She existed in a state of nothingness, something to be tolerated, a nuisance. It broke the man’s heart when he saw her as she was, a child with a future. And with his gift he looked into the future and saw her as she would become -- an adult who would be seen as less than.

The man, who had been around these less-than-worthies all his life, knew they were more than worthy and in fact very worthy to be called Americans. But in his time, people were not yet ready to have less than worthy people called that so other names were bestowed. Black, African, African American, were used to soften the idea of less than worthies being called Americans.

This seemed to make everyone feel better, even though most of his people had been born in America, and Africa was a continent with over 40 different countries. His people had no country. They just didn’t look like the other Americans. His people were not free. And so he had a dream.

He dreamed of a place where the little ebony girl with the big dark eyes would be judged, not by the color of her skin, as beautiful as that was, but by the content of her character. He dreamed of a place where she would be judged, not by her ancestors’ past, as difficult as that had been, but by her ability to change the future. She came from a people whose spirit was indomitable, and who had been given gifts of patience, laughter, a caring nature and much more.

This man knew his people needed hope and so he told them about his dream. And in that dream, they began the greatest social revolution in America’s history. A movement based on nonviolence for they were a nonviolent people. A movement founded on biblical principles for they were a religious people and a movement designed to appeal to America’s guilty conscience. No one knows what became of the little ebony girl who stood down front, but there are others like her waiting for the dream to come true. And while America continues to twist and turn in the winds of guilt, the revolution continues. Each must play his part.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Putting Out the Fires

Yes, the price of gas is going up and we’re all frustrated because we don’t have the information to figure out why. From our vantage point, all that has to happen is for some Iranian dictator to threaten Israel and we pay more for gas. It took my daughter $87.43 to fill up her truck the other day. Her truck is a 2003 Ford Sport Trac. It gets good gas mileage for a truck, about 17 in the small town, 23 interstate, if you don’t mash down on the gas pedal too hard. She doesn’t spend very much time on the interstate but she goes to a lot of fires so she gets 8 and 12, but the cost of a fill up doesn’t change, it just comes more often.

What I need is an electric vehicle but I think they’re charging way too much for those Fords up in Detroit. You’d think we could get a discount since we bought some of the other companies. If they’re anything like a golf cart, that would be nice. I love the electric golf cart. You can get one for around eight grand and in towns where it’s legal, ride all over the place and sneak up on folks before you have to plug em’ in somewhere. Plus, the one’s I’ve seen on TV come with a blond. Too bad they’re illegal in most towns but it’s for the best… I couldn’t keep the blond. We’ve got enough mouths to feed around here.

I like a vehicle with a GPS system. You wouldn’t need one with a golf cart, although I’ve seen some in them. I can’t imagine being so inept at finding the hole you would need a GPS system on a golf course. Most holes can be seen from high ground, usually the tee box, due to a flag pole sticking out of the ground. The hole is usually right under that flag. Maybe the GPS’s are for only to be used on par 5’s or dog legs.
Maybe it’s time to bring back the Go-cart. We had one back in 62’, the year Fireball Roberts spoke at the high school. That thing would fly! The back yard was fenced in and since we couldn’t ride it in the street we drove it in a circle, similar to Daytona, without the concessions, around the back yard. Gas was .25 cents a gallon and the only pit stops required were for driver changes. We could run all day for the cost of mowing the grass, which soon became unnecessary because within the first week the back yard became an oval dirt track with only one car running around under a large brown cloud hanging over the driver and everything else. We wore mostly browns to school that year. Our races were popular in the neighborhood and we must have had a huge, what we currently call “fan base” in those days because the phone was always ringing in the house when one of us was “racin”.

The Ramirez brothers, who lived across the alley and had a cumquat tree we used to raid, got Cruisaire motor scooters. Here they’d come, racin around the block sure to whiz past me and my brother peddling away on our bikes. One day, on my knees and with tears streaming down my face I asked mom, why we couldn’t have a scooter and why those boys’ parents loved them more than ours loved us. She mumbled something or other about getting killed, never forgive herself, what would dad think, too expensive, we had bicycles and yes, the ever popular and always useful, “I love you too much”. I never looked at my bicycle the same after that. Now I’m thinking I may have to get it out and ride it again. Come to think about it, that might be fun if they keep the golf carts and motor scooters off the streets. Sure be safer.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sometimes, when I watch the evening news, I get discouraged. Is that hard to believe? Think about it. So many things appear to be out of my control and in the hands of people I either don’t trust because they don’t look like me, belong to a different political party or maybe it’s just me. It makes me wonder if the guys I send my money to can get anything done that will help my friends and me have a better life or if I should stop sending them money. There are a few things these guys don’t seem to control that don’t appear to be all that difficult to put into place and I’d be curious to see what the results would be if that happened. Some are personal and would affect very few but others are ideas I find interesting.

For instance, I’d like to see folks stop spending their money on professional sports tickets. I’m curious as to what it might do to the price of a ticket. I think it might go down and that would probably mean more parents could take their children to a game or match. I’d like to see a higher academic standard set for high school athletes. Not just a “C” average but maybe a “B” or better. I’m curious as to what it might do to the graduation rates for these students. I think the rates might go up and who knows, maybe it would give the athletes a sense of pride in something other than their athletic ability. I’d like to see everyone who’s able give ten cans of food and ten dollars a year to a local charity. I’m curious as to what it might do to help some folks feel better about themselves. It might go a long way toward getting people more involved in their communities. I’d like to see more vegetarians. I’m curious as to what that would do to our national obesity and heart disease problem. It might lessen our health care costs and prevent me from having to look at those pitiful chickens packed twelve to a crate in those eighteen wheelers and heading for slaughter. I’d like to see small towns pass ordinances allowing golf carts in their city limits. I’m curious as to what it would do to Ipod sales. It might give folks more of an opportunity to talk…about whatever and lessen the demand for gas (of course). I’d like to see folks who are out of work with job skills in labor putting those resources to work in their local community while they wait for a paying job. I’m curious as to what it would do for self-esteem and the re-establishment of community pride. It might do a lot. I’d like to see moms hugging their children in the grocery store instead of smacking their hands or face when they reach for something. I’m curious as to what it might do to their child’s sense of curiosity. It might help them to be less afraid to ask questions, to reach out or fail at a task of some sort.

There are many other things I’d like to see but I’d settle for these because I think they are doable and don’t require any action from the folks in D.C…and isn’t that a pleasant thought? Call me a glass half full sort of guy. I still believe in our country, its ability to overcome, organize and make things better. And, after all, we are the country are we not? If you’re curious also, and can think of other things we can do without the help of those in the beltway …send me a note on the comments section of macon.com. We’ll have a conversation of sorts and it won’t cost a dime.

Monday, March 5, 2012

We used to make a lot of things in America, and my wife is convinced there were a lot of things made that may still be in the stores, but I’ll be doggone if I can find them. However, what I do find is always interesting. The other day I found myself wandering through a very large, “we have it all store”, boogying down to the sounds coming over the speakers and looking for a few of these items. She enjoys sending me on these “crusades” while she sits happily at home waiting for my phone call that assures her the items on her list came from her head or have not yet arrived from China.

I know this sounds like deviant behavior, but we cannot afford a psychologist to make me feel better and help her see we do not make stuff anymore. It usually takes about thirty minutes for me to figure out she duped me into looking for a cat food suitable for dogs, a chemical so powerful it will clean your shower and (if you fail to rinse) rot your feet with the mere touch of a button, and a spray that will make a black tire whiter. I have to say, the music helps, even though as I dance through the store to “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” I’m thinking that would not be a bad idea. Walking through the store, I join the other “shop till we droppers” who seem to be boogying with their buggies and jamming to James Brown’s “I Don’t Want No Body to Give Me Nothing; Open up the Door, I’ll Get it Myself.” 
It seems as though they’re all like-minded, thinking, quick, where do I sign; this Visa Card is melting a hole in my pocket! I am ready to make some serious charges! On my way to automotive I stop by the hardware/paint cubicle. Did you know you can actually watch paint dry to “Time Keeps on Slippin, Slippin, Slippin Away”? I usually dress down for shopping, preferring to fit in with the rest of the folks and a few of the employees. Today I’m wearing a fashion statement sweatshirt with the words, “If you talk about my mamma, I’ll slap you with my purse” in pink letters. My daughter left it on the kitchen table and I threw it on without looking. Staring up at the automotive “wall of fame” I see nine members of what could be an acid rock band (perfectly capable of talking about my mother), who can’t wait to put four tires on my jeep and watch as I go “slippin into the future”. The garage area has three more of these “post office Pennzoil brothers”, who are “sagging” to Van Morrison’s “Bright Side of the Road”. 

I’m sure I’ve seen these guys while mailing a letter. And now the waiting begins. NASCAR can change a tire in fifteen seconds so I’m figuring in fifteen minutes, including the oil change; I should be back on the track to home. That gives me enough time for coffee and news in the waiting room…a room designed for Middle Age monks…who mostly wrote while drinking mead from wooden cups. There were two other monks sitting there but they had the last two copies of Motor Trend Magazine, so, I’m left staring at a wall and feeling like a fifth wheel while the sagging three do the “shim sham shimmy” on my car. Glen Miller’s “In the Mood” plays in the background. My “crusade” in search of products that no longer exist will end two hours later as I browse through the outdoor department to Pete Seeger’s, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” Oh, by the way, those tires? Well, they were made in good ol’ America. No offense to China, but sometimes I bring my family along for the ride.  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Extra! Extra!

My brother and I had what were known as paper routes back before adults got in their cars and did it the easy way. We walked and rode bicycles to deliver the Knoxville Journal, the morning paper. I was thirteen, he twelve. Dad was fresh out of the service, like many today, and taking jobs wherever they could be found. Mom stayed at home with us five kids. She would get my brother and me up at 4 AM, give us a hug and off we’d go to roll the papers for delivery. We didn’t use rubber bands back then, but there was a special way to tuck a paper that held as good as a rubber band and that’s what we did. I can still see the headlines we rolled during that period, all about Kennedy, Khrushchev, bomb shelters and something called fluoride that folks wanted to put in the water. It was the winter of 61’, and the headlines made it seem colder.

Snow came early and stayed forever that year in Tennessee. The papers were delivered a few blocks up the street in bound stacks and I would roll eighty-five while brother rolled ninety-five. It’s funny what you remember. Brother’s route went one way and mine another but our routes paralleled each other so on very cold mornings we’d do his route first, where a customer had a basement we could duck into to warm up. That’s usually where we would pick up several dogs that would follow us the rest of the way. The dogs never said much, just loped along, content to be with people I suppose. Have to love a dog. Our customers weren’t so easy to please. Each one seemed to have a specific place in mind for the delivery of their paper, which was the most important document they would read that day. I reckon they wanted to know for sure when to start digging the bomb shelter. Screen doors, ledges, mailboxes, and near the bird bath were all potential paper receptacles and if we expected to get a tip they expected to see Kennedy’s smiling face staring back at them from the bird bath. It was an older neighborhood and I can still remember the old folks complaining about not being able to find a certain day’s paper. “Son, I thought I told you to put that thing by that thingernaut down there by that yard bird!”

This is probably when my hair began to leave the building and so soon, as it was only now on arrival. Truth is, we missed a few houses, missed a few placements but…we never missed a day… and if I knew what it was that made us not miss a day, I’d probably be on TV. Maybe we just didn’t want to disappoint mom and dad. Maybe it was seeing dad leave after breakfast for a job we knew he didn’t like but did anyway. Maybe it was a way to make us feel better about ourselves and our way of saying we’d do our part. Maybe if we had had the ability to kick some fictitious character’s rear on a Blue Ray box in the bedroom we’d have felt just as good. Guess we’ll never know because the ol’ Blue Ray was in the future. Or do we know?  I’ve never asked my mom nor did I ask dad, when he was alive, why they let us deliver papers in the winter of 61’. I don’t think they thought about it back then…because back then work was looked on as a good thing, regardless of the work one did and making money was looked at as security, and worthwhile. Isn’t that the only way one can look at that stuff? One thing’s for sure…some memories are keepers and some weepers. The paper route is a keeper.