Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thanks Obama

"If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually, you'll make progress."                                            
                                -- Barack Obama


Precious time is running out. Soon the camelot-like era of the Obama family in the White House will be over and a terrible scourge that a lot of bigoted people wanted will come to town. I'm sad it's ending, particularly in light of what's to come. I'll miss calm and reason. I'm dreading the Orange Psychopath.

For eight years, I've listened to critics bash Pres. Obama. After he was elected the first time, evangelicals called him the anti-Christ and said his election marked the end times. At Tea Party rallies, right-wing radicals paraded signs carrying crude racial caricatures of Obama and his family. People like Donald Trump perpetuated the lie that Obama wasn't born in the USA and this presidency was illegitimate. And it never ceased to amaze me that the detractors would call a Harvard educated Constitutional law professor an idiot.

I've had to look no further than my own family where my ex-father in law, a pugnacious, combative (like his hero, Trump), conflict loving man would always, without fail, go on a diatribe about how Obama was a Muslim (My father in law hates Muslims) and a traitor to the United States. I had to hear it every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, every kid's birthday, every family gathering of any kind. Let me tell you, I don't miss that.

Obama was a tyrant, a dictator, a marxist, his critics said. He inflamed racial divisions, they claimed. Why? Because he occasionally talked about race and didn't treat it as an issue we should pretend doesn't exist? Funny how the people who lashed out at Pres. Obama were always bringing up his race. Their bigotry was not hidden. It was apparent from the time he was elected. Obama wasn't a "good negro" they could accept as Ben (Uncle Tom) Carson is. He had a mind of his own and didn't parrot the right-wing mindset that oppressed people who looked like him and conservatives hated him for it. 

Recently I saw on social media where the friend of a Facebook friend wrote, "This is what I think of Obama's presidency" and she posted an emoji of a dog taking a dump.

In a million years, could you ever picture Pres. Obama doing something like that? Taking a vulgar, juvenile gibe at someone he doesn't like or disagrees with. No you couldn't. It's not his style. Not in his nature. The 44th president is worthy of being called an adult. Like his wife, Michelle, and daughters -- Sasha and Malia -- Barack Obama embodies poise and grace. Unlike those who malign his character, Obama has reserve and self-control.



Having battled depression all my life, I'm in awe of people who exemplify good mental health. Probably what I admire most about Obama is that he's secure in his own skin. Pres. Obama has encountered unprecedented Congressional obstruction and profane hatred from unenlightened, uneducated members of the public. Yet he never stooped to their level, never lashed back. He didn't take their bait. You would never find midnight tweets from Obama making cheap retorts to anyone who dared to criticize him. He was unflappable, strong enough, he didn't need to respond in kind, resorting to cheap put-downs. He had a job to do. He had other fish to fry. Unlike his incoming successor, Obama had a thick skin. He accepted that criticism came with the job. It wasn't until the 2016 Democratic Convention that Michelle Obama revealed the secret.

"When they go low, we go high."

Indeed, Pres. Obama has been a good influence on me. When I've been tempted to strike back at people who have made cheap barbs at me, I've actually stopped and considered what Barack Obama would do. I showed restraint and that is in no small way the President's influence. He's a true leader.

I'm glad my kids got to grow up with Obama as president. They have seen the disposition of a world leader who walks and talks with grace and dignity, who represents the United States respectfully before the eyes of the world. I feel sorry for the kid in first grade whose presidential example will be a rude, crude, foul mouthed jerk with no filter, no ability to put the brakes on.

The sad reality is that one of our greatest presidents will be followed by the worst. It's been said quite accurately that Trump is a narcissistic, lying tyrant and racist. It's as obvious as the wind and the rain. Yet the misguided troglodytes riding the Trump Train will say those words apply to Obama who is as far from that description as you can get. But they are so blinded by hatred and willful ignorance they earnestly believe the unbelievable.  

Trump wants to build a wall at the U.S./Mexican border (nothing racist there) at taxpayer expense. It's metaphorical of the walls he has put up to divide America. He only speaks for the angry white person. Hispanics, African Americans, the disabled, Muslims, the media, he ridicules and vilifies. Trump is a demagogue, defined as a political leader who exploits prejudices rather than using rational argument. 

As president, Obama has endeavored to represent all Americans -- black, white, Republicans, Democrats, people of all faiths and people of no religious faith. Right-wingers, who by definition live in a world of oppression and discrimination, hate that Obama extended rights to LGBT people, but that's indicative of the President's charge to ensure all Americans -- and not just a privileged group -- are guaranteed their Constitutional rights. Unfortunately much of the white evangelical privileged group cry that their rights are threatened when others are given a share of the pie.



I became emotional when I watched Pres. Obama's farewell address. I didn't think I would, but I did. His galvanizing address was the complete antithesis of trumpism. Obama mentioned the contributions of immigrants, the right of all Americans to affordable healthcare (which he made possible through the Affordable Care Act), the right of all Americans -- and not just the one percent -- to economic opportunity ("our democracy won't work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity," he said) and he lauded the sacrifices of our military men and women. He talked about the challenge of climate change, which Trump and his choice for head of the EPA deny exists.

"Science and reason matter," Obama said to applause.

In my favorite quote from his speech, the President said: "For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn't suddenly vanish in the '60s — (applause) — that when minority groups voice discontent, they're not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness. When they wage peaceful protest, they're not demanding special treatment but the equal treatment that our Founders promised. (Applause.)"

President Obama has the gift of oratory like Lincoln, FDR, JFK and Reagan had. I'm sure it will be a while before we hear a President speaking in multi-syllabic words again. I knew Obama had a keen mind years ago when I read his book, The Audacity of Hope. Unfortunately, we're leaving behind an era of erudition, learning and self-growth and entering a new Dark Ages of "I don't read books." Trump's ascendancy to the presidency is the triumph of anti-intellectualism in America.

Unlike Pres. Obama, Trump's presidency, as Congressman John Lewis accurately noted, will be an illegitimate one. His election was hacked by the Russian government and helped along by the FBI's eleventh hour witch hunt of Hillary Clinton. There is credible evidence to suspect Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin has dirt on Trump and is blackmailing him, ergo putting the sovereignty of the United States in peril.

I refuse to watch Trump's inauguration, and if I were in Washington D.C. right now I would boycott the event as many Democratic congressional leaders are doing. I imagine school children will watch the event in their classrooms, and I feel sorry for them. The first Presidential inauguration I remember seeing was that of Jimmy Carter when I was in second grade. It was 1977, and I was sitting on a rug in Mrs. Clark and Mr. Johnson's combined classroom, watching democracy at work on a small black and white television. As with Obama, we had an example of sterling character in Pres. Carter, not that of a vulgar, disuniting, loud mouth, inappropriate grabbing con man. It will be incumbent upon adults like myself to be good role models for our children. I'm sure many service people, teachers, community leaders and the like will, unlike the illegitimate president, show our children what real American heroes are.

I won't be around 50 years from now to see what the history books write about Obama. But my children and their children will be and I'm confident that history will look favorably upon him. I've read what today's history books say about the progressive leaders of the past and how they treat the McCarthyites, John Birchers and Dixiecrats. I can tell you, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Newt Gingrich -- and yes, Trump -- are not going to fare well.

Years ago when Obama was campaigning in the 2008 election, he showed up in my neck of the woods, appearing at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan., a town Obama has family ties to. I wish I'd taken that day off work. But I'm proud to say my mother was there, that she met Obama and shook his hand. Mom was a dyed in the wool Democrat. Today she's in an assisted living home for people with dementia and doesn't know who the President is anymore. I'm glad Mom had that opportunity before the onset of her disease formed.

I hope someday I have an opportunity to meet Obama. I'm sure he'll remain active and travel in his post-Presidential life. No doubt, he'll write books, and I think he would be a good candidate for the Supreme Court although I'm not so sure that will happen. There is one thing I am certain of, however. He will, like Jimmy Carter, continue to show good citizenship and stand for great things. 

We definitely haven't seen the last of him or his family. And remember, yes we can.

As I write this, it's in the news that George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush are both in the hospital. The former President is in intensive care. Let's say a prayer for them and their families.





Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas 2016


Uncle Dave reading the Christmas story to me, my sister, Angie, & cousin, Jed, at Grandma Mac's house. Christmas Eve 1974.

Christmas Day in 2016. Went to church this morning. There was nothing else to do. I should really be happy. I mean we were singing these old songs written in the 19th century with beautiful verses about how the babe, the son of Mary, was born, how he was still and quiet in the manger and would be pierced to redeem mankind and bring salvation to the world.

But I wish I was back a few years, watching my kids open presents & putting together a two-story doll house for my daughter, Gabby. I'm not the greatest in the world at building things & Maria thought I'd bitch about it, but I didn't. I figured it was part of my fatherly duties. The dollhouse is long gone. Sold it in a garage sale, I think.

I watch couples in church (or anywhere) with their little children and I get jealous. That was me & my family once.

But I'm not forgotten. This morning I got on my phone to send a Merry Christmas text to my friends Brian & Tammy and they'd already sent me one. They have a nice old house with a wooden floor in the Dearborn neighborhood of my hometown, Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000 in the '70s). I remember how nice Tammy was to my son, Max, when he was going door to door selling chocolates for the Boy Scouts. I've known her since high school.

Then there's my crazy friend Kristy, whom I've known since 7th grade. She's a rockn' rollin' fan, primarily of the Greatest Rock n' Roll Band in the World, the Rolling Stones. One of her top 3 favorite songs is "Rebel Rebel" by Bowie. For some reason I like the picture she posted on Facebook -- just her & her sister Wendy & the backs of their heads. Looked like they were laughing about something. Kristy is one of my biggest boosters, a diehard supporter of this blog. If it ever goes viral, she won't be forgotten.

i don't think anyone should ever be forgotten

Adam, my journalist-filmmaker friend, I contacted him this Christmas & he sent me a text back. Adam's known hard times in life, but also great triumphs. I feel an affinity with him. We like to eat burgers & drink beer together at the Buckhouse or shoot pool at Moonshiners. He even credited me for my help in his latest documentary, Out Here in Kansas. (We both believe our hometown movie house, the Bijou in Jett, Kan., is the greatest movie theater in the world.) And he's contributed to this blog.

(Now if I can just get Rachel Held Evans or Jamie the World's Worst Missionary to contribute a guest blog.)

With Adam, the circle isn't really complete until you factor our friend, Russ, into the equation. I knew when we were 19 and started hanging out together -- inseparably --that Russ was a bum, but man, was he ever a funny bum? Everyone needs someone like Russ in their lives. The character I would most compare him to is Roger Sterling from Mad Men. He's got that likable rogue quality about him. He's in Ohio now. Anyhow I texted him this morning. "Merry Christmas, dickhead." He responded, "Nothing makes me feel warm inside like a 'merry Christmas dickhead.'"

I remember one Christmas Eve. Russ & I were at our boss, Steve's house. (He ran the steakhouse we worked at.) We weren't 21 yet, but the guy treated us like men. Handed us each a beer.

Nowadays I'm living alone in a rundown apartment in an old section of town called "the village." My neighbors are artists and heroin addicts, but they're all right. It makes me kind of sad when I look at the county sheriff's online jail log and see the face of some 22-year-old kid I've met with all the other mug shots. Such shit is life.

I write for some conservative, family oriented publications, but I also offered to write for the Liberty Press, the LGBT paper in Wichita. I explained to the editor, Kristi, that I'm straight & my columns wouldn't necessarily be about gay/lesbian/bi issues, but hell, people are more than their sexual orientation anyway. She told me apologetically that she didn't have any space in the paper & there were people in the LGBT community chomping at the bit to write for her, should a space open.

i feel like there's an open space in my life

But remember what Mick sang, surrounded by the greatest rhythm section in the world, "There will always be a space in my parking lot when you need a little coke and sympathy."

The space is so agape. I hope Jesus will help me find my proper place.

I'll have Christmas with my kids on New Year's Eve at a get together at their Grandpa Guy & Grandma Marcia's place in Beulah, Kan. -- the place where the whole damn journey started for me. They'll welcome me with open arms. My kids will be so happy when they open their presents. I'm glad they're still kids, but they're getting close to becoming adults. Of course, I have every confidence that they'll be beautiful adults.

When Dad & I talk, invariably Grandpa Guy (that's great-grandpa to my kids) will enter into the conversation. In late January of 2017, he'll have been gone 10 years, but he was such a character. He still gets talked about. He's never really been gone.


Today, I'm alone. I should've got one of those cheap-ass Christmas trees like the kids in Peanuts had, but I didn't bother to do it. Didn't get around to ringing a bell for the Salvation Army this year either, which I regret, but we'll get it next year. I've been living on ramen noodles & loosing weight, but today I think I'll treat myself to pepperoni pizza & beer. (I remember Maria's Christmas brunch waffles.) I was going to get the really good beer, Fat Tire, at the liquor store. But there was a Mexican brand called Victoria, which was a little cheaper and which I had a curiosity about so I bought it. I like it because Victoria is my mother's name. I'll see her at the assisted living facility on New Year's Eve, the Saturday I celebrate Christmas with my kids. Mom will never be forgotten.

I'm determined that I'll make 2017 a good year for myself even if the orange menace is president. Screw him, we'll have fun anyway. It's what I really wish for everybody -- love & peace of mind.


       "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"--Darlene Love



Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas parody letter 2016


(I'm dreaming of a white Christmas just like the ones Trump used to know.)

Dear _________,

Ho! Ho! Ho! No, I'm not Santa Claus. That just describes my life since I got divorced --- ho ho hoing, but I think it's an okay way to deal with grief, don't you? Not that it always turns out right. I simply had a one night stand with my secretary Allison. The next day at the office when I treated her like a normal employee, she became enraged and threw my cigarette dispenser at me. Of course I tried to make it up to her by writing a letter of apology, but I was too drunk to finish.

Not that I've been drinking a lot.

Actually, I've been working a lot on my spirituality. I've been attending services at the First Presbyterian Church, even making it to the 6:30 a.m. Men's Bible Study classes on Wednesday mornings. Also, my uncle Dave once told me you can get laid easier, going to church than you can in a bar.

Along with my position as creative director of a secret underworld writing society, I've also moonlighted. I helped write skits for the Gridiron show, put on annually by the Society of Professional Journalists' as they satirize the news. This led to my hanging out with Alec Baldwin. I mean, the guy was still decked out as the Orange Monster Man from Cheeto Land when we had drinks together and ate schwety balls backstage at 30 Rock.

The next day a tweet from @realDonaldTrump read, "Bad skits flow from snl like blood coming out Megyn Kelly's vagina. Alec's the real f***stick. I know big words & love Chachi."

Of course, I continue to have a good relationship with my kids. They love the heck out of their old man. Take my daughter Gabby. She leaves little notes for me. Take this message she left for me on my typewriter. (I like to go old school & do it like Hemingway & Salinger did.)


I'm proud of my daughter as she's following in my footsteps as a writer. She publishes her own blog and the world better watch out because she's on her way. Here's an example of Gabby's perceptive writing:

The world has no room for war. Why do i say this? Well look at a globe or a map. There are seas and countrys. That is it. We are one. We live in the same place and that’s it.
Instead of treating eachother like enimies, we should be treating eachother like siblings. Because, in the long run, that is what we are. If God is our father we are siblings.
So another way to treat everyone right is this: pretend everyone is you. YOU all YOU. How do you treat them now?



She also wrote this gem:

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I DONT WANT SPRING!!!!!!!!!!

Gabby also likes to sew & quilt. She sewed her own handbag. She's part of a sewing circle, but I don't think it will take a wrong turn & venture into witchcraft or crap like that. I mean nothing un-PC toward wiccan culture. Just talking about sewing. 

Then there's my son Max. He wanted to go to church & when your teenage son says he wants to go to church, you go. He's a leader in the Methodist Church Youth Group in my hometown of Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000) in the '70s. I was brought up Baptist & there's always been a rivalry between the Baptists & those liberal Methodists. But I'm confident he's going to be all right & benefit from whatever church he attends.

He's also got his learner's permit so everybody watch out. Oh & he's taller than me now. How the hell did that happen? And guess what kind of music he likes to listen to on his gadgets? '70s rock. I've taught him well. And he hates stupid '80s music. Good boy, Sam.


For 9th grade English class, Sam's teacher has the class keep up with this word a day website. Last week he shared on Facebook, the interesting word, afflatus, which means inspiration. Literally, afflatus is a Latin word meaning "to blow upon." 

Afflatus sounds like a term for breaking wind. Would you please control your afflatus? Your afflatus is disturbing the guests. Put a cork in your afflatus. Funny, I often get an afflatus -- inspiration -- while on the toilet.

Now, this is serious so don't laugh. There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn't be able to discuss flatulence, bowel movements or your butt without laughing. We're not in third grade. (Or maybe we are.) So here it is. My cousin Wally practices the art of pyroflatulence or flatus ignition -- the art of lighting one's intestinal gasses into a blue hue or perhaps a yellow or orange color depending on the mixture of gasses in the colon at a given time. Anyhow, Wally likes lighting his farts on fire at the frat house. Or at least he did. Until THE ACCIDENT! Fortunately, the cotton sweatpants he was wearing served as a precaution against the burns inflicted around his anus. I'm happy to report, however, that I just had a dinner of chili with Wally the other day (the meal was served by the Presbyterian Church) & he said he & his anus have healed and are doing much better. For example, it no longer hurts when he has a movement or wipes himself in the bathroom.

Well that's about all I have. I just want you, my readers, to know that I love everyone of you & isn't that what Christmas is about? I know how it is at Christmas when the family can't drink a few beers without someone losing their shit, but please be kind to one another. Watch what you say to each other because remember, once words are out there, you can't take them back. If you have people in your life whom you love, forget about how they sometimes piss you off and just cherish them because someday they may be gone. Like I said, I love my readers & some of you I know personally. I'm always sincere in my writing. What, would I ever lie? Be an unreliable narrator? Okay, maybe that part about whoring around wasn't entirely true, but given time I'm sure I'll get back on the horse & be ready for a cheap, meaningless sexual fling. Whether you're driving your car down the highway, running on the treadmill at the YMCA, standing in the shower, sitting on the shitter or whatever, I hope you have an afflatus. The world can never have enough creativity. Just don't let your farts on fire. It's dangerous and I want you to have a safe 2017. Go WSU Shox! Merry Christmas & have a Happy New Year.

Grab em' by the pussy,

J. Guy

                               "White Christmas" -- Otis Redding















Saturday, December 17, 2016

Broken

At a time like this, I wish I was writing about...Elvis. He always made life better. Or Jerry Lee Lewis, who was more of a rebel than Elvis ever was. The Killer standing at the pumpin' piano, fingers stretched across the keys, blond hair falling in his eyes.

Well I say come along my baby, whole lotta shakin' goin' on

But I can't. I'm lost right now. I love all my readers & I never wanted to tell you this, but now I know I have to. Maria & I got a divorce. I didn't want it & I still think with counseling, we could've saved our marriage, but that's a mute point right now.

I have  to let go of that little girl I met in the library, the one who loved me when I had nothing, the one who made me a better man, who brought me back to God. (I was hardly a believer before.)

When I was in a good mood, I'd walk into the living room, see Maria & the kids & say, "It's my three favorite people." I thought my wife & daughter were the two most beautiful girls in the world.

When I was in a bad mood, it was hell. I've struggled with depression all my life. I remember the last one before the split. Matt, the guy I worked for, was an intense guy. He'd bang around in his office, throwing a tantrum. Goddamit! Shit! Jesus Christ!  And I'd sit at my desk in fear, praying to God it wasn't something I did.

I feared my unhappy job being on the line. I couldn't sit still at home. I was literally walking anxiety, pacing the floor. Maria wanted to help me.

Jeff, I love you

She'd say it over and over & I don't know that I ever stopped pacing or looking scared & depressed long enough to say, "I love you too, little girl." I took her love for granted. I thought she'd always be there. I hated what I was doing, making her depressed too. She said she had to go to her mother's for a couple of days so she could feel better. She took the kids, but two days became...she never came back.

We had been fighting a lot that last year. I said some abusive things that I'll regret for the rest of my life. I never wanted to hurt that little girl. I'm so so sorry. She forgives me, but she feels, probably accurately, that if we got back together it would be the same thing again.

I had dreams -- that I'd get her a better ring, that we'd renew our vows on our 20th wedding anniversary, that I might actually live to be 82 & we'd be celebrating our 50th. I was going to be a better husband to her, I vowed to myself, but it was too late.

I failed her. I lost the love of my life. I lost my family. I used to feel like I had the family I always wanted. My first family was acrimonious, hell on earth.

I was 3-years-old. My mom was sitting in a chair in one end of the room, Dad in a chair at the other end. They told me they didn't love each other anymore. I kept going from one chair to the other. "Mom, do you love Dad?" "No," Going to Dad. "Daddy, do you love Mom." "No."

Mom re-married, then got divorced again. Everything was so final & hallow when he left. I was 12. I was sobbing uncontrollably. "Mom, please don't get married again because I can't loose another dad."

I vowed I'd never do that to my kids, that I'd give them a better life. We were great parents, but there were too many fights between Maria & me. I called her a nag. When I didn't get the trash out before it piled up, she'd say, "It's just the way you were raised."

I was okay, driving to the courtroom on the day of the divorce. I sat by her, but when I held her hand, I lost it. It was the worst day of my life.

It's like someone I loved has died. The depression has been insurmountable. I pray alone in my bed at night. "God, please give a disease so I can die." It would be the humane thing to do. But God's not gonna do it. I prayed that prayer before when I was depressed, just certain that God would take mercy on me, but it never happened.

I haven't told anyone I work with about my personal troubles. Why do it? Then they would be talking about my mental state & they would know when I go to the break room, multiple times a day, it's to bury my head on the table & cry.

When I was 16, a neighbor up the street from my house, was going through a divorce and he committed suicide by carbon monoxide. Now I can see how he would do that.

"You better not kill yourself," Maria said to me. "Don't do that to your kids."

Of course I'm in therapy. They have me for life. My therapist's name is Jennifer. She's good. I'm on four medications for depression and anxiety.

Maria is in love with another man now. She'll probably marry him. Have his big last name. Their relationship got 94 likes on Facebook. "Couldn't resist his charm," her aunt wrote. (Well I can have charm. When I'm operating on a functional level, I'm good.)

But I'm not ready. I want love. I want what I had with Maria. I want to love someone like I loved her. I want someone to love me like she loved me. But every other woman looks ugly or her personality is annoying or she isn't as down to earth & non-pretentious as Maria is. Jennifer tells me most men are re-married within a year of getting divorced, but it won't happen with me. I'm so broken. So many dreams have failed.

I failed.

Knowing I failed my best friend, my lover and that now she has a new love -- makes it so much worse. It's torture and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, not even some cocksucker I knew in Oklahoma and I hated that sonovabitch.

It's Saturday & I wish I was back in Jett, Kan. with my family, going with my son on his paper route & listening to Elvis.



                                "Everything I Own" -- Bread


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Crossing paths


I was driving down a long stretch of Western Kansas highway. It was the kind of drive that grants me visions. To the side of the road, I saw a man walking. He was wearing a backpack and was carrying a wooden cross over his shoulder.

My initial response was cynical. "Another Jesus freak. I wrote a story about one of those guys for a paper in Oklahoma 20 years ago. Same story."

I'm so ashamed now to see how detached I'd become from that life loving youth with the insatiable curiosity. But that's what I am now, though I'm trying to walk back a little, to find that something galvanizing in myself and all the life that surrounds me. I work a job. It's a wagon I'd never hitch my star to, a box where I'll never be a star, a cold place. I accept that I'll never be a company man even though life would probably be easier if I were. I can change some things about myself, but I can't change who I fundamentally am.

Then I heard a voice in my head

Go to him

I'd heard that voice before. I knew to listen to it. So I turned on a dirt road, parked my car in the dry Western grass and walked forward, toward the man. As we inched closer to each other, I could see he was wearing an LA Dodgers baseball cap, faded jeans and a black T-shirt, being in white letters, the words, "We Are One."

"How's it going?" he said, calling across the space between us.

"Well, thank you," I answered. "How 'bout yourself?"

Initially nervous to make his acquaintance, I found this bearded T-shirt wearing man in faded carpenter jeans, light cross beams slung over his shoulder, to be inviting.

"Jared Cassidy," he said, extending his hand. "Jeff Guy," I said, reciprocating.

We made small talk. He told me he was walking from New York City to San Francisco. The end of the continent.

"What's the significance of the cross," I asked.

He told me how he'd gotten off a plane from Los Angeles to New York, walked into a Fifth Street Ace Hardware, asked to borrow a power tool and a man with cross tattoos on his arms and the words, "Jesus Saves" showing on the T-shirt behind his work vest held the beams while my friend drilled the pieces together. He was carrying it on his walk across America.

"The cross is a symbol."

Of what? I asked.

"Peace, unity, harmony, all of us coming together. I'm a Christian, but you know, once you start labeling, it causes divisions. There's just so much political rancor and cops killing people, people killing cops, people fighting over religion and sports."

"I see," I said, inquisitively.

"But the thing is whether you believe in his deity or not, Jesus did a noble thing for mankind."

"Listen," I said, "I have to be somewhat clandestine about my job, but I'll just tell you, I work for an underworld writing society. I give myself assignments, looking for American beauty and that sort of thing. Is it okay if I write your story and take a picture for our files?"

"Sure, my life's an open book."

"Mind if I ask how old you are?" I said as I steadied my camera phone at his standing figure.

"Thirty-three."

After snapping a few pictures and making small talk with the man, I figured I'd better split before I wore out my welcome.

"Well I don't want to take up too much of your time," I said.

"I appreciate that."

"But I wish you peace on your journey."

He walked on and I turned a corner with my car.

Political rancor

It was around 6 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9. I looked on my laptop, saw the words, "President elect Donald Trump" and I was instantly incendiary. I did something someone in my profession isn't supposed to do when I took my fury out on Facebook. I hate that stupid phrase, "the f-bomb," but that's what I said. The words were like blood next to profile picture.

I wrote a blog, elucidating just what I thought of people who voted for that racist pig. Then it became like Civil War. "Why are you being so hateful?" a dear member of my family asked me.

"So when your dad posts his Hussein Obama shit, it's just an old man engaging in his hobby, but when I tell how I feel, it's hateful?" I said. "You have a double standard."

I posted what I thought was an innocuous message about peace and inclusion, but the people on the right and the left fought over it on my Facebook wall. A guy I'd been friends with since 7th grade -- well, that's all over. "You're a puppet for the left who believe anything the (sic) leberal media puts in front of you," he wrote. "Think for yourself. There's a media conspiracy. The media lies to you, my friend."

"You're outa here, you sonovabitch," I said and blocked him from ever seeing my Facebook again.

He was no big loss, but my family. God, my family -- I love them like nobody else. How do I reconcile it? I don't think I'm wrong for writing my feelings about the whole Trump fiasco, but I don't want my family to think I'm hateful and I don't want my liberal friends arguing with my more conservative family members on Facebook.

Resurrection

I hadn't been to church in weeks. In my travels, I'd attended a church where someone said something that pissed me off. We read a Bible verse in the Sunday school class:

He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me? -- Jeremiah 22:16

"I admit, I'm judgmental," the woman said. "You see the same poor people coming back time after time and I'm like, 'What are you doing to help yourself?'"

I became incandescent. "I've read the Gospels. Jesus was helping people all the time and he never asked, 'What are you doing to help yourself?' Hell, Jesus was itinerant, probably homeless. He relied on the kindness of strangers. He said himself at Matthew 25:35 'I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.' You ever had to live hand to mouth? Have your suburban Jesus, I'm outa here," I said and stormed out the door, ignoring their pleas for me to stay.

Now here I was weeks later. After all that happened, I needed spiritual rejuvenation. Weeks of travel had went by. And I was finally back where I felt safe and real in my hometown of Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000 in the '70s). I went to the one church where I felt free to by myself, Community Crossroads Church off State Street. The pastor, Kyle Whitman, and I seemed to have some rapport and I liked the way he shared a name with Dick Whitman from Mad Men and the poet Walt Whitman. Kyle digs Nadia Bolz-Weber, the author and tattooed pastor of the House For All Saints and Sinners in Denver so I decided he was all right.

Sandy, the liberal children's Sunday school teacher hugged me when she saw me in church. "I feel like I have someone on my team."

We sat at round tables with our cups of coffee in the lounge area of the church with the sanctuary before us. "Any prayer requests?" Kyle asked.

Blake, a 60ish man in the class, said, "How 'bout a prayer for Donald Trump who won the majority vote for President?"

Sandy and I looked uneasily at each other.

"He didn't win by a majority," Kyle said. "He was declared winner by the Electoral College."

"Well you can say he won by a majority through the Electoral College," Blake said.

"I wouldn't though," Kyle said.

After taking all the prayer requests -- for people in the hospital, for people to find jobs, for the president-elect, Kyle bowed his head.

"Lord, we know there are differences on this election even among people in this room, but let us remember that we're all here as one for your kingdom. We pray for our leaders to have wisdom because that's what you ask us to do."

We read from the sixth chapter of Second Kings about a small miracle in which a man retrieved the ax he had dropped in the Jordan River. I thought about small miracles. Jared, the man carrying the cross, told me after he'd given money to poor people with signs, other people had come along and given money to him for his journey.

"The Lord provides," he said.

In our area of Western Kansas, the pastor of a small town Methodist Church had given him a place in his church to shower and sleep for the night. Funny, it was a Methodist Church where I'd gotten mad and walked off, but this pastor -- I think Jesus and John Wesley would be proud of him.

I'm happy I talked to that guy, glad our paths crossed. I feel precarious and unsure of my future, but I guess we'll get through life and I'll hope for peace --

as i walk

on my journey


                         "One Toke Over the Line" -- Brewer and Shipley







Thursday, November 10, 2016

Taking hatred back



I went to bed early on election night. I was certain that when I woke up the next morning, Hillary Clinton would be the President-elect. There wasn't a doubt in my mind. It was close, but at the end of the day, Americans would do the right thing.

Arch-conservatives in my family would be mad and say the country was lost, but I was eager to say the country was moving on, that people weren't going to tolerate small-minded bigotry and bullying anymore, that we could accept that people other than white males had rights.

I remember lying in my bed before getting out, anticipating that Clinton won the election. At around 6 a.m. I woke up, turned on my laptop, googled the name Hillary and the words "Clinton defeated" followed. News stories popped up, saying Donald Trump won the election. I was flabbergasted. I felt like I'd woken up in an alternate universe, you know like some place where the South won the Civil War and Germany won World War II. This kind of thing happened in sci-fi novels and dystopian novels like "1984" and "Brave New World," not in real life. Never in my worst nightmare, did I see this coming.

"Way to fuck yourselves, America," I said. I was irate that people voted for him. We all know what he's done, that he said racist things against blacks, Hispanics and Muslims, that he encouraged violence at his rallies, that he wants to build a wall, that he paid no taxes, that he's having a bromance with Vladimir Putin, that he insulted the parents of a fallen soldier, that he mocked a disabled reporter, that he threatened to put his opponent in jail, that he joked about sexually assaulting women and may have actually done it. They knew all this and still voted for him.

Maybe that's why they voted for him. You don't have to go further than Facebook to catch all the cruel, racist things people say. They reveal who they are on social media.

The people of my country let me down. Let the world down. The world looks upon the United States to be a leader, but how can we ever be taken seriously again? We're telling the world, "This is who we are."

Yes, Clinton won the popular vote. By a razor thin margin, 45.7 to 45.5 percent. (The Electoral College put Trump through.) But it should never have been close. I agree with the progressive Christian blogger and author Rachel Held Evans: "That the election is this close is an indictment on our country."

I have to identify Evans as a "progressive Christian" to differentiate her from the evangelicals who have given Christianity a bad name. By voting for Trump, they have proven it was never about Christian love with them. It was about power. They love authoritarian figures. Marginalized, oppressed group, my ass. They're about control. Their power is contingent upon their oppression of others -- people of the wrong religion, wrong sexual orientation, wrong country, wrong language, race or political party. The lie has been exposed. What you have done in darkness has come to light.



David Duke is celebrating. Best night of his pathetic life. Hispanic and Muslim children are afraid. Some are being bullied in school. But a bully is what America wanted. You got your president with balls.

Trump voters, you have taken America back 50 years. Indeed, 50 years ago, you would have been against Martin Luther King and for segregation. Many of you would have joined the lynch mobs. Had you lived in Germany 80 years ago, you would have supported Hitler. Yeah, you took America back.

We're a sick nation in need of a healing. We may have to pay and pay for our sin of giving a stamp of approval to an oppressor, which is in the family of sins upon which this nation was founded -- slavery and genocide.

Remember, if Trump takes us to war or hurts people in any way, blood will be on your hands.


                                       Making America Great Again