April 2008


Millions To Minneapolis!

Republican Party spokesman Rush Limbaugh is on to something.  He dreams (in this case, yearns) of rioting at the Democrat Party National Convention to be held in Denver in August 25-28, 2008.

This is the vision America’s Republican Right has for Democracy in America.  You can catch Rush Limbaugh at noon daily (Orlando, Fl.) on Radio 540 AM.  Rioting is part of Limbaugh’s program.  He now includes it as a front in his Operation Chaos, an agenda heavily promoted by Limbaugh to disrupt the Democrat Party as it selects its Presidential candidate.

"Riots in Denver, the Democrat Convention would see to it that we don't elect Democrats," Limbaugh observed during an April 23, 2008 radio broadcast. He suggested that would be the best thing that could happen to the country.

"There won't be riots at our convention. We don't riot. We don't burn our cars. We don't burn down our houses. We don't kill our children,” Limbaugh asserted of the Republican National Convention. “We don't do half the things the American left does."

That’s right, the left doesn’t get us into (and leaves us in) a three trillion dollar Islamic hell-hole that does kill our children and sap our strength (our house).

This past weekend I had the bleakest thoughts about where I feel America is poised, why and what we can do about it.  As a student of history I have an overview of bleak human times.  Of plagues and hundreds of years of goofy, deadly religious wars.  Of famines and migrations and Holocausts. Nothing lasts. Governments, nations pass. Even whole people.

Yet, everyday, absolutely everyday that America continues as a democracy is one for the record books.  We are the longest running democracy in history. (I will now pause while we all give praise and clap for America.) But that doesn’t mean we can’t “muck it up” so to speak.

I was in a post office line on Friday and struck up a conversation with a man wearing an MIT t-shirt.  He was in his mid-60s.  His petite wife stood by his side.  I confirmed he was an MIT graduate and the conversation quickly moved to my question, “Well, who ya likin’ for president?”

This highly educated man said, “McCain,” and Miss Diminutive nodded in agreement.

I’ve given up (this month) trying to talk to Republicans about the morality of being in Iraq, the lies, the fraud, the deceit that has us in Iraq.  Republicans want to move on from that.  They do. Really. Really.

So, I’ve been trying a new tack, “How are you going to pay the three trillion dollar price tag for the war?”  That seems like such a Republican concern, don’t-cha know.  Republicans are always asking and questioning the price of some social service agency that costs America 72 Hours In Iraq.  Ha!  It could be a Movie! “They know the price of everything, the value of nothing. See modern Republicans war here, cut taxes there. . .”

I put it to Mr. Elitely (You know, elite.)  Educated.  What’s the proper method for paying for the Iraq War? “Uh, um, um,” and the little Mrs. stood silent.

I asked, “No, I am serious.  How do you propose to pay the three trillion dollar bill for this war?”

Understand, of course every nickel, every penny has been borrowed, essentially from China.  Gollllleeee Gomer, Who’d a thunk ‘dem Republicans would cripple America so, whi’ch such a terrible debt?

Standing behind my fiscally challenged McCainnite stood a guy that mumbled something unintelligible and then burped (or rather, regurgitated), “9-11.”

“What does 9-11 have to do with Iraq,” I asked.  “How are you going to pay for the war?”  He got belligerent on that, as if to suggest, I’m radical to require an accounting (in every sense) of this war.

I eventually just turned around, bought my stamps and left.  This kicked off my weekend and funkified my thinking. It got progressively worse.  Ha! Progressively worse.  Get it?

And I thought of Limbaugh and the Republican Right. This bloated (no bloviating, no that’s O’Reilly) Republican icon is preaching riots in the streets of America and saying it will be good.  Sounds suspiciously biblical.

America’s left, America’s progressives are weenies compared with the Limbolites.  I think that is a fitting name for Limbaugh listeners (myself on occasion).  Limbolites.  Simple. Certain. Infantile. Dare, I suggest, idiotic.

If Limbaugh dreams of a return to the 60s, let’s, as that famous warrior, President George W. Bush so eloquently put it, “Bring’um on!”

If the Republican Right (and the Limbolite Minions, oh, what the hey, Morons) is going to double down on America in order to win the White House, America’s left has no choice to meet, if not up the stakes. If Republicans want riots in Denver, let’s bring peace to Minneapolis from September 1-4, 2008.

This election is about life and death.  Of our servicemen, of our nation.  This is going to be a vile presidential campaign. We cannot shirk because it’s not pretty or intellectually pure.  America can stumble my friends.  We are not at all immune from history.  War ultimately destroys the victorious.  There can be a step(s) back economically.  Freedoms are at risk.  The choice(s) are clear.

Rush Limbaugh's words prompted Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper to volunteer, "Anyone who would call for riots in an American city has clearly lost their bearings."

If America’s left doesn’t gain its bearings, it will be the nation that is lost.

There are millions, millions of Americans living within driving distance of Minneapolis.  Let’s go (fly, drive, bus, train, walk, bike) and sit and march and clap (stand-up) for America. During the Republican Convention.

This is not the 60s folks.  This is some fresh horror. Only worse.

Millions to Minneapolis!

Reach Jepson at: Jepson@MEDIAmerica.us

05.01.08

Hair.

Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding. Martin Luther

Hair.  One of the things that had me go, “Hmmmm,” about John Edwards was his hair.  If you have not seen the man preening to the tune  “I’m so pretty, I’m so pretty,” on YouTube, do so.  It’s an absolute stitch. You’ll watch it more than once.

Hair. Just before Christmas last year, I cut my hair.  I went to my regular barber. It had been 26 months since I last saw him. I hadn’t had a “trim” in 26 months.  My barber’s shop is in a downtown Orlando garage. His charges for a haircut have gone from $5 to $7 since 1995.  He gives a first rate haircut.

Long on hair, short on brains.  French Proverb.

Hair.  I’ve been meaning to write about hair for a couple of months.  I didn’t cut my hair for 26 months.  I kept it cued-up all the time once it reached ponytail length.  At least once a week, I braided it.   It was a genuinely fun thing to do. To grow my hair long.   And then I cut it off.

Hair.  My father cut my hair all the way through high school. He cut my hair for 15 years until August of 1967.   In all that time, my father knew one haircut. Off.  Dad cut my hair off. It was a genuinely good thing having my father cut my hair.  It turned out to be a fine ritual for us.  It didn’t always seem that way, though, at the time.

In the basement, under a “bulb” in front of my father’s green darkroom door, in a matter of minutes he’d buzz my hair off. He would constantly rub his hand over my head to feel how smooth he’d gotten it. He’d tell me how nicely shaped was my head.  My father had big, powerful hands and he always smelled good.  Regardless of how poorly we were treating one another, well, it kept us in touch.

Gray hair is a sign of age, not of wisdom. Greek Proverb

Hair.  Folks would ask, “Why’d you grow your hair out?”  Or, something like that. And I’d say, “Because I could.”  “Oh, no reason.”  “Just to proooove a point.”  “Cuz I wanted to.”  A few months stretches into a year, or so  and I’m humming Tina Turner’s, “You think you’re slick but you can stand a little greasing.”  And then I get the idea to have my sister do a portrait, a 21st century Van Dyck.  And then my hair was gone.

Hair.  The most interesting thing occurred.  I never would have imagined it. Never in a million years. Local people who saw me with some regularity watched my ponytail grow. At a year, it’s long.  At 26 months it’s longer yet.  And then it’s gone.  And what did a surprising number of women say to me, “Oh, how much better you look.”  Uh, uh, uh.  Gee, thanks.

The hair is the richest ornament of women. Martin Luther

Hair. I found it odd because the implication is so startling in its insult.  Men have dueled over less.  “Hrumpf!  I look so much better than what?”  Ha!  Too much!  I once asked a woman when she was due?  She said she wasn’t pregnant. Somewhat indignantly.  That is about as close as I can get to an equivalent sort of internal response.

I’ve been informed that women are just more “expressive” that way (how you are looking) with one another. Well, excuuuuuuuuse me. I’d like to say here that men communicate a whole hell of a lot better but we don’t.  Seriously, men have dueled over less.

Hair.  Hair was an issue this presidential campaign.  A good man, John Edwards, has been found wanting because he was caught preening in front of a mirror like an ingénue.  So what?  It doesn’t mean as president he couldn’t order someone killed.  It wasn’t the preening to me. That’s just human silliness. It was the $400 haircut.  Please don’t run for president getting $400 coiffures.  If you are a guy.

Hair. Ask most women. Hair has through the decades been an issue, a saga, an ordeal of highs and horrible lows.   I’ve been on a 90-mile car ride (a trail of tears) with a weeping woman. It was tragic!  SHOCKING!  All over a bad haircut.  Bad cut. Bad color. Bad hair days. Bad hair months.  Years?   So I guess, I get it, you see someone come out of bad hair years well, by gawd, I’m telling him, “ How much better he looks.”

Guys would say, “I bet you don’t sweat as much down your neck now.”

As I read the earlier Martin Luther quote on a woman’s hair I punched in the name Martin Luther to confirm my suspicions and sure enough it is the very same Martin Luther, religious founder.

Luther is one of the vilest anti-Semites in history, possibly the worst. There are millions of Lutherans.  Do we ask Lutherans to renounce their founder, their church because he was a despicable anti-Semite?  Then why would anyone denounce Barack Obama because his minister forcefully slams the nation, oftentimes in anger, over how America has historically treated its black citizens?  Uh, uh, uh?

Hair.  Religion.  Ask two different people which is significantly more important and you’re apt to get two different opinions.  I agree.

Hairball. 175 campaign days to the election. We’re all going to feel like we’ve swallowed a giant hairball by election day. Luther said,  “Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding.”  And the modern equivalent is, “Winning must trample under foot all reason, sense and understanding.”  Sigh.  And.

Hair. A timeless human diversion.  An extension.  A farce. A tragedy. A delight.

Reach Jepson at: Jepson@MEDIAmerica.us

04.24.08

It Is Black And White.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard. 
H. L. Mencken.

I consider Barack Obama’s observation about bitterness and small town life as immature thought. Here is the larger quote from his speech.

"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not."

He then said,  "And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

I have lived in towns of 600 people and loved it. In the 1970s I worked for the University of Missouri as a county extension agent in Gainesville, Missouri.  There were two restaurants in town.  Skeeters and the Iron Skillet.  I am not making up the name Skeeters.  There were more deer than people in the county. I was 12 miles (as the crow flies) from the Arkansas border.  It was beautiful, gorgeous country and the people, the long time residents were innately suspicious of newcomers but once you were accepted, that was it.

Upon arrival I was expected to join the town Lion’s club.  It was part of my job.  I made $12,000 a year, a princely sum in those parts in those years and because I worked for the University and was the county agent, well, my boss, Karl Hunter, 30 miles away in Ava, Missouri said,  “It goes with the job.” Don’t-cha see. Unless, it’s a country club membership, I loathe those words.

I first heard, “Don’t-cha see,” in the Ozarks. Join the Lions club. Don’t-cha see.  I had a secretary, my first, and she told me, too, that I needed to join.  Her name was Virginia Porter. Virginia didn’t understand my reluctance either.  Don’t-cha know.

I’d go home and rant, rant, rant out loud, “I do not want to join this xxxxing club.”  I was just 27 at the time and joining an all male “service” club in Gainesville, Missouri was unimaginable.   I put it off.  At some point I believe my boss finally asked me what I don’t see?   My wife offered, “Be a man, tough it out.”

I became a man and joined The Lions Club.  It met every Wednesday at noon.  We had the same meal.  It was heavenly, deeply fried chicken, real mashed yummy potatoes, local corn or greenbeans, gravy, rolls and dessert. The salad was weak. Rolls were passed by throwing them. I started drinking coffee at this time in my life and they served a never-ending-cup all lunch long.  This meal was so tasty, so hot and good that I actually looked forward to it every week. The food was yearningly good.

Two gals fixed the food the morning of, served it and then stood watching from the kitchen or smoking out the back door.

Every key position in town was represented.  The county judge. The superintendent of schools.  All the business owners on the square.  The judge was a business owner, too.  He had the Sears Outlet store.  I ordered my 3/8 Craftsman drill over his counter.  The forest superintendent.  He was a funny man. Smart.  He had a Mike Nomad haircut, a sharp mind and a sharper wit.

I learned a lot about community in that group. All the “swells” in town were members and well, I was as well.

Oh, yea, no women were members. Not allowed, Don’t-cha know.  The owner and publisher of the only countywide (and beyond!)  newspaper was a woman with the name of Rose.  She couldn’t join. No rose among those thorns!   No blacks either.  But that was less an issue as not one black person actually lived in Ozark County, Missouri.  Not one.  Don’t-cha see.

And that’s the way life has been and continues to be.  In places.  In America.

But I know for a fact that my Lion brothers were good men.  They thought about civic improvement, had pride, acted on it and laughed along the way.  Throughout Pennsylvania, all over Iowa, Texas, Florida, are communities of folks who may or may not be bitter.  They may or may not go to church, own or care about guns, feel particularly put upon or, perhaps, do. They may even be racist.  Or not.

Barack, my candidate, please don’t succumb to stereotyping and simplistic statements. It is sooooo unnecessary. No one likes it.  cept right  now when I equate a box of rocks and Republican State Legislators.  Don’t-cha see.

But it is at this point in the conversation that we acknowledge the “truth” that all our presidential choices are imperfect and flawed.  That said, please stick with “THE” issue.

The issue is not small town vs large town. It is about the war in Iraq. It is a calamitous, monumental tragedy for America.  We need to be out now.

A vote for McCain is a vote to continue this war indefinitely.   A vote for Obama is a vote to leave Iraq now.  In 18-24 months.

It is black and white.  In every sense of the word.  Yes.

And if it is to be President McCain, I whole-heartedly endorse Mencken’s opening sentiments good and hard.  Don’t-cha know.

Reach Jepson at: Jepson@MEDIAmerica.us

04.17.08

One’s a going, One’s a coming.

My daughter’s father-in-law died in his sleep in her home this Monday morning past.  Diagnosed in December with Stage Four Cancer, four months later, dead. Such sorrow. Thousands of miles a way in a New Mexico bed, Cosmo is born.  Such joy.  My nephew delivered his son at 2:30 am, two hours later, half a continent away, a relation dies.   And so it goes.

Ah, the bookends of life.   Death has a way of focusing a family in ways a birth does (can) not.  Yet both consume our imaginations, because both deal with change. One is a loss the other a gain.   Yet both have qualities that are analogous.  A birth is also a death in the sense that the life of the parents dies in a profound way when two become three. I cannot believe that in death you are reborn to another consciousness unless, of course, dust has a consciousness.   Yet those observing (witnessing) death are reborn (if fortunate) to the realities and possibilities of life.  Just as when witnessing a birth.  It’s a passing.

I huffed and puffed my way (Oh! My wife, too.) through two of my children’s deliveries.  I’m so damn old, they wouldn’t let me into the delivery room with my first born, I had to watch through a window. How ridiculous.  Four years ago I had the good fortune to sit in the corner of a Winter Park Hospital suite and give my daughter encouragement (Breathe!  Breathe!) during the delivery of my grandson. Sweet.  My wife cut the umbilical cord.  It’s a process.  Life is.

At the other “end” of life’s spectrum, my mother, father and sister all died within months of each other approximately 12 years ago. Half my immediate biological family were dead and buried within months of each other.   Gone, as “they” say, but never forgotten.  They are all as vibrant and alive as if I lunched with them yesterday.

Fortunately my parents died before my sister.  I can think of no bigger sadness in life than for your child, your baby to die before you.  It would have been crushing to my parents to have endured sister Susan’s death.  My sister was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multi-form.  It’s an aggressive brain cancer. The diagnosis is itself a death certificate.  No one survives.  She quickly went from beautiful and lucid to something else in a matter of months.  It was a painful, sorrowful death for the living (and the dying).

My parents, however, died the good death.  My mother laid down on her couch, crossed her feet and died so quickly, with such immediacy that her feet did not move.  She lived right behind me, less than 50 yards away.   I was there within minutes and kissed her cooling forehead.  First the light goes, then the heat.  And boy, did my mother cast a light.  She burned at both ends of the candle.

My father lived one pissed-off week beyond what he wanted.  His girl friend had the temerity to enter his home when he did not return her phone calls.  Dying, as was his intent on his bedroom floor, she Nine, One, Oned him.  Medics resuscitated him and he was so angry that he did not speak to her his final week alive.  He spent that week chagrined (saddened) that his children saw him so reduced, half-paralyzed in a state beyond his control.  My father was a bear of a man, prideful.  Mercifully (for him), he died a few days later.

It’s all around us.  Death. Birth. Life.  We see it in our lives, in our communities, in our world.  I’m watching the HBO series on John Adams. It is about the birth of America and peripherally the death of the Ancien régimes.  And I think, in context, how long will America last?   Everyday we (America) exist is one for the record books but I also know, nothing, absolutely nothing, lasts forever.  Nations are like humans in that regard.  Staggering debt and relentless war have murdered many a nation.  Is America blessed enough to deny these horsemen?  What does history suggest?

The universe itself is dying and is being reborn. We are stardust.  Literally. It’s in our DNA. And so I bid farewell to one and welcome another.  And how so very splendid that Cosmo joins my small family.  The macro and the micro.  The circle complete.

Reach Jepson at: Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US

04.10.08