Didn’t Marie Antoinette Say: “Let Them Eat Crumbs?”

About a 12 miles outside Paris lies the former French Royal family’s stunning and tremendous Palace at Versailles. I don’t know if it’s the largest Royal Palace on earth, but I do know it has more than 17 acres of floor space under roof and is pimped out more than a Kardashian on the red carpet. If you like bling, then it is your kind of place. Mr. T: there is more gold here than you could possibly hang around your neck in 1000 lifetimes. Throughout it’s history it’s 700 rooms have housed Royals including King Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette. It’s Le Gran Trianon (a big, super luxury outbuilding for lack of a better term) housed Napoleon for part of his French Revolution. Queen Victoria was entertained lavishly here. The famed Hall of Mirrors saw President Woodrow Wilson sign the Treaty of Versailles ending WW1, and most recently if you notice, the Palace makes the most elegant backdrop for innumerable cosmetic, fashion and perfume commercials.

Early 1770 saw the arrival of young Austrian princess, Maria Antonia, who became known to history by her French name, Marie Antoinette. She must be one of the most often misquoted ladies throughout history. At the tender age of 14 her family betrothed her to wed the Sun King, Louis XVI. She spent her life there, basically as a price paid to “thank” the French. She spent opulent days living the best life available at the expense of oppressing her Kingdom. It really was not her fault, its the only life she ever knew. The incredibly burdensome tax system, which hasn’t changed much by today’s American standards, that supported the Royal lifestyle created so much uproar and resistance that the Royal Louis & Marie were captured by revolutionist. The countrymen were absolutely starving. During this time Queen Marie supposedly said of inexpensive sweets when told her Kingdom population was starving to death: “let them eat cake.” After being held prisoner in Paris for some a time, she was convicted of high treason. Eventually, it was off with her head by guillotine at Place de la Concorde.

The thing most of us will recall about Marie Antoinette is her famous saying: “Let them eat cake!” The problem is, many historians and the Versailles archivists agree Queen Marie never uttered these words, rather an aristocratic class woman in the Queen’s court said them.

The problem with the French Royals was a simple one. They lived isolated from the vast population and remained out of touch, as leaders (and I use that term loosely) with their people.

I truly believe we are modern witness to what I call the Marie Antoinette phenomenon in Washington, DC. Americans vote for and continue to support politicians who are completely out of touch with their respective constituencies.

On Blowing Herself Out of The Water

Personally, I am still reeling in shock after this week’s revelation that Senator Elizabeth Warren is not a Native American Indian. Despite the fact she was raised in a United Methodist home (please don’t hold this fact against an entire faith denomination) and that she could be a poster child for WASPs – White Anglo Saxon Protestants….wait…who was she kidding? I cannot even complete this paragraph.

Native American Indians have every right to be in an uproar. Not having the DNA, no tribal affiliation, and nothing but a wagging tongue, Warren sold them out for personal gain and for sound bite purposes.

President Trump: I think you should pay up the million dollars. Why don’t you donate it to something like the Wounded Warrior Fund in honor of Ms Warren’s heritage?

Senator Warren aside there remains in Washington another woman who decent human beings, tax payers and voters alike should declare abhorrent!

Budget & Tax Cuts…the Irrelevant Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi said of the current tax cuts: “crumbs” and that the tax cuts are designed to help the wealthiest Americans…the One Percent. It will not help the average American family she said. How dare a woman among the One Percent herself who has been on the government payroll since entering Congress in 1987 pretend to be in touch with “the middle class” she says she represents.

Published records estimate the Pelosi family net worth as high as $ 200 million dollars (depending on your source). The estimated $ 1000 to $ 4000 windfall associated with the tax cuts for an “average family” represents less than the interest on those assets in a single day. Clearly, that amount of money would not make any difference for Ms Pelosi. But for people who need a used car to drive to work, or need to purchase a new refrigerator, or want to splurge on a week’s vacation, or to buy medicine that they couldn’t otherwise afford…$ 1000+ is a tremendous consideration.

On a macroeconomic level, the multiplicative effect of collective spending of this money impacts the entire U.S. in exponentially positive ways. Nancy Pelosi: crack open a book. I suggest something by the title “Macroeconomics for Dummies.”

Pelosi & her party have vocally and definitively stated they WILL REPEAL the tax cuts. Media want us to believe it is not fiscally responsible to cut taxes to help working families while we have staggering deficits. I do not completely disagree, but to enter such debate requires basic knowledge of how the federal budget works. The current administration inherited national debt totaling almost $ 20 Trillion dollars. The deficit total grew by nearly 100% in the eight years prior to our current administration. The following is from http://www.thebalance.com:

When he (President Obama) left the White House, on January 20, 2017, national debt was $19.947 trillion. Obama added more than $9 trillion in debt. By comparison, George W. Bush added $4.9 trillion and Bill Clinton added $1.5 trillion. These figures make for appealing sound bites, often used on the campaign trail, but they can be quite misleading. During the (any) president’s first year in office, he doesn’t control the debt.

*note a tremendous portion of the federal budget services debt (interest payments). It grows by leaps and bounds when it is not paid and remains subject to both currency and interest rate fluctuations.

Out of fairness and acknowledgement, the budget for Obama’s first year was already set by George W. Bush. From his inauguration through September 30, 2008, Obama was working under his predecessor’s budget. The same is true for the current president during his first year. This reveals another truth: Trump’s budgeting process has had only 1 fiscal year to be in effect. Yet markets, business, and consumers have responded so positively to the pro business environment that it is as if the one year budget lag doesn’t exist.

There remain evident truths:

  • More money in people’s pockets increases consumer confidence.
  • Discretionary funds to spend will translate into GDP (Gross Domestic Product Growth) as people purchase goods (durable goods, especially) and services.
  • Marginal decreases in taxes for all Americans, including the wealthiest Americans, eventually materialize as economic investment. Thus, jobs opportunities are created for all demographics in our economy. The more employment we have, the less crime we have (and less domestic abuse we realize).
  • No redistribution of wealth system; i.e., the essential proposition of the Democratic Party, has ever prevailed indefinitely. Russia and Cuba make two great examples. Even China relies heavily on exporting it’s good to America.

Call this Wrap

Whether fair Queen Marie actually said “let them eat cake” may never be known. Modern Americans, however, know with 100% certainty that one of our congressional leaders, Ms Pelosi, absolutely called the marginal amount of our paychecks we get to keep and use: Crumbs. I may be in the minority here, but I believe most people who work for a living prefer to retain the ability and right to determine where we spend our earnings. I don’t want your party further regulating how much is taxed. We the people want our crumbs and the robust economy they are presently ushering in to us.

I’ll keep my crumbs; I’ll eat my cake; I’ll bet most of you will as well. For people who disagree, please, grab those check books and mail that extra money to our federal government. They’ll spend it, under Senator Warren’s and Congressman Pelosi’s watchful eyes, much more wisely than either you or I.

Interesting side note: Marie Antoinette’s jewelry, which remained with her family and heirs, is up for auction. You, too, can have a piece of history worn by the misquoted and misunderstood French Queen:

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/marie-antoinette-s-jewelry-available-wear-sotheby-s-auctions-it-n920331

Change for a Time — the half century club!

If you are a Gen X’er, then you are a product of the “Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room” era rubbing shoulders with the Vaping in the Transgendered Restroom generation (Rick Taylor, comedian).” It’s funny and it’s incredibly true.

Our generation moved from Sesame Street to Hill Street Blues; from Bruce Jenner-decathalete on a Wheaties box to Kaitlyn Jenner in an evening gown; from the end of the Sexual Revolution to Sex in the City (I still wouldn’t know about Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik save for Sara Jessica Parker and Oprah’s Favorite Things list). We went from Terry Bradshaw to Carrie Bradshaw; from drinking OJ for breakfast to knowing O.J. as a convicted murderer….make that a felon. For that matter we’ve gone from drinking straws to vilifying them.

We’ve grown up and away from Count Cocula each Fall to looking forward to everything Starbucks pumpkin latte. And although Boo Berry and Frankenberry also made their annual appearances I, for one, stand with the Count …that dude endures the generations!

And finally, we 50 somethings remember when Bam Bam was simply the Flintstone’s cartoon neighbor and not a reference to cocaine a la Talladega Nights…”help me Tom Cruise….help me Oprah Winfrey!”

In a little over two weeks, God willing, Thaedra and I will be flying home from Dublin with my two best buddies, Tim and Kevin and their wives. We will have celebrated my 50th birthday together both on the continent, around the U.K. and in Ireland along with some of my other favorite and cherished friends, Noel, Eileen, Nancy & Gayle (I’m still hoping) joining us along the way. It’s really an amazing thing to consider that until in 1927 when Charles Lindbergh completed the first successful transatlantic flight this type of travel was not feasible. Lindbergh flew only 41 years before we 50 year olds were born! Jumping on and off airliners is now typical travel protocol.

(My heart & soul…Alex, Pierce, and the unmistakable, lovely lady who loves me despite myself, Thaedra. You three are the biggest blessings of my life.)

(Tim and Kevin…these two guys are the older….much, much older brothers I never had. I cannot verbalize the blessing, dimension and richness of these two men and these friendships bring to life…simply priceless!)

It remains true and becomes increasing reality that humanity’s progress moves faster now than at any other time in history. The best description of this truth I read recently in the first few chapters of Dan Brown’s book, Origin. He includes two intriguing paragraphs.

“It took early humans over a million years to progress from discovering fire to inventing the wheel. Then it took only a few thousand to get to the printing press. Then it took only a couple hundred years to build a telescope. In the centuries that followed, in ever-shortening spans, we bounded from the steam engine, to gas-powered automobiles, to the Space Shuttle! And then, it took only two decades for us to start modifying our own DNA.”

“We measure scientific progress in months…advancing at a mind boggling pace. It will not be long before today’s supercomputer looks like an abacus; today’s most advanced surgical methods will seem barbaric; and today’s energy sources will seem as quaint to us as using a candle to light a room. The Greeks had to look back centuries to study ancient culture, but we need to look back only a single generation to find those who lived without the technologies we take for granted today. The time line for human development is compressing; the space separating ancient and modern is shrinking to nothing at all”

This book made me consider the some of the advances in the last fifty years. Think about what stands out to you as marked advances during our place in time.

The “What had happened was…”

In the very early 70’s I vividly recall my maternal great grandmother’s farmhouse on Hwy. 216 in Cherryville, NC. She had wood burning stoves not only to heat her house, but also as a source for cooking. At the same time microwave technology was being introduced to the consumer marketplace. The Sears Kenmore microwave daddy brought home was as big as a TV set. My wife says she remembers a door to door microwave salesman coming to her home….I have to laugh at the visual this conjures up…some poor guy toting a microwave through the neighborhood. As kids we could see technology and times changing before our eyes and didn’t even know.

(This is the house when I drove by it 2 weeks ago. It’s remodeled and looking good even though great granddaddy built it well over 100 years ago. My maternal grandparents married in the front parlor here on December 22, 1934.)

Speaking of time, how many of my Charlotte friends remember dialing: 375-6711? If you’re from around here, then you remember Joe King’s “Home Federal Saving & Loan time is: ____o’clock; the temperature is ___ degrees.” By chance did you dial this number on a rotary phone?

Remember when food was simply food? I was always jealous of the kids who’s moms brought cupcakes to school for their birthdays. What, pre tel, did you have to do to make this happen? Does this still happen? Between the gluten free and the vegan considerations I’m not sure it’s any longer permitted, let alone politically correct, to serve cupcakes to school kids. We even have gluten free communion (there’s a Jesus, disciples and an upper room joke in there somewhere, but I’ll leave it to your imagination).

We are from the generation when health insurance was sold for the family and not for the dog. For that matter, remember when the dog’s dental care was not on par with yours? Maybe they had all of that when I was a kid and my parents were just cheap.

On the back seats of bus 337 riding to Bruns Avenue Elementary School (4th grade for the sake of full disclosure) we listened to homemade compilation cassettes. Our music included Car Wash by Rose Royce, Le Freak by Chic, Big Shot by Billy Joel…and on and on. Daddy’s black plastic battery operated (6 D-cell batteries) cassette machine made those monotone recordings from radio jams sound awesome, just phenomenal! Hey, it’s what we had.

Techy people say an iPhone X will hold more than 30,000 songs. I’ll get back to you on that one. It is ironic to think about music media evolution. My wife’s late God parents left Thaedra and her brother, Greg, an operating Victrola in their home. We listened to it…skreetchy, scratchy swing band and gospel melodies. I bet you $10 I could plunder through my dad’s junk and find an old Buck Owens or Porter Wagner & Dolly Parton 8-Track tape. For anyone who doesn’t know what an 8-track is; Google it, they definitely played an important role in media evolution. For anyone who doesn’t know who Buck Owens and Porter Wagner are take my word for it, move on.

Remember when Peanuts were either a great cartoon or a healthy snack and not some lethal keep it off the plane killer? Those pathetic little pretzel packs American Airlines tries to pass off don’t measure up. If you’re lucky and get a good flight, then you might get a pack of those Biscoff cookie crackers. I’ll knock you down for those…consider yourself warned.

Like many kids I grew up on the tail end of my daddy’s belt. It’s Biblical…loosely based on Proverbs 13:24. Spare the rod and spoil the child. Dancing around that swinging belt I would have sworn it was child abuse. It was, in fact, the kind of parenting that yielded disciplined and accountable children. Somebody should have told my grandmother, however, making a kid pick his Hickory stick off the shrub before a good butt “whoppin’” was not Biblical. Incidentally, Apple Pages did not recognize whoopin’ as a word. Clearly, the programmers are not Southern.

I’m rather certain my boys have never cracked this thing called an encyclopedia. We’ve gone from World Book to Wikipedia, from Britannica to Bing. If we couldn’t find it in the latest printed edition of the encyclopedia, then we could go to the library and look up subject matter in this archaic card catalog. Thanks to Mr. Dewey and his decimal system it worked rather well.

My youngest son is preparing for his Eagle Scout board of review. It’s an awesome skill: scouting teaches youth to orient a map. I, however, rely on Google maps. If it’s a really adventurous day, then it’s Waze with the Elvis voice prompts…”thank you very much!”

Actually, a lot of what is now bygone reality helped the fifty something generation turn out well. I’m talking about things like beginning elementary school days with the Pledge of Allegiance; getting a filthy dirty when we played outside: mud, scabbed up knees, sweat, and gum ball fights. Robyn Withrow, I’ll never forgive you for making the whole street gang up on me. Lest we forget that our generation may be one of the last to learn grammar…we are from the day when teachers actually taught English. Want to stump a teenager? Ask him or her to conjugate: “to drink” or to differentiate and conjugate “to lay and to lie.” This list could go for days.

People complain about getting older. Some of the most awesome people I know are in their 50s. And like they, I plan to have the time of my life. Sometimes you hear 50 is new 30. I hope not! 30 year olds can keep diaper changes and career climbing; newly arrived 50 year olds keep the AARP cards. If Alex Tribec tries to sell me $15k of guaranteed life insurance for only $39.00 a month, then I swear I’m going to boycott Jeopardy!

The point: a lot changes our life’s time-space and comfort perception. Except for human nature and omnipotent God, things never stay the same. Life is short and getting shorter every day. My theory: take the trip, eat the cupcake (gluten allergies beware, I know), laugh loud, love passionately, forgive, and don’t expect other people to invest in you as you might in them (you get your feelings hurt…really badly!). People who say they have no regrets have neither learned anything nor ventured very far from a comfort zone. Old age will happen as soon as you invite it, either by inaction or attitude, to sit beside you. Work hard, play harder, pray harder . Evidently, living this way scares the crap out of people. I’d rather live full throttle and soak up the adventures ahead than to sit safely inside the confines of a stereotyped convention. We do, after all, only live once.

May our choices reflect our hopes and not our fears. Nelson Mandela

Of Priests & Pedophiles: Confessions of a Big Nasty

Of Priests & Pedophiles: Confessions of a Big Nasty

The truth is not always pretty and Whoppi Goldberg never is. Since this subject matter is nothing short of horrific I won’t attempt to interject any further humor. Alternatively, I think it makes sense to appeal to what makes sense in the midst of revealed tragedy, to speak candidly in terms about what people are saying and about where we are going as Christian faith. Once again it has been dealt, albeit at the hands of some of it’s leaders, another massive blow.

It seems the Vatican could be on to something these days. Have you ever seen Pope Francis cruising around in his popemobile? He tends to have a more modern, in touch, approach to people and to faith. My hope, not just for Catholics, but for all Christians is that this Pope will work to remove the restrictions against cleric marriage. We Christians live in a world of out of touch people who often associate our faith with the acts and works of the Catholic Church. This is the reason I have written this blog.

I won’t pretend to understand the traditions of Catholicism and I won’t act as if its billions of followers are not some of the finest people around. I will, however, speak as a citizen, a parent, a Christian and a moderately conservative thinker who can identify when an outdated practiced eliciting untold heartbreak and pain needs to go.

If you’re at all surprised by last week’s revelation regarding the 300 Pennsylvania Catholic priests who allegedly molested and sexually abused 1000+ children since 1940, then you’re clearly living in the dark ages. Let’s consider a few facts: all the accused are men. Men are full of testosterone. Testosterone makes men seek sex that eventually leads to procreation.

The centuries old, archaic prescription of cleric celibacy creates a lifetime environment of lonely men stewing with their God created and endowed hormones with no acceptable means of expression.

A word about stereotypes: they are not fair. For all the God honoring and pure of heart Catholic priests who have lived beautiful and worshipful lives not ever harming a soul this news tears the fabric of everything you believe. It proves evils exists and that the human condition truly is depraved. The light at the end of the tunnel, whether acknowledged or not, is God’s providence will prevail.

Why did an institutional church ever create a convention forcing it’s clergy to deny their God crafted instincts? In the very simplest terms we are created to live our lives as sexual beings. It is completely natural for males and females alike to seek companionship and relations. Sexual expression is intended to be a loving and God honoring thing. It was when the church stepped in and deemed relations keeping people from being able to serve God purely (their philosophy, not mine) I believe the groundwork was set for things to go awry.

When the Pope finally spoke on Monday, August 20th he profusely apologized on behalf of his faith saying “we abandoned the little ones….this pain never goes away.” The people had been waiting for days to hear this type of acknowledgement. However, words can only do so much. People want action. Catholics, other faithful and activists alike are calling for a zero tolerance policy; i.e., one credible accusation of abuse and you’re out of the ministry. You cannot change what has passed, and I’m rather certain zero tolerance policies are not strong enough to temper the strong hormone driven natural relations human beings seek. Initially well meaning pious men devote themselves to a life of ministry. The Church, not God denies them their humanity….and the stage has been set, at least, for their sexual fall from grace occurs.

“The (Catholic) Church was a thousand years old before it definitively took a stand in favor of celibacy in the twelfth century at the Second Lateran Council held in 1139, when a rule was approved forbidding priests to marry. In 1563, the Council of Trent reaffirmed the tradition of celibacy.” (See link below for reference)

If we are, in fact, created in the image of God; and, if we are told in the Book of Genesis God said to man “be fruitful and multiply,” then who ever thought it a good idea to deny a person his (or her) to pursue morally and socially acceptable means of sexual expression?

For ten years I worked with and mentored sixth grade youth at my home United Methodist congregation in Charlotte, NC. As part of their early Christian heritage education each year we’d visit local Jewish houses of worship. The rabbis and cantors obliged us by answering our questions about the differences between their faith and others. Frequently the question arose about whether Jewish clergy were permitted to marry. Honestly, why would a Protestant Christian sixth grader know this? The answer from one particular rather jovial, candid, and matter of fact rabbi was always the same. “Yes, he replied. In fact it is encouraged. God created us to be partnered, sexual beings. To deny that fact is to deny God’s work. We believe marriage keeps us out of trouble with our congregants…especially the young ones. No doubt, you’ve heard about other faiths for years in the news. We encourage loving, monogamous relationships.”

Earlier this year I stood on the shores of Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean Sea’s shore. We overlooked the ruins of King Herod the Great’s palace. It was here the Apostle Paul was tried by Herod (Agrippa) before being sent to Rome. It was also here we believers, in the tradition of Paul, and the early disciples were first called “Christians.” Paul’s Biblical confession was he wrestled with a thorn in his side. Although history doesn’t disclose what his thorn was we know he promoted celibacy believing end times were near. Priests have faced the same reality…and not to make a light of it, but generations of altar boys and other children have suffered.

We live in a fallen world. There are a thousand different reasons for suffering. Suffering is neither a sign of spiritual greatness nor is it a sign of spiritual deficiency. What happened to these kids is not a punishment. It is simply something that happened as a result of living in a broken world.

There is a choice: Christians can view the decades long, if not centuries long abuse, of children as an evil by product part of their institutional church structure OR they can turn their backs on faith.

Did you really take in the first choice? “Part of” this abuse by these priests, these atrocities does not define the totality of either life or faith. The suffering these children endured was momentary. And although the pain and repercussions will stay with them for a lifetime as God followers and believers with finite minds we don’t know everything. We certainly at this point do not know how this story will end. That’s where faith enters. From a faith perspective God will honor those scares, God will justly reward, restore and strengthen these victims in immeasurable terms.

While the media and legal experts suggest statutes of limitations be removed and while it’s easy to suggest souls have been murdered (and by no means am I defending anyone), I have to believe that God’s providence; His love; His grace; and His rest; and His final judgment will prevail.

Reference piece:

https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/696

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – An Alzheimer’s Story

A lot of people know Elton John’s 70’s hit “Goodbye Yellow. Brick Road.” And while I don’t necessarily associate this song with my mama, it definitely reminds me of her favorite movie: The Wizard of Oz.

Although this is one woman’s story, this blog is about facing life with a parent suffering Alzheimer’s disease. One of her caregivers very recently suggested that if we want to get any glimpse of our mother, then we’d better do it now. Pam, the sweet soul, who has brought so much comfort to our family, has worked with patients like mom for so long that she knows our time with mother—at least cognitively—is almost over.

She never really put her story into words. And while this may seem to have a melancholy undertone, it chronicles her story and the lesson she, unbeknownst to her, taught us. In your honor and for all the Alzheimer’s victims, mamma, hear your voice…

Mother would tell you to your face she felt like she never had a voice. My little sister, Robyn, and I could not begin to tell you how many times she referred to herself as a second class citizen. We always thought this was ridiculous, maybe she truly felt this way. Maybe it’s why the older she got, the angrier she became.

Born on New Year’s Day 1943 in the Rowan County, NC hospital, she was the 2nd and only surviving child born to my grandparents, Bryte Bess & Miles Alexander Carpenter. My grandparents were the first two in each of their respective families to leave country life and agricultural farm communities and earn advanced degrees. This singular fact, for better or for worse, set for mom’s life a different course. My grandmother was an R.N.; my granddaddy graduated State College (we now know it as NC State) in 1932. He made his career as an executive managing mills for Erwin Mills and Burlington Industries. This provided for mom, unbeknownst to her…and she never admitted it, a privileged childhood.

Sarah Bryte grew up in the tiny southern Davie County mill town of Cooleemee. Truly, it was and remains the proverbial “wide place in the road.” There were no stoplights. They had the first residential phone in town; their phone number was “9.”

Mama grew up Baptist and enjoyed abundant and full high school friendships that lasted most of her life. Presented with debutantes from the Lexington Charity League, she was stunning in her white Chantilly and crinoline gown. Upon graduation she headed to the hills to earn her degree at Appalachian State Teacher’s College. Mama’s college love was a Eddie. Things did not work out for them; I’m rather certain she never got over him. Eddie entered her life again in approximately 2010. I do not recall when she was ever as giddy and excited to rekindle a friendship. It turned out that newly widowed Eddie was looking for a housewife and caregiver for his old age. When this did not work out for them again…fifty years later is when the changes in mom began to surface.

(Mom & Eddie – May, 1964 in Boone)

(Appalachian State Teacher’s Collage Senior Class Photo)

Before graduation, she arrived in the “big city,” Charlotte, to pursue student teaching. This led to a job with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. It was during this time she met my dad on a blind date. There must be something about blind dates in my family; I met my bride the same way.

On June 25, 1967 mom and dad married in a highly traditional wedding in Erwin, NC. She immediately joined him at our family property (where my office remains today) continuing to build the mobile home sales, park development and property management business my paternal granddaddy began helping dad to build.

Mom’s days were characterized by collecting rent, cleaning rental homes and squeezing every penny so that they could get to the top. They had a free place to live and paid themselves $ 50 a week….a week. The first week of October, 1968 my parents brought me home to our single wide mobile home on Route 1 John Price Road. Their hard work paid off quickly. Robyn was born in May, 1971 and came home to our first house in Huntingtown Farms. Many, many people prospered over the last 5 1/2 decades because of the foundations my parents laid.

(Bringing me home from the hospital. My office is still on this same site today; different building).

(Robyn coming home from Charlotte Memorial Hospital)

Dad worked A LOT. The recession of the early 70’s ushered in problems for mom and dad. They had very different philosophies concerning financial strategy, family life and other issues. Mother realized her life, like most of us eventually realize, would not be the charmed life she’d envisioned as a young girl. Things were about the change.

When they separated Mom went back to work teaching as a Title 1 Reading teacher, then math, and after several years went back into the classrooms of elementary schools J.H. Gunn, Tuckaseegee, McAlpine, and Huntingtown Farms. Although she was the consummate professional and an excellent teacher, she truly disliked the bureaucracy involved in the education system. Our local school system recognized her as a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Teacher of the Year.

(On the steps of the James K. Polk house)

Mom dated Buzz for twelve years. He worked hard to help maintain her home in superior condition. They had a lot of fun with a group called the Charlotte Sociables. Other than one nice cruise and and one trip each to New York and Las Vegas, Buzz took her on the only major trip she ever took. In 1984 they went to Singapore and Malaysia for two weeks. I still have the jade cuff links she brought me. Although he asked, mom refused to marry Buzz. Eventually, he moved on to pursue his life. After approximately 1990 she did not see anyone seriously again.

Mickey first, then Sophie brought “puppy love” to her life. Thank goodness for canine comradery. Honestly, mother did not either particularly do much to seek friendships or nurture existing ones. She preferred to keep to herself, somewhat, and depended tremendously on my sister and my family for social connections and activities.

Alex and Pierce, her only grandchildren, were the light of her early retired life. Mama wanted grandchildren and she loved these boys! Thaedra and I were extremely blessed to have “Mimi” as a default babysitter. She would be offended when we would ask someone else to keep the boys. It was when the boys were quite young mom built her “dream house” just a mile and a half from my house off of Providence Road. The boys loved to stay there. On the vacant lot next door they took leftover construction materials and built multiple forts. They called it “the village.” Picturing those moments marked in time as we watched through mom’s kitchen window warms my heart. Their unbounded adventure and energy was contagious; she knew great joy in those years. But, little boys grow up and going to grandma’s house doesn’t alway hold it’s appeal. Seeing them turn into young teenagers seeking their interests, while making her happy, saddened her personally because it made her feel alone.

(One of thousands of pics of Mimi & her boys from over the years; “The Village” was torn down by this point, but it was just through the window behind them.)

Mom enjoyed several trips with the boys, Thaedra, Robyn and me: New York for the Macy’s parade; Hilton Head; Atlanta, the NC Outerbanks, and a zippity do da week in Florida at Disney were among her favorites.

Sometime around 2010, Eddie- the college boyfriend, contacted mom shortly after his wife passed away. The hope of attention and potential promise for rekindled love ignited an excitement in mama I rarely, if ever, witnessed. However, as I mentioned, it did not work out. She simply did not want to talk about it; I know her heart had been broken. As an adult son this is a tough, tough thing to watch when there is nothing you can do. It made me sad.

One additional issue she faced was severe back and neck pain. Over several years seeking several specialists, pain clinics and an unsuccessful trial procedure from a visiting Mayo Clinic surgeon did not fully address the problem. I mention this as a lesson to anyone with aging parents. Mom…. OPIODS…. Lots of them…the crisis is real! We believe as many as five STRONG pills a day and she was still getting behind the wheel of her car to drive…we did not know for quite some time. Addiction occurs among the most unlikely people.

Shortly thereafter, 2013 or so, our family began to notice a marked and drastic difference in mom. Her neighbor’s even reached out to me repeatedly noting bizarre and unusual behavior. It was during a visit to a neurologist mom was diagnosed with a form of early onset dementia. It later became full blown Alzheimer’s….the most cruel and life robbing disease (I saw it with my dad’s mother as well).

The details of these last few years are not pretty.

Mama made a few pivotal choices. One was to almost always see her glass as half empty when it just as easily could have been seen as half full. The second was not to seek help when the discomfort from her ailments led her to pain suppressants. We asked the neurologist why a woman who has had no history of dementia, no history of Alzheimer’s whatsoever in her family become afflicted with this so severely at age 72? He answered that it could be circumstances, attitude, medical choices along the way. I have absolutely no doubt this is the case.

The truth is that we’ll never know the answer.

I do know the most valuable lesson she taught Robyn and me is to look at our glasses as half full…to always seek the positive. Because mom rarely felt positive thoughts and we almost always saw where this outlook led her, her example taught us as an alternative to pursue joy, to love friends, to live fully and as they say: to look for the sunny side of life.

Like Dorothy in the Wizard, mom’s life took her a long way from home, yet she was never geographically very far from her Cooleemee beginnings. She always yearned for the comfort of her small town past. She always knew there is no place like home.

Mama, thank you for taking care of us. Thank you for loving us the way you knew how. I don’t know where Alzheimer’s takes a person. To see her today is a difficult encounter. Like a typical Alzheimer’s patient she will sit and stare blankly. I wonder if the mind plays old memories over and over for these people? I hope so and I hope happy memories bring them peace and comfort even though they cannot express it in an outwardly lucid manner.

Mama, my prayer for you, as it has been for years, is that you have found home and peace like your favorite movie gal, somewhere over the rainbow.

Take Action

This coming October 13th is the Charlotte Walk to End Alzheimer’s. My dear friend, Eileen, works diligently to make this walk one of the nation’s top 30. If you or anyone you know suffers or has suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, please click on the link below to go to Eileen’s “Everyday is a New Day” team page to help us raise research funds and to raise awareness.

http://act.alz.org/site/TR/Walk2018/NC-WesternCarolina?px=2887070&pg=personal&fr_id=11364

Thank you for your consideration.

Mean People Suck….and So Does Cancer!

The Dedication

This blog is for all people who encounter cancer. It is written for my exceptional friend, Kevin, and especially for the radiant love of his life, Jennifer. Today she is undergoing highly invasive surgery. By the time she awakens she will have undergone a mastectomy and be well on her way to a long period of healing and treatment (according to her 4-27-18 FB post). This blog is long; as is, for some people, the prospect of fighting cancer.

The Soap Box Stand About Mean People (who really aren’t mean)

There’s this meme on social media that reads “The world is full of good people. If you can’t find one; be one.” There is another meme out there that’s funny. And if you’re a dyed in the wool southerner, as I am, rings true: “If you have friends who don’t think biscuits and gravy are a meal, get them out of your life. You don’t need that kind of negativity.” While that’s funny, there is a lesson to take to heart: get the negativity out of your life. It is short enough as it is.

We see it all the time. People putting in their two cents worth of advice and opinions where none is solicited…where, other than an outsider’s glimpse, there is no true understanding of other people’s interpersonal relationships and circumstances. At the expense of sounding like Forest Gump: “Mama used to say:” … you never know what goes on behind closed doors…especially when we see only a piece of the dynamic between and among other people.

We hear it all the time. Questions…really unwarranted opinions about other people’s lives, experiences and relationships: “Why doesn’t he stay with her? Why can’t he get over her? Wonder why we didn’t get invited? That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. God would want you to tell him.” Maybe it’s just me, but I have enough trouble managing my life let alone everyone else’s.

It’s easy to consider and see situations from our perspectives. Looking through our lenses at everyone else’s situation makes us:

  • Pass judgment…something we all do…when this right is Biblically and exclusively God’s
  • Tear people down…rather than investing in conversation and trying to build bridges…clearly and realistically this must work both ways. It takes a lot less energy to talk something out than to avoid, begrudge, and completely misunderstand.
  • Assume a singular person’s story is correct and the only side of a situation. It happens in divorce & separation situations every time they occur …whether individuals behave maturely or not (sometimes people simply are not fulfilled). This is the element that makes people take sides in a couple’s breakup….taking sides for the victimized and talking trash about the vilified.
  • Perpetuate misunderstanding and negative vibes among otherwise awesome people.

Relationships, friendships, marriages, and people: with all of them come drama…petty…hurtful stuff. People can be mean. I’m talking the kind of mean reserved for middle school girls bullying one another…or in contemporary terms…on social media. But, truthfully, it transpires as prevelantly among adults who know better. Otherwise nice, well-mannered people treat one another poorly. And then, on some random day of reckoning comes the time when you get a call or read a post that puts everything into perspective: death of a loved one, a best friend moves away, loss of a job, or possibly a dreaded diagnosis.

Cancer sucks!

It is the disease that touches all of our lives; it does not discriminate. It doesn’t follow sexual proclivities, blood transfusions; gender, wealth, educational accomplishment, certainly not always genetics; and truly not necessarily our habits. Cancer doesn’t care who you are, how good of a person you have been…or whether you’ve been a complete jerk. Cancer is simply the multiplication of cell mutations in our bodies. Each of us is a walking Petrie dish full of organic material just waiting to go arry (now that we’re feeling all positive about life, keep reading).

We all know people it has impacted.

My sister, Robyn, and I grew up friends with the children of local Charlotte TV personality, C.J. Underwood. It has been years now, but cancer viciously attacked and claimed the live of Mrs. Underwood first before C.J. Fell to it later.

My sons’ Scout Master, Stephen Pace, an amazing friend and mentor to me, was diagnosed and taken from us in less than twelve months.

I’m working with a resident at work, literally destitute, who is fighting for her very existence waiting for Social Security-Disability to bring her some much needed financial peace of mind.

Kelly Keesling, from church, the wife of friend, continues to fight. This lady never smoked, yet was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. She fights with the most vigor and best attitude…living her life fully in-spite of the crappy disease. Her story is a Divinely inspiring light to those who know her and many people who do not (I have her blog link at the end of this one).

Bertha Walker, one of the three people who introduced Thaedra and me making our blind date possible fought and survived a courageous battle against a brutal, physically life changing cancer struggle coupled with depression.

Another lady whom I deeply respect and adore, Pam Smith, from our church, fought and prevailed with exceptional faith. If there is an angel on Earth, Pam is the one…bringing comfort to those to whom she ministers.

A high school friend of mine, Dr. Chris Dula, now a professor at East Tennessee State, is fighting a brain tumor presently. Check out his prolific and inspiring story on YouTube.

Thaedra’s mama, Jean, was one of loveliest, kindest, sweetest of souls God ever made. She set the bar for serving & loving family and neighbor & church high, exceptionally high! Jean suffered a horrific year plus long fight with cancer that she lost the day after Thaedra turned 40.

About Jennifer & Kevin

That random day of reckoning came for one of my best buddies’ wife back in March. It was on a Friday when I received a call from a man l love dearly. He is one of my two very best buddies. It was during that call he revealed he would accompany his bride to the first of what turned out to be several needle biopsies. He probably doesn’t realize that I heard deep undertones of questioning uncertainty and “why her” that day.

Two days later on Sunday I sat with Kevin and Jen on their back porch and we all teared a little up as I listened to them talk about the unknown territory ahead. The only diversion was the focus Kevin, Tim and I had talking about a Fall trip we and our wives are planning to Europe.

Unlike me, Kevin is not a cryer. Just ask my kids. When the Hallmark Christmas movies come on I go all stupid. Do not even talk to me about “Holly Lodge.” I cannot even watch an episode of the Waltons without getting choked up. Seriously, if times are tough: John Boy is having writer’s block, Mary Ellen is getting picked on at school, Mr. Godsey’s store is facing inventory shrinkage, the cow is sick and Grandpa has had a heart attack…I can’t take it. I’d be the first one on the road to the Baldwin sisters’ house to raid their “recipe” to escape my sorrows. You gotta love two old spinsters who make moonshine during WWII. It would be bottoms up for me on Walton’s mountain…..CHEERS! (Sorry for the rabbit trail…back to Kevin & Jen).

Kevin is not a cryer. That particular Sunday afternoon I watched my buddy, for only the second time in our friendship, tear up. Out of utter love, compassion and wanting to take this thing away from his wife he sat there not knowing what to do. Men are problem solvers and fixers. We want to make things better. What I observed made me realize how deeply He loves his wife.

What I’ve always known about Kevin and Jennifer became more apparent that day. They have genuine, passionate, respectful and abiding love for each other….and he truly would do anything for his girl. Next year marks their 25th wedding anniversary. Their two children represent the very best of each of them. Their service to our church in youth ministry, missions, recreation, and trustees has been a place they have not only grown faith, but put it into action…even on days when people around them have made it tough.

I’m still rather certain most husbands, including Kevin (sorry, Kev), don’t know what to do in times like these. But I do know that their faith and love will be their guiding light.

The whole point of this blog is to ask for your prayers AND to remember two points:

First, We don’t know what we don’t know. We shouldn’t assume, we shouldn’t offer advice when we think we know what’s best for someone…and we probably do not. We are not God; and too often come across sounding that way. It’s that passing judgment thing…ouch!

Second, I love a meme from social media. I’ll simply include one at the end about kindness (a few lines down) that speaks an absolute truth: they are words to live by (yep…ended a sentence with a preposition for you grammar Nazis).

But, before these final words please let me covet your prayers for a couple of cancer fighters and their husbands: Kelly & Tim Keesling and Kevin & … today especially, Jennifer.

Jen, you ended your April 27th post with my favorite Bible verse. It’s probably the best life advice and mantra for anyone: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart…” (Prov. 3:4). As they say, whomever “they” are: “You got this.” As we discussed on your porch earlier this Spring, we can’t wait to hit the friendly skies this Fall and show you and Kevin the City of Lights. We’ve got to get Kev to drink some Bordeaux. That should be good for a smile! Here’s to the future, family, friends, and finding a cure! Cheers my dear friends

“May the Lord bless you and keep you…”

Kelly Keesling’s blog link below: it is inspiring and very nicely written. Worth the read especially if you know someone someone living with cancer who needs encouragement. Kelly is a spot on testimony of positivity.

https://dontstopbelievingkk.wordpress.com

War of the Worlds … Make that War of the Words … politics and a president we cannot control

The day before Halloween 1938 revealed a much more innocent time in American culture. Somewhere between WWI and the Great Depression life in the country looked quite different than it does presently. On that particular October 30th if we’d been there huddled around the radio, then we would have heard a regularly scheduled episode of Mercury Theater on Air Tonight. The episode featured a 23 year old actor, Orsen Welles, recounting his version of the Victorian era work: War of the Worlds. It was a “Halloween” broadcast. It became what is now somewhat the topic of historic urban legend. History and old timers alike would recall the fright the broadcast instilled in people as Mr. Welles performed a hoax; it was a dramatized newscast about the Martian alien invasion.

I imagine people have the same fear presently when we turn on the tube and listen to newscasts about our American political landscape. Have the aliens invaded the White House? I’ll leave Melania out of it, but our orange haired, spray tanned looking, bawdy, needs to shut up and put down Twitter, proof that money CANNOT buy class president is unlike anything we have ever seen….or is he?

Most mornings I watch the first 15 minutes of the NBC Today Show headlines before talking with my buddy Tim about news stories and current events of the day. During my commute I listen to Fox News radio to get an alternative perspective. As of the moment I published this blog, Trump has been in office 468 days

I have never liked him. I voted for him. I find him morally reprehensible. A listen to American broadcasts would have you believe the entire world revolves around Donald Trump and his administration. Clearly, Trump receives the most media of any president ever. And, I think he has the “fake news media,” his words, not mine, exactly, precisely where he wants them to be. They are mailable, highly influenced, running at the drop of any hint of a story surrounding him and … well…him…he wants it all about him…and that’s exactly where Donald Trump has American media and the characteristically liberal entertainment industry members…captive. Yes, unadmittedly they are eating out of the palms of Trump’s hands.

What must it be like to be so consumed with hatred that one does nothing but publicly vent and spew hate venomous words against the president constantly? It truly is all she does. Turn on “The View” just about any day and you’ll observe this regrettable behavior of comedienne Joy Behar. You might recall her as the woman who condemned and berated the Vice President for being a prayerful Christian man. If Mike Pence were to make a similar remark against her faith, then he would have been labeled anti Semitic. Regardless, you’ll find Joy yelling and ranting with face contorted pouring her heart and soul into pure hatred against an individual man and his agenda. Like many tv people she has allowed the president to become a cancer to her being to the point that her very name is a misnomer. She is not a funny, entertaining comedienne; she is a consumed soul.

Likewise with Michelle Wolf from the recent White House correspondants’ dinner. For my entire life (almost 50 years) all I’ve heard is women’s rights, rising in the workplace, and women sticking together. Even Hilary Clinton said women had to stick together —“the village” women as well I guess —before she blamed them, too, for her election loss. When Wolf berated Sarah Huckabee Saunders it became clear what a pathetic existence the featured speaker truly lives. Educated, well spoken, maternal, professional, well dressed, maintaining decorum, and God-fearing, Mrs. Huckabee-Saunders quite obviously threatens lesser accomplished women and deservedly unknown people like Michelle Wolf.

Here is the perspective of people who voted for Donald Trump who did not want another Washington politician. Dyed in the wool politicians do things like:

  • Serve self by working for the highest paying lobbies and constituent groups.
  • Drive off bridges in Chappaquidick.
  • Resign from office over break ins at the Watergate Hotel.
  • Have interns perform *%$*# in the Oval Office (note his wife is still “some little Tammy Wynette standing by her man”).
  • Leave funding in bills to which their constituents would absolutely object (i.e., speaker Ryan and massive Planned Parenthood Funding left in Trump spending bill).
  • Ignore pleas for relief from ambassadors and diplomats who eventually die serving our country.
  • Sell uranium to Iran covertly.
  • ***opps…maybe I just don’t like the Clintons since I alluded to them 3 times…really I don’t like Hillary…Bill is a pretty cool guy…saxophone and all.

Men history recalls as pioneers are typically considered to be crazy by their contemporaries. People thought Thomas Jefferson was out of his mind to want to acquire as much land through the Louisiana Purchase as he did (I have the nicest Cajun buddy Dane. For those of you who know Dane, it’s hard to imagine he could be any more he could be more alien to us than he already is….kidding, Dane…love you, my friend!)

People thought Da Vinci was a lunatic (literally suffering from clinical lunacy). Consider his human anatomical drawings…his flying machine designs and the fact they were centuries ahead of their time.

And lest we forget explorers like Christopher Columbus heading out the sail around the world….the flat world?

How many people recall Jules Verne? No, not the restaurant atop the Eiffel Tour, but the creator of Capt. Nemo & 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Did you know that Verne also predicted man would walk on the moon?

Jesus Christ, the very son of God, was run from his hometown in Nazareth. He settled miles away in the Galilee region. It’s in that geographic area where he met His rag tag army of men who became the disciples.

What kind of scrutiny and public smear campaigns would these guys have faced had they faced social media, the news and tele journalists?

The truth is neither the political establishment nor media know what to do with the current administration. As is the case with each of us, frustrations flare easily when someone or something does not fit into our paradigm.

I recently read a short, but profound list of accomplishments all Americans experience presently:

  • Lower taxes (if you’re going to gripe about your lower rate, keep paying the higher one).
  • North Korean Denuclearization (closest we have ever gotten to this point—I strongly question what is happening).
  • Higher Gross Domestic Product (The current climate is pro business … it is offensive to people who do not understand business and who have never had to make a payroll).
  • Highest Stock Market ever (if anyone wants to complain about corporate greed, please divest yourself first, you won’t need that growing 401k for retirement…it’ll be just fine).
  • Lowest Unemployment since the late 60’s (under prior administrations something called the “participation rate” had to be adjusted so that earlier sitting presidents wouldn’t look as bad for failing economic policies. Metric adjustments may still need to be made).

I’m not sure it matters how you feel about the current administration, but I am sure about this: if we’d collectively channel negative media attention and the hatred toward a single man into something positive, then imagine the positive difference we could make.

A quick glance at the focuses of several First Ladies provides a great place channel effort and resources:

  • Mental Health Issues (might help with shooting problems); thank Roslyn Carter.
  • Just Say No (who knew the drug crisis would continue to spiral, especially opioids); thank Nancy Reagan.
  • Literacy (reading); Laura Bush & Barbara Bush.
  • Childhood Obesity (health issues in general); great cause, Michelle Obama.
  • Stop Bullying (cyber and in person threats); important work, Melania Trump.

And I’ll add one for the dreamers who are not yet in this country: working with people who want to become U.S. citizens to do it the correct and legal way. This may be the biggest emerging social issue we face. It’s so much bigger than a wall.

As I conclude these thoughts I hear the morning news coming on in the background: Jeff Sessions, Russian collusion, John Kelly, Robert Mueller, North Korea, oh, and now Rudy Giuliani says Trump did pay back the $130,000 for the Stormy Daniels cover up. I’m so glad to know this; I can breath easier today. This revelation completely changes to way I’ll conduct my business, rear my family, interact with friends, donate to charity, and pray to God today. The preceding sentence is all sarcasm—about as stupid as this news story. Anything related to an affair about Miss Daniels is so much more important to the future of our country and humanity than just about anything like… I don’t know… denuclearizing renegade regimes like Iran and North Korea.

If you’re my age, then you probably remember hearing CBS newsman Walter Kronkite sign off every evening’s broadcast with five words. They ring as true today as they did when I was a kid. It is simply ashamed that the war of words, some in truth and some unfounded, against any president stands in the way of American unity and progress. But as Mr. Kronkite said: “That’s the way it is.”

I think I’ll go count my blessings…let the president do his job…and turn my television off!

Just for fun:

Check out https://trumptracker.github.io/. It offers interesting, fact checking data on the Perez (that’s what spellcheck changed “prez” into…don’t you know he’d hate that?)

Uncivil Rest: MLK’s Sweet Dream or Nightmare

If it’s one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and four to go and you’ve already laced up your blue suede shoes, then you might just be in Memphis. Beale Street, Blues City, Barbecue & B.B. King’s….It is a southerner’s delight all on the banks of the mighty Mississippi river. These people even have ducks swimming in a fountain at the Peabody Hotel lobby. It almost sounds like perfect backdrop for a modern day millennial version of something like Tom Sawyer meets the city.

In 1991 I was listening to the radio when this song came on: Walking in Memphis. I’d never been there and honestly had no reason to ever go. Fast forward to May 2016 and a big crew of us went to the International Music Festival: Memphis in May. Among many, many bands were the Violent Femmes. I was immediately transported back to my high school years…going wild like a blister in the sun (Remember Jennifer Enten—I’m not sure who was the most excited…?).

Today we’re at 450 Mulberry Street…the famed Lorraine Motel…now the site of National Civil Rights Museum. On that fateful day, April 4, 1968—50 years ago this week James Earl Ray shot Martin Luther King, Jr. on this site. Honestly, we had no idea our spring break trip coincided with this milestone anniversary, but this site is a must see for Americans seeking to understand where we’ve been…and more importantly where we’re going. Contemplating the events of that day on these hallowed grounds takes me back…way, way back…. to the first recollection of why there are differences among people and why civil rights remain a hot button issue.

(The National Civil Rights Museum is built around the Motel. Visitors walk through where the exhibits end with a view into MLK’s room, # 306. He was standing on the balcony where this wreath is placed when he was struck by bullet).

Attending Charlotte NC public elementary schools in the early 1970’s meant being exposed to a world of desegregated schools with busing in their early days. Our school days began saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Yes, back then at Huntingtown Farms Elementary we were still “One nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” We grew up thinking it was normal for teachers to take a head count for the “free lunch” & “reduced price” program. We thought it was normal for our teachers to count the number of caucasians, black students, and “other” races. In retrospect it’s now clear they were collecting data for tracking purposes and for federal subsidy metric purposes.

(Part of an interactive exhibit regarding fall out from the Brown v. Board of Education fall out. My hometown saw its share of unrest.)

For the most part all of my elementary school classmates were, in spirit, the same. There were, of course, some cultural differences. However, kids will be kids. Loving to play kickball at recess, grossing out at cardboard pizza in the lunch room, getting excited about filmstrips (remember those…lol) and griping about homework. School was pretty much school.

It’s when we hit Junior High School (that’s old school speak for Middle School, grades 7-9 back in the day) when differences really began to creep in and open a chasm. Friends, however, remained friends and people with perspective saw beyond immaterial matters of race, demographics and cultural differences to solidify relationships.

Babies are born completely impartial and unbiased as to the cultures unlike theirs or to races different from theirs. Children tend to follow the example of their parents. If the parents are racist, then they are exposed to this behavior and have a propensity to mirror this (although not always: think Archie Bunker and his daughter, Gloria…extreme example, I know). If we are taught at an early age to be open minded, then we are likely to be more inclusive of people who look and act differently than we do. Who remembers wondering why Maria on Sesame Street spoke Spanish or why at some point Bob was an African American man?

If we are all created in the image of God, then what must God look like? Rosa Parks, Joe Biden, your pastor, Mother Teresa, the homeless guy we pass on the square in uptown, Mike Pence, Nelson Mandela, Angela Merkel, your kid’s preschool teacher, Trey Gowdy, the check out clerk at Walgreens…. The point: God is reflected in every human being (albeit some people actively squelch the divine and succumb to evil). We have a duty to love one another. It remains, as far as I am concerned, the highest calling of humankind.

I have come to deeply appreciate Dr. King’s vision and work. It is a brutally honest statement to say that for years people have have thought MLK’s work was an attempt to diminish more predominant races. Alternatively, all he sought was for all people…black, Hispanic, white, Jewish, Muslim, you name the race to have an equal opportunity to have access to the same educational opportunities, the same employment opportunities, the same healthcare standards, the same civic treatment, and the same adjudication by the legal system as white Americans had enjoyed for decades. While it would seem reasonable to think this should already have been the standard, we all know it was not. It scared people watching the civil rights movement unfold; it continues to scare people.

(The room above is the view into room 306. The view from behind the wreath shows the boarding house across Mulberry Street from where the fatal shot was fired. It is also part of the museum and exhibits.)

It’s not a liberal or conservative or a libertarian or a socialist thing…it is not even a political thing. If we dumb it down I think we are here: Several hundred million Americans living on U.S. soil…this “melting pot” of cultures. We have to get along, peacefully coexist and move forward as a nation. To accomplish this requires working with one another. Sometimes the behaviors and prejudices we learn in our early years stand in our way; often external forces perpetuate tears in our social fabric.

What role does the media play in all of this? If you’ve ever read one of my blogs, then you know I blame A LOT of America’s societal decay on media (yes, here I go again). I sincerely believe people generally get along. However, to watch the media sensationalize each story, to watch reporters dramatize, to observe the day in – day out exploitation of human struggle among dissimilar and misunderstood people IS simply another way they characterize themselves as the lowest level of bottom feeding “entertainment” outlets.

There remains no question racial strife exists. However, media fuels the fire with continual, relentless, probing 24 hour a day coverage. Take an otherwise peaceful protest and put a news camera on it and the probability of incidents transpiring rises. Publicize a “march” online before it happens and a city can become inundated with people from out of town causing mayhem (i.e., the Keith Scott police shooting protests in Charlotte, NC in September, 2016—many of the protestors were from out of town. CNN, MSNBC & FOX News couldn’t get enough—and this was not a racially motivated shooting by the way; Google the story if you’re interested).

It used to truly offend me that “they” honored Martin Luther King’ with an official federal holiday. I struggled for years with this. We close for for the birth of Jesus Christ; we close for a combined recognition for Honest Abe & the Father of our Country, George Washington, for President’s Day. But, to close and have a day off for a civil rights leader? What’s next? Billy Graham Day or Oprah day? In recent years my perspective has changed: here is why. MLK accomplished his work as a man of God, in peace. Had he lived he would have continued to promote bettering oneself through work ethic, education, faith, mentoring and family values.

In a generation where the divisive problems Dr. King brought to the forefront have grown, Americans need to be reminded of our responsibility as citizens to be neighbors, to be kind and to help one another. I won’t steal MLK’s line and ask if you have a dream. But I will ask what is your hope for how we can each work to leave a more positive mark on our community and the people with whom we coexist?

We cannot expect government to legislate Dr. King’s sweet dream; our lawmakers cannot agree on anything it seems. They turn every issue — highlighted by media pressure and attention (there I go again) which in turn puts the squeeze on them to act in such a way to get them re-elected and play party politics rather than do what’s right for the country — into a nightmare. Let me shorten that sentence: the government legislates Dr. King’s vision into a regulatory nightmare. All Americans eventually pay a steep price for this.

People at a basic human level simply want to be heard, simply want to be loved and simply want to be understood. It is an oversimplification to explain the complexities of the psyche with 3 things people “simply want” statement However, these three go a long way toward breaking down communication barriers when we take time, one-on-one, to communicate and reach out a hand in friendship.

Anne Frank suffered and died at the hands of the Nazi’s. Although this young and hopeful girl didn’t survive hiding out trying to get away from the ultimate hatred and racism she left us a gift. It is her attitude. In the shadows of a scared soul not knowing how her life would unfold or how little time she ultimately had left to live she recorded a POWERFUL message we should all adopt. It is a mantra we can all live by and remember when we encounter people…especially people who are different than we are. In her diaries Anne Frank wrote

“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”