Tuesday, October 03, 2017

More Guns -- Fewer Gun Laws: Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

I agree with this reasoned defense by JP Sears against the need for tougher gun laws.



After all, the 2nd Amendment reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

The Las Vegas shooter only had 42 guns (23 in the hotel alone!!) along with a many loaded high-capacity magazines. Surely that's what the framers of the 2nd Amendment had in mind.

I've got to do something about the fact that I only have 1 old single shot .22 Marlin (used to scare off raccoons who eat the cats' food), 1 old 10 gauge shotgun (used to scare off coyotes who eat the cats), and one 19th century double barreled shotgun that would blow up if I tried to fire it. Woefully under-gunned here at Ploughshares Farm.

I cry "foul" to a study published by the American Journal of Medicine which says, "Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the United States' gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. And, even though the United States' suicide rate is similar to other countries, the nation's gun-related suicide rate is eight times higher than other high-income countries."

I can't believe that the study was allowed to publish non-sense such as "Even though it has half the population of the other 22 nations combined, the United States accounted for 82 percent of all gun deaths. The United States also accounted for 90 percent of all women killed by guns, the study found. Ninety-one percent of children under 14 who died by gun violence were in the United States. And 92 percent of young people between ages 15 and 24 killed by guns were in the United States, the study found."

Also our cities just aren't keeping up with other countries' gun deaths. 


We need to try harder.
 
JP Sears is right -- we need more guns, not fewer, in more, not fewer, peoples' hands. Law enforcement officers cannot be trusted -- we must rise up and protect ourselves.

Watch out coyotes -- I'm in the market for an assault weapon. Or better yet -- a tank!



"Lord, have mercy" -- indeed.

(PS Lest anybody be silly enough to quote any part of this post in defense of more weaponry or private arsenals or against gun control... it's called satire)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Donald Trump and The Boy Scouts of America: "Who the hell wants to speak about politics?"

Here are some of the low-lights from Donald Trump's speech -- from opening with "Fake News" and cursing in front of young leaders to talking partisan politics almost constantly. He had a chance to be uplifting and inspiring and instead chose to disparage others, act vulgarly, and talk about himself instead of the Boy Scouts. Are you who are his supporters really okay with this kind of behavior in front of our youth? Would you be happy to have your children in the audiences and hearing this speech? I'm serious when I ask those questions.
"Who the hell...."

************
Tonight we put aside all of the policy fights in Washington, D.C. you've been hearing about with the fake news and all of that. We're going to put that...

We're going to put that aside. And instead we're going to talk about success, about how all of you amazing young Scouts can achieve your dreams, what to think of, what I've been thinking about. You want to achieve your dreams, I said, who the hell wants to speak about politics when I'm in front of the Boy Scouts? Right?

You know, I go to Washington and I see all these politicians, and I see the swamp, and it's not a good place. In fact, today, I said we ought to change it from the word "swamp" to the word "cesspool" or perhaps to the word "sewer."

Secretary Tom Price is also here today. Dr. Price still lives the Scout oath, helping to keep millions of Americans strong and healthy as our secretary of Health and Human Services. And he's doing a great job. And hopefully he's going to gets the votes tomorrow to start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare that's really hurting us.

The fake media will say, "President Trump spoke" -- you know what is -- "President Trump spoke before a small crowd of Boy Scouts today." That's some -- that is some crowd. Fake media. Fake news.

By the way, just a question, did President Obama ever come to a Jamboree?

Do you remember that famous night on television, November 8th where they said, these dishonest people, where they said, there is no path to victory for Donald Trump.

But you remember that incredible night with the maps, and the Republicans are red and the Democrats are blue, and that map was so red it was unbelievable. And they didn't know what to say.

And you know, we have a tremendous disadvantage in the Electoral College. Popular vote is much easier. We have -- because New York, California, Illinois, you have to practically run the East Coast. And we did. We won Florida. We won South Carolina. We won North Carolina. We won Pennsylvania. 


The above does not include comments about what goes on below decks on yachts or cocktail parties.

Shameful.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Loving Story: Myra and Howard

Yesterday, whilst Facebooking, I was alerted to a wonderful, yet bittersweet, story. Two of my school friends (Myra and I went from first grade through high school together) from the West High School class of 1969 were featured in The Columbus Dispatch (my hometown paper).

The article tells the story of Howard Foster and Myra Clark and how racism drove them apart 45 years ago. It's a wrenching story -- but ultimately one of the power of love. It's a tale of how, as Quaker William Penn said, "Force subdues, but love gains."

Their pictures in the 1969 edition of the West High School Occident yearbook show two young
people with most of their lives ahead of them. As the article notes, parts of our time at West were rocked at times by racial violence and demonstrations. On February 24, 1969, 74 West High students were arrested for refusing to end a sit-in. They were protesting the administration's refusal to allow a public address announcement of the fourth anniversary of Malcom X's assassination.

The sit-in was in the gym. Hardly disrupting anything. But the administration called the police and had students arrested. Which sparked even more racial tension than we'd experienced before.

I thought that move was stupid then. I think it was even dumber today. And it was just sad. It is still sad.

Little did Myra and Howard probably know that this was a harbinger of their future.

What is also sad is the racism Howard faced following high school. Those experiences were the reason he broke up with Myra -- “Society wasn’t going to let us be together and she be happy. ... She’d get tired of the stares; I just thought it was unfair to her,” Howard says in the article. “Her happiness was the most important thing.”

What's most sad -- and frustrating -- about this is that in many ways the issues faced by Howard are still with us today. While some things are better, we who live in the United States have a long way to go healing our racial divide. And when I say "we" I mean the white majority. White like me. 

I've been thinking a lot about that after reading Howard and Myra's story. And how we can't ask those who are oppressed to solve the issue for us. Then, ironically, I opened my email this morning and found this poem as today's "Poem-A Day":


Hope by Ali Liebegott

always the hopeless asked to give others hope
the ones pushed up against wall after wall

when you’re done unpinning yourself
from the wall, please give hope

those who work twice as hard to seem half as good
being asked to do one more thing

we need to be seen
because things are not going well
and the crows are up to no good

About writing this poem, Liebegott says "I often think of the expression, ‘You have to work twice as hard to be viewed half as good,’ used for women and people of color. Marginalized people are often asked to be the patient educators to non-marginalized people. I think this poem wrestles with the intrinsic unfairness of that."

Yet, Howard and Myra, despite the "intrinsic unfairness of that," continue to be "patient educators" to us all. They remind me to be ever vigilant and active in working against the entrenched racism in contemporary American society. They do give hope.

Earlier in this piece, I quoted William Penn. As I read Myra and Howard's story, I was reminded by another Penn quote: "Never marry but for love; but see that thou lovest what is lovely." Myra and Howard saw what is lovely in each other in high school -- and today. May we see what they saw -- and may it call us to work for a world where love rules and "gains."

Thank you, Howard and Myra.





Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Feral: A Book Recommendation

As I write this, I'm looking out my office window here at Ploughshares Farm. In 2003, most of our fifty acres was pasture or crop land. Today it is primarily tall grass prairie and native Hoosier hardwoods. With help from various foresters and conservation folks, we have -- what I just learned thanks to this week's QuakerBooks & More selection -- "rewilded" this "tamed" piece of Indiana.

Now I grew up a city boy so the idea of doing all this was, in Quaker parlance, "not a thought that would have occurred to me." Until, that is, until Nancy and I began building our home here. We began walking the land and both realized that we were called to steward it in the best sense of that word. And the best way to live up to that spiritual call was to restore -- or rewild -- it. Today we are blessed by an abundance of bunnies, butterflies, bald eagles, deer, wild turkey, and more. Hopefully the Earth is a bit better for all this work, too. I know my soul is.

So please take a look Feral (and other Earth stewardship books) at QuakerBooks & More. It will feed your spirit.
Ploughshares Sunset

Thursday, May 25, 2017

In Praise of "Loafing" -- and Retirement

As I read this morning's featured poem on "The Writer's Almanac," it seemed a good way to announce my upcoming retirement and time for more"loafing."

Loafing
by Raymond Carver

Listen Online


I looked into the room a moment ago,
and this is what I saw —
my chair in its place by the window,
the book turned facedown on the table.
And on the sill, the cigarette
left burning in its ashtray.
Malingerer! my uncle yelled at me
so long ago. He was right.
I’ve set aside time today,
same as every day,
for doing nothing at all.

"Loafing" by Raymond Carver from All of Us. © Knopf, 1998.  (buy now)

Despite my dad's joking that I wasn't afraid of hard work -- "Brent can watch me do it all day" -- since I began working at Sears in June 1970, I've been pretty much working full time ever since. That will end on October 31 when I retire from my present position at Friends General Conference.

I have been blessed, for the most part, with worthy work, including my current position at FGC; years at United Ways in Henry, Franklin, Jennings, and Scott counties; at the Indianapolis Center for Congregations; pastoring at Jericho Friends, Friends Memorial, and 1st United Methodist in Hillsboro, Ohio; teaching at Earlham School of Religion; being on Central Ohio Young Life staff, and much more (a truly itinerant -- or easily bored, perhaps -- minister).

But over the past year it's become clear to me that it's now time to step away from full-time employment. Time to putz around the farm, spend time with my family and friends, pray with my camera, write a bit more, read a lot more, and to "set aside time today,/ same as every day,/ for doing nothing at all." And to explore what God has in store for this next chapter in my life -- maybe leading writing, photography, or other spiritual retreats here at the farm. Or maybe "doing nothing at all." Whichever, whatever -- received in gratitude.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Humble Stumble: Hymns for Imperfect Saints: "Me And God"

I have stumbled a bit on my "hymnal" project in conjunction with my "Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker" book. This suggestion comes from Lauren Miller. She suggested "Me and God" by the Avett Brothers.  It's a perfect addition to this "hymnal."

These are not "hymns" in the traditional sense. Rather they're songs that have spoken to my soul in a spiritual sense -- even if they are not "spiritual songs" per se. Though my bias is that that our hearts hunger for beauty and meaning and when artists create something that sings deep in our souls, well, they've created a "hymn," even if it was unintentional.

You can listen to the who list on Spotify -- "Humble Stumble: Hymns for Imperfect Saints."

Suggestions of songs that have spoken deeply to you are welcome!

I'll also post lyrics and video (when available) here.

"Me And God"

Well I know a preacher he's a real good man
He speaks from The Good Book and his hand
And helps all people when he can
But me and God don't need a middle man

Well I found God in a soft woman's hair
A long days work and a good sittin' chair
The ups and downs of the treble clef lines
And five miles ago on an interstate sign
My God, my God and I don't need a middle man
My God, my God and I don't need a middle man

Now I don't doubt that The Good Book is true
What's right for me may not be right for you
To church on Sunday I'll stand beside
All the hurtin' people with the fear in their eyes
And I thank the Lord for the country land
Just like Paul I thank him for my hands
And I don't know if my soul is safe
Sometimes I use curse words when I pray


My God, my God and I don't need a middle man
My God, my God and I don't need a middle man
My God, my God and I don't need a middle man
My God, my God and I don't need a middle man

Writer(s): Robert William Crawford, Scott Yancey Avett, Timothy Seth Avett 



The Avett Brother's website is http://www.theavettbrothers.com/