Romney, Again?

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts,...
Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, 2008 US presidential candidate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good grief.

The 2012 presidential election was over six months ago and Republicans (and others)  are STILL talking about why they lost. The media are still doing stories on it. Whatever for?

Maybe I am suffering from a lapse of memory, but I don’t ever remember this kind of “after-the-election” coverage. Yes, when the United Supreme Court voted that George W. Bush had won, the conversation was pretty much over. Oh, it lasted a while, but not six months afterward.

When Clinton won, I don’t remember the expansive coverage on why the Republicans lost. What in the world is different this time?

Is it because the Republicans are in shock because they lost to the man whom they had determined would be a “one term president?” Is it because they cannot believe that the non-white, male vote wasn’t enough to vote them in?  What am I missing? Why are we STILL talking about this?

There are issues to be dealt with. There’s the vast amount of destruction that has happened because of Hurricane Sandy, the tornadoes  that wreaked havoc in Moore, Oklahoma and afterward. These natural disasters have not only caused great damage that will require lots of taxpayer dollars to bring relief, but there is they have also struck the hearts and spirits of those who were affected. There will be lots of emotional trauma because of these disasters, and this country, much as it may not want to, will have to address the subject of mental illness and what this country needs to do about it.

There is the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East. Benghazi has come and gone,and there is still much discussion about what happened there and why, but the overall turmoil in the Middle East is not getting better; it’s getting worse. As we sit in the midst of a sequester which is affecting all areas of the national budget, including the defense budget, it seems that someone ought to be dealing with what implications the sequester is having in all areas of our lives.

There is health care. Yes, we have the Affordable Care Act, and lots more people who didn’t have access to health care will now have it, but the poorest of the poor will still be unable to get it, if the reports are true. That being the case, even though the Affordable Care Act has passed, will our health care costs still soar because too many people will still be forced to get care in emergency rooms?

There is the horrible situation caused by excessive student loan debt. While everyone is talking about the national debt, very little real attention is being given to the plight college students, past, present and to come, are facing with their paralyzing debt. Our Congress isn’t really talking about it; the media isn’t really covering it. And yet, this staggering debt threatens the livelihood of young people who have bought into the idea that a good education means a good life. Not necessarily.

We’ve not yet really settled the issue of gun control. The memory of what happened in Connecticut and Arizona and other places is still fresh; in spite of heart-felt pleas by family members of victims, Congress is still at an impasse. So, we wait for the next gun-caused catastrophe and begin the clamor all over again?

There are the ongoing problems of sexism and sexual assault on women that has gone on in our own military. There are the issues of gun control and immigration reform.  The phone records of Americans have been compromised in the name of …what?

In other words, there are just lots of things that are current issues that we as a nation need to be focusing on, not an election which came and passed in November. The incumbent won. It’s over.

So, why are we still trying to “figure it out?” Why are we still seeing interviews of Mitt Romney? Why is it still an issue that he lost?  It’s a waste of time…

A candid observation

Big Government or Not?

Washington DC: United States Supreme Court
Washington DC: United States Supreme Court (Photo credit: wallyg)

 

It’s confusing sometimes, understanding when government is supposed to step in and when it isn’t.

 

Conservatives argue against “big government,”  but they also vouch for the right of the federal government to step in on some very personal issues. In the current discussion going on about same-sex marriage, the mantra of many Conservatives is that “we don’t need government to step in and redefine marriage.”

 

Yet, they want government to step in and “define” marriage in a way that fits into their ideology. Right?

 

Did the United States Supreme Court overstep its authority when it ruled that women have a constitutional right to have abortions? Are abortions, who has them and who does not, within the purview of the duties and decisions of the governments, via the nation’s highest court? (http://www.denverpost.com/nationworld/ci_22857283/supreme-court-same-sex-marriage-case-has-echoes)

 

Many people think the SCOTUS did  overstep its authority in the Roe Vs. Wade case, but they are pulling for the high court to settle the current disagreement on same-sex marriage. I am totally confused. When is “big government” all right? Does a court ever have the right to decide what is “right” in such personal issues?

 

It seems like we are straddling a rail. We want government, big government, but only on the things where there is an ideological dispute, right? We want big government when there is a tragedy, or a natural disaster. We don’t want big government when it is too concerned with helping the poor, spending money on people whose lives seem to many out of control. Big government should stay out of those kinds of things. Of course, had it not been for “big government,” many people would have been swallowed in the nation’s most recent economic debacle. but many people are still very critical of the government’s attempt to help people who were drowning.

 

So, “big government” is out of line when it comes to dealing with issues of poverty and economic despair, right?

 

But big government needs to come in and set the records straight when it comes to personal situations involving sexuality and abortion, right? In those cases, the government gives into a responsibility to make moral decisions for the citizens of the United States. Right?

 

The bottom line is that there is no consistency on when big government is necessary and needed and expected. When Hurricane Sandy came, people were expecting government to step in and help those who had been so severely impacted. Had “big government” not done that, it would have been criticized soundly.

 

And now, big government is being called upon to decide who gets to get married and who does not…but this is a moral question, right? Is government really allowed to tell people what they can or cannot do as individuals? Is that the purview of government?

 

The thought of the government having the power to decide who can get married, and thereby be entitled to the legal benefits of marriage, is as distasteful as the idea of the government having the authority to tell women how many children they can have, and whether or not they can get an abortion. I don’t believe that abortion is good, but it doesn’t seem that government has the right to tell a woman if she can or cannot get one. Isn’t that kind of subversive?

 

It seems like there ought to be a new constitutional convention or something, to define big government and to clarify what the federal government can and cannot do, and what it must and must not do.

 

At the very least, though, it seems that those who rail against “big government” ought to tailor their criticisms. The argument against “big government” ought to explain that folks are only against big government when it comes to allocating money, especially for the poor and downtrodden, the oppressed and pretty much forgotten citizens of this country. When it comes to defining morality, though, and what personal decisions Americans are allowed to make, big government needs to step in and do…what a good government does.

 

Do I have it right?

 

A candid observation …

 

 

 

Sweating Joy in Spite of Suffering

Photograph of the building used by 16th Street...
Photograph of the building used by 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama from 1884 to 1908. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I heard today that some people who were affected by Hurricane Sandy are still without power, without electricity, without heat.

I heard that as I shivered in my car which was warming up. It was 11 degrees outside in Columbus, Ohio, and at least that cold in the Rockaway section of Queens. Some businesses in lower Manhattan are still without heat and power as well; some businesses are boarded up.  A museum which housed American history artifacts is struggling to survive. A wine store in Lower Manhattan lost many of their precious wines.

I feel for the businesses; their not operating means that some families’ income is suffering. Many businesses are still closed.  But is the families without heat and power that I an stuck on, that I can’t stop thinking about. One family was reported to be sleeping on the floor in the kitchen of their damaged home, and living in that kitchen all day long,  because that was the only room in the house where they could get some heat – from the stove. Those crammed in the kitchen included a woman, her children and grandchildren, and three dogs. (http://www.npr.org/2013/01/24/170198110/thousands-still-cold-and-struggling-months-after-superstorm-sandy)

But it’s winter. How will the people survive?

We don’t think much about the victims of horrendous storms or events once the cameras go away.  Bad events tend to be like the labor endured during childbirth; we see the pain portrayed on television and then, like the release of even the memory of labor after a baby is born, we forget. Some might say that we needn’t worry because federal dollars are either there or are coming; the people will be all right.

Maybe. But there’s a good chance many people who are suffering will not be all right, not any time soon. Chances are some of them are angry at the government for not doing more for them, quicker. Some are probably struggling with anger towards God. wondering why God let this bad thing happen to them, good people. Some are probably wondering why, in general, help is so slow in coming. Some probably feel like they are being ignored.

Sarah Collins Rudolph, the sister of Addie Collins, one of the four little girls killed in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, is suffering, and feels ignored.  She survived the bombing incident which killed her sister, but was left scarred, emotionally as well as physically. Even though her life as she knew it was blown to bits that fateful day, she had to go on…but she suffers, still. (http://www.npr.org/2013/01/25/170279226/long-forgotten-16th-street-baptist-church-bombing-survivor-speaks-out) To feel ignored is to suffer…

The families of those who were killed in the Aurora, Colorado theater shootings are still suffering, as are the families of the young people who have been gunned down on the streets of big cities all over this nation. But if we are not near suffering, or have not been touched by it, we tend to minimize its impact, power and resistance to be pushed away. In fact, we forget about it, or worse, refuse to believe it is as deep as it really is.

But back to the families on the East Coast who are enduring this frigid cold spell without heat, I wonder what we who have heat can and should be doing. Something, surely. Do we need to be sending tons of blankets and, what, hats, gloves, coats…? What? The report on National Public Radio (NPR) said that some who are without electricity are waiting for a permit of some kind to restore or repair the electric systems in their houses. ( http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=170267851&m=170267838) We can’t do anything about the permit, but isn’t there something we  can do?

The suffering has so many tentacles. Many homes on the East Coast that are still standing are being devoured by mold. Some houses had standing water for weeks, some for months…and mold started growing like mad, eating the insides of the already damaged homes. Many of their homes will have to be destroyed. Then what?

I have heard and have been taught that when one is suffering the best way to feel better is to serve others. I would bet that some reading this are suffering for one reason or another; suffering is a part of living. The suffering we all go through is bad sometimes, but it can be a catalyst for us to feel better. Some who have endured horrible loss on the East Coast are busy helping to minimize the suffering of others. That is moving.

It is also inspiring. It made me think about ways to serve. There are so many people who need help, who need to benefit from the gifts and blessings that we all have. Perhaps in one’s dark night of the soul, a way to feel better, to see some light, it so help someone else. If we ask what is needed by those suffering, an answer will come.

I thought about President Kennedy‘s famous words this week as I listened to President Obama’s inaugural address. President Obama was stressing the need for us as human beings to make the right and gift of freedom accessible to all. Prior to the festivities of the inauguration, the Obama White House sponsored and pushed a National Day of Service. We, as citizens with certain freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution, were urged to help someone else.  President Kennedy gave a formula for us all to use, in suffering and out of suffering  which gave the same message: serve, when he said,  “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”  If we ask what we can do for those worse off than we are, we will get an answer.

In his sermon at the National Cathedral Prayer Service this week, the Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of  the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, talked about the vision his congregation has to focus and guide their service. They wanted to deal with the root causes of poverty, and decided to concentrate on early childhood education.  They got involved and studied what was going on in those schools. They saw what the children needed. They got involved, as a congregation, donating books, clothing, meals(bagged meals)  for children who seemingly had no food at home.

With our country as polarized as it is, it’s a sure thing and more and more people are feeling marginalized and left out. There are people all over the place who need helping hands and helping hearts. We who have more …just need to give more. If we extend ourselves, our own suffering will recede and will be replaced by deep joy.  It’s a big surprise, what happens when we serve and give. It is as surprising as I was surprised when I began training for a marathon and found out that when one works one’s body, even in the frigid cold, one’s body will react …and will sweat in spite of the temperature.

We can sweat joy even when we are surrounded by our own pain and suffering.

A candid observation …

 

Muttering in Times of Pain

For the past week, I have not been able to get the families of the victims of the shooting in Newtown at Sandy Hook Elementary School off my mind.

I have always said that Christmas, for the hype about the season being the “most wonderful time of the year,” is actually very depressing for a large number of people. Christmas for them represents, or makes more obvious, what is wrong or lacking in their lives. For too many, there is no family, no home, no “manger,” so to speak, for them to lay their heads or their hearts.

That is true in general, but for the families of the victims of the Newtown shootings, and for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, it is even more true. At a time where many are celebrating by giving gifts and eating way too much food, I would bet that many of the people in Newtown are forcing themselves to eat even a little, and for victims of Hurricane Sandy, left homeless by Sandy, I would assume that they don’t feel much like eating and laughing, either.

Dr. Martin Luther King talked about “redemptive suffering,” i.e., that there is value in suffering. If it does not kill us, it makes us stronger, and so if we endure the suffering, the assumption is that we come out of it better, changed, but better. That is true for the most part.

But it is not the afterward that I am thinking of. All of us have “new normals” based on painful experiences in our lives. It is the in the midst of the suffering that is the problem, the issue. There is no “quick fix.” One cannot take an Advil (or four), four times a day to ease the pain. The pain of suffering is ruthless and persistent, and it sometimes taunts the sufferer. There are lapses of the pain, when the sufferer thinks that the interminable pain is gone. But it comes back. Pain is peristaltic in nature; it ebbs and flows.  There is an arrogance about it because it knows that it will leave when it feels like it.  It is a spirit-virus, and it must run its course.

There is no remedy. We try to find one, like alcohol or drugs, or any number of other things, but those are just crutches, and not helpful crutches at that. Billie Holliday said it best in a song, “Good Morning, Heartache.”

That is what I keep thinking about as concerns those families in Newtown, and in the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.  Heartache is greeting them as they awaken this morning, rubbing salt in their already excruciatingly painful wounds. There are probably Christmas presents for the little children killed last week that were purchased weeks ago in anticipation of happy squeals this morning, but those presents will not be opened…and in the case of the victims of the hurricane, I wonder where in the world they are even waking up this morning?

Those families are in the “moment by moment” phase of suffering; I would imagine that even breathing hurts for some of them. I know that pain. I have been there.

The families in Newtown and the hurricane victims are fresh reminders of horrible pain, but throughout 2012, many have suffered horrible losses, and this Christmas is bitter…not even bittersweet yet. I think of the parents of young Trayvon Martin…and so many other families of young children who died this year due to violence.

I am praying for those families. The one thing that I have learned to do in the midst of suffering is to mutter. I mutter scriptures that remind me of the presence of God, a God who allows evil but who does not wish for us to crumble under the pain that evil causes. I mutter. Consistently. Constantly. Words that help me not to think about the pain in my gut that is eating my spirit alive. Everyone has his or her own words that they have read or found comfort in in times past.  Powerful words become the antidote for pain. They help our spirits get the strength to push the pain from the depths of our souls out of our beings.

I doubt the parents and families of the victims of Newtown and the victims of the hurricane have the strength right now to utter anything. Right now, they are in the phase of suffering where even breathing hurts.

So, I will mutter for them today. It is my gift for them, to them. Today I will intercede for them and mutter the words that have helped me in times of excruciating spiritual and emotional pain.

Hopefully, the words sent up will allow these newly suffering people a manger on which to lay their weary and hurting heads.

Nobody gets through suffering alone. The crowds in Newtown have thinned out. The television cameras are gone. There is a loud quiet that is sitting on that little city. There is no commotion to serve as a distraction for their pain. So, I will mutter for them, because their suffering is just beginning. All of us need someone to hold us up when we want to simply stop living…

A candid observation…

 

When The Earth Falls From Beneath Your Feet

When I was a child, I remember my mother encouraging me to get on a certain ride when we visited an amusement park. I don’t remember the name of the ride, but I remember what it looked it; people would stand in these little slots and hold onto bars on either side of them, at shoulder length. There was no strap that went across them, just these bars. The ride would begin, and, going in a circle, would go faster and faster until the floor would fall from beneath their feet.

I was horrified.  There was this …thing…going around and around at such a high rate of speed, and there was no floor for the riders to stand on! My mother explained that there was nothing to worry about; something called centrifugal force was keeping the people safe. They wouldn’t fall. “The force” had them.

I never did get on that ride, and still shudder when I see it…but it made me think about the forces which are in place in our lives which keep us from falling even when the earth falls from beneath our feet.

I have been watching the people who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. I ached, literally, as I listened to a woman who lives in Staten Island talk last night on CNN about how her life had been changed in the course of an hour. “I want to go home,” she cried, “but I can’t! There is no home. I don’t have a home!”

The earth…has fallen from beneath her feet and from beneath the feet of so many others, but there is a force which will keep her and others upright, in spite of their huge loss.

I read something by Richard Rohr that explained what it is to experience “the holy.” He talked about the “communion of saints,” and said that we are always in the company of others who have gone before us. Their spirits never leave us; our DNA came from them. They have a presence with us that keeps us. It’s the same spirit that helped keep them as they went through their “floorless” moments.

It would probably be really good if some of the survivors of Hurricane Katrina could meet with, sit and touch, the survivors of Hurricane Sandy. They are truly the only ones who know how THIS particular experience feels. They have been there. The floor fell from beneath their feet…and they were held up by a spiritual centrifugal force. They didn’t stand on their own; they were too devastated and too crushed to do that. They held onto survival bars, though, and a force kept them on their feet, though their worlds were spinning and had spun out of control.

In moments of despair and great pain, all of us need something greater than us to hold us up. It’s the same “force” that kept the Jews up during the Holocaust, the same “force” that kept African-Americans up during slavery and afterward, when angry whites undid all of the gains made during Reconstruction. It’s the same force that keeps the Haitian people up, in spite of abject poverty and ruination…with really no visible light at the end of their tunnel.

I call this force “God,” but I realize that might not be what everyone calls it. Regardless of what you call it, however, there is a spiritual centrifugal force that keeps you upright …even when the earth falls from beneath your feet.

If I might go back to that ride that my mother unsuccessfully tried to get me to try: the stupid thing finally stopped spinning so fast, and as the speed of the spin slowed, the floor came back into place.  The people were safe. All they had to do was hold on and be still while the ride spun faster and faster. I suspect that because of the power of the centrifugal force, they probably didn’t even need the bars, but they helped make the riders feel secure.

Hold on, good people, to those bars. Your world is spinning out of control. The destruction around you is mammoth and scary…the earth has fallen from beneath your feet…but there is a force that will keep you up and make you able to accept and walk in your new normal.

A candid observation.

®Candid Observation, 2012