For you cannot serve two masters …
Oct 9th, 2012 by Sonja

This post is part of the October Synchroblog – Faith and Politics: No matter what you believe or don’t believe, “faith in the public square” is something you probably have an opinion about.

Yeah, I have an opinion (because we all know I have an opinion on just about everything). My opinion is that only the very adept can mix faith and politics without some measure of toxicity entering the atmosphere.

I believe that it is a matter of course that a person of faith should take their beliefs into the voting booth.  We all measure candidates using different gauges and people of faith will and should use their beliefs as some part of that.  As a liberal, I believe that helping people should take precedence over enforcing rules and I likely differ with many of my conservative brethren and sistren about how one helps another in need.

However.

I also believe that faith should stay out of politics.  There is something funny that happens when you get a good idea and are able to convince others to join your cause.  It feels really good to have a bunch of people telling you what a great idea you have.  It’s even better when they all work together to implement your idea … wow!!  Check it out … a bunch of people believe the same way you do and they want to help your idea out.  It’s awesome.

But then (in many cases) something weird happens.  That good idea begins to take on a life of it’s own.  It gains traction and grows bigger, until it owns the person.  And what was once a good idea begins to morph into something that is the opposite.  Until something like this happens:

If one could contrive a nation that whole-heartedly followed Jesus, I think that might be a good thing in the world.  Not gonna lie, in a colloquialism of today.  However, I’m not certain that is something that can be legislated.  Rulers of past nations/empires have tried this and ended up killing many of their countrymen in a quest for absolute …. ahhh … power.

I was deeply troubled by the caption my friend gave this link.  It would seem that in the desire for a good thing, many of my brothers and sisters have opted to go the way of power.  And according to my understanding of the faith, Jesus eschewed power and declared that we who follow him ought to as well.

Here is the list of some other writers who shared their thoughts on this subject:

We The People by Wendy McCaig

Pulpit Freedom, Public Faith by Carol Kuniholm

Plumbers and Politicians by Glenn Hager

Conflating Faith and Politics by Maurice Broaddus

Would Jesus Vote by Jeremy Myers

A Kingdom Not Of This World by Jareth Caelum

I am a Christian and I am a Democrat by Liz Dyer

5 ways to make it through the election and still keep your friends by Kathy Escobar

Why There’s No Such Thing As The Christian Vote by Marta Layton

God’s Politics? by Andrew Carmichael

Faith and the Public Square by Leah Sophia

Food Stamps, Welfare and Medicaid … Oh, My
Aug 17th, 2011 by Sonja

Put me in charge . . ..
Put me in charge of food stamps. I’d get rid of Lone Star cards; no cash for Ding Dongs or Ho Ho’s, just money for 50-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese and all the powdered milk you can haul away. If you want steak and frozen pizza, then get a job.

Put me in charge of Medicaid. The first thing I’d do is to get women Norplant birth control implants or tubal ligations. Then, we’ll test recipients for drugs, alcohol, and nicotine and document all tattoos and piercings. If you want to reproduce or use drugs, alcohol, smoke or get tats and piercings, then get a job.

Put me in charge of government housing. Ever live in a military barracks? You will maintain our property in a clean and good state of repair. Your “home” will be subject to inspections anytime and possessions will be inventoried. If you want a plasma TV or Xbox 360, then get a job and your own place.

In addition, you will either present a check stub from a job each week or you will report to a “government” job. It may be cleaning the roadways of trash, painting and repairing public housing, whatever we find for you. We will sell your 22 inch rims and low profile tires and your blasting stereo and speakers and put that money toward the “common good.”

Before you write that I’ve violated someone’s rights, realize that all of the above is voluntary. If you want our money, accept our rules. Before you say that this would be “demeaning” and ruin their “self esteem,” consider that it wasn’t that long ago that taking someone else’s money for doing absolutely nothing was demeaning and lowered self esteem.

If we are expected to pay for other people’s mistakes we should at least attempt to make them learn from their bad choices. The current system rewards them for continuing to make bad choices.

AND While you are on Gov’t subsistence, you no longer can VOTE! Yes that is correct. For you to vote would be a conflict of interest. You will voluntarily remove yourself from voting while you are receiving a Gov’t welfare check. If you want to vote, then get a job.

Now, if you have the guts – PASS IT ON…

According to an e-mail LightHusband received the above was a letter to the editor in the Waco Herald Tribune in November 2010. It’s rather blunt point is something I bet we’ve all heard and perhaps felt at one time or another in reference to what many see as the profligate waste associated with aid programs for the impoverished in our country. We all think those programs would be really easy to run. So for kicks and giggles I thought I’d respond to this letter myself. Just for fun. Here’s what I would say to this person … paragraph by paragraph. And for arguments sake, I’m going to assume that the author was a man, the writing seems very masculine to me. So I’m going to respond to a man.

Food Stamps – You’re correct, sir. Food assistance should not be allowed to purchase Ding Dongs or Ho Hos or other known unhealthy foods (such as Captain Crunch or other sugary cereal). But I also happen to think that it would be wise to include some healthy fruits and vegetables in your list of approved items for people to purchase. I have never understood why it was acceptable for the WIC (Women with Infants and Children) to have a limited number of items for purchase with their funds, but Food Stamps was a free for all. WIC money is too limited, but Food Stamps are too open. There needs to be a healthy and wise middle ground in which people learn about a healthy diet … and I’m sorry but rice, beans, cheese and milk ain’t it. Steak and frozen pizza probably isn’t it either.

There are a lot of ways to feed a family a healthy diet on a tight budget. This is going to mean educating moms and dads because they did not learn this from their parents. Education costs money, so in the short run this would make the food stamp program more expensive. In the long run (over a period of years) it would become less expensive. But we would have to be prepared to invest our time, effort and money in it to eventually wean people off of it.

Medicaid – Forced birth control, tubal ligations, drug testing etc. I think I understand the reasoning and emotion behind this. However, when the large majority of people receiving Medicaid are people with dark skin it smacks of racism and there is no getting around that. If you are poor, you cannot have children. If you are poor, your options are limited. We have an amendment in the Constitution which addresses this issue – Amendment 14; Article 1 states “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. While individual (private) companies can require drug testing for the right to employment and the federal government can require it for security purposes and has done so through the due process of law, there is no reason to require drug testing as a prerequisite for the receipt of public funds. I know that two states are currently attempting to make this law and they are on shaky Constitutional ground. In addition … there are huge costs involved with drug testing. How is this going to be paid for?

Government Housing – I completely understand the desire to tell folks who live in public housing to clean up their act. It is disgraceful the way our country has treated those housing projects. We’ve left them to rot. But have you ever gone to Home Depot and noted the cost of purchasing a basic home repair kit? When you have nothing, it’s pretty expensive. Then you have to learn how to use it. Now I do love LightHusband, but I am here to tell you that of his many talents, home repair is not one of them.  He has 10 thumbs. We hire that out or we do things with friends. But what do you do when you live in an apartment building and you rent? It is common knowledge that a renter relies on the owner or the superintendent of the facility to keep the place in good repair. It is the owner’s responsibility to keep a place looking ship shape and tidy, not the renter’s. Your plan puts the onus in the wrong place. If we want our government housing projects to look like someone cares for them, then perhaps “we, the people” as owners of those public housing projects ought to start caring for them. Perhaps we need to get down off our high horse and take care of our neighbors. Maybe we could teach them some skills and give them some of our excess tools in the process.

As for the plasma televisions and gaming devices, first of all there is no way to inspect for those. Secondly, what do you do if someone receives those sorts of luxury items as a gift? Take it away? That is ludicrous to begin to monitor gifts and decide which are worthy and which are not. We will become a police state if we do that.

Job Corps – Here is something I can give marginal support to. With one large question. How sir, do you propose to care for the minor children that moms may have in their care? I can see a number of solutions to this problem, but you do not seem to have accounted for children or their wellbeing in your scheme. I wonder how you will do that? My other large problem is that what you have outlined looks more like a chain gang than a public works program. While I agree with the notion that having people work in some manner for the public assistance they receive, I also believe that the work they do should train them in some way for eventually getting off public assistance. It should be a road that leads them in a positive direction, rather than a dead end alley of endless work for endless public assistance. This just feeds the cycle that we desire to break.

Voting – Once again, I would like to refer you to the Constitution and Amendment 24 in which it states “1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.” This means that no one can ask or require that voting rights or privileges be restricted for any reason, whether “voluntary” or otherwise.

Last, I’m going to call you out, sir. You are being disingenuous when you make the claim that when you are in charge all of your changes are “voluntary.” That people have the choice to knuckle under to your demands or they can reject public assistance. In other words, it’s your way or the highway (in popular vernacular). When the alternative is starvation, homelessness and perhaps death, especially for one’s children, there’s not really much of a choice, now, is there? And I’d like to ask you, if you were that person, or those people, just how free would you think this country is?

Part 2

Part 3

Sticks and Stones …
Jan 10th, 2011 by Sonja

Remember that childhood nursery rhyme?  We used it to ward off name-calling and taunts; as an umbrella of protection when words rained down pain upon our little heads:

Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words will never hurt me.

Then we all grew up and we learned how much power there is in words.  We learned that words, when they are repeated over and over again, can become a person’s reality and perception.  We understand now that name-calling and taunts create a poisonous environment for children and workers.  We even have a name for this … we call it bullying and it has garnered a negative reputation nationwide.  Behaviour that makes some people uncomfortable by putting them down, threatening them with harm, making pejorative statements about their ethnicity, gender or any other physical characteristic OR their belief system is generally considered off limits.  This is considered negative behaviour and in many cases is shunned or disallowed.  Why?  Because “nice” people don’t do that, sweetie.  People who are educated, with manners; people who want to be known by their self-control (as ladies or as gentlemen) don’t do those kinds of things to others.

Yet there is one large crevice where we still allow this sort of bad behaviour.  Nay … there are some portions of our culture who even encourage it.  That would be our political culture.  Our political culture (and one party in particular) takes pleasure in name calling, insults based on race, gender and physical characteristics and creating a poisonous environment for others.

What happened in Tucson was tragic.  But it was only a matter of time.  And frankly, I am surprised it did not happen sooner than this.  I expected this sort of thing to happen on the campaign trail last October.  Yes, that young man is mentally deranged and that is very sad.  But mentally deranged people listen to rhetoric just like the rest of us.  The only difference is … many people with these mental health issues cannot separate rhetoric from reality.

That is why putting out websites with crosshairs on Democrats and encouraging your followers to carry weapons to rallies (even though they may -or may not- be unloaded) is dangerous.  While people have every right to do those things, those are not necessarily the most responsible or the most gracious things to do. Encouraging your followers to stop and accost motorists with bumper stickers of your opposition on their car with antagonistic, insulting, and pejorative questions is not responsible leadership.  It makes for great drama and excellent ratings, but it creates an atmosphere of poison and hate.  This is the sort of atmosphere which will bring the mentally challenged people out with their guns (in this case a Glock 9mm … because I’m certain that’s an excellent hunting weapon) to hunt people.

And in this poisonous atmosphere that we have created, please don’t anyone act surprised.  Because now we have lowered ourselves to the level of many developing nations where they shoot politicians when they don’t like them.

These words were spoken by Clinton in 2010 as he reflected on the Oklahoma City bombing:
“The words we use really do matter. There’s this vast echo chamber, and they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious alike.”
h/t Liz Dyer

What You Thought Was Freedom Is Just Greed
Jul 5th, 2010 by Sonja

Every year I wrestle with Independence Day.  I don’t know why I can’t just enjoy it … the sights, sounds, camaraderie, bon hommie, brownies and, of course, fireworks.  No.  I must wrestle with ideas.  What is this day that we celebrate each year.  Are we free?  What does that mean?  How does our freedom here effect and affect others around the world?  What have we done and what are we doing?

Of course, there is a song out there that expresses my ennui.  But I’d forgotten it.  Then I heard it anew this morning.

Gone by U2, from their Pop album

Listen to that.  Or, just read the lyrics here

Gotta feel so guilty
Got so much for so little …

The opening lines.  And I look around at my own life; at how much I have for how little I’ve done.  The good fortune I’ve had to be born into empire unaware.  And I wonder at what the course we’ve taken here in this country.  This nation become empire.

So what is freedom?  What is this idea that we celebrate each Independence Day with such nationalistic fervor and patriotic delight?

According to princeton.edu it is “… the condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints” However, can any of us ever be truly free?  Well, yes.  If the definition as posed here is used.  If we are to use “externally imposed restraints” as our measure.  It has been said that my freedom ends at your nose.  This implies that I am free to act as I will as long as it does not impinge upon your freedom.  Then we have a problem.  So if restraints are to be applied, they must be internal.  That is, I must apply them.

What if I do not?  What if I choose to bumble on my merry way getting my stuff because I am free … what I thought was freedom is just greed.  What happens to the people around me when I do not apply internal restraints?  Or if there is no one big enough to apply external restraints?  Or there is too much greed to go around?

In the Shadow of Woodstock
Jan 26th, 2010 by Sonja

redmond rain

Photo by Derek Redmond and Paul Campbell, licensed under GNU Free Documentation License

The above photo is very familiar to me.  Though it may not be to you.  I was 8 during the summer of 1969 and becoming more aware of the world around me.  I lived in Vermont.  I had friends who were old enough to know alot about Woodstock and if they didn’t go, they had posters of the event in their bedrooms.  I have cousins who may or may not have gone, but certainly lived close enough to have considered the journey.  It was, rather famously, the Summer of Love.  Or was it?

There’s a lot mythology that’s grown up around that famous summer in the forty years and several months since.  The gathering was peaceful (and generally it was) about the rain, etc.  But what I remember most about it was the ruin.  I remember seeing these photos and (being a child on a farm/in farm country) wondering how that mess would ever get cleaned up.  It turned out that it never did.

The young people who came in droves to that farm in Woodstock, NY for several magical days in August of 1969 left as quickly and as miraculously as they’d arrived.  Coming empty handed, they left empty handed.  And the fields were covered in trash and mud and clothes and shoes and excrement and waste.  The once working farm was in ruins, never to be worked again.

I wonder though.  Looking back it seems as if that one weekend was a snapshot of world that was to come.  There was chaos.  There loud music.  There were some drugs.  There were people getting along.  There were people coming and going.  There were increasing security concerns.  It was the first concert where a promoter decided to try and repeat it.  Above all though, the generation who staged it, held it, attended it in droves and then left that field and town in ruins showed the world their care-less attitude about … really everything but themselves.  The so-called “Me” generation of the 70’s and excesses of the 80’s should have come as no surprise to anyone after seeing what these people did as young adults at Woodstock.

We really should not be surprised that now in their late 50’s and early 60’s they are very concerned about health care and retirement income for themselves … but they’re damn sure not going to give a rip about the rest of us or how we’re going to either get it or pay for it four generations into the future.  You can rest assured of one thing though … someone else will come along and clean up their mess.  Someone else always has.  I know … because I’ve been trailing this selfish generation with a shovel and a broom my whole life.

Why Worry?
Jan 8th, 2010 by Sonja

I signed up some time ago to receive the e-mail posting of the Washington Post’s opinion page.  So every weekday morning I get an e-mail with a tickler about that day’s opinion pieces.  I don’t always read them, but sometimes …

This morning I read through them and saw this:

I need (but have no desire) to read the piece.  Some years ago I could tolerate Krauthammer and sometimes even agreed with him.  I don’t know if it’s age or what, but he has gotten more and more regressive as time has gone on.  Maybe it’s the confluence of our culture and his age.  But he gets more and more shrill as time goes on.  But the question posed struck me.  The Krauthammer of years passed would have gone to the mat for our and others civil rights.  He would have been protective of the U.S. reputation abroad.  He might even have stood firm on the idea that the Geneva Convention has protections worth caring about.

So … here’s my answer to that question.  We are and should be more worried about the Miranda rights of any perpetrator, because … once the gloves are off, it is difficult to put them back on again.  Who is to say how the definition of “terrorist” might change over the years?  At this point, we seem to have a clear idea that a terrorist is someone “other” … a person who does not belong to our culture.  But what happens when the government decides that anyone speaking out against a sitting president is a “terrorist” or might have terrorist affiliations?  I know that sounds silly and well, we have the First Amendment.  Or do we?  If Miranda rights do not apply to everyone within our borders, including “terrorists” … then they can be suspended for us too.  It really is an all or nothing deal … if those rights do not apply to everyone, then they can at some point be suspended for anyone.

What happens when they come for you?  Don’t you want to have those protections?  I know I do.  The Miranda rights do force our justice system to work harder in order to successfully prosecute a case against an offender and we find people who are innocent sitting on death row.  It is not infallible so the ordinary citizen (including suspected terrorists) needs to have as many protections against the almost overwhelming power of the state as they possibly can.

The Cost of Things
Feb 2nd, 2009 by Sonja

Like war and high finance and other fancy stuff.

The president and Congress are wrangling about a new spending bill.  It’s called a Stimulus package and it’s rumoured to cost about $850Billion in funds we do not have.

It’s okay though.  We didn’t have $700Billion Congress gave to Wall Street.

We didn’t/don’t have the $1 trillion or more that the war in Iraq is going to cost.

Everyone is busily pointing fingers and shouting about how beleagured their side is and the rightness of their cause.

Here’s an idea.  Let’s total all the figures up.  I was in the advanced math program when I was in high school.  So let’s see how I do with this.

$850,000,000,000 + $700,000,000 = $1,550,000,000,000 (that’s domestic spending)

The war of choice in Iraq $1,500,000,000,000 (that’s an extremely conservative estimate that I used just to make a nice round number).  A more responsible estimate from Joseph Siglitz (see the link above) is $2.4 trillion dollars.  This may change as our withdrawal plans are telescoped under President Obama … oh wait, that would mean we’d spend less money we don’t have at the hands of a Democrat.  But under Republicans, we were committed to spending more.  Despite my enrollment in advanced math, this is complicated.

Nice.  $3,000,000,000 … $3 TRILLION dollars in debt.  Hmmm and only $850,000,000,000 of it from Democrats.  So who are the tax and spend monsters here, exactly?  I just can’t keep it straight anymore.

What do I think would be a really good idea?  Only spend money we actually have.

If we don’t have money to keep troops in Iraq, then I guess they need to come home.

If we don’t have money to give to corporate baboons … I mean bankers … then I guess they’ll have to figure out other ways to fund their multimillion dollar retreats, private jets and end-of-year bonuses.  But I’m damn tired of paying for it.

The only thing I think we should be spending money on right now?

Creating jobs … programs such as the CCC during the 1930’s.  The Civilian Conservation Corps kept millions of men and women off the public dole and off the streets.  It built our interstate highway system and created our national and state park system.  Bring it back … put our people to work in meaningful jobs rebuilding our country.  Bring our industry back home.  I’m sick and tired of buying fabric and clothing manufactured overseas by slave labor and in inhumane working conditions.  I want to know that men & women here have a job OR conversely that the men and women overseas (not children) who manufactured my stuff are not dying to work.  Either way, I am tired of crap at crap prices just to make a few people rich.

Education … real education, not force fed trivia in the name of passing tests.  Let’s teach our children how to enjoy life long learning, not the drudgery of how to pass a test.  There’s nothing intrinsically beneficial to the child or the country in that.  Being able to pass tests is a skill, being able to develop technology is a gift.  We need to put our money and resources  into developing our children’s gifts and talents, their skills will naturally follow along.

Healthcare … our healthcare system is broken by greed.  What kind of system is it where my husband cannot get coverage for 10 $600 sugar shots to provide relief for his chronic debilitating back pain.  It is non-invasive and 90% effective.  He can get coverage for surgery which would be more than ten times more expensive and the chances that it would be effective are less than 50%.  Not even a gambling addict would take those odds.  Worse, a single mother with 6 children under the age of 7 can get covered for fertility treatments that cause her to bear 8 children, but I cannot get covered for birth control … because my “plan” will not cover it.   We have seniors and children literally rotting from lack of preventative health care that would cost pennies, but it will make insurance companies and drug companies millions for them to get really sick.  Drug companies are allowed to push vaccines that are not really necessary through fear and intimidation (have you seen the ads for bacterial meningitis?  ask yourself how many cases there really are a year and do the research).  It’s sickening.

Food … yes, food.  Our agri-industry is killing us.  It is walking hand in glove with the healthcare industry.  Twinkies are inexpensive.  When you’re living on a fixed, substandard income it’s a lot easier to eat mac ‘n cheese and chips than it is to eat fruits & vegetables.  But it’s the fruits & veggies that will keep you well and chronic illness away from your door.  As it turns out, an apple a day really will keep the doctor away.  But only if you wash it really carefully.  Read Michael Pollan.  Then read him again.  Then write to Congress and the President.  If you want your tax dollars spent on something real, get them to stimulate CSA’s and community gardens.

Well … come to think of it.  That looks remarkably like a household budget, doesn’t it?  I think Congress (on both sides of the aisle) needs to get rid of their household help and begin to live like regular folk once again.  Remember that they are first and foremost, civil servants.  They are in office to serve us, rather than the reverse, which currently appears to be the case.

***********************************************************

P.S.  Please do not use comments to tell me how you think I’m all wet behind the ears or stoopid or something because, “of course money has to be spent on defense, and this or that or the other thing.”    I’m using my space here to talk about what I think the top priorities are.   And you’re probably not going to change my mind about those things.  I’ve spent a long time thinking about them and coming to these conclusions.  If you want to disagree with me, that’s fine, but please use the comments to write in a positive manner, in ways that are constructive and will move the conversation forward.  If you can’t or won’t, you’ll prob’ly find your comment deleted without explanation.

The Cost of a Life – Part Two
Dec 3rd, 2008 by Sonja

When LightHusband and I started dating and for the first part of our married life he was a drummer.  He played the snare drum with the Third US Infantry Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps; the US Army’s Honor Guard for the President.  About six months after our first date, Ronald Reagan was inaugurated for the second time.  This lead to an interesting juxtaposition for the two of us.

LightHusband was scheduled to march in Reagan’s inaugural parade in the lead unit.  I was busily looking for protest to march in.  And I was fairly vocal about it.

Ronald Reagan was a very popular President and his legacy has much to be admired, but we are now beginning to realize the one major flaw in what he left us:  trickle down economics.   I knew then that any idea that people could be willingly parted from their money and it would somehow trickle down to those with none was ludicrous.  Even given the tenets of capitalism, it would never work.  I was determined to protest it.  LightHusband, of course, had his orders which were to march in the parade.

Neither event happened.  The weather prevented all outdoor activities that year as it was unseasonably cold and we all celebrated the night before by drinking into the wee hours at a local watering hole.  I seem to remember that Blue Hawaiians featured prominently in my repertoire that evening.

Ronald Reagan was duly sworn in without public protest or public fanfare of the outdoors variety.  He continued his presidency for four more years without a hitch.  Not that anyone anticipated a hitch, of course.

During his presidency I was vigilant for the evil I was sure that was to come.  I was certain that all sorts of horrible economic woes were about to befall us because of Reagan’s ill-thought-out plans and designs.

But.

Nothing happened.  In fact, we slowly but surely began to dig ourselves out of the rut.  And by the 1990’s our economy was in a boom again.  The Dow didn’t know a ceiling.  Unemployment was low.  Housing starts were high.  All economic indices were that we were good.  It appeared that trickle-down economics did work.  Or at least some version of it.

The trouble is that trickle-down economics rewards greed.  So does capitalism (inherently).  So we find ourselves in 2008 with an economy on the rocks and now we are looking to the government to bail out the very corporations which stumbled and fell in the first place.

It took a long time for ugliness inherent in trickle-down economics to become apparent, but now we are seeing the fruit ripen on the vine.  What is that fruit?

–Customers who trample a temporary employee to death at a Wal-Mart so they can get the best prices for Christmas …

… and then sue the store for inadequate security.

–Executives of the auto industry who fly individual private jets to Washington DC  to ask for money to bail out their companies.  I understand the need for private planes … but did the idea of plane pooling never occur to these men?  No one is that important.

–AIG receiving a multi–billion dollar bailout, then taking its staff on a multi-million dollar retreat.

These are well known and well discussed examples.  But they are examples of greed run amok.  Greed at the top and greed at the bottom.  We are all greedy … every one of us.  We all want what we do not have.  We look over the fence and see green, green grass that must surely taste sweeter than the dusty dry stalks at our feet.  Inherently, we are told, that’s a good thing.  Go for that greener grass … you deserve it.  You’ve earned it.

No one ever thought to ask what expense it came at.

And Justice Flowed …
Nov 5th, 2008 by Sonja

Celebrate

So …

Where were you when?

Where were you when John Glenn Neil Armstrong (thanks BroKen) walked on the moon?

Where were you when …

… the first man of African-American descent was elected president?

I’m going to remember every step of this process.  I’m going to relish it.

Sometime last weekend it was announced that the final rally of Obama’s campaign would be literally in my backyard.  In my hometown.  Less than two miles from my house, on Monday evening.  So CoachWonderWoman and her daughter, LightGirl and I all walked to the appointed place.  We stood around watching the people and wondering for about three hours.  There was an amazing cross-section of people at the rally.  There were young and old, of every ethnic background and all walks of life.  We could have been in an airport, or on a street corner, or in a bus station.  There was everyone there.  Everyone.  (And some bad music.  I don’t know who was in charge of the live music, but it was horrid.  Think Bill Murray Lounge Lizard.  Ugh.  They played “Celebrate” by Kool & The Gang and I thought I was in the world’s largest elevator.  And I discovered that I can hear “Beautiful Day” too many times in one evening – five, for the record)  It was a typical political rally and hearing Obama speak was wonderful.  I’m glad we saw him (microscopically) in person.  I’m glad we had the experience of being amongst fellow supporters and seeing what that was like … that was more important to me.  Apparently, there were about 80,000 of us packed into that field.  I still can’t quite get my head around that.

Yesterday I walked to my polling place alone.  Both children were otherwise engaged and LightHusband had a meeting.  He was going to vote later.  My polling place just so happens to be in a middle school which was once the place of worship for a church I used to go to (my CLB1).  Usually the voting room is in the chorus room in the back.  But yesterday in anticipation of long lines and increased voter turnout, they had moved the voting to the cafeteria.  This happened to be the very place where we used to worship.  I didn’t really take note of this until after I’d left.

I went to where my last name lined up with the letters and waited my turn … less than a minute.  I noticed a table off to the left groaning with snack food for poll workers.  Then it was my turn and I handed my voter registration card to the people at the table, they asked me for my identifying information, assigned me number 243 and I went to await a booth.  I got to the booth and was overwhelmed with exuberance.  I don’t know.  I just got happy.  Everytime I hit a button on the touch screen I had to do a tiny jig.  Well, this was a little bit too much for the tiny little African-American lady who was attending my booth.  I think she was worried I was going to knock it over or something.  She was smiling at me, yet nervous.  When I was done and she handed me my sticker, she also gave me a big hug.  Then I promptly tried to walk out the wrong doors! and everyone hollered, “Ma’m you’re going the wrong way!!”  oops.

What a ninny.  So I turned around with a big grin on and all the poll workers were smiling at me.  So I waved and shrugged and went the right direction.  And told them I had the blonde streaks applied for a reason!!

Then I came home and giggled the whole way.  I wore my sticker with pride.  For the first time since my first time voting (1980), I’ve been excited about a candidate.  I’m inspired.   I’m inspired because Obama gets scripture; he quotes it regularly and not just the easy, well-known stuff … he quoted from Amos last night.  And I’m inspired because he gets the “social contract” in a way that many of our latter-day leaders have not … to whit:

His triumph was decisive and sweeping, because he saw what is wrong with this country: the utter failure of government to protect its citizens. He offered a government that does not try to solve every problem but will do those things beyond the power of individual citizens: to regulate the economy fairly, keep the air clean and the food safe, ensure that the sick have access to health care, and educate children to compete in a globalized world. (italics mine for emphasis)  From today’s NYTimes editorial

In other words, there are things that are the responsibility of the government and things that are the responsibility of us as individuals.  Give us the empowerment to do our thing and then do the stuff that is the responsibility of the government.   Give us the the space to do things locally in our communities to bring about change where ever we are and in the things that impassion us.  And, well … that is the way to truly change history.

Leadership In An Age of Cholera
Nov 4th, 2008 by Sonja

Crime & CholeraCholera: any of several diseases of humans and domestic animals usually marked by severe gastrointestinal symptoms ; especially : an acute diarrheal disease caused by an enterotoxin produced by a comma-shaped gram-negative bacillus (Vibrio cholerae syn. V. comma) when it is present in large numbers in the proximal part of the human small intestine.  Merriam-Webster on-line

I just voted.  Yes, I voted for the hip, young man of color for President.  I have many reasons why and I’ll get to them in a second.  But first a wee story or two.

It was exciting to go and vote this time.  In fact, I scared my poor poll worker, I was so exuberant at the little screen.  Then when she handed me my sticker, she hugged me.  As I attempted to dance through the wrong doors in exit, all the poll workers called to me and I turned around abashed at my silliness.  I was just too giddy.  Why was I giddy?  Here’s why.

I remember the 1960’s.  Most of all, I remember Martin Luther King, Jr.  If I had to pick a hero, he’d be it.  He was a legend in his own time.  I might pick Gandhi, but for a real American hero, I’d pick King.  Every year I listen to his “I Have A Dream” speech and cry.  I’ve studied his speeches and writings; I have a fairly good idea of which Biblical prophets he was studying when he wrote.  And today … well, today … I got to vote for someone based upon the content of his character not the color of his skin.  Amen and hallelujah.  And the tiny little poll worker who hugged me?  Well, she was African-American too.

Mind you, I did NOT vote for Obama because of his roots either. Did I listen to both sides?  No, not equally.  I lost respect for the Republican party back in 2000 and again when Republicans treated James Jeffords with such disrespect when he became an independent.  The party had huge barriers to overcome in my mind, and they failed to get there.

Here is why I voted for Obama …

“People are more inclined to be drawn in if their leader has a compelling vision. Great leaders help people get in touch with their own aspirations and then will help them forge those aspirations into a personal vision.” John Kotter

I didn’t find that quote until about a week ago when I was looking for something else entirely.   But it encapsulates my reasons for choosing Obama for president.  Even my father has some qualms about the details of his platform, the hows and wherefors.  What exactly will he do if he is elected?  For someone with little time in his role in the Senate those are very legitimate questions.  But it’s his ability to inspire that I look at.

Frankly, I’m tired of leaders who go around poking into private business looking for what is wrong.  I want leaders who will inspire us to find our dreams and make them reality.  It is in those dreams and that reality that we will rebuild our economy, our infrastructure, get us off the dependence on petroleum and many of the other ills that we currently find ourselves in.   That sort of leadership is transformational; it begins at the top and trickles down.  We learn how to encourage and develop our own dreams.  Then we learn how to encourage and develop the dreams of others.

Or will it?  Can a charismatic leader help us overcome our addiction to power?  That’s the question for the ages.  Too often people in leadership are at the top, they lead from above and are in a position of power.  They have the ability to cause hardship, pain and devastation to those they purport to lead.  Typically, those who are leading hold all or most of the cards.  But in this new scenario, of dream empowerment, the little guy, the individual is given the space to dream and realize those dreams.

So, will we find this in Obama?  I don’t know.  I hope so.  But that’s what I voted for; that’s what I’m hoping for.  That’s the kind of leadership I’m hoping for.  In this age of choleric leadership, we need something new.  We need something that won’t revolt us and turn our stomachs.  Something, someone nationally, and locally who will help us find our own dreams and turn them into reality.

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This is part of synchroblog on Leadership … the rest of the most excellent writings are below, please check them out:

Jonathan Brink – Letter To The President

Adam Gonnerman – Aspiring to the Episcopate

Kai – Leadership – Is Servant Leadership a Broken Model?

Sally Coleman – In the world but not of it- servant leadership for the 21st Century Church

Alan Knox – Submission is given not taken

Joe Miller – Elders Lead a Healthy Family: The Future

Cobus van Wyngaard – Empowering leadership

Steve Hayes – Servant leadership

Geoff Matheson – Leadership

John Smulo – Australian Leadership Lessons

Helen Mildenhall – Leadership

Tyler Savage – Moral Leadership – Is it what we need?

Bryan Riley – Leading is to Listen and Obey

Susan Barnes – Give someone else a turn!

Liz Dyer – A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Polls…

Lionel Woods – Why Diverse Leadership is Good for America

Julie Clawson – Leadership Expectations

Ellen Haroutunian – A New Kind Of Leadership

Matt Stone – Converting Leadership

Steve Bradley – Lording or Leading?

Adam Myers – Two types of Leadership

Bethany Stedman – A Leadership Mosaic

Kathy Escobar – I’m Pretty Sure This Book Won’t Make It On The Bestseller List

Fuzzy Orthodoxy – Self Leadership

Sonja Andrews – Leadership In An Age of Cholera

Tara Hull – Leadership & Being A Single Mom

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