Civility and Community

Funny little man: Voltaire writing

Good afternoon from my porch,

As I begin this post, my spirit aches; my optimism, which is usually strong, is fragile; my disillusionment with our penchant for violence and revenge has weighed me down, and the words “liberty and justice for all,” which are foundational to our national fabric ring hollow and empty. How did we come to this place? From what abysmal chasm do we find ourselves crying out in the words of the Psalmist, “how long O Lord??!!”

Black men and police officers are dead. Wives, significant others, children, and extended family are left to pick up the pieces. Families of victims, yes, even the families of those who pulled triggers, are left to pick up the shards, trying to go in with their lives that have been shattered by the violence, either perpetrated or experienced. The locality in Minnesota is where I spent 5 years of my life in seminary. I know that little community and those streets. I have walked and driven them hundreds of times. It seems like someone took a time and place I remember fondly and sullied ( I use this word because it is more acceptable than the one which immediately comes to mind) it beyond repair. As the summer has continued, I  have not gotten more done on this post (it is probably the longest between blog posts in two years) and now as I finally return to it, both party conventions are in the books and we certainly have an upcoming election that will be unlike any other in our history. To most who read this blog and have a pretty good sense of where my political leaning fall, I would note that there are issues for me even when I say I am supporting Sec/Senator/former-First Lady Clinton. I struggle with the email issue for a number of reasons, and I certainly know that others used their email in unsecure ways, but I do believe her decisions regarding the choice to use a private server were misguided and foolish. I wonder how she came to implement such a choice. There I have noted that. I also believe her resume in unparalleled, certainly in recent history, as far as being qualified to be our president. I do believe that she could have managed the issue with the email better than she did, but I imagine she does also. I do not believe that she would intentionally work with classified documents (knowingly send marked classified information) in a unsecure way. If I am proven wrong there (and the Director of the FBI, who is Republican and was appointed by George W Bush, seems to believe there is not enough to make such a claim) I will rethink my position. I have watched YouTube video that have been edited to make her seem as the devil incarnate. If we want to “play that game,” @therealdonaldtrump’s encouragement of the Russians to continue to hack into our networks should certainly raise eyebrows (as well as some other things) as paramount to a kind of treason. In a war situation, I am sure he might be before a firing squad, which is what one of our elected leaders said should happen to Mrs. Clinton. My issue here is where we seem to have disintegrated as an American society. It is appalling to me that we have such vitriol on most every issue. Furthermore, when President Obama has raised concern about some of this (and certainly is justified as a black person) or questioned the National Rifle Association, he is considered anti-constitutional. When Donald Trump calls Mexican rapists, makes fun of disabled people, accused a female reporter of menstrual issues, wants to ban a complete religion, or any other kind of lying ignorance, which seems par for the course on a daily basis, people call him a patriot. What the French toast? I am stunned by the bigotry, the foolishness, and the xenophobic tenor of our country. I am stunned by the fact (and perhaps not as much as I wish I should be) by the red-necked, uneducated, white, male block that seems to give this unabashed ass such support. I know and respect some who are uneducated, but still support him based on what seems to be little more than Second Amendment protectionism and a whole-hearted buy in to seeing Hillary as the anti-Christ. While the British are probably still reeling from Brexit, most of the world is looking at us questioning, what the hell are you all doing? I know this from some of my travels and the reading I do.

As I move into the last week of summer classes, I realize how the summer has flown by and I am struggling yet to manage my life. I seem to get more tired quicker. I seem to get overwhelmed and almost paralyzed by what is on my plate versus merely soldiering through like I have done most of my life. I am still realizing that the loss of two people who were so important to me last year and then the loss again of someone much too young this year or that realization of losing a last biological parent, in spite of the fact that I had no real relationship with her, has taken more out of me than I ever imagined. There is the struggle of when I asked for some clarification I received little more than a dismissive and scornful retort. Some of the reality of what I have lost in the removal of such amazing people in my life has taken a toll beyond what I ever expected. Sometimes, the fragility of our existence seems to hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks and that has appears to be the case. I think it is in my own reality and depression. I feel like I cannot cope with as much as I have normally done. I feel like I cannot focus as well as I have done in the past. I feel like I fail people more than I help them at times. It is a frightening thing for me. The question becomes to where do I turn for the strength that I need. That is something that has escaped me as of late. I wish that there was so much more I could do to focus. I wish there was so much more I could do to be more productive. I wish there was so much more I could do to feel accomplished or successful.

A few weeks ago I spoke with someone I have known since I was 5 or 6 years old. Growing up next door, there was so much shared in the neighborhood in the 1960s. It is true that people were more invested in each other. I remember the number of children on the block was in its teens or twenties, but everyone watched out for each other. It was a given that if I got in trouble somewhere else, I would be in trouble when I got home. In fact, my mother would know about it before I got there. In this case, it is amazing that their mother is 100 years old. It is amazing to me that we have been in touch for over 50 years. We had the most significant chat we have probably had most of our lives. It is interesting how our lives and moved in and out of the realms of influence and connectivity, but somehow we have never lost touch. It is a blessing that means more to me than words and something I did not really expect. I think that is how real blessings are. It is the unexpected, the undeserved things that happen in our lives that are so wonderful. I think unfortunately too often what begins as a blessing or a help can become a burden. To paraphrase the Occasional Services Book, [w]hen our lives are the product of our humanity, that which begins as a blessing becomes a burden (27). It is more of a struggle than we anticipate. For me the difficulty is believing the best in the other. Wanting to believe that the loyalty I have is the same. Then there is my own fragility and feeling overwhelmed, which seems to happen when it is reciprocated. I get frightened. What I have realized is I feel out of control and concerned that I am unworthy or definitely not worthy enough for this reciprocation. What is interesting is the oxymoronic nature of what I am describing, and I understand that. It is that I am not sure what to do with it. Today, in typical fashion, I have tried to help another person, currently in the proverbial rock-and-hard-spot. What I expected and what ended up happening is remarkably different, but again that is no surprise. It is a typical lack of understanding of someone younger about the reality of those life moments that you hope happen only once in a life time. For those who have read the blog in the past, those AFGE moments. I want to get this blog finished and posted. The past few weeks have been difficult for me, but as I noted actually the loss of Lydia still has me reeling. She was such a force, but she also made my life more complete. I told someone last night, who has known me (and her) that I put my life on hold in a way for her, but it was not done begrudgingly or in some sense of obligation. It was done because together we actually had fun together. She made me smile (she could also exasperate me), and she genuinely loved me and I loved her. I miss that even now.

Over the weekend I spent a lot of time in my office,  but last night it seems I had another one of my spells. At least this time I was not alone. I think at some point I will probably pass like my grandmother. There are times I worry about that happening when I am alone, but then again, that would be probably best because no one has to experience that. All of this is certainly not to sound morbid nor fatalistic, but it is the reality of my life and the fact that I have significant health issues. However, I have had health issues most of my life, and certainly since I was in my late 2os. It was the one of the things my ex-wife, Susan, noted the last time we spoke face-to face (at least as married people). She noted she was tired of being married to a wimp. I do think I saw her one more time at Dana, when I went for a homecoming and had a student from Suomi College with me. In fact, the very things I thought about that student have come to fruition some 20 years later as he is now an ordained Lutheran pastor. Unquestionably, life is a remarkable journey. It is full of expectations, but unplanned occurrences. I have noted in the past that I am not sure what I imagined as probable. I am not sure what I believed I would or could become. There are times, I am not sure what I have become. I hear things and I am grateful for the chances I have had to have a positive influence. I know there are times I have also failed, and for those moments, I feel more regret that some might imagine. There are times I have acted in a ridiculous way that certainly hurt and undermined the good I have done. There are times my frailty and my lack of esteem or control have caused me embarrassment and the other harm. I think of times with Theresa, my second wife. I learned a lot through that experience and it has changed how I manage so much. There were two periods in my life where alcohol abuse caused me potential harm (and others) and there is more than one occasion where my living through that foolish night is a miracle. I guess this is my way of apologizing for those times I have been less than the person I should be. Again, it seems that my return to Pennsylvania has been good and created a period where I can say I feel I have done more helpful than harmful. I wish I could forgive myself as much as some others have offered me forgiveness. That is something on which I need to work. It is a matter of continuing to grow. It is about civility. That is where I started this blog. Civility in our discourse seems to be lacking on a number of levels from colleagues to the election. It is frightening, but I am on the only person I can take care of. I hope to continue to grow and improve in all areas of my life. It is all I can do. In the meantime, I offer this video of the hymn at the end, which gives me goose bumps every time I hear it.

To all, thanks for reading,

Michael

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