TRY AGAIN LATER

TRUST ME. The last thing I want to do is use my father and his service to this country to make a political point. This is NOT about that. This is about people, real live humans, good people who have given without asking anything in return.

Here’s the story: my dad served in the Army in World War II. His last assignment during the war was in Belgium. As a veteran he has received some assistance from the VA over the last few years: like medications and hearing aids.

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There is a benefit for veterans who fought in foreign wars called the “Aid and Attendance” benefit. For years, Dad has checked many of the boxes to qualify: WW2 vet in the European theatre, and he is legally blind. He has not been able to qualify though because he and mom planned carefully for their retirement and paid premiums for years for long term health care insurance. Now at ages 94 and 91, Dad and Mom have outlived their insurance coverage, which means they should be able to qualify for the veterans benefit because of the reduced income.

Five months ago we started the application process which we were told could take six to eight weeks. We were told that the benefit would certainly start as early as Thanksgiving. It didn’t. (I guess, to be fair, they didn’t say which Thanksgiving.) We contacted Senator James Lankford’s office for help. They checked and said the application is pending—waiting on verification of his military service, which is odd since he has received VA benefits as I mentioned above. Also, we included copies of his discharge papers with the application.

Then my niece, my dad’s Grand-Girl, Ashley, discovered that there is a website where ostensibly you can create a log-in to monitor the progress of the application.

So she navigated the convulated path to entering the monitoring website. Now when we check to see if the application is moving forward we get this message:

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Did I mention my dad is 94 years old?

Did I mention he is a veteran of World War II?

Did I mention I have never in my life heard
my dad even hint that he might be “entitled” to anything?

I don’t know for certain that the current government shut down is impacting the progress of my dad’s application, but government shut down or no, I can’t escape the feeling that our government is deeply damaged, that it is full of self-serving, arrogant bureaucrats, who are out of touch and out of control.

Is it hopeless? If we’re talking about my dad’s application for a benefit he qualifies for, deserves and (here I’ll say it) is entitled to, I sure hope not. If we’re talking about the bigger issue of governance in America—let me say this, I’m ready to let Trump have his damn wall to put an end to this latest chapter of disgusting nonsense.

Trying to stay positive here, one upside to “the wall” might be that once it is built we can all go there to bang our heads against the north face of it.

Understand; this is me talking, not my dad. I didn’t even ask his permission (which has gotten me in trouble more than once). My dad, and my mom, are of the Greatest Generation. They are beautiful people who trust in the Providence of God.

Me? You would think with parents like these I would have a better attitude. Maybe when I grow up.

Here is a picture of Dad a few years ago at the World War II memorial in Washington D.C. He is with my brother-in-law, Fred, a Vietnam era Marine who served three tours of duty in the Middle East; and his son Joe, currently in the U.S. Navy.

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(You know, I can’t help but wonder if the current POTUS has even strolled through this memorial, or the Korean War Memorial, or the Vietnam Memorial and read the inscriptions there. Oh wait, I forgot about his pesky bone spurs.) (Sorry. I was raised better.)

In case you can’t read the words on the wall behind them, the inscription reads:

D-DAY JUNE 6, 1944

You are about to embark upon the
Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these
many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.
I have full confidence in your courage
and devotion to duty and skill in battle.

—General Dwight D. Eisenhower

At The Table

TRYING NOT TO SOUND TOO… pitiful, sour-grape-ish, sore-loser-ish…

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, pilgrim. We’ll have the blessing to sit at a couple of different Thanksgiving feasts over that weekend.

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I am hoping everyone has safe travels.

I hope everyone has something good to eat.

I hope everyone has someone to be with.

I hope everyone around our table knows how much I love them and how thankful I am to be in their tribe.

I hope Ginger brings coleslaw. I hope to have a piece of pecan pie. I hope I don’t hurt someone’s feelings by not eating their sweet potato dish (even though it is covered with some marshmallow looking something). I hope they’ll understand that I don't like Jell-O that has stuff suspended in it. I like them, I like that they cared enough to bring something to the table, it’s just the idea of putting stuff in Jell-O. It’s like putting turkey organs in the dressing or the gravy. It’s just not necessary.

Another thing I hope won’t be at our Thanksgiving table: politics—red ones or blue ones, first ammendment or second, donkeys or elephants. I’m done. As I said at the top, I’m trying not to sound too… pitiful, sour-grapish, sore-loserish… I’m just done.

Not too far into our new marriage, we were at the Thanksgiving table at my Amazing Missus’ parent’s house. The food at that table was always wonderful and abundant. (Except for some strange tradition of putting oysters in the dressing.) [Apparently, I have an aversion to people putting stuff in other stuff that God never intended to go together.]

Anyway, we’re all seated, the blessing was said, and before we knew it, the conversation turned to A.I. This was the mid-70s and we were talking about A.I.?

Let me clarify: this was not conversation about the merits, threats, or potentials of Artifical Intelligence. This was a graphic dialog about Artificial Insemination. You see, I literally married the “farmer’s daughter”. The family had a long, successful history in the dairy farming business. As a city-boy of sorts, I don’t guess I had given much thought to the reproductive arts down on the farm.

A few seconds into the discussion, my Amazing-Mother-In-Law said, “That’s enough of that!” She spoke with a humble authority that everyone heard without any confusion or uncertainty. And, just like that; the conversation changed.

Oh how I hope that if politics comes up in discussion, someone with the moral certainty and authority, the clear-headedness, and the clear-heartedness of my late Amazing-Mother-In-Law will say, “That’s enough of that!”

The Will of the People

HAVE YOU NOTICED how many TV news interviews with politicians take place in front of the statue of Will Rogers in the Capitol building?

statue of will rogers in the national statuary hall at the capitol building

statue of will rogers in the national statuary hall at the capitol building

I’m glad this is the interview spot of choice. I wish that at the end of the interview each interviewee would look up at Will and ask themselves what Will must be thinking about what they just said.

For those that don’t know of Will Rogers, here are a few quotes from him on the topic of politics:

This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it. That we have carried as much political bunk as we have and still survived shows we are a super nation.
Congress is so strange; a man gets up to speak and says nothing, nobody listens, and then everybody disagrees.
Never blame a legislative body for not doing something. When they do nothing, they don't hurt anybody. When they do something is when they become dangerous.

I wish the POTUS would have been sitting under Will’s don’t-BS-me-gaze when he read that prepared statement trying to explain his crush on Vlad Putin.

Remember how Mr. Trump explained to us how easy it is to get confused when you have to choose between “would” and “wouldn’t”?

Here’s one for you to ponder Mr. POTUS, regarding your speech,
What WOULD Will say?
What WOULDN’T Will say?

Maybe this (an actual quote from Will himself): "No man is great if he thinks he is."

Or this: “America has the best politicians money can buy."


By the way, if you wondered why the shoes of Will’s statue are polished smooth, tradition says rubbing Will’s shoes brings good luck. There must be a lot of superstitious folks in the U.S. Capitol

What would Will say?


"Erected in 1939, this statue of Will Rogers represents the state of Oklahoma in the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol Building."  —The White House Historical Association

I hope that persona of Will, hands in pockets, a knowing grin, and a no BS look still represents Oklahoma. May we be the people who can see through the piles and piles of the stuff and find people of integrity, humility and character.

Peace

The hardest challenge is to be yourself in a world where everyone is trying to make you be somebody else.
— e.e. cummings

For a minute or two, it’s sort of flattering when someone says something like, “I’ve noticed you haven’t posted anything on the blog in awhile. I miss it.” That feeling quickly gives way to feelings of failure and foreboding because the words won’t come, or maybe no matter what words I write someone is going to be hurt or offended, or I’ll make a fool of myself, or someone will add my name to their prayer list because the words at the front of my mind are degenerative. For some reason I’ve let the language of the current public discourse affect me. These words are words of frustration and despair, and are a dam holding back better words and thoughts.

So, I’ve been trying to say nothing, and the result is that I have nothing to say. I try. I open my journal to a blank page, or lay my fingers on the ASDF — JKL; keys on the keyboard… Nothing.

Here’s my plan. I’m going to carefully and mindfully try to type this out of my system.

At 66 years old my values are pretty well set. I’m not likely to change much at the core, although I do want to always be a “learn-it-all” rather than a “know-it-all”. My values, including my aspirational values lean toward humility, service, honor, love, peace and freedom (not just in a constitutional rights kind of way, but in a freedom to BE, in all the fullness of the gifts, grace and goodness of God).

So right now, in this cesspool of political divisiveness and narcissism my prayer and plea is for PEACE. That’s the word and the attitude I hope will give me something to say so I can move on to saying other things. I know the whole “give peace a chance” thing is idealistic and naive, just like it was in the 60s when that message made sense for me. Back then, I wore a “peace” button and put a peace sign bumper sticker on my VW bus. I remember once getting out of my bus in a parking lot and a man, seeing the bumper sticker said, “The footprint of the American chicken! You one of them hippie draft dodgers?”

I pretended to ignore him. I should have said, “Why is it rednecks always use pronouns when they need a good adjective?” That would have showed him. But I was a “Peacenik”. Better to turn the other cheek.

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Now I’m taking it to the streets. I’m not going to buy a VW bus or start wearing bell-bottoms, or let what little hair I have grow long, but I did decide the least I could do was wear a peace button, sort of like wearing my feelings and opinion on my sleeve. This time the demonstration will be a little more laid back than in the 60s, more appropriate for someone in their 60s.

The first hurdle to my little revoltion was finding the peace buttons. I did find some on Etsy (whatever that is), but while I’m a big believer in Peace, I’m not going to pay three bucks from my buttons, so I had some made for less than a dollar. 

This peace thing is for me all parts spiritual, political, personal, physiological, psychological, selfish, selfless, emotional, prayful, playful, antiestablishment and a quiet shaking of my mini-fist in the face of institutions (in a peaceful, loving way of course). I believe Jesus when he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

NOTEIn this day of twisted religious/political worldviews, I feel I need to offer this: Not to try to speak for Jesus, but I’m am highly confident that when He speaks of Blessed he is not in any sense of the word speaking of the concept of “blessed” espoused by the properity gospel preachers and creepy, narrow religion of “fundamentalist evangelicals”. In fact, I am certain that when it comes to comparing that worldview to the actual Gospel, the phrase “prosperity gospel” is an oxymoron. Sorry, sometimes honesty doesn’t seem very peaceful.

Let me throw this out there. If you would like to jump on the “Peace Train” (music and lyrics by Cat Stevens), you don’t have to burn your draft card, your AARP card or your bra, just pin on your button; literally or figuratively. If you don’t have one, next time you see me, ask for one. If you promise to wear it, it’s yours. Of course, if you would like to pitch in a dollar to help the cause… Peace costs. 

PEACE.