Seventy-one and a woman who’s seen mighty change—internet, cell phones, and one step for mankind on moonscape. Veterans of WWII branded their stories on my young soul. That damned McCarthy caused me to look for communists neath my bed. Viet Nam tattooed my innocence. Patriotism, plated as political righteousness, challenged the rage against dying and peace movements—Gandhi dared Patton philosophies wrestling for ethos. No winners, just battle-worn heroes. Now drums the social-till-doomsday-shrill-media robbing weak heads of free thinking—new mind control. Fear like rain cuts rough, new gullies of hate, fear and rage. Peace lost not on a battlefield, love in surrender to hate. Godly abandoned in rallies, the modern lion’s den, truth’s death. Long serving soldiers dismissed for truth-telling. A Medal of Honor bestowed on a bigot. Romney the lone statesman. Loyal, weak servants rewarded and righteous, strong saints defiled. Labeling knowledable elitist. Labeling brown other. Labeling good hearts feeding hungry folk socialists. Villainous! Rise up you virtuous patriots. Be the strong voice of right. Rise up still Christians and claim the mantle of kindness. Rise up to speak! Rise up to vote! Rise up!
I am a baby boomer, born shortly after WWII. Throughout my childhood I heard the stories soldiers told in their living rooms, stories about riding on ships, their wounding, the friends they held while dying, the skeletons (as one man said, “…flesh hanging on bones”) walking away from the newly freed concentration camps.
History and civics were taught with vigor in those days because we knew the price and fragility of democracy. Hitler was voted into office, so we had a duty to study the candidates and make good choices.
I watch the impeachment of Donald Trump and think back to Richard Nixon’s impeachment. I was in my twenties and making calls for the local Republican Party. I knew Richard Nixon was innocent. I watched the trial day after day, as obsessive as I am today about justice. When I realized he had committed the crimes, I was devastated. I felt a personal sense of betrayal, not because I was a Republican, but because I was an American.
I wondered in 1974, as I do today, how anyone can take an office as powerful as the Presidency and not feel humility. It is like holding a sparrow with a broken wing in one hand and a nuclear bomb in the other.
Democracy is a fragile balancing act. Only a fool sitting in the Oval Office or in a congressional seat would place personal gain above freedom.
These times challenge saints more than sinners.
Fear and anxiety accompany worship and school attendance.
Slowly we move into democracy lost or renewed.
Our children will live on a dying planet or learn stewardship.
This journey will make heroes and villains of us all.
Must we relinquish control to madness?
Some frantically compose FB posts to vent their anger –
posts with scripture to counterpoint side against side,
posts to request prayer – pointed and raging – self-defeating peace,
posts with cartoons screaming louder than words.
Must we become what we hate in others?
If my voice is the loudest, am I right?
If I manage to trample on your rights to protect mine, am I right?
If I belong to a party, does my membership make me right?
If I rationalize without facts, can I proclaim truth?
Have we seen these behaviors play out in history? Perhaps.
The Crusades. Germany. Turn neighbor against neighbor,
religious sects in pious rebellion abandon values long held,
citizens dehumanize the immigrants, the disadvantaged, women.
Like Legos in a three-year-old’s hands, we are breaking apart.
I refuse to conform!
I have the power not to be evil or angry or hurt.
I will speak truth in a quiet voice, but I will speak!
Perhaps, someone will join me and two of us will be free of hate.
Awesome power. All I control is me.
Eyes greet her eldest.
“Goodbye,” she utters. Eyes close.
(Written after yesterday’s visit with my 97-year-old mother-in-law.)
It is not the length of life, but the depth of life—Ralph Waldo Emerson
I had a routine colonoscopy a couple days ago. The doctor entered my recovery cubicle where I was sipping a lemon-lime soda on my too hard bed.
I expected to hear, “We removed some polyps and all is clear.” I expected to go on about my business with some jokes about the preparation ordeal. I expected my body to not fail me at age seventy—young enough to volunteer, create art and travel.
The doctor betrayed me by saying, “We found a mass.” She showed me pictures. I could not determine whether the mass was the size of New England or the size of a pin head. In my stupor, I did not have enough sense to ask questions.
At home, I looked up symptoms for colon cancer. I missed them all, including this incredible tired feeling I pushed through daily. I assigned the fatigue to aging and refused to let it dominate my agenda.
I am prepared for death more than for a fight. My mother, who lost her own mother when she was five and her father when she was seventeen, was determined her children would not fear death. She told me each time young me went to a funeral or visited great aunts in nursing homes, “I will not have a child afraid to see a body at a funeral or disrespectful of the aging!”
Mother and I walked through the cemetery each Memorial Day. She told me the stories of dead relatives, their tales real and alive above the bones lying in caskets. Mother was embracing them mentally as she had physically in life.
Mother dealt with her own decline in a pragmatic way. She first told me she was no longer allowing herself to drive to Salina forty-two miles away, then Abilene a distance of twenty-two miles, then Herington eight miles from home. When she struggled to maintain her house, she moved to an apartment a block from me. Her last years were spent in my home in her own bed with the pink quilt she created decades earlier.
So, I am waiting for direction to know what decisions are to be made – fight or surrender. The decision already made is to have a joyful end whether a decade or a season.
As is my pattern, I will write it out on my blog and paint it out on canvas.