Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial or Decoration Day

My Uncle Charles lived with his wife, Myrtle, immediately behind our home when I was a child in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Uncle Charles owned a bakery and on some occasions my parents would let me get up early in the morning so I could go with him on the deliveries. He delivered not only to grocery stores but, also, to some houses. I think this is why I'm drawn to bakeries and fresh baked goods. Uncle Charles had a heart attack and died. I recall the extended family gathering at their house. However, I do not have any memories of the funeral or burial. What I do recall, however, were Decoration Days or Memorial Days when the extended family gathered at the cemetery and decorated the graves of our family members, most of whom I never knew except for Uncle Charles. I recall that we, my cousins, my brother and I, would run and play among the tombstones while the adults placed flowers on the graves and trimmed the grass. We were repeatedly told that our activities weren't 'respectful' and we needed to stop. I guess we were too young to know what 'respectful' meant because after a brief pause we continued with our playing. After all these years, I think Uncle Charles liked the flowers and to have his grave grass trimmed but, I think he liked best to have his young nephews and nieces running and having a fun time around his grave. He was just that kind of person.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How Did We Change?

I came of age in the 1960s while in college, graduate school and Seminary. I was greatly influenced by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. President Kennedy's statement, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country" captured and influenced the spirit of those times. It has certainly been a significant part of my life's motivation. That spirit motivated our country to establish the Peace Corps, land a man on the moon and develop the war on poverty. Those movements were expensive but we joined together for their payment and involvement. I fear we have changed. As I listen to debates, read letters to the editors and hear about talk radio and television, I fear our attitude has changed. It seems to me that our attitude is "What can the country do for me?" I desire a leader who can help us frame a vision that unites all of us in causes that are larger than our specific interests. Surely such an attitude would lift us above our selfish interests.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Looks like racism to me

For the past several weeks a potential Presidential candidate has raised again the issue of President Obama’s birth. These folks are called “birthers.” They suspect that he is not a naturally born American citizen and, therefore, ineligible to be the President of these United States. This is an issue that continues to raise its ugly head repeatedly in many ways and in various places. I think this is racism. Yes, racism that still says every so subtly, “Go to the back of the bus and let us white folks sit up front.” If President Obama were a white person with a name like Smith or Jones, I doubt that this would ever have been an issue. Certainly, we have much more work to do regarding this issue of racial equality. Much of that work needs to be in our own hearts and behaviors as well as in the public arena. We didn’t eradicate racism with the legislation of the 1960s and 70s. It is still among us and it is primarily lodged in our hearts. It effects our relations with Afro-Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Hispanics, Gypsies, etc. I hope that not only others but, also, myself, will continually search our hearts so that we see the image God in every person, regardless of their culture, language, etc. and not fall into the thinking that because we're white Americans that somehow makes us better than others.