“Let them eat cake”

I went shopping for shirts yesterday over at the Goodwill store in an upscale city.  There I found four nice casual shirts that will wear well this summer over shorts.  A total of $17 left my bank account for them.  I love Goodwill, they make tightening my belt affordable.

George W. held a press conference today to talk about the “conimy”, Texan for “economy”.  To sum up George W.’s answer to the country’s fiscal problems, it’s because Congress isn’t sending him the answers in the form of legislation.  Someone must know what’s wrong.  He said that a new refinery hasn’t been built in the US in thirty years and that he asserted was the fault of Congress.  Hmmm….I thought the oil companies (George’s relatives and best buds) were the owners of refineries and therefore responsible as business owners to build this infrastructure.  Is George saying that we the people should pay for new refineries?  Do the oil companies need subsidies to be able to afford building a new refinery?  As the oil companies release their reports of record earnings today is George W. saying that congress needs to approve a new refinery, finance one, or what?  He didn’t define what he was talking about but getting Congress involved at any level generally means public funds are involved. 

What was truly hysterical about George’s press conference was that he accused a reporter of trying to drag him into the presidential race politics while he blamed the entire economic mess on the inaction of the Democratic Congress.  I think you speak with a forked tongue partner.

If George W. is proposing that Congress pass some sort of funding to build new refineries just so the oil companies can keep their profit margins;  if he is saying that the American public should go hungry to pay for oil company infrastructure; if he is saying that the public should pay for it, and, after it’s built, continue to allow oil companies to raise their prices for us average Joe’s, I say that’s the equivalent of “Let them eat cake” commonly attributed to Marie Antoinette.

Sacramento is about to approve a 10% raise for firefighters.  That’s 5% in each of the next two years.  The problem is that Sacramento is facing a 58 million dollar deficit and the raise costs 15 million dollars.  The union rep on TV said that the raise is welcome but that more needs to be done (surprise-surprise).  The city official asked about how the raise impacts the budget deficit said that it does not raise the deficit because the 156 million is already figured into the deficit.  Hmmmm…so without the raise, the deficit would be 43 million and with the raise the deficit is 58 million, yet according to the City, the raise does not increase the deficit (2nd grade math tells me that “58>43”).  I think someone called that “fuzzy math” at some point.  If this guy went to Sacramento Schools I’d say that the 15 million needs to be put into the classroom for extra math instruction.  What an imbecile this person must be to say something like that and actually think we would buy it.  “Let them eat cake.”

I don’t know about you but I am tired of government telling me to go and eat cake when I am funding their banquet.  Don’t they even realize that the trough is empty?  I say tighten your belts like the rest of us!

God’s love, Old men and fishing

I saw a man talk the other day about the love of God and that God’s love is both incomprehensible to man, because so often man loves conditionally, and because God’s love is a constant in our lives whether we choose to tap into its power or not.  The power of God’s love is its unconditional nature, that we can receive it simply by loving ourselves as we are in the glow of His love and sharing this gift with others.  These ideas do not make me cranky; in fact they produce the opposite effect in me.

Saturday I am down by the lake, fishing for trout and soaking up the beauty all around me when arrives an old man who needs to be heard.  He looks to be late 60’ish, large coke bottle-bottom glasses, horribly unshaven chin and an amiable if slightly goofy grin on his face.  This man intrudes on the wonderful silence of the lake as he carries on a narration.  He speaks in short disconnected sentences about the current state of fishing, about how to best land a fish, about fish statistics from the day before and the weather and the water clarity and the fact that his “buddy” has a bass boat but can’t take it out because the hydraulics failed and need repairing.  Lots of information.  No information that anyone particularly wants.  We are simple fishermen enjoying God’s creation and we want nothing more than to be still and know Him for a while.  Suddenly, crisis intervenes and the narration turns to a prickly problem.  This old man has locked his keys inside his truck.  Now being that his intrusive monologue has already alienated everyone along the shore (and most people plying the waters in boats), nobody rushes forward to assist.  The problem is compounded by the fact that his fishing gear is likewise locked out of reach.   So the old man has nothing to do but bemoan this sorry state of affairs.  Sound travels efficiently across water.  I imagined that even people miles across the lake were aware of his dilemma.  Upon hearing that his cell phone was also in his truck, I offered mine.  I thought that in doing so he would be able to alert his good wife who would rush to his aid.  I imagined that she would come quickly, hungry for fresh trout and salvage what would otherwise be a lost opportunity.  He told me his number; I dialed the phone and handed it to him.  He related the story to her, “I know honey, I didn’t do it on purpose,” he pleaded.  “Well you were sleeping, and I didn’t want to wake you up”, he soothed, justifying his early morning escape. “I know honey, I didn’t do it on purpose,” obviously she was unconvinced that his forgetfulness wasn’t a purposeful act (he repeated this at least four times).  By the end of this phone call I could see that no assistance was being offered by his good wife beyond instructive guilt and helpful admonitions.  He ended the call, handed me the phone and shuffled away loudly proclaiming a need for a ride home to collect his spare keys.  I let him go.  I decided that his wife did not deserve a trout dinner anyway.  Eventually all was quiet again and the happy water lapped at the rocky shore and a fish churned vigorously against a line.  The old man reappeared later with rods and a folding chair in hand.  He loudly proclaimed the beneficence of the park Ranger who drove him home to retrieve his spare keys.  The peace again broken, I packed up my fish and headed for home.

I don’t imagine that God is like the old man’s wife who sought to punish him for his mistake instead of helping when he asked.  I imagine that God’s love is like the Ranger.  He’s there to give us a lift out of our mistakes if we ask Him, and even provide us means for a trout dinner when we don’t deserve it.

Branches, Farmers and Old-fashioned Bartering

  Have you ever wanted to make a change in your life but found yourself unable to do so?  Have ever walked in the forest and picked up a stick and carried it for a while?  I’ve done this often, and most often when I’m tired of carrying it I throw it from me or I break it rather than simply dropping it.  I might hit it on a tree, or a rock, but it refuses to break so I’ll look for a point of leverage.  Maybe it’s a rock alongside a downed log or two trees growing close together but I want to break it because dropping the stick isn’t enough, it is resisting, it must be broken.  I’m not sure why we want to break things we want to leave behind, but maybe it is because then we can feel we’ve truly left it.  After it’s broken, it’s changed and it can’t resume its former function.  Sometimes I’ve observed that’s how people treat relationships in their life that they want or need to change.  They seek a point of leverage to break relationships they’re tired of carrying and that they want to leave behind.  They just can’t drop them, it has to be broken first to justify the leaving; in so doing, there’s nothing left that might draw them back.  if they aren’t strong enough to walk away, they seek a point of leverage, some flaw to lean hard against to force the break.  It’s sad what we do to each other rather than just peacefully dropping the branch, leaving it whole, walking away in peace.

·         Are there bigger pessimists/whiners in the world than farmers?  I suppose if you are totally at the whim of mother nature you get that way.  If it rains they whine it’s the wrong amount, or the wrong time.  Hot = too hot.  Cold = too cold.  Windy = way too windy.  Humid = too soggy.  Sunny, early season, fruit ripens too fast, workers on another crop no help available.  Cloudy=late season, fruit won’t ripen help has moved on.  Dry= dry fruit.  Water= fungus.  I heard cotton called “poverty weed” one time at a small café near Fresno, yet there were thousands of acres of cotton planted there.  The guy was in a café, buying breakfast.  What he classified as poverty, I couldn’t discern.

·         Now some people in the world are saying that the US policy that led to so many crops like corn being used for fuel is a natural disaster or something.  OK, so we should discount our food and pay premium prices for your oil?  Why are farmers so pessimistic?  Can’t grow wheat in the sand?  Your gas is as important to me eating as the US corn is to you eating.  Let’s make a deal.

Cosmic Lost and Found or Where’s My Cookie?

So this afternoon, after I drop off my video, The Kite Runner (which I highly recommend by the way) at Safeway in the return slot on the front of the little red box.  You’ve seen them, the red box that spits out the video you want with the swipe of a credit card and then sucks them back inside a day later and even remembers my name and sends me a receipt by email – scary, but I digress.  The point is the wind was blowing like a banshee and all these little fluffy things are falling off the trees like snow and they must be full of pollen so my eyes puff up, tears begin to fall and I am sneezing like a dwarf.  I get wary looks from the Safeway shoppers leaving the store who either think I am a very sensitive guy still impacted by The Kite Runner or they think I might be contagious – nobody else with allergies is dumb enough to have gone out.  After I stop sneezing long enough to drive again I zip over to the Natural Foods store where I like to buy some of my food.  It’s the first time that I felt a general air of acceptance in that store.  People smiled at me.  It took me a while to figure it out because my sort of white-guy, middle-class-ness has always been rather skeptically observed there as if I might be leaking chemicals from my pores…I digress.  So, I am wandering around catching knowingly friendly looks and perusing cheese that costs more per ounce than gold when it occurs to me why I am suddenly so accepted here…my pollen besotted eyeballs closely resemble that bongo playing Rasta man I saw once at People’s Park in Berkeley.  So now I am self-conscious that everyone thinks I’m here to buy snacks for some bong party where they’re burning some serious doobage so I keep commenting loudly to people how windy it is and how many fluffy things there are being blown around…not sure that was really changing anyone’s approving pre-conceptions about the bloodshot orbs weeping on each side of my nose.   So,…I digress, my point is that here I am now, hours after my trip to the store, and I can’t find my cookie.  I know I carefully selected one, it was a really huge – natural and organic – a chocolate chip mega-cookie… or I thought I did – no doubt adding to my fellow patron’s nostalgia – yet now, no cookie here.  I even checked my receipt and no cookie there either.  How does that happen?  It’s like socks that get lost in the wash or that email that never came back, but never arrived either.  Where do these things go?  Is there some cosmic lost and found out there where we could go to find our stuff?  Is my cookie languishing there?  Couldn’t we build a red box and put it in Safeway and it could read my credit card and charge a small amount – say a nickel – for a lost sock, or a dime for a lost cookie and then it could spit it out.  It could even send an email telling you to come collect your sock.  Could some techno-guru get on that please, I’ve nothing for desert here and I don’t dare go out in the wind.

Unholy Marriage of Religion and Politics

·         So Sunday, I’m at church like I am every Sunday morning that I am in town.  I love my time to worship OK and I believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ.  I’m comfortable with God, but religion sometimes makes me shudder.  Sunday, in the middle of my time to worship God, the pastor stands up and announces that there are petitions we need to sign;  must sign, is our holy duty to sign, if the tone were to be described accurately here.  He explains that marriage is under attack by Gays and Lesbians and that we as Christians must do our duty to change the state constitution to outlaw marriage between men or between women.  Hmmmm…..I don’t understand. 

·         I have problems with this at so many levels I don’t know where to start so I’ll start with the first thing that comes to mind which is that I don’t want to be coerced to act politically by my pastor. 

·         Second, I don’t want politics interrupting my time of worship. 

·         Third, if Christians don’t think that Gays and Lesbians should marry, then don’t marry them.  If you don’t approve of a homosexual marriage don’t attend one.  If you don’t approve of a homosexual marriage don’t allow the use of your church for one.  The constitution does not legislate that a pastor has to marry any couple that comes along with a pair of rings and stars in their eyes.

·         Fourth, if a marriage is as the vows imply, something that, “God has put together” or something to that effect, and if God actually won’t sanction marriages between men or between women, then why do Christians feel the need to legislate on God’s behalf?  If God won’t do it, God won’t do it, end of story.  It’s sort of like a monkey dressing up as a giraffe, I’m pretty sure that God knows the difference, if it matters to Him.

·         Fifth, a point made to me about this by a dear friend is, will this political action draw one single soul to Christ?  Jesus spent most of His time with the very people who the Bible identified as sinners and who the priests, the culture and the society of the time identified as outcasts.  Jesus did not set up tables in the temple courtyard with petitions to legislate against their sins, in fact he overturned the tables of people promoting agendas that were defiling His Father’s House:  that’s what I felt like doing Sunday!

·         Sixth, do we Christians truly believe, as the facist President of Iran, that there are no homosexuals in our midst?  Do Christians not want to reach out to those people?  What about their own family members who may be experiencing and confused about such feelings?  Do they think that by setting up tables in the courtyard to collect signatures; that by having barkers with clipboards flagging down those trying to skirt the process; that by using the bully pulpit; they are going to encourage a boy or a girl to come forward to talk about feelings that are so obviously held in such enormous contempt?  Will they be encouraged to share such struggles with their pastor and parents who are willing to change the constitution to outlaw them?  Are they going to be comfortable talking about homosexual feelings that may lead them to exposure to HIV/AIDS?  No, they are going into the closet and they will close that door to everyone they saw taking political action that condemns who they feel they are.

·         Seventh – Is there no shame about the hypocrisy that the pastors of my church engage in?  I have heard platitudes made by a pastor once or twice when they will say to a men’s group that men who are tempted by homosexuality are “welcome” in the church, that this temptation is no different than any other, that all sins are equal.  Yet hypocritically, they make jokes about homosexuals on the pulpit, they invite “Christian” comedians to perform who use homosexuality as part of their routine, they stand before the congregation and promote changes to the state’s constitution that on the surface speak about the sanctity of marriage.  But they aren’t kidding anyone.  While they will say with their lips that all sin is equal, their contempt for homosexuals is obvious, their actions ridicule and create separation.  In reality, their actions speak much louder and say that homosexuals aren’t welcome, homosexuals are to be legislated against.  There is no practice of grace or love in this, only fear.

·         And Last – “Trust in God” isn’t at play in this political action.  So we symbolically outlaw marriage for homosexuals, yet male and female couples continue to live together.  What’s the difference?  If God doesn’t approve it doesn’t matter who creates the union on earth or even what we call it.  The question of who sanctifies a marriage is God’s, not Cesar’s.  The real issue here is why are we acting like the Pharisees who used the law to separate themselves from those who they legislated as unclean?