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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

One cheeseburger, please

All Bruce Boynton wanted was a cheeseburger.

When I want a cheeseburger, it's easy enough. I go to my local McDonald's, or Burger King, or Wendy's, step up to the counter, and say, "I'd like a cheeseburger with fries and a Coke."

If I want a fancier cheeseburger, I'll probably go to Applebee's or Chili's. 

If I want to put forth the effort, I'll make one at home.

But Bruce Boynton wanted a cheeseburger . . . in 1958 . . . in a bus station in Richmond, Virginia . . . and he was African-American. And although federal law banned segregation in interstate travel, the bus station was segregated by color. 

So when Bruce Boynton, hungry and weary from bus travel, got off the bus, all he wanted was something to eat.   

But when he went to the part of the restaurant that was meant for blacks, he saw an eating area that, in his words, was "very unsanitary".

So he walked over to the white section, which he described as "clinically clean", and told the waitress, "I'll have a cheeseburger and tea."

The waitress left and came back with the manager.

His order for this hungry man, who just wanted a cheeseburger?

"Move!" accompanied by a racial slur.

Bruce Boynton was hungry. He wanted a cheeseburger. He did not want to eat it in a dirty restaurant. 

So, following the example of Rosa Parks, he said, "No." He pointed out that he was an American citizen with federal rights and thus was entitled to his cheeseburger and tea. As a law student at Howard University, Boynton knew his rights and knew the law.

It didn't matter.  Boynton was arrested and convicted on a charge of trespassing.

He appealed his case all the way up to the Supreme Court, with future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall as his counsel. In 1960, the SCOTUS, in Boynton v. Virginia, sided with Boynton, ruling that "when a bus carrier has volunteered to make terminal and restaurant facilities and services available to its interstate passengers as a regular part of their transportation, and the terminal and restaurant have
acquiesced and cooperated in this undertaking, the terminal and restaurant must perform these services without discriminations prohibited by the Act." 

Unfortunately, the Interstate Commerce Commission didn't enforce the SCOTUS ruling.  Jim Crow in the South continued.

So in 1961, groups of people climbed aboard interstate buses, the Greyhounds and the Trailways, and rode straight into the arms of white mobs waiting for them in places like Anniston, Alabama and  Birmingham, Alabama.

For exercising a right guaranteed to them by the Supreme Court of the United States, they were attacked and beaten severely. It took their blood on the floor -- the blood of John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, Stokely Carmichael (also known as Kwame Ture) and others -- on the floor of a bus station to finally get the right to ride a bus, a right that whites took for granted.

In 1961, the "whites only" and "coloreds only" signs came down in the waiting rooms of interstate bus lines.

Bruce Boynton died on Monday at the age of 83, in Selma, Alabama, his hometown. He put his legal education and experience to work as a civil rights attorney after initially being unable to get a law license in Alabama.

I only learned of Bruce Boynton, and his story, this morning, while scrolling through the pages of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the man who, just because he wanted a cheeseburger, ended up inspiring the movement that ended segregation in interstate travel and helped pave the way for the civil rights acts now enshrined in federal law.

As US District Judge Myron Thompson said in Boynton's obituary, "All he wanted was a cheeseburger, and he changed the course of history."

I will never look at cheeseburgers the same way again.

So, next time I go to a restaurant and say, "One cheeseburger, please," I hope to remember Bruce Boynton, a time when his order for a cheeseburger was met with "Move!", and toast his courage with a ground beef patty with cheese on top, tucked securely into a bun.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.


Friday, November 20, 2020

Sending home china and "hand grenades"

For a young American serviceman, on his own for the first time in his life, and lonely for his family, china was affordable.

So was a cuckoo clock.

Such gifts were affordable for an American in 1950's Japan and Korea.  

So my dad took part of his paycheck from the United States Army and plunked it down for a set of china to send to his mother, my Granny Mary, in Harlan, Kentucky.  

At another time, he paid for a cuckoo clock and sent it home to his mother.

I don't know what her reaction was to receiving the china.  I suspect she may have been pleased and happy that her son remembered her and cared enough about her to send a gift home.

I do know, thanks to one of my cousins, what her reaction was to receiving the cuckoo clock.

When unpacking the box that the clock came in, the first thing she unwrapped were the weights that made the clock operate properly.  Not knowing what they were, she shrieked and threw them out the window, screaming, "Good Lord, he's sent home hand grenades!"

Thankfully, the weights were retrieved and the cuckoo clock assembled.

Granny Mary's daughter, my aunt, kept that cuckoo clock.  

My father kept the china.

The reason he kept the china was because, when he got married, Granny Mary gave it to him and my mother because they were setting up housekeeping and they needed the dishes.

I grew up with that china.  We used it for special dinners, and I remember using the smaller plates to eat off of at times.  

Today, that china sits on a shelf on my own china cabinet.  It is the china I use for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  

We will use that china this Thanksgiving.  My husband will cook either ham or turkey, depending on what we choose as our main dish, and we will use the large serving bowl to hold the ham or turkey while we carve and serve it. 

There will be three places at my table, because, in this season of COVID, it would not be wise to travel to family or for family to travel to us.  So it will be my husband, my son, and me at our table. 

Each place will have a china plate, decorated with painted violets, with our fancy silverware.

No, my father did not send home hand grenades to his mother.  But he did send home a treasure that his daughter still uses, a reminder of a time when he was alone and wanted a way to remind his family that he still remembered them.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

"Sick to my stomach!'

While writing for the Louisville Courier-Journal, the late columnist Joe Creason told an amusing story that speaks to where we are today as a country.

Two candidates running for office in Kentucky traveled up and down the states, ripping each other verbally to shreds as they did their campaigning.  One day, they were both campaigning at a rally in am in a Kentucky town.  

One of the candidates had a habit of taking a drink of bourbon before getting up and speaking.  The rally was outside, it was a hot day, and the candidate was not wearing a hat.  The heat made the bourbon inside him act up, and suddenly, the candidate became sick in front of the entire audience.  

When he recovered, he stepped up to the platform, held up both hands, and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, this just proves what I have been saying all over Kentucky.  The man just plain makes me sick to my stomach!"

Yeah, that pretty much sums things up, doesn't it?  "The other guy just plain makes me sick to my stomach!"  

There is another part of this story that also speaks to where we are as a country, or rather, where we are not as a country.

Creason described the two men who traveled all over Kentucky verbally ripping each other to shreds on the campaign trail as "warm friends who often traveled to campaign sites in the same car." (I cannot remember if he was referring to an automobile or a railroad car.) 

Does anyone remember the days when Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill battled it out in the political arena; Ronald Reagan as President and Tip O'Neill as Speaker of the House?  Reagan and O'Neill stood firmly on opposite sides of the political spectrum . . . and at the end of the day, would sit down and have a beer together.

Contrast that with our current President and Speaker, who haven't spoken to each other in a year.  

Contrast that with the current division in our country, where the results of Election Day 2020 shows a country almost evenly split down the middle, with some friends and family barely speaking to each other, if at all; with people fearing that the wrong word could ignite an argument, or that posting the wrong thing on social media will get you canceled.  

Is this what we have come to?  

Where we are so entrenched in our beliefs and our opinions that we will not even entertain that the other side might just have a point?  

In this environment, two opponents for political office can't be warm friends who travel together to the same campaign venue.  They can only be two people who verbally rip each other to shreds, both on and off the campaign trail.

That should make anyone sick to their stomach.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Election 2020

It's nearly 7:30 a.m., November 3, 2020, as I write this.  

By now, the residents of the tiny towns Dixville Notch and Millsfield, New Hampshire have cast their ballots for president.  Traditionally, they meet just after midnight and vote.  A third town, Hart's Location, scrapped their plans for midnight voting due to the COVID pandemic.  Their 48 voters will participate during normal hours.

Polls in my state of Georgia opened at 7 a.m., as they do in many states in the Eastern time zone.  By 10 a.m., the polls will be open in all 48 states.  By noon, they will be open in all 50.  

I've heard all the superlatives:  the most important election of our lifetimes, the future of this country rides on this election, etc.  

Never is that more true than now. 

Today, we have a choice.  

I have cast my ballot in early voting, as over 100 million people already have.  CNN states that the pre-election day vote "surpasses two-thirds of all 2016 ballots cast".  

Pundits have complained for years about poor voter turnout.  Well, this year, they may be wrong.

I have my feelings and my opinions about this election.  I haven't posted all of them on my Facebook page although I have posted and vented about them in private and secret groups.  Frankly, I really don't know at this point whether I'm at peace with the outcome or if I'm resigned to the outcome.  

God knows what is going to happen.  Sometimes, I wish He'd tell me, but I also understand that He is God and I am not.  And I'm not sure if I could bear the foreknowledge of certain events.  (Imagine knowing the time and manner of your death.  Would you be able to deal with that?)

I believe this is the election of a lifetime.  It comes during a year of COVID, a year of racial strife, a year of fire and flood and hurricane, a year of sniping, a year of disunity.  

What can I say?  I'm not an "influencer".  I don't have a YouTube channel.  I'm not an influential writer like a James Patterson, or a Stephen King; not a columnist like a George Will, or Leonard Pitts, or Peggy Noonan.  I'm just a person with a blog that a handful of people read and a few people say they enjoy. 

I realize how little power I have over the events of today.  I have one vote, and I can encourage others to vote, but when it all comes down to it, there's very little I can do about what will happen.  This is not meant to be a whine about how powerless I am, but a realistic look about what I do and do not have control over.  

I have cast my vote.  I have prayed.  The rest of this is in God's hands. 

For the past few days, I've woken up with the song "Courageous" by Casting Crowns playing in my head.  I deliberately linked to the lyric video here because the words are powerful. 

Too many American Christians, including myself, have put their hope in politics and getting the exact right President, Congress, governors, etc. in office. 

What has it gotten us?

A divided nation, and people who are more interested in earthly political power than they are in worshiping and serving the God they claim to follow.  I think many so-called Christian leaders have sold their soul for political power and influence.  When you do that, Mephistopheles WILL eventually come to collect the payment due.  

I'm not an influencer, but I will use whatever platform I have to (I pray) the honor and glory of God.  

I'll end by quoting from the song Courageous:

"The only way we'll ever stand
Is on our knees with lifted hands
Make us courageous
Lord make us courageous!"

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.



Monday, November 2, 2020

239 Days

239 days.

34 weeks.

5,736 hours.

344,160 minutes.

20,649,600 seconds.

65.30% of 2020.


That is the amount of time between March 8, 2020, the last time I attended a Sunday worship service inside my building, and November 1, 2020, the next time I attended a Sunday worship service inside my building.

(I did the calculations on timeanddate.com.  So the hours, minutes, and seconds are give and take a few.)

We knew, on March 8th, that the pandemic was already here.  We just didn't know how bad it was going to get.  

We elected not to meet as a congregation out of a desire to stay healthy and protect others.  

We had tried to come back together in August, but our leaders canceled plans because of a spike in the COVID numbers. 

In the absence of being together, our tech team pulled together a virtual lobby, where we could "meet" without meeting.  

Our worship team filmed videos of their singing so we could sing with them.  

Our preacher, and others, filmed videos of their sermons.  

My ladies' Bible study communicated with each other via text message.

My small group held their meetings through Zoom.  

And thanks to Zoom, I got (and still get) to participate in my best friend's ladies Bible class in another state. 

But it was not the same.

Yesterday, I realized it was just not the same.

Yesterday, it was still "not the same".  We needed to register before we came to church (I'm guessing to manage the number of people in the building).  We needed to wear masks.  Inside, we picked up a portable communion set (a cellophane-wrapped wafer and vial of juice; and I am sorry, but that wafer tastes like foam!) and then went into an auditorium where every other row had a sign saying, "Don't sit here."  

We were reminded to "stay six feet apart" from people you didn't come to church with.  

And at the end, we were dismissed section by section and encouraged to "go fellowship in the parking lot".  (I felt like I was back in second grade and being dismissed by a teacher after lunch. :-) ) 

No, that was not the same.

But some things were still the same.

In spite of COVID, we came together, in a building, on Sunday.

We elbow-bumped, fist-bumped, air-hugged, jazz handed, and said how glad we were to be back.  

We sang, we raised hands, we praised God.

And we listened to our preacher remind us, before this election, to treat others as we would want to be treated.  We were reminded to "accept one another as God has accepted you".  

My son "made his rounds", as he does on Sundays.  We give him a dollar every week to put in the offering plate, and since we have not be able to attend, he's had no place to put his money.  Yesterday, he took all 34 dollars he'd saved since we had to stop meeting and contributed them.  

Maybe this is just for a little while.  Maybe we will have to stop meeting again in the building if the COVID numbers spike.  

I hope not and pray not.  

Because 239 days, 34 weeks, 5,736 hours, 344,160 minutes, 20,649,600 seconds, and 65.30% of 2020 is just too long to be apart.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.




Thursday, September 24, 2020

"Hurt"

It is a powerful, terrifying, heartbreaking song, and right now I am afraid to listen to it again.

It is Johnny Cash's version of "Hurt", written by Trent Reznor and originally recorded by Nine Inch Nails.

I've heard about the song, I've heard about its acclaim, its reception, but I never heard the song until today. 

It came up in one of my Spotify playlists, one of those Spotify makes for you based on stuff you've played in the past.  Probably, "Hurt" came up because I've played a couple of country/pop songs on Spotify before.  I saw on the playlist and thought about playing it, but decided not to.  

But after playing a few songs while doing some prep work for a proofing job, "Hurt" came on as the next song in the queue.  

And I froze.  

I think it may have been the first line:  "I hurt myself today to see if I still hurt" that got me.  

And during the chorus, when Cash laments about what he'd become and how everyone he knew went away in the end . . . and the guitar chords in the background of the chorus crescendo slowly, louder, louder, more emphatic.  

The song has ended, and I cannot bring myself to put on another one.  I thought about putting on another happy song, something to get this one out of my head . . . and how can I?  Because doing it, looking for something light, peppy, happy . . . it seems somehow disrespectful to the pain and the anguish of both Johnny Cash and Trent Reznor.  Putting on a happy tune says, "Go away, go away, I don't want to feel you right now; I don't want to face the sadness, the uncomfortableness; I don't want to face the fact that heartbreak and fear and sadness and depression exist."  

Pushing the feelings away, masking them with something upbeat and happy, it somehow seems wrong, disrespectful, almost sacreligious, as if I am blaspheming something sacred.  

The music has ended and right now I cannot put on music.  

Because all I can hear is Johnny Cash, in his gravelly voice.  

"I hurt myself today to see if I still hurt."

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, September 21, 2020

"Start panicking!"

 At 10 a.m. on Monday, October 5, 2020, Chief Justice John Roberts will mount the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States.  

Dressed in a black robe, followed by seven others dressed in black robes, he will bang his gavel, call the court to order, and issue the following proclamations:

  • Abortion is now illegal.
  • Roe v. Wade has been overturned.
  • Gays can no longer marry.
  • Transgenders no longer have job protection.
  • Blacks can no longer vote.
  • The South can revert back to Jim Crow.
From the way people are reacting to the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that is exactly what it going to happen.

Monday, October 5, 2020, 10 a.m. is when the new session of the Supreme Court will convene.  It will do so without Ginsburg, who died on Friday after a battle with pancreatic cancer.  Pancreatic cancer is an awful disease, and I am glad she is no longer suffering with it.  

Her death has sparked discussions about her legacy (there was a time in this country where a married woman couldn't open a bank account without her husband co-signing, for example.)  

Her death has also sparked near-panic among many in social media.

Because now, there is a new spot on the SCOTUS, and there's a rush to fill it with a conservative justice before the November elections.  

Never mind that the party rushing to fill the vacancy is the same party that insisted that a SCOTUS vacancy under Obama shouldn't be filled until after that particular upcoming election.  

The last I checked, the SCOTUS does not have the power to unilaterally grant or take away the rights that I just listed above.  Chief Justice Roberts does not have the power to bang a gavel and say that gays can't marry, for example.  

What the SCOTUS does have the power to do is to listen to a case and decide what the law is.  Granted, the SCOTUS has made some dreadful decisions in the past.  No pun intended, but the Dred Scott decision comes to mind; also, Plessy v. Ferguson.  

The SCOTUS has also responded to changing times and bad decisions with decisions that reversed previous rulings; probably Brown v. Board of Education is the most famous.  

But Brown, and Roe, and others had to follow a long process to get to the SCOTUS.

This isn't the time to panic.  If you are genuinely worried about the direction the country is going in, educate yourself, make plans to vote in November, follow the docket of the SCOTUS, and write your representatives. And if you're genuinely afraid of the direction the country is heading -- and a majority of people are afraid -- then start looking for another country to call your own.  Maybe that is the best case for some who are able to do it. 

Panic feeds on panic, and it's panic that leads to bad decisions and ultimately to mob rule.  I don't want to live under mob rule, but I fear that in these days of social media cancel culture and fake news, it may happen.

Then it may be time to start panicking.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.