Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ruby Bridges

Yesterday, I stood between two African-American women, our hands clasped together in prayer.  We are all part of our church's praise team, and we'd just finished having a brunch and listening to two people talk.  One of the people who spoke was an elder at my church, a very dear African-American man.  (I was in a Sunday evening small group he led for a while.  The reason he should be an elder is because, anyone who can put up with ME in a small group deserves to be an elder!)

Were it not for the courage of a six-year-old girl in November of 1960, such an occurence may not have been possible.

Today, I got to hear the story of that six-year-old girl.

Ruby Bridges (Hall) was born on September 8, 1954.  Less than four months earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had handed down their decision in Brown v. Board of Education, ordering the desegregation of public schools "with all deliberate speed".

The South responded with deliberation, but not with speed.  In fact, in most places in the South, the "deliberation" they responded with was the deliberation to make it as hard as possible for black children to go to school with white children.

In New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1960, the NAACP put out a request:  will you volunteer your children to help integrate the New Orleans public school system?  Ruby Bridges' family said yes.  Mr. Bridges was reluctant, but Mrs. Bridges convinced him to let Ruby attend.

So Ruby took a test--a test that was designed to set up kids to fail--and was one of only six black children, out of 140, who passed.  The stage was set.  The New Orleans schools would be integrated.

If any of you are familiar with Ruby Bridges' story, you probably have seen Norman Rockwell's painting "The Problem We All Live With":

When Ruby told her story today, she sat on stage with my minister and just spoke, very simply.  It was her child's innocence, she said, that protected her.  Everyone was excited for her to go to this new school, and people said over and over that she was so smart because she was one of the few kids that had passed the test to get into school.

On November 14, 1960, as Ruby was dressing for school (in a coat that she said she hated!) someone knocked at the door, and when it was opened, a man announced that they were federal marshals and they were there to escort Ruby to school.  Ruby thought, "Who are they?"  No one had told Ruby about the men, and no one had explained to her that she was going to be integrating the school.  This was a time when children--especially in the African-American community, Ruby explained--were "seen and not heard".  You didn't ask questions.

So, Ruby and four federal marshals climbed into a car, and they were escorted to William Frantz Elementary School by the members of Ruby's community.

But when Ruby got there, she was taken to the principal's office and stayed there all day.  She had noticed the crowds screaming and shouting, and she thought, this is just like a parade!  They all came out for me because I'm so smart and I must have gone straight from kindergarten into college!

At the end of the day, when she went home, she thought, college is easy!

She went home, and she jumped rope to the chant she'd heard that day:  "Two, four, six, eight, we don't want to integrate!"  What she did not know was that 500 kids were taken out of school that day by parents who did not want their children to attend school with a black child.

And then the second day came.  And that was the day that Ruby's mother got very nervous.  Because now the world knew that the New Orleans schools were being integrated.  And the world sent the media to cover it.

The federal marshals came to the door, took Ruby into the car, and when they got to school, they told her, walk straight ahead and don't look at the crowd.

She got to her classroom, and the door opened and a woman named Barbara Henry introduced herself, and said, I'm going to be your teacher.  Ruby's reaction:  She's white.  She's just like all those people out there who were screaming.

Except she wasn't like them.  Ruby, while speaking today, described Barbara Henry as "the nicest teacher she had".

For the entire year, it was Ruby Bridges and Barbara Henry, alone, in a classroom.

On that second day, a white girl crossed the picket line.  Five or six other families--at personal risk--sent their children to Ruby's school.  Ruby could hear the kids, but when she told Mrs. Henry that she heard them, Mrs. Henry wouldn't tell her about them.  Because, the principal--who was on the side of the demonstrators--had hidden the kids so that they wouldn't see Ruby.

Finally, Ruby got to meet the kids.  Her reaction:  "I knew I heard kids!"  And like all children, she wanted friends.  But one little boy told her:  "I can't play with you because you're a nigger."  That was when the light dawned.  "So this is what this is all about."

She wasn't angry.  If, Ruby said, her parents had told her not to play with a white child, she would have done it because her parents told her to.  "We pass racism on to our children," she said.

Ruby finished that first grade.  She grew up to become a travel agent, and then lost that job.  Restless and at a loss, she asked God, "What am I supposed to do?"  She heard in response, "You're not doing what I want you to do."  Her answer, "Then you need to tell me what I need to do, and if you are who I think you are, I'll do it."

It so happened that, at that time, she was caring for the children of her late brother, and the kids were attending the same school she had integrated.  The current principal, after telling her, I know who you are, encouraged her to volunteer.  And around the same time, Robert Coles' book, The Story of Ruby Bridges, was published  . . . and when the publisher said, we want you to do publicity for it, and we'll pay you $50,000, she said, "I think I can do that."

While her courage as a child moved me, it was the portion of the story she told about her adult life that nearly moved me to tears.

Ruby had four children.  Her second son, along with one of her grandsons, was shot in a drive-by shooting.  Ruby was just simply grateful that they were alive.  Her oldest son, though, was consumed by the shooting.  Four months later, Ruby's oldest son was rear-ended, and after her son got out and conversed with the driver, he turned around.  The door to the driver's car opened.  The person that emerged shot Ruby's son 11 times.  He died four hours later at a hospital.  The police thought that Ruby's son may have been investigating his brother's shooting on his own, and that the shooters found him first.

And right after that, Katrina hit and destroyed the home she lived in.

Two years after her son's murder, she awoke fearing that she was having a heart attack.  At the hospital, she met a nurse and, in the conversation, learned that this nurse was the ER nurse who had cared for her son before he died.  She said, I prayed with him the whole time.  The reason you're here today isn't because you're having a heart attack (which she was not.)  You came here for me.  God had sent Ruby there so she could hear about her son's last moments.  She said to us, there is a God, he is real, and he hears us.

Ruby was invited to speak on faith and politics at last week's Democratic National Convention. Given her experiences as a child and as a mother who'd lost a child to violence, the inevitable question came:  So, how do you feel about Black Lives Matter?

Her answer:  Black lives do matter.  They mattered to her, her husband, her sons, her grandson, her widowed daughter-in-law, her grandchildren left without a father.  Her son's life had been taken by someone who looked like him.  And then she said, "Black lives have to matter to us [to other blacks] first."

And then she said, "There is an 'us and them'.  It is good and evil.  Evil doesn't care what you look like.  We're busy talking about color, but there is a bigger force of evil.  We are up against evil," she said, "we need to be aware of the real war."

That, she said, was the message she delivered to the Democratic National Convention.

She holds no anger, no bitterness against those who mistreated her as a child.  She holds sorrow and grief over the violence that killed her son.  But above all, she holds a faith in God that has brought her through; the God that she says is real, and that he hears us.

She was greeted with a standing ovation.  She received several ovations during her talk.  We thanked her with a standing ovation.  All of them were deserved.

I visited the exhibit afterwards which told the story of how Christians had participated in the battle for equality in education.  Several of our members acted as guides, telling different parts of the story and asking us to leave comments.  At the end, we got a chance to briefly meet Ruby.  Several members of our church had their picture taken with her.

In these days of violence, hate, and "us vs. them", Ruby Bridges reminded us today that the war is with evil.  And she put a face on those that fought in the war against evil; a woman who sat in an empty classroom and taught her, a nurse who spoke of the last hours of Ruby's son, a publisher that encouraged her to tell her story.

Our theme this year at church is "Fear[less]", i.e. not being totally without fear, but learning to live with less fear.  I do not think it is an accident that, in this year of police shootings, terrorist attacks, and a volatile, contentious Presidential campaign, that we are learning about fearing less, and that a woman spoke to us today who pointed the way to living with less fear.

Sunday at 10 a.m. has been called "the most segregated hour in America".  My church tries hard to be the exception to that rule.  Ruby Bridges, and other heroes of the Civil Rights movement, show that it is possible for love to overcome hate, for blacks and whites to clasp hands around a circle of prayer, for all of us to worship the God that loves us, no matter the color of our skin.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Carb, two, three, four . . .

At a recent endocrinologist's appointment, I was told that my blood sugar was rather high.  So, I did a glucose tolerance test to find out whether or not I had diabetes.  (Do not misinterpret the name.  The "tolerance" part is actually a test to see if you can tolerate the taste of the liquid glucose they make you drink!)

After getting my blood drawn, I drank the aforementioned liquid glucose and shudder at the sweetness.  Then I got to wait for two hours.  And since I had to wait for two hours, I was advised to bring a book or something to keep me busy.  I took my iPad and iPod, and was lucky enough to be able to stream some video.

Two hours later, I got another blood draw.  I've had so many blood draws that the veins around my elbows are shot.  So I just tell the tech, take it out of the back of my hand.  You can see the veins there.  So yes, I got two blood draws in two hours.  Ouch.

When the results came back, they showed that I was pre-diabetic.

Not good.

So I get to enter the wonderful world of . . . carb counting.

My endocrinologist has a dietician.  I'm a bit skeptical of dieticians, because I've seen two of them in my lifetime, and both of them have told me that I need to "eat organic".  When I protested to one that I couldn't afford organic, he said, "It's better for you in the long run."  No mention of the cost factor.

The other one wanted me to eat weird food that I couldn't afford and probably didn't like.

So I approached that appointment with a mixture of fear and trepidation.

This appointment, however, was run by a reasonable person.

She gave me a guide to carb counting, and when I asked her if I was going to be told to eat weird food that I couldn't afford and didn't like, she said, "No."  She also said that no, I didn't have to eat organic.  Thank God.  But she did say that I needed to add more protein, more vegetables, and exercise consistently.

So now, the challenge is, how in the world do I plan meals with fewer carbs?  Probably, I just have to sit down and do it.

The answer to everything these days, it seems, is "exercise and eat your veggies."

So, all together now:

Carb, two, three, four; carb, two, three, four . . .

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Tina to GOP: Bye, Felicia

Although my dad registered as a Democrat when we moved to Florida -- for reasons he never explained to me -- I grew up with Republican Party principals.  I remember riding in the car one time with my father when Ronald Reagan came on the air, and my father said, "Silence."

He also took me one time with him when he voted.  And we watched every evening news program that was on:  ABC at 6, NBC at 6:30, CBS at 7.  So I grew up with a knowledge of current events and the idea that it was very important to vote.

When I went away to college, I went to Florida State, and in Leon County, you could register to vote if you were within six months of your 18th birthday.  So I registered, and when asked for a party affiliation, I put down Republican.

The first time I voted for President, in 1984, I voted for Ronald Reagan.

I was young and ignorant in 1988, and I voted for Dukakis.

But ever since then, I voted Republican for president.

I've always believed in a rather limited government.  I'm a moral, fiscal, and social conservative, and I don't believe that the government should be giving "handouts".  (I also understand that there's a difference between a handup and a handout.  There is a place for short-term help and for help for those who cannot work.)  I worry about the increasing power of the federal government.  Ronald Reagan is quoted as saying, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

But the GOP has been sliding away from conservative principles for the last several years, and increasingly, I have grown very angry with their leadership.  They say they have principles, and yet they abandon them for the sake of "getting along".  You can say what you will about Sarah Palin, but in 2008, she did galvanize the conservative base of the Republican Party--a base that is now being ignored.

Over the past year, the Republican Party has rallied behind a man who, in my opinion, is not qualified for the Presidency.  He has had success and failure in business, but knows nothing about foreign policy or how to work with Congress or foreign governments.  If he HAS worked with foreign governments, it's in his capacity as a businessman and not as a world leader.

He has shot his mouth off about Muslims, immigration, Megyn Kelly, and other subjects, and he has refused to apologize.

He does not believe he needs to be forgiven by God.

People support him because "he says what everyone else wants to say but either can't or won't."

He wants to make America great again but has no specifics on how he will do it.

And one by one, the leaders of the Republican Party and conservative media have all fallen in line behind a Pied Piper playing his flute and leading the children, one by one, off to the side of a mountain, where the door will close behind them.

Last night, upon learning that Donald Trump had officially and formally secured the Republican nomination for President, I'd had enough.

My 35-year relationship with the Republican Party is at an end.

Conservative blogger Erick Erickson posted an article this morning that sums up much of what I also am feeling.  He says that he cannot be a water carrier for Trump.

Neither can I.

So, here's my farewell to the Republican Party:

Bye, Felicia.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Empathy fatigue and adverbial correctness

I have empathy fatigue.

I'm currently on vacation, in Florida relaxing at my mother-in-law's house.  She's a gracious hostess and I appreciate her hospitality.

It was probably before I left that I started developing empathy fatigue.  When I heard about the shooting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I thought, "Not again.  Here we go again."

On the drive down to Florida, we stopped at McDonald's for breakfast, and that was when I learned, courtesy of a big-screen TV blaring CNN all over the place, that TWO black men, in different parts of the country, had been shot by white policemen in 24 hours.  One of them was the shooting in Baton Rouge.  The other was in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The MN shooting was live streamed on Facebook.  The Baton Rouge shooting was also videoed and placed on the Internet.

After seeing the news on CNN, all I wanted to do was cry.  Because such shootings have happened too often.  And I predicted that violence such as what happened in Ferguson would follow.

What I did not predict -- indeed, what probably no one else predicted -- was the senseless slaughter from ambush of five Dallas police officers, murdered in cold blood.

That, I learned of when I sat down for breakfast Friday morning, opened up my iPad, and saw as the first alert from my news apps.  All I could do was whisper, "Oh, my God."

I, like probably numerous others in this country, am just plain overwhelmed and tired from all of the violence, murder, and other bad news we've been hearing recently.  Orlando knocked the Standford rape case out of the headlines.  A bombing in Iraq knocked Orlando out of the headlines.  Baton Rouge knocked that bombing out of the headlines.  St. Paul knocked Baton Rouge out of the headlines.  Dallas knocked both Baton Rouge and St. Paul out of the headlines.  The American flag has been at half-mast for so long and for so many times, I've forgotten who, at the moment, we're supposed to be honoring.

What next?  What next?

I'm worn out from trying to care and from being expected to care.  I describe it as "empathy fatigue". I think the correct term is "compassion fatigue", and it's common among those who serve in the helping professions.

Not only am I worn out from trying to care, I am worn out from trying to be adverbially correct.

That's not meant to be a comment on the use of correct grammar.  Rather, I feel as if I have to have the politically, socially, Bibically, spiritually, -- whatever -ly word you want to use -- correct position on every. single. issue that is out there.  And the thought of having to do the research and thinking to come up with whatever that position is just leaves me overwhelmed.

And in addition, I feel that no matter what I say, as a white woman, I am going to be labeled as either "racist" or "privileged".

If I am not an overt racist, I'm a covert racist.
If I'm not a covert racist, I'm an inadvertent racist.
If I'm not an inadvertent racist, I'm an unconscious racist.
If I'm not an unconscious racist, I'm a subtle racist.

And if I'm none of the above, I'm "privileged" solely because I'm white.

Therefore, since I am white and privileged,  nothing I say counts.

At the risk of offending friends on both sides of the political aisle, I'm going to say two things:
1.  Sometimes the police officer is the bad guy.
2.  Sometimes the African-American who is shot by the police is the bad guy.

Neal Boortz, a retired talk show host who was based in Atlanta, has said that when a young black is shot by a white police officer, the narrative is that the young black is ALWAYS innocent and the white officer is ALWAYS guilty.  I can't say that he's totally wrong.  Because that does seem to be the narrative these days.  What I resent about these police shootings is that NO ONE is willing to wait until the facts come out before they start casting blame--whether it be at the white cop or the African-American victim.

On the other hand, we DO have a tragic history of racism when it comes to the treatment of African Americans by white officers--and sadly, there are some white officers that still automatically treat African-Americans as if they are criminals when they are not.  One of my minister's sons is African American.  He's been subject to such treatment from white police officers.

We live in a world where it seems that right has become wrong, wrong has become right, and the world has turned upside down.  To tell me, as a Christian, to, "just read your Bible and do what it says" doesn't completely help , because ANYONE can take the Bible and use it to "prove" that what they are saying is accurate.  To go through and try to prove or disprove every.single.teaching that is out there is a job I just can't do.

I"m a white woman who doesn't want to be a racist.  I'm a Christian who wants to follow God's command to love Him, love others, and reach the lost.  Is there no way for me to do it without falling victim to empathy fatigue and/or having to be adverbially correct on everything?

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, July 4, 2016

On the 240th birthday of the United States of America . . .

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:
Column 1
   Button Gwinnett
   Lyman Hall
   George Walton
Column 2
North Carolina:
   William Hooper
   Joseph Hewes
   John Penn
South Carolina:
   Edward Rutledge
   Thomas Heyward, Jr.
   Thomas Lynch, Jr.
   Arthur Middleton
Column 3
John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton
Column 4
   Robert Morris
   Benjamin Rush
   Benjamin Franklin
   John Morton
   George Clymer
   James Smith
   George Taylor
   James Wilson
   George Ross
   Caesar Rodney
   George Read
   Thomas McKean
Column 5
New York:
   William Floyd
   Philip Livingston
   Francis Lewis
   Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
   Richard Stockton
   John Witherspoon
   Francis Hopkinson
   John Hart
   Abraham Clark
Column 6
New Hampshire:
   Josiah Bartlett
   William Whipple
   Samuel Adams
   John Adams
   Robert Treat Paine
   Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
   Stephen Hopkins
   William Ellery
   Roger Sherman
   Samuel Huntington
   William Williams
   Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
   Matthew Thornton