Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Breaking the Third Commandment

Last night the President of the United States broke the Third Commandment.

He walked over to a church, after protesters in front of it had been tear-gassed, held up a Bible, and had his picture taken, after threatening to send out “thousands and thousands of troops” to stop the violence currently taking over America if the governors did not do it themselves.

If you look up a list of the Ten Commandments in the book of Exodus in the Old Testament, the Third Commandment reads, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” (King James Version).  The New International Version reads, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”

Last night, in using the Bible and a church for a photo op, the President of the United States took two symbols of Christian America and misused them for his own purposes.  

There are people who have called him “brave” and said “well done”.  

No.  This is not well done.  

Trump used St. John’s Episcopal Church as a backdrop for his photo op.  The Right Reve. Mariann Buddy, who is the bishop of Washington, D.C.’s Episcopal Diocese, said she was “not given even a courtesy call that they would be clearing with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop, holding a Bible, one that declares that God is love and when everything he has said and done is to enslave violence.”

Earlier, Trump told governors on a conference call that they had to “dominate”, and take back the streets, and called them “weak”.

We have a man who died at the hands of police a week ago.  We have another man who died at the hands of two white men three months ago, and it took two months for video of that murder to emerge.    We have a woman who died at the hands of police who “went to the wrong house.” (Oops.). In case you have forgotten, their names are George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.  

I know of two African-Americans — people I am personally acquainted with — who are afraid to go jogging in their neighborhoods, who are afraid to wear masks when they go out.  Another African-American whom I know personally has said, I don’t want to die.  I just want to go home to my wife.

And our President has the chutzpah to go to a church and hold up a Bible, after demanding that governors “take back the streets” and threatening to send out “thousands and thousands of troops”.  

President Trump, do you want a second Civil War?

Do you?

We Christians get very touchy at the use of certain language.  We should.  I find certain words offensive and I don’t like my ears and my brain being assaulted with them.  

But something is terribly wrong when Christians are quick to scream about a particular word which takes the name of the Lord in vain, quick to demand prayer back in schools and the Ten Commandments posted on the walls, quick to demand that abortion be outlawed . . . and yet see nothing wrong when a President of the United States misuses the name of the Lord by using a church and a Bible to make himself look strong, tough, and Presidential.

We, indeed, have lost our compass.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

"Go home!"

"Go home!"

That was the order Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms gave to hundreds of rioters in downtown Atlanta last night, who took advantage of a peaceful protest and turned the place into a war zone. 

They eventually did go home, but not before vandalizing the CNN Center, breaking out the windows at McCormick and Schmick's, a downtown restaurant; torching several police cars, and streaming up into Buckhead, where they looted businesses around Lenox Mall and Phipps Plaza.

At the moment, it's quiet downtown, but who knows what tonight will bring?

Governor Brian Kemp has authorized 1500 National Guard troops to hopefully quell any more violence. 

As I write this, there is a peaceful protest going on outside of the Governor's Mansion in Atlanta.

71 arrests were made and 20 police cars were burned last night. 

What started it?

It began with a knee to the neck of George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Floyd had been arrested on suspicion of passing a $20 bill.  He'd been handcuffed, questioned, and then, when the cops started to take him to the car, he resisted. 

I don't know how he ended up on the ground with officer Derek Chauvin's knee on his neck, but Floyd pleaded, "I can't breathe . . . I can't breathe."  If this story sounds familiar, those were also the last words of Eric Garner, who was placed in a chokehold by an NYPD officer, and who died as a result. 

Eight minutes later, Floyd had suffocated. 

Floyd was African-American.  Chauvin was white. 

Coming on the heels of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and the shooting of Louisville, Kentucky resident Breonna Taylor -- shot by police who forced their way into what they later said was the wrong house -- both victims being African-American, the shooters being white -- Floyd's death was the last straw.

I have seen an outpouring of anger, rage, sorrow, and other emotions from whites and people of color this week on social media.  I have seen people of color, some of whom I know in real life, who say that they do not feel safe.  One young man doesn't feel safe jogging in his neighborhood anymore since the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.  A mother does not feel safe wearing a mask out in public because the perception of an African-American in a mask spells "they are up to no good". 

Last night, Atlanta blew up. 

Atlanta was not the only city that blew up.  Minneapolis blew up, the second or third night in a row it has done so.  Houston blew up.  Los Angeles blew up. 

I am a white woman.  I have a limited voice.  While I have African-American friends, I can not even begin to say, yes, I know how you feel, I understand.  No, I don't understand!  I don't understand how people can hate people based on the color of their skin.  I don't understand the roots of systemic racism and systemic discrimination. 

And I am not a leader, so I don't know how to make it better. 

Right now, I am listening to two women, Keshia Lance-Bottoms and Erika Shields (police chief of Atlanta, Georgia) saying in no uncertain terms that what happened last night in Atlanta will not be tolerated again.  I pray that any protests stay peaceful. 

I will raise my voice and add mine to Mayor Bottoms:

"If you care about this city, GO HOME!"

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Tina’s TEOTWAWKI Journal, Day 62-63

I called my BFF to vent this morning.

I feel tense and jumpy, waiting to be interrupted all.the.time.

If I wake up before my husband, I run the risk of waking HIM up.  Our dressers are on the same side of the room, his side (they also serve as a divider between the bedroom area and the “office” area which I am now using.)

I KNOW the Christian homemaking books say that the wife is supposed to get up first, have her “quiet time” or “devotional time” and then fix breakfast for everyone, but both Frank and Matthew get up anywhere between 4 and 4:30.  I absolutely cannot get up that early.  (And a decent “quiet time” has been beyond my ken for years.  I listen to an audio Bible app.  I stopped trying to keep up with a Beth Moore and a Priscilla Shirer study that my Sunday school class and my ladies’ Bible study was doing because it got to be too much.).

I started back working this week (yay!) but I’ve been putting in about seven hours’ worth of work daily since I’ve been working.  Yesterday I wanted to go walking with Frank and Matthew.  I finally told them to go on alone.  The major problem I was having was the spinning blue circle of death that was happening nearly every single time I tried to move the cursor!  The circle can spin from ten seconds up to over a full minute.  AND, all of the depositions I am listening to are done by videoconference.  For obvious reasons.  Which can affect the sound quality.

Our preacher has been talking a lot about current events lately, particularly Ahmaud Arbery’s shooting (and now, the horrific shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky) because we have people of color in our congregation that have been deeply affected.  And as much as I want to support people, I have a limited amount of time and energy, physically and emotionally.  But, if I don’t put forth the energy to listen to people’s concerns and get educated on those concerns, I fear being told that “you don’t care about your brothers and sisters in Christ.”

And *both* of my knees hurt.  I may have to head back to the orthopedic doc.  They hurt in the same way that my knee hurt about a year and a half or so ago when I ended up having a torn meniscus and needed knee surgery.  One of my docs wants me to walk.  How am I supposed to walk when my knees hurt?

I have pages to proof that are due by Monday.

Today I am scheduled for an eye exam, which I was scheduled for last month and I forgot the appointment.

Next week Matthew has an appointment and one or both of us will have to take him (and it’s 45 minutes one way.)

Frank STILL has not heard when he’s going back to work.  He is getting paid, and I’m thankful for that.  But he’d rather be working and I don’t blame him for that.

Next week Matthew’s school ends for the semester.  We have gotten his paperwork sent in for vocational rehab.  I have a copy of The Loving Push by Temple Grandin, and every time I pick it up and see what she has to say about electronics addiction, and how staying in a room is not acceptable, I want to scream, “But that is ALL of what Matthew wants to do!  Stay in his room and play with the electronics!  That is IT, and it will be a full-time job just to get him out of there!  I don’t have the energy, especially the emotional energy, to do it, especially when most of the job is going to fall on ME!”

My BFF told me, ‘you be you’, but sometimes I just think that ‘me’ is not acceptable.  I don’t know if I could consider myself “shy” anymore, but shyness is NOT acceptable in our culture.  In American Christian culture, a working mother is just barely acceptable.  An intellectual woman is an anomaly.  And being fat and not that attractive is not acceptable.  I’m way overweight, have tried Weight Watchers, have tried at least one other program, and I just cannot stick with it.  It’s too overwhelming to think about food, and exercise, and everything else.

Such is life on Day 63 of quarantine!

It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
And I feel fine!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Tina’s TEOTWAWKI Journal, Day 59-61

On Monday, for the first time in 49 days, I was able to post the following status:

“Time to make the donuts!”

The people I proof for are slowly picking up work again and as a result, I am starting to get work again as well.

Yesterday I proofed 150 pages, and when I listened to the recording, I felt everyone’s pain.

For right now, lawyers, deponents, and court reporters are having to do their jobs via Zoom, or Google Meet, or whatever videoconference platform they are using.  They’re doing their jobs the same way millions of people around the world are:  in living rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms, home offices; using Internet, using desktops, laptops, iPads, and phones.

They’re working the same way that I am attending church and that my son is attending school.  Only in the 21st century would this be possible!

The one disadvantage to my particular job, however, is called sound quality.  I listen to recordings as part of my job, and unfortunately, meeting via videoconference is not always conducive to audible legibility.

So it means often playing a portion of a recording over and over, trying to figure out if the person really is saying what the transcript has recorded them saying.  And it means sometimes straining your ears and turning up the volume.

I’m not always crazy about working, and sometimes the tedium of the job can get to me.

But I appreciate the fact that I am working.  There are people that can’t say that right now.

So it’s nice to be able to say it again:

“Time to make the donuts!”

And, also time to sing our theme song:

It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
And I feel fine!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Tina's TEOTWAWKI Journal, Day 58

She was ten years old when she went to bed, 80 years ago, and when she woke up the next time, the world as she knew it had ended.

Did the bombs wake her up in the middle of the night?

Did her parents' exclamations wake her up?

Did she hear them turning the radio dial, get up, and wonder what happened?

Did her 14-year-old sister wake her up?

Or did she just wake up the next morning to learn that her country had been invaded?

She and her sister probably didn't go to school that day, although her father did go to work.

Her mother probably told her and her sister to "stay in the house, it's not safe to go out," and I'm guessing she was only too glad to comply.

For the next five days, she lived her life in uncertainty, not knowing what was happening or why, just knowing that her adopted homeland was under attack.

Five days later, the army surrendered.

Five years later, Anne Frank would be dead.

I've been listening to a day-by-day accounting of the World War II years on YouTube.  The owner of the channel is a little bit behind due to unavoidable circumstances. :-) The person on the channel reads the day's headlines from the Chicago Tribune 80 years ago (he is a Chicago native) and then will play what would have been broadcast on the radio that day.  He's played episodes of Fibber McGee and Molly, The Lone Ranger, and similar shows; he's also broadcast Presidential speeches and breaking news shows.

He's running a little bit behind due to unavoidable circumstances, but in a couple of weeks, he's going to be talking about 80 years ago today, May 10, 1940, which was the day Germany invaded the Low Countries, including the Netherlands, where Anne Frank and her family were living. 

His day-by-day approach to recounting history makes me think of the day-by-day lives of people like Anne Frank and her family.  We have the advantage of history and are able to see the entire story arc of her life and how it fits into history.  She didn't have that advantage.  All Anne knew was that one evening, she went to bed, and the next time she got up, the world as she knew it was over.

She didn't know that she'd be dead in five years, that she'd never get to grow up, marry, have children.

Anne could very well join in in singing our theme song:

It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it
And I feel fine!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Tina's TEOTWAWKI Journal, Day 56-57

It has been a hard week in this country.

And I am tired.

All week I have been seeing posts about a movie, "Plandemic" which claimed -- among other things -- that the COVID-19 virus was allegedly, according to CBS News, engineered to increase vaccination rates, and that wearing face masks is harmful. 

I don't have the mental energy to go chasing rabbits down that particular rabbit hole.  What has truly annoyed me is the screams of "Censorship!" because both Facebook and YouTube have removed the video (multiple times, in the case of Facebook) from their platforms.  I think the video is currently available on Vimeo.  I am not going to go looking for it, nor am I going to provide a link to it.  I don't do conspiracy theories.  (Oswald acted alone.  Deal with it.) 

And, this week, another video surfaced, that of the shooting of an unarmed black man, Ahmaud Arbery, who was followed and shot by two white men who claimed that he had burglarized houses in the area.  (Georgia does have a citizen's arrest law, saying that a private citizen can lawfully detain someone who has committed a crime in the presence of another person, or the person must have "immediate knowledge" of a crime committed by the perpetrator. 

As I understand it, these men thought Arbery had committed a crime, and they allegedly went after him to detain him until the police arrived, according to a statement by George Barnhill, the Ware County, GA District Attorney.

The rest of the story is told in the 36-second video:  Arbery being blocked by the truck, trying to go around it, then grappling with Travis McMichael's shotgun; three shotgun blasts, then Arbery dead in the street.

One of the questions I was asking myself yesterday was, why did Arbery go for the gun?  Didn't he realize that that was probably going to get him shot? 

It finally occurred to this very foolish white woman that my question begs the question:  Why in the world was Travis McMichael even pointing a shotgun at Ahmaud Arbery to begin with?  If he hadn't been confronted with a shotgun in the first place, there would have been no reason for him to grapple with Travis McMichael! 

This week also, screenshots of a Facebook group, "Justice for Gregory and Travis McMichael" came up in my FB feed.  The description of the group reads as follows:  "These two God-fearing men were only trying to protect their neighborhood.  This area has had a string of break-ins and this man fit the description and did not comply with simple commands."

If I were jogging, and two men pulled up to block me and demanded that I stop, that they "just wanted to talk with me", and I saw that they were armed, I would probably do one of two things:  stop with my hands up, or run as fast as I could in the opposite direction while screaming.  I would not feel the obligation to "comply with simple commands".  Rather, I would probably think, "Men.  Guns.  Threat," and respond accordingly.  Had it been a police officer who demanded that I stop, I would stop, raise my hands, and show that I wasn't armed.

"Justice for Gregory and Travis McMichael" currently has 100.4K members.  To be fair, this group was renamed from a previous group, Christians Against Google, and it may already have had a fair number of people in it rather than it being a group started from scratch.  But I suspect that many more joined after the name change. 

I am hearing all of this on top of handling a son who is going to school online, and also while gathering up the paperwork I need to apply for more services for him.  And I have my day-to-day life I am trying to lead in this midst of this pandemic.  This week, I saw in our church's email that our campus was closed "until further notice".  I find that phrase very depressing to read, although I understand why it's necessary.

And I also hear the screams about "government overreach" when people are asked to wear masks when they go outside.  I hear the screams about "open the economy or more people will die!"  I've heard the word "doomed" applied to our country, and I want to say sarcastically in response, "We're doomed.  Doomed, I tell you!"   

I am going to use a bad word here.  I am fed up, mentally fatigued and angry, and it seems the only word appropriate at the moment. 

What in the hell is wrong with our country???

Snark is definitely appropriate today:

It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it
And I feel fine!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Tina's TEOTWAWKI Journal, Day 54-55

Ahmaud Arbery, 25, left for a jog on February 23, 2020, and never came home.

He died of a shotgun blast on a Brunswick, Georgia street. 

As I understand the story, two men saw him running, thought that he was responsible for a series of break-ins in the neighborhood, pursued him, and shot him when he wouldn't stop.

Arbery is black.  The alleged shooters are white.

As of the time I'm writing this, May 7, 2020, 2:37 p.m., no charges have been filed.

And the only reason I know about this case is because of media coverage of a video that was just released a few days ago. 

I have not watched the video.  I cannot bring myself to do so.  But this CNN article gives the details.  The video clip is 36 seconds long, and I don't know who made the video. 

According to CNN, the video shows Arbery jogging down the middle of the street and veering around a truck blocking his path.  He then tussles with 34-year-old Travis McMichael over a shotgun McMichael was holding.  A shot goes off.  64-year-old Greg McMichael, Travis' father, pulls out a handgun but doesn't shoot. 

Arbery and Travis McMichael disappear briefly off screen, then come back into view.  Both are clutching the shotgun when a third shot goes off.  Arbery drops to the street.  Travis McMichael walks away, holding the shotgun. 

The McMichaels claim self-defense.  A prosecutor who's since stepped down said that the McMichaels "engaged in hot pursuit and had solid first-hand probable cause as civilians to detain Arbery."  He stated, "It appears their intent was to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived.  Under Georgia law, this is perfectly legal."  Georgia does allow for a citizen's arrest if they "have immediate knowledge of an offense or if a perpetrator is trying to flee after committing a felony."

My first reaction, after hearing of this shooting, was, "This is Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman all over again.  Black man shot by white man because white man thought black man was a criminal."

My second reaction was, "If these two people thought he'd broken into a house someplace, why in the world did they not let the police handle it?"  (Someone did make a 911 call; CNN did not release the caller's identity.) 

My third reaction is heartsickness, again, for my African-American brothers and sisters who, again, have to deal with a white-on-black shooting.  One of my Facebook friends, who is African-American and who attends my church, said today that he jogs, and now he's afraid to because someone might decide to shoot him simply because of the color of his skin. 

Others of my African-American friends say that they have had to have "the talk" with their sons.  It is "the talk" about how the police may treat you if you are black, about how you have to be careful, about how you have to behave . . . it is a talk I will never have to have with my son, solely because I am white and he is white. 

Today, Ahmaud Arbery's picture has shown up on Facebook multiple times, including in my son's Facebook feed.  Today, I had to explain to him that two men shot another man because they thought he'd been a burglar when he wasn't.  My son has autism.  I kept race out of it because I know of no way to explain to him that yes, there are white people out there who hate people who are not white.  They hate people like the man who leads our college ministry.  Like a favorite usher of my son's.  Like a former minister at my church who now preaches in Tennessee.  Like a young lady who is also part of our college/young adult ministry.  Like three elders at my church and their wives and their children. 

Yesterday, finally, a district attorney has decided to take the case to a grand jury. 

I pray that justice will be done and that truth prevails.

How much longer must we see crimes, shootings, anger, prejudice, bigotry? 

How long, O Lord?

I definitely feel like being snarky on this particular entry:

It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it
And I feel fine!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.