Two Anniversaries

My bride and I celebrated 32 years of marriage this week. I think she gave up on trying to fix me up, so she is stuck with what she got. Kidding aside, my wife is easily the best half of us. She is “the girl who holds the world in a paper cup,” meaning she is as genuine as they come.

My wife likes to say we are friends first, when asked about our longevity. The friendship carries us through the ebbs and flows of the relationship. The other is keep a sense of humor. We often laugh at ourselves and can tease each other. Life is too short not to laugh more.

I had another anniversary this week. I passed ten years without a drink of alcohol. The cravings are far fewer and less intense, but they linger back there somewhere. My daughter asked me about my drinking habits as I made her and my wife aware of the anniversary as we traveled. It stunned them by the amount I drank, but at least I did it at home.

The key lesson I learned early in my abstinence is to say the following mantra, “I am not going to drink today.” This is a key reason recovering alcoholics know the number of days. Another piece of advice is to find a substitute – mine were green tea, fruits, fruit juices, popsicles or sorbet. The cravings will remain, you just need to drink or eat something else.

So, let’s toast with your beverage of choice (or necessity) to laughter, love and sobriety, at least for those who must abstain.

 

Around the world in one hundred eighty days

The US President has just completed his first six months in office and his 180 days have been a lengthy and chaotic affair. Each week has seen bizarre story after another and, just when it looks like we can go no lower, the President can slip under an even lower limbo bar.

The sad part is he not only affects the US, he has created an untrustworthy relationship with pretty much every leader around the globe. Even leaders who are on his side likely do not trust the man as far as they could throw him. Conservative writer Ross Douthat wrote recently, “as soon as you give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt, he will disappoint you.”

A recent Pew Research Poll of 37 countries said trust in the President has fallen from 64% with Obama to 22% with Trump, a fall of 42 points. Think about that. Pulling out of agreements like the Paris Climate Change Accord and having to be shamed into fully supporting NATO reveal a man whose words do not mean that much. As a result, neither does our word as a country.

This is a key reason we try to honor earlier commitments. But, with Trump saying everything done before is a “disaster,” he feels he has to prove it by destroying it. As a result, other leaders may choose to work with more dependable countries.

Finally, when he layers in his destructive tweets, he seems to forget or not care that his tweets maybe contradictory to earlier statements made in person with another leader. The sophomoric tweeting is not enabling good governance.

So, until he is removed from office, we will have to suffer with the world. God only knows what the next 180 days will bring.

The Teacher Asked

The teacher asked little Johnny if he took Susie’s lunch money. Johnny said he did not. The teacher had seen this before.

She asked him again if he took Susie’s money. He replied more angrily and said how dare someone accuse him of such? Someone is making this story up.

Still unsatisfied, she told Johnny that she has strong evidence that he may be the culprit. Johnny stood firm saying “my enemies are out to get me. And, she gave me the money.”

The teacher said “so, you are admitting to having the money?” Johnny said “Susie gave it to me and if she says she did not then she is lying, believe me.”

The teacher asked if he was sticking with that story. When he said yes, she said “well let’s go down to Principal Mueller’s office and look at the videotape of you going into Susie’s backpack.”

At some point, most children learn that when caught in a lie, it is better to come clean. If you keep lying, more trouble will ensue.

Picture two men with the same name, one a father and one a son. The elder man never learned this lesson, so how could he teach his son not to lie. Principal Mueller may have a say in this, as well.

Sunday sermon-ettes

No, this is not intended to be overly spiritual. It is intended to offer a few vignettes, some spiritual, some historical, and some pedestrian.

– The Erie Canal is turning 200 years old. What I did not know is the US government did not want to fund its $7 million cost which was privately raised. That is astonishing as the Erie Canal (as the Panama Canal did later) significantly increased trade and promoted several cities like Chicago, Detroit, Rochester and Cleveland to prominence.

– I have been witnessing a letter to the editor debate on whether Jesus would have made the cake for the gay wedding couple, the refusal of which launched a court case. My favorite summed up my sentiments – Jesus would have made the cake and accompanied it to the wedding. We should remember, Jesus tended to hang out with the disenfranchised. He also said something about he who is without sin should cast the first stone.

– The ABC show “What would you do?” warms my heart and reveals the good in people. This Friday it aired a show where the ruse was an American Muslim couple waiting to be seated at a restaurant, but other couples were offered seats before them. When the couple complained, the female maitre’d¬†said openly we don’t want to offend our other customers. Couple after couple stood up for the American Muslim couple, some leaving and one inviting the Muslim couple to join them. It made me feel better about real Americans.

– The Catholic Church has benefited greatly from the people’s Pope Francis. Surprisingly, there are some within the Church that do not care for the openness and discussion of considering changes to traditions. Although, I am not Catholic, we should remember when traditions began. Priests were allowed to officially be married until about the 12th century and some were married as late as the 16th century. The reason – money and property. If a Priest were married, he would retain control over his assets. A retiring Priest said today the Church is missing out on some very good ministers because of this restriction.

– Finally, I read today from one writer that it is not the job of the President to be a role model. I could not disagree more with that statement regardless who was President. Bill Clinton lessened his otherwise effective ¬†Presidency by chasing women outside of marriage. John Kennedy’s womanizing may have as well had he lived longer, but the Press did not report everything like they do now. Invading Iraq under false pretenses damaged George Bush’s credibility. And, Donald Trump has shown Americans how not to act and has turned up the flame on incivility. The President sets the tone and can help reduce tensions, but the incumbent throws gasoline on some fires and starts others.

That is enough sermons for today. I would love to hear your thoughts.

America’s diversity is what matters

During this past election and until today, I get a sense from some that they feel they are more American than others. In my view that belief devalues what it means to be an American. We are the melting pot of the world and have first through multi-generation people living here whose ancestors were born in every populated continent on earth.

Our strength is in our diversity. And, while far from perfect, these diverse peoples do tend to integrate better with other cultures than in other places. Could we do better, absolutely?

One of the best movies of last year was simply called “Loving.” While the movie was about love, the title is about the first interracially married couple in Virginia named the Lovings. The Lovings successfully challenged a law banning their marriage winning a Supreme Court victory of 9 to 0. That was in the 1960s. Now, interracial marriages are about 1 out of seven marriages.

We don’t have this democracy thing down, but we should strive to live up to our ideals the best we can. And, if someone thinks they are more American than you or vice-versa, you both are wrong. My freedoms are no more important than anyone else’s, but they are no less either. That is how it works.

We are diverse. We are imperfect. And, yes we are Americans.

A little class would help

We cannot condone violence. We cannot promote violence. And, we cannot make excuses for violence.

I cannot say it more simply than this. We cannot say it is OK to slug someone because they said something you disagree with. We cannot lie and then be upset when someone calls us on the lie.

We need to follow Jesus’ mantra and treat others like we want to be treated. But, people in a position of leadership must do more than that to actual be real leaders. They need to have a little class. They must be exemplars.

We are witnessing what happens when a person in leadership does not act like the role requires. It is not a requirement that we agree with everything our leaders do or say, but we should require them to act with the dignity the office requires. I can assure you, leaders in other countries notice when our incumbents do not.

Use that filter before you speak

In my efforts not to curse, the above title is a euphemism for what I would prefer to say. My message is to those who have decided to bypass any filters and say the most inflammatory things.

Two public figures – Johnny Depp and Kathy Griffin – decided that they should make suggestions about the demise of the President. And, a Democrat official was appropriately fired for making a statement about how he was glad Representative Scalise was shot because of his role in passing unfavorable legislation.

There is no call for these comments or actions. I fully understand the President has incited, promoted and condoned violence against others. He has failed to call out violence against minority groups, but has a quick comment for when a Muslim may be the perpetrator. This is not right, either.

So, let me be frank. One set of actions does not condone the other. Further, being violent or speaking of violence makes one’s argument poor. It is hard to argue issues when these uncivil remarks and actions get in the way of dialogue.

We need to remember we are all Americans. That is the most important tribe. It is well within our rights to disagree with leaders and others, but please be civil. Treat others like you want to be treated. If you call someone an idiot, then you should not be surprised if they return the favor.