Friday, December 30, 2011

Paying the Doctor

I've been working on getting the medical receipts in order in preparation for taxes.

The total of the insurance claims I've got – which should be most of the claims for the year – are a little over $100,000. The insurance company paid less than half the charges, writing off much of the hospital bill (nearly half the cost) and much of the diagnostic testing. My share was $2500 plus my copays for drugs and doctor visits. And the non-prescription items that I purchased to make like easier.

I realized, looking at the bills, just how lucky how I am to have insurance. If I did not have insurance my indebtedness would not be the $40,000 that the insurance company paid, but the larger $100,000 that the doctors billed. Insurance not only pays the bills, but also negotiates the prices. Those who don't have an insurance company on their side – and I'm looking at several of you my friends – aren't just forced to pay the bills themselves, they're forced to pay the higher bills.

Is that fair? If you don't have enough to pay insurance premiums, where are you going to find the money to pay the full Doctor bills? Your only choice is Medical Bankruptcy. And the individual's inability to pay means that we all have to pay.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Manswers

Ok, I know this is a function of watching really bad TV, but right at this moment I am watching Manswers.

One of their features, coming in just a few minutes, is the search for large breasts. That obsession with women's mammaries isn't new, but it certainly is becoming more prominent in this era of artificial enhancement.

The British comic Terry Thomas did a routine about the American males' obsession with breasts. I don't remember his exact words, but it doesn't take a strict Freudian to locate the obsession in a kind of immaturity and a desire to continue infantile relationship with a mother.

I just don't get it. But I don't understand the obsession with a "chiseled and defined upper body" or "a six pack ab" either. That male body obsession seems to me have little to do with a concern for health, but is a kind of narcissism.

Oh, I guess there's lots of contemporary culture I don't get. Not judging, just don't understand it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Another Stupid Commercial

A few posts ago I questioned the wisdom of the Best Buy commercials in which young women competed with Santa.

The other set of commercials I think unwise are the wireless commercials for the 4G network that turns everyone into a constantly smartphoning dick.

Maybe you've seen them – I've seen two variations on the commercial. In one the tailgaters are way ahead of everyone else and aren't afraid to tell them how behind they are: the holder of the 4G phone has already purchased the tickets, wrapped the running back's ankle, have the opposing team's mascot digging through the tailgate snacks, etc. To every “Did you know,” the duo with the 4G phones responds with condescension. The worst is the response to the technologically challenged middle-aged man who wants to post videos to facebook. They have, mockingly, already posted him asking about posting to facebook.

The other 4G commercial features two young women in the company lunchroom. They're focused on their phones and as people come to check out the latest rumors they proudly announce that they already knew all about it - “that's so twelve seconds ago.” The young women are very sweet and kind to the supervisor who just got a promotion and to the coworker who is leaving. But they're brutally condescending to their co-workers.

The message the phone company seems to want to send is that having 4G will keep you amusingly ahead of the curve. The message that it actually sends is that having 4G turns you into a dick.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Pop Shooting Stars

How quickly fads and fashions change.

Listening to Celtic Christmas, Volume 1 this morning. Yes, I am still listening to Christmas music. In fact, we just began listening to Christmas music at home. The twelve days of Christmas begin on Christmas day – not end, retailers!

Anyway, I'm listening to Celtic Christmas and realize, “The All Things Celtic” phase of popular culture has faded. Yes PBS is still going to carry Celtic Women specials to raise funds. Yes, there will still be some things Celtic at Target. But we went thru a Celtic Mania just two years ago (or maybe it was three). Just a short time ago. If you were not Celtic you were trash!

Now.

It's over. Popular culture is fickle, always looking for the next big thing. The one hit wonders come and go. Popular artists rise and fall. It takes only the blink of an eye for an artist to go from “you oughta know” to judge on some singing contest or other (I'm looking at you Sara Bareilles.) One minute you're refusing to be brought down, looking hot in your retro '40s slip – the next you're a MILF coaching up and coming pop stars.

It's always been quick, this rise and fall of pop icons. But the pace seems to be picking up.

Two weeks ago ESPN was the all Tebow network. Chris Carter was the lone voice raised in protest against the “he's not orthodox, all he does is win” meme that dominated talk about Tebow and thus talk on the network for the six week run when the Broncos beat mediocre to bad teams. Then came the Patriots and the Tebow mystique could not hold. Now it's a second loss and Tebow barely rates a mention Sports Center. Tebow wasn't just a sports icon, he was a pop icon – pushing sports drink along with tractor tires. I wonder if his sports drink ad is going to be canceled this week.

Pop icons. They last six weeks? Two weeks? As long as a Republican Presidential Candidate not names Romney? At any rate not long at all. So what does this say for those of us who are interested in “timeless truth” and pop culture?

I guess it says we shouldn't look to pop culture for anything like truth. And maybe it says that “Progress devours its children,” (the title of a lecture I heard in seminary from the German theologian Helmut Thielicke) or better “Pop Culture devours its children.” Or maybe it says, “You're old, don't try to keep up, the pace will kill you.”

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Is there anything new to say?

As a preacher I've always found the big holidays big challenges.

What can the preacher say that hasn't been said a million times before? Or at least something that will awaken modern hearts and minds to the miracle of the event? This is pertinent today since I heard a noble attempt on Christmas morning. It was a noble attempt to give a new perspective on the event of the Nativity. It was noble, but didn't quite make it because it ultimately fell back on pious platitude.

You can try to do a first person narrative - a shepherd, or one of the donkeys, or one of the wise men. T. S. Eliot did that in his poem The Journey of the Magi. That poem has always moved me, though I admit that I don't half understand it, any more than I understand Yeats - who also moves me deeply. The problem with the first person narrative I heard this morning was that it was, finally, predictable. The character was Caesar Augustus - an interesting choice. But the outcome wasn't a new perspective on the relationship between Empire and Faith. The Emperor sees the triumph of the Crucified and regrets that he wasn't closer to the divine love revealed in the man from Nazareth.

Another approach is the approach by characters who've been affected by the Jesus story. For me there are three stories that move me at Christmas. First is a story from Tove Jansson, the Finnish Swedish author and poet. Her story "Gran" or Christmas Tree tells the story of Mumintroll's first Christmas. (The Mumin family hibernate through the winter.) At this first Christmas the Mumin family gather all the items you need for a Happy Christmas, but they gather them because they think that Christmas is a horrible monster who must be appeased. In the end they give away all the gifts, decorations and food to the lowliest of the little creatures of Mumin Valley.

The second story is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. At the end of that story one of the Herdmanns proclaims the Angelic message - "Hey You! Unto You A Child is Born!" as if it were the greatest news. Then the Herdmanns gave back the Christmas Ham and wandered off in tears, slightly dazed by what had happened.

The third story that moves me is Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory. The 1966 made for TV movie is on youtube for the time being. It's in 6 parts. This link takes you to part 1. The story is the story of a half crazy old lady and her little nephew, gathering the ingredients to make Christmas fruitcake. Capote captures the mystery of commitment to a cause that makes no sense.

Maybe for the ancient religious holidays to make new sense you have to see them as if you were one of the poor little ones who have nothing - or one of the bad kids who is suddenly thrust into unexpected and unwanted territory as an angel - or a crazy old lady and her simple assistant. Maybe that's what I miss when I try too hard to find something new to say about this antique belief.

Bread for Jesus

Two days ago I was buying bread at our local bread outlet. The men ahead greeted the clerk with a cheerful "Merry Christmas." The clerk responded with a likewise cheery "Happy Holidays."

The nosy woman standing next in line congratulated the previous customer on being politically correct. While she didn't say anything she implied that the "Merry Christmas" was a superior greeting and the man had, of course, been greeting as he had in order to combat that secularist war on Christmas. It was enough to make me want to step up and say, "I'm Jewish! Happy Channukah!" I didn't. I didn't say anything.

Then I went to Target and heard happy shoppers greet one another with "Merry Christmas." I realized that more important than the verbals - the words used - was the non-verbal, the tone with which the greeting was issued. A hearty and heartfelt greeting.

It starts with a smiling labial - Mmm in the merrry. A rising inflection, but only so slightly rising, not enuf to make it a question. Or a nice rounded Ha. Lots of breath behind it, like a ha-ha. Again a slight rising inflection in that first word.

Then the Kri (that should be a schwa, but I can't find it in the character sets), kind of flat, followed by a sharp, but not hissing st and ending with a nice open mas - but without stress on the mas. I won't even try to describe the "Holidays."

The point is: THERE IS NO WAR ON CHRISTMAS AND YOU PEOPLE WHO ARE INSISTING THAT THERE IS ARE SPOILING THE CHEER THAT REST OF US WANT TO SHARE.

Thus, my campaign. I'm not going to wish Marry Christmas, not going to say "Happy Holidays." From here on out its "God jul och gott nytt år!" Bite me Bill O'Reilly

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gingrich and Perry Fail

Just saw CNN's report on Gingrich and Perry not getting on the ballot.



The commentators speculate about amateurism as the reason they didn't make it, and arrogance as a possibility. It seems to me that amateurism may be the reason for Perry missing the boat, but Gingrich is another case.

I don't think that Newt expected to do well in the primary season. I don't think he got into the race to win the race, but to sell books and DVDs and speeches. After all, that's what made him a very rich man.

I think Gingrich was as surprised as anyone that he was the frontrunner. Then the arrogance kicked in. But the hard work - that's something Gingrich has failed to do ever since he was speaker. He just expects that his half baked and decidedly less than logical ideas should carry the day without his actually having to work at building coalitions or doing what the pundits call "retail politicing."

He's a blowhard who can't do actual work. I doubt he even outlines his books before he spews them out. He certainly can't be doing much in the way of serious research, given the ungodly number of texts he's produced. And this shows just how ill organized and poorly thought out the whole campaign is. He excuses it by alluding to Thatcher and Reagan and claiming that it's because he's an unconventional politician. No, it's because he's a jerk.

UPDATE

Of course, Newt is now contending the the problem is the system. It isn't that Newt is disorganized in Virginia and lacks the structure necessary to perform the requirements of the law - it's the law that is faulty. I love the way conservative Republicans want everyone except them to take responsibility for their actions or inactions.

Friday, December 23, 2011

What Has Happened to Me?

Here I am, watching another episode of PTI - Pardon the Interruption. A year ago I watched this show on an irregular basis, primarily because Kornheiser goes off like a good New Yorker should and Wilbon is a loyal Chicagoan - even if he lives in Arizona or where ever. The interaction of these two guys is good TV.

But I'm starting to care about sports. There are lots of good reasons to care about sports - it is probably the largest industry in America and the collegiate end of the sports - particularly football is seriously screwed up. Labor issues are kept alive by the players unions. Despite those issues, and the social issues involved in sport (I credit much of the improvement in race relations and the positive future I see coming from the integration of sport and the meritocracy that is true of amateur sport), I am surprised at my interest in sports and the outcome of sports.

I caught myself opining that Beltran would be a good replacement for Pujols - and agreeing with Wilbon that the Cards real loss is the loss of a Hall of Fame manager. Then I thought - what the heck do I actually know about this? I know more about sport than I do about contemporary music, which is a radical shift from where I was in my pop culture knowledge two years ago.

Why? Partly because of the recovery. ESPN is reliable all night long. No paid programming. Repeats of Sports Center do not require attention like a movie - say one of the Thin Man movies. I can have it on and fall asleep and wake up and more than likely I'll be right where I dozed off.

There is another reason to pay some attention My communication majors have connection to sports. Of the fifteen majors thirteen are members of a college team or have been members of a college team or are deeply committed to sport. Football, baseball, basketball, and soccer are all part of the department's life. I'm getting more deeply interested in sport because the majors are deeply committed to sport. They have changed me. And I am glad to note that.

Christmas Poetry

For some reason I felt a need to find some Christmas poetry last night. I thought that the Swedes might provide, so I worked my way through Nils Ferlin (not a terribly religious poet), Tomas Transströmer and Gustaf Fröding. All great poets and there were great poems. But no Christmas poems. There is the classic Rydberg: Glans över sjö och strand. Beautiful. But actually typical of 19th century orthodoxy.

I wanted something that wasn't the orthodox piety of the 19th century, nor the Pietism of Lina Sandell. I wanted a poem that both moved my heart and made me think.

The poem I found is actually a hymn: Richard Wilbur's "A Stable Lamp is Lighted." Looking thru Youtube I found - to my great surprise - that the text has been set to a number of tunes. This one is a folkie tune, so it's one I like.



I didn't find the tune that I first learned when I was in seminary. I like that version a great deal, probably because it is the first version I learned.

What I like about the Wilbur text is that it draws my mind to the simplicity of the event and its far reaching consequences. How simple and how unnoticed. Is that the way that the great changes of our lives and of our world actually take place? Not among the big and noble and noticed, but among the little and lowly?

I like to think that it is. I like to hope that it is. Because that means that it is possible, even probable, that somewhere out of sight the seeds of our salvation as a race has already been born. My role then is to watch and wait and hope and keep my cynicism in check. The first three are difficult. The fourth may be close to impossible.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

America's Team

Notice on Sports Center this morning that Dallas Cowboys are "no longer" "America's Team." Apparently they've been replaced by the Green Bay Packers.

I find this whole thing a little confusing. This change in our "national team" came because Public Policy Polling surveyed the country, offering nine choices for "America's Team." The Packers got a 22% positive rating. The Cowboys came in second at 11%. But the Cowboys are also America's most hated team at 22%.

This is ridiculous.

First, it's ridiculous to call anyone other than the lovable loser Cubs "America's Team." Second, 22% makes you most loved or most hated? And you don't even get to choose any of all the teams in a particular sport?

The whole idea of having a team that everyone in America prefers is non-sense. It's a waste of survey time. And declaring that 22% preference makes you "America's Team" makes the survey company a joke. That's the percentage that Romney is polling, and he's not even the Republican's choice, much less America's choice.

I never bought the idea that the Cowboys were "America's Team." I found them arrogant, artificially pious, sanctimonious and self-righteous back in the Tom Landry days. Since then I've just found them to be Texan and therefore abhorrent. Tebow Denver seems to be matching the Landry Cowboys for supercilious piety. So I don't have to change my preferences. I'm still ABD - but the D now covers two teams rather than one.

I'm pulling for Green Bay this year. The Vikings suck (as usual) and the Bears are iffy. I like the Lions being back on a playoff path. But Green Bay and Aaron Rogers are the winners in my division, the black and blue division, so I'm rooting for them even though they are going to dismantle the Bears this week. Next year I'll root for my hometeam and revile the Packers. But that's next year.

I don't need my favorite team to be "America's Team." From the actual survey results it looks like the majority of American's don't either.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Year End Gifting

It's the end of the year and we're being inundated with year end begs from all the charities to which I have ever given any money.

But it's been a rough year for us financially. We lost about 1/3 of Kris' income, in addition to my illness - which has cost us $2500 we hadn't planned on spending (and a bit more, that's just deductible and the part of payment I share with the insurance company. I also have the copays for the doctor visits and for the medication).

Thus, our charitable giving has had to shrink a bit. We've held off on a number of organizations to which we have belonged, even some we've belonged to for years. We keep up on Greenpeace, and sometime early next year we'll probably rejoin Habitat for Humanity. We are still members of the Swedish American Historical Society, but we've dropped the Swedish American Museum in Chicago.

It's just the way it goes.

Tonight I loaded Open Office's office suite on a PC, and I stopped for a moment when asked for a donation. The folks who've developed the Open office suite of tools aren't particularly pushy about the donations. If you don't give you still get. Everyone can use the software, and since it is an open platform everyone can contribute to the code (if you know how to do it - which I don't.) I stopped for a moment and then I gave.

It was a small donation, especially considering all the use I have for this software. I've loaded it on to every PC and every Mac under my control. So a small donation for six suites of software, that's not major sacrifice for me and it makes me feel good about myself. I've given back.

Before the end of the year I hope we can make additional donations to our church. As I said, I want to make sure we give to Habitat and Greenpeace. Maybe one or two more charities.

With money being tight, I wonder where my friends are going to give at this year end feel good charitable giving time of the year.

Let's Get Santa

Best Buy has been running a series of commercials (sorry I'm watching too much television while recuping) in which a young mother takes on Santa Claus.



Is this really a good idea?

First, it makes Christmas giving into a competitive event. Admittedly, it makes it a women against men competitive event, with the women winning. That part probably is good, given the third or fourth wave feminist attitudes I see in the young women I teach.

But these women don't just win, they win in ways that allow them to gloat. One relegates Santa to giving toys to the dog. A second Ims Santa to the phones on the tree – to which Santa, like a defeated bf responds, “Very mature.” The third meets Santa on the housetop and topples a plastic elf onto the lawn in a sort of “watch out fat-man or you're next” threat.

OK, so maybe this is empowering. I don't know. I'm not a young woman (in case you haven't noticed). But this is Santa Claus. For much of his life he's imaged without a woman. The whole Mrs. Claus thing is just a cover to give the elves some breathing room. This is Santa, the jolly fat celibate who sneaks into your house to bring toys and jollies and eat cookies. This is a beloved, if somewhat weird, elder statesman of the holiday season. Is it really a good idea to humiliate Santa? Does that really make you see powerful – or just petty?

My vote is for the latter choice. I don't like the Best Buy commercials. They certainly haven't made me want to shop at Best Buy. I don't have a thousand dollars to blow on Android Powered Smart Phones for the whole family. In fact, the only way my family is going to get that technology is if Santa delivers them. But then, I'm not – as I've already said – a young woman looking for empowering experiences by humiliating Saint Nick.

Monday, December 19, 2011

What's With All the Posts?

I've been posting regularly these days. What's up with that?

I think its because I'm well enough to think and I need to keep doing things before January when I get busy writing syllabuses and doing research for new classes and directing energy in school tracks. In the meantime I can explore and think and complain and write about whatever I want to write about. It's a blessing that has unlocked a whole lot of energy. I'm even rewriting my essay on Greta G. for publication (hopefully) with a Swedish American publication.

Broncos Lose to a Good Team

Stefan Fatsis has an amazing commentary on the Pat's destruction of the Broncos and Tim Tebow over on Slate. As several other commentators have pointed out, the Patriots were the first team with a winning record in quite some time - and the last team to have a winning record was the always unreliable Jets. Fatsis' peroration deserves a reprint:

Unlike other miked-up quarterbacks, we don’t see Tebow analyzing photos from the All 22 cameras or suggesting to a coach or teammate how to exploit a weakness he’s detected in the defense. With Tebow, it’s prayers and bromides, the NFL as produced by the Christian Broadcasting Network. That’s just edited video, of course, and none of us knows what’s happening in the Broncos’ locker room or quarterbacks' meetings, or on the sidelines. Still, the rational among us were reminded on Sunday that, regardless of what if any god you pray to, a very good NFL team with an exceptional veteran quarterback will usually beat a decent team with a quirky inexperienced one.
 

I didn't know that Tebow was ever all miked up – so I didn't hear those bromides and prayers. It is, I'm afraid what too many Christians have to offer too often: bromides and prayers. I wish I could hear sermons that weren't filled with bromides and platitudes. I wish the prayers of the people cold capture the hearts of the people. Unfortunately, in life these days, under the leadership of the fundagelical wing of Christianity all there is to offer is bromide, platitudes and “just make my heart just wait upon thee my Jesus” prayers.

Bad enough that it's all I hear in church. Sad to hear it on the football field as well.

Hoarders & Me

For some reason I've gotten hooked on Hoarders.

One episode I watched this morning featured a 28 year old hoarder whose hoard hadn't yet become life threatening. This 28 year old was extremely controlling, and yet extremely insightful. She recognized that her behavior was undermining her relationship with family and significant other. She made it impossible for the significant other to say anything about her behavior, to voice his opinion about anything, to make any requests for his own space or to satisfy his own needs. When he asked for something she responded emotionally in a way that most of us are fearful to confront.

A&E offers those who participate in the show aftercare funds to work with both therapists and organizer. This hoarder undermined that as well, making it impossible for the organizer to help her -- putting up obstacles until the organizer gave up and quit.

All of this can be ascribed to the illness, the compulsive hoarding. But I was also left wondering if this hoarder was aware of her disease and was using her disease as a way of manipulating others, an excuse for essentially bad behavior.

But it also made me wonder if I do/am doing the same thing. I think I am and I do.

I think I use my illness as an excuse for getting snappy at Kris. Yes I am drugged. Yes I am in some pain fairly constantly - though it isn't great pain but it is a pain that keeps me aware that I have recently had major surgery. I do use the illness as a way of excusing my not calling the people I need to call to get things done around the house. I do use the illness as an excuse for watching a lot of television and reading very little.

OK. I am using my illness as a way of avoiding actual responsibility. So, will I change that, call the plumber and get the home in the shape it should be. Will I at least turn off the television and open a book.

Sure, just as soon as this episode of Hoarders is over!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Evigheternas Evigheter

The Sunday following my long posts on time and eternity the lessons for the day are full of promises about everlasting kingship, unforgotten, timeless promises of the divine toward the chosen people, and "forever."

Just for fun I take the Swedish bible along and read the lessons in Swede while they're being read in English. The second lesson, Paul's doxology to the Romans reads - in Swedish - "den ende vise Guden tillhör äran genom Jesus Kristus i evigheternas evighet." I am not entirely sure of my translation, but I read this as saying "the only wise God through Jesus Christ to him belongs glory for the Eternal's eternity." The English reads "the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever."

What's got me confused is the phrase "Evigheternas evigheter." The Endless ones foreverness? Something like that.

To solve the problem I need to consult commentaries and the Greek text. I wonder if this is an odd phrase in Greek as well as Swedish. What this does for me though is to keep me pondering the relationship between time and eternity, feeling fairly certain that I haven't yet gotten to the last insight on how Now fits into Forever.

If I were a poor black kid

If I were a poor black kid . . . Gene Marks wrote this advice, presumably to influence poor black kids who read Forbes. It's been thoroughly attacked, rejected, abused and refused by a large segment of the public. Lots of not-poor not-black and not-kids have commented. Some formerly poor black kids have added their opinions. So why not me too.

If I were a poor black kid . . . I'd be very amazed and puzzled. How'd that happen? Unlike Navin P. Johnson, (Steve Martin's character in The Jerk) I was born a middle class white kid. My dad was the sole breadwinner in the family, and his paycheck was just enough to pay all the bills and put a little aside.

No matter how well my imagination works – and sometimes it works pretty well – it would take a monumental effort to imagine myself “a poor black kid.” I'd also need lots of solid data about the actual existence of actual poor black kids to inform that imagination.

It might also be useful to have a whole lot more information about brains and the differences among brains. It seems to me that there are profound differences among brains.

For example, some of us “get” literature and metaphor and allusion. Others of us don't get it, never will get it, no matter how much training we receive in reading metaphor. Those who don't get it can learn to see that there is something they don't get and even appreciate what it is that they don't get, but they'll never be great at reading metaphor and understanding and commenting on art – and therefore they shouldn't plan on making a living as a playwright or poet.

In the same way there are people for whom numbers have a reality, even a personality that they lack for me. I think of Mark Ahlseen, member of Bethany's faculty, who has an amazing facility with numbers. They clearly mean something to him that they don't mean to me. He understands numbers in a way I never will. I can barely keep my checkbook. Mark makes sense of where his money goes as if that paycheck were his good friend. I am convinced that it isn't just training – I can be better at understanding numbers, Mark likely can be better at understanding metaphor – but there is something inherent in each of us that is quite different. No matter how I try I could never be an accountant. No matter how hard Mark tries, I doubt that he'd ever be a poet.

So, if I were trying to imagine myself being something other than what I am I'd need to feed my imagination with lots of clear data about actual social conditions, about actual brains and their workings, about actual beings actually existing in a life that isn't mine.

Where Gene Marks goes off the rails is in his presumptions about the life of other people and how they would, could, and most importantly should behave in order to succeed in this world. Because his writing does not reflect his having invested himself in coming to understand how poor black kids actually live, the piece seems shallow and condescending.

It also seems like a call to behave, to willingly cooperate in being co-opted by “the system.” Behave, get good grades, learn technology – not so you can rule rather than be ruled – but so you can get a good job and be a good cog in the machine. Marks' call is not unlike Gingrich's desire to replace adult janitors with child janitors in training (which makes no sense, because you're going to be fired as soon as you become a competent adult janitor and earn a living wage).

For me, this raises the question of the purpose of education. Is education supposed to prepare us to be better workers or is education supposed to prepare us to think independently – independent of our job and the will of the state? In my view education should prepare us to resist the imposition of the will of the hegemon. But that's not my main point in this post.

My main point is that offering advice to others requires an empathic imagination. I need to see myself in others' circumstances.

What would I have been had my father not emigrated in the 1920's, lived through the depression by farming in Minnesota and the war by serving in the Army Air Corps? What would I have been had my father not left the family farm some twenty miles outside Haparanda, Sweden? I look at my cousins' lives in Sweden and realize that it is entirely possible that I would have become a child of the middle class. I might still have been a priest and a believer. I might have a darker, less optimistic view of the world if I had grown up in the “city in darkness” (that's the title of a prize winning novel about life in Haparanda).

I can sort of imagine what my life might have been like if I had grown up in the forests of the far north of Sweden. I can sort of imagine it because I've been there, seen the house, used the privy, walked the roads, slept in the summer night. But even then it is difficult to imagine.

How difficult is it then to cross the major lines of race, culture, religion and imagine ourselves members of another race, living in another culture believing in god in another set of thoughts with another revelation. Yes, I might imagine myself aspiring to a materially and even spiritually better life – but I don't think I could give advice to that alternative me, much less advise those who are actually living that life.

Time and Eternity II

Eternity seems to me to require an essential difference from time. As we sing in the old gospel hymn “Just a closer walk with thee:” “When my feeble days are o'er, Time for me shall be no more . . .” It seems to me that most evangelicals don't see eternity as a state of being when time is “no more.” Rather, evangelical eternity is time extended indefinitely.

Admittedly, talking about eternity as essentially different from time stretches our ability to say anything meaningful. Thus religious texts must talk about eternity – in so far as they talk about eternity – in terms of time. But if we take the metaphors of scriptures and attempt to treat them as concrete bits of data like “it's currently 8:30 pm and I am watching television” is to badly misunderstand and misuse the religious text.

Eternity, in order to be eternity must be different from extended time. But what then is it? It is qualitatively and quantitatively different. It has no quantity, and no duration. Time has duration. Eternity cannot have duration or it would simply be more time – which it cannot be. It has a quality different from the quality of being “in time.”

But what is it to be “in time” except to experience duration – more or less. Perhaps better said, being “in time” means that we are aware of duration and the passing of time. In eternity we are unaware of the passing of time because there is no time to pass.

Perhaps I've made a leap that is unjustified by tradition or scripture. Perhaps what the gospel writers meant by eternal life was simply a continuation of this earthly life on this earth and continuing it forever with a cognizance of the passing of time.

I'm working from memory, so I may get the details wrong and I don't claim that these are my final thoughts about the subject. But as I recall it, when the Christian scriptures talk about eternal life they do so in codes that are fairly obviously meant metaphorically. John's vision of the martyrs hidden under the altar is surely not meant to be taken literally. Martyrs keeping an unending vigil crouched or crammed or somehow confined under an altar and being forced to sing one line over and over and over again would seem to be not far from the kinds of punishment that good evangelicals reserve for the atheists and others who question their sadism.

John's vision of the heavenly city, one of my favorite passages from the Christian scriptures, likewise seems to me to force a metaphoric, synecdochal interpretation on the reader. If we take it literally, there isn't room in this puny city – this heavenly Jerusalem – for all the inhabitants that would have to be accommodated from Jesus' day to ours. It's rather like the dilemma of attempting to cram all the “living creatures” onto Noah's ark. They just wouldn't fit.

I don't want to drive myself batty by spending all my time trying to think thoughts that have been better thought by actual philosophers. Still, I've been pondering time and eternity for a long while, and never more seriously than these past six months.

It seems to me that the fundagelicals in particular have it all wrong. I don't think I have it all right, but I do think, no I'm certain, that the idea of a place of punishment where Christopher Hitchens is being fried over and over and over again – and is conscious of the continuation of his cooking is both a vile sadism and not eternity. Likewise, the notion of a place of bliss where we are with our unborn unformed unexperienced unchildren for an unending family reunion is pure sentimentality. I can understand why people find consolation in that idea, but I find it as much of a torture as the idea of hell. After all, what will the Duggers say to little Jubilee Shalom after the first “Hi, how are you, sorry you didn't get to live on earth?”

I love family reunions. But they have a end and I look forward to the end.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Time & Eternity I


Christopher Hitchens' death has occasioned all sorts of public reflection on the nature of death and life after death and faith and its opposite certitude. It feels like the moment I might finally get around to writing about an issue I've been thinking about for many months – the nature of eternity.

First though, my own opinion of Hitchens. I didn't like him. Not because of his atheism or his drinking. Drunk atheists aren't uncommon – just as drunk true believers aren't uncommon. What bugged me was his arrogance. He decided that the US was right in attacking Iraq and could not bring himself to show a little humility when he turned out to be wrong. Salon has a great article about Hitchens' errors and his inability to back down on the Iraq question.

Hitch wasn't the only death that awakened thoughts of eternity. The Duggers, of the TV show "19 and Counting" fame, “lost” their 20th child. Michelle Dugger was told at her December 9 doctor's appointment that the child she was carrying no longer had a heartbeat. She miscarried the baby two days later. UK's Daily Mail reported on December 15:
Amy Duggar, a cousin who frequently appears on their hit TLC reality show tweeted the picture, saying: 'RIP precious Jubilee Shalom Duggar! Can't wait to meet you someday, thank you Lord for giving our family peace.'

So what happened to Hitchens after his death? What happened to “Jubilee Shalom Duggar” before her life?

Some evangelical thought would, of course, put Hitchens in a gruesome sadistic place of torment – thrown there for endless torturing by the will of a vengeful and hatefilled absolute deity – a power lacking the moral sensibility that most humans are capable of. On the other hand, the Dugger cousin, and probably the Duggers too, seem to picture a world that is essentially like this one, but without a the finality of death.

Eternity then isn't qualitatively different from time. It is essentially the same as time, but longer and without death. That's the only difference.

But if that's the only difference, eternity isn't eternity. It's just overtime. Like the overtime at the end of a regular soccer game – if you've been interrupted or play has stopped in life you get to have an extra three minutes, only the extra three minutes just keeps going on and on and on.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Politics and Ideas

Newt Gingrich is being hailed as a man of big ideas. What a load.

Newt is a thinker who can't think. Something occurs to him and he has to spew it out. Then he doubles down. Let's turn back the clock and put children to work! Yeah, that's a good idea. Let's repeal the laws that protect children from being exploited and let the poorest of the poor children learn their place in our society. They're the toilet cleaners - the untouchable caste. But they sure do have a great work ethic!

Let's be frightened of the Electromagnetic pulse - an unproven danger that no one but Newt thinks is a danger.

Let's do again what we did before that didn't work. Less regulation. Fewer taxes for the rich. If those are such good ideas, how come they didn't work in the ten years they were in force? How come the Bush residency brought us low low taxes on the rich (which didn't have to be paid for) and no no jobs? Except the ones we shipped overseas (or to that 52nd state, the Mariana Islands).

Then there's Herman Cain. Praised by Newt and praised by CNN. Such great ideas - 999 - more like Nein, Nein, Nein. In the interview broadcast this AM on CNN the interviewer asked Cain what he meant calling the work of Jesse Jackson and Julian Bond "a sham." Cain responded "you can call it a sham or you can call it . . ." The point isn't what we might call it, it's what did you mean when you called it that!

At the end of his speech he again quoted Pokemon, the Movie. This time he acknowledged that he got the words from Pokemon, but that he didn't know who was the original author of the line. Sloppy thinking! I certainly wouldn't give high marks for credibility to any student who did that in a speech.

The quote itself is actually rather banal. The fact that it's from the tag tune to, as John Stewart said, get you the f*** out of the theatre so the staff can come sweep up the popcorn, makes it even less intellectually stimulating.

This is not thinking at any depth. This is thinking in the shallows of life and calling it thinking. To call Newt an idea man and credit Herman Cain with bringing big ideas to the campaign is to debase what can be thought about the political situation in which we find ourselves.

Newt is the perfect representative of the Hegemon. Cain the perfect illustration of Gramsci's theories concerning Cultural Hegemony.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Do you always learn something

There is a great American culture myth that you have to make every experience a useful experience.

I am not sure that I want to do that yet with the current illness.

It is interesting to note the "stages" I've gone thru in this illness. I've been overwhelmed by having cancer - there is something about the name cancer that makes one feel incredibly vulnerable.

Then there was a stage of being extremely confident that I would come thru this with no or little pain, discomfort, deformation, or even effort.

There was a weekend of weepy regret. While I loved having what felt like deep feelings, my sinuses didn't love the mucus and swelling the weeping brought on. And I couldn't figure out what triggered that phase. It came stayed three days, and in good Franklin style left before it began to behave like a fish.

Then I had minutes of anxiety. I actually wasn't all that scared when it came to surgery. I don't know why, but I wasn't all that afraid. When I was given the sedative that was supposed to merely relax me, I was gone. I remember getting the sedative in my iv line in the right hand. I was told that I'd see the surgeon in the hall before we went into operating room, but that would be the last thing I saw. Nope. Remember being rolled into the hall, but that's it.

Recovery has been going very swiftly and I'm incredibly optimistic. I'm feeling like the pathology report is going to come back positive - i.e., no spread of the cancer. I've got the feeling that the p.t. is going to go well, even though I had significant weakness when we removed the bandage last night.

I've been supported, prayed for, loved throughout the journey. Did that help? I suspect so, but I would hesitate to say that the cancer and its effects have been ameliorated by the support and love. But I also would hesitate to say that the support hasn't made a physical difference. That, as a religious professional, is a really interesting feeling.

I know that I'm "supposed" to support the idea, intellectually, that prayer does make a difference. Intellectually I am not convinced. Emotionally, I haven't "felt" strength coming from others. Yet, a part of me, an inward and secret part of me is beginning to awaken and say, "Oh, wait, think. All this prayer, all this love, all this support and positive vibes, they have made a difference."

But have I learned something from this?

Or is it enough that I have just experienced all this? Right now I'm opting for the latter. I just experienced all this and I am experiencing all this, and I don't have can't have any generalized knowledge that I've gained from the experience.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Between plays of the Bears/Lions game I switched over to speed channel and watched parts of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Happened to catch the awarding of the trophies.

Next to the three winners were large bottles of champagne. Wait, I thought Muslims were a teetotaling faith.

Hmmm. I guess piety takes a back seat to cultural acceptance and being able to show that you are a player in the post-modern world.

Pietism is Hard to Escape

Kris grew up in a household where Sunday card playing was frowned upon. I grew up in a household where Sunday afternoon was time to visit family (Kris too - and she keeps that by calling home every Sunday).

Not extreme examples, but both examples of the kind of Swedish pietism - and German pietism - that was part of our family's histories. We weren't part of the don't drink, smoke or chew or go with the girls that do pietists - well maybe that go with the girls part applied - but we both grew up in households where the pietist more was strong.

Sunday was a day for Church, for a big family lunch, and for not working. We did not work. Ever. I cannot remember my father ever doing a household chore on Sunday - though he did have to go to work on many Sundays (when you work swing shifts you work some Sundays).

Here I am, ready to go to the hospital for surgery on Wednesday (to KC on Tuesday for MRI and MD appointment). I had to get the front porch painted today. I painted thru the pain and got it done in about an hour's work. I had to remind myself that I was pretty much pulling my ox out of ditch on a Sunday and it was OK.

Kris has been working in the kitchen all afternoon. She's cleaned behind the stove, set the oven on self clean, the four hour cycle, and now she's cleaning the vegetable and meat drawers (and behind) in the fridge. And I have this little voice in the back of my head saying "that's not right!"

I know, I know. All days alike are days to praise God. All days alike are days when our honest labor praises our creator. Pietism was mostly a show and sometimes a fraud for most of us. Sometimes you just have to get your ox out of the ditch on the Sabbath.

But the voices in my head are sneaky, quiet, and insistent. I can't ignore them, I guess I just have to have a little chat with them - where I tell them to pipe down!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Cowboy Cheerleaders

November 7, 2011
Last Sunday I started watching an episode of "Making the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders." I was flipping through the channels, looking for something to accompany a nap, and came on this show at a moment when the casting mothers were telling the girls how hard they were going to have to work overnight if they were going to keep with the program.

Hmm, I thought, I want to see how these women respond to this demand for hard work and study overnight. I have trouble motivating my students to work hard. Maybe I can learn something.

I stuck with the story. I was impressed by the way these young women responded to the challenge. They worked hard, worked in teams, put in the time to learn a dance routine.

Then came the judging. And after: One of the young women was called into the office and questioned about "pictures." The pictures that the casting mother showed the girl were of the young woman in a bikini. While the audience wasn't shown details, the pictures didn't seem any more salacious than the uniforms the girls wear on the field, the hip gyrations or the swimsuit calendar. Look, these are sexy women (at least in a conventional sense of the term) whose sexuality is exploited by the management of the Dallas Cowboys to keep the crowd (and the viewers) viewing and spending money.

So what's the problem if one of the girls does her own salacious posing? It doesn't fit the image we're trying to maintain? Really?

What image is that? Barbie doll sexuality - look but don't touch teasing - women are objects but we own the objects and you don't? What is the image of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleader that would be sullied by one of their cheerleaders appearing naked on the internet?

I don't understand why we Americans have allowed ourselves to be bullied into the basement viz. naked human bodies. The attitude of the cheerleader leader mystifies me.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Secret Remedies: Do I need more?

Yesterday I went to Apotek, our local pharmacy, to renew a pain killer prescription. I also picked up an aid for one of the problems caused by my pain killers, combined with having to sit and lie on my backside.

It's the truck driver and the pregnant mother to be's best friend, the doughnut pillow.

I didn't realize how much help it would be. With two days use my problems have been relieved so much that I can actually forget that I have problems other than the leg. The best twelve dollars I've ever invested to handle indelicate problems.

Now, maybe one or more of you can help with another secret remedy.

I've spent much of this weekend in weepy nostalgia. Yesterday it was focused on my parents and my children. Today is was all about church and spouse. I couldn't think of either without weeping.

I started to snap out of it at lunch - potluck with Martin Marty - the church historian. It was a great surprise to have him at Bethany, and I had enough history of listening to his lectures and reading his books so that I had something to talk to him about. But as soon as that was over I was back into weepy mode. Just about anything was making me sentimental. Like my brown leather jacket.

I wanted to get out, I thought that might make me feel better. I wanted to get out to the zoo, in my leather jacket, in honor of that moment back in 1994 or whenever, when the kids and I were photographed in front of the Landmark Cafe in Chicago. Of course Chicago was out of the question, so I was willing to settle for Rolling Hills, provided I could wear my leather jacket and have my picture taken in said leather jacket.

Mostly it worked. For most of the afternoon I was alternately cheery and in pain. The walking is difficult - we mostly rode the tram from stop to stop but did enough walking that I was well aware of my leg-lump. But there were times I started to tear up, usually over nothing.

So, what the heck is going on?

Is it common that the combination of medications leads to depression? Or is the depression a way of alerting me to facing my mortality? Do I need some talkie therapy - I'm more than willing to go talk to someone - or do I need happy pills?

As always, your thoughts are welcome.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Nostalgia Hurts

It all started this morning when Kris caught up on a Simon and Garfarkle documentary we'd been keeping on the DVR.

It's a few years old, this documentary, so Paul doesn't look "elderly" the way he's been looking of late. The documentary covered all the old tunes, the good tunes. "Song for the asking," "Bridge over troubled waters."

Listening to the boys singing the old tunes I found myself transported, mentally, back to 1967. It was a beautiful fall day, and I stood at the corner of Fullerton and Lincoln, across from what was then McCormick Theological Seminary. The sun was shining bright. The anti-war movement was promising a new day. The hippies were scorned but not yet despised, and I was in my favorite part of my favorite city. It was a moment of life and hope and bright illumination.

Suddenly I felt myself tearing up and thinking about the potential that we had somehow thrown away. What happened to us? We were going to be the bridge over trouble waters, the friends who would be there to lay down our lives for one another. What happened?

I thought I had a photo from Chicago from a fall or a spring just like the one I was remembering, so I went hunting. Instead of finding just what I was looking for - I found the photos I've now posted on Facebook, including the one I've used in this post.

It should be obvious. It wasn't the 60's. It was the 90's.

There's Emily and Jon and me and we're in front of the Landmark Cafe, at the center of the Lincoln Park Zoo. It must be Christmas time, since I have both the children with me. It's obviously cold, but we don't seem to care. It may be kind of damp, but we don't seem to care.

I sort of remember this day. I sort of remember every trip to the zoo with my children, including the first trip Emily took to Lincoln Park Zoo, a trip where she was more interested in the pigeons than in the zoo animals.

I remember these days and I'm getting quite emotional. I miss having kids this size around, having kids discovering and learning and exploring without my having to tell them to look and listen and explore and study. I miss my kids and wish they weren't so far away.

I've thought that before, but I've never found myself so, well, weepy about it. I wonder if the illness and maybe the conditions I've been fighting this week has something to do with my emotional state.

Still, I'm holding tight to the memory of that day when we zipped from lion house to monkey house to ape house to Children's zoo to bird house and shivered at the few outside animals in between. I'm holding tight. Nostalgia hurts.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Why The Third Man?


Kris said, "Let's watch a movie tonight." We fiddled around until nearly 9:30 pm. I wanted to see Wisconsin win. (They didn't). Or Notre Dame (They didn't).

Finally watched Ebert at the Movies. The show begins and ends with the Third Man theme, that mystical musical zither sound that entranced my mother. It's one of the gifts she passed on to me, loving both the music from this movie and the movie itself.

I had recorded The Third Man the last time it played on Turner and hadn't watched it. So we watched it.

It really is a brilliant film. You can see all the technique Wells developed for Citizen Kane. You can feel the tension build. You're amazed that Harry Lime is the central character of the film, though he appears in less than ten minutes of the whole.

What draws me back to the film is the setting. Post-war Vienna, barely recovering from the bombs and destruction, is as important a character as Lime. Wells managed to take that devastation and make it not just interesting, but compelling.

Why do ruins draw our interest? Why does devastation draw our attention. Perhaps it is because we see these people struggling and refusing to give in to but not quite believing that there is a future. There is a combination of pathos and an intellectual argument - what is allowed for people who must compromise to survive? Are moral values only for those who are comfortable and well fed?

Or is our interest in ruins a hold over from the romantics?

I'm not sure, but after another Saturday of overdoing, I'm feeling like a bit of a ruin myself. Maybe that's why the film appealed to me. I could identify with post-war Vienna. Perhaps that means I see myself finally looking like the Vienna Rick Steves loves to visit.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Why do Baptists Hate the Constitution?

Pastor Robert Jefferies of some gigantic Southern Baptist church in Texas, started me thinking about Evangelicals and the U.S. Constitution.

Yesterday he announced that Mitt Romney was not a Christian, and that his religion would be considered a "cult" by orthodox Evangelicals. The media reports are saying that Jefferies said he's "no true Christian" - whatever that animal is. Regardless, either "no Christian" or "no true Christian" as a designation of Romney is being portrayed as scandalously harsh.

I think that Romney ought to embrace the "not a Christian" designation and do some educating of the media and the public.

Mormonism is not a "denomination" - a division of Christianity that accepts orthodox doctrines with a particular interpretation of those doctrines. Mormonism is a separate religion that gives a nod to Jesus, but has a raft of beliefs that deviate radically from Christianity. Mormonism wasn't founded, as was the Baptist tradition, on a different understanding of the meaning of a particular Christian practice - namely baptism. Mormonism was founded on a new revelation to Joseph Smith.

It's not Christianity, it's Mormonism. It's a different religion, not merely a denomination.

I don't care for Mitt Romney, but it isn't because of his religion. I believe that the constitution already assured all of us that Romney's religion doesn't matter - all that really matters is our judgment of his potential as a leader of the democracy and his proposed policies. His religion doesn't matter.

The constitution specifically says,

but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States (Article VI, section 3)

My only question is why the Evangelical Christians hate our constitution?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What's Next?

It is interesting how, having come through the fears of being a person with cancer, of becoming old, of being dead – and receiving assurances that the cancer can be cured, the aging is inevitable and the dying isn’t going to happen just yet – I’m now focused on the process of being ill and getting well.

I didn’t plan this out. I didn’t consciously move from one stage to the next: it just happened.
This weekend I’ve spent a good deal of time pondering why I’m sleeping all day (and not all night), how serious the doctor was in her orders about my digestive tract, and why the pains have changed location, shape and sensitivity? And why my diet has changed.
I don’t need to bore or disgust, but one of the biggest challenges during an illness in which one consumes a strong narcotic for pain is keeping the digestive tract “regular.” “Once a day,” the doctor said, quite adamantly. I have to go see her Monday! What if I can’t – Wait! Stronger drugs!

The knee has hurt pretty much from the beginning of this process. Now, it’s like there’s a metal ring on the left knee, and it hurts like hell if I touch it. What if it – Wait! Stronger drugs!
The principle lump has enlarged and gotten harder. There is some sensitivity to the touch, but no redness (yet). There is no radiation of pain from the lump to further down the leg – though I’m sure the pains are all related and I’m counting on all of them disappearing when the lump does. There is some pain on the backside of the thigh – which I’d not felt before. What if it can’t – Wait! Stronger Drugs!

Dr. Perez-Tamayo has prescribed stronger drugs for me, and told me what over the counter meds I should take and generally assured me that we can get this pain under control. She’s mostly right – though one of the prescriptions she’s given me isn’t doing much good. I wonder if the pains are going to get worse and the drugs are going to have to get yet stronger?

If they do, that’s OK. I’ve become accustomed to weird dreams and half-awake hallucinations. One of my current favorite pastimes is to distinguish between hallucinations and reality. (The hallucinations aren’t so bizarre that they’re easy to distinguish.) Trying to remember what I’ve done and what I haven’t done is a second favorite pastime.

Then there’s appetite. I don’t feel nauseous, but I don’t much feel like eating. That’s probably OK for right now, since I’m not doing much in the way of physical activity. I have a recipe from M. D. Anderson Cancer Center for a protein drink. I should learn to make it and consume it to make sure I’m getting good nutrition.

One of the strangest parts of this is coffee.

It seems that it affects me more now than it ever did. Coffee at 5 pm didn’t used to keep me awake. I had to drink some after 9 pm in order to be awake after midnight. Now, a cuppa after 5 pm means at least several extra hours of tossing and turning at night.

Yesterday I had only one cup of coffee. Day before two, but didn’t finish the second cup. Today I’ll probably have two. It doesn’t taste as good as it used to. That makes me sad. I mean, we’re going to talk “Svenskhet” in two weekends, and what is a Swede without coffee – strong, black coffee?

The family tells a story about Farfar and coffee. After he retired and sold the farm to my uncle Teodor, he and his wife stayed in the house. Farfar was going blind. But he got up first every morning and started the coffee boiling. From “morgonen till kvällen” he sat in the kitchen, smoked his pipe and drank that boiled coffee.

I may be shaming my whole family by giving up on coffee. Then again, once we get past this treatment I’ll return to my regular coffee habits.

I guess we can’t predict, so I’ll just have to include that on my list of things to watch while journeying toward health. No stronger drugs needed!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Truth about Me and Cancer

I didn’t tell everything I knew when I knew it.

I knew on Monday that the lump was cancerous. Dr. Rosenthal’s office reached me Monday morning and the person on the phone told me. I couldn’t tell anyone else right then. I delayed until Wednesday when I had an appointment with the oncologist in Salina. Because I’d told everyone I was going to the oncologist on Wednesday, I knew I couldn’t postpone beyond that date, but I needed to postpone to that date.

I just couldn’t bring myself of see me as a person with cancer. Cancer was something that only happened to other people. It couldn’t happen to me. No one else in the family had cancer. I was the first, the only one. Not a distinction I cared to have.

Not only that, I had come home from church Sunday after trying to sing the first hymn. I’ve found I can’t stand still long enough to sing the hymns. Thus, I’ve decided to sit during worship, which I also can’t do very well – both the seats in the chapel at college and the pews a Bethany Church are very uncomfortable to my leg.

But when I try to sit during the singing of the hymn I find myself unable to sing. I pretty much get on the verge of weeping. Last Sunday I came home and did my share of weeping.

I was weeping because church has been the center of my life since I was a young teenager. My earliest joy was to be an acolyte at Luther Memorial. My cousin once said to me, as I wandered through the basement in the black cassock, “That looks good on you, you thinking about becoming a Pastor?”

Church was central to my life even when I was an undergraduate and didn’t get to chapel or Sunday worship on Zion very often. The two most influential people in my young life were Roald Tweet of Augie’s English Department and Dick Swanson, the campus pastor. Church remained central to me during those periods when I was on leave from call, the late 80s and the late 90s, early 21st century. Church remains central to my life, even though the Institutional Church has decided that they neither want to nor wish to have me on the role of clergy.

Now I can’t go. I can’t sit in the pews. I can’t stand for the hymns. I can’t sit for the hymns, I just can’t go. I end up crying.

That’s a major shift in my identity. Major.

When I got the news Monday I couldn’t bring myself to admit that I had been told that
the lump is a sarcoma. I could not face the idea of me as a sick person who has cancer and may lose a leg to cancer, who certainly has difficulty moving because of cancer, who could lose a life to cancer. I was not ready to deal with that. I’m still not ready to deal with the could lose a life to cancer, but I suppose I’ll work my way there.

Here’s the thing.

I don’t feel brave. I don’t feel like a fighter. I don’t feel like I can do this.

When I was in junior high (though we didn’t call it that) I actually tried out for the Lane Tech Cross Country Team. All I had to do was complete the course in the top ten of the runners. I had friends on the team. They stood along the course and cheered me on. About three quarters of the way my will gave out. “I can’t do it,” I said, and dropped out.

My heroes in life have faced this far better than I. At least their public faces have been far better than mine. Cardinal Archbishop Bernardin of Chicago faced his demise with grace and dignity. Walter Wangerin faced his cancer with new insight and depth of feeling. Me, I’m afraid that I’ll have neither dignity nor insight because of this illness. I’m afraid I’ll repeat my daring don’t of so many years ago – get within sight of the goal and quit.

I start radiation therapy tomorrow. The CT scan of the chest and abdomen was ambiguous. The PET scan had no evidence of spread of the cancer. I’ll stick with the more optimistic until I hear otherwise.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Another Doctor

I'm off to another Doctor, this one in Salina, tomorrow.

I'm happy about the progress, because I should be able to get the treatment started in the next two weeks.

What I'm not happy about is the clinic's insistence on payment. It's the first document the clinic forces you to fill out and the last document you're asked to sign. You have to sign off saying that you realize that if your insurance company doesn't pay you have to pay up front.

This insistence upon getting as much money out of the suckers as possible was the thing that was so off putting at the MRI clinic. I intend to pay my portion of the bills. But what will the clinic do if I can't pay the bill and if the insurance company refused to pay the bill?

This insistent demand for money makes me even more convinced that what we need is single payer!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Lump and Thoughts Of Mortality

The lump in the leg seems to be softening. Or maybe that's my imagination and/or the medication.

This Sunday morning I'm sitting in front of the TV, the best friend of the sick, watching Auction Kings. But I'm not concentrating on the show - except at this moment when they're auctioning a Faberge pencil for way over the value of the piece. That's pretty exciting. The guy who bought it better have some money.

But other than those moments when the excitement of the auction pulls my attention, I'm spending a lot of time thinking.

I'm thinking about the lump, how can I avoid it.

What I'm thinking is that there are two possibilities for this lump. Either it's a sarcoma or it isn't.

If it's a sarcoma, either it's treatable or it isn't. If it is, it's going to play havoc with this year, but I'll come out of it at the end of the year ready to go on to the next year a stronger, wiser person (I hope).

If it's not treatable, I'll die.

I am not afraid of dying. I'm just full of sadness at the idea because there is so much I haven't done.

I haven't written that book on Swedish Americans in Hollywood. I haven't written much of anything. I haven't even tried to find a publisher for the article I have completed on Hildy Johnson. I haven't finished the research on Greta Granstedt. I haven't written the piece on an alternative view of Mass Media - looking at it in light of the Christian faith, but not looking at it as judge and pious piss-ant.

I haven't learned everything I want to learn yet.

How to use Final Cut. How to work After Effects.

How to edit with rhythm and grace. How to pull an audience to a webcast.

And I haven't taught all the kids I can teach. I love my job. It is what I have built my whole life toward. Since I left Dear Old Augie I've always wanted to return to a college campus, to work for the good of the church in Higher Education: to give to others what had been given to me. That I will miss most of all.

That and family. I have not been the father I would have been to my children. Not been the kind of lover I wanted to be to my wife.

If this turns out to be a sarcoma and either un-treatable or very difficult to treat, I will be very sad to not have time to do what I have not done. Maybe, instead of regretting I should get to work and do. Because whether it is now or thirty years from now, I'll still have a ton of things on my to-do list.

Perhaps I'll start with sanding the porch rail.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Family in Irene

Daughter Emily and her husband are in harms way in North Carolina.

Last Tweet, late morning, indicated that the lights were flickering and she expected to lose power soon. I expect that they have lost power and we won't hear from her for several days.

Thinking about her. Praying for her. It helps me keep my worries and thoughts off me.

Go for it kid! Beat that Hurricane silly!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

More Thoughts on How I'm doing

Went to Salina Ortho. That was a waste.

They were not prepared to do anything for me. They read the MRI (I wonder if Dr. Nickel got to see it. I have it now). They told me that they could do nothing for me. I spent more time giving my medical history than they spent with me. They took my $30 and referred me down the line. Of course if there was anything else they could do for me. . .

Bah!

When I go see the sub-specialist on Monday, 1:30 pm, I will have driven 200 miles. (That's 7 gallons of gas one way - tank full round trip - $50). I will pay $30 copay. This doctor will look at the MRIs, the X-rays and send me home - that's what Salina Ortho told me. That means we'll drive spend and still not know any more than we know today. So, I'll have to go back for another visit (that's another $80 trip - at least) to get an unknown procedure.

Just as obnoxious, the Ortho doctor refused to even give me an idea of what could be done, what it would be like if its a sarcoma (I don't want to comment on that because I don't know). And if it's a fatty tissue tumor - nothing can be done except maybe some radiation to shrink it some. Will it grow back? Will the pain lessen? Will there be side effects. Don't know. Can't say, don't care.

Have these specialist ever been human beings who have to live with anxiety, who have to live within a budget, who can't commute to Kansas City?

I'm going to call the Lindsborg Clinic and ask that they refer me to KU Medicine. Linda Branch recommended them. I think I've got a better chance for a better outcome there.

I've heard from many of my friends on facebook and elsewhere that my experience is just beginning and highly likely to get worse.

So let me be clear about my objections: I live 200 miles from Kansas City. Gas is $4.00 a gallon. I need to have some reassurance that what's happening to my leg can be at least significantly mitigated, even if not cured. I'd like to know what is likely to happen to me - and I can't drive to KC for chemo twice a week. I can't afford to be paying copays that add up to $200 per week.

I am both angry and more than a bit scared about the outcomes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why Didn't I Act Earlier

One of my longtime friends I haven't seen in almost thirty years asked one of the best questions about my "mass" on the thigh.

"How could you let it go that long?"

My answer on Facebook was partly true. I let it go, in part, because I'm a guy - one of those people (usually male) who believes that if you ignore it it will go away and anything other than that is just weak. I know that's not rational, but illness isn't rational. I'm not even willing to call this an illness. I chide myself - as have others - on taking time away from work for this. As one of my colleagues said (in jest) when I couldn't stay for church on Sunday "I've got a pain in the butt, but I don't let that keep me away."

There's all that irrational guy stuff in my makeup.

But there's also an economic reason for the situation becoming so serious.

I just paid the first installment on treatment. Our first step was an x-ray a month and a half ago. The insurance company left me $220 and change as my part of the bill. My total out of pocket expenses could be as high as $3000. Plus co-pays on medications and co-pays for every MD visit. What will my total cost for this illness be?

Given the kind of health insurance climate in which we in America live, I'm hesitant to get medical treatment. Like most Americans we're paycheck to paycheck. Kris has gotten a new job, but it is definitely under-employment. She had an interview for a full time job yesterday - and if she gets that job it will make our lives comfortable. If not, we're pretty much sunk.

I don't want to become a medical bankruptcy, but . . .

So I haven't kept at my medical treatment - ignored the symptoms when they first appeared in March - because I'm a guy. That's my fault.

I haven't kept at my medical treatment because I'm afraid of what it will cost me. That's not my fault. It is the climate of this country that makes people like me, people who are responsible citizens scrapping by, fearful of becoming sick and even more fearful of seeking treatment.

I have very personal reasons to want that to change! I'm working against me. I don't need a social more that piles on!

Friday, August 19, 2011

O'Donnell's Talking: Why I'm Not Listening

Christine O'Donnell is attempting to repair her reputation - yet again.

She continues to blunder her way through victimhood, lately being the victim of Piers Morgan. What did Morgan do that was so wrong? He asked her questions about her views and required that she do more that simply repeat them. He did nothing creepy. He did not ask her about her private sex life - at least no more than is appropriate to ask of someone who's written anti-masturbatory literature and made false claims about "dabbling in witchcraft."

Piers Morgan made trouble for "the Troublemaker." She walked off the set. She hung up on an interviewer who asked some question she thought was too private.

And I'm not going to listen to such a self serving little witch. She's a failure at everything except self-promotion - and not terribly good at that.

Here's what she should do, in my humble opinion - STFU! Go get an actual job. Work for someone else. Do some work. Study at an actual academic institution and earn an actual academic degree. Become a professional something.

Then you might have experience and something to say - though I'm dubious about that.

Poor Republican leadership. They can neither govern nor stand up to scrutiny, nor hold one of those "real jobs" they keep talking about someone else doing something to create. O'Donnell is the poster child for the new Republicans - a complete fake.

And that's why I'm not listening.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dear Senator Coburn

I've been listening to reports on your approach to healthcare without Medicare - or any other form of health insurance reform.

So let me ask you this:

How many chickens would I have to bring to the hospital for an MRI?

Could I pay my co-pay in brownies?

What about prostate exams? What's the appropriate payment for that: chicken parts? eggs? or some long brown loggy sort of cake?

How much of it?

Since I don't have my own chickens, can I bring you other people's chickens? And do the chickens have to be plucked and ready for boiling, or will your office take live livestock?

Thanks. Looking forward to good old country care so that I can croak when I hit sixty five.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wisconsin Results

Like many Progressives I'm disappointed in the Wisconsin results. I doubt that either of the Democrats will be recalled, but I'm watching with some trepidation. The Thugs have proven the power of money.

But I'm also a little confused by the interpretation of the results.

If three wins gives the Democrats a one seat MAJORITY - then doesn't two seats make the senate evenly divided? Yes, that means that the Republican Senate president can break a tie and push the Republican agenda - but at the very least the divided Senate will slow things down.

Democrats should slow things down, but not be the obstructionists that Republicans are when they are in the minority.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lindsborg Electric Rates

Reading the July 2011 Memo from the City of Lindsborg fills me with all kinds of mixed emotions.

First, it announces that my electric bill is going to rise by at least $10 per month. That's sad news I can't afford - but it could be worse.

Second, it describes the extremely responsible behavior of our city officials as they sought to prevent a much larger increase on the part of Westar Energy. I'm proud of our city officials for seeking appropriate redress of grievances - as the constitution guarantees and the Declaration implies is an inalienable right.

Third, the memo demonstrates the problem with the ideology driving our current representation in Congress - both the house and the senate. All three of our representatives are ideological free marketers, believing in the force of the "invisible hand" and complaining about the over regulation of American business.

As the memo tells the story, during the Bush administration, the free market was supposed to be set free in the electric power generation and distribution industry. That would result in more competition and lower prices for everybody. No need for government intervention!

Except it didn't work that way for us. The actions taken by the Bush government resulted in "upward pressure on the total cost of wholesale energy."

In other words, we were destined to pay more due to Bush administration actions. No matter what the City council wanted, no matter that residents couldn't search, individually for the Walmart of power distribution, we were destined to pay more due to the unbundling of power generation rates from power distribution rates.

Had we not had government regulation we would be paying much higher electric bills this fall. Westar, according to the memo, (and it's a little unclear on this point) would have increased the rate charged for power generation (not distribution) by 325% over the next twenty years. How much of that increase would we have felt in the first year is unclear. What is clear is that Westar was prepared to gouge small communities that purchased and resold energy to their cities. Perhaps to drive those municipalities out of the market altogether, thus leaving the way clear for Westar's take over of the whole of the business, leaving the consumer without an advocate. (The shut up and pay program.)

Fortunately, the City appealed and the FERC (FEDERAL Energy Regulatory Commission) ruled in our favor and we will face increases, not gouging.

This, my friends, is government at work protecting its citizens from predatory business practices. This is what government is supposed to do. This is what Huelskamp, Moran and Roberts don't want government to be able to do.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Don't Dis 'em if there not there

Earlier this week I was in a meeting and heard previous leadership denigrated. Three former leaders of the organization were called "idiots." One consultant who worked fairly successfully for the organization was derided as "that Jerry guy."

Look, I know that we don't mix with every leader. I know we don't have leaders doing what we think ought to be done. But not doing what we believe should be done isn't the same as being a weak leader, or as being an ineffectual leader.

We've heard countless talking heads biting at the President for "failing to lead," and heard calls for "stronger leadership" on the commentary shows both left and right. My favorite was a recent David Brooks column in which Brooks asserted that the President needed to show leadership by doing X, Y, and Z!

The President had already done X, Y, and Z.

Yet it seems that the only criteria we have for any leader is "did they achieve my goal?"

Or as one of my church council members from back in my days of being Pastor at Trinity, Georgetown reminded me (he was a banker), the only question people seem to be willing to ask is "What have you done for me lately."

Anyway. I wish that we would take a deep breath before deriding our leaders as idiots, calling our political opponents imbeciles and generally denigrating the intelligence of those who don't do what we want done.

Maybe they can't. Maybe they're ideologically opposed. Maybe they're constrained by situation. Maybe they don't think our idea is a very good one.

Please stop calling for "stronger leadership" unless you can do some behavioral definition of that. And please, please, please, don't call and absent former leader "idiot."

If you're willing to do that, what will you say about me when I leave the room?

Friday, July 22, 2011

How Come It Goes Like This

Has this been anyone else's experience: You break down and as soon as the replacement part arrives the original part works good as new.

Background: Five or six years ago I purchased a used Panasonic AG-DVC7 video camera for about $700. Not a bad price. I also purchased an extended warranty. Within a year the camera malfunctioned so badly that I had to send it to a repair shop in New England. It came back nearly perfect. The exception to perfection was that if I pushed the record button on the pistol grip the whole system shut down and restarted. If I pushed the record button on the handle on top of the camera everything was fine.

The repair costs were almost $400, and covered under the warranty. The warranty was cancelled after paying the repair costs.

Fast forward six years. I'm setting up for a wedding a week ago Monday and this camera decides not to work. It's giving me the same symptoms as previously. Push reset. You push the reset and you get a "service camera soon" message.

End of camera. It's OK because this is an SD camera and I need to be switching services to HD. But I hope to get some additional wedding work. So, back to Ebay where I find another AG-DVC7 for $450. Purchase. Shipped. Got it today.

Slight cosmetic issues. The view screen slightly too loose. But it will do.

Out of curiousity I try another battery on the old camera. The old camera is now working as it used to.

Crap! Maybe I didn't need the new camera. But if I didn't buy the new would the old have worked?

Are there actually little gremlins who take delight in making electronics suck until we purchase replacements?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What, No Coverage?

I've been checking various news sources for coverage of the Wisconsin Fake Primaries. So far, a brief article on the New York Times is all I've found.

Why isn't this story isn't getting lots of national coverage?

Background for anyone who hasn't followed the story: after Republicans over reached dramatically in the winter, the Democrats, mobilized and activated in a way they hadn't been for years, managed to put six Republican State Senators on path for a recall election in July. The Rethuglicans, afraid of getting their asses spanked by the voters, decided to primary the Democrats (and to get recall petitions against 3 Democratic state senators). The Republicans ran "fake candidates" in all six elections, forcing a primary.

The "fake" Democrats were all soundly defeated. Of course, winning was never the point of this process. The point was to stall, perhaps with the hope that the people of Wisconsin would forget their outrage?

The effect was to force government to spend money on un-necessary elections. So much for fiscal conservatism.

All six actual Democrats won. Most by large margins. Even though Wisconsin has an open primary and Republicans were encouraged to vote in the Democratic primaries, the turn out was mostly of real Democrats.

Does this mean anything nationally? It should. It should demonstrate that the over reach in Wisconsin, Ohio, Ne Jersey, Maine and Kansas has consequences at the ballot box - if Democrats organize and get out the vote. We can defeat the moneyed interest of Karl Rove and his corporate cronies, but we have to be serious about it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Need for Single Payer

In the wake of last year's health care reform it seems as though prices have suddenly sky-rocketed and coverage has gotten worse.

My basic copay per visit has remained the same, but the copays for all drugs have gotten worse - except for the generics - and the coverage for dental has gotten worse - because the insurance company demanded 75% buy in from our campus.

Drugs are the worse part of a worsening situation.

I used to have a copay of no more than $30. Now, one drug has become extremely limited to me and costs $60 copay. The cost of that drug sky-rocketed from approximately $10 per pill to over $25 per dose. Another went from a $30 co-pay to a $45 co-pay, and as far as I can ascertain, that's pretty much the cost of a thirty day supply. One vital medicine Kris takes isn't covered at all and costs $5 per does.

What's going on here?

I suspect that the drug companies and the insurance companies want to make things so bad, and blame it on the modest reform of the health insurance system.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Time Does Not Bend

I know that there is this theory in physics that time and space bend around a black hole. I'm not sure what it even means to say that time bends.

I do know that time is not a fungible quantity, but is, in fact, rather inflexible. If you spend your time you do not get it back again.

Today I spent my time: melting paint off half the slats on the north side of the porch; helping a student figure out plan C; installing the network printer at Bethany Church & figuring out how to make it function as a scanner; grocery shopping; getting checks ordered for Hershey Track Meet families; cooking dinner - including cooking a new mac and cheese dish from BBQ U; watching Maddow and doing a little web surfing.

I could list all the things I didn't do. They were legion.

The point is, the tasks I did filled all the day I had, and now, at 10:40 pm I have no day left. Nor can I get a refund on the day I spent, so I had better make sure I spend it wisely!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Siw Malmquist at Allsång



It's great to see her at her greatest. She's at least 10 years older than I am, right. But there she is, singing her songs and selling her recordings! May I do at least as much when I hit her age.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Should I Go Back to This Doctor?

I went to Hutchinson, to my urologist, today.

It seems strange to call this doctor "My Urologist." This is the second urologist I've visited, the second who has shoved things up my butt and clipped off pieces from my inside.

The first was three years ago, a urologist in Salina. I went with a high reading on one blood test, with some trepidation on the part of my Family Physician that I might have some serious problems. The urologist in Salina had his own operating suite and his own treatment unit, both of which encourage cutting regardless of the genuine need. After cutting, getting a biopsy and charging me a great deal for the fun I had, I got a negative report and no treatment.

Two years later I still had a high number and my Family Physician recommended that I go to a specialist. I wanted a different specialist. I went to one in Hutchinson. He too wanted to cut. He cut, it was expensive. There was nothing.

At least he gave me a pill to take to improve things. It didn't do much for one of the symptoms, but seems to have lowered the number.

I'm supposed to go back to him in six months. I don't think I will.

My Family Physician can monitor the numbers. Why should I drive 50 minutes (at $4 per gallon) and spend an extra $30 for this guy to give me a finger wave and read a number?

I don't get it. Don't Doctors pay bills? Don't they have to make budgets?

They do, but they budgets they have to make are the ones that pay for their equipment to shove up and clip, staff and offices. Unfortunately, I don't have the $ to make another doctor visit.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sermon Response

Guest preacher in the pulpit this morning. Thanks Dick Monson.

He preached on the Holy Spirit - it is Pentecost Sunday. One of the comments that stuck with me came from his seminary days? I think. Anyway, an antique once told Dick that he should make a mistake every day, but never make the same mistake. That's kind of tough on a Swede. We tend to make the same mistake over and over again, thinking that the mistake must be right, but the outcome could easily be mistaken. It's not us.

I made a mistake today. I got up this morning.

I vow I will not make that same mistake tomorrow.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Weiner Worse

How bad is Anthony Weiner's trespass?

During this spring sabbatical I had opportunity to read the correspondence from American writer Ben Hecht to his wife Rose. I don't know that Hecht had mistresses - I suspect he may have though he doesn't talk about them in anything I've read. He expected that his friends, most of whom were Hollywood types, would have liaisons outside of marriage.

I bring this up because Hecht's letters to his Rose from Hollywood were, to say the least, erotic. They were, not to put too fine a point on it, filthy. If he had a mistress any letters to her would also be filthy. And if anyone ever found those letters they would be shocked, shocked, shocked.

On the other hand, here's Weiner. Tweeting suggestive flirtations. Hmmmm.

Is it the medium that makes the message more salacious or just the times that makes the salaciousness into news?

It's Not Funny

I've taken to listening to the Comedy stations on Sirius radio. There are four channels on the network devoted to standup. It's interesting to hear the comedians from fifty years ago, the Bob Hopes and his generation.

There are a few comedy bits I refuse to listen to, however. The comedians, like Carlos Mencina, who maintain that in their childhood they were beaten and therefore it's OK to beat children because they will outgrow it and turn into upstanding right thinking individuals.

Some will.

The far greater majority of children who are beaten will grow up to beat their children, who grow up to beat their children. They will believe that violence is the solution to problems, not the cause. They will grow up to be troubled people.

It is not funny.

Beating children is not funny. It is never funny. It cannot be funny. Please, comedians, stop thinking that it is ever funny for a grown up to beat a little child.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Aging and Boredom

Just back from a weekend in Minnesota. Spent some of the time at my wife's home with her 90 year old parents. Her mom spends a great deal of time sleeping.

I wonder, how much of nap time comes because Mom genuinely needs a nap, and how much is driven by boredom. I know I was so bored at times that I took to napping even when I wasn't really tired. So the question is, how do you stimulate the elderly when they have limited vision, hearing and mobility?

A cattle prod might work on me when I get into that sort of stupor.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Three People Who Should be Ignored by the Media

1. Harold Camping. (and anyone who continues to follow this wackaloon and expects anyone to have any pity for them when October runs into November.)

2. Andrew Breitbart.

3. Sarah I'm on a family Vacation Half-Governor Palin.

Stop talking about these people. Stop talking to these people. Stop following the buses around. Newsmedia. You're embarrassing yourself.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Welcome New Members

Bethany Church received new members this morning. Three of those new members came to us from Freemont Church. Freemont recently voted (for a second time) to withdraw from the ELCA and join another Lutheran Church body.

I suspect that the pattern of people, good solid workers, leaving the congregations that leave the ELCA is being repeated all over the country. It's too bad.

I'm sorry that Freemont left the ELCA. I'm sorry these three members left Freemont. The reason for leaving the ELCA seems to me to be more cultural than biblical, and seems to me to be something that will have/would have had zero effect on the church at Freemont. What's ahead for that congregation is a long decline, through isolation, lack of service and neglect by leadership in their new hierarchy.

It's all unfortunate and a case where emotions and fear have triumphed.

Something About Clark Schultz

So, you know I'm not a Republican, right. Couldn't be. Couldn't ever be a Republican.

I am a Democrat and I'm proud of my commitment to the Democratic Party, even though it looks as if we have no chance of winning much of anything in Kansas. But maybe the Republicans are going to help us Democrats.

Even the Republicans seem to be turning against the radical elements of their own party. Clark Schultz gave evidence of this at the recent Rotary Club meeting.

Schultz cited Kobach's "Show us your ID, Grandma," bill. It's touted as a way to stop voter fraud, which, as many Democrats can tell you, isn't actually a problem. Not even in Chicago, notorious for people voting from Wrigley Field.

Kobach's citing a case out of Kansas City in which, he alleges, the election was swung by 50 Somalis who voted illegally after being illegally coached to vote for the winner - who won by only one vote.

Schultz did his homework on the case, and it turns out to be another case of nothing there. There were Somalis, though I'm not sure that there were 50. They were coached. But they had a right to vote and they voted the way they wanted to. The case has been adjudicated, and appealed and fraud was not found.

Those who assert that there was/is massive fraud in states with large illegal populations - show it. One of the outcomes of the Attorney Generals scandal of the last administration was a demonstration that the irregularities in the southwestern states did not rise to the level to warrant fraud cases - a fact that drove the Republicans in power to fire their own appointees.

And Schultz is standing on the side of greater voter participation. Greater voter participation generally favors Democrats. So maybe he's actually doing something that will help the Democratic party, even in Kansas. Or maybe voters will get tired of the efforts to suppress votes - for the benefit of the richest of the rich. Or maybe not.

But I'm glad that Schultz is standing with the people's right to particpate in this case. Maybe he could take a look at John Marshall's editorial and actually stand with the right of the local government to control its own future.