Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Morons. We are surrounded by morons...

The University of Virginia, desperate to return to the days of being totally ignored, is set to begin their football season on September 2nd against William and Mary. For reasons that defy all logic, ESPN has planned to broadcast this game on television. And now, the very real and legitimate concerns raised by the Confederate statue controversy have been opened up to ridicule and public mockery by...ESPN.

Apparently, and trust me...I have triple checked this story to make absolutely sure I wasn't being punked by the Onion...one of the announcers who ESPN had scheduled to call the game is an Asian man named Robert Lee. This unhappy coincidence was too much for the morons who run the network:

" We collectively made the decision with Robert to switch games as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name. In that moment it felt right to all parties. It's a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls the play by play of a football game has become an issue."

The past couple of years has proven to me that when it comes to insanity, anything is possible in America. However, perhaps nothing I have read during this period of insanity can surpass the above ESPN statement for simple, basic sand-pounding idiocy. So, as a public service to ESPN and thinking people everywhere, I will now rewrite this statement, adding crucial information left out in the original draft.

We collectively made the decision... (The gutless management team here at ESPN which consists of trembling lunatics terrified that sports fans would mistake an Asian man for a white supremacist).

with Robert...(despite Robert's incredulous howls of laughter and repeated phrase, "You've got to be sh***ing me, right? 

to switch games as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name...( yep, and for no other reason..just that, the freaking coincidence of this Asian man's name. That alone is what made us all think that this was a smart, sane thing to do. Can you believe it???)

In that moment, it felt right to all parties...( and we here at ESPN are all about what feels right, rather than what is right)

It's a shame that this is even a topic of conversation...( and it is a topic of conversation only because the morons at ESPN have made it one!!!)

and we regret that who calls play by play for a football game has become an issue... ( again, it has become an issue only because of the dim bulbs who run ESPN)


Ok, just so no one gets even more confused, Mr. Lee is the gentleman on the right, not the bald headed dude. Which begs the question, why didn't ESPN recognize how problematic it would have been to allow someone who might possibly have been associated with the skinheads broadcast a UVA football game so soon after the Charlottesville racist violence? Had they been more woke perhaps that would have felt right as well. 

So, thanks ESPN. Thanks for turning a transformational moment in race relations in America into the punch line of yet another politically correct joke.

Morons.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Different President, Same Afghanistan

Back during the presidential campaign of 2016, Donald Trump actually said a few things that I liked, particularly when it came to our misadventures abroad. It wasn't enough to entice me to vote for the guy, but it sure sounded nice coming out of his mouth. Things like this:

" When will we stop wasting money rebuilding Afghanistan? We must rebuild our country first!"

" Why continue to train Afghanis who shoot our soldiers in the back? A total waste. Time to come home."

" We have wasted enormous amounts of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let's get out."

Whenever I would hear him say things like this it would almost make me forget what a dogless ignoramus he was. So, last night, after six months in office, it was time for Trump to reveal his official policy towards Afghanistan. He, like Obama before him, came into office deeply skeptical about Afghanistan and having pledged repeatedly during the campaign to change course in that God forsaken hellhole. But there he was behind the podium in Fort Myer, Virginia announcing a renewed commitment to eh, to eh...well, let me let the first dog free President since William McKinley tell you himself:

" We will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge."

"A core pillar in our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions."

" The consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable."

" I share the American people's frustration."

Okie dokey.

Melania is often accused of plagarizing former First Lady, Michelle Obama. Well, this speech seems like the President's attempt to follow in his wife's footsteps. This "new" policy towards Afghanistan is strikingly similar to Obama's strategy towards Afghanistan, which bore an amazing resemblance to George Bush's Afghanistan policy which I will summarize as follows:

" Ok, that bastard Bin Laden blew up the World Trade Center, and we think he's hiding in some cave in Afghanistan. So, we need to go in there and get him. SQUIRREL!!!! Wait, their government is a mess, and the Taliban are bad guys, and since we couldn't find Bin Laden, and while we're over here, we might as well try to defeat the Taliban. Besides, if we don't, Afghanistan might be converted to a safe haven for terrorist to plan more evil deeds against America. And, sure, the government in Kabul are basically a bunch of kleptomaniacs, but they've got to be better than the Taliban, right? I'm sure we can get this job done in no time, but if we don't we will just keep getting dragged into this festering abyss for as many years as we can convince the American people that to pull out would lead to consequences that are both predictable and unacceptable. In the future if a President suggests getting OUT of Afghanitsan, the entire military establishment will accuse him of being a defeatist ( if he's Republican ), or a weakling ( if he's a Democrat ). That way, no matter how long it takes or how victory gets defined, we will always be here, slugging it out with a bunch of sheep herding poppie growers forever!!"

I'm sure that when Trump got back to the White House after the speech and was not greeted by a faithful dog, even a guy like Trump must have had a moment of self reflection as to how he possibly could have been hornswoggled so badly by his generals. Or maybe he called up Obama to commiserate..."What the heck Barack? Why can't we quit Afghanistan??"



Monday, August 21, 2017

All About the Eclipse

So, this afternoon we're having the solar eclipse thing. In ancient times this would be the occasion of great terror complete with the rending of garments, the splitting open of animals and terrified calls to repentance. Today hundreds of small towns will be overrun with herds of dorks craning their necks skyward, geeked out with protective eye ware the serious minded had ordered from NASA, while the last minute eclipse partiers picked up from the discount bin at Bob's Diner and Thrift Shop. The entire thing is supposed to be over with in a little over three hours, kind of like Lawrence of Arabia, or any movie by Peter Jackson.

I'm not even sure what I plan to do during all of this eclipsing. I didn't get any of those cool glasses. Of course, I could make one of those makeshift cereal box things that allow me to see the shadow of the thing reflected off the inside bottom of the box. But that seems like a lot of trouble. I can't just go about my day and ignore the whole thing, can I? I mean, isn't this one of those once in a lifetime things that one just has to participate with in order to be fully alive? Seriously, how lame would it be to spend the afternoon of the great solar eclipse preparing spreadsheets of account balances for a client? No, I will do my part to join in with the rest of American humanity and participate in the experience.

Maybe I'll go outside and stand in the semi-darkness, back to the sun, and wait for the temperature to drop. Part of me wants to hustle around town looking for a pair of those glasses, but another part of me is wary of buying solar eclipse glasses at the last minute. No telling what you'll get. My son had toyed with the idea about a month ago of buying a bunch of  NASA issued glasses in bulk for a dollar a piece and then selling them for $10 each the day of to his unprepared co-workers. This would have been a raging success since it would have taken brilliant advantage of free enterprise and the human tendency towards procrastination. Knowing my son, he probably dropped the idea out of either misguided guilt over the vulture capitalist overtones of such an endeavor, or he got distracted by Neo-Nazis marching around his beautiful home state, or his beautiful girlfriend, or a new video game. He hesitated, and now the opportunity has passed.

Meanwhile, closer to ground zero down in Columbia, South Carolina, my daughter's  National Park Ranger husband is in science geek heaven about now. He will be guiding visitors to Congaree National Park through the afternoon's event with wild enthusiasm and erudition. No observer under his care will suffer any retina damage. The same cannot be said for the rest of the country. Large areas of the country are inhabited by Americans who often preface poorly thought out plans with the phrase, "Hold my beer!"

We can only hope that large percentages of the Neo-Nazi, white supremacist and KKK population fall into this category.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Why Doesn't Trump Have a Dog?

I'm having a hard time getting over the fact that Trump doesn't have a dog. 

Yes, I know that there are far more important and weighty things to be concerned about..but the man not only doesn't have a dog, according to informed sources he has no known pets. This makes him an outlier among Presidents. He is the first President not to have a dog since William McKinley over 116 years ago( making his assassination a cautionary tale). Trump is also only the second President in history not to have any pets whatsoever, joining James K. Polk for that dubious honor. 

The following is a partial list of some of our more famous Presidents and their pets. Make of it what you will.

George Washington. The father of our country had eight dogs, three staghounds, four Black and Tans and one greyhound which he wittingly named, Cornwallis.

Thomas Jefferson had two bird dogs, one named Buzzy, and the other who went mysteriously unnamed.( Probably from the Hemings side of the family).

Andrew Jackson is the president often sited by historians trying to find an antecedent to Trump. Ironically, Jackson also had no dogs. He had a parrot which he taught to swear and two fighting cocks. Coincidence? I think not!



Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, had two dogs, two cats, one turkey and one rabbit. One of his cats he playfully named "Dixie" and he often said of her that she was smarter than his entire cabinet put together!

Theodore Roosevelt, besides being a President thought worthy enough to be placed on Rushmore, was also basically a zookeeper. This crazy man had five guinea pigs, two ponies, ten dogs, two cats, a hen, a lizard, a garter snake, a small bear, a rat, badger, pig, rabbit, hyena, barn owl, and a one legged rooster.




FDR had seven dogs varied in breed from a Scottish Terrier to a bull mastiff.

JFK. Ten dogs.




LBJ. Six dogs.

Nixon. Four dogs, including Checkers, made famous by the Checkers Speech.

Ronald Reagan had six dogs, including the White House' first ever Golden Retriever.

Bill Clinton. Buddy, the chocolate lab.

George W. Bush. Four dogs.

Barack Obama. Two dogs, Bo and Sunny.



The love of pets, especially dogs seems to be clearly a bipartisan phenomenon. No matter their political affiliations, our presidents have been nearly unanimous in their affections for pets. Which brings me back to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 
What are we to make of this petless man? Certainly there is nothing intrinsically wrong with not having pets. I get it, not everyone likes animals. But this is the President of the United States we're talking about here. After a long, insane day of leading the free world, I would like to think that my President at least enjoys the quiet, unconditional love of a fine 
dog or even the pseudo affections of an oblivious cat. If Trump were to get a dog, what breed do you think he might settle on? Probably not a Chihuahua.



Friday, August 18, 2017

Thank God it's Friday

It's Friday, people. This is a very good thing. It has been a brutal week for our Republic. Racism, domestic terrorism, debates about the removal of Confederate statues, and an outbreak of vandalism among those unwilling to enter those debates. All the while, the President of the United States can't decide which side of any of these debates he's on. His vacillation back and forth betweeen sympathy and condemnation with regards to Charlottesville has isolated him to a degree that I haven't seen an American President isolated since Richard Nixon in 1974. Quick, name a president in our history who has managed a public rebuke from the top generals of every branch of the military services? This is unchartered territory.

It is hard for me to imagine Mr. Trump surviving his term. Who can he count on in Congress for support if impeachment should come? Who are his stalwart allies? For obvious reasons the Democrats hate him. At least half of the Republicans hate him, and he is doing everything in his power to isolate himself from the other half. He does have a rock solid core of support among roughly 35% of the American people, but even that is not a winning number. 

When it comes to race relations, I don't make moral equivalence arguments between antifa and the Klan. But in politics, I do. It is my firm conviction that both extremes of political thought in this country have horrible instincts. On the far right, those horrible instincts result in racist, nativist, totalitarian impulses. On the far left, those horrible instincts result in collectivist, communist, authoritarian state worship. It is my opinion that most people on the left of center in this country are not authoritarian state worshippers, and most people on the right of center do are not racist totalitarians. Unfortunately, at this point in our history, the extremes of our politics are making the most noise. Meanwhile, as white supremacist groups are emboldened to hold public rallies wielding shields, tiki torches and baseball helmets, the antifa will feel obligated to pick up their baseball bats and join the fray. Instant polarization, instant violence. The rest of us will look on in wide eyed horror wondering how we ever arrived at this dark place.
If the United States can survive three and a half more years of the Trump Presidency without imploding in on itself, we will have proven to the world that we are indestructible, and if that happens, the American people should be awarded the Noble Peace Prize.

One more thing...Trump doesn't have a dog. As such he is the first president in over one hundred years to be dogless. It is no exaggeration to say that this fact tells you everything you need to know about the man.

In closing, I read something that a good friend of mine wrote this week about the Charlottesville madness. He was casting about for a solution to the deep divisions in our society and the racial strife ripping us apart. Sometimes the solutions seem impossible to find, the divisions too deep. But then he said this, I'm going to mind what I do by trying to respect every person that comes into my life. The simple truth is that you and I only have control over how we live our lives. All of us have to resolve to be better people...and that starts by treating everyone who comes into our lives with love and respect. 

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

We Can Do Better

Yesterday, something really cool and increasingly rare happened on Facebook. Nineteen people gathered in one spot to discuss/debate a very hot button social issue. These nineteen people brought with them a rather wide spectrum of views on the subject at hand. How wide? Here is a brief demographic breakdown of the participants:

A widely respected attorney from Bon Air, who once served as a groomsman at my wedding.

A newly minted young attorney who was once one of many knuckleheads in the youth group of my former church.

Some random friend of the Bon Air attorney.

My son, the shockingly opinionated young musician from Nashville.

My daughter, the gifted educator from South Carolina.

Some random friend of my son.

Another knucklehead from the youth group, who played college football.

Yet another youth group knucklehead, this one an architect, and brand spanking New father.

A CFO of a big hospital in Atlanta.

A new friend from church, wife and mother of two girls.

Hard working, African-American single dad who should have his own show on ESPN.

Some random friend of hard working African-American dad.

A Unitarian, Universalist minister and gifted composer/musician from Nashville.

My daughter's first college roommate, a hard working spitfire of a single mom raising an adorable daughter in Florida.

Yet another knucklehead from the old youth group(an inexhaustible supply), this one an unashamed Indians fan.

Young entrepreneur and accomplished businessman and former student of mine who is still primarily a knucklehead.

A financial software rep who claims to root for the Tenneesse Vols and eats barbecue like it's his job.

Recent college graduate and and adorable former neighbor of mine.

We went back and forth on the hot button subject of what to do about confederate statues in the United States. It went on and on for most of the day. We didn't agree. We came to no conclusions. Although I personally did hear some interesting ideas, I'm not sure any of us changed anyone's mind. So, what was so "cool and rare" about it? I'll tell you what was so cool and rare. The entire debate was carried off with no name calling, no insults, and large doses of respect. In America in 2017, this is no small accomplishment.

I look around at my country and I see a great unraveling, a vanishing civility. In our public discourse, we start from an assumption of bad faith, then everything becomes an accusation competition, and swiftly descends into dark places. I start these conversations on Facebook because I believe now, more than ever, that we can and we must do better than that. At one point in the discussion yesterday, a couple or three participants went from hearty disagreement to jokingly debating the merits of tacos vs. burritos without missing a beat. It was awesome.

So, it can be done. Every disagreement doesn't have to collapse under the weight of suspicion and anger. We can listen to someone on the other side of an issue respectfully, really listen, with our whole hearts. If nothing else we come away with a better understanding of their arguments.

At a time in our country's history when we seem to be governed by a middle schooler, it is critical that the rest of us learn how to engage each other like fully formed adults, even and especially when we disagree.

Thank you.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Heritage Argument

A brief follow up to yesterday's post about statues...

One argument I hear a lot from staunch supporters of the "statue status quo" is the notion that the Civil War and its rememberance is about honoring heritage.  It's about heritage, not hate, the slogan goes. This idea has some appeal for me. If the notion of heritage refers to the traditions, achievements and beliefs which are part of the history of a nation, then yes, I am all for holding my heritage in high regard. My own family's heritage is a perfect example of a history that I want to make sure gets immortalized for future generations of Dunnevant's yet unborn. There is much to be proud of in my family's name.

But the idea of heritage doesn't just highlight the best moments of history, it refers to all of the qualities, traditions and features of life from our past. This is where , I think, the heritage argument goes off the rails. Viewing the legacy of the Civil War only as honoring the gallentry and skill of accomplished generals personified by statues is an incomplete picture. A more healthy attitude about our heritage as a nation would also examine the mistakes of our past, the bad ideas, the low moments. The past is, above all else, a teacher. Yes, we look back to the past for inspiration, but we also look back at the past to learn from our mistakes. It doesn't make us weak to admit and examine error. A more faithful retelling of our history would honor our ancestors by telling the whole truth, not just the more romantic slices of that truth.

Further, some of the loudest defenders of the hands off our statues crowd I know are Christians. This is a mystery to me. My faith teaches me that my past isn't something to worship. In fact, often, the past is something that must be overcome. The baggage of the old ways, the old ideas are what holds us back from living in the grace and truth of the gospel. Our greatest loyalties aren't to our earthly heritage, no matter how glorious we might think it is. Our allegiances are to Christ, and to living a life of purpose and character in the here and now with eyes towards the future.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What About The Statues?

My assistant is well known for her blunt, direct assessments. Last Thursday, upon seeing me for the first time after my incident, blurted out, You don't look good! This morning, after a full week's recovery, she once again greeted me with, You don't look good! Some would be put off by such tactless honesty. Not me. Besides, if you dish it out, you've got to be able to take it. She's right though. I look tired, because I am. But, today has been a turning point. I have had no headache, for one thing, which always helps.

Having something scary happen to your health takes an emotional toll every bit as damaging as the physical one. You get reminded of your mortality, and for a few weeks every flutter of the heart, every dropped word churns your stomach in a knot. Before long you have become entirely self-obsessed. It is this self-obsession which is so exhausting. I know it will soon pass. It will dawn on me that not every symptom that I imagine is actually real. I will soon realize that every flutter is not the angel of death. Then, I will feel like myself again, and life can proceed on its way. 

Looking back on the events of the weekend, Charlottesville could not possibly have happened at a worse time for me personally. No one does their best thinking when they don't feel well. So, a very bad, shameful situation in Charlottesville seemed even worse to me, post stroke. I look back on some of the things I wrote and they seem, upon greater reflection, a bit overwrought. I was already wound tight, edgy and nervous from the trauma and new medications. Then I see a bunch of freaking Nazi flags flapping in the breeze up in C-ville, and I went a little crazy. Probably shouldn't have posted the picture of the redneck woman with the 20 gauge slung over her shoulder, along with the snide put down. Maybe I should have backed away from the poorly timed joke at the expense of UVA's football program. After news came of three associated deaths, a clearer head probably wouldn't have posted the First, they came for the Mosquitoes meme.

But, I haven't taken them down. They were mistakes in judgement, but they were honestly made, and I have no desire to whitewash my own history any more than I want to whitewash my country's history. Having said that, I believe there exists lots of room for compromise when it comes to historical statues. I'm for expanding the number of statues that tell a more expanded version of our shared history. Maybe some statues would be more appropriately displayed in a museum, than on a public street. Maybe additional statues should be erected along side Civil War generals, that testify to what that war meant to African-Americans who were in bondage at the outset of that conflict and newly freed after Appomattox. There are ways to address this issue that don't include lawless mobs tearing them down, as if their anger justified the destruction of public property. 

When it comes to this entire statues controversy, I am not an absolutist. Each generation should have some say in how they interpret history. Although I happen to believe that the Monument Avenue statues are astonishingly beautiful works of art, and think that they are a valid record of the fact that our city was, in fact, the former capital of the Confederacy, I also understand how they might be viewed differently by a rather large segment of the city's population. The legacy of the Antebellum south was one of human bondage, the buying and selling of human beings. This is a fact of history that for many Americans is something that can't and shouldn't be celebrated.



 I am conflicted even as I write this. For over my shoulder on the wall behind me is two portraits hung in my library, one of Robert E. Lee and the other of Thomas Stonewall Jackson. I studied each of these men extensively in college and found them to both be fascinating men, complex, and tortured, whose lives were shot through with great tension and contradictions. Jackson, perhaps the finest  tactician in the history of this country, also nearly was kicked out of his Lexington Presbyterian church for teaching a class full of slave children how to read. The ironies were overwhelming. But, I came away from all of that study with a profound respect for each man's character. So their portraits hang in my library. For some of you reading this, you might be nodding in agreement. Others might be scratching your heads. I get it. I understand the tension, and the disagreements that flow from different readings of history.

But, here's the thing. What would I do if I knew that a family of African Americans were coming over for dinner? And suppose that this particular family had just lost a child at the hands of a white supremicist mob. What would I do with the portraits? You know what? I think I would remove them before they showed up. Not because I no longer cared about Lee or Jackson, but because I care much more about the tender feelings of my friends than I could ever care about a couple of dead generals. This is the essence of my position on statues. Let's all be a little less entrenched in our own positions, and more in tune with the point of view of people who might view them in a different light.

Come, let us reason together.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

What I Want To Hear From The Pulpit Today

Yesterday will not go into the scrapbook as a red letter day. First, we said goodbye to a couple of thirty-plus year friends who have retired and moved away, then that debacle of racist evil in Charlottesville, and finally Bryce Harper blows out his knee. And this morning, I still have a headache.

So, today I will go to church. While ordinarily I don't like any sort of political opinionating from the pulpit, today I want to hear a word about Charlottesville. For one thing, what happened there yesterday wasn't politics. It wasn't even protest, correctly defined. It was a violent outburst of hatred, of enmity one for another. Those who paraded the grounds of Thomas Jefferson's University carrying Nazi flags weren't making a political statement, they weren't airing legitimate grievances. They were attempting to start a race war. They used the fig leaf of a statue removal as the barest of coverings to gather together and celebrate their hatred. The man who plowed his car into that crowd was not attempting to persuade anyone, he was bent on murder.

So, I want to hear a strong voice from the pulpit this morning calling this assault against my country exactly what it is, and calling us to repentance for our apathy. I don't want to hear any mealy mouth temporizing, no moral equivalence claptrap. The entire sermon doesn't need to be about Charlottesville. The transcendent is more important to me than the temporal. But I'm not interested in having this swept under the rug either. Yes, there is hatred and violence coming from both sides in America. But not yesterday. Not in Charlottesville, Virginia, less than an hour away from my home.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Charlottesville

Maybe it's the fact that I've now had a headache for two consecutive days. Maybe it's because I'm still trying to recover from an upsetting physical setback from earlier in the week. Maybe it's because I'm a proud Virginian and can't bare to have this state's reputation dragged through the mud on nationwide television. As I watched it unfold, my first reaction was to make wisecracks on Facebook. It's my default reaction to repulsive ugliness...attempts at humor. But as the day has worn on, humor isn't working and no longer seems appropriate, even for me.

No, the sort of thing that's happening in Charlottesville is something for which I have lost all patience. What follows isn't a fair and balanced accounting of root causes. I'll leave that to more knowledgeable voices. No, this is just me getting a few things off my chest. 

For starters, the instigators of this protest seem to be a conglomeration of aggrieved groups which include white nationalists, KKK members, neo-nazis, white supremacists and others comprising the movement referred to as the alt-right. This is quite a target rich environment for my particular brand of snark, so I will pick one sub-set in this Petri dish of extremism for discussion...the white supremacists.

Full disclosure: I am white, so I feel fairly qualified to opine on the relative merits of my race, although in all honesty, I don't tend to view myself as primarily a person who has a race. If I were trying to describe myself to someone, the modifier white would be way down the list of words that would leap to mind. It would probably wind up like number 16, just before opinionated and right after handsome. But, if someone were to ask me to name some notable contributions made to civilization by my race, I suppose I could come up with a rather impressive list. Shakespeare leaps to mind. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, the guy who cured polio, he was white, I believe. Henry Ford. Thomas Edison. Thomas Jefferson. Galileo. Michelangelo. The Beatles. So, if I were the kind of person who draws their sense of self worth from their racial identity, these examples might give me great pride. I could think...I'm white, so was Michelangelo. That must mean we're like related or something! The only problem with this sort of thinking is that once you start going down the path of race identity, you must confront some uncomfortable truths. Jeffrey Dahmer was white. So was Joseph Stalin. Jack the Ripper? White. Paris Hilton? White. Justin Bieber? About as white as you can get. This race thing turns out to be an extraordinarily mixed bag.

So, if you decide to think that whites are superior as a race, then you have to also think that other races are inferior, which is fine if you spend all day looking at film footage of riots in Baltimore...look at those terrible thugs stealing cans of Pringles while they burn down their own neighborhoods!! But, then you hear Magic by Count Basie. You watch Denzel Washington on the big screen. You read Alexandre Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo, and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. What's a white supremacist to do upon being confronted with such greatness? Of course, the obvious answer is that no self-respecting white supremacist would be caught dead at a Denzel Washington movie, nor would they ever be caught dead reading any book without pictures, and be honest, if you're a white supremacist who happens to be reading this, admit that you're probably right now Googling the name Alexandre Dumas because you had no clue he was black! Don't you feel ashamed of yourself for loving that book??

Seriously now. In 2017, after ten freaking years of Keeping Up With the Kardashians there are still people out there trying to sell white supremacy? 

I've just had it with people who show up at a political rally wearing cheap baseball helmets, dressed in army fatigues, carrying homemade fiberglass shields with shotguns slung over their shoulders claiming to be part of come master race. As far as Charlottesville goes, something tells me I wouldn't be writing this and you wouldn't even have heard about this alleged protest if the counter protesters had just stayed home and ignored them. All these alt-right people want is violence and attention. All the better to feed their persecution complex and paranoia. If nobody showed up at Emancipation Park but them, they wouldn't have had anyone to be violent with...end of story.

But, it is true that we have a long and storied history in this country of putting Nazis in their place, so it's hard to blame those who came out to stand against them. I've just had it. I don't care about turning any of this into a political pissing contest...Did McAuliffe do the right thing? Was Trump harsh enough in his condemnation? That sort of political bean counting is for losers. All I care about if finding the cretin responsible for plowing that car into a crowd of protesters, and locking him up for the rest of his miserable life.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Verbal Errors

Last night, the small group I'm a part of at Hope met at our house. The Bible study was from the 3rd chapter of the book of James, all about the destructive power of the tongue, how the words we speak carry with them great potential for both good and evil. Since earlier this week I had temporarily lost all ability in this area, the topic was especially relevant. It produced a memory from probably twenty years ago...

I was in Atlanta at a Million Dollar Round Table meeting listening to a very wise man give a motivational talk. Among many profound truths he dispensed was this bit about verbal errors, which I will attempt to paraphrase here:

How you say things is often just as important as what you say. Suppose you're talking to your spouse and what you meant to say was, "what's troubling you?"...but what you actually said was, "what's wrong with you?" That's a verbal error that might be tolerable for a newlywed, but ten years into a marriage is inexcusable.

It's interesting that twenty years later, of all the things that this great man said, this paragraph is still etched into my memory. The reason for this is because, as someone who is well known for his hair-trigger wisecracks and speak first, apologize later style, this thoughtful truth resonated. What's troubling you sounds like a question that comes from a place of empathy and concern. What's wrong with you sounds like an accusation. Later the man said that whenever he was about to have any delicate conversation with his wife, he made a habit of rehearsing every sentence in his head before allowing it to come out of his mouth. I would like to say that I have always put this into practice over the last twenty years. Sadly, not true. But it has never been far from my heart. After all, the last thing anyone wants to do is say something hurtful to those we love.

It is a great mystery to me why some things come flying out of my mouth when they do. It's like, sometimes I'll say something and then think, where did that come from? Sometimes it's something really smart and insightful, which is always a shock. But more often than not, it's some ill-chosen phrase with the potential for great harm to its listener. My Dad had a theory about such verbal errors which used to give me pause...What's down in the well, eventually comes up in the bucket! If that's always the case, then my well needs some work. I think it's more a case of just being too anxious to be heard and less willing to listen. If we would just give our thoughts a minute to organize themselves first, we could avoid a world of grief.

So, each of us has a thousand opportunities each day to speak both blessings and curses. Each of us are in a position to make someone's day or ruin it with a word. This is the power of the tongue. Use it wisely.

Good grief! Reading back over this, it sounds an awful lot like a sermon. My apologies. Probably just post-stroke stress disorder or something!





Thursday, August 10, 2017

Clam Chowder, Delayed

As the perky African-American girl wheeled my gurney down a long, narrow, largely deserted hallway, I watched the fluorescent lights pass overhead, wondering how I had gotten here. She left me directly under one of the lights, locked the wheel with a foot brake and tapped me on the shoulder...You're up next, honey. The light above had an inlaid cover picture of palm tree leaves against a Carribean blue sky. I remember thinking how the guy who came up with the idea of putting pictures in fluorescent light fixtures was an evil genius...genius for the idea, but evil for making it pictures that made the patient wonder whether he would ever see something so beautiful again. 

This was the fifth of eight tests I was to be administered in a bizarre 24 hours. The sign on the door said, vascular lab 2. Across the hall there was an echo lab 2. I was getting both. Another cheerful nurse joked, Mr. Dunnevant here is getting a twofer today! It has been my experience that medical professionals make the world's worst comedians, but their attempts are so endearing, it doesn't matter. A third woman in a steel blue uniform and a thick accent of unknown origin yanked me into vascular lab 2 unceremoniously. I will be administering this test, Mr. Dunnevant. Have you ever had this procedure before? She was all business. No, I answered. Don't worry, it is entirely painless. Good to hear. 

Quickly, without fanfare, she slapped a cold, slimy probe against the carotid artery of my neck. For what seemed like the hundredth time I got asked the question, So, what brings you to us today, Mr. Dunnevant? I began my well rehearsed answer...Well, about 5:30 yesterday afternoon I got home from a workout at the gym, suddenly for about five minutes I was unable to speak. I knew what I was trying to say, but just couldn't say the words...not garbled words or nonsense words, rather, no words at all. After five minutes, I was fine. My wife freaked out and probably overreacted by insisting on taking me to the ER last night...and now, here I am.

My coldly efficient medical professional, clearly in the early stages of developing her bedside manner, was having none of it. You're wife did not freak out, she made very wise decision. Sounds like you had a stroke.

No, no, the ER doctor said it was probably just a TIA, not a real stroke.

Did he now? 

Then it was on to echo lab 2 with its own slimy probe. I was growing weary of listening to the static sound of my own heartbeat and was releaved to be wheeled back to my room through the labyrinth of cold hallways and clunky elevators which is Henrico Doctor's Hospital. The results of each battery of tests were negative, making me more and more annoyed that I had allowed my wife to win the argument about coming to get checked out. In my mind I was calculating how much all of this modern medical technological advancement was going to cost me. By the time these eight tests were done, I was going to be presented with one of those insane bills that infuriate ordinary people. One baby aspirin, 81 mg...$28.

I was having a hard time processing the idea that it was even possible that I might have had a stroke. Strokes are things that happen to old people. Sick people. And yet, if true, I was about to add stroke to open heart surgery at the top of the list of medical conditions I've experienced prior to my 60th birthday. This is the sort of thing that might strip a person of their self confident optimism, if they're not careful. This is what I get for watching my weight and working out four times a week for most of my life? Not possible.

I had convinced myself shortly after my five minute "incident" that it was just one of those senior moments that everyone over the age of say 50 gets from time to time. We stumble around for words sometimes, that's all. Like when you suddenly, momentarily can't recall your child's name, or you can't remember the name of the place you had dinner a couple of nights ago, or what you had for breakfast this morning. The medical term is brain fart, I believe. And now, with each test result coming in negative, my diagnosis seemed correct. So I privately started to steam at all of the bother, fuss and expense.

The last test of the day would be the MRI of my brain, whereby I would be slid inside a giant tube, instructed to lay perfectly still for twenty minutes and almost immediately be attacked by a phalanx of killer attack ants laying waste to the inside of my nose. All the while these ants were busy brushing my nasal hair with tiny peacock feathers, another army of construction workers began pounding on the side of my head with a thousand jackhammers. As I lay there I recalled seeing the name Siemens emblazoned across the entrance of the machine. I thought, leave it to the Germans to have manufactured such a contraption. Then I thought of clam chowder. Pam was to have made homemade clam chowder last night for dinner. But I had to lapse into my Harpo Marx impersonation, and now I'm having an MRI. Funny how quickly things can change.

As they wheeled me back upstairs, I thought of Pam, alone in my room, and what she must have been thinking. My wife, generally speaking, is a glass half full sort of gal, so maybe she was searching for the silver lining. Of all of the bodily functions that her husband might lose to a stroke, speech clearly had an upside. She must have been dreaming about what it might be like not to have a husband who might at any moment blurt out something entirely inappropriate. What would it be like not to have to worry about your husband embarrassing you by saying something that, while perhaps being true, still should never be said out loud? What a relief it would be not to have to listen to another baseball story, political diatribe or horrible pun! Always look on the bright side, that's my wife.

When the results of the MRI came in, the news was delivered by a white-coated Neurologist, complete with the obligatory stethoscope dangling from his neck...So, the MRI confirms several acute infarctions in the front left lobe of the brain, all in a limited area and all recent indicating a stroke.

After this sentence pierced the air, he was all encouragement, citing all of my positive risk factors, talking about starting me on a couple of medicines that would fix me right up. But all I heard was stroke.

Within a couple of hours of the good doctor's pronouncements, I was back home...like nothing ever happened. I finally got my clam chowder. It was delicious.

Soon enough, I will get over this. By the time I'm in Maine, this will all be a distant memory. But for now, it's still fresh. Every time I have struggled over a word the past couple of days, my heart has skipped a beat, but this too will pass. We human beings have a remarkable ability to cast out bad memories, to blot out scary things. I will with this. In a week I can resume my gym workouts, and I will with a vengeance. Before you know it, there will be no more thoughts about strokes, no more obsessing over dropped words or mangled phrases. 

But, for now...you'll have to give me a few days to get over a weird 24 hours.




Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Gallows Humor

It's been a difficult couple of days. Things happen that stagger you, get your attention. But while so engaged, the world goes on its merry way. All of which leads me to Trump vs. Kim, our world's equivalent to WWE's Summer Slam.

While I was being distracted by private events, the war of words between the United States and North Korea escalated further, with President Trump chiming in with his Fire and Fury smack, as in...unless North Korea relented it would be "met with fire and fury like the world has never seen." My son welcomed me back into the real world with this clever text last night...

If Kim and Trump destroy the planet in fire and fury, at least the Republicans are off the hook for repealing Obamacare!

The game was on. This battle of mock headlines ensued...

Me: The day after, the NYT headline will be...PLANET DESTROYED!!!... women and minorities hardest hit!

Patrick: And Fox News will lead with...Trump's Nuclear Holocaust--strong and decisive!!

Me: Greatest. Apocalypse. Ever. (Trump's Twitter Feed)

Patrick: "Why aren't we talking about Hillary's email's??...Sean Hannity

Me: Google's Diversity Problems Solved By ICBM!!!

This is what is known as gallows humor, and its appearance in my life could not have come at a better time.

Thanks, son.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Counting the Days

It's now officially time to begin obsessing over the weather in Maine, specifically the weather in Searsmont, Maine, the nearest town to Quantabacook Lake, our September destination. In four short weeks we will be arriving...never having ventured this far north so late in the summer. We are rolling the dice, banking on a pleasant September experience, not the cold, windy, rainy September of legend.



Luckily, my iPhone has a weather widget that can provide me with instantaneous updates 24/7. I am a bit troubled by what I see this morning. This is August, right? That means, at least in Virginia, the hottest month of the year. However, for the next ten days in Searsmont, the average high temperature is to be 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Although, this is a truly beautiful number to behold, I am starting to worry that the State of Maine might be peaking too soon. And, isn't mid seventies a bit cool even for Maine in August?  Does this portend a trend of cooler than normal temperatures for late summer?



Of course, it should be noted that regardless of what kind of weather we will have, we will be here...




And, no matter how unseasonably cool it may be, when compared to 90 and humid, I'll take unseasonably cool if it comes with this...



I will still check on the weather every day from now until we pull out of here on the 7th. We will pack clothing for every possible weather scenario. Chances are we will get a bit of everything. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Promised Land

This afternoon, I broke away from the office and played a round of golf out at The Hollows. I wanted to go somewhere that I didn't have to wait and a place where they would allow me to walk. There's no better way to drop four pounds than walking 6 miles in 90 degree heat. Incidentally, it should be mentioned that I shot a 79, which is about as good as I can play...but that isn't what this blog is about. It was what happened after golf that compels me to write what follows. 

On the drive out to the golf course, it occurred to me that my trip would take me past my Mom and Dad's old place, The Promised Land. Believe it or not, it was to be the first time I've passed that old driveway since they moved out seven years ago. I hadn't been intentionally avoiding the place, it's just that my day to day travels never take me that far west on 33 anymore. As soon as I passed the South Anna River, I saw the old mailbox on the right. Without slowing down, I glanced up through the trees and caught a glimpse. I told myself that maybe I should stop by on my way home and take a picture of the place. The entire time I was playing golf, that house would creep in and out of my mind. I wonder what it looks like? I wonder who lives there now? 

 The Promised Land was a special place for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it was the only house that my parents ever owned in their 80 plus years on this earth, albeit briefly. Secondly, it truly was a family project. Although we employed a certified builder to oversee construction, many hours of sweat equity was volunteered into the building of the house by family members and close friends. It was a labor of love, the digging, grating, lifting, hammering, and hauling off of trash that occupied many Saturday's of our lives that summer. Once it was finished, it was an amazing thing to see my folks move in to the one place that they were convinced was a demonstration of God's faithfulness. I don't remember exactly, but I think they spent ten years in that house, before their failing health made the upkeep of such a spread impossible for them to keep up with. Besides, they had quite a bit of equity built up, and would need that money in their remaining years. But, what a wonderful ten years it was. As I walked alone down the green fairways of The Hollows, I thought about all of the Thanksgivings spent there...starting with a work day which involved climbing up on the roof to remove the sticks that had gathered and cleaning out the gutters. Then there were those long tables set up end to end decorated with cornucopias, acorns, and fancy placecards. So many memories of football games in the front yard, and Dad letting the kids take shooting and archery target practice under the power lines.

But, when golf was done and I got in the car, I started getting cold feet. Part of me didn't want to see it. Suppose the people who lived there were a bunch of weirdos? That's not how I wanted to remember The Promised Land, as a whacked out Prepper Compound!

When the moment of truth arrived, I slowed down and made the sharp left turn into the winding driveway. It seemed more narrow than I had remembered. Maybe the trees had grown fuller. Then I noticed the signs nailed to several of those oversized trees, blaze orange backgrounds with large black letters... NO TRESPASSING, and PRIVATE PROPERTY. There must have been five of them. Then several more menacing signs...NOTHING I HAVE IS WORTH YOUR LIFE, and my personal favorite...IF I FIND YOU HERE AT NIGHT, NO ONE  WILL FIND YOU IN THE MORNING. Suddenly, this trip down memory lane seemed like a terrible idea. But, by this time I was almost to the house, so I decided to press on. 

Everything looked different. The new owners had built a shed and a make shift carport underneath which were parked three late model cars. My heart was in my throat as I got out of the car and noticed all of the junk lined up against the saplings along the east end of the property. I felt like I was at Fred Sanford's junkyard, not the feeling I had hoped for. I made my way up the porch steps and knocked on the door. I figured that I better announce myself. The homemade signs weren't exactly welcoming, so I didn't want anyone mistaking me for a thief. After what seemed like an eternity, and older man with white hair and two large, unkempt eyebrows answered the door...

Hello...my name is Doug Dunnevant, I heard myself say. My parents used to live here. Believe it or not, I haven't been out this way since they moved out. They are both passed now. Anyway, I hope you don't mind, but I was just curious to see the place once again. If you don't have any objection, I'd like to take a picture of the house.

The old man seemed unimpressed, guarded. He looked me up and down a couple of times, then spurt out, Was Mr. Dunnevant your father? 

Yes! Yes, he was. Are you the same family who we sold this house to?

Seven years ago, he answered with a small smile.

Wow! I can't believe you remembered his name.

I probably wouldn't have ordinarily, he began in a thick foreign accent, but your father, he came to see me a couple of years after we bought the house. He was a very nice man, your father. I remember I had to help him climb these stairs, he was having trouble.

Wait, my Dad came to see you?

Yes he did. He, like you, wanted to see the place again. 

I talked with the old man as he took me around the exterior of the house, telling me about the changes he had made and the ones he had planned for later. He told me that his accent was Hungarian, that he had come to America in 2002, working all over the country in nuclear power plants. He travelled a lot and he and his large family always had to live in cramped apartments. He hated the apartments. This house was an answer to prayer. Your Father would have liked that.

He went on to tell me how very happy he and his family are to live here. They finally have a home, he said. From the looks of the place, he indeed was doing his best to make it look like some Hungarian backwoods campsite, what with the large cooking pit in the backyard where Dad's garden used to be. The fact that he so obviously loved the place was a great encouragement to me.

But then, just before I left, he said something that nearly made me cry...

When your father came to see me, he sat at my table and drank coffee. He looked around the room and seemed sad. He told me that he had never wanted to leave, but had to because he couldn't keep up with everything that needed to be done. But, he was a very kind man, your father. He was glad that we were so happy here...

I pulled away from the house, and back down the driveway and safely onto 33. There was a giant knot in my throat all the way home, and even now as I write this, it's a hard thing to contemplate. Never once did Dad complain about having to leave his house. Never once did he raise an objection. I totally missed it...and that's probably exactly the way he wanted it.



What's the Point?

I haven't had much to say lately. It's not that there's been nothing of interest to write about. Just yesterday, two issues about which I have rather detailed opinions, immigration and affirmative action, appeared in the news. I thought maybe I would write about those opinions. But then I thought...What's the point? Do I really want to wade into another political mine field? The fact is that since each of these issues were introduced by the Trump administration, substitive dialogue is impossible. Anything I will say on these matters will be judged through the great distorting lens of Donald Trump. I will either be viewed as an irrational NeverTrumper, who above all else is committed to his destruction, or I will be judged as unfit for having the temerity of supporting any position taken by his administration. Call it the Trump Effect, destroyer of rational debate.

So, I will keep my opinions to myself this time around. I'll leave the playing field open to the twenty-something meme kings, the guys and girls who reduce complex public policy to pithy cartoon captions. Why waste time trudging through the 37 previous versions of immigration legistlation in this country's history to discover what the give and take and tension has all been about when it's so much easier to be made an instant expert by watching a really hilarious John Oliver bit? Why run the risk of writing an opinion about the pluses and minuses of affirmative action law when, one false move, and half of your readers will think you're a racist and the other half will think you're a hypocrite? The Trump Effect.

These are the real world consequences of polarization. When someone like Donald Trump comes along with his giant personality and his huge brand, opinions about such a man tend to harden. Those who love him, love him completely. Nothing the man can do will ever be able to separate him from their affections. Those who hate him, are repulsed by him, hate him completely. There is nothing he could do, no legistlation he could introduce which they could bring themselves to support. This is what polarization does to people and to nations, it divides us into camps, segregates us into factions, draws lines in the civic sand across which we dare not cross.

There have been many polarizing figures throughout history, Donald Trump isn't the first. It only feels worse with Trump because of our media saturated culture. If the Internet and the 24/7 news cycle had been around during Teddy Roosevelt's day, that would have been a circus too. Big mouth, big personality, combative views...yeah, Teddy would have been a mess. But, it's 2017, we elected Trump and now we must live with it. Part of living with it is understanding that wading into the middle of every argument he starts is a fool's errand.