Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dec. 25 Thoughts From Past


Christmas Day comes in all sizes. By sizes I mean our Christmas Days have come with good or bad, happy or sad, memories of all sizes.

Beyond the pleasant, peaceful, and meaningful day of giving and receiving gifts is remembering that God gave His Son on that first Christmas Day. (I don't know the how of it, but by faith I know 'tis so.) To some people Christmas is a lovely custom, to others a grand holiday, but to one writer-scholar, "The Christmas story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, ... If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left." (from "God in the Dock" by C.S. Lewis.)

There is an advantage for some Christians who are of the Orthodox (or Eastern Church) as they can celebrate two Christmases a year if they so choose. They can celebrate December 25 according to the Gregorian calendar or January 7 according to the Julian calendar.

History tells us that on Christmas Day of the year 800, Charlemagne was crowned as the Holy Roman Emperor and a mere 266 years later, in the year 1066, William the Conqueror was crowned as king of England.

St. Francis of Assisi is said to have assembled the first Nativity scene. (Wonder if he had to get a permit?) In Austria, in 1818 the first singing of "Silent Night" performed.

1868, the United States President Andrew Johnson granted unconditional pardon to all Civil War Confederate soldiers. The state of Alabama was the first state to recognize Christmas as an official holiday, beginning in 1836. In part one of this series, it was noted that Christmas was declared a federal holiday on June 26, 1870.

Texas colonizer, Stephen F. Austin, freed on bail from a Mexico jail on Christmas Day, 1834

The Christmas of 1941
was not a pleasant one for the people of Hong Kong. That was the day the Japanese forces took the colony in World War II. The Emperor of Japan ruled Hong Kong for most of the next five years. The late Oz Quick, a Southern Baptist missionary from Guilin, China, was in Hong Kong recovering from an illness that day. He spent Christmas in a Japanese jail. We worked together years later in Taiwan.

Speaking of Taiwan, in 1947, the Constitution of the Republic of China on Taiwan went into effect and became a holiday they called Constitution Day. Being mostly a Buddhist country, they assured the people this was not a religious Christian holiday. It was a religious holiday for the Christians and Constitution Day for the Buddhists, Daoists and non religious.

A history-making meeting on Christmas Day, 1977, was that between – Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin and the President of Egypt, Anwar Sadat. The date was also Sadat's birthday.

Others born on Christmas Day include: Sir Isaac Newton; Clara Barton (founder of the American Red Cross); hotel magnate Conrad Hilton (San Angelo's Cactus Hotel was the second one he built?). Musicians Cab Calloway and Tony Martin. (Dean Martin died on Christmas Day). Actors Humphrey Bogart, Sissy Spacek; scriptwriter Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone and "Requiem for a Heavyweight.") American footballers Ken Stabler (the Snake, Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers) and Larry Csonka, Miami Dolphins running back in Super Bowls VI, VII, VIII).

Nineteen short years ago, the first successful trial run of the system which has become known as the World Wide Web, was on Christmas Day, 1990. The Internet Era began. If our Christmases cannot be historic, they can be happy.


Friday, December 4, 2009

A Little Christmas History

CHRISTMAS THROUGH THE YEARS (First of Three on Christmas 2009)

Wandering through the Internet as Christmas approaches there is a wealth of facts, legends, customs and mythis evolving from the birth of the Christ Child.

As far back as is known, Christmastime was celebrated at different times during the year, like a moveable feast. During the 4th century, Pope Julius I, chose the time of the Winter Solstice, a pagan celebration about the Return of the Sun, for a set-date to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Pope had good intentions in setting the date on an already popular holiday. By legally replacing the pagan festival with a Christian one, he hoped to enhance the meaning of Christmas. (Such has been the intentions of Christians down to our day --- "Jesus is the reason for the season" --- "Put Christ back in Christmas." –-- He is the center of these special days, if we individually decide to make it so.)

Of the gifts brought to Jesus in Bethlehem, frankincense is of particular interest. It is a sweet smelling gum resin taken from certain trees which, in those days, grew in Arabia and India. Frankincense was a valuable commodity in the Roman Empire, even considered as valuable as precious gems. Frankincense was used in Roman funerals. Some scholars have speculated that the gift of frankincense foretold the death of Jesus.

Over the years, any traditions have evolved around the Christmas season. The Old Norse phrase "ves heill"--to be of good health – we call "Wassail." This custom gradually became a tradition of visiting neighbors on Christmas Eve and drinking to their health. Wassailing was the forerunner to the English custom of Christmas caroling, wishing neighbors to a long and healthy life.

I have not been wassailing for a long time. I remember, the Christmas I got a 78 rpm portable record player, taking out my trumpet and joining John Robnett (grandson of Howard Payne University founder) and Tommy Savage, we three went caroling the neighborhood. I don't recall our being ask to play after the first home we visited. We learned singing alone was better than sounds from cold lips on coronets.

A traditional Christmas dinner in early England was the head of a pig prepared with mustard. I am thankful the Pilgrims didn't bring that custom with them in 1620. Actually, the Pilgrims (who were English separatists) did not observe Christmas, or Easter. This resulted in Christmas not being a holiday in early America. It was even outlawed in Boston from 1659 to 1681.

During and after the American Revolution, Christmas like other English customs, were seldom observed. General George Washington and his army crossed the Delaware River on his way to Trenton on Dec. 25, 1776. The 1777 Christmas at Valley Forge saw the troops freezing and "enjoying (?)" a Christmas dinner of fowl cooked in a broth of turnips, cabbage and potatoes. Ten years later, Congress was in regular session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America's new constitution.

Christmas was not declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870 The 14th president, Franklin Pierce (b.1804 - d.1869) was the first president to decorate an official White House Christmas tree.

Next week, Friday Dec. 18th, I will continue this column on Christmas through the years.


Great Christmas Books


Picking up from last week's thoughts on Christmas, there is no writer more linked to Christmas (not counting the New Testament writers), than the prolific 19th century author, Charles Dickens.

Dickens was born into a big family and had a big family of his own. He knew poverty personally. He became known for the remarkable characters and situations he created. He was a spokesman for the poor and the dispossessed. He made the "haves" see the state of the "have-nots."

In 1843, his "A Christmas Carol," tells an unmatched story of the rich and poor, the believers and skeptics, as they confront the reality of what the Christmas story is really about.

Dickens wrote several other Christmas stories. He wrote one a year for some years, but none was as popular or successful as his first. One of the most famous of his characters was Tiny Tim. Dickens considered three other names for the little boy before he settled on Tiny Tim. The other possibilities considered were Small Sam, Puny Pete and Little Larry. Millions of readers agree he used the right name. I just can't see Puny Pete or Little Larry saying, "God bless you everyone," with a straight face.

Scrooge's constant "Bah Humbug," was not Dickens' initial choice for that statement. He first had Scrooge's saying "Bah Christmas." Another good change for the master-writer. (For a brief biography of Dickens see the one by C.D. Merriman.)

According to the BBC website, the handwritten manuscript of "A Christmas Carol" is presently on display at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York along with the original watercolor cover of the 1843 first edition. Readers fortunate to be spending Christmas in New York should visit the exhibit.

In a review of the exhibit, Claire Prentice writes that Dickens wrote the classic story in a frantic six-weeks. He began in October 1843, ending in time for Christmas publication.

"The manuscript is a mess," says the Morgan's curator Declan Kiely. "It's a mess because Dickens was trying to get everything down on paper really fast."

"When you look at it, you see him in the full flood of creative energy and excitement right there on the page. When he began writing, he just couldn't put it down," says Kiely.

The story of the miserly Scrooge's redemption, after three frightful dreams, has inspired television, radio, film, opera and theatrical presentations for years. Any of the many editions of the book would make an excellent Christmas gift.

Speaking of Christmas gifts, the late Elmer Kelton's "Christmas At The Ranch," about what Christmas was like in West Texas during the Great Depression is also great reading. Kelton writes Christmas toys "were modest by today's standards because a dollar in those times looked as big as a saddle blanket."

Next Friday is Christmas Day and I will share the last of these Christmas columns. It will be a busy day, but for those who take time to read it I hope it is enjoyable. About some things that happened on other Christmases. What other historic events took place on December 25th?

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

A medical shot in the dark that worked


Pudd'nhead Wilson, one of Mark Twain's creations, said: "Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits." With all the emphasis on washing our hands today, I'm encouraging the good example of constant handwashing. Then Pudd'nhead would say: "Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example."

I'll begin by annoying doctors, nurses and hospitals. My pet peeve is when in hospital, I like for my doctor, in my presence, to wash his hands before peering over me.

When a doctor, nurse or visitor visits my hospital room, I have no compunction asking them to wash their hands. Even if the physician is a well-known and famous man of science, I request he wash his hands as I watch. All health providers know this and make a practice of letting the patient see them wash their hands, and most are not offended. They probably washed before they visited my room. Even if they say they just washed, politely request they do it in front of you. Most care-takers will see the wisdom of making the patient feel he is being properly cared for.

Making such a simple request is the patient's right, but more important it is the patient's responsibility. No one is as concerned about my health than me. The caretakers care (we can't thank them enough), but in the end, it is the observant patient that stays free of nosocomial infections. (Nosocomial infections are those acquired by patients while in the hospital, unrelated to the illness of the patient.)

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates five to fifteen percent of all hospital patients acquire some kind of nosocomial infection. (Source: Christine L. Case, Ed.D., Microbiology Professor at Skyline College)

Few of us ever heard of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweiss. He was a Hungarian medical doctor in the late 1840s in the maternity wards of a Vienna hospital. Women in childbirth were dying at alarming rates there. Up to 25 percent of women who delivered their babies in hospitals died of fever.

Dr. Semmelweiss observed that the washing of hands between patients might help more women live. He began using soap and water and later prescribed ablutions with chlorinated lime water. His shot in the dark was successful But the doctors and staff greeted this with disdain for a long time. Records revealed his success, but other doctors were so hostile to this revolutionary "ceremony" as they called it, Semmelweiss resigned. He was later successful, but still a joke to his colleagues.

In 1879 at the Academy of Medicine in Paris, Louis Pasteur, who contributed to germ theories pushed by Robert Koch, stood and said: "The thing that kills women with [childbirth fever] you doctors that carry deadly microbes from sick women to healthy ones."

According to the United States CDC, "Handwashing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection." The report goes on to say we are all potentially at risk of contracting hand-transmitted illnesses, one-third of our population is especially vulnerable, including pregnant women, children, old people, and those with weakened immune systems."

Mark Twain wisely wrote: "The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd druther not." Wash your hands even if you'd druther not.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Behind Ft. Hood: US Invasion of Iraq

To avoid another Ft. Hood, bring the troops home

Now the American Indians, blacks, Jews, illegal immigrants, and all other minorities can relax in this land of the free and the home of the brave. You ask, Why? Because the latest clan on the block to fear and degrade are the Muslims.

U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan's killing spree on unsuspecting and innocent civilians and solders at Fort Hood was tragic, unfortunate and unnecessary. SOME MISGUIDED SOULS THINK IT WAS A TERRORIST ATTACK -- anything to spread fear.

Christian radio talk shows (such as American Family Association), all right-wing nuts on radio talk shows and the Internet are agreeing that this event at Fort Hood proves there "is an enemy within" that is out to destroy America. And the blame is because we have a bi-racial president. According to the comedian Rusty Limbaugh, President Barack Obama hates our country and is out to destroy it.

By ignoring the few facts known regarding the Ft. Hood murders, and refusing to wait for the actual facts to be studied and revealed, the Tea Party is out for blood – Islamic blood. These folks are not kidding and the rest of us best pay attention. Highway bill boards proclaiming a revolution to save America are sprouting up in Georgia and Colorado.

Those on the weird fringes of Christianity and politics are for stopping immigration of Muslims. And give the 3,700 Muslims now in the US military dishonorable discharges.

Bryan Fischer, of American Family Radio, writes on the company's web site: "It became evident almost immediately that the mass murderer in yesterday's killing spree at Fort Hood was a Muslim who was motivated by jihadist impulses. ... it is time, to stop the practice of allowing Muslims to serve in the U.S. military."

From all corners comes the question: How could we have missed this wayward Muslim assassin? How could these deaths been avoided? Who is responsible for the slip-ups that led this Muslim to kill his comrades? The FBI? The CIA? The National Security branch? It goes much deeper than one person or group mishap. We could have avoided this horror in Fort Hood by not invading Iraq in the first place. When the U.S. armed forces bombed and invaded Baghdad, an unending war unfolded. It turned the Middle East to mistrust and hate America.

In 2002 I wrote more than once for Bush to not start a war. He was intent on it. This week in England a committee of the highest order is going back over the records and concluded Bush was going into IRAQ he told the Prime Minister in 2002, a full year before the invasion.

The congress foolishly followed a president whose only warfare experience was successfully protecting the skies of Texas from the Vietcong. Men who have never been to war, so not know what hell it is; violence begets violence, not peace.

Most of this year, congress and talk radio-TV have talked the cost of health care being just too much money. I don't remember there being such talk when we revived up to invade Iraq. That on-going war expense of over one trillion (a million million) dollars was not debated like health care has been. Congress jumped immediately on the Dick Cheney tanks and planes and never looked back or counted of the cost in money and lives. American health care costs cannot top that.

We must withdraw our military from the Middle East. Such an unpopular move could solve a lot problems. (Example: Save tremendous amount of dollars now spent for war.)

We are not wanted in Iraq or Afghanistan. Both places are multi-racial tribal chiefs our government put in power. Both head men and their staffs are corrupt and show no signs of changing their ways. It is time to get out of the Middle East and the other 700 bases around the world. Then there may not be another Ft. Hood massacre. Showing our strength with smaller countries has in reality shown our inner weakness.

Monday, November 16, 2009

To take risks is worth it !!

Rewards are worth the risk.

"Progress always involves risk; you can't steal second base and keep your foot on first," Frederick Wilcox's most famous quote on winning involves resolve, not hesitating, but making choices.

Risks of any kind need courage. “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore,” wrote Andre Gide, winner of the 1947 Nobel prize for literature.

I'm told that most fighter pilots in World War II were barely into their 20s. The older we get the less we are interested in risks. Most risk-takers are young and can adjust fast.

To the young, risk-taking is as natural as running and swimming. Often the risk is not worth the effort, but the young seldom have second thoughts. Risk-taking is discouraged by nay-sayers, and the negative response such and such will not work. They stick to their guns saying "no" to any challenging ventures, which to them is a risk.

Mark Twain could have been thinking of these nay-sayers when he wrote: "Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."

Soon after seminary graduation, I pastored a growing church in a community south of Big D. Except for one deacon and his brother, the former pastor, who had run the church since before the Civil War, all went well. We took the risk of needed positive changes, like better use of Sunday school rooms and some schedule changes. Slowly bits of progress began slipping into the congregation. To hope is to avoid the despair of doing nothing. "Only those who risk going too far can possible find out how far they can go." (T.S. Eliot)

Those days were but the beginning of a risk-taking life. Not all of the risks were world changing and are just normal reactions to most folks. We left that comfortable church and town later to begin a church in Arizona, which is now a 55 year old vibrate congregation. Family in Texas wondered why would I go to Arizona when Texas was still full of sinners.

The family really thought we were going too far when we left San Manuel, Arizona, for the edge of the world in Taiwan. We did not know what was ahead on the trail and still don't. None of us know what is ahead, but we can't sit around and wait for things to happen. Karl Wallenda said it this way: "Life is being on the wire, everything else is just waiting."

Ray Bradbury, the science-fiction expert once said, "Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down." There is some weird truth in the saying, to laugh is to risk appearing the fool; and to weep appearing too sentimental; to love is to risk not being loved in return.

Looking back on those years I now know it would have been unfortunate if we cringed from the risks or played it safe. Playing it safe has little ir no rewards. Grasp the moment, accept the challenge, charge ahead, for the greatest risk is not taking one.

What is taking a risk? It is not just being different, but discovering the known in the unknown. "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I . . . I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." (Robert Frost)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Remembering The Fall of Berlin Wall

My, how time flies

We have all exclaimed "how fast time flies." It took years of time to reach high school graduation. I thought it would never come. I thought the day would never come to get to drive. Now, with advanced years, time is no longer slow as Moses. It is like a flash of lightening.

Twenty years ago this past June 4, the Chinese People's Liberation Army crushed the demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen (English: "Gate of Heavenly Peace" indeed an ironic name). This was followed by student demonstrations a few weeks later in Berlin, Germany. By late September, 1989, the West German demonstrations against political repression had grown. Then at midnight, Nov. 9, the infamous Berlin Wall fell. Difficult to believe that all unfolded twenty years ago.

President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev worked to create a climate change in the Cold War. Reagan's speech in Berlin, June 1987, telling Gorbachev to "bring down this wall" was one of many events that led the Soviet satellites to turn to the West.

The night the Wall fell, Jody and I were in our dorm room of the Teacher's Building on the campus of Nanjing University, China. We were teaching English conversation for students at the university and at the Jinling Theological Seminary, a few blocks away.

As always, we were tuned to the British Broadcasting Corporation's English broadcasts that night. Along with people around the world, we could not believe the good news. The Berlin Wall that had separated Germans since it was erected in 1961 was no more.

At the close of WWII, the Allies divided Germany into French, British, Russian and American sectors. Because so many East Germans were leaving the Russian sector, the Soviets closed the border in 1952. That did not stop the flow seeking a better life in West Germany, so the wall was built. It only slowed down the exodus. More than 2.6 million East Germans escaped to West Germany from 1949 to 1961.

On that eventful November night in a East Berlin hotel restaurant a couple remembers that as the main course was brought to their table, a woman came wandering in, stumbling up and down shouting: "Die Mauer ist gefallt! Die Mauer ist gefallt!" Everyone thought she was mad or having a mental breakdown when suddenly the cooks came from the kitchen waving their arms and saying the same thing.

Those who were there, or on radio or television, watching people marching for their rights in Berlin knew they were watching history. At this 20th anniversary, Paul Bent of Ireland, wrote the BBC the impact the event and their coverage had was tremendous. We felt the same way.

At Jody's classes the next day, all the students were aware of what had happened 10,000 miles away. Some spoke openly that this was what China needed. She had to caution them to watch what they said. There were always those who were watching and listening and she did not want their excitement to be taken as revolution talk.

The Communist leadership of China, made no comments immediately. But in the factories, schools and the back streets there was a feeling of a coming change. It was slowly evolving. The Chinese government to this day has never admitted to killing demonstrators twenty years ago. It is still a non-event for them. But their world was changing and one day the truth will be admitted when a more liberal forward-looking Chinese government and society emerges.

How fast these twenty years have come and gone. All the freeways, skyscrapers, colorful Western dress, new bridges and underground metro systems, more millionaires than America, the Olympics, more openness to the world, was only a dream. Now it is a reality.

If we have another twenty years we can be assured it will travel at light speed, bringing even more exciting, world-changing events.

Photo: On left is Lao She's son, Shu Yi and some other professors of Chinese literature at Lao She 100th anniversary of his birth Symposium, 1999.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

O, For a faithful husband-politician

Quirks on the political trail

The former Catholic bishop, Fernando Lugo, wanted to do more for the poor of his South American country, so he campaigned for the presidency of Paraguay, and won.

A year before he became president, Fernando Armindo LUGO Mendez was the bishop of San Pedro. It was there he began a relationship with 16-year-old Viviana Carrillo.

A year and a half later he is elected President of Paraguay. A lawsuit brought the affair public and Lugo announced: "... there was a relationship with Viviana Carrillo. ... I assume all responsibilities, and I recognize that I'm the father of the child."

Lugo was looked upon as one that could bring politics to a higher level. The country's history from 1811, when Paraguay won impendence from Spain, had been one power-hungry dictator after another.

Last year Time Magazine likened Lugo to Obama, in his desire for hope and reforms, especially land reform.

Some say, what's the big deal? This is the 21st century. Lugo is simply demonstrating he's a man. Before pointing fingers at Paraguay's bishops and presidents, let's look at some of the stains on our North American politicians.

Rather than cast any more stones toward South America, I must go on record that I believe Franklin Roosevelt's secretary to be his true love, and during WWI Warren G. Harding loved a German spy. John F. Kennedy's habit of straying is well documented. JFK was smarter than Senator Gary Hart who dared the press to find him out, and they did. John Edwards turned his life into a train wreck, and evidently Bill Clinton was just living up to his Arkansas reputation.

But these guys are history. With all the good they did, they could have accomplished much more had they been more faithful to their marriage vows and their political commitments.

We do seem to let our sinning politicians remain at the helm too long. No ethical investigation, no replacing the bad egg, or demanding a higher standard for those who are serving "We The People."

What about those politicians still in office months after being exposed? They seem to have no shame.

Louisiana Senator David Vitter, had his wife stand beside him, as he admitted yet refuted having call-girl friends in Washington. Later it was found he had them in New Orleans also

Mark Sanford, who thought the Appalachian Trail was in Argentina, is still governor of South Carolina. His lies continued even after being recognized in the Atlanta airport on his way back home from "his soul mate" (his words) down in the Pampas.

From out of the West comes the thundering denials of Nevada's Senator John Ensign. Money, large gobs of it, wasn't enough to cover-up his adultery with his staff. He sits there proudly on Senate committees with no concern for having messed up lives and caused more Americans to look with a jaundiced eye at public representatives. Such selfish men as these who cannot be faithful at home, make it more difficult for those honest representatives.

Our governor may have hair like former Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, but he has not tried to sell a senate seat. (Rick Perry would much rather at least one of Texas' senators stay in Washington a bit longer.)

But this column about sex in the senate is not about our politicians who live and work in Texas. Texas has some "birthers" and some men and women who should take up another calling. Unfortunately some, like our own Rep. Mike Conaway, does not appreciate the yet-to-be health reform bill. He is against helping the least among us by opposing a single-payer system for everybody. Where is Molly Ivins when we need her?


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Church Schisms As Normal As Potluck Suppers and Dull Sermons

At a general convention in California of the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori blamed controversies within her church thus: "Schism is not a Christian act, the great Western heresy [is] that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God ... that individual focus is a form of heresy."

As T.R. Fehrenbach saw this in his San Antonio Express-News column differently. The great Texas historian writes a weekly opinion piece every Sunday. Like my own columns they are all over the place. He takes the bishop to task.

If there is anything outstanding about Christian history it is one of "schisms." Even before the 1st century was over, men were spreading out in all directions as "Christian sects." They could not agree on much of anything. When the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church could no longer agree they split, never to reunite. And then came the Protestants, who keep dividing up to this 21st century. There is no end in sight for the non-denominational, post-denominational and "don't give us a name" churches all over the country-side.

Dr. Fehrenback says: "A schism (from the Greek for "splitting")is as Christian as potluck suppers and dull sermons."

It is not heresy to seek God as an individual. That has been the thrust of most of the Protestant denominations. This includes Baptists, even though they like to say they never protested the Roman Church. Well, they did and some on the fringes continue to see Babylon demons when cleric collars appear.

Jesus prayed his followers might be one with Him in spirit (and community, I add)and this may be the oldest prayer ever formed that has yet to be answered.


Charles Wellborn: A clear voice of conscience

It was a time we must never forget

Too soon we forget the terrorism of the 1950s and 1960s. The cross-burnings, obscene telephone calls, character assassination and political intrigue on those who believed in and fought for human rights and dignity, and against bigotry, hate and indifference.

I was reminded of those years when I read of the passing of a man who stood for equality for all races. Charles Wellborn, a native of Alto, Texas, with degrees from Baylor University and Duke University, Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary and until his retirement in 1992, the director of Florida State University London Study Center, London, England.

Jody, my wife, described Wellborn as one of the best preachers she ever heard and the clearest voice of conscience among that generation of Baptists. Dr. John Wood, long-time pastor of the First Baptist Church of Waco, was mentored in high school by then seminary student Wellborn. (Wellborn's roommate at seminary was Howard E. Butt, Jr., one of this generation's best laymen preachers and founder of Laity Lodge.)

Charles Wellborn, 86, was buried October 14, just a few blocks from the church he pastor after leaving Baylor University, the Seventh and James Baptist Church.

It was during his ten-year pastorate at Waco's Seventh and James Baptist Church, adjacent to the Baylor campus, that the church opened its membership to people of all "races and colors." It was 1958 and Waco still had the stain of hanging Jessie Washington before a huge white crowd in 1916. (It was one of 500 lynchings recorded in Texas from 1880 to 1930.

Soon after the news that the church welcomed any and all, Wellborn began to receive threatening phone calls. Then a cross was burned on the lawn of the parsonage. It was fast becoming one of the darkest days in America's church history. It was a time when the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan revived. Other civil rights villains became more bold.

It was a time when local blacks were turned away from church doors by self-righteous and self-deluded ushers and deacons. Some preached a Gospel left over from slavery days. Popular Bible interpretations endorsed white supremacy. There were those who simply "did not want to get involved." It was a time when many forgot what Jesus said to the Apostle John, "Behold, I stand at the door: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him" (Rev. 3:20).

It was a time we should never forget. Hard lessons were learned during those days of turmoil. The experience, bad as it was, made the nation and the churches stronger. But, there are still those who would like to go back to those "good old days." With white Americans fast becoming a minority like their ancestors were at Plymouth Rock and Jamestown, there is a new uncertainty out there. Keeping folks "in their place" is not as easy as once-upon-a-time.

No one likes to recall such disturbing events as took place in 1916 and 1958. Others, like Wellborn,(Presbyterian Robert McNeill; Methodist Dallas Blanchard; Episcopalian rector Duncan Gray; Catholic priest William Warthling; countless Jewish Rabbis), stood their ground against congressmen, senators, governors, mayors and even fellow clergy in a fight against the segregationist's attempts to keep the "coloreds" under their storm-trooper-boots-mentality.

Years later, the city of Waco officially apologized for the 1916 lynching, noting: "When you have a deep enough infection and you just open it up a little bit and let air get to it to heal over, it will come back. It will keep coming back until you open it up and you let it heal from the inside out."

Charles Wellborn, WWII ski patrol in Italy, Baylor grad, a clear voice of conscience, continues to speak through his writing. He wrote seven books, two plays and more than 100 articles in scholarly and popular journals. He was a frequent contributor to the independent journal "Christian Ethics Today". His was a life of outspoken integrity and service for others. He was a man for his times. We must not forget those men and their contribution to our nation.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

More Progress Needed For Women

All Women Are Hypatia's Daughters !

Who or what was Hypatia? A new drug? An ailment caused by the Asian flu? A bug from Bolivia?

It turns out Hypatia was not a "thing" but a woman. But not just any woman. She was a teacher in a time when women did not dare teach men. The truth is every great man of history had a wife or woman giving him clues and solutions without credit.

Her detractors said Hypatia was not like a woman, she was too intelligent to be a woman. She was brilliant, having studied writers like Euclid and Archimedes, famous men of letters.

Many philosophers, professors and politicians came from abroad to hear her words at the School of Alexandria. She was outspoken against having "blind faith." She counseled people to doubt and to question things. One of the world's finest storytellers, Edurado Galeano, quotes her saying, "Defend your right to think. Thinking wrongly is better than not thinking at all."

Her critics were all men. Women were to stay home. In old China, a husband might call his wife, "nei ren," meaning the inside-the-house person.

Although Hypatia had a grand following, the intimated men called her a witch and a sorcerer, the Christians of Alexandria called her a heretic.

So on a March day in 415 A.D., the mob attacked her carriage, stripped her naked, stabbed and beat her as they dragged her through the city streets. What was left of her was made into a bonfire in a public square.

It was a man's world long before that fifth century story. For the 3,000 years of recorded history woman has been considered inferior to the mighty male. Used by men for gratifying sex, raising babies, janitorial duty and to cook.

Women didn't make laws or write history. Jesus tried to lift the status of women, but like much of his message, that did not sink in with the men. Prophet Mohammed's followers remembered that he once said that paradise is filled with the poor and hell is filled with women.

It took nearly 150 years for females to be allowed to vote in the United States. Few men stood up for Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and other women in the woman's suffrage movement.

Few have dared to challenge such an unjust culture. Around the globe today, one in three women is abused. Everything is a woman's fault. This is remarkably true with Afghan women, were some call the country "a man's world, a woman's hell." Another ancient saying, still observed by some: "Hang up your lash where your woman can see it."

We have come a long way from the time of Hypatia, but there is much more to be done in educating males to a world of justice and peace for the very ones who brought them into the world.

Granted, not all men are abusive. One of the most distressing aspects of women and child abuse is how prevalent it is on the domestic scene. Why do husbands abuse, verbally or physically, those they once claimed to love? Those working in women's shelters tell how the women resemble having been through a war zone. They have a form of post traumatic syndrome.

Violent home situations can get help. There are places in our city where professionals are anxious to give advice and a safe place for the abused. The internet has the Abused Women's Advocacy Project (; also For the abused, leaving is complex and confusing, see:

(Hypatia's story was shared by Edurado Galeno, one of Latin America's greatest writers, in his new book "Mirrors, Stories of Almost Everyone" English translation by Mark Fried).

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Ninth Year of Afghanistan War

After eight years of war is it time to change sides?

Last week America's fighting involvement in Afghanistan began its ninth year. This is longer than the USA was involved in World War I and II.

As we learned in Iraq, men bent on killing American soldiers can be persuaded to change sides. It took about three hundred dollars a month, per Sunni, to get the Sunni Iraqi to switch to our side. This could be one way the US could use to get out of Afghanistan.

The reason this approach might work in Afghanistan is the fact that the Taliban is not a monolith. They have no supreme commander or war lord leading their fight. The Taliban groups are many. They have different motives and agree only on one thing: ridding their country of foreigners.

The Taliban have shown they can switch sides with little difficulty. They did it with the Soviets until they wore them out. They want to be on the winning side, so war lords or scattered groups switch back and forth, going with the one they think has the best chance of winning. "Changing sides is the Afghanistan way of war", writes Fotini Christia and Michael Semple in the July-August, 2009, issue of Foreign Affairs

Last August the people of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (President Hamid Karzai's government) held a presidential election. Two months later, both leading candidates claim to have won. The UN observers have documented fraud and corruption during and since the voting.

Democracy, elections, our four freedoms are completely foreign to the Karzai brothers. President Karzai's brother is well-known to be involved in corruption and the opium racket. American ideals cannot be pre-packaged for use anywhere, nor can they be force fed; they must be born out of the hearts of those seeking such ideals more than life itself.

The US did not go to Afghanistan to introduce democracy. I doubt the idea of killing so many civilians or staying this long was in the plans. Just one object: get ben Laden. The ill-conceived over-the-top US air raids on October 7, 2001, was only to capture or kill ben Laden, the mastermind behind the al Qaeda hi-jacked airliners that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2001.

The 9-ll attack was not a cause for war, though wars have begun with less provocation. One general is reported as saying, "bomb them back to the stone age." The knee-jerk reaction of the US president, vice president and congress was not one of our nation's greatest hours. Those in charge let revenge bubble to the top. An old sage reminds us: When hunting a particular rat, you don't need a large caliber weapon like an elephant gun.

Someone needs the inspiration of original thinking if this unnecessary war is to cease. Win over enough of the Taliban and together put an end to the al Qaeda in their Pakistan hide-away. Bring the troops home and turn loose the CIA to get ben Laden with as few civilian deaths as possible. This is the way criminal mass murderers are brought to justice, not with massive military force.

If the US could make friends with the Taliban (get out the money clip and force a smile), together we just might defeat al Qaedia, our original purpose. As a friend, the Taliban might institute a more just and favorable government. (Granted, this could be called wishful thinking.)

During the Korean War, had General Douglas MacArthur crossed the Yalu River into China as he said he was going to, the US would have really had a long-lasting war. Because President Harry Truman fired him, we averted such a catastrophe. MacArthur was a hero at the time. But the president was smarter. Wisely our Constitution keeps the final say on war in civilian hands.

President Obama must handle his generals as Truman did. Gen. Stanley McChrystal thinks adding 40 to 60,000 more troops will give us more time. More time for what? More time to see more innocent people die? More time for America and NATO soldiers killed? More time to undermine the new American president's desire for a peaceful world?

Changing sides is the Afghanistan way of war. Entering the ninth year of war, giving a look at the wisdom of the locals might be a good thing. The decision is with the president and congress, not the generals.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Not Enough Thinking Goin' On

THINKING A PARAMOUNT NECESSITY, Just not enough of it goin' on these days. Thinking can make the blood pressure rise. But it is good for all of us.

Former CIA analyst and distinguished scholar, Chalmers Johnson, has recently completed a trilogy on the economic and military overreach of the United States. The title of the third book is "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic."

The first two books, "Blowback" and "The Sorrows of Empire," argues that American clandestine and military activity overseas has led to a direct disaster here in the United States. Unintended, but harmful to the country's future.

Johnson used "Nemesis" for the title of the latest book because "Nemesis was the ancient Greek god of revenge, the punisher of hubris and arrogance in human beings."

If you recall your Greek mythology you know that she (Nemesis) is the one that led Narcissus to the pond and showed him his reflection, whereupon he jumped in and drowned.

This title to Johnson means she's present in our county right now, "just waiting to carry out her divine mission."

He continues his C-SPAN interview by stressing the subtitle, "The Last Days of the American Republic," "is not just hype to sell books. ...I'm here concerned with a very real, concrete problem in political analysis, namely that the political system of the United States today, history tells us, is one of the most unstable combinations there is --- domestic democracy and foreign empire. A nation can be one of the other, a democracy or an imperialist, but can't be both."

As illustrative of this thought, look at the former British Empire, upon which the sun never sat. After the defeat of the tyrannical German Nazi empire, it became evident that their world of money-making colonies were waking up. They found their voice and began seeking to keep their riches at home and to rule themselves.

Across the colonies of Africa and India, Britain's crown jewel of a colony, the masses would no longer be subjected to foreign masters. "They wanted their country back," to use a phrase now constantly misused in TAT sessions (Teabagger Astro-Turfers). (Same simplistic thought as the odd saying we will be hearing again in a couple of months: "Put Jesus back in Christmas." For the uninformed, Jesus never left.)

The Germans lost most of their colonies after World War I. But the Dutch in Indonesia, the French in Vietnam, Spain in Cuba and the Philippines, and the British (everywhere) were slow to see the writing on the wall. None of these empires prepared their colonies how to rule themselves. Blame the empires, not the former colonies that continue to have dictators, revenge and war.

Kenya had one government official of lower rank when Britain fled. The French Foreign Legion had to be defeated on the battle field to leave Indo-China. Unfortunately, the US government sided with the Dutch, French and British during those years of transition. After Ho Chi minh defeated the French, pictures of Harry Truman were in their victory parades in Hanoi. They liked the USA in 1954.

These empire builders learned that to retain their colonies and economic paradises, they would have to become more imperial than democratic. They would have to dictate more and more to their far-flung money-makers. Democracy and dictators don't go good together.

For further reference look up the 1953 American-led covert ousting of Iran's freely elected Mossadegh and putting the Shah back on the throne which brought 25 years of terror for the Iranians.

America is in danger of becoming less democratic and more imperialistic with such an attitude as "we always know best." It is evident this did not begin with the 2008 presidential election. It has been building steam since the 1950s, from Iran to Guatemala and back again. We tried to save Korea by force from the Communist. Half a century later our Armed Forces are still there, as they are in 737 military bases on every continent.

Our government began placing military bases all over the world. Very few nations have ask us to leave. The "chosen" countries liked the income from Uncle Sam. These overseas bases, over the last half century have cost the tax payers umpteen trillions of dollars; while not adding not a single good thing to our overseas image.

To maintain an empire requires the making of munitions, machines, equipment and a lot of 18-year olds. The cost of today's huge military-industrial-congress complex is not known. A smattering of the government budget is known, but the complete totals will never be known.

We need to re-read President George Washington's farewell address. He said that the great enemy of the republic was a standing army. (This is read at the opening of the first session of every Congress. Doesn't seem to have made an impression on the politicians.)

The three powers of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of our government are meant to keep a check on each other. Oversight is impossible with an imperial presidency. President Dwight Eisenhower, with very undiplomatic language, gave the same message as George Washington. Lack of oversight has led to our present economic woes.

A friend at church urged me to continue writing these pieces. He confessed my writing sometimes causes his blood pressure to go up, but it makes him think. That is all I wish to accomplish, make us think more and more often.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thinking in short supply

There are always difficulties when a new man/woman comes on the job. It is only natural that he would use his personal talents and traits as he shares his own vision in his own way. His skills and manner may be different from his predecessor. And there are always those who are "put off" from the new guy's ways. This is nowhere more true than in the delicate choosing of a new pastor in those Protestant churches who "call" their new shepherd.

Two years ago D. James Kennedy, the founding pastor of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and known throughout the country as the preacher of the television worship program, The Coral Ridge Hour, died. He founded the church in 1960. Today it sits on a multi-million dollar campus with well over 2,000 members in attendance.

Kennedy, according to the Miami Herald, was also a co-founder of the Christian lobby known as the Moral Majority and declared he wanted to "reclaim America for Christ.''

Last March, after two years of searching for a shepherd for the flock, 91 percent of the voting members chose Tullian Tchividjian, the grandson of evangelist Billy Graham.

Pastor Tchivdijan -- his full name is William Graham Tullian Tchividjian -- was named after Tertullian, a Christian theologian of the second and third centuries.

That high an acceptance vote is a welcome sight for a pastor beginning a new pastorate. But the majority is nothing but the majority, nothing more (see today's Democrats in House and Senate for an example). Sometimes the smaller the dissent, the more power the dissenters are able to engender, especially when the famous founding pastor's daughter, Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, is among those objecting to the Pastor Tchivdijan.

Mrs. Cassidy, along with a few hundred, was upset, according to Religious News Service, that Tchividjian, unlike her father, shunned a clerical robe and the fact he had chosen not to focus on political issues from the pulpit. He also insisted on an invitation at the close of the service for those wishing to join. One of his first actions irked some longtime members when he unplugged the TV program. (Just a wild guess: Mrs. Cassidy may not have known how to pronounce his rather different name.)

My thought was anyone as closely related to the best known and loved evangelist of the 20th century, and already an experienced pastor, would be welcome in many a pulpit.

After going through channels, the dissenting minority was given a chance to air their objections to the 2,000 plus membership. On Sunday, September 20, the complaint to oust preacher Tchividjian was defeated with a 69 to 31 percent vote.

Billy Graham's grandson is wise to stay out of political debate when at the sacred desk. His worshippers will have many varied slants on politics, but a good pastor does not take sides. His job is to share the lessons of the scriptures and history that will make for a better society and church.

Had it been me, I would have disagreed on doing away with the robe in the pulpit. I often wore a deep navy blue mandarin gown, made by a gifted local tailor in Taiwan. In those days, the 1950s, you would see many men in the mandarin chang'pao, as the robe is called. It was not an unusual site. (It might have been unusual-looking on me, but no one said anything –- to me. Their fun over Sunday dinner was probably over my spoken Chinese, or missed inflection (every word has one or more tones in addition). Mandarin with a Texas accent was rare in Pingtung County.)

What is the reason for sharing these far out stories, events or opinions week after week? I received one answer from a friend at church who urged me to continue writing them. He confessed my writing sometimes causes his blood pressure to go up, but it makes him think. We need to be able to discern the petty from the serious; the difference in being smart and being intelligent; having knowledge without wisdom.

We are blessed in this country with a freedom to share our different perspectives. All of us are a part of those we have met along the way. We are usually unaware of God's hand in sending someone across our path --- at home, in church, in work or school, who caused us to think; made us aim higher.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Immigration Perspective

"Give me your tired, your poor... "

Looking out from the southern tip of Manhattan I could make out the Statue of Liberty. That was as close as I got to this amazing gift from the French to the people of America. I have read about it and the memorable quote of Emma Lazarus:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Most school children today know that sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned to design a sculpture to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. Friendship between the people of France and of the United States was greater in those days.

The Statue of Liberty that has welcomed immigrants in the harbor of New York City for 123 years is still a beacon of hope to the world's down-trodden. This in spite of recent anti-immigration events and disparaging remarks about our foreign friends. Such attitudes should be a concern for us as a nation proclaiming democracy, freedom and hope.

For example, such remarks as: "No more 'wretched refuse'." "The door might be golden but the insides are a mess: 'no vacancy'." "There is no room in this inn anymore." "Country's full, go to Canada." "Welfare checks don't go that far."

The question comes that if the Statue of Liberty, and all it represents, freedom, hope welcome to the foreigner, why are so many Americans no longer welcoming immigrants, who have helped build this country?

The West Coast has no Statue of Liberty. We once had laws that kept Asians out for a very long time. Unfortunately, today if your suntan is bit too brown, you are not welcomed with open arms. No great poems of hopes and dreams have ever been posted on the Rio Grande, El Paso, Nogales, or Tijuana.

This attitude against immigrants is in direct opposition to the closing words of the Emma Lazarus sonnet, "The New Colossus," which is on the Statue of Liberty.

Emma Lazarus' "The New Colossus" speaks of a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is imprisoned lightening, and her name Mother of Exiles. The last 35 words of the poem are those memorialized on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Emma was one of the most successful Jewish American authors in our history. Besides novels and poetry, she wrote strong essays protesting the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe during the 1880s and 1890s.

She had to deal with not only being a woman writer, but add to that the unequal treatment toward Jews. She was not a Zionist but wanted Jews to unite and create a homeland in Palestine.

Emma was born in 1849 into a wealthy family who traced their ancestry in America to before the Revolutionary War. They were Sephardic Jews. (These are descendants of Jews of Spain, Portugal and North Africa. Not always appreciated by the Jews of Eastern Europe and Germany.)

She had a strong classical education. Her talent for writing was noticed early and her father encouraged her efforts.

In a letter to a friend Emma wrote, "My own curiosity and interest are insatiable."

Emma Lazarus was a complex person, having wealth yet understanding and speaking out for the dispossessed, the less fortunate, and degrading life so many were forced to live.

During Emma's lifetime and immediately following, 1840s to 1930, the United States took about 60 percent of the world's immigrants. They were frequently exploited and often blamed for lowering wages and living standards; at the same time being accused of favoring formation of fairer labor laws.

Rather than blame today's foreigner, get the Immigration and Naturalization Department and the Border Patrol to use the laws we have. And make Congress find a way pay for it more realistically.

The century-long image of the United States being where people are free to begin a new life is unlike any in world history. Let's learn how to keep that image without ghettos, xenophobic spirit or another "white flight" away from reality.


Friday, September 11, 2009


The man who turned western stories into literature has died. Elmer Kelton, died at 83, Aug. 22, 2009. For more than 50 years the American west, and particularly Texas was portrayed in his 40 novels, short stories and articles.

He grew up on a ranch near Crane, Texas, where his father, R.W. "Buck" Kelton worked for 36 years. His college education was interrupted a couple of years by World War II (there he met his bride Ann of Austria), but he earned a University of Texas degree in journalism in 1948.

His life was writing. He was writer and editor for 15 years for the San Angelo Standard-Times (before it was called that) and five years as editor of Sheep and Goat Raiser Magazine. He was associate editor of Livestock Weekly 22 years. And with all that work, he produced so many good books that he was seven times honored with the Silver Spur award for western writing.

Four of his books won the Western Heritage Award. They were: "The Time It Never Rained," "The Good Old Boys," "The Man Who Rode Midnight," and the captions and text for "The Art of Howard Terpning."

The one time I had the opportunity to visit with him, he told me about a request from Sweden or Norway for some of his short stories about the American West. He sent them and as far as he knew they were translated and published.

It was some years later that he wrote them, wondering if they wanted some more for translation. They were very gracious, but told Mr. Kelton, his stories were just not bloody enough.

No, he wrote about the real west and the real men we call cowboys. He was not into creating a Gary Cooper or John Wayne type of story.

Eduardo Galeano, one of Latin America's most distinguished writers ("Memory of Fire," "Open Veins of Latin America," and "Mirrors.") wrote about the epic of the Wild West being "the invention of imigrants from Eastern Europe with a keen eye for business." Men like the four Warner brothers, Louis B. Mayer and Adolph Zukor cooked up the most "successful universal myth of the twentieth century."

I am sure that Elmer Kelton would agree with that. His stories told of real ranches and human cowboys and their problems with family, weather and making a living. One real cowboy, Tommy Lee Jones, brought one of Kelton's books to the screen, "The Good Old Boys."

Another honor by his equal with a story, Larry McMurtry Center for Arts and Humanities at Midwestern State University granted him a lifetime Achievement award. He was "doctored" twice, once by Hardin-Simmons University and the other by Texas Tech

All those good things do not count for much until you see that this man of letters and a real rancher and cowboy, was also a real person with everybody. He looked down on no one and was the same humorous, engaging self with peasant or prince, peon or us below-average writers. FOR HIS BOOKS:

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Time to leave Afghanistan

A week or so ago the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan presidential election went relatively peacefully. The Taliban had threatened to attack those who voted. The threat stills hangs over the heads of voters and their ink-stained fingers. When an occupying army stands around while the locals vote, something is just not right.

A word of civility came from leading contenders for the crown saying they will not incite street protests if one of them should lose (but did they ever call each other names). President Hamid Karzai is expected to win re-election. This is just the manner of the beast. Incumbents have more power enabling them to stay in power. Karzai's record is thin as far as doing much good for the country. He dresses well in his flowing robes and perky Karakul hat.

Hamid Karzai is an ethnic Pashtun who supported the Mujahideen, (as did the United State did with millions of dollars), in their fight against the Soviet Red Army invasion of 1979.

After the Soviets left Afghanistan, Karzai worked with the emerging Taliban-inspired government. While in exile in Pakistan, his father Zahir Shan, the king of Afghanistan, was assassinated. He swore revenge against the Taliban.

As Darrell Royal, former UT football coach, would say, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Karzai was chosen by Western governments to lead a transitional government in the capital of Kabul. (Note: Western governments set him in this position.) Many still call him mayor of Kabul rather than leader of the country. His influence is limited mostly to his own tribesmen and officials of the Bush and Obama administrations.

There were others in Afghanistan who felt they could be the president and threw their hats into the ring. They are not as well-known outside the country, but as the humorist Jonathan Winters said, "If your ship doesn't come in, swim out to it." And a number of guys (no women, please) ran for the office.

So the politician with two first names (or last names), Abdullah Abdullah, entered the race for president and now both claim to have won.

Since Al Quida is not in Afghanistan or Pakistan, why are we there in such force? Fighting the Taliban, who retreat into Pakistan for R and R. Taliban solders are Afghanistan peasants, but not allowed to vote. The Taliban has never invaded another country and has no intention to do so. They only want their country back, even if they would make it a hell on earth for women and children.

Taliban is not a threat to the Americas. Get the war hawks out of the White House and congress and the munitions makers and bring our soldiers home.

President Obama needs to do that as soon as possible. It is a lie like the one during Vietnam War. It does not concern us. So we didn't get bin Laden. He is nothing anymore. Bring the men and women home as George Will suggested. And bring home the contractors back too. I hear there are more contractors than American soldiers there now. Mercenaries.

Sins Of The Fathers...

Appeared Fri., Sept. 11, 2009 in the San Angelo Standard-Times and the Brownwood Bulletin, two of the best West Texas dailies.

The weeks of ranting and raving that President Barack Obama was going to pollute the minds of our school children with socialist ideas; push his health care plan; found a youth corps like Hitler; make kids wear Mussolini brown shirt-type uniforms; proved to be only the willingly uninformed "unwashed masses," as the great sports writer Blackie Sherrod would write in the old Fort Worth Press, and proved the ranting slander and raving rumors to be only that.

I read of a Broadway show critic who grew weary of going to the theater and was fed up writing about the same old musicals and dreadful dramas. So he decided he would just read publicity packets about a show and write some glowing words about it without taking in production.

He always got his stories in early. For a while it went well. Then one night a theater caught fire in the middle of the second act and pandemonium erupted out into the streets. The next morning's paper printed how much he enjoyed the third act that night. Some proof reader probably lost his job as well as the critic.

You can be sure your sins will find you out! I don't care much for picking around in the Bible to prove a point, but this last phrase of the King James Bible, Numbers 32:23, is so clear and to the point, I had to throw it into the mix. (Read on, there is a point to this use of scripture.) This phrase of a verse is pretty final. Not that "your sins might find you out," or "some of your sins will find you out," but the ancient writer wants you to be sure you realize your sins will find you out! Tack on the word in the Ten Commandments that says the sins of the fathers can be visited on the sons for generations.

I am sure those who take the Holy Bible to be without error will understand this phrase immediately. Most ultra-conservatives and fundamentalists Christians admit to the inerrancy of scripture. I don't share that viewpoint, though the spiritual message throughout the Bible is one I appreciate, value and believe.

I was at the grocery store right after the president's talk and I asked the lady behind me at the checkout counter what she thought of the speech. She said she was a teacher and it was not shown in San Angelo schools. She was looking forward to seeing it though. I could tell she was not in favor of the frantic decision not to allow students to view it live.

The overwhelming vehement opposition to our president giving a speech to our school kids was a most unexpected phenomenon to me. I don't know much about how the Methodists, Presbyterians or Roman Catholics reacted to the proposed speech, but I have been flabbergasted (a real word and sick feeling) at the response of all kinds of Baptist in our land.

"Unhinged Southern Baptists, Republicans Slam Obama's School Speech," is an essay by Robert Parham, executive editor of and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. His closing words in the essay have been in my mind for years.

Editor Parham has much more access to the smears, accusations and the like from Baptists across the nation than I have. I do know there is an uncanny lack of appreciation among too many "active" Baptists. At one church, back when we went to mid-week suppers, I was told by someone-old-enough-to-know-better that Obama was born overseas and was a Muslim to boot.

I am glad I am from West Texas and not the north Texas county known as Oklahoma. They have two senators in Washington who are nearly as determined as Senator Snake-in-the-Grass (that is what a friend of mine called the senior senator from Iowa), to see our president fail. Plus an Oklahoma state senator who compared Obama to Saddam Hussein or the emperor of North Korea. Obama starting a cult of personality.

I don't know if any of these senators are Baptists or not, but Oklahoma state representative Sally Kern said Obama's speech would be "more about indoctrination of students than education." Her husband just happens to be Steve Kern, pastor of the Olivet Baptist Church, somewhere in Oklahoma. He agreed with his wife.

Go online and read the many respected Christian groups who do not like having a black president.

Now to the subject that has been in my mind and heart for more than a generation. Robert Parham is the first to write about "my dreaded idea." It is this: when back in the 1950s our courts ordered desegregation in our schools, the race was on for the whites and their children to flee to the suburbs. That was to keep the white children from black children in public schools. Private schools or academies sprang up all over the country, many were begun by white churches. That is the legacy of private schools today.

It should make reasonable people look at history and look at the hatred toward a black president (remember there was no gripes when Reagan or George H.W. Bush did the very same thing). Are the sins of the fleeing whites being visited upon their sons?

Many on the street and in congress opposed civil rights after the court decision to give blacks equal opportunities to study. The south turned Republican in those days and is not over it yet. Parents opposing civil rights, 100 years after blacks were supposed to have them, has continued opposition to blacks from generation to generation.

Robert Parham closed his essay with this question: "Is that what this unhinged moment is really about—racism from generation to generation?"

Friday, September 4, 2009

Obama won't air in SAISD!

Our school kids are denied hearing the president next Tuesday.

The Friday morning (Sept. 4) newspaper of the San Angelo Standard-Times had the most disappointing headline I have read in years: '"OBAMA WON'T AIR IN SAISD (San Angelo Independent School District).

Carol Ann Bonds began to get e-mails with demands, threats and all kinds of excuses that President Obama's speech of encouragement to school kids not be shown. Some would keep their children at home. Man, what an example of stupidity that is for children.

Some excuses for going along with the boycott were it came during lunch hour, not enough monitors and just too hard to adjust the schedule.

The Fox Television News and right-wing nut radio "performers" have done a good job of spreading fear about anything our president does or attempts to do. They have called him a Nazi without knowing what real Nazis did.

Time to call things as they are: many in this country are just not ready to admit a black man can be president. This one has too many progressive ideas as over against the status-quo.

Rep. Mike Conaway, the San Angelo congressman, said he "hoped the president would refrain from politicking while addressing our nation's children."

Evidently he has yet to read what I wrote him about heath care and the need for a public option. Did he question George W. Bush's talk to school kids? Did he wonder about the great communicator-actor Ronald Reagan's talk to them back in the 1980s? No one on God's green earth lifted a finger or protest.

Fear and a condescending attitude against blacks, pushing the boundary of hate, is learned at home by parents with that perception.

Time to get real, folks, this "revolt" against our president has sunk to an all-time low. Birthers, "he's a Muslim," "He wants socialism," "He's a communist." None of this hogwash the right (even some congressmen/women) continue to harp on such. Men carrying guns to one of Obama's speeches, just because they can, is playing with fire.

American is going to need more than good luck to pull out of this self-induced injury of the blind leading the blind.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dealing with addiction


After reading the story of Bob West, long-time sports editor of the Port Arthur (TX) News, I have to admit to being heart-broken. My thought is same as his, tell the story so other young people are not trapped into losing their common sense -- and freedom. Bob titled the piece "Dealing with son's prison sentence only way I know." Here is his column of last May as it appeared in the Port Arthur News, Port Arthur, Texas:

PORT ARTHUR — Readers who turn to this space on Sundays looking to be entertained with a collection of odds and ends from the sports world will have to forgive a devastated dad for deviating from the norm. Sports moves to the back burner after you've spent a week in a courtroom and seen your son sentenced to 65 years in prison.

I've spent the past few days wrestling over whether to address Damon's sad situation in a column and finally decided it was something I needed to do. Among the many reasons leading to my decision was an outpouring of love, prayers and compassion from family and friends, and from some folks my wife, Genie, and I don't even know.

These words on a card from Betty and Gene Scott sum it all up. "If you could listen to all the thoughts going out to you now, you'd hear a symphony of warmth and caring."

So where do you start to explain how the high school quarterback, the All-American boy, the kid most everybody from his hometown really liked could end up breaking our hearts? In this case, the answer is as simple as two words -- methamphetamine addiction.

That's another reason I wanted to write this column. If I can reach one kid, one parent with the human tragedy crystal meth made of Damon West, it will be my greatest achievement as a writer. Hopefully I can connect with more than one because this insidious drug is all too available.

Anybody with concerns should go to the web site Jumping off the top of the lead page in bold letters is the quote, "The first thing people on methamphetamines lose is their common sense." It gets more eye-opening from there.

Damon lost his common sense, his grasp of reality and eventually his freedom. He wasn't the same person who left home 15 years ago with a football scholarship to North Texas, the same guy who as recently as 2004 was impressing heavyweights in the Democratic party as a fund raiser for presidential candidate Dick Gephardt.

The downfall began after he moved to Dallas in 2005. Our alarm bells started going off a year or so later. He began dating a stripper who was bad news and told us he was working for a limousine service and on the side buying things to resell from storage facilities. At times he would get belligerent with us over the phone.

We began to suspect drug use. On the rare occasions he came home, we pleaded with him to get out of Dallas and move back in with us. I sent a dear friend from Houston, Barry Warner, to try and deliver the same message. Our words fell on deaf ears. Somehow we should have done more. But what? You can't grab a 30-year-old and forcibly move him? Not when he's sold his soul to meth.

So now Damon sits in a jail cell, awaiting assignment to the prison system. There is no question he was guilty of being involved in a massive string of burglaries. The evidence was overwhelming. I can't even begin to describe how much it hurt to listen to the testimony of victim after victim put on the stand by the prosecution.

Equally painful was watching some of the losers trotted out to testify against him. Two of them had to be brought from their own jail cells. These were people the Damon we used to know would never have associated with. But his common sense was long gone.

Nothing we saw or heard, however, prepared us to hear a sentence of 65 years. Murderers, rapists and child molesters don't get that kind of time.

Actually, since he was a first offender and there was compelling testimony from a state-paid psychologist and psychiatrist who did extensive testing on him, we hoped for probation.

Our desire was to get him in a drug treatment facility, then bring him back home under a strong probation and community service requirement, and have him speak about what meth had done to him at any school that was receptive. Included in the testimony presented by the doctors who interviewed him, and put him through batteries of tests, was that he'd been sexually molested by a baby sitter at age nine ( we knew about it and he received counseling), that he suffers from attention deficit disorder (we didn't know), that he was not a sociopath and that what he needed most was drug rehab.

The investigator working with Damon's legal team said we assembled the strongest lineup of character witnesses he'd ever seen. Included was former Texas land commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Garry Mauro and Arthur Schecter, a Houston attorney and a former ambassador to Bermuda under Bill Clinton.

Both had worked closely with Damon during the 2004 campaign. Schechter even gave him the keys to his River Oaks mansion to come and go as he pleased when in Houston.

Also testifying on his behalf was his priest where he attended church in Port Arthur, Father Don Donahugh, his high school football coach at TJ, Mike Owens, and his godfather and former editor of the Port Arthur News, Bill Maddox. His mother and I were also put on the stand.

Ultimately, it didn't make any difference. Even though no guns were used and none of the victims were ever physically confronted, no mercy was shown. Using a fairly new law that holds when three or more persons are involved in burglaries it can be treated as organized crime, they buried him. He's not eligible for parole for 15 years. It's doubtful he'll ever get the drug treatment he needs.

Meanwhile, Genie and I are struggling and shedding a lot of tears but we'll be OK. Ditto for Damon's brothers, Brandon and Grayson.

Although our love is unconditional, we're alternately furious with Damon for destroying what could have been such a productive life, and consumed with grief over the loss of that caring, charismatic kid who left home 15 years ago with such big dreams.

Above all, we hope and pray meth doesn't bring down someone else's child or loved one. Since this sordid chapter in our lives began, we have learned Grayson's wife had two brothers driven to suicide by meth addiction.

In closing, we want to thank everyone who has reached out to us, and those who have wanted to but just didn't know what to say. Your thoughts and prayers have been a blessing.

For those who would like to send a good word to Genie and Bob, He can be e-mailed at

This story first caught my eye on sports pages of the Houston Chronicle where Baylor grad and pro sports writer John McClain wrote about the situation.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Brother's keeper on health care?

Perry Flippin relayed some Pulpit Patter he read from a friend's church bulletin. The writer pastors the First Methodist Church in Yoakum. His editorial evolved from the verse in Genesis 4:9 where the Lord God said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" Cain's famous reply was "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?"

From the word "keeper" Pastor Phil explained that in the Hebrew language the word "keeper" means more than "unintended emotional baggage, as in I don't want to be somebody's keeper any more than I want to be kept."

In the Hebrew the word means much more, such as to guard, to watch for, to preserve, protect and be aware of others. This original meaning of the word is much deeper and broader than our English word.

Then the pastor appeared to some to be wandering from a Bible sermon. Pastor Phil wrote concerning the health care insurance debate by asking “Is universal health care a human right?” He said, "I believe it is."

After such a question followed by such a bold answer, I wonder if he is still preaching at that church. I've met and heard from church people (mostly via e-mail) who do not want government to have any say in health care. Without realizing it, these folks want to keep the human right of health care in the hands of the health insurance industry. A monopoly that has become monetarily obese with the way they handle premiums and cancel policies as they please.

I wanted to share this with the church-going, believing Christians who take Bible admonitions seriously. "Love your neighbor as yourself." The Chinese say that with only four words: "Ai Ren Ru Ji." We say it with more words, but has it sunk in enough that we actually put it into practice?

Being a brother/sister to others and caring for them as we care for ourselves is not canceled when it involves finances. People are people, even if some ride a bicycle and others a Cadillac; if some can't help themselves and others overindulge themselves.

Why should health care be less important than keeping our roads paved? Or our police and firemen alert and paid? It is our taxes that do that along with countless other benefits many of us never see. Brother Phil says it is the best interest of everyone to remove financial barriers from access to quality health care.

There is no doubt there is corruption and abuse of power in government. But it is equally true that numbers of the health insurance industry show little efficiency and concern for the health and welfare of the people. The insurance monopoly has spent millions and millions of dollars to defeat the public option proposal. They have not been ethical in their attack by lies and half-truths. Why? Because it would cut into their ungodly profits. It would not put them out of business.

God's concern for Cain is seen in his question. He cared for Able, ill-treated and abused to death, and for Cain, the abusing brother. Possible God hoped a lesson would be learned and Cain would turn over a new leaf and care for, rather than mistreat, the rest of his fellow-humans. We are connected. When one hurts, we all eventually hurt.

Last week when I wrote on the need for a public option, many were in favor. Other e-mail response were negative. One in particular wrote of my daughter's uninsured situation: "I am truly sorry ... However I am beyond appalled that you would exploit this situation to propagate the misinformation of the extreme left's mission to socialize our health care industry. Shame on you."

It is time the health insurance issue was recognized as an American need. It is not a party issue. It is far beyond such petty opinions between politicians looking fearfully how to vote. It is a moral issue. We are all in the same boat. Last Friday, on the Bill Maher TV program, Bill Moyers said: "We [America] are a great crippled giant with self-inflicted wounds..." We have ignored the moral law for outright greed on a national scale. Without a public option there is no reform. Only a weak and worthless law. Some will accept anything or nothing, but half a loaf is not better than a full loaf. Hang in there President Obama until the whole loaf is done, even if it takes decades or years. It took American women 140 years to be allowed to vote. There were no food and drug laws until 1900s. It was 100 years after the Civil War that blacks were treated as full citizens.

I keep wondering, what is it that keeps us from being something greater than we are? Selfishness, egocentricity, xenophobia, the blame game? Rejecting these attitudes can help us find our way to a heritage greater than any this nation has ever known.

See you in church.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bro, Can You Spare An Idea?


John Steinbeck, one of the 20th century's greatest writers, once said, "Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen of them."

The author of "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Of Mice and Men," and many other fiction classics, has it right about ideas. If I come across an idea it is dumb luck and can lead to even better ones. Ever so often when I stumble onto what I think is a great column, a portion of the masses of readers disagree.

I have not given up on producing the Great American Novel just yet. Every would-be writer has had a fling at that idea. Fiction demands more imagination than I can muster.

Ideas do not grow on trees nor in a cluttered up mind. That may be where my trouble lies as a "columnist." My mind is muddled up with a fruitless orchard.

Take today for example. I am in the waiting room of the eye doctor. My wife is seeing the ophthalmologist. The fellow next to me is going on about needing a haircut. I agreed but kept it to myself. I guess the idea of a haircut reminded him of a 1970s long-haired male teenager. The kid wanted a car real bad. He was always hinting for a car one way or another. The boy's dad tells him if he'd quit smoking weed, go to church and get a haircut, he might consider getting him a car.

That reminded me of Nurse Lounette and her family's holiday trip from Hong Kong, where they worked, to Singapore. One of their teenage boys wore his blond hair good and stringy long. At the immigration desk they were informed the boy gets a haircut if he wants to visit Singapore. What does he do? He gets back on the plane to Hong Kong and home. He preferred his hair to an exciting holiday in Malaysia and Singapore. Hair was sacred back in those days.

Getting back to my fellow-waiting-for-his-wife and his hair story, he said a few months later the boy came to his father and announced he no longer smoked anything, was reading his Bible and had been going to church. But you have not cut your hair, the father told him. The boy looked stunned. Well, forget it the boy said. Even a new car was not worth having his golden locks sheared to a decent appearance.

These hair stories from out of the past certainly prove Mark Twain was correct when he said, "Always do right - this will gratify some and astonish the rest." Back then long-haired boys felt gifted, the rest of us were astonished how much it meant to them.

Sometimes my creative juices fairly amaze me ("creative juices" is a worn out cliché; which is a chestnut of an oxymoron). The ideas flow as my mind leaps like a monkey from tree to tree. Ideas sprouting as I swing and sway from tree to tree. If a tree is too far for my rope, I'm left dangling between brilliant ideas, dazzling plots or award-winning column ideas. Most times the result is nothing more than mental fatigue. Take an Advil and start over tomorrow.

The next day, the will to write has flown the coop. Steinbeck's rabbits are all gone. There is no desire to open up the computer. The temptation to skip a day without writing is powerful. Take a day off, enjoy life a bit. Then you remember the wise man once said: opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.

Nothing is accomplished by putting it off. I have done that enough times to be an expert. I have been putting off finishing a short story for eight years. I keep going back to it in hopes it is better than when I left it. The physical exercise I have been putting off caught up with me this week. For over an hour I have not moved in my chair in the waiting room, trying to read "The Family" by Jeff Sharlet. I had no idea my left leg was as sound asleep baby in a cradle.

I got up to meet my wife as she came out of the doctor's office and immediately my left leg refused to listen to any command from my brain to move. It was almost as if it were no longer a part of me. If you ever want a room full of folks to get up from their seats at once, just collapse to the floor like I did at that moment. Nothing was broken this time.

I say, this time no furniture was broken, because the last time we were there a week or so ago, the waiting room was full again and I eased down on a glass-topped coffee table but the ease was more than the little table could take. I crashed through it and sat embarrassed on the floor, that happened to break my fall. Everybody jumped to their feet and all the staff stuck their heads out the doors. I told the nurses to put the glass on our bill.

My wife laughed at me all the way home. I've always felt her sense of humor a bit strange. She went on to suggest on the next doctor's visit I wait in the car. All that to say I have no ideas for a column this week.

This first appeared in print Aug. 28 in the Brownwood Bulletin, Texas. Then it was on my Houston Chronicle blog and Monday, Akug 31 in the San Angelo Standard-Times of the city of San Angelo, Texas. Others around the world probably picked it up and have used and enjoyed it. -- Britt Towery, retired minister and writer lives in San Angelo. He welcomes ideas via e-mail:
For more of his tales visit

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Reform the Health Insurance Industry


It took me a year of searching to find a medical neurologist in Tom Green County that would agree to see my uninsured 45-year old daughter.

She had her first epileptic seizure while working in the kitchen of a public school north of San Antonio. She badly sprained her wrist as she fell to the floor that day. Her school health insurance paid for that emergency hospital visit. When it was evident doctors would not release her to return to work, she was given sick leave and had insurance for three months.

Still unable to work, the school dropped the insurance. There were other seizures and the bills and pills increased. Being recently widowed and with a 10-year old boy in special ed, the darkness made its home in her house.

Living in San Angelo, we found it very difficult to be of much help to here 200 miles away. She moved to San Angelo and the search was on for some medical help. I was informed by a certain hospital staff member that there might be a neurologist in Brownwood, and maybe in Midland, that would see uninsured patients. This same official informed me there were no San Angelo neurologists seeing the uninsured.

Calls were made to Brownwood and a neurologist agreed to see her. But the travel expense and charges were beyond us. We found the same problem in Midland.

I will jump ahead to say we finally found a San Angelo neurologist that would in faith, take on the challenge. But only after I assured his office we would pay cash as long as we had it. Had they inspected my bank account they might have had second thoughts.

This year the guidance of a fine neurologist and his staff and the medications (Shannon Prescriptions Assistance Program) have certainly helped her condition.

A recent national survey estimates that 12.6 million non-elderly adults (like our daughter) have tried to purchase health insurance but because of a pre-existing condition, or dropped coverage due to illness, insurance was out of the question. (Without reform, projections suggest the12.6 million number will rise to about 72 million in 2040.)

Besides these problems, Americans are paying more for health coverage due to health insurance premiums having nearly doubled since 2000 (A rate three times faster than wages). It does not take a math wizard to figure out that a full-time minimum wage job individual makes health insurance out of reach for them.

Insurance of all kinds is generally a good thing to have. The insurance industry has created millions of millionaires and not a few billionaires, many of them honest, caring people. But when insurance CEOs can take millions in bonus and more when they retire, the lock on the hen house is broken.

The national press informs us that half of all personal bankruptcies are partly due to rising medical expenses. Some have called it "Heartbreak in the Heartland."

The average small businessman or woman finds it more and more difficult to meet payrolls because of the health coverage policy increase. In the last nine years small businesses offering insurance overage dropped from 68% to 59%.

I know my Uncle Louis and his little grocery store could not stay open with the Wal-Marts, etc., and would certainly folded if faced with today's industry of health insurance providers. If no reform comes from Congress the insurance industry will continue to pave the road to the poor house.

A lady who works for the insurance industry began the myth that doctor-patient-family consultation encourages early death for old folks. Consultation with a dying patient or the family is something every doctor probably is already doing, without being paid extra for it. And it certainly does not encourage "euthanasia," as Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has said. (I watched his "town hall" meeting on C-Span and could not believe anyone so incoherent and stumbling could be a senator.) Many families need to face the reality of death and who better to know the situation than the patient and doctor?

Medicare is safe and sound and will not die because of reforms. Another myth has health insurance reform affecting veterans' access to care. Not so. Veteran's care is increased in the reforms.

Reform will make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors. If you have insurance, you are not forced to drop it. Reform will expand choices, not eliminate them. Lounette Templeton assured me of that. She is one old nurse you can trust (not as in old age, she's just a good old girl, as in "good old boys").

The government will not touch your bank account. That absurd myth must have come from offices high up in some profit-making health care facility. I read that myself in the yet-to-be-passed reforms.

Reforms will not allow Insurance companies to refuse renewal because someone gets sick. Plus, they cannot raise the policy cost when they learn of your illness.

A friend, in the business of processing insurance claims, said how amazed he was in the many and varied excuses insurance companies have for not paying a claim. This is a personal call for fairness and honesty. Reform brings us part-way toward humane treatment for all.

"Health reform is a test of whether this country can function once again as a civil society -- whether we can trust ourselves to embrace the big, important changes that require everyone to give up something in order to make everyone better off." (The Washington Post)

We will not have health reform until health care is a not-for-profit undertaking again. It worked years ago and can work again.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The right to bear modern arms?

17th Century "Arms"and the 21st Century Versions.
What does the phrase in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution mean? "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

This phrase has resulted in diverse interpretations and opinions. Sometimes the debate turns into a shouting match where nothing is clear and little understood. The Founding Fathers could never have imagined today's arms with such tremendous firepower.

Daily we read of trauma-induced soldiers' sad encounters; family arguments ending in tragedy; those whose minds trip them up over lost of a boy friend; fanatics and their "causes"; kids playing with a loaded gun.

Those capable of helping head off such episodes are too few. There are not enough social workers, psychologists, pastors, counselors or perceptive friends to intercede. Many paid and non-paid people man the suicide hot lines, and give time and energy to prevent such horrors, are to be commended. Prevention is paramount.

Outgunned police find it next to impossible to enforce the law when facing mobs, gangs or thieves who have anti-aircraft caliber machine guns. Guns, far more than poisons, knives, axes, piano wire or rope, continues as the top murder choice by the sick, insane or angered party.

What was in the minds of the 18th century Founders who unselfishly gave of their wealth and property to assure their descendents a better life in this New World? True, there where hostile Indians; slaves wanted to be free; Frenchmen in Canada wanted some of the action; Loyalists wanted the colony back. Hunting game was important as well. So a Turkish Ottoman matchlock musket was very useful.

How could these founders of this country 200 years ago have any idea what the people and nation would look like in the 21st century? They knew German or Italian flintlock pistols. There was the French percussion flintlock. Muzzle-loading muskets were primarily an infantry weapon. Using a rod, the musket was loaded with a lead ball, wrapped in paper or linen and backed with gunpowder. Loading and unloading a musket was a very slow process.

The Second Amendment's 27 words are easy to read. Today it takes hundreds of words to interpret the original meaning. Basically it says citizens have a right to protect themselves. This was such an ordinary thing to do, many did not see the sense in making it law. It is normal to love, defend and protect our home and nation from the violence of thieves, run-away slaves or Indians. Even oppression from foreign powers. But it says nothing about using those arms against our government. No matter how bad things may appear to folks on the fringe, problems are solved by votes, not bullets.

This idea of protection was evident before the colonist formed the United States. President Thomas Jefferson is often quoted as writing that "no free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms." The Constitution makes it plain we are to defend this rare and precious new-found liberty and freedom.

Then comes the sticky part, What kind of Militia is called for? The law says a "well regulated" Militia. It was the intention that the new federal government would do the regulating, training and direction. Militias were not formed to go against the government, but protect it.

Can you imagine 21st century farmers and urbanites grabbing their weapon and rushing out in the streets to save the nation from being overthrown. The 18th century citizen had a gun and used it for hunting and against horse thieves and Indian raids. Now that the war with England had been won, the Constitution made sure that guns would not be taken away from the citizens. Today's militia is not today's National Guard. If it were our guns should be stored in the National Guard armory and checked out when the government saw need for a Militia.

There is no way under the sun the writers of the Constitution could envision how powerful firearms would evolve after 1799, any more than we can guess what will be the situation in West Texas in the year 2399.

Why is the National Rifle Association so intimidated when anyone merely suggests discussion about military-type assault weapons? They inform us that their freedoms are being infringed. Such guns, along with pistols, etc., are of no use in hunting, yet the NRA is so insecure they fear that banning assault weapons is just the first step toward taking all the guns away from them and all gun collectors.

My particular take on the Second Amendment suggests everyone can own a musket, but nothing else. Maybe a single-shot BB gun. (But mothers agree they can put your eye out.) Whatever a hunter needs legally to enjoy his chosen hobby should not be infringed. There might even be a place for those who like target practice, but not targets with the human form. After practice, leave the pistola at the range under lock and key.

This is not likely to solve any arguments. Those will go on until the end of time, or end of America, which ever comes first.