Trump’s Inauguration Address

I dreamed that I heard Donald Trump giving his Inauguration Address, which I woke up and wrote down.
I dreamed he said,
“Look at this crowd, not only the biggest inauguration crowd, but the biggest crowd in history. I’ll close down any liberal media outlet that says otherwise.

“Already I have accomplished more than any sitting American president, before I even officially got the job. I have stopped all American jobs from going out-of-country, caused the stock market to rise substantially, gotten Congress to agree to pass everything I allow them to vote on (which won’t be much), and turned Russia from an enemy into a friend. I have stopped global warming, which I decided was happening, and stopped all terrorist attacks. Now I’m actually President, so watch me shine.

“Here is the best inauguration speech ever, because everybody in America, make that the world, will find something they love in it. I am the only one who can do that.

“First, I will abolish racism. Some people thought I was playing up to the racists with my remarks, but I was just kidding. Just kidding! That’s what great entertainers do. There will be no more racism, and anyone who uses the word will be sent back to Africa.

“As for illegal immigration, some thought I said I would deport all Mexicans immediately, but I was just kidding. It won’t be immediately, because there are some jobs beneath the dignity of real Americans, like building a giant fence on our southern border. Even after they are done with that, not all Mexicans will be kicked out. Every Mexican woman under 35 who is a 9 or 10 will get to spend time in the White House North in New York. All the rest will be taken to the southern border and catapulted over the big fence. Just kidding! See — something here for everyone.

“Some people thought I was being demeaning to women, but I love and respect women, especially 9s and 10s. I just don’t think they should be in charge of anything and should not be allowed to speak in public. Not just kidding. Women should be obscene but not heard.

“Some have called for me to put my assets in a blind trust. Fools! You don’t become richer by missing out on insider trading possibilities. What is good for Trump industries is good for America. Eventually my cabinet will consist only of the titular heads of my various enterprises. By eventually, I mean February 15. Just kidding. I always avoid the Ides of February.

“As for the Russian threat, that is already solved by making them our friends, because President Putin respects me so much and I admire his taste. After I promised to open a Trump Towers in Moscow, he gratefully sent me a gift of some Russian maids for the White House, all 10s may I say, and he gave everyone in my family and the Secret Service brand new cell phones and computers. What a guy.

“Crime? Consider it gone. Congress? Don’t make me laugh. Actually, they do make me laugh. Drain the swamp in DC? Already underway, to make room for Trump Condos. ISIS? Already got them to lay down their arms for the promise of a spot for their leaders on The Apprentice. College tuition too high for most families? Trump Universities will spring up all over, using government grants. Big budget deficit? I will package and sell the debt like the big banks did with the mortgage stuff. Let the Chinese worry about it.

“There, I told you what I will do in broad outlines, but you can watch every morning at 3 am Trump (formerly Eastern) Time for the details. Everything will be done in my first 100 days, after which I will turn everything over to my VP, what’s-his-name, because I will have done everything that needs to be done and I’ve got another fortune to make. Now let’s get this party going. Where are those Russian maids?”

That was my dream. If this turns out to be the real thing, you’ll have to admit I know more than all the generals and federal bureaucrats about the new president.

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What Day Is It?

Pat and I are always asking “What day is it?” We don’t mean “Is it Tuesday or Wednesday?”, because we are retired so those days are meaningless to us. When you are no longer working, Monday is as good as a Friday. Maybe better.

No, we mean “What day is it?” in the sense of the truly special nature of each day, which can only be determined by reference to the holy grail of day naming, the Opportunity Bank Calendar.

For instance, today, Friday the 13th of January, is National Rubber Ducky Day. Fortunately, our little dog, Chica, has a sort-of-rubberish ducky so we can celebrate the day properly. Every day in the year has its own special official designation.

Pat’s birthday is Squirrel Appreciation Day, while our daughters’ birthdays are National Mario Day and National Cranberry Relish Day.

Some Opportunity Bank days are the same as traditional calendars. Thursday Nov. 23 is Thanksgiving Day, and Dec. 25 is Christmas, while September 19 is Talk Like a Pirate Day, and August 25 is National Kiss and Make Up Day.

Many days are devoted to animals:
Jan. 4 National Bird Day
Feb. 1 National Serpent Day
Feb. 2 Groundhog Day (When the Groundhog pops out of the hole, it is looking for serpents, not shadows.)
June 9 National Donald Duck Day
July 6 National Fried Chicken Day

Other days are clearly promotions for various products or industries, like National Pickle Day, National Eat a Hoagie Day, National Fried Clam Day, National Beer Lover’s Day, and National Fruitcake Toss Day.

A few days are more than national: World Radio Day, World UFO Day, and World Penguin Day.

I circled March 22 on our calendar: National Goof Off Day, but then realized that day would look about like any other for me.

We try to celebrate appropriately for every day if we can. For instance, on September 1, National Emma M. Nutt Day, (the first female telephone operator), we will call out for pizza. We are especially looking forward to Pretend to Be a Time Traveler Day (Dec. 8) and National Absurdity Day (Nov. 20, which is also my brother Steve’s birthday).

Some of the more skeptical among us might question who gets to name these days? For Pat’s birthday, Squirrel Appreciation Day, was that voted by some Squirrel Appreciation Society? Is there even a Peking Duck Association? Was National Blonde Brownie Day designated by hairdressers or chefs? I didn’t realize mothers had an organization to designate National Eat Your Vegetables Day.

Now that I’m looking at the calendar, there are some serious omissions. Where is the International Aardvark Lovers Day? There is no “Apologize to Your Spouse Even Though You Don’t Know Why Day.” I approve that January 20 is not Inauguration Day, but is Cheese Lovers Day. It would have been better to be National Sack Cloth and Ashes Day.

Even better, there should be several days during the year in which random individuals get to name the day rather than, for example, allowing the computer folks to grab May 25 for Geek Pride Day as they did for this year. Actually, the calendar doesn’t get printed without computers, so they probably get any day they want.

Stay tuned next year for International Do Really Good Things for Rusty Harper Day on May 17, 2018. I’m putting in my bid early.

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Getting Philosophical

In past societies, the elderly were revered as wise. Now as an aged English major/theology minor person with a Master of Divinity degree, I am just a nuisance to the young, so the best I can hope for is to get philosophical to help pass the days.

Philosophy has mostly been dominated by very smart people who think they have figured out what life is all about, and who put that wisdom into words which only a few other very smart people can understand (but with which they disagree because they have their own philosophy).

I used to love diving into the depths of philosophy and theology, but now all those ideas are way over my head and out of my league, as we say in the mixed-metaphor division.

For most of us, all the philosophy we can take is about one sentence worth. For example, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” I think that was Epicurus. Or maybe Plato. Possibly Thomas Aquinas.

Philosophies often come in contrasting pairs. An opposing philosophical school is that of Jean Paul Sartre, who said something like “Tomorrow we die. Maybe today.” That may not be an exact quote, but it gets the gist of it.

What we need now is a philosophy that will help us survive the present crisis in our nation when we will soon transition from the first black American President to the first American President who doesn’t want intelligence briefings, the first who admits that he reads very little, and the first who claims to know more than all the generals, federal employees, and intelligence agencies combined. And those traits aren’t nearly the most frightening aspects of his presidency.

As I see it, there are two contrasting all-American philosophies that hold promise for our present situation.

The first is from lawyer-turned-philosopher, Steven Pastis, who expounds on his philosophy through his comic strip, Pearls Before Swine, in which animals talk to each other.

As best I remember, in one strip we saw the cynic, Rat, writing this:
“How to Appreciate Everything Around You” by Rat.
“Lower Your Standards Immensely!”
Rat then says to Goat, “I just solved life.”

Admit it, that is a viable and Trump-worthy way to get through the next four years.

A contrasting philosophical school was articulated by Martin Luther King, Jr. A friend, and one of the nation’s great preachers, Dee Eisenhower of the Eagle Harbor Congregational Church on Bainbridge Island, Washington, brought this to my attention in a recent sermon. She summarizes this way:

“Our little church book group is reading one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last books, Where Do We Go from Here? Chaos or Community? King writes about the days after the Voting Rights bill was signed with grand words about a triumph of freedom, a striking away of the ‘last major shackle of fierce and ancient bonds.’ A year later, the white backlash resulted in, among other things, elections in several southern states of ‘men long regarded as political clowns [who] had become governors…their magic achieved with a witches’ brew of bigotry, prejudice, half-truths and whole lies.’

“A somewhat depressed King talks about how the majority of white Americans consider themselves committed to justice, to a middle-class utopia embodying racial harmony. But, he says, ‘this is a fantasy of self-deception and comfortable vanity…America has been sincere and even ardent in welcoming some change. But too quickly apathy and disinterest rise to the surface when the next logical steps are to be taken.’ …..
The great majority of Americans are, he judged, ‘uneasy with injustice but unwilling to pay a significant price to eradicate it.’ [Ouch.]

“Even in the midst of this ruthless analysis, King did not express hopelessness. He recalls that the line of progress is never straight. ‘For a period a movement may follow a straight line and then it encounters obstacles and the line bends. It is like curving around a mountain when you are approaching a city. Often it feels as though you are moving backward, and you lose sight of your goal; but in fact you are moving ahead, and soon you will see the city again, closer by…The inevitable counterrevolution that succeeds every period of progress is taking place.’

Well, you can see that even Dee’s summary of King is far too long to hold our attention, but it is the opposite of Rat. The problem is not that we don’t understand King. It is that when we understand him, we are called to action. For us old people who used to take action on behalf of the good, and are now both retired and tired, that’s tough.

So my philosophical choices are reduced to two: Rat or King. Hmm. This will be hard.

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Why do we need Rhetorical Questions?

Rhetorical question: “A question you ask without expecting an answer.”

How can you get off a nonstop flight?
What do you call a bedroom with no bed in it?
What are imitation rhinestones?
How can you tell when it is time to tune your bagpipes?

Just because you don’t expect an answer, that doesn’t mean some fool won’t give one anyway. For instance, I intend to answer why we need rhetorical questions. We need them to remind us that we don’t have to have all the answers. Why do they call them apartments when they are all stuck together? If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular? When things are out of whack, how do we get them back in whack?

We need rhetorical questions when we feel “gut-shot,” as we say in Montana. How can we be so stupid? Are we really this misogynist and racist? We need them when we are wondering what to do next. Is it time to get back to work? Even if we are retired? Have we done our quota of whining before we start doing good again? Isn’t it time we start working together?

We need them when we start counting our blessings at Thanksgiving and realize how much we enjoy our grandchildren and virtual grandchildren (aren’t they the best in the world?) and watching sports with my brothers and close friends (is this fun or what?) and singing with family and friends in our church choir (doesn’t music make you feel deep-down good?)

Kent Millard, a United Methodist pastor in Indianapolis once said, “Gratefulness leads to great fullness.” Giving thanks to God is a way to feel great and to lead a great and grateful life. You don’t believe in any concept of “God?” Then give thanks to the universe, the wonder, the mystery around and in us all. There is something beyond us that brings out the best in us.

My list starts with Pat and family (children, grandchildren, mother, siblings and the outlaws, nieces and nephews, close friends who are part of the family). Is anything better than extended family—especially the ones you choose?

I am thankful for a country where the presidential loser (well, the one who got the most votes by far, but not in the right places) calls on us all to give the president-elect a chance, because that is what we do in a democracy. As a friend from New York, Mark Hampton, wrote:

She knew that smart Bill was a schlock
And that Donald might run out the clock
But when it struck one
And her prospects were done
She just stood ten feet tall – like a rock

Mark added, “Our turn. No more crying. Get back to work.” He could have asked, “Isn’t it time to stop crying and get back to work?” Rhetorical questions can make statements that require action, not answers.

I am grateful we live in a country that can make what I perceive to be serious mistakes and still survive and grope toward doing right again. Maybe “grope” isn’t the right verb, but you know what I’m saying, don’t you? (Another rhetorical question.)

I am thankful for the Rocky Mountains and mountain chickadee babies in our bird house in the spring, and friends everywhere and still being able to help make a difference by doing what we can. I’m just getting started on the list. I bet Pat and I can come up with 100 things that bless our lives as we are driving down to Colorado for Thanksgiving with kids and grandkids. What could be better?

Your turn. It’s time to make your list, give thanks, count your blessings. And then, when you are so happy you can’t stand it, ask, in your most rhetorical voice, “What could be better?” That’s a rhetorical question. What? You can think of lots of good answers to that question? Then why do we need rhetorical questions?

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What Now?

We cried on election night. We weren’t the only ones. If you didn’t, don’t waste your time on this rant.

Donald Trump is the most explicitly racist candidate since Alabama Gov. George Wallace (a Democrat) in the 1960s and 70s, but of course Wallace did not become president. Worse yet, Trump wasn’t elected in spite of the racism, but because of it. He gave white people permission to blame the people of color for everything wrong with America. Make America great again by putting them in their place or sending them back to where they came from.

Many presidents have had one or more extra-marital affairs, Bill Clinton being the latest example. Before Trump, has any previous president ever been as publicly abusive of multiple women with words and (according to him) sexual assault? A president should at least have the decency to pretend to be decent in public. Worse yet, he wasn’t elected in spite of being misogynist, but because of it. It gives men permission to blame women for everything wrong with America. Make America great again by putting them back in their place in the bedroom and the kitchens.

I can’t even think about the fear Muslim Americans are feeling, or the danger of nuclear war from an unstable leader, or dangerous regression on climate change, or the crisis of having the most powerful man in the world be someone who doesn’t read and has a short attention span.

Trump’s margin of victory came from overwhelming support by older white men of limited education. I suppose, as an older white male, if it weren’t for my B.A. and M.Div., I might have been a Trump supporter?

So where’s the good news in a potential disaster for the nation and the world? Here’s the best I can do with little sleep this week:

1. In the 1980s, when Reagan won in landslides and began tearing the fabric of the safely net for the poor and elderly and workers and rolling back environmental gains, I was told by Phil Tawney, a legendary Montana environmental leader, that such elections are like forest fires. No matter how hard we try to prevent them, they come in cycles. The destruction and loss of plant and animal life and even human life is overwhelming. The land suffers for a time, but it comes back eventually. The ecology of the forest actually depends on fire to allow new and different growth over time.

Devastating political elections lead to a different kind of destruction, he opined, which can be just as deadly, but in a democracy, the human environment recovers. It may be different. In some ways, the destruction allows for something new to develop which might, in the long run, be even better for the world, but it takes time. Our job during the fire is to hunker down, keep doing the good we can, and, like prairie grasses after a prairie fire, keep the life in the roots, ready to grow back when the time is right.

2. Watch Hillary’s complete concession speech. It will make you hopeful for our democracy (and maybe cry again for what a wise president she would have been.) She said give the elected president a chance—that’s what we do in a democracy — but never stop fighting for the good.

3. He lied about so many things. Maybe he lied about some of the terrible things he would do! I’m serious. We can hope for this?

4. As Archbishop Tutu said to us during his Montana visit, long before the evil of apartheid fell in South Africa, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. God does not call me to save my country. God calls me to do what I can.”

So friends, do good. This is the best way to fight against the racism, misogyny, and xenophobia that is rampant in America. Do good where you can, how you can, when you can. Hug each other. Don’t be bashful about standing up for true values of equality, justice, and peace for our community and our planet. Keep the roots alive.

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How can we be so Stupid?

How did we get to the place where we Americans are within shouting distance of electing a man to be President of the US who appears to be mentally unstable—unable to control the terrible things that come out of his mouth? With a nod to our Republican friends, we know you are appalled at this possibility as well.

Imagine if Hillary (or candidates McCain or Romney in recent campaigns) had said even one of the following statements:
“I don’t have time to read.”
“I might pull us out of NATO if they don’t start paying their share.”
“Why do we build nuclear weapons if we aren’t going to use them?”
“I know more than all the generals about ISIS.”
“I will get Mexico to pay for a huge wall.”
“I know more about the federal government than anyone.”
“I will end all crime.”
“I am the only one who can solve our nation’s problems.”
“I will put my opponent in jail.”
“I could shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
“When you are a star, you can grab a woman by the p***y.”
“I will only accept the result of voting if I win.”
If Hillary or any candidate had said any one of those statements, she would rightly be derided as mentally unstable, a bully, or someone who sounds more like a would-be dictator… certainly not a presidential contender.

How did we get to this place? Here is our best guess: Donald Trump is succeeding because of fear. This is a scary, rapidly changing world, and we are unhappy with how our leaders and our Congress are failing to protect us. If anything is perfectly clear, it’s that American democracy is hard… not for the faint of heart. We do know, however, that when we act out of fear, we almost always make poor decisions.

Critics have underestimated Trump’s “traction,” certain that his following would evaporate because of his overt racism, misogyny, lack of relevant experience or constant lies. But he is popular because of those traits, because they address deep fears among some of us.

America’s collective agonies through our multiple movements for civil and human rights for all persons sent the America of the 1950’s disappearing into the sunset. Racism, misogyny, trans -gender phobias, and playing fast and loose with ‘facts” still challenge us as we try, fail or succeed, in nurturing a kinder, more inclusive, more peaceful America.

Trump and his advisers are not the first people seeking to use these fears as tickets to power. It should not surprise us that the KKK is using Trump’s “bullying” language and behavior as successful recruiting tools for their membership.

Now we have a candidate who glibly fabricates “truths” all the time, and will even lie when caught in a lie by claiming he never said that. He appears to be incapable of admitting he is wrong, even when shown video tapes of what he has said. A person who cannot admit they are ever wrong is a dangerous human being you would not want as a neighbor, much less as a man with access to a nuclear arsenal.

However, we will put up with lies because of our fears. We fear for our jobs and our families and how everything keeps changing. Many want to go back to the idealized past when nothing changed, when there was no fear about women taking power and jobs from men, or people of color not knowing their place, or darker-skinned foreigners with strange religions threatening our children, or gay and lesbian people threatening our marriages. Telling lies has become an acceptable practice when they reinforce an ancient worldview that still holds power. If you tell the lies enough, they become true, and we want to believe that some super powerful leader will save us from all that is fearful and all that changes.

Unfortunately, reality always wins in the end, and (this is the sad part) we voters get what we deserve. Here’s hoping we deserve the first woman president who may be the best qualified to be President of anyone in the US (only 28 years after Muslim-majority Pakistan elected a female Prime Minister.) Here’s hoping we don’t deserve the bully with no personal boundaries, no personal investment in the difference between democracy and demagoguery, and little acquaintance with the real world.

P.S. (from Pat): I suspect I am not alone in having trouble sleeping since the campaign began. As an educator and advocate for children and youth for decades, I worry about the impact of Trump’s bragging about sexual assault and his threatening physical behavior on those of us who have experienced serious traumas in our lives. The CDC has the stats… one of five adult women in the US will be assaulted in her lifetime, and one of twelve children, boys and girls, will experience assault or abuse before age 18. There are thousands, even millions of youth and adults in our country who suffer from severe traumas. Recent brain research reveals that the impact of unbearable experiences is stored in the physical memory of our bodies’ tissues which can recall the trauma as if it were happening right now. Trump’s behavior and language must be triggering the recall of horrible events in thousands of lives. I cannot sleep with the thought of the children in our nation whose personal “hells” return after listening to an evening newscast or a presidential debate. I can hardly abide it, but I have most certainly voted the way I did because of it.

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The Opposite of Trump

The good news today is about a funeral that was a celebration of a great life, well-lived.  This weekend my friend Bob FitzGerald and I drove to Billings for the memorial for Jessica Stickney. She was a friend and mentor for us. If not for her and her husband Ed, there would have been no Montana Logging and Ballet Company.

At the funeral, Margie McDonald, who achieved national fame for the “Not in Our Town” campaign against the Ku Klux Klan in Billings, Montana, spoke about how Jessica was a leader against the racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic campaign of the KKK in the early 1990s. Jessica helped get all the different denominations in the Montana Association of Churches on behalf of the followers of Jesus to take an active stand to confront the hate and bigotry. Contrast that with Trump, whose blatant bigotry (such as trumpeting the birther lie about President Obama) has led the KKK to use him in their recruiting drives that have swollen their membership in the last year.

Jess Stickney was the opposite of Donald Trump, and not just because she was a woman and a Democrat who served two terms in the Montana House. She was kind and loving. She never called attention to or bragged about herself. She fought for human rights and civil rights and the rights of gay and lesbian people. She was loving but courageous in standing up to the bigots and hate-mongers. She was an example of what a person of faith ought to be. That is as opposite of Trump as there is.

In honor of Jessica Stickney, and in sadness for her not getting to vote for the first female president of the US, I provide this link to the best political speech I have ever heard or read. It is by Michelle Obama. Jess would have LOVED it. (Even the right wing Glenn Beck called it the most effective political speech since Ronald Reagan.)

Jessica would have shown it to all her friends, as you should. She would have said this is not an election to “sit out.” Our children’s and grandchildren’s safety, both female and male, is at stake. Voting is a profound way to celebrate the lives of outstanding leaders like Jessica Stickney and others whom you know well who stand up to bigots, misogynists, and bullies.

Copy and paste that in your browser, or just go to YouTube and search for Michelle Obama New Hampshire. Hey, I’m old and technically-challenged. Deal with it.





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Syrian Refugees

There is a terrible tragedy in Syria: 4.3 million refugees from Syria alone, according to UN sources, and 200,000 killed already in that country. When we heard about it, we knew our country would do the right thing as we always have.

So far, Germany has accepted 38,500 Syrians since 2013 and Canada has accepted 36,300 in the same time period. As the richest nation in the world, the beacon of democracy and compassion, and a nation made up almost entirely of immigrants (except for Native Americans), I knew we would be the world leader in caring.

We have given the most in humanitarian aid, it is true, and in federal fiscal year 2014 (which ended in September 2014), we took in 105 Syrians. In Fiscal Year 2015 that ended this last September, we accepted 1,682. Now President Obama has proposed taking 10,000 Syrian refugees into the US, with strict background checks but no screening for religion.

I knew that our citizens, as people of faith and good will, would react strongly to this tepid response, not worthy of a caring nation. I was right about the strong response, but wrong about the content. A Bloomberg poll just days old found that 53% of Americans want to refuse all Syrian refugees, while an additional 11% would only accept Christian Syrian refugees. Only 28% supported President Obama’s minimal-caring response.

Republican presidential candidates reacted immediately, demanding that we stop all Syrians from being resettled in the U.S. Ben Carson, running second in the Republican race by some polls, says we have compassion for the refugees, but not in our country. I heard an interview in which he called for a “pause” until conditions change, by which he implied no refugees until the terrorism threat is gone.

Donald Trump, the leader in the Republican race, said back in July that most of the Mexican immigrants are criminals, rapists and drug smugglers. Now he would not only bar Syrian refugees, but he would give the government the power to shut down mosques that are deemed extremist and to require Muslim people to carry a special ID card showing their religion.

Our own Montana Representative, Republican Ryan Zinke, echoed the party line in a statement quoted by the Helena Independent Record on November 17: “In the case of the Syrian refugees, most of them are male. Most of them are of military age, and yes, it is a significant security issue.”

The UN claims that half of the refugees are women. The State Department says that half of the Syrian refugees in the US are women, and half are children. About one-quarter are over 60. So Rep. Zinke was a little confused on his one “fact,” when he should have said 2% of the Syrian refugees accepted by the US so far are males of military age. However, he was accurate with his appeal to fear. He is in tune with a large majority of Montana and American citizens.

This is the not first time we have responded to great fear this way. A Washington Post article from three days ago revealed polls taken in the lead-up to World War II. In July of 1938, during Nazi atrocities in Germany and Austria, Fortune Magazine asked:

”What’s your attitude towards allowing German, Austrian & other political refugees to come into the US?”

The people polled responded:
With conditions as they are, we should try to keep them out: 67%
We should allow them to come, but not raise our immigration quotas: 18%
Don’t know: 10%
We should encourage them to come, even if we have to raise our immigration quotas: 5%

A little later, in January of 1939, the Jews in Germany were being actively persecuted (which started with the Nazis requiring them to wear a special form of ID – the Star of David – to indicate their religion so they could be singled out). A Gallup poll at that time asked:

“It has been proposed to bring to this country 10,000 refugee children from Germany – most of them Jewish – to be taken care of in American homes. Should the government permit these children to come in?”

The people polled responded:
No: 61%
Yes: 30%
No opinion: 9%

No wonder that now 47 House Democrats just joined Republicans to pass an anti-refugee bill, with a veto-proof majority. No wonder that every Republican presidential candidate wants to bar all Syrian refugees. No wonder that so far 29 Republican governors and one Democratic Governor say they want to close their states to these people. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is also a Republican presidential candidate, stated that he would not accept any Syrian refugees, and would refuse even “a three-year-old orphan’s” entry. He is undoubtedly representing the views of a large majority in his state.

I just re-read part of the Christmas story from the gospel of Matthew. “Now after they [the wise men] had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’

“When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.”

Good thing that Egypt didn’t have a Republican Governor and an American electorate at that time.

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Yogi Berra

If you are an American who knows and cares nothing about baseball, you still know at least two baseball players’ names – Babe Ruth and Yogi Berra.

George Herman “Babe” Ruth was arguably the greatest player of all time, but there is no argument that he is the greatest star. His outsized personality was as important as his towering home runs in that regard. Americans love an overweight, non-athletic looking man who dominates his sport, and then, in response to a question about how he can justify making a bigger salary than the president of the United States, says, “I had a better year than Hoover.” He did, too.

We like our heroes brash and cocky. You have to know baseball to appreciate one saying attributed to the Babe: “If I tried for them dinky singles, I could have hit around six hundred.”

If you don’t know anything about baseball, you have still heard of another man who did not look like a great athlete: Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra. You may not know that as a catcher he led the New York Yankees to win the World Series ten times. You may not know he was an all-Star for 15 consecutive years who is in the Hall of Fame, or that he led both the Yankees and the New York Mets to the World Series as a manager. But you know his name because of yogi-isms, or witty malapropisms attributed to him.

“You can learn a lot just by watching.”

“Nobody goes there [a popular restaurant] anymore, it’s too crowded.”

“It’s déjà vu all over again.”

“Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.”

“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

“We made too many wrong mistakes.”

Now that he has died, you may hear or see twenty more on TV or in the paper. He was so popular that he had a cartoon (Yogi Bear) named after him.

Some of the yogi-isms seem to imply that he was dim-witted. He is once reported as saying “You better cut the pizza into four pieces rather than eight. I don’t think I can eat eight pieces.”

There are at least two ways to take this. Either the man is quite stupid or else he has a fine sense of humor. My guess is that his deliberate humor gets tossed in the same basket with his occasional malapropisms.

There is a current comedian whom I enjoy, Steven Wright, who spouts Yogi-isms, but there is no question that he does it on purpose because he does it on stage:

“What’s another word for ‘thesaurus’?”

“I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering.”

“What a nice night for an evening.”

“I put instant coffee in a microwave oven and almost went back in time.”

“Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect.”

So what will Yogi Berra’s legacy be? My friend, Craig Wright, is a sabermetrician and baseball historian who can assess his baseball legacy and where he fits among hall of fame players. I can’t wait to hear his verdict.

Others will point to Yogi’s philanthropic endeavors including the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center on the campus of Montclair State University in Little Falls, New Jersey.

If legacy means how long you are remembered, it’s my guess that Yogi will be remembered for some of his yogi-isms for as long as English is spoken in something like its present form. I suspect that the number of yogis-ims will grow over time, because he is a larger-than-life figure. Much like George Washington and the cherry tree, we will hear of things he could have or should have said. I heard Yogi being interviewed on TV when he said, “I didn’t say half the things I said,” and I know he meant it.

How long a person is remembered is like a rock being dropped into a lake. The ripples go on for a long (or short) time until they finally disappear. A person’s influence, though not as measurable as a ripple, is longer lasting, because of the impact for good or for ill on others. For instance, my mother and father had a powerful positive impact on the lives of a great many people, not just family members. Each of us influenced by George and Dorothy Harper changed the way we treat others, who in turn interact with still others. In short, there are some who never met George or Dorothy Harper, but whose lives are better in small part because of the way they lived. I didn’t say that as clever as Yogi, but Yogi would understand it.

I didn’t know Yogi, but it appears he had a tremendous impact on his friends, teammates, and the game. Los Angeles Dodgers manager, Don Mattingly, who wears number 8 to honor Yogi, said, “The reason he was so beloved, it wasn’t really about his career even though he was a great, great player. It was about what a great person he was, the way he treated people, how humble, sincere, kind he was to people. That’s really what defined him and I think it’s why he’s touched so many peoples’ lives.”

That’s the way we should all live, Yogi. Without you, “the future ain’t what it used to be,” but we can do our small part to reclaim the future of humility, sincerity, and kindness.

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50th Anniversary

Our good friends, Gayle and Deanne Sandholm, recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Since Pat and I are still 12 years short of that mark, we are suitably impressed.

Gayle and Deanne retired from pastoring and lawyering, but they never tire of being good folks and doing good for the world. One of the best things they have done to help humanity is the family they have raised. Their children and spouses, grandchildren and now one great grandchild are all spectacular human beings.

Here is the amazing Sandholm immediate family.










The Sandholms are family oriented, but like all good families, they include us and others in their large extended family.

Sandholms 50th Wedding Anniversary

If you drew a picture and showed it to me,
And said, “This is how the whole world ought to be –
All different but part of the same family.”
I’d say, “That looks like the Sandholms.”

If you said, “Imagine a couple who care,
With children and spouses beyond all compare,
Grandchildren and great grandkids ever so rare.”
I’d say, “You’re talking the Sandholms.”

If you said, “All children should be greatly prized,
And be given the chance to grow up strong and wise
With their own opinions, no matter their size.”
I’d say, “Have you met the Sandholms?”

If you said, “Yes I’ve met Deanne and her Gayle
And as fifty-year role models, I think they fail
Because no mere mortals can follow their trail.”
I’d say, “Well, we can’t all be Sandholms.”

We can’t all be Sandholms, the fortunate few;
But they let us in, so we know what to do —
We’ll reach out to others who need family too.
In that sense we all can be Sandholms.

If you drew a picture and showed it to me,
And said, “This is how the whole world ought to be –
All different but part of the same family.”
I’d say, “Yes, we’re part of the Sandholms.”

With love, Rusty and Pat Callbeck Harper
August 28, 2015

As it is said, “A house built on sand will not stand, but a home built on Sandholms will last forever.”

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