Friday, June 24, 2016

Road Trip!

Summer road trips; an American tradition dating back to the completion of the Eisenhower Interstate highway system over a quarter century agoMy annual summer road trip takes me across that patchwork quilt of land that air travelers look down on as they soar across the country. They don't know what they are missing. Most of this trip is on the open road, lined on either side by green fields of corn, soybeans and other foliage that feeds the nationThe term "Road Trip" suggests a carefree independent cruise on the open road. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.  
Road trips are always full of surprisesFor example, you might pass by a random business, like Monkey Joe’s bar and grill, nestled between these fields where, some might say, iin the middle of nowhere. You can bet Monkey Joe's fills with regulars on Friday and Saturday nights. Or you might catch the sight of a stray barn sitting alone in the middle of a field as if forgotten. It crumples and decays almost unnoticed, a sign of days gone by. A careful observer might notice the telephone booth sitting outside the Stop N Go. Or you might pass by the place where telephone pools are made. Who knew?  
Historical markers also dot the patchwork landscape in the middle of the country. Reminders of moments long since passed, but too important to be forgotten.  

By mostly, driver’s see large expanses of open prairie that stretch on for miles.  And that's just fine with meEurope can keep its backpacksTouring America requires a cara cooler stocked with Coca-Cola (diet please) and a good playlist for the stereo.  Cruise control is also helpful.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Not a Day for Politics

I've struggled with words to express my outrage and disappointment over the tragic events in Orlando this past weekend. Then a Facebook friend shared a speech Robert F. Kennedy gave on April 5, 1968 in Cleveland Ohio ( I found these words as relevant today as they were 48 years ago and since there is no possible way I could express the same sentiment any more eloquently than Senator Bobby Kennedy, I share his powerful words here with you; 

"This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, my only event of today, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.
It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours.
Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by an assassin's bullet.
No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason.
Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.
"Among free men," said Abraham Lincoln, "there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lose their cause and pay the costs."
Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire.
Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach non-violence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.
Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.
For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.
This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all.
I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered.
We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this, there are no final answers.
Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.
We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.
Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution.
But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.
Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again." ~RFK

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Greatest Inspiration

~Abby Foster

This afternoon as I sat down for a break after returning from my real job and before beginning my dream job as a writer, I stumbled across the televised broadcast of Muhammad Ali’s memorial service. Soon, my plan to relax for a few minutes before turning my attention to my latest writing project was derailed.

I couldn’t turn away. I was mesmerized by one inspiring speaker after another. Speakers like young Natasha Mundkur who passionately spoke about how Ali changed her life. Remember that name.  

I, of course, knew about Muhammed Ali. I knew he was a boxer. I knew he was born Cassius Clay. I knew he had a penchant for speaking in rhyme. I knew he was kind and I knew he had a good sense of humor. If only I had known how so much more he was.

If you missed the service, search your social media sites. If you value social justice, you will not be disappointed. In fact, if you are human, you will not be disappointed.

Tributes and memories of this former athlete revealed a life not only well lived but almost carefully crafted to culminate at this moment at this time. His insistence on a Muslim funeral at a time when many Americans fear Muslims was masterful. In this final act, he demonstrated peace, love, and unity at its best. Speakers and religious leaders representing a variety of ethnicities and religions were united in their respect and admiration for this peaceful man. Each speaker shared their first-hand accounts of the generosity of this man known as The Greatest.

His elegant, articulate widow, Lonnie, shared the story of this African-American future boxer, born in segregated Louisville Kentucky who encountered a white police officer at a young age. This encounter was not the hostile, violent encounter we hear about all too often in recent times. Young Casius Clay’s encounter with the white police officer ended in a spectacularly different way. This white officer listened to the angry twelve-year-old who wanted to beat up the thief who stole his bike. The officer listened to the youth and then introduced him to the sport of boxing. Lonnie Ali said, “When a cop and an inner city kid talk, miracles can happen.”

This celebration of a unique and inspiring life provided so many lessons for those who were lucky enough to catch it; lessons in loving each other, being kind to each other, and believing in ourselves. Casius Clay, who chose his name, Muhammed Ali after his conversion to Islam, lived his life on his own terms. As an athlete, he inspired kids of all ages, other boxers, aspiring journalists, and at least one future president. As a man he challenged mainstream Americans by expanding our views on religion, war, and poverty here and abroad. In life and in death Ali had much to say and he said it well. Rest in peace.