Monday, October 31, 2011

Who should run for office?

Five years or so ago I took on a video project at church where I interviewed our pastor emeritus who had done so much in the 1960s to make our church a vibrant downtown institution.  We thought it a good idea to get his best remembrances on tape for posterity before his stories would be lost in time.  
We engaged a local public access media person who made a living out of recording such things to tape and edit our production.  In the process, I sat with this gentleman in his office/control room for a couple hours over a few visits, approving the final edits.  The product had its flaws, but overall was a credible production that will serve the church archive well.  Before I’d leave the gentleman’s work space, we’d talk about the state of the world and Dayton and wondered just what it would take to make life in our fair city better for the majority who were struggling long before the economic crisis hit in 2007.  
So it wasn’t too much of a surprise when I got a phone call from him a year ago saying he was running for Dayton city commission and could I help him out with a financial gift.  
I felt a little stuck immediately.  I told him I didn’t live in the city, instead holding a residence in a neighboring township.  He said that didn’t make any difference, that I could help his campaign with a cash donation anyway.  He was right.  I could have. 
But something prevented me from doing it.  Trust me, I’ve written a few checks to political candidates over the years, so that didn’t bother me.  If you can’t put your checkbook where your heart is, then, some would say, you really aren’t participating in democracy. 
Back in early September I noticed signs for this candidate popping up along major thoroughfares in the city.  I wondered how he would do in this, his first election.  Then I wondered even more about why I couldn’t support him with a check in the first place.  Another acquaintance is running for re-election to the Dayton school board.  I didn’t write her a check, but if she asked, I’m pretty sure Cindy Lou and I would have agreed.   
So what was it about this media guy I couldn’t support?  I certainly agreed with where his heart was on those occasions we’d talk at his office.   
Through this recent pondering, I’ve clarified for myself that in my heart of hearts I want somebody pretty smart running the government.  It was the same conclusion I reached about George W. Bush.  Not that I could have voted for him anyway due to his conservative politics favoring those who have already made it, but I never felt that being a guy you’d want to have a beer with was cause enough for electing him president.  Did I feel that way about city commission, too?  
The media guy was smart enough, I’d say, though his personality was a little eccentric.  Maybe it was because I felt him pretty common that I couldn’t get on board for his election.  
Then I began to wonder just who should run for office?  
Does somebody need to already have a successful track record in the public domain for me to support her or him?  My friend who’s running for re-election to the school board worked a career as an elementary teacher.  I figure she had what it took to serve on a school board.  While this is only her second election, she has already been selected by her peers to serve as board president.  Obviously, I’m not the only one who thinks she is capable.  
But how I felt about this other guy stuck in my head.  Why wouldn’t he make a good city commissioner, even if I couldn’t vote for him?  It was obvious he cared about the city in which he lived.  What else does it take?  
Then I had thoughts of another guy at church who was encouraging people to run for public office.  If we wanted a progressive Christian voice to be heard in legislative halls, who best to run than a concerned progressive Christian?  Point taken. 
Still, in that heart of hearts of mine, I want somebody smarter than I am running the country.  Maybe not so much the city or a school board, though they’re important, too.  I mean, Herman Cain and Michelle Bachman scare the heck out of me because I don’t feel they are very smart.  Cain is changing his mind every day, it seems, honing his platform as he runs.  He’s currently leading most GOP polls.  And Bachman?  Heavens.  She is the darling of a group of Americans who want to take the country back for white folks who feel they’ve lost their centuries-old hold on American politics.  
Let me say at this point in my deliberations that I do think regular folk should run for office.  In reality, who else is there to do our work as our elected officials? 
Just the same, I still feel it essential that my President should be smarter than I am.  I might not agree with everything Obama has done, but I’ve heard from more than one pundit that he’s ‘the smartest guy in the room’ at meetings.  I’d sure like to think that’s enough to get the People’s work done.
Today’s Elder Idea:  Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.  We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  We are the change that we seek. 
Barack Obama
5 February 2008

Monday, October 24, 2011


I’ve written here off and on about issues of faith.  
Spirituality is big in my life, not that a body needs a church to work on the spiritual stuff.  
Still, I’m a guy who grew up a church-goer.  There were times I wasn’t a regular, but overall, I’d say I’ve been to church on a whole lot more Sundays than I’ve missed. 
Then there came a time in my life when I had to decide which church I wanted to go to.  I was born and bred Roman Catholic.  Went to Immaculate Conception elementary school and Carroll High School.  Served at mass late into my teens, for a time serving with Dad at the earliest masses on Sunday.  When I was 16 he’d let me drive around the neighborhood after church before I got my license.  
What seems a lifetime later, though, came a divorce after eighteen years of marriage and I didn’t feel welcome among Catholics anymore.  I mean, I could be divorced and still be a member of the community and go to communion, but if I remarried, then I crossed the line.  
It may be a lame analogy, but nobody’s told me I’m wrong yet:  If I shot and killed a churchful of people, I could go to confession, be absolved of my transgression, and be welcome at the communion rail at the local parish -- or the prison chapel.  If I divorced and remarried?  Shunned by the Romans forever.    
Sure, there are priests who might welcome me to communion.  They might not even care if I read scripture on Sunday to the congregation.  But the official church mantra is through divorce and remarriage, you will be cast out from our communion.  ForeverYou are beyond redemptionYour sin is unforgivable.  Always seemed pretty rash to me.  
But my lovely Cindy Lou invited me to attend church with her downtown at Christ Episcopal Church.  There, I knew, I would be welcomed.  Not that divorce isn’t a big deal with Episcopalians.  They don’t encourage it, that’s for sure.  But if you are divorced, they don’t cast you out, either.  Forgiveness, there, is actually attainable.  
There are other reasons why I’m glad to call myself an Episcopalian these days, but one of the biggest came up again yesterday in church at the late service that lead me to write this blog entry today. 
After the consecration of bread and wine, just before the congregation was invited to come forward for communion, Rev. John Paddock invoked the following prayer: 
This is the table of Jesus, not just the table of the Episcopal church or Christ Church, Dayton.  It is made ready for those who love him and for those who want to love him more.  
So come, you who have much faith and you who have little; you who have been here often and you who have not been here long; you who have tried to follow and you who have failed. 
Come, because it is Jesus who invites you.  It is God’s will that those who wish should meet him here.  
That’s the kind of welcome that makes me want to hang around a little longer to see what issues of faith I still need to know more deeply in my heart.   It is an embrace in the midst of living a life as well as I can that warms me more than I can explain.  
Today’s Elder Idea:   The blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you for ever. 
Blessing at the end of the Episcopal service
image:  Two of my favorite Episcopalians:  Mary Dahlberg and Stephanie Sexton.  Hey!  Don’t forget Waffle Shop is coming up next month!  ;-)

Friday, October 7, 2011

A byte out of the Apple

When Cindy Lou came downstairs Wednesday evening to ask if Steve Jobs had died -- she had read an RIP comment about him on Facebook -- I immediately went to my Safari browser and found that, indeed, news of his passing was 34 minutes old.  
Cindy was a bit upset, while I was a bit more stoic, knowing he had been sick for years.  While I’m not a great fan of Facebook, I immediately opened my home page and wrote, ‘Thanks, Steve.  Because of you my life is different.  I am in your debt.‘  Then I cut and pasted in the photo you see above.  
I’ve been thinking about Steve much ever since.  First, I found it fitting, yet a bit odd, that his passing was treated by the media like he was a head of state.  I heard one of the big New York newspapers ran a banner headline 6 columns wide.  I wondered how big the headline was on 9/12? 
I’ve been an Apple guy since the beginning.  Well, pretty close to the beginning, anyway.  I didn’t care about an Atari or anything I’d have to assemble from Radio Shack, but when the Apple II came out -- ready right out of the box -- I thought maybe that was the one.  
I didn’t know exactly what all of us in the family would do with a personal computer, but I heard of games kids could play and that it might be the today thing to do in the mid-80s.  I heard it was a good word processor, too, which appealed to me because of all of the classroom documents I continually typed up.
As I recall, Jenni and Kelly didn’t seem too interested.  Maybe it was too techie for them.  It didn’t look that appealing, to be honest, with that monochrome green type on a black background.  I sure grew to like it for school work, though.  Didn’t take me long to get hooked.  
I got my first Mac in 1991.  Oh, such a hummer it was!  A PowerMac with 4MB of RAM, if I’m not mistaken.  Got a special deal because I was a teacher, too.  The internet was still a dream pretty much, but before I bought my next Mac, I was hooked up to dial up and was pretty impressed with AOL’s ‘You’ve got mail.
I could go on about my personal relationship with my Mac, but a thought I had yesterday really got to me:  What if my Dad had a modicum of tech savvy and had the chance to engage with a personal computer?  How different was his life from mine because of Steve Jobs?  
I have memories of my Father sitting in his recliner in the Fauver Avenue living room watching television every night.  I still remember the treat it was sitting up with him watching Jack Parr now and then.  And the way he loved Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone is probably why I’ve come to love science fiction.  After cable came along, I could count on him watching some John Wayne movie on an evening I’d stop by with the kids. 
You see, you have to understand that my Dad was an artist.  I always wondered what would have happened if World War II hadn’t come along and dragged him out of his 21 year-old life in Dayton, Ohio.  How would he have developed that skill that his teachers at St. Anthony School recognized when he was asked to draw something for the classroom?  My mother likes to tell that story.  
After the war he worked in interior design, though I think he primarily hung drapes.  And after that, of course, came Patty, Mike, and Tommy and the race was on to keep a roof over all our heads, food on the table, and shoes on growing feet.  He ended up spending most of his life installing flooring for Rike’s.  
I remember, too, being in awe of his ‘how-to’ sketch books of the human nude.  All girls.  Well, at least as I remember.  
Dad drew pretty well, too.  He liked faces most.  Beyond that he engineered tile patterns at our front door and on the bathroom wall.  The art he is best remembered for is his woodworking.  When we cleaned out the garage after he died, we found semi-truck cabs cut out of pine, a couple wooden ferris wheels, walking alligators hinged with pieces of bicycle tires, and, of course, Mr. Duck.  Ask Kelly about that one.
So I wonder where Dad would be if he knew what I knew?  How would he approach PhotoShop?  What kinds of webpages would he have designed by now?  I know no drawing programs because it isn’t my thing, but I flat out guarantee you he’d have a half dozen of ‘em on his Mac.
I wonder if he’d be into anime?  I know you can create moving characters from scratch these days with a $50 app.  Or I wonder if he’d be designing homes?  He built the Fauver Avenue place with his Dad, after all.  I wonder if he’d trade the tv screen for the computer screen?  Shoot, I wonder if he would taken to designing apps?  
I am so grateful for Steve Jobs having come into my life.  I never met him, of course, but would have liked to.  His imagination has impacted mine.  As I said, I am in his debt.  I truly love being creative and learning on the computer.
But what’s more, like the father and son at the end of Field of Dreams, instead of asking Dad if he wanted to have a catch, I would have loved to have taken him to the Apple Store and then watch his eyes light up.    
Today’s Elder Idea:  Tom, you were, and still are, a nature and music lover.  That, too, I think, came from my genes and also from my mother who also was a music lover.  You, today, still love the beauty God put on this earth and you like to protect it.  Keep it up. 
Ted Schaefer
from a letter Dad wrote to us 
the year before he died