Saturday, October 21, 2006

Politics, Family, and Religion (Oh My)

Lovely topics for a "polite", albeit one-way conversation, don't you think?

The political season is upon us. Isn't it wonderful?
KKCO had some type of technical difficulties on Thursday evening, and instead of the 5:30 news they aired at least 7 minutes of consecutive commercials, many of them the largely shrill and fear-promoting TV ads that will pervade the airwaves from now til November 7.

I won't pretend to be a political expert. We are fortunate enough here in Mesa County to have a
blogger who does an excellent job at analyzing and providing valuable insight on these types of things. I think I'll follow his lead on at least a couple of topics tonight.

The Junction Daily Blog provided some excellent insight on
Thursday, the same day that the letter Ralph referred to in that day's post appeared as a full-page ad in the Daily Sentinel. I agree with Ralph's analysis of what was to me an attempt to say that we shouldn't vote for someone because they are the most qualified to represent us in Denver. Instead, we should elect the one most likely to remain beholden to a collective ideology, and can be depended upon to vote the party line. This appears to me to be party politics at its' most "basic" level. I think that one could easily substitute the adjective "raw" or perhaps "Neanderthal" for the above and still have an understanding of the practice.

When I was little I remember going with my Dad to the polls, and seeing the slate cards being distributed by volunteers outside the local elementary school where the paper ballots were cast and counted. Machine-type local politics were a staple of that area and era, even before the
voting machines that appeared when I was about 12, with the big lever at the far left that you could pull to vote the party, not the candidate.

Didn't think about it much back then, even when I started volunteering for political candidates as a teenager. What attracted me to being involved was a fairly young, energetic Republican running for congress in my district. He had a pretty, equally energetic wife and three young kids who all looked pretty nice. He was well-off, but seemed honest and dedicated to public service.

H. John Heinz III was elected to the House twice, then to the Senate three times before dying tragically in a plane crash in 1991. He was asked in 1973 to reflect on his first 100 days in congress, and what he said was prescient:

"I have attempted to wear no label, neither 'liberal' nor 'conservative' nor 'pro-labor' nor 'pro-management.' I have acted in each case on the basis of what I believe is right for my constituents, for our state and for the country."

This was my kind of politician, and probably what motivated me to work as a volunteer for
John Anderson's presidential campaign in 1980, and aside from running for school board in 1981 was my last active foray into politics.

So maybe now you have an idea of the kind of politician that will get my support, now and in the future. As far as that letter that Ralph was so concerned about; it makes me wonder which building in Downtown Grand Junction will be the new local GOP equivalent of
Tammany Hall.

Ralph had an equally poignant post on
Friday, concerning his wife being out of town on their 25th anniversary, tending to family members. My family is spread out all over the place, but my mother is still in Pittsburgh and my wife's immediate family settled in Massachusetts.
Her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer in the fall of 2003, and my wife spent the better part of the next year taking care of her there, until she passed away in September 2004.
Jan's mother smoked until the week before she died.

Fortunately, we've been able to live on just my income, so there weren't any work-related difficulties with her doing this. When she went back to her mother's condo in June of 2005 and started complaining of back pain there, my work was very supportive in allowing me to go back, help out, and get the family back home. Our son was in Pittsburgh visiting my mother, so our plan was to fly from Providence to Denver through Pittsburgh to pick him up. We got as far as our intermediate stop before the pain became intolerable for her.

The next two weeks felt like being on automatic pilot, making all of the appropriate moves but not really feeling the impact of them. She was hospitalized in Pittsburgh after an MRI found lung cancer that had spread to her spine and brain. She had never smoked a day in her life; now nobody can tell me that secondhand smoke is harmless, especially a
bunch of bar owners.

She had spinal surgery in Pittsburgh, was flown back here and spent 3 weeks at St. Mary's getting radiation therapy and rehab before coming home. My mother was gracious enough to spend 4 months here afterward, helping to keep the house in order while I went back to work and our son started high school.

I can't say enough about my co-workers. My boss and others picked up our cats while we were gone and discovered a broken water line that had flooded our basement, a week before we got back. Repairs weren't complete upon our return, and my son and I spent a few nights between the house, the hospital, and a motel.

Now we're over a year since her diagnosis and major treatment, and we still have a few rough spots and things to watch out for but in general her cancer is under control. The grace and mercy of this community cannot be underestimated, and I believe the foundation for that lies not in any man-made institution, be it corporation or government or even church, but the teachings and actions of Christ that so many of us have found peace, and a sense of direction and purpose.

Now my mother is starting to have some health-related issues, and my brother in Oklahoma and myself will be going back east sometime soon to set up some contingencies. Enjoy your anniversary sometime soon as well, Ralph, and may God bless you and your family.

I wasn't always what I would consider a person of faith. I was raised Roman Catholic, and worked my way through other churches, never really connecting to the message. I always seemed to feel that the man-made trappings of ritual and hierarchy got in the way of the essential message, the reason that you were there in the first place.

Going to
Young Life in high school was the closest I had ever felt to having a relationship with Christ, up until the point that our family started attending the Vineyard three years ago.

A column in Saturday's
Rocky brought my attention to a new book that appears to defiantly argue against faith, belief, and religion in general. This is Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation.

I found the column intriguing, and some of the
quotes on the website even more so.
I'll probably read the book, and may come away from it nodding in agreement with some of Mr. Harris' assertions.

This doesn't really change my thinking about the last few years, or my life in general.
Here's a brief summary of that:

I feel better about myself and my life knowing that God is a part of it.

I have no real explanation for this.

My family feels the same way, despite the recent hardships we have endured.

Many people I know that don't seem to share this also seem to be unhappy and/or searching.

I'll conclude with the first three definitions of the word faith from the American Heritage Dictionary. The varying meanings that can be drawn from just this one word could apply to any of the above topics I've written about.

American Heritage Dictionary faith (fth)
1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters

With this many meanings (there were more obscure ones as well) for one simple word, is it any wonder that the idea exists that man has potentially re-shaped scripture and dogma to fit his own purposes, from the Crusades to indulgences to Manifest Destiny to the Iraq War?

May you have the faith and wisdom to calmly navigate the turbulent sea of sound bites over the coming weeks, and rationally choose the best people for the tenuous and daunting job of managing our earthly kingdom.

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