I Am a Patriot!

Originally posted on Where the Pavement Ends:

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I love the United States of America.  We live in a great country.  I am not objective about our nation any more than I am objective about my mother and dad.  I have visited other countries, and each has assets and liabilities, as does ours.  But I wouldn’t trade my country for anybody else’s any more than I would trade my family for your family.  I am a loyal and faithful American.  I vote.  I serve as a Poll Manager.  I serve on juries without complaining when I am asked to do so.  I pay taxes and am glad to do so.  I enjoy the benefits of being an American and do not resent the price of being a dues paying citizen.

 

There are only about a half-dozen states I have not visited, including Hawaii and Alaska.  The others are in the Northwest.  I hope to remedy those travel…

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Guest Blog: Spiritually Speaking by Rev. John F. Hudson

A pastor friend of mine in Sherborn, Massachusetts, wrote this column for his church newsletter.  It is one of many compassionate posts I have read over the past few weeks.  We have been overwhelmed by news that has been both horrible and wonderful.  Lots of opinions, some more helpful than others.  This is a good one. Marion

“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?” –“The Merchant of Venice”, William Shakespeare, 1605

Strange days in our nation.

New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow may have best described the intense swirl of conflicting feelings and emotions millions of Americans experienced in the past two weeks.  He writes: “[It]…was a bit surreal. As America was celebrating the victory of marriage equality at the Supreme Court, it was also mourning [nine] black people in South Carolina murdered by a white supremacist.” These are awe-filled and awful days.  One day our nation takes a historic step towards full inclusion.  Another day, in bloodshed and heartbreak, we remember how far we still have to go.

Millions of our fellow Americans empowered with the legal right to marry: to love and to make families. Millions of our fellow Americans still targeted for hatred and bias and violence.  The “other” welcomed in. The “other” cut down.  It makes me weep and laugh, celebrate and grieve, proud to be an American and ashamed to be an American. In July 4th’s shadow, these events remind us that we have come a long way in 239 years, but my goodness: we’ve yet got such a long, long way to go too.

When oh when will we as a people see the full dignity and worth of all the people? All the people? All of our neighbors and friends, every last one? All of the men and women and children with whom share this home, the United States of America?  Some argue that through the rule of law we’ll finally get to the promised land and they point to the Supreme Court’s ruling as proof of this power. Others say we are already there. Look: we have an African-American President.  Look: folks of different sexual orientations are very out and visible in our culture and country.

True and yet….

Laws are not enough. The human heart cannot be changed through a legislative act or court decision. Authentic inclusion cannot be mandated or forced. We can post rainbow flags all we want on Facebook or Twitter but such public posturing risks little or nothing. The only truth which finally redeems is our shared humanity and our ability to embrace this reality. That we all bleed if we are pricked.  We all weep when a loved one dies.  We all aspire to love another special person and be loved in return and live in peace.  Until we recognize this flesh and blood connection to the person we may still label as “the other”, nothing will change.

As Atticus Finch says to his daughter Scout, in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “…if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  Until we who are white have the courage to face how hard life is for so many people of color in our land, things won’t change.  Until we who are straight have the moral imagination to understand what it is like to have your essence as a child of God called “sinful” and “unnatural”, nothing will change.  Until we who are privileged by virtue of the class we are born into or the zip code we call home, until we confront the pain of poverty and being poor, nothing will change.

Finally, we are all human, all children of God, all.

Before we are a color, or a gender, or an orientation, or a class, or a race, or a religion, or a nationality, we are all human.  Get that and the world can change, absolutely.  Miss that and the world will continue on as it is.  Two thousand years ago a wise teacher was asked to name the most important of God’s laws. His answer was simple: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Such ancient wisdom seems so simple.  If I want to be treated with equality and justice, I’ll do the same to others.  If I want to be accepted for who I am, I must accept others for the person God made them to be.  If I don’t want to be judged, labeled, or stereotyped, I need to stop doing that to my neighbor.

Strange days.  Amazing and incredible days filled with joy.  Sad and tragic days filled with loss.  America: we’ve come a long way.  America: we’ve still got miles to go to reach our promised land.

The Reverend John F. Hudson is Senior Pastor of the Pilgrim Church, United Church of Christ, in Sherborn (pilgrimsherborn.org). 

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My thoughts on the Confederate Flag recorded in Overcoming Adolescence, copyright 2011

One of those life-altering occasions occurred to me in college. I was a member of the Student Senate at Clemson University, and usually we debated such banal questions as whether or not the male Senators should wear a coat and tie to the meetings. Occasionally, to the chagrin of the Deans, we actually dealt with something of substance. In the late 1960’s overt racism was a larger fact of life on our conservative campus than drugs. In the Deep South, the Civil War, over 100 years in our past, still stirred far more emotion than World War II. The Second World War was history. The Civil War seemed like a current event. The Confederate Battle Flag was prominently and vigorously waved at our football and basketball games.

Someone put forth a motion in our Student Senate that flaunting the Confederate flag should not be allowed in our sports arenas. Ours was a newly integrated campus. I was against the motion. I was proud of my Dixie Heritage. I did not think of myself as a racist. I loved the Deep South. I loved our songs, our heroes, our food (grits, fatback, collards, barbeque, turnips, okra and cornbread), and the Rebel Yell (mine was louder than anybody’s). My accent, then and now, is deep-fried and smothered in red-eye gravy. I was and am about as Southern as a human can be!

But I was in college, getting a “liberal arts” education, and for the first time in my life, I was aware of a larger world. I had never been in school with a person of African heritage until I got to college. In my culture, we still used the “N” word casually.

A pretty Jewish coed sat beside me during the debate on the motion to ban the waving of the Confederate flag in the football stadium. She whispered to me, “Waving the Confederate flag in the face of a black person seems to me to be no different than waving a Nazi flag in my face.”

I had never thought about that! She was right. Period. I learned something that day. I voted for the resolution. I am pleased to say that Confederate flags are no longer waved at Clemson University on game day in the stadium.

Something shifted in me that day. I changed an old way of thinking. I grew up a bit.

Categories: Basketball, Faith/Spirituality, Football, Race, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Seven Ways White South Carolinians Can Respond to This Week’s Tragedy in Charleston

Seven Ways White South Carolinians Can Respond to This Week’s Tragedy in Charleston Marion D. Aldridge

  1. Say these words or something like them to black people you encounter today—at work, at the grocery store: “I am sorry for your loss and our loss as South Carolinians.” Grieve with those who are grieving.
  2. Call your pastor, an elder or deacon in your congregation and ask if your church can begin a sister-church relationship with an African-American congregation in your community. Begin conversation. We’ve lived in two separate worlds too long.
  3. Call an African-American acquaintance you would like to know better and invite him or her to breakfast or lunch or, even better, to dinner in your home. Thousands of white South Carolinians would swear they are not racists, yet there is a huge difference in how they relate to blacks and whites. Get to know people of a different hue better than you know them now. You don’t need to be coy or clever about it. Just say, “Can we have lunch?”
  4. When you are engaged in a conversation with a person of color, listen. You already know what you know. You don’t know what they know. Listen. Listen. Listen.
  5. A house in my neighborhood lowered the flag in their yard to half-mast today.
  6. Pray.  Privately. Or, go to your church, synagogue or mosque or to an African-American church and pray there.
  7. Begin to read books about race relations and/or the black experience in America. Here are some suggestions: Autobiography of Malcolm X, Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy, Stephen Kantrowitz, Black Like Me, John Howard Griffith, I Never Had It Made, Jackie Robinson, Race Matters, Cornel West, Roots, Alex Haley, The Orangeburg Massacre, Jack Bass and Jack Nelson
Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Race, South Carolina | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

50th High School Reunion Reflections

50th High School Reunion Reflections

Marion D. Aldridge

Too many memories, not enough time. Even when your reunion planners schedule two events, there are still not enough hours. You can have quality conversation with three or four friends, but for everyone else, you give and get a handshake, a hug, and a “How are you doing?” Two minutes at most. It’s frustrating.

Rites of passage are usually for the young—Junior-Senior Prom, High School Graduation, even getting your driver’s license. But a 50th high school class reunion is a milestone like no other. Not all your friends made it this far.   Our class had 222 boys and girls walk out of Augusta’s Bell Auditorium after our graduation in 1965. We know of 41 deaths. Those of us who attended felt fortunate to be present.

Re-union. A powerful word, especially after fifty years.

Some people joined us for this reunion we haven’t seen in five decades. This was a Big One. Golden. Everyone has a different high school adventure. I talked to someone this morning who had 900 in his big city graduating class, and to another person yesterday with a small town senior class of only 50 students.

We all had different high school experiences. Some people focused on academics. Others on sports. Some were shy and others of us talked too much! None of that mattered much at this gathering. It was simply good to be together. I hope everyone else enjoyed the reunion weekend as much as I did.

“My heart is bound by memory’s chain

Within each room and hall,

Of my noble Alma Mater,

The fairest school of all.”

North Augusta High School Alma Mater

Categories: Football, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

50th High School Reunion Prayer

North Augusta (South Carolina) High School 50th Reunion

Prayer by Marion Aldridge

May 23, 2015

Creator God,

Sustaining us always,

We give thanks for the gift of life,

for friends, teachers, coaches, family and all who have influenced us in our pilgrimage.

Also, we grieve for the loss of our classmates who have died too soon, dear friends, treasured relationships. We pause to remember them.

SILENCE

We trust your care for them and for us, now and forever.

Thank you for memories from our high school years, for the education we received in the classroom and in other places and in other ways: basketball courts and Teen Town.

We remember the words of Alma Mater: “Twas there the teachers lent their aid to guide our climbing steps, and taught us how to drink the cup of knowledge to its depths.”

A chapter of our lives ended when we graduated. Other chapters began. We are aware of your grace every step of the way.

Tonight, on this occasion of our fiftieth high school reunion, we thank you for the opportunity to renew old friendships.

We also thank you for those who have worked hard to make this reunion a success. Keep us safe until we gather again. Amen

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reading for Adults

“People who have read only one book can be quite dangerous.” Molly Ivins (who illustrated her point with mass murderer Timothy McVeigh—he apparently only read Ayn Rand)

Reading has always been an important part of my life. Dad was a reader. When we went to a used bookstore together, he would buy me something: Robin Hood or Treasure Island, something age appropriate.

Schoolteachers had us read Charles Dickens, Jack London, Ernest Hemingway and Jane Austen. Trying to improve us, high school teachers also assigned The Odyssey and Julius Caesar.

I began college as a math major, but after a year I discovered I could get a degree for reading books I wanted to read, so I became an English Literature major. Some stretching continued as I read assigned books that didn’t interest me. But I also kept reading for fun. I discovered Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Willa Cather, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conon Doyle, and Dorothy Sayers.

Somewhere along the way, my love for Southern Literature led me to Eudora Welty, Robert Penn Warren, Walker Percy and Clyde Edgerton.

What I mean by “adult reading” has nothing to do with an X-rating. When I was 20, I didn’t have enough life experience or knowledge of world history to understand War and Peace. I do now. I read it a few years ago at the recommendation of Pat Conroy (My Reading Life), and I loved it. I now understand Flannery O’Connor in a way I didn’t as a young man. Moby Dick and Zorba the Greek are great literature because they speak to fundamental issues of life about which most of us are clueless until we reach age 30.

Of course, To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal Farm and Death Comes for the Archbishop are easy and good to read at any age. I’ve enjoyed some books when I was a teenager and again as a mature adult.

Happy reading!

Additions to the above:

Fiction

A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving

Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry

Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry

Night, Elie Wiesel

Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw

The Good Earth, Pearl Buck

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

Non-Fiction

Falling Upward, Richard Rohr

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (ghost written—since Malcolm X was dead—by Alex Haley)

The Habit of Being, Letters of Flannery O’Connor, edited by Sally Fitzgerald

The Prince, Machiavelli

The Seven-Story Mountain, Thomas Merton

Categories: Book Review, Family, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

40th High School Reunion

 (The title is not a misprint.  Though my 50th high school class reunion is just a week away, I found these thoughts on an old computer–written right after our last major reunion.  They are still true.)

The 40th Class Reunion of North Augusta High School, Class of 1965, was a magical weekend of Thanksgiving, pure nostalgia, an occasion of warm and delicious memories.  The girls of forty years ago are even more beautiful now as mature women.  The boys, many of whom went to Viet Nam, have, over the years, become men.  Some of our class members are no longer with us, having died too young.  Others have coped with the death or mental illness of children or the loss of a spouse.  We have all lost our innocence.

In North Augusta, South Carolina, in the mid-1960’s, though we were mostly middle-class, we were privileged to live in a virtual childhood wonderland, a town of good churches, peewee football and baseball, peach trees with plenty of ripe fruit, movies that would have all been rated G, parents who loved us, streets that were safe.  We were clueless, at that time, about the extent of our cultural racism.  Now, we know better.

Even our music was innocent.  “Young Love” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” were typical of the era.  We studied Julius Caesar and Geometry.  We read Gone with the Wind and The Old Man and the Sea.  Our parents were people of faith and took us to church on Sundays and Wednesdays.  We were taught to respect people who believed differently than we did.  We might not have understood the complexities of our world, but we were capable of learning.  We were taught to be open, tolerant, and charitable.  “Moderate” was a good word.  “Fanatic” was not.

We knew each other in a way that you can’t know someone you met in a bar two hours ago.  We grew up together, and we sat by each other in classes, and chased each other on the schoolyard.  We played sports together and we knew who cheated and who played fair. When you know each other from childhood, you know who is decent and good and kind and honest.  You also know who was deceitful and malicious.  Thank God there were only a few of those.

As an adult, I am now conscious that some of my classmates were marginalized for a variety of reasons.  Also, I now know that just because you lived in a nice house didn’t mean you weren’t abused or depressed. As self-absorbed teenagers, we were utterly unaware of some of the hurts and crises of some of the boys and girls who sat in the desks next to ours.

Time moves on. We grow. I loved being seventeen. Even more, I love being an adult.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Football, Race, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Conspiracy to Keep us Down and Dumb

This (see title) came up in an email conversation this week.  Here is a paragraph I wrote in Overcoming Adolescence about the subject:

One of the saddest attacks of negative nostalgia I have ever encountered was while reading Frank McCourt’s second autobiographical book ‘Tis   His first installment, Angela’s Ashes, was a runaway bestselling account of the grinding poverty of his childhood.  I could not identify with it.  He was more impoverished than anybody I knew.  However, ‘Tis, describing his early years as an Irish immigrant in America, struck home.  His account of moving up the educational and socio-economic ladder recalled, for me, a couple of episodes in my own life.  A family member or a work-buddy in a dead-end job challenged McCourt’s attempt to get an education, to use good grammar, to play by a different set of rules than was valued on the lowest rungs of society.  I identified.  I have heard it all:

  • “Do you think you are better than us now?”
  • “You are getting kind of uppity, aren’t you?”

There was and is a mammoth conspiracy afoot by the ignorant to keep others as wretched as they are!  Misery, we say, loves company.  It makes underachievers feel better if you are failing along with them!

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

High School Cliques—50 years later

Planning a high school class reunion is a hoot—lots of laughter and old jokes. Good memories.

Planning a class reunion elicits other emotions as well. There is the surreal experience of literally not recognizing someone with whom you were close, your lab partner in chemistry, a teammate, even a girlfriend. Of course, they don’t recognize me either. Some of the insecurities of adolescence also return as cliques re-form: the popular boys and girls, the jocks, the beauty queens, the rich kids. If there is a way to divide human beings, we will find a way to do it.

I’ve heard someone say that at class reunions the same ol’ pecking orders emerge.

As my North Augusta High School Class of 1965 has begun to plan its fiftieth reunion, I’ve had a bit of a different take on our so-called cliques. Of course, it’s no fun to be excluded, so there is obviously a negative aspect to dividing ourselves into factions.

But, who else would we hang out with other than the people we knew best? At least five elementary schools fed into our one junior high and then our high school. We merged just fine as far as I recall. But, it’s natural enough that some of my best friends with our own special memories go back to grammar school. Some of us went to the same church. That’s why we were best friends then and good friends still.

Even in high school, we had groups that were exclusive in their own way, but what other option was there? I was never in the band and band folks have a unique bond, an in-group that I was not in! Why wouldn’t they want to hang out together at a reunion? Some classmates went off to the same college and have shared memories of high school and university. Some stayed in town and raised their own kids together. They have been in the same Sunday school class together for forty years.

We can be a bit prickly and paranoid at these events but the time together is worth the effort.

Happy days then. Even happier days now.

Categories: Humor, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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