Love and Hate and Politics

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I cringed through a few of the speeches in the Republican National Convention.  Speech after speech talked about how bad Hillary Clinton is, how terrible ISIS is, how Obama has betrayed us and failed us, and other warm fuzzy stuff like that.  They make me sick to my stomach with fear.

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Was there anything to like about the RNC in Cleveland?  Well, their logo was nice.

I could complain about the plagiarism thing, the Ted Cruz booing thing (although that actually made me smile), or Donald’s deep, dark speech of the coming apocalypse.  But I would rather do like the Democrats seem to be doing this week.  I would rather talk about the good things they can and will do if only we are smart enough to give them the chance.

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They contrasted their policies in favor of ending discrimination based on race, gender, and orientation with the anti-crime and anti-terrorism howls of the Republicans. Instead of talking about how satisfying it would be to throw the other side’s candidate in jail for imagined crimes, they told us about Hillary’s record of standing up for women, children, and the handicapped.  They gave us specifics about what she has done and who she has helped and what she has learned from Bernie Sanders.  Sanders graciously made her the unanimous choice by throwing all of his delegates behind her.  There was peace and harmony (beyond a few former Bernie supporters who were so mad about the DNC email leak that they may vote Trump out of spite).  Cory Booker’s speech suggested that instead of talking about what we are afraid of, we should be talking about working together in a spirit of love and friendship in order to do great things.  Trump, of course, had an angry tweet in response to that, suggesting he knew things about Booker that could shame him.  Booker replied that he loved Donald Trump and felt honored that the orange one considered him worthy of an angry tweeting.

Now, I am not saying that Democrats are perfect and Republicans are evil… am I?  I don’t believe that when I am rational and not dreaming up nightmares… do I?  But loving one another is what I think the default position should always be for Christians.  So why are the nominally Christian conservatives so much more keen on the righteous wrath of God stuff and punishing those they hate?  Shouldn’t it be the opposite of that?  And my severely Republican friends are always suspicious of just how Christian the godless communist heathens in the Democratic party really are.  If the Democrats are so totally wrong, shouldn’t the facts line up against them?

But it all boils down to facts versus feelings, doesn’t it.  Republicans have reason to be angry, especially the poor ones, because of the raw economic deal they have been given.  Their righteous indignation deserves redress.  But is that best served by punishing Democrats in the more liberal party that more generally favors less income inequality?  What about the capitalist billionaires who drive the Republican agenda?  Are they really saints and deserving of everything they have taken for themselves?

I am smart, but not smart enough to have ultimate answers to the biggest questions.  I have Republican friends who agree whole-heartedly  with that last sentence, especially words five, six, and seven.  But I know the DNC made me feel good while watching, and the RNC made me ill.  I definitely choose love over hatred and politics.

 

 

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Driving Lessons

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My middle child, Henry, is sixteen and anxious to learn how to drive.  And like all young drivers, he has yet to get into his first accident, is awkward behind the wheel, and is determined to be the best driver the world has ever seen.  So, we gave him a driver’s instruction course, which he completed by July 15th, though he hasn’t taken the wheel yet in a driver’s ed car.  And I had to come to terms with the idea that, even though I shelled out more than 300 dollars to have someone else teach him to drive, I was still going to be the one riding in the passenger’s seat and cringing every time the car lurches towards oncoming traffic and hideous, painful death.

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I decided that since we were visiting Iowa where populations are shrinking and little towns like ours are dying, we might as well take advantage of nearly empty streets and lack of other drivers competing for road space.  We went to Rowan to practice driving.

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Of course I had forgotten how narrow the streets are in my little home town.  Some of the avenues can’t sustain two cars passing in opposite directions at once.  And there are more than a few junk cars, old tractors, and other wheeled things parked in the way, just begging to be hit and make a dent in our affordable insurance.

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Leave it to me to be multi-tasking while teaching the boy to drive the family battleship down the narrow streets of Rowan.  I wanted to take pictures to do this post.  I also wanted to take my mind off the depressing realization that Donald Trump will likely be the next president, and our lives will continue to go down hill as we are treated more and more like cash-generating farm animals for billionaires, corporations, and the owners of all the debt we have accrued by selfishly spending money on life’s necessities in order to keep on living.  We stopped to take a picture at the house I grew up in.  It was depressing to see that the house has not been painted since I put that blue paint on it when I was a teenager.  Dang!  I’m sixty now.  And the poor people who live there now couldn’t afford to paint it even once in the last forty-two years.

But even with all the potential distractions, we managed to practice driving and parking and driving again without any catastrophes or sudden fiery death.  We did pass the same lady walking her little white dog four different times on four different streets.  We only made a wide turn and nearly squished her dog one time.  And we only had one incident where he accidentally pressed the gas instead of the brake while the car was in reverse instead of drive.  Unfortunately, that happened on Main Street.  Fortunately, the one and only car parked on Main Street was in front of us and not behind us.  So we were successful.  An hour and a half of driving practice with no costly accidents and no blood or death.

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Stardusters… Canto Five

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Canto Five – In the Invasion-Squad Ready Room

“I truly hope that we are clear on invasion protocols this time around,” Biznap said to his reconnaissance squad.  “Last time we followed the Captain’s orders, and… ohhh, that was a mistake!”

“So what do we do better this time?” asked Farbick.  Yes, yellow skin, but Farbick got right to the heart of the matter.  It was hard not to like Farbick, even though the fact of his yellowish Fmoog skin made it necessary not to like him.

“Perhaps you better tell the rest of our team what happened last time,” suggested Biznap, “so they will know what not to do.”

“Well,” said Farbick, “it is not for me to question Xiar’s orders.  He wanted to capture a single juvenile specimen of Earth primate to evaluate for weaknesses.  It is a daunting task to conquer six billion Earther-primate people with only a handful of Tellerons and a little superior technology.  We took a simuloid who could take the shape and the place of the specimen so no one would ever miss it.  I mean, him.

“Isn’t the simuloid what we now know as Gracie Morrell?” asked the pretty young science cadet, a female Telleron called Starbright.

“Yes, that is correct.  I was there when it happened.  The simuloid rescued Gracie from death when her old Earther primate body gave out due to heart failure.  It gave itself over to Gracie’s DNA.”

“But how is that possible?  Simuloids are only supposed to copy DNA and memories once!” asked a security cadet, a male whose name Biznap didn’t even know.

“We think it happened because of the control device that Commander Sleez was holding as he disintegrated himself.”  Farbick nodded, probably because it was his theory.  That tended to make a Telleron treat something as fact, if it came from his own mind.

“We need to get back to the recon mission and what went wrong,” said Biznap.  “Tell the other stories another day.”

“Yes, the Commander is right,” said Farbick.  “We landed and captured a specimen.  We successfully replaced him with the simuloid.  And then things went really very wrong.”

Biznap knew that was an understatement.

“One of the adult Earther primates, a police officer, fought off the stasis field long enough to shoot me.  He somehow overcame the paralysis and the mind-wiper and nearly killed me.  I had to bury myself in mud for two weeks and recuperate, or I would not be here now.”

“The way Commander Sleez and Navigator Corebait aren’t here now?” asked young Starbright.

“Yes.  I am afraid they were both killed during contact with Earther primates.”

“Don’t leave out the most important mistakes,” cautioned Biznap.

“Yes,” said Farbick.  “We should never have taken young Davalon along on a mission like that.  When I was shot, he tried to find me, and so was stranded on Earth.  He would’ve died if it were not for the generosity of Alden and Gracie Morrell, two Earthers who tried to adopt Davalon as their own child.”

“He also would’ve died if I had found him,” said Biznap.  “My mission was to disintegrate the lost tadpole before he revealed our presence to all Earthers.”

“But Commander Biznap was also lucky to find an Earther primate friend,” added Farbick.  “You all know Mrs. Harmony Castille by now.”

“Oh, we definitely know her,” sighed the three cadets.  “She’s the one that makes us wear clothes.”

Farbick nodded.  Clothes apparently didn’t seem like such a terrible thing to Farbick… at least, Biznap noticed that Farbick was rarely without clothes even before the invasion of Earth.  Insecurity of a personal nature, perhaps?  Farbick’s body was more yellow than green.

“But all of that isn’t the biggest mistake of all.”  Farbick nodded sadly.

“What was?” asked all three cadets.

“It was who we chose as a specimen.  That Dorin Dobbs was probably the most dangerous Earther primate on the planet.  We got him on board this vessel and found out that he was actually so… charming, that we couldn’t keep him from contaminating every Telleron on board… except for Commander Sleez.  Everybody liked him.  His alien behaviors rubbed off on the tadpoles first and then the female science officers.  It began the rebellion that turned this spaceship into a joint Earther-Telleron mission.  Apparently now a mission to build a permanent settlement on the planet Galtorr Prime.”

Every Telleron present shuddered at the same time as that last bit of information truly sank in.

*****

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Spotted Trains

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I have had a practically life-long fascination with trains.  Where did that come from?  It came from a Methodist minister who once upon a time saved my life.

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Reverend Louis Aiken (in the cowboy hat) was a lover of HO model trains, as well as country music… and, of course, God.

My best friend growing up was a PK, a preacher’s kid.  And as we hung out and played games and got into imaginatively horrible trouble, we invariably wound up in the basement of the parsonage where his father kept his HO train layout.   I learned lessons of life in that basement in more than one way.  I have to explain all of that somewhere down line.  But for now, I have to limit the topic to what I learned about trains.  They are a link to our past.  They are everywhere. And they do far more for us than merely make us cuss while sitting and endlessly waiting at the railroad crossing.

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When visiting Dows, we absolutely had to stop and take pictures at the train station.

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This is, by my best guess, an SD40 locomotive parked at the restored train station in Dows, Iowa.

Spotting trains to take pictures of, gawk at, and totally make cow-eyes over has become a way of life to me.  When visiting Iowa, especially Mason City, Iowa, we always have to stop at the engine on display in East Park.

When I was a kid, this old iron horse was not fenced in to protect it from kids, weather, and other destructive forces.  Now, however, it is fully restored and given its own roof.  This is a 2-8-2 steam engine with two little wheels in front, eight big wheels in the middle, and two little wheels at the back (not counting wheels on the coal tender).  I have ridden on trains pulled by such a behemoth.  I love to watch the monkey gears grind on the sides of the wheels forcing steam power into the surge down the tracks.  And I can’t help being a total train nut.  Of course I don’t deny being more than one kind of nut.  But being a mixed nut is another post for another day.

 

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The Clock on the Wall

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Who in their right mind writes an essay about a clock on the wall?  Well, the “right mind” thing gives me an out.  I do watch the clock on the wall.  Especially now that I am old, and the sand in the hour glass is running out.  The clock on the wall can be quite entertaining.  Especially one like the cuckoo clock that hangs in my parents’ front entryway.  On the hour, the dancers twirl and the two goofballs in lederhosen saw away at the log they will never be able to cut in two.

My wife and I gave that clock to my parents as a gift for their 50th wedding anniversary.  We bought it in Texas and brought it on a visit back to the family farm in Iowa.  Having old German relatives as a boy, I remember waiting impatiently for the clock to strike in Great Aunt Selma’s house, anxious to see the cuckoo pop out  and the clockwork entertainment do its little mechanical show.  I’d have gladly wished on a star for the hours to pass instantly… to see the show again right away… and be older and wiser and able to do more.  Back then it seemed like older folks like Aunt Selma lived forever, with her dried-apple face and German accent.  Accumulated time seemed to have majesty and power.  It was magical.

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But now I am old.  My joints hurt every time I move.  I can’t get out of bed of a morning easily.  Parts of me that I used to take for granted no longer work.  I have forgotten what it feels like to feel good and full of energy.  The time on the face of this old clock hasn’t changed in nearly a decade.  My parents don’t keep it wound.  We no longer look forward to the clock-Kinder dancing so often.  If the clock stays forever at five after four, maybe the grim reaper won’t come knock at the door.

I have always believed that there was magic in old cuckoo clocks.  It was a simple, earnest faith in magic that only a child can truly know.  But now, as an old man, I remember.

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Filed under art my Grandpa loved, autobiography, commentary, family, feeling sorry for myself, humor, metaphor, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Doodle Burger

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Recently burger-I have been binging on drawing doodle-burgers.  Burger-I know that sounds a little bit off, but that is because it was written in Burger-burger-Speak-burger .  It-burger is easy to translate.  Burger-I have merely added the word-burger “burger”-burger to every noun-burger and pronoun-burger as either a suffix-burger or a burger-prefix.  So enjoy my recent burger-doodles and ignore my burger-burger prose-burger.

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This burger-doodle was drawn in the car-burger as burger-I have recently been visiting burger-family and have not had to do all my own driving-burger.  Burger-I drew it with pencil-burger and later went over it-burger with pencil-burger.  It-burger was inspired by a burger-guy that burger-I happened to see walking by in Belmond-burger.  It-burger is not a portrait-burger, but it-burger probably accurately reflects his inner-burger-burger-self.  Burger-Iowans are like that-burger.

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The burger-girl being hit on with flower-burgers by a burger-bunny-boy-burger was also drawn in the car-burger.  The longer burger-I look at it-burger, the more burger-I realize what a creepy cartoon-burger it-burger really is.

Burger-burger-Speak-burger is annoyingly hard to do.  And burger-I doubt that it-burger will ever be a commonly spoken language-burger.  But some fool-burgers taught themselves to speak Klingon-burger, didn’t burger-they?

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Dows, Iowa

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Bustling downtown Dows with the grain elevator in the background

There are many simple truths to be gleaned from a simple visit to the scene of your childhood.  You need every so often to get in touch with where you came from and the roots of who you are.  Dows is not the town where I grew up.  But we played them in 4-H softball, and we won almost as much as we lost to them.  It is a town near enough to my little home town to be a place that impacts who I am.

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You have no idea what this is, right?

Day before yesterday we went to Dows for a dinner with relatives.  My cousin and her second husband were there.  Her parents, my uncle who still lives on Uncle I.C.’s farm place that has been in the family for more than a hundred years, and my aunt who is going bald a bit, were also there.  We ate in a totally Pepsi-Cola-themed restaurant and had a Rueben pizza with roast beef and sauerkraut on it (talk about your total cultural potpourri!)  The experience taught me a simple lesson.  We come from a bizarre mixture of themes and things cooked together in a recipe for life that can never be repeated and cooked again for our children.

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You don’t order Coke here.

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We avoided talking about politics because Iowa is very conservative and none of us enjoy yelling at each other about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton using fact-free Fox News talking points and cow poop about how building a wall that Mexico pays for will cure all our economic problems because we all think we know how Hispanics moving into Iowa are ruining our lives.  So, instead, we talked about how Eaton’s machine tool manufacturing plant in Belmond is facing more lay-offs.

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The restored and re-purposed Dows’ Rock Island train station.

We talked about businesses that have gone out and not been replaced in the little Iowa towns around us.  We talked about how no one walks beans any more, walking the rows of soy beans to pull button weeds and cockle-burrs by hand and chop rogue corn with hoe.  We talked about how farming has gone to spraying weed-killing chemicals and factory-farming pigs instead.  It is a simple lesson in how ways of life come to an end and are not necessarily replaced with something better.

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There is an artist working on a patriotic project to put one of these in every county in Iowa.

We constantly remake ourselves as the world changes and ages around us.  Nothing lasts forever.  Life is a process of growing and withering and regrowing.  A simple word for that is “farming”.  Who we were impacts who we have become and will affect what comes after.  But we learn simple lessons from going to the places we love best and doing our dead-level best to get from there to here and move eventually to someplace beyond.  And Dows, Iowa is just one of those places… I guess.

 

 

 

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Filed under autobiography, family, farm boy, farming, feeling sorry for myself, humor, Iowa, photo paffoonies