Advertisements

Trump on Mother’s Day

There was nothing going on Sunday but Mother’s Day and the latest re-hashings of that complicated story about President Donald Trump firing the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, so we chose to spend the morning and the early afternoon with Mom. All in all, it proved the far better choice.
She and Dad started worshipping at Riverwalk after our family’s congregation had folded and back when we weren’t so diligent about weekly worship, then went off to the Philadelphia in pursuit of Dad’s career and wound up involved in the many good charitable works of a Church of Christ there, and in the meantime we desperately re-connected with that much smaller and older Church over on West Douglas. Mom and Dad have joined us there for worshipping and found it reassuringly familiar, so much like the church where they were married and where we once served as a ring-bearer at a cousin’s also very happy marriage, and although there’s usually an Arkansas River and a full hour dividing our Holy Communion it was nice to share it with Mom. She’s the reason that dad worships every Sunday, and her and our Dad’s combined example is the reason we continue to do so, too, even if it’s over that Arkansas River Bridge and deep in to Delano, and there’s no doubting that Mom’s mother was mostly responsible for that. The subject of the sermon was honor they Father and Mother, and given our family history that seems wise counsel on almost any old weekend, and we took it to heart
Dad wasn’t there because he’s recently had some pretty serious spinal surgery, which also involved a neurosurgeon, which worried us plenty, Dad being such a great guy, but he seemed in high spirits when we and Mom joined him apres church, and very much abreast of the latest developments in that Trump and Russia thing, when we met him for a lunch in the health care unit of his very nice retirement home. The lunch wasn’t bad, by semi-hospital standards, and he was in such a good mood that he encouraged us to take Mom out for an afternoon of Wichita culture. Mom had already introduced us to the local arts and music and all the test of the surprisingly rich culture rich traditions of Wichita, Kansas, so it was a delight to drive her over in her fancy care to the WAM’s annual art and book fair. There was a nice collection of pieces from the permanent collection chosen by some of our fine local artists, that internationally iconict and perfect-for-Mother’s-Dy painting by Mary Casatt of a mother and infant child, and we also had a chance to introduce our Mom to a couple of very idiosyncratically Wichita women of our more secular acquaintance.
Before we headed home we warned our Dad that the whole Russian thing with Trump and Russia seems to be closing in on Trump, based on the foreign and and non-cable news we follow, even though we share his hope that it’s all fake news. No matter how that turns out, it was a a great day with Mom and we’ll give thanks next Sunday over on West Douglas.

— Bud Norman

Advertisements

An Almost Trump-Free Weekend

Saturday somehow had top-down driving weather here in our portion of the plains, and although Sunday was more typically February it featured a fine sermon at our low church and some high culture at the civic center where the Wichita Symphony and the Wichita Musical Theater teamed up on a terrific performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel, which was followed by a taped-delayed watching of the Wichita State University Wheatshockers reeling off another impressive victory on the road against a surprisingly tough Loyola-Chicago Ramblers squad. All in all it was a pleasantly apolitical weekend, but of course there’s no avoiding the news altogether.
We logged on to our Facebook page to keep up with a dear friend’s ongoing cancer treatments, and although that news was guardedly good we also came across countless screeds about the Trump administration. Among our Facebook friends are an unaccountable number of irritable lefties, who are predictably irritated by anything Trump, and the more astute of conservative friends are more carefully expressing their own reservations, and nobody was arguing that America is being made great again. Our cursory glance at our usual news sources from the left to the right were no more encouraging, with plenty of stories giving Trump’s critics on either side something to be understandably annoyed about.
The Cable News Network and The Washington Post both claimed confirmation that Trump’s national security advisor, Gen. Michael Flynn, was in contact with the Russian government during the campaign that all the intelligence agencies allege the Russians were trying to influence, just like that dossier full of salacious but unconfirmed sex allegations alleged, and so far the Trump spokespeople haven’t categorically denied it. Flynn already had controversial ties to the Russian government that included his appearances on the dictatorship’s propaganda network and featured seating at Russian state dinners, and his son was kicked off the Trump transition team for “tweeting” about that crazy “pizza gate” scandal, and his presence on the National Security Council along with former alt-right internet publisher Steve Bannon while the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs was unprecedentedly kicked off had already made for much comment on both the left and the formerly supportive right.
Trump’s more reliable mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway was meanwhile using her airtime on those Sunday shows where Trump says he gets his news to pitch First Daughter Ivanka Trump’s overpriced line of shoes and jewelry, which has lately been discontinued by the Nordstrom’s chain of department stores, which Trump has angrily “tweeted” about. Sears and K-Mart have also discontinued the line, but so far haven’t suffered the wrath of a presidential “tweet.” A few hearty souls endeavored a defense of Trump, most of them nostalgically recalling the time President Harry Truman publicly berated a music critic who panned the presidential daughter’s vocal recital, which was by all accounts awful, but it’s hard to see how that’s making America great again and those questions about the president’s on-going business deals and how they might intersect with his foreign policy remain, and we’re still wondering why Trump seems so darned smitten with Russia’s dictator.
Over at the admirably conservative and still mostly NeverTrump National Review they’re noting that the left’s reaction has gone beyond understandable irritation and well into full-blown tin-foil-hate conspiracy-theorizing paranoia, which is a point well taken, but they’re obliged to admit that Trump’s own rhetoric of Bush-lied-people-died and Obama-was-born-in-Kenya and his electoral victory was rigged haven’t elevated the level of political discourse. One of Trump’s rich buddies went on videotaped record to blame it all on Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Preibus, who used to be the Republican Party’s national chairman and was reviled by Turmp’s most fervent supporters as one of them damned establishment Republican-in-name-only types, and we expect that storyline to spread out over the next few days. The popular storyline that the no-record-in-public-serve-at-all Trump is the one who “in over his head,” as that rich Trump buddy described Preibus, will also probably persist.
We’ll hope there will be warm days and gospel sermons and fine concerts and Shocker victories and healthy Facebook friends to get us through it all, and try not to succumb to either paranoia or false hope.

— Bud Norman

Harold “Cotton-Pickin'” Dills, RIP

Judging by the latest Nielsen ratings and pop charts and presidential polls, such virtues as honesty, humility, kindness, faith, and basic human decency are no longer in fashion. All the more reason we’re going to miss Harold Dills, who died Monday after a long and courageous struggle with cancer at the age of 78, which was far too young and and yet old enough to have brought him to a time when he was something of an anachronism.
Dills was much loved in his hometowns of Cullowhee, North Carolina and Edmond, Oklahoma, and widely admired in the construction industry that has lately built the greater Oklahoma City area into such up-to-date shape, and he never minded a bit that the rest of the world had never heard of him. Fame never had any appeal for him, and he only desired a sufficient fortune to provide a good life for his family, and the love of his family and the respect of the people he dealt with and the laughs he got in along the way were always reward enough for his efforts.
The small town boy joined the Air Force after graduating from high school, probably with hopes of seeing the world, but he wound up at Tinker Field in Oklahoma City. It turned out to be one of those lucky breaks that occasionally come the way of small town boys, though, as he met a woman named Claudette Patten and fell madly in love with her, got married and started learning the construction trade from his father-in-law, a great guy who knew everything there was to know about bending sheet metal. Three children soon followed, and a company of his own to pay for their upbringing, and he even wound up rooting for the Sooners and otherwise becoming a contented Okie.
Claudette Dills was our cousin, although our mom’s parents had spread their four daughters out over 21 years and as the oldest daughter of the oldest sister she was the same age as our Aunt Buzzy, which was plenty confusing to our younger selves, especially because Claudette had the same matriarchal bearing as our Aunt Fredia and always seemed more of an aunt to us, which means that Claudette and Harold’s three children are second cousins or grand-cousins or cousins once removed or something, these things being quite confusing even to our older selves, although their children always seemed cousins, and like to call us “cuz.” This made Harold Dills a sort of uncle to us, because in our family anyone who marries in is as good as blood, and he always treated us with an avuncular affection.
Somewhere along the way he had acquired the nickname “Cotton-Pickin’,” which struck our brothers and us as downright hilarious, and we’d always like to tease him that “You’re ‘Cotton-Pickin’,” and he’d laugh and poke our boyish bellies and say “No, you’re cotton pickin’,” and he’d always indulge us this comedy routine until we grew tired of it and ran off to loudly play with his children. He liked our other jokes, too, or at least pretended to, and would share some good clean ones with us, and he never seemed to mind all the high-pitched child revelry at the family get-togethers. Always sweet and sunny and smiling, with no harsh words for anyone, he seemed the most likable guy in our world.
As we grew older, we came to appreciate he was even more than that. We watched with admiration as his ACP Sheet Metal Company — the initials standing for “Another Cotton-Pickin'” — grew into a thriving business. When the Oklahoma City economy was going through its oil-driven booms he got his share of the sheet metal business by offering quality work at fair prices, and when the inevitable oil-driven busts came along he continued to prosper as the fly-by-night operators were exposed. The small town boy proved a remarkably shrewd businessman, and we don’t mean that in the modern sense of someone who can successfully hoodwink others, but in the old-fashioned small town sense of someone shrewd enough to understand that meeting the requirements of a mutually-beneficial contract is not only the right thing to do but also the smart play over the long run.
Harold Dills was also the kind of guy who would do the right thing even if wasn’t the smart play to make, and he generously shared his prosperity with his church, the needy in his community, and just about anyone he encountered who could use a helping hand. Over the long run that seemed to work out for him, as well. His son Jay learned all the hard math and makes a good living for a gorgeous wife and the cutest little girl you’ve ever seen as an engineer. His daughter Patrice Douglas became a lawyer, has served the state of Oklahoma well in a variety of capacities, made a run for congress that fell short but was honorably run, and her own good-looking kids are going off to the sorts of schools you need good grades and high test scores to get into. His other son, Nathan, has fought the local meth dealers as a state attorney and now runs the family business, and provided some more promising grandchildren. More importantly to “Cotton-Pickin’,” they’re all good people.
He remained madly in love with Claudette through 47 years of marriage until her death a few years ago, and despite his grief he was pleasantly surprised to find that a prosperous fellow with wholesome Andy Griffith good looks and a sunny disposition and a reputation for rock-solid integrity attracted the attention of all the local women of a certain age, and he wound up getting married to Linda, the best of them, who was quickly welcomed into the family and much appreciated for the joy she brought to his life. He also got to do some of that world travel that the Air Force hadn’t provided, and the pictures of him riding a Venetian gondola reveal a very surprised satisfaction, and he meticulously restored a couple of old Model A automobiles that he used to take the grandchildren out for ice cream, and had good seats for the NASCAR races that he’d loved since his boyhood days in the pre-Junior Johnson era of the sport. He didn’t even seem to mind that the rest of the world more admired the latest smutty set sit-coms and narcissistic pop stars adorned with bling, or that one of America’s political parties would point to the business his hard-work and hard ethics had created and say “You didn’t build that” or chalk it all up to the “white privilege” of a sheet metal-bending boy from the hills of North Carolina, or that the other party is offering up a narcissistic pop star adorned with bling who made his much bragged-about fortune by shorting all the contractors who built the buildings with his name trumpeted on top.
Harold Dills was beloved by his family and respected by the people he dealt with, and he knew that in the long run that was the better deal. When we learned of his diagnosis we sent him a long e-mail telling him that he would be in our prayers, and we took the opportunity to tell him why we considered him a great man. His short reply arrived a few minutes later, telling us that he very much appreciated the prayers but thought all that “great man” stuff was a bunch of hooey. With all due respect, we will have to disagree.
Making America great again can’t be achieved by even the the least humble strong men, but will require a whole lot more men like Harold Dills, and those good ol’ Okie boys who offered us a helping hand when we encountered some car trouble on the way to the funeral, and all the rest of that diminishing stock of men who do the right thing even when it doesn’t seem the smart play. We’re not sure where they’ll come from, what with all the kids being raised by Baby Mommies and Baby Daddies and on what’s on TV and the pop charts and the presidential races, but we hope that something of Harold Dills’ goodness will somehow persist. Those grandkids of his are a very promising lot, and we’ll try to do our best by providing some avuncular kidding and clean jokes and good advice at the family get-togethers, and never raising a fuss about the high-pitched childhood revelry, and letting them know what great men this country once knew.

— Bud Norman

u

On a Horrible Tragedy and Its Opportunities

Wednesday’s murders of nine innocent people as they gathered together to worship God in an historic Charleston, South Carolina, church is an incomprehensible tragedy. For some, of course, it is also an opportunity to push political agendas that are better considered in less emotional circumstances.
Already there is the usual clamoring for more laws restricting the right to gun ownership, which follows each of the all-too-frequent mass killings that occur in this country. President Barack Obama took a few moments out of his busy schedule of fund-raising to make the familiar pitch, falsely asserting that such tragedies are unique to America before backpedaling a bit and stating that they’re simply more common here, which might or might not be true and in any case cannot be explained by the Second Amendment. The causes of such senseless slaughter are not easily understood, nor are any solutions readily apparent, and society’s ongoing efforts to grapple with the problem should be based on facts and logic rather than even the most justifiable outrage, but those of us who believe that every citizen has a natural right to arm himself against such ineradicable dangers, and that gun laws frequently prove counter-productive, will have to hope that cooler heads once again prevail.
In this awful case all nine murder victims were black, their murderer was white, the motive was apparently a severely psychotic racism, and that unusual circumstance of course raises all sorts of issues and plenty of opportunity for an appeal to raw emotion.
Those who advocate for additional penalties against “hate crimes” have predictably seized the opportunity to make their case. There’s no denying that a long-simmering race hatred is an especially odious reason to commit murder, compared to the monetary fits of passion or sense of desperation of simple lack of moral reasoning that are far more often the cause, but the results are always the same and the reasons are never clear and the legal ramifications of trying to make such distinctions are problematic and best assessed dispassionately. The “hate crimes” advocates always seize on the most horrific cases, such as the murder of Wyoming youth Matthew Shepard ,which might or might not have been motivated by anti-homosexual animus, or the brutal death of black and blameless James Byrd by being chained and dragged from a pickup truck driven by some severely psychotic racists, but such unusual stories seem to undermine their arguments. In Shepard’s case the killers were sentenced to two consecutive life prison sentences without the possibility of parole, spared the death penalty only by means of a plea agreement that the victim’s parents supported, and in Byrd’s case the less culpable killers were given similarly life-long sentences and the ringleader’s death warrant was duly signed by Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who nonetheless was subjected to attack ads during his subsequent presidential campaign that featured the victim’s daughter saying he was insufficiently tough on “hate crimes” because he had refused to sign legislation that would attach those unspecified  tougher penalties. Our recent experience of staunchly conservative and Christian and death-penalty imposing South Carolina suggests that its juries and judges will take an equally strong stand against anyone who walks into a church and murders nine innocent people who have gathered to worship God, for whatever reason he might have, and whatever color he and his victims might be. The case for adding additional penalties to distinguish the victim from the other equally-bereaved murdered should also be considered by facts and logic rather than emotion.
This senseless murder of nine innocent black people by a severely psychotic white racist comes at a particularly inopportune moment in America’s race relations, as well, and those who are intent on further roiling the country haven’t been able to resist that ripe opportunity. Those who allege that white America at large is severely and psychotically racist and prone to murder, from the oh-so-respectable staff of Salon.com to that angry black woman who heckled a Cable News Networks’ white reporter and black commentator during their attempt at a broadcast, the tragedy in Charleston is a satisfying verification of their most long-simmering prejudices. There are indeed plenty of psychotically racist white people out there, as the sickening comments section on one of the media reports shows, but the facts are that a black American is far more likely to die at the hands of some impassioned or desperate or morally impaired black man than because of a severely psychotic white racist, and logic and moral reasoning suggests that this tragic fact should also be given society’s most deliberate and dispassionate consideration, so those of us who truly believe that all lives matter will once again have to hope that cooler heads prevail. In the meantime we will mourn the victims of this terrible crime, pray that the God they had gathered to worship will be merciful to their souls, and keep faith our justice system will be true to its stern purpose.

— Bud Norman