Tuesday, May 31, 2005

And on the last day of the month, comes the poem

Our son just turned 18. Probably the reason this poem showed up when I sat down to write something for the last day of the month.

Exporting Democracy

After the bullet, comes the fall,
the scuffle of dry sand as a body drops,
the legs gone limp and the heart angrily racing;
the tan is stained with red --
life fades, another conscript dies,
all noise and shouting turns to silence,
all meaning and direction gone to black.

This is no battle won, no message sent,
no ideals and honor brought to a new people.
This is a only a shout of anger and power,
sung by lost leaders
and heard as an empty dirge over foreign skies.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Private Citizen

The term 'private citizen' is an oxymoron.

This was part of our pastor's theme yesterday, probably the most political of his career with us. There is no such thing as a private citizen. To be a citizen is to be an active member of the social structure, to be someone who works to help others and participates fully in civil and social discourse. There is nothing private about it. Further, to be a Christian citizen means acting for the common good. He quoted Isaiah’s admonition to his readers: don’t just go to worship on Sunday. It means nothing. Go out into the world, feed the hungry, help the sick and dying, raise up the downtrodden – then you may come to worship and tell me about it.

To take Isaiah even further: don’t be putting the ten commandments on the courthouse wall and believing this makes you a Christian citizen.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Birthdays and Holidays

From CBS Early Morning this morning: Las Vegas is the ‘most requested’ travel destination for the Memorial Day weekend.

So the most popular location to spend a few days is a booming town in the middle of the desert that features gambling as its largest industry.

I hope many of those travelers are selecting this destination because it is a central hub to visit national parks, and that flights and hotel rooms are cheap. Wishful thinking?

Today is Andrew’s 18th birthday. On the same day, our daughter Erin is moving to Atlanta – for four months, or for 7 months, depending upon myriad variables – where she and her fiancĂ©, Frank, will set up home. And this morning, Pam is in robe and square hat as part of the Community College faculty for graduation. A day charged with emotional transitions.

We all come together at 6PM for Andrew’s birthday picnic with friends and neighbors. After dinner, we will visit the Saratoga Racino. After all, you can gamble once you turn 18 in this country….Our travel destination for Memorial Day weekend.

So? We’ll have fun with the irony of it all.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Graduation Lines

Graduation season. Plenty of speeches before audiences with robes and square hats. I attended my alma mater's graduation because I get to play a role; our speaker was an archeologist (should I say, dig it? Nah) who started out by telling the students that they were entering a dangerous world. Not a sentiment that would fill me with confidence as I got my hard-earned degree.

Here's something more energizing, from Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund, who spoke at Colgate University:
  • Don’t feel entitled to anything you haven’t sweated or struggled for.
  • Set thoughtful goals.
  • Don’t wait around for someone to direct what you do. Take the initiative yourself.
  • Don’t work just for money.
  • Don’t be afraid of risk or criticism.
  • Take parenting and family life seriously.
  • Listen for the genuine in yourself.
  • Never think life isn’t worth living.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Gender Gap

The World Economic Forum has issued its latest report on gender equity in various world countries, “Women’s Empowerment: Measuring the Global Gender Gap.” The report ranks countries according to how women have achieved full equality with men in five categories:

*economic participation
*economic opportunity
*political empowerment
*educational attainment
*health and well-being

As you might expect, other countries far outstrip the United States in many of these categories. Overall, we rank 17th out of the 58 countries studied. Our strength is in educational attainment, where we rank 8th; we lag in economic opportunity (46) and health and well-being (42). Economic opportunity in America is hindered by a lower level of upward mobility for women, and because of the paucity of paid leave programs for parents in the U.S. Apparently, there are many variables that affect health and well-being; but it is still surprising that our infant mortality rate is higher than many western European countries.

My interest is in the political empowerment category. I have written elsewhere on the issue of women in government, and my belief that we would be better served by a more balanced gender ratio in government. The United States ranks 19th in this category. According to one report, only 15.6% of the combined parliamentary bodies in the world are women. As the report states:

The absence of women from structures of governance
inevitably means that national, regional and local
priorities—i.e. how resources are allocated—are
typically defined without meaningful input from women,
whose life experience gives them a different awareness
of the community’s needs, concerns and interests from
that of men.

I couldn’t have put it better. For more, you can review the report here.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Economic Politics in the Park

During any campaign season, political signs sprout on a small local park in the village. The signs can be seen from three converging village streets and a major two-lane road with a traffic light. Our school budget vote is on Tuesday, and there are two contested seats on the Board of Education. So naturally, the park has the usual array of campaign signs.

Buried among these signs is a small white sign, about two feet high, with one simple utterance in clear block letters: “Employers are Greedy Misers.”

Not sure how that person wants us all to vote on Tuesday.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Graduation Day, Lycoming College

Warm blue sky. Green walkway to the dais. Blue seats. Pale blue diploma covers. Green lawn. Pale green buds on some trees, fully green leaves on others. A cherry tree in white blossoms. An occasional bluster of wind.

Young 20s in black robes; yellow, blue and black wide stripes on their graduation hoods. Smattering of yellow, red, blue ropes on some necks, along with yellow pins and mixed medals. Black morterboards and tassles.

Red brick buildings surround the quad. Plenty of color in the audience dress. Silence, cheering, clapping. The band plays for procession through the gates, onto the quad green. Throngs stand, cameras click and blink. Quiet greetings from those in the fringe rows.

Silent prayer. A spiritual from the choir. The Star Spangled Banner (!). Greetings, retirement announcements, doctoral awards, a speech from an archeologist and educator. A graduating senior from Elmira, who read a poem she wrote four years ago for high school graduation.

I spent time away, while sitting in my folding chair: staring at the blue sky, framed by swaying green branches. The chapel bell chimed at the hour and half-hour, sending warm tones into the sun-soaked sky – enhancing, rather than interrupting, the words at the dais.

I am one of three people who stand on the dais and shake each grad's hand: the Presidents of the College, Trustees, and Alumni Board. Even while shaking 320 hands, I was still rapt by the colors, the warmth, the aura of spring in full dress. We were three men with white hair, shaking the hands of 20-year-olds. Quite the sight, I’m sure.

Four parents got to hand diplomas to their graduating children. One father walked off with the diploma, after he and his daughter got mixed up trying to rescue her morterboard in the wind.

Marco did the benediction, and we were lining up to recess back through the crowd and their folding chairs. We all disperse from there, scattered among the tents with their lemonade, iced tea and cookies. I chatted with professors Larson, Roskin, Williamson, Piper…Still nice to be part of the institution.

Better, still a wonderful place to spend a spring afternoon, gazing at the sunswept blue sky.