The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My soul has been restored

I visited the loveliest village this week, and in spite of what I saw at Toomer's Corner, my soul has been restored.

I was in Auburn for a book signing at the Gnu's Room, for my novel, Those Others. While there, I visited the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, and saw an exhibit of Audubon works of birds and mammals, among other things. Oh, and this Dale Chihuly chandelier that hangs in the lobby.

At Toomer's corner, of course, I saw the once mighty oak trees now fighting for survival.

But while on campus I also discovered this tree.

Tucked in a corner of the campus Arboretum, (one of my favorite haunts when I was a student) is this tree, called the Founders Oak.

The plaque you see in the picture reads as follows.

This post oak started growth in 1850 and was 6 years old when East Alabama Male College was established. It was 33 years old when the Alabama Agricultural Station was established, 91 when the nation entered World War II, and over 100 when this site was made an arboretum. In 1975 Hurricane Eloise wreaked havoc in the arboretum but the Founder's Oak  withstood the storm. It was 150 years old at the start of the twenty-first century and is expected to be here at the start of the next century.

Also in the arboretum I saw this beautiful Pond Cypress and observed its "knees" between it and the pond.

Beautiful flowers were blooming.

I spent some time in Samford Park, of which I have fond memories. Here is Samford Hall, behind a burst of fall color.

I enjoyed the most wonderful fresh squeezed lemonade on earth.

These were the places I went to regain my sanity when college life seemed to be overwhelming. I'm glad that they are mostly unchanged (other than the oak trees on the corner) and still there for unwinding by current students.

War Eagle.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupy Bessemer (actually Birmingham)

Remember how when the Tea Party was being, I'm sorry, I won't take you back to that time.

Now we have the Occupy Wall Street protests spreading around the country.

Picture credit Diane on Facebook

This is Diane and her three rescue dogs, on the tundra near Bethel, Alaska.

She said, "The day is chill. The sentiment is solid. Find your spot. Occupy it. Even if it is only your own mind. Keep this going."

Locally, the effort started last week with just a few people.

Picture credit Occupy Birmingham on Facebook

People in Birmingham (at least Birmingham people on Facebook) have been waiting for years for something like this.

Oh yeah, what I was going to say about the Tea Party; remember when they were forming and people complained that no one knew what they stood for?  Well, I had my theory, but others determined it had to do with taxes.

People are saying the same thing about the 99% and Occupy; that they don't know what the movement stands for. Well, Rich has explained it in this Occupy Birmingham blog post.

Editorial: "What IS the 99%,  Exactly?"

I’ve seen a significant amount of misunderstanding on the concept of the claim that “we are the 99%”.  Most of the misunderstanding seems to come from skeptics as to the movement’s purpose and effectiveness (which is rather annoying, actually).  So, to combat the confusion, I thought I’d take a little bit of time to explain the concept in a little bit of depth.

Simply put, the wealthiest 1% is placed on one end of the equation, and the remaining 99% is placed on the other.  Why go after the top 1%?  Why not the top 3% or the top 10%?  The graph to the right shows that the top 1% is significantly different in terms of average household income (before and after taxes).  Their income has risen dramatically over the last 30 years while everyone else’s (the 99%)…. hasn’t.  As you can clearly see, the 1% is… special.  In effect, they made themselves “the 1%”; not the occupation movements which have sprouted all over the planet in recent weeks.

The editorial continues

We function as individuals.  Those that you see marching, protesting, and occupying have elected to do so on their own accord.  Those who are against the protesters and disagree with the occupiers are still a part of the equation and therefore the movement.  Their ideas are taken in and reviewed on the individual level and are considered just as important as everyone else’s.

Now I think that most of us understand that part of the problem lies in Washington.  For example, recently Alabama Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby both voted against President Obama's Jobs bill, thus voting against 18,800 jobs that would have been created in Alabama. Of course, the Republicans have their hands in the back pockets (where the wallet is) of corporate America, so it's all related.

Many of the occupiers have a problem with corporate funding of elections. The Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United in 2010 was the final straw for some of us.  This case held that the First Amendment protects corporate funding of political ads (and films).

Justice John Paul Stevens dissent summed up the feelings of many. Here is the conclusion of his dissent.

At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.

Others are upset at the financial crisis and resulting unemployment caused by the financial industry. And that no one has been held accountable.

Now the media is more interested in covering things like the disagreement over moving protesters out of parks (in New York) for cleaning rather than focusing on the real issues.

Regardless, there will be a protest in Birmingham (not Bessemer) Saturday at 2:00, at Railroad Park. And more than just a few people are expected. Here is part of the crowd at another Occupy Birmingham event.

Picture credit Occupy Birmingham

If you don't like your government being bought and paid for by corporations, and if you are concerned about the state of the economy and unemployment, and even if you are just concerned about the injustice caused by HB56, you should be there. After all, you ARE part of the 99%

Monday, October 10, 2011

By the grace of God

This morning I heard Joe Scarborough say, “Born Southern, by the grace of God.”

Well, I fall under that grace, I guess, having been born in Montgomery, Alabama.  A year later Rosa Parks refused to obey a bus driver and a movement was started in that city.

In 1959, we moved to Birmingham, actually to a suburb of the Magic City. A few years later, dogs and fire hoses were keeping black people at bay and churches were being bombed and little girls being killed.
And we are supposed to feel fortunate to having been born here?

“By the grace of God” is a phrase that has its modern roots in the legitimization of Christian monarchs who through Divine Right ruled over their subjects. So the phrase as applied to Southerners might infer that we have a Divine Right to the “rich heritage” and “way of life” that we Southerners enjoy.

That way of thinking is aristocratic; in fact,  it’s offensive.

Did the young black men whose lives were documented by Douglas Blackmon in “Slavery by Another Name” feel that they were “born Southern, by the grace of God?”

 Picture credit Slavery by Another Name

Are the Hispanic middle school students who were born in Marshall County and now being withdrawn from public schools convinced that they, too, were “born Southern by the grace of God?”

 Picture credit Huffington Post

Being born Southern might have some advantages, among them the good food that we enjoy, but even that has left many of us obese. By the grace of God, I guess.

 Picture credit Joe

And what about the 522 infants who died during the first year of their life during 2010 in Alabama? Yes, our infant mortality rate has improved during the past few years, but still, for over 500 babies whose mother could not access the resources to have a healthy pregnancy and child; it doesn’t seem that the grace of God was enough.

 Picture credit WAAY

The 1901 Alabama Constitution begins by “invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God.”
Is it God’s favor that has brought Alabama to where it is today;  ranking near the bottom in education, ranking among the most obese, ranking among the worst in toxic air pollution, ranks near the last in internet access. In fact, Alabama ranked 48th in overall quality of life for children, which includes issues like health care, education and poverty.

No, it is not by the grace of God that we are born Southern. In fact, it is just by chance that any of us are born anywhere. There is no divine guidance in the race of the sperm to the egg.

And that one’s place of birth should determine their chance of making it through their first year of life, their chance of receiving a good education, their chance of developing obesity (and all the health issues that come with it), the chance of living in an area with clean air and water; is unfortunate, if not immoral.

Don’t insult God by implying that what we have in the South, and in particular Alabama, is the best he has to offer.  If that were the case, I would expect our state to rank highest in quality of life issues, and we are far from that.