Aug 122017
 

August 12, 2017 — Something terrible happened today in our country, in the university town of Charlottesville, Virginia.  In times like these, we await our leaders for comfort, direction, explanation and possible condemnation.

George W. Bush stood in the middle of “The Pile” after 9/11 and shouted to the world. Ronald Reagan eloquently read the poem “High Flyer” at the memorial for the Challenger astronauts. Both men brought us together at a terrible time.

Today our President needed to comfort, direct, explain, and condemn.  And he equivocated.

I  wondered before our President spoke if he would call out the evil we’ve seen in Charlottesville over the last 24 hours. Before the violence of today, unmasked white men walked the streets of the Virginia town with torches. This is not your grandfather’s KKK.

“Monticello, ” near Charlottesville, Virginia, and home of the third President Thomas Jefferson, a man who owned slaves.

The President of the United States faced a moral test this afternoon.  Would he call out evil?  Would he whitewash is something born of racism and bigotry?

He failed the test.  In his statement, the President of all the people of the United States and territories (including Guam) chose to use the old false equivalency notion, citing an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

Here’s a portion of what he said (quote from CNN) “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides,” Trump said in a short statement from his private golf club in New Jersey. “It has been going on for a long time in our country — not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.”

What he says is the worst of false equivalency.  What does our President mean “many sides?”  What is the other side of racism and bigotry?

If you are still reading this, do you know what David Duke said today? Do you know who David Duke is?  Here’s what the former KKK leader said in Charlottesville this morning to open the “Unite the Right” rally.

“This represents a turning point for the people of this country,” said Duke in a video uploaded to Twitter by Indianapolis Star photojournalist Mykal McEldowney. “We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump. Because he said, he’s going to take our country back. That’s what we gotta do.”

Duke wants to “take our country back.”  Hmmm.  Maybe we should give all of it to the native Americans who were here first.

Our President has to speak out against this.  His silence is complicity.

Our silence is complicity. My silence is complicity. Your silence is complicity.

People tell me all the time, “I’m just not interested in politics.”  The white supremacist movement is not politics.  It is terrorism. This is our shared country, we all get to live here.  He who does not learn from history is condemned to repeat it, and we are watching the repeat of some awful parts of our history.  It is 2017, years and years and years past the time of Jim Crow.  I was seven years old when LBJ signed the civil rights legislation. Today our country seemed as eaten up by racism and bigotry as it did when I was a child. But, perhaps because of my privilege, I’m just noticing it more?  What is your story?

You need to be interested in Charlottesville and racism because it continues to tear our country apart.  If you are a white person, you likely did not experience the horrors of the Jim Crow era.   Of course,  some white people marched with Dr. King and worked on civil rights, but for most of us, it is pictured in a history book.  If you are white, even if you are poor you are a person of privilege because of the color of your skin.  Don’t believe me.  Try to hail a cab in a major city and watch what happens.

It took me awhile to understand what white privilege is about and get it through my thick head that it doesn’t mean owning a nice car.  It is about the color of your skin.  Let me say that again; it is about the color of your skin. If you are not brown, you don’t know.

I’ve told this story before, but my co-worker has been stopped three times in six months on the same rural road I use every day.  Stopped for what, you ask?  I think you know.  Have I not been stopped because I’m such a good driver?  I think not.  We are, however, people of privilege, descended from white Europeans who came to this country as immigrants for the opportunities here.  We did not come in the bottom of slave ships.  We were not First Families, original Americans who day by day, year by year, century by century lost native lands.

We must all condemn racism and bigotry.  John Pavlovitz is one of my heroes, and his words are far more eloquent than mine.  Read his piece today and come back here.

The violence today is horrible, and the intent of the event was even worse.

We must speak out against the bigotry. We must not equivocate the counter-protesters with men who showed up armed, in helmets and carrying shields.  Ask yourself again: what does that say about intent?

This morning on television I saw a line of counter-protestors, all men, and women of the clergy, men, and women representing all faiths are also represented in our country.  What courage these people showed.

We are black and white, Hindu and Muslim, Baptist and Catholic, atheist and deist, and lovely shades of brown and pillars of spirituality. We are Americans, a crazy melting pot that still offers the great opportunity and potential.

  • What can we do? We can stop bigotry when we hear it.  In our homes, in our classrooms, in our work spaces.
  • We can support the brave law enforcement officers who fight these battles every day.
  • We can make sure we stay informed and read all that we can about the facts of a situation.
  • We can teach our children that “love is love is love.”  Early today I posted a song on Facebook from “South Pacific.”  “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” reminds us that we have to learn how to hate, “before we are six, or seven, or eight.”  What have you taught your children, or your nieces or nephews, or other children in your life?
  • We can stand up those who spew hate and call it something else, like an opposing opinion.

I didn’t just fall off the turnip trucks; my parents taught me the difference between good and evil and right and wrong. None of us is perfect, but we can learn from our errors and make improvements.

The KKK, the neo-Nazis, and the white supremacists represent intentions of pure evil.  How can anyone, let alone the President of the United States, not condemn them?

Aug 052017
 

Image result for Olympia manual typewriterAugust 6, 2017 — My husband and I disagree on the exact date we met. In my enhanced version, it was August 16, 1977, the day Elvis died. Makes for a better tale. My Beloved says it was ten days earlier because I anticipated my bridesmaid role in an August 13 wedding.  I like my version better.

Either way, it’s been forty years this month since our journey began.

We met in a parking lot next to the old journalism building at Ball State University, the West Quadrangle (which was new that year, replacing the decades-old famous “journalism houses” behind the Student Center.) Randy Abbott was my ride to the college journalism workshop at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.  Col. Charles E. Savedge (see note at the end of the piece) led the workshop for yearbook staffers from all over the country.

The night before I left,  friends and I spent our evening at the Chug (see Webster’s dictionary definition of college dive bar) for Dollar Pitcher Night. It’s possible I might have been a little hung over the morning we left for Athens.

Imagine if Charles Manson channeled the lead character of “Gilligan’s Island.”  That’s how My Beloved looked the first I time I saw him. I remember, however, his Windex-clear blue eyes under the white Gilligan hat, a cap that covered his mop of black, unruly hair.  How I looked that day is his story to tell.

Gilligan stood beside his car, a vintage black Caddy sedan de Ville, with a red leather interior, broken air conditioner, and a carburetor needing occasional air from the barrel of a 19 cent Bic pen.  He asked me directions.  In his words at breakfast this morning, “You gave me directions, and then like a lazy slug, crawled into the backseat of the car and fell asleep until we got there.”

I instructed him to drive through Indianapolis (completely in the wrong direction and adding hours to the trip.)  Athens.   He was trapped in the front seat with another yearbook staffer, who regularly talked in a high-pitched voice throughout the trip while I snored in the backseat.  We arrived in Athens eight hours later, landing on a dirt road on the opposite side of the Hocking River from the campus.  (This became a long-standing pattern. Now we’ve been lost all over the US and Canada and in multiple European countries, and even Iceland.)

We figured our way over the river without a barge.  As the trip took hours longer than planned, I was miffed.  A friend heard me say, “I never want to see that SOB again,” which she lovingly repeated at our wedding rehearsal dinner seven years later.  I’m calmer now; I don’t shout profanity in public anymore.

I won’t say we are blessed because I think that presumes some arrogance, but I believe that we’re lucky.  And we are mindful on any day that luck can run out.  We’ve been married for nearly 33 years. We have a healthy, smart, funny adult son.  We laugh every single day.  Bigly.  Like every family, we’ve had our trials which I won’t bother to list, but we’ve had great joys as well.  I’m so grateful I saw “that SOB” in the parking lot.

Note: Col. Charles E. Savedge is a legend among high school and college journalists.  I first met him at a high school journalism workshop in 1974, and he was the leader of the workshop Randy Abbott and I attended in August 1977.  The link I posted reprints a 1992 “Reader’s Digest” My Most Unforgettable Character tribute to the Colonel.  Though he is long dead, he also has a Facebook page called “Chuck Savedge Yearbook Jedi Master.”

Several months after the Ohio University workshop, Col. Savedge came to Ball State for a private weekend workshop for our yearbook staff.  Mary Dale Walters and I picked him up at the Indianapolis airport, about ninety minutes from campus.  Neither of us had a car, so we borrowed Jim Grim’s 1973 white Gremlin (which featured bench seats and I am not making that up.)  Near the Pyramids on 465, we had a flat tire.  We replaced the tire (honestly, I think someone stopped and helped us, though I don’t remember.)  We kept the flat and took it back with us.  Somewhere in my college stack, I have a black and white picture taken by another workshop presenter, General Motors corporate photographer whose name I think was Herman Duehrer.  The photo shows the Colonel, Mary Dale, and me She was 19; I was 20.  The Colonel, who was always of undefined age, maybe 40 maybe 70, was incredulous.  This trip was the beginning of a close friendship with Mary Dale Walters that continues.  I am, however, grateful that I’m unaware of other pictures from that era, and grateful we didn’t have Smartphones.

The “Readers Digest” article is on page fifteen of the PDF here.

Jun 032017
 

Cross-posted on Medium — Every morning when I check the bird feeders, I see a plume from the factories on the river. What’s going into the air we breathe? Will our President’s willful rejection of the Paris Climate Accord make our environment worse?

I’ve contemplated this for years, like most people I’m fond of the elements, particularly air. I didn’t have asthma or allergies before I moved to southwestern Indiana. Even six years in humid Florida, with nature in bloom year-round, didn’t bother my breathing.

On the same day that our President announced the United States would leave the Paris Accord, I started on oxygen. I’m 59 years old. When I woke up and fed my birds, I didn’t imagine my day would end with an oxygen technician explaining tanks and regulators to me. This was something elderly people with congestive heart failure deal with, not me.

And by elderly, I don’t mean 59.

As a child growing up 300 miles from here, high heat and humidity were rarer than a rainy day in June. We didn’t have air conditioning and slept with metal fans in the hallway chugging a breeze into our bedrooms. Every window and door had a screen, and the windows stayed open unless we were on vacation.

My mom rarely used the clothes dryer in the summer. She hung sheets and towels and her children’s clothes on a clothesline, a metal pole stuck into the ground with four increasingly smaller squares of cord. A wooden bucket held wooden clothespins used to keep the items on the line. If she could lure my brother or me away from play, we folded the pieces and put into a wicker basket.

Line-dried objects smelled fresh and wonderful, a scent no miracle product has yet to capture.

Lady Bird Johnson, our First Lady, reminded us all to “Keep America Beautiful.” In elementary school, we talked conservation and natural resources. Parents warned children “Don’t be a litterbug,” a term from a 1961 Disney short featuring Donald Duck.

President Richard Nixon started the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970; the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970.

In 1971, the Keep America Beautiful campaign featured a television commercial with a native American man crying over a landscape filled with trash.

Environmental issues came to the forefront, in lockstep with banning the bomb and the Vietnam War.

Somehow, we didn’t really get the message, and we bought large homes and more than one car, often gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs.

By the time our son was born, smog was no longer something that happened only in Los Angeles.

We owned an above-ground pool we enjoyed with our son and his cousins and friends. In the pool’s later years, the morning brought a skiff of a brown substance on the surface of the water. Once that was removed, the water below was as clean as we had left it the day before.

When we no longer had a child at home, we took the pool down and put up a lilac bed.

I’m not a researcher. I don’t claim to know what comes out in the skies and earth near where I live. But I know that when I was a child or when I was raising my child, we didn’t have 25 or 30 “ozone days” a year. An “ozone day” is proclaimed by our local weather prognosticators when some magical mixture of temperature, humidity, and particulates makes the air harder to breathe. Heads up for young children, people with compromised immune systems, and those with breathing problems.

Every spring, the air is worsened by the farmers across the river who burn their fields and the smoke heads to my town, often warranting alerts by the weather folk.

For me, summer comes with dread knowing I’m hostage in my air-conditioned house and car, and now to a 24 lb. tether I’ve named Mr. Tanko. Not that climbing Yosemite’s El Capitan was on my summer bucket list, but I would enjoy sitting on my deck. That doesn’t happen anymore.

I looked up most polluted rivers and felt sick after learning the waterway two miles from my home is among the most polluted in the United States. I don’t want to live in a cave without power or the wonders of modern life, but I also don’t want us to destroy our planet. Nor do I want to be the personal consequence of our own destruction.

I’m likely preaching to the saved as my grandmother used to say, but our President flipped a giant middle finger to our planet last week. The Paris Accord is not a “deal,” it’s an accord. The dictionary definition of accord means “to be in harmony with.”

Trump’s disregard of the Paris Accord screws over the United States; he’s making a statement that we are less responsible for our planet than the other 194 countries. As for me, I’m a person of privilege who still gets clean water and has the option to stay in an air-conditioned home or car. I’ll be okay.

Our President, with his hasty and likely vengeful decision, took America out of the leadership position for clean energy and sentenced our children and grandchildren to far greater worries.

Remembering Carl Shepherd

Remarks from Carl Shepherd’s wake, May 14, 2017– Maureen asked me to share a few words tonight. My name is Amy Abbott, and I’ve known Carl for about ten years and known Maureen for nearly thirty years. The day that Carl and Maureen married was a happy day. I think everyone can agree they each […]

A Flooded Basement

Published on Medium, May 5, 2017 — A friend and her husband traveled on a cruise ship to celebrate their April birthdays. A week ago my friend’s husband died near the Bahamas. I do not wish this horror on anyone. Not do I speculate on the whys and wherefores. For the record, I don’t think things […]

On Not Being Milton and Auntie Mame

On Not Being Milton and Auntie Mame

We’ve known about the three family weddings for a year.  Three of our nephews are getting married this spring, each blessed day six weeks apart.  The first wedding is a week from today. Somehow, it evaded me that I might need to have something to wear to these special family events.  My Beloved bought new Florsheim’s […]

Meeting Elton John

Meeting Elton John

March 25, 2017 — Today is Elton John’s 70th birthday.  I’ve been a fan since I was a young teenager and am still a fan.  Randy and I have been fortunate to attend two Elton John concerts, one in Tampa, and the other at the old Roberts Stadium in Evansville. Early in my career when most […]

A 1967 Christmas

This is an old but goodie from my book, “Whitley County Kid,” (available on Amazon).  The time and some descriptions have been changed to protect identity, but the gist of the story from my childhood is true.  And bears retelling every year. In the 1960s, I was an elementary school student. My primary concern each […]

A Democratic Endorsement from a Former Republican

A Democratic Endorsement from a Former Republican

I’ve loved politics since I was a small child.  I am a Baby Boomer, born in 1957, smack dab in the middle of the Boom after World War II, during the Eisenhower administration. My parents were “cloth-coat” Republicans, moderate in all things. (The term cloth coat Republicans came from Pat Nixon’s trip to China, where […]

These Winter Months, An Anthology

These Winter Months, An Anthology

Every life experiences loss.  Those with two parents for much of adulthood are blessed. Writer Anne Born pulled together a collection of essays about the loss of a parent during  adulthood. I am fortunate to have an article included, which I’m reprinting below. If you have lost a parent in your adulthood or have a […]

Jim Cantore, Hurricane Elena,  and the Stuff of Nightmares

Jim Cantore, Hurricane Elena, and the Stuff of Nightmares

August 31, 2016 — I rarely take a vacation by myself.  After a visit to a writer’s conference last spring, I experienced the benefits of a retreat. Getting away alone to read and write for a few days recharged my batteries.  It’s been a long, hot summer and I need a break.  On a whim, I […]

Lowered Standards

Lowered Standards

August 26, 2016 — I don’t like to cook.  Yes, I sincerely mean it.  Being in a partnership means I have my share of responsibility for our food. Frankly, I have about one miserable failure a month. I learned the hard way early in life that you shouldn’t put Saran Wrap in the oven. The […]

My mother's wedding rings

My mother’s wedding rings

August 14, 2016 — My mother’s hands intrigued me.  While she had long, slender fingers, Mom’s hands were smaller than mine and much smaller than her mother’s. My dad gave her a small diamond engagement ring at Christmastime 1954.  She wore it until her 2012 death, and I don’t remember her ever removing it. She […]

Lost Again, But This Time in Comfort

Lost Again, But This Time in Comfort

Last weekend, without any forethought, I recreated the day my husband and I met nearly forty years ago. We met on an early, sticky August 1977 morning in the parking lost of the West Quad building at Ball State University. Both of us had partied with friends the night before; we were both mourning break-ups. […]

Perspective

Perspective

July 6, 2016 — Over the weekend, we watched a TV show that features people hunting for a perfect private island. A couple, Larry and Lubya, toured three islands near Fiji, with a realtor.  Each island had fantastic views. Who can imagine purchasing an island for several million dollars? No wonder these shows are popular; most of […]

Gays and Guns and Grief

Gays and Guns and Grief

June 15, 2016 — I  have not been this angry and sad in a long time. The events of early Sunday morning in the Orlando nightclub Pulse stay right with me, in my heart and mind. I can’t stop thinking about the 49 dead young people and their grieving families, who are forever changed. I […]

3 Hackneyed Pieces of Advice for New Grads

3 Hackneyed Pieces of Advice for New Grads

So I’ve grabbed you with my pithy headline. Not so much? Likely I’ve attracted your 50-plus mother. She’s reading with pink rhinestone readers she bought at Costco. She sat next to me — stifling hot in a black mortarboard and gown — on a humid May day in 1979. Like your mom, I’ll never give a […]

Irreverent travel advice from an unsophisticated rube

Irreverent travel advice from an unsophisticated rube

June 1, 2016 — With the kids grown, the dog dead, and the mortgage whittled down, midlife tourists are off to exotic locations this summer. As an unsophisticated rural dweller, I’ll shares experiences from mistakes made and lessons learned. June 1 is the official start of the Rube Travel season. Middle-aged men pack Sansabelt pants, while […]

When you want to dislike your father’s girlfriend, but she’s lovely

We were in the Detroit airport, ready to board our flight to Rome. My cell phone rang. Figured it must be an emergency, as we headed over the pond. It was my father, so I answered immediately.  “What’s wrong?” “Nothing,” he said.  “I just want to talk to you about something.” “Okay, but we’re boarding […]

Where Are They Now? Ms. White and Crew

Where Are They Now? Ms. White and Crew

May 14, 2016 — Yes, it’s me, Snow White. Do you remember I won an Oscar in 1939? Child star Shirley Temple presented Walt Disney a special Oscar for his first film-length animated feature “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”   Seven small duplicate Oscars accompanied the larger one. The diminutive Oscars were for my dear […]