Bingo!

The airways, the newspapers, and our very own blogosphere are filled with chatter about 1st Amendment rights especially the freedom of speech and expression.  Yes, it is an important issue to all sides of the conversation from left to centrist to right.  But, should it be stirring up such controversy and baiting?cropped-patriots1.png

We have always had this right since the inception of our Bill of Rights.  It has been there regardless of whether the interpretations have been handed out by the Supreme Court of the United States or Joe Blow from Yakima. The Preamble states that these inalienable rights have been granted by the Creator under the heading of LIFE, LIBERTY & PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.  Take notice!  The “C” in Creator is capitalized.  That means this Creator is not just any creator but, THE CREATOR.  That makes the reference special.  It does not matter if you believe in my version of a creator, Tom Jefferson’s version or your very own personal version which could be that amoeba from way back in the primordial slime eons ago.  Freedom of speech and expression has always been ours, yours and mine,  since its creative inauguration.  Accordingly, it is our, yours and mine, responsibility to grab onto it, cherish and protect it .

Problem is that some folks believe theirs should take priority over ours.  Theirs is better, more godly.  Maybe theirs has usurped passages from scriptures or maybe theirs is founded on outdated traditions, or maybe theirs is simply some cockamamie interpretation of what grandpappy preached as truth.  It matters not because, as much as we would like to deny this, theirs is as valid as ours.  What has heretofore saved our civilization from annihilation is that we collectively employ  a conscience as a navigation system to pick through the varying ideas regarding freedom and for the most part have used that guidance judiciously.

Here comes the glitch.  My conscience guidelines could be light years away from the conscience of another.  So what do we do?  Well, we could all pull out our placards, put on our marching shoes, exercise our shouting voices and stand face to face to those with whom we disagree.  That’s not a bad thing, actually it is a good thing when we also cover our hearts with another characteristic which is not inherent, it needs to be nurtured and practiced.  That trait is civility.

I can oppose your viewpoint by letting you know that you are the biggest asshole in the world, call you names which would make my mother ashamed, and raise a fist to your nose hoping to duck any fists you could raise to me.  Lately, that seems to have become the American way.

Or I can exercise my abilities as a statesman and simply say, “Sir/Madam, I hear your point of view, I honor your right to express it, and I respectfully disagree.  Now, please hear my viewpoint.”

I believe that this is how great leaders and statesmen of the past have conducted life and achieved greatness for America.  They did not wear red hats or pump fists.  They did not tweet infantile insults at those who disagreed with them.  No, if responses were necessary to protect their freedom of speech or expression,  it was normally,  “I hear your assessment and I respectfully disagree. Now, hear mine.”

Civility.  It goes a long, long way in resolving issues and conflicts.  I freely admit that I also need a refresher course in civility basics now and then.  I am not immune to the name-calling and drama which has become a normative feature of today’s political discourse.  Ultimately, I want civility in my life because it lays a foundation for my primary objectives of “clean and serene” while trekking through God’s universe.

“Count to 10 before you open your mouth.”  Those words spoken by a very wise old man to me as a rebellious, young know-it-all hold a vast reservoir of  wisdom when practiced out of respect for others as well as myself.

“When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.”  Proverbs 10:19

It seems that the disagreement over what is tolerable under free speech and expression is the vehemence, hatred, and violence which some are claiming as protected under 1st Amendment rights.  How can it be?  We can all talk about every issue until the cows come home and agree to disagree, but you threatening me and my family through words or actions with physical aggression or death because I do not think, talk, act, nor smell the same as you cannot possibly be what the Creator nor our founding fathers had in mind when they spoke of our inalienable rights. If so , then mankind is definitely not destined to be the enlightened species capable of unfathomable love and compassion as we have envisioned.

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NEWS FROM GABBY GRAYWHISKERS: howdy, howdy

I sure do appreciate the opportunity to entertain all of you with my rants and raves and plain ole drivel.  My creator, LarryPaulBrown, says he is a weary old man who needs a break from all the twaddle that passes as news and all the news that is nothing but twaddle.  I asked him what the hell “twaddle” was and he advised me to look it up in the Merriam Webster.  Actually what he said was, “Doofus, there’s a dictionary on the desk; use it.”

I’m not sure how long he will be in a bad mood, but, from the looks of the political scene, it could be a long time.  Now, as for me, I ain’t the brightest bulb on the string, but I know fer a fact some of them old farts in Washington DC got less sense than my jackass standing yonder in the pasture.  Maybe we can talk about it sometime.

You may have read a few of my guest posts over the past few months.  What’s that you say?  Don’t remember em?  Probably just as well.  Larry asked me to clean up my act a little bit since his readers is nice, proper folks who don’t appreciate swearing and dirty talk.  “Well hell,” I says, “ain’t nothing wrong with a little naughtiness once in a while.”  He says he’s gonna keep an eye on me.

So, afore we get started, I thought a cute lil joke would be a good icebreaker.

There was this old farmer who lived alone with his aging daughter.  She was none too bright and  downright ugly.  The farmer was concerned about what would happen to her when he passed on to his glory.  So, one day a smiling, horny, vacuum salesman stopped by.  The farmer noticed that his daughter was taking a hankering to the handsome man.  So, he hatched a plot to trap the salesman into having sex with and then marrying his aging daughter……whaaaaat?  You’ve already heard this one?  Ok, let’s just move on.

I ain’t no big fan of restaurant eating these days.  Especially them fast-food places like McDonalds and Burger King.  Ok, so you order a deluxe burger, fries, and a pie.  You look at the register and it’s telling you $6.49.  Then you say, “and a large Coke, please.”  All  of a sudden that total is $10.49.

“Miss, I think you made a mistake.  $4 for a Coke?”

She looks at ya like you just escaped off the turnip truck, people behind you are grumbling, your wife is fussing and you just tuck tail and fork over $11.00.

“Sir, would you like to donate the change to the Whasahootsitz Childrens’ Fund?”

“Hell no,” I fire back to her and then notice the big bubba standing aside me in a wife-beater shirt glaring down my skinny little shoulders.

“No, miss, but I sure would love to donate $5 to the little angels of Whasahootsitz.”

All’s well that ends well. YessireeBob.  Now you might ask, “But, Gabby, what about your wife?  You didn’t order anything for her.”

Y’all don’t know my wife.  Truthfully, I don’t know her anymore ever since she had that change of life thing.  I know now why they call it change of life cause my life has sure as hell changed over the past few months.  Just a fussin and bitchin about everything.  She don’t want sex then accuses me of having an affair because we don’t have sex anymore.  Go figure.  And you ask what has that got to do with eating at Burger King?

“Have it your way.”  Remember that jingle from years ago?  She was in one of her pissy moods, I starting singing “have it your way” and now she won’t eat at Burger King.  I don’t get it.  C’mon, men have change of life issues too, I mean, let’s get honest.  Plumbing don’t work like it used to, more hair growing out of the ears than on top of the head and how about that libido, guys?  It don’t go away, it just gets put on the back burner to simmer on and on and on…….and on.

Hey, did ya hear the joke about the old farmer who had a gay bull?

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silver lining

silver lining

Hello from Florida, the land of the powerless and sweat-soaked.  Nice to be back.  I once again have AC and internet.  Yes, those conveniences were missed, but, the days without them forced an adjustment in daily chores and in priority thinking.  Neighbors helping neighbors, people being courteous, washing dishes in the sink, turning t-shirts inside out for another day’s wear, and cooking campfire coffee somehow take a man back to the truly important things in life.  Providing for basic comforts and needs is relearned from a childhood spent dealing with the capriciousness of farm life.  Summers without adequate rainfall meant sponge baths in the sink instead of a tub bath because the scant water supply was needed for the livestock; a poor corn crop meant no  new school clothes; sinking commodity prices meant repairing the old worn out refrigerator rather than buying a new one and making the 20 year-old-tractor last another year.

My grandfather and great-grand father with whom I lived as a child knew a hard life.  Farming was never accredited with the appropriate respect for the risks taken to provide food for their families and the city folks.  There were no guarantees back then on investment return and we were all called hicks and hayseeds.  But my forefathers were as dedicated to their life’s calling as any college degreed professional.

They were devout men.  They were earnestly sincere, devoted, godly, reverential, genuine, ardent, and true.  They were not religious although they supported the local church and its ministries.  They were pacifists who rejected the ideology of war and the country’s war machine.  They quietly raised their families to be loving and compassionate.

When times like this past week enduring hurricane Irma strike and force us to our knees, I catch glimpses of many years ago living in better times in a benevolent community of godly people that understood who they were and what their purpose was on earth.  The religious pomposity and hypocrisy we witness in today’s sects can’t hold a candle to the goodness of my people.  The corruption of today’s government would have been a mere side note in my grandfathers’ daily life.  They had more important things to consider.  They had families to enjoy and communities to build.

Irma has shown a silver lining to this simple farm boy.  I hope to return to those boyhood times more often now, to draw upon the wisdom and compassion of my folks, and to hold in proper perspective the noise and stench of our world today.  Even as the internet lights up my computer screen again, I will seek the inner knowing and the wisdom of my forefathers to maintain a grasp on the truly important things.  They were a happy, content community poor in materialism but wealthy beyond any of the glitz ruling our society today.

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grease (not the musical)

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“If we would imitate Jesus in very practical ways, the Christian religion would be made-to-order to grease the wheels of human consciousness toward love, nonviolence, justice, inclusivity, and care for creation.”  Richard Rohr

Is your particular denomination, sect, or theology greasing the wheels of human consciousness?  Does your particular denomination, sect, or theology emulate the love, nonviolence, justice, inclusivity and care for creation which all of your scriptures attribute to Jesus?  No?  Then how dare you affirm your interpretation of your holy writings as the inerrant and infallible word of God?

I have never been one of those “in your face” promoters of any particular faith walk.  You know who I’m talking about, don’t you?  Someone in your church, in your neighborhood, on your media screen?  My way is the only way, my way is Biblical, my way is God’s truth.  Maybe I’m describing you.

Again I say, “If your faith does not affirm Jesus (or any of the other of God’s messengers who brought us the same message) as a reservoir of love and compassion, then perhaps that faith which demands blind obedience to creeds and tenets is not genuinely Godly.  No, I’m not “in your face”, I’m simply posing a question

34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

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That sword of which Jesus spoke could be a reference for the need then to excise the law-ridden, hypocritical theology of the Jews.  We have the same scenario today.  Religionists who have abdicated their moral authority to celebrate equality and justice for all of God’s humanity regardless of  faith tradition, politicians who have bedded down with those religionists to rein in a sizeable voting bloc, and voters who have transgressed their profession of morality to gain political favor by electing a man who has shown absolutely no moral fiber or integrity….all are destined to fall to the sword Jesus carried into the theology foray.

No, I’m not here to be “in your face”.  Having suffered a torturous and humbling journey through the jungles of “Christian fundamentalism” and having survived that journey with a deeper and more sustaining faith than ever in my personal quest, I am here merely to ask questions.  Does your church/denomination grease the wheels of human consciousness toward love, nonviolence, justice, inclusivity, and care for the creation?

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take stock & regroup

When I undertook this format for writing several years ago, it was with the intent to share my experience, strength, and hope in my personal quest for sanity and serenity as a recovering alcoholic.  I had no aspirations for a blog that would draw thousands of readers or ambitions for a post that would go viral.  And, I have not been disappointed.

The events of the past year have tilted my concerns and attentions to the political arena.  Certainly my personal opinions are valid, my voice needs to be counted, and my vote will continue to be registered, but, continual attention to a situation which is beyond my control exacts a toll on serenity and composure.

Today, I realized that common sense will ultimately prevail, that goodness and mercy will prevail, and that life will go on with or without my input.  But, I also came to understand that our culture ( Western, specifically American) is driven not by a sense of spirit, but rather by a sense of self.  We are a culture of egoism and self-absorption.  It is the only explanation for the politicians we have installed as leaders of the free world.

A wealthy friend, let’s call him Joe, is a minor millionaire who spends more money on a pair of shoes than I can spend on monthly groceries.   Joe has called our current President a pig.  He has questioned our President’s shady connections.  He is one of the voters who voted for the least worst of the worst candidates in decades.  Yet, Joe confided that the stock market is doing great, he is making money and therefore he is happy with the pig with shady connections who is currently posing as POTUS.  Another pair of designer shoes for Joe and maybe a Rolex are in his offing.

Yes, today has been a time of refection and redirect.  I know who I am in God’s world, I intend to strive on for a compassionate, caring, communing interaction with the world’s peoples, creatures, and environment.  This is the only wealth which is worth chasing, it is the eternity detailed in the chapters of the great scriptures, it is that which the greatest of God’s messengers have attested as truth; it is the way of Jesus, the path of Buddha and it is available to all who will subdue themselves to the greater power so simply presented in the recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The Oneness which we call God, or Allah, or Brahman will continue with or without us.  The universal, omnipotent power of the Oneness will do this…with or without us.  Our reason for being here on this earth in this life is to promote and assist the physical/spiritual welfare of our brothers and sisters, to cherish the creation and to protect the environment.  We are not here to promote our version of God, to defend our version of God, or in any way assist our version of God.  The one you name as God, the one I name as God is perfectly capable of handling those details.  Let’s appreciate the simplicity of our solidarity.

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RENEWAL

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Especially for those of us who belong to this club of recovering drinkers, involving ourselves in controversy carries a greater degree of risk than most of our friends and family.  In sobriety we become keenly aware of social injustice, of bigotry, and racism and we carry that concern into our daily lives sometimes with quite a negative effect upon our desire for ‘clean and serene’.

It’s a delicate balance we seek juggling a sense of civic responsibility with the peace we have found in our recovery program.  Sometimes, as in this election, we go overboard with the politicking.  After all, we are alcoholics.  We never did anything in moderation.

Whatever the outcome of our election might be, for most of us life will go on much as before.  We will work our jobs, pay our taxes, support our families, and give homage to our Higher Power.  It is, therefore, extremely crucial that we maintain our sense of priority.  For us, the humility described in the writings of Alcoholic Anonymous, “a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become who we could be,” needs to become the focal point once again of our recovery.

Possibly a personal inventory and clean sweep is in order followed by a heart and mind renewal.

FREE AT LAST

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Having based my recovery from alcoholism on the principle of "God as I understand Him", later into my sobriety time I returned to the Evangelical Christian theology of my familial tradition.  It was familiar and it was comforting.

This election campaigning has become much greater than Republican or Democrat.  It has become deeply personal as I learn that friends and family members with whom I have walked for many years through life's journey, who also describe themselves as Evangelical Christian, within the realm of their Christian ethics somehow can justify  supporting a man who displays none of the values I hold dear.

Am I not Christian?  Are they not Christian?  Are we all playing a game here trying to score points with God by talking the Bible, by going to church, by professing Jesus out one side of the mouth and then revealing out the other side what is truly on our hearts in the political arena?

I find myself wanting to retreat to early sobriety philosophy, "God as I understand Him."  This may be the wisest and most God-honoring choice I have made in many years.  And it frees me to embrace and celebrate without retribution from church and family the great diversity of our world's cultures: Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, white, black, gay, straight.

Maybe that's what Martin Luther King was talking about,  "Free at last."