These Modern Conveniences

Our lives are full of time-saving products and appliances, all the joys of modern conveniences. These modern conveniences have a dark side.

You are invited to an excursion through my kitchen. Counter top space is a premium. Toaster oven, microwave, grill, waffle iron, blender, juicer, can opener, and coffee maker have hogged up so much space that much of the food preparation is done on the dining table. Each appliance is dressed in either black or stainless steel. The lights are bright, soft, and alluring. As light reflects off each piece of modern convenience, a subliminally created urge says, “use me”, tugs at me from each product. These modern conveniences are dragging me into the dark and the gluttonous world of calorie rich food, gout, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Woe to anyone who is lured into the evil lairs of these time-saving, products, and appliances. You will be subjugated soon enough with all their modern inconveniences.

From the pantry came a wail, when I open the door a large bag of extra butter, salty-sweet popcorn dashed for the microwave. Within two minutes, I was munching on 1700 calorie of greasy finger–licking fatness.

Not to be outdone, the ice maker tossed some cubes around to remind me that on the floor of the pantry was five supersized bottles of soft drink. Each was wearing one of my favorite colors.  Conveniently, I filled my 32-ounce tumbler with ice without opening the refrigerator. Happily, I poured half the bottle of grape drink into the tumbler and swallowed enough carbonated sugar to drown the salt of the popcorn.

As I tried to exit the kitchen, the George Foreman grill hummed a tune about how I could have a 1/3 of pound hamburger in two minutes. Georgie lied; it took three minutes.

By now, I was tired out by preparing all the items pushed on me by the modern conveniences in my kitchen. Lumbering into the living room, first, my shoes came off, then I drop to the couch and pressed the TV remote. Prodded by the rumbling in my stomach I unbuckled my belt and clearly heard my belly say, “these modern conveniences are killing me.”

STRIKING ROCKS

Why is it so difficult to write? I went out on the internet to find motivation but lost two hours researching tree stories. The reason for my interest in tree stories is because I want to do a podcast on children stories. Trees are tonight’s indulgences. I wasted time two nights before researching the cemeteries of Atlanta, especially Westview Cemetery. Westview has enough famous people buried there it could become a historical site. The cemetery is close enough to the Wren’s Nest to make a tour between the two a possibility.

The desire for stories was prompt by another one of my urges to do something. All my projects and dreams should sport a warning label “this project will die from neglect.” Trying to get passionate about these late night project is like striking two rocks together and hoping for a spark. So, what shall I do with dreams that don’t catch fire? Maybe, I should douse them with water, or smother them with dry straw. It will either put out the cinder or build a flame to keep my dreams warm and passionate.

Who know what idea will catch fire, so I will keep writing ideas on 3x5s for the day when I understand what is there to say about the subject. From this point on I will put a date on each card. By the time I get around to writing on the idea, I want to know how long it took my muse to activate.

Looking at these 3x5s, Maya Angelou name appeared thrice. The what for is not clear, but I remember that it was hearing her quote is how I discovered the “Conscientious Objector by Edna St Vincent Millay.” The line that stayed with me from the poem was “I shall die but that’s all I will do for death.” There should be some lingering words from Angelou’s writings but none are up front in my mind.

Flipping through the 3x5s a couple of writing prompts caught my eye. What was I to write about on the subject of monetizing livestock manure? Just where was I to take the idea of being attack by a rabid raccoon?  My notes cite This American Life as the source of these stories. Was the raccoon story to be told as funny or as a scary story?

Written in the margin of one card was another great idea gone nowhere. Why was I interested in becoming a professional reviewer? My initial research said reviewers do more than review books. They report on products such as phones, cameras, and other electronics. There is not much money to make if you are not with a big publishing house but you get a lot of free books and products. That last sentence reminded me of why I looked into this for a week; being a reviewer is a chance to get a better understanding of what people are writing about for current market.

These 3x5s have a lot of my curiosity, but not any with an urgent need to know the subject. Oh well, I might as well go to bed.

A Gap Too Wide: Income Inequality

 

Reports after report are sounding alarms about the widening gap of income between African Americans and white Americans. True, there is growing income inequality all over the world. For the newly developing nations, that are thriving to improve their citizenry lifestyle, this has not become a first tier concern. Economist Thomas Piketty (Piketty, 2014), suggested, that income equality problems would eventually be a part of the governing concern for all national economies.

America is currently grappling with finding solutions to this dilemma. Left without a solution the income gap will fuel a great deal of unrest. Fortunately, academics are churning out reports addressing this topic with many pointing to racial or gender, income disparities as foundational to the trouble.

What can be done about the income gap between black and white Americans? The sources of income differences are well documented. Black family structural weakness is an income constraint; for without two wage earners the gap is difficult to close. African American males are disproportionately incarcerated in their most productive years. Lack of early schooling, inadequate parental controls, low paying jobs, and racism contribute to widen the gap. The wealth of black families rarely exceeds funds needed to provide for emergencies. If there is a drain on savings or other investments, they will be difficult to replace.

The chances of overcoming the limitations of lower income do not bode well for African Americans. If they were born in the lowest income percentile, “moving on up” is a struggle. At the age of forty, 51% of them remain in the lower class. Black women are most prevalent on the bottom of the income ladder. New studies are showing that black females 25-34 are a sizable percentage of the growing class of discouraged workers. That implies they are not participating in the current job recovery.

Hard work is often suggested as a way to close the gap. Government officials hope that declining national unemployment rates will contribute to closing the gap. A one percent decline in the national unemployment rate means approximately 200,000 more jobs going to African Americans. The income obtained, hopefully, will be funneled into saving and investments.

Still, those blacks with assets are still finding themselves undercapitalized, when compared to the assets owned by white Americans. Values for white primary residences are oftentimes three times that of black Americans. Homes are the largest source of wealth for both races. Wealth accumulated in housing for most African Americans is still insufficient to bridge the gap. To leave this problem unsolved creates too wide of a gap to be able to build a prosperous and peaceful America.

The magnitude of the income problem requires that those working to eliminate the gap and those agitating for a solution must not allow this to become lost in the backroom swamps of Washington. What is sought is that all people are able to live the American dream. But, a dream to long deferred or denied will fester and stink like rotten meat; and one day explode.

 

 

PUSH / PULL

Writing is a push/pull task for me.. The push/pull comes when I read a well crafted article or a thought or issue begs for my opinion. Should I say something about the way my heart and head struggle with supporting Bernie or Hillary? Maybe I need to give my opinion on Kendrick Lamar’s Grammys performance or Beyonce’s Super Bowl show.

Sometimes it is good to sit back with my feet up and snooze through the urge.

music nots

Look out, here comes the push/pull.Should I write a word or two about Kendrick Lamar and Beyonce?  No, that is a long line to join and I am already weary of that news. Whether these entertainers were trying to raise my fear or anger, sleep is ruling this mind. Let Beyonce and Kendrick give sizable donations to organizations that are fighting to change this culture of police brutality and African American disenfranchisement. Let them adopt schools in low income communities and affect a change because of their involvement. Then, I will take my feet down, open my eyes, and be more than entertained.

Political Race

What should I write about Clinton and Sanders, and Trump and Cruz? Well, the push/pull here is greater. The primary is the 1 March in my state. My mailbox is groaning under the weight of the political junk mail and my email box is peppered with campaign requests for money. Bernie is telling me how much better my life will be if I vote for him. Hillary on the other hand is trying to become an Obama clone. Bernie and Hillary are so serious that for the lighter side of politics, one has to tune-in to the Republican candidates to find humor. Trump and Cruz are mean and nasty. The titles are reversible. My question to the Republican party, with all your money is this the best you can do? Do you seriously think that independent voters are going to cross over for these clowns?

It was nice to read about the Secret Service agent Oliver Grant playing Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto 1, doing a break in South Carolina.

Wait, Agent Grant is on to something. I think I will close down the computer and listen to Yo-Yo Ma & Bobby McFerrin perform – Ave Maria.

Bye y’all!

Catching Fire Flies

In a family of nine, on its way to thirteen; you have to make your own fun. One thing we will play was catching fireflies and put them in our shirt pocket. Our chest would light up. Some nights the air thick and muggy, when darkness took over the back yard, we went hunting for lighting bugs. In 1950-ish Atlanta, Georgia, fireflies were called lighting bugs.

Six of the nine children were running around the back yard grabbing at lighting bugs. Some of the bugs went into pockets, some into brown paper bags, and some into mason jars. Most of the bugs were let go when we were called into the house. A few didn’t leave this world until the washing machine cycle.

If you kept your bugs in bags or jars without air circulation, soon movement and light ceased.  I kept mines in a jar with holes punched into the lid. The bugs went into the sock drawer. Sometimes they would last a week before the light went out or I forget they were in the drawer.

Some nights when the house was scary, I pull out my jar of bugs. Whenever the rafters groaned, or the walls popped, or a moth slammed into the bedroom window, I would awake with a fright.

In the dark under the house, a cat wrestled with a rat in the crawl space. I imagined trolls and demons were coming for me. My daddy can’t help me; he is either working or snoozing. Outside, a squirrel dives from a tree limb to the roof. Thud! They are here.

I go to my sock drawer and pull out the lighting bugs. A shake of the jar and they light up. “We will save you,” they are saying. Watching the bugs flash on and off, my heart calms, and the lights tranquilizes me to sleep again.

Fast forward, I was visiting a friend, whose husband Calvin had died a few years before. She was explaining how she was doing. “Since Calvin’s death,” she said, “I get a bit lonely, but my church friends and Tixie here, always bring me out of it.” The Phalene look up from his lap throne, and nodded his head, as if to bow.

She said, “Sometimes I get scared in this house, so keep my cell phone and Tixie close to me. At night, I leave a TV and a light on. It’s just to make the burglars think I am up. This house creaks, cracks, and pops at night.”

“Makes me jumpy, I am always checking doors and windows. And don’t let Tixie bark at a squirrel or something late at night, I have to take a pill to get back to sleep.” We prayed together before I left.

Late one night I was at my desk, when I heard my house creak, crack, and pop. This went on for a couple of nights; I kept waking up fearful and checked the windows and doors. On the third night, I dump pickles out of the jar, punched holes in the top. Then I went out into the back yard and caught some fireflies. I sat them on the night stand. That night I slept straight through.

Addictive Love: Pastor on a Pedestal

In this age of celebrity worshiping, it is not surprising that some pastors have been elevated to idol status. They too ride in the limousine with darkened windows. They zip across the country in extravagantly appointed planes. They are followed by a hoard of hang-ons. Their homes, pictures, clothing style, and opinions drape the pages of magazines and the internet. Some write books, create television programs about lifestyle concerns like dieting, dating, marriage, and investments. These pastors have bought into the “me culture.” They have become addicted to the adulation of adoring fans. Adoring fans have placed them on a pedestal from which one day they will knock them off. For those who gave in to the veneration is it possible to be humble with all the flattery that comes their way? Can they quell the idolization? Are they responsible for directing that veneration toward God and not themselves?

Humility is a difficult horse to ride. To say your profession is one appointed by God already sets you into the field of admiration. How can an admired pastor get a toehold on humility? One way is to pass the glory on to God and your many partners that help you get to where you are. God may have called you to lead His people, but He has also surrounded you with a team to help accomplish your mission. If you cannot share the glory, if you cannot humble yourself, that lack of humility will become your stumbling block. Humiliation is a constant companion of humility.

To take God’s glory as your own will lead you down a path of self-destruction. Narcissism will invade your every thought. Extensive use of the pronoun ‘my’ will become a conspicuous part of your vocabulary. My church, my ministry, my people, my choir, and my deacons are how you will describe the essentials of your world. Taking the glory that belongs to God is a surefire way of losing your grip on meekness.

Place a pastor on a pedestal, exalt, wait upon, and adore him, meekness will disappear and arrogance will take over. Even though some will deny it, there are Christians that want their pastor to become a celebrity. They want the vicarious pleasure they get from the spotlight that fall on the pastor.

(Let me insert an editor’s note here. The majority of worshipers are not afflicted by the malady of pastor worshiping. And, this disorder is not restricted to Christians, religious adherents everywhere are apt to idolize their leaders. Mullahs, gurus, witch doctors, and pastors must strive hard to lower the noise of adoring fans.)

For some pastors this will be difficult since they have become little popes within their mini kingdoms. Worshipers believe their leaders are the key to salvation and to eternal life. They elevate her to a level that belongs to Christ. Is the pastor the only one responsible for maintaining the proper relationship? Where is the balance between respect for the office and idolizing? The worshiper must assume some responsibility. If the pastor is too busy to return your call or they want you to believe that your salvation comes from them; it is time to question that relationship. Somehow, pastors must use that special relationship they profess to have, as one called by God, to teach and direct their followers to not make idols out wood, stone, gold, or flesh.

Applying The Brakes To Police Violence

Search any form of news delivery source, and you will find details on another killing of black people by the Police or law enforcement officer. The Police is killing, mostly African Americans. Follow this up with news of Protests and riots, Campaign Zero and Black Lives Matter, and more killing, where is the pause button to stop this mayhem. Why is so difficult to apply the brakes to all this killing?

Another study was in the news on this the closing days of 2015. Police have killed over a thousand people. The vast majority are African American males, with the studies also showing a rise in the killing of females. Collateral damage seems to be black children and elders. In Atlanta, Georgia, 100% of police killings are African Americans. A December 2015 report said, the police killed some forty-two people. There are still two 2 days left in 2015. How absurd is this in a city governed by African Americans. Whatever happened to the promise of a reduction in deaths from guns that were trotted across billboards during the city gun buyback program? Give us back our guns; we need them to protect us from the Police.

Right here in Georgia law enforcement officers are killing a great many people by shooting them in the back. How do citizens make the police accountable for the violence they are inflicting on those they are sworn to protect? Some say Citizen Review Boards. Others believe that a racially balance police force at the top and bottom will do the job. Both have merits and both can lose their effectiveness over time. Political squabbling, budgetary short-changing, and deficiency of data are weakening most efforts to establish effective police accountability policies.

What is the basis of this appalling violence? Is the problem a lack of personnel, supervision, equipment, funding, or training. Atlanta’s Mayor brags about the increase hiring of public safety officers. Yet, the local newspaper writes about the inability of the police department to hire enough officers as experienced officers leave the force. A shortage of trained officers is evident. But, what can be said when it is documented that some of the hired officers are not keeping up with training requirements. Their oversight could be grounds for the release of violent criminals. Why are they released; because an improperly certified police officer performed the arrest.

Training needs to be extended beyond weapon and physical restraining instruction. A low hanging fruit is training that will reduce the confrontational atmosphere when officers are involved. Teach them techniques on how to speak to people when they are called to high-tension situations.

Pay them well too. Increase the pensions and benefits for volunteering to reside in the city. Give them down payment assistance, no interest home improvement loans and exemption from city and county taxes. A way to pay for these benefits is to include a public safety tax or fee on all alcohol sold all ammunition, and all developments.

Going forward education, decent salaries, and more public oversight can do much to move the police from a combat posture to that of guardians.