A serious look at pseudo-patriotism

So, Mike L. asked me what I thought about a face book post promoting an organization that wants to return America to Christian values. I just tried to find the site, and was unable to do so. There are dozens of organizations that have ambiguous names and wrap themselves in the American flag in a display of  pseudo-patriotism, so I will not address any particular organization, but just deal with the topic as I see it. In analyzing the concept of returning America to Christian values, it is necessary to ask two questions: what are the values upon which America was based, and what are Christian values?

First, what are the values upon which our great nation was founded? Our founding fathers talked a lot about personal liberty and representative democracy. Read, for example,  the Declaration of Independence, ratified by a committee, but authored principally by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was strongly influenced by the writings of John Locke (1632-1704) a leader of The Enlightenment Movement. Locke is considered to be the Father of Liberalism. The Magna Carta, signed in 1215, is the document upon which subsequent ideas of liberty were established. It was signed to settle a feud between the King of England and the lesser nobility. It established the limits of authority of the king, but was never meant to address the rights of common people. The Declaration of Independence asserts the right of people to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but in reality, they were referring only to people who were white male landowners. Non-whites, women, and ordinary working class people were all less entitled. Over the last 200-plus years great strides have been made by the groups not included in the original ideas of liberty, but not without strong push-back from wealthy white men. Other values generally considered to be fundamentally American are expressed in the Constitution of the United States of America, especially in the Bill of Rights. These values include freedom of religion, separation of church and state, freedom of assembly, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and freedom of speech. It is worth noting that all this was established at the same time that women had no vote, and millions of blacks were held in slavery. I point this out to establish that the grand ideals expressed by our founding fathers were ideal in their expression only, not in practical application.

So, what are Christian values? These are based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, a Jewish preacher who lived 2100 years ago in Israel, and who was crucified by the Romans. Jesus was asked what is the foremost commandment of all, and his reply was to love God, and to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. He emphasized the importance of brotherly love. He even commanded his followers to love their enemies! He advised his followers to forgive those who had harmed them.He counseled against revenge and hatred. He advised his followers to help those less fortunate than themselves. He taught not to be judgmental of others, but rather, to judge one’s own thoughts and actions. He taught the Golden Rule, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And he taught a lot more, but you get the idea. All people are the family of man, male and female, rich and poor, black, brown, red, yellow, and white. His teachings were based upon his understanding of God that he learned from the Hebrew Bible, the teachings of the rabbis, and his innate understanding of God’s will. He understood that you can’t take anything away from another person without taking something away from yourself. Now, it is well known that ever since Christianity became a religion, great atrocities have been justified, supported and even promulgated in the name of Jesus and Christianity. The same can be said about what has been done by the American and state governments in the names of freedom and justice. So the ideals taught by Jesus have all too often been at best ignored. It is a real shame.

So, what is a Christian anyway, and who is entitled to call themselves Christian? One answer would be a Christian is a person who has undergone the ritual sacrament of Baptism in the names of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Another answer would be a Christian is a person who believes that Jesus Christ died and was resurrected so that he personally might be saved, and forgiven for his sins. Another answer might be that a Christian is anyone who says he is a Christian. I don’t think I have a right to say who is or is not a Christian. I do think it is of interest that many of our founding fathers were not Christians, or at least not in their belief system. Deism was a prominent philosophy of the time. Deists believed in God, but not in a God who intervened in the affairs of men. So they certainly did not believe that Jesus Christ was who Christians said he was. Thomas Jefferson was a Deist. In the introductory paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, where he established the basis for the right of the colonies to declare their independence from the tyranny of the King of England, he used the expressions “Laws of Nature” and “Nature’s God” as the source of their authority. In the concluding section he referred to “Divine Providence.” Thomas Paine was the most outspoken of the Deists, and expressed his belief thusly: “I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life. I believe in the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy.” So, it is worth pointing out that the philosophical underpinnings of the founders of our government were not specifically or exclusively Christian, at least not in the sense of the Christian religion.

What is the source of energy that drives people to wrap themselves in the flag and decry the current state of affairs? What is it that people fear? What people fear the most is losing what they have or not getting what they want. And what changes are taking place in America at this time? I see many things that are changing, but two in particular, I think, are driving this effort to return to the “good old days” when men were men, and women were women, and you could tell who was a white person and who wasn’t. The first is the gradual erosion of the United States of America as the most powerful nation on earth. This is inevitable as the other countries gain greater levels of education and economic productivity. If “Make America Great Again” means reversing the globalization of the economy, it is a con game, and not going to happen. The other change taking place in America is the population shift towards the time when whites will be in the minority. (In my home state of Georgia I am told that there is only one of close to 170 counties in which the majority of the population is white.) Xenophobia is alive and well. If the white people think that they will be able to prevent this they are wrong. so what they will try to do instead is through various tactics deprive people of color from their hard fought right to vote, deprive poor people of a good opportunity for education, keep  brown and black people from coming to our country, try to expel as many people of color as possible, deprive poor people of decent health care, and keep locking up as many black, brown, and red people as possible, with the help of repressive laws against drug use. It is perfectly understandable that they will try, but they will fail precisely because America is a great county that is established on the principles of justice and liberty. We are witnessing a reaction in our country to having elected a black president. The pendulum has swung in the other direction, but it will swing back. The message of Jesus is love, and take it from me, Black Magic, that love is the answer, and the more we love and take care of each other, the more will come back to us as a strong and peaceful society.

On a more personal note, today is Mike and Judy’s 22nd wedding anniversary. They are still very much in love with each other, and such good friends.  It is very sweet.


So, Mike’s going to play in a golf event this coming Monday. He used to play golf on weekends and enjoyed it a great deal, but now he wonders where he ever found the time to play. Last year he played in this same charity event.  He doesn’t think his game was really that much worse than it had been 5 years previously when he last had played, but in these charity events you don’t keep your own score which is a good thing. He had bought new golf shoes just before he laid his clubs down, so he was surprised that by the time he got to the 1st green his shoes were falling apart, I suppose from dry rot. Luckily, the 2nd hole kind of went back to the clubhouse, and he ran up to the parking lot and put his sneakers back on. He has just bought a new pair of golf shoes which I’m sure won’t have time to dry rot before Monday.

The event is a fundraiser for The Extension, a long-term residential treatment program for homeless addicted men in Cobb County where Mike lives. It opened originally as a winter shelter about 25 years ago. A few years ago they also opened a separate facility for women. They have done an outstanding job with the program and have helped great numbers of people. A number of Mike’s acquaintances and friends are involved with The Extension in one way or another, and he has provided some services to them as well. He even attended a memorial service there earlier this year. Bert S. had been a counselor at The Extension for many years, was well-loved and respected by everyone, and he died sober. Mike has been to a number of memorial services for Alcoholics Anonymous members, and they are always powerful, deeply moving experiences in which there are always a few laughs. Recovering people are good at laughing at themselves (and each other). Mike remembers the service that was held for Walt H. a few years ago. Walt was quite an old man when he quit drinking and by the time he quit he had been homeless for some time. His actual age was a closely guarded secret. I’m sure some of you remember Walt. He was very involved in the AA meetings around Smyrna and enjoyed working with newcomers. Walt had a special way of talking to people in which every person was approached in a unique way appropriate to that person. Walt always threw a few Yiddish words Mike’s way, for example. At the memorial service many people shared, and it was only then that Mike realized what a genius Walt really had for interpersonal relationships. And he died sober too.

I have to tell you, I really enjoy living in Happy Meadows. There are always things to do and lovely people and their pets to visit with. There is also a seemingly endless supply of chipmunks, mice, squirrels, and other assorted critters to hunt. There are a lot of pregnant does this time of year and I see them from time to time throughout the neighborhood. Happy Meadows is located near the national Battlefield Park, so there are plenty of woods and some prairie lands for the deer to hide and forage. There is an abundance of wild turkeys too. You have to watch out for the hawks though, as there is an abundance of them as well. Last year I was in the backyard and a doe brought her fawn along. She had the fawn lie down in a little nook by the house and she went off to forage. I checked the fawn out. It’s true what they say; they have no scent whatsoever. It didn’t move as I sniffed around at it. Very interesting.

The other day when I was out and about, I decided to go visit Ms. Wilson and her daughter, whom everyone calls Popo.  Popo was born with cerebral palsy, and she is quite physically and intellectually impaired. She goes by Popo because it sounds like what she calls herself. Her given name is really Paulette. (So, the name was not inspired by the children’s story, “Popo and Fifina: Children of Haiti”, written by Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps,  illustrated by Elmer Simms Campbell, and published in 1932, as some of you may have surmised, even though you could have had no idea that Ms. Wison was originally from Haiti. An original copy of this book can be found at Emory University Rose Library’s rare book collection. It might be easier for you, if you are interested, to find a copy  online. Michelle says that if she was stranded on a desert island with only one author to read it would be Langston Hughes. After hearing this Mike has made a mental note to read more Langston Hughes.)  Popo is not able to walk and so she stays in a wheelchair during the day. She has a little lever that she uses to maneuver the wheelchair around which she does with difficulty because her arms don’t work right either.  Popo also does not have speech that most people can understand. However she and Ms. Wilson communicate quite well, and I generally know what she’s thinking too. I do know that she likes it when I jump up in her lap. She is awfully clumsy and not that good at petting me but I appreciate the effort that she does make. I don’t think she has learned how to read. There is no one else that lives there, just the 2 of them. It’s interesting seeing how deeply personal and spiritual a relationship can be in which one of the parties is so impaired intellectually and physically. With such limited language capability, communication of necessity is beyond words, and enters another dimension known and understood only by the people involved. I think what Popo has in great measure though is a capacity to love. As I was lying in her lap the other day, purring with her sort of nudging me with her hand as she tried to pet me, I looked up at her and saw an enormous smile on her face. I reached up with my paw, and I touched the side of her face. It was a special moment for both of us. She is so sweet, and truly, one of the happiest people I know. I’ll probably go back and visit again in a few days.

So, that’s all the news from Happy Meadows. Not much going on as you can see. Father’s Day is coming up this weekend so I should have something to report again soon. And I might  go back and visit the Donkle’s tomorrow and see if I can wrangle some more cream from Richard. Happy Father’s Day y’all.

The world is divided into two kinds of people.

So, I need to start with some sad news. Mike’s first cousin, Sandy Sidell, passed away this week after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Mike and Judy went out to Seattle to see him a year ago after he was diagnosed. They had a wonderful visit and also met with his son Josh, daughter-in-law Rachel, and baby grandson Aaron. The grandson gave Sandy great joy in the last year of his life for which Mike and all the family are immensely grateful. Sandy was a lovely man and he will be missed. Sandy dealt with his diagnosis and treatment with the best possible attitude and was certainly an inspiration to Mike and everyone who knew him. Mike lived a separate life from his cousins, simply because of geography. Sandy and his older brother Steve grew up and lived in Seattle, and Mike grew up in Chicago and afterwords lived in the Midwest and then the South. So they couldn’t just drop in on each other. Steve came to Atlanta for a bridge tournament several years ago and stayed with Mike and Judy for one or two nights. They took him around to see some of the things that he wanted to see including the Carter Center and the Fernbank Center. They also went to eat at the Flying Biscuit and Dreamland barbecue. Steve was delighted and had sent a note thanking Mike and Judy for a perfectly wonderful visit. And it was. Mike and Sandy shared something else in common. They had both been widowed in their 40s and had to finish raising children on their own. I think they both handled themselves with grace and dignity and all 3 of the kids have turned out to be wonderful adults themselves.

So, yesterday I was in the bathroom while Mike was brushing his teeth, and I realized that humans can be divided into 2 categories: people who brush their teeth standing over the sink, and people who pace back and forth while brushing their teeth. Mike is a pacer, and Judy is a stander. Mike remembers when he was in college one of his dormitory mates told him about one of the other fellows who paced back and forth when he brushed his teeth, and how ridiculous he thought that was. Mike remembers thinking at the time that he also paces back and forth when he brushes his teeth. So this is an ingrained habit of many years duration. I wonder if the trait is genetically determined. Somebody could do a study. Grant money could be available for something like this. And here’s another thing. It’s not unusual for Mike to drool while he is brushing his teeth, especially since he started using the electric toothbrush. I don’t know how many times he’s had to change his shirt because of this. You’d think he would remember to brush his teeth before he puts his shirt on, but no, not Mike. Well, he does once in a while. I remember one day he had to change his shirt twice, but the 2nd time it was because of an unfortunate encounter with spaghetti. Mike as you may recall had another encounter with spaghetti sauce a few months ago as I had reported in the post entitled “The Stolen Carpet/Eating Out” dated 12/26/2016. He had dragged his shirtsleeve across his plate in a very careless manner. Actually I think it was his coat sleeve. It was so cold in the restaurant that he had kept his coat on. He also kept his hat on throughout the entire meal. (It is my understanding that a Southern gentleman removes his hat when he is indoors. This is a topic that I could return to at another time.) That was the same day that the little girl a couple of tables over threw up at the table. Not the best dining-out experience.

I love this time of year. We have lots of flowers in the yard. I’ll show you some of them. We have daylilies, daisies, butterfly bush, lantana, and for some weird reason the mums are blooming already. We also have little tomatoes on the vines already. The yard would look better if Mike would get out there and cut the grass. I hope he does so today or tomorrow. You should see Richard Donkle’s place. You know, he has a 3 hole golf course on his property. He has a landscaping staff and the place is stunning and immaculate. That is, if you don’t count the little bombs that his dogs leave here and there. I need to go back and visit them soon. I had a nice time the other night when I was there. His wife doesn’t like me and neither does their maid, but I don’t let something like that bother me. He gave me some delicious cream when I was visiting. You can read about this visit in my recent post “A Bad Vibe” dated 04/30/2017.

I just love flowers. And they provide good cover, and attract butterflies, a double bonus.


We have news reports of a cluster of overdoses and at least 4 deaths in central Georgia from some counterfeit Percocet tablets. It seems that once people get addicted, their judgement goes out the window. And there are people who have no conscience whatsoever who take advantage. If they increase their profit margin by 5-10%, so what if a few (or a few hundred) people die. Caveat emptor! I’m afraid that it is just a matter of time until we have a tragedy like this in Happy Meadows. You remember that I witnessed some young people using drugs at Richard Donkle’s place the other night. (See “Fake Jews” posted on  05/26/2017). Mike’s medical specialty is addiction medicine, so he is active in trying to help addicted people turn their lives around. It is a passion for him. He says he is old enough to retire, but he still enjoys what he does, and he gets to help people that not enough other people either want to help or know how. He does say that the field has advanced enormously from when he first got into it in 1973. Without exaggeration, he gets more referrals from other physicians in any given week than he used to get in an entire year. He has written an article that I will either attach to my blog or set up a link to it. It would be pointless to ask Mike to do it. He wouldn’t have a clue.


So, Mike woke up a couple of mornings ago with the word “nibbinubs” in his head. He told Judy that he didn’t remember his dream but he had the feeling that the word referred to a brand of cat food that he had been dreaming about. Is that weird or what? Now, it’s hard to say why Mike would be dreaming about cat food, but as I admire all things cat, I’m generally in favor of him having such a dream.The word reminded Mike of “yipiyuk”, a little creature in a poem written by Shel Silverstein, a creature who “would not let go.” So this brought to mind  Shel Silverstein and his book, “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” Mike, Gena (Mike’s late wife),and Michelle had taken a weekend trip down to Chicago from their home in Madison, Wisconsin. Mike had just picked up the book and sat down in the hotel room with Michelle on his lap and started reading to her. Michelle was 4 years old at the time. She wouldn’t let him stop reading until he finished the entire book. This is one of Mike’s favorite lifetime memories, Michelle’s joy at those silly pictures and poems and sharing it all with her. Michelle still remembers this incident. Sadly, the book has disappeared, but since all this got stirred back up in Mike’s memory he went out with Judy and Michelle today and got another copy, the 40th year anniversary edition. The book was actually first published in 1974. Mike would never tell you what to do but I am going to encourage you to get a copy  and read it. You can read about Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout (who would not take the garbage out). You can read about Hector the Collector, the boa constrictor, and the invisible boy. All in all, thoroughly delightful. Don’t wait. I could go on and on about Shel Silverstein but I’ll leave it to your research to see about the other things he did with his life and delightful books that he wrote. Sadly he died too young. There seems to be a lot of that going around.

So, Mike got a blast from the past the same day, a phone call from Gena’s cousin Brenda. It was great to hear from her after over 20 years of no contact. People seem to drift apart for no particular reason, or at least for no reason that’s good enough. We did  a lot of catching up over the phone and hopefully we’ll get together this summer. It was a joy for him to hear from her.

More about Mike. I wandered into the bathroom the other day when he was struggling to trim his toenails. He can barely reach his feet anymore. It is pathetic. If this gets any worse Judy is going to have to take him to the vet to get his nails trimmed…….. you know, the Extreme Vet at Happy Meadows Veterinary Clinic. I’ve talked about this outfit before. You get brought over there for some lame reason, and the next thing you know they are poking and prodding you in every orifice. I told you about the time I was at the shelter when the vet showed up, and the next thing I knew I had taken a nap and I woke up tutored.  I never seemed to want to date after that. I had told you in my post entitled “So, I suppose I should introduce myself a little more”  dated December 4, 2016 about this episode, and said that if anybody suggests that you be tutored I would advise against it. I have not changed my mind. Be careful.

Oh, and check this out! Sometimes Mike takes me out for a ride in his hamstermobile for reasons other than going to the Extreme Vet. I recently noticed that across the street from the clinic there is a specialist who does nothing but tutoring. I got Mike to take a picture. Here it is.


I would advise you to stay away from this place. However, the place next door is another story altogether. If only they had mice on the menu it would be absolutely divine. You should try it sometime.