Next Monday we celebrate (or not) a unique American holiday, Memorial Day. It used to be one of our traditional holidays celebrated on May 30th. Congress in its wisdom changed many of our holidays to the most convenient Monday. Now our beloved Congress thinks that the magic is gone from Memorial Day. It's just another 3-day week-end. So, what do we do about it? We set up a friend in a cush job and tell her to think about how to make us more interested in the holiday.
"Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., a longtime friend of Carmella LaSpada's who sponsored the legislation to create the commission, said he's still committed to its mission, but he laughs when he thinks about the logistics of actually pulling it off." [Emphasis mine. Hell, it's only a few million bucks of public money.} Meanwhile she gets $150,000 a year in salary and perks.
"LaSpada has been repeatedly criticized in annual federal financial audits for blurring the lines between her tiny federal agency and No Greater Love, a nonprofit agency LaSpada founded 30 years ago, which operates right next door and has a similar mission."
What's the best idea LaSpada's group has come up with yet?
"A tiny White House commission has spent the past five years and $1.5 million trying to bring a new American tradition to Memorial Day's barbecues, parades and sales: A moment of remembrance, a sigh, perhaps a prayer. Just a 30-second pause."
"The results, so far, are mixed."
"The White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance does have a theme song donated by Charles Strouse, creator of the musical "Annie." There's a logo, pens and coasters, prewritten news articles and television spots. There have been events, like a sand-sculpture display inspired by D-Day."
"And a few towns, businesses and organizations have paused silently at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day."
"In general, though, the commission's hyper-energetic executive director, Carmella LaSpada, has been somewhat frustrated by the lack of interest." And true to her Republican roots, who does she blame? The Media.
"We're a little disappointed," she said. "What has been the problem is that we haven't gotten the support that we would like to have from the media."
Driving along Highway 190 between Opelousas and DeQuincy, there's a stretch where the highway seems to cut through a swamp, with deep drainage ditches on both sides of the road, making it a very forlorn place. Along the highway for miles and miles are those little white crosses we have come to associate with shrines marking the spot of someones death, now remembered with a handful of plastic flowers tied to a wooden cross stuck in the ground. I've always thought they should have two colors of crosses: one color for those who were killed by drunk drivers, and another color for those drivers who killed someone else. Maybe a third color signifying those drunks who only killed themselves.
When it comes to drinking, Louisiana has always stood apart from the states around it. In Louisiana, you only needed to be 18 to purchase booze legally, but no one ever asked for ID. All you really needed was the money or a note from your mama. High school and college kids came from hundreds of miles to drink and party at the bars and dance halls just inside the border. There were half a dozen such clubs on Interstate 10 about six miles inside Louisiana from Texas. There was generally one or two fatalities each week-end.
The federal government made Louisiana change the drinking age from 18 to 21 or lose highway funding. They did, begrudgingly. It's harder than that to change a culture that not only allows but approves to public drinking even to excess. When I was down there in 1998, my cousin and I went to a drive-through daiquiri shop. Yeah, just what's needed: giant slurpees made with rum-flavored everclear.
Anyone who's been to Mardi Gras will remember it for the drunken Bacchanalia that it is. Mardi Gras is only one such drinking festival. Every football game becomes an occasion to hang out in the quarter and get drunk. Getting drunk in New Orleans has been a right of passage for young folk from around the country for generations. Las Vegas may be popularizing the slogan, "what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas," but let me tell you what, that's been the operative truth of New Orleans for two hundred years. New Orleans was where Southerners, Gay and straight, male and female, came to lose their virginity.
Louisiana's on my mind these days. First, the Abramoffconnection. Right in the middle of highway 190, just outside Kinner Kinder is the Grand Cousshatta Coushatta Casino. Lovely place and a grand casino it is. If you like to drink you can sit at your slot machine and drink for free all night. This being Louisiana, there's no one to tell you to go home at 2 a.m. Nor at 3, or 4, or 5. Usually you run out of money and head for home, along 190, a hundred miles from anywhere. Sleepy drivers who've been drinking for several hours is the reason for all those crosses along highway 190, but there's also the wildlife.
Ah yes, Louisiana, birthplace of so many of my memories.
Last year I became so annoyed with a bunch of people, many of them kinfolk, down in Louisiana and Texas, I lost interest in writing about my memories of growing up in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. Up until then I had found great joy in remembering our unique little area of the world and the powerful sense of kinship by which I was blessed while growing up. I didn't miss my project right away, but after a year or so, I realized those stories were not complete. I had more to say.
I decided I needed to make peace if not nice with the collective group, so I started communicating with individuals in the group. It worked. The mental block that kept my writing quiet dissipated. As a result, I've been writing on my other blog, My Mother's People for the past couple of weeks, as well as engaging in long and detailed exchanges of email between several cousins and others interested in the history of Louisiana's Redbones, my mother's people.
I invite you over to check out that other part of me.
This is the letter of acceptance from Bishop Marc Andrus upon hearing of his election to be bishop of the California Diocese:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Sheila and I are gladdened, and humbled, by the trust you have placed in me, in us. Publicly, I want to say that my heart is with the other nominees and their partners. They are uniformly splendid people, and I was honored to be in their number.
Also, to all of you who have been so prayerfully working to bring this moment for your diocese, the election of a new bishop, you must know that you have exhibited every trait of a Christian community. You are a witness to the vitality of the Church in your very way of being.
We must all understand, and here I address the diocese of California and those listening from elsewhere, that your vote today remains a vote for inclusion and communion – of gay and lesbian people in their full lives as single or partnered people, of women, of all ethnic minorities, and all people. My commitment to Jesus Christ’s own mission of inclusion is resolute.
And I share with you your strongly expressed commitment to youth, to those who do not yet know Christ, our calling as evangelists, and to God’s waiting, expectant creation.
I take this election to be an expression of our common desire to be part of the whole, the Communion and the world, in what may be a new way.
We will work together in the listening process, lending the unique voice of the Bay Area Episcopalians to this great conversation and working to end global human suffering.
Finally, let me say that being nourished as bishop by the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, fed by the historic and living witness of so many heroes of the struggle for human rights, whose words and deeds of compassion and justice have inspired and sustained me, I say to you the words of a west coast hero – “In the cause of peace, we cannot be sprinters, we must be long distance runners.”
Please join me in prayer. God Be With You.
“Oh God of unchangeable power and eternal light: look favorably on your whole church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things are made, your Son Jesus Christ and Lord” Amen.
As a Gay man struggling with my feelings about whether or not religion is worthwhile, I celebrate the election of Marc Andrus to be the new bishop of the California Diocese. Gays and Lesbians in our church have no better advocate than Bishop Andrus. No one could serve our position in the church better than he. No one.
He was not my first choice because I thought god would want someone a little more diverse than Bishop Andrus. Just what we need, I thought, another white heterosexual male from the South. Actually, I had an email from god this morning. She said, among other things, "trust me on this one."
Also elected today were two other White males who are also considered Gay-friendly and Spirit-filled. In Northern California Barry Beisner was elected bishop, and in Eastern Michigan, Todd Ousley was chosen. The Diocese of Tennessee did not elect a bishop. After two or three week-ends of voting which highlighted the split between the clergy and the laity, they now go to an Interim Bishop. In Tennessee, the laity was supporting a candidate who promised to take the diocese of Tennessee out of the American communion. The clergy strongly opposed the laity's candidate. Unlike here, the Diocese of Tennessee requires a supermajority to elect their bishop.
This struggle in Tennessee was orchestrated by the American Anglican Council which is composed of mostly conservative Republicans who would destroy the Church in pursuit of their agenda. Bishop Don Johnson of the Diocese of Western Tennessee publicly condemned the AAC for pursuing a secret agenda while publicly saying that it was working within the church. I know a lot of AAC people are disappointed that we did not elect a Gay or Lesbian bishop. I don't believe they want reconciliation. They want schism.
I liked Bishop Andrus. He's the one who spoke about the difference between worshiping Jesus and practicing the teachings of Jesus. There was a lot of sympathy for him during the week. More than one person saying it would be nice if he could be rescued from Alabama. He took a lot of body blows from the conservatives in Alabama for his vote to consecrate Gene Robinson as a bishop. He's a very bright and complex man. He was asked how he would be different as a bishop from retiring Bishop William Swing. He said, "well, we're both married white guys from the South," but he went on to say that they were different in as many ways as they were similar. I think he's a very worthy successor to Bishop Swing.
Jane Gould's support was thinner than I thought. Eugene Sutton's support folded faster than I would have thought as well. And the lay vote surrendered pretty fast. One priest told me that traditionally the clergy folds and goes along with the laity. But not every time.
I asked Rosalie Harden, the rector at Holy Innocents, if I could join her and her congregants in the discussion about the election of the new bishop of the Diocese of California . I'm representative of the largest group of Episcopalians in the U.S. (those who do not go to church), and while there has been no coordinated effort by the diocese of California to include us in the selection of the new bishop, Rosalie and the congregation at Holy Innocents graciously invited me to join them in the process of discernment that precedes the election. It has been a very rich and rewarding experience for me.
On Sunday last a group of us met following the service and discussed the seven candidates. Wednesday night I met with another small group at Holy Innocents in San Francisco for the purpose of talking about the election of the bishop this Saturday and the process itself. We began with a celebration of the Eucharist and then retired to a potluck and a discussion.
We were joined in the conversation by Neela Banerjee, a reporter for the New York Times. The story she wrote appeared in this morning's New York Times. No, I'm not quoted. Rosalie Harden was quoted, though. The Times story itself is okay. It is more about the conflict in the Episcopal Church over the possibility of another Gay bishop and what it would do to the Episcopal Church than it is about our election, but that's the part that makes the election national news. I did have a nice opportunity to visit with Ms. Banerjee (May I call you Neela?). She's a homey from St. Charles Parish just outside of New Orleans.
I'll be very surprised if either of the Gay candidates is elected. There's a better chance of the Lesbian being elected, but no one was giving her good odds. From our conversation, it looks to be a three-way race between Mark Andrus, the suffragan bishop of Alabama, Jane Gould, a minister from Massachusetts, and Eugene Sutton, who serves at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. My preferences are Andrus and Gould with Sutton a distant third.
By the way, I'm going to New Orleans next month. I want to see what's going on, look up old friends, check on some of my cousins and then run off to South Beach (Miami) for a week's vacation.
This is an essay by Andy Rooney. I'm posting it as a tribute to several of my friends.
As I grow in age, I value older women most of all. Here are just a few reasons why.
An older woman will never wake you in the middle of the night to ask, "What are you thinking?" She doesn't care what you think.
An older woman knows herself well enough to be assured in who she is, what she is, what she wants and from whom. Few women past the age of 50 give a damn what you might think about her.
An older single woman usually has had her fill of "meaningful relationships and "commitment." The last thing she needs in her life is another dopey, clingy, whiny, dependent lover!
Older women are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera, or in the middle of an expensive restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it, they won't hesitate to shoot you if they think they can get away with it. [Emphasis by Dixiebelle]
An older woman has the self-assurance to introduce you to her women friends. A younger woman with a man will often ignore even her best friend because she doesn't trust the guy with other women. Older women couldn't care less.
Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to an older woman. They always know.
An older woman looks good wearing bright red lipstick.
Once you get past a wrinkle or two, an older woman is far sexier than her younger counterpart. Her libido's stronger, her fear of pregnancy gone.
Her experience of lovemaking is honed and reciprocal and she's lived long enough to know how to please a man in ways younger women could never dream of.
Older women are forthright and honest. They'll tell you right off if you are a jerk or if you are acting like one.
Yes, we praise older women for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it's not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coifed babe of 70 there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 22 year old waitress. Ladies, I apologize for all of us.
That men are genetically inferior is no secret. Count your blessings that we die off at a far younger age, leaving you the best part of your lives to appreciate the exquisite woman you've become, without the distraction of some demanding old man clinging and whining his way into your serenity.
A special thanks to blogbuddy Dixiebelle for bringing it to my attention. Thanks, sugah. Oh, and thank you for turning me onto Gary Allan. He's great.