Saturday, 15 February 2014

Doing the Clerical Two-Step

Our friend Catherine Wieczorek passed from this life on January 8th of this year. She died in her sleep at aged 68. She had not been ill, so her death was blissfully sudden, but horribly unexpected.

This was a cruel shock to us, especially because Catherine had given a wonderful party on January 1st.  She was a great host.

With the exception of her partner Denise, Catherine's family is spread about the United States.  This meant that a Memorial Service for Catherine could not be held until today.  It took place in a Funeral Home and in a room which was crowded - with maybe 140 mourners.

After a song by one of Catherine's circle of friends, and a poem by another, Denise delivered a loving eulogy.

Then came the readings and prayers for Christian Burial. These were led by my good and local friend Bob Lewis, and by me -  hence the "Clerical Two-Step"

Bob is in fact The Revd. Robert Lewis, an Episcopal Priest who was a Rector in Hudson NY,  before retiring, and later moving to Sarasota.

Bob and I shared the leadership of the service for Catherine (who was herself an Episcopalian). It was a honour to do so.

Many of our friends (who know that we are retired Priests)  see us at bowling, at various and sundry parties, and at dinners of one sort or another.  But this was the first time that most of them had seen us in our sober suits and clerical collars.  It was cause for a double take.

I was gently delighted at being able to share in a Christian service with my pal Bob.  It all felt very natural and normal.

And we pray for Catherine and her family, and for Denise.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Conscience, ethical behaviour, and consistency.

Oh it's so darned hard to live with a conscience which calls for consistent ethical actions.)

I struggle with this in my many and various purchases.

You all know that I am a great fan of the Trader Joe's stores. When I enter one of these stores I sometimes think that I am in a secret cult with all manner of bargains for  initiates, or I think that I am in a place which leads me to a kind of evangelical fervor.

See http://www.traderjoes.com/about/index.asp  and especially check out the "Customer Updates"

The prices are good and most of the products are of excellent quality. But please note that T'J's is not a health foods store -  and it's important to check the labels for sodium, calorie, vitamin, fats etc.

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A few weeks ago at Trader Joe's I bought  a 48 ounce  canister of "100% Desert Mesquite Honey  - From the Desert of Northern Mexico".  It is very good honey.

I paid just over $8. for 3 lbs of  honey.  What a bargain.

Then I began to think backwards.  I thought about

1. The wages for my local T.J's employees, and the overheads for a local store  (electricity, business and property taxes etc.)

2. The cost of transporting this honey from Mexico via  California, and then to an east coast T.J's distribution centre, and from this centre to Sarasota.

3. The cost of processing and  packaging the honey in Mexico or California.

4. AND THEN the wages paid to the campesinos who harvested the raw honey in the Desert of Northern Mexico.

DID THEY RECEIVE A LIVING WAGE FOR THEIR ARDUOUS WORK?  

I wish that Trader Joe's would tell us about the social costs of their products alongside their claims about Antibiotic-Free Meat, Non GMO ingredients, Sea food sources,  etc.

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Then again my virtuous side bought a 300g jar of  Hot Mango Chutney at the St. Boniface Church Sarasota  "Global Gifts Fair".

Goodness gracious  it is a fabulous and delicious  product from the "Eswatini Kitchen".  I often use it to "spice up" a soup of stew.

I paid the princely sum of $7 for this chutney.

There is a kicker.   The chutney is made in Swaziland.

I had to do  Google search to identify this country.  (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swaziland )

The label on the jar tells me that " Traditionally made by women,  Eswatini Kitchen supports local farmers  by buying their produce at fair prices.  All profits go to support  marginalized  youth in Swaziland".

(It is Fair Trade Certified),

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Are my scruples about my purchase of   T J's  "100% Desert Mesquite Honey  - "From the Desert of Northern Mexico", mitigated by my purchase of "Eswatini Kitchen Fair Trade Mango Chutney"

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I think not  (but it was a good try!).

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Conscience, ethical behaviour, and consistency are so darned difficult.
 
 

Monday, 10 February 2014

President Obama as a House Slave

I am not sure if Speaker of the House John Boehner (R)  is hapless, or delusional, or just plain malignant.  It matters not when I consider how destructive this man and his party in Congress are.  They are causing great danger to America, and great suffering to the unemployed, under-employed and dirt poor.

Speaker Boehner's  malignant side came out when he announced that in all likelihood an Immigration Bill would not be taken up by the House this year.

NBC news on 6th Feb reported that Boehner said "There's a widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws"

(Despite the fact that under the Obama administration 1,869,025  (yep nearly two million) undocumented aliens have been deported. Obama is well on track to best the numbers of such deportations under George W Bush).

"doubt about whether this administration can be trusted"  there's another bit of code language for you. 

In this code President Obama is the House Slave who, however close and apparently loyal he is to the slave-owner, cannot in the end be trusted.

To the slave owners all  slaves were inherently untrustworthy.

 Boehner's language signals to the right wing that he views Obama as nothing more than a house slave, one who is entirely untrustworthy.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

"Thug" - the new code words for n-gg-r.

Richard Sherman, corner back for the Seattle Seahawks said this in a brief T.V. interview immediately after the Seahawks win in the 2014 Super Bowl.  (He was on the field and still in uniform!)

 "I'm the best corner[back] in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you going to get."

Of course that's exactly the kind of off the cuff rhetoric which any sportsman/woman might spout after a great sporting victory.

Except that you cannot say such things if you are black.  For when black people are exuberant they are immediately pegged as "thugs", as was Sherman.

Here is a bit about the "thug" in question  ( these are not my words, they are lifted from the Huffington Post).

See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/isaac-saul/what-richard-sherman-taught-us_b_4631980.html

 
"But from my perspective, the heat Sherman is getting is not just misguided but ludicrous. This is a guy who represents one of the best kinds of sports stories there is in the world: the rise from the bottom, the profound destruction of obstacles, the honest success story built by a foundation of hard work and loving parents. If anyone with a brain took the time to learn about Richard Sherman, and then put him in the context of the rest of the National Football League, he'd be a pretty hard guy to bash.
 
Firstly, we're talking about a 25-year-old who came out of the streets of Compton, California. Sherman graduated from one of the worst school districts in the United States, one that boasts a high-school graduation rate of 57 percent. In a country where 68 percent of all federal and state inmates are lacking a high school diploma, you could say Sherman avoided a horrifying fate.

But to say he "got lucky" or "escaped" would be foolhardy. He didn't "just graduate," either. He finished with a 4.2 GPA, second in his class, and went on to Stanford University, one of the most prestigious places to get an education in the entire world. He busted out in a rocket ship. He went from a world of gang violence and drugs to everything that Palo Alto and Stanford University represent.

And where did Mr. Sherman get the work ethic to put up those grades and make it to a school that offers that kind of education? Probably from his father, Kevin, who has worked in the sanitation department for Los Angeles for more than thirty years. But you won't see that on Sherman's stat sheet, and you definitely won't hear about it when ESPN analysts comment on his post-game interview today.

So now, America, let's talk about Richard Sherman in the NFL. Let's talk about the Stanford graduate from Compton who has never been arrested, never cursed in a post-game interview, never been accused of being a dirty player, started his own charitable non-profit, and won an appeal in the only thing close to a smudge on his record.

This past off-season, 31 NFL players were arrested for everything from gun charges and driving under the influence to murder.

Last year, Kansas City Chiefs player Javon Belcher killed Kasandra Perkins, his girlfriend and the mother of his own child, before taking his own life.

Week in and week out, we sit down in front of our televisions and cheer for these freak athletes to destroy each other's bodies in one of the most brutal games known to man. Most of us probably do it with a beer in our hand, screaming and cursing at our TVs in a desperate hope to change the outcome of the game. We ignore how the NFL's owners use our tax money so freely, and we don't seem to care much about the brain damage retired players suffer from every year.

Yet, when one kid who has overcome everything, one kid who was doubted by the very player he overcame on Sunday, decides to emphatically claim he is the best (by the way: he is), this is what upsets us? Man, could you imagine if this generation had to deal with Muhammad Ali?"

Thanks Huff Po  for this truthful account of the "real" Richard Sherman.  But of course, he is still a "n-gg-r"   -   oops I mean "thug".

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Meanwhile in Florida "The Jim Crow State"  ---- oops I got it wrong again, I mean "The Sunshine State"  a man named Michael Dunn is on trial for the murder of  Jordan Davis. 

Davis and his companions were in a car in which  he and three other teens were playing very loud "rap music" when they pulled into the Gate gas station on Nov. 23 2012.

Michael Dunn was also at that gas station.  He voiced his objections to the loudness of the music and there was an oral but non-violent  confrontation with the young men in the other car.

Dunn's fiancée went into the gas station's store, whereupon Dunn fired nine shots into the other car. 

Jordan Davis was hit by three of the shots and subsequently died.

According to the testimony given in Court by Dunn's fiancée he said "I hate THUG music".

 I suspect that he meant "N-gg-r" music, but what do I, a white liberal, know about such matters.

(I forgot to mention that Dunn is white and the youths in the other car were black  -  silly me).

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