a few points gleaned from a lunchtime ‘washington [#fakenews] update’ address with Congressman Gregg Harper

fake news gregg harper

click picture to contact the congressman

I attended a rather large and significant event (considering Mississippi economics) at the end of last week. I won’t mention specifics, but it was a convention for an association representing an industry that employs a huge percentage of Mississippi workers.

Congress(person)man Gregg Harper, 3rd District, was the keynote speaker. It’s no secret that I’m neither a fan of the current administration nor the mindless masses [traitors] who support them, so I decided…’during this talk, I’ll take notes.’

{coming clean from the beginning — he didn’t know there was anyone present who would identify themselves as ‘a member of the media’…he asked, I held my tongue. I think it only fair that the public (electorate) hear what our elected officials say when they believe no one is around to report it.}

These are my notes, clarified some after the fact, annotated with my own commentary, from that address. I did not take notes about everything, nor do I claim to represent everything he addressed — but everything following was in truth said by the Congressperson. We all take note particularly of statements we strongly agree with or strongly disagree with, and my notes reflect that reality. There’s my full disclosure.

Things the elected official from Mississippi said and discussed — my annotated comments in brackets:

  • The news is frequently wrong, and many stories going around now in the media, even media that should be friendly to the administration, are false.
    [The continual attack on reporting and news undercuts freedom of the press — authoritarian governments do this. Always. #fakenews #administrationlies]
  • He rambled about North Korea for a while, bragging about two warships now being posted in the region, just in case. He made it clear that we are ramping up for war, and the administration doesn’t expect anyone to be able to stop it. Reason #1: the nature of North Korea’s administration. Reason #2: none of North Korea’s allies will be able to curb them except perhaps China, but they can’t be trusted to follow through with what they say.
    [Elected government officials making glib comments about events that could be leading us to war is disturbing. Laughter. “Well, we can at least get some war games out of all of this.” It is as though they forget that the lives of the men and women of the armed forces rest in the balance — US service people and innocent Korean civilians will die if war happens. This is no laughing matter.]
  • “The Chinese can change their mind by breakfast…no government steals more intellectual property…” This is the statement immediately following comments on North Korea, related to our inability to trust China to keep North Korea in check. We don’t trust the Chinese — a point he made several times.
    [Governments don’t trust each other. They spy. They maneuver. They manipulate. But government officials tend to keep overt criticisms, especially unprovoked ones, to a minimum. And accusations of theft should be backed up with some sort of evidence, even if generally believed to be true — throwing around accusations is dangerous. Another hint of both the isolationism and amateurism that we’re seeing from the US government lately.]
  • The conversation then moved on to disparaging the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with Russia. It was presented as a massive distraction posed by the left. Government leaks were the next topic, with a basic formulaic-type response I’d heard before — leaks are dangerous, never a good thing, government knows best, leakers should be caught and punished. Another hint that much of what was presented by media as leaks was just fake news. But then a surprise comment, one that I appreciated: he praised the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to lead the Russia investigation.
    [I laughed at a few jokes over the course of the talk, but this comment on Mueller was the only time I genuinely felt something like happiness. At least there was a willingness to not start trying to undercut the investigation from the beginning — Mueller is respected by everyone, and Harper’s comments showed that fact. But the constant attacks on the other side in a general way, and dismissing the conclusions of multiple intelligence agencies off-the-cuff simply doesn’t make any sense, and reminds me of a great quote from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: “We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”]
  • Paraphrase: The media has latched on to Jared Kushner’s alleged attempt to create a back channel of communication with Russia. This kind of back channel is usual for campaigns in transition, and there’s nothing unusual or illegal about it. It’s been going on at least since the time of President Reagan.
    [Again, my comment would be that brushing potentially compromising situations under the rug neither inclines others to trust, nor speaks directly of honesty. The congressman was also bending the truth — secret channels of communication with foreign governments are not unusual for presidents, but are in fact highly unusual for teams in transition. There is a huge difference between ‘President of the United States’ and ‘President-elect.’ One is the leader of the free world; the other has neither power nor authority to act on behalf of the American people. Looking into and clarifying the communications associated with this back channel makes perfect sense, both as a responsibility of ethical elected leaders and a responsibility to the American public.]
  • In the midst of attacking the left (Democrats) for investigating Trump and his team, Harper then chuckled, stepped away from the mike a bit, and says he has a comment off the record, a comment that hasn’t become a major story (it was implied that the story wasn’t yet known by the media, but that is not the case) but shows the opposition isn’t as clean as they purport to be. He said that about 20 staffers shared between 5 Democratic House members, including Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, were at issue…they were Pakistani, and the implication was that they were illegals.
    [The hollowness of this brief commentary was pathetic. The wrongdoings of Trump are in no way impacted or mitigated or balanced by wrongdoings of other members of government. Anyone in government doing wrong should be held accountable, regardless of their position or party. The actual story about these staff members concerns their being under criminal investigation for equipment theft and misuse of the House IT network, some sources even allege spying is among the concerns, and some of them possibly leaving the county for Pakistan after the investigation began.]
  • We then returned to the meandering course of the address, moving to healthcare. A healthcare bill has passed the House and is now being considered by the Senate. The bill will be greatly changed after the Senate’s work, but he hopes to have the two bills in conference by late July. He went on to say that he will always refer to the Affordable Care Act as “Obamacare;” it isn’t affordable, so he refuses to call it that. He then claimed that none of the promises of the law have happened, and that now the entire healthcare system in our country is ruined and messed up. Parts of the new bill that he particularly praised included purchasing insurance across state lines and removing regulations on the insurance industry in order to stabilize the markets.
    [The Senate has already confirmed they aren’t “looking at” the House bill. They are writing their own, and will refer to the House bill, but aren’t even using it as a basis or starting point. The Senate will pass their own bill, and having two radically different bills into conference by July is less a hope than a delusion. Refusing to call a law passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president by it’s name…refusing to use the name of a law of the United States…this, I’m afraid, betrays an attitude toward the law not befitting an elected member of government. The notion that nothing of the ACA has worked at all, for anyone, in any way, is a sweeping false generalization (as one example, how many more people now have health insurance that didn’t before the ACA), and laying blame for the ruination of American healthcare (another false hyperbole) at its feet is equally ridiculous. Plenty of experts have already explained why purchasing across state lines is absurd (networks, etc.), and insurance industry regulations are in place because the industry was gutting the American people and making healthcare inaccessible to increasingly more people. Bad ideas a plenty…]
  • I’m not sure if this next comment was planned, related somehow to healthcare, or an unexpected aside. He said that the average American citizen has no idea about politics. Politicians keep up with what’s going on, conversations the average citizen doesn’t know are happening and can’t even understand, and therefore politicians are best equipped to make political decisions. Leave it to the professionals.
    [A calloused comment that was really the only time I considered walking out of the address. His disdain for his electorate was off-putting in the worst way. He basically said — the public doesn’t know what’s best, or good for them, or even what they want…they don’t understand the conversation…they should shut up and let the pros, like me, take care of everything for them. Sounds very authoritarian to me.]
  • I hoped the next conversation would happen, and lucky for me, it did. The Paris Agreement. Harper preached that the Agreement was a bad deal for American, a unilateral executive decision made by President Obama, which has the traits of a treaty and should have come before Congress for approval. Trump was praised for pulling out of the Agreement so America won’t be at a massive economic disadvantage to the rest of the world by the end of the century. AND, he added, it is only estimated to reduce world temperatures by 0.2 degree by the year 2100.
    [Where to even begin on this topic…it’s hard to decide, since the administration denies the reality of climate change and loves to misconstrue data. In brief — the Paris Agreement is voluntary, and any country can change their commitments. It’s also nonbinding — I think that needs to further explication. These two points, facts, voluntary and nonbinding, also demonstrate why it’s not a treaty. I am surprised the congressman didn’t deduce that on his own. Trump also said he wanted to renegotiate – 195 countries signed, and have already said they will not renegotiate. Also, renegotiation is entirely unnecessary, since the Agreement is voluntary and the commitments can be changed. Further, the comment on temperature reduction (and the study that’s from) betrays a lack of understanding of science, and a bending of reports and data to the administration’s viewpoint. There’s a nice article, if you can bear to read it, in the German publication Spiegel, detailing some of the lies, misinformation, and misunderstandings touted by the Trump administration as “reasons” for the US withdrawal from the Agreement. Even more, it makes clear the betrayal felt by the remainder of the world, and the way our government is now viewed. For your edification — Donald Trump’s Triumph of Stupidity.]
  • Harper then proceeded to say that he’s never seen someone attacked like Trump, and he doesn’t think any president has ever been treated as poorly, and he thinks the approach will backfire on liberals.
    [What short memories our politicians have…a quick primer (there are many, many who have been treated more unfairly than Trump, to use the president’s own words). The United States of America have had 4 presidents assassinated – which seems worse treatment than Trump has received: Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy. There have been at least 20 attempts to assassinate sitting presidents, so we aren’t even in the conversation of worst treated American politician, much less worst treated politician ever.]
  • Before question time (of which only a few were allowed, two of which I’ll comment on below), Harper wanted to make 2 comments about Trump.
    1 – he feels Neil Gorshuch was a great choice for the Supreme Court.
    2 – he said the US hasn’t been respected for many years, had lost world respect primarily because of weak leadership. He thinks the missile strike on the Syrian airbase and the MOAB dropped on ISIS targets in Afghanistan will make the world begin to respect the US again because now they know Trump is a man of action and will do what he says.
    [1 – The Gorsuch seat was stolen from Obama. The Republicans refused to hold hearings on his nominee for a court appointment that was, constitutionally, his to make. The callousness and hypocrisy drips from the capital steps. Gorsuch, this “great choice,” has a record of being anti-equality, especially for the LGBTQ community and women’s rights. He has also, several times, already demonstrated his arrogance and the fact that he’s not up to snuff when compared to the other justices on the Supreme Court.]
    [2 – The leaders of the free world have, for many decades and more, referred to the US as THE leader of the world…any other notion is simply a falsehood. Until 2 weeks ago, that is. The Syrian and Afghanistan attacks have been roundly criticized as illegal by world leaders — not exactly the makings of “restoring respect.” This section could be so long…the ignored security briefings, the murdered civilians. Trump has lost the world’s respect. He has placed the US on the back burner. Trying to claim otherwise is, verifiably, fake news.]
  • Question #1 was about the inefficiency of the VA. Harper supports shutting down the VA and privatizing all aspects of VA care. He said he hates to say it, but what we have now is about as good as big government can do. He also stated that the central problem is federal employee unions, driving up prices and complicating the entire system.
    [The irony, an elected government official blaming all of the problems on the government. Hypocrisy at its finest. Backing the government out of caring for the very people they employed in the armed forces to defend the people and land they claim to care so much about (they are public servants, after all) — is your face making the same strange expression as mine? And then attacking the federal employees as the problem, instead of government’s unwillingness to cut pork and favors in order to care for their citizens…classic pointing the finger and refusing to take any responsibility. But, on the up note, now the people of Mississippi know how this elected official feels about caring for the nation’s and state’s veterans.]
  • The 2nd question I noted was about our role in and relationship with the United Nations. Harper was no fan, and made that clear. His main consternation was what he called the anti-Israel bias at the UN. He then said that his personal belief is that a major part of America’s being blessed by God, and therefore so successful as a nation, is because of our support for Israel. He again said he’s no fan of the UN, but wants to see what the US can do, and if it can’t work in our favor then we should leave.
    [I assume he equates recognizing Palestine as a state as being anti-Israel, a typical American evangelical misnomer. The UN has been a major player in everything from world peace to fighting famine, all over the world. Having everyone work together is not a bad thing, even if it means your particular country can’t always be the top dog. Bringing in his religion might cause an issue, especially if he wants to destroy decades of cooperation because of something he simply believes to be true. That’s not how our republic works.]

I am not surprised by anything the Congressman said that afternoon, but I continue to be saddened by the fact that so many of our elected officials are perfectly willing to ignore criminal behavior, deny science, turn a blind eye to hate, abandon promises and allies…all for the hope that their party can stay in power. Where are the days of a government “of the people, by the people, for the people?”

No government is perfect, but the public must take back this American government from the hands of autocrats and fools who are quickly leading us to a point of no return — destruction of our political structures, economy, environment, and international relationships looms on the horizon.

not a review, but thoughts after reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: “Faith is only a word, embroidered.”

“It appears that certain periods of history quickly become, both for other societies and for those that follow them, the stuff of not especially edifying legend and the occasion for a good deal of hypocritical self-congratulation.”

I finally understand. I see why The Handmaid’s Tale has claimed a spot again on the best seller list. I sit on my couch and feel like a damn idiot. How have I not read this by now? A degree in English, plenty of graduate work (150+ hours and degrees to show), thousands of books read, 39 years of life gone – but never this one. The older I get and the more I experience and read, the more I realize that I know nothing, I’ve read nothing, and my life has practically been wasted.

I can imagine a Trump-esque regime leading America to the dystopian reality Atwood’s novel portrays. Fortunately, it seems that public sentiment is slowly turning away from the insanity we see daily from the government (bought by foreign powers, abandoned by those who could help) leading our country today.

Who publicly calls one of their leading allies evil?
Who uses world tragedies to attack their detractors?
Who rapes women?
Who physically attacks reporters?
Who shoves world leaders to keep themselves front and center in all things?
Who brags about supporting Everyman, yet refuses to pay their employees and contractors?
Who brashly shares state secrets with people who are virtually enemies?
Who plots to cut funding for the arts, education, and healthcare?
Who destroys you with a smile, claiming everything will soon be better?

The US today is mimicking the Republic of Gilead, where half of the population repeats phrases they know to be false, praising a regime that continually demonstrates disregard for all but the top 2% of the top 1% (economically).

Artists and writers and the press are persecuted in order to stop them from speaking the truth to the masses. Sound familiar?

The rights of women and minorities are oppressed in order to keep homogeneity in power. Sound familiar?

In The Handmaid’s Tale, our protagonist (and her frequently quoted aunt) remember what life was like before tyranny. But then we hear this: “We were a society dying…of too much choice.” Defeat. Aunt Lydia, and many like her, had not only accepted cruelty and deceit and a warped vision of life, but had come to embrace it. Yes, most likely as a coping mechanism for a reality that felt inescapable, but accept and support and preach they did.

This is our America, 2017, filled with adults and leaders who are bowing to what they swore they’d never accept. Evil, oppression, bigotry, isolationism, authoritarianism – these are the reality of what the regime wrenching power from the people represent.

Attack the press – attack the judiciary – attack the legislative branch – attack foreign governments – attack founding documents – attack the rule of law and justice – attack protestors – attack entertainers – attack artists.

All of this has happened, and will continue. This is a bald-faced attempt to change the landscape of American life, values, culture, history. This is a full-on attack on freedom.

You don’t have to be a particular fan of America to see the problem — I’m not. I often wish I weren’t born here and didn’t live here. But this county has always valued freedom and equality — these are being threatened today, under the very noses of those who swear protection, by the ones elected to protect them. That’s not alarmist — read the news, watch the people running things today and listen to them…listen to the words they proudly speak — there’s no question about their aims.

The Handmaid’s Tale offers us a warning. It shows us a vision of what life could look like if we allow our country to get out of control…if we allow regression to continue. A few glimpses of life in Gildead follow; heed this warning from literature.

Quotes for consideration:

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“Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.”

“We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”

“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

“Sanity is a valuable possession; I hoard it the way people once hoarded money. I save it, so I will have enough, when the time comes.”

“Maybe none of this is about control. Maybe it isn’t really about who can own whom, who can do what to whom and get away with it, even as far as death. Maybe it isn’t about who can sit and who has to kneel or stand or lie down, legs spread open. Maybe it’s about who can do what to whom and be forgiven for it. Never tell me it amounts to the same thing.”

“How easy it is to invent a humanity, for anyone at all. What an available temptation.”

“Pen Is Envy, Aunt Lydia would say, quoting another Center motto, warning us away from such objects. And they were right, it is envy. Just holding it is envy. I envy the Commander his pen. It’s one more thing I would like to steal.”

“Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse, for some.” [it seems so…does this always have to be true?]

“But people will do anything rather than admit that their lives have no meaning. No use, that is. No plot.”

“There is something powerful in the whispering of obscenities, about those in power. There’s something delightful about it, something naughty, secretive, forbidden, thrilling. It’s like a spell, of sorts. It deflates them, reduces them to the common denominator where they can be dealt with.”

“Change, we were sure, was for the better always. We were revisionists; what we revised was ourselves.”

“Humanity is so adaptable, my mother would say. Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations.”

“I don’t want to be a doll hung up on the Wall, I don’t want to be a wingless angel. I want to keep on living, in any form. I resign my body freely, to the uses of others. They can do what they like with me. I am abject. I feel, for the first time, their true power.”

musings on a wedding

I haven’t done an enormous amount of writing about my impending (that word sounds ominous…upcoming might fit better) wedding, but it’s been on my mind for nearly a year. After the finalization of my divorce nearly 3 years ago, ending 17 years of marriage (17 years and 17 days, from wedding to final filing of divorce papers), I had no intention on involving myself in a serious relationship, a relationship leading to another marriage or even a long-term partnership. My resolve, it seems, was not as firm as the notion of that resolve, and I soon found myself in quite a serious relationship. That relationship went on for about a year, ended, and my resolve returned, this time with much more success.

The next months were spent as I’d initially envisioned – reading, writing, my kids, time with my friends, work, random dates, lots of time alone. This was what I wanted, a life unto myself. I recognize fully that I am a very selfish man, and I preferred, at this point in my life, to keep that selfishness to myself.

Fast forward a bit, and in early December of 2015 (on the 7th, to be exact) I found myself playing pub quiz with a friend, and meeting by chance her good friend, who was soon to become my girlfriend, and fairly quickly thereafter my fiance. It’s been a whirlwind of a year – meeting, dating, falling in love, our kids meeting, engagement, and now wedding planning — and all of that surrounded by the normal waves of life – jobs, new jobs, exes, money, housing, groceries, cars, friends. The whole thing gets overwhelming, at times, for me, and I’m certain for her as well.

So why, in the middle of a life I was so enjoying, did I decide to adjust my attitude (and everything about my life) and get married again? Marriage and buying a house were the two things I’d sworn to myself that I’d never do again, and here I am, moving rapidly toward them both.

Why? Love. I know, it sounds like I’m about to launch into something deserving placement on the back of a tacky romance novel. But that’s not really what I mean. Yes, of course, love is an emotion. Yes, I feel an incredible emotional attachment to my fiance and her children, these new people in my life. But I don’t think I’d be making all of the decisions I am now simply on the basis of fleeting emotions.

Why am I getting married again? A few musings on the woman who will soon be my wife…

  • She is smart, with a keen intelligence that glows from her eyes. She’s a fantastic conversationalist. Our conversations were the first thing that drew me to her…how easily we fell into familiar yet fascinating conversation. And in our many talks, both in person and via text, her intelligence stood at the fore.
  • She’s confident. She’s one of the most self-aware and independent people I’ve ever spent time with. She’s at peace with who she is, and that allows her to interact with others on her own terms. Not arrogance, but self-assurance. She makes her own way, and I’m fortunate to share that path with her now.
  • She is a wonderful mother, and subsequently, a wonderful partner. She loves her children. She supports them. She encourages them. She guides them. She teaches them. One very important thing she does not do — she does not try to mold them into what she wants them to be, rather she helps them discover who they want to be. It’s not always the easiest path, for her or anyone else, but it’s the best path to end up with well-adjusted and competent adults. All of these traits are present in her interactions with me, as well, making her a true partner with me in our growing relationship.
  • Lastly, I suppose it must be included – she is beautiful and sexy. I don’t think I can expound on that much, without making the post non-child friendly…but she never thinks of her physical characteristics in a self-serving way. She’s confident and comfortable in her body, and at the end of the day, it is part of what makes her all that she is. But it is not, as is the sad case with too many people today, how she defines herself.

There are certainly more things to say — I could go on all day about her, which, I think, is natural for a person in love — but I have to save something for my wedding vows, don’t I?

I am as happy as I’ve ever been. Life isn’t perfect, but somehow, I don’t think it needs to be. Beyond perfection and happiness, I am fulfilled — I am complete. And it feels wonderful.


The wedding look, for those who might be interested…

Grandma Nancy & PawPaw Buck

My last surviving grandparent passed away last week – Grandma Nancy, my father’s mother. Yesterday, I delivered the eulogy at her funeral. As I reflected on her life and the life of my grandfather (her husband), I pulled out his eulogy (delivered in 2007). They were amazing people, and as I prepared my words for her, I decided that I would share them both here when the funeral was over.

I’ve been involved in a number of funerals over the years, a number of times as priest, a number of times as eulogist, and others as pall bearer or attendee. The only adults’ funerals I’ve ever spoken at were those of my paternal grandparents. I delivered the eulogy for my grandfather, PawPaw Buck, and his dearly beloved wife, Grandma Nancy. Her funeral was just yesterday, and the mourning is still palpable.

I decided to post this today for a simple reason:

The world should meet this woman, and this man – we’ve a lot to learn from them both.

I love them dearly. And I miss them.

(As you read, remember that these are written to be delivered, so they are punctuated and structured as such.)

Grandma Nancy

delivered Tuesday, 14 March 2017

We’re here today to celebrate, mourn, and remember someone that we all deeply love – Nancy Jane Landrum Jackson. She’s no longer with us in this world, and our acts of memorial this morning – her funeral and burial – this is but the beginning of our remembering her. Those of us who knew her – or felt like we knew her – so well…we’ll continue to remember her, to share our stories about her with each other, our family, our friends, our children, hopefully our grandchildren. We’ll continue to remember her for the rest of our lives.

Clyde, Jr., called me last Monday to let me know that hospice had given Grandma Nancy about 72 hours to live. He was headed to Georgia that night – but the family wanted to know if I would be willing to deliver this eulogy today, at her funeral. Of course, my answer was yes – I was honored to be asked, very much as I was nearly 10 years ago for PawPaw Buck.

Many things have changed over the course of the last 9.5 years; many things have remained the same. This morning, I’ll try to offer a few memories of my grandmother. After I read her obituary, I hope you’ll forgive me, but I’ll be calling her Grandma Nancy (as I’ve done already a few times). I can really only talk about her as a grandson talks about his grandmother – that was our relationship, and that’s mostly what I’ll do in my words today.

Obituary (amended by me)
Nancy Jane Jackson, age 90, of Calhoun, GA, formerly of Saucier, MS, passed away Wednesday, March 8, 2017, in the Gordon Health Care Center in Calhoun, GA. Nancy was born August 7, 1926, in Smith County, MS, daughter of Daniel Herman Landrum and Rena Adcox Landrum. She was a homemaker and a member of the Baptist faith. Besides her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband, Clyde Willard Jackson. Survivors include 4 sons, Clyde Willard Jackson, Junior, Shelton Ray Jackson, Dennis Eugene Jackson, and Ronald Glyn Jackson; two daughters, Sandra Jackson and Barbara Jackson; nine grandchildren; and twenty-one great grandchildren. Four sisters, Margie Neel Carr, Hazel Cummings, Betty Jean Jones, and Pauline Anderson; one brother, Billy Frank Landrum, also survive.

As I was preparing for today, I realized that I never talked to Grandma Nancy much about growing up, about her childhood and youth. I was told that she used to talk about growing up, and how she’d take care of her siblings and other kids around while the parents were working in the cotton fields. She didn’t care whose kids they were, if they were black or white, she took care of them all. That one big thing I remember about Grandma Nancy – she accepted people for who they were. I don’t recall ever hearing her be judgmental – she was human, I’m sure she judged, like we all do – but who and what a person was didn’t seem to change her attitude toward them. She was a caregiver. How many of us sat around the long dining room table in Saucier, or on the front porch swing, or under the big tree in the front yard – we sat, and she cared for us.She cooked for us; she fetched for us; she talked to us; but most of all, in my mind, at least, she listened to us. She was there for us. As my brother said so well (to me, recently), “She was always there with us, in the moment – no matter what was going on, she was present; she invested her time in us.”

I learned a lot about Grandma Nancy’s life this past week, talking with people and listening to their stories. I was especially touched to hear a few things about her younger years, before she was “Grandma”…when she was simply Nancy, and wife, and mother, and daughter, and friend, and coworker. A few of my favorites:

  • Nancy and Clyde worked together, before he went into the army, at a cotton gin, carrying 100 lb bales of raw cotton together
  • One of her proudest moments personally was going to receive her GED (I’d never considered my grandmother’s level of education before hearing about that)
  • Several people told me how much she loved to bowl, and used to bowl on league teams. She even bowled, with plastic pins and ball, at her great-grandchild’s birthday party not too many years ago. And we always had plastic bowling equipment in the toy box at their house, as the grandchildren will remember well. It all made sense after those stories.

We all know that, exactly as it had been for PawPaw Buck, the day that plotted the course of life for Grandma Nancy was April 28, 1945, when they were married. A few years later they began a 21 year military career. I remember how she loved to say that she followed her military man all around the country, and even to the other side of the globe. Together they had an incredible life, so much a part of each other and who they were. Their union resulted in 6 children, and as we heard earlier, 9 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren. Grandma Nancy was proud of her children – she regularly caught me up on what was going on with my aunts and uncles, and my cousins. She loved her family – she loved to talk about us all, and brag about us all.

So I asked her children for a few memories of their mother to share this morning. I can’t nearly share them all, but a few.

All of them mentioned 2 memories specifically:

  • How much she loved to sing gospel songs, whether working around the house, driving, or just sitting and singing. One of her favorites, which we’ll hear shortly, was “Where the Soul of Man.”
  • She loved to gather her children and read to them. I heard a few different locations – under a big shade tree was the most remembered. I heard a few different books, but one that everyone remembered – Dr. Doolittle.

In the mix of stories were so many things about her:

  • Aphorisms and sayings (one of her favorites was instructing us not to refer to children as kids, because goats were kids, and we were raising children!)
  • How much she loved to go fishing
  • Shelling peas and beans with her on the front porch swing
  • Her food (especially peanut butter and jelly and butter sandwiches)
  • She loved good strawberry shakes
  • She loved wildlife and the outdoors

There are so many stories, and so many memories…but our time here is short, so I have to move on toward a conclusion.

Her final years are more difficult to discuss for a range of reasons. Her health, and especially her memory, began failing not long after PawPaw Buck passed away. It really began before, but they held each other up and together in a way that made it not as obvious to those of us around them. When she was staying with my parents, I would bring my kids by every few weeks to see her – it was a bittersweet moment. She wouldn’t remember them – “oh, great grands I’ve never met.” But then she’d hug on them, and beam with pride at these 5 great grandchildren of hers, and tell them stories…her memory was fading, but her love for her family was as strong as ever. My father said he realized something in that time as well, something that became really clear to me as well as I prepared for this morning – many of us tended to spend a lot of our time with PawPaw Buck, and we didn’t get to know Grandma Nancy in quite the same way. But she was always there, supporting and loving all of us. And now I wish I’d cherished that time more.

Eventually, Grandma Nancy was moved to Gordon Health Care Center in Calhoun, GA. Three of her children lived right there in town, and the other three traveled to see her and spend time with her. Others of us did as well. And now we’re here, saying our final goodbye.

So my final thought for us this morning:
Grandma Nancy was the matriarch of our family. Nancy and Clyde, they built one hell of a thing together, this wonderful woman and her military man…they built this family. Some of my favorite memories of growing up were times spent at the Jackson family reunion – all of us gathered together, laughing, playing, singing, talking. Spending time together, with the patriarch and matriarch of the family at the center of everything. This Jackson family is an amazing group of people for many reasons, primary among them, the foundation laid down by Nancy and Clyde. I hope we can do them proud and keep it together for many generations to come.

PawPaw Buck

Wednesday, 15 August 2007 (slightly edited from its original form for publication)

[I’m really glad that Jay offered to play and sing here this morning. One of my fondest memories of my grandfather is sitting out under the tree or on the porch, with Jay and Shelton playing guitar, and the banjo, and the mandolin, and PawPaw could just sit out there forever listening to them play. He really would have loved his brother doing this for him.]

Grandma Nancy asked me Monday if I would be willing to give some words, a eulogy, a remembrance, for PawPaw Buck at his funeral. I’m honored to be asked, and happy as his grandson to have this opportunity. And since most of my reflection will be personal…I was very touched that Grandma Nancy asked me to do this. And later in the week, several of PawPaw Buck’s siblings pulled me aside and said that just recently, he told them that he wanted me to do this, to give the eulogy at his funeral – it’s an honor. I hope that I can make it through and say something that PawPaw would be proud to hear.

We’re here this morning because someone that we all love is no longer with us. We’re here to mourn his absence, to miss him. But PawPaw Buck would just as much want this to be a joyful remembrance, a celebration of his life. He loved life, and that’s how he would want to be remembered – with love and joy. And he was well loved – we can look around this room and see his wife, and children, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren, brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, neighbors. We’re all here today to remember a man who deeply touched all of our lives.

Clyde Willard Jackson, “Buck” to most of us, was born on the 7th of May in 1929, near Soso, Mississippi. He was the child of Robert and Bessie Jackson, the oldest boy of his mother’s 7 children, and one of 21 brothers and sisters. One of the memories from his childhood that he shared just recently was about one of his older brothers, Claude. He would tell how Claude taught him to hunt and fish, and really took him under his wing. And how they would hunt raccoon and possum in the middle of the night with a carbide lantern…and he still had several of the lanterns!

No one seems to know where he got the nickname “Buck” from, he even told several different stories about it…I heard a very funny story about his “Buck-dance” from the family reunions. But he often told the story that his brother bought a dog for $5. And their father was upset. Because $5 was a lot of money. But that dog turned out to be just the best, smartest dog. And the dog’s name was Buck. So he liked to say that he was named after the dog!

But on April 28, 1945, Clyde made the move that shaped the entire remainder of his life – he married the love of his life, Nancy Jane Landrum. He would laughingly say that he ran until she caught him…and it helped that he wanted to be caught! But the most important relationship of his life, a life so defined by the loving relationships he had with people, his most cherished relationship was with his wife.

In December of 1948, Clyde and Nancy entered the United States military. I say Clyde and Nancy because Clyde became a soldier in the Army, but it was a lifestyle that the whole family was to share for the next 21 years, 3 months, and 24 days. Early this week Grandma Nancy reminisced that she followed her military man all around the country, and even to the other side of the world – for two years with the family in Germany. Clyde served as a medic in the United States Army. He wasn’t drafted or forced into service, he was a volunteer soldier, he wanted to serve his country. He was proud to be an American, and he was honored to be able to offer his services in his country’s armed forces. When he retired from the military, he retired as a Medical Senior Sergeant. And over the course of his 21 years in the service, he received numerous awards and citations and commendations. This was his career. He had other jobs after he retired from the military, but this was the “job” he was proud of. He always flew an American flag in his yard, he always voiced support for his country and the military, and he was always ready to proudly declare his own service for his country. But he wasn’t a bragger. Other relatives told me that he served 2 tours of duty in Korea, and 2 tours of duty in Vietnam. He didn’t boast about those experiences. But he was proud to have been part of something that he held in such high esteem.

Over the course of their marriage, PawPaw Buck and Grandma Nancy had six wonderful children, that they’re both so proud of. He loved to sit and tell stories about what his children were doing, where they were, what they’d done when they were growing up. He was so proud of them all, what they’d done with their lives, what they’d become as adults.

I’ll share one of the stories that was told by his children over the last few days…everyone remembered it, but Shelton wrote it down for me. “Even though Daddy wasn’t always at home, we knew he was thinking about us. Like the time when he had to go to Germany during the crisis of 1961-62 and we stayed behind in Shady Grove at Bush Dairy. He sent Clyde and I some new fangled Garcia 308 UL reels and rods with 2 pound test line and some small Mepps spinners. I remember an adult bass fisherman laughing at our outfits. Later that same day that fellow paid us $2.00 and gave us his tackle box, with lures, for an 8 pound bass we landed after a prolonged fight. That was when $2.00 would fill our car up. We took to bringing a foot tub along, so that we could carry all our fish home for Mamma to cook.”

Shelton and Clyde told another story, one of Clyde’s favorites. When they were living in San Antonio, PawPaw Buck made a kite for the kids. A huge kite, about 6 feet tall! So PawPaw flew it, and Clyde Jr. flew it, and Shelton flew it. And then Sandra wanted to fly it. And she was just a little thing. So PawPaw handed over her the kite string…and away she went. It picked her right up off the ground, and PawPaw had to reach up and grab her so she wouldn’t fly away! The kite, however, did get away.

As we all know, PawPaw Buck was killed while riding his tractor at his home in Saucier on August 12, 2007. As several of his sons have reflected the last few days, he died doing what he loved to do. He loved to work around the house, to look after his animals, to ride the tractor, to work on cars. Whatever needed doing, he couldn’t wait to get out of the house and do it. And we all know that he was physically weakening over the last few years. He was tired, he was in some pain, he had to take a lot of medicine. He hated not being able to do the things he loved doing. The doctors told him not to ride the tractors, and it hurt him to do it. But he would do it anyway. He would go out there and just sit on them, tinker with them, and even get on and ride them some, just to be around the things he loved. He didn’t want us to feel sorry for him, and I don’t think he felt sorry for himself. He grieved that he wasn’t able to live the kind of life that he wanted to live, that he had lived for 78 years. And as terrible and tragic as his death is for all of us, we can give thanks that over the last few weeks, he had some time when he was feeling better, had some more energy, where he was more able to do more of the things he loved to do. And so many of us that loved him had opportunities to spend some time during these special last months with him – he was able to enjoy the Jackson and Landrum reunions, members of the family have been able to come and visit recently, and he’s been able to do some of the things he missed doing.

One of the ways he’ll be remembered was his interest in others. He certainly did the things that he wanted to do. But he was always watching out for us as well. We’ll remember him as a man who loved his family, who watched out for the people he knew, a man who loved his country, and lived an honest and upright life that any of us should be proud to follow after in his footsteps.

We could sit here and tell stories all day. Many of us that are here today have been doing just that – sitting around the house in Saucier sharing remembrances of PawPaw Buck. And I’m sure we’ll be doing it for the next several days, and for the rest of our lives. But we do have to draw this portion of the morning to a close.

Clyde was preceded in death by his parents, Robert and Bessie Jackson, and his sister, Ruth Hewes.

And he’s survived by his wife of 62 years, Nancy Landrum Jackson; his 6 children, Clyde Jr., Shelton, Sandra, Dennis, Barbara, and Ronald; 9 grandchildren; 15 great grandchildren; his brothers, Robert, Ray, and Jay; his sisters, Juanita and Helen; along with numerous cousins and nieces and nephews and other relatives.

Any time that someone so close to us departs from this life, it gives us an opportunity not only to reflect on their lives, but to look also at our own. And the question I would like to pose, and I think the question his life makes us ask – are we pouring ourselves into life like he did? Are we taking full advantage of our time here on this earth? The memories we share of PawPaw Buck are because he attacked living with all he had. And now we remember the vigor and joy of his life, and we set out in his footsteps, so to speak, to make the most of the life that we have.

I’ve talked about PawPaw Buck, how I and others have remembered him, who he was, what he did. But I’ll end with the thing that he specifically said he most wanted people to hear at this time – how deeply he loved his wife, he drew his strength from her, he relied on her, he shared his life with her. He would also want us to know how much he loved and cherished his children, his brothers and sisters, and all of us who were privileged to call him a relative or a friend.

bathroom bills: what is the debate really about?

Gender norms in Western society* were historically, and in many cases still are, very difficult to navigate for anyone falling outside of the widely defined term “normal.” If a person wished to express style or persona or activities not aligning with their biological gender at birth, they risked backlash including bullying, threats, physical violence, or the loss of job or associates.

Society has slowly moved to the point where individuals who do not exhibit socially defined “gender normative behavior” are beginning to be given the respect and dignity and civil rights that should be shown to everyone.

But this is not happening everywhere. It’s not happening for everyone. In fact, segments of the US population are pushing against equal civil rights for everyone. We shouldn’t be shocked. Saddened, yes, but not shocked. The same type of people fought (and still fight, often) against civil rights for many groups before – African Americans, Native Americans, women, immigrants – and now the LGBTQ community is the target of their anger and activities.

But why? Why are some people so convinced that liberty is for the few (always including themselves)?

/ trans’jendər, tranz’jendər/
denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex

The fight against the civil rights of transgender people in America has slid near the forefront of news and minds, especially fueled by the various ‘bathroom bills’ that have been proposed and debated across the country. Now the Trump administration has rescinded protections which were given to transgender children (kids, dependent children) by the Obama administration. One president sought to make sure all members of American society enjoyed the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” only to have the promise snatched away once again from an entire marginalized group.

I’d like to look at this from a few different angles, a few different quotes imagined by me (though I am sure said by others) to help consider the issue at hand.

“Why am I fighting against others” – What the Opposition Says

The opposition, those specifically fighting against equal access to public restrooms, has a number of points they like to make. The first focuses on transgenderism as a topic, a topic they discount out of hand. You have such nuanced positions as “transgender doesn’t exist,” “those people are mentally ill,” and “those people are perverts.” Just like the homosexual of not too many years ago, today’s transgender community is faced with attacked centered on identity – who they are, at their core, is questioned, scoffed at, derided, and discarded. Whether the opposition tries to use religion, biology, logic, or anecdotal evidence, the end result is the same – like bigots of any era, they deny the full humanity, the identity, of those they want to discriminate against.

The second point of the opposition that I’d like to address, for the purposes of this consideration, deals specifically with the bathroom bills. The argument against access goes something like this – “well, number one, those people are perverts anyway, but we don’t want men dressing up like women and going into women’s bathrooms and sexually assaulting our little girls.” It has been shown in many places, documented with research, that this fear is something that simply does not happen in the real world. This type of distraction is called a red herring – something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important issue. Opponents of trans rights are using a made up situation as a fear tactic to try and persuade the public to deny the civil rights of an entire group of people.

“School policy is a state’s rights issue” – What the Administration Says

In overturning federal guidelines guaranteeing equal access for all public school students, the Trump administration said “the guidelines were written without due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts in establishing educational policy.”

Attorney General Sessions said this: “The Department of Justice remains committed to the proper interpretation and enforcement of Title IX and to its protections for all students, including LGBTQ students, from discrimination, bullying, and harassment.”

I am sorry, but that reeks of a lie. It is a lie.

Access to restrooms and disallowing discrimination are not “educational policy,” they are human rights issues. States should not have the freedom to deny basic civil rights to any of their citizens. The actions of yesterday, overturning the Title IX clarification regarding bathroom and locker access, are a tragedy.

Civil rights issues have virtually always had to be solved on the federal level. For the time being, our transgender children, friends, and relatives have lost the protection of the federal government, and will be left to fend for themselves, surrounded by many who are so filled with hate and fear.

“…and now we have lost…” – What Has Been Lost to Our Children

What the Obama administration had put in place was quite simple:

  • public schools had to allow students to use bathrooms and lockers that matched their gender identity,
  • not doing so was a violation of Title IX, which does not allow discrimination based on sex.

In overturning the federal guidelines and Title IX clarifications, transgender students have once again been put into the line of fire. Now schools can decide to assign lockers and bathrooms to the students however they want, even at the risk of falling into absurdity.

When we will figure out, not only as a nation, but as a society, as a planet, that we don’t get to decide how other people live their lives? That we don’t get to define others based on who we are and what we want them to be? That we don’t get to hate and discriminate and cause harm to other human beings for who they are?

/ze-nə-‘fō-bē-ə, zē-/
fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign

*the same may well be said for all societies, but for this point I’ll refer only to what I know by experience

#wejustneedtopee #wearenotthis #transgender #trans #istandwithgavin #LGBTQ #illgowithyou