A Man Without Malice   2 comments

Above:  The Flag of Canada

Image in the Public Domain



John Turner (1929-2020) did this weekend.  He was an attorney, a cabinet minister in the 1960s and 1970s, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada (1984-1990), the Prime Minister of Canada (1984), and the leader of the opposition (1984-1990).  Turner was a dedicated public servant and a devout Roman Catholic.  He understood the difference between the personal and the political.  Turner stood by his principles without demonizing those who disagreed with him.

Tributes have come from across the political spectrum.  Some of the kindest words have been those of a longtime friend and political opponent, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who defeated Turner in the federal elections of 1984 and 1988.  According to Mulroney, Turner eschewed the politics of personal destruction.  Also, as Mulroney recalled, Turner had no malice toward anyone.  Mulroney had plenty of policy disagreements with Turner, whom he always respected and admired.  And Turner carried himself with dignity in public and private life.

That lack of malice was a great personal and political virtue.

I live in a politically polarized society in which malice is ubiquitous.  Many politicians demonstrate malice daily.  Many of their supporters (a host of them conventionally pious) applaud them for their malice.  We need more simple decency in political life.  We can start by demanding it of politicians for whom we vote.




Posted September 20, 2020 by neatnik2009 in Political Statements 2020

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Vote Suppression   Leave a comment

Above:  The Gerrymander

Image in the Public Domain


Vote suppression is wrong in all circumstances.  When a political party seeks to boost its electoral odds to suppressing votes, it damages the structure of the republic.  Such a party deserves scorn for doing so.

I know enough about United States history to list vote suppression efforts since the earliest days of the republic.

  1. Gerrymandering (a practice older than the label) dates to at least 1788, when Patrick Henry of Virginia tried to draw Congressional district lines to deny James Madison a seat.  The germane historical records tell us Madison won the seat anyway.  The term derives from Elbridge Gerry, the Governor of Massachusetts, who presided over the redrawing of district lines in 1812 to favor his (Jeffersonian) Republican Party.  A famous political cartoon from the time depicts a district the shape of which resembles a salamander.  Gerrymandering entails politicians choosing the voters, not the voters selecting the politicians.  The practice suppresses votes by making voting futile for many potential voters.  Many may choose not to vote because there is no point in doing so.  In 2020, too few Congressional districts are politically competitive.  Some politically secure seats exist apart from gerrymandering, of course.  However, many exist only because of the practice.
  2. The annals of the John Adams Administration (1797-1801) document the Naturalization Act of 1798, which made the minimum period of time to naturalize fourteen years, as opposed to the previous standard of five years.  When one examines the politics of the late 1790s, one realizes that the Federalist Party was trying to maintain its grip on power.  One may also understand that the targeted immigrants were Irish, therefore anti-British.  Perhaps one recalls that the Federalist Party, with its pro-British foreign policy, was unlikely to receive the votes of naturalized Irish-American immigrant men, who tended to favor the (Jeffersonian) Republican Party.  The historical record also tells us that the Naturalization Act of 1798 backfired on the Federalist Party when immigrants hastened to complete their naturalization process than voted (Jeffersonian) Republican enthusiastically.
  3. The Democratic Party committed vote suppression in the post-Civil War South in the name of restoring and maintaining white supremacy.  Methods of vote suppression for nearly a century included lynchings, other forms of violence, informal social pressure, poll taxes, grandfather clauses, and literacy tests.  Literacy tests varied widely, from having to read Latin to guessing how many jelly beans were in a jar.  In Atlanta, Georgia, in the 1890s, voting officials used a literacy test to prevent the brilliant W. E. B. DuBois, a professor at Atlanta University, from registering to vote.  DuBois was literate, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
  4. The Republican Party has been committing vote suppression lately.  Some party officials have even candidly admitted this, without apology.  Their efforts have often had a racist edge, given the rate at which African Americans vote for Democratic candidates.  Since the Republican Party launched its Southern Strategy in the 1960s and began to appeal to White Southern racists, some portion of that party has maintained the Southern Strategy.  Donald Trump has made no secret of his racism.  His dog whistles have been so loud that one does not need canine ears to hear them.  And he has called neo-Nazis “very fine people.”
  5. Voting by mail is safe.  Trump, one who has voted via mail, is lying about it being untrustworthy.  I recall having voted absentee–by mail–more than once.  Some states have much experience conducting elections entirely via mail.  Actually, I prefer voting by mail.  I recall that, earlier this year, I sat down with my ballot, looked up candidates, and marked my ballot.  I also remember that, more than once, I wrote in “None of the above,” even in uncontested races.
  6. No political party has a monopoly on vote suppression.  No major political party in the United States has a clean record regarding opposing this practice.

I hesitate to apply “sacred” to secular institutions, such as the republic.  However, some principles come close to being sacred.  Among these principles are these:

  1. Any political party that has difficulty appealing to voters should seek methods of appealing to them without betraying the highest ideals of human equality.
  2. In a republic, governments should facilitate voting by citizens, not discourage it.

Here I stand.




Fifteen Years in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia   Leave a comment

Above:  Athens-Clarke County, Georgia

Image Source = Google Earth


I grew up moving with my family every two years, on average.  Since 2005, however, I have lived in Athens-Clarke County.  I have recently acquired my third address within Athens-Clarke County.  I have put down roots.

I moved to Athens-Clarke County on Tuesday, August 9, 2005.  I was about to start a doctoral program in history at The University of Georgia.  My major professor cut me from the program in the Fall Semester of 2006.  This action was unjust.  I was neither the first nor the last graduate student to run afoul of a misanthropic major professor.  I remained in Athens, though, and build a new life.

I have been active in St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church since August 2005.  As time has passed, I have become more active, in different ways.  People have come to think of me whenever a task needs an organized person to complete it.  I have, therefore, come to lead the lectors and the money counters, to choose movies for a film series, and to teach a Sunday School class.  That class has moved to Zoom on Thursday evenings since the pandemic started.

My life has been in a drawn-out transitional state since Bonny died on October 14, 2019.  Her death drew boldfaced double lines through my life, with “before” on one side and “after” on the other.  Parts of my life have fallen away.  I have not regretted the departure of most of them.  I have been in a stage of simplification, reorientation, reevaluation, and rebirth.  The process has not ended.

I wonder what I will become.

I still hope for a new, professional relationship to The University of Georgia (UGA).  I bear the university no ill will.  I also recognize that I am the kind of person who can fit in there, if only someone will answer one of my applications for full-time employment there affirmatively.  I have no relationship to UGA, as of today.  Whether that status will change depends mostly on others.  A university or college campus is my natural habitat.  UGA offers an inviting habitat with many opportunities to put skills and talents to productive use.

2020 has been a terrible year, mainly because of the pandemic.  2019 had been my worst year to date before COVID-19 started spreading as far and wide as it has been doing.

Assuming, for the sake of discussion, that I will be alive and well a year from now, I wonder what my life and the world will be like.  I pray that the answer will be “much better.”




My Eleventh Anniversary of Blogging   4 comments

Above:  Lambda, the Eleventh Letter of the Greek Alphabet

Image in the Public Domain


I created SUNDRY THOUGHTS on July 27, 2009.  In time, I spun off seven weblogs from it.

Much has changed since my tenth anniversary of blogging.

  1. I have completed and published lectionary-based devotions for dates through the end of church year 2020-2021.
  2. I have spun PUNS BLOG back into SUNDRY THOUGHTS.
  3. I have added more saints to A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.
  4. I have written the episode guide for seasons one and two of Starhunter Redux.
  5. I have written perhaps the definitive episode guide for The Chronicle:  News from the Edge (2001-2002).
  6. I have openly grieved for Bonny Thomas (1965-2019), whose death has forever altered my life.

One does hope to improve with experience.  My recent blog posts are of a generally higher quality than my earliest ones were.  Most of my earliest blog posts no longer exist, nor should they.  When I read an old blog post and think,

I can do better than that,

I may delete that post and seek to do better.

I plans for more blogging.

  1. I intend to return to lectionary-based devotions eventually, of course.
  2. I plan to revise and update A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days off-and-on until I can no longer do so.
  3. I have plans for blogging at BLOGA THEOLOGICAI intend to blog my way through 2 Kings 22-25, 1 Esdras, 2 Chronicles 34-36, Ezra, and Nehemiah, with a portion of Sirach 49 included, in one project.  The spreadsheet for that project constitutes evidence of my detail-oriented nature.  I also plan to blog my way through 3 Maccabees, with a portion of Sirach 50 incorporated into that project.  Furthermore, I plan to blog my way through 1, 2, and 4 Maccabees, with a portion of Sirach 45 included in that project.  The spreadsheet for that project is also ready.  The first and third projects entail parallel passages.  And, given that strict adherence to chronology is not the organizing principle of Ezra and Nehemiah, I will read those books out of chapter-and-verse order.

I have read all 78 book of the Russian Orthodox canon of scripture.  However, I did that more years ago than some of my former students have been alive.  Reading some of these texts again has, therefore, been like reading them for the first time.

Blogging is a hobby and an outlet.  We should all be cautious what we reveal on the internet, which retains everything.  Stories of people fired because of posts on social media outlets abound.  My use of social media is limited.  I belong to my Nextdoor Digest group, for example.  My major contributions to it are helpful hints in response to other members’ questions.  I know I probably will not get into trouble for answering a neighbor’s request for information about which local thrift stores send out trucks to pick up furniture.  Likewise, I know that my weblogs are public.  I hope they edify others at best.  May other posts be merely harmless, perhaps amusing.  Calling a spade a spade, so to speak, is fine; I will not excuse the inexcusable.  However, I seek to call spades what they are without publishing content I should not publish.  And I feel no obligation to express most of my thoughts.

When 2020 began, I had high hopes for it.  So much for most of those!  We may yet save our republic from internal threats to the Constitution of the United States of America–and from one–Donald Trump–in particular.  The Constitution allows for elections, after all.  And we will eventually get through the Coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences.  We will do so sooner if we, as a people, act responsibly.

2020 may yet have a relatively positive end.  We, as a people, must accept our obligations to and for each other, though.  Mutuality must override individualism in the context of a public health emergency.  I do not like wearing a mask in public, but I do so.  This is about what I need to do, not what I want to do.  This is about what I have a moral obligation to do, not what I want to do in an ideal circumstance.

Next year, I hope to write about my twelfth anniversary as a blogger under much improved circumstances.

Be safe and well, O reader.  Take care of your neighbors and, therefore, of yourself.





Detergents   Leave a comment

Opposition to puns should never deter gents from telling jokes about clothes washers.  No, these punny men should maintain their commitment to clean humor, no matter how others spin the witticisms.

Anti-Intellectualism and Right-Wing Populism   1 comment

Truthiness, Alternative Facts, and Damn Lies

Stephen Colbert, during his years of hosting The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, spoke, in the character of a composite of most of the on-air talent at the FOX News Channel of “truthiness,” defined as

the quality or seeming or feeling true, even when being false.

“Truthiness” is the quality of anti-intellectualism, of the distrust of expertise and reference works.  Objective reality, the character of Stephen Colbert said on October 17, 2005, is

all fact and no heart.

The television persona of Colbert rejected objective reality.

Objectively, surveys revealed that more self-described conservatives than self-described liberals did not get the joke.  More self-described conservatives than self-described liberals failed to realize that Colbert was playing a character.

That which Colbert said in political satire has become the governing strategy of the Trump Administration.  One may recall that, in early 2017, Kellyanne Conway used a now-infamous term:

alternative facts.

Her boss is a proponent and purveyor of alternative facts, half-truths, conspiracy theories, and what Samuel L. Clemens called

damn lies.

Anti-intellectualism is a political and religious tradition in the United States and elsewhere.  (Traditions are, by definition, old, so I choose not to call anti-intellectualism an “old tradition.”)    Related to anti-intellectualism is another tradition, distrust of science.  I trust science and consider myself an intellectual, of course.  Another cousin, so to speak, is the distrust of expertise.  I like experts, people who have read, studied, researched, et cetera.  They are well-informed, by definition.  I do not pretend that they are infallible, but I trust them before I trust an uninformed person on the street.  If that makes me an elitist, so be it.

Right-wing populism embraces truthiness and alternative facts as it rejects intellectualism, expertise, and science.  This tendency is proving deadly during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Wearing masks in public and maintaining social distancing should NOT be controversial, but they are.  The Coronavirus will not vanish one day, magically.  No, it will remain with us for a very long time.  The Bubonic Plague still exists, but how often does it become a news story?  COVID-19 will eventually join the ranks of generally contained diseases that break out here and there, now and again, with limited effects.  We will get to that day sooner rather than later by acting responsibly, both collectively and individually, and by trusting that people who study this disease know more about it than people who do not.

Unfortunately, as human psychology proves, ego defense mechanisms are generally impervious to objective reality.  The least effective way to convince one to change one’s mind may be to present objective information, especially if one’s ego is invested in an erroneous belief.  Consider opposition to vaccination, O reader.  I understand why, centuries ago, when vaccination was new, that many people feared it.  However, given that vaccination has proven effective, fear of it is irrational and contrary to objective reality.

Aside:  I report that the worst reaction I had to an immunization was the exception to the rule.  My standard reaction is none, except for momentary discomfort; I despise needles.  I recall, however, that I passed out momentarily once.  On the other hand, I got a piece of chocolate, so I cannot complain.

This pandemic presents people with a choice:  Behave responsibly and reject misinformation or embrace conspiracy theories and racist, nativistic, xenophobic, and objectively false statements and those who peddle them.




Moving   Leave a comment

And Preparing for It

I am preparing to move for the first time in thirteen years.  My new home is only four or five miles away, depending on the route, so I will remain in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.

The time for moving is right.  My lease will expire in fourteen days.  I need to leave my apartment and neighborhood, given how many memories of Bonny permeate both of them.  And, by grace, I have a much better place to which to go.

I have been downsizing in stages consistently since the summer of 2016.  A hoarder’s house scared the hell out of me.  I have never been a hoarder or close to being one, but I have had a burdensome overabundance of certain items.  I have been downsizing again with zeal as my deadline as the gap between my present day and the deadline to move out has shortened.  I resumed immediately after Bonny died on October 14, 2019.  Since that date, I have been extravagantly generous to thrift stores.  I have made plans for one more act of generosity to my favorite charity, Project Safe (which helps battered women), early next week.

My father was a United Methodist minister in southern Georgia, U.S.A..  We moved every two years, on average.  Certain boxes remained unopened and left in storage between moves.  For example, I remember one day, the day prior to a move out of a parsonage we had inhabited for three years.  We were loading the moving truck.  I opened a closet and saw boxes of books.  I remembered having placed those books in that that closet three years prior.  We had not thought about those books for three years.  Yet we moved them again.

I understand why one may choose to keep some items in storage.  I keep family archives, for example.  Good reasons for keeping certain items in storage can exist.  I intend to keep my maternal grandfather’s ring, for example.  Nevertheless, if one can live comfortably without using an item for a year, one should ask oneself whether one should keep it.  My zealous downsizing testifies that my answer has usually been “no.”

My policy with books, for example, is that they belong on bookcases, not in boxes, in the long term.  More than once during any given year, I reconsider my library and decide which books to keep and which ones to send elsewhere.  I choose to impose the discipline of limited book space on myself.  How can I best use that space?

Downsizing can be liberating.  Knowing that my move will be easier than it would have been feels good.  Certain possessions, in proper quantities, can enrich life.  We cannot take those possessions with us when we die, however.  And I have no intention of imposing a great burden upon those who, in time, will decide the fates of my possessions after I die.  Downsizing is considerate and respectful of them.




Allegedly Pro-Life Republican Politicians Who Are Pro-Death During a Pandemic   Leave a comment


Some politicians who claim the label “pro-life” with regard to abortion are pro-death with regard to COVID-19.

I will get a side point out of the way.  I am cautiously pro-choice.  On principle, I oppose abortion except in extreme cases.  Medical emergencies do exist.  Sometimes somebody will die, regardless of the decision one makes.  Life does not always spare people those dilemmas.  I hold that the people who should make those decisions are usually the ones closest to the individuals affected.  In certain circumstances, however, they may not be.  This can be a complicated issue.

Now, back to the main point….

Recently, the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, mandated that we who live here wear masks in public places.  This was a socially responsible order consistent with science.  This morning, while watching the news briefly (for the few minutes I could bear to do so), I heard that the Dishonorable, Excrable (to use an old word) Brian Kemp, the Governor of Georgia, overrode that ordinance and its counterparts elsewhere in Georgia.  He decreed that no local government may issue a COVID-19-related order stricter than state policy.

Kemp, elected in 2018, ran as a pro-life, pro-gun liability.  He captured what political analysts call the Bubba Vote.  I voted for Stacey Abrams, his main opponent, who came close to winning.

If Kemp were as pro-life as he claims to be, he would issue stricter statewide policies and support the mandating of wearing masks in public.  He is only one politician I condemn for hypocrisy related to being pro-life regarding abortion but not regarding COVID-19.




Becoming   4 comments

One’s life is the continuous process of becoming the next version of oneself.  Former versions of oneself are legion; the next version of oneself awaits.  We all change in a plethora of ways throughout life.  Hopefully, we improve.  Hopefully, we deepen in faith.  Hopefully, we become kinder and more forgiving.  Hopefully, we become more knowledgeable.  Hopefully, we become more compassionate.  Hopefully, we become better at work.  Hopefully, we improve at all worthwhile pursuits.  Hopefully, our language skills will improve.  Hopefully, we will improve (in a number of activities) with practice.  Hopefully, we become more grateful.  Hopefully, we become more loving and less judgmental.  Hopefully, we become more aware of social injustice and refuse to turn a blind eye to it and to defend it any longer.  Hopefully, we practice the Golden Rule more often.

I can speak and write only for myself.  That is all I try to do in this post.

I have noticed changes in myself.  Times of loss and great stress have led to spiritual and emotional growth.  Even during times loss and great stress have not defined, I have changed spiritually.  I have, for example, started growing into mysticism.  Nobody has found this more surprising than I have.  I have also shifted theologically; I have moved toward the center, overall.  I have retained my propensity to ask questions and understand doubts as gateways to deeper faith, though.  When I was an undergraduate at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, one of the other residents in the dormitory told me I would go to Hell for asking too many questions.  I have never changed my mind about her; she did not ask enough questions.  God, who gave us brains, does not intend for us to check our intellects at the church door.  Healthy faith is never anti-intellectual.  I could name some people who do not consider me a Christian, but I will not do so in this post.  To them I say, “You know who you are.”

I am becoming the next version of myself.  Who will he be?  May he be the person God wants him to be.  Those to whom I say, “You know who you are,” will think what they will think.  So be it; I do not answer to them.









Some Oxymorons   Leave a comment

I have been pondering some oxymorons.  “Business ethics” and “military intelligence” are ubiquitous on such lists.  I point out, however, that “military intelligence” need not be oxymoronic and is not always so.  Furthermore, ethical businessmen and businesswomen exist.  I know some of them.

“Negative growth.”

This is a term from business reporting.  Is not an instance of negative growth a loss?

“Auto correct.” 

As frequently as “auto correct” is hilariously or embarrassingly wrong, we should call it “auto incorrect.”

“Jumbo shrimp.”

This is an oldie and a goodie.

“More/less/very/not as/somewhat unique.”

Degrees of uniqueness do not exist.  Period.  Please do not speak or write like a half-witted illiterate who does not know what words mean.

“Mandatory volunteerism.”

Volunteerism is voluntary.  Forcing people to work without pay for a fixed period of time is indentured servitude.  Forcing them to do it for life is slavery.

“Google Translate.”

There is a good reason that the inaccuracy of “Google Translate” is fodder for YouTube Channels and segments of late-night talk shows.  Literal translation frequently yields awkward phrasing and/or gibberish.

“Cat Owner.”

Unless one refers to the cat as owning himself or herself and probably the human(s), too, “cat owner” is an oxymoron.

“New Tradition.”

Traditions are old, not new.

“Instant Classic.”

Classics have stood the test of time, so cannot be instant, by definition.



Posted July 10, 2020 by neatnik2009 in Language

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