Friday, August 17, 2007

Good News And Bad News

The good news? After the end of August, Karl Rove will be gone from the White House.
The bad news? After the end of August, Karl Rove will be back in Texas.
There is a lot of talk about Rove’s legacy. Conservative Republicans hail him as a political genius. Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard calls him “the greatest political mind of his generation and probably of any generation.”
So much for Machiavelli.
Moderate Republicans – there ARE still some of those -- are more muted, given the disaster that is the war in Iraq, the loss of control of both the House and the Senate, AND the failure of the immigration reform legislation, Rove’s last big legislative push.
I think Rove will be remembered as the main force behind the worst administration this country has ever experienced, the transformation of my beloved country into the most-hated nation on earth, and the redefining of “Christian” as mean-spirited, narrow-minded, bigoted, intolerant, and power-hungry.
He’ll be remembered as the man who turned the state of Texas red and who spread the same divisiveness and disdain for the marginalized here that he spread in Washington. Word is that he would like to lecture at some university here. God help us if he starts creating baby Roveites to continue his work.
Rove’s favorite mode of operation has always been “bully.” It’s why he and W bonded so quickly and deeply. Theirs is a relationship of cynical mutual backscratching. Karl is the nerdy overweight kid picked up by the popular handsome rich kid. W knew Karl would do his dirty work for him and help him navigate through a world that doesn’t always immediately recognize how wonderful and entitled he is. Karl knew W’s aura of coolness plus his circle of influential family and friends would not only protect W from too close scrutiny of his shallowness and lightweight qualifications, but would also allow Karl to bully everyone else with impunity – especially those who want access of some kind to W and his family and friends.
Karl learned early on that everyone wants something, and if he could control access to that, he would be incredibly powerful. Karl also learned early that most people don’t like confrontation, so a willingness to create a scene and to make all sorts of allegations about opponents can give one an automatic advantage over “nicer” people. Karl figured out that most people equate meanness with toughness.
But the most important thing Karl learned was the use of fear. Karl uses fear like other people use air – it fuels his life.
As a young political consultant Karl figured out four important things:
-- Every adult with the possible exception of Mother Teresa has something in his or her life they aren’t proud of – some small or large sin, some youthful indiscretion, some secret they would prefer their family and friends don’t find out about.
-- People love gossip about people in power or seeking power, and people love to be flattered by people in power.
-- People will vote against their own economic self-interest if you can make them afraid enough of “the other.”
-- Evangelical Christian leaders, especially in the South, were hungry for respect and power. They were tired of being caricatured as pompadoured fundamentalist kooks and hillbillies. The Moral Majority had given them a taste of what was possible and they wanted more. They hungered for entrĂ©e into that ultimate salon of power – the White House.
These four discoveries became the basic ingredients of Karl’s political work. He figured out that it doesn’t matter whether or not he knew people’s secrets. All he has to do is say that he not only knows them, but also is willing to divulge them and he can make most people back down or back off. He has made an art of the whisper campaign, almost always using accusations of homosexuality, a subject ripe for fear mongering.
Karl knew that homosexuality and the other issues of the Christian Right were emotional hot buttons that could keep people distracted while other goals were accomplished under the radar screen. He knew that a couple of Oval Office meetings would be enough to keep the Christian Right leaders carrying water for W for years.
The media – members of which are just as susceptible to the seductive lure of power as anyone -- were of immeasurable help. They did not look too aggressively into W’s business record or his political record. And when CBS did look into his National Guard service record it performed so ineptly that it helped W more than it hurt him. The media did not question the reasons given for going to war in Iraq until it was much too late. They accepted without question the idea that Jerry Falwell and Pat Roberson spoke for all Christians.
They helped create a perfect climate for Karl Rove – a very scary man -- to thrive.
But the American people are beginning to see through the miasma of fear and mendacity. They are beginning to ask questions. They are beginning to sense that things are terribly terribly wrong in the United States.
And the media is finally beginning to shine some light onto to all this. Even so, I think it will take a generation to undo the harm Karl’s work has done to our country.

We have a lot to do.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Images of the garden in August

This moth is so well camouflaged that it is nearly invisible against the old oak tree beside the low patio wall. I only saw it because it fluttered by my face as I was leaning near the tree to water a flower pot. My grandsons were fascinated by it. They decided it was SuperMoth, a super hero moth who takes care of all the little moths. I don't know what kind of moth it is when it's not being SuperMoth, but maybe someone reading this will know.

This rose is from a tiny rose bush that Gayland gave me as a gift several years ago. I planted it in the garden and it has done well. I smile every time I walk by it.

Butterflies are all over the garden. This one landed so that the sun shone through its wings. The garden is full of butterflies like this, as well as some bright orange ones. But the orange ones won't stay still long enough to take a photo of them. All these photos were taken with my phone this morning as I was watering the garden.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

In Praise of Plumeria

Summer heat has finally arrived. After an unusually cool, wet spring and June and July, we are now back to the 100-plus degree days that are the norm for August in Texas.
The garden is holding up very well, and no wonder. It has been soaked for weeks on end with long slow rains – a luxury it has not enjoyed before.
And while I whine and moan about the heavy clay soil here, it does retain moisture for a long time. While that’s been great for the majority of my plants, it also meant I lost three drought-tolerant salvias, both my forsythia, and part of a big spirea. They simply couldn’t handle so much water.
I now know all the places my garden doesn’t drain well – something that really wasn’t that important before all this rain.
But some plants are just as happy as clams. The plumeria, for example. You may know it as frangipani. It is the plant that supplies flowers for leis in Hawaii. In Hawaii they can be huge trees producing so many flowers that there are signs along sidewalks warning, “Walks Slippery When Flowers Fall.”
Mine aren’t that tall.
Mine were given to me by Steve Taylor, a friend of ours who was dying of lung cancer. Four of them arrived looking like four fat bumpy sticks about two feet long. Steve sent word that he was sure I could grow them. No other instructions were included.
After some online research, I put these ugly sticks into four pots filled with potting soil and watered them. To my astonishment, in a week or so, leaves began to appear. Then one of them produced a different looking “leaf.” It was flat and bumpy and, in fact, looked a bit like Bart Simpson’s head.
After watching it a bit, I realized it was a bud. This ugly little stick was about to bloom!
You’d have thought I’d given birth I was so excited.
Sure enough, in a few weeks, it produced stalk after stalk of lovely white flowers, each of which contained enough perfume to fill a room. I called Steve to tell him. He said that he knew at least two of the other plants would produce pink blooms.
But not one of the others bloomed. I learned that one needs to feed these ugly little sticks with a plant food high in phosphate. So this year, I started them out right. And sure enough, they are blooming like crazy, and sure enough, two of them are producing pink blooms. I can’t tell Steve, though. He died before they bloomed. But I think about him every time I walk past these plants and smell the perfume they are sending out on the evening air. Steve knew what I had to learn -- all they needed was a little attention and the right food.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? Nothing is going to bloom without a little love and the right food. Steve knew that too, and provided both in abundance for his friends.
It’s too bad more of us don’t remember that more often with people.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Pope Swims Tiber Again

Today Bishop Jack Iker sent this notice out to the clergy of the Diocese of Fort Worth:
“BISHOP CLARENCE POPE telephoned me this morning to let me know that Martha and he have returned to membership in the Roman Catholic Church, in full communion with the See of Peter. We certainly wish them well and want to uphold them with our love and prayers at this important time in their pilgrimage. They both gave ten years of faithful service and witness here in the Diocese of Fort Worth, and we give thanks to God for their continuing friendship and ministry. Bishop Pope wanted to assure me that he remains very attached to us and that his affection for the people of this diocese remains unchanged. Do join me in thanking God for both of these faithful Christians and praying His continued blessing upon them in the years ahead.”
This is the second time Clarence Pope has swum the Tiber. The first time was in October 1994. He had denied he was leaving The Episcopal Church right up until the day he left. When he made the announcement, he said he planned to seek ordination as a Roman priest. He told us he had known for the previous two years that he would go to Rome.
This led some here to question whether or not he’d earned his quite substantial salary as bishop by fraud for those two years.
The New York Times reported his 1994 announcement like this: “The 65-year-old bishop, who is married, said he had come to believe that the seat of Christian church authority had been divinely placed in Rome from the time of the Apostle Peter. He said that he had long prayed for a reunion of his church with Rome, but that possibility had foundered after the Episcopal Church, and the related Church of England, began ordaining women.”
It quoted Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning as saying, "It saddens me that this breach has occurred. I pray that this new chapter in his life will be an occasion for grace."
Ten months later, after Pope discovered that Rome would not recognize his episcopal orders, he returned to TEC, saying it was simply too painful to not have his orders recognized. The fact that he might be causing the same pain every time he did the same thing to every woman who was a priest or bishop in TEC never seemed to occur to him.
The first time around, Pope was officially received in a highly publicized event by Bernard Cardinal Law, Archbishop of Boston -- yes, the same Archbishop Law who did not cover himself with glory in the sex abuse cases in Boston.
Pope was received into the Roman church at St. Mary the Virgin Catholic Church, a parish whose priest and congregation had been part of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth until 1991, when they all became Catholics and their priest was re-ordained as a Roman priest.
Pope –that is Bishop Pope -- allowed them to keep the church buildings. It was no surprise Pope let the buildings go. He was very sympathetic to their wish to leave, which they attributed to anger over the ordination of women, the new prayer book and fears of what new heresy The Episcopal Church might commit next.
The Times also reported on Pope’s return to The Episcopal Church in 1995, quoting the parish priest’s son as saying the congregation “was stunned by Bishop Pope’s reversal. ‘They were very dismayed,’ he said. ‘I think many of us feel betrayed.’”
The same Times story reported that the week Pope announced he had returned to The Episcopal Church, “he publicly took communion from the hand of an Episcopal priest, saying in an interview that he had left the Catholic Church and abandoned plans to enter its priesthood.”
The article quoted him as saying “he had succumbed to a ‘growing unease’ about his original decision. His unease, Bishop Pope said, lay in his feeling that he could not give up his status as a bishop, which he would have to do to be re-ordained as a Catholic priest. He described the rank of bishop in mystical terms, saying it was "God-given" and not for him to surrender.
‘I could not shake the image of my consecration,’ he said, recalling the event at which his spiritual authority was signaled by a laying on of hands by his fellow Episcopalian bishops. ‘I thought I could lay it aside. I couldn't.’
“He also said he felt a gnawing guilt at having left his role as a leader of Episcopal traditionalists, who oppose the ordination of women as priests.”
That would be the Episcopal Synod of America, which morphed into Forward in Faith, North America.
His leaving to seek ordination in another denomination occasioned no action on the part of TEC, apparently because his resignation from the House of Bishops had not been acted on by the time he returned. Presiding Bishop Browning greeted him graciously, even though his behavior toward Browning had been anything but courteous.
When Browning and the Executive Council met in Fort Worth, Pope had made it plain that the local clergy were to boycott any worship or meeting with them. My husband failed to get the word, and showed up to greet Browning and the others – which he would have done even if he had gotten the word.
So now Clarence had gone to Rome again. Assuming it sticks this time, this will mean that every bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth except Jack Iker [we’ve only had three] has left The Episcopal Church – Donald Davies left to form his own breakaway church.
Jack Iker assures us he is not leaving.
But, then, so did Clarence Pope.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Honoring Hazel Harvey Peace

Hazel Harvey Peace turned 100 today – or at least Fort Worth celebrated her 100th birthday. There are some who think she may be older than 100, but believe me, no one is about to challenge her on that or any other fact.
Mrs. Peace may be a tiny woman but she can control a roomful of adults or children with one look. After all, she taught almost all the African American leaders in this city and county, and many in the state. All over Fort Worth and Tarrant County, African American women and men in positions of responsibility and respect pay her honor as their teacher, mentor, and inspiration. The white community also loves and honors her, but we came late to this appreciation because of the shameful legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.
Mrs. Peace began her teaching career at I. M. Terrell High School, her alma mater. Terrell was the “Negro” school in the days of segregated Fort Worth. She graduated from Howard University in 1926 with a bachelor's degree and got a master's of art degree from Columbia University. She served as counselor, dean of girls, and vice principal before retiring. Many women who attended Terrell in the 1950s and 1960s have anecdotes of how Mrs. Peace influenced their lives. Phyllis Allen, a local writer, said, “Any high school girl who received a Hazel Harvey Peace lecture on deportment that began, ‘Young lady, a lady never...,’ was not likely to forget it.”
Today at the party at the downtown Fort Worth Public Library, Mrs. Peace told the little girls sitting the front row to cross their legs at the ankles, to fold their hands in their lap, and to hold their heads high. All over the room, whole rows of mature African American women were nodding -- and every one of them was sitting with her legs crossed at the ankles, her hands folded in her lap and her head held high.
Mrs. Peace was generous to me when, as a young reporter, I would go to her to try to understand issues arising out of or affecting the African American community in Fort Worth. She would patiently explain the history behind the issue – usually a story of injustice and racism – and then quiz me to make sure I understood.
I knew she read everything I wrote, because whenever I ran into her, she would give me a report card on how I was doing. She was the first person to teach me about the interlocking nature of oppressions. She taught me about the importance of understanding issues related to class, especially in a southern city, where one’s class still can be more of a problem than one’s race.
I have often said I want to be Mrs. Peace when I grow up. I still do.
Her years of dealing with segregation gave her a keen understanding of the weariness that comes with constantly refusing to bend, of refusing to give in to other’s low expectations. A feminist from birth, she constantly tells women – black, white, Hispanic, Asian -- to stand up for themselves, to not let others define them.
She knows about anger, especially righteous anger that can propel one into action. “Just be sure it’s constructive action,” she would say. “Anger that burns down neighborhoods does no one any good.”
Several years ago, when a gay man active in AIDs work was refused membership in the prestigious Downtown Rotary Club, she spoke up in protest. Many were surprised, but it was consistent with her insistence that every human being deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
So you can see why she was picked as an Olympic torchbearer when the torch came through Fort Worth on its way to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Mrs. Peace is probably best known for her work encouraging reading with small children. The Hazel Harvey Peace Youth Center at the Fort Worth Central Library is named in her honor. Every time my grandsons and I walk into the children’s library, we walk by the portrait of Mrs. Peace in the entrance. The boys always ask me about her, and today they got to meet her.
Gavin, age 3, observed, “She’s very little.”
Curran, age 5, asked, “Has she read all the books in the library?”
I told him that if anyone has, it would be Mrs. Peace.
In 2004, the UNT School of Library and Information Sciences created the $350,000 Hazel Harvey Peace Professorship in Children's Library Services to continue Peace’s devotion to literacy by producing future educators of children's librarians. It is the first professorship at a four-year state-funded institution in Texas named for an African-American.
All this for a woman who for many years was not allowed to come into the city’s libraries or touch any of its books.
Mrs. Peace is still teaching. Today she had many lessons for all us “young people” at the party. For one thing, she told us that if we had grandchildren, we were young people. She reminded us that children can’t learn how to behave if adults won’t teach them. She kept threatening to tell stories on her former students who are now the dignitaries who were there to speak, but always, she relented with a twinkle.
She says she’s doesn’t know why she’s lived so long, but suspects it has to do with her faith in God, her faith in power of learning, her simple diet, and her sense of humor.
Fort Worth went to a birthday party today, but the best gift already has been given to us – it is the treasure that is Hazel Harvey Peace. Her community knew this long before we white people recognized her for the gift she is, but having been well taught by her, they graciously share her with us. She is a blessing to this city, this county, this state.
Happy Birthday, Mrs. Peace. And many happy returns.