HURRICANES (Memory Lane: 1985, 2017)

When Hurricane Elena struck the Florida Panhandle in the fall of 1985, my parents were the region’s appointed Home Missionaries for the Southern Baptist Convention. Since their appointment in 1979 (at the ages of 59 and 60 respectively), my mother’s health had declined to the point where she was nearly bed-ridden (she would pass away twenty months later, in the Spring of ’87).

When it came to handling things like hurricane relief, it probably didn’t matter. That was my father’s gig in any case.

For those who don’t know, one of a home missionary’s primary jobs is to make sure the people who need help in the wake of a disaster get it.

From wherever it’s available.

Over two million people were evacuated in the face (and wake) of Elena, more than half of them in Florida. The Panhandle was the hardest hit area of the state and, though the population base is small, the evacuations along the Gulf of Mexico were almost ubiquitous. Small population base, sure, but that only meant a small support base as well.

In that environment, my Dad, the ex-carny, was in his element.

Give him a problem to solve–in this case, how to get needed supplies, mostly blankets and canned goods, from a mix of willing and somewhat reluctant suppliers, to the shelters (mostly churches and high school gyms) in the small towns twenty and thirty miles inland (just off the floodplain of the Apalachicola Bay)–and he would make it happen.

Of course, there had been some long and short-term preparation. We were living in Florida, after all. Hurricanes come with the scenery.

But the scale of Elena, lingering and lingering, constantly changing directions, losing force before it retreated into the Gulf and gathered for another push, made it a tough challenge.

Let’s just say many went without.

Those who got help, mostly got it from my father. I didn’t hear that from him. I heard it from all the people in Baptist circles who, when I was introduced as his son, asked me to personally thank him for what he had done, in one small town after another. I heard it a dozen times in church settings (all the more remarkable because I had stopped going to church except for special occasions like the Thanksgiving Dinners my friend Lillian Isaacs, the person who started the first faith-based Literacy and Citizenship programs in the United States, used to invite me to at First Baptist of Tallahassee–she invited me not least because I was my father’s son), some of them literally two decades after the fact.

Always the same:

“If it hadn’t been for him…”

My dad never spoke much about it except to shake his head whenever he remembered the reprimand.

The reprimand came from the Florida Baptist Convention a few weeks after the shelters had been emptied and people returned to their homes. (Dad had caused many of the shelters to be opened in the first place because, as the home missionary in a region where, in those days at least, Southern Baptists probably outnumbered all other faiths and denominations combined, he was best positioned to provide information to pastors and church boards who otherwise would have had little idea of the scale of the immediate need, not to mention assure them that blankets and food would be delivered, even if he didn’t yet know from where, no matter how many refugees they took in–there are times when being an ex-con man comes in handy, even in the service of the Lord).

The leadership of the Florida Baptist Convention took a dim view of missionaries who used their discretionary funds to do things like purchase blankets for people turned out of their homes. They weren’t really fond of doing it for church members. And they were especially not fond of doing it for just anybody who needed it.

It was all part of a new attitude inside the hierarchy of a church body that, like most Protestant denominations, had been famously non-hierarchical for most of its existence. (Just as an example, the church I was raised in, in another part of the state, split four times before I was thirteen, always over matters of hair-split doctrine–such arguments are the Protestant’s version of “Don’t Tread on Me.”)

The new hierarchy was going to do what all hierarchies do and restore order. In this case to things like disaster relief and prison ministries. Henceforth, my dad was told, before any money was spent, funds would be doled out through proper channels only, with all appropriate forms signed in triplicate.

Meaning henceforth, all aid would be distributed to the “right” people, through the “right” channels.

My dad was enough of an old Carny to know that meant after the right palms were greased.

Sort of like the Midway.

Or your average friendly government bureaucracy.

It was a small incident. Everything was smoothed out at the national office in Atlanta, where Dad still had friends. He was allowed to work past my mother’s death and serve the ten years that provided a small pension and cheap medical insurance (which he paid for another twenty years, until he cancelled it nine months before he had a stroke. the implications of which are still with me).

But it was redolent of larger issues, roiling under the surface of the times.

The state convention’s view was already the prevailing one. By the time Dad retired in 1989, it was unchallenged. It was all part and parcel of a new “Conservative” takeover of the church, the formal part of which Dad had witnessed at a National Convention–in Houston, as it happened, at the old Astrodome–which, among other things, would lead to being hog-tied to the Republican Party from 1980 onward (contributing to the humiliating defeat of one of our own and a dark turn from which the country has not recovered, which is another story for another day) and a marked de-emphasis on prison ministries.

My dad had an opinion about that, too. He told it to anyone who would listen.

“If we’re not there, someone else will be.”

Maybe something worth thinking about the next time you hear about a terrorist who converted to radical Islam–or Marxism–in an American prison.

So he had to settle for winning the Battle of Hurricane Elena….and not being forgotten by those who told me, all those years later, “If it hadn’t been for him….”

But every time there’s a major hurricane, and the inevitable petty politicization swirls all around, I always think about Dad and send up a prayer for whoever is fighting the good fight now–irrespective of their faith or lack thereof–and dare to hope that maybe this time, we’ll get it right.

Thinking of Houston, then, and knowing where Dad would be, tonight, if he could…

 

INTERESTING TIMES…

No really. Here’s the latest column from Alfred McCoy, author of The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, the definitive book on CIA involvement in drug smuggling across the years and the miles. (I recommend the original edition: the update, titled The Politics of Heroin, is padded with many newer details which merely restate the thesis and provide ample proof of the axiom that less is more….I do look forward to his new book which is plugged at the link.)

Please note that, in other recent columns, McCoy has seemed to express support for the Security State in its incarnation as the support structure for Barack Obama’s bid to become the third American Grand Master (after Elihu Root and Zbigniew Brzezenski) of the Great Game and its subsequent appeal as the one force capable of keeping Donald Trump from abandoning the Empire Obama (in McCoy’s estimation) so skillfully preserved.

People are strange, but his current piece is still well worth reading–back to basics so to speak.

After you’ve had a chance to read it, be sure to check back

I promise Gene will still be here….

So will Eddie…

THANK GOD WE’RE ALL RATIONAL HERE….

….And confining all efforts directed at statue removal and defacement to those Confederates, like the ones found on Mount Rushmore…

And in amongst George Washington’s officer corps….

…In hotbeds of Reactionary Secession like South Dakota and Ohio.

Must say I’m really relieved. I thought for a minute there things might get out of hand!

Take it Gene….

and, since YouTube keeps insisting, take it Eddie…

LINKS, LINKS, LINKS…

I don’t do this often (maybe I should) but serendipity demands it this week:

Please read Sheila O’Malley on Elvis the Actor….

Neal Umphred on Elvis at the Edge of Reality….

And David Cantwell, then and now, on Glen Campbell….

Believe me, you’ll be a better person.

And, for whatever reason, this is the Elvis song that’s been running through my head all week, so you might as well do yourself a favor and share some space in my head…

AS A POINT OF COMFORT….

…I’m not always right about this End of Days stuff.

I’ve been telling the only friend I have with whom I tend to discuss politics (she keeps her “political” twitter account under an assumed name, separated from her personal/business oriented twitter stuff, to avoid the usual constant threats of violence and barrage of abuse) that statues honoring Jefferson and Washington will soon follow those honoring Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson into various states of defacement and dismemberment, and that Lincoln and Grant will be in the cross-hairs five minutes after that.

Silly me.

It looks like I had the order wrong.

Oh, by the way, the organizer of the Charlottesville Unite-the-Right March, is now reported to be an Obama-supporting Wall Street Occupier who had a magical conversion to White Supremacist power player within days of Donald Trump’s election. It hardly matters if it’s true. The important thing is that conflicting accounts are now readily available from all the usual sources and you may choose among them as you wish.

I pity those whose brains remain unprotected from these waves of industrial feces by insufficient familiarity with the New Testament or the holy texts of Rock and Roll America and advise them to repair to a quiet space at once and redress their ignorance in council with their own spirit practicing the Priesthood of the Believer.

I don’t know any songs dedicated to the smell of sheep dip, so this will have to do for today’s inspirational tune from the Book of Clarence. (Chapter Seven, Verse 4, I believe, but don’t quote me. I ain’t here to start any trouble.)

Those who prefer The Good News version to the King James, may like this one better…

…Either way, hello America. It’s a brand new day!

Didn’t listen now, fools, did ya?

 

WHAT’S DIFFERENT THIS TIME…

Just a few thoughts before getting back to normal:

If you follow any political discourse,  mainstream or fringe, you’re almost bound to have heard we’re headed for a new Civil War (no I don’t just make this stuff up!).

There have been a few basic themes developing–a common one, expressed by Terry Teachout (who preaches as a Moderate Conservative and seems to practice as one, too, which makes him a reliable guide to a big chunk of conventional thought) is that we’ll split up into a set of Balkanized states, each going their own way by legal means and diplomatic wrangling, serving their own best interests.

Others predict simple chaos. Still others predict a more tightly controlled central government which will rule by direct force. And, of course, still others think we’ll muddle through somehow, as happened in the 1960’s.

I’m not in any of these camps, nor do I have any big idea of some different possibility no one’s thought of yet. (Though I note I’ve found no respectable opinion provider willing to state another obvious possibility–that of massive military defeat and takeover by a foreign power or powers. I think everyone assumes we’ll be able to nuke our way out of that one. There were plenty who once thought the same about the Soviet Union. Nukes are the new Greek Fire.)

What I do believe is that some things are inevitable. (This is assuming we don’t miraculously return to civilizational norms post haste…and anyone who follows along here knows what odds I’d take on that.)

So, when the Big Breakup comes, next month or next century, it will be different from our first, founding Civil War in these ways:

–It won’t be fought over some straightforward issue like slavery. Slavery rested on a legal structure. It could be changed by legal means. Means that–unlike outlawing “racism” etc.–could be imposed or rejected by a victor.

–Liberal Democracy as we have known it will have no side. If you’re for it, you will be left in the cold. If you resist, see below.

–It won’t be fought by entities who are neatly divided by geography. That means the points of conflict will be purely ideological–and run to the extremes. Those caught openly practicing the minority view in heir own neighborhood will be swiftly rounded up and dealt with by local standards. Richer environs may opt for detention centers (i.e., concentration or slave camps). Elsewhere, public executions will be preferred. Count on attendance being mandatory.

–I don’t know if nuclear weapons will be deployed. The reasons they haven’t been deployed since the end of WWII (i.e., Mutual Assured Destruction) will probably still hold. But everything else will be on the table and the side that deploys them most effectively in any given arena will prevail.

–If anyone does manage to gain some kind of central control over such a conflict, it will be by means that make Hitler and Stalin look like Sunday School teachers (and those who think Lincoln belongs in their company look even dumber than the box of rocks they resemble now).

–There will be no mercy for the loser.

The details of how all this will shake out?

No idea.

Via my usual sources, I am privy to a piece of the soundtrack. It’s from the early, hopeful days….

I’M SHOCKED–SHOCKED!–TO DISCOVER….

…That the men who took over Pop Culture the moment the punks and the Overlords conspired to punch a hole in the side of Rock and Roll America’s boat didn’t quite grasp why there were so many songs about sixteen-year-old girls and exactly none about fifteen-year-old girls….

…unless, of course, you’re telling them to go away…

I knew there was some reason I always liked the second Indiana Jones movie best. Pretty sure no one ever imagined Kate Capshaw as a twelve-year-old.

[NOTE–And, yes, I know who directed American Graffiti–and then proceeded to never grow up.]

“WOWSA” AND ART WITH A CAPITAL “A” (At the Multiplex: July, 2017…Redux)

Well, I saw two more “now showing” movies in July, in addition to Baby Driver, which I wrote about here. Just thought I would sum them up for you:

Wonder Woman (d. Patty Jenkins) and Dunkirk (d. Christopher Nolan)

These pictures are all there is to know about either movie.

[As movies, that is. I’m leaving out the Think Pieces devoted to wondering why Hollywood posters now feature so many women with their shapely rears turned to the camera or knowing why so many aging Brits who survived Dunkirk now insist it wasn’t worth it.]

Both movies and Think Pieces came to the same, unstated conclusion.

On Earth, wanking is all ye know…and all ye need know.

CIVILIZATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose Ends #115)

A painting by Winston Churchill….

Gifted to Vivien Leigh, the lead in his favorite film, That Hamilton Woman, in 1951, the year A Streetcar Named Desire was released…

…featuring the performance of which she later wrote, Blanche “is a tragic figure and I understand her. But, playing her tipped me into madness.”

I’ve always wondered if she tipped Brando as well. It couldn’t have been easy for the Method actor to watch someone demonstrate a level of commitment neither he nor anyone could match by breaking down mentally in front of him (and a  movie camera)…because the part demanded it.

In any case, she was sent home from her next film set in a strait jacket.

She kept Churchill’s painting by her bed for the rest of her life, so it would be the first thing she saw when she woke up.

She only made 53, but I’m inclined to believe the painting may have added a year or two.

The painting is being auctioned off by her grandchildren in September. One more thing I wish I hadn’t lived to see….

Though I’d probably feel different if I had the money to buy it!