The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Islands in Stormy Waters

It seems we are all floundering in stormy seas these days. So much of what we are used to is in jeopardy: our jobs, our homes, the well being of family and friends. Even if each of us individually is not doing too badly, each of us has a friend or two, or family members who are having a tough time. We're hearing all the bad stories - in the news or word of mouth - but this is a good story. And the best part about it is that it is true.

The day before yesterday I left my doctor's office feeling really rotten --feeling worse, in fact, than when I got there. I'd just had it confirmed (second doctor's opinion, this one a specialist) that for the rest of my life (!) I am on a special diet, paraphrased to "If it goes in your mouth and tastes good - spit it out!" and - on top of all that, I need to quit smoking (six well planned attempts so far this year - none lasting more than three days) and eat a small haystack of fiber every day. Ack.

Knowing I would probably be feeling this way when I left the doctor's office, I packed my camera. I decided I would just drive (so far I am still allowed to do that!) until I found a pond or other interesting place where I could just relax and look for pictures to take. No more than a previously unexplored mile from the doctor's office I found a small pond that begged (with an open handicapped parking place!) for me to stop and do just that. The sun was positively in the wrong place, I grumbled to myself, but there were ducks, a small blue heron and - way out about 30 feet - a huge turtle on a rock sunning himself. I started shooting at the turtle, trying all sorts of settings, and glanced up to see a man walking my way on the sidewalk that goes around the little pond. He was wearing a headset and smiling - at me! He had one of those smiles that required a return smile - and as he approached I asked where in the world I knew him from. He told me I didn't - he'd just gotten out of prison where he'd spent the last 15 years.Will He asked, "Are you going to take a picture of me?"

There are a lot of people who prefer not to be photographed around here, so I explained that I was trying to get a shot of the turtle, but would he mind if I took a shot of him? His smile grew wider and he told me, "Shoot away!" and stooped down with his bag. So I did - and thanked him, told him he had a great smile.

"I'm happy. I guess I'm just - blessed," he said. I asked him what made him feel he was blessed, and he told me he'd gotten a job - a good job. Well, I told him, in these times it is certainly a blessing to have a job at all, much less a good one. He said, "If you knew how I got this job, you'd know just what a blessing it is!" and - he told me.

It wasn't long ago he got up and took the bus to one of the industrial sections of town. He'd asked another bus rider if this was the right bus to get to a certain address he'd seen in the paper and was told it was - but it wasn't. Still, he saw a sign from the bus window that said 'Hiring Today' and got off the bus to apply. After filling out the application the person taking information asked for his driver's license. Well, he didn't have one, he told her, and said he was going to be getting one soon. He left and was feeling a bit low. Wrong bus, no driver's license - and - he was in a suit and tie - it was getting hot out, too. He sat down to clear his head for a few minutes and a truck pulled up close to him. The driver asked him if he was lost. He answered that he was looking for a job. The man in the truck asked him what sort of work he was looking for. He told the man (forgive me, I forgot!) and the guy told him to go across the street and ask for a man named Charlie. If Charlie had nothing for him, he should go up the stairs and apply for work up there.

He smiled wider as he continued, "So I went across the street and found Charlie, and he told me he didn't have any work today - but maybe try again next week. Then I went up the stairs as the man in the truck told me." He asked the receptionist for a job application, and she cheerfully gave him one. He told her a man in a truck had sent him there. The receptionist replied that she knew that - that the man in the truck owned the company. She was told, she said, to take his application and find him a place to fit in the company.

It was at about that time the man in the truck - the owner! - came in and introduced himself. He looked over the application and asked what he'd been doing that there was no previous employment listed. The young man told him he'd just gotten out of prison and he hoped that wouldn't be a problem. But the owner of the company was impressed by this man, showing up early early in the morning in his suit and tie looking for work. He gave him a job.

He's been there a while - even doing a little overtime this week - but the wonder of it all - being on the wrong bus, getting off at a random place because there was a hiring sign, being seen by this man and appreciated enough to be hired for a good position if he followed the man's direction - still amazes him, still reminds him he has value and worth, and is blessed - that wonder still has not left him.

It was at this point that he introduced himself. His name is Willie. I think of him as Will, because he is a grown man and deserves a grown man's name. He is a year and some months older than my youngest kid.

Will went on to tell me that he lives over there, gesturing to some small apartment buildings across the street. He told me all his people were in Texas, but that his church has helped him get started. They gave him furniture, a brand new set of pots and pans. They even gave him a television (emphasis is his) and a cell phone, though he is still trying to figure out how to use that.

He told me about his mother, how she would not visit him in prison because she wasn't the sort to subject herself to searches and other indignities, even for him, but she wrote to him consistently. He said she passed away about two weeks after he was released, but he knew she was still with him, maybe whispering in the truck driver's ear, "This is my son. He's a good man."

Will said he really wasn't good with people, having spent so much time alone. I assured he was. He said it is hard for him to talk to people he doesn't know. I said, " No, it's not. You just did! You have to have a bit of confidence in that!"

Will said something about not being good with ladies (I, being old, knew what he meant, that he really meant young ladies!) and I reminded him that he does have a great smile, and that should help him there. He said that there is this lady at church...But as much as he wants someone special in his life, he knows he isn't quite ready yet.

He mentioned why he'd been in prison - something about taking something from a store. I don't think he was alone in that caper, and the length of his time in prison makes me think someone in that group may have had a weapon. I didn't ask. It didn't really matter to me. What lesson there was to be learned, Will seems to have learned it. I am quite good at seeing through BS, and there was none to see through with Will.

We walked back to my car, still talking about this and that, and he thanked me for our conversation. I thanked him for the same. I am going to have my photos of him printed and maybe I'll see him another day at that pond as he walks home from work. I'd like to see him again to see how he is doing. He's on his way up from down, and I can't imagine him not reaching all his goals.

I thought about this encounter a lot since it happened. It turned my day around, yes. But something more. There are still blessings to be had out there, and all it takes is the ability to recognize them - because if you recognize them for what they are, you appreciate them. They can't happen unless you appreciate them. You may have "good luck" or things might just "fall into place" - but to be blessed, as Will knows he is, it takes that acknowledgement and appreciation.

Portrait of a Happy Man

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Aren't You Incensed?

Apparently I didn't howl loudly enough! When I read the AP report on visa applications, bank bailouts and layoffs here, I was livid. I sent the information to people I expected to be as upset as I, and I posted it in Facebook. No one commented, no one reacted at all, and I wavered a bit, thinking maybe it isn't such a big deal. But it is a big deal. Plain and simple, taxpayers bail out the banks and the banks hire people from the world employment pool, not the national. It is clearly a money issue, and one of the reasons you will find highly degreed people, some, no doubt, repaying student loans, flipping burgers at fast food places. Aren't you incensed? I am.

Some people call it outsourcing when customer service jobs are shipped off to India or other foreign lands. How many of the unemployed will tell your that they have been 'outsourced' (- a polite way of saying 'fired,' it means the same thing -) that have been replaced by foreign labor, 'interns?'

The banks-those big ones being bailed out by the taxpayers - have helped cause the financial woes in this country by allowing qualified American people to go jobless - or be underemployed - while they cut a few corners by replacing those workers with foreign workers. They should be held accountable for this, and some restrictions should be placed on their hiring practices before another cent of taxpayer money bails them out. And what about the auto industry? How many are using 'foreign interns' rather than citizens of our own country to fill their technical needs? What about other industries, some with Department of Defense contracts, who hire from the international pool?

Somebody listen to me! This is a big deal. This is partly what has derailed our economy! We the taxpayers must demand that as long as we are bailing out banks and other employers, those banks and other employers had better not be giving our jobs away to the foreign visa applicants.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I used to be a huge fan of HGTV - the house and garden channel. I loved the decorating shows and the shows about unusual homes. I loved the house hunting shows, especially those about first-time home buyers. Maybe I watched too closely to these programs, but I became increasingly uncomfortable with the supposed realtor. When the property virgin person - or couple- was asked what they could afford, the couple would reply with an amount figured by his banker or loan officer. The realtor asked what the person -or couple - planned to use as a down payment on the property they were shopping for, and often there was no funding - or very low funding set aside for that. The realtor began to show houses to this person - or couple - at the very top of their price range. I've even seen a realtor add the down payment amount to the approved loan amount and then increase the price range accordingly.

Now I believe everyone should make a living. Realtors earn theirs as a percentage of the price of the properties they sell. Selling the most expensive homes, regardless of the financing required by the buyer, best serves the realtor, not the consumer. What does the realtor care if in real life the person - or couple - cannot afford to make the payments? And what payments!
The buyer has a mortgage payment and a second mortgage on the property for the down payment they didn't make! That's a heavy burden. I shudder to think how many of the home buyers shown on these programs lost their homes in the economic environment we've had lately. I stopped watching.

I used to enjoy the programs on HGTV that showed stagers preparing a house for sale. I learned a lot that is nice to know if company's coming and you want to make a good impression. But I saw perfectly good appliances being replaced with appliances with the current finish - these days it's stainless steel. Nice if you can afford to do it - but not necessary to sell a house. People who are looking at houses they really can afford won't be concerned about such things. On the programs showing buyers looking at houses, cheap flooring is disdainful, but on the staging programs, the floors are made up with peel-and-stick tiles.

I suppose it all depends on whether you are a seller or buyer. I'm just not comfortable with the ethics of the realtors who inevitably put people in homes they can't afford and those who cover up less than ideal features of a home with cheap fixes. Better to leave a bad floor exposed honestly than to put a pretty face on it that will have to be removed anyway to correct the problem.

I don't know. Perhaps I am looking too deeply into programs created to entertain, but I just can't watch anymore. And if these programs are what is going on in the real life housing world, I understand how the problem got so out of hand and foreclosures became to common. Jewel Case House and Yard (SH8)

Saturday, January 24, 2009


This week it seems the whole world tuned in to watch the inauguration of a new president of the United States of America, the 44th, the man for whom we have been waiting for years, especially the last eight. Something historical happened here. The media keeps saying what is historic is that Barak Obama is the first African American to become president of this country. Well, yeah – there is that – but there’s more.

One of the most telling things about this inauguration was the mood of the people – there were nearly two million people who showed up in Washington for this event, ordinary people from everywhere, black people and white people and yellow and red people and mixed people all converged on Washington with one purpose – to see Mr. Barak Obama become President Barak Obama, or at least be in the same city when he took his Oath of Office.

For the life of me, I have never seen anything like it. With all the usual crowd noise a gathering that size contains, I’ve heard that as soon as President Obama spoke, the crowd hushed themselves and listened. Nearly two million people gathered, and at the end of the day, even with an overload of security and police, not one arrest had been made. Now think about that. Nearly two million people gathered tightly in one area. Somewhere someone got knocked into or shoved aside, somewhere someone stepped on someone else’s toes, literally or figuratively. Certainly someone offended someone, yet not a bit of violence took place.

The vast majority of the US population is behind President Obama. Not just the Black folks, although they certainly have reason to rejoice in his presidency - but all sorts of folks. And that's because all sorts of folks have wanted to see change in this country and were in need of a leader who would lead the country as a whole, not forgetting the regular ordinary people. We've needed someone who knows. My friend Jackie puts it simply, "Obama GETS it!" He hasn't said, as President Kennedy did those decades ago, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." He said nothing about 'you.' He said 'we' and 'us.' Together we can accomplish much. And now we have a leader who can not only tell us how, but show us.

I asked around - I thought I had been mistaken - but no one else that I asked had ever heard of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday being a day of service. President Obama said it was, and found a place to put his skills to use on that day. While it is nice to have parades and picnics on Dr. King's birthday, maybe in the future it will be more a day to help others - paint and repair, build and restore in our own neighborhoods, rather than just a day to celebrate.

President Obama has the attention of the majority of the population of the US. They wait, as they did on Inauguration Day, to follow where he leads. The next four years will be hands-on for his followers. They can see the vision he sees - the vision for this country many of us have dared to dream before now, but couldn't believe would happen the way things were going in Washington. President Obama is not afraid to roll up his shirtsleeves and get to work. He leads by example. It is that which will have the most effect on the country as a whole: the population is ready to follow. But we also know nothing happens overnight, and there will be times of sacrifice ahead. But the plan is solid, the results will come.

The population has had enough of someone telling them what is best for them, telling them nothing is wrong with the economy, telling them we should continue as we have, that things will get better. We want something more than that.

In Barak Obama we have one of our own. People who have never been involved in politics in their lives gathered in Washington, or around big screens and small screens all over this country to see Mr. Obama become President Obama, their chosen leader for the next four years. We see a man that we can follow, a man who beckons us to follow, and we will be a part of the rebuilding of this country’s economic system, its position in the eyes of nations all over the world, the greening of transportation and other industries.

There are those who don't believe. They won't be joining in with the new growth and the helping attitude so prevalent among the rest of us. At least, not at first - and some, perhaps not at all, ever. But you know, even they have got to admit that the effect that President Obama has on the working folk and the other folk who are behind him is astounding. We are just beginning. Nothing is going to change overnight except out attitudes and our intentions.

Geez - nearly two million people for his inauguration, and not one arrest. Something very good is going to come from this.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

'Tis the Season ...again

I need reminders, now and then, that the dreaded Holiday Season is upon us. This is Florida, after all, and house decorations and lights just don't look Holidayish without the white wet and cold background - but I trade off what I can. It was for this reason, looking for a bit of Christmas spirit, that I settled down with my coffee to read a bunch of letters to Santa that recently appeared in the newspaper of the place to which I will be moving shortly. (Great idea, that - reading what you can about where you expect to be for the rest of your life is a good way to get the sense of the place. Reading the local paper is a great way to do that.)

So I began reading these letters to Santa - presumably written by children who are still at the age of believing. At first I was slightly amused. Amusement drifted into disbelief. Disbelief morphed into appall. There were few who asked for anything for the less fortunate. There were few who even asked at all. The majority of these kids wanted. "I want ... I want ... I want ..." And what they wanted! They wanted PS2s and BIG screen televisions. They wanted game systems and up to fifteen games. Big stuff. I cannot recall a single letter that wanted just one item, either. These kids want it all - and Santa, they want it by Christmas.

I've read that not too many families all sit down to a meal at the same time every day these days. Another consequence of this, aside from lack of table manners (another blog entirely!) is there is no casual family communication. Around the table is the perfect time for the family to get a feel for one another's circumstance, the family's circumstance. No one has told the kids that times are hard, things are tough, and money is tight nearly everywhere this year. No one has told these kids that, with a roof over their heads and food on the table, they are better off than many, many children. No one has reminded them that the upcoming holidays are, in each instance, celebrating something. The birth of Jesus is at the heart of Christmas, after all. Hanukkah celebrates rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem in 165 BC, and the oil lasting 8 days. Kwanzaa, the newest holiday, celebrates African culture and family and community values.

Each family's dinner table, in the old days, is where the kids found out what their family believed. The kids were included in the planning and getting ready for the holiday that family would celebrate. If it had been a bad year (as has this one) it was at the dinner table that the kids learned that Dad got a bonus or Mom got a raise - or was laid off, let go, or downsized out of work; that the house payments were way behind, or that there was no credit left on the credit cards, these things could be discussed openly and honestly. Everyone had a very real sense of what was possible and what was not. Wishes were one thing, wants were another, and needs another still. In these surroundings, children learned they could not have everything they wanted, or sometimes even one thing they dreamed of. (I used to want a pony) They learned what would make the others in the family happy, what would best serve their own holiday best. They grew to value, even cherish, their family's traditions, and they learned empathy, compassion, the art of caring for others.

Not only are people like me annoyed at the selfish and self-absorbed attitude of many kids these days, but the kids - the kids are being cheated.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Economics 101

We are in trouble. We are watching the news on television and the Internet, and we are reading the papers, trying to be one jump ahead of tomorrow's news, trying to save ourselves from the fate of the numbers: unemployment has reached levels it hasn't reached in years; foreclosures are rampant, prices are up and optimism is down. If your car isn't in the driveway in the morning, it is more likely repossessed than stolen. Times are hard.

With a tendency to anxiety, I feel it, too, burrowing into the center of myself, but I am probably in better shape financially than most. I don't have a lot, but then, I don't need a lot. Years ago when Simplicity was all the rage in bookstores, I actually read The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs, who also publishes Simple Living Journal. I wasn't an immediate convert to all Luhr's ideas, but I did digest the principles, and they have been serving me well. In many ways, I am better off than many people I know in this time of crisis.

But for a student loan, I owe no one. I am disabled, living on Social Security Disability (a fixed income if there ever was one) and if I can get one part of the US government to listen to another part, the student loan will be 'forgiven' due to my disability. I would feel bad about that, but for the fact that the student loan has more than doubled on fees and interest during the time I have been disabled - which is outrageous - and the number of telephone calls I get from the party handling the loan, harassing and threatening to have payments taken out of my Social Security Disability check every month. I've offered an amount that I can afford out of my monthly budget and been refused. I have no doubt that it will be resolved in my favor, so when I think of owing money, I do not consider my student loan. The paperwork is pending.

I live in a building filled with people much like myself. I've come to understand there are some things I will never understand. I live with no pretenses. I am in no way trying to impress anyone or keep up with the Joneses, Jacksons, or the lady on the fourth floor. I could probably qualify for an electric wheel chair or scooter, as many of my neighbors have, but at this point I do not want one, and hope to hold off on that particular item as long as possible.

I have a car (such as it is) while many of my neighbors do not. That means I also have gas and upkeep and auto insurance payments per month. The gas prices haven't really hurt me. I still put a budgeted amount of money into the gas tank each month. I just go fewer places in my car, and when the gas runs out, I stay home. My car (such as it is) is paid for and requires only regular maintenance. It will not survive my trip to Wisconsin, though. It has no back window (I cover it with tarp and bungee cords when rain in forecast) and looks like it has psoriasis, but it gets me where I need to go and no one is going to steal it.

I don't spend what I don't have. It's called "living within your means" and I have done it for as long as I can remember. I do not get manicures or have fake nails applied because I don't have money to spend on such things. I won't spend large amounts of money on shoes as some do because I am hard on shoes, due to unfortunate degenerative factors, and I am certainly not a clothes horse. I suppose I could get my hair cut more often, but as I've gotten older my hair is doing amazing things - it's curling! - and at this point I want to see how long I can grow it and still hold a curl. It will have to be shaped, though, and I have a coupon a friend gave me that will get that done for me free at the very good local stylist school. I prefer the look of well buffed fingernails to suffocating nail polish that chips and demands closer attention, and I think I can splurge the small amount at that location to get a proper manicure.
I do enjoy nice things, and I've been known to save to get them. Fortunately, my taste runs to the charming, and "pretties" that are charming can be had for a song at certain thrift stores. Please call me frugal, the polite word for 'cheap.' My grandmother used the word 'mingy.' Last week's great find was a chamber pot. (For you young folks, a chamber pot was used at night instead of the outhouse, back before there was indoor plumbing. ) It's perfect. If it had two handles, it could be a soup tureen, but it has one. It's a chamber pot. I plan to plant oats in it for my cat. Oats are a soft grass with nutrients and flavor enough that just may keep Liberty away from my houseplants. Oat seeds are not expensive. Houseplants can be. But preparing for my move to Wisconsin, I am taking cuttings and seeds from many Florida plants to be houseplants in my new home. If the oats work and Liberty doesn't eat them, that is.

What I am is creative, and you may find things (like my chamber pot) in odd places in my home that are serving purposes for which they were never intended. When a friend offered me her old computer desk, which has a drawer and nicer shelves than I had in my current one, I took hers for my computer and moved the old one into the kitchen where it houses my microwave. The pull out keyboard drawer is perfect storage for plastic wrap, waxed paper and aluminum foil. Removing the CD holder from the top of the computer stand, I have a place to store upright the many trays I use. I will be going off to get a nice enamel (low scent) paint soon, and a good sealant, and top coat of polyurethane to keep it pretty. I am thinking a dark rust color. I've discovered the cheap furniture that you put together can be made more useful and longer lasting with a light sanding and a good finish. In the old days, I think this was called "making do."
The main thing is, I think, to decide just what is important in one's own private world and what really isn't. It's too soon for making resolutions, but not too soon to decide how one wants to live. It should be a lot easier to decide now what one can do without than to have circumstance take it away - and in the times in which we live, circumstance has a broad definition. Income, outgo - too little of one, too much of the other, and the ship can sink, seemingly overnight. The lighter the cargo, the more likely it will fit in the lifeboat...


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Middle Class and Beyond

Of late, I remember an episode or M*A*S*H from years ago. In this episode, B.J. Hunnicutt was wallowing around the camp, feeling low, grumbling about how his wife had to do menial things at home while he was away. When the guys had heard enough of it, Hawkeye sat B.J. down and told him that those who had the most stood to lose the most. B.J., with his wife and home and such, clearly had more that most of the men in camp. That was why he had more at risk.

I've been thinking of this lately because it applies now, right here and now, in the US, and probably in some other countries as well. There is such turmoil in our land today - such stress and anxiety - there are reports of people taking drastic measures, even familial murders and suicide, to resolve their financial problems.

Someone in some high-up place has decided that those Americans who earn less than 250,000 USD are (ta-da!) "Middle Class." That's an awfully wide brush with which to be painted. I have less than 250,000 USD per year to live on - much less - and I am betting you do, too. The things we have in common with those who earn over even 100,000 USD are evident, with those differences increasing expotentially as incomes rise to $250,000 that designates us and them to the same "Middle Class."

Credit card debt plays a big factor in a "Middle Class" person's or family's financial health, as well as lenders who financed mortgages far too expensive for the homebuyer's actual budget. People who "qualified" for large mortgages but had no downpayment were asking for trouble. When all the papers were signed and the keys given, the new homeowner has two liens against his property - the mortgage and the loan he had to take out for the down payment. It's scary if you step back, let the flush of new ownership fade a minute, and look at it. Worse, after a year or two the new owner may decide to take out an equity loan against the house for whatever reason. It snowballs. That's how a lot of people got themselves into their financial discomfort and how many forclosures have come about.

But - at what dollar point do we fall from "Middle Class" to "Lower Class?" No presidential candidate has mentioned that. No one has mentioned the "Lower Class" - also known as the "Working Poor" These are like the majority of B.J. Hunnicutt's co-workers on M*A*S*H, people who work every bit as hard as B.J., but who have no wife, no love-nest waiting at home. The working poor do the jobs nobody likes to do, but which are necessary to businesses who pay them as little as possible with few if any benefits. A dissatisfied worker? The waiting list of those ready to take that position is long, the competition evident. The unemployed jostle for these jobs, as low paying as they are, when the unemployment runs out because something is better than nothing when it comes to putting food on the table, a roof over the head of their families. How do they get by?

Some people take on second and third jobs. Those who can't, those who are getting on in years, and/or who are disabled find themselves grasping for these jobs, too - hence the greeters at Walmart, independent taxi drivers, the men and women who demonstrate products in the grocery store. These folks often fall below the poverty level. Their incomes consist of Social Security or Social Security Disability and sometimes food stamps. Many are on the charitable lists of various organizations at holiday time. Many of the men are veterans from WWII, Korea and Viet Nam. To most folks these people do not exist - they just escape their peripheral vision. Often they are condemned as "takers" or those seeking "entitlements," and treated as lepers from those who are but a payday or two away from joining the ranks of those below the poverty level.

So here we are with the middle class, the poor, poorer and poorest, and from the yeas and nays among us, we will select a new leader for the next four years.

I say all this because I am an independent voter, one of those both candidates want to impress with his expertise and skill and leadership and good ideas. Every four years I end up dragging out this poem from 1996 and sometimes with a change or two, serve it up again:

Apolitica 2008

And so begins the circus,
three rings, a clown and a caucus,
playing dirty, playing on fear
accusations flying through the air
in spite of third party rebuttals,
shrouded hate,
none of the dignity of
our founding fathers
who thought elections
were a wonderful idea.

Spare me the rhetoric.
My politics are a plaid blanket
lain across stiffening knees
your kind has brought me to,
threads of red, white and blue
woven closely, the warp sturdy
and twisted, and the woof patterned
after traditional speeches that
cannot stand alone;
town-hall meetings with
filtered audiences.

You seem to agree on what
is important, but cannot agree
on why, or when or how
problems should be remedied,
wars should be fought,
people made whole again
after tragedies, and who
should say how the money is spent,
on what and why, how much
to butcher that sloppy fat pig -
and who should be
served at the banquet.
There is always a banquet.

Politicking for politics sake,
not for the sake of the Union,
you've let balloons fall
in conventions of the times we live in,
scrutinized the preacher, the teacher
and the soldier who would be king.
I grew up in the 60s - I remember
hate and the murdering of good men.
I feel that fear again. The division is
that deep, the hate is that intense.
I try not to listen. I pull
my plaid blanket close to my skin,
let it breathe my scent, become me
and realize it is me
you want top convince
-an everyday person -
and millions like me
who bring out the worst in you
while we try to decide
the best for us

and I study the weave
in the only cover I have.
I tug at the edges.
It does not keep me warm.

(c) 1996-2008, Smokey Combs
All Rights Reserved

To be continued ...