“God created war so that Americans would learn geography,” said Mr. Twain, so now you sit in a New York apartment and try to reassemble your memory of Europe, where Germany and Poland are, and text with friends in Prague whose frightened little girls ask, “What is happening?”
We don’t know. In one week, we’ve been transported back to 1940, and our Europe of chic vacations and intellectual ferment is now the cauldron of wars that our grandparents fled.
My grandpa fled Glasgow, having five children and no wish to see the Great War up close, and my friend Bud Trillin’s people fled Ukraine for the reason Jews have been migrating for centuries. Chic had nothing to do with it, they were quite pleased to become Missourians.
Reality is a shock but it does make things more real. American military strategy goes out the window: how do you strategize against a schizoid dictator with an enormous nuclear arsenal and a compliant elite?
Rationalism is only an observation. The stone-faced Putin has invaded an independent nation, firing rockets at a nuclear reactor, women and children in Kyiv weeping as they board a train for Poland, looking at husbands and fathers they may never see again, thanks to the small man at the end of the forty-foot table who says he is conducting an anti-Nazi mission, a naked lie as naked as the belief that COVID is a hoax or Trump won the election.
The hero of the moment is Volodymyr Zelensky, the Jewish comic who is now the guerilla president of Ukraine, and as long as he keeps dancing and making video speeches to his people, Ukraine survives, and when a Russian kill squad finds him, Ukraine becomes a Soviet republic again.
Our country has no Zelensky, alas. Our clown was Trump, who now is exposed as a Putin stooge who tried to kill off NATO to fulfill Putin’s great wish and enable him to reassemble Stalin’s empire. I know a nice man who asks, “Why do you hate Trump?” and who blames it all on Obama and now Biden.
There are a hundred million nice people like him. Trump sold a bill of goods to the heartland and I pity that convoy of a thousand truckers in Baltimore, furious at the government about vaccine requirements even as the plague recedes, a protest without a purpose, just pure anger on eighteen wheels.
Putin sits in his palace, holding the power to destroy European civilization, and what did civilization ever do for him? Nothing, obviously. His man Trump recedes into his gilded cave, waiting for the next reel. He has a lot riding on the November election and it may not be helpful for Republicans to be seen supporting Putin while tanks roll through Ukrainian cities and rockets destroy apartment buildings and tiny children in ICUs are wrapped in blankets and moved to safety.
This war is in our computers and phones and on TV, if we have eyes and care to look, and it is a reality that makes the Florida Orange and Chinless Mitch and Caribbean Ted Cruz disappear.
I pray for my fellow Democrats to put a damper on their righteous narcissism and rediscover some seriousness about freedom and love of country. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez said she liked the part of Biden’s speech about Ukraine but I wish she’d come right out and confess that she loves this country. What’s so hard about that?
Some dreadful political hacks go around with flag pins on their lapels but that’s no excuse for cynicism. It was abysmally stupid of her to pose for fashion pictures in Vanity Fair but I’ve forgiven her. Time for her to shape up now.
My generation was badly affected by the antiwar movement of the Sixties and the purity of the counterculture of dulcimers and organic granola and we got too good for our own good and lost touch with our people.
I am just an old evangelical unable to say obscene words with authority, but I do believe Ukraine can beat the Russian Army. Trump and Putin are from another solar system. One is a madman in Moscow and the other is rearranging his hair. God preserve the heroic comedian. A great deal is riding on this. Joe and I are old men. Who will be our Zelensky?
I wonder how many temporarily “Canadian” truckers, recently evicted from the bridge at Windsor/Detroit, are now chugging their way west across the windswept snowy plains, aiming for the desert around Coachella, near Palm Springs California?
It’s not just the weather (weekend forecast sunny, dry & high 70s) that’s drawing them. Or the three local Indian casinos. Coachella is the announced starting point for a trucker insurgency which reportedly means to barnstorm its way across the continent, converge on Washington DC, and paralyze it a la Ottawa, for
— Well, for something.
I’ve been watching the mess in Canada for weeks, and I’m not yet sure what they want, except maybe for the pandemic to go away without vaccines, masks, or anything else, and to take Justin Trudeau with them. Oh, and free gas.
Yesterday I read that one “occupier” repurposed a red MAGA cap to say, “Make CANADA Great Again.”
Really? From my vantage point, Canada never stopped being great; but I’m an outsider, though I still like poutine.
And Coachella is certified as a great spot for a music festival (it now hosts several per year), so there’s plenty of parking, so why not borrow it to kick off an 18-wheeler apocalypse?
Of course, gas prices are a bother (pushing $4.40 for regular). But heck, sounds like there’s plenty of rightwing dark money pouring in to fuel it.
There better be: those rigs average 6 [= six] mpg, or about 400 gallons, which is close to $1600, for the 2545 mile hike to DC, one-way, not including, food, tolls, bail and lawyer’s fees.
The gas & mileage is likely a low estimate: after all, how can the convoy resist taking the long way east, with stops for rallies in places like Phoenix, Houston, New Orleans, Memphis or Atlanta?
The free media would be worth a fortune, and they can almost be guaranteed at some point to get a slow drive-by baptism from the Orange Pope of Mar-a-Lago Himself, sprinkling Diet Coke from the owner’s box and sanctifying them, “In the Name of Let’s Go Brandon, the Junior & the Javanka.”
For that matter, the route almost has to join eventually with that main eastern artery of flyover country, Interstate 40, across North Carolina towards its Rendezvous With Destiny, at Interstate 95, where one left turn will aim them straight at the nation’s capitol.
Among the many benefits of that leg, besides the best barbecue, cheese grits and hot Krispy Kremes, I-40 takes them past a crucial pit stop in the historic town of Mebane, where they can refresh their most treasured supplies.
I speak, of course, of guns, and that central Carolina landmark, Mace Sports.
Even the rankest newcomer can’t miss it, with its huge electrified billboard of solidarity flashing Big Go Brandon love day and night right next to one of the busiest roadways in the region, showing its political vision for 2024 every minute, and highlighting the basics of tactical support, such as:
— this pistol, which is made for concealment. They also sell a mini-holster for keeping them at one’s side and out of the sight of snooping cops and troops, not to mention all kinds of ammo).
Of course, this is America, not lily-livered socialistic Canada, so many (most?) of the convoy truckers will likely be packing their own heat. And who knows, maybe this time they’ll get to use it.
I’m trying to imagine the triumphal arrival scene:
And what will be the official response? Does anyone recall how many National Guard troops were surrounding the inauguration last year?
I didn’t notice them, myself. I figured they were all hidden somewhere behind Bernie Sanders and his mittens. And were they packing?
But now, how can any regular Fox news viewer believe that Sleepy Joe Biden would put up any kind of serious cordon like that?
More likely he’ll resign first, take Kamala Harris with him, both wearing masks, and leave Nancy Pelosi to deal with the convoy, armed only with her ceremonial gavel. Right?
I’m sure a second truck will showcase an electrified cross, and a gallows — but hey, that will just be for old times sake. I mean, like the RNC says, “legitimate political discourse,” and Mace Sports underlines that It’s all in good fun.
Yeah, the convoy is coming. Watch for the Signs of the Times gathering in Coachella, and then follow them rolling east like an inland Tsunami.
Unless your name is Mike Pence. Then I’d suggest checking into Dick Cheney’s old “undisclosed location,” right quick.
As for me, if I had my druthers, about that time I’d be ordering an extra-sized serving of poutine.
Writing Quaker history & theology is not exactly the road to fame and fortune.
But a few still take it, and among those of the passing generation, one that I most admire is Douglas Gwyn, who is always Doug to me.
One reason for admiration is that Doug has produced some outstanding work. My favorite is his book, Personality and Place, which I consider his masterpiece (and reviewed at length here).
He calls the book a “theological history” of Pendle Hill, the Quaker center near Philadelphia which has been a main crossroads and watering hole for Friends for nearly a century.
In a style that is always gentle but nonetheless relentless, he charts Pendle Hill’s evolution/devolution from being (as the first sign at its entrance declared) “A Center for Religious and Social Study”, to serving as what a recent board member sadly decried as “a navel observatory.”Gwyn convincingly shows how Pendle Hill’s trajectory mirrors and illuminates a “modern” and “liberal” Quakerism sliding largely into decadent, self-absorbed conformity and irrelevance.
But important as his written work is, book reviews are not our subject here. I want instead to pay tribute to Doug’s other “career,” that of a singer/songwriter,which he has pursued for almost as long as his scholarship. Maybe longer, since he retired from theology in 2017, and is still busy with music five years later.
Doug hasn’t pursued music-making for money, except for an early stint managing a blues-oriented coffee house called “The Morgue” on the Indiana University campus, and selling the odd cassette. He began writing songs in the late 1970s, and has often performed, but mostly for coffee house-sized groups at Pendle Hill or other such venues. As he explains, he’s done most of his recording himself:
My first attempt at multi-track recording was during the summer of 1999 at Pendle Hill. My friends, Peter and Annie Blood-Patterson, well known folk singers and producers of the Rise up Singing songbook, lent me their four-track recorder and effects box. I spent hot summer nights with the windows closed (to keep out the roar of crickets and katydids) and the loud air conditioner turned off, sweating profusely as I learned how to overdub harmonies and vocal sound effects along with my faltering guitar and singing. The recording persona “The Brothers Doug” came out of that experience.
And several albums later, he’s made his music available to the world, on a dedicated website: https://brothersdoug.me/free to listen to and download. On the site he’s included (by my count) 103 songs, and he’s ditched their copyrights for what he calls “commonrights,” making them part of the general wealth of untrammeled creativity.
Many of his early songs had Quaker references, often satirical and sometimes trenchant, such as “A Process In the Wind,” “That of Odd in Everyone,” and “Making Quakers from Scratch.” He’s also unafraid to aim at his own vanity, as in “Hair Envy,” which laments the erosion of his own coiffure (“Why Do I Love Your Hair? Because . . . It’s There.”
One of his sharpest Quaker satires was “Pendle Hill Revisited.” In a way it prefigures in compressed rhymes his book “Personality & Place”. (BTW, the tune here is that of Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited”:
Bill woke up and said to his wife, honey, I’ve got to change my life! Where can I find that higher path, with courses that don’t require math?” His wife said, “Let me think for a minute, Bill– one thing will help (if anything will), try spending a term at Pendle Hill!
Bill enrolled and had the time of his life, He finally got round to calling his wife: He said, “My dear, I’ve found myself, It’s drying now on the pottery shelf.” His wife said, “I’m so glad for you, Bill, Come home for Christmas and review your will, Then spend another term at Pendle Hill!
Next thing he knew, the year was up, Joy overflowed sweet William’s cup. He said, “I’ve got to stay somehow, I’m on a roll, I can’t stop now . . . .” [So yes, you guessed it, our old Friend Bill Spent the rest of his career at Pendle Hill . . .] Bill’s last years were in managed care, Still trying to learn that centering prayer, Till death took Bill out on a date, And he met St. Peter at the pearly gates.
St. Peter said, “Should I let you in, Bill?” Bill said, “Hell, do what you will, I’d rather be at Pendle Hill!”
And on moonless nights you’ll find him still, Along the path at Pendle Hill.”
Many of Doug’s newer songs are more philosophical than theological, though the distinction is often fuzzy. Not a few have an apocalyptic cast, “The Other Shoe”:
Well we all know that the climate is changing, If we care to admit it or not, We take positions on the same condition, But we all know what we’ve got.
We all know something’s got to give, Oh, yes we do, But Who? And Why? And What? While we wait, for the Other Shoe– To drop . . . .
This near-term gloomy outlook fits his scholarly background (Doug’s dissertation, which became his first book, Apocalypse of the Word, published in 1986). They also have increasing echoes in the social, environmental & political currents of our era.
One I like that straddles the line is “FAQ,” which consists entirely of questions:
FAQ October 2018
How did we get here? How soon can I go? Are you for real? How would I know? Where did that come from? What’s your excuse? Is it just me? What’s there to lose? Refrain: FAQ, frequently asked questions, FAQ, frequently asked questions . . . .
Where is the restroom? How much is enough? How will the end come? Which end is up? Does he still love me? How much does it cost? Why did she do that? Could we be lost? FAQ, frequently asked questions, FAQ, frequently asked questions . . . .”
But one question that he has answered with glee involves letting go of a lot of what he grappled with for so long, and his song about it brings a smile to the faces of many who are, or are nearing, a certain age:
Well, I’ve been hired, and I’ve been fired, I’ve jumped through every hoop required, Til my sell-by date expired,
And now My very soul is tired.
So I’m putting on that cardigan sweater, And I’m already feeling better — Baby, I’m retired!” (He’s retired, baby.)
On the website, there are 103 songs, including twelve written just last year.
Now, giving away your music resembles doing Quaker theology in one respect, namely that it’s not a road to riches either.
But Doug is already a wealthy man in a lot of other ways, if you ask me: several good books, a quiet life in Social Security simplicity, in his home state, and with access to low-cost technology that makes both his writing and music widely accessible, for those who seek it out, and many more should.
And this is not the first time Doug has shown that, contrary to popular wisdom, there can be a free lunch, at least intellectually/spiritually.
On Christmas 2015, with a little assistance from this blog, Doug posted an entire book, Words In Time, including many of his best essays on Quakerism and its discontents, as an absolutely free download.
You do NOT sign in. You do NOT pay. (Not now. Not ever.) You do NOT leave your name or email address.
(And since we won’t have your name or email, we won’t sell it or trade it or send you stuff or do anything else with it. Because –did we mention? — we won’t have it.)
Here are the pieces you’ll find in this book. Most are otherwise very hard to find:
Part I: Covenant
1. The Covenant of Light 2. Renewing Our Covenant: Can Our Branches Be Olive Branches? 3. Sense and Sensibilities: Quaker Bispirituality Today 4. The Covenant Crucified: Quakers and the Rise of Capitalism 5. Can’t See the Covenant for the Contracts
Part II: Seed
6. The Seed: The Power of God Among Us 7. “Sink Down to the Seed”: Going Deeper in Quaker Life and Witness 8. The Seed: Captivity and Liberation
Doug said about Words In Time, when it was first published: This book is a collection of short pieces, most of which have appeared in print elsewhere. They cover a nine-year period, 1988-97. I chose the title Words in Time because several of the pieces were written for particular occasions, and address specific dilemmas facing Friends at the time. As such, these keynotes and essays are somewhat time-bound and situation-specific. For example, “The Covenant of Light” addressed Friends United Meeting shortly before the “Realignment” controversy erupted at the end of 1990. But problems of alienation and mutual exclusion within the wider Quaker family continue; the message of reconciliation still needs to be heard.
[Thee Can Say THAT Again! Okay, he will: But problems of alienation and mutual exclusion within the wider Quaker family continue; the message of reconciliation still needs to be heard.] Doug continued: All the pieces in this collection attempt to place current Quaker struggles within a larger context. The rootstock of our Quaker tradition, in its unique expression of the ancient Hebrew- Christian faith, can provide important perspective on today’s dilemmas. In particular, two themes encompass this collection: covenant and seed.
One more song i want to mention, which is in the collection: Here’s the concluding verse:
Yonder stand those Quakers on the far side of the back of beyond misfit mystics, a boil on the bum of Babylon they’re too few to make much difference too peaceful to break many laws an endangered species of spiritual life practiced in the art of lost cause.
Yonder stand those Quakers singing “We Shall Overcome”; yonder stand those Quakers
God help those poor fools carry on God help those poor fools carry on
“The irony here,” Doug says, “is that the song adopts the perspective of someone in the cultural mainstream, pondering Friends from the outside. We Quakers sometimes forget how odd we can seem to others . . . In spite of the song’s cynical tone, the bemused observer still affirms, “God help those poor fools carry on.”
Doug’s music, like much of his writing, also energizes me. And theological Quaker folksongs?
Why not? Better than a lot of the field’s product.
How can we understand the wave of schisms and breakups described in The Separation Generation three-volume set? How did it come about? Where will it lead?
Looking back, we could say it all started with Phil Gulley, the pastor of Fairfield Friends near Indianapolis. In 2003, he published a book, If Grace Is True, which espoused a Universalist theology of salvation. In response, some theologically very conservative pastors tried to get him run out of his church and the Quaker community. This theological witchhunt dragged on and on.
In those days, I (Chuck Fager) was publishing a twice-yearly journal called Quaker Theology, and in its Issue #9 I reviewed Gulley’s book. I liked it well enough, though at times his universalist image of a crowded heaven put me in mind of Mark Twain’s wry comment that he preferred: “Heaven for the climate; hell for the company.”
By the time the review got into print, Gulley’s situation was more than theological. It was also news,at least in the Quaker world: some yearly meetings were banning his titles from their book tables, and an Indiana pastors committee was still breathing down his neck.
The controversy seesawed back and forth. Finally, the witchhunt pastors lost; Gulley stayed put. (He’s still at Fairfield in 2021, last I heard, and still publishing.)
But that wasn’t really the end. When Gulley was vindicated, several of the dissident pastors got their churches to quit Western Yearly Meeting and move over to Indiana Yearly Meeting next door; and they brought their heresy-sniffing bloodhounds with them.
Soon enough they had another target: not a universalist pastor, but a whole meeting, West Richmond (near Earlham College) which in 2008 announced to the world that a long spell of Bible study and prayerful discernment had led then to affirm and welcome LGBTQ folks.
So Bang! At Quaker Theology, we had another theological issue that was also news. And shortly, there was another, and then another. I needed help to keep up, which is where Steve Angell and Jade Souza (now Jade Rockwell) came in.
The rest is, if not yet settled history, after almost 18 years of intermittent labor, a unique blend of careful reporting, on-the-fly theologizing, and now The Separation Generation, the only published record of the biggest wave of Quaker splits in almost 200 years.
(You can see the three coauthors live and ask questions on Thursday, November 11 at 4 PM EST: in person at Earlham School of Religion, or by Zoom, and later on the ESR website. To get the Zoom link, register at this link:bit.ly/3k6eDBZ )
To whet your appetites, let’s hear a bit from the other coauthors:
Steve Angell: How can these events best be characterized? A few of the metaphors found their way into our three titles: trainwreck; murder; shattering. Given the events we described, the books sometimes go further: in Shattered by the Light, I recalled being asked in 2016 to lead the Board of Advisors of Earlham School of Religion to consider the ongoing “decline or dissolution” of major parts of the Society of Friends.
Of the new Yearly Meetings that have come out these splits, some are unlike any that have preceded them. For example, the New Association of Friends [in Indiana] and the Sierra Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends [Oregon, Washington & Idaho] either implicitly or explicitly are welcoming and affirming of LGBTQ Friends.
This is a first for yearly meetings and associations of pastoral Friends in North America, or really, anywhere in the world. The New Association of Friends quotes Isaiah 43:19 on its home page: “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
Whether these new green shoots, these new things, will thrive, it is too soon to say.
Jade Rockwell (neé Souza) adds:
I believe these conflicts contain tremendous potential for harm, even the risk of ending the Quaker experiment. I also believe they could bring that fire of the Holy Spirit, the change and renewal we know we need, that many of us often envy about the Early Friends movement, or primitive Christianity. Whether these conflicts are fruitful will depend — partly on having strong analysis of these events, even knowing about them to begin with.
Then, whether we can develop resiliency worthy of our calling. Can we be humble enough to tell the truth, tough enough to resist dehumanizing each other, courageous enough to stay in the game, and faithful enough to let God lead?
These conflicts may be the Refiner’s Fire for us. They do not have to end in splits, even as we go on, in different directions.
I don’t know the future or claim to have the answers. But I participated in this project to do the best I could to help get the truth out in the Light, where there is some hope for us Often we don’t want these stories out there because we see ourselves as “patterns and examples”, but I believe we are only as sick as our secrets. I hope this project will be useful and illuminating for Friends in thinking about these conflicts and how we are called to move into the next chapters, in whatever shape we are now in.
To repeat: both the live presentation and the Zoom stream are FREE and PUBLIC. For more details and to receive the Zoom link, please register by clicking this link: bit.ly/3k6eDBZ
– Not even any “Accept” and “Agree” buttons to click.
Then, when I moved the little dot from “On” to “Off”
PRESTO! It was gone.
I had broken the shackles.
Sawed through the handcuffs.
Picked the lock on the thick cell door.
Yes, mark it on the calendar: September 19, 2021 is The Day I —
TURNED OFF “Auto Correct”!
Yes, much-maligned Google still had enough juice to point the way without putting me through several hours worth of self-playing ads.
And while the IOS geniuses of Apple had buried it several layers down, the switch was right where Google said it was supposed to be.
So now, I am finally liberated and able to feel at long last the thrill of—
Making my OWN stupid mistakes again.
Not some damned fiendishly inventively algorithm’s anymore. MINE.
I was late to the grim party of recording the old regime’s endless horrors: the slip of a pinkie on one letter that was used to turn a weighty colleague’s name into a rude insult; the recurrent demonstration that even after a serious brush with the Ivy League, I had no clue how “its” differed from “it’s”. Or with more at stake, the time “Clopidogrel” (a blood thinner crucial to many heart patients) became “Cloud ogres” in an email to the Doc. Or when “Short link” turned into “chortling”; and “Bibles” morphed into “Orca inlets.” (Not making any of these up. Other sufferers will have their own lists of lasting humiliations.)
But those days should finally be past. Now the ball is back in my court, and the old gang of familiar typos and screwups can regather, where they’ll be, one hopes, more manageable, less monumentally dumb.
Yes, things could definitely be worse: the filibuster is still in place. The Chief Insurrectionist remains unindicted. And the wildfires and hurricanes!
But there has been some summer relief around here. The fires and hurricanes have missed us so far. Delta has too, tho it’s still prowling the neighborhood. And we’re (almost all) out of Afghanistan.
Yet we have paid some pandemic dues. Maybe one of the biggest hits is the member of the household remaining in a COVID-induced coma, which has now lasted almost nine months.
No, it’s not me, or the Fair Wendy, and not our cat.
It’s our washer. (Washer-dryer, actually; a cool compact combo.)
The thing served faithfully for eight years, including the first three seasons of the pandemic. But then around last Christmas, it came down with a fever, which soon became general & paralytic.
The appliance guys came and did major surgery. It wasn’t as bad as it looked, they said. Recovery was sure, they said. But to beat the bug definitively, and before stitching it back together, they said they needed a part. Maybe it was in the truck. Continue reading Surviving our COVID-Induced Coma→
The mare, nicknamed Dusty, died at age 25, the Foundation for Shackleford Horses wrote Saturday on Facebook. She was “one of the grand dames of the wild herd” that lives on the Shackleford Banks, which is the southernmost island on Cape Lookout National Seashore. . . .
“Rest well, run free, old girl,” the group said of Dusty’s death.
More than 100 wild horses live on Shackleford Banks, according to the National Park Service, which co-manages the herd with the foundation. . . . .”
I once visited another “wild” band, on Assateague Island, another link in the same outer banks chain with its own band of “wild” horses.
I remember it well. The horses stood around, lounged really, under the watchful gaze of uniformed park rangers. They let my kids walk up and stroke their long necks. Numerous signs told us what to do and not do around them, especially not feed them. The feds made sure they got proper nutrition. About the only thing they had to fear was hurricanes.
When we left, the kids were puzzled at my dismissive comment: “They’re not ‘wild horses,’” I snorted. “They’re Welfare Ponies.”
This disdain reflected memories of my other previous visit with such a band, which happened in 1977, almost 3000 miles west, under starkly different conditions: not the cosseted, beach-surrounded, foundation-protected eight square mile sliver of Shackleford. Instead they roamed a vast chunk of windswept & sunburnt high desert, almost 900 times as large. There was more wilderness in all directions beyond it. No upscale shorefront condos over the next rise; instead threats of death on every side.
Starvation and thirst stalk them relentlessly, as do hunters with battered cowboy hats, well-oiled rifles, and utter contempt for any government beyond (maybe) a distant county sheriff. Most of the land is federally-owned, and land management agents were scattered across the region, but they kept a low profile, and were not from the National Park Service.