So you think you’re a patriot?

You say you love your country, that you are devoted to it. My dictionary says that’s patriotism, so maybe you are a patriot.
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How do you demonstrate your love and devotion?

You fly the flag, at least on certain holidays?

You celebrate Independence Day, maybe with some sparklers for the kids?

You stand for the national anthem? Take off your hat? Place your hand over your heart? That’s cool if you really mean it. I do those things myself.

What else?

Maybe you’ve served in the military, or as an honest elected official, or you’re active somehow in bettering your local community. Those can be authentic ways to show your true colors, that you care about this big place.

How about this? Do you savagely criticize anyone who sits or kneels in protest at anthem time? Do you question their motives? Wish them harm?

That doesn’t make you a patriot. It doesn’t do anything for your country, but it’s your right. I readily acknowledge that it is your right even though I disapprove of how you choose to exercise it.

As much as I disapprove, I won’t suggest that you leave the country, or call for you to lose your job, or hope that you suffer some terrible misfortune. What I will do is suggest that you take stock of what it is that makes you think you are a patriot.

What have you really done for your country?

What are you are willing to do to prove your love and devotion?

The United States needs more from you than a willingness to stand with the crowd during the national anthem and a knee-jerk condemnation of those who protest.

What else will you do, my fellow American?

 

Cyclists as targets, as humans

A few days ago I met a man who within minutes referred to cyclists as “targets.” He was driving down a Boulder County hill that is very popular with cyclists, runners, walkers and occasional daredevils on skateboards.

As politely as I could, I let him know that his comment was not funny even though (I hoped) it was intended as a joke.

I didn’t see him again until this morning. The first thing he did was apologize and shake my hand. I thanked him for that. I told him there are people who really do treat us as targets. He didn’t seem to know that.

Judging solely by their actions, some motorists do think of us that way. They target cyclists for verbal abuse, spit, bottles and cans, black smoke and worse. Some drivers buzz by within a foot or even inches in order to intimidate, and I imagine some of those drivers have hit their targets and left the scene.

I didn’t expect an apology from my new acquaintance. Apologies, especially real ones, are rare these days. I hoped simply that he would remember our brief exchange when encountering people on bicycles and think of them as fellow human beings.

The apology was a nice bonus.

 

When they is (are?) one person

Is there no better alternative to “they” for an individual who identifies as neither male nor female, but as non-binary? I’ve seen many alternatives but am not persuaded that any of them are better.

This has come up a a few times recently in my little corner of the world. The most recent example was in this NPR story about someone who “is no longer legally male or female and prefers the pronoun ‘they’.”

It’s confusing to use they in a sentence when referring to one person. Small issue, maybe, but it’s the only thing that bugs me about the story.

Well, OK, it’s not the only thing.

Far, far worse and infinitely more distressing is the hate that burbles up from the depths when stories like these come to light. I briefly thought about disconnecting from social media, or at least trying harder to avoid the vile, toxic comments that are so common in the world’s dark online underbelly.

I sometimes envy a good friend who no longer watches the news and has no social media presence or interest. I suppose part of the reason is that he is a lawyer, a former prosecutor who now defends the accused. I imagine he’s had more than his fill of exposure to the uglier side of humanity.

It’s hard for me to imagine disconnecting to that extent as a writer. So far, I’m unable to turn away. Maybe it’s because of my education and experience as a journalist, or some character flaw that makes me inordinately curious about the evil among us.

When “they” is among a person’s preferred pronouns (mine are he/him/his, BTW), I try to respect that, as difficult as it might make construction of a clear sentence.

The slimy creatures that spew hatred from greasy keyboards and incite others to commit violence against people who are different?

It is important to know that those people exist, but they deserve respect from no one.

 

Selling a house without burying Joseph

When we were getting ready to put our house on the market a few weeks ago, the topic of St. Joseph came up again and again.

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The Dream of St. Joseph
Wikimedia Commons

He has always been one of my favorite saints, second only to Bernard (BER-nerd, the scholarly saint, and not Ber-NARD, the courageous canine). I also happen to be named after both holy men, Saints B and J.

Maybe this helps explain, beyond the perfectly obvious silly superstition factor, why I resisted the advice from so many friends to bury a statue of Joseph upside down in the front yard. Supposedly this, when combined with prayers, quickly brings buyers your way.

I read somewhere that the practice has its roots in extortion, whereby the homeowner would bury St. Joseph’s likeness and threaten to keep him buried until he pulled whatever spiritual strings it took to get the property sold. To me, that just seems like asking for trouble.

We chose not to bury the patron saint of fathers, expectant mothers, carpenters, grave diggers and others, and we sold the house in a week.

Now we have a condo, and of course the makers and distributors of St. Joseph statues advise condo owners to bury him in a pot when it’s time to sell. Upside down, facing the front entrance.

No way in hell.

Being thankful

Let us be thankful for our mates and partners,
our children and siblings,
Red Dog Smithand all their families,
and our lives
and our health.

For our friends, enlightened
or misguided, furry
or clean-shaven,
and for our dogs and cats, too.

For work that is worth doing well,
for freedom and teachers,
for honest public servants,
and people who challenge violence and corruption,
and people who help the suffering.

For bicycle makers and fixers and pedalers,
and craft beer makers,
and good coffee
and good pizza.

For snow and rain and sunshine,
and stars in the sky.