Tag Archives: faith

Clinton’s Campaign: Does She Have Credibility, a Creed and a Contest ?

Will Secretary and Senator and Former First Lady  Hillary Rodham Clinton be the first female President of the United States? It certainly seems likely. Here you can read my first post when she became the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party.  Since the very first version of this post came out the Washington Post has run an article saying that her credibility is damaged, that article is here and it may or may not represent political reality. But the contention made here in all versions of this post so far is that there appears to be a small chance that she will be indicted, arrested and charged in the email scandal or in any matter to do with Benghazi. By small of course I mean that there is not a large chance. There appears to be a miniscule chance that Bernie Sanders will mount a successful revolt or set up a powerful third party challenge which would derail her path to the presidency. There is more or less no realistic chance that she will be stopped from being elected except by the victory of Donald Trump as the Republican Nominee over her as the Democratic Nominee in the general election. Almost no chance is not the same as no chance. Any number of things could happen including death of physical impairment. But the odds seem to be better than fifty percents that she will be the next POTUS. Few people have ever had more relevant work or official experience when approaching the highest office in the land. To be a Senator is a lot, to be Secretary of State is a lot, to be First Lady is a lot — to be all three is a staggering degree of experience. Of course I physically stagger more easily than some more physically gifted readers and so I go to that adjective and the related adverb more readily than they might. But if one does not stagger one at least must take notice of the degree to which she embodies tremendous experience. Compared to her:

  1. Donald Trump has never held elected office,
  2. he has never lived in the White House,
  3. he has never lived in the executive mansion of a State,
  4. he has never held an office appointed by a President,
  5. he has never led a sustained policy discussion as Clinton did with healthcare,
  6. he has never been officially invited to sit at the table to negotiate  a formal treaty on behalf of the United States.
To safeguard liberty we must be able to adapt to the changing times.

To safeguard liberty we must be able to adapt to the changing times.

On the other hand they do have some lack of experience in common:

  1. Neither on has held a major post in a religious institution,
  2. neither has served in the military,
  3. neither has served in the workaday world of the intelligence community,
  4. neither has lived on our borders or in border towns for any length of time,
  5. neither speaks Spanish of French well, official languages of our neighbors,
  6.  neither has lived and worked as a citizen in the way business people, missionaries, journalists and  volunteers do every day across this world as they forge an American identity abroad.

Ambassador Stevens was an unusually high ranking victim of violence abroad. In the last few days other Americans have lost their lives around the world but a glimpse into the kinds of decisions he faced is also a glimpse into kinds of decisions that Americans who believe in what they are doing abroad face every day.  The following excerpt is from the recent report on the Benghazi incident:

While the end of the fiscal year funding deadline was looming, the Diplomatic Security Agent in charge at the Embassy in Tripoli was, nonetheless,
concerned about Stevens’ trip to Benghazi. Although his first planned trip to Benghazi in the beginning of August 2012 had to be canceled because of security,14 Stevens was adamant, however, about going in September.15 The Diplomatic Security Agent testified:
Previous to this—to his decisions to going up there, there was— we would meet weekly to discuss the security situation in Libya.…[
T]here was a specific meeting regarding what was happening in Benghazi. In that meeting, we reviewed incidents and  probable causes, what’s initiating it. And a lot of discussion was that it was the conflict or the incidents up there were, you know, local population against local population and that that they weren’t specifically targeting Americans … up there. I expressed my concerns about the incidents that did involve us. And the basic response was that they … were anomalies.

We all have images of what leadership should look like which are not simple portrayals of reality.

We all have images of what leadership should look like which are not simple portrayals of reality.

Romney was a missionary in France during anti-American times, Bill Clinton visited Russia as a student in the Cold War years and there are other connections to tat least the same world Chris Stevens lived in that can be found in other political lives outside the military but not in the lives of Hillary Clinton or Donald trump so far as I know. Both have traveled a great deal. both have been at some risk but the proportion of risk to resources has never been equal in my opinion to the baseline many Americans abroad have experienced every day all of my life.

The other thing that they have in common is access to fame, fortune, privilege and the people in power. This is not an even contest between the two of them but neither does it really matter who has had more of such opportunity. These opportunities have defined both of their lives for a long time. One big difference of course is that Trump like all previous American Presidents is a man and Clinton is a woman. I visited that in the post where her candidacy was all but assured but I am not going to deal with it much in this post.

There are issues related to Clinton that have very little to do with the fact that she is a woman. Trump recently said he just knew very little about her religion and she responded by declaring her self emphatically enough to be a Methodist. My own take on some of the discussion of Clinton’s religion has been posted in this blog before and can be seen here. Of course there may be more to say as time goes on.  One fact about the election of the first Clinton to the Presidency is that the result was likely determined by the most credible third party candidate in presidential politics in my lifetime — Ross Perot. He made it more than possible for Bill Clinton to defeat George Bush Senior. Thus Clinton did not face the kind of intense contest he would have otherwise.  This kind of splitting is well established in British politics and may have been fostered in some way or another by the Rhodes Scholar, Bill Clinton as the biggest take home lesson from his time in Oxford. Some may see Trump as Ross Perot on steroids. He is the third party candidate who became the  candidate of a major party and the main obstacle to Clinton’s election. that would still be true even if Romney or someone becomes a real third party candidate somehow. So how does trump match Clinton on matters of faith?

To see Clinton’s faith in political terms this season means to examine Donald Trump’s faith as well. He seems to be a person, like Clinton, about whom one could say a great many contradictory things based on pretty good evidence. That is not necessarily because he is deceptive or a hypocrite but may be because of the place he comes from in his life context. Interestingly enough he has made it clear that he supports Christmas as a national holiday and seeks to preserve it. That was the narrow subject of my original blog post about Clinton’s faith and the faith of other candidates.    Christmas was of course never my only interest in the religious identity of candidates. I love Christmas very much and the Christian observance of it by this country is a tradition I think worth striving for and worth some sacrifice. However, it is interesting that the ugliest rumors and suspicions about Donald Trump involve the ways in which he reminds people of the NSDAP or Nazis and the Third Reich. While many Christians nothing like the Hitlerites have rallied around Christmas, there is also no doubt that the Nazis made Christmas and especially the control of Christmas tree sales and early focus of political activity.  In further clarification, it is interesting to note that the list of candidates in the Democrats poll I posted in that article did include Biden but did not include Sanders. Even more interesting is that Trump does not appear among the six Republican candidates who appear in the poll I posted and reviewed in terms of the religion of the candidates. Huckabee was the leader in the poll and he was of course a Baptist minister who claimed the same hometown as President William Jefferson Clinton — Hope, Arkansas. So where does that leave the discussion of religion as I saw it back in 2014? It is not a perfectly relevant post in every way  then.  But here is the principal quotation from that blog post as it pertains to understanding Clinton’s faith in very general political terms. The first paragraph below deals with how Americans likely to vote Republican were thinking about Republican candidates in 2014 and how that related to Christmas and it observance by the Christians of this nation . However the remaining paragraphs  relate to what Clinton’s religious identity is likely to be. It is perhaps best to look at the text:

There is a lot of shaking out to do if these numbers mean any thing before any Republican can claim the nomination.  But it does indicate perhaps the streams of thought that are shaping the country as regards finding a religious root for values expressed by America’s  “right” in politics.

What then about the left? Where does the other side of American  political energy come down on our connecting with the roots of Christianity.  Unlike the possible GOP nominees, Hillary Clinton has tended to tower over her challengers for the 2016 Democratic nomination. Some people are saying that candidates like Elizabeth Warren are poised to show explosive growth but it would take a lot of growth to challenge  Clinton in the primary.

Joe Lieberman who ran with Al Gore was not a Christian but a Jew who seemed to tolerate a good deal of public Christmas. Mitt Romney belonged to what most scholars consider to be a post-Christian religion but it is one that celebrates Christmas as an American holiday and the birth festival of Jesus Christ. Many presidents have been devout Christians: Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Woodrow Wilson, John Kennedy and half a dozen others are clearly men who in my opinion must be seen as Christians entirely. Whatever they did not achieve of the Christian ideal is not because they did not adhere to that faith and religion. Richard Nixon was reared as a Quaker and (though many American Quakers seem pretty much to be Christians) Quakers as a whole are not a Christian faith but one which grew up among Christians.  It is hard to say what Nixon was when he was President. With men like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and  a few others it hard to say where they stood in terms of religious classification and identity.

So that brings me to Clinton. She is a favorite enemy of the Christian Right and other religious people in American politics and she may well deserve it. She has a background which is mostly verifiable: Clinton was reared a Methodist Protestant Christian, belonged to a Senate Prayer Group and has spoken at Prayer Breakfasts.  Her profile may seem different to American atheists than to most other people. Here is an atheist site evaluating Clinton’s background and religious values.  It is hard to know how  she would deal with Christmas.

I have just finished observing the Independence Day  holiday in a minimal sort of way. It is always a time that I like to think about what it means to be an American and posts about those thoughts can be seen here. But although those ideas have been posted here they have more often been shared in other places and my thoughts about America have been posted here on other holidays. Those holiday thoughts on Memorial Day have been  here and on Veterans day have been here. While I have in common with Clinton and Trump that I have not a day of service in the military in my past it seems to be the military holidays that most inspire my patriotism. My observation of the Independence Day holiday was not entirely minimal by every standard and I did post quite a few notes and the lyrics of the National Anthem on my Facebook profile but minimal my observance  certainly was  in some measures. Neither Trump nor Clinton were very visible in my own perusal of our nation’s birthday. But one of them will likely be the American Head of State by next Independence Day. Unlike Christmas these holidays are not specifically Christian. I am a Christian and for me Christian prayer is part of these national holidays. I am not sure how the faith of either major candidate informs  their celebration of these days.  But faith and the most gung ho kinds of patriotism are linked by many as can be seen at links here and here. What else does  America expect from a leader and does Clinton have it?

Clinton has a lot of government experience, but the range is not infinite. One of the big achievements of this week has been the placement of the Juno observatory in position as a satellite of Jupiter. Some of the reason many people around the world are interested in this project can be gleaned here.  Neither Clinton nor Trump seems to be the kind to play an extraordinary role in blazing a pioneering trail into space.  These kinds of brave explorations may shape the future or not but they do not seem to define the vision of either Clinton or Trump.

One question many people have about religion is whether or not someone who prays for help should be President. Perhaps prayer means one cannot do the job. But some contend Clinton had private emails because she did not want to disclose the degree to which she could not do her job. That story can be seen here. It is to be noted that this not entirely clear story comes from a publication as biased in favor of Clinton and against Trump as one can get. But the point is here only that Buzz Aldrin, a rocket scientist, astronaut and space planner is a noted public prayer promoter in his own life and not being known for religious acts makes nobody a scientist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Thoughts about Homecoming Twenty Years after Graduation

 

I am planning to buy a ticket to my alma mater’s homecoming football game more or less as soon as I get finished with my blog post.  I will be buyuing it with my mother’s credit card. I sometimes do this and pay her back with cash but in this case she is giving it to me as a gift. I feel a sense of obligation to be there and I have often been to Homecoming games over the years. But I have not gotten an invitation to anything except those sent out to all University students and have not had the resources to  initiate much organization although I did start a Facebook group for my classmates nobody joined it. Nonetheless, it discharged another sense of obligation. I do love my school and watching football. However, I certainly am not proud or happy to be going alone and in many other ways in the situation I am currently in at this time.

The bulk of this post is a Facebook note I wrote a while back. I had a really miserable time copying it in here (a process which is often very easy). That means I had more of a chance to correct spelling, mechanical and minor factual errors than usual because I spent longer reworking it. However, I know from experience that there may be a gross error of continuity from pasting parts together and have lots of irritating glitches. I hope not. If you read it and wish to comment I will try to address errors and questions.

    

 

Approaching 20 years since my Bachelor’s Degree
Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 10:58pm
I graduated from the University of Southwestern Louisiana in May of 1989 with a degree in English and the honor of a latin phrase after the designation of a bachelors degree. There have been many days since mid May of 1989. Each of them was a bit different from the others. Suddenly I am coming up on 20 years. Sooner or later it had to happen. Actually it had to happen exactly 20 years after I graduated unless I died. It was always likely to make me feel that my life was not exactly where I had hoped it would be. Twenty years ago was a rather high mark in my life. But not a perfect time at all.

In the years since then there have been opportunities to do things that I had not done. Perhaps I resemble some huge portion of the human species in that I would define the last twenty years as having been much better and much worse than I would have predicted. However as a generalization I would describe my last twenty years as being profoundly different from any plan I could have made or discussed in those days. First of all the most important person in my life in those days was Michelle Denise Broussard Summers and I have not seen or spoken with her since about 1995. We had gotten married in December of 1987 while still in college. I graduated in May of 1989 and she graduated in December of 1989.

I think both that we always had our problems and that when I graduated our best years were still ahead of us. But the time of my graduation was a more difficult time than most of our time together up to that point. In those days I still had high hopes for many things that no longer draw forth that response from me. What Michelle’s hopes were becomes less clear to me with each passing day and month and year. I do know that we were very much together at that time. Her support meant a great deal to me. On the day of the Blue Key reception for the Outstanding Graduate award for their colleges and were nominated for the overall award only one person had no guests for company — I was that nominee. I did win the award however. That of course makes the approach of the 20th year anniversary even more ominous somehow. It is harder to measure up to expectations announced in those days. Of course, no matter what I had that happy summer when I had been so honored and before a life I would often categorize as horrible reverted more to the norm and became fairly horrible again. In the years since there have been lots of good and bad times. I have ended up with more self-respect than I would have ever imagined possible and very little else in many ways. Yet also blessed to have lots of people in my life and memory who have meant something to me. The journey has had its surprising joys. Instead of only following a chronology  only I wanted  to kind of set this up as journey story — because it is.

Mary graduates from UL L as I did. A young mom who does not make time for Facebook yet.

Watching one brother Joseph and one sister Mary graduate with higher Latin honors than I earned from my college alma mater has been a joy and a blessing. It has been a joy to see another sister Sarah graduate with a perfect GPA from Louisiana State University where I got my masters degree. It has been a joy to have my middle sister Susanna graduate with honors from the Franciscan University of Steubenville where I won one of two Sophomore Class Awards (one for men and one for women) in 1985. I look forward to having my youngest brother graduate from UL-L which is my renamed alma mater this May. My handicapped brother Simon received his certificate of Academic completion of merit from Abbeville High School when I was working for the school board in which they are located and which administers them. All of those were joyous milestones. But Michelle was not around for any of those events. After my Bachelor’s ceremonies, hers and my Master of Arts Degree graduation we were not to be together much longer.

Michelle and I lived in Abbeville, Lafayette, Kenner, New Orleans and Baton Rouge  all in Louisiana when we were married. We traveled to Mexico but otherwise never left the country together. We did make trips to Arizona, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee,  and Illinois. But all though we were not absolute cave-dwellers we traveled less together than has been typical of my life. In this post I have included pictures of places I have been since. I had many pictures of Michelle and I together and would put some up but they have been among the many casualties of my trips and dislocations. I do not have access to a single image of her and I together or of her as I type this.

The picture below is of the Shandong Institute of Business and Technology in Yantai. The SDIBT  was the China Coal College a few years before I was there.Set on the Shandong Peninsula where Confucius and Mencius began Classical Chinese scholarship the Campus overlooked the glorious Yellow Sea.
These are some of my students and advisees graduating two years after I left.
Front page of an article I wrote about my journey to China and time there. The top photograph is of English Corner which was largely organized and facilitated by Lu Ting ting who is on my Friends List although her name appears in characters I cannot reproduce.

However, China is not the only place that I have been. There were journeys to Micronesia, Mexico (on numerous occasions) as well as to Nova Scotia/ Acadie. All these trips were since my divorce . Each of these journeys has added to the long route across and just above the surface of this planet which I have had other distinct good things and times. My trip to China ranks near the top of these life enhancing events one recalls at a time like this. I have posted the link to the university level institution where I taught.

The theme of of travel in my story is rather huge and important. It can be minimized and still seem drawn out in my life. Prior to graduation the Philippines, Europe, Colombia, Mexico, Tonga, Samoa and New Zealand were among the places that I had visited long enough to feel that I had lived there.  It bears repeating yet again that extensivetravel has been a very large part of my education and personal development both before and after my undergraduate studies.

 Soren, Alyse and Anika in Zacatecas, Mexico in the center of town.
Alyse in the mines which were the source of wealth for Zacatecas as a Spanish Colonial City and in the precolumbian days as well.
 
I have also been a bit below the surface of the planet a few times. Mammoth Caves is one of my favorite US National parks and I have enjoyed visiting mines like those in the beautiful Mexican city of Zacatecas. Michelle was not a great outdoors woman and now I seldom participate in the outdoors in Louisiana which were such a huge part of my life before because I have had a lot of bad experiences and am not very happy here in any way but Michelle and I once camped at Mammoth Caves in a very happy exception to the rule of our time together. 

What I know is that my life has been a journey in a very literal sense. When I graduated from UL I went to work that summer for the law Firm of Mangham, Hardy, Rolfs and Abadie in the offices near the top of the First National Bank Tower in downtown Lafayette. It was as close as I have ever come to feeling like my life was on a smooth and established track and not a trek through dangerous places. I was headed off to Tulane Law School in the fall. A lot of people in my life who have always behaved badly toward me when they were around chose not to that summer. I had been on television and in the newspapers a great deal when I won the Outstanding Graduate award and it seemed like I would be given some space to do things one step at a time in a way that I have never really known at any other time.

My time at Tulane Law School that first run was one of the worst times of my life. That is from my point of view saying a great deal. We lived next to a family who were in charge of our floor in student housing and screamed and roared many hours every day. Michelle never found any job of significance which wrecked our financial plan, I got hit in a horrible traffic situation and got the ticket, I was chronically sick, we had several family crises. Someone who owed me a substantial amount of money skipped out on payment and it was an informal exchange without legal recourse. Those patterns were established early on and then there were a lot of other bad things. Michelle told me she was pregnant fifteen minutes before my first moot court competition and that she was not (either never was or had lost the pregnancy) just in the middle of my real examination preparation. Then my relationships already included a lot of people who were the opposite of supportive. Despite being a harsh, grim and critical man my grandfather Frank W. Summers I came across as a major source of counsel, social and financial support. He and I had been close of years and this put a strain on our rebuilding relationship but it was a time when he really shone in several ways. When Michelle and I left Tulane after a semester and a bit then in almost every way the life I had sought to graduate into was  dead. The journey since then has been an entirely different journey.

When I left Tulane we engaged in that activity my associates in life often refer to as “licking one’s wounds”. That took a few weeks. Then I was working in seafood sales and brokering as I had done many times before including even during my time at Tulane Law. I went down with the owner and chief sales manager of the privately held company that was my employer on a buying trip to Merida. This was typical of a lot of things about my seafood crowd. The owner paid for four tickets, four registration packages, four hotel and food packages and in me provided one of the two or three best interpreters on the trip. However, the trip was supposed to be a sales trip sponsored by the US Department of Commerce and we were there buying. While that exact event was unique it somehow encapsulates all of my considerable experiences in the fishmongering world. While there Lieutenant Governor Paul Hardy presented me with the honor of Honorary Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana. He gave me a very large and beautiful certificate that I was proud to display as I was to mention the honor on my resume.

When I got back I set up those purchases and set up a series of chain and institutional sales for catfish and catfish products of sizes which were not in the main stream of demand and commerce. That was about all I did before quitting my job and going to work for St. Thomas More High School. I knew it would annoy him but I left my employer with a proposal for changes needed in the company. From a distance over the years I watched many of them take place. (Since I wrote this note however the company has closed because it imported much Mexican labor after the ties established on this trip and has had trouble gettibg the paperwork in order in recent years according to one of the former owners).

My story must return to the subject of St. Thomas More High School.  My Mom had helped me hear about and get an interview for the job at STM and I took Sarah to school there as I commuted to work. Michelle soon found a job in Lafayette in a career field she would follow in for a good while. I added a part-time job as youth minister at St. Mary’s Parish and then we moved from Mom and Dad’s neighborhood in a rental house to an apartment in Lafayette. Mom and Dad soon moved to house only a few miles away. My sister Susanna was registered to go with Sarah to STM the next year. However, by that time I would be a Board of Regents Fellow at Louisiana State University. Michelle had a good job in Baton Rouge with the same company she had worked for in Lafayette and I had the fellowship money and some other sporadic income. We were pretty happy and pretty successful as far as living in a rental townhouse can be considered successful in America. We had two new vehicles we had bought new and although I was getting really fat for the first time since early adolescence we were more in love and happy than at any time since just after our wedding. So if Law school was really brutally bad then graduate school was pretty good. I was tired and stressed but not as alienated as I have often been. It was a time for maintenance and restorations. Then two things did happen when I was in Grad school at LSU that had a big impact on my life between the two of them. One was that my half-brother Paul Nicolas Jordan came into my life. The other was that my grandfather Frank W. Summers I died. These things and earning my Masters really defined those years.

Paul came into my life as a huge surprise since I had been assured of his impossibility. I had devoted a huge portion of whatever positive focus of energy there had been in my life to being the oldest sibling of seven and an older brother. I had become involved in a whole web of transgenerational things on all sides of the family to pass them on to another generation. When Paul came many of relatives who have always perhaps been happy to make me uncomfortable liked to point out that he was both older and my sibling. All the ways this was done I will not get into here. It so happened that my grandfather Summers was not related to Paul by blood, marriage or memory and was busy dying. I had worked for him, lived with him when in from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, bore his name, had discussed genealogies, family traditions and acts and orders of chivalry. He had brought me into some secret and other semi-secret groups and other groups with tasks that were not entirely clear to me and I had tried to humor him even when it was tough. So at this time we drew closer together. His mind, body and poise were all failing but they all were a noble ruin. Old men I had never met came and began to ask me questions about him and some of our activities and talks together. Many of those men I never saw again.

I undertook a research task or two in Acadiana at the time to deal with these odd meetings and with my dying grandfather. I had often been angry with and resentful of “PauPau” as I called him.When he did die I had seen him dying only a day before and the pain was raw and shocked me in its intensity. There were reasons for that which I will not go into here but the biggest reason was personal loss. I was the only primary pall-bearer with streaming tears and shaking sobs as we gave that last shove of his coffin into the elevated stone mini mausoleum where his remains rest. Typical of he and my grandmother there was a space beside him with her name on it and four other spaces for some (but not any dead) who might need a resting place in our extended family. My grandmother was there and many others and my wife. But I felt a loneliness I had not known before, it may not have been my loneliest moment but it was a very lonely one. I pulled through that semester, took my general examinations and went through commencement. I thought I might go to LSU Law school but I would work in large scale food sales again before returning to Tulane Law School. My marriage was almost suddenly falling apart in real earnest.

During the year I worked we still had some good times but by the summer before Law school we were seldom together as I worked in a law office in Lafayette and she lived in Baton Rouge. Then we moved into a town house in Kenner where we last lived together. This time at Tulane things were smoother in some ways but smoothly bad. My first time at Tulane I had organized a petition and a protest along with other woes and distractions and I am quite certain some faculty there still had it in for me. My relationship with my nuclear family was strained, I missed my grandfather, he had promised me several keepsakes when he died all unsolicited by me and I got none of them just as had happened before when his mother died. My marriage was for the first time cold. It is unacceptable to talk about sex between married couples but our sex life had always been very good by all standards that can be quantified or verified. Now it was not. We were sentimental about splitting. We seldom discussed it and when we did it was usually over a nice dinner calmly. We knew it was coming and I began to seek treatment for depression. We both sort of moved from not quite newlyweds to forty years of marriage in our frank awareness of the opposite sex. It was clear that we would not be happy together and we had tried Marriage Encounter, made Engaged Encounter before exchanging vows and read books as well as making a couples retreat. We had no kids or prospects of having kids soon. I had some concerns my grandfather had entrusted me with that we could never really discuss. My relationship with her parents got pretty bad and hers with mine was not good. None of this was all that obvious or even serious in a certain sense.

I am adding this paragraph for no particular reason to the original note in my Facebook page.  I was never sexually involved with anyone while married to Michelle. That is an absolute fact and in addition I did not pursue things that came up as that marriage ended. However, it is dishonest ( by my high standards of candor) to leave out the fact that I did meet a woman at Tulane the second time who made a big impression on me and she seemed to feel something too. We have never seen eachother since then and I really did stay with a miserable and hopeless marriage instead of a new and compelling relationship. I am not even the tiniest bit ashamed of her, my behavior, or of Michelle and I being old fuddy-duddies who tried to play things by the book.  

Suddenly I was out of law school, legally separated and living with my parents in a two storey thatched building overlooking Micronesia’s Truk Lagoon as the GIs knew it on the Island of Weno in the country of Chuuk. Another point of no return had been crossed. Another re-invention of a life and a future. Among the markers of that transition I had a truly horrific sunburn that almost defied description. I have been hospitalized twice for sunburn and none of those burns were in the same category as this. I think I could easily have died except that a clinic there sold my mother a few hundred dollars of Silvadene cream for a few dollars. The agonizing physical pain and baseball size blisters were oddly soothing to my shredded soul. I healed and snorkeled again as I had that first burning day. I ate Eggs Benedict overlooking the gorgeous lagoon, spent time with my brothers and sisters and found a job teaching at the local community college which I never undertook because I left before school started. I heard rumours that made me think a reconciliation might be possible and decided to come home and try. However, I have never seen Michelle since the day we were separated. I have never spoken to her on the phone or seen a convincing video of her. Except for third person testimony I have no reason to believe that she is not dead. I now reached a place in life where I was not to cut my hair or shave for about three and a half years.

When I was in graduate school at LSU I published one book review in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television as well as two note length letters to the editor — on in Time and one in Newsweek. I did a lot of writing during my marriage but what was most notable was how little publishing I did. I wrote novels, plays, short stories, book length rough drafts on international law, rocketry, ethnicity and theology. This was in addition to countless papers, exam essays, lesson plans at Saint Thomas More, tutoring materials and half of the  catechetical materials Michelle and I used together to teach our faith in two dioceses and sales materials as well. But now, in the wandering in the desert phase of my life (involving very few deserts) I began to fill composition books titled as journals. With hair down to my waist almost and long journals to write Mom got me a chance to work out every day almost at Olympus health club in Nunez which is a small community with a  gymnasium (in the old sense), a steak house, a gas station and a lot of houses and fields. I got into pretty good shape while not losing weight. In my journals I was able to deal with the absolute and enormous wrongness of nearly everything in the world of humanity from my point of view. It was amazingly soothing to say what was wrong and what might be done about it even though it would not change anything. In many ways life was more hellish than it had been in my worst nightmares but I could at least express that thought in an environment not entirely toxic. I might fell that I was living a nightmare but at least I could say so in peace. I do find the world to be a kind of nightmare made real as much as I find it to be anything else.

I acquired some land from my father after a few years and began a very small business. I did a wide variety of odd jobs and my parents donated mortgage payments on the land to me this was our symbiosis. When they were paid off it was about the year 2000. I also had started a small business subsidized by payment made for driving a few people back and forth from jails and hospitals and other government agencies. My little business was distributing books, cards, prints, jewelry and prints produced in Acadiana or by artists connected with Acadian in a surprisingly large number of the United States, countries and cities. But my income was not nearly (not even approaching nearly) enough to live on.In the year 2000 I returned to the Catholic sacraments after having been a regular mass goer who never received communion, I cut my hair and shaved my beard, I took out a $10,000 signature loan on the land and I applied for and got a substitute teaching job starting in the fall in the Vermilion Parish School board system. Most of this happened in May of 2000. Then I went up to New Haven Connecticut for my sister’s birthday and my brother in laws graduation from Yale Divinity School. I had a wonderful visit with Sarah, Jason, Alyse and Anika as well as others gathering there. However, I did sense before I left that there were serious problems still in their marriage which had been evident last time I had seen them. Some of these and other tensions spilled over into the latter part of a great visit. However, for me this would be a blessed renewal of a closeness with Sarah and her children which would be a large comfort of the following years and had always been there largely. I stopped in at EWTN headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama and at the home of the relative who owned the adjoining piece of land and lived in Virginia. Both these stops and a stop in New Orleans were on the route of my round trip Amtrak ticket and were a mix of business and pleasure.

For three following years I devoted myself to family affairs, kept my little intellectual properties distribution business going, built fences and acquired tenants for all the land while maintaining the mortgage. I also did a great deal of substitute teaching sometimes a week and a half for each week or even more after storms like Hurricane Lilli closed down facilities and caused schedules to be consolidated.

I also began to write again publishing sports pieces at the Daily Advertiser, sports and feature stories in the Abbeville Meridional and features and a column in the Bonnes Nouvelles (Vermilion). Meanwhile, I continued researching, filling composition books and writing a great deal on topics related to my first big efforts in doing my own thing when I left Tulane. About the end of that time a lady I liked ( and might still like) a whole lot and I really pronounced the death of a long term on again and off again relationship.

Towards the end of that period I considered and sort of attempted to return to graduate school in a different discipline. Then I traveled around to see my sister now living in Mexico and to look for a job. I also had applied for a teaching job in China. As it turned out I did teach there in 2004 and into 2005. It was a very powerful experience that deserves more space than I have here so I will skim over it. Having graded dozens of term papers, directed numerous student workshop dramas and advised hundreds of students I returned here because of paperwork problems. I saw many terrible problems in China and faced many but they did not oppress my spirit in the way that the woes of my homeland and of my life in this land have oppressed it.

I got back in time to settle in and then took a job caring for my brother Simon Peter in a home health agency. This went on as I also volunteered during hurricane Katrina but ended with hurricane Rita. I left badly injured to in California and to look for a job. When that failed I spent a very nice few months with Sarah, her children and the missionary team in Mexico. It was on that trip that we took the pictures in Zacatecas which I have included here. My last paycheck, an anonymous gift and some FEMA money went far in Mexico. They would have gone farther if I had not spent so much in California.

I got back healthy for Christmas and have not really been gainfully employed since then but have lived here at Big Woods. Nor is that the extreme underemployment the only lack in my life. But I have gone on with my life each day doing a variety of things. When I think back on the last twenty years since my graduation there are many events not mentioned in this note. Many blessings and joys as well as many horrors and woes. While I have used the skills and knowledge I gained in the university studies I completed twenty years ago many times this is not a career that sounds like a career.

Now I am coming up on twenty years since graduation. I feel very much the absence of many things. I have no legal marriage certainly, no net worth, no significant US credit or income profile or ownership of a car. My views of many institutions is very dark and my interpersonal relationships are perhaps possessed of some of the worst qualities of the modern and some of the worst qualities of the ancient. Yet there is some good in them as well. I have been to pretty many of my alma mater’s homecoming games but not to any organized class reunions. Despite advanced credits and generally good grades I had distractions and preoccupations which prevented me from graduating in four year and that lessened my ties to the people I actually graduated with although not my ties to the school. Now I wonder what the twenty year mark will bring.I doubt I could some these years up to my satisfaction in a single line or a one paragraph program entry. Yet I do note the occasion and find that it commands my attention. I am aware that twenty years as an alumnus only comes once and there is no guarantee that the multiples will come at all. So I look towards May’s anniversary and October’s homecoming week with a varied mix of emotions. Life does not delay so we can explain it well.

END OF FACEBOOK POST

Now, those who really know this blog will know that I correspond with some influential and privileged people and believe in leadership. However, there is a tone of resentment and profound unhappiness with the status quo that is hard to miss in much of what I write and say. First, I would remind people that although the Baron of Louth and I (for example) may correspond it does not mean we are really living in the same circle. Second, this tension (which some see as a contradiction)  has been a part of me almost all my life. In an age where people who are unhappy with Bishops join a church with no bishops I choose to complain (when I have reason to) about the episcopacy. While I could have found a way to leave many ties of my youth behind I tend to stay and raise a little hell about the things I dislike.  Those who know me best no that my self-concept is very distinct. I am far from perfect but not at all inclined to give up all that I am for some lie about equality and sameness which is not even understood by its advocates. So this is my thinking about this twenty year milestone.