I Fetch My Morning Paper, April 2019

Click the link to see thirty ways to celebrate National Poetry Month. Here’s one way that didn’t make their list: Write a poem. Maybe they left it off because it is so hard to write well, especially anything you want to nail to the wall and call a poem. But poetry will die if ordinary people quit reading it; it will die even sooner if ordinary people quit writing it. I welcome your offering in a comment space.

There are only twenty more days left in National Poetry Month for you to write your poem and it may take you longer than you think, especially if you write a good one. Frankly, I am partial to the ones that sing with rhyme and meter. But Robert Frost made the rest of us look pretty silly with our little rhymers. So, relax and write some free verse to celebrate National Poetry Month.

I Fetch My Morning Paper, April 2019

A sullen, still morning in April.

I remembered mornings from my childhood; they were so different then.

The only sound would have been a small high pitch in the distance – a horn announcing a shift change, but otherwise silent.

Lights went on in the houses down the street and cars backed down narrow drives, taking neighborhood men to refineries.

There, unions stood between the men and their bosses and fought for bigger paychecks.

But there was no one to guard the fragile air they breathed, the crystalline air so clear I could look up in wonder at millions of stars that I could see but could not count.

I pick up my newspaper from the lawn this day, the better part of a century later. The air oppresses like a soured cotton towel soaked in morning’s fog; the gray day wraps around my head. Continue reading “I Fetch My Morning Paper, April 2019”

Yes, We Have a National Emergency – A Mental Health Emergency.

And if you have any doubts, watch this video from the New York Times web site this morning. We haven’t had a leader with such serious mental health issues since King George III.

Here’s a piece by Jennifer Senior that helped me understand him. From her February 9 column in the New York Times:

I’m not convinced, as some people are, that the Twitter fusillades from the White House are part of a larger strategy of distraction, specifically intended to divert us from this particular administration’s malfeasance and failures. I think our president’s attention span is genuinely scattershot. (“Post-literate,” Michael Wolff called him in “Fire and Fury.” Seems about right.) When I imagine his brain, I imagine a bug zapper in a drizzle. Bzzzzzzzzzzt. Fzzzz. Bzzz fzzz bzzzzzzzzzzt.

And there is this from the Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank citing his Rose Garden performance as evidence enough to provoke discussion of invoking the 25th Amendment.

The Mental Health Benefits of DELETING Your Facebook Account

I ran across this report in The Guardian tonight. While it seems like a pretty weak research design, I concur with their finding based on my own experience that there can be happiness after Facebook. I ditched my account in April or May of 2018 (I’m not counting) and really haven’t missed it a bit. I write more letters with ink and pen. Anything Putin wants to know about me, he just has to wait for me to write him a letter.

Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

We Give Texas a Speaker: Dennis Bonnen

When my daughter came home during a break in her first year in college in 1996, she drove up to Angleton one day to meet me at work and have lunch. We headed over to the Texas Rose, an establishment run by a British expat who made the best hamburger in Brazoria County at the time. As we left the Texas Rose, young Dennis Bonnen followed us out the door and stopped us on the sidewalk.

“Mr. Fowler, I sure would appreciate your vote in the runoff next month.”

Dennis was pretty fresh out of college with a political science degree, a boatload of energy, and presenting for public office for the first time. He had barely made it into the runoff by edging out Beaver Aplin (yes, that Beaver) by ten votes. I had to tell Dennis that I was not qualified to vote in his runoff since I had voted in the Democratic primary.

The rest is history, of course. Beaver Aplin invested his free time in his gas station business and went on to develop the regionally famous “Buc-ee’s” brand. Dennis, won the runoff, served the next twenty-two years in the Texas House and on January 8 of this year was elected Speaker by unanimous vote of the membership.

Continue reading “We Give Texas a Speaker: Dennis Bonnen”

Growing Up White in Texas: How I Remember Dr. King

I grew up in the South in segregated neighborhoods, schools, and churches. I was born in 1943. The world was in violent upheaval across Europe and in the Pacific. That year, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was finishing high school and preparing to enter college at the age of 15.

I can’t remember when I first heard of Dr. King but I think it was probably a six o’clock news report of one of the bombings of Dr. King’s home. Or maybe I saw him on the cover of Time magazine or television during the Montgomery bus boycott. 1957 was an eventful year in the life of Dr. King and in the life of our nation. When they were happening, these events didn’t make much of an impression on a white teenager from Houston’s blue-collar ship channel neighborhoods. I was in my middle teens and not as precocious as the young Martin, so the events of the day didn’t move me the way they would when I read about them later in my life.

At that age I was more interested in Houston Buffs and socializing with my church youth group than I was in the evening news. You may think that the brutality and injustice suffered by American citizens across the South would have gotten even a kid’s attention. But we white kids suffered from a vision problem that kept us from seeing the world of privilege we lived in and the injustices it had been built upon.

When I was a kid we listened to Sergeant Preston of the Yukon on the radio. If you ever listened to Sergeant Preston on the radio, you know that he sometimes got lost in the snow. Everything was white. The ground was white. The sky was white. Even the Yukon River was white. Everything ahead was white. Everything behind was white. White to the left. White to the right. He was blinded by the whiteness. Like Sergeant Preston, we had been snow-blinded.

Continue reading “Growing Up White in Texas: How I Remember Dr. King”

Sometimes It Helps to Keep a List

The fog of news about the corruption and policy sins of the Trump administration can be overwhelming. One misdeed follows another so quickly that we simply have to file and forget – which is exactly what El Commandante Naranja wants us to do.

This morning, I discovered a helpful weekly list that is kept by a woman named Amy Siskind. Yes, Lake Jackson, you can trust her. She supported John McCain for president in 2008 and even went out on the Sarah Palin limb with him. While that last “credential” may make her a little scary to some, you have to admit that she covers a wide range of political respectability and has the kind of conservative chops that even an LJ Republican should be able to trust.

She decided soon after the 2016 election that the direction America had taken in the election was more sinister than simply the choice of poor leadership. We had accepted an assault on truth and a free press as somehow normal. On advice she had read from people who suffered through the authoritarian regimes that grew up in otherwise civilized nations, she set out to document the things that happened on a week to week basis that citizens seemed to accept as normal but which, in fact, constituted a slow slipping away from the moorings of democratic government. Each week’s list is headed by this reminder: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

From week to week, the list has grown. Her first list, dated November 20, 2016, cited nine items worth remembering. Her most recent list of January 12, 2019 (Week 113) cites 183 instances of corruption and corrosion of democratic norms, each one of which we may tend to overlook and forget unless somebody keeps a list. It starts out noting Kevin Sweeney’s resignation as Pentagon chief of staff and ends with half a dozen or so @RealDonaldTrump tweets, each one twisting the truth (that’s maybe too kind) and dripping with disrespect and hostility toward most of the nation’s voters.

So, next time you vote be sure they know that we are “keeping a list and checking it twice.”