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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tied In The Hitching Post: Same-Sex Marriage In Idaho




Same-sex marriage does present a dilemma for many Christian believers. The whole debate about whether homosexuality is "sanctioned" as Christian love or not still rages. I imagine it will continue for a long time as strong arguments for and against performing same-sex weddings as Christian unions exist.

I am a strong believer in the right of churches and ministers to protect their specific beliefs. I also believe gays have every right to marriage, yet I believe legitimate denominations and Christian pastors have the right to refuse to marry whomever they deem does not meet their qualifications for union.

I think homosexual behavior is appropriate within the confines of a committed, loving, monogamous, lifelong, Christ-centered relationship while still respecting the views of those who follow the Bible in its morally authoritative belief that homosexual behaviors are wrong and who do not want to have same-sex marriages performed in their churches. After all, this is the land of the free and the cradle of liberty for all with decent intentions. There is room and headroom for all in America as God intended when he graciously blessed this land.

But, sometimes things get "fuzzy" ...

A Christian religious rights legal organization has filed a federal lawsuit against a northern Idaho city contending its anti-discrimination ordinance compels a wedding chapel to perform same-sex marriages. Gay marriage became legal in Idaho on October 15, 2014.

Two Christian ministers own a wedding chapel named The Hitching Post in Couer d’Alene, Idaho. The pair is facing some serious fines and even jail time for refusing to perform same-sex ceremonies. The lawsuit says that violates the couple's constitutional rights to religious freedom.

“Right now they are at risk of being prosecuted,” attorney Jeremy Tedesco from the Alliance Defending Freedom told a Fox News reporter. “The threat of enforcement is more than credible.”

Here's the rub ...


One argument: 

The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, owned by Donald and Evelyn Knapp, an ordained couple, is not responsible for accommodating ceremonies that fall outside of their beliefs. A church can discriminate -- and they do so all the time -- even when it comes to weddings.

Another argument:

The Knapps are running a business, not a church. They are not "pastors," since they don't have a church. The Hitching Post is not a legitimate nonprofit religious corporation.

The ADF refers to this chapel as a "religious mission." In addition, they claim that the Knapps "have ensured that mission is respected by barring anyone but themselves and their employees from performing wedding ceremonies at, or on behalf of, the Hitching Post."

Until this legal case arose, the Hitching Post stated openly that civil ceremonies were available. They also offered ceremonies in other states and venues where they would help couples plan the wedding and find an officiant.

The Hitching Post has existed as a business for decades and had been used for wedding ceremonies for over 50 years. It is a business that the current owners purchased in 1989 which had been privately owned since it was founded in 1919. In one part of the ADF filing they admit this is the Knapp's "closely-held business," and not a ministry at all. 

(James Peron. "Is a Church Being Forced to Perform a Gay Wedding?" 
The Huffington Post. October 21, 2014)

Coeur d'Alene City Attorney Mike Gridley in a letter to the Alliance Defending Freedom says that because the wedding chapel is registered as a for-profit business, it would likely be violating city code if it turned away same-sex couples.

Gridley said the ordinance exempts not-for-profit religious entities, but not for-profit businesses.

The Hitching Post is registered as a for-profit limited liability company with the Idaho Secretary of State. However, on Oct. 6, the Knapps filed with the state as a religious organization. Gridley, in his letter to Alliance Defending Freedom, said that if the Knapps are "truly operating a not-for-profit religious corporation" they would be exempted from the city ordinance.

Gridley wrote that the city doesn't intend to prosecute legitimate nonprofit religious corporations.

"Their lawsuit was something of a surprise because we have had cordial conversations with them in the past and they have never disclosed that they have recently become a religious corporation," Gridley wrote.

("N. Idaho Wedding Chapel Sues Over Gay Marriage." Associated Press. October 21, 2014)

 
Here is some info straight from the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel website http://hitchingpostweddings.com/:

"Your wedding is one of the most important days of your life and we are honored that you’ve considered letting us share it with you.
Here at the Hitching Post, we strive to make each couple feel special by welcoming you into our facility and making your wedding day a positively memorable event. Whether this is your first marriage, a vow renewal, or a second chance at love, we would love to perform your wedding ceremony."

This is what the Hitching Post claims to be the difference between marrying at the Hitching Post vs. the Courthouse (Yet, the Hitching Post says the position of JP was eliminated in the state. ??):

"We strive to make your wedding experience memorable and personal for you. At the Hitching Post, ordained ministers will marry you using a traditional, religious ceremony. You are also able to choose which themed room you would like to have your ceremony in.

"After your marriage, we encourage our guests to come back and visit. Couples come back to show their children where they were married and some couples will return with their children when their children are ready to be married. We have even had some grandchildren of couples decide to make the Hitching Post where they would start their married life together, making it a family tradition.

"We are open six days a week and often available on Sundays and holidays. Please contact us to schedule a reservation. 

Pricing:
  • Monday – Thursday 9:00AM -5:00PM $92.00
  • Friday – Saturday 9:00AM -5:00PM $102.00
  • Holidays, after hours, Sundays – fees vary slightly
  • Gratuity to minister accepted

And beliefs?

"The Hitching Post specializes in small, short, intimate, and private weddings for couples who desire a traditional Christian wedding ceremony. We believe that every wedding is special and realize how important this day is to those who walk through our doors. 

"At one time Justice of the Peace officers performed the weddings at The Hitching Post until the position of JP was eliminated in the state. Weddings are now done by ministers at the Hitching Post 6 days a week plus many couples have opted to have their wedding ceremonies at other locations such as by the Lake, Local Parks, on Boats, families homes, Farragut State Park, (formerly Naval Station), Spokane, ski resorts, the mountains, on horseback, hot air balloon, roller coaster rides, etc. where we provide ministers for them. We also provide ministers to perform weddings done in other states when that is requested."

My Take

Any couple getting married -- straight or homosexual -- has the same basic rights in Idaho. Any credible, religious nonprofit church in the state has rights, too. However, the Knapps' Hitching Post Wedding Chapel looks and smells like a business, and it appears their claim of being upright, morally responsible Christians pastors smells fishy. And, as Judge Judy, says, "If it seems unbelievable, it usually is."

With the addition of Idaho, there are 26 other states that allow same-sex marriage. Opposition there has been strong. Consider the words of Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter about the Supreme Court's decision to uphold these marriages: 

"I disagree with the court's conclusion, which negates the 2006 vote of the people of Idaho, is contrary to the values of most Idahoans, and undermines fundamental states' rights. But we are a nation of laws. Idaho now should proceed with civility and in an orderly manner to comply with any forthcoming order from the 9th Circuit."

I fail to see a reason why any couple could not employ the business of the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel to tie their vows and expect equality. Laws and enforcement insure people follow proper procedures in the locales in which they have been enacted. If you are a Spud or a Spudette from Idaho, you have the right to get married, and I think the Hitching Post, as a marriage business, has the duty to serve the potatoes, no matter their sexual orientation.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bottlenecks and Skip Rope With City Council



A bottleneck is "a point of congestion in a system that occurs when workloads arrive at a given point more quickly than that point can handle them." The inefficiencies brought about by the bottleneck often create a queue and a longer overall cycle time.

The term refers to the shape of a bottle and the fact that the bottle's neck is the narrowest point, and thus the most likely place for congestion to occur, slowing down the flow of liquid from the bottle.

Well ...

It seems a City Council member believes a particular cervical obstruction is clogging city government.

First Ward City Councilman Kevin W. Johnson says he has an issue of a “bottleneck in the office of the city manager.” He explains ...

“I have already received complaints and requests for assistance from individuals who claim to not have their phone calls returned. I have not had that particular problem as the City Manager has always replied expeditiously to any and all of my inquiries,” Johnson said. 

“I am concerned, however, that one very busy individual is now responsible for all communications traffic including basic, minor questions from Council which could be directed at a department head or key staff with a CC to the city manager.

Johnson goes on to say ...

“Between this ‘Council-Staff Communications Guidelines’ and your ‘Legal Opinion Charter 33 and 40’ you (or whomever also wrote the communications guidelines) have effectively and totally cut Council off from any relationship with any department head or staff; thus making us totally dependent upon information provided us only by you, the city auditor and city manager. In other words - distanced and totally dependent.”

City Solicitor John Haas said he could not respond to the “bottleneck” in the city manager’s office as he currently has no evidence there is a bottleneck, but added ...

“If you have specific information, please pass it along to your fellow Council members, Mr. Allen and me.” 

(Frank Lewis. "Council Communication Issues Continues." Portsmouth Daily Timeshttp://portsmouth-dailytimes.com/news/news/150207667/Council-communication-issues-continues October 20, 2014)

So ...

The continuing saga of who should deal with what communication in what manner IF, indeed, a suspected "bottleneck" has actually developed still baffles Portsmouth City Council. With "Council-Staff Communications Guidelines," City Charter regulations, learned legal opinions, and potential scores of unnamed individuals waiting for return calls about unspecified business, the question remains: "Is a narrow route a direct, open freeway for communication or a point of congested traffic for pertinent questions?"

This is not rocket science, but we all know about how playful council can be.

Perhaps ...

City Council should just investigate itself to determine the intentions of the politics it routinely plays. Instead of spending so much time worrying about "who is siding with whom" and "I know something you don't know -- na-na, na-na, boo-boo," the council members could explore their reasons for continually bickering like little children and then eliminate their own problems.

In fact, maybe a section of council chambers could be set aside for a "time out" zone reserved for those council members who refuse to play nicely and cooperate while taking care of real city business. This educational parenting technique of temporarily separating a "problem child" from an environment where inappropriate behavior has occurred is recommended by many pediatricians and developmental psychologists. It is intended to decrease positive reinforcement of the behavior.

Finally, the group may benefit greatly from some wisdom printed by the Summit Medical Group concerning "Teaching Children To Play Together." Here are some timely suggestions council may wish to take to heart as they "play" their communication games and teach their constituent "children" (we, the taxpayers) about effective city government:
  • Try to model the behavior you want your child to learn rather than just talking about it. When you say "please" or lend a helping hand, you are teaching your children how you would like them to act.
  • Pay more attention to behaviors you like and less attention to behaviors you don't like. Look for the things the children are doing right and comment on those.
  • Help your children learn to control their feelings and think of others. For example, if your child is having a hard time waiting for a turn on the slide, talk about it with her. It is more helpful to say something like, "I know you've been waiting a long time and you're dying for a turn, but you'll need to wait until Billy is done. Maybe you can ride the trike while you're waiting." rather than simply saying, "You have to wait until Billy is done."
  • Show your children how to cooperate. Children love it when an adult has a problem and they can help solve it. If the living room needs cleaning up, say, "Let's do this together. This is your room too. Let's get it cleaned up so we can go out for ice cream."
  • Teach your children some useful, non-violent ways of getting what they want. Help them bargain with each other, make a trade, or use something together. "I'll pull you in the wagon while you sit in it," or "I'll trade you my blue pen for that red one."

Teach your children well. It is important to remember that conduct that disrupts society is antisocial behavior, and antisocial behavior encourages further aggression. Such aggression infringes upon another person’s basic rights or violates cultural norms. The aggression can be overt or covert, such as lying or thievery.

According to Irving Weiner’s book, The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology, an antisocial individual typically has a learning style that is more receptive to reward than disciplinary action. In fact, an antisocial child will continue to engage in maladaptive behavior despite the threat of punishment and also sees an upside to aggressive behavior.

Because antisocial children are unable to learn appropriate behavior in a particular social or cultural context, they tend to exhibit inappropriate behavior, such as temper tantrums, use of profanity, bossiness, excessive jealousy, impertinence, fighting or flamboyant attention-seeking.

Researchers contend that it’s not unusual for the antisocial child to react to and defy authority figures. In addition, the antisocial child will repeatedly violate social norms until this behavior forms a pattern in terms of frequency, intensity and duration.

Such inappropriate behavior inhibits the ability of the antisocial child to form healthy interpersonal relationships. Because he also lacks empathy or warmth toward other people, he grows even more isolated.

Skip a Rope

By Henson Cargill

Skip a rope, skip a rope
Oh, listen to the children while they play
Ain't it kind of funny what the children say?
 

Skip a rope

Daddy hates mommy, mommy hates dad
Last night you should have heard the fight they had
It gave little sister another bad dream
She woke us all up with a terrible scream

 

Skip a rope, skip a rope

Oh, listen to the children while they play
Ain't it kind of funny what the children say?

 

Skip a rope

Cheat on your taxes don't be a fool
What was that they said about the golden rule?
Never mind the rules, just play to win
And hate your neighbor for the shade of his skin

 

Skip a rope, skip a rope

Oh, listen to the children while they play
Ain't it kind of funny what the children say?
 

Skip a rope
 
Stab 'em in the back that's the name of the game
And mommy and daddy are who's to blame

Skip a rope, skip a rope Listen to the children as they play;
It's really not very funny what the children say. 

Skip a rope

Youtube video of "Skip a Rope." Click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdH7Hu2gcZ0

Monday, October 20, 2014

"The Darkling Thrush" by Thomas Hardy: Dying Joy and Hope


 

The Darkling Thrush

By Thomas Hardy 


I leant upon a * coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled * bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken * lyres,
And all mankind that haunted * nigh
      Had sought their household fires.


The land's sharp features seemed to be
      The Century's corpse * outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of * germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.


At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy * illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.


So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.

 
Definitions:

* coppice -- a thicket or grove of small trees or shrubs
* bine-stems -- twining stems or flexible shoots of plants
* lyre -- a musical instrument with strings that was used especially in ancient Greece
* nigh -- near in time, place, or relationship
* outleant -- lying down
* germ -- seed; egg; bud
* illimited -- unlimited

 Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was first known as a British novelist (Far from the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d'Urbervilles) and then almost exclusively as a poet. As a novelist, Hardy was criticized for being too pessimistic and preoccupied with sex. However, now his prose has been compared to Honore de Balzac, Emile Zola, and Henry James in his ability to reveal a whole inner world of thought and desire through meticulous observation of his characters and their actions.

 

In the twentieth century Hardy only published poetry. He composed the lyric poem "The Darkling Thrush" on December 31, 1900, the last day of 19th century. Readers can appreciate this fact as they understand its historical impact as a view toward a new, uncertain future.

 

Hardy was basically a Victorian realist writer with deep connections to the Romantic poets like William Wordsworth and Charles Dickens, but he was, in fact, an interesting mix of Victorianism and Modernism. Hardy's poetry possesses a uniquely modern sensibility while retaining the formal traditions of rhyme and meter characteristic of most poetry prior to modernism.

 

Like Dickens, Hardy was highly critical of much in Victorian society, though Hardy focused more on a declining rural society while Dickens was a critic of social stratification of the rich and the poor. As a realist, Hardy examined the social constraints on the lives of those living in Victorian England, and criticized those beliefs, especially those relating to marriage, education and religion, that limited people's lives and caused unhappiness.

 

"Though he was a modern, even a revolutionary writer in his time, most of us read him now as a lyrical pastoralist, observed New York Times critic Anatole Broyard in 1982. Broyard continues ...

 

"It may be a sign of the times that some of us take his books to bed, 
as if even his pessimistic vision was one that enabled us to sleep soundly." 

Critics have said Hardy's poetry was infused with "evolutionary meliorism," the ironic stances achieved by powerful psychological insights, and the modernist spareness and roughness of his metrical experiments. Meliorism is "the belief that the world tends to improve and that humans can aid its betterment." 

 B. Ashton Nichols, Associate Professor Dickinson College, says, "His (Hardy's) is, quintessentially, a poetry of loss, harsh nostalgia, and the despairing limits of human hope and love."

(B. Ashton Nichols. "Thomas Hardy As a Poet." public.gettysburg.edu)

 

"The Darkling Thrush" was written at the end of the Victorian age and the dawn of a new Edwardian Era, a time of great changes in political and social life.

 

The Poem

 

A darkling thrush (darkling meaning "in the dark" -- which also serves well in the verse considered the bird's smallness and exposed nature) is a songbird with a pleasant voice that is symbolically said to sing even when having no mate or rival watching it. Thus, in its unconcerned attitude toward its listener, its music shows how it's living freely and "speaking the truth."

 

At the end of the day in the very end of the year, the speaker, or narrator, is alone viewing a cold, grey, lonely winter landscape. The use of the word Frost with a capital "F" and the word Winter with a capital "W" may be allusions and personification fitting of the pagan gods and their command of the cold environment. The "dregs" are all that is left in sight. Bare vines and leafless trees add to this tone of haunted desolation.

The speaker says all the other people who lived nearby were inside their homes, gathered around their household fires while he, in the cold, is leaning on a gate outside as a solitary witness to "the Century's corpse" in the wooded thicket. The speaker proclaims that the cloudy sky was the roof of the corpse's crypt, and the whining wind was its song of death.

In that moment, to the narrator, it seems the pulse of natural life has stopped along with "every spirit upon earth." Indeed, the bleak end of the Century lies expired before him. He thinks all is depressing and foreboding of bad times. But, then, suddenly enters the thrush.

In the third stanza of the poem, the speaker hears the joyful song of the frail old thrush coming from the cold, naked branches overhead. The thrush and its song are a sharp contrast and a jubilant outpouring against the evening gloom. The bird, although seemingly as old and as death-bound as the year itself, sings with every last ounce of joy left in its soul. It is worth noting that nothing in the physical environment of the poem has changed. Not only is that pervasive gloom still present. It is even “growing” as the progressive winter. Yet, what a marvel is the thrush:

"An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom."

As he may, the speaker questions the reason for the natural elation of the thrush. Why would the creature boldly waste its last breath in a song that surely almost no one would hear?

Unfortunately, the bird doesn't provide him any answers. And, of course, the darkling thrush possesses no means to express the meaning for its optimistic death call. In the midst of the desolate, foreboding winter, the speaker is left to surmise there exists a hope that his human mind could not understand. This is a pensive reflection to life and human society.

Hardy allows the simple, sweet song of the divine thrush to defy death and to symbolize the spirit of hope for a new world of beauty, a world devoid of ugliness. In "The Darkling Thrush," this hope is offered for the beginning of a century and a new era. At the time he penned the poem, Hardy was a sixty-year-old himself.

From the very title of the poem it is clear that the thrush is present in the dark and in the encircling gloom just like the narrator himself. Yet, between hope and despair, when all is not right in the world and the future is dark, there, in the presence of the frail bird, lies the eternal pulse of "germ" and birth. It is hope of resurrection for both spirit and soul, a personal triumph and a societal dream.

In the concluding stanza of “The Darkling Thrush,” there is certainly nothing definite to pin any hope on, even if one allows that just conceivably the bird does indeed know something we ourselves don’t and can’t. 

Bruce Bennett, Professor and Chair of English and Director of Creative Writing at Wells College, says, "Many of Hardy's poems express a lack of resolution regarding the ultimate nature of reality, a provisional and even an improvisational quality, as if he is never quite willing to completely shut the door on some sort of hope, however faint or farfetched."

Authorities believe Hardy was not a "believing Christian"; however, Professor Bennett claims it  seems completely consistent with Hardy's willingness to entertain a Christian thought.

Bennett concludes ...

"So, is this an instance of one of Hardy’s 'explorations of reality'? Has he provisionally appropriated for the dramatic occasion of this poem a recognition that, whatever he himself might believe, for some the 'truths' of Christianity could be valid? 

"Are we dealing here, in other words, with a Christian thrush? To me, that seems completely consistent with his willingness to entertain the thought, in many of his poems, that there may be 'more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of' in our restless and unending metaphysical inquiries."

(Bruce Bennett. "Thomas Hardy's Artistry in "The Darkling Thrush." 
Contemporary Poet Review. November 15, 2012)


Saturday, October 18, 2014

"God's Grandeur" In Distress


God's Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
        It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
        It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not *reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
        And all is seared with trade; Bleared, smeared with toil;
        And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
        There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
        Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
        World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
--Gerard Manley Hopkins (1877)

* care for; take heed of


When does the human spirit feel closest to the Creator? If you are like me, I am often humbled with His presence when in close contact with His natural creations. Gerald Manly Hopkins speaks of the beauty and power of nature in his poem "God's Grandeur." The sonnet with the alliterative title stresses the immanence of God.

The sonnet God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins stresses the immanence of God. - See more at: http://www.bachelorandmaster.com/britishandamericanpoetry/gods-grandeur.html#sthash.naiRYRhg.dpuf
Whatever the dynamics -- whether nature "flames out" boldly in its awesome wonders or whether it "oozes" in the steady trickles of its simple forms -- God's glory is everywhere. Hopkins affirms that the entire world is "charged" with His grand natural creations, and He broods over his earthly kingdom with the greatest of love.

 The poet asks how humans fail to heed His authority despite the divine anointment of these  indigenous gifts. Men seem bound not to "reck his rod" as if they care little about the earth. The "rod” in the verse is metaphorically described as God’s power. Humans seem to be oblivious to take great care for the creations of the Almighty.

The second quatrain (four line stanza) describes the relentless generations of contemporary humans that "trod" on the soil and stain the landscape with their "toil" and "trade." Their industry and economy take precedence over any loving, spiritual connection to the earth. The poem may be read both as a literal lament for the destruction of the environment by industry, and as a metaphorical lament that humans are more concerned with the prosaic and utilitarian than with spiritual values.

Living in the marred landscape they have carelessly transformed by their base, material concerns, humans become insensitive to the beauties of nature and, thus, alienated from God. This is a sinful condition.

    "[There is] treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; 
      but a foolish man spendeth it up."  
(Proverbs 21:20)


Hopkins asserts that mankind cannot "feel" the natural disconnect through the simple symbol of the "shod" human foot. Having lost direct physical contact with the ground, people employ shoes to transform the actual "feel" of contact with the terrain.

Yet, the poet states: "And for all this, nature is never spent." No matter the human indifference, God, through the hands of the Holy Ghost, continues to grace man's existence with His continual powers of renewal and new creations. From each dark sundown eventually "springs" an assuring morning symbolic of regeneration and beautiful life. This is proof of His supernatural vitality which is readily available for the witness of those who care.

Hopkins chooses a small, peaceful avian creation to illustrate a powerful abstract idea. Like a doting dove tends to its nest, the Creator protects his incredible, precious, natural creations -- the flora, the fauna, and humankind. And, He does so with beautiful, all-encompassing, "bright" wings. For this loving incubation, a grateful mankind should express awe in worship and joy of spirit. But, do they?


Indeed, Gerald Manly Hopkins offers the theme in "God's Grandeur" that this world is infused by the Almight with a beauty and power that not only withstands human corruption but also triumphs over it.

Do we live in a resplendent world waiting for man to come back to God and nature? And, if so, might this mean a return to spiritual obedience so sorely lacking today?



Friday, October 17, 2014

Love IS Not All ... But It IS Everything


 
Love Is Not All 

by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950) 

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.


What might we take for the love we possess? Edna St. Vincent Millay contemplates this question in her poem, "Love Is Not All."

We understand that we can't survive on love alone. Although that gracious emotion is the reason for living, we would soon die without other basic human needs. As Millay writes the line "Love is not all," she warns us that, in reality, love is not even basic sustenance strong enough to insure our existence.

Still, despite all the things love cannot do, Millay stresses the precious need for love and her belief that many people expire for "lack of love alone."  Love may not be an object, an act, a spirit, or a thought; however, it is necessary possession. Love is an intangible force of the soul and not just some irrational notion.

By beginning with the statement "Love is not all" and then telling the reader what it is not, Millay sets the stage for a powerful assertion that love is all. She employs this technique of direct contrast, or antithesis, to establish the theme of her verse.

"It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would."


The perspective change in the sonnet occurs at the end of the octave (eight lines) and reverses the ordinance about love to be something quintessential, something that people value even above their own lives. 

Even in the most “difficult hour,” when she is “pinned down by pain and moaning for release," Millay may be tempted to "sell" or "trade" her understanding of love, yet she would not. In the verse, the poet acknowledges that for lack of love some of us will court death, and yet if faced with death, we would not exchange the moments of intense love to save our bodies.

That is it. That is the “message” of Millay's poem: love is not all, but she would not let go of her love. She values it so much that she would not even trade one night of its memory for sustenance. For one Pulitzer Prize winning poet, this dramatic declaration in the last line of the poem confirms her belief that we all need love regardless of how useless it may seem.

Edna St. Vincent Millay


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mound Park -- Historic Public Area or Real Estate Development?



The City of Portsmouth maintains a public park which includes one of the remaining horseshoe-shaped enclosures, known as Mound Park, it is the only publicly accessible part of the complex. Under the name Horseshoe Mound it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

("Portsmouth Earthworks." Ohio History Central. http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Portsmouth_Earthworks?rec=2222)

The Portsmouth Daily Times reports First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson says he has become discouraged after visiting Mound Park:

Johnson said in an e-mail to City Manager Derek Allen. “While walking the park, I became so discouraged at the purposeful damage to swings, buildings and the two now inoperable (for some time now) water fountains as well as spray painting and incredible amounts of litter, trash and more litter.”

(Frank Lewis,  "Councilman Considers Selling Mound Park."
Portsmouth Daily Times. September 11, 2014)

Johnson says he became so discouraged that he has toyed with the idea that the city should simply sell the entire park, except for the mound itself, which he said would save the city and taxpayers money. He claims that money "seems to be going down the drain due to public indifference to their infrastructure of public spaces."

“In my walks around town, mostly near the river, I am constantly discouraged by the amount of trash everywhere,” Johnson said. “Portsmouth should be in the running for the ‘Trashiest City in America.’ Wow. We could be number one.” He said Mound Park could be an area of city development because the city has had a number of developers seeking large tracts of land for apartment and loft development.

The public response to selling Mound Park has been overwhelmingly negative. Many local residents have fond memories of the park as a beautiful, vibrant center of recreation. These taxpayers want the city to repair the park and patrol it because it is a great asset to the people.

The responsibility for the lack of upkeep and repair to Mound Park rests squarely upon the City of Portsmouth. The city must maintain its property and patrol its use.

In the charter, Section 86 applies to the control of public health by the city. It reads as follows:

SECTION 86.  CONTROL OF PUBLIC HEALTH BY CITY.    

"The City shall, through such officer or officers as may be provided for by ordinance, enforce all laws and ordinances relating to health, and such officer or officers shall perform all the duties and may exercise all the powers relative to the public health provided by general law to be performed and exercised in municipalities by health officers. All regulations for the protection or promotion of the public health, additional to those established by general law and for the violation of which penalties are imposed, shall be made by ordinance and enforced as provided in this section."

Since squalid conditions in Mound Park pose serious threats to the well-being of its many visitors, the present state of the park is a concern of public health. Whether conditions at the park are conducive to physical injury by the nature of the property's disrepair or by the threat of a disrespectful, criminal element, the City of Portsmouth is obligated to improve the setting to prevent the potential of injury to visitors.

Section 115 of the charter outlines the duties of the City Planning Commission. This section states ...

SECTION 115.  DUTIES OF THE COMMISSION.    

"The Commission shall have full power and authority to make such investigations, maps, reports, and recommendations relating to the planning of the City as it deems desirable. In particular, it shall have authority, and it shall be its duty, to make recommendations concerning: (a) the location, extension, widening, and planning of streets, boulevards, parks, playgrounds, and other public places; (b) changes in, or vacation of, streets, alleys, or other public places, and the sale or disposal of any real estate owned by the City; (c) the construction of public buildings, bridges, viaducts, street fixtures, and other structures and appurtenances having to do with the convenience and beauty of the City..."

Part of the mission of the Department of Public Service is to maintain the city’s parks. The vision of the department states ...

"Our vision is to create and maintain a quality public service that will provide a sustainable community with a clean, safe, and pleasant environment that the citizens and employees of the City will be proud of, and will help the City maintain a strong sense of community into the future."

This mission is evidently not being fulfilled at Mound Park. Here is the contact information for the Department of Public Service:

Contact: Bill Beaumont, Service Director
E-mail availability at http://portsmouthoh.org/contact-us 

Teresa Harmon, Clerk Typist
55 Mary Ann St.
Portsmouth, OH 45662
Ph: (740) 354-7766
Fx: (740) 354-7767
Hours: Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Emergency Ph: (740) 353-5419 (24 hours a day)


Mound Park is part of The City of Portsmouth’s Adopt-A-Park program. It has already been "adopted" by citizen volunteers. The program is also a responsibility of the Service Department. Its goals are stated in the following entry at http://portsmouthoh.org/site-page/adopt-park-program:

"The City owns and maintains 12 Parks that are available for the entire area to enjoy. We take great pride in offering this amenity to the community, and hope that the community values the opportunities that these parks offer.

"The Adopt-A-Park program’s goal is to get the community involved in keeping the City’s park system clean and visually appealing. Organizations are encouraged to put together a work plan that could entail scheduled clean-up days, landscaping projects, or other improvement projects in our parks. This plan can be tailored to the organization’s resources and could range from projects scheduled for 1-2 days a year, to efforts that would be on a more continual basis. The City is eager to discuss any opportunities there may be for an organization to get involved, and will provide guidance from our Service Director to assist in your improvement process."

Organizations have adopted other areas in Portsmouth such as Alexandria Park, Bannon Park, Buckeye Park, Cyndee Secrest Park, Labold Ball Fields, Martha Burton Park, Roy Rogers Esplanade, Sciotoville Community Square, Tracy Park, Weghorst Park, and York Park.  


The Department of Public Service in the City of Portsmouth claims it "recognizes the benefits of operating and maintaining clean and visually appealing parks, and "the Adopt-A-Park program is designed to facilitate community group involvement by keeping the City parks clean and litter-free."

According to City Council, Mound Park does not meet these conditions of safety and public health. Lack of promised service to the public is unacceptable.

Mr. Johnson, when you say "public indifference" has caused the dilapidated state of Mound Park, you should qualify your statement. The park has been in a state of decay for too long. It has been ignored for too long by its owners. Let's put the blame where the blame belongs.

Granted, some criminals and hooligans have contributed to the sad, broken-down conditions there, but the City of Portsmouth is responsible for maintaining and improving its own property. The Adopt-A-Park program is a fine benefit to Mound Park by concerned citizens; however, the city must make major improvements there beyond public help.

Portsmouth has failed to live up to its vision concerning this public area. It has failed to maintain "pride" and a "strong sense of community" at Mound Park, two of its stated goals.

I can hear the excuses now: lack of funds, lack of staff, budget cuts and simple oversight. These justifications may appease some, but the majority of the general public does not accept neglect as a valid justification for the demise of a wonderful resource in Portsmouth, Ohio.  

So, it seems as if three options exist ...

* The city can continue to show major indifference and minimal attention to the park, or
* The city can sell the park to local developers keen on building apartment complexes there, or
* The city can launch a extensive, new effort to repair fully and consistently maintain the park.

I ask you, what is the best choice? In fact, what is the only choice that guarantees improvements to the health, the recreation, and the aesthetic condition of the town? You and I know two of the three options for Mound Park would create more problems and would be a disgrace to the historical and social significance of the real estate. I think the choice is clear. Is the "pride" sufficient?



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Houston, Texas -- Pastors, We Want to Approve Your Sermons


 
"The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city's first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court."

(Todd Starnes. "Houston City Government Demands Pastors Turn Over Sermons Referencing Homosexuality, Mayor." The Christian Post. October 14, 2014) 

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

(The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. December 15, 1791)

I claim I am never surprised by news reports these days, but this nearly floored me. Houston is asking preachers to submit their sermons for government perusal? Evidently, the city council there thinks this is a good idea. I wonder if the group has ever read the First Amendment? Of course, political and social commentary is not a crime, but instead protected speech.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement, "The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions." The ADF is representing five Houston pastors. They have filed a motion in Harris County court to stop the subpoenas arguing they are "overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious."

It seems all of this is the latest over Houston's new non-discrimination ordinance.

Mayor Parker had promoted an “Equal Rights Ordinance” earlier this year designed to quell any discrimination in America’s fourth largest city—including any discrimination on the basis of “gender identity.” 

Mayor Annise Parker

Todd Starnes reports:

"The law, among other things, would allow men to use the ladies room and vice versa (If they identity with the opposite sex). The city council approved the law in June. The Houston Chronicle reported opponents of the ordinance launched a petition drive that generated more than 50,000 signatures – far more than the 17,269 needed to put a referendum on the ballot. However, the city threw out the petition in August over alleged irregularities."

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, an open lesbian, had promoted an “Equal Rights Ordinance” earlier this year designed to quell any discrimination in America’s fourth largest city—including any discrimination on the basis of “gender identity.” Most opponents were especially concerned about the “Public Accommodations” section of the ordinance, which would allow men to use women’s restrooms, and vice versa, if they identity with the opposite sex. - See more at: http://christiannews.net/2014/10/14/houston-seeks-review-of-pastors-sermons-after-lawsuit-filed-over-bathroom-bill-initiative/#sthash.UUTnPxZu.dpuf
Mayor Parker refuses to explain why she wants to inspect the sermons. Janice Evans, the mayor's director of communications, said, "We don't comment on litigation."

The city demanded all public communication regarding the petition, the mayor, and the ordinance from these pastors. It is commonly believed that the state is, in essence, stating that the pastors' teachings, sermons, and emails influenced the city’s decision to create the petition by giving moral and political commentary to the ordinance.
 
One may do well to consider that in colonial days, most political news and announcements were made from the pulpits of churches. Then, churches held quite powerful influence on public opinion concerning governmental control.
Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, says, “This is an attempt to chill pastors from speaking to the cultural issues of the day. The mayor would like to silence our voice. She’s a bully.”
 

What To Do?
 
In what is evidently a direct abuse of authority, we must remember free speech is never guaranteed. In certain circumstances, government officials have demanded controls due to special concerns. Aggrieved parties must stand up for their rights in the face of Big Brother-like intrusions.
 
And, the full force of human rights could be demonstrated by employing transparency and the resulting revelation of the absurdity to control cultural opinion. Ironically, giving in to demands just might better show the city the insanity of the intrusion.

Should Houston pastors be afraid to pass along their sermons? No. Maybe the preachers should note their protests but follow the goofy request to avoid the appearance they are keeping records of public doctrine secret. Through their compliance, they can prove Christian messages are not a threat to the public peace.

Still, the obvious political nature of the demands stinks. 

The ADF brief accompanying the motion filed in the District Court of Harris County to quash the subpoena reads ...

“The message is clear: oppose the decisions of city government, and drown in unwarranted, burdensome discovery requests. These requests, if allowed, will have a chilling effect on future citizens who might consider circulating referendum petitions because they are dissatisfied with ordinances passed by the City Council. Not only will the Nonparty Pastors be harmed if these discovery requests are allowed, but the People will suffer as well. The referendum process will become toxic and the People will be deprived of an important check on city government provided them by the Charter.”

We must defend the churches' rights to teach what they consider Biblical truths. After all, exercising our freedom of speech is not only protected but also encouraged. Although this freedom has obvious limits, Houston has obvious political motives that are unwarranted. Hatred never furthers equality and undue force is abominable. Public opinion cannot be reigned in by political governments: It is a lesson teeming with stories of many ugly tentacles reaching far into the dark recesses of the past.  

I would have thought the Lone Star State would have learned this long ago. But, once again: "Houston, we have a problem."