Monday, June 29, 2020

The Little Red Hen Fights COVID

Once upon a time, there was a little red hen  who lived on a farm . She was friends with a lazy dog , a sleepy cat , and a noisy yellow duck .

One day the little red hen  was told that all the farms in the land were on the verge of a pandemic, and her farm was forced to shut down.  The little red hen  had an idea. She would follow the advice of experts and institute testing protocols to help keep the farm open.
The little red hen  asked her friends, "Who will help me do the testing?"
"I can't be bothered," barked the lazy dog .
"You're not the boss of me," purred the sleepy cat .
"MAGA!" quacked the noisy yellow duck .
"Then I will," said the little red hen . So the little red hen   tested herself.  But none of her friends did.

When the testing showed things weren't going well, the little red hen asked her friends, "Who will help institute contact tracing?"

"I can't be bothered," barked the lazy dog .
"You're not the boss of me," purred the sleepy cat .
"MAGA!" quacked the noisy yellow duck .
"Then I will," said the little red hen . So the little red hen  tried contact tracing all by herself, but it was too much without help.

When the testing then showed the pandemic was starting to spread out of control, the little red hen asked her friends, "Who will wear a mask to reduce the spread of this thing?"
"I can't be bothered," barked the lazy dog .
"You're not the boss of me," purred the sleepy cat .
"MAGA!" quacked the noisy yellow duck .
"Then I will," said the little red hen . So the little red hen  wore her mask everywhere she went, even though others didn't.

The tired little red hen asked her friends, "Who will be really careful about where they go, self-quarantine, and generally try not to unnecessarily infect the other animals?"
"I can't be bothered," barked the lazy dog .
"You're not the boss of me," purred the sleepy cat .
"MAGA!" quacked the noisy yellow duck .
"Then I will," said the little red hen . So the little red hen  stayed home, limited her outings, and tried really hard to socially distance by staying in her coop.

When it came time to reopen, and all the other farms in the land were getting back to life as usual, the tired little red hen asked her friends, "Who will reopen with me?"
"I can't taste anything," whimpered the lazy dog .
"I feel like crap," meowed the sleepy cat .
"COUGH COUGH COUGH," quacked the noisy yellow duck .
"Yeah" said the little red hen .  "That's what I figured."  And she tromped back to her coop, muttering.


Saturday, June 27, 2020


It is better to wear a mask and not need it than to need a mask and not wear it.

A masked society is a polite society.

A person without a mask can only flee from COVID, and COVID is not overcome by fleeing from it.

Masks should have a place of honor in every home, as they provide the protection that the current government will not give.

It is up to the private citizen to protect himself and his family, and this is not only acceptable, but necessary.  Wear a mask, citizen.

The fight will not be the way you want it to be.  The fight will be the way it is.  It's up to you to adapt.  Wear a mask, citizen.

It's time to restore the American precept that each individual is responsible for their actions.  Wear a mask, citizen.

I wear a mask to protect my family.

Wearing a mask is an act of love.  It says I love my life, my friends, and my family, and I will do what I must to keep them safe.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Light Shepherd

Shall I curse Your leprous white Sin Name your Evil My words all a bitter shepherd's goad Driving you down to the bleating pen of my hate Or Listen Or Watch Eyes scrying for embers of light Speak Words turning the rich dark soil Of your most Gracious living possible Soul

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Of Masks and Moral Responsibility

A week ago, I attended a march in my small town.  Four to five hundred souls marched peaceably to recognize the human value and integrity of black folk, and I was honored to be a part of it.


Though there were hundreds there, there were also notable precautions against this cursed pandemic.  It was outdoors, in the bright hot sun.  People were visibly trying to make space between groups.  And functionally everyone was wearing a mask.  Ninety five percent, at a minimum, with the handful of outliers mostly being adolescent boys who are dumb in the way I was when I was their age.  Folks were taking it seriously.


Last week, I also came across this strange, harsh cartoon about masks, one produced by a far-right political activist.  Some over on #twitter were making light of it, but there were plenty of folks and/or bots of uncertain origin spreading it unironically. 


What struck me was not just its bullying, Nelson Muntz mockery of perceived ideological weakness.  The cartoon expresses a warped morality that has abandoned traditional virtues.  Wearing a mask isn't a bolshy Jacobin thing to do.

Wearing a mask is conservative.  It's about personal responsibility, seeing freedom as a call to duty and care for your neighbor.  It requires discipline and a desire to protect both the vulnerable and the integrity of your community.  It recognizes legitimate authority. It rises from a spirit of decency, charity, and integrity. 


There was something else. Something darker.  Starting this weekend and continuing for the next few months, there will be political rallies on the American right.  Americans who increasingly embrace the ideology of this cartoon will gather by the tens of thousands.  They will shout and cheer.  They'll be packed in tight.  They'll be older.  And goaded on by this kind of propaganda and the ego-hunger of a demagogue, they'll view masks as a sign of weakness, as a leftist snowflake thing.  "Yeah, you can wear one, but you're just a coward and a weakling if you do."  "Don't drink the Kool Aid," they'll smile, the oversweet blood red stain on their lips.


Then they'll go back to their homes, their communities, and their churches.


It's a recipe for death.  Not just one person, shot dead on Fifth Avenue, but hundreds of deaths.  Horrible, prolonged, suffocating deaths in the overburdened ICUs of mid-sized Southern towns, as exhausted nurses helplessly watch yet another human being die alone.


Were I a cruelly Darwinian soul, I might sneer at those folks, and say they're getting what they deserve.  "You cannot separate a fool from their folly," I could say.  "A rod for the back of fools," I could say.  But Jesus being my Lord and Savior and all, I try to avoid that way of being.  I desire no-one's suffering.  Instead, I do what one does when you realize you're helpless to stop a horror.  Or when you watch a person caught in the thrall of their personal demons, their ears closed to your voice, their eyes turned away from your help.  I raise my voice, even though it might not be heard. I pray. 


And I wear my mask, which says: I am willing to do my part.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

LIttle Churches and Regathering

I enjoy having a plan.  There's a concreteness to it, especially if that plan is simple, straightforward, and familiar. 

You do a familiar thing, and it's comfortable and things run smoothly.  But life rarely offers up neat, easy, and familiar paths.

As we roll into summer, things are still up in the air.  There are hopeful signs here and there that we may be able to reopen.  After months of social distancing, closures, and mask wearing, all of our national efforts seems to have stalled out that virus. 

But we're not sure, not enough, not yet.  As the Session of my church met this last month to talk about potentially regathering, no-one felt it was time to go back to that normal that we all do miss.  Our sweet little sanctuary is too small, that comfy soft space too limiting to do the singing and greeting and being together that we so love.  And sure, we could gather without raising our voices in song or in prayer, with no bulletins and no communion, no time in fellowship, and no classes in which to study together.

That just wouldn't be worth doing.  I mean, sure, we'd "be together."  "Hey, come to church!  We don't sing.  We stay away from each other.  We don't pray out loud.  We can't see one another's faces."

I wish I could say that sounded appealing, but Lord have mercy, it does not.

Instead, we're waiting to see whether there's a second wave, which we should know definitively in two weeks.  At that point, we'll put our heads together and determine, based on the best available information, what is the best way forward.

In choosing any path, it's best to be neither panicky nor headstrong.  Anxiously fretting over every possible negative outcome and stubbornly blundering ahead no matter what are equally unwise.  And while wisdom these days may seem in short supply, it's right there in scripture for any who seek it. 

For the next five weeks, our adult ed class will be looking at the marks of wisdom for a Christian soul, because it seems kinda like a useful thing to keep in front of our souls in this time.  We'll get those from the Epistle of James, one of the most practical, direct moral teachings in the Bible.

Lord willing, we'll be in a place to gather again when we're done.  I am very much looking forward to that.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Young Crow

I walked this morning, in the burgeoning steam and moist of a Virginia summer day. From up the street there came a peculiar ruckus, one that caught my attention. A voice, yelling out. "Awk AAAA Ewwww. Ak. Awk AAAA aaa ew Awk AAA."
I scanned the tree line for the source of the sound. There it was. A crow, alone on the branch of a dead tree. It preened, and then called out. Preened, and then called out. "Ah Waaak A Ock. Ock Aaa. Ock AAAA! Wak Ock Aaaaa."
Not short calls, but long perorations, whole sentences filled with a medley of gargling, subtly changing tones. It felt less like a cry, and more complex, more like something we mostly hairless bipeds would consider language.
Which told me, because I feel an affinity to crows and ravens and have studied their ways, that it was likely a juvenile. Where adult crows settle in to simpler, familiar, useful calls, crow adolescents experiment. They play with sounds. They sing out intricate patterns to the world, testing their voices. For a while, those songs are as subtle as those of their wise-eyed raven cousins. But then, slowly, young crows settle down into the simple caw of adult crow life.
Being the sort of silly person who says things like "I feel an affinity to crows and ravens and have studied their ways," I called back, mimicking phrasing. But, as expected, I got no reply. It simply sang on, exploring the voice of youth and neatening its feathers.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

My Story Mine

Once My story
Mine Leaves parted lips Sings the air And alights Purring Tickling Whispering In your Waiting Ear It is no longer My story Mine but Yours.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Lafayette Square Park, Faith, and Freedom

I grew up in and around DC. My whole young life, church happened downtown, at New York Avenue Presbyterian, just a short walk from the White House. She's a storied old girl. John Quincy Adams worshiped there. As did Eisenhower. So did Abraham Lincoln, which is why one of the rooms I'd play hide and seek in with friends after Sunday School had the original handwritten copy of the Emancipation Proclamation.

As a teen, I still went to church, but I was...well. I didn't like Sunday School. I was gloweringly sixteen, into Camus and Sartre, and even though I loved the church in the way that a teen loves their parents, it just felt too...something. Too soft, perhaps. Too formal. It lacked that dark edge that appealed to my adolescent eyes, so newly opened to the mess of the adult world.

So I'd leave the church, grab a free City Paper, and wander over to Lafayette Square Park. It was my quiet place. My sanctuary. I'd settle in, read snarky, informed reviews of film and culture, and watch the world go by. The park was quieter on a Sunday morning, but as the day wore on, there was plenty to watch. Tourists from all over America, here to see the sights. Clusters of visitors from other countries, wandering behind tour guides. Near the bench where I'd sit and read, a little yellow church sat, a trickle of Episcopalians coming and going for their bells and smells and Jesus..

In Lafayette Square Park, there'd be occasional demonstrations and protesters. People with signs. Folks trying to get you to sign petitions. At least one older peace activist basically just lived there.

I'd watch the tour guides do their schtick, leading school groups and church groups. "Look," they'd say, pointing to the resident activist with her signs. "Right here in front of the White House, people are free to speak their minds. That's the difference," they'd say, "Between America and the Soviet Union. This is a free country." And the school groups would chat with the protesters, and move on.

Despite my newly found teen cynicism, it was undeniably real. For all of her flaws, I couldn't deny my own eyes and experience. America was genuinely free.

That park is not accessible now. It's cordoned off from the American people. The peaceable voice of the people's grievance, driven from that space by clubs and tear gas and flashbangs. Even that modest yellow church on the park is now forcibly closed, as yesterday church members and leaders were denied access to their own property.

"Law and order," those in power say, "makes this necessary." "Safety and security," they say, "requires it." These are lies unworthy of our republic. At the height of the Cold War, toe to toe with Soviet authoritarianism, nuclear holocaust just one misunderstanding and a twenty minute missile flight away? In those hard times, Lafayette Park was open, as both a symbol and as living proof that Americans are a free people, whose leader does not hide behind high walls and cold eyed men with guns.

Those freedoms have been taken to serve the ego of a petty despot, a dissembling huckster and bully who has desecrated the freedoms that made America a beacon to the world. Freedom of religion. Freedom of speech. Freedom of the people to seek redress.

I remember what it was like to sit as a free American in that park on a cool Sunday morning. I remember what it meant, even at the height of my adolescent awakening, to know what it meant to be free.

I refuse to forget that freedom.