Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year

Even in the darkness
a million lights still shine
there is and will be 
light just ahead

just walk on.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Case for Winter Walks

A late December hike
on a cool and damp winter day
is a rare chance
for finding reckless sophistication
in a stripped-down Winter Woods.

The lichen on the Oak trees
and ghost leaves upon the Beech
can best be seen
on days such as this.

Without walking through these woods
on a gray day like today,
How would I know what I missed?

 Wildlands are all the more Wild
on a day that promise sleet
and discomfort.

The woodpecker's thick laughter, 
all the more mad.

 The bright crimson flash
of cardinals darting through the trees
is deftly balanced by 
the deep leather embrace
of the damp leaves at my feet.

And if I slip on wet leaves
and fall on my pride

and I will
and I have

it is worth it.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Don't be a Pettydick

One more politically-themed thought, and THEN, I'll get into a more jolly holiday spirit...

Imagine a PTA at a school with one member being an especially wealthy person who quite often gave a good deal of money to the school. Let's call him, Donald Pettydick. An issue comes up and the PTA votes for idea A. Mr. Pettydick is outraged because he wanted idea B.

Pettydick then says, in a bit of a huff, "You're going to regret this! I'll just have to remember this when it comes time to give money to the school again! I'm taking names!!!"

Now it is, of course, within his rights to give money or not to give money. But it is an extremely jerk-y move to threaten to withhold money to the poorer people in the school to try to bully them into getting your way and force people to go along with you.

The current administration is being that jerk in its reaction to the UN this week. It's a very petty and un-classy thing to do. Not to mention, a blow to the ideals of democracy and liberty.

"You say we're all equal sisters and brothers
Then why are the rich more equal than others...?" (Larry Norman, give or take...)

I guess what I'm saying is, in this season of Grace and Community, don't be a Pettydick.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For God hath regarded the lowliness of this handmaiden
For behold, from henceforth all generations
shall call me blessed.

God hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
God hath put down the mighty from their seat
and hath exalted the humble and meek.

God hath filled the hungry with good things
and the rich he hath sent empty away.

God, remembering mercy hath helpen God's oppressed servant, Israel...
Glory be to God.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be
world without end. Amen.

~Mary, the mother of Jesus

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Eight Words to Embrace

We must learn that passively to accept an unjust system is to cooperate with that system, and thereby to become a participant in its evil.

~Martin Luther King, Jr

Whenever you see a board up with "Trespassers will be prosecuted," trespass at once.

~Virginia Woolf

To the wrongs that need resistance,
To the right that needs assistance,
To the future in the distance,
Give yourselves.

~Carrie Chapman Catt

Resistance is the secret of joy.

~Alice Walker

Be a drop in the bucket
and a bucket in the pond
and the pond fills the river
and the river rushes on
And the river swells the river
till the power can't be stopped
and what becomes a mighty ocean
started as a drop.

~Mitch Barrett

Monday, December 11, 2017

My Son, in the Peace Corps in Albania

Here's something different. I'm going to post my son's blog post from today, where he talks about a big concert he and his students put on in a relatively small town in Albania.

I'm so proud. My son, Jordan Trabue's, blog post from today...

Today was it. The big concert (koncerti in Shqip). My Youth Council had been preparing for this for over a month. When we voted on projects all the way back in October, one of the big ones was to continue the annual Youth Council Anti-Bullying Concert that the previous Youth Council had held for the two years preceding.

It's easy to say 'yeah, we're going to to a big concert' and more difficult to actually implement it. Over the past month this has taken over my life. I needed to find singers, dancers, someone to give a speech, anything else we might want. I found an anti-bullying skit on the internet and my students translated it then ran it through so many drafts the end plot might as well have been a new skit. I talked to the director of Education in Lushnje, to the director of the local auditorium, the principal and vice principal of EVERY elementary school in the city. We scheduled practices. Hunted down anyone with a talent. When those people would drop out we'd find new ones. It's been a flurry of activity. Tensions would rise one day as half the group didn't show up or someone forgot to make some important phone call, then we'd all be laughing after a particularly good practice or meeting. Finally, yesterday, we had our final rehearsal with all the performers in the auditorium yesterday. It was a grueling three hours of doing everything again and again and again.

Last night I barely slept. I didn't know if anyone would come. I didn't know what would be worse, if no one came or if a ton of people came and something went horribly wrong. I texted with some of my students about things that could go haywire. What if one of the singers accidentally ate a microphone? What if someone in the audience had a heart attack? What if we all simultaneously crapped our pants onstage?! We don't have back-up pants!!

My alarm was set for 6 but I woke up at 5:30 and just stared at my phone for a half hour waiting for the alarm. I got up and left for the auditorium. I brought a guitar with me that I'd borrowed from one of the local churches. I didn't intend to perform but on the chance that one of our singers didn't make it I would be the backup plan.

The Youth Council members and performers trickled in over the next two hours. We got everything ready and waited for the schools.

The first year of the annual Bullying concert there was a whopping 34 students in attendance. The second year There were more, but the auditorium (which can seat 400) wasn't even halfway full I was told. Moreover the students who came were horrible. They jeered, didn't listen, and shined laser pointers on the stage. Part of the reason is that they didn't know what they were coming to. They hadn't been told anything about the concert beforehand, they were just randomly pulled out of the classroom.

This year I went not only to the director of education, but visited each school individually and spoke with the principals. My students and I explained in detail what the concert was, and left a letter with instructions for each class to make an anti-bullying poster that they would then bring to the concert. I doubted we'd have much follow through on the part of the schools but I could say I tried.

When I went out to open the front gate, I was greeted by hundreds of kids with dozens of posters. We let them in one class at a time, taking pictures with their posters. The auditorium wasn't quite full, but was at least at 80% capacity.  Well, we had our audience. To add to the pressure, one of my bosses had visited from Tirana and the local news media had been called in and was setting up cameras.

As the show started we invited the kids with the best posters up on stage to be cheered. Then we had our opening speech and jumped into the performances. First an anti-bullying video we'd found on youtube and added Shqip subtitles to. Then two dancers took the stage. Then a singer.

The whole time I was running around backstage. You go over here. You don't forget to take these props onstage. Girls be quiet! As the next act began, a dancer who danced over a beautiful orchestrated piece while someone read a monologue on bullying, I stopped to watch from backstage. For all my worrying, for all my complaining and whining, things were going pretty well.

Then the music stopped and everything went black.

The audience, mistakingly thinking this was an unexpected, epic end to the piece, erupted with applause. Even I found myself thinking 'when did we change the piece to end with a sudden cut to black?' But no. This wasn't planned. The power had gone out.

I would be later told by the sound guy that, although power outages in Albania aren't uncommon, the building has generators and never in his years working had they lost power during even a practice, let alone a performance. Just my luck I suppose.

For a few moments we were in complete darkness, then the phones came out and there was just enough light to see. the performers had retreated backstage. I walked alone across the stage to the other side to speak with the workers through a translator. Everyone was speaking. It was total confusion. People were running this way and that, to what end I can't guess. The kids were losing it in the seats. Talking and yelling. Everyone was looking at me. "Jordan, what are we going to do?" I was asked again and again by person after person. I was reeling. "I don't know" I would reply. It took about a minute to get my bearings and be decisive. I grabbed four or five of my students and started barking out instructions.

"Go out into the audience. Find the teachers. Tell them we're going to wait for a couple minutes and to try to keep their kids quiet. If the power doesn't come back on then we'll cancel the performance."

My students set to work. I went onstage and began waving my hands. There was enough light that I know the kids in the audience could see me, but there was no way to subdue them. They were talking and talking. It was chaos.

In that moment I felt almost as though I was out of my own body, watching this happen. Everything was happening in slow motion. The kids were talking. I looked at my own students, who had worked so hard on this. Their faces were nervous and confused. I suddenly remembered all those years in America I'd been a musician. All the places I'd played. Traveling on the road. Picking at strings alone in my room. In this moment I felt as though everything in my life had been preordained, that everything that had ever happened to me had been operating according to some kind of logic. That everything I needed in life was already laid out before me.

I turned and walked offstage to where I'd set the guitar I'd borrowed from the church. I slung the strap over my shoulder and walked back on the darkened stage. I told my students "Follow me and shine all your phone lights on me." They did as they were instructed and a halo of bluish light surrounded me as I walked off the front of the stage and into the middle of the audience, strumming my guitar as loudly as I could.

At this point I was the most visible thing in the whole room and people were noticing 'oh, hey, there's a guy with a guitar.' The hundreds of students quieted down out of curiosity. I began to sing one of my songs from my days as a musician by heart. The students couldn't hear my voice for more than five feet or so, but the rhythm of the guitar carried far and even kids in the back were waving their phones back and forth to the beat of the song.

Halfway through the song, the lights came back on and everyone erupted in applause.

We finished our concert. It was a smash hit. Our skit that we'd practiced to death got whoops and applause. At the end a representative from the local government passed out certificates to everyone who had performed. However at the end all anyone was talking about was when the power went off and the American stood in the middle of everyone playing guitar. Even the people who had worked on the concerts from previous years agreed that this one was the most exciting.

I can't help but feel happy. I'd been so worried something would go wrong and in the end something did, and the show was all the better for it.

Monday, December 4, 2017

An Open Letter to Alabama

An Open Letter to Alabama... 
Conservatives and, Really, All of Us

Dear Alabama, et al,

I am writing to you today to say that it's time for some basic agreements that we all need to come together and find common ground around. We all are aware of the bitter divisions that separate this country, but just as surely, when push comes to shove, we are also aware of the love that we have as family, as neighbors, as community and fellow citizens that unite us. We are aware, and need to be reminded to stay aware of this reality:

That those things which unite us are greater than those things that divide us.

I was raised as an extremely conservative, traditional Southern Baptist boy and I am who I am today because of (and not, in spite of) my wonderful, conservative Christian parents, Sunday School teachers (love you, Miss Marie, wherever you are! You, too, Dalton! And etc, etc...), youth group leaders, pastors and friends and family who surrounded me and helped raise me. I love my God just as strongly now as I did then, thanks to you. I strive to love my neighbor now as you taught me to back then. And although my understanding and approach to it are different now, I still love and read the Bible now, just as you taught me.

In the church I attend now, we welcome, work with and alongside all sorts of people, including the homeless and mentally ill we have in our urban neighborhood. Occasionally - rarely - that means that a service might be a little disrupted. One Wednesday evening, while having our community supper, we had a gentleman who was getting too loud and abusive and we politely but firmly asked him to leave. One of our strong women leaders walked him to the door as he put on his coat and stepped out into the cold, yelling and protesting all the way. After closing the door, the man continued to yell from outside. He just stood there, looking in through the window in the door and yelling at the woman who escorted him out. She stood her ground and just kept insisting, "No, I'm sorry, you have to go. Just go on and come back sometime when you've calmed down. Go on, now..." like that. Eventually, she stopped and leaned in to listen to what the man was yelling...

"My coat. Is stuck. In the door!"

Sometimes friends, we have to pause and listen.

And so, with that as preface, this former raging-conservative-now-flaming-progressive writes to you, Alabama, along with the rest of us, to make a plea to listen to this call for a few basic decencies where I am confident we all can find common ground...

If faced between what I consider two evils/two wrong/two immoral choices, I cannot and will not choose a "lesser evil."

I totally get that, as conservatives and Republicans, that you probably can't vote for most Democrats with a clean conscience. There are policies that Democrats hold that you just can't agree with and find yourself needing to oppose. I get that. I have that with many conservative Republican policies (although I bet if we dig down, we can find some common ground starting places on many of those policies... but setting that aside for now). I understand not being able to vote for the other party in good conscience. No problem.

At the same time, we have to have lines that we draw. There have to be some basic standards that we hold to. And, IF my candidate... my party's candidate has crossed some of these basic lines, then we must need agree to say, "No. I will not vote for him/her." Period. That isn't to say, "therefore, I'll vote for the other party..." not if that candidate holds positions you can't in good faith vote for. It's just saying that I can not and will not vote for a candidate that crosses certain basic lines.

In my life, in trying to be a good citizen, there have been times where I have "thrown my vote away" and voted for a third party or written in a candidate that I knew couldn't win, just because I could not in good conscience vote for either mainstream candidate. Sometimes, we just have to do this in order to live with ourselves.

And this is my main point...

I'm writing to you today to say that we messed up on that basic drawing of a line last year with Trump. Alabama is considering messing up with Roy Moore. I'm asking for us to not do that. I'm asking for us to draw a line and say, "I will not cross that line."

There were/are many, many problems with candidate Trump and candidate Moore. But perhaps the greatest problem, the most serious line that we should not cross, is the ease with which they make false claims, spread false messages and - whether or not it's their motive/intent - told lies. They make up stuff and do it regularly and with careless abandon. We see this especially with Trump but Moore does it, too. When he says things like, “It is more likely that Doug Jones and Democrat operatives are pulling a political stunt on Twitter and alerting their friends in the media.” ...he is making a serious and, by all evidence, clearly false claim.

He is saying that they many women who now have made these claims are liars. Period.

Let that soak in.

Here we have many women who have independently and, so far as anyone knows, without any influence from the Democrats or "the media," made these allegations. He is saying that they are lying.

But based on what? Why would they make up these stories? What do they have to gain by exposing themselves in this manner?

Look, I fully know that, in some extremely rare circumstances (and if you're not familiar, look at the research - it's a tiny minority), women have made false allegations about harassment/abuse. But these are the extreme minority. And okay, IF you have one allegation made against you by a woman, maybe she's one of this tiny minority that have made false claims. But when you have five... eight (what is Trump up to, now, 20??) women make these charges, and in some instances, where they had told others about it in the past and it's all something that can be verified by several sources... then to say that they are ALL lying begins to strain credulity.

And then, when you add to that charge that these women are liars (a very serious charge!), the claim that the Democrats and/or the media are behind it all, it just becomes clear that these are false claims. Maybe he SUSPECTS that these women were sympathetic enough to the Democrat cause to make false allegations, but you can't just make those sorts of claims without support. Data.

But that reasoning appears to be not apparent to Alabama voters. According to a new poll in Alabama...

...a new CBS News poll found that 71 percent of Alabama Republicans say the sexual misconduct allegations against Republican Roy Moore are false. Many blame Democrats and the media for the allegations.

? Based on what? We can't just make up claims or beliefs without some evidence. That is not intellectually honest and I believe that the good people of Alabama, if they just stop and think about it, can agree to this.

So, again, my point: People who make false claims, especially when they do it regularly and with no support, they are crossing a line that should not be crossed.

Trump did this regularly leading up to the election and that should be a show stopper. Period.

Look, Trump isn't really a conservative or a Republican, he's an opportunist who has supported Democrats in the past. He could just as easily have run as a Democrat. And if he had and if he was making regular, casual false claims as he has been doing, then that would have been a deal breaker for me. It was a line that I could not cross. I would not vote for a casual liar and Trump and Moore are casual liars. They make ridiculous false claims. We can't abide this, friends. This is a line that we should not be crossing.

People of Alabama, I'm asking you to not cross that line now. If you're opposed to Democrat policies, I'm not asking you to vote for a Democrat that you can't support. I'm just asking you to do as I would do, as my parents, no doubt, would have done: Not vote for someone who crosses a line that shouldn't be crossed. Write in a vote. But don't cross that line.

But, if it were just the one line - the making ridiculously false claims repeatedly - that would be bad enough, and it should be! But with Trump and Moore, we have men who, by all the data we have available, are men who've abused, mistreated, oppressed or sexually assaulted or harassed women. In both cases, they did so even with teen aged girls/young women.

This is a basic decency line that cannot be crossed. It is/should be an instant deal breaker.

I don't need to know anything else about the candidate or his opponent if I know he has abused/mistreated women/girls. Period.

I'm not saying that there is enough evidence to convict either man of any crimes, I'm not a legal scholar, but I'm guessing there isn't enough evidence for that. But, just because the data is not sufficient to rise to a level of legal conviction, the evidence is sufficient that they are bad men who have mistreated women. Regularly.

This is a line that should not be crossed. Please, for the sake of our common humanity, do not cross that line.

When the stories about Bill Clinton came out, there were two... then three women. And their stories were not proof positive. There was, I think, reasonable doubt in at least their more serious allegations (murder, rape). Nonetheless, I thought the evidence that Bill Clinton had a problem was sufficient for me to not vote for him. It was a line that I could not cross. In both of his elections, I held my nose and voted for a third party candidate and against Bill Clinton. Conservatives at the time agreed with me... he was a problematic candidate and they loudly said so.

I would not cross that line to vote for Clinton. People of Alabama, the evidence against Trump and, now Moore, is greater than that against Clinton. I'm just asking you to do what you said we should do with Clinton back then and refuse to cross that line. Do not vote for this man. Vote third party or write in a candidate, but do not vote for him.

There are lines that we should not cross.

Be the strong moral and rational sort of conservatives that I remember from my youth. Let there be some candidates on your side that have crossed a line that you will not cross.