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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

So When Did Empathy Become a BAD Thing?


Some conservatives have been critizing the idea that Pres. Obama considers empathy to be a good quality for a Supreme Court justice to have. I find that rather revealing of the present mindset of conservatism, especially when considered in the light of this quote from a "compassionate conservative" of a few years ago:
"I have followed this man's career for some time," said President George H.W. Bush of Clarence Thomas in July 1991. "He is a delightful and warm, intelligent person who has great empathy and a wonderful sense of humor."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pres. Obama Nominates Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court


I believe that we have an historic opportunity to take a step towards realizing "justice for all" in this country through Judge Sotomayor's confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Tribute to "Rosie the Riveter"

Howard Miller's famous portrait of "Rosie the Riveter"
(This Sunday, I was Worship Leader at Mayflower Church. The Worship Leader delivers a short talk on any subject s/he chooses.)
This Memorial Day weekend, I would like to pay tribute to the women of World War II who answered the call to go to work in place of the soldiers who had gone off to war, the women who have been represented by the iconic figure: Rosie the Riveter.

Rosie first existed as a character in a song by big band leader Kay Kaiser. Later a real woman, Rose Monroe, who worked in an aircraft plant in Michigan, was featured in a promotional film about the war effort at home. Of course, the most famous depiction of Rosie is the poster created by Howard Miller showing Rosie flexing her strong right arm under the caption “We Can Do It.”

It is estimated that by 1944 20 million women were working in what had been traditional male trades, a 57% increase over women in the workforce in 1940. In addition, millions more women worked on farms, and all of those at home kept the nation going until the final victory was won.

By answering their country’s call, these women laid the groundwork for many of the gains achieved by the Civil Rights and Feminist movements. Women proved that they could “do a man’s job” and do it well. At the beginning of America’s war effort, employers estimated that women could perform about 29% of the jobs previously done by men. In short order, that estimate rose to 85%.

African-American women also answered the call to work for Victory and proved that the idea of “racial superiority” was a lie. Having black and white women working together for the first time contributed to the breakdown of racial isolation, which helped to lay the groundwork for the Civil Rights movement in the next decade.

Most Rosies left their jobs and went back to their traditional roles as homemakers, told to do so by the same people who before had begged them to come to work, but her work, example, and image have left a permanent mark on the American character. So today, I salute all the Rosies who showed us we “Can Do It,” “Yes We Can.”

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Apologies? What Apologies?


Michael Steele, chairman of the GOP, has unilaterally declared that era of apologizing for GOP mistakes is "officially over." I'm sorry, Mike, but I don't recall you offering any apologies.

Now, say you're sorry.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I continued to be amazed and pleased by our president.


Yesterday, President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address at Arizona State University. A controversy surrounding the event was the decision by the university NOT to give the president an honorary degree, the given reason being that his "body of work" was not yet complete. Here is how the president responded:
Now, in all seriousness, I come here not to dispute the suggestion that I haven't yet achieved enough in my life. (Laughter.) First of all, Michelle concurs with that assessment. (Laughter.) She has a long list of things that I have not yet done waiting for me when I get home. But more than that, I come to embrace the notion that I haven't done enough in my life; I heartily concur; I come to affirm that one's title, even a title like President of the United States, says very little about how well one's life has been led -- that no matter how much you've done, or how successful you've been, there's always more to do, always more to learn, and always more to achieve. (Applause.)

How cool is that? Here, something that might be perceived as a slight is turned, the a good deal of humility and good humor, into a major point of his speech.

It has been a very long time since I have come to look forward to a politician's speech.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Gov. Henry Vetoes SB 834 (Yeah!!!)


Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry vetoed SB 834, by Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville and Rep. Tad Jones, R-Claremore. The bill creates the School District Empowerment Program to be administered by the State Department of Education. The bill requires the department to exempt any school district that participates in the program from all statutory requirements and department rules from which charter schools are exempt, except that the district will continue to be required to enroll all students who are residents of the district.

Henry said in his veto message.
"Senate Bill 834 would essentially turn back the clock on much of that important progress and weaken landmark reforms by allowing school administrators to create their own rules and ignore more rigorous state standards, including, but not limited to, the smaller class size mandates championed by former Gov. Henry Bellmon and Oklahoma voters in the historic passage of House Bill 1017 in 1990. SB 834 would also endanger such worthy programs as full-day kindergarten and alternative education in addition to making optional such critical personnel as school librarians and counselors."

It's the Joe and Michelle Show!

If 'Joe the Plumber' has no other function, his is to be able to teach us what it means to be an utter and total idiot! But, wait don't we also have Michelle Bachman fulfilling that role? Maybe, they should consider a revival of the old fashioned comedy team and take their act on the road?" ----- T. H. Bonham

Gay Marriage Becoming No Big Deal?


from Talking Points Memo:
Earlier in this decade, in the heat of the debate over gay marriage in Massachusetts, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) predicted that once marriages actually started happening, opponents would realize it just wasn't that big a deal (a very big deal of course to those getting married, but not a big deal in terms of the sky falling down or Western Civilization coming to an end) and it would simply fade away as a political issue. And five years on, that's what seems to be happening.

--Josh Marshall

Friday, May 08, 2009

Republican and Democratic Approval Ratings


From Research 2000 via The Daily Kos
FAVORABLE UNFAVORABLE NET CHANGE
PRESIDENT OBAMA 69 (70) 26 (25) -2

PELOSI: 37 (38) 46 (45) -2
REID: 34 (34) 49 (49) -1
McCONNELL: 21 (21) 61 (60) -1
BOEHNER: 16 (16) 63 (62) -1

CONGRESS DEMS: 43 (44) 49 (49) -1
CONGRESS GOPS: 13 (14) 72 (71) -2

DEM PARTY: 53 (54) 41 (40) -2
REP PARTY: 21 (22) 69 (68) -2


Forget about the GOP being the party of the Big Tent. If their approval ratings get any lower, then they will be able to hold their next convention in a pup tent.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

National Association of Letter Carriers Food Drive This Saturday


This Saturday is your opportunity to help "Stamp Out Hunger" by participating in the 17th Annual National Association of Letter Carriers Food Drive.

With our economy in recession, more Americans find themselves in need of food assistance. Food pantries nationwide report their resources have been stretched to the breaking point and beyond. We all need to step up and help out.

All you need to do is place a sack of non-perishable food by your mail box, and your Letter Carrier will do the rest.

If you want to go a step beyond, consider volunteering at your neighborhood post office to help sort the food donations as they come in. It's an experience you will remember the rest of your life!

Please help this Saturday. Thanks in advance.

I Got the Scholarship to Begin My National Board Candidacy


I got word yesterday that the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation accepted my application for the Education Leadership Oklahoma (ELO) scholarship to become a National Board for Teacher Certification candidate. This is a $2500 scholarship that will allow me to prepare, study and present my teaching practices to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

The process begins in Durant, Oklahoma on June 3 when I meet with the other scholarship recepients, 400 in all.

This scholarship is made possible through funding by the state legislature. I want to thank them for this opportunity.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Highlights from Mayflower Congregational May 3, 2009

Choose This Day
Sermon Title: IDOLATRY OR COVENANT?

The Prayer of Confession: Lord of Life, help us to recover the meaning of covenant, and to remember that such relationships are at the heart of what we believe about faith. Whether it is the covenant of marriage, of parenting, of social justice, or of our collective expression of the gospel of compassion--covenant is the answer to idolatry. As we seek to be the beloved community serving others, help us to be a covenant people. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, our Teacher and Lord we pray, Amen.

Scripture Lesson: Dueteronomy 30: 15-19
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them,I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live


Sermon Highlights:

The idea of "covenant" is central to theology. In the story of Israel, when the people of Israel kept covenant, they prospered. When they broke covenant, they perished.

However, covenant was often used to justify conquest, to occupy the "promised land" and kill or enslave those who happened to be living there. Everyone's "promised land" is someone's "present land." "Manifest Destiny" sounds good unless it is your "destiny" is to be conquered. God is NOT in the land grant business. To God, there are NO "chosen people."

What we fail to understand is that this texr shows that thinking about God is undergoing a change. It is a realization that faith is not about making bargains. Instead, our faith is about making a series of choices and facing the consequences of those choices, life or death. It is about "Consequentiality" (although that is not a word recognized by "Spell Check").

We have attempted to turn God into a divine Santa Claus for whom we are not "good for goodness sake," but for the rewards such goodness gains for us. This covenant reminds us that the "ways of life and death are set before us," and that in choosing life we have committed ourselves to certain responsibilities from which we cannot escape.

People have stopped taking responsibility for their actions. Has there been torture going on in Iraq and at Gitmo? It's the work of a few "bad apples," or the legal advice of some "bad lawyers." We even try to shift responsibility on God. Has a city and its people been devastated by a hurricane and flooded because aging levees crumbled? God choose to punish them for being wicked, poor and in the miniority.

If God is responsible for everything, then why has not God fixed things that go wrong? Perhaps we need to realize that God is not to blame.

We make God like us. We like rewards and punishments, so God must. We would reward good guys and punish bad ones according to our judgements, so God must. Our choices must be God's choices. Punishments we endorse must be endorsed by God.

The text warns us that not all choices are valid. Covenant is a two way street. We must choose those things which bring life. We must choose covenant over idolatry. Idolatry says that pleasing God by believing in the right doctrines will bring about rewards.

After 9-11, the ways of life and death were set before us. We could have chosen to follow the path of justice and had the aid of the world in bringing about justice to those who committed that act of terror and mass murder. That would have been he way of life. Instead, we worshipped the idols of revenge and agenda and brought about the deaths of thousands of innocent people and in the process lost our national soul.

We need a Theology of Consequence that will tell us that our choice of the cars we drive, how we care for our farms and lawns, whether or not we eat too much, how we use our wealth demonstrate whether we have chosen life or death, whether we have kept or broken covenant.

God is not Santa, not apart from Creation, but a part of it. As Paul Tillich put it, God is the "Ground of Being." We must choose to act in concert with this Ground of Being. Personal irresponsibility must end if we are to choose the path of life for ourselves and all Creation.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Another Southern Succession?

Why is the South whistling Dixie?
Candorville by Darren Bell
I really like this cartoon series.

Friday, May 01, 2009

10 Reasons Why Gay Marriage Is Wrong


1) Being gay is not natural. Real people always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

2) Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.

3) Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

4) Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can't marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.

5) Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Brittany Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.

6) Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn't be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren't full yet, and the world needs more children.

7) Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.

8) Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That's why we have only one religion in the world.

9) Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.

10) Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven't adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

100 Days Pun


Lenard Ward, a student in my senior class gave me this good pun.
Many people said that a black man would become president "when pigs fly." One hundred days into the presidency of Barack Obama, SWINE FLEW! (or flu)