Month: September 2020

Dinos on the Montana Landscape

UPDATED: How can I miss you if you won’t go away?

Editors Note: Originally posted on May 5, 2019, here we are on September 30, 2020, the day after the first presidential “debate”, and this is the “egg on my face” update. Who knew that good old 77-year old Joe Biden would be JUST what the country needed in 2020 to face down a bullying, narcissist, misogynistic, racist con man? Apparently a lot of older, female, and/or black voters who understood that basic decency, competence, and a long career of public service would be an effective counterweight to Donald Trump. So I take back the concerns I was feeling because Biden wouldn’t step aside for the next generation and salute him for his courage and stamina. I feel he’s taking one for the country. While I still think the basic premise of this post holds, I will admit to both exceptions to the rule and errors on my part. Sometimes it’s hard to say good-bye. Last week, former Vice President Joe Biden—at 76 years of age and counting—became the twentieth announced Democratic candidate for President.  As …

Defining our democracy

“The good things in our nation did not come about by chance, and they will not be preserved by indifference.” The Rev. Dr. Deborah Meister I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Keeping a democracy takes work. Disuse of democracy by a careless majority is cause enough for worry in a world of constant struggle between tyranny and freedom. But when that indifference is coupled with a deliberate effort by a wealthy minority to undermine the public good for private gain, we find ourselves at a point where Americans are in danger of having government by the people smothered by an oligarchy focused on the enrichment of the few and the repression of those who disagree with them. America as an idea is a work in progress, with an eye on the prospects for the future. At our best, we are always growing, always becoming, as we move toward that more perfect union. But we are not always at our best. The history that really happened, as opposed to the history we’ve told …

Saturday Soundtrack: Mandolin Orange

I first heard the North Carolina folk duo Mandolin Orange at the 2014 Red Wing Roots Music Festival and was instantly smitten. I wrote then that singer-songwriter Andrew Marlin and multi-instrumentalist Emily Frantz “crafted songs that were  simple yet compelling.” Over the years the band has continued to produce warm, intimate music even as they became more widely known and played larger venues such as Red Rocks in Colorado and The Ryman in Nashville. Their most recent studio project, Tides of a Teardrop, debuted at #1 on four different Billboard charts ( Heatseekers, Folk / Americana, Current Country Albums and Bluegrass) with Top 10 entries on 5 additional charts. Clearly, Mandolin Orange has a passionate following. When asked about the band’s unusual name, Emily told an interviewer in 2015, “It’s basically a play on Mandarin Orange, but when we first started playing, Andrew had this little beater, a mandolin that was orange, and I think one day we just sort of thought of that and it stuck.” Let’s begin our look at their music from those earlier years with the …

Keeping a democracy takes work

Author, educator, and lawyer Teri Kanefield writes very smart posts about the law, books, and politics on her Teri Kanefield blog.* This morning she posted thoughts on why those who believe in democracy need to educate themselves on what it takes to keep that system of government. To use one of my favorite baseball metaphors, she hits it out of the park. I’m working on a post that looks at different aspects of our history, but that makes essentially the same point as Kanefield: “Many liberals and Trump critics have the idea that the United States has always been a liberal democracy — and then along came Trump, pulling the wool over his followers’ eyes and battering our democratic institutions. In fact, America didn’t start to move toward a true liberal democracy until Brown v. Board, the 1954 Supreme Court case that declared racial segregation unconstitutional. Brown sparked the modern Civil Rights Movement, which in turn gave rise to the women’s rights movement. Liberals cheered these changes. Many did not. Trump is riding the backlash from those changes. For …

A righteous warrior to the end

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — who passed away Friday on Erev Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish High Holy Day commemorating the beginning of the new year — was a trailblazer, role model, force for the rule of law, truth teller, believer in democracy, and warrior for gender equality. By any standard, hers was a remarkable life. Many accounts of Justice Ginsburg’s passing noted that, according to Jewish tradition, one who dies on Rosh Hashanah is a tzaddik, a person of great righteousness.* That seems so right when applied to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Supreme Court justices can be the most isolated and aloof members of our governing elite. But it was not that way with Justice Ginsburg. Her humanness was on display in many ways and in different places, not just in her majority opinions and in those famous dissents for the court. Stories abound of interactions with her, large and small, that had profound impacts on those in her presence. She became “a feminist icon in her octogenarian years for millions of little girls …

Chris Stapleton - Traveller

Saturday Soundtrack: The acoustic side of Chris Stapleton

Readers who follow country music know the singer, songwriter, and guitarist Chris Stapleton. But I enjoy seeing those from other genres hearing his “brown liquor” voice for the first time and recognizing both a unique talent and a kindred spirit with whatever type of music they love.* Born into a Kentucky coal-mining family, Stapleton absorbed a variety of musical influences growing up, including from the incomparable Aretha Franklin who he described as “the greatest singer that ever lived.” That tells you right from the beginning that his tastes are excellent and his standards high. Stapleton toiled in the Nashville song-writing business for more than a decade while also fronting one of my favorite bluegrass bands, The SteelDrivers, from 2007 to 2010. In 2015 he broke through as a solo performer with the award-winning album Traveller, was featured at the 2015 CMA Awards show in a breakout live performance with Justin Timberlake, and hasn’t looked back. Stapleton’s voice is a treasure, but his songwriting and guitar playing are also top notch. In this edition of the …

The struggle between tyranny and freedom

America faces great challenges in 2020. It is even tempting to call these times unprecedented, but they are not. Harry Truman, of course, made this point in very plain language: “It was the same with those old birds in Greece and Rome as it is now. . . . The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.” As Samuel W. Rushay, Jr. wrote about Truman’s understanding of history and the threats to democracy in the 1940s, “(H)is understanding of history provided him with a wider perspective on communism, whose assault on democracy was, in the words of historian Elizabeth Edwards Spalding, the ‘current form of a timeless struggle on earth’ between the forces of tyranny and freedom.” We have seen that struggle between tyranny and freedom over and over again here in America. I was reminded of that feature of American life during my summer break, as I read of one particular moment in that struggle as told in Edward Achorn’s fascinating new book Every Drop of Blood: The Momentous …

Saturday Soundtrack: Duets

I love a good country or folk duet, so when several came up yesterday on my Pandora station, I just assumed that it was a Saturday Soundtrack sign from God…and I decided to listen to her. Living in Tennessee in the 1960s and 70s, it was easy to hear some of the classic country duet acts on the radio and see them on Nashville’s numerous country music television shows. George and Tammy singing Golden Ring was perfect, because it was a song that matched their tumultuous relationship. Dolly and Porter were big during those years, before Dolly left the partnership some forty-six years ago to become a force of nature all on her own. And of course, at the top of the heap was that duet of country royalty, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. So let’s dive in, beginning with the Johnny Cash tune I Still Miss Someone which I’ve always enjoyed. It is a classic “I’m lonely and miss you” song that Emmylou Harris has recorded in both solo and duet versions. Emmylou …

Choose your leaders wisely

A poem appropriate for our time, by Octavia Butler. Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought.To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen.To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies.To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery. More to come… DJB Image by Mario Aranda from Pixabay

Rest in Peace, The Rev. John D. Lane

Our dear family friend, John Lane, passed away last Sunday, August 30th, after a courageous battle with lymphoma. We were blessed to know John for more than thirty years, and he will be sorely missed. As noted in his obituary, John was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal from 1966-1968, serving in the most remote post of that organization, a six day walk from any transportation. This was a life-changing experience that he drew upon in sermons and writings. John was also a proud graduate of Amherst College and General Theological Seminary. Our family came to know John in 1987, when he became rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Staunton, Virginia. Known for his quick wit, sharp intellect, spiritual guidance, loving care, and thoughtful leadership, those were all qualities we had come to appreciate when we asked John to be our Andrew’s godfather. He gladly and enthusiastically accepted that role. There was so much about John’s life and work to admire, but I want to focus on his humor and humanity. He showed me how …