Month: September 2020

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …