Beloved friend Parson Jim Norton at a cold and was not singing in the choir this morning, so he sat by me. I have a cold, too, which drops my voice about half an octave. As we were singing a hymn this morning, it struck me that was the first time I had stood and sung along with a good bass voice since I did so with my dad many years ago.
I haven’t written book reviews in a blue moon and this doesn’t count as a review – more like a random comment or two. John Grisham’s newest book, The Confession, was published last Tuesday. A couple of years ago, I had sworn off Grisham because improbable plot twists late in his novels made them less enjoyable for me. I downloaded this one anyway, and it’s a good one. He uses the most believable scenarios since his very first novel, and The Confession centers around that very rarest bugaboo which does (as well it should) scare the hell out of every participant in a death penalty case, that we wrongly convict and execute a factually innocent person. Grisham hardly needs my imprimatur, but he has it anyway.
And then I read The Reversal by Michael Connelley, also recently published. Connelley is a journalist who has two long-running characters who occasionally intersect, one of whom is a lawyer in the traditional lawyer-novel sense. The plot starts with a 20-year-old murder conviction being reversed and a defense lawyer being hired as a special prosecutor. The glaring error in this one is the discussion (unnecessary to the plot) of whether to seek the death penalty of someone previously sentenced to the penitentiary for the same crime. You just can’t do that, because that would “chill” the right to appeal a verdict which was improperly obtained. It's still a fine read.
The Sounds of Silence
In the coming weeks, I have to collect all of my “letters to the editor, op-ed submissions, and similar writings.” Of the purpose behind this, more later. Others will be asked to do the same.
I must say, I’m looking on this with wry amusement. Most of my friends probably have a real good idea of where to put their hands on their public writings and, while their personal correspondence may be voluminous, the blatherings they may have posted where Angels Fear to Tread are few. There are of course, some exceptions, many of whom have blogs which are linked to the right of this page.
To me, finding these writings is not Mission Impossible, but it will certainly be Mission Darned Difficult. I don’t do many letters to the editor, for I can seldom keep my writings short enough. I do submit op-ed commentaries and opinion-laden articles, mostly to statewide publications or to the local newspaper and publish what used to be the “canons” from the blog as book reviews spread here and there. (I also wonder how far back I have to go - My first letter to the editor was as a senior in high school; first magazine, US News, as a college student; the ABA Journal as a young Turk; a couple of USA Today letters over the years - how far?)
But, my heavens! (Prior to being so sensitive that anyone would be reading what I said, it would have been “Holy Shit, Batman!”) I have opinions! I’ve expressed them! People may not agree with me! People may not like me!
Well, that is the flipside of the First Amendment. When you make public commentary, you’re making a choice to participate in the marketplace of ideas. People are welcome to be consumers-only in that marketplace. The responsibility of vendors in the marketplace is significant from where I stand. And the greatest fear is this: if you are honest in your writing, people know who you are. And you’re just going to have to take the chance that some people will not like you. In fact, it’s not a chance, it is a fact – for every person who engages in productive and respectful discourse, there is another who throws the anonymous rocks of personal destruction. Moreover, people who read you over time will see you grow or diminish as you refine your ideas, abandon the bad ones or seize on what "sells."
I intended this mini-essay to be lighter than it has turned out. But I confess that my heart is still pretty light. I look back over things I’ve written in years past and occasionally I will say, “Boy, that one’s a little bit dense,” or even “What the hell was I thinking?!?” That I’m still content to write what I think and feel so far as it is proper to be written and I am at peace with always having done so. I certainly think - I certainly hope - that it has always been done with honesty and respect, even if it has been occasionally stupid.
Speaking of Intelligent Commentary
My Old Friend The Reasonable Curmudgeon has posted the most provocative, delightful and, well, reasonable essay on his blog (link to the right.)
Not Going Far To Look for America
"Kathy, I'm lost," I said, though I knew she was sleepingIn some folk/folk-rock of the 60s and early 70s, you find good poetry. The next few paragraphs have been sitting on the hard drive for a couple of weeks. A tweak here and here, and here they are:
I'm empty and
aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all gone to look for America
All gone to look for America
All gone to look for America
I found America tonight.
One of the old Disney movies with Fred MacMurray talked about the concept of “serendipity,” where you ran on to something wonderful you weren't looking for, and even had this catchy little song, “seren-dipa-dipa-dipity.”
We’re on one of the long hauls of this never ending political marathon and every smile in front of the camera claims to represent America. No, I’m wrong – not “represent” America, they claim to be America. I’m in the middle of the marathon, writing and calling everyone I know for my friends and for the causes in which I believe so deeply. But I was reminded tonight that politics is not America. The political system may support America, it may provide some guidance for America, but it is not America.
This evening we went to the church for a fundraiser called the “Furnace Dinner.” The purpose was to generate some funds for church property maintenance, part of which is going to be a lot of HVAC work. If you see one little church dinner, you’ve seen them all, haven’t you?
And so, once again I prove conclusively that a few bulbs in Roger’s chandelier burn out and need replaced and refreshed now and then. There, at the Furnace Dinner, was the real America. America is found in the Fellowship of honest people. You find America when families come together, where moms and dads are with their kids, or the young and active help the aged, or anywhere that goodwill prevails. It doesn’t have to be a church – the softball field, a family reunion, a chance meeting of strangers who become friends at the state park, a concert, or even a person of goodwill sitting alone and transcending his or her troubles, there is America. As for me, I found America tonight in a simple dinner cooked by pretty good cooks and served by a Boy Scout troop. I found America tonight in high school students singing solos and a large professional-quality-yet-unpaid choir performing. America was there tonight in kind words everyone said. And easy hugs.
In short, my dear friends, America is in the people. It is not solely a church or in particular organization or a political party or ad hoc movement, America is not in stickers on automobile windows, it’s everywhere among the people.
I’m glad I didn’t stay home tonight.
A Dangerous Addiction
I posture myself is a bastion against the profligate use of electronics for simple things people should be doing with their minds. And here I confess, I have slipped. I filled up the Chrysler on Friday and mentally calculated the mileage at about 21.6 mph. What was I thinking? Where was my confidence? I pulled out the … sigh … my cell phone. It has a calculator function. It calculated to 20.85. I have no excuse. Scotty, beam me up. Now. Please.