Archive for October, 2008

McGovern: portrait of a patriot

McGovern in World War II

McGovern in World War II

The son of a Methodist preacher, he grew up in Midwestern farm country during the Great Depression, attended a small college, became a history teacher, married his high school sweetheart and served his country as a bomber pilot in World War II, during which he was recognized for his bravery.

After the war, he stayed to fly relief missions to the starving and suffering people of Eastern Europe.

He headed President Kennedy’s Food for Peace program, and later spent most of his life, in one way or another, serving to alleviate hunger in this country and abroad. He and his close friend in the Senate, Republican Bob Dole, were largely responsible for the school lunch program, expanding food stamps and creating the program that provides nutritional care for poor women, infants and children.

He was a leader of the antiwar movement during the Vietnam era and, as the Democratic nominee, lost the 1972 presidential election to Richard Nixon. “There are some things worse than losing an election,” he later said. “I would not trade places with the man who won.” But he was at Nixon’s funeral many years later to honor his former adversary and share kind words.

Since his defeat for re-election to the Senate in 1980, he has served both presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in the United Nations and has been an advocate for the world’s hungry. For his humanitarianism and heroism, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

His best-known book is the memoir he wrote about his daughter Terry, who died of alcoholism, because he wanted to help other families going through such struggles.

When he spoke at Berea College this week, the loudest applause McGovern, 86, got from the students was when he mentioned that he had been faithfully married to his wife Eleanor, for 63 years.

He also spoke of his love for his country, which he called “the greatest” in the world.

He had the students laughing with his self-deprecating humor and good-natured jibes about John McCain and the Republicans, fellow Methodists and friends like the late William F. Buckley and Hunter S. Thompson.

From the beginning of his speech to the end, he was a gentleman.

In this era of bitter partisanship, when liberals are vilified by many people in both parties, George McGovern in his old age reminds us that a liberal leader — just as well as a conservative leader — can be a man of faith, integrity, honor, courage, compassion and a shining example of what it means to be an American patriot.

[George McGovern spoke at Berea College Oct. 23 as part of the John B. Stephenson convocation series. He has possibly spoken at more colleges than any other leader in his 86 years — about 1,500, but, he said, he has never spoken at one that impressed him more than Berea has.]

Silliness about 'socialism'

Obama a socialist?

Obama a socialist?

We’ve heard by now that Barack Obama is either a Muslim jihadist or the Anti-Christ. Fortunately, not many people believe those things about him. But the one phony criticism that has gotten some credibility is that he is a socialist.

I was recently reading a McClatchy Newspapers article, “Socialist tag doesn’t fit Obama.”

Well, of course it doesn’t. This is a guy who has been endorsed by billionaire businessman Warren Buffett, retired Gen. Colin Powell, President Eisenhower’s Republican granddaughter, President Bush’s conservative Methodist pastor, Kirbyjon Caldwell, and has been praised by such prominent conservative Republicans as Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska — and even Republican hopeful Sen. John McCain

If Karl Marx’s definition of socialism is democratic control of the means of production, then Soviet-style Communism certainly wasn’t socialism: It was the flip said of the worst kind of corporate capitalism: ownership and control of production (and government) by a small elite minority.

Even the McClatchy reporters got it wrong by saying socialism is state ownership and control of production. That is a definition of social democracy or state socialism, which is part of the mixed economies of Western Europe, but it isn’t American democratic socialism.

Examples of democratic socialism would be employee stock ownership plans combined with significant employee representation in management, consumer ownership and representation of energy (such as rural electric cooperatives), collective residential ownership of housing structures, and farmer coops like the former Burley Growers Cooperative in which farmers funded their own price support and supply control system

In most Western democracies, one of the largest political parties is almost always a socialist party. The Labor Party in Great Britain and the New Democratic Party in Canada, are good examples.

But these are democratic, capitalist countries. All economies in the world are mixed economies because that’s the only thing that works.

Even in the United States and Britain, two of the most conservative countries in the West, the national governments have rescued banks by buying stock in them, some private contractors are almost entirely funded by the government, and public insurance plans such as Medicare are a major segment of the health insurance market. In fact, the United States is just about the only major Western industrial democracy in the world that doesn’t have a national health insurance plan.

Obama’s plan for health care and his proposal to raise income taxes on the wealthiest Americans (while giving a tax break to the bottom 95 percent) are the two things that are most responsible for him being tagged with the socialist label.

But Obama’s insurance plan, as I understand it, is to allow everybody who wants to keep their private insurance to keep it and those who want to buy in to a public insurance program to do so.

As for taxes, the graduated income tax was something put in place by progressive Republicans and Democrats in 1913. The progressive income tax isn’t socialism. It’s civilization.

Full disclosure: In my 20s, I was an inactive member of Michael Harrington’s group, Democratic Socialists of America. But I haven’t been a socialist in many years because I realized socialism is as much a utopian pipe dream as laissez-faire capitalism.

Neither is Barack Obama a socialist. He is a center-left politician and a pragmatist who may soon be governing a center-right country.

The only self-avowed socialist in Congress is Vermont’s senator Bernie Sanders, an independent. You’d have to go back to Eugene Debs in 1912 to find a serious Socialist Party candidate in American history.

The revolution is not upon us.

October Court Day isn't what it used to be

MOUNT STERLING, Ky. — When I was a little boy, I loved October Court Day. My family is from Montgomery County, so it was a homecoming we looked forward to every year.

I remember my grandfather taking me to the stockyards on Court Day weekend, and seeing old men trading hunting dogs, shot guns and good Case pocket knives.

As a teenager, I became interested in collecting coins, rare books and political memorabilia. I could always count on finding treasures like a John Sherman Cooper campaign button, a first edition of a Winston Churchill history, or an English shilling with Queen Victoria’s portrait. Although I couldn’t afford them, I also enjoyed looking at Indian artifacts and Civil War muskets — things you wouldn’t see anywhere else.

I’ve always been fascinated by politics, and it wasn’t unusual to see candidates for governor, or even national politicians campaigning for presidential hopefuls. I once heard Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas give a speech at a small storefront on Main Street.

Oh, and the food was indescribable! Country cookin’ like you wouldn’t believe. The Hope First Church of God had the best fried country ham sandwiches and fried dried apple pies. And if it was a chilly October day and you needed something more filling, you could usually find some soup beans and cornbread to warm you while you listened to a band play mountain music.

But October Court Day isn’t the same anymore.

It’s been years since I’ve seen a 1972 George McGovern bumper sticker or a Peace silver dollar at Court Day. The hippies and hillbillies don’t flock to the festival anymore, and you’re unlikely to see a national political figure like Fred Thompson or Bill Bradley.

The food is now mostly pizza and Polish sausage, and disgusting county fair fare like deep-fried Twinkies and funnel cakes smothered in chocolate syrup and powdered sugar.

What used to be an antique-lover’s paradise has turned into the world’s largest and gaudiest flea market. It’s so crowded, you can hardly move for the baby stroller traffic jams (really, people with babies who can’t find a sitter for two or three hours should just stay at home). And the only things for sale now are things you could find at Big Lots and yard sales without the hassle, or things no one should own anyway, like a sniper’s weapon or a stuffed alligator.

In a recent interview with Winchester Sun Community Editor Rachel Parsons, Mount Sterling Mayor Gary Williamson said that if there’s something you can’t find at Court Day, you “probably don’t need it.”

Actually, I can’t find anything I want there anymore, and it’s the things I can find that I don’t need.

I don’t need a Git-R-Done cap, a Slipknot T-shirt, or a Christmas tree sweatshirt with sparkles.

I don’t need another package of tube socks, a decorative yard flag or a never-need-to-sharpen paring knife. I sure don’t need an assault rifle or West African fertility idol.

I don’t need to pay eight bucks to park in someone’s muddy front yard, and I don’t need to stand in line for five minutes to use a putrid port-a-pottie.

I don’t need spend half an hour walking along a short row of vendors’ booths because some dimwit who wants to stop and look at every hair bow and bauble was inconsiderate enough to bring her screaming kid in an oversized stroller/shopping cart.

I don’t need to wonder whether the pit bull pup coming toward me is going to bite me or pee on my leg, and I don’t need to worry about whether the guy with his finger on the trigger of a semiautomatic pistol is some creep who wants to be on the 6 o’clock news.

I just don’t need any of that stuff.

An agnostic's view of faith

Jamie Moffett, filmmaker

Jamie Moffett, filmmaker

Filmmaker Jamie Moffett grew up in Catholic school, attended evangelical Eastern University, went to seminary and cofounded, with Shane Claiborne and others, the Christian community the Simple Way in Philadelphia. Yet he doesn’t identify as a Christian, struggles with faith and says he can’t say whether or not God exists.

That’s why he’s the right person to have made “The Ordinary Radicals,” a documentary about “a revolution of love.”

Moffett was in the audience last night at the Kentucky Theatre in downtown Lexington for the showing of his movie, which follows authors Chris Haw and Shane Claiborne on their 11,000-mile tour of the United States in a cooking oil-fueled, converted school bus to promote their book “Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals.”

I watched the film with some friends from my church and thought it was the most fascinating documentary on Christian faith I’ve seen —and the most hilarious.

My favorite laugh-out-loud part was the interview with a young man, Mark Weaver, who said Claiborne had inspired him to follow Jesus’ advice to sell all he had and give the money to the poor. Weaver thought that would be no big sacrifice for him because he didn’t have anything.

But the next day, he said, he got a call that he was going to be on “The Price is Right!” The film cut to scenes of him jumping up and down and screaming with delight as he won more than $50,000 in prizes, including two cars. These he sold and gave the money to help AIDS orphans in Uganda.

The next scene shows him smiling as he’s surrounded by beautiful, grateful children in that African nation. It looked like something from a “Saturday Night Live” episode, except that it was true.

The film was at least 30 minutes late because at 7:10 p.m. people were lined up outside the theater in the rain to the end of the block waiting to buy tickets — a response beyond what the organizers, Communality, had anticipated.

All the proceeds from the ticket sales benefited Kentucky Refugee Ministries.

After KRM’s Barbara Kleine spoke, Moffett answered questions for at least an hour.

Many in the audience couldn’t understand how Moffett could witness all he had while making the movie and not become convinced of the truth of Christianity. But he told them he just wasn’t there yet. I think most of us respected him for his honesty and objectivity.

While he may not be a Christian, Moffett’s answers seemed to indicate that he is “Christ-haunted.” Unlike Bill Maher and other secular filmmakers, he isn’t close-minded about the issue. And he obviously sees something appealing in these young people who are so different from what he calls the “creepy Christians” one so often sees on TV and in churches.

Something I found encouraging was that one of the atheists interviewed in the film, is now, according to Moffett, no longer an atheist. He has changed, Moffett said. The young atheist had grown up as part of the secular hard left, and saw that so many progressives genuinely want to change the world, but are angry all the time. It’s hard to sustain a passion for justice when there’s no joy, Moffett said.

If there’s anything “the Ordinary Radicals are demonstrating, it’s that joy makes the difference.

This isn’t your parents’ revolution.

'The Ordinary Radicals'

Shane Claiborne

When the United States began its invasion of Iraq in 2003, one of the television networks interviewed members of a Christian Peacemakers team from the United States who had gone to Baghdad to live out Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount.
I remember how I felt when some people who were watching the newscast agreed that our troops should just blow them away along with the Iraqis.
One of these young peacemakers was Shane Claiborne, who helped start an emerging church community, the Simple Way in Philadelphia after working in a leper colony in India with Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity.
In November 2006, while volunteering for Habitat for Humanity on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, I stayed up late at night reading Claiborne’s book, “The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical,” and found it riveting.
The following summer I met Shane at the Ichthus music festival in Wilmore, Ky., after hearing him preach. He told the teens how as a high schooler, he had enjoyed parties, girls and good grades, and had a plan to make a fortune — until Jesus “messed up” his life. He then gave up his ambitions to live among and serve the poor in Philly.
He also told them about how the good “Samaritans” of the village of Rutba showed hospitality to them when he and his friends were injured in an accident while on the road in Iraq.
“I am going to Iraq because I believe in a god of scandalous grace,” Claiborne wrote. “If I believed terrorists were beyond redemption, I would need to rip out half of my New Testament Scriptures, for they were written by a converted terrorist.”
This year, Claiborne and another member of the Simple Way, Chris Haw, have been on the road again — in the United States, to promote their latest book, “Jesus for President.”
It is humorous political “theater,” but contains a serious message.
Their tour is documented in “The Ordinary Radicals,” a film by Jamie Moffett, who, despite his own struggles with faith, was fascinated by the social justice work of these young Americans who are so different from stereotypical evangelical Christians. The film also includes interviews with older proponents of Christian social justice such as Eastern University professor and author Tony Campolo and Sojourners founder Jim Wallis.
On Thursday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m., “The Ordinary Radicals” will be shown at The Kentucky Theatre on Main Street in Lexington. Proceeds will benefit Kentucky Refugee Ministries, which relocates political refugees and finds them housing, jobs and schools in this country.
If you’re curious about the new monasticism and how evangelical Christianity is evolving, you should see “The Ordinary Radicals.” You’ll also be helping a good cause.

What's in a name? Too much!

President Harry Truman once said “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit for it.”  He was talking, of course, about the way things get done in Washington, but I think there’s a lesson to be learned for Winchester.
And Clark County.
One of the things that bothers me about our community is that the names of things are too long. I think that may be due to city and county officials wanting to make sure they get credit for funding or supporting whatever it is that’s being named. But it makes for some awkwardly long wording.
And it’s murder for newspaper headline writers!
Former Editor Bill Blakeman forewarned me when I came to work at the Sun that every board or commission here is preceded by “Winchester-Clark County” except for one, the Clark County-Winchester Heritage Commission.
That’s unnecessary verbiage. It should just be the Clark County Heritage Commission. Winchester is in Clark County. It isn’t some other community.
The same is true of other groups. Why can’t the Winchester-Clark County Chamber of Commerce, for example, just be the Winchester Chamber of Commerce?
Everybody knows that the Lexington Chamber of Commerce means it serves greater Lexington, which includes Athens, Clay’s Ferry and the rest of Fayette County. But most businesses, of course, are in the city. And in Jessamine County, the chamber is just called the Jessamine County Chamber of Commerce, It would be ridiculous to call it the Nicholasville-Wilmore-Jessamine County Chamber of Commerce just to make sure nobody feels left out.
The most excessive name is Winchester-Clark County Christians United Against Drugs or WCCCUAD (do we pronounce the abbreviation wick-quad?) It should just be Christians Against Drugs. OK, add the word “Clark” if necessary.
Just this week, our officials did it again. The new public bus service has been christened Winchester-Clark County Transit. That’s better than “The Winchester-Clark County Public Transportation Authority Bus Service,” but “Winchester Transit” would have had a nice, alliterative ring to it, wouldn’t it?
And it would have been more accurately descriptive, because the bus service isn’t going to be running from Trapp to Pine Grove. It’s an urban bus service.
Of course the Clark County Fiscal Court is supporting it, and that’s good. But it doesn’t have to have its name on it. Everyone knows by now that things here are jointly funded and/or supported by both governments, and that’s good. There’s a lot more cooperation here than there used to be. We should take the next step and have a merged government (but that’s a topic for another day).
I’m so pleased that we have a public transit system in Winchester. I just wish they’d given it a short, simple name.
If they really want to do us a good public service, someone on the Fiscal Court and someone on the Winchester Board of Commissioners should propose a joint resolution that no new public agency name can contain more than four words.
Like most Clark Countians, I’m proud to say I’m from Winchester, and like most residents of our great little town, I consider myself a Clark Countian, even if I don’t own an acre of farmland and live on Main Street.
We’re one community, not two. Let’s start making the names of our groups reflect that fact.

Chasing the Wild Goose

“People cannot discover new lands until they have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” — Andre Gide

Ancient Celtic Christians had a peculiar name for the Holy Spirit. They called him An Geadh-Glas — the Wild Goose.

That’s where Mark Batterson, pastor of the National Community Church in Washington, D.C., gets the title for his latest book, “Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God” (Multnomah Books, Colorado Springs, 2008). I recently read it, and found in it what I think is good advice for me at this point in my life.
I turned 48 years old this week, and I feel it. Two more years, and I’ll be half a century! But I’m determined that by the time I’m 50, I’ll be younger than I am now.
The results of a recent wellness screening show that my physical age is already just past 50. But if not being attentive to my health has aged me beyond my years, I believe it’s possible that caring for my body, mind and soul can reverse some of the effects. I’ve heard that losing weight, getting in shape and avoiding too much stress gives you more energy, makes you feel stronger and puts you in a better frame of mind. I want to find out if that’s right.
One of the things that keeps us from living healthy lives, Batterson says, is working too much. The average person spends half of his waking hours at work. Instead of making a life, he’s making a living. That’s irresponsible.
It destroys the spirit and keeps us from relating well to others, including God.
“Hurry kills everything, from compassion to creativity,” Batterson says.
Another thing that diminishes us spiritually is the belief that we’re too old to accomplish what we want.
One of the core values of his church, Batterson says, is that “It’s never too late to become what you might have been.” He encourages people to set life goals that are in line with God’s purpose in their lives —at whatever age.
History and the Bible are filled with stories of people who came into their own late in life. Abraham and Sarah didn’t give birth to the nation of Israel until they were old. Jesus began his ministry when he was in his 30s. John Wesley had his greatest impact on the church and British society in his last years, after having been a failure as a youthful missionary to America. C.S. Lewis found the love of his life, Joy Davidson, and created his best works of fiction and theology when he was in his 50s.
Lewis, the former atheist, would tell us the reason it took him so long to be fulfilled was that it took him so long to believe.
I can understand that. I didn’t come to faith until I was in my 30s, and I’m still at the mustard seed stage of growth.
“We need to quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death,” Mark Batterson says. “Instead, we need to start playing offense with our lives. The world needs more daring people with daring plans.”
So I’m going to take Batterson’s advice and set some life goals for myself. One is to lose at least 50 pounds by the time I’m 50 and keep it off. Another is not to let work overshadow everything else. And finally, I want to find that certain person with whom I meant to share life.
I just have to believe.

Bus service gets rolling

When I walk to work each morning, I usually pass and speak to residents of the Brown Proctor sitting on sidewalk benches in front of the hotel.

This morning, one of them, Randall Milburn, wanted to know if the Sun was going to cover a ceremony this morning at the courthouse dedicating the new bus service in Winchester. Congressman Ben Chandler was expected to be there, among other officials. (We did cover it and will have video on our Web site this afternoon.)

Alice Tucker, manager of the Brown Proctor, tells me the residents are excited about the bus service.

Who would have thought a town as small as Winchester would have public transportation? Yet it has become a reality.

Local officials have joined with the Kentucky River Foothills community action agency to provide bus service in the city for as little as $7 a month for riders, and Foothills has also started a low-cost “park-and-ride” bus service to downtown Lexington and the University of Kentucky.

I think this is a positive development for Winchester — especially for those who don’t have cars, are unable to drive or want to save money. So, apparently, do 94 percent of our readers according to our recent Web poll at One hundred fifty-three out of 163 who answered the question said it is or may be a good thing for our town.

I’d like to know what you think. Feel free to comment.

October 2008
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