Archive for October, 2016

October 31, 2016

Following Don Quixote

© 2016 by Ed Chasteen

Before I say much to you, I should tell you that I admire Don Quixote. He never really lived. He’s fictional. Miguel Cervantes lived about the same time as William Shakespeare. Cervantes created the character of Don Quixote and wrote two thick novels about him. Then not many years ago, Dale Wasserman wrote a play based on those two books and called it Man of LaMancha. I saw the play. And see it again anytime it comes near. As the play opens, Don Quixote is an old man. His brains have dried up from reading too much about man’s inhumanity to man. His friends think he is crazy.

You may begin to see why I identify with Don Quixote. I’m an old man. I’ve read too much about man’s inhumanity. My brains may have dried up. That’s what you may decide when you hear what I have to say.

“Facts are the enemy of truth. Too much sanity may be madness,” says Don Quixote. And when his friends advise him that wickedness wears thick armor, Don Quixote replies: “And for that you would have me surrender? Nay, the enchanter may confuse the outcome ten thousand times. Still must a man arise and again do battle, for the effort is sublime.”

When I was small and my mother directed all that I did, she every Saturday morning tuned our little radio that sat atop a table in our sitting room to a program called Let’s Pretend. Here I first heard of Jack and the Beanstalk, the Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, King Arthur, Snow White, Goldilocks. Then on Sunday mornings Mother took me to beginners and primaries at Henderson Street Baptist Church, where other mothers put up pictures on flannel boards and told me stories of Moses, Samson, Goliath, David and Jesus.

Thousands of Saturday and Sunday mornings have come and gone in my life since these early ones, but the influence of these that came first has only grown. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This my mother had learned from The Book she learned at church before I was born, and from her learning taught me. Now on Saturday mornings with my bicycle riders at breakfast and on Sunday mornings at church with my friends, I live still in the world of let’s pretend that the world is as it should be, awaiting only our choosing to make it so.

Early in Man of LaMancha, Don Quixote comes to an old house beside a dusty road, a place where mule drivers spend the night. He mistakes the place for a castle and the woman he meets for a princess. He falls to his knees, calls her “My Lady” and begs to know her name. “Off your knees, you fool. My name is Aldonza, and I am no lady.”

“No my lady. Your name is not Aldonza. Your name is Dulcinea.” She protests and throws a dirty dishrag at him. Several times in the story, Don Quixote returns to this place, each time calling her Dulcinea and treating her as a lady. Near the end of the story, this woman learns that Don Quixote is dying. She finds the place where he is, forces her way in, goes to his bedside and takes his hand. “Who is it?” He asks. “You know who I am. You called me by name and changed my life. My name is Dulcinea.”

She now sees herself as he has seen her all along.

Facts are the enemy of truth. Too much sanity may be madness.


October 31, 2016

Gazelles Amid Rhinos


by Ed Chasteen

That’s the image that pops to mind as I touch the screen on my bike phone and a buoyant voice announces, “Big Rigs”. This occurs on Friday afternoon before our scheduled Saturday morning ride up Interurban Road through Dearborn to Faucett and Big Rigs Family Restaurant. Better than a year has passed since we first rode here for breakfast. “We’ll have a dozen bicycle riders there about 9:30 in the morning. I’ll call again as we leave Ferrelview. Our numbers depend on the weather. I’ll call you as we leave Ferrelview and give you a firm count.”

From far flung places in Greater Liberty, from his farm outside Excelsior Springs to her home in the Brookside community of Kansas City, from Kearney and Gladstone and Liberty itself, by bicycle and car, we rendezvous in the parking lot of Ferellview’s First Christian Church and, with an on-time punctually Southwest Airlines at nearby MCI might envy, we take to the road precisely at our advertised 8:00 AM departure time.

Five miles out we come to an intersecting road that leads to our left and into the hills. Many times before this road has carried us to Platte City, county seat of Platte County, And home in succession to our breakfasts at Fannies, Country Cookin’ and Roxanne’s. Loyal to each we were in their time, but as first one and then the other closed its doors, we found the other. Always local. The owner usually present.

This morning, though, we pedal right on by this road to our left, bound for Camden Point and beyond to Dearborn and six miles further to Faucett. Interurban Road runs past fields that in their season produce corn and soybeans and is a vital artery in the farm to market seasonal rhythms of this quiet place. It is this quiet of back roads and small towns that lures bicycle riders. Late October ushers to Interurban a quiet that deepens through fall and winter months.

As Interurban enters Dearborn it becomes Main Street and as it leaves becomes county road Y and meanders six miles to Faucett. Coming to Faucett county road Y runs under Interstate 29. By taking the exit off I-29 truckers from the north find fuel at Ferris Truck Stop and food at Big Rigs. Our skinny two wheelers amid these mammoth 18-wheelers give rise to the image of gazelles and rhinos, the first coming quietly and seldom seen in this place, the other loudly announced and native to this place.

Little more than a mile past that intersecting road to Platte City and some two miles short of Camden Point, our chosen destination is taken from us. ROAD CLOSED! And the woman with the flag says, “We’re oiling the road.” And she can suggest no reasonable detours for bicycles. So back we go to that intersecting road into the hills. First I call Big Rigs to tell them we cannot come; then, Roxanne’s. “I apologize for the short notice, but ten of us bikers will be there in about 30 minutes.” “Glad to have you. We’ll be ready,” she says. Soon we are seated all together at a long table in their adjoining room, fussed over and fed by a small army of young boys and efficient, friendly waitresses.

“Hey, everybody, we’re were scheduled to ride here on November 19. So let’s just flip the schedule. Since we’re here today let’s go to Big Rigs then. I’ll check the road the day before.”

On the road and around the table this morning in order of sign in: Paul Klawinski, Delfina Ortiz, Mike Lacy, Steve Hanson, Susan Miller, Graham Houston, Ed Piepergerdes, Terry Sharp, Petra Toya, Ed Chasteen

October 26, 2016

My Open Letter to Greater Liberty

October 25, 2016

from Ed Chasteen

This place I call Greater Liberty is not a place I ever planned to be. But it long ago became the place I cannot leave. I was required to come to this little place on the planet by the fellowship I accepted from the University of Missouri in Columbia in 1964. Together with my wife and three small children, we moved to a house at 10920 Ewing St. in Hickman Mills. I would drive early each morning to the Railway Exchange Building on the corner of 7th and Walnut in Kansas City where Community Studies had offices, this being the locally funded non-profit doing research on social problems in the city.

Over the year to come I interviewed hundreds of people on all sides of a public vote taken just before I came to decide if the city would continue its policy and practice of denying its black citizens the use of public accommodations. By a small margin the city voted to change. I wrote my doctoral dissertation describing how each side explained and organized itself and analyzing the vote in each voting ward by race and income. When my fellowship year was up and I had my PhD, I was free to leave. But knowing so many people and their problems in living together, I felt an urge to stick around too powerful to deny. I could go anywhere and teach the same books, but I would not know the people and their problems as I did here. At least for a while I would stay. Until the problems were worked out. Maybe I could help. I took a job at William Jewell College in Liberty, planning to stay a year, maybe two, then go back to Texas, where I had grown up.

These 51 years later my wife and I still live in Liberty in the only house we’ve ever owned. I am Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at William Jewell. Our now grown children live nearby. I came long ago to see myself as a doctor, not of the physical health of individuals but of the social well being of my community: this community I call Greater Liberty. My self-chosen task? Diagnose community problems. Then prescribe what I see as the remedy. By calling the community I serve Greater Liberty I seek to honor the name of my town, but even more I mean to call attention to the fact that each and every person among us has Greater Liberty than we ever know to rise above and beyond all the limitations that others expect of us and we too uncritically assume we must accept.

We all are known to others by color, religion, education, income, gender, age, political party, county of origin, sexual orientation and more. Rather than set us apart, making us fearful and angry, our differences can make us stronger, as alloys turn iron into steel. “Simply profound and profoundly simple, a formula for building human beings”: so said a reviewer about How To Like People Who Are not Like You, the book I wrote to do just that.

Our religious life has been enriched by the presence among us of the Islamic Center of the Northland, meeting for the past 13 years at Hillside Christian Church. Now in 2016 our Muslim neighbors are nearing completion of their own building near Metro North. On behalf of my church, Second Baptist in Liberty, I extend greetings and welcome their presence, as together we enrich the spiritual life of Greater Liberty.

Together with the Interfaith Council of Greater Kansas City, William Jewell College, Second Baptist Church and HateBusters, the non-profit I lead, and in recognition of 2016 as an Olympics year, when World Class Athletes gather for competition, we declare 2016 as the year of World Class Persons, and define such persons as those who can go anyplace at any time and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe.

To give practice to those who aspire to become World Class Persons, I will pair persons from different faiths. Each will be given the email address of the other and seven sets of questions to guide the seven conversations they will have together. Then every seventh Tuesday from May 3, 2016 until May 30, 2017, I will give everyone opportunity to gather Beneath the Steeple at William Jewell College from 7:30-9 o’clock in the evening to listen to the stories of the folks we are becoming for a while.

I never met a person I didn’t like. I don’t think it’s possible to like a person we haven’t met. To meet every person I can and expect to like every person I meet: This is my life’s ambition. Please join me. Send me an email. You need only say: I WANT IN. I will send you more.

October 26, 2016

Here I Stand

by Ed Chasteen

When this election season that seems interminable is finally over, anyone who in the slightest way did or said anything in support or defense of Donald Trump will have forfeited all claim to the high moral ground. All political and spiritual leaders associated with Mr. Trump will have diminished themselves, will owe the American people an apology and will have failed the test of leadership.

October 20, 2016

Greater Liberty Breakfast Club

Sunday, October 9, 2016

by Ed Chasteen

Greater Liberty for each of us is increasingly possible. People from all over the world are moving all over the world to work and to live. Neighborhoods everywhere are home to folks from places all over the planet. Facebook and face-time create virtual community. Technology and trade reduce psychological and physical distance. No longer are we pockets of people on the far side of mountains and oceans. Now by interstate and internet, by plane, train and automobile, on foot and bicycle we are neighbors.

The boundaries of race and religion that fence us in grow ever more porous as we meet and greet. When we draw up a chair at the breakfast table and listen as we eat, then has Greater Liberty come into our lives. Aspiring World Class Persons we become, able with practice to go anyplace at anytime and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe.

This Sunday, October 9th morning at Ginger Sue’s in our town called Liberty eight of us have come: Laeeq Azmat, Khalid Hussain, Ann Henning, David Sallee, Jeff Buscher, Ed Chasteen, Carol Hogue, Lynn Hogue. From William Jewell College, Second Baptist Church and Islamic Center of the Northland the eight of us have come to talk about the recent attempted arson at the mosque now being built. Others from our church and college are with us in spirit.

For 13 years Hillside Christian Church at 900 NE Vivion Road has hosted Friday Prayers and holy day celebrations for Islamic Center of the Northland. A few years back, ICN purchased property near Metro North to build their mosque. The recent fire caused little damage. It did cause fear: that others might do them harm; that no one might care. Our breakfast is our beginning effort to allay their fears and send a message that such mistreatment of our neighbors is not welcome and will not be tolerated.

Ann Henning will call Laeeq’s wife to find out how she and others from our church might help. Jeff will contact Khalid to plan how students from our college can help with tree plantings planned for the property where the mosque is being built.

As our breakfast comes to a close I make an assignment to everyone. “Please invite one other person to have breakfast with you. As you eat, tell the other person about our breakfast this morning. Tell them why we met and what we plan to do. Ask them then to invite one other person to breakfast and tell them what you have said. Please send me an email message when you have had your breakfast. Ask your person to email you when they have had a friend to breakfast.”