Archive for May, 2017

May 28, 2017

Current Occupant a Contaminant

2017 by Ed Chasteen

simple truth is a foreign concept banned from the white house by current occupant. his insistent claim to have won the election by the biggest margin ever is both demonstrably false and totally unnecessary, as is his claim to have had the biggest audience on hand to watch his swearing in.

while claiming as “fake news” all reports that do not flatter him, current occupant never mentions his legitimate claim to a historical first, a guinness book record all his own, most likely to stand for all time, loser of the popular election by the greatest number of votes ever to move into the white house.

current occupant brags that he is a billionaire and refuses to show his tax returns because they will show that he is not. and will further show the sources of his income, diminishing him in his own eyes and in the opinion of those he pretends to care about.

a contaminant was loosed in this country last november and now runs amuck, devouring civil discourse, elevating hate, making us all less, the bully pulpit now used to bully. and when those who put current occupant in the white house discover that he has no idea how to solve their problems and no wish to find out, where will they go? What will they do?

a polluting or poisonous substance that makes something impure : a definition of both contaminant and current occupant. explaining also why there are no capital letters in this message.

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May 26, 2017

Mother Picked My Friends

2017 by Ed Chasteen

1702 Magnolia Ave. Liberty, MO 64068

816-781-6431

“That boy is not welcome in this house. You are known by the company you keep. If everybody else jumped off a cliff, would you jump too? I’ll wash your mouth with soap if you say anything like that.”

Mother married my dad at 18 and lived to be 100. I was her oldest child and was 78 when she died. She didn’t say these words above just once or all at the same time, but so often that they blink on and off in my mind to this day. Mother taught me not to be a braggart, not to use crude and vulgar language, to respect women, to be a man of my word. Mother took me to church where I heard these words:“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

When the current occupant of the White House was just a candidate, I said that anyone associated with him would be degraded. Now the entire nation is associated with him. Even though millions more voted for his opponent, he is the current occupant.

I respect the office of president. I do not respect the current occupant. He refuses to release his tax returns because they would reveal that he is not the billionaire he claims to be. He exaggerates the size of his NY apartment, his deal-making, his crowd size, his approval rating, his net worth. Now in office he divides us. He wants to wall us off. He takes actions that harm the people he promised to help. Current Occupant reminds me of the junior high bully who lorded over my eighth grade life.
This bully, like that one, will for a time abuse, intimidate, mock, ridicule and fire to get his way. Divide and conquer works for a time, but the negative energy it generates dooms it and those who author it. A hundred years hence history will have a new standard against which to measure our worst.

May 25, 2017

Greater Liberty Inner Sanctum

©2017 by Ed Chasteen

In my third year at the college the call came from a TV station in New York City. They had heard that my students and I were fasting and concerned about world overpopulation. The question: “How come someone in a little place in the middle of the country is worried about world population?”

This reporter obviously took seriously what a fellow member of our faculty would sometimes say as a barbed reminder to us that we were not esteemed by academic and social elites. “A little pissant college in a little podunk town.” That’s what this one who loved us and carried us to great heights would say to us in small groups and informal settings.

“We can read. We don’t have to live in New York to know what’s going on.” That’s what I said to the radio reporter. To recognize where you stand in the pecking order can serve as a goad to greater effort, as I was shortly to learn yet again. And more than once.

I wrote an essay about overpopulation and sent it to several popular magazines. And was rejected by each, some saying in roundabout ways a message I heard as: Nobody ever heard of you or your school so we can’t publish what you say.

Okay! Here was a problem to solve. A problem I saw like this: To publish, I needed a reputation; to get a reputation, I needed to publish. How to solve this catch-22?

I wrote a letter to five folks with sterling national and international reputations. I enclosed a copy of my essay and asked them to endorse it so I could persuade reluctant editors to publish it. I thought I might get a couple of at least lukewarm endorsements, enough to persuade some editor to take a chance. Instead! I got five glowing endorsements. I promptly mailed them off to several magazines that had turned me down. A few months later my piece appeared on newsstands across the country and was seen by a book publisher who asked for a book on the topic.

After the book came out, I was sitting one day at the state department with a half-dozen experts on population problems when a staff member of the state department came into the room carrying a good-sized cardboard box. “Inside this box,” he announced, “I have the latest contraceptive technology”

Wow! What could it be? Something on the order of heart transplants! My hopes were dashed as he upended the box and across the table spilled hundreds of colored condoms. He explained, “If we color them, they get used more.”

Here I was, in the company of men (all men) from the best known places in the country, gathered in our nation’s capital, discussing a problem of worldwide importance. And they knew no more than I did (and didn’t seem to care as much) . I could do more from my little college deep in the heart of flyover country. I flew home to my college, realizing in a more profound sense the wisdom of that long time and recently retired faculty member who in my first week in this place said to me during an evening in his home, “You need to find a place and put down roots. You don’t have to move around to make your mark.”

My college was related to the church I grew up in. From the church when I was young, I had learned that God is love, God is good and every person on the planet is created in God’s image. I believed this. But I did not know this. I wanted to know. But how? Get on a bicycle. By myself. With no money. Pedal northwest from Orlando to Seattle to Anaheim. Ask for water, a sandwich, a bed for the night, whatever the need at that moment.

If every person is created in God’s image, every person must have at least a spark of goodness in them. By appearing unannounced to each individual and asking a simple favor calling for immediate response, that spark would burst to life, warming us both, lighting our way, meeting both our needs.

More than 500 people I asked. No one said no. Now I know.

When that Klansman won election to his state legislature in another state and I was teaching Race Relations at my college, the governor of that afflicted state asked us to come. So was a T-shirt designed, a song written and HateBusters formed. With our bicycles we went there for a speech at the university, a radio talk about race relations, a story in the paper, a bike ride, a Human Family Reunion. Word got out. We began to be invited to other states. By other governors. To churches, synagogues, masjids. To grade schools, high schools, colleges, universities; police departments, prisons; civic clubs and private homes. HateBusters became a 501 c-3 non-profit.

This little piece of God’s good earth,” so did a pastor of my church describe the one square block of our town on which our church stands. When I was back from my cross country ride and had ridden 125 miles on my longest days, I expanded the boundaries out from our town 125 miles in all directions. Our town is called Liberty, thus this little piece of God’s good earth going 125-miles out is dubbed Greater Liberty, a most appropriate name, a name that identifies not only the place, but also the principle. As a place Greater Liberty includes parts of four states, 104 county-seat towns and some three million people. As a principle Greater Liberty reminds us that we can rise above and beyond limitations of race, religion, gender, nation. We can become World Class Persons, able to go anyplace at anytime and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe.

Greater Liberty has long been my sanctum, my sacred space. I have biked more than once to each north-south and east-west town on Greater Liberty’s border. I have been to the four states. I have visited about a fifth of the 104 county seat towns.

But always being slow and every day getting older, I have also an inner-sanctum to which I go more often because it is closer, being no more than 25 miles from my home. Small town cafes lure me to breakfast with their biscuits and gravy and ice tea, and/or to lunch with their home made variety of sandwiches and more ice tea.

HateBuster headquarters now is my downstairs home office, just on the other side of the wall from our laundry room. When visitors come, we meet at my other office, the high table just inside the door of a local restaurant near our town square. My church is up the street. My college stands atop the hill just past. I am now an emeritus professor there and ambassador from my church to other communities of faith.

My church and my college are the heart and soul of my Greater Liberty Inner Sanctum. No longer now with daily duties at either of these, I find in nearby small town mom and pop cafes a similar ambiance, a sense of belonging, a feeling that in this place, all is right with the world. And from this place comes a comfort food found nowhere else, a food that comes on more than just the plate.

Thinking globally and acting locally, HateBusters has adopted Greater Liberty as our inner sanctum, the place we go on our bicycles to help when hate makes headlines and victims have been targeted because of their race, religion, gender or nation. And when our bicycles draw attention and folks come to ask, we tell them that we know haters are cowards. We tell the story of the bigots who came years ago with their signs to protest the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at my college. They marched in our street. As they had every right to do.

But if they could have a sign, so could I. I ran to my office and made myself a sign and ran to join them. My sign said, “THESE GUYS ARE NUTS. Onlookers began to laugh. The protesters got in their cars and left. They had not come to entertain us, and when they could not intimidate us, their power over us vanished.

HateBusters best work, though, is done when hate does not happen. Sometime and somewhere in Greater Liberty hate will happen and HateBusters will respond. But our quiet and behind the scenes work to prevent hate is our daily duty. To aid us in this, we wrote a book we call How To :Like People Who Are not Like You. Anyone may go to www.hatebusters.com and download a free copy.

And every Saturday morning of every year since this century began, bicycle riders calling ourselves The Greater Liberty Riders have pedaled from Liberty to breakfast in one of the inner sanctum cafes. More than 600 different riders have thus become occasional-regulars in a score of cafes, even as some of the cafes have closed and others have taken their place. Our number of riders on a given Saturday ranges from one or two to as many as 50, with an average in the mid teens. Cold, rain, snow, wind, fog, heat reduce our numbers. Fair skies and gentle breezes we love. Seldom do we totally abandon a Saturday ride to breakfast. Arriving by bicycle to Greater Liberty Inner Sanctum cafes hones our appetites razor sharp. The time on our bikes to and from this place confer on our time at the table together in this place a significance above and beyond the time measured on the clock, elevating the days between our weekly gatherings in wordless ways we only can feel.

Join us if you can. In body. In spirit. If not with us, where you are. Real community. Or virtual. Maybe both.

May 12, 2017

To Champion Greater Liberty

2017 by Ed Chasteen

the Pedalin’ Prof from William Jewell College

Morning papers and nightly news here in Greater Liberty lately carry disturbing news of hateful behaviors here in our little piece of God’s good earth. When the pastor of my church here in our town of Liberty, Missouri first described the one square block on which our church stands as “ this little piece of God’s good earth” those words resonated in my soul and in my mind soon expanded to include my college just a block east. Then when I rode my bicycle one summer, alone and without money, from Orlando to Seattle to Anaheim and rode 125 miles on my longest days, the boundary of Greater Liberty expanded outward 125 miles in all directions. From Creston, Iowa up north to Carthage, Missouri down south; Manhattan, Kansas out west to Columbia, Missouri over east; 104 county-seat towns in parts of four states, some three million people.

This Greater Liberty, though first a place, is even more-so now a principle: We all have Greater Liberty than we ever know to live above and beyond all the limitations others expect of us and we uncritically assume: limitations of race, religion, gender, nation. We can aspire to become World Class Persons, able to go anyplace at anytime and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe.

When a Klansman some time back won election in another state to their legislature, the governor of that state invited my students and me to come from my college to help his state redeem itself. Word of our visit got out, and HateBusters began to be invited across the country.

Then one day to my college came the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr to speak. Some of our local bigots objected and came with their signs to march in our street. As they had every right to do. But so do I have a right to a sign, I thought. I ran to my office. I made myself a sign and ran to join them. My sign said, “These guys are nuts”.

Onlookers began to laugh. The other sign-carriers looked puzzled, then got in their cars and left. They had come to intimidate, not entertain, us. And when they could not, their power vanished and they had to go.

We HateBusters knew even before that day that haters are cowards. We wrote a book we call How To Like People Who Are not Like You, the basic premise of which is that self-hatred is the root cause of all problems between people, leading us to organize our book into three steps and advise they be taken in sequence: Step 1, how to like yourself; step 2, how to like those like you (friends and family): step 3, how to like people who are not like you (other races and religions).

We HateBusters promise to respond to any act of hate aimed at a person’s race or religion anywhere in Greater Liberty. Immediately after we learn of it, we respond. To wait would cause the hater to think that we agree or are afraid. Neither is true. And to pause allows hate to build better arguments and get more guns; its defeat becomes less certain, doing so takes longer.

Whatever the one targeted by hate needs, we provide. Free of charge: a lawyer, a press conference, a prayer meeting, love letters from everywhere, a gathering of local friends, support of law enforcement. Hate will never have the last word: This is our promise.

Here in Greater Liberty, we champion greater liberty for all of us to live peacefully, pleasantly and productively together, endorsing the differences that at times and by some seem to be a problem, but which are in fact the fountain of our genius as a people. As economic monopoly leads to less competition, inferior products and higher prices, so does community monopoly lead. Our strength and resiliency as a people sprout from the very differences that seem to some the root of our problems.

To lay a blanket of sameness and produce a mono-culture would over time produce the problem mono-agriculture now faces. When many varieties of wheat and corn and other basic foods were planted, a blight might destroy some but not all. As varieties have disappeared in order to increase production, the risk of loss has grown.

As champions of greater liberty for all who live in Greater Liberty to live above and beyond the limitations of race, religion, gender and nation we HateBusters have no meetings, charge no dues, keep no list of members and stay in touch by email. No one is born hating. Everyone is a natural born HateBuster. Those who wish not to be one of us may send us a request to take your name off the rolls. Otherwise, you’re one of us.

When in Man of LaMancha, Don Quixote is advised that wickedness wears thick armor, he responds: “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.”

Indeed it is!

May 9, 2017

Where Men Win Glory

The Odyssey of Pat Tillman

2009 by Jon Krakauer

reviewed 2017 by Ed Chasteen

Pat Tillman was playing safety for the NFL Arizona Cardinals after having been a college football star at Arizona State and graduating with honors. He was set to sign a multi-million dollar contract when 9-11 happened. All of his life Pat had wanted to do the right thing. But only after spirited conversations and much reading, weighing all options and all points of view.

So Pat Tillman joined the army. As a college grad, he could have signed on to be an officer. He chose to be an enlisted man. He gave up millions and his personal freedom to become an army private and take orders. Pat believed he must personally do his part to defeat the enemy.

On a mountain in Afghanistan less than two years later, Pat Tillman was shot three times in the head and killed. Against his stated objections, Pat’s fame as a NFL star had been used by the government to whip up public support for the war on terror. His death from enemy fire, even more so. He was awarded two posthumous medals and eulogized by an officer at his funeral telivised to the nation.

Pat’s brother, Kevin, had volunteered with Pat to join the army and was a member of the same unit when Pat was killed, though not at the place where Pat’s death ocurred. The fact that Pat was killed by friendly fire was withheld from Kevin, from Pat’s family and from the nation. His heroic death at the hands of the enemy was heralded by the highest levels of government.

It was all a lie. Pat had joined the army to do his duty for his country. His enlistment and his death were used against his stated objections to fan a false narrative. Pat Tillman was betrayed by his superior officers and killed by his fellow soldiers.

This true story is told in excruciating detail in Jon Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory. But glory is hard to find in the truth of what happened in the 14 minutes leading to the death of Pat Tillman. The insistence of Pat’s heartbroken mother to find and reveal the truth is as close to glory as anyone comes in this tale made sad for a nation and a family.

The tragic death of a good man used against his will to mislead a nation wins no glory.