Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tangerine Man

I've been so good.

Do admit, I've successfully avoided the 2016 election on this blog. I made a pact with myself, even though my sense of outrage, over these many months, made my little fingers itch to be on the keyboard.

But now, three weeks before the election, Donald Trump, the Tangerine Man (sorry, Bob Dylan) has finally driven me over the edge. It wasn't the recording of Trump boasting about his prowess in sexual assault, though that was an outrage. It wasn't his harping about Hillary Clinton's bad judgement, which seems to me the pot calling the kettle black.

No, it's his insistence that the election is "rigged," and will be stolen from him.

Arguably, the 2000 election was stolen from Al Gore, with the Florida recount and the Supreme Court's verdict in favor of Bush. But the whole system?

The whole system?

I guess Trump has forgotten any civics that he ever knew. He's forgotten that elections are run locally, and those who run them take them very seriously. I have friends who have been poll workers for years. These folks see the conduct of a free and fair election as their sacred mission.You wouldn't want to try pulling a fast one on them.

So Trump can spout off nonsense about a "rigged" election. He's spouted nothing but nonsense, after all. The problem is ... people believe him.

Who are these people, who believe that the Democrats can control the outcome of a nationwide election? They're the same folks who think immigrants are here to destroy our economy, Muslims want to blow us up, every household should have a gun, and the nuclear warhead is a real option in a conflict. Some of them have called for violence in the event that Hillary wins next month. That seems like sedition to me (but what do I know?).

God help us.  I try to be kind to Trump supporters, but it's getting hard.

Damned hard.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Another veteran departs ...

There's a special place in my heart for World War II vets. My dad was in the Army, serving in the infantry with the 36th Division, when he was captured and imprisoned in Stalag VII-A, in Moosburg, Germany. That's a long and good story, which I will tell here, someday, at greater length.

Dad died in 1997, at the relatively young age of 77. Now, nearly 20 years later, the rest of our World War II vets are passing at an alarming rate.

From the website of the National WWII Museum, in New Orleans, I gleaned the following:

"According to statistics released by the Veteran’s Administration, our World War II vets are dying at a rate of approximately 492 a day. This means there are approximately only 855,070 veterans remaining of the 16 million who served our nation in World War II."

Now, I'm no math genius, but I think this means that, at this rate, all our living World War II vets will be dying within the next 5 years. It will truly be the end of an era.

Frank (not his real name) is just one example of a veteran we have lost. I met Frank in the course of my duties as a volunteer chaplain in a nursing home. At the age of 94, he had lost most of his mobility, and a stroke had taken most of his speech. Yet, with the sweetest expression, he always managed to thank me for the visit, and for the blessing I gave him at the close. He was a gentle soul, and I visited him most Mondays, whether he was on my list or not. Being in his presence somehow gave me comfort.

A couple of weeks ago, I was called to provide vigil companionship for Frank.  He had gone completely beyond communication by that point, so I simply held his hand, reassured him that he was not alone, and took intermittent looks at a book I was reading. At about 8:30, the end of my shift, Frank's breathing changed subtly, so I stayed on. His breaths came more and more slowly, then, and he departed this life at about 8:50 PM. 

I prayed and sat with Frank for another few minutes before alerting a nurse, because death is a holy moment, a holy moment all too often lost to the turning of the bureaucratic wheels. When those wheels began to turn, I went on home, glad to have been there for Frank.

Days later, I located Frank's too-brief obituary online. There he was, photographed in his Army uniform, and I recognized the same, almost innocent, smile I had come to know. I learned that Frank had participated in the D-Day invasion of Europe. I was glad to have known this sweet warrior. And I was saddened that, at the end of such a long life, he had no one but a hospice volunteer with him at the time of his leaving.

Too soon our World War II vets will no longer be with us. They are our national treasure, and we should listen to their amazing stories while there is still time.