Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Patriarchs Lost

Facebook is something you either just love or hate intensely. I don't know too many people who are ambivalent about it. I know a few who really don't understand it, but that's another subject entirely. Facebook has allowed me to catch up with people from high school and college that I had not heard from in years. More importantly, it's allowed me to connect with a couple of cousins with which I've never been very close.

Here recently, I received a friend request from my uncle's son. I promptly accepted his request since I do, in fact, know who the heck he is, and we began exchanging emails. We keep saying we're going to plan to get together for a beer, but that hasn't happened yet. Mostly because Ericksons are great at talking about planning to arrange a get together that never really coalesces into an actual face to face event. My grandmother, my aunt and I all had birthdays in March. For years, we talked about planning a March birthday get together celebration. Grandma passed away before we ever actually made it happen. It's sad really, but that's for another time.

Anyway, back to the reason for putting these meager thoughts in print. My cousin started our Facebook email conversation with a very insightful question. Specifically, "What the hell happened to our family?" It's a question that I've been thinking about that off and on for a long time since it's the same question that my mother has been lamenting from time to time for years.

Then, today, I read in the news that Senator Edward Kennedy died in the night due to brain cancer. Agree or disagree with Senator Kennedy's politics or personal life or character if you will. That is not my purpose here. What struck a chord with me in the news reports eulogizing the senator was the statement that Mr. Kennedy had assumed the role of family patriarch.

In response to my cousin and my mother, that is what the heck happened to our family. We've lost our patriarchs and matriarchs. The glue that held our families together dissolved, and no one can find the tube of super glue.

On my mother's side of the family, my great grandparents Pennington were the glue that held the family together. They were king and queen holding court over an extended family that spiraled and branched off along several related lines and names. After their deaths, my mother's mother became matriarch for a time; however, she never held sway over the family in the same way as her parents did. The center of the family universe had collapsed. The props and characters were still there, but they were dispersed. The oak table which was venue to many a gin/poker/scrabble/canasta games remains in the family at my mother's house. Great grandmother's artwork is scattered through out the family and parts of central Texas (thanks to a tornado). Unfortunately, no one seems to have whatever it takes to bring it all together again.

It's no different on my father's side of the family. His parents, more so his mother than his father, were the president and first lady of a smaller tribe due, in part, to the fact that the extended family is far more widely scattered. As I mentioned to my cousin, we were a dysfunctional clan before grandmother died, but she had a way of keeping us together despite our weirdness. There were other contributing factors to the falling apart of the family: my parents' divorce, the rift between my uncles, and other things.

I don't know if this sort of family disintegration is common or not since my available data is somewhat limited. Based on what I've seen in my wife's family as well as the families of close friends, I think it must be more widespread than just my little world.

The extremely bright and always insightful queen pointed out that it doesn't have to be this way if people would just make the effort to call each other or get together once in awhile (yes, Dad, this means you). Sure there are things that get in the way from time to time like taking care of a chronically ill loved one (I don't have any idea what you're talking about) or having an overly scheduled life (yes, T, this means you), but that doesn't mean that you can't let your fingers do the walking on a regular basis.

To those who mourn the loss of the way things were: don't. The people we loved as the heads of our families were unique. There was only one grandmother Erickson. There was only one Pennington king and queen. Things change. People grow, mature and do what all people since Adam and Eve have done. We can't get things back to the way they were, but we can make the effort to create new memories and enjoy the uniqueness of those still here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bipartisan Health Care

Yesterday after work, I was taking the queen to one of her regular doctor appointments when the topic of Congress' current efforts to rape and pillage the American public. Oops, I meant to say "pass a health care reform bill." I really must watch those Freudian slips.

I've been trying to keep abreast of the news regarding the various plans currently surfing their way through our Byzantine legislative process, and there has been one little tidbit that never really clicked into place until last evening's discussion with the queen. Specifically, I've been seeing several news articles mentioning that hardcore, rabid, ultra liberal Democrats are increasingly frustrated with President Obama's, Nancy Pelosi's and Harry Ried's efforts to compromise with Republican members of Congress on key elements of the health care reform bills currently on the table. Apparently, these hardy souls seem to think that, when your party controls two thirds to three fourths of the government, you should be able to damn the torpedoes and enact every piece of liberal progressive legislation your heart has ever desired without having to cater to the demands of poor, pitiful, misguided, evil Republicans.

As much as I hate to admit it, they are technically correct; however, these die hard Democrats ignore one seriously fundamental law of nature: Actions have consequences. That's exactly why the Democrat party leadership is desperate for some level of significant support from Republicans on controversial legislation. Try being an incumbent and showing up at the midterm elections next year after having ignored a majority of Americans and passing a budget busting disaster that sends the economy into a death spiral from which it may not recover WITHOUT having the Teflon coated armor of bipartisanship to protect you. They wouldn't just be voted out of office. They'd be lynched.

However, if Democrats can get enough Republican support to label health care reform as a BIPARTISAN measure, suddenly Republican challengers in the midterm elections won't be able to demonize their opponents for supporting a disastrous, DEMOCRAT health care reform plan because their own party will have supported it.

Will the Teflon coated protection of bipartisan support be fool proof? I doubt it. We Americans have the technology and the know how to make bigger and better fools. Will bipartisan support balance out the elections? More than likely. Disaffected voters will throw out Democrats and Republicans in equal proportions leaving the balance of power in Washington relatively unchanged. Not that there is a nickel's worth of difference between the two parties as it stands now anyway.

Regardless of who is in power, the government will continue to grow, the deficit and the national debt will continue to rise, new entitlements will continue to be enacted. No matter how many elections take place, no matter how many people stand up and say "Yes, we can" without a clue as to what the rhetoric means, no matter how many horse thief scandals are uncovered in the media, those in Washington will continue to do what they have been doing regardless of the names, faces or party affiliations of those in power. The erosion of the Constitution and the American way of life will continue until there is nothing and no one left to remind us that there ever was anything different.

In my opinion, despite all its flaws, American is still the greatest place to live on the planet. We are greatly privileged to have a multitude of freedoms. However, we must always remember that with great privilege comes even greater responsibility. It's time for all freedom loving Americans to stop abdicating their responsibility or face losing their privileges.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Never Trust a Politician

Some people think that we should never trust any politician. For the overwhelming majority of our elected horse thieves, that's probably a safe generalization. However, every rule has its exceptions. Except for the rule about every rule having exceptions to which there are no exceptions which necessarily proves the rule. I think.

Besides, if I were to never trust any politician, I wouldn't be able to trust my own mother; although, in her defense, she was less a politician and more the hapless victim of living next door to a senile city secretary with a sense of humor. If you think Washington is crazy, try observing small town politics sometime. It's a hoot and a half. But, I digress.

Instead, I would offer up the following rule as a substitute as I think it does a better job of limiting the exceptions:

"Never trust a man who actively seeks political office"

I am fairly sure that it was Stephen King who wrote that little throw away line for one of the secondary characters in The Stand. I don't have a copy of the book at the moment. So, I can't fact check myself, but I'm 95% certain that it's in the first quarter of that 1000+ page monster in an exchange between main character/hero Stuart Redman and sociology professor turned sacrificial lamb Glen Bateman (thanks Wikipedia).

So, why never trust those who actively seek political office? One word: money. Aside from Senator Larry Craig's bathroom incident, name one scandal involving an elected official that didn't involve money. Just recently, there was William Jefferson's cold hard cash scandal, Randy "Duke" Cunningham's contracts for bribes scandal, Eliot Spitzer's tax money for hookers scandal, John Edwards' campaign cash to his baby's mama scandal, and the list goes on.

But what about the growth of the government, the erosion of the Constitution, the "nanny society" we've created, etc.? It's still about money under the guise of power or fairness or the environment or whatever label they can think up. Take a close look at any program or bill or pork barrel spending earmark, and follow the money. Ask yourself who stands to gain the most from [fill in the blank here]. Cap & Trade? Do a little quick research and you'll find Al Gore's name along with Hank Paulson and a lot of other people connected with the current administration in position to get more filthy, stinking rich than they already are. Cash for Clunkers? The auto industry which is currently beholden to the unions and the government. Health care reform? I'm still working on that one, but my bet is that you will find the drug companies and several key members of Congress and the administration with their hands deep in their pockets on that one as well.

As the old journalist's mantra goes: Follow the money. It'll lead you all sorts of interesting places.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Yet Another Sign That The Economy is in the Toilet

I know that the country is in the midst of a recession/depression depending on which horse thief's doom and gloom report you happen to be listening to at any given moment, but there has to be a limit to the lengths to which companies will go to stimulate consumer spending.

Apparently not.

Not more than 30 minutes ago, on Saturday evening, August 22, the queen and I were vegetating in front of the TV when it happened. I'm glazing over while some commercial or other drones on about blah, blah, blah; and, out of the corner of my consciousness, I hear the words "we're bringing back the Christmas bonus sale".


It's August! We haven't even gotten through the back to school sale ads yet much less the brief interlude of Halloween and Thanksgiving ads. Football season hasn't even properly begun yet. The Rangers have another month at least before the crater completely, and we are already hearing the C word in retail advertising.

I knew the economy was in a shambles when our elected horse thieves began bailing out one eyed, left handed, midget manicurists, but I had no idea things were this desperate. I suppose it could be worse, though. Like TV ads with Santa Claus lighting off fireworks for the Fourth of July followed in a year or two by a no holds barred, cage fight match up between St. Nick and St. Patrick in mid March.

You can spend your hard earned scratch how you like. You can be like some people I know who got suckered into trading a perfectly good, paid for car to get a brand spanking new car payment they couldn't afford thanks to the government's Cash for Fools Going Conspicuously Into Debt So We Can Bail Out The Auto Industry program. As for me, I'm betting my money on the drunken Irish guy in green.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Speak "Thingie"

I don't know if things have changed since I was in school since I haven't bothered to ask anyone, but it used to be here in Texas that students were required to learn a foreign language as a graduation requirement. It's generally not a problem if you want learn a mundane language like Spanish or French or German. I mean, really, who is going to use French in Texas? You can even learn dead languages like Latin. I suspect you could even find a school that teaches completely useless languages like Esperanto or Klingon. Somehow, my youngest nephew managed to take Japanese of all languages. In the sleepy little town of Granbury no less. Who knew?

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against learning other languages. I think multilingualism is necessary in a global society. After all, we can't all be ugly Americans. But I digress.

Being the non-conformist I once thought myself to be, I took German in school. I thought it was a great choice at the time. My sister had taken French; and, if she wanted to learn it, I didn't. Besides, you couldn't get into a Spanish class unless you had registered at conception. Most people might think that German in Texas is about as useful as French; and, with a few minor exceptions, they would be right.

Despite all the help wanted and job postings you see with the words "Bilingual Required" or "Bilingual a plus", they don't seem to have languages other than Spanish in mind. Never once have I run into a situation where someone said, "I can't understand a word these Germans are saying. Go get Erickson." Still though, I've listed my moderate fluency in German on every job application I've ever filled out. Maybe one day someone will see the value of having someone with severely rusty German in a position of importance, but I'm not holding my breath.

What would be really helpful, though, is if schools taught really useful languages. For instance, both my mother and my wife speak "Thingie". These are both educated, gifted, intelligent women; but, somehow, they both managed to learn a version of English that most men are incapable of understanding. I'll give you an example. Picture two people watching television.

Mom: Where's the thingie?

Me: Which thingie are you referring to?

Mom: You know. The thingie for the thing.

Me: Oh, that thing.

Mom: Yes.

Me: Your sitting on it.

Mom: That would explain why the thing keeps changing channels.

Somehow, I managed to become a native speaker of Thingie. I think it came from my mother speaking Thingie to me at an early age. Like most complex languages, Thingie is highly dependent on context and intonation.

I think every man should learn Thingie. Fathers should be teaching it to their sons. Women appreciate a man who can understand Thingie. I know it's been very helpful in my marriage. Now, if only my employer would see the value of having someone fluent in Thingie on their payroll.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Obligatory Introductory Post


That's a great question. As a kid, I took great pleasure in annoying teachers, relatives and people in general with that very question. My parents always told me I was gifted or some such nonsense "because I dared to ask the infernal question 'Why?'".

You would think that, if you ask a question enough times of enough people, you'd get a decent answer. So far, I haven't found a really good answer to it. The problem, I think, is that there are so many iterations of the infernal question.

Why is the sky blue? Why will the Rangers never win the World Series? Why is flatulence funny to guys? Why blog? Why call it "Preachers and Horse Thieves"? Why the heck should you care? Why ask why?

Obviously, some infernal questions are easier to answer than others. So here, in all its glory, is the eternal answer to the infernal question (with further exposition as necessary): BECAUSE.

Why Blog? Because I enjoy reading and writing. Because my wife, the ravishing, red headed queen of my castle, said I should do something as a creative outlet. Because you can do it for free. Because it's therapeutic (no, I am not in therapy nor do I want to be).

Why call it "Preachers and Horse Thieves"? Because it's my blog, and I'll call it what I want. Because my mother, the family historian/genealogist has file cabinets (yes, cabinets plural) full of everything imaginable documenting our family history and loves to tell stories about ancestors who were preachers or horse thieves (and one talented individual who managed to be both).

Why should you care? Because almost all of us have preachers and horse thieves in our families. Because when you think about it, most people around you are either preachers or horse thieves. Because there's always someone preaching about "global warming" or how your 9 year old, paid for car is killing the polar bears or how your lifestyle is evil or something or other. Because we have a government full of horse thieves who want to steal your stuff.

Profound? Probably not. Interesting? Maybe. Thought provoking? I hope so.