Month: August 2019

People and grassroots?

750x450 co caucusOr money and tech?

Did you see it?  Probably not.

It wasn’t more than a twitch on Twitter.  But earlier this year, Rob Witwer announced that he’d resigned from the Republican Party and re-registered as an independent.

So what else is new?  After all, unaffiliated registrations have been steadily rising for years and now account for nearly 40% of the Colorado electorate. While registered Democrat and Republican voters have declined to about 30% each.

But Rob’s different.  He use to represent a sizable chunk of Jefferson County in the Colorado House.  I served two years with him in that body.  He was a smart, articulate, straight shooting legislator who served his constituents well.  He’s also the co-author of The Blueprint, an insightful account of how a handful of wealthy Democrats turned our red state blue.

So how does this help?

At least in part, Rob explained his action by saying:

“Becoming an independent is not a protest against the GOP so much as a recognition that the major parties have morphed into a malignant duopoly whose primary function is to amass power by dividing Americans against one another. This is immoral. And unsustainable.”

Now if Rob were speaking of how things are done in Washington, D.C., I could probably go along.  The amount of money and raw power that sloshes around in the “swamp” is enough to corrupt all but the most incorruptible.

But Colorado’s different.  Our Constitution mandates that we balance our state budget every year.  The annual budget bill, and each session’s most important legislation, usually has broad, bipartisan support.  By comparison with D.C., Colorado is a paragon of political virtue.

And even if we do have our share of partisan wrangling, how does registering as an independent help?

The real impact of being an “independent.”

Now, again, Rob’s a sharp guy.  But from what I see on the Colorado Secretary of State’s website, Rob’s just done a couple of things that don’t make much sense.

First, he’s disqualified himself from participating in our caucus system for nominating political candidates.  They’re only open to someone affiliated with one of the major parties.

“So what?” you ask.  “No one goes to them anyway.  And no one understands how they work.”

For you, the caucus skeptic, here’s some things to consider.  A caucus is like a mini-political convention consisting, usually, of a few dozen folks in your immediate neighborhood.  At a nearby school or church, delegates are elected to go on to the higher assemblies where candidates for offices like President, governor, congress and the US Senate are selected.  It’s serious stuff.  And sometimes uncomfortable.

Like when, at my last caucus, I put myself forward, despite the disapproving looks of several of my neighbors, to represent Donald Trump at the state convention.

But the point is that the caucus system is personal.  Face to face.  Grassroots.  Low cost. Generally civil.

And the alternative?

But Rob, along with all other “independent” voters, has now opted into a primary election system that’s just the opposite.

From beginning to end, it’s money, money, money.  From the hired gun signature collectors to the huge sums of money that gets dumped into scurrilous TV and mail campaigns ahead of the June primary.  Since when wasn’t there’s enough money spent on nasty ads during the fall general election that we need to get the TV smear campaigns rolling in April for the June primary?

And talk about impersonal.  With the anonymity of social media playing an increasingly dominant role in mass campaigns, you too can have your inbox endlessly spammed with vicious campaign emails from before the primary until after the general election.  Congratulations!

At least with the caucus system, only the delegates to the various conventions are subjected to this sort of social media abuse.  And, remember, they volunteered for it.

So, Rob, it would be nice to think that your action will heal our “malignant divisions.”  But don’t hold your breath.  In fact, by further weakening the caucus system, there’s a pretty good chance that things might get worse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it all comes together like this . . .

The Huckabey Family

The Huckabey Family

. . . bet on it.  The Lord’s in there somewhere.

I’ve written about Forrest and Lakin Huckabey before.  He’s the shrimpy guy (despite this, his best high school sport was basketball) who did two tours as a sniper in Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division.   Before being permanently disabled by his combat injuries.  While Forrest was deployed, Lakin held down the home front at various army bases.  Tall and slender with raven black hair, Lakin has the look in her eyes of a woman who’s trying to keep up with five inexhaustible kids-all while going to night school in her “spare” time.  On Forrest’s “work ineligible” discharge from the Army, they settled near their families in southeast rural Kansas about 10 miles from Independence.

I got to know the couple a bit when I volunteered for Project Sanctuary last spring in Granby, Colorado.  Insistently, their story tugged at me.  Well, actually it was probably more like the Lord: “You know you have more to offer this couple and their kids beyond just handing them a paper plate while they wait in the lunch line for cold cuts and chips at this Project Sanctuary retreat.   Why don’t you do it?”

Out on a limb

Our family has a nice condo in Silverthorne, Colorado-smack dab in the middle of some of the prettiest country of a state that has no shortage of pretty country.  And, on top of that, plenty of fun, family activities that draw hoards of tourists to this part of the Centennial State.

My wife, bless her soul, has spent many hours making that condo “just so” for our family of five and our five grandkids.  There’s lots of room for the ten of us-and more.

So, I had to work up my nerve to even make the ask:  “I met this Huckabey family at the Project Sanctuary retreat.  He’s disabled by his combat wounds in Afghanistan.  He and his wife have 5 young kids.  What,” I concluded, “do you think about letting them use the condo for a week this summer?  I think they’d really appreciate it.”

It wasn’t easy for either of us, but we finally came to a “Yes” in May.  And then the work began-with all deliberate speed.

Johnny on the Spot

John Greene’s an old friend from church.  A navy vet, he was a globe trotting petroleum geologist before retiring in the Silverthorne area.  Until, that is, his first wife passed away.   At which point he moved to the Denver area, joined our church, Greenwood Community, and met his second wife, Diana.  John and I got to know one another through the Under Construction ministry that does “fix-it” type work for people, in and out of the church, who need a hand.

John’s a “can-do, take-charge” kind of guy.  So, when I finally confirmed that the Huckabeys were coming to the condo, he was the first guy I called.  After telling him the Huckabey’s story, he hesitated-about a second-before diving into the deep end.

“I worked with Rob,” began John, “who was a Green Beret and a Vietnam vet when I went to the Dillon Community Church up there in Silverthorne.  I think Rob would be glad to lend a hand.  And,” John continued, “since Forrest was with the 10th Mountain Division, we could take  them over to Camp Hale and see where the Division trained before World War II.  That would also give us the chance to show them Vail and then swing around to Leadville.  There’s lots of really neat things to do up there.”

And that was just the beginning

At the Country Boy Mine

At the Country Boy Mine

Silverthorne has a nice rec center, swimming pool, climbing wall, skate board park-the works.  But for a family of seven on a tight budget, it all can get to be a bit pricey.  So after some snooping on the internet, I called the Town Manager, Ryan Hyland, and told him the Huckabey’s story.  Again, with no hesitation, he jumped in and the family had a great time at the rec center and skate park, courtesy of the city.

Next, I talked to my church.  Again, with almost no prompting, they came through with a $100 gift certificate for use at a local grocery store.

A few weeks before, I’d sent the family a package of material about touristy things to do in the area.  One of the brochures was for the County Boy Mine in Breckenridge.  It particularly caught the imagination of the older Huckabey kids; during one of our many email exchanges Lakin said the boys were fascinated by gold mining.

Even though Breckenridge, just down the road from Silverthorne, has a proud mining tradition, I was at a loss about what to do until I was in bed the night before I was scheduled to meet the family at the condo.  And then, like a bolt out of the blue, Robin Theobald came to mind.  An elementary school chum of mine, Robin probably knows more about Breckenridge mining history than anyone else alive.  But it’d been decades since we’d talked. Nonetheless, when I called the next day he acted as if he was expecting me.  “No problem,” he said, “I’ll speak to the manager, Mike.  If he’s around, I’m sure we can make it happen.”  And Robin was as good as his word; the Huckabey family had a great time poking around at the old mine site.

War at Home

Sure, it was fun and a privilege to be a bit player in how the Lord made this week come together for this family.

But life’s probably never going to be easy for the Huckabeys.  If you doubt that, consider this “War at Home” post put up by Lakin that she described to me as “real or . . . raw?”  Now, there’s an understatement: not easy to imagine an any more graphic description of the physical, emotional, and mental scars that these wars have inflicted on a young man, a young woman, and their five young children.

And yet, the wars drag on.  And on.  And on.  Lord, have mercy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ve never heard a movie like this one

750x450 a quiet place

Catch it if you can

If you like, you can call me out of it.  In fact, way out of it.

But it wasn’t until just a few months ago that I became aware of the 2018 film, A Quiet Place.    But I must have been about the last one to get on board.  It made a ton of money.  And raked in award nominations and wins like fall leaves after a good blow.

It was probably unconscious.  A Quiet Place is a scary movie.  And scary movies and me go together like oil and water.  Or actually, more like water dripping into boiling oil; it’s not pretty and someone’s gonna get hurt.

In a nutshell, the movie’s a sci-fi horror flick about an earth that’s been conquered by ravenously hungry aliens.  Who, although they’re blind as bats, can hear a pin drop.  And, when they do, it’s game permanently over for the unfortunate man, woman, child or infant who dropped it.  And if that’s not a recipe for suspense, I don’t know what is.

Silence is golden

Ever tried to keep three young kids quiet for even a few minutes?  When they’re not sleeping?  Then imagine doing that for day after day.  Then week after week.  And month after month.  And then imagine that your failure to do so doesn’t just wake the baby napping in the next room.  But almost instantly brings down on your head a monster that makes Jaws look warm and cuddly.  And then imagine that a monster devours your youngest son for playing with a space shuttle toy.

Welcome to the world of Lee and Evelyn Abbot.  And their three-then two-young kids.  Sure, they’re smart.  Lee’s an engineer/tinkerer.  Evelyn’s a physician.  But it hardly matters; their backs are up against the wall.  And it shows.  In the quiet of the basement of their country farm house, they silently join hands around the dinner table.  And silently give thanks for their daily bread.  And silently pray for deliverance.

The family under siege

The great thing about science fiction, I suppose, is that you can let your imagination run wild with it and make it mean almost anything you want.  And Quiet is no exception.

For example, there’s this article, from a Catholic perspective, that lauds the film for the couples’ willingness to risk bringing a noisy infant into this terrifying world.  Rather than aborting it.

But in a larger sense, perhaps a better analogy would be to the family itself.  And the world at large.  About how, simply because they exist, families find themselves under assault from all sides by unseen and scarcely understood-but terrifying forces.  Drugs.  Mindless violence.  Sex.  Hollywood.  Politicians.  A global economy that chews people up.  And then spits them out.

But there is a silver lining to A Quiet Place.  The sequel is scheduled to come out in 2020.  If, that is, I’m not too much of a scaredy-cat to watch it.

 

War at Home

How can we have gotten to the point that all these wars are second nature to us?

Huckabey Hooligans

It’s usually when the whole house is quiet and everyone is home that I cannot sleep.  I sit up thinking about everything around me how we got here..  Not in a figurative way, I know how I made my way up to my bed, under the covers and how my children made it to their beds and my husband found the couch.. I know all that.  I mean, how we got here.  Here in life.  How did we make it through all of that, yet still end up here?   How did we survive that?  How?  None of it makes sense.

It feels like I was just sitting in that auditorium, on Fort Drum, listening to all these people brief us on what could happen, what will happen and when.  It was just yesterday I was surround by all these people, thinking none of this applies to us, he…

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