Daily Archives: November 15, 2009

You are under no obligation…

vBut the best teacher I ever had is in ICU tonight and the prognosis is grim.

I am praying for him and I invite you to do the same. Or hold him in the light. Or hold him in your heart. I walked into his classroom a cocky, full-of-myself first-year college student and he immediately set out to teach me to reach my potential and then some. Anything I am or ever hope to be as a  jouranlist, I owe to him.

Ten years ago, he had a retirement dinner I couldn’t attend, so I wrote the following: (It’s long and again, you’re under no obligation, but I want to give you a sense of the man):

    The first thing out of the mouth of the best teacher ever was, “As I was saying, the last time we met . . .,” and my heart sank. I said nothing, and my classmates — most of them, like me, first-year college students in our first-ever college course — stayed tucked over their notebooks. Great, I thought. Somehow I screwed up and missed the first class.
    I didn’t know at the time that was how the teacher began each semester, goofing on kids who took things too seriously. He then launched into a high-minded and animated lecture about the role of the press in America. He slammed the blackboard. He smacked the lectern. He held my attention as no teacher ever had. 
    And he scared the bejabbers out of me. I wanted so badly to be a real journalist, and this man could be the gate or the locked door to the only job I ever wanted.
    His lectures were performance art. I found out much later, rather casually, that he practiced them at home and got nervous and sick over them. If he thought he was losing us, he got us in on the act. Once he had us chant “Time before date before place!” as a writing aid for the countless chicken-dinner stories we would be doing. “Again!” he shouted, and we chanted again, louder this time.
    I learned to spell Pittsburgh, Pa., and Pittsburg, Kan. I learned that quotes are sacred gifts. I learned things that bug me still.
    One day the teacher fixed me with pursed lips and a steely glare and asked, “Campbell (I had no first name with him), what is the purpose of a newspaper?” I answered something poetic, and he laughed and said, “The purpose of a newspaper is to make money. It’s a business, Campbell.”
    I liked my answer better, but he was probably right. The best teacher ever did for us precisely what journalism is supposed to do for everyone: He comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable.
    That year, I moved into the college newspaper office with all the other would- bes. We put out a college paper for a dinky little school in southwest Missouri that was, for my friends, a monument to our own failure. If you had grades or money, you went to the University of Missouri, with its prestigious journalism school. If you had neither, you went to my college. The newspaper staff — a mix of boozers, losers and the occasional fundamentalist — shuffled into the office like this was fun’s last hurrah. We tucked our interviews and photography in between our paying jobs. We came in smelling like hamburger grease and stayed until the paper was done, while the best teacher ever swept through to tear up a page or goose a lead. I planned to give it two years and then transfer to M.U. — except after a few months at the college paper, I couldn’t transfer to M.U. because to do so would have meant crossing over to the enemy. We were defiant in our smallness, and hip for our era.
    When the time came, I transferred to a college out east, and it is a mark of my teacher’s greatness that he never tried to convince me that southwest Missouri contained all the world I’d ever need. 
       Once I left, I didn’t stay in touch much, but a few years ago, I worked up my nerve and wrote him a thank-you. I don’t remember what I said, but I know it was mushier than anything I would have told him face-to-face. The response I got back was heartening. He’d been keeping up with me. That meant something, but it meant more that he called me by my first name.
    No matter. It’s been 22 [now 32!] years since I sat chewing on my Bic, hoping he liked my writing; 22 years and six newspapers, and I’m still chanting, “Time before date before place” in my head when I type. The best teacher ever warned us that journalism would be tough. He warned us that we wouldn’t always like what we did, but do it we must, just as some people drink and others dance. He made it sound like a calling. He made it holy as he cuffed us for our impertinence.
    Over the years, he also organized an impressively comprehensive international educational institute that sponsored scores of overseas trips for students, and he even brought a Nobel laureate to speak on that little campus. The same thing that moved me to leave — the bigger world out there — became the very thing that keeps promising students at that dinky little school. The best teacher ever brought them the world.
    Tonight’s his retirement dinner, and I wish I were there. I want to stand with all of his other boozers and losers and occasional fundamentalists and shout, “Time before date before place!” We could say more, but why? The best teacher ever knows how we feel.

The religious take on abortion

It’s actually more nuanced that we’d like to allow, says Gordon D. Newby, at Religion Dispatches.

He writes:

The recently passed House health care bill might be paving the way to enact religious discrimination into law; on the important and fundamental issues of life and health, many religious Americans will be unable to live and act according to their own religious consciences and beliefs.

Representative Bart Stupak’s last-minute abortion amendment, supported by the direct lobbying of some Roman Catholic bishops, will have the effect of removing the possibility of abortion from the American health care system, even in cases where the health and life of the mother is at risk. It goes beyond current law and practice, and inserts the theological views of a vocal religious minority as a roadblock to the religious beliefs and practices of many Americans.

All of which makes that Stupak-Pitts amendment problematic for lovers of religious freedom, yes?

Should you be bothered that Pres. Obama bowed to the Japanese emperor?

Some people have their knickers in a twist over Obama’s bow to Akihito and the empress, Michiko during his Japanese visit recently.

Was the president simply observing protocol? Did he go too far? Your thoughts?

Some voices — some moderate, some im- — in the health care debate

I am a frequent visitor to Busted Halo — a Catholic-centric website that has something for the rest of us, too.

85786860I wish I’d seen this essay before the House health care bill passed, because I would have posted it post-haste, but I’d encourage you — if you have some time — to read Phil Fox Rose’s take on universal health care versus abortion, and where he feels the Roman Catholic church should stand. From all indications, the church didn’t take the stance encouraged by Rose, which is just too bad.

Here’s Rose’s kernel:

So pro-life advocates should fight to pass the Stupak Amendment, to codify the anti-federal-funding language. But if they fail to achieve that goal, that fight is for another day — one more step forward or back in the ongoing struggle. The choice then before us all will be whether to stand, as Catholics, as Christians, as people of faith and conscience, with one of the biggest social justice improvements of our lifetimes, or to obstruct and possibly even defeat it in the name of politics.

Now that we see who did the heavy lifting on the House bill, the ball is in the court of the Senate. From Robert Pear’s New York Times story:

Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies.

E-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that the lobbyists drafted one statement for Democrats and another for Republicans.

Contact your senators today.

And while we’re talking about giving…

v…and we were, we really were:

World Food Programme is appealing to one billion people in wealthier nations to give 1 euro (about $1.50) to help abolish hunger for one billion hungry people.

You can consider doing so here.

And thanks, Huffington Post, for the link.

Is $1 million per soldier too much?

vThat’s the cost to the American taxpayer per soldier, per year, to continue the war in Afghanistan.

Here’s a bit more. And here’s more, as well.

Did the Catholic church just commit a lobby?

vThe U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops was instrumental in getting the anti-abortion Stupak-Pitts amendment into the House health care reform bill, and U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) thinks they may have crossed the line into lobbying.

Says Woolsey:

When I visit churches in my district, we are very careful to keep everything “non-political” to protect their tax-exempt status. The IRS is less restrictive about church involvement in efforts to influence legislation than it is about involvement in campaigns and elections. Given the political behavior of USCCB in this case, maybe it shouldn’t be.