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Coming into work this morning I heard on NPR about a “March Madness” bracket for choosing the top political stories of 2017.

Obviously, I was interested–two things I really enjoy. The whole thing is on twitter at the account of the NPR political guy @DomenicoNPR (click here for a link to the NPR page)  .

I had wayyyyyy too much fun playing with this. There were so many stories, and all of them were important. I was careful to make selections which emphasized the immediate political impact of 2017, and not the long-term policy impact. An example of this thinking is the appointment and seating of Gorsuch as a Supreme Court justice. I think this will have huge implications for the future, but politically, right now, it is not that earth shattering. Yet.

I was also careful to not let my personal opinion sway the pick. I was only thinking about the political impact of the issue. An example of this is I have Doug Jones win in Alabama higher than net neutrality, yet in my personal opinion net neutrality and the travesty that has happened by giving the internet corporations free reign to control access is a much bigger deal. Yet, it is not that politically hot except to a few well-informed special interest folks.

My Final Four has two number one seeds, Trump’s Inauguration and Sexual Harassment along with two number two seeds, Charlottesville and the Tax Overhaul. The Finals are Sexual Harassment and Charlottesville, with Sexual Harassment winning it in a buzzer beater.

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In Memoriam: My Dad

My father would have loved his funeral.

The service was about twenty five minutes–a simple graveside. All of his living children were there, as were all his living siblings. Many friends and family from his present and his past were there. When the service was over, we all stood around for over an hour talking, laughing, telling stories. Dad would have told the most stories, done the most laughing, and enjoyed the talking.

He would have loved three specific things about his funeral.

  1. He would have loved that it had rained the night before, and we were basically standing in a big bog of East Texas red dirt.
  2. He would have really loved the picture my sister chose for the program handout. It was perfect. I love that it was from when he was in his mid forties–about halfway through life. (Editors Note: That is the present age of Greenbean right now, and he
    25550338_1424994250962103_2552188773047529973_n
    This was him on a trip in Colorado, circa 1974. 

    looks nowhere near as cool and awesome as his father did at that age.)

  3. He would have loved that we buried him in Nacogdoches. Most of the stories I heard about took place there in that area north of Nacogdoches—Timpson, Tenaha, Appleby, Garrison, and Pisgah (which the Greenings all pronounce Piss-Key).

I would not be who I am were it not for him. This is true of all of us–for good of or for bad our parents are an important part of our formations. Jack Greening was not a complicated human being, nor was he perfect. But he was smart, and he lived life by a kind of ethical code that, at its baseline, could be summed up in two ideas.

  1. The only true virtue is hard work.
  2. Leave well enough alone.

I could go one and on about his methodology. One example will do.

Me: Dad, how tight should I tighten this bolt?

Dad: As tight as it will go.

Me: Okay.

Dad: And then one more half-turn for good measure.

There was almost nothing he could’t do. He left school at 9th grade to work and help with the family after his mother died, nevertheless, my father could do complex mathematical calculations in his head as fast as any machine or computer. Seriously. I’ve seen him do it. He only had two fingers on his right hand, yet his penmanship was elegant and beautiful, like a scribe of ancient lore. He was a hard man, but little children melted his heart. He could make you smile and laugh one moment, and the next infuriate you to the boiling point.

Five fun facts about my father:

  1. He saw a UFO in Arkansas once. This experience later led him to murder a mylar Smurfette ballon that landed in his pea patch, thinking it was an invader.
  2. He could call owls from a large distance, and converse with them.
  3. To avoid paying an electrician, he rigged a system of extension cords in our home to provide power from one side to the other. This system lasted over two years.
  4. In the forty-five years of my lifetime, I’ve never known him to change the oil in a car or truck. He just runs them until they die. This is why we never had reliable transportation.
  5. When he was a long-haul truck driver, and I was a very little boy, he would always buy me a Moon Pie and RC Cola in the lounge when we’d go pick him up from a long trip.

There is one thing, though, that is special and unique to me. Of all his other children, and all his other relationships, there is this one thing. Jack Greening is not my biological father. he met my mother when I was two months old. They married a week before my one year birthday. I was raised in his home as a young child, but I was not his son.

That changed when I was twelve yeas old, and had reached a sort of legal moment when I could make a choice. I chose to be his son, and he chose to be my father, and he adopted me, thus I became his son, his only son. He chose me knowing full well who I was, where I came from, all my baggage, and the quirks and peculiarities about me as a human being. He chose to be my dad. He didn’t have to, and no one would have thought anything untoward about it if he hadn’t. But he did. All the years growing up, before the adoption and after it, he never treated me as other or different. He treated me exactly as he would have treated any son.

I tell you honestly this experience has always shaped my understanding of the biblical usage of adoption–that we are adopted children of God. Jesus is the firstborn, but we, through faith in him, choose to have God as our special father, and he likewise chooses to have us as his children.

I tried to explain this to my father one day. He didn’t quite understand it, but not because he was stupid, but because he couldn’t perceive that it could be any other way. I’ve often hung my hat on this, for my father was not a spiritual man, but maybe he was able to intuit some of the things of God in a way differently than the rest of us. Maybe that was the farmer in him. Folks who work the dirt tend to view the universe differently than other people.

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Dad’s living siblings–from left to right: Aunt Marguerite, Uncle Homer, Uncle Chuck, Uncle Donald, Aunt Mary. He was preceded in death by his brothers Bobby, Gary, and sister Sadie.
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This is me and my three living sisters: from left to right–Paula, Becky, and Jill. Our older sister Reecie died in 2011. 
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These are the cousins on the Greening side
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Some of the grandchildren–The girls are my daughters, Phoebe and Belle

 

Fifteen Questions for Senator Al Franken

 

This is not a Republican issue. It is not a Democratic issue. It is not a celebrity issue. It is not a women’s issue. It is a men’s issue. It is men who have the problem.

  1. Have you always thought objectifying women was funny?
  2. How far will you go to get a laugh?
  3. Does the word ‘hypocrisy’ mean anything to you?
  4. How exactly does one recommend that they themselves be investigated?
  5. Can you see how your first attempt at an apology really was no apology at all?
  6. Can you see how your second apology feels a little disingenuous?
  7. If pictures like this were about Ted Cruz–who you’ve admitted to despising–would you call for his resignation?
  8. Do you think saying, “I’m sorry” after being caught makes the whole issue go away?
  9. Who else, sir, have you treated like that when there weren’t cameras around?
  10. Do you think being a liberal gives you a free pass?
  11. Will you call on congress to release details of the $15 million in payouts to ‘workplace discrimination’ on Capitol Hill?
  12. Have you realized yet that you have lost all credibility on almost any issue that might come up?
  13. Can you understand that a person can be forgiven for their actions, but still be unqualified for positions of leadership?
  14. Have you considered resigning your seat, and then running again to see exactly how the voters in Minnesota feel about your actions?
  15. How does it feel to have created yet another #metoo ?

Fifteen Questions For Alabama Voters

 

I find that questions often help me, and others, come to a form of clarity on a subject. This started out as five questions, but became ten, and then morphed into fifteen. Go figure.

  1. Do you understand that ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is a legal concept applicable to crimes and not about suitability to be a U.S. Senator?
  2. How many women, with credible stories, would it take to convince you?
  3. How young is too young for a thirty-two year old man to chase?
  4. Has it occurred to you that some people engage in behavior that is wrong, but they don’t think it is wrong and this gives them the appearance of innocence?
  5. Would you let Roy Moore babysit your daughter?
  6. Do you believe that two wrongs don’t make a right?
  7. Similar to that, do you believe that the ends justify the means?
  8. If you were about to eat something that had poop in it, would it matter to you at what point someone warned you about the poop so long as it was before you put it in your mouth?
  9. Have you ever heard of a “write-in” campaign?
  10. Does the boring and uninspiring Luther Strange look better to you now?
  11. Have you considered that the kind of person who waves a gun around at a political rally could be perceived by a woman as a threatening figure?
  12. Do you know about victimization and the psychology of victimhood?
  13. The name Harvey Weinstein, does it mean anything to you?
  14. Sadly, Bill Clinton got away with abuse of power and violating trust with a young intern, but tell me how that has anything to do with a candidate who has yet to be elected?
  15. Can you see how, if you elect Roy Moore as a U.S. Senator, you will prove that personal morality and character no longer matter?