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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Earning Your Keep and Then Some

This was not written in 2004. This is not a finished post but rather a collection bin of ideas for a future series here at Patterns of Ink that will discuss the value of family chores, labor-for-hire, and seeking gainful employment even if the work involved does not reflect one's long-range career goals. In more recent years, I have found fewer and fewer students who understand the value of hard work in exchange for needed income. Worse yet, we are becoming a nation of employees not workers, and many employees have focused so precisely on one "gift" that they have forfeited the common sense and practical skill-sets that come from gladly accepting a variety “jobs” in search of experience as well as the funds needed to pursue other long-range ministry and/or employment goals.

Chapters in this series will include things I learned from jobs I’m glad are not my career. Below are simply “topics” to jog my memory for when I begin this series;
Paper routes
“Will Work for Money for Camp” [Working for the gypsy lady “See how nice?” pulling the mower behind my bike; mowing the church lawn—there’s no such thing as under-delivering just because you under-bid, etc. drinking from a hose]
Building a house with Dad (see Unsettled)
Being a Bus Boy at Sveden House—yuk!
Night cleaning crew during first two years of college.
“Tender to the Ground” (my month as a cemetery care-taker)
Four summers in the Ford Vinyl plant.
Night custodial worker at McDonalds.
Selling Kirby vacuum cleaners (foam up the pant leg) met the goal of ten in two months, but hated the job.
Substitute teacher in L’anse Cruise District Macomb Co. MI. tech center assignment.
Christmas Tree farm December 1979
Working in a rock quarry summer 1980 Crop duster “marker-man”
Hospice worker / handy man for Julie’s dying grandfather summer 1981
Painting a barn roof $50 death mission in Indiana 1981 wrong number
Detasseling corn in Iowa. A job I never did but want to write about. Unbelievable and unknown to most non-Iowans.
Video Business 1984- 2000. Started with Ray Debar $100 ended with over $1,000 per typical job.
School Administration

The purpose of the posts will not be about the obvious things one can learn from these jobs but how those experiences apply to so many other things in life during my thirty year career (thus far) in the classroom and school office.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Actually written September 17, 2008
This post-dated post is deep in my archives because it is of a political nature and politics is not the primary purpose of Patterns of Ink. But I gave myself an interesting "writing assignment" tonight and thought it may be of interest to some readers.

I'm sitting at an event that will be shown live on many webcasts and "cut to" on virtually every news channel. Not only am I here, but for reasons I’ll not explain I have a VIP pass in my chest pocket which allowed Julie and I and two friends to enter early and be ushered to seats directly behind the dais. I now have ninety minutes with nothing better to do so I thought I’d attempt to hand write a post from here. I’m writing on the back of a “Reserved” sign because—in spite of the very important “I” in VIP—I’m not allowed to have a lap-top in here. [My pass should say NSIP: Not So Important Person.]

On the opposite side of the arena, however, I see scores of lap-tops open on bare tables and glowing on the faces of journalists. A little while ago, with a flash of my VIP pass, I was allowed to walk in their midst, nodding as if I belonged there. Most of them are the unknown writers who give “copy” to the faces we see each night on TV, but a few of them are the “on the scene” reporters we’ve come to vaguely recognize on cable networks. In every corner and at every aisle of this swarming bee-hive, I see men in black talking into their sleeves—on second glance, I see some women doing the same—these folks are all business and their robotic heads seem to be scanning the growing crowd as if with X-ray vision. They don’t look at you—they look in you. They are on “our side” but their very presence is a reminder of the fallen, broken world we share with drastic men.

I must admit, I’m feeling very privileged to be in “hand shake” range of the two people en route. One of the reasons I wanted to be here was to see their eyes as they talk to a crowd. The eyes say so much about a person, and so much has been said about these two in the past three weeks that I want to see for myself what’s real. Here where we are I can smell the brand new royal blue carpet on the small stage across in front of me.

At this moment, the rafters are rocking and the floor is vibrating from voice and bass riffs of Elvis Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation.” You know the song (revived via Robert’s wedding episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond”)

"A little less conversation, a little more action please
All this aggravation ain't satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark
A little less fight and a little more spark…
Don't procrastinate, don't articulate"

Back when Elvis sang that song, it was good cause for fatherly consternation, but as an opener for a candidate who is not particularly articulate but known far more for a lifetime of action… it couldn’t be a better fit.

This arena is already packed—standing room only—with a jostling line still waiting to get in. Just above the crowd, the klieg lights are not all lit, and of the 25+ television camera tripods stationed around the room, only four are manned. That will change in an hour, I’m sure. I’ve been to such events before: in 1980 and 84, I sat waiting for Ronald Reagan to arrive. I was to his right—that is my seat was to his right—about the only way I’d care to be “to the right” of Ronald Reagan. I’ve been at such events for every Presidential race since then, but never have I been seated this close to the speakerS.

That last word is, perhaps, the most telling word in this report. You’ll notice I said speakerS with an “S” at the end, plural. You know where I’m going with this, but it is a reality that cannot be ignored. Books will be written about this particular political race no matter what the outcome is. The question is what kind of shelves will hold the books. If tonight’s speakerS, as a team, win on November 4th, library shelves will bend under the weight of the books praising and cursing its historic significance. If they do not win, far fewer books will be written and many of them will be on “CLEARANCE” shelves with faint hope of political resurrection. The same can be said of books about the opposing Presidential candidate, but the “S” he chose to make his ticket plural is far less important to his success. In fact, his “S” will matter only if he loses. Because in that event, his loss will be rightly blamed on his wrong choice of “S.” It was that safe choice that opened the door for the two speakerS coming here tonight.

The feelings run deep for the VEEP slot of this year’s Republican ticket. Never has a choice stirred such a venomous, vomitous reaction from those who “hate” her, while at the same time stirring deepening admiration from those who see in her a new kind of leader. The purpose of this post is not to stir readers to either extreme reaction. (So if you choose to comment, be civil.)
Congressman Pete Hoekstra just stepped to the dais. I’m signing off for now, when I resume writing on this scrap of paper after, I hope merely to tell you what I'm watching and venture a guess as to whether or not this momentum has peaked as many have discussed.

Okay… the event is over. In case, you still don't know what it was, I’m at the McCain/Palin “Town Hall Meeting” in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here are some details you may not hear or read elsewhere.

I don’t know it has always been true, but John McCain enters the arena to Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” Click this link to hear those iconic notes and imagine thousands of people waiting for this most veteran of senators to step from the tunnel at the far end of what could pass for a Military airplane hanger. Regardless of one’s politics, hearing that “common man” theme, those regal French horns, and the tympani echoing as if through time itself, the build-up was impressive. For me, I again realized that the man we are about to see is a one-of-a-kind American, the likes of which my generation and his may never see again.

And then he enters in, crippled arms waving to the crowd. And along side him there's a woman, who in her own way may someday inspire a rendition of Copeland’s song entitled “Fanfare for the Common Woman.” Because, my Friends, [Did I just say “My friends”?—that’s a side affect of the past hour of intense listening to Mc Cain.] My friends, say what you will about this lady, it is her extraordinary commonness that is her chief appeal. When all is said to both praise and pounce on the Governor from Alaska, it is her unbleached muslin quality—not some “lily white linen” nor even the mud-stained cloak of her past three weeks—but the unbleached, rough-hewn fabric of this woman’s story that has brought her to the fore.

[I’m now home at my computer—scribbling on a sheet of paper was nearly impossible in the aftermath of tonight’s event.]

Let’s see… where was I? Oh, yes, I was talking about the "Fanfare for the Common Man." Now add this to the mix, during all that fanfare, in slipped a quiet unassuming man just a few seats to my right. No one notice him. He did not sit on the dais but in the seats along side the “common folk.” We didn’t see him until Senator McCain walked toward him and asked him to stand. And there, beaming from ear to ear, was Todd Palin. [See him interviewed here Part 1 and here Part 2 and other "parts" at that site.] He waved in all directions and just as the applause peaked sat down again, content to be out of the limelight.

I watched him often throughout the rest of the evening. His genuine smile and confident, merry eyes were constant, but he did not respond to the cheers and applause around him. He was clearly proud to be there, but knew his is a quiet supporting role to his wife who in turn clearly understands her supporting role to McCain. In the two weeks since her speech at the convention, this political duo has found a rhythm in their interaction on stage. It works, and for those hoping the wheels will soon fall off this bandwagon, I saw no signs of that tonight. Are they perfect? No. But McCain is a better candidate because of her, and she is a far more plausible candidate along side of him, which brings me to my next point.

Much has been said about the qualifications of all the candidates—including one candidate who is no longer in this race, Hillary Clinton. How many times have the “talking heads” from both sides of the aisle asked “Is he/she the most qualified person to be running for President or the Veep slot?” Here’s news: I doubt that ANY Presidential candidate EVER to run for office has ever been THE most qualified to fill it. [Click on photo of McCain to enlarge. Julie and I are to the left of his shoulder. Julie is in pink; I'm in black.]

If there were some way to actually determine the “most qualified” candidate in the citizenry of a nation, some bigger questions would still exist: Does that person have the stomach for politics and can that person connect with the common man in order to inspire a following? That is the essence of political leadership. For good or bad, the candidates “following” must translate into a majority of motivated voters, state by state, across the land.

Don't get me wrong a candidate's experience, character, and gut-check preparedness for "such a time as this," are very important, but they only get put in place if the people rally to elect. McCain's choice has made that more likely to happen for him. Tonight I witnessed continuing proof of that.

Before I close, beyond the “most qualified” question, there is another question we hear during political races that is completely meaningless because its terms are undefined. You’ve heard it in countless polls that for some reason get reported as if it's shocking news. It is the answer to this survey question that has much of “the media,” pollsters, and spin doctors perplexed. Here’s the poll question:

“Is the country headed in the wrong direction?”

In any given week, we may hear that 80% of those asked feel America's headed in the wrong direction. If that is true, some people conclude, then there should be no way for a Republican presidential candidate to win an election in 2008. But the question is meaningless because the word direction is not defined. Are we talking economic direction? Military direction? Moral direction? The question never tells us. Because of that, Pamela Anderson would answer the question “Yes, it’s going in the wrong direction” for reasons shared by her Hollywood peers and the 50% of America that cares what "stars" think. Meanwhile the other 50% of America may also answer “Yes” because they shudder at the thought that the opinions of Pamela Anderson reflect the collective conscience of so many. So you see, the answer to the “wrong direction” question is meaningless in that the “yes” responses are often interpreted as a unified assessment while actually masking opposing concerns and conflicting solutions.

That is the essence of politics, and I for one would not choose to be in the business. I don't have the stomach for it, but I do find it fascinating from an arm’s length as I saw it tonight (Yes, that arm's length was close enough to shake hands and get autographs when it was over.) As is true of many people this year, I have good friends still "undecided" in this election, and I can see the initial appeal of both choices. But just in case you’re wondering where I stand, when the curtain of the voting booth closes behind me, there will be no room for Pamela Anderson inside.

Oh, one other thought: Who is the person described below:

I am under 45 years old,
I love the outdoors,
I love to hunt,
I am a Republican reformer,
I have taken on the Republican Party establishment,
I have many children,
I have a spot on the national ticket as vice president with less than two years in the governor's office.

You guessed it... Teddy Roosevelt!

Updates Posted as November 4 approaches:
9-21-08 Sarah draws 60,000 in Florida Sarah wakes up California
9-22-08 NBC's SNL crosses the line. "What makes a generation laugh and cry tells you much about that generation." TK. If the Palins respond to this, they will simply make it more "news worthy," but I'm telling you, folks, the media underestimates the millions of voters who will find the Palin's character all-the-more remarkable as they turn the other cheek. Note to Palin family: You turn the cheek; we'll turn the channel. As for me and my house, no more NBC or MSNBC.

This article by Victor Davis Hanson rationally explains the difference between "head knowledge" and the common sense of wisdom, which is why he has confidence in Governor Palin.

A post VP debate phone interview with Palin.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Pulling Together Wins Wars

In the final presidential debate, moderator Bob Schieffer observed that after 9/11, the country came together as he’d never seen it come together since World War II, but added that it’s since become pretty polarized because of politics. He was right on both accounts. On 9/11, Americans too young to remember Pearl Harbor learned how it felt to have their nation viciously attacked in acts of war. At first we were united by shock and grief, but our tears soon turned to stony resolve. In the days that followed, the descendents of what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation” suddenly knew for the first time an aching patriotism—the kind that makes generations willing to fight bravely so the next may live freely.

The months that followed saw incredible bi-partisan support for every well-planned, determined step we took in defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan and Iraq’s regime of thugs. This nation and the Iraqi people cheered as Saddam’s statues fell and exuberant citizens dragged and rode them through crowded streets. We rejoiced that Sunday morning when a scraggly bum was finally found cowering in his presidential spider hole. We were optimistic when the interim Iraqi government took charge of its own government last summer, and when the Afghanis conducted historic elections this month.

And though the Duefler Report concluded that there were no longer stockpiles of WMD in Iraq, it also exposed that the UN sanctions were a sham and the inspections would have been an endless game of cat and mouse had we not taking control of Iraq. We had a ruthless tyrant shaking a gun in our face for years; when he refused to put the gun down, we took him by force and eventually determined that the gun wasn’t loaded. That doesn’t mean that those who warned that he was armed and dangerous were liars, nor does it mean we shouldn’t have taken him down. There is only one reason that the media and Democrats will not admit the obvious success of our current efforts: as Schieffer suggested, the post 9/11 “pulling together” was a threat to someone’s political purposes.

Here’s what I suppose the DNC was thinking as their primaries finally extruded a candidate: If the war effort is successful, Bush’s re-election is as sure as FDR’s during WWII. We need a candidate who can make us feel like this is “Viet Nam all over again.” We need John Kerry. After all, the senator began his political career as the smooth-tongued spokesman for hoarse-throated activists, war protestors, flag burners, and medal throwers. Just think of what he can do for us!

And so their choice was made. No one questions Kerry’s credentials as a war protestor. What hundreds of Viet Nam vets did question when they learned that Kerry shot countless reels of 8mm home movies starring himself while in Nam was this: “Why didn’t he use his movie camera to document the atrocities that he said ‘occurred on a day-to-day basis’? Where did he hide this heroic footage when he came home to say we were all war criminals? How dare he salute us in his speech and wear with pride the honor he stole from us back then?” The understandable indignation of vets and POWs may explain why Kerry soon dropped his “Reporting for Duty” theme, and turned his fire directly at President Bush and our military leaders.

During WWII, the morning after the allied invasion at Normandy literally changed the tides of war on D-Day, imagine a politician announcing that 10,000 American soldiers had died in that day’s “colossal miscalculation.” Imagine a candidate rebuking FDR for “taking his eye off the ball” for going after Hitler and the Nazis in Europe when it was Hirohito in Japan who attacked us. And nine months later, imagine the public outcry if, instead of the picture of the Marines hoisting our flag on Iwo Jima, a stumping senator held up a picture of some of the 7,000 Americans who died to gain that strategic island and declared, “Wrong battle. Wrong island. Wrong time!” Such demoralizing defeatism would not have been whispered 60 years ago, and I suspect it will backfire on Kerry in November.

There are many issues in this election, but they all depend on our national security and ultimate victory in the war on terror. Senator Kerry, this is not Viet Nam. As for me, I’m joining the 75% of our men and women in uniform who USA Today reports will cast their votes to keep President Bush as their Commander in Chief.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Furrows From More Than Years

Above are two pictures of George W. Bush interacting with two different teenage girls he’d never met. The picture on the right was taken in Iowa. My daughter Kim, then 13, wanted to go see the man we hoped would be the next President of the United States. We had seen him on two previous occasions, but this was a smaller venue in the gymnasium of Hoover Middle School just a few blocks from our home, and we were sure we’d get to talk to him. We did. It was fun. He was making jokes about dads and daughters and having a good time with us. (Peter Jennings was in the press corp, and was jeered when he broke through the rope line and cut in front of the other reporters . I found it refreshing to see that even an anchor will be scorned by peers when he acts like an elitist.)

Karen Hughes was about ten feet to my right at the time of this picture. She is a tall intimidating figure of a woman if you don’t know her (and of course we didn’t), and she was encouraging the candidate to keep moving, but he acted like he was in no hurry and allowed one of his aides to take this picture of the three of us. Kim was impressed by his attention and wished she were old enough to vote.

The picture on the left was taken by a different father in Ohio last spring. He, too, had taken his daughter to see the President. Four years earlier, the young lady, Ashley Faulkner, and her mother had seen him. This time, Ashley now 15, her mother was gone, and President Bush learned that she had been killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Mr. Faulkner said, "He looked right at her and said, 'How are you doing?' He reached out with his hand and pulled her into his chest. I could hear her say, 'I'm OK,' That's more emotion than she had shown in 21/2 years….I'm a pretty cynical and jaded guy at this point in my life," the father later told a reporter. "But this was the real deal. I was really impressed. It was genuine and from the heart."

Here’s what sadly caught my eye as I studied these two pictures last night. The picture on the right is like a hundred others you’ve seen of a pre-9/11 Bush. He’s ruddy, energetic, and full of all the optimism that makes a man seek high office. I remember his voice that day and yes, I remember fondly his bow-legged Texas smile (which, I might add, is not a smirk when you can also see his earnest eyes).

Four years later, he still has his smile, energy, and optimism, but as you can see he now has something else—his face now has the furrows of more than time. The man on the right was eager to give us four years. The man on the left has aged at least ten and is willing to be spent for such a time as this. In the last debate, the President said that his faith gives him “calmness in the storms of the presidency. I love the fact that people pray for me and my family all around the country.” This President has earned my vote for four more years, but more importantly, he has proven to be a man of integrity who covets our continued prayer in the weeks and years ahead.

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