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Involuntarily Screwed

The law is so tailor-made to my situation, it could’ve been named after me. It’s not—it’s actually one portion of the American Rescue Plan Act, and for the purposes of this essay, I’ll be referring to it simply as ARPA—but it might as well be called the Mark Anderson COBRA Subsidy Act of 2021.   That right there will give you an idea why it’s so infuriating to me that this law, designed to ease the distress of Americans like me who’ve lost work, income, and health benefits due to the pandemic, is not, in fact, doing what it’s supposed to, and paying my COBRA for the five months I’m between employer-provided insurance plans.   I’m an elementary school music teacher. That means that, throughout my career, I’ve always been on the brink of losing my job. As a “specials” teacher, I’ve always been among the last to be hired and the first to be laid off in a budget cut. When this happened in 2009, during the recession that was triggered by mortgage profiteering, it took me two years to get ba

Bullies

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Donald Trump mocking a disabled reporter. You don't have to be big, strong, and imposing to be a bully. I've been bullied most of my life. As a child, I had to deal with the stereotypical mean kid bullies, kids who'd follow me home spitting on me, raise welts during class (with the teacher in the room!) by snapping me with some kind of improvised and easily concealable weapon, call me demeaning names, pass caricatures around the classroom of me engaged in some kind of humiliating bodily activity. It was junior high: kids that age often have gross habits that play directly into the natural developmental cruelty of others their age. I was an easy target, but I was also physically larger than most of my tormentors. Had I chosen to fight back, it might well have ended quickly, but I'd been raised to be a pacifist. I was also far too insecure to act assertively. High school was far better for me. There were really only a few incidents in those years, and one of those bullies

Sins of the (Founding) Fathers

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These guys. It's all their fault. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them:  for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:4-6 Yes, I used the non-inclusive archaic King James Version on purpose, because this essay is literally about men ruining the world for their descendants. First, let's talk American exceptionalism. Some things about being an American are indisputably wonderful. The cultural heterogeneity that birthed jazz, R&B, soul, rock 'n' roll, country, rockabilly, bluegrass, Cajun, hiphop, folk, and all their permutations, then freely shared them wi

The Unfairness of It All

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God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good,  and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:45 Thirty-four years later, it still traumatizes me to think about it. It was January, 1986, and I was halfway through my first year of seminary at Southern Methodist University. I'd been encouraged by a professor to attend an event up on "the hill," part of the greater SMU campus we denizens of the "God Quad" rarely visited. Charles King, an African-American activist, was presenting what I thought would be a seminar on civil rights. I learned a lot that night, but not in the rarified academic way I preferred. King was a righteously angry man, and his approach channeled that anger into furious tirades against the injustice that was and is integral to Black life in America. It's hard for me to remember exactly what he said, how he structured his argument, and how I wound up turning it inward upon myself. My memory is that he detailed t

Of Kente and Two Corinthians

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Congressional Democrats kneel for a moment of silence. Ah, the temptation to scold--and to jump on the scolding bandwagon. A friend posted a Washington Post piece about a "performative" symbolic act in the U.S. Capitol. For eight minutes and 46 seconds, Congressional Democratic leaders knelt in the Hall of Emancipation. All--both black and white--wore stoles made of Kente cloth, a traditional west African textile that is a powerful symbol of African cultural identity. There are many Kente patterns, each symbolizing a different virtue, value, or tradition. In the United States, Kente cloth stoles are often wore by African-American students during their graduation ceremonies. They also make frequent appearances in African-American churches. It's not unknown for a white guest preacher to wear a Kente stole at a black church service. The scolding came from a Nigerian/Ghanaian scholar at Oxford University, who was offended at the "performative" nature of the event. A