Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Faith Works 10-29-05
Jeff Gill

Justice, Public and Private

To Christian thinkers of the classical and medieval period (which is to say millennia and a half), justice was a personal quality, a way of being for an individual.
One of the marks of the modern era is the idea of social justice, where culture and government are called on to shape and make the circumstances for justice as an ideal to flourish.
There is a place for that kind of justice, but the prominence of social justice has blunted the edge of justice as the measure of the human person. Are you just? Whether a judge, lawyer, police officer, or everyday citizen, can you say of your acts, your speech, your choices that you have lived justly?
Rosa Parks represents a key figure in returning social and personal justice to the same level of significance, even if our culture is still trying to catch up with her, decades after the particular act which brought her to national attention and 92 years after her birth.
For those interested in detail, Taylor Branch’s magisterial "Parting the Waters" can fill you in. What bears repeating is what Mrs. Parks never tired of telling audiences: her feet were not tired; she was not at the front of the bus; it was not a white passenger who told her to move.
A hard working woman, she was indeed at the end of a long day, and boarded well to the back of a bus driven by a man who had thrown her of "his" bus before. The rule in Montgomery, Alabama 50 years ago was that if the rows in the front were filled by white people, blacks not only had to board, pay, and get off to reboard through the back door (while paying the same fare, of course), but if the white seats were filled and more whites boarded, blacks in the middle were supposed to stand up and dangle from the overhead bars so whites could sit. The driver was the enforcer of this unofficial but quite formal system.
What Rosa Parks encountered was this: a surge of new riders evoked a call from the driver for seats to open up (exactly how he phrased this is a long standing debate we won’t get into). Three other African Americans quietly rose and moved to the aisle. A white man remained standing, while Mrs. Parks sat quietly.
You know the story from here, but I want to pause and wonder about that guy standing in the aisle. Right, he’d been raised this way in the South and all that, but still: didn’t he feel a twinge expecting a young woman to stand and straphang while he sat down? Did something tug at his sense of, um, justice? Just a little?
I do not excuse the driver, but he was a paid employee where the system expected his behavior, even if all accounts agree he enjoyed that part of his work a bit too much. He was a tool, a blunt instrument in heavier hands. A triple-refined sense of justice, aware of the social and personal dimensions of his acts, might have led him off his seat, or at least to work the rules differently.
But the fellow who stood there, waiting for the driver to "clear his seat" of the stubborn woman who sat there in hat and gloves and steel spine . . . what was he thinking? Did he realize he was standing near the pivoting axis of a changing world, or was he just annoyed at the uppity girl in "his" seat?
Rosa Parks knew that her personal sense of what is right and true and just intersected with a social moment where justice was long overdue, but ready to "roll down like waters." And it is simple justice that history records her name, but consigns to oblivion the fellow who, as it turns out, never got her seat.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; sing your song of freedom or whisper a prayer for justice to

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Notes From My Knapsack 10-30-05
Jeff Gill

Best Fall Colors Ever?

Chlorophyll departing the leaves, removing green tints and leaving some natural hues to mix with sugars breaking down, gives you the color riot that is autumn.
Some have noted that the necessary rhythms of cool and warm, rain and sun, tapped out just the right message to call forth the best range of beauty along the treeline we’ve seen in many a year. Too much heat, and the sugars are baked out making everything bland. Frost sets in early, and the green lifeblood flees and slams shut the stem door behind, tugging a quick drop and a short season.
So far, through this time change weekend and doorstep of Beggar’s Night on Monday, the views across valleys and down lanes has been long-lasting and exquisite. If the rain drags down the stock a bit, all the better to shroud the still-growing grass, more green than us mowers might wish.
In fact, out and about you could see last week trees standing in tidy puddles of foliage. Here, a yellow disc framing the sweep of an oak’s limbs; there, an orange splash surrounding the trunk of a maple. Those artistic notes are now as blurred as an artist’s palette after a long afternoon of daubing, since the wind and rain have swished across the spectrum in any wooded area.
You know to set your clock back Saturday night, for sure, and you’ve been nudged to switch out smoke detector batteries as you grant yourself the added hour. This is also a good time to check your bin set aside with canned goods, an opener, a small bottle of bleach, and a pair of flashlights with a radio stored next to a stock of batteries for them.
No emergency kit put away? How many ice storms, hurricanes, and earthquake warnings do you need? C’mon, it doesn’t cost much and pays peace of mind: batteries are the only real expense, and the whole rest of the disaster bin, bin included, can be put together for less than $50 for a family of four for a week. That’s quite a bit of Dinty Moore or Chef O-Boy, but elegance ain’t the question when power and water are out.
Batteries, though, ought to be swapped out regularly with new and the stored ones into the battery drawer, which every household apparently must have today. Anyhow, here’s a good weekend to do it.
So, there’s some advice you probably weren’t looking for; why stop now? There’s an election coming up, and those fall colors may not be as delightful, but they remind us that some important work on our citizenship job description is coming up.
My broadly intended, generally useless opinions are on offer, based more as a report on what I’m intending while not constituting formal endorsement of no one nor nothin’. For Issue 1, I plan to hold my nose and vote yes. This has been run by us voters a few times, and not unwisely we’ve kicked it back; the state needs some money for infrastructure improvement, and it will benefit localities as now written with a bit more certainty. I’d rather not give the Taft administration more cash right now, but I consider it a reminder and an investment in keeping a sharp eye on the next executive, who will be the one to allocate most of it.
Issues 2, 3, 4, and 5 strike me as reactive legislation, of a sort that we can always approve next time, if the energy exists to run it up the flagpole again. I’m less sure that it is bad legislation (which I suspect) than it is a show of temper about current political circumstances. So I call it no, times four.
Issue 6 hereabouts is for the Community Mental Health and Recovery Board, and they continue to need our support, if only because we can help people when it makes sense (i.e., voting yes now) or spend it on Medicaid bills or jail costs after problems become acute and also unresolvable.
Newark has a chance to continue building up their fine school system, which is working through a very well-wrought plan for dealing with the near-future; there are a number of Fire/EMS levies up that also deserve your support.
Dotted about here and there are some competitive races, and I confess I haven’t kept track of them. I can say that Newark's John Uible was a public servant long before he ever ran for office, in the best sense of the term "serving the public," and y’all’d have to be crazy not to put him and Bill Rauch back on council, where they can amiably stare across the partisan divide at each other.
Granville has the pleasure of seeing Deb Tegtmeyer run for village council, who is my friend of long standing, so why should you listen to my recommendation there? Steve Mershon I don’t know half so well, but I like him, so there you go again.
And since Pataskala decided to keep Bernie Brush around (for local color, naturally), I have no counsel to offer there. He's got plenty to say!
Just read the candidate bios in the papers, go to candidate nights, ask them questions on the streetcorners (they really do hang out there, it appears), and don’t forget to plan on voting Nov. 8, 6:30 am to 7:30 pm. And set your clock back, OK?

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; get your last minute political rant in quickly to