Thanksgiving In My Hometown In Days Past: What a Difference Greed Makes.

One of my Facebook friends just posted this:  "... it isn't like it use to be. The holidays meant something, now it all about profit and greed."  That set me to thinking about Thanksgiving as a child while growing up in Ashland, Kentucky.

Our father worked for Ashland Oil and Refining Company.  He was a laborer at the refinery for a little while, then an operator at the same company during the time about which I am writing.  In other words he was just an ordinary employee, a member of the Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers Union, and one who cared about how the company for whom he worked, or rather the person for whom he worked and that company, Paul Blazer did with his business. 

Mr. Blazer was more than just a little considerate at this Holiday time of the year.  The thing we remember most, as children, though (well, at least that Mike remembers most) were the Christmas parties Ashland Oil held at the armory for all of the employees, their spouses, and their children.  It was a big affair; and developed as the company grew to at least three parties for different employees through the years.

After feeding all of us a good meal, we were treated to circus acts which, for a boy from eastern Kentucky, was a very special treat.  After that we all lined up to get a present given to us by Ashland Oil as children of employees.  Families tended to be much bigger in those days; and for the Mansfield family that meant five gifts!  They were not cheap gifts either; and we always looked forward to this offering for us given by what we saw as our father's company, in part because of his dedication to that company.

Today, if Paul Blazer were the CEO of Ashland Oil he would be fired the first time he tried that party unless it improved the bottom line in profits for that company.  Today corporations around the United States have decided that having a leg up on sales, by opening on Thanksgiving Day, when it was bad enough that they were opening at Midnight on Thanksgiving; and in doing so they are doing almost exactly the opposite of what Mr. Blazer did for the employees of Ashland Oil.  Yes, those employees MAY make a little extra money; but there is not even a guarantee of that.  In our father's day, had he been required to work at Ashland Oil on a holiday, a real possibility since it was a refinery and operated 24 hours per day, he would have received two and one-half times his regular salary for working that holiday.  Folk at most of the non-production businesses opening for Thanksgiving tomorrow will receive only their regular hourly wage unless it is forty hours for the week.  They may even see their weekly pay go down since extra employees get hired over the holidays.

So tomorrow, if you find yourself tempted to go get a cheap TV or X-box or something, don't just think about yourself.  You're just falling into the same trap into which  the folk running these companies have fallen. It isn't exactly the same.  Your greed is for saving money on an item you want.  Their greed is for additional income for themselves and their company.  In both cases, though, the underlying drive is greed and in no way reflects what we saw when we watched a dozen clowns crawl out of a tiny car on the floor of the armory nor the joy of children eating with parents and the joy of parents watching their excited children receive their gifts.

You can wait a day for that X-Box.  If you really need it you can still get it 24 hours later.

Give thanks with a grateful heart tomorrow as I gift thanks for memories and friends right now.


Everybody knows what Is "Normal"? Does it change with time?

The following story appeared in my email inbox this morning required a response:
Pastor found guilty by church court in gay son's wedding

When I was a child and teenager, it was easy to tell from the people around me and the programs on television and radio what constituted being normal.  It meant you were Caucasian, you were in a family with two parents, one of each sex, you were middle class or at least thought you were, and you were straight.  EVERYBODY KNEW THIS, that is everybody except poor people, people whose parents had died and were orphaned, people who were not Caucasian; and some others, including people who were gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, or intersex folk who kept quiet about their sexuality so virtually no one even knew about it.

My earliest memories about this subject was that "queers" (one of the derogatory terms of the day, since picked up proudly by some gay folk) were bad people and completely abnormal and probably mentally ill.  My first experience with someone who was gay was very negative because he attempted to have unwanted sex with me, which I managed to avoid.  It was not violent; but it was very much not what I wanted; and it was an attack.  That colored the subject for me for decades afterward, along with the locker room attitudes of most men, and probably women as well, of my generation.

On top of that, of course, as one who was regularly in attendance in a  Protestant Church, I had the Bible supporting my attitude toward those who were not heterosexual.  I knew those places in the Bible where it seemed obvious that God was against those things.

I questioned the Bible a lot as a late teen and young adult; but I never quit questioning my beliefs or the beliefs of others in this area as I got older.  The fact is I still question constantly what I believe, what others say about their beliefs, the world around me; but probably most of all human behavior in the context of morality and how we treat one another.

In the midst of my questioning as a beginning middle adult, I attended seminary at a United Methodist Seminary where I learned a lot more about how to properly question the scriptures including not just the translations (which, as a young person I thought was literally correct in the King James Version) but also cultural setting, the way the author or authors of the particular section of scripture edited it, and others.  I thought I was "getting there" when it came to understanding the Bible; but I still had a lot of fundamentalism left in my "bones" from my upbringing.  It was hard to escape that because it was almost like changing not just my beliefs, but the core of who it meant to be Mike Mansfield.

I continued in what I refused at the time to call homophobia.  I had the scriptures to back me up; and it couldn't be a literal fear of homosexuals that was at the core of my beliefs about being anything but heterosexual.  All of that was abnormal.  "How do I know?  The Bible tells me so," as the song goes.

Then something happened.  Someone whom I dearly loved, someone who was an amazingly gifted preacher, singer, guitarist, and ordained Elder in my Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church and whom I had expressed my attitudes about those who were not straight during a support group meeting a year or so earlier decided that, essentially, he could no longer hide who he was.  Allan was gay; and this gifted, loving man was out of the ministry.  I was sorry for that.  He had moved outside of the area where I lived; but I still missed his presence and the interactions we had at retreats and other avenues where we were both present.  That probably put a question in the back of my head; but, if so, I managed to avoid it at the time.

Then, a few years later, I was able to access the internet and became part of the Protestant Revised Common Lectionary discussion list.  On that list was a gay young adult whose father was a United Methodist pastor.  He engaged me in a discussion of the biblical texts from which were drawn my "biblical" understandings of homosexuality; and he showed me alternative understandings of what the Bible was saying about it.  I realized that I was very much just picking and choosing which of the First Testament lessons, in particular, I liked when so many of them were just absolutely crazy in modernity and more like "cave man" thinking.  He also pointed out inconsistencies in how we interpret even New Testament lessons to the point of getting my questioning mind going rapidly.

Then it happened:  I discovered that another gifted pastor whom I knew was gay; and the questioning got even stronger.  I now was internally becoming very convinced that gay people were not defective but just different.  My understandings were my own, though; and I didn't share them with very many people at that time. 

I cannot give you a day or time when I actually completely (and religious folk forgive me for using this term; but it is the right one), a day or time when I actually completely CONVERTED, to the place where my mind and heart and spirit realized how precious LGBTI folk were in God's sight and should be in mine and also in the eyes of the legal system of the United States.  It happened, though; and I have gone from this internal belief to the point where I feel like it is one area where I must speak out.  As a retired pastor I don't have to worry about losing my job nor my pension; but I understand those who might be afraid to speak out who are still serving in a local congregation.  I feel pity for them, though, as I feel regret for my own pathetic fear in being vocal about this.

Since then, though, I have met face-to-face with my friend Allan who left the ministry, hugged and been hugged, and continue to communicate my love for him and vice versa.  He was and is an amazing and wonderful man.   If you knew him, even if you are still against homosexual ordination or against homosexual rights, I am sure you'd like him.  He was a gift to the United Methodist Church that was removed by our refusal to give full rights to those who are not heterosexual, just as women were at one time excluded from the full life of the church.

Jesus said, "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another."  I attempt to live this out; but, in the meantime as I continue to learn and grow:

"Father, forgive me, forgive us, for we know not what we do." 


Consider the Source. Then use your intellect.

I read a story this morning insinuating that the people at Web MD had written biased stories about the Affordable Care Act (which they call Obamacare, of course) and that the administration had paid them for their positive remarks about the ACA. (The source was a right wing site that will remain anonymous so as not to drive any traffic there.)

There was nothing to substantiate their suggestion that this site, which I used for continuing education credit when I last worked as a Medical Technologist and which is a reputable medical site in all ways, was doing anything other than reporting when they said positive things about the ACA.  Nevertheless, as right wing rags are wont to do, they bashed Web MD and its public portal, Medscape, for writing anything positive because it is being used to help with the ACA and being paid for that usage. 
Again, this is the same site that three different employers of mine:  a national laboratory chain, an acute care hospital, and a long-term care hospital, utilized, at least in part, for our continuing education credits. 

The story simply insinuates something ulterior was going on and ran with that.  No proof of anything, just that suggestion.  Web MD has published both positive and negative articles about the Affordable Care Act; but that they would say anything positive, of course, is suspect because that would help make the law work better; and not one right wing person wants it to work at all.

 I wonder.  I really wonder what shape the Affordable Care Act would have today if Republicans had tried to make it work (after all, it was designed by a Republican think tank and used in Massachusetts by then Governor and future Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney for their healthcare system) rather than trying to make it fail, and worked to improve it for the bulk of the people, rather than trying to keep it from working at all.  What would the United States be like today had Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell not said on day one of Obama's first term that his primary goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term President that continues in their attempts to destroy the positive effects of the Affordable Healthcare Act?

I can't say that everything the Republicans have done was completely obstructionist in relationship to "Obamacare."  I can say, though, that the only thing I have seen from them from the beginning was faux outrage for purely political purposes.

I know there are problems with the government portal for the Affordable Care Act.  I know they should have picked a different vendor for that purpose.  I even know that some folk (but far far fewer than you would believe) are losing their insurance because of the ACA.  Most of them are losing nothing because they really didn't have any health insurance; and many of them could actually be saving money in Kentucky with actual health insurance.  That would be true in all 50 states if the Republicans in those states hadn't stopped the state-level system from operating.

I know that most of you who would bother to read this blog realize that the main reason Republicans are fighting this law, besides the obvious political implications in the short run, is that within two years of full implementation the vast majority of Americans will almost certainly finally realize that the Republican Party opposes their best interests, at least in this area.  That they would still vote for such a political party is questionable; and that is downright frightening to Republican politicians.  That they would not win another national election for years is almost certain if they cannot stop full implementation of the law.

So, instead of driving traffic to that other site which remains anonymous in the post, I hope to drive what little bit of traffic actually reads this blog to a highly reputable and excellent site for healthcare information which now includes information about the Affordable Care Act.





Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?

I know some of you will think this blog will have something directly to do with the lesson in Mark's Gospel; but, outside of the title, this is not a Bible lesson at all.  It is about being paralyzed instead.

At a recent meeting of our local MoveOn Council, we were more-or-less stumped about what to do next.  We have so many things before us, it is hard to know where to start; and we have few folk who are really active in the planning and processing we must do that it seems almost impossible to go on.  Another way of saying this is that we are paralyzed in some ways. 

I have been in this paralyzed state before.  I wasn't sure what the right approach would be to continue to work in the lab, or the next thing to do to try to improve the life of a local congregation in the church, or even the right way to show my love for family or friends.  More recently I was paralyzed by the loneliness I was feeling brought on by my own depression and isolation.

What I have learned is that we need to do something; and it is almost better to do what turns out to be the wrong thing than to do nothing at all.

  • A friend's spouse commits suicide; and you don't know what to say so you say nothing; and they feel you don't care.
  • You need to hire a new employee; and you are having a hard time deciding which one is best, or aren't sure any of them are the right fit, so you wait instead of continuing to recruit for the position.
  • You know that, as an extrovert, you must get out of the house and around people; but you can't decide what you can afford or where would best fit your needs so you go nowhere.You know your car needs repair; but you can't decide what is the right approach while the engine continues to get progressively worse.
When it comes to our work in activism, we can become overwhelmed with how very much there is to do.  Right now, just in our area, we are confronted by sever major issues  Here are some of them:
  • The proposed Bluegrass Pipeline, which would bring Natural Gas Liquids (not to be confused with Liquified Natural Gas) which are toxic, heavier than air, and potentially explosive when the leak occurs.  We have an especially dangerous topography here in Central Kentucky because of sinkholes and caves where these liquids/gases can collect unseen until an explosion occurs or we find the water is killing folk.  
  • Food Stamps and other social services are cut so that the wealthier can become even wealthier, claiming it is for the good of the country rather than for the benefit of the top1-10%.
  • Attacks are being made on other social protections such as Medicare and Medicaid.
  • The Affordable Care Act is under attack not for legitimate issues with it, but for mostly fabricated issues by people who do not want it to work.
  • The Transpacific Partnership (TPP), which would add many more "trade partners" with no trade barriers which helps them much more than the people of the USA.  (It is called NAFTA on steroids.)
Where do we start?  What is the most important issue?  What is the best approach to the most important issues?  How much do you and I have in time, talent, money, and interest to attack the problem(s)?

I can't answer that; but I can tell you that just sitting and complaining is not a legitimate option.  Get at it.  Do something.  Give what you have to give; and don't give up.

Now, you all tell me something you know is a need, including any of these; and how you are going to try to help.  In other words, "Get up....." and GO!