Commentary and Philosophy Non-Fiction posted September 1, 2008

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We need to watch for signposts!

This is Not U. S. 89

by Annmuma

I took the above picture about twenty years ago.  My late husband and I were wandering about Colorado when we got into a familiar discussion as to whether we should make a turn or continue straight.  

"Hey, you need to turn here."

"I don't think so.  The trail we are looking for should be just ahead."

"Let me see that map.  No, you're wrong.  We need to make a turn."

"I guess we'll find out soon enough, won't we?"

I don't remember who wanted to do what, or whether it was our intention to remain on U. S. 89.  What I do remember is the laugh we had just a-half mile up the road.  This sign proved one of us to be right, and whomever it was, insisted on the picture.   The phrase This is not U.S. 89 became a sort of private code we used to alert each other of possible errors in judgment.  It always served to make us stop and think how totally convinced we could be about something only to find out we were wrong.  

I remember one day in particular.  My granddaughter, Jessie, was spending the day with us.  She had decided to go to Australia as an exchange student and would be gone a year.  She was only sixteen.  I was not sold on the idea, and I thought a day, alone, at the RV would be the right setting to talk her out of it.  The three of us, Ronnie, Jessie and I, were building a nature trail at Tawakoni State Park.  The trail was Jessie's idea, and she wanted to mark all of the flora along the way.  Conversation came easy.

"Jessie, Australia is a long way away.  A year is a long time."

"I know, Grandma.  But I really, really want to go."

"Grandpap and I are going to be doing a lot more traveling.  You could spend a summer with us."

"What kind of tree do you think this is, Grandma?  Hand me your tree ID book."

"I'm pretty sure that's a redbud.  Here you go."  I handed her my field guide. "You know, Jessie, we could do this kind of stuff together next summer if you were here."

"Grandma, I want to be "me" for a while.  I want to get away from here."  

She tried to refocus our conversation, change the subject.  " See, look at this.  You're right, this is a redbud tree.  How do you know this stuff?"

"Growing up in the woods, I guess."   

She laughed.  "Grandma, you did not grow up in the woods!"

"Jessie, I'm going to really miss you if you go to Australia --"  

I looked up to see tears forming in her eyes, and I glanced at Ronnie.  Without missing a beat, he reminded me this decision was not mine to make.  "This is not U.S. 89, Ann."

I made a u-turn, got excited about Jessie's adventure and joined her in planning it.  It turned out to be one of the most memorable years of her young life, and she met people who will be lifelong friends.  In the middle of that year, she came home to attend her grandfather's funeral.  The trip took three days, flying stand-by and changing planes in strange airports.  It was a harrowing experience for a just-turned, seventeen-year-old.  That first night home, she slept in my bed, her arm around me.

"Grandpap would be proud of me, wouldn't he?  I made it by myself."

It would be great if there were signs to correct  all of our mistakes as easily and quickly as the Colorado highway sign.  Life is easier to understand looking back from farther on down the road, but maybe it's the lessons to be learned that require us to live it forward.  Frustration with myself and, too often the people around me, make me wonder how far human nature has advanced.

Is that a function of age?  Does every generation reach a place where they become disillusioned with the rate of progress being made?  The giant steps in technological fields and every science known to man, from medical to ecological, and everything in-between, are mind-boggling.  Still, the characters and hearts of some people seem not to be touched by the changes, the knowledge and the truth of today.  

Recently, an employee invited my husband and me to a celebration of achievement dinner for her husband.  We were seated next to another employee and her spouse.  The Democratic Convention had closed the day before, and as a matter of course the conversation turned to politics.  My husband brought up the subject with Dennis, one of our dinner companions.

"Did you happen to see either of the Clinton's speak at the convention?  They both did more than asked in enthusiastic endorsements.  What did you think?"

Dennis chose to avoid the question by asking another.

"Do you know the difference between Osama and Obama?"


"Just a lot of BS."

There was some polite laughter, but I was concerned by the response.  Making light of a situation or a person can serve to undermine the seriousness of both.  I could not let the joke go unanswered.

"Well, no matter what candidate you might support, I think most people will agree Obama made a hell of speech last night. He inspired a lot of people.  I was impressed."

Dennis was incredulous.  "You're kidding, right?  If he gets elected, we'll all be bowing toward the east. He won't even salute the American flag or wear it as a lapel pin."

"Dennis, that's not true.  Even if Obama were not inclined to salute the flag, he's not stupid.  He's running for President of the United States.  He would salute the flag if only as a pretense!"

"Well, he is a Muslim."

"No, he's not a Muslim.  He's a Christian."

"Then why did he spend all of that time in an extremist Islamic school?"

"You don't really believe that, do you?  Those things are not true.  Have you tried checking them out?"

"I don't like him.  The Bible teaches that mingling of the races is a sin.  Read it."

By now, I'm wondering if I'm in the twilight zone.  The whole room has become quiet as they observe our discussion.  Dennis is in his mid-thirties, educated and a hard-working, middle class American.  He's married to Kim,  a Hispanic woman who is an underwriter for my insurance agency.  They have two biological daughters and one adopted.  The kids play organized soccer and softball, and their parents are ardent supporters of the kids' activities. Religion is important to them, and they are in church most Sunday mornings.  They are --at least, I thought-- a typical middle-America family.   Now, I hope they are not.

"Mingling the races!  Geez, I haven't heard that since I was a kid in Louisiana in the early 1950's.  You are not serious, are you?"

"I'm saying the Bible says we need to stay separate.  Obama is not a Christian."

"I think he is."


"By his actions.  He does and says the things that espouse Christian ideals --"

"That has nothing to do with being a Christian.  Do know what a Christian is?  During the Clinton years, we were forced to take pictures of Jesus out of our schools.  We can no longer pray in school."

"Anybody, anytime, anywhere can pray.  I've never --"

"Just try it sometime in school.  It's not allowed."

"What's not allowed is promoting one religion over another.  What's not allowed is forcing a Jewish child, or a Muslim child or even a Wiccan child to be made to feel less because the Christian child's prayer is more important and must be heard while theirs is not.   What's not allowed is influencing a Christian child to feel superior because others must hear Christian prayers said aloud.  Silent prayer  --"

"I'm wondering if you are a Christian now.  We need to be heard.  How a person acts doesn't prove them Christian."

"Christianity is about tolerance, love, caring and taking care of your neighbor."

I'm wondering if you are a Christian."

"Don't waste a lot of time worrying about my soul.  I'm telling you Obama is not a Muslim, he was not trained in an extremist Islamic school, he does not refuse to salute the American flag, --"

"I'd like to see some written proof of those things."

"I'll send you some stuff.  What's your e-mail address?"

"I don't want you to have my e-mail address.  Just send anything you have to Kim's.  She'll get it to me."

At last, someone else spoke up.  "You might try  That's where I check things out."

Dennis did not hear dissenting opinions.  "All I know is, if he's elected, he'll be shot."

I wanted to scream at Dennis, and anyone who shared these narrow-minded belief's:
This is Not U.S. 89. No matter how convinced you may be of the accuracy and appropriateness of your opinion, it is time to check the facts.  If you want to lean on the Bible as your basis of truth, study the scriptures that include "by their fruits, you shall know them" as well as the ones qualifying who does the judging and those about loving your neighbor.  

There are many who will vote for or against Obama based on his political positions and their assessment of his ability to lead our nation in the right direction.  That is how it should be.  Each of us have an obligation to look at the signposts of truth, reality, and then make a choice as to who each of us want to be our Commander-in-Chief.  The choice must be an individual one.  I should not make yours, and you should not make mine.  We have a duty to vote our hearts and our minds, and an equal burden to base our votes on facts, not conjecture and innuendo, to take a closer look at the map. 

As Lincoln said almost one-hundred-fifty years ago, "We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies."  

Lord, the wheels turn slow when it comes to changes in human nature.

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