Yes, I'm back, and yes, you read the title correctly.
I've been mulling this around in my pea-sized brain for the last few weeks, wondering if I should even write a blog post titled "On Bullshit". After all, I am the Christian Progressive Liberal, and as the late Jerry Falwell would have you know, us Christians aren't supposed to use words like "Bullshit".
But, then again, Jerry Falwell didn't have Burdett Stills as a father. If he had, he wouldn't have spent so much time hating on anyone who was not white.
My father taught me how to use my bullshit detector very early in life. How about at the age of five years old, and on a trip to catch crabs in the San Jacinto Bay in Houston, Texas? Our family had gone, "crabbing" as it was referred to in those days. After filling up a shiny new garbage pail full of the soon to be tasty critters, my father calls me over to look inside the pail.
"What do you see, pumpkin?" he asked. "Lotsa crabs, Daddy!" I replied as only a five-year old could.
"What do you see the crabs doing, baby girl?" Dad asked. "Look at the blue one", he directed to me. "Keep your eye on 'im", he said.
So, I watch the blue crab try to climb out of the pail, amidst a sea of orange backed crabs. The blue crab almost made it to the top, until two giant orange claws hauled him back in. I looked up at my father, puzzled, as only a five year old could be. My father picked me up in his arms, and had me look across the river, and said to me "There will always be those in life who try to tear you down and pull you back in to their 'bullshit'. Always stay ahead of them, and don't let them do that to you. You always remember that, and you will go far, baby girl."
My mother, who watched the whole thing, said to my dad, "Burdett, she's only five years old. She can't understand what you said, and she certainly won't remember it."
"Not Leutisha", my dad said. "She's the one born with a veil over her face. She'll remember that when she makes us proud, doing what she's born to do, and not letting anyone tell her she can't because of the color of her skin."
And guess what? Some thirty five years later, as you can read, I remembered every bit of that wisdom, that lesson in "Bullshitology" that my father taught me. So, what does that have to do with the story?
It has to do with when someone remembers what wisdom and values that were imparted on them by their parents, and how we're expected not to forget them. So, when I was reading this drivel (below) by Tim "Beat The Press" Russert, and thought about how he literally pimped his father, Big Russ, for financial gain, and to further butter up his inside-Beltway stature; I couldn't help but wonder if Big Russ was ashamed that Little Russ sold out everything he taught him in exchange for the accolades of those who couldn't give a rat's ass about him as a human being, not to mention said financial gain.
“Let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
--John F. Kennedy
January 20, 1961
I was ten years old when I heard those words. They still resonate with me nearly a half century later. Am I doing God’s work? Is being a journalist my vocation? How does my faith influence my judgment as a reporter? Should it? Are the demands of my chosen profession leaving enough time for my responsibilities as a son, brother, husband, father and friend?
St. Luke teaches us “to whom much is given, much is expected.” Am I hearing that admonition—and responding to it in a generous way? Do I have a true appreciation of the uniqueness and goodness of others? More questions than answers, I’m afraid.
One particular day provided some clarity. September 11, 2001. I don’t think the English language has yet found the words to describe the pain and anguish we felt that day. And yet we learned much about each other. The bravery of the first responders who went up the stairs of burning buildings. The heroic selfless souls on United flight #93. The patience of tens of thousands of drivers who left the devastated areas in an orderly way.
I have not honked my car horn since September 11 as a gesture of respect to all of them. 9/11 also gave me a whole new insight into my Dad and why he left school in the 10th grade to enlist after Pearl Harbor. I wrote a book affirming his life. It changed my life and my relationship with my father—and my son—forever. We now share openly the love and respect and pride we have in each other. A day doesn’t go by when other sons and daughters want to share stories of their dad with me. Now that’s a journey I never expected, but one which is so meaningful—perhaps even more important than my “career.”
Bottom line. I’m working hard, laughing often and praying with purpose. On with life!
I friggin' hate when someone wants to write books and pontificate in front of a microphone about how we should be living up to moral standards, values and beliefs, and they don't walk their own talk. Now, we don't know if Russert's cheated on his wife, or is on the DC Madam's list, but it appears that since Jerry Falwell died, the Reverend's death has forced Little Russ to remember some unsavory things he's done in his life as a journalist, like championing a war that has sent over 3000 Americans and over 600,000 Iraqis to their deaths for something a walking bucket of pus wanted to do and sell it to wingnuttia that Jesus told him to do it.
Or trying to defend Don Imus, known racist prick on the airwaves, but also looking like he wanted to choke the hell out of Gwen Ifill when she called him out on his hypocracy.
Or never, ever, giving Dick Cheney the well-deserved grilling we've been waiting for whenever that SOB is on "Meet The Press", but lobbies softball or spitball questions at him. But then again, how do you question someone who shot his friend in the face, made that friend apologize for "all the trouble he caused the VP" and literally got away with attempted murder?
I read Timmeh's column. It reminded me of my own father. And how he taught me to fire up the bullshit detector at 500 yards. And I also thought about the paragon of fathers being held up to most Americans by Timmeh - Big Russ, through those books he wrote.
Most of our fathers were no different than Big Russ. Hell, like Big Russ, my father lied about his age to enlist in WWII as well. He worked three jobs. He bought our first house with his GI bill. I remember Christmases, birthdays, when he sold scrap metal and hustled in a pool hall to make extra money, so his children had the best clothes, food on the table, and a little allowance when my brothers and I went to school. My father could probably buy and sell Big Russ every day of the week and twice on weekends.
You may not ever see anything written about Burdett Stills, Jr.; what a great father he was. But he was my father, and though not always perfect, he did the best he could with what he knew at the time he knew it. And I am the woman I am today because of what he taught me.
While Timmeh writes a book about similar experiences, and because he was a high-priced media whore verses being a real, Greg Palast-Jackson Baker-Chris Davis-Steve Gilliard type of journalist, he got fat paid for spouting the same accolades about his father that any of us could have about spouted about our own fathers. All the while, he literally shits on everything and every value Big Russ ever taught him, because his DC Masters were greater than his own humble father.
That's why I titled this piece "On Bullshit". That, and the fact that there's a book out with the same title. Plus, I think my father would be pleased because he always called people on their bullshit. He had a Ph.D in "Bullshitology".
Part II of "On Bullshit" will deal with the legacies left by our fathers, and whether or not we're entitled to said legacies. You know where I'm going with this, so stay tuned.