Politics of Bitterness

I am a broadcaster, a part of the media. I’m a traffic reporter. Nothing more: Back in the day traffic reporter sometimes meant side kick, wise cracking extra or an actual place on a broadcast morning show or afternoon drive team. Not so much anymore but that’s OK it is still radio.

I work mid-days now 10:30 A.M. – 5:00 P.M. I start my day with our local Talk of Tennessee Republican, Steve Gill and at 11:00 join the Rush Limbaugh show followed by Sean Hanniety and sometimes – if I fill in during the evening – I get to plug in traffic reports for the delayed broadcast of the Glenn Beck Show.

I get the whole Republican – Conservative talk radio thing up one side and down the other. I am a registered republican but have not referred to myself as anything but a conservative for some time and now I think I am leaning towards the libertarian way of thinking. I doubt I will change my allegiance however – partly out of respect for Ronald Reagan and also because I now think it makes absolutely no difference.

My complete disillusionment with all things Republican began when those we sent to Washington forgot the foundations and principals that I always thought the Republican Party stood for. Limited government, less tax, limited government, state rights, limited government, personal responsibility, limited government and oh yeah one more, limited government!

I began to try to sort out what I could support and what made sense from what just simply went against everything I believed in. As the primaries began in 2007 and on to 2008 I hoped, wished and yes prayed for a candidate to step up that would reign in Washington and get us back on track. As someone who has watched the political circus for over 25 years from a broadcast studio I am acutely aware that far too often you have to go with the lesser of two evils. Not to say politicians can be evil but you get my meaning sometimes you have to hold your nose and pull the lever for the one that makes you the least nauseous. Wow, that does not sound good either.

As the Republican primary ran down and it became clear the Democrat candidate would be either Hillary or Obama the Republicans had a choice to make – not just as a party but as individuals in that party. Who would be the candidate most likely to win – not just who could use the media to manipulate the primary but who could win and in turn protect the very foundation this country was built on – or they could just punt. They punted and the Dems ran it all the way down the field as we stood out of their way barely challenging the clear problems and associations of who we all know eventually became our President, Barrack Obama.

So now we feign surprise, shock, and dismay as he changes the principals and the guidelines laid down by our founding fathers. We are no longer the shinning city on the hill but the village full of bitterness and selfish ambition fed by disappointments that come to every life but when allowed to fester eat away at our souls.

Let me share a personal story with you. In 1978 my sister married an African American, we are Caucasian. This did not go over well in our rural Kentucky community. It was a tough time for us. It was hard, it was not fair, but you know what? That’s life.

For many years I let my disappointment and anger feed a bitterness that lead to a self loathing and selfishness that nearly destroyed my life. Thank God – and yes I give Him complete credit – I finally moved on, got over it, put on my big girl pants and started dealing with the truth behind the bitterness. I began to see people who did stupid things that would always be stupid and good people who just failed to do anything. I learned to forgive and to ask for forgiveness and very quickly my soul began to heal.

As I have witnessed the last year in the abyss we call politics the one thing that continues to come to mind is that we are now seeing the politics of bitterness. I am certain there were times in a young black African American woman’s life from Chicago that were downright mean. I think I can say with complete certainty that a young man with a very mixed heritage felt very alone at many crucial moments in his life. There are countless stories and I suppose and can probably guarantee we have all had our share of astounding disappointments and moments that were so full of injustice that we nearly gave up.

Fortunately for many of us – something or someone came along – and like a hypnotist snapping his fingers to bring a subject out of a trance – said just the right thing or showed us a pure unselfish kindness that renewed our faith.

Unfortunately – sometimes the wrong person or people come along – and those moments of loneliness, anger and down right meanness become the seed of bitterness to cultivate and grow and fester into a longing for a “justice” so perverted that a lie becomes the truth.

There was a picture taken of Laura and George Bush as they welcomed Michele and Barrack Obama to the White House for the first time. It was so beautiful. It took my breath away as I thought of just how far we have come. I saw the beauty and the meaning so clearly but having paid very close attention to details that so many ignored I was also very concerned.

I remember what it felt like to have a bitterness bubbling up inside of me and wanting to make right what was wrong and for someone to be held accountable for my pain and the pain of any who had suffered.

I wonder now how my life would be different had I allowed the bitterness to direct my life. Maybe I would have been more ambitious but to what end? Would I destroy everything trying to remake it in the image that I and I alone thought would finally bring “justice”? I might succeed and feel victorious but behind the victory the bitterness would have lived and continued to consume not just me but everything I touched.

One definition Webster has for bitterness is an emotion or state of being caused from exhibiting strong animosity resulting from severe grief, anguish or disappointment. I’m so glad I finally realized that life is hard – it’s not fair but we overcome not by carrying endless animosity, grief, anguish or disappointment but by just being the best we can be and striving to leave what we have been handed at least as good as we got it and maybe just a little bit better.

The sad truth – there will always be stupid down right mean people doing stupid and down right mean things to those who do not deserve it – but we can’t hold an entire society accountable for the sins of the few.

What we can and must do is learn to forgive and to be forgiven – work to empower and reward the good – then get out of the way and let them do what they do best.

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Published in: on July 26, 2009 at 4:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Blog About My Blogs

If you read what I write or listen to me speak you will often hear about my families racial experiences that began in the late seventies. I draw on those experiences frequently much like my preacher does on his former military career because they had such a profound impact on my life not because the events left me with a complex or deep seated grudge.

You will find the most important thing in my life is not a thing but my faith in God the Father and Christ His Son and that the second most important thing in my life is my family.

I think the one thing I struggle with most in regards to God’s law is that in all things He comes first and that includes over my children. Granted now that they are all teenagers it is not quite as difficult. But I often wonder what would I do if really faced with having to choose one over the other? My family is that important to me so I pray for strength in all things and for a faithful family that would never force me to choose between them and God.

I believe God blessed the United States of America and all anyone has to do is take a quick look at history to see we are a Christian nation, we were built on Christian principals and God has blessed us because we looked to him.

Notice I said looked, past tense. I do not feel we are still in God’s graces as a nation and that scares me to death. I find peace however in knowing we have lost our way before but eventually found our way home when we turned from our wicked ways, sought His faced and He heard our prayers and healed our land.

My thoughts are summed up best in a quote from Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, he said:

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.”

I believe we will soon remember why we are blessed and by whom and I pray we will all continue at every opportunity to stand up and make our voices heard to remind all around us, we are blessed and can continue to be as long as we give credit where credit is due.

Now that you know a little more about me I invite you to read on and feel free to contact me with any comments you may have

God Bless

LaVern Vivio
uturnrock@aol.com

Published in: on July 26, 2009 at 4:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

An open letter to the Republican Party

Enough already with the constant solicitation for donations disguised as party surveys. It has been several years since I held any hope my opinions were being considered. I will not respond to any donation request until the Republican Party returns to the conservative foundation which I found so refreshing when I joined the party and cast my first vote for Ronald Reagan.

Let me be clear, this opposition to my party should not be interpreted as disdain for President George W. Bush or for our nominee Senator John McCain. I have an enormous amount of admiration and respect for both men that will not be marred by my dissatisfaction with many of their policy decisions.

I first became puffed up with pride over President George W. Bush when in the early primary debates he declared without concern for anything but absolute truth that the person he most admired was Jesus Christ. As he won the primary and later the presidency I found so much peace in the knowledge that President Bush regardless of anything else was a man of God. I was hopeful we would see a change in Washington from a cut in spending to possible Tort reform. However, the events of 9-11 pushed aside any agenda and my entire focus became national security. That is still the single most important issue for our nation and the world. Most fail to realize just how vital the war on terror continues to be but as for me and my house we get it.

What we fail to understand are programs such as prescription drugs, no child left behind, oil and coal resources our country continues to ignore and restrictions on light bulbs! As President Bush approaches the end of his term I believe he will be best remembered for rising to the challenge and threat of terrorism but as we move forward we must begin again to support the agenda of the conservatives of America to survive as a party and win in the fall.

John McCain is not my first choice as a candidate. However, I doubt I could respect or admire anyone more than I do Senator John McCain. I simply do not understand how he can support the notion of global warming as anything but a normal climate cycle that was placed into rhythm at the time of creation by God. I continue to cringe at the notion of reaching across the aisle in the political world. Senator John McCain and President George W. Bush have both tried to offer a hand of comprise time and time again that is repeatedly bitten off. The original notion of working to unite the parties once appealed to me until I witnessed year after year the Republicans reaching across the aisle to find the democrats sliding further and further to the left until they have policies so centered and on the fence they fail to accomplish anything but more spending and continued discontent on both sides.

I will not hesitate nor would I ever miss an opportunity to cast my vote. However I vote this year as solely an effort of defense. While I am proud our nation has passed the notion of race and gender restrictions in regards to who can aspire to be president I am appalled at the lack of scrutiny given to Senator Barrack Obama by many in the media. I believe with all my heart he is bigoted toward America and is only surpassed in his bigotry by his wife and those who have until recent weeks offered him spiritual advice. I myself have a black nephew and niece and have dealt with bigotry in every form since 1978. It lives and is gaining new breath in many communities. We must never ignore or try to explain it away but name it and turn away from it with certainty and commitment to facilitate true change in this nation.

The attitudes of those in the Obama camp are the attitudes of entitlement and victimization. Those are the same attitudes responsible for the disastrous response and evacuation of New Orleans. The government that failed in New Orleans is the one we have asked for by continuing to support a court system bogged down with frivolous lawsuits. We now have a system that must cross every t and dot every i a thousand times for fear of human error that would prompt lawsuits and litigation and places the true power of this nation at the feet of special interest groups, insurance companies and teams of lawyers.

Now so many are lining up for more of the same and the Republicans can’t seem to find the guts to stand up and say yes it is time for change. It is time for us to change the status quo and fix Washington. It is time for Washington to get out of the way and allow its citizens to exercise true freedom once again. I can only imagine the possibilities.

God Bless Our Precious Nation

Sincerely,

LaVern Vivio
Springfield, Tennessee

Published in: on July 26, 2009 at 4:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Reverend Wright

As I grow older so many memories I would rather forget sometimes run through my mind. Memories are often spurred by the events of the day. Reverend Jeremiah Wright has reminded me again of how far we have come but how far we have to go.

The memories evoked by Jeremiah Wright’s comments bring tears to my eyes as I remember the fear I felt for my mixed race nephew back in 1979. My sister had married an African American and the hatred directed at our family because of a marriage and one of the sweetest little boys I have ever known is still hard to discuss. We have long made peace with those we love and have known all of our lives. So many of them just didn’t know what to do and to this day apologize for doing nothing. Very few we knew were hardened bigots but those who were made life hard for many years.

Reverend Wright reminds me of something so few want to admit, bigotry comes in all colors. The bigotry my family experienced came from the White and African American communities. Never have I felt more alone than during those days. So many I trusted and counted on let me down especially my grandfather. As I listened to Senator Barack Obama say earlier, “he could no more disown his pastor than he could the black community,” I remember how my grandfather disowned us.

If my grandfather was alive today he would be well over one-hundred years old. He grew up in a time of bigotry. So did his wife, my grandmother, her name was Sunshine.

If my grandmother were alive today she would be one-hundred and one. She like my grandfather grew up in a time that fed bigotry and racism but unlike my grandfather she knew it was wrong. My Grandmother also grew up in a time that interpreted the Biblical guidelines for Christian living which instructs women to submit to their husbands to mean: Do not challenge you husband’s authority even when he is wrong.

I wish I knew what my grandmother said or all she did to mend our family. The only evidence of her defiance to her husband came in my nephew’s birthday card.

We all received cards signed, Happy Birthday, Love Ma Ma and Pa Pa, as my grandparents were known to us. Without fail on your birthday, a card would arrive along with a crisp one dollar bill. As my nephew’s birthday rolled around the card arrived, dollar bill enclosed but it bore only one signature, Happy Birthday, Love Ma Ma. That one simple gesture spoke volumes but I often wonder if there was more. Did she ever have to look my grandfather in the eye and say you are wrong or did he see she would not be a part of his bigotry with the simple signing of a birthday card?

I have heard Reverend Wright and Senator Obama speak of tradition as an excuse for Reverend Wright’s comments. My grandfather grew up in tradition as well, a tradition of bigotry and exclusion. A tradition that ended thanks to the gentle and determined spirit of a woman who found the courage to speak out and not ignore or make excuses for attitudes that were indefensible.

My sister has told me she is sorry for what the family and I had to go through during those years. She and my nephew moved away after her marriage failed. I was still in High School and we all know how cruel kids can be. The last time she told me she was sorry I told her she did our family a favor. It took a catalyst to take us to a level of love and acceptance that so many still fail to embrace and she gave us a chance to honor and remember my sweet grandmother and her courage.

At the time of my grandfather’s death my family and my sister were not only fully reconciled with my grandfather but a couple of months ago my mother shared with me something I never knew. She said she walked into my grandfather’s hospital room just before he died. My grandfather was sound asleep and there curled up sleeping peacefully right beside him was my sister. When I let that picture run through my mind I know it is a picture and an ending made possible only because my grandmother refused to ignore or make excuses for her husband’s bigotry and helped him see things had to change and they did.

For our nation to move past the racial problems of our past we must find the courage to stand up and tell those in our midst who fuel situations of hatred and bigotry it’s time to move on and most importantly we must find the courage to simply tell them they are wrong. We can no longer make excuses or allow political correctness to prevent us from standing up to bigotry no matter where it lives or makes its home.

A sitcom is an odd place to find a profound statement on race but years ago in an episode of Designing Women the ladies were visiting an old African American woman in the hospital. She was nearly one-hundred years old. She knew she was on her death bed and the women commented on the history she had witnessed over the years. As the old woman reminisced through tragedy and joy she concluded by saying, “I know we are not what we ought to be and I know we aren’t what we are gonna be but at least we are not what we were.”

If we continue to ignore and make excuses for the voices of bigotry, hatred and separatism not only will we never get to what we are gonna be and ought to be but we will quickly find ourselves taking steps backward to what we were.

LaVern Vivio
April 29, 2008

Published in: on July 26, 2009 at 3:59 pm  Comments (1)  

Kenneth Pease

This was originally written for the Paducah Sun, in Paducah, Kentucky. I wrote this just after there had been numerous stories about pictures of flag draped coffins coming back from Iraq.

Seeing the images of the flag draped coffins a few weeks ago took me back to the same image I see when I walk past the old army helmet that sets on top of a chintzy ceramic statue of an Eagle in my boy’s bedroom. It’s a helmet I purchased from an estate sale last summer. I display it in my boy’s room to remind them of a young man they’ve known all their life who wore the helmet years ago. They of course never really met him but they know he’s the reason their mom rarely makes it through The National Anthem without tears in her eyes.

Kenneth Pease worked for my dad and mom in the sixties. He was a hired hand on the family farm. He worked summers and after school for my dad until he graduated. I still have a picture of my sister and I with some of the puppies he and my dad found in the woods. Wild dogs have always been a problem back home. Many of the family pets I had while growing up were from litters of puppies rescued from the woods that border the fields along the creek bank. I still remember Kenneth and Daddy laughing while hiding these little black and brown puppies in their shirts.

I’m not sure if they were trying to surprise my sister and I or trying to hide them from my Mom.

I have many memories of Kenneth but none are as strong as the one the day he told us goodbye.

I don’t think I was surprised he was leaving. I knew he had gotten older and had other things he needed to do but the day he told me he was going to be a soldier was the day he became my hero. Not because I really understood what being a soldier during the sixties meant or even where Vietnam was but maybe it was because he seemed so excited and proud to be going.

I remember the day he left as well as I remember the day the phone call came. It was one of those calls that you knew wasn’t good news. Mom answered the phone and after hello she didn’t really say anything else but just started to cry. She bundled up my baby brother, put us in the car and headed to the field. My sister and I didn’t say a word. We didn’t ask what was wrong. Maybe we thought if we didn’t ask everything would be ok. As the car left the gravel road and headed down the dirt road between the fields we knew the news was bad. We never took the car to the field. Dad was on the tractor and I guess he saw us coming. You could see the dust kicking up behind us for miles. He had stopped working and had walked across the field to meet us. I don’t remember much after that

But I do remember the flag draped coffin and the picture of Kenneth in his uniform and how sad and proud I was all at the same time.

In the years after Kenneth’s death I never forgot him. I never really got to know his mom and dad or his brothers. I wish I had told his folks just how much he meant to me before they died.

Because of Kenneth I never meet a Veteran that I don’t thank nor a Vietnam Veteran that I don’t want to hug and say I’m so sorry for what you went through and then ask if the name Pease rings a bell.

It’s amazing how many of those from Vietnam still get a hollow stare when you ask them about the war. If you take a minute to talk with them… it’s not from the war… it’s from coming home.

His death showed me at an early age that the price of freedom is still worth fighting for because he fought for it. It’s not a price paid with cold hard statistics of causalities of war nor is it something that only our ancestors had to face.

It’s not a price paid with lives lost but with lives given by brave men and women.

Hero’s…

…Hero’s that will always be represented for me by a giggling farm hand hiding puppies in his shirt and smiling bravely as he told a little girl goodbye because he was going to be a soldier.

LaVern Vivio

Published in: on July 26, 2009 at 3:56 pm  Comments (1)