Elijah’s ninth birthday wish

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Elijah in high chair

Elijah in his high chair

Grandpa, my ninth birthday’s coming up next week! Are we going to have a party and stuff?

Well, Elijah, we only celebrate birthdays annually. That means once a year. You’re going to be nine months old, not nine years old.  The day you turn one year old, we’ll do something special for your birthday. I promise.

That’s not right! I have to wait for my presents?

Not necessarily. Grandma and I love to give presents. Do you have something special in mind?

Yeah! I’ve been thinking a lot about it. So can I have it now?

Sure, what have you been dreaming about?

Safety.

Okay. What about it.

Can I have a bomb like Kim Jun un and the President?

Oh for heaven’s sake, Elijah, where’d you get the idea you could have a bomb?

The Second Amendment, Grandpa. The right to bear arms!

Remember our discussion yesterday about the origins of the Second Amendment? 

The Supreme Court doesn’t agree with you. The Supreme Court says I have the “right to bear arms”. “Arms” are weapons, Grandpa, so why are we just talking about guns? Arms are what armies and state militias have. I’m stickin’ up for my rights! This is America, Grandpa! We get to protect ourselves. I need a bomb to protect Mom and the family!

  • Elijah and Grandpa, Chaska, MN, February 16, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandpa, Do we conceal and carry?

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Grandpa, do we conceal and carry?

Well, sometimes Grandma and I carry your bottle when Mom’s away, but we have no need to conceal it. Why?

I’m not talking about bottles, Grandpa. I’m talking about guns. Do we conceal and carry guns?

n_msnbc_brk_douglasteacher_180214_1920x1080.nbcnews-ux-1080-600We don’t, Elijah. We don’t carry guns and, if we did, we wouldn’t conceal them. We like to be open. People who conceal things have something to hide.

That’s not what people in Congress are saying! They think everyone should conceal and carry. Grandpa, do I have to go to school?

Yes. When you’re older you’ll go to school. You have to. Every child in America has to go to school.

I don’t want to!

Sure you do. It’s just like daycare but you’ll be older.

School’s aren’t not like daycare, Grandpa. I saw it on the news. All those kids in Florida got killed. Kids shouldn’t have to go to school. They’re not safe. That’s why the NRA wants conceal and carry to protect us from the bad people.

Okay, now I’m getting your drift. This is really sad. 

Yeah! If I have to go to school, I want to conceal and carry!

Hmmm. I see. You think your school will be safer if everyone conceals and carries so you can get the bad guys.

Right. Exactly. I’m not a Democrat any more. I’m a Republican!

I see. That’s your right under the Constitution.

Yeah! I’m going to exercise my Second Amendment rights!

Well, let’s stop and think about this before we decide to carry anything but your bottle. The Second Amendment isn’t the only right in the Bill of Rights. If we keep going the way we’re going, the Second Amendment will be the only part of the Constitution left. America will become a mass firing range.

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Grandpa, that’s awful! Can I please have my bottle before I open my lemonade stand?

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, February 15, 2018.

 

Grandpa, Is this the End?

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Grandpa and Elijah

Grandpa, is this the end?”

The end of what, Elijah? You seem anxious. That’s not like you. End of what?

End of the world! Don’t you know? You’re the preacher!

You didn’t hear that from me. Where’d you hear about the end of the world? Who said that? Who got you all stirred up?

Mom did! I heard her!

What exactly did Mom say? And to whom did she say it?

She said it to Grandma. I heard it. I hear stuff, Grandpa. I don’t need hearing aids. You miss a lot of stuff. I heard it with my own ears.

Touché! But let’s step back a second to make sure you got it straight. What did Mom say?

Mom said “It’s over. Our world’s coming to an end!

What were you doing when Mom said that?

I was just crawling like I have all day, and playing with some wires. Mom didn’t like it.

Aha! I see. “Our world’s coming to an end” is different from the world coming to an end.

Uh-uh! She called me a terrorist! I’m not, Grandpa!

Oh, my! There are terrorists and there are terrorists, Elijah. Was Mom laughing when she said you were a terrorist and that the world had come to an end?

Yes. She was. But before she laughed, she’d been crying a lot. That’s when she called Grandma.

What did Mom say to Grandma? How did the conversation start?

NagasakibombShe said, “Mom, I’m so tired! He’s getting into everything! He started crawling! I have to follow him every second. I can’t let him out of my sight; I’m exhausted! Our world’s coming to an end!”

Well, Elijah, there are worlds and there are worlds. And one person’s terrorist is another person’s child. It’s confusing to a little guy.

Yeah! This morning I pulled myself up. Pretty soon I’m going to walk. The beginning of life for me. The end of the world for Mom.

— Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, February 13, 2018.

 

 

 

Elijah and the Big Parade

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Elijah asking about the Big Parade

Grandpa, are we going to the parade?

What parade, Elijah? It’s February 9. It’s not the Fourth of July.

What’s the Fourth of July? Is that a parade?

No, it’s the date we Americans celebrate our independence.

Yeah! I’m independent!

No, you’re actually quite dependent, Elijah. We all are.

Uh-uh! Kim Jung un’s not. Rocket Man’s liddle like liddle Bob Corker, liddle Adam Schiff. He’s not dependent! Neither am I!

Okay, okay, I’m sorry. There’s nothing wrong with being liddle, Elijah, especially when you’re eight-months old. Every one of us is liddle. Some of us accept it. Others have a lot of trouble with it. They need to feel big.

So are we going to You-Know-Who’s big parade, Grandpa?

No, there’s not going to be a parade.

Why not? You’ve been wrong before! You said You-Know-Who could never get elected. How do you know?

Okay. I don’t know. I’m hoping some of the adults in his cabinet and in Congress will convince him it’s an un-American idea. But You-Know-Who doesn’t like traitors, and he likes big parades. He might decide to do his Bigger-than-Kim Jung un’s Military Parade on the Fourth of July to show he’s biggest.

 

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New McDonald’s GRAND Big Mac

Yeah. He needs some comfort food! Send Melania a text, Grandpa! Quick before he wakes up! Tell Melania to get some Big Macs for breakfast! Do they have Big Macs in North Korea?

 

No, they don’t have McDonald’s in North Korea. Big Macs aren’t good for you. Too many Big Macs will kill you. They’re big, but they’re not comfort food. Comfort food makes you comfortable with being liddle. Not BIG with a need for a Military Parade.

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Mom says this cartoon is “off color”, Grandpa, but I see lots of color. I’m liddle but I know some stuff! But I’ll tell Mom to X out the Fourth of July on our calendar. We’re not going to the parade! Some things should stay liddle, right Grandpa?

  • – Grandpa Gordon, writing from the land of Goofy and Donald Duck, Orlando, Florida, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018.

 

Grandpa, Traitor Joe’s got Mom!

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Elijah talking with Grandpa

Grandpa, we gotta make a run for it!

Why’s that, Elijah? Sounds serious. Why are you afraid.

Mom’s sick.

What’s the matter?

She got poisoned!

Who told you that?

Mom did!

You must have misunderstood. Everybody loves Mom. Nobody would poison Mom.

They did. We need to go get Mom and make a run for it.

What exactly did Mom tell you?

She got food poisoned!

Okay. Nooow I’ starting to get the picture.

See, I told ya. I’m liddle but I know stuff you don’t know, Grandpa!

I know, but you can settle down now. No one poisoned Mom. Food poisoning is different. She ate some bad food that made her sick.

Uh-huh! Traitor Joe poisoned her!

I see. . . . . Did Mom go to the store recently?

Trader Joe's

Traitor Joe’s

Yeah. Traitor Joe’s! Don’t go in there, Grandpa. She couldn’t even take me to day care this morning.

Who drove you to day care?

Uncle Andrew came to the rescue.

Good for Uncle Andrew. He’s a good brother and a good uncle.

Yah, but he left Mom home alone in the bathroom and she has all my food!

But you’re here now, so that’s good. You’re safe here at Grandma and Grandpa’s, and Mom will be fine. She just got sick from some bad food. What did Mom say about the food?

Not much. She couldn’t talk. But after we went to Traitor Joe’s, he was following her.

What made you think someone was following Mom?

He was in a red sports car. Mom kept watching him in the rear few mirror. I can’t see from my carseat. I can only see Mom in the rear few mirror.

What did she say? Did she recognize him?

She didn’t say, Grandpa. She was just wavin’ her hand in the air and yelling “Get off my tail, ____!” I can’t say that word, Grandpa. I didn’t see it except in the rear few mirror, but I heard it. Traitor Joe followed us home and how he’s got Mom held hostage in the bathroom.

I think Mom probably just needs a few more hours to get Trader Joe out of her system, Elijah. Everything will be better in the morning.

— Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 25, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Philadelphia Mean and Minnesota Nice

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Being candid is not always wise. But, some days, like today, it feels like a requirement.

Yesterday my adopted team, the Minnesota Vikings, brought “Minnesota Nice” — everyone’s supposed to be “nice” in Minnesota — into the stadium of Philadelphia Mean. Philadelphia fans are as known for their meanness as Minnesotans are for Minnesota Nice.

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Philadelphia Eagles fan throwing beer bottle

Philadelphia fans weren’t nice! They threw beer bottles at Vikings fans. They ridiculed their Minnesota guests by chanting “Skol!” when the Vikings did belly-flops. And that was just up in the stands! Down on the field, it was worse. The Eagles were mean. The Vikings didn’t play football. They played nice, and they got whooped!

In case you’re wondering why Views from the Edge is spending time on a football game, let me explain.

I’m a relative newcomer to Minnesota Nice, a 1994 transplant from Philadelphia Mean. But I was never an Eagles fan. Phillies? Yes. Eagles? No. But my brothers and high school friends are. They love the Eagles. So a part of me is happy for my brothers Bob and Don and my old Philadelphia classmates. I’m trying to be nice, but it doesn’t come naturally.

It gets more complicated. The New England Patriots will bring New England Haughty to U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis for the Super Bowl that was supposed to include the Minnesota Vikings. My family roots are in Boston (my father) and Maine (my mother). All my relatives — ALL of them — except for brothers Bob and Don, will be cheering for the New England Haughties on Feb. 4.

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U.S. Bank Stadium, host of the 2018 Super Bowl

When the Eagles take the field against the Patriots in the Vikings’ home stadium, I’ll be a bit conflicted. But, here’s the thing, to be quite candid. I’ll be in Florida with my less conflicted brothers Bob and Don. I’ll shout “Skol!” for the Eagles and privately give thanks that being patriotic isn’t Patriot-ic, and that life is not a football game.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 22, 2018.

Grandpa, what’s a shutdown?

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Elijah with Grandpa: “I don’t like that, Grandpa!”

Watching the news last night, Elijah was worried.

Grandpa! What’s a shutdown?

Well, Elijah, let me think. You’re just eight-months old. Let’s try this. If your Mom decided not to feed you anymore, that would be a shutdown.

Mom’s not going to feed me anymore? Mom and I were on the NEWS?

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Elijah with Mom

No, no, Mom’s not going to shutdown your feeding. She loves you very much. I’m just saying that’s what a shutdown is like.

So, who’s being shutdown?

The government.

What’s a government?

It’s what keeps us together in a democracy.

What’s a democracy?

Actually, I mis-spoke. We’re not a democracy. We’re a democratic Republic, a representative democracy. We govern ourselves by electing people to represent us in Congress and the Presidency.

Did all those people die? Did they get shutdown?

No, Elijah, they’re the ones who are threatening to shutdown the government.

Why, Grandpa?

Because they’ve forgotten why they’re there. They’re confusing government with a sandbox. It’s not. The government belongs to the American people. They’re acting like kindergarteners throwing sand at each other in the kindergarten sandbox. If they keep doing this, there’s be no sand left. The sandbox itself will be gone. It’ll all be shut down.

I don’t like that, Grandpa, and I don’t like the way you’re talking. You’re making fun of kindergarteners!

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Kindergarteners working together in the sandbox

You’re right, Elijah, I shouldn’t make fun of kindergarteners. Kindergarteners are better than that. They’re adults. They’re not acting like children. If they acted like children, we might be better off. Like the psalmist said,

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger. (Psalm 82:3)

Thanks, Grandpa. I like the psalmist. Will their Moms shut them down if they shut down the government?

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 19, 2018.

AN AMERICAN DILEMMA

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Kay in the Boundary Water Canoe Wilderness Area

Kay Stewart in the Boundary Water Canoe Wilderness Area

Gordon has asked me to write a post encouraging readers to feed their brains a most remarkable, very long, edited version of The Age of Outrage, a lecture by Professor Jonathan Haidt.

Once I disciplined myself to stay with it, I couldn’t get enough. Brain food provided by a most remarkable mind-chef. Haidt has thought about our present state of polarized dialogue for a long time.

This lecture illuminates and translates and fascinates. Best of all, it frustrates FEAR and illustrates HOPE—something sorely needed in our current collective stalemate.  Power-packed with research, it articulates the issues clear as a bell. But, only if you are patient and keep reading.

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Haidt provided me brain food, lifting me from maze-filled conundrums of ugliness to a way to some light at the end of a well worn tunnel called civilization.

I do have hope and always have—this Eeyore-soul of mine just can’t live in doom for very long while alive—but I now see an articulated way through the despair, as this wise professor has a bigger brain than any I’m used to reading. So wise. So substantial.

Lifting up a few highlights from my personal enthusiasm:

  1. For years, I have been saying “If we don’t educate our children, teach them how to think, we simply won’t have a democracy to save.” Haidt says it too. Vindication is sweet. Of course others have said it many times, repeatedly, yet it still remains on the bottom of the list of our national priorities and funding
  2. Raising our children to handle “undifferentiated play”. When my youngest was in a progressive Austin, Texas elementary school, the school district eliminated the only free time in his entire day—20 minutes on the playground after lunch. The rest of his day was organized, supervised and regulated. Since the Vietnam War Moratorium days, it was the closest I ever came to carrying a protest sign in front of the school with other mothers who cared deeply about their kids getting a chance to develop social wisdom, a skill cultivated by kinds when allowed to be themselves with a pocket of free time all among equals on the school playground. A skill they will be required to be good at in negotiating the rest of their social lives.

So, in a nutshell, I recommend you read this transcript. Print it out and carry it around. Anchor it, tether it to the status quo. Believe in the power of a changing paradigm. We sorely need it about now.

  • Kay Stewart, Chaska, MN

Click “The Age of Outrage: What the current political climate is doing to our country and our universities” to read and comment on Jonathan Heidt’s reflections.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Jan. 19, 2018.

 

 

 

Grandpa, who’s chasing you?

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Grandpa being chased

What are you talking about, Elijah? No one’s chasing me.

You just said you were being chased. So, who’s chasing you?

No, I didn’t say I was chased. I said I was chastened.

What’s that? Isn’t that like a pluperfect of chased?

No, it’s different, but it does make me want to run away. I don’t like being chastened. You won’t either when you’re old enough to be chastened, although, come to think of it, I’ve already chastened you for keeping Mom up all night.

I remember that. You made me feel bad. That wasn’t right, Grandpa! I just needed to eat! You don’t care about my needs! Mom’s going to chasten you!

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Elijah & 7.5 months

You’re right, Elijah. You just chastened me and I feel rightly chastened.

Good. So you won’t do that again, right?

I wish I could promise you that I won’t, but it wouldn’t be right to promise. I’m sure you’ll be chastened many times over your lifetime. Sometimes you’ll be chastened even by your Mom. And, if I think you’re doing something hurtful, I will chasten you for your own good.

Okay, Grandpa. I’ll do the same.

That’s a deal.

So who made you feel chastened this week? Was it Grandma?

No, it was two professional colleagues. Bill chastened me on Facebook for something I’d written on Views from the Edge. Here’s what Bill said on Facebook. It hurt my feelings.

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Andy Borowitz

“Borowitz does satire better, and this piece is just wishful thinking, which isn’t really satire. We need people to focus on actually changing our national discourse.”

That’s over my head, Grandpa? Who’s Borowitz? What’s wishful thinking? What’s satire? What’s national discourse?

We’ll get to those questions later, Elijah. We don’t have time now. Here’s the second chastening.

Kara Root — she’s another minister here in Minneapolis — wrote something to her congregation that made me feel chastened. She invited the members of Lake Nakomis Presbyterian Church to join her in prayer for our country every Friday morning.

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Kara Root

Here’s what Kara said:

“I’m going to pray for the nation this morning. Every Friday morning this is happening in our sanctuary. It helps me remember what I know to be true. It helps me let go of the noise, and the vitriol, and the division we feed, and feed on, so eagerly.

“This practice feels brave. And healing. And important. Sometimes I find gratitude, and even tenderness, for the people that make up this country, every single one of them.”

Yeah! Every single one of them! That’s good, Grandpa. Not like President You-Know-Who!

Ahhhh, but here’s the thing, Elijah. It does include President Trump. “Every single one of us” includes Donald. That’s what makes me feel chastened. All my life I’ve felt chased by Adolf Hitler. I always wondered whether I would have had the courage to stand up against him. Standing up to Hitler has been like a lifelong preoccupation. Anytime I see things that remind me of Adolf, I go a little crazy.

So someone IS chasing you, but you’ve stopped running! That’s good.

No, it’s not. Like Bill’s criticism of me on Facebook said, we need to change our national discourse.

I’m not praying for President You-Know-Who! I’m standing my ground!

You can’t stand your ground yet, Elijah. You can’t even stand without help. None of us can. Jesus talked about loving our enemies. He said we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

Okay, I’ll pray for Bill and Kara ’cause they chastened you, but I won’t pray for You-Know-Who!

You have to, Elijah. We all have to.

No we don’t. I’m not do it! I don’t like You-Know-Who!

Praying for President Trump doesn’t mean you like him or accept his behavior. It means hoping for a change in his character. It means hoping that Donald will have a change of heart and mind, that he’ll stop running from whoever’s chasing him. That he’ll settle down. Be calm.

Maybe Donald also being chased by Hitler. I don’t know.

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If we refuse to pray for ALL people, instead of just the people we like, we’re running away from our best selves. That doesn’t do any good, Elijah. It allows evil to chase us. It contributes to evil, and we should be chastised. If we don’t pray like Kara and the good people of Lake Nakomis Presbyterian Church, all our talk about faith, love, and hope is meaningless.

Kara Root, Lake Nakomis Presbyterian Church, Minneapolis, MN, 2018

Okay, Grandpa. If I have to, I’ll try to be more like Kara. I want to be good, but this faith, love, and hope stuff is really, really hard!

— Gordon C. Stewart (Granda), Chaska, MN, January 14, 2018.

Elijah: “Grandpa, What’s Hope?”

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Elijah @ seven-an-half months

Grandpa and Elijah’s conversation about love and faith led to further conversation about hope. Like most conversations between a seven-and-a-half month old grandson and a 75 year old grandfather, it’s a bit convoluted.

Grandpa, now that I know all about love and faith, tell me about hope.

I hope you don’t mind my saying so, Elijah, but you’ll never know all about love or faith or hope, but that’s okay. You’ll learn later how little even the oldest people on the planet know.

We’re on a planet?!!!

The Good, Good Earth: Our Island Home

NASA photo of planet Earth

Yes, we’re on planet Earth.

Wow! Where’s Earth? Will I ever get to go somewhere else?

No, I don’t think so. We’re Earthlings. Earth is our home.

Uh-uh. Edina’s my home! Mom said so. And my daycare’s somewhere else. You’re messing with my brain, Grandpa!

Well, Edina and Chaska aren’t planets. They’re tiny towns on planet Earth in the Milky Way in a vast universe.

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Milky Way galaxy

Mom loves Milky Ways. I hope someday I can have one. I hope Mom will share one of her Milky Ways when I start eating solids.

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Milky Ways

Aha! See, you ALREADY know what hope is!

So hope’s like hunger?

Sort of. I hadn’t thought of it as hunger, but I guess it is in a way. Hope is food for the soul. Hope is desire for something you don’t yet have, or for what you haven’t yet become.

Like being able to walk, right?

Yes. Like that. Hope is always ahead of us. We’re always reaching toward it. Hope requires us to crawl rather than run. It’s a slow crawl. It’s hard. It’s the opposite of despair.

Pretty soon I’ll be done with hope! I’ll just need faith and love, right? I’m going to walk pretty soon. I can just feel it in my bones! I’m certain of it. I don’t need hope!

Yes you do, Elijah. You do. You can’t be certain of anything. You could get hit by a car and die before you learn to walk and talk.

That’s mean, Granda! Why’d you say that? So life is cruel. God’s mean! I’m going be an atheist!

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Hope and Despair

Well, you can be, if you want. But atheism is its own kind of certainty. Certainty is the opposite of faith, Elijah, and, like we already talked about, everyone has some kind of faith. And despair is the opposite of hope. Everyone has some kind of faith and hope. Otherwise we’d be in despair. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.”

Yeah, like the planet. We can’t see the planet, right, Granda? We have faith and hope for the planet, right?

Right. Planet Earth is in danger right now, Elijah. I want you to grow up on the good green Earth the way I did, and I’m sad because I’m afraid you won’t. The Milky Way’s not in danger, but Earth is.

Yeah! I sure hope Mom drives carefully on the way to daycare! I’ll tell her to leave her Milky Ways in tiny Edina. Otherwise Earth might get eaten up!

— Gordon C. Stewart (Grandpa), Chaska, MN, January 13, 2018.