Catching up on August/Sept… I did an article for the local newspaper on First Mennonite Church’s “Casket Ministry” here. A regular on-the-market casket costs, on average: $4,000. A First Mennonite casket, of comparable quality and crafted by church member “carpenter hobbyists,” costs: $450. A Habitat for Humanity home in the Third World costs, on average: $2,000. Think about it. We bury a dead American for close to the price of providing adequate housing for two families in the Third World. Lunacy, sheer lunacy. Our priorities in America are so out of whack. [One of our campaign research stops was at Habitat for Humanity’s Headquarters in Americus, Georgia, where we toured a model village that included some of the homes they build in the Third World. It was pretty impressive.] …Staying with this theme, I recently interviewed a Bluffton pastor, Brandon Mayden, who recently adopted a young child from an orphanage in Ethiopia. Why? Because, simply, there was a need and he and his wife felt like God was calling them to do it. Some years prior, Brandon and his wife had gone on a missions trip to Haiti seven months after the devastating earthquake (that killed 300,000 people) happened there. He said they saw countless children roaming the streets without parents. Yet even though they wanted to adopt one of the children then, the government’s rule was the potential parents had to be over 35-years-old. Lunacy, sheer lunacy. Note: And speaking of ‘lunacy’… Kim Jong-un has recently said Guam was in North Korea’s nuclear cross hairs. What’s not getting a lot of press play, if any, is the fact that the U.S. has North Korea in its nuclear cross hairs (with a whole lot more missiles). Think North Korea, oh, might be feeling threatened? We as a country would be foolish to look at geopolitical issues simply through a myopic, one-dimensional lens. See our position paper on foreign affairs to understand more about what I mean.
Continuing to catch up on July… I did a newspaper article about St. Mary’s Church here and their “Appalachian connection.” Each year an outreach team from St. Mary’s goes to Kentucky’s Owsley County, one of the poorest in the country. It used to be coal, tobacco and timber country. But no more. What’s more, the opioid problem there is off the charts. The St. Mary’s people paint, fix walls, floors… and as with Habitat for Humanity, the homeowners work side by side. St. Mary’s Pastoral Leader said to me the help is motivated by “justice issues.” And as St. Mary’s parishioners are exposed to such dire poverty, they not only realize how blessed they are, but they also realize that “…it would be wrong not to give,” she said. Our position on poverty points this out in spades. And as president, I’d try to mobilize way more help into our poverty stricken rural pockets, inner cities and into the Third World as well… Speaking of poverty, I did another newspaper piece in July on a downtown Bluffton thrift store that has this phenomenal outreach into El Salvador, Nicaragua, Ethiopia… It’s called the Et Cetera Shop and all the profits go the Mennonite Central Committee for it’s outreach help into the Third World. The Et Cetera Shop director said that, not only is all this a help to those around the world, but it also serves as a “recycling” hub in the midst of an ever evolving otherwise “throw-away” society. This is the kind of ethos that is reflected on our position on the environment. Note: On the lighter side… Every summer Bluffton University here hosts high school marching band camps. Those of us who live within a half mile radius of the campus often feel like we’re at a perpetual high school football game halftime show. (“When the players tried to take the field, the marching band refused to yield…”) Anyway, I was taking some photos of the Edison High School Marching Band for the paper. While the band is in Milan, Ohio, they call it “Edison” because none other than Thomas Edison (think: light bulb) is from Milan, Ohio. Milan is also the home of the annual Milan Melon Festival. So after taking the photos, I told the band my Milan Melon Festival joke: Question: Why does the Milan Melon Festival Queen need a chaperone? Answer: So she can’t elope. (Cantaloupe. Get it? I’ve got a million of ’em.) But you could tell that the band members were happy I didn’t tell them any more of ’em. LOL.
Catching up on the month of July… I wrote a good number of freelance articles for the Bluffton News. Each, for the most part, tied into various parts of my campaign’s platform. For instance, I did a story on residential solar panel installations, focusing on how cost effective they are in the long run. Our “energy stance” is that global warming is, indeed, an evolving threat and we need to move to a lot more green energy, energy conservation, and such, in becoming better environmental stewards — so our kids aren’t inheriting a world of climate chaos. I once told the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette newspaper in Ohio that Liz and I are running as: concerned parents… Another thing we’re ‘concerned’ about is continually evolving “centralism” (move toward more and more big box stores on the periphery), while small town business districts are dying, in droves. For this article, I interviewed Bluffton University Economics Professor Jonathan Andreas. [Bluffton (pop. 3,875) has been able to maintain a vibrant downtown business district because it’s just far enough away from the the Wal-Marts, Targets, Lowes… What’s more, there’s an informed consumer base here who understand the importance of buying local and keeping these small Mom & Pop stores going.] Professor Andreas said it’s not just about getting stuff, but rather it’s also where community members regularly meet to share the ‘stuff’ of life. In that, community camaraderie and solidity increases exponentially. Our economic platform includes a series of strategies to super-charge small-town, downtown revitalization. Note: Staying with “green energy”… Our son Jonathan played a soccer game in the small town of Pettisville, Ohio last month. While there, I learned the high school had put in a two and a half million dollar wind turbine and a retaining pond for their geothermal piping through the school’s floors. Even the 20 MPH school zone signs had solar panels on the tops.
Catching up… I continue writing free-lance pieces for the Bluffton News. For instance, I just finished a short article about a group of local Mennonite youth who are going to Canada to put on a week-long Vacation Bible School for a Chinese community just north of Toronto. A Mennonite pastor going on the trip said to me that they’re trying to teach their youth that service work is part of being Christian… And in order to keep up my populist image (and to put food on our table as well), I continue to do house painting projects. One of my most recent jobs — I’ve been traveling back and forth between Bluffton and Steubenville to paint — was part of the upstairs of a large home in Steubenville. The family has recently moved to Steubenville from Northern California to be part of the Catholic ethos that emanates out from Franciscan University. The university’s slogan: “Catholic to the Max!” [I recently attended a weekend-long seminar at Franciscan on: Politics and Catholic Thought. [More on that later.] Note: Another recent story that I did for the newspaper was about high school sophomores attending a week-long “HOBY Leadership Program” at nearby Ohio Northern University. One of the group leaders said to me during the interview: “Leadership is often about helping move people out of their comfort zone. It takes a person from where they’re at, to where they need to be — even if it’s somewhere you initially didn’t even want to go.” That would be such a good slogan for our campaign — if it weren’t so darn long!
Yesterday our Jonathan and I got in a game of basketball at a cracked, outdoor court near some projects in downtown Steubenville. It was actually a pretty intense game with some high school and young adult age guys. [I’m, oh, a little older.] Anyway, one of the guys on our team had an excellent outside shot, was a pretty good playmaker, yet appeared to have some sort of emotional/mental problem. While he played well, he didn’t communicate at all, except to occasionally nod — all the time either looking away or keeping his head down. When the game broke up, we all went our separate ways. I said goodbye to him and he nodded. As we were walking up the hill from the court, I looked back. There he was by himself continuing to shoot in, seemingly, a world all his own. The projects were just beyond the railroad tracks to the southeast. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of ‘world’ he’d be going back to. Or for that matter, perhaps the world he was trying to escape for a few hours on the court.
I gave a speech at Franciscan University last week. I talked about my faith walk and how it tied into my running for president. I turned the second half of the talk into a “Town Hall Meeting.” Someone asked me how I thought Trump was doing. I said my opinion was “mixed” on this. Unlike the polarizing “all good / all bad” Party rhetoric, I saw “some good / some bad.” I said I was opposed to him pulling out of the Paris Accord on climate change (which had just happened the day before). However, I said I was heartened with his Supreme Court pick with Neil Gorsich. And I was heartened as well with some of his recent overtures in protecting, in part, “religious liberty.” However, I added that the country was at the 60 million abortion mark, and if I was president I’d be showing the movie the Silent Scream during my first State of the Union Address and mobilizing massive, and ongoing, street protests against this Holocaust. It worked to end Segregation. It would work to end this. We can’t treat this as a side issue any longer!
A news report today explained some of Ivanka Trump’s clothing line is made in Chinese factories where the average worker earns $62 a week. That’s it. My daughter Sarah recently went on a missions trip to Haiti where they make even less. Sarah, because of her spirituality, compassion, sensibility… would make an absolutely great First Daughter. And our platform would revolve around getting a lot more help to these people in Third World sweatshops. Not exploiting them.
An American aircraft carrier is steaming toward North Korea. In the face of a UN Security Council resolution banning test missile launches, North Korea continues to defy that. It’s a high stakes geopolitical chess match. That is as we move the carrier into place, we have to be cognizant of the 30,000 American troops (plus South Korean troops) aligned on the border. While North Korea can’t reach the U.S. with a nuclear missile yet — it can reach South Korea… Just prior to April 15 this year, a news report indicated Americans now spend a whopping $6.4 billion a year on tax preparation. It was also reported the Trump administration is considering floating a tax reform proposal that would include some version of a flat tax across the board with a simple one page (or even postcard-size) filing form. [Ted Cruz advocated for this during the Republican primaries.] Our administration would advocate for a “simplified progressive tax” — which we believe would be fairer to those less well off — with an easy one page filing form as well. For more on this, see…
I just heard an NPR piece that said Donald Trump is on a par (pun intended) to be the most prolific of all the golfing presidents, and there have been many. (Truman used to wear his golf shoes in the Oval Office.) It was noted that Trump was once Club Champion at Mar-a-Lago and still plays quite frequently at these types of rather exclusive clubs. Meanwhile, on the “average Joe” side of the fairway (or, okay, often ‘side of the rough’), I was just chipping in our backyard in Steubenville now that spring is here. And my son Joseph and I are planning an early evening golf outing at nearby Fairway River Links Golf Course — 16 bucks for 18 holes. To view what can best be described as my “PGA” form, see…
There was a gang shooting a couple blocks from our home in Steubenville the other night. [We live near the border of a pretty hardscrabble Rust Belt area here. Let’s just say it isn’t Mar-a-Lago.] A teenage boy was killed and two others ended up in the hospital with gun shot wounds. Some of the city came together tonight downtown in the upstairs of a place called the Dirty Vagabonds. This is a Catholic/Christian ministry for latch key kids living in a rather rough area. I joined them. As I saw town adults and Franciscan University students huddled in corners talking with these kids, and as I heard modern praise and worship music coming from a service upstairs, I was heartened on one level — yet tremendously concerned on another level. That is, these kids were going to have to leave this safe space at some point and head back into their respective ‘war zones.’ Neighborhood violence, parents on drugs, run down houses, not enough food in the kitchen… Our administration would be heavy on urban renewal and giving these kids a way better shot at life in general. Note: Our family lived near the inner city of Cleveland for five years doing outreach work with a group of Catholic Workers there. We saw how bad it can be for these kids. Most all of us who are better off should be sacrificing way more (money, volunteer time…) to shift this around, quick.