Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Gimme That Old Time Religion, err, Rick Perry?

I remember those days when we sang that song in church back when we all went to The General Baptist Church. "Gemme that old time religion" everyone belted out like it was their last chance for Heaven. I gave it a try, too. I also remember that we sang it one time when a tent revival came to town. I believe it was the opening song. It could have been the closing song, too. A huge tent, it seemed to me way back then, was erected where the water works and fire station is now. It seemed to me that we spent an eternity listening to that revival preacher. He was a long-winded guy, but I don't recall the sermon. Dad thought he was nuts. Mom and Grandma thought he was God-sent to Owensville; the answer to everyone's prayers. Everything was going to get better! Grandma's health problems, Mom's health problems and, finally, Dad would see the light; the same light, by the way, that Grandma saw - and on her terms. Grandma was a bit vengeful, especially when the Lord wasn't doing His job to suit her. She liked the idea of taking things into her own hands if she could. But, knowing Dad, it would be a cold day in Hell for him to ever agree with Grandma! In retrospect, I don't think Dad liked grand public displays of religion or the idea of running to God every time he had a problem, like Grandma did. She evaded responsibility for her own actions in that manner.

That's not saying that Dad wasn't a spiritual person, because he was. But, too much shouting, wailing and "Hallelujah!" and "Praise the Lord!" so that everyone in town heard, so to not mistake your faith and conviction, turned him off. I wonder what Dad would have thought if that preacher was running for President? It could be that Dad impressed on me, way back then, to take most preachers, especially those who shout the loudest, have the biggest mega-church along with a grandiose and rich life style and who claim to know what God does, says, wants, likes and favors, with a healthy dose of salt and a great deal of skepticism. They have, in most cases, a captive audience that they flimflam all the way to the bank.

Rick Perry is a revival preacher, as far as I'm concerned, and he is extremely good at flimflamming. He IS a state governor, which means that he convinced, which is to say flimflammed, over 50% of Texans to vote for him, astonishingly not once but three times, the longest Texas Governor to hold that office, and those same Texans had to have overlooked in all three elections all of his petty little deals, his disregard for human suffering and his unapologetic and blatant misuse of his office and taxes for his own personal use and for his cronies and, of course, his lies! The facts behind his governorship make me wonder "What the hell is going on in Texas?!" But, it isn't only in Texas. Grandma's type of religious fundamentalism appears to be spreading to all states, and that is a dangerous sign. It could mean that Perry will be our President simply because he drops God's name. That thought gives me the willies.

Grandma would have liked Rick Perry. They are alike in some respects. Perry appears to believe that God takes vengeance occasionally for the wrongs perpetrated by mankind and Grandma would have certainly agreed with that. In fact, I'm ninety-nine percent sure she would say that God is causing the drought in Texas and she would be on the stage praying for rain, right along with Perry. Grandma would have made a good Texan.

She would also like Perry in regards to his brand of criminal justice. During Perry's tenure as governor, Texas' notoriety for convicting innocent people has exploded to national fame and it is the most likely state to use the death penalty. Every year there is a Texan convict who has been exonerated because they were innocent and, in each case, Governor Perry appears to object to their release or he fights against each claim of innocence beyond any sense of reason. Grandma would have yelled, "If he's innocent, then why was he arrested?" Grandma didn't need a court trial to prove a person's guilt. That sounds a lot like Perry's response when he was asked why he didn't review the famous Cameron Tod Willingham case. Perry is reported to have said, "He's a bad man. He even cursed at his wife!" as if that was sufficient enough to show that Willingham was guilty and deserved his death sentence. Of course, that didn't answer why an expert hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission disputed the arson claim by the small-town Corsicana, Texas Fire Department. The expert analysis reported that the fire that convicted Willingham of arson-murder was, in fact, an accidental electrical fire. It wasn't Willingham's fault at all. But, in Corsicana, Willingham didn't have a chance. After all, the Fire Inspector there, a guy with little education and training, with only a high school diploma, like Grandma, firmly believed that eighty to ninety percent of all fires were arson. Nobody stopped to think that that might be a bit high. In fact, Corsicana has more fires started by arson, according to the Corsicana Fire Inspector, than any community in the nation. The documentary showed many interviews with town citizens that reminded me a lot of Grandma, people who had no idea of the facts in the case, but nevertheless believed, beyond any doubt, that Willingham was guilty as hell and deserved to die.

Grandma experienced a murder trial in 1955-56 that she thought was a waste of time; the trial of Leslie Irvin, the "Mad Dog Killer." Dad was sequestered with the jury in a Princeton hotel for the duration of the trial, so we, Mom, Jean, Dan and I, stayed with Granddad and Grandma while he did his jury duty. I recall a couple of visits to Princeton to see Dad, although I don't recall who took us. On each visit we waited outside the hotel in the car and Dad would finally come out, give all of us a hug, and talk a few minutes to Mom, and then we'd go home. "I don't know why Wayne has to waste time on that jury," Grandma would rant. "That Irvin is a killer. They don't need to go through all that rigmarole to figure that out!" As I recall, Grandma didn't shut up about that for the entire trip to Princeton and back and continued until bedtime. The "rigmarole" of course was the trial. My niece reminded me that Irvin escaped the county jail while awaiting trial. Everyone in the county locked their doors while he was on the loose, including Grandma. His trial resulted in a death penalty sentence, but that was overturned by the Supreme Court because it decided that Irvin could not have received a fair trial because of all of the publicity. He was given a life sentence instead. Grandma would have been very upset by that decision. I got the impression that she didn't really believe in a fair trial if it interfered with vengeance or her idea of justice.

Of course, I now see Grandma's faults in regards to her version of justice, and I also think I see how she influenced me, adding to the baggage that I've carried all of these years and, hopefully, tossed out completely or modified to a more thoughtful fairness. But, back then I loved Grandma. She made the best corn patties, that I called corn cakes back then. After Granddad died and she moved closer, I dropped in on her fairly frequently. She would cook corn cakes and spinach or green beans or some other vegetable, and we would eat and she would read the Bible to me. She always read the story of David and Goliath, which made it my favorite Bible story in my youth, and I never tired of hearing it. But, now I think Grandma was a very poor voter and citizen. She really had no idea, nor could she ever be convinced to change her mind, about the basic fairness that founded the United States of America. Neither does Perry. Perry sees the government as a Goliath that needs to be killed. I see him as Goliath that needs to be stopped.

I'm going to keep an eye on Perry and speak up whenever I get the chance. I'm adding a new blog to my list of blogs to keep better track of his shenanigans, the Washington Spectator Blog by Lou Dubose. I heard Mr. Dubose on the radio recently and he made a lot of sense and he seems to be on top of all of Perry's nonsense. We all need to be alert that Grandma's ignorance doesn't spread or we could end up with President Perry. That would be a disaster.


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