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Syria-ously, Tim?

Tim Huelskamp finally arrived in Salina Nov. 23rd, after town-hauling it all over West-Central smaller towns. Speculation was, he didn't want to face more critical questions likely in more populous areas.

Turns out, he didn't have to worry. Such stage shows masquerade as 'listening' tours, but primarily feature the representative front and center. They are held during most people's working day, with resulting attendance consisting primarily of retirees, other Republican office-holders, business folks with potential benefit from federal sausage-making, and standard-bearers of the rep's fan club.

Room for dissenting views is largely overshadowed, if the rep is even moderately skilled in the art of question deflection, non-sequitur creation, and appeals to his base's basest emotions. Tim is.

Despite his "Front Lines of Freedom" newsletter claim that, "Saline County residents were especially concerned about the threat of ISIS," I saw little of that, but plenty of contradictions in his barriers to Syrians fleeing for their lives.

His drumbeat that we are the land of freedom seems not to apply to Syrians--unless they are Christian.

From all evidence, he hasn't consulted Jesus' actual stance on such exclusions. Nor did he specify a litmus test. Syrians wearing crosses? Syrians taking loyalty oaths to Jesus?

More strands of his threadbare analysis frayed when confronted by a KWU student, afraid she might not be reunited with her Indian husband. Who will we let in?

This Republican stock-in-trade fear is much harder to maintain when confronted with a real person in a wedding picture--or lying drowned on a beach.

To paraphrase John Oliver, only one wave of refugees did huge damage to the existing population. It began in 1492.

I could only hear, as a descendant of immigrants in Tim's Town Haul, Pogo drowning Tim out. "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Listening to Heart-Speech

Sometimes our hearts tell us things.

When we lived in town we had a neighbor who would put her hand up to the right side of her face, like a blinder, whenever she left her house. One day I asked her why. She pointed to the new buildings in the ravine at the end of our street. "Those houses--I can't bear to see them," she said. "My children used to play there. It was all woods. We had picnics--"

Her voice broke, and she didn't finish her sentence.

But her meaning was clear:

We bond with landscape just as we do with people, and the breaking of those bonds hurts just as much.

But growth is the one thing our modern capitalist society cannot do without. When housing-starts fall off, the economy is in trouble. When people stop buying consumer items, the economy is in trouble. Expansion, constant expansion, is what we need. Therefore, we are trained to suppress stabs of grief such as my neighbor felt. "Well, that's progress," we are supposed to say, resignedly, when a highway, shopping mall, or subdivision replaces the greenspace we had loved.

But our hearts keep talking.

Enter writers, whose job it is to hear heart-speech and then express it through their own creations.

Kansas for Sale?

Just yesterday, I was distributing flyers for a local candidate while wearing my Davis-Docking shirt. The Royals had won the pennant, it was a beautiful fresh fall-air day, and folks were mostly in a good mood. I came upon a fellow watering his plants, handed him a card and urged him to vote for my candidate and for Paul Davis and Jill Docking . As I walked on, he said derisively, "Oh, I see, Obama Democrats, eh?" "No, just Democrats--and fellow citizens, like you," I replied.

His remark could just be dismissed, except that we know exactly where that came from. His own misconceptions--and the latest TV ads. I am not trying to be pious here. I've been watching TV ads too. Who can escape the constant bombardment? Millions are being spent by NRA, Americans for "Prosperity," the Chamber of Commerce, outside campaign groups buying a force-fed stream of oversimplifications, exaggerations, character defamation, and outright lies.

In the Governor's race alone, nearly $8 million has been spent. Just one organization backing Brownback has spent $1.8 million. The Alliance for Freedom is a "Virginia-based group advocating limited government and a free market." There's the Koch brothers' philosophy. AFF is linked to Dick Cheney's family and Halliburton, the #1 war profiteer. They raked in our tax dollars while many Kansans died. Now those dollars rob us again.

Even worse, in most cases, we don't know who's giving to the PACs. We do know, however, that it's a great investment. Return on investment for most corporate lobbying and campaign contributions is 100% to 100,000%. For example, Big Oil's ROI was 5,900% when seeking fossil fuel subsidies. In 2003, Big Pharma's ROI was 77,500% on when they kept prescription drug prices high by barring Medicare from competitive bargaining.

It's outlandish. These secret, stealth millionaires think they can buy our trust. Trust for a governor and his sycophants who have papered the state with lies that cost us daily and dearly.

I'm no math whiz, but consider this easily understood comparison: 191,00 relatively well-off individuals in partnerships and limited liability corporations freed completely from income tax responsibility because of our Governor's ACTION. On the other hand, 182,000 people ineligible for Medicaid coverage, cut off from basic health care, because of this Governor's INACTION.

More numbers: As former Republican Senator and Secretary of State candidate Jean Schodorf points out, there are now 22,000 Kansans disenfranchised by henchman Kris Kobach. This makes voting crucial for the rest of us.

After all this, the Guv has the nerve to tell us, "The sun is shining in Kansas." As Barbara Shelly, KC Star columnist, says, "All politicians spin. . . . But I have never seen a public official lie as easily and as relentlessly as Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback." Says Republican Steve Morris, former Senate President, "During the past three and a half years, I have witnessed the decline of civil discourse in Kansas. . . . It is time to say enough is enough. It is clear that Gov. Brownback has very little regard for the truth."

Consider that this same Governor and sycophantic legislature passed a bill that would allow their wholly-owned and co-opted state apparatus to take over our Medicare entirely. Seniors and upcoming retirees, given KanCare's failure, is this what you want? Consider that this seemingly remote possibility could come to fruition if we send Pat Roberts and Tim Huelskamp back to Washington. Reason enough to vote for Orman and Sherow.

Finally, consider what ads now stoop to, including Salina's own non-resident, J.R. Claeys'. Personal attacks based on many-years-ago unproven allegations 
regarding personal behavior--not the issues of the day--to plant just enough doubt to get us to vote for them and against our own best interests--again. And then, they trot out those key fear-monger words--"Obama." "Liberal." "Agenda." And for the few remaining unquestioning Republican faithful, "Democrat." The message: Trust us, not them.

If only we could.

That day is long gone, leaving Kansans to face the acid test: Can millions of dollars convince us that an otherwise threadbare Emperor might, somewhere in there, have even one stitch of credibility remaining?

No matter what happens to the Royals, the far more high-stakes competition this October is the election. Will we get a read on the curveballs and knock the BrownBackers' pitches out of the park? Will we send Team Brownback packing?

We can't control a Royals victory or defeat. We can control who runs our state. So get out there and play ball.

The Creek Field is alive with strange powers!

Our Creek Field is 30 acres of cropground, bordered on three sides by McDowell Creek. In March, we seeded it back to native, a first step on the long journey of restoring bottomland prairie.

The first prairie restorationists were martyrs: they spent weeks on their hands and knees weeding their precious plots. But through experience they learned that "succession" would do much of the work for them. Succession is a natural progression from annuals to perennials, nature's way of healing the "wound" of open ground. Annuals germinate quickly, blossom, and set seed, holding the soil while perennials inconspicuously build up their roots. It can take years, but annuals are the warm-up act: they will make their bows and exit when the perennials take the stage.

I was therefore not worried when in late spring the first tiny seedlings to emerge were annual weeds--beggars' tick, prickly lettuce, hedge parsley, ragweed, horseweed, foxtail. I knew these raggedy, prickly plants had a role to play. But built into my preconception of succession was the idea that the beginning was inferior to the end. I thought I had to endure an unattractive first stage in order to get to some place better. Little did I know that while the land was healing itself, I would be healing my own lack of understanding!

Of Angels and God's Dogs

There might be a whole group of us out there--people who value our relationships with animals on a par with our ties to people. "Get over it--it was just a dog" does not resonate with us. Our society places animals way down the hierarchy, but we do just the opposite. "Angels," we think to ourselves or maybe whisper to each other--because sometimes that's the only word for the creatures that fill our world with love.

I should say right out that I am a lifelong member of this group. So it should not be surprising that I have been musing this spring about two special animals, one absent, one present.

The Absent One is our beautiful dog Snobie. My husband first saw her when she was a tiny puppy, wandering all by herself on the busy streets of Mission, South Dakota. He took her in and took her to a veterinarian, who told him she was only 4 weeks old--too young to be separated from her mother and littermates and therefore doomed to be psychologically stunted. He said she would never adapt to human beings.

How wrong he was! She grew easily into a loving and well-mannered member of our household. Here at Bird Runner, she was my constant companion. Throughout all of her 14 years, she shared a contagious delight in life. No matter how many troubles accumulated in our human world, Snobie could make us feel that this very moment in this very place was perfection itself--exactly as it was meant to be.

Now the hole in my heart has her shape exactly. I can't ask another pet to take her place. It wouldn't be fair, as I'm afraid I would blame another dog for not being her. I miss her as much today as the day she died, two years ago.

But now alongside this loss has grown up a new attachment--not to a creature who greets me eagerly or who follows me everywhere--but to someone who avoids me as much as possible and has her own agenda, quite apart from mine. This is a young female coyote who shows up repeatedly on our trail cameras. She is delicate and energetic, with a tail that narrows at the top, like a pony tail. After several daytime clips revealed her russet color, I started thinking of her as "Miss Red."

Pride in Our Ride

SALINA, Kan. - This city is not the center of the universe.  But it is a regional hub.  And it's the place where recently an unlikely outcome, well, came out.  

That is, the Salina City Commission voted 3-2 on May 14 to add lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people to its non-discrimination list.   It and the death of our first, famous, woman astronaut have made our city and state an important universal, not just regional hub.
Sally Ride, astronaut and former spouse of Steve Hawley, the astronaut who claims Salina as his hometown, just came out -- in her obituary.  

Ironies echo to the heavens.  Sally Ride, the first woman to play a crucial role in our search for greater knowledge of the universe, was herself unknown in a basic personal sense. While she escaped the bounds of earth, our knowledge of her was buried under it.  Sally Ride rode a rocket clean out of this world, but could not come out of the closet. 

Ignoring our War Next Door

SALINA, Kan. - While the United States remains focused on Iran and Syria the war next door drags on. I refer to the drug wars that have convulsed Mexico during the past five years. While Vice-President Biden was meeting with Mexican leaders in Mexico City this past week, Juarez, Mexico, residents Manuel and Isabel Martinez were in Kansas visiting their daughter who is a student at Kansas Wesleyan University. I found their observations on Mexico's plight on the eve of its own upcoming July Presidential election worth sharing.

Nation Building or Imperialism

COLBY, Kan. - What is your opinion of the promise to rush into Cuba, as soon as Castro 'kicks the bucket', and establish a democracy? I guess the leading Republican contenders for the presidency don't realize the failure of establishing democracy, U.S. style, in Vietnam and Iraq.

I'm not an expert on the state of the Cuban people, but it seems to me they are better off under Castro's rule than they were under the U.S. backed dictator that Castro overthrew. This, in spite of the embargo and isolationism imposed on Cuba by the U.S.

Perhaps we should let the Cuban people decide their own political system. It appears that some Eastern European countries were fairly successful in establishing themselves, after the fall of the U.S.S.R., without direct interference or aid from the U.S.

What China's Progress Means

SALINA, Kan. - First impressions are lasting. And mine was very positive. In November I had the good fortune to be part of a group from Salina that traveled to China for ten days. After a fourteen-hour flight from Los Angeles we arrived at the Beijing International Airport and stepped into another world. Inside the spacious terminal everything was sparkling. The pristine scene contributed to our sense of excitement as we contemplated the adventure that lay ahead of us.

By now I've had time to reflect on the many experiences of our trip. And as I try to sum up my sense of this rising power I keep coming back to the feeling I had when I first arrived.

Obama's Patience Pays Off in Libya

SALINA, Kan. - Not that many were paying attention in our country, but the long reign of one of the world's most despotic dictators ended last month. And while the road ahead for Libya will be treacherous and uncertain, it will not be directed by Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi. President Obama and American diplomacy deserve a share of the credit.

Ever since the United States emerged as a world power in the aftermath of World War I Americans have struggled with the continuing question of when and whether to intervene in foreign conflicts. President Woodrow Wilson believed that American engagement with the world community would help prevent another world war. But a wave of isolationism swept the country in the aftermath of the "Great War," and the U.S. Senate refused to ratify United States' membership in the League of Nations.

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