Earlier today Donald Trump tweeted that Boeing was spending $4 billion dollars to renovate Air Force One. He was off the facts by orders of magnitude but that doesn’t mean he didn’t know knew exactly what he was doing. It’s time we stop trying to read his tweets as exercises in truth finding. It doesn’t matter if Trump didn’t know or didn’t care about his numbers: With authoritarians, we must follow the effects, not the logic.
Trump’s tweet came less than half an hour after the Chicago Tribune posted a few short quotes from the Boeing CEO saying they were concerned about the implications of trade with China under a Trump Administration. It was relatively tame stuff and of course a multinational with billions of dollars in China is going to be concerned. About a quarter of their aircrafts are built for the Chinese market.
But follow not the logic but the effect: if you criticize this president in public he will destroy your shareholder value. Boeing lost half a billion dollars in value following Trump’s 140 characters. Every CEO in America will now have to think twice before speaking to the press. It would be fiscally irresponsible to do otherwise. A few quotes in a paper isn’t worth that amount of shareholder value.
Free speech isn’t just court cases or a few lines in the Constitution. Even the CEOs of the largest corporations in America need to watch their tongues. Silencing has begun.
One of the white ministers with James Reeb in the 1965 attack that helped propel the Voting Rights Act remembers the night.
He also reflects on the value of white lives vs. black lives for national attention in the Civil Rights Movement. While the actual Selma march was protesting the killing of black civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson by a state trooper, national outrage focused on the visiting white minister.
In 1967, Dr. King noted, “The failure to mention Jimmy [sic] Jackson only reinforced the impression that to white Americans the life of a Negro is insignificant and meaningless.”
“What do you think of this?” It was probably the twentieth time my brother or I had asked this question in the last hour. Our mother had downsized to a one-bedroom apartment in an Alzheimer’s unit just six days earlier. Visiting her there she admitted she couldn’t even remember her old apartment. We were cleaning it out.
The object of the question this time was an antique teapot. White china with a blue design. It wasn’t in great shape. The top was cracked and missing that handle that lets you take the lid off without burning your fingers. It had a folksy charm, but as a teapot it was neither practical nor astonishingly attractive, and neither of us really wanted it. It was headed for the oversized trash bin outside her room.
I turned it over in my hands. There, on the bottom, was a strip of dried-out and cracked masking tape. On it, barely legible and in the kind of cursive script that is no longer taught, were the words “Recovered from ruins of fire 6/29/23 at 7. 1067 Hazard Rd.”
We scratched our heads. We didn’t know where Hazard Road might be (Google later revealed it’s in the blink-and-you-miss-it railroad stop of Hazard, Pennsylvania, a crossroads only technically within the boundary of our mother’s home town of Palmerton). The date would place the fire seven years before her birth.
We can only guess to fill in the details. A catastrophic fire must have taken out the family home. Imagine the grim solace of pulling out a family heirloom. Perhaps some grandparent had brought it carefully packed in a small suitcase on the journey to America. Or perhaps not. Perhaps it had no sentimental value and it had landed with our mother because no one else cared. We’ll never know. No amount of research could tell us more than that masking tape. Our mother wasn’t the only one losing her memory. We were too. We were losing the family memory of a generation that had lived, loved, and made it through a tragedy one mid-summer day.
I stood there and looked at the teapot once again. It had survived a fire ninety years ago. I would give it a reprieve from our snap judgement and the dump. Stripped of all meaning save three inches of masking tape, it now sits on a top shelf of my cupboard. It will rest there, gathering back the dust I just cleaned off, until some spring afternoon forty years from now, when one of my kids will turn to another. “What do you think of this?”
Update March 2017
Beyond all odds, there’s actually more information. Someone has put up obituaries from the Morning Call newspaper. It includes the May 1922 notice for Alvin H. Noll, my mother’s great grandfather.
Alvin H. Noll, a well known resident of Palmerton, died at his home, at that place, on Sunday morning, aged 66 years. He was a member of St. John’s church, Towamensing, and also a prominent member of Lodge, No. 440, I.O. of A., Bowmanstown. He is survived by two daughters, Mrs. Lewis Sauerwine, Slatington, and Mrs. Fred Parry, this city; three sons, Purietta Noll, Samuel Noll and Thomas Noll, Palmerton. Two sisters, Mrs. Mary Schultz, Lehighton; Miss Amanda Noll, Bowmanstown; two brothers, Aaron Noll, Bowmanstown, and William Noll, Lehighton. Ten grandchildren also survive. Funeral services will be held at the home of his son, Purietta (sic) Noll, 1067 Hazard Road, Palmerton, on Wednesday at 1.30 p.m., daylight saving time. Further services will be held in St. John’s church, Towamensing. Interment will be made in Towamensing cemetery.
And there it is: 1067 Hazard Road, home of my mother’s grandfather Puriette Franklin Noll one year before the fire. So I’ll add a picture of Puriette and his wife Elizabeth with my Mom eighter years after the fire, at what the photo says is their Columbia Avenue home. Wow!
“Martin provided great value in designing a website for my law practice. He was accessible and facilitated the process, despite our geographical distance, through email and telephone consultations. He was flexible in working with me to achieve what I was looking for within my budget.” May 1, 2009
John Kindley, Lawyer. Hired Martin as a Graphic/Web Designer in 2008 Top qualities: Personable, Good Value, High Integrity
A growing body of research questions the value of the trips abroad, which are supposed to bring hope and Christianity to the needy of the world, while offering American participants an opportunity to work in disadvantaged communities, develop relationships and charge up their faith. Critics scornfully call such trips “religious tourism” undertaken by “vacationaries.”
My brand of religious don’t do this kind of mission work but we are more and more enchanted with long-distance conferences. We now address every issue with a conference but do we ask any “research questions” about their effectiveness? The web is a great tool to extend the conference outward and yet, despite all the content that could be easily ported to the web, most conferences, consultations and gatherings barely exist online.
I know that real life has it’s own value – I was happy to have a visit from individual traveler Micah Bales this weekend, a Friend with a great talent for the good question that stays with you long after his bus departs. I just wish I saw more media coming out of these big events, more ways to bootstrap the volumes of content produced at these events into something we can use for outreach.
If anecdotal evidence is an indication, most of the people who have come to Friends in the last half-decade first encountered us on Beliefnet, a for-profit dot-com with no connection to any Friends body. It’s definitions of “Liberal Quakers” and “Orthodox Quakers” have become more important (de facto) than all of our books of Faith and Practice. Beliefnet, Wikipedia and a site called Religious Tolerance have become the definers of our faith to millions of seekers. Nothing we’re doing comes close to Beliefnet.
And this is part fo the reason I’ve been fascinated by a Youtube video that was made this weekend. It’s an introduction to “liberal Quakers” by someone who’s never been to Quaker worship. While this might sound presumptuous, the real crime is that hers is the only American liberal Quaker introduction on Youtube. What the hell are we doing, Friends? I’ve been corresponding with the Youtuber. She’s 22, a spiritual seeker who cobbled together a spirituality after following a couple of dead-end spiritual paths. She came across the Beliefnet quiz, came out a “liberal Quaker” and started looking for real world Friends. She tried the meeting in her home town but it looked deserted (!) and so started an email correspondence with a Friend she found on another meeting’s website. She did the Youtube video because she couldn’t find any American introductions and wanted to give back, especially to younger seekers that might not respond to a British Youtube series. Yes her video is awkward and a little sketchy on some points of liberal Quaker theology, but it’s honest and doesn’t contain any viewpoints you won’t hear around most meetinghouses.
PS: Since writing this I’ve come across the first video from the just-concluded FGC Gathering. I don’t know if it’ll help with outreach but it is really funny. Thanks Skip, I feel like I was there!
Got an email in the bookstore today from a potential customer who chose Amazon over my employer Quakerbooks, a niche independent bookstore, because of their cheap cheap prices. I got a bit inspired by my reply, included here.
Subject: book prices
I really wanted to buy the below book [Why Grace is True], but I checked amazon. com. Their prices: new is $16.07, or used from $5.94. Your price is $22.95.
I know how hard it is to be competitive, but I wanted to let you know that people do comparison shop.
What we offer is a much wider selection of Quaker books than anyone else. We don’t just have the more watered-down books aimed at the general population (mostly with the unsaid premise “what you can learn from those folksy Quakers”), but a whole list of books about Quaker religious education, Quaker vision, Quaker belief, Quaker history and what it means to be a Quaker today. We don’t just have the HarperCollins titles, but those from Quaker publishers that Amazon’s never heard of. We easily beat Amazon in selection and we certainly match them in speed and customer service.
We give a more grounded context to what these books mean to Friends – the reviews on our site’s If Grace is True are written by Friends for Friends. We try to know our books. When people call us up we’ll help with their selection. When they’re trying to decide, we’ll read the table of contents to them. Quaker publishers and booksellers talk about the “ministry of the written word,” which means remembering that there’s a purpose behind this bookselling. These books aren’t commodities, they aren’t units, they’re not ISBN numbers to be packed and shipped. We’d rather not sell a book than sell a book someone wouldn’t value (which is why we’ll include negative book descriptions & comments).
Paying a few extra dollars to support us means your also supporting the outreach and Quaker self-identity our catalog provides for many Friends. Plus you can be assured our employees get living wages and health care (for which I’m personally thankful).
So yes, customers can save a few bucks at Amazon. Always will be able to. But your purchasing decisions are also decisions about who you support and what you value. There’s a price to distinctiveness, whether it’s cultural, religious, regional, or culinary. By buying from Amazon you’re financing a Wall Street-run commodity seller that doesn’t give a jot about Quakerism or even whether grace might be true. If enough Friends choose price over content, then Quaker bookstores and publishers will disappear, our only representation being mainstream books sold at generic shops. That will cost us a lot more than seven bucks.
Well, I hope you enjoy the book. I’m sure Amazon appreciates your patronage.