Civics

Civics: (n) the study of the rights and duties of citizenship.

I was a freshman. At least, I think I was.

The class was called “Civics.” I’m pretty convinced that it doesn’t exist today, or it’s absorbed into some other aspect of social studies.

It was a combination of history, government and propaganda.

History in the sense that it took the time to explain why the founding individuals decided on the choices they pursued.

Government in the sense that it broke down what was referred to as “the balance of power” among the executive, legislative and the judicial.

And propaganda because it strenuously attempted to convince us that this form of representation was the best in the world, and that the balance of power was actually balanced.

But for balance of power to work, requires balanced people. Sometimes we forget that government is just an idea until folks of integrity and single-mindedness honor it.

So referring back to my civics:

  • The legislative branch is supposed to make the laws.
  • The executive branch enforces them.
  • And the judicial branch interprets them.

Well, you might immediately see that the whole system is out of whack.

Perhaps it would be a better idea to interpret the laws before we pass them and enforce them. Otherwise we put ourselves through the agonizing strain of legalizing activities which later have to be found unconstitutional.

By the time I got out of Civics class and looked at the history of the United States–too many wars, too much indecision, too little compassion for all its citizenry–I realized that every system put together by committee is rarely suitable for the individual.

And since we are a country of individuals, trying to work in union, the greatest civics that we can institute is a pair of ears with a mind to cooperation.

 

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City

City: (n) a large town.

The fear of the unknown is the beginning of bigotry. (I just came up with that. What do you think??)

This was clearly expressed to me growing up as a boy. (I started out as a lad and decided to stick with it.)

I lived in a Village of 1,500 people. This is the crowd size for a medium-famous rock band.

It’s small enough that you can eyeball everybody, size them up and make ridiculously quick decisions on who they are and who they aren’t. It’s not so much that everybody knows everybody–it’s the fact that nobody really knows anybody, but because we’re so close together, we draw conclusions anyway.

You had to drive ten miles to get to the Town. We hated them. They were our arch-rivals–because they had about 25,000 people. They beat our high school teams in every sport, and we were convinced they were all brats, strutting around their houses smirking at each other and sneering at our little Village.

Sometimes the boys from our Village would go down to the Dairy Queen and pick fights with the Town guys. We always lost. But at least we tried, right?

Now–another twelve miles from the Town was the City. Even though the Village was only twenty miles away, the City was the “Dark Side of the Moon.”

There were only certain reasons to go there.

Movies. There was only one theater in the Town, and it usually just showed Disney flicks. If you wanted to see a movie, you had to go to the City, which meant you had to listen to a fifteen-minute lecture from your mom and dad about the dangers lurking in the metropolis, which had several hundred thousand folks.

They also had restaurants instead of “Mom and Pop food.” When I went to the City, I always thought I was going to be robbed, raped or killed–maybe all three.

As a youngster, it caused me to believe that the smaller things are, the more pure they stay–that it was impossible to live in the Town and do good works, and certainly beyond imagination to dwell in the City and find favor with God.

The fear of big things caused the young people of our Village to pick up on the vices of the City without ever receiving the benefits of culture, convenience and camaraderie.

It took me years to overcome the little box that lived in my head, which was supposed to contain everything I needed–yes, a long time to go into the City, bringing what I had learned in the Town, while maintaining the heart and soul of my Village.

 

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Citrus

Citrus: (n) a fruit from a citrus tree

Ignorance is the life of the party, bringing a full keg of beer, until knowledge shows up with pizza.

Most of us are completely satisfied to sip on the beer of ignorance. Why? Because the initial explanation is very satisfying to us.

To push beyond that would mean we might discover something that is less fulfilling–which we have to consider because it’s right.

Some years back I got a cold. I was doing a concert in 72 hours, so I needed a quick remedy to get rid of my common malady. This was during the phase in our society when we believed that Vitamin C was the secret to overcoming the “snoots.”

I decided I was going to be very aggressive in my treatment. I went out and bought nearly a bushel of citrus: oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, tangeloes–everything that had an orange or yellow peel on it. I ate one of these things after another, insisting to myself that I was treating my condition and improving my situation.

After several hours of consuming citrus, I started feeling more sick and logy. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I thought perhaps I wasn’t eating enough citrus, so I chomped more.

My limited understanding of Vitamin C prompted me to eat so much citrus that I just didn’t want to get out of bed.

Now, years later, I understand that all the sweet from the citrus raised my blood sugar, and in the process actually made me feel more ill. (You see, cold germs like sweet things, too.)

It actually took me longer to get over that cold because I aggravated it with a sugar rush. A little knowledge arriving at the right time might have convinced me to change my diet, limit my sugar intake and thereby increase my possibility of recuperating.

But honest to God, if the truth had walked in the door wearing a crown of righteousness, I just might have chased it away.

 

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Citizen

Citizen: (n) a legal personage of a country

He loves his country but not to the exclusion of others.

She salutes the flag but well knows the weaknesses of her government.

He is offended but doesn’t become offensive by dishonoring the nation.

She works very hard to overcome her prejudiced training, to welcome those from all colors and walks of life.

He learns from the past, to bless the present, to set in motion a better future.

She weeps over those who have been wounded by history and joins them hand-in-hand to make sure it never happens that way again.

He doesn’t demand that everybody do things his way, but instead, tries to understand their journey, their perspective and their patriotism.

She stops complaining about inequality and every day proves through her life that she is equal to the challenge.

He freely admits where his homeland has failed.

She celebrates the times when common sense overcame political patronage.

They joined together to believe in a country that has heart and soul, and not just mind and strength.

They are citizens.

They make us great.

They make our country possible.

They are the currency of this nation’s wealth.

 

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Citation

Citation: (n) a summons; a ticket

Back when I was very young and my genitals held the key to my life and my ego the key to my soul, I had a beat-up green van which originally was used by the telephone company. (That was back when we had telephone companies instead of cell providers.)

I bought this van, putting a considerable amount of work into it so I could begin my own musical group and insist that I was unable to
pursue gainful employment because I was on a mission to “make music.”

Driving along with my friends one day, we found ourselves in the midst of a huge argument. Frighteningly, I remember that it was about where we were going to eat lunch. Because we were young, the spat was volatile. Lots of yelling.

So I was entering with my green van onto a four-lane highway when I was struck by a car. My van was not hurt very much, but the gentleman’s car was pretty banged up on the side.

He expressed controlled anger, but insisted we call the police. I didn’t have insurance. In my state at that time, you weren’t required to have it–just considered an ugly troll if you didn’t.

When the policeman arrived, he listened to both stories and gave me a citation for “changing lanes without safety.”

Now I will tell you–I had no idea whether I changed lanes without safety or not. I was too busy arguing over the specifics of our luncheon plans. But I did make a decision to fight the ticket–to object to the citation.

I went to court. I was such an asshole.

When the policeman came forward to testify, his sketchy details did not compare to the tale I made up, which I convinced myself actually happened. I explained that I was already in the lane when I looked to my left and realized that the gentleman was changing lanes into me, striking my side. I even got one of the members of my group totally on board with the account, and she testified on my behalf (even though there was no window on that side of the van, where she could have seen.)

The judge didn’t know, the policeman didn’t know, and the gentleman did not show up for court since he had no citation.

The case was dismissed. I didn’t even have to pay court costs.

I remember walking out feeling very proud, but also somewhat aware that such shenanigans and half-truths would certainly eventually catch up with me.

 

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Citadel

Citadel: (n) a fortress on high ground

How can you take the high ground without instinctively looking down on those beneath you?

It became an issue in the recent presidential campaign. Both candidates insisted they were taking the high ground, while simultaneously
using the concept to proclaim themselves superior.

Unfortunately, any insistence on superiority renders us weakened by the kryptonite of pride.

I need a citadel.

I need a place where I can climb a little higher in my consciousness–not to peer down at the infidel, but to have the chance to see things the way they are, and not the way they appear at ground zero.

My life requires a sweetness of morality, a gentleness of empathy and an awareness of my talent.

In order to mingle these factors, I must don the cloak of humility. For humility is not the absence of ability, but rather, the evidence of it without needing to overpower all comers.

Yes–America should be a citadel.

Our faith should be a citadel.

My life should be a citadel: a piece of higher ground that does not insist on being worshipped because of its elevation, but instead, uses the bird’s eye to consider all the sparrows.

 

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Cistern

Cistern: (n) an underground reservoir for rainwater.

Until I was twelve years old, I thought a cistern was the female version of brethren. (Well, I probably didn’t, but it seems funny,)

I’ve had one encounter with a cistern. My grandfather lived about two miles outside town in a small home which most dignified citizens would call a shack.

It had no inside toilet, but offered an “outlander” version for brave souls who didn’t mind. Also, right outside the door of this humble domicile was a pump, sitting on top of a cistern.

For years, my grandpa asked me to go out and pump it until I got water to come out of the spout, and bring him what he called “the good drinkin’ stuff.” Matter of fact, he purposely attached his indoor sink to the cistern, so when he turned on the tap he received the superior fluid.

I didn’t think much about it.

One day I was sitting with my grandfather in the front room as he was chewing his tobacco, and trying, with his fading eyesight, to spit in his ‘toon. He offered me a glass of water, and I poured myself a cup. I was just about to drink it when my mother raced into the room as if she were saving me from a burning building, knocked the glass from my hand and scared me to the point of eunuch.

My grandpa laughed. He turned to me and said, “Your Mama thinks the water’s bad. No accountin’ for taste.”

Two weeks later we stayed overnight at the house, and my mother drew a bucket of water from the cistern and set it out on the porch. She left it there for about five minutes and then called me out in the moonlight to look into the bucket.

I had never seen water in a bucket moving around.

It was filled with tiny, tiny little worm-like creatures, swimming like it was their weekend at the Riviera.

I nearly threw up.

I don’t know why the water didn’t make my grandpa sick.

I suppose after you chew tobacco for enough years, it just might be difficult to find anything else that would kill you.

 

 

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