View From the Bottom Rung (the life of a scribe)

By Vander H. Atwell.  August 20th, 2016

Hmm. View From The Bottom Rung must be running nigh onto five years to date. Let’s see now, how does one express his heartfelt gratitude for the chance to appear here on this page every other Saturday? Welst, the well-worn old phrase, it’s an honor and a privilege pretty well nails it. A lot of water under the bridge since it began but still ambling along despite the roiling of rivers. Not always easy but we manage.

I do have the best, most approving critic a man could ever hope to have review the final draft before sending over to the good folks at the ’Courier. Each time an article is finished my gal reads it, graciously nods her approval and asks what the next will be about.

You wouldn’t know what a tough question that is to answer most time, and invariably the reply is “I don’t know.” It’s hard for an old guy with only a couple of stories to tell when it all began five years ago to come up with fresh material every two weeks, what with distractions so numerous and interesting that he postpones scribing long as he dares, or simply extends the current project out by making it a bit wordier than perhaps it should be.

Oh, you noticed, eh? The great cowboy philosopher Will Rogers (not to be confused with my friend, local sage and musical entrepreneur Mr. Bill Rogers) once said “Never miss a good chance to shut up,” wise advice one supposes after all rambling on and on means more likelihood of wandering off onto sidebars and less time to began and finish the next text. Despite the uncoupled and misarranged prose we do manage to persist despite an arthritic neck and shoulder compliments of my long career as a logger; hunching over this infernal word processer only serves to agitate and exacerbate a condition brought on by 45 years using myself as a pack animal, forcing the keeping of the pain reliever Tylenol close at hand.

Recently the hocus pocus of politics has been a major distraction from the primary purpose of simply “jawing” with my friends and neighbors. “Hocus pocus” by the way, is a term ordinarily applied to the realm of politics and means ‘tricks used to hide what is happening, especially by distorting the situation and making it difficult to understand’; the constant buzz tends to pull the old gentleman’s focus aside from the chase like a fox hound distracted by a cotton tail rabbit.

There was a time early in life political distractions just didn’t happen, working too hard and much too tired for politics; come election time no question asked, like a loyal and dutiful son I just went to the polls and voted Democrat. And why not, my heritage was Democrat, the political landscape in my place of origin here in the South was Democrat, my grandparents were Democrat, my father, mother and three siblings were Democrat: (well, there was that one sister married to a Republican, a World War II veteran and survivor of the Battle of the Bulge). ’Just say I was “habitized” by tradition into a political philosophy, no hard choices wherewith my conscience to contend. Rather than choosing a political ride by raising its hood, kicking its tires and examining the chassis, t’was the only franchise in town and only modal on the lot.

But now, 17 years into retirement sitting beside the boulevard of humanity’s dreams, watching chariots running to and fro, observing the industry and strivings of my fellow citizens, I sit’s and ponders the debits and the credits of unquestioning obedience to “the faith.”

It’s not that my conscience or philosophy has changed all that much through the years, rather that the political landscape shifted beneath my feet, even before I walked off the job to feast on the fruits of my long labors.

My disputation with the change tends to show up in the heat of this election year battle, where the constant buzz of bizarre machinations tends to distract from sane discourse. Yes, yes, I realize that involving in the chaotic tangle makes me just as zany, but t’was born with a fiery competitive feistiness, and the embers are slow to fade.

No, there’s not a thing to be done about the folly of it all, except “to thy self be true. A song by Larry Gattlin allows that “All the gold in California is in a bank in the middle of Beverly Hills in someone else’s name” still, one remains “involved” even as coastal tides sweep inland consuming every sacred value and conscientious tradition that made this country and its people great.

Eventually though, we try getting back to more mundane things and focus upon the community around us; things that sustain the soul as life, love – or is that liberty – and the pursuit of happiness; take it from someone on the latter end of a long trail, “pursuit of happiness” becomes more important the less time allotted to the “pursuit.” Admittedly there’s not a whole lot of human interest in such mundane topics as lawn mowing, tree trimming, house washing and flower gardening, yet, in chaotic times we should all be happier to channel our lives in more tranquil directions and occupy ourselves with the comfort of the common and the familiar ere the last embers die and cold of darkness chills flesh to the bone.

Does not the scriptures say that ‘Man does not live by politics alone’? Well, perhaps it should, considering the distracting brouhaha seeping from every crack and corner of our own little domain these days. Then there’s the scriptural suggestion that we “eat, drink, and be merry” for tomorrow, well you get the gist.

Many retirees take up vegetable or flower gardening as a hobby, and as a relief from the tedium of idleness.

When I bought my house in Alma, the appeal of it was a large yard that would need my attention, keep me occupied all toned up and out of trouble. But the main distraction, hobby, whichever we shall call it is/ has been music, especially in the years looking forward to retirement and what to do with idle hands.

But music itself can be a distraction sometime with serious potential for hurt by drawing attention away from demanding activities at hand.

Yes son, some jobs are so dangerous that daydreaming (preoccupation with other things) can be deadly.

Early on in life I fancied myself a guitar picker playing my first gig with a Country Dance band at Susanville California ’way back in 1953. It soon became apparent that I would never become another Chet Adkins, and the fancy only distracted from the responsibility of raising a family. The bars we played were no place for a young man with a start-up family to hang out, and having a wife and child, domestic and financial stability overruled any fanciful strivings or sacrifice for fame and fortune out ’neath those neon lights. I quit my government job, left my budding musical career behind and hit the timber trail, the bluest skies, the freshest air and the most lucrative employment a kid of my humble raisings might find. In retrospect, the danger of it made it a dumb thing for a young greenhorn to do, but then a yearling is never easily advised and what the heck—I did survive.

Today with time on my hands to make music an enjoyable and satisfying hobby, it again becomes a distraction of sorts at least in relation to my uh, “literary contributions” here at the PAC. So much time and effort dedicated to musical venues, projects, practice, etc., and further, the old scribbler has recently been “domesticated” and there’s all those social activities divided betwixt two families and a passel of friends each vying for time and attention within the heart and soul of me. Not much leeway for a column written by a slow plodding thinker and one finger “typer” and no time for thumb twiddling over on social media though admittedly I’m often inclined to that direction. Some might even say addicted.

It has been said that procrastination is the thief of time and lord knows there’s been times I’ve wasted so much time there was little time left to finish an article and get it in in time for publication.

Yes, the laptop upon which I scribe, itself is a major distractor from things more important in life, but I’ve yet to reach the point of insanity: Had lunch over at Chili’s a few weeks back and watched as three different couples came in, ordered, then brought out their iphones and proceeded to ignore each other the entire meal. So much precious time lost when one becomes lost out there in the endless reaches of cyber space.

Today I finish this column five days ahead of schedule, a luxury I tell’s ya! Next due Sept. 3. Time’s a wasting.

On the Political Side (Vander H. Atwell)

This is an article (opinion piece) from‘View From the Bottom Rung’ written by my father, Vander H. Atwell, for a local Arkansas paper. Though he writes about many things pertaining to life, and his growing up in Arkansas, and America, he often delves into the political side. I don’t always agree with his views, but the majority of the time, I certainly do. He’s old school, and was Democrat for many years, until as a logger, the ‘activists’ began to put ‘pipe’ bombs and slash tires for whatever cause they felt justified in doing so. It is, in my opinion, NEVER okay to bring harm, destruction or possibly death to any fellow human being when protesting.  He is always a gentleman, well thought out, researched, and has watched in his lifetime, the spiraling down of the American way of life, as  our government began to take more control over the lives of it’s good citizens (both Democrats and Republicans have had a hand in this one way or another). You may not always agree with him, and that’s okay, but it’s a great article, worthy of reading. 

June 24, 2017: Arkansas News

The time has come the Walrus said, to speak of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings; and why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings. (Credit Alice in Wonderland.)

Seventeen years ago when I first picked up a pen and endeavored to put together a couple of sentences that made some sort of sense and incorporate them into a paragraph with enough coherency they might make it to the public comment page of the local paper, the invitation was for timely social topics, community news and views, the rule of conduct, no cussin’ and no private vendetta’s made public.

In reality the theme drifted to mean spirited attitudes, the premier topic, state and national politics interjected into the small rural venue by a culture of liberal activists up from metropolis to a person against any industrial development that might grow the city and offer jobs to a habitually economically stressed community.

Ideological lectures on a scale that would do an evangelical proud dominated public comment and in order to color (or discolor) local culture and politics, the newly arrived often brought lawyers along to litigate their complaints in courts of law.

If anyone ever wandered onto a ‘scene’ unawares, well that was me: how the new arrivals described the community, the people in it, and, indeed the world in which we live was one I failed to recognize, the outpouring of contempt against the “local yokels” sunspot hot. When the editor gave place to a conservative columnist, the discontented not only flooded editorial with protests, they confronted the papers editor and demanded the column be taken down.

It’s like that with volatile people who somehow find themselves politically isolated within cultures not to their liking, and with ideological firebrands, as here in Arkansas, a state which over the last couple of decades has slowly morphed from a Democrat cant into a Republican leaning society. This constant shifting of political fortunes is historical, represents the American experience and is accepted as part of the territory by a mature citizenry long accustomed to political grounds shifting beneath their feet. However, not so much the liberal “apparachiks” who live and die by the sword. Liberalism is the new “fire and brimstone religion.”

Arkansas is a case in point: The more Arkansas morphs from its traditional shades of blue to tinges of red, the more extreme the vitriol slung at the good folks of the state and those they choose to represent them. I believe this thesis can be supported by searching out the chronicles of the more vociferous of leftist advocates lying within the archives of several northwest Arkansas newspapers. Those who aren’t being heard (fail in their attempt to halt the trend) tend to elevate exponentially, both the decibels of their voice and the bitterness of their complaints often reverting to muckraking tactics in an effort to discredit the leadership of any political association crosswise of their own; public rejection of their political doctrine is not only unthinkable, it is personally devastating.

None of this is to say that criticism of Republicans is never warranted, or that the whole “kit and kabootle of them” should be sainted; rather, that the Republicans large evangelical memberships with its strict adherence to time honored principles of personal conduct affects the party’s ethical standards in ways that are not so “detrimental” to the fortunes of the Democratic Party. Christian philosophy calls upon its adherents to strive for betterment daily, admits to human frailty, that everyone “falls short of the glory,” and that every man-jack of us are in constant warfare against a carnal debility that exists within humankind’s own nature, a philosophy grounded in a set of ethics and principles that is the primary voice evangelicals bring to the cultures and associations that they support or with which they align. Democrats not only ignore their own shortcomings, tend to dismiss that they have any, and actively propagate that Republicans are inherently evil, a cancer on our society whose initiatives will or “may” result in the deaths of thousands of American citizens.

There are, to be sure, Christian elements within the Democratic Party, but that ethic is counter balanced by groups that are virulently anti-culture and anti-Christian. And while it is true that good men and bad men are found across the political spectrum, Democrats are not so much defused by a diverse clientele less religious, and less enthusiastic of Christian concepts.

But View From the Bottom Rung drifts more to philosophical musings rather than hard-core political activism, therefore will not ‘muckrake’ by researching and reporting the party affiliations of Washington bureaucrats and lawmakers whose legislative initiatives may kill millions. Neither will it search out Democratic miscreants that have run afoul of the law; rather, since we are all of one nature as Christian philosophy advises, one suspects both sides of the aisle are well represented. Yet one also suspects that, facing the same charges, more Democrats get off the hook for crimes large and small, than Republicans do and for the same foregoing thesis: Democrats are far more loyal to the brotherhood because they do not claim, nor are they held to the same restrictive code that tends to hinder more ‘robust’ competitiveness within the Republican enterprise.

Without attempting to rewrite history, does anyone at all doubt had Nixon been a Democrat he would have went down so easily, and that, with a hefty assist from his own party? Democrats stick together like a swarm of bees protecting the queen. Count on it.

But View from the Bottom Rung does not intend to become a “bash the Democrats” column. We see enough partisan opiners, both sides of the aisle, who diligently search out the sins and misadventures of the other party while ignoring the rascality of their own. Loyalty to one’s own associations is an admirable thing one supposes, but in fact amounts to a shallow conscience indeed if it detracts from accountability to the association which binds us together and to which we pledge allegiance.

Differences of opinion aired in a public forum and processed at the voting booth is the hallmark of our society. Evil is not a part of that equation. But grievances of evil motive against other “faiths” for the sole purpose of political gain is not only an unethical activity, it is an immoral and dangerous one as well as recent events would suggest, especially if that recriminatory stance has been institutionalized by the association that finds it a benefit to its political interests. Eventually some suckered idiot will believe it and act on it.

It happens time and again, eventually some propagated soul(s) ignorant of the concept takes a gun and “goes hunting,” or feels justified in donning a mask and taking to the streets in defiant protest of authority and in fits of violent and destructive activity. Ironically, it is Democrats who have actively cultivated the suspicion that Republicans are a volatile association, that they are prone to volatile elements that present a threat to society and that their policies and initiatives will cause thousands of Americans hardship, heartache and death.

But it is that very, twisted narrative along with an SAS 7.62 assault rifle, an assassin carried onto a ball field in Virginia and took “justice” into his own hands by acting upon the liberal spin that Republicans are out to destroy the lives of millions of U.S. citizens, strip them of Social Security and starve to death countless old people, puppy dogs and little children.

One cannot teach hate without messing with the minds of hateful people. That fact is made transparently clear in the caustic rhetoric of partisan news organizations and the imputation of evil purpose by Democratic lawmakers into conservative thought, and of the entertainment industry with its classless exhibitions of assassinations and beheadings; all of which served to create an atmosphere of social hysteria that contributed to the attempted assassination of a dozen Republican congressmen by a distorted soul driven mad by the cacophony of it all.

Some are hoping that the attempted assassination of Rep. Scalise and fellow congresspersons will result in a sober reflection by both Parties, of where the white-hot heat of partisan rhetoric is taking us and expressing hope that the incident will usher in more respectful attitudes and cooperation. When pigs grow wings.

But virulent rhetoric is a fundamental tool in the Democrats seven-month effort to subvert the Trump administration, a road with no apparent end; it’s not likely to change anyways soon but the fact that members of both parties now feel threatened by the violent fallout of unbridled vitriol may serve to dampen the rhetoric and encourage a little civility. Maybe its time the conversation departed the boiling hot seas of political acrimony and drifted to such mundane topics as ‘shoes, ships, sealing wax, cabbages and kings.’ If the “Donald” can wax conciliatory in the wake of a politically inspired assassination attempt, perhaps there’s hope that others may also.