What's Tony Thinking

From White Salmon


We are in White Salmon, Washington, helping our daughter Laura and her fiance Noah pack up her household prior to her move to Atlanta. White Salmon is in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, just north across the Columbia from Hood River, Oregon.

I’d never quite gotten the name “White Salmon.” The only salmon I’ve seen that are remotely white are those, lying dead on riverbanks, after completing their spawning journey. And they are grey, not white.

Now with several feet of snow on the ground here, I get it. Lots of white hereabouts. Although, as time passes even white snow tends to turn grey.

Covid will impact the final event of her ministry here, as it has for almost all of her two and a half year pastorate. The congregation’s send-off celebration will be on-line only. Seems sort of unfair. But that’s how it has been.

I remember back in 2020 hearing from colleagues who were retiring in that year and trying to figure out how best to do that during Covid. Should the retirement party and congregational send-off be postponed until it could be in-person? Who knew that we would still be asking these questions in 2022?

That’s not the only wearisome question we find ourselves still asking. How about, can/ should schools stay open? The teachers’ union in Chicago gave one answer, shutting the schools down. I’m not sure what the right answer is. But it would seem that if the teachers unions enforced vaccine mandates, the schools, with testing and precautions, could stay open — and reduce the disruption that comes with closures.

Our book group was back to meeting on-line this past Sunday, after several months of in-person. We are all guys. “A gentlemen’s book club” as some refer to us. All guys in our 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, fully-vaxxed and protected, but even our generally cheerful gang finally admitted to being down about cancellations and life on hold.

This time Covid seems to be hitting closer to home for all of us. Family members, friends, spouses, and yes, at least one member of the group have had it.

Our book was “The Sum of Us” by Heather McGee. The basic idea is that racism doesn’t only negatively impact people of color. It exacts huge costs on all of us, all of American society. With which I whole-heartedly agree.

McGee’s opening metaphor are the community/ public swimming pools, largely in south, that were filled in with concrete rather than being opened to people of all races. While that is a powerful image, I think it is a bit dated. That said, it has wider implications. A spillover of racialized politics combined with the anti-government, anti-tax movements of the past forty years has been a diminished public sector — which includes parks, libraries, community pools and playfields — for us all. To me a rich society isn’t one with a lot of billionaires. It is one where public life and amenities are widely shared and enjoyed.

So, do I recommend “The Sum of Us”? Yes, but not unreservedly. I think we need more books that demonstrate the real dividends of diversity (McGee does a little of this, but not enough) and a little less exhortation about how morally superior diversity is.

A “profiles in courage” award goes to Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota who departed from most of his gutless or deluded GOP colleagues to say on one of last Sunday’s news shows that “the facts are” Trump lost the election. Trump immediately attacked him as a “jerk.” Well, as they say, “It takes one to know one.”

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