First, It was Roy Rogers and Idaho

Until God briefly rubbed shoulders with my soul in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada on a young adult retreat, I planned on becoming a lawyer.

God’s call, while not earth-shattering, was life-changing. It took me on a road to seminary. All things considered, decades later—including a divorce later, one awful encounter with the well-mannered actions of institutional evil later, random and regular acts of hypocrisy later, spending too much money on books later, always having the eager companion of doubt later—I can still recall the faded, ephemeral memory of a divine calling and humbly say, “Thanks, God.”

It’s been a ride.

Still is.

Before thoughts of slogging through law school and changing the world as we know it as a criminal attorney championing the rights of the ignored, abandoned, and misunderstood, I wanted to own a horse ranch in Idaho.

Me and the Evil Little Beasties

Writer Anne Lamott bluntly cautioned with, “One hundred years from now? All new people.” Why let irritations toward others dominate our lives? We should enjoy life more since we won’t be around all that long. I agree, except when the other is a mosquito, like the mean airborne critter Aedes aegypti.

To paraphrase Ms. Lamott: Two weeks from now? All new mosquitoes.

Yikes!

Fourteen days is the life span— egg, larva, pupa, adult, relentless blood-sucking, death—of the winged tormenters. Since I’m a cranky old guy, I recall the quaint mosquitoes of yesteryear. Aedes Way Back When would arrive in late spring. They scurried hither and yon for a few months. As summer faded, Aedes Way Back When vanished.

Not with Aedes aegypti. According to my non-research, the Latin Aedes aegypti translates to: evil little beasties. Nowadays, I dread my backyard. All day long, in whatever season, they wait to pounce. Aedes aegypti are pint-sized, rarely heard, and prefer cruising below the radar while hunting feet, ankles, calves, and the random soft inner thigh.

I hate Aedes aegypti. As someone who dislikes former President Trump, I’ve had many MAGA stalwarts berate me for “hating” him. No way! I’m a retired pastor. Though a grumpy Christian, I love my neighbor. I’ve never hated anyone. But Aedes aegypti? Maybe I could even bring myself to hate Noah and his storm-tossed ark. Why’d he give Aedes aegypti a ticket to ride?

I made an appointment with mosquito abatement professionals. How could I reduce the incessant insect invaders? A pleasant expert arrived, brochures in hand, his face mask drifting below his nose. He wandered my yard, finding two flower pot plates with standing water.

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Shadow of the Flag

We all pledge allegiance to the same red-white-and-blue flag, a symbol of our unity . . .

They seemed to emerge from the shadows. Such as . . .

  • The person who abruptly asked me about my stance on abortion.
  • The fellow that, after claiming all so-called mainstream media lied, refused to share what news sources informed his views.
  • The woman who posted an inflammatory meme about Black Lives Matter—with blatantly fabricated “facts”—that never answered my courteous reply.

In the strange, seductive landscape of social media, I encountered those three people. They are examples of the digital friends and strangers that engaged in (and disengaged from) online conversations about our most divisive subjects: racism, policing, media, and politics.

For me, their responses represent the shadow side of the American experience. We all pledge allegiance to the same red-white-and-blue flag, a symbol of our unity, as it waves over schools, government buildings, homes, sporting events, and more. And yet, a shadow is there, the murky world of our clashing views that split and splinter our country. Citizens express hatred for other citizens with remarkable ease. We thump each other with conflicting, selective facts. We mingle with the “tribes” we claim, comfortably bantering with like-minded folks while berating the “them” that is different from “us.”

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