Happy Birthday America

On this day 244 years ago something amazing happened. A 33 year old farmer and scholar, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), wrote an essay that declared that the 13 colonies were independent from England. King George III (1738-1820) looked on this as nothing more than a rebellion that his troops would crush.

But Mr. Jefferson and others like him put their lives on the line. They argued that human rights were not given at the pleasure of the king, but instead human rights are given by God to everyone.

It hasn’t been an easy 244 years. For our first 89 years our country claimed that we are all equal while we held displaced Africans as slaves. Even when they were freed from their chains their lives were far from equal and it’s a fight that continues to this day.

Our 244th birthday recognizes the fact that we are led by a racist President who enjoys the support of many Americans who justify their racism by claiming victimhood.

But the good news is that our core values as Americans remain the same. We work hard, we innovate, we welcome, and we celebrate.

It wasn’t easy to celebrate our birthday during the Civil War but we did because we knew that Mr. Jefferson’s vision would win out. We can do it today.

The Justice Chronicles, Volume 37: Hail To the Redskins? Time for a Change

I grew up in Woodbridge Virginia, 25 miles south of Washington D.C. I inherited from my father a love of football and especially the Washington Redskins. As a teenager my bedroom was filled with Redskins posters, bedsheets, and clothes. I knew that the term referred to American Indians but I didn’t understand the racism.

To be fair Washington D.C. has a long history of racism. Until 1850 slaves were bought and sold on the National Mall.

The Redskins began in 1932 in Boston as the Boston Braves. The next year their owner George Preston Marshall changed the names to Redskins and moved the team to Washington D.C. in 1937.

Mr. Marshall envisioned his team as wholly white and refused to sign a player who was African American. By 1962 the Redskins were the only NFL team with no black players. Only when he was threatened did he sign Bobby Mitchell (1935-2020).

But integrating the team didn’t entirely eliminate racism. Native Americans have always found “Redskins” to be racist. George Preston Marshall and successive owners can be given a bye as most of us didn’t recognize the racism in the word Redskins. But in 1999 Dan Snyder purchased the Redskins. Soon after that he began to hear about how offensive Native Americans felt about the word Redskins. He responded by refusing to change the name.

It’s changed in the last week. FEDEX owns the rights to the Redskins stadium and they are pushing to change the name. Other sponsors have done the same.

I have to confess that I’ve had a hard time watching football because of chronic traumatic encephalopathy but I still support changing the name of the Washington Redskins.

Happy Juneteenth!

June is a good month for equal rights. On June 12th I celebrated the day when it was ruled that states can’t prevent people of different races from marrying. In 2013 the Supreme Court struck down prohibitions against gay marriage in Windsor v. Obergefell that I wrote about here. A few days ago later in the case of Bostock v. Clayton County the court ruled that you can’t be fired because of your orientation.

And today we celebrate Junteenth. I have to confess that I didn’t learn about this day until I was adult but I’m glad I know about it now. On January 1, 1863 President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It stated that the slaves in all states in rebellion against the United States (ie, the Confederate States) were now free. To nobody’s surprise, slave owners in those states declined to inform their slaves. When the South surrendered on April 9, 1865 word did not get out right away.

Union troops then began to travel the South to liberate slaves. On June 19, 1965 word was proclaimed in Galveston, Texas. From that day forward, June 19th has been known as “Juneteenth.” since 1980.

Happy Loving Day!

Long time readers of my blog know how much I love June 12th. It was on this day in 1967 that the Supreme Court ruled that states could not criminalize marriages between people of different races. Richard Loving (1933-1975) wished to marry Mildred Jeter (1939-2008).

But they lived in the Commonwealth of Virginia where I grew up. Oh yes, Richard was white and Mildred was black. In 1958 they drove to Washington D.C. to get married. When the returned home they broke Virginia’s law and were arrested.

They soon got the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union who representative their appeals. Eventually their case made its way to the Supreme Court in the case (and I’m not kidding) of Loving v. Virginia.

On June 12, 1967 they ruled that Richard and Mildred could marry.

I know it’s been 53 years and it’s easy to see that people of different races should be able to marry but it wasn’t true then. But it wasn’t at the time. Most Americans opposed this because they felt that God didn’t want people of different races to marry.

Fast forward a few decades when most Americans thought God didn’t want people of the same sex should marry. The Supreme Court case of Obergenfell v. Hodges ruled that in the same way that states can’t prevent marriages between whites and blacks, they can’t prevent marriages between people of the same sex.

I admire Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter because they fired the opening salvo in the quest for marriage equality.

Two Years Out and I Still Love My Car

Two years ago I made the hard decision to donate my 2006 Toyota Prius. It served me well for 270,000 miles but a repair bill drastically outpriced the value of the car and we donated it to the San Diego Zoo.

Knowing that I would still need a car with good gas mileage I bought a Honda Clarity. Two years later the odometer tells me I’ve driven 35,966 miles. It’s essentially a Honda Accord with a plug in battery and I found a learning curve in driving a car that big.

But I drove my last car for 12 years and I hope this is my last car. If it lasts 12 years I’ll donate it in 2030 when I’m 70. But I hope to retire in the next few years and drop my annual mileage dramatically. I’m not sure when I’ll decide that I’m not safe to drive but I hope I’ll donate my Clarity.

Reflections on Yosemite and birthdays

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Alas, when I retire I can give more content.

Nancy and I just returned from our annual pilgrimage to Yosemite National Park. Twenty years ago we learned of a program called Chefs’ Holidays and we’ve been attending ever since.

There’s much to enjoy there: it’s a beautiful park with incredible views and it’s cold enough to see snow. The elevation of Yosemite Valley (4000 feet) gives us a taste of true winter and hiking on the valley floor can’t be replicated at home.

Oh yes, and then there’s the food. Yosemite invites famous chefs to cook and teach. Nancy loves the cooking demonstrations and often brings home recipes that we enjoy at home. The last night of our stay we attend a 5 course dinner (with wine). Normally we’re seated at a table with four other couples and we enjoy meeting new people. This year we sat at a table of four with just one other couple.

It was magical. The other couple (Chris Kenward and Steve Sosnowski) made us laugh and enjoy the meal better than we expected. We hope to see more of them.

We also got to share breakfast and lunch with our niece Katie and her boyfriend Nate.

The only thing we missed was the birthday of Nancy’s dad. Last year we celebrated his 100th birthday recognizing that none of us is promised our next. I’m pleased to report that on the 23rd he celebrated his 101st.

The next day he was invited to St. James Academy, the catholic school attached to his parish. The students not only celebrated his birthday, they all wrote notes to him to thank him for his support of their school.

We don’t know how much longer God will allow us to enjoy him, but in the years and decades after he is gone his support will continue to bear fruit.

It might be selfish to ask for a 102nd but count me selfish.

Fifty Years Ago Today: Do I Need To Explain?

Fifty years ago today I was, along with my family and the rest of the world, glued to our black and white television set. And I have to confess something: when Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) set foot on the moon he uttered these words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” I couldn’t figure out what he meant. I was once told that he was supposed to say: “That’s one giant leap for a man, one giant leap for mankind” and that makes more sense.

But more to the point, I knew as a 9 year old that I was watching something that would be in history books. I witnessed something that future generations would only read about.
July 20, 1969 was a good day for America, but it was also a good day for all humanity. We are born to explore, whether it be Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), or Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521), or Sir Edmund Hillary (1919-2008).

Fifty years later we still have the same curiosity over what lies beyond. Space travel continues to fascinate us as next frontier. Fifty years later we may not know the next step, but we know there will be a next step.

While we celebrate, let us also remember the costs of space travel. The space race in the United States has yielded sixteen lives and we should honor them. They died in our quest to explore:

The Justice Chronicles, Volume 34: Fifty Years After Stonewall

Fifty years ago it wasn’t easy to be gay. Everyone assumed every adult was attracted to a person of the opposite sex. Men fell in love with women and women fell in love with men.

Except for some people it was different. Some men fell in love with other men, and some women fell in love with other women. We can argue about what percentage, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is this: how do we treat people with different sexual orientations?

Frankly, fifty years ago most of us didn’t even know about this. But some did and they criminalized not only homosexual behavior, but even homosexuality itself. In many places homosexuality was a crime and in some parts of the world it still is.

In 1969 in New York City gay men and women lived with a secret that prevented them from being open with their family, friends, and coworkers. But they knew there was a place where they could be themselves: the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. There they could connect with other and find love.

But they couldn’t feel entirely safe because they were subjected to police raids. Patrons of the Stonewall Inn grew wearily used to police raids where officers would enter the bar and arrest men dressed as women and others who “looked gay.” But on the night of June 28,1969 something new happened. Patrons of the bar fought back. It led to three days of riots.

In the fifty years later, much has happened. The Stonewall riots empowered gay communities locally, nationally, and globally to demand equal rights. They called us, shamed us, and ultimately persuaded us to understand that they are created by the same God and are called to the same goals: to find love, to live with joy, and build families.

In 2003, in the case of Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court ruled that we can’t legislate against gay sex. Twelve years later they ruled that marriage was legal for all adults, regardless of orientation. I encourage you to read it: Obergenfell v. Hoges.

There’s lots to say about this, but let me say this: those opposed to gay marriage argued that if we allowed gays to be gay they would try to make our children gay. No gay person I know has even wanted to do this and they find this argument deeply offensive. The opponents of gay marriage also argue that if we live in a society that accepts homosexuality God will bring down fire and destruction. Except God hasn’t.

I am straight but not narrow. My gay friends have enlightened (and sometimes challenged) me to understand that they want those things I take for granted. They want to fall in love with someone who loves them. They want to be able to hold hands without being accused to “forcing an agenda.” They want the things I never had to fight to expect.

To those who fought back on June 28, 1969 I say this: Thank you for your courage and thank you for teaching the rest of us that you only want what I never had to demand.

My First Year As An Owner of a Honda Clarity

A year ago today I picked up the keys to my brand new Honda Clarity. My previous car, a Toyota Prius, served me well for 13 years and 270,000 miles, but it was time to move on. The anti-lock brake system in the Prius needed to be replaced and it would have cost more than the car was worth.

I loved driving a hybrid and the Prius regularly gave me 40 to 45 miles per gallon. But it was time to move up to a car that would run on battery power for the first 40 or so miles and then switch to a hybrid. I decided to go with a Honda Clarity.

I give a shout out to the San Diego County Credit Union. I knew I didn’t want to go from dealer to dealer haggling over prices and I had an unsatisfactory experience with Costco. I learned that my credit union would do something amazing: I gave them the specifics of the car I wanted and they called Honda dealerships all over Southern California to get the best price. On finding the best price they had the car delivered to the closest credit unit to my home. They found a Clarity in Riverside, 100 miles away. The dealer drove it down and we drove 3 miles to pick up the car.

A year later I now have 18,481 miles on the car and I love it. I drive for work and while the first 40 miles are all electric, most days I drive more than that and the car switches to a hybrid after the battery is depleted. That said, I average about 120 miles per gallon.

I also love the fact that the car communicates with my iPhone and allows me to listen to podcasts seamlessly. If this is the last car I own, I’ll be happy.

Thoughts on Notre Dame Cathedral

Earlier this week we learned to our horror that Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was on fire. Because of the bravery of the Paris Fire Department, and particularly the actions of Notre Dame’s Chaplain Fr. Jean Marc Fournier it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Construction began in 1160 and wasn’t completed until 1260: nobody who began the construction lived to see its completion and nobody who witnessed its completion was born when it was began. In the last 800 years people from all over the world have gathered to worship there. Modern day visitors to Paris know they need to visit three places: Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre.

I have to confess that I’ve never been to Paris and I haven’t had the opportunity to visit Notre Dame, but I understand its attraction. My parents and grandparents belonged to Notre Dame de St. Rosary parish, that we all call “Holy Rosary.” My grandmother, Imelda Cazeault (1909-1981) told me about how, as a child, she witnessed the delivery of the bell that was raised into the bell tower.

When she died I was one of her pallbearers and as we carried her into Holy Rosary for the last time, the bell tolled for her (as it did for all funerals). At that moment, in 1981, I found myself carried back to 1915 when she was six years old and watched that same bell hoisted up into the tower. I was also carried back to November 18, 1918 when my father’s parents (recent immigrants from Canada) married.

The sound of the bells became timeless to me. It brought me back to 1915 and 1918, but also to 1931 when my father was baptized, to 1938 when my mother was baptized, and to 1958 when my parents were married. It also brought me back to 1994 when I returned to Holy Rosary as a priest to celebrate my (3rd) first mass and to 1995 when I returned to celebrate the funeral mass for my grandfather (and namesake), Thomas Cazeault (1902-1995).

I write this to illustrate the place Notre Dame de Paris holds in the hearts of Catholics. While Notre Dame de Gardner is more than a century old, Notre Dame de Paris is over 800 years old. Its place in history is clear.

Notre Dame de Paris will rebuild and we will all rejoice. But we should also rejoice that its history will continue well into the future, to Christians who aren’t yet born but will find its place in their lives.