Things Beyond Our Understanding

I can understand why a candidate for elective office can “mis-speak” once in a while. You’re tired, you’ve talked all day, you’re still “on stage,” and the audience expects you to say something profound. But, Senator Joe Biden—I just don’t know about this man.

This is from this morning’s Times-Picayune and it has left me gasping for air, wondering what planet this man lives on….

“Vice presidential candidate Joe Biden says today’s leaders should take a lesson from the history books and follow fellow Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt’s response to a financial crisis. ‘When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, “Look, here’s what happened.”‘

That’s what he said. Said it to the “CBS Evening News” even.

Two big problems with that, Senator. The stock market crashed in 1929 when Herbert Hoover was president, over three years before FDR was elected. And they did not have television. In fact, they hardly had radio.

When confronted with this inane comment from the senator, Biden’s spokesman, David Wade, responded, “I’m proud to say that we Democrats aren’t experts at Herbert Hoover Depression economics like John McCain and his pals. From Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, we just get elected to clean up the economic mess these Republicans leave behind.” Say what?

I can understand a political leader in his/her 30s or 40s getting their history wrong. But Biden is in his 60s and has worked the Washington scene all his adult life. The economic realities and historical lessons of the Great Depression and the presidencies of Hoover and FDR should be part of his DNA.

One more word about campaign propaganda and I’ll move on.

As I see it, the American people are not electing a platform and they are not trying to select the best record. They are attempting to choose between two pairs of individuals–Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin. I am so tired of commercials from both camps magnifying some foulup from the other camp. Back and forth, every day, the same thing.

I know why they do it. They each have millions of dollars for ads and highly paid professionals on retainer to produce new commercials every day, and they quickly run out of material unless they can use something the other team did or said yesterday which can be twisted and exaggerated.

Let’s get this election over with. I am so tired of it.

Likewise, I’m just as tired of the call-in shows where citizens of this country rant about the bail-outs of the financial institutions. “They don’t bail out mom-and-pop stores when they make bad decisions; they let them fail.”

True enough. But what goes unsaid is that what is at stake in this present economic crisis is the economy of the United States of America. And that’s no little thing. A big problem requires a drastic solution.

Change of subject now.

Ruthie the Duck Lady was buried the other day.

In Greenwood Cemetery where the Canal Street streetcar ends its northern run, Ruth Grace Moulon was interred in the family plot.

We’ve written here previously about the characters who inhabit this city. Evidently, Ruthie was the reigning queen. Columnist Chris Rose calls her “a French Quarter character of the highest order.” In this city, Rose says, “Distinguishing oneself in the field of eccentricity is akin to entering the Baseball Hall of Fame in a Yankee uniform.”

In short, Ruthie’s mom had–many decades ago–decided her little girl needed some identifying characteristic to stand out in the French Quarter, and chose ducks. For the rest of her life, ducks followed her around everywhere. Residents of the Quarter say Ruthie was forever in and out of taverns and bars, always followed by her ducks. People treated her to meals and drinks, and that seems to have been what her life was about. Strange.

The word “eccentric” literally means “off-center.” Unbalanced.

Ruthie died in a Baton Rouge hospital where the local nursing home she had been living in had evacuated from Gustav. She had cancer and was 74.

At the funeral, the heavens opened and the streets were flooded. The priest made some comment about how “even today, she chose the d–n ducks over the rest of us.”

I’m uncertain how I feel about irreverent humor in funerals. Chris Rose writes that “one of the French Quarter’s most revered eccentrics has passed on to the greak juke joint in the sky, to a corner of the Everlasting where, no doubt, there is no repentance for cussing, the drinks are all doubles–and on the house–and you’re still allowed to smoke.”

Sounds like a line from “The Big Rock Candy Mountain,” the hobo anthem from the Depression era.

I don’t know enough about Ruthie the Duck Lady to know what she did or did not do, but the priest conducting her funeral acknowledged that her activities in this life were anything but holy, then added: “Maybe, we should say a prayer for God.”

That might (or might not) have been humorous in that situation, but pardon me if I don’t laugh. The eternal destiny of one who has left this life unprepared is far too weighty a matter to make jokes about.

Does God have a sense of humor? You bet. Otherwise, how could He endure the likes of you and me and Joe Biden. Does He have a corner of Paradise roped off for the odd-ball characters like Ruthie the Duck Lady who lived among us by her own standards, dancing to her own music?

I don’t have a clue. Nothing I read in the Scriptures seems to indicate such a provision, but then, with this as with so much concerning the afterlife, “we see through a glass darkly” (I Corinthians 13:12)

After all, shall not the Judge of all the earth do the right thing? (Genesis 18:25)

Absolutely. But I wouldn’t be making any bets that He will be ignoring the incredible revelation He has given us concerning this life and the next in the Holy Scriptures. “Keep thy servant from presumptuous sins,” David prayed in Psalm 19:13.

As I understand “presumption,” it means to go where the Lord has not sent us, to claim what He has not revealed, to demand what He has not asked for, and to expect what He has not promised.

Whatever else we do, let us not go presumptuously into what has been called “that good night.”

5 thoughts on “Things Beyond Our Understanding

  1. You would think with all the money the candidates have to research what they should say they would find out the public only wants actual ideas and innovation not mud slinging. I don’t have a problem on pointing out real problems with someones policy but lately it’s the appearance of real ideas we get and not actual real ideas.

    Listen and truly evaluate what the candidates are saying and prepare to not be impressed. They make vague sweeping statements about policy and wonderful grand generalizations but nothing you can actually pin down. Very little practical application. It leads me to believe they can actually promise the public very little because all their actual decisions will depend on congress and what is policically expedient at the time.

    I think

  2. I agree with Kellie and you. I’m tired of campaign smut. No concrete ideas seem to appear. Only 37 more days of this and we can rest from that. I was, personally, pleased that both candidates went back to their “day job”, i.e. serving the nation in the Senate for at least a day. True, Ole Miss and our state had prepared big time for the debate, but being where you are elected to be seems importanat to me.

    Sorry to hear the Duck Lady died – mostly because she didn’t have Jesus. My Bible doesn’t put her anywhere near heaven. I’m not sure about a priest who could say otherwise either.



  4. You would have thought that Joe Biden would have read up on the history of the “Great Depression”. During that time the deomocrats were set on winning the next election and they did nothing to help Hoover in those last months. Hoover had proposed some of the programs that were later put into place.

    When we do not know history we will always repeat the mistakes, (sins) of the past. That is true for Denominations, and agencies and institutions of all kinds.


    And there by the Grace of God will be Ruth Grace Moulon,ducks and all.

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