Review: Three Pieces of Glass

Three pieces of glass

Three Pieces of GlassEric O. Jacobsen. Grands Rapids: Brazos Press, 2020.

Summary: Focuses on loneliness and belonging and the influence of cars, television, and smartphones on the experience, and even design of community and the choices we may make to foster belonging.

A recent commercial for a pizza chain reprises a classic TV scene in which a figure of a somewhat heavy set man who walks into an establishment. In the classic version, he is instantly recognized and everyone calls out “Norm.”  In the contemporary version, no one knows his name because he hasn’t created an online profile tracked on his phone. In the old neighborhood bar, “everybody knows your name.” Now belonging is increasingly mediated through a screen.

Eric O. Jacobsen didn’t anticipate the commercial, which underscores the theme of belonging represented by Norm that runs through this book. He contends that three pieces of glass, the windshield of the automobile, the screen of the television, and the screen of our smartphones, tablets, and computers have fundamentally influenced our experience of belonging in society.

Jacobsen begins his discussion by exploring the nature of belonging as having to do with relationship, place and story, and levels of belonging from intimate and personal to social and public and how intimate and personal are not enough. He explores the way in which experiences of social and public, together referred to as civic belonging, offer foretastes of kingdom belonging.

The second part of the book then sketches out the nature of kingdom belonging which he characterizes as unconditional, covenantal, invitational, compassionate, diverse,  transformative, delightful and productive. He contrasts this with worldly belonging and highlights the inclusive (the images of the feast and the table) and the covenantal relationship character of the kingdom.

Part three considers the gospel and belonging and shows how through the gospel, broken relationships are restored and there is healing for the epidemic of loneliness. For people who feel estranged and exiled, there is a promise of homecoming. And for those living in a story of meagre existence, there is a better and grander story.

The fourth part of the books addresses how the “three pieces of glass” have contributed to our crisis of belonging. The automobile has changed how our living spaces have been configured, from the design of our homes, to the walkability of our neighborhoods, and the location of where we shop and work in relation to where we live. Television changes how we view real people versus our “TV friends.” Our smartphones and other devices have led us to substitute virtual for face to face interaction. These have led erosion in the civic realm and an epidemic of “busyness.

The last two parts consider, first, the influence of our choices on our communal life, our public policies, and on our liturgical life and second how we may encourage belonging. The last part reprises ideas elaborated at greater length in Jacobsen’s earlier books, Sidewalks in the Kingdom and The Space Between, both influenced by the new urbanism. He looks at the design of our communities, advocating for walkability, our proximity, which includes a parish vision for the church, the making of meaningful public places, and a local culture reflected in language, shared stories, and events.

Writing this review during the Covid-19 pandemic gives me a different perspective on this book than I might have had during “normal” times. The latter two pieces of glass have taken on critical importance both as sources of information (although we have to watch for media overload), and as the one means of connection, or belonging most of us have when we must practice physical distancing–particularly in connecting with family, friends, our church community, our work colleagues, and even our political leaders. For many of us, we can work from home (and this may not even represent a change for some of us.)

By the same token, people are walking their neighborhoods at safe distances, in some cases meeting neighbors they never knew by name. I know of one neighborhood where a local folk singer set up in his front yard and staged an impromptu singalong. When we can’t go to restaurants, sporting events, and many of the other places our cars take us–we are left with walking and a kind of “neighboring” occurs. By the same token, I wonder if fights would have occurred over essential goods in the neighborhood markets I grew up with that occur in our megastores where people come from miles around and it is rare you meet someone you know. You shopped with people you knew in those neighborhood groceries and, perhaps we would be more considerate of the needs of others and neither hoard nor fight. After all, we lived with those people and we would be publicly shamed if we took more than our fair share!

Jacobsen’s book makes me wonder whether we will be more mindful about this question of belonging, as we realize how dependent we are upon both in our churches, and in the civic sphere. It makes me wonder if we will take a fresh look at our neighborhoods, both what is good about them, as well as what could be better about our places, and how we connect with each other. With internet connected devices, I suspect it is a bit more complicated. It would not surprise me if life becomes more oriented for more people around these devices. We are doing more education through them, more commerce, more business collaboration, and even more religious activity. While we discover that the church is not a building, will we also jettison the physical encounters that are at the heart of Christian community, from the breaking of bread and the cup to all those meals and potlucks that are some of the best part of our lives? Even before this crisis, I was in conversation with those who talked about declines in church attendance, in which someone pointed to their smartphone and said, “that’s because many think they carry church in their pocket.”

Yet Jacobsen reminds us of our epidemic of loneliness. He raises the critical question of whether belonging can be mediated through a smart device, or whether the proximity necessary for social and public belonging can be created in a car culture. We may love our TV friends, but will they love us back? Jacobsen’s book raises a series of inter-related questions for how the church understands its message, how we steward our technology, and how we configure the places where we live. How we answer those might well make the difference between places where nobody or everybody knows our names.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Barney Bean

We would come in before dinner and plop down in front of the TV to catch The Barney Bean Show. If you were a kid during the Sixties, I’m sure you remember Barney Bean and his ventriloquist’s dummy, Sherwood. Barney and Sherwood would come out to talk with the live studio audience of children at the WYTV Channel 33 studio. Barney would wear a brown fringed vest and goofy hat with a big safety pin pinning up the brim. Sherwood was dress in a garish sport jacket, and there was always great repartee between them, with Sherwood often getting the best of Barney. They even combined on a locally produced 45 recording,  “BARNEY BEAN & SHERWOOD – FOR KIDS FOR FUN.”

Barney was David William “Bill” Harris. He was a Mahoning Valley native, born April 10, 1929 in Hubbard. He graduated from Boardman High School and Youngstown College. He was a newscaster but was most well-known as the host of his children’s show. What most people remember was the segment in each show where children could send in to the show to have Barney Bean do a drawing for them on their birthday. With a sketchpad and a magic marker, he started with the child’s initials and would draw a cartoon–different every time! He spoke one time at a youth rally at our church, doing one of his drawings. I think there was a religious focus to his presentation, but all I remember was the drawing!

National celebrity Art Linkletter had a kid’s show around the same time called House Party. He subsequently wrote a book called Kid’s Say the Darndest Things. That proved to be a problem on one of Barney Bean’s live studio shows. He actually had Ronald McDonald on the show. Ronald interviewed the kids in the audience and reputedly asked one of the boys if he had heard any funny jokes. The boy responded with an off-color joke that left Ronald dumbfounded, to which the boy meanly responded, “Eat it, clown.” No chance to edit. That was live TV!

Locally produced children’s shows eventually gave way to national shows like Sesame Street. Bill Harris continued to live in the area working with Gordon Brothers until retiring in 2004. His obituary also indicates that he was part of the Boardman Eagles Club and visited children in the hospital. I wonder if he did drawings for them. I’m also curious whatever happened to Sherwood. Harris lived until June 21, 2008, dying at age 79, leaving behind his wife of 58 years leaving five children, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

He also left behind a bunch of amazing cartoons and good memories for a generation of Youngstown area children!

 

Looking for a Long Read?

close up of books on shelf

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Some say we may need to be ready to practice “social distancing” for up to three months. All the things outside the home are off the schedule for now. This might be the time for a long read, one of those big fat books you have thought you’d never have the time to read. Maybe you have it already on your TBR pile, but if not, my good friends at Bob on Books on Facebook gave a great list of recommendations from 82 different authors.

  • Hervey Allen, Anthony Adverse
  • Isaac Asimov, The Foundation Trilogy
  • Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Paul Auster, 4321
  • Robert Bolano, 2666
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon
  • Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
  • John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress
  • Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy
  • Ron Chernow, Grant
  • Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood’s End
  • Stephen Clarke, 1000 Years of Annoying the France
  • James Clavell, Sho Gun
  • Thomas B. Costain, The Tontine
  • Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves
  • Daniel DeFoe, Robinson Crusoe
  • Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Brothers Karamazov
  • Stephanie Dray, My Dear Hamilton
  • Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Nicholas Evans, The Horse Whisperer
  • Michel Faber, The Crimson Petal and the White
  • James T. Farrell, Studs Lonigan
  • Ken Follett, The Pillars of the Earth
  • Diana Gabaldon, Outlander series.
  • Neil Gaiman, American Gods
  • Benito Pérez Galdós, Los Episodios Nacionales
  • Alex Haley, Roots
  • Pete Hamill, Forever
  • Jan de Hartog, The Peaceable Kingdom
  • Frank Herbert, The Dune Saga
  • Joe Hill, The Fireman
  • L. Ron Hubbard, Battlefield Earth
  • Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
  • Greg Iles, Natchez Burning
  • John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany
  • Walter Isaacson, Leonard da Vinci
  • Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees
  • Stephen King, 11-22-63, IT, The Stand, Under The Dome
  • Karleen Koen, Through a Glass Darkly (and subsequent novels)
  • Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas
  • Wally Lamb, I Know This Much is True
  • Erik Larson, The Splendid and the Vile
  • Min Jin Lee, Pachinko
  • Robert Ludlum, Prometheus Deception
  • Norman Mailer, Ancient Evenings, The Executioner’s Song
  • George R. R. Martin, Game of Thrones
  • Greg Matthews, Power in the Blood
  • Anne McCaffrey, Pern series
  • Robert McCammon, Boy’s Life
  • Colleen McCullough, The Thorn Birds
  • Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove
  • Herman Melville, Typee
  • James Michener, Hawaii, Texas, The Covenant, The Source
  • Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind
  • Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities
  • Felix Palma, The Map of Time, The Map of the Sky, The Map of Chaos
  • Christopher Paolini, Eragon
  • Samantha Power, The Education of an Idealist
  • Marcel Proust, In Search Of Lost Time
  • Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
  • Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
  • Marcus Rediker, Outlaws of the Atlantic
  • Andrew Roberts, Churchill: Walking With Destiny
  • Nora Roberts, Year One Trilogy
  • Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice & Salt
  • J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter series.
  • Salman Rushdie, Quichotte
  • Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji
  • Paullina Simons, The Bronze Horseman
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
  • John Steinbeck, East of Eden
  • Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy
  • Kathryn Stockett, The Help
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, The Unfinished Tales
  • Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina,War and Peace
  • Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone
  • David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
  • Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns
  • Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life

This is an uncurated list. I only left out a couple of religious books, The Bible and The Lost Books of the Bible. I can’t guarantee you will like all the books on the list. But there is probably something you will like. But there is probably something here for most tastes. I didn’t specify what “long” means, so the recommendations are of various lengths. Whatever you choose, when you finish, there will be plenty left to read. And one thing you don’t have to worry too much about with this list in this anxious time is what you will read next.

Early Spring 2020 Book Preview

wp-15845727474905349126795391162499.jpgIt’s been a while since my last book preview post, and a number of new books have arrived for review. I don’t know if I’ll be able to settle into a routine during the present crisis, which is uncharted territory. But if I do, I have plenty to read. I thought I would give you a preview because it will take some time to get to them all. The link in the title is to the publisher’s website. Most of the time, you can order the book there, or at your favorite local bookseller, who especially needs your help right now. So, from the top of the pile…

becoming sage

Becoming SageMichelle Van Loon. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2020. Loon explores how we navigate through mid-life to grow in wisdom and purpose.

myth american dream

The Myth of the American DreamD. L. Mayfield. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020. Is the American dream compatible with the teaching of Jesus? I’m guessing, no.

good white racist

Good* White RacistKerry Connelly. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2020. If you are white, you don’t want to think of yourself as a racist, yet may be complicit in things that perpetuate racism.

#metoo reckoning

The #MeToo ReckoningRuth Everhart. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020. Everhart calls attention to the ways the church has participated in the epidemic of abuse and sexual misconduct that the #MeToo movement has exposed.

goshen road

Goshen RoadBonnie Proudfoot. Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press, 2020. A novel centered around a working class family in rural West Virginia. Sounds like a fictional Hillbilly Elegy.

when narcissism

When Narcissism Comes to ChurchChuck DeGroat. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020. Narcissist pastors and church systems are deadly to a church. The book offers hope for healing for churches and narcissist pastors and leaders alike.

experiencing God

Experiencing GodEberhard Arnold. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2020. What happens when a Christian truly invites God to rule in one’s life?

Approaching the Atonement

Approaching the AtonementOliver D. Crisp. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020. Is there more to our understanding of the atonement than the cross? And how shall we understand this doctrine?

Paul and the Language of faith

Paul and the Language of Faith, Nijay Gupta. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2020. Paul studies the language of faith in Paul’s writings, proposing an active, rather than passive understanding of faith.

God in Himself

God in HimselfStephen J. Duby. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. The author explores how we may know God and can we know God as God is in himself?

a republic in the ranks

A Republic in the Ranks, Zachery A. Fry. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2020. In an army shaped by George McClellan, a Democrat, Fry shows how officers in the Union Army shaped a Republican awakening, leading to Lincoln’s 1864 re-election.

basic bible atlas

The Basic Bible AtlasJohn A. Beck. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2020. An atlas of the lands of the Bible that integrates Israel’s history and geography.

Blood Letters

Blood Letters: The Untold Story of Lin Zhao, A Martyr in Mao’s ChinaLian Xi. New York: Basic Books, 2018. A meticulously researched account of Lin Zhao, a political dissident and Christian who was tortured and died for her faith.

Kent State

Kent State: Four Dead in OhioDerf Blackderf. New York: Abrams Comic Arts, 2020. A graphic non-fiction account of the shootings at Kent State on May 4, 1970, leaving four dead and nine wounded, being released for the 50th anniversary of this event.

Philippians

Philippians (Kerux Commentaries), Thomas Moore and Timothy D. Sprankle. Grand Rapids, Kregel Ministry, 2019. Part of commentary series co-written by an exegete and a homiletician (one who teaches the art of preaching).

46043079._SX318_

A Worldview Approach to Science and ScriptureCarol Hill. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2019. The author argues that understanding the worldview of the biblical authors and the modern scientific worldview helps resolve points of apparent conflict between scripture and science.

As you can see, I won’t lack for books if I must shelter in place for a good while. I suspect that will be the case for most readers of this blog. Desiderius Erasmus once said, “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.” Hopefully none of you will lack for any of these things. More importantly, my prayer is that you and yours may be spared illness or harm during these months. Remember kindness both to others and to yourself!

Time to Support Your Indie Bookstore

hearts and minds

Hearts and Minds Bookstore, from their Facebook page

In the past week, there have been massive closures–schools, restaurants, libraries, and even bookstores. Even if stores are open, many are not visiting as part of their efforts to physically distance themselves from infection.

Hundreds of indies around the country have closed either voluntarily or by government mandate. During this time, their only source of revenue are online orders (some stores can also offer in-store or even curbside pickups).

As it turns out, the demands on Amazon for essential supplies of medical and household goods have resulted in them deciding not to sell “non-essential” items like books, other than current stock, at least for a time.

Of course, books to a healthy bibliophile are not a “non-essential.” It could even be argued that they are an essential to health when we are basically “sheltering in place.”

This is one of those instances where our need to read and our favorite bookstore’s need for revenue converge. Most provide for online ordering. Many even answer the phone without any phone tree to go through. You can make a human connection amid physical distancing! That in itself is worth any extra cost.

One of my favorite indies is Hearts and Minds Bookstore in Dallastown, Pennsylvania, a small town in east central Pennsylvania. I have never actually been there and it is on my bucket list of places to visit. I read (and review) a good deal of religion and theological books in the Christian tradition, and Hearts and Minds is my “go to” bookseller. The store focuses on thoughtful books (hence their name) that connect Christian faith with every aspect of life, as well as other quality literature. Their selection of books and my interests align really well. They’ve been able to send me anything I ask for, always carefully packaged, arriving in perfect condition. They do a regular review of new books called “BookNotes,” and always offer a 20% discount on any book featured

I mentioned wanting to visit. Right now, I cannot. They have been closed by the state. I want to see them around when this emergency is over. For indie bookstores, this is not a given. Even when they run in the black, it is often by a precariously thin margin. I saw a new work in BookNotes I am interested in. After I finish this post, I’m going to go online and purchase it.

What if everyone did this with their favorite indie in the next week? And when you finish what you’ve purchased, do it again. It might just help them hang on.

But I read e-books or listen to audiobooks, you say. It turns out that that through IndieBound, which connects a community of indie bookstores, you can order e-books and audiobooks through many indie stores, and possibly yours. I realize you also have a selection of these at many libraries who are also only doing digital lending at this time.

As we have means, it makes sense during this time to ask what businesses matter to us that we want to support, including bookstores. Many of us are still adjusting to this state of affairs. Hopefully in the next few months, this thing will end. Will our favorite businesses, including the bookstores who sell what we like to read, still be there when we can get out and about again? It’s really up to us.

Trying to Read in a Crisis

distraction-3913012_1280

Image by FotoRieth from Pixabay

When the thought was raised of “physical distancing,” that sounded like heaven for a reader. And maybe it has been for some.

Not so far for me, and it may be you see less reviews from me. Typically, I’ll end up reading about 120 pages a day most days. This past week, if I can read 30, I’m doing good.

Some of it is work-related. I work in a collegiate ministry where we are making a rapid shift from face-to-face to digital. I happen to lead one of the digital areas of our ministry, and lots of time has been spent in Zoom calls figuring out how to do that. I just finished a nationwide call with university faculty trying to figure out how to convert their courses from face-to-face to online. We were using the some of the same software they will be using–and learning from each other in the process.

Some of it is just getting our household in order. We had the chance to move up a bathroom remodel. Now I wonder if a week later it would have even gotten done. In recent weeks we had been stocking up at the grocery–before the long lines. We had a sense this was coming, but there has been some extra time just getting our ducks in a row.

But a good part has just been distraction. I find myself checking the news reports more than is good for me and commenting with others online. Apart from finding out what the latest mandates are from our state, I don’t need to do too much more. I know it is going to keep getting worse for a while. I know I have to stay home and stay clean and not touch my face. It’s like it was in 9/11, except this won’t be done for awhile. The news coverage can draw you in, and agitate your thoughts and depress your heart. And it can distract from enjoying a good read.

Probably the best thing is to check in with my nightly news once a day, and stay away from news coverage the rest of the time. Sometimes I leave the phone in a different room so I’m less tempted to check it. Someone mentioned getting out for a walk. Haven’t done much of that recently, and I find that always clears my head. I sleep better and focus better. Replace screen time with walk time!

And maybe I just need to accept that my page count will drop for awhile. Maybe as things settle in that will change. I suspect in all sorts of way, this is a time where we need to be gentle with ourselves as well as with each other. It might even be a way where to get liberated from some compulsions. Some people waiting for me to review a book may have to wait longer. Right now, in the big scheme of things that doesn’t seem important.

These days, I find myself giving thanks that I’ve been preserved through another night, and at night through another day. I’m thankful to take a breath of air outside my door and scent the coming spring, which gives me hope. I give thanks for meals enjoyed at home. I give thanks for the quiet around me as I write. And when I can, I give thanks for the minutes I can spend with a book and a cup of coffee. The present crisis reminds me that all these things are gifts, gifts with which I may have become far too familiar.

Physical Distancing, Not Social Distancing

man in white shirt using tablet computer shallow focus photography

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I live in Ohio, and have been quite grateful for the leadership of our governor, Mike Dewine, and the director of the Ohio Department of Health, Dr. Amy Acton (who grew up in Youngstown!) during this Covid-19 pandemic. During Dr. Acton’s briefing yesterday, she made a point that caught my attention. Quoting someone else who she did not name, she mentioned that it might be better to call what we need right now as physical distancing rather than social distancing.

Physical distancing is one of the critical measures we need to take to “flatten the curve” to avoid a surge of cases that overwhelm our health system, as occurred in Wuhan, Iran, Italy and elsewhere. This could mean doctors would have to make decisions of who gets respirators and who will not. In the same briefing, we learned that 60 to 80 percent of our state’s respirators are already in use, without Covid-19 cases. In addition to staying six to ten feet away from others and avoiding all physical contact, it has meant, in our state and many others, closures of schools and universities, bans on gatherings of over 100, closure of bars and restaurants except for take out purchases, bans on visitors to nursing facilities and prisons, cancellations of sporting and other events attracting crowds. Most religious bodies have cancelled services and gone to online streaming. Physical distancing could protect you from infection, or protect you from infecting someone who is vulnerable.

Social distancing. What we need to think about at this time is not becoming distant socially from one another, but rather finding new ways maintain and strengthen our social ties during an extraordinarily stressful time. On Meet the Press yesterday, David Brooks made this observation:

I looked back and read about all the different pandemics over centuries. And you think people come together in a crisis? They do in some kind of crisis. But in pandemic, they fall apart. The reporting from every crisis for the last thousand years of this sort is that neighbors withdraw from neighbors. You get widened class divisions. Out of fear you get a spirit of callousness.

The other day, I was talking to someone about the crazy hoarding of toilet paper, and he commented, “I’m stocking up on ammo.” His remark brought home to me that we face a question of what kind of society will we become in the next several months. We may choose a survival of the fittest ethic, fighting each other for toilet paper, food, or even a place in the line to get tested. Or we can choose to be a society seeking to recognize our connectedness. While we physical distance, we can reach out in other ways.

  • We can check in on the health and welfare of neighbors and those in our faith community.
  • We can use Nextdoor to learn of needs in our neighborhood. If you have a stash of toilet paper and learn of others with a need, you might consider helping.
  • Someone on quarantine or isolation (which can happen suddenly) legally cannot leave their home. Food, books, games, videos on their doorstep (let them keep them) might lift spirits in important ways.
  • We can particularly be aware of those who are alone, especially the elderly, and stay in contact.
  • We can pay attention to ways we may volunteer as appropriate to our health and age. In our area, voting is taking place. Most poll workers are over 65, putting them in a high risk group. If you have been laid off or work from home and are younger and in good health, you might help in their place.
  • One of the things that did not exist in the earlier pandemics is online technology. We can phone, text, message, Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, email, WhatsApp and more. In the last days I’ve been reached out to and reached out to others on many of these media. Religious communities can meet online. People can collaborate in all sorts of ways. Instead of using social media to engage in endless barrages of argument and fingerpointing, we can use it to stay in touch with friends, even share a laugh.

None of our countries will be the same when this ends. David Brooks observed that after the 1918 flu pandemic, people avoided talking about it “because they were ashamed of how they behaved.” This pandemic could rend the fabric of our society even worse than it has been in recent years. Or it could re-focus us on what is important–the ways in which we are mutually dependent upon each other and every human being is of value. Are we going to hoard toilet paper and ammo, or invest in strengthening our social connections? While we practice physical distancing, will we focus on our social connectedness? You and I will make decisions in these next days and weeks that not only affect the health of millions but the fabric of our society. How will you choose?

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Youngstown Air Reserve Station

Fairchild C-119

Fairchild C-119B-10-FA Flying Boxcar, U.S. Air Force Photo, Public Domain

If you were outside and you heard the roar of those engines overhead, you looked up to watch the “Flying Boxcars” winging their way to the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, connected to what was then Youngstown Municipal Airport. The plane was used as a troop and cargo transport during the Korean War and into the 1960’s when the 910th Troop Carrier Group was first established at the Youngstown Air Force Base.

F-84E_of_9th_Fighter-Bomber_Squadron_in_Korea

F-84 Thunderjet. USAFNational Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Public Domain

The beginnings of the Youngstown Air Force Base goes back to the early Cold War. In 1951, the Air Defense Command negotiated with Youngstown to establish a base for defense of the north-central United States in the event of a nuclear attack from Soviet bombers. Originally, the 86th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron flew F-84 Thunderjets. Later, they upgraded to the F-102 Delta Dagger. which the 86th flew until moved in 1960. Also in 1955, the 79th Fighter Group was assigned to Youngstown.

86th_Fighter-Interceptor_Squadron_Convair_TF-102A-36-CO_Delta_Dagger_55-4052

F-102 Delta Dagger, United States Air ForceDonald, David (2004), Public Domain

Also stationed at the Air Force Base in those early years was the Air Force Reserve’s 26th Fighter Bomber Squadron, a reserve unit flying the T-33 Shooting Star, a subsonic jet trainer, and very briefly the F-86H Sabres, a transonic fighter bomber.

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The April 1958 issue of Buckstone Carrier (the Youngstown Air Force Base periodical) features a sketch of a C-119 “Flying Boxcar,” tail number 0133, in flight. U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Eric M. White, Public Domain

In 1959, the 86th was pulled out and the 26th inactivated. In 1960 the 79th was deactivated. The coming of the 910th in 1963 signaled the beginning of what is now a 57 year history. Over the years the mission changed from transport to air support special operations (1971-1973), a fighter group (1973-1981), and Tactical Airlift since then. Once again the loud roar of aircraft engines can be heard near the airport with the arrival of C-130’s. These aircraft can carry 92 troops, 64 paratroopers, and 45,000 pounds of cargo. The 910th has also had unique mission as a large area fixed spray operation, used in killing mosquitoes and other disease carrying insects. Currently, Ohio’s congressional delegation is working to get the latest version, the C-130J for the Youngstown Air Reserve Station.

Youngstown_C-130_over_base

C-130 over Youngstown Air Reserve Station, U. S. Air Force, Public Domain

Hopefully, the valley will continue to hear the sound of those C-130’s overhead for many years to come.

Review: Running For Our Lives

Running for our Lives, Robb Ryerse (Foreword by Brian D. McLaren). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2020.

Summary: A northwest Arkansas pastor decides to run in a primary against one of the most powerful Republican representatives in a grassroots campaign to restore a say in government to ordinary citizens.

Robb Ryerse was a political junkie. He was also a pastor whose developing ministry led him to political views at variance with many of his fundamentalist counterparts. It led him eventually to launch a counter-cultural and inclusive church in northwest Arkansas. It led to weeping when the nominee of his party was elected president in 2016 and joining others who were concerned about the way our political process was going.

All this led to Ryerse being recruited by Brand New Congress to run a grassroots campaign oriented around the common good of the everyday American. He went to a “Congress Camp” with a number of candidates from both parties including Antonia Ocasio-Cortez. What is striking is that Ryerse went as a Republican running against a Republican incumbent. He finds himself at variance with his party, not with the philosophy of governance, but rather with positions on healthcare, climate change, and immigration that have become immigration. He discovered that for all their disagreements, he could find common ground by focusing on the common good with those at Congress Camp who did not share his party affiliation–something they all wanted to take to Washington.

One of the key issues he explores is the issue of campaign finance. He argues that you will only have a Congress responsive to everyday citizens when they, and not big donors fund the campaigns, something Antonia Ocasio-Cortes was able to do. The challenge: this will probably take a constitutional amendment unless Americans refuse to support candidates funded by big money interests.

He traces the high and low points, the latter including a party dinner in a remote part of the district where his name was mispronounced and no one would talk to him. On the other hand were voters dissatisfied with the direction of the party who listened. A documentary crew follows his run from when he pays the $15,000 entry fee set by the party, his early high hopes and his increasing realization that he just didn’t have the votes. He ended winning 15 percent of the vote.

He ended the race a changed person. He reached a position on gun control that focused not only on the right to bear arms, but the “well-regulated” character of a citizenry who did so as a basis for gun legislation that did not take weapons away, but did govern how they could be obtained as part of a package of common sense gun legislation. Most of all, he became even more convinced of the need for a movement that focused on the electing of everyday people by everyday people committed to the common good. So when the invitation to become executive director of Brand New Congress to continue this movement, he said yes.

I suspect a number of people who read this review would not agree with all of Ryerse positions. I don’t. But what strikes me is that Ryerse argues for the kind of politician that I think we need to change the character of our legislative branch — people committed to seeking the common good of our citizens. What Ryerse does not answer is what it takes for such candidates to unseat a heavily funded incumbent on a shoe string. His support from everyday people, which he prided himself on, only amounted to $30,000, a paltry amount compared to his opponent. He can pride himself that he ran a principled race all he wants, but the truth is, he didn’t even come close to being elected. Nor did he generate enough of a movement of “everyday people” to even make the race competitive. Does that say something?

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Bibliophiles in an Age of Social Distancing

woman wearing face mask

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com. [Comment: Advice is that masks should only be used by those who suspect they are infected, not the general population]

The rise and rapid spread of Covid-19 (coronavirus) has brought a new phrase into common usage–“social distancing.” This is the practice of literally keeping your distance from other people. It means avoiding large crowds or close contact with people, especially anyone manifesting symptoms of being ill. If one has been exposed to someone with the illness, it can mean self-quarantines, usually of 14 days, and longer, of course if you contract the illness. In some parts of the world (e.g. China, S. Korea, Italy), “lockdowns” have occurred enforcing social distancing on everyone. This is possible in any municipality, something most of us have never seen but probably ought prepare for. One piece of advice has been to stock up not only on essentials and non-perishables, but also on entertainment, including books.

I suspect for most bibliophiles, this is not a problem with our burgeoning TBR piles, although we are glad for the excuse to stock up (even though this is one “essential” we already have enough of). We might even whittle that pile down.

For most of us, “social distancing” is not a problem either. We have been using books for social distancing (particularly if we’re introverts) for most of our lives. Having our nose in a book usually is tantamount to hanging a “do not disturb” sign around your neck, except for the oblivious few who ask, “what are you reading.” Even then, all you have to do is hold up the cover or spine and show them (making an impromptu bioshield as well!).

I don’t want to make a self-quarantine or a lockdown sound like a “snow day.” But staying healthy includes emotional health, which is probably not enhanced by listening to constant news coverage about the virus. This can even prevent you from sleeping well or getting out and getting fresh air and exercise in the open air. If your state health department is on the ball, their daily bulletins are probably all you need (and we all probably can recite the basic guidelines in our sleep). You can take the rest of that time spent and instead of feeding the 24/7 news cycle to do all the other things I mentioned, plus work from home–and read!

This can be a time to find friends online, whether on Facebook or via video calls to talk about books we like. Pull up your computer, and a glass of wine, or other favorite beverage and chat with friends about books you like.

It may also be a time to explore new books you want to read. Look up your favorite review sites (hopefully including Bob on Books!), and make your list to reserve at the library, or order from your favorite indie (which may be struggling during this time). Put that “want list” together.

Some of us like film adaptations of books, especially those we have read. Perhaps you can make a plan to read or re-read the book, then watch the film and see how it measures up. Netflix subscriptions make this easy.

Reading can be a good way to practice both self-care and care for others during this time. We readers have long known that you don’t have to travel on a plane or car to travel the world (as well as other imagined worlds). Nor does physical isolation require social isolation. As long as we are in good health, we can interact with others in various online media, and turn our love of books into a shared love.

Stay safe out there, friends.