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Bless our stormwater system's heart (does it have one?). Seemed to hold up pretty well to me, Calvin. Stormwater is...

Garner: A more perfect union

Bob Garner

Bob Garner

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Sunday, June 24, 2018

We should all force ourselves to take reflective retreats.

Since most of us just can’t or won’t do it, it’s a very good thing that our wonderful American system inevitably forces all of us into a tough “time in the wilderness.”

No ideological philosophy, no political party ever has or ever will build a dynasty at either the state or federal level. It only seems that way to whoever’s on the “outs.”

Sooner or later, every team and every tribe is going to get a “W” on the scoreboard and throw the rascals out.

And the truth is, no matter how much we may think our preferred governmental style is the long-term solution to human events, all of us will deservedly wear the “rascals” badge for a time. We’ll always take things too far.

Every ideology, indeed every theological framework, has its genius and its fatal flaws. We must have an Old Testament of law, order and one type justice. We also require a New Testament of compassion, grace and a different justice.

A uncomfortable, dynamic tension between conservative and progressive notions is essential to muddling through the broad sweep of history. If the Bible is true and congruent throughout, it is so despite the seeming contradictions between “proof texts” for one predominant school of thought or another.

Each of us has a basic human outlook more or less baked in, although it can change. We’ll seldom totally remake our design, with its inherent flaws, so we need people of different outlooks around us to help keep us straight. We can do the same for others.

“You have heard it said ______________, but I tell you, ________________.” The world’s most influential person liked to use that introductory clause before imparting some unassailable truth, probably just to disconcert all of us equally.

Church people occasionally admit we’re all parts with different designs and functions, designed to keep the body honest and functioning. But left to our own devices — and biases — we’ll practically always pick out an assortment of body parts more suited to assembling a Dr. Frankenstein monster than a marvelous human creation.

Fortunately, we aren’t left to our own devices. The mid-term elections or their non-political equivalents always come. Off to time-out we’re sent, grousing about how much we hate to “rough it” in the wilderness.

Dark nights of the soul can be good for us. Sometimes we rediscover our long-lost empathy before dawn.

Pulitzer-prize-wining biographer Jon Meacham has written an unusually helpful best-seller, “The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels.” The central message: We can cling hope and optimism because we’ve “been there before” as a nation.

We have survived the Civil War and reconstruction, the battle for universal suffrage, the Great Depression, McCarthyism, “Segregation Forever,” losing an unpopular war in Vietnam, and 9/11. We are surviving modern media.

The nation has struggled with the issue of immigration and borders before, and while we were wounded, our injuries weren’t mortal. Meacham argues that there is reason for cheer, even in the midst of our current ambivalence about the separation of families, our universal anguish over the tears of children and parents alike and the supposed “tough-love necessity” some perceive.

He observes that we can reflect, read, pray, discuss and then choose as best we can, without the ship of state necessarily being sunk by any collateral damage.

The only achievable goal in this life isn’t a perfect union, but a more perfect union. Yes, we should all take an occasional retreat, but if we don’t, we’ll surely be deployed on one.

Bob Garner is a UNC-TV restaurant reviewer, freelance food writer, author of four cookbooks, barbecue pit master and public speaker. Contact him at bgarner2662@gmail.com.

Rocky Mount- The Prime Smokehouse from Bob Garner on Vimeo.

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