vote for the dental hygienist

Yesterday was sorta like one of my semiannual teeth cleanings. The pain, relief and sense of fulfilled duty left me with both a little bit of a gritty, bad taste and a little woozy. But regardless, it always feels right to step into that booth and do a vote.

Like usual, I voted for a candidate or two that I wasn't completely in love with. But, I'm not sure I've ever cast a ballot for a politician who sees everything as I do. Heck, sometimes I don't even agree with my own positions. And on some things, I'm not sure I have an opinion - at least not one that's educated. I'm also prone to changing my mind when I learn more about a subject. Evidently, in politics, once you say something out loud you're not allowed to say something different - more enlightened or not. Knowing all that, I’d have some serious reservations before I’d even vote for myself.

… and speaking of flip-flopping. Most of last night’s winners that I heard seemed to speak very kind words of praise about their just-defeated opponents who were lying, thieving, corrupt societal menaces until very recently, when the polls closed. I wondered if I should believe their previous words or their current ones. I wondered if their next political adversary would point out their flip-flop the next time around.

For me, this time around, for the first time that I can remember, I ended Election Day feeling a little disappointed in myself. It’s not because not all of my favorite candidates won. It’s more because I felt forced to decide whether to let the end or the means make my decision. Because so many of the races and candidates where I live were so ugly and frankly, not always believable, I had to step into the voting booth yesterday and make a principled decision based on more than policy ideas. I had to judge some character. I hate judging. I don’t feel qualified to judge. I didn't make my decisions based entirely on the content of the info and ads each side presented, but on whether it could be believed, or whether it was necessary at all.

There was certainly no tingly feeling about it for me. I think I swallowed hard a time or two, wiped my brow, and even closed my eyes once so I wouldn't witness exactly what I was about to do. I walked out thinking I should wash my hands, and not at all eager to brag about some of the buttons I'd just pushed. (BTW, a bottle of hand sanitizer at each polling place would be a good idea.) It was tough, and I don’t regret my votes. And although I’m not necessarily proud of myself, I did vote.


11/3/10 please

My debate coach once said that when you resort to derogatory names for your opponent your argument has become juvenile, you’ve diminished your own credibility, you’ve lost the audiences respect, and you’ve exhausted all of your intelligent information.

I’m ready now. I want to vote. If my vote means that all of the gosh-darn political ads will stop interfering with my entertainment and my usually happy attitude, I’ll run down and cast one now.

Lately I feel like I’m lugging a lot of heaviness around. I feel frustrated and sorta defeated. The air seems dirty and dense. It’s ruining my otherwise perfect Fall. Some say it’s Obama’s fault. Some blame the tea party folks. I think it’s all of these depressing political carpet-bomb attacks from ALL the sides. Where in the world do you buy a gajillion dollars worth of cat claws? And unless you have a generous supply of Wellbutrin or just lock yourself in a wireless-less closet, there’s no way to escape the negativity and the cloud.

I’m certainly not a cynic, but the constant rotation of pithy words and grainy, slo-mo images we’ve been subject to for longer than seems necessary have made it hard not to be. So, to help myself sleep and to keep me smiling, I’ve changed some habits and invoked some bible. Specifically Philippians 4:8.

I hardly watch live TV anymore. The thirty-second doses of political tit-for-tat eye poking, and shin kicking among the grownups, and the extra effort it takes to decipher which one, if either, is telling me the truth, has motivated me to either record the stuff I want to see or, thanks to DVR, start watching about ten or fifteen minutes into the show so I can FF through all the exaggerations. But if do you see the ads, and you believe even part of what you’re told, regardless of who wins, it’ll be a dishonest, corrupt criminal clown who runs the victory lap – and the government. (To those who wonder, this explains voter apathy.)

I enjoy reasonable debate about policies, positions and politics. And it seems there’s certainly a market for biased political discussion, going both ways, on all the media. I think that’s good. But it often frustrates me when I hear a radio or TV host, even one that I know shares my own views, lose the argument AND respect for the point because they couldn’t avoid useless personal insults. What makes the guy behind the mic think he can convince an adult to change their position or see things his way when he argues like a kid? That’s why I don’t listen to talk radio anymore. No dish on the folks who do. I don't get into extreme fighting either. (Same kind of sport. Same kind of result.)

I personally know a lot of the folks who are running for office this time around. I know them well enough to know that they really are good people. I know them well enough to know that most of the things said about them in the commercials, on the news, in the interviews, and in the debates really aren’t true. I know them well enough to know that if they are elected or re-elected they will be good officials. I know them well enough to know that they don’t really breathe fire, hate puppies and steal crutches. I know them well enough to know that they don’t really believe their opponents do either. Maybe that’s the main reason I hate all this ugly political trickery. I know these people. They’re better than they’re portrayed and they’re better than they’re acting.

I’m anxious to hurry up and vote and get back to my regularly scheduled, mostly happy programming.


a kinda modern political tv ad

video: fast-fade in (waste shot) current GW in most expensive suit - pull back to full shot then fade out
audio: chirping birds to harpsichord playing Bach sonata
vo (sarcastic tone):
George Washington. He'd like you to think he's one of us. But we know better.

video: disolve to women wearing high fashion drinking tea behind large castle and well dressed children playing
audio: cut to to classical violin playing Mozart Concerto No. 5
vo (sarcastic tone) NOTE: spit "fancy" and stress 'not"

A child of privelege, George Washington was born on a fancy plantation with a fancy silver spoon. This wealthy aristocrat grew up in private schools and fancy parlors. He's not one of us.

video: cut to stills of GW and wife in fancey clothes - fast flash cut-ins of tattered slaves - disolve to GW posing in British uniform (Photoshop edits)
audio: fade from Mozart violins to "Brainbug Nightmare" by Sinister Strings (mid-point) then to military band playing "Rule, Britania"
vo (sarcastic) NOTE: stress "secret"

Then Fancy George married even more money and became a member of a secret society. Slave-driving George Washington once bowed to the British king, worked for foreign companies and even hoped to join the enemy's Navy.

video: cut to regimented troops, dissolve to gradual pullback (start face-close) of young, dying soldiers on battlefield - fade to black then to gradual pullback (start face-close) of solemn woman holding dirty, crying child and city burning behind - fade to b/w closeup of defeated GW face.
audio: fade to weeping strings
vo (stern but solemn tone) NOTE: drop voice to despair at end

While in charge of his own country's troops, gun-happy George sent more than 25,000 brave American men and boys into deadly ambush and disease - leaving countless desperate widows and orphans to fend for themselves. Thanks to George Washington, our greatest cities fell into enemy hands.

video: pop into closeup of angry GW face - pull back to arrogant GW counting money, sinister laugh and big belly
audio: back to harpsichord playing Bach sonata
vo (concern-to-angry tone) NOTE: stress "took over"

Still not satisfied, King George took over the Constitutional Convention and found a way to write himself a big, fat paycheck - courtesy of you. No other president has raised more taxes or thrown more of your hard earned money across the river.

video: cut to b/w closeup of GW face (in wince) - slow pullback with dissolve rotation of previous images (Large castle, GW in British uniform, slave, dying soldiers, crying child, ragged woman, burning city...)
audio: thunder w/startling strings
vo (very snide) NOTE" stress "we"

George Washington. Traitor, elitist and incompetent leader. We can do better.

video: pop to black with small text
audio: none
vo (professional):

Paid for by the committee to rid our country of its only career politician.


god vs fred - a reprise

Matthew Shepard should’ve been 33 years old by now. I wrote and posted the following words on my blog one year ago:

I’m thinking that Fred Phelps and his hate-in-the-name-of-Jesus congregation have never felt the hurt in any of the broken hearts they protest. I’ll bet they’ve never considered comforting a devastated parent or the spouse or child of a military soldier just tragically lost. Chances are they’ve not once followed the real Jesus example of compassion and weeping with the broken and sad. I’m sure that they never, ever looked into the eyes of Judy Shepard to express sorrow that her 21 year old son had been tortured and killed so violently and so senselessly.

If I give much thought to the wackos at Westboro I get angry. In the stupid/arrogant/psycho & disturbed hall of insanity, the Phelps plaque hangs just around the corner from the Hitler and the Hussein. I’d love to express more heartfelt disgust, but it’s very judgmental of me and my language would certainly lean offensive. Too, I have no more appreciation for my own judgementalism than theirs or anyone else’s, and I certainly don’t wish to lower myself to the Phelps family way.

Matthew Shepard died eleven years ago. Eleven years and six days ago he was alive, but barely, having been beaten into a coma and left for dead in a remote Wyoming field. The two guys who were responsible for luring him into their car, robbing him, pistol-whipping him, torturing him, tying him to a fence and leaving him for dead are locked up now with two consecutive life sentences each. They admitted that they, like Fred Phelps’ god, hate fags. So they killed him.

Matthew was gay. But had he been fat or black or Hispanic or female or poor or anything else that would distinguish him from his attackers, could there ever be justification for the savage, heartless brutality he endured? One of his killers said that as they bashed Matthew’s head with the butt of their gun over and over again, he was screaming and begging them to stop, pleading for his life. They took his shoes, tied him painfully tight with a sharp, thin rope to a rough prairie fence post, then drove away into a chilly night leaving him in the cold to die. It was said that when he was found eighteen hours later Matthew’s face was covered in blood, except for the tracks that were made by his tears.

A lot has been said since Matthew’s murder about the need for extra punishment for those whose crime is motivated by their personal prejudices. I’m sorta mixed on the notion. But then again, I’ve not been a victim – not like Matthew. Although, the more I think about the fear that Matthew must’ve felt, his futile pleas for mercy, the hopelessness of being bound in the cold, in the wilderness, his terribly long and painful night of suffering and his last few agonizing days struggling to live – all because, only because he was gay – the more justified it seems.

Today, the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death, would be a good day to consider the need for understanding and compassion among us. If you look at anyone and see less or more because of their skin or their stature or their gender or their ability or their affections or their position or their faith or their failures or their wardrobe or their politics or their car or their talents or their wealth or their success or their past or anything else, it might be good to ask God what He sees.
It’s certainly tough to see and like people like Fred Phelps. I’m glad God can.


missing tony

I miss Tony. On the days that life or business consumed and it never occurred to me to laugh, he'd call. I'd say Hi. He'd spit out a one-liner. I'd bust a gut laughing. He'd laugh and snort too while he hung up the phone. The whole thing would last maybe thirty seconds. But I'd laugh the rest of the day. It's been too many days now since the last one of those moments. I miss Tony.

Need a gospel flashlight? It doesn't matter. Need it or not, Tony was good at selling you one. He could stand on the stage and sell anything, and most of the time you didn't realize he was pitching. You wanted whatever he offered even if you already had it. And you never felt snookered when you bought his goods. Tony stood by his words because Tony's endorsement was a promise. And even in the Gospel music world that's not always the case. Makes me miss him.

What a voice... When I first heard Tony sing, lots of years ago, it hadn't changed yet. Back then, when he harmonized with his family, his notes were above both his brother AND his sister. But man, when puberty finished with him, what an incredible set of lead-singing pipes he ended up with. Since then, when the song needed a man's power voice, Tony's was it. Otherwise, he was the subtle, blending anchor part that was crucial to some of the prettiest phrasing and harmony anywhere. He knew his parts. I'm glad we have lots of recordings to remember him by. But I still miss his singing.

Hundreds of thousands of people, probably more, have forgotten their worries because Tony gave them a moment and a place in which to escape. He knew that responsibility as he stepped onto the stage every night. He and I would talk about our ministry role of being a balm that soothes while God does the bigger thing of repairing and healing the reasons for the hurt. He'd remind me of that from time to time, especially when I didn't feel like singing. He'd tell me to stop being so selfish and to stop depriving hurting people of their opportunity to feel-good, even if only for a while. "Who knows when they'll get another chance to laugh or feel God?" he'd say. Sometimes I don't want to sing. I need Tony.

Sometimes Tony's tales were heard and accepted by the standards of the National Inquirer's official understanding of believability. If a story is so outlandish that no one in their reasonable mind would believe it, they probably shouldn't. Sometimes I didn't know which parts of his stories were fact or not. It didn't matter though. When Tony told it, it was a Tony tale. We took it for what it was, laughed at it and probably re-told it as our own. His version was always funnier. I'd like to hear the one about the fox tattoo again.

Tony was in love with Taranda. The music they made together was Heaven-meant, and it was impossible to not recognize the chemistry and the believability and the compatibility they had with each other. It was the music that introduced them to each other, but the moments without an audience was what made them lovers and partners. And they were devoted partners. A good part of Tony's life was to support and encourage the incredible and anointed gift that is his wife's. Of course Tony loved Isabella and Jocelyn. He didn't completely understand the thinking of itty-bitty girls. But to love them he didn't have to. Tony loved all of his family, and sometimes they all had a lot to love each other through. He's been my model in that way and I've learned a lot from his example of waiting. Gee, I miss his wisdom.

Tony was devoted to the people who supported him. Only a few days before he went to the hospital for the last time he was in the middle of a huge exhibit hall with a line of fans wrapped around corners and aisles just to see him. Although no one was allowed to touch him for fear of transmitting an infection, he looked tired. And like so many others, I was concerned for him. I told him then that he shouldn't be there. The people would understand There were too many germs, and it was dangerous, and as much as everyone wanted to see him, he would be safer in a more sterile place. He told me that these people meant a lot to him. He wanted to see them while he could because he didn't know if he'd ever have the chance to see them again. Tony loved those people. He appreciate their kindness. He was determined to repay it.

As much as Tony was a cut-up and a charmer, a master communicator, a successful businessman, an accomplished singer, a remarkable entertainer, an effective minister, a devoted lover, a committed father, an incredibly close friend and so much more, Tony was above everything a Christian. His faith identified him. His stories and songs, his phone calls and his life were all wrapped by his commitment and compulsion to share why he laughed, why he loved, why he sang and why he cared. He lived his life doing his best to return the favors that God had been so generous in sharing. I have to tell you, it's so refreshing to remember. But right now I am so missing Tony.


missed me words

I've been gone. I've left a silent couch sitting empty for several months now.

Time went by fast, really fast. I've been absent from posting words here for a long time now, much longer than I intended. I first planned to just keep silent for a few weeks. I needed to get past some crucial deadlines. But once out of the habit of sharing thoughts and eventually, after several months of feeling guilty for telling people who'd asked why I was ignoring my chat couch that I'd start posting again soon, then not doing it, I became kind of ashamed.

Although I've not written here lately, I have been writing. I have messenger bags full of pads full of pages full of words that no one has seen or read. Looking back through them lately, I've noticed that sometimes my assembled words make no sense at all. What in the world does, "riding rainbow roller coasters" mean, and where in the world did a thought like that come from? The point: I've been writing, just silently.

So, my intent over the next several days or weeks or however long I feel impressed, is to occasionally look back through some of my rambling, scratched out thoughts and share them here. When I do, I may expound some, or I may leave things virgin and original, as I first imagined it. I may share the background (if I remember it or if I noted it at the moment) or, like the weird thought above, I may have no clue what opened the brain door to something so random.

Besides my piles of paper, I'm always sending me emails and texts, leaving myself voice mail messages, using the handy little voice memo ap on my iPhone and pecking out lines in my smarter-than-I-am-phone notes. Evidently something inspired me at the grocery store a while back. I was cleaning the car last week and found, "fake thunder - fake storm - fake rain," on the back of an old shopping list. I reckon the magic moment happened in produce.

So, thanks for your patience. Thanks for waiting. Thanks for not giving up and believing that I'd be back with something to say. Thanks for stopping me in the mall or at a concert or while I'm trying to enjoy dinner with friends or while I'm at the urinal to tell me that you've missed sitting on my couch. I'm not even partially sure what these off-the-page postings will look like, but flipping through my scribbles, let's call it something intellectual like abstract art.


home, home on the web

Gas is expensive these days. Just so I won't have to make the commute, from this day and this moment henceforth, the words of Kenny Bishop shall be found a little closer to his web home. Make a note and meet me at www.kennybishop.com/blog. We've worked really hard to make it look, feel, taste and smell as much like you're used to as possible.

The platform there is WordPress instead of Blogger. So, if you've subscribed to the feed here and wish to keep tuning in after the move, it'll be necessary to resubscribe there. I really, really, really, really, really, really hope you will.