Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Nester's Cabin

The Nesters’ Cabin

© Jeff Boyer, 2007

Billy’s breath, from his nose and mouth,
       hangs like stove smoke in the air.
In his sheepskin coat, he looks like his horse,
       both wearin’ their winter hair.

Heads tucked down, shoulders bowed to their chests,
       they trudge on through the cold,
gatherin’ the last of the scattered heifers
       before those clouds blow in the snow.

Roundin’ a bend in a wide, grassy draw,
       Billy sees somethin’ he ain’t seen before –
an old half-dugout with a saggin’ dirt roof
       and a make-shift, leather-hinged door.

No smoke from the stove pipe – nobody’s home.
       No stock, no chickens in the yard.
‘Nesters,’ thought Billy, ‘they tried and moved on.
       This country’s just too hard.

It’s acres per cow, not cows per acre,
       no life for folks who break ground.
Long winters, too cold, short summers, too hot,
       and too dry all year `round.’

Still, Billy knows better than to ride up quiet.
       “Ho, the house, rider comin’,” he calls.
The only response is a snort from his horse,
       no noise from the homestead at all.

Billy steps down, loops the rein `round a post,
       looks up at the cabin door,
sees a large, round halo made of grasses and twigs
       that he hadn’t noticed before.

A strip of faded, red, flannel cloth
       is tied to the top in a bow,
and dried juniper berries that had hung from the twigs
       are scattered on the ground below.

“If I didn’t know better,” Billy says to his horse,
       “that would look like a Christmas wreath.”
His horse snorts again, puffs up his lips,
       let the air out through his teeth.

With one gloved hand, Billy reaches out,
       gives a push to the wooden door,
the dried leather hinges squeak and crack as they bend,
       the wood rubs across the dirt floor.

Billy peeks through the door, steps in from the light,
       in the dark there’s nothin’ to see;
then his eyes make out a small broken bench and,
       in the corner – is that a tree?

Swingin’ the door wide open lets in the light,
       he stares to the back of the room
at an old rusted bucket filled with rocks and dirt,
       holding up a short, brown piñon.

On the floor by the bucket is a small pile of glass,
       all that’s left of a red Christmas ball.
“Bet it broke her heart,” thinks Billy out loud,
       “when she saw the little thing fall.”

On top of the tree, tied on with a string,
       is an angel of yellowed paper lace.
Leanin’ over a little as the tree top has bowed,
       she still keeps watch on the place

like the angels that announced the Bethlehem Baby
       whose birth was remembered here
in a half-dugout cabin no better’n that stable
       back nearly two thousand years.

“Musta been tough,” Billy says to the angel,
       “leavin’ their home at Christmas and all.”
That’s when he sees them, next to the tree,
       pieces of paper tacked to the wall.

Dried and yellowed, they crack on the folds
       as Billy opens to see what he finds –
two pages from a Bible, and on each page
       a passage had been underlined.

On the first,

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

And on the second,

Fear not, for behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy which shall be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

Friday, August 27, 2010

You might be a Taoseno if . . . (an on-going saga)

The Police Blotter in your local paper includes the following entries (these ARE real):

"Caller reported that his brother was 'messing with his head.' " (You go ahead and run with this one.)

"Caller reported that someone dumped trash in the Dumpster and 'made a mess.' " (Umm . . . it's in a dumpster.)

"Caller reported that a 'bald-looking guy' had been in the park 'for a while.' " (Was he bald or just bald-looking? Is that some form of profiling?)

"Caller reported that there was noise that was not coming from her house." (I have never heard noises that weren't coming from my house . . .)

"Caller reported that a young man called her and asked if she wanted to take a sex survey." (I'm guessing a middle-schooler.)

"Caller reported she wanted the number for a suicide hotline after her landlady threatened to kill her." (I think the hotline for that situation is 911.)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What Dr. Laura Can Say and Can't Say

     Most of us have now seen and heard, multiple times, Dr. Laura Schlesinger getting into an argument, during her radio show, about whether it's appropriate to use the "n . . ." word and why. We all now know, if we weren't counting the first time we heard or saw it, that she used the "n . . ." word eleven (or was it fifteen?) times in a very short period of time. We all know that she's been publicly chastised by all sorts of people simply for speaking the word. We all know now, if we didn't before, that there are many people within the African-American "community", in its largest sense, that are working to abolish the word in any and every context. Interestingly, though, only a few folks have actually tried to address the issue she raised: why is it okay for some folks to use that word but not for others? Comedian and actor Chris Rock probably said it most succinctly -- he can use it, she cannot. Dr. Laura's question is left begging.
     There are probably many reasons why Chris Rock can use the "n . . ." word and Dr. Laura (indeed, virtually everyone not of African-American background) cannot. Some are historical, some are sociological, some are economic, and some are anthropological. One anthropological reason, which is also historical in nature, has to do with the formation, evolution, and maintenance of African-American culture. This is not the venue for details so let me simply say that because of 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century slavery in North America, people from numerous tribal groups in west Africa were removed from their native cultural milieus and forced into situations in which they were assumed to be just like each other simply because they came from Africa and had darker skins than their new owners. Those circumstances resulted in a variety of responses and expressions of those responses as African people and their progeny adapted to interactions with their owners and other non-African people (including, by the way, Native Americans) and with Africans from other cultural backgrounds. Over time, those responses and their expressions created a new, unique, cultural milieu with its own language and dialects, social structure and organization(s), stories, beliefs, and behaviors. Within the broadest range of those manifestations was the formation of African-American culture.
     Culture is remarkably dynamic; the only thing that doesn't change is change. Please don't assume that I'm saying that there developed a single, monolithic, cultural group of African-Americans, or that such a thing exists today. Not so. Nonetheless, the effects of slavery on generations of Africans and their progeny, as well as on people of African descent even if their families were not slaves, can hardly be overestimated or overstated, even in circumstances in which people had very different experiences. One of those effects was the formation of culture. How do we know? Because Chris Rock can use the "n . . ." word and Dr. Laura cannot.
     I think that Dr. Laura was voicing the feelings of many Americans of non-African descent: "Oh, come on, that was then, this is now. I'm not a slave-trader or owner, I'm not responsible for the actions of slave-traders or owners. If we're ever going to move beyond the tragedy of slavery and post-slavery, Jim Crow discrimination, we have to stop the discriminatory use of certain words. If Chris Rock can use the "n . . ." word, so can Dr. Laura. If Dr. Laura can't use it, then neither can Chris Rock."
     Well . . . not so much. Anthropologist Roy Rappaport identified what he called canonical and indexical aspects of culture. The former are those aspects which are deeply embedded, which reflect cultural foundations, the beliefs, values, and behaviors upon which culture stands. Canonical aspects are very, very difficult to change because doing so potentially threatens the foundations of culture. Indexical aspects of culture, on the other hand, are, as the name implies, indexed to circumstances, sometimes specific and sometimes general. That is, they can shift and change in response to shifting, changing circumstances. Rappaport presented these aspects as a dichotomy but recognized that, in fact, they represent a continuum. Over time, even cultural aspects that have been remarkably canonical can and will change if they become increasingly less relevant to succeeding generations. That's part of the dynamism of culture.
     The point? Culture involves identity. One could say, indeed, that culture is identity. So, people of African descent, during the processes of forming, evolving, and maintaining a culture in North American that provided identities for themselves in non-native circumstances, acquired and created values and expressions that manifested identity. One of those, I suspect, was the "n . . ." word, an apparently common term used by traders, owners, and other non-Africans to identify Africans and their progeny. "Black" and "white" are colors and have different meanings in different contexts (witness the confusion today over whether and how to use them with reference to people). "African" was a term that could not accurately be applied to the next generation (although I have consistently used it in conjunction with "American" in this setting). But "n . . ." is a term specifically used, in North America, to refer to people who were and are "obviously" (not so obvious, as it turns out, but that's another subject) of African descent. When used by non-Africans, then and now, it was and remains a derogatory term intended to demean and diminish Africans and their progeny, to reduce them to a less-than-human status in order to justify subjugating them. When used by Africans and their progeny, on the other hand, it apparently was and continues to be a term of identity. Even with what seem to be obviously derogatory connotations (because of historical circumstances), the word expresses identity.
     Why would slaves and their progeny use a word picked up from traders, owners, and others to express their identity? Because it was not specific to a particular culture back in Africa so it did not give preference to any one African culture over others. Because it accurately reflected the new, overarching, circumstances in which people originally of diverse cultural backgrounds were being forced to create a new culture, in--and this is an important point--a language that all were being forced to learn and use. Language is always cultural expression; otherwise it's just noises.
    The fact that a word that slaves learned in centuries past has been passed down to generations and generations of their progeny, and to people "of color" who are not the progeny of slaves, reveals to us that the word expresses identity and that the identity so expressed is a canonical aspect of African-American culture. Activists like Al Sharpton can try hard to erase it from African-American vocabulary, but they will not succeed until it becomes irrelevant to new generations, and making identity irrelevant is exceedingly difficult. That is, Reverend Al, your task involves finding a way to maintain African-American identity while divorcing that identity from its historical foundation and expression.
     That's why Chris Rock can use the "n . . ." word and Dr. Laura cannot. What Dr. Laura finds difficult to understand is that the "n . . ." word is not canonical to non-African-American identity. Those of us who are not of African descent know that the word had and still has derogatory, demeaning connotations and that use of the word is not acceptable in settings in which people are understood to be people regardless of skin color, genetic descent, language, and so forth. It is not canonical for our identities. Apparently, it is for Chris Rock's. To suggest that it should not be is to suggest that non-African-Americans can decide what are acceptable forms of identity expression. African-Americans have been through that scenario already, as have many other groups of people within what became the United States. What is confusing to Dr. Laura is actually a cultural reaction to cultural domination.
     The actual question to be asked is whether it is possible to form, evolve, and maintain a United States culture. Keeping in mind that Native Americans were not allowed to be United States citizens until 1924 (despite the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, approved in 1868, which had to be enforced by the Indian Civil Rights Act, signed 100 years later in 1968), could not vote until the 1950s (despite the 15th Amendment, approved in 1870, a right that had to be enforced by the Indian Civil Rights Act), that African-Americans' voting rights, ideally secured by the 15th Amendment (1870), had to be enforced by the Voting Rights Act, signed in 1965 (95 years later), and that Japanese-Americans were forced to live in concentration camps during World War II (suspending the right to habeas corpus, secured to citizens in Article 1 of the Constitution, something that President Lincoln also did during the Civil War), it seems unlikely that we are very close to being the racial-ethnic-linguistic melting pot that many of us think we are supposed to be. I have no idea how to accomplish that, and am not sure that we should try, but until it happens, Chris Rock can use the "n . . ." word and Dr. Laura cannot.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gender and Fruit Communication, Part 2

We were stuck in Rogers, Arkansas for a LONG FRIGGIN' time back in the fall. I won't go into the reasons here, and you can't make me. Anyway, that's when my cell died. As in, one day it was okay and the next day it had digital Alzheimer's -- wasn't sure who it was, where it was, or why it was. Then it wasn't. I've known people with Alzheimer's -- I know the symptoms.
I figured it was the battery, so I trotted down to a nearby Verizon store to get a new one. Turned out that replacing the battery would have been like doing a heart transplant on a dead guy. Something straight out of Grey's Anatomy, where the docs have their scrubs in a bunch about whether the transplant might give the dead guy enough juice to make it back from the netherworld in time for one profound statement. Well, not my cell. The diagnosis was terminal and the docs thought that a new battery might -- might, mind you -- give the cell enough juice to speak its final words; in this case, that would be getting my contact list and maybe a few photos transferred to a new cell. If it worked. The prognosis was not good, there was no hope for life support. It was a one-shot deal.
"Give it a try," I said, valiantly. So a cabal of salespeople and techs went to work. And, just like in Grey's Anatomy, they pulled it off. With a wheezing death rattle, my cell gave up my contact list and a few photos. Then it was gone, destined to be recycled back into the electronic earth from whence it came.
Now what to do? Being the 21st century guy that I am, I am tethered to my cell. Even if I decide not to carry it around, nobody but me knows that and I get calls and more calls. And people feel it's their right to expect me to respond immediately, or sooner, so if I have "missed" (i.e., ignored) their calls I am, apparently, obligated to return their calls as soon as possible. Or sooner. Evidently, then, I had to get a new cell.
That's where gender and fruit came into play.
First, as to fruit . . . my daughter has a blackberry. I know lots of folks with blackberries. So do you. The REALLY cool people, of course, have iPhones, but the next coolest people have blackberries. The rest of us have something else. Doesn't matter what, because it's not an iphone and it's not a blackberry. I won't go into iPhones here, because they are so cool that they are actually specialized. One must be a Mac geek and use a particular cell service provider to effectively use an iPhone. Yes, I'm typing this on my MacBook, but I'm not cool enough to use the right service provider, so that's that. (By the way, am I going to start seeing people walking around downtown Santa Fe holding their new iPads up to their ears, talking to their offices or spouses? I don't think I can handle that.)
Back to blackberries. I actually get e-mail messages from people that have little notes at the bottom that say the messages were sent from blackberries. If we had a data plan with our cells, I could do the same thing from my cell, but it wouldn't be cool because it wouldn't come from a blackberry. I could have a blueberry or a strawberry or a mango, but I wouldn't be cool, because it's not a blackberry.
My son is quick to point out that blackberry is really Blackberry, a brand name, and that what I'm wondering about actually has to do with corporate identities, brand recognition, and superior marketing strategies. Yeah, I got that. But why blackberry? Why not blueberry or strawberry or mango? Or peach. I love peaches. I'd probably buy a phone named peach. Or melons. I really love melons. I'd buy a cantaloupe phone any day. Of course, melons aren't actually fruit, so perhaps the point is moot. Still . . . Why the heck is it so cool to have a phone named after a fruit? And not really a very auspicious fruit at that. What can you do with blackberries, except make jams and pies? Oh, and call people. Wait! I can do that on my non-fruit cell. I can even do that on -- a gasp fills the room -- our land-line telephone.
I'll tell you what I can't do on my non-fruit cell, or my land-line phone: I can't drop it in my briefcase (I don't carry a purse, but I know someone who does and has the following problem with her blackberry, frequently) and have it call someone, anyone, randomly, just because it's tiny, miniscule, buttons get pushed accidentally. The recipient, then, gets to scream and holler to try to get the attention of the fruit-phone owner to let him/her know that s/he is racking up billable minutes talking to a billfold or a pair of sunglasses or a bottle of aspirin at the bottom of the purse or briefcase (or spare change in a pocket).
Anyway, when my old cell (I had a Razor, which was really cool in its day, but somehow it didn't make me cool enough) gave up the ghost, commending its spirit to the Father, the cabal of salespeople and techs at the Verizon store immediately shifted into a whole new mode. I'm pretty sure I heard the store manager whisper, "It's dead. Now go sell him a new one." No time for mourning or last rites. Time to make a sale. Sorta like having your spouse die and immediately getting a call from eHarmony.
I first noticed that the tech, who was a young male, went to the back room, presumably to tech on something else, perhaps a patient that hadn't passed yet. Next I noticed that two young women came to help me, in my grief, select a replacement. After all, I had to be re-tethered to some portable communicative device. This is where gender came into play.
On principle and for practicality's sake, NO WAY was I going to get a fruit phone. Unless they had a cantaloupe or peach, which they didn't. So that was out, although the young women who were double-teaming me certainly tried. Realizing, though, that fruit phones were out, they then played on my fragile male ego. Surely I didn't want just another plain, old-school ("old" meaning older than last summer), push-button cell. Right? If I'm going to be a 21st century guy (see paragraph 4, above), I need a smart phone. No, seriously, I NEED a smart phone. I NEED a phone that has a touch screen and apps and a pop-out keyboard for REAL texting, not that old-school, hold-it-in-one-hand-and-text-with-one-thumb technique but modern, just-like-the-teenagers-do-it, hold-it-in-two-hands-and-text-with-both-thumbs texting. I NEED a phone that not only takes photos but takes them in hi-res and has options for lighting and flash. I NEED a phone that, when (not if) I decide to get a data plan, can surf the internet and do e-mailing. And get maps, to replace my beloved Garmin. Aaaggghhh.
Briefly, we returned to the blackberry stand, where I was shown fruit phones that meet those criteria. Again, though, not wanting a fruit phone, we moved on to other options. Did I prefer a cell without the QWERTY keyboard (not a smart as those with one, apparently; sort of a mid-IQ phone)? Did I prefer one that hinged open to reveal the full-size keyboard ("full-size," in this case, meaning about 2.5 inches long), or one that slid open to reveal the keyboard (in which case the keyboard was about the same size as those on a fruit phone, maybe 1.5 inches long, max)? Would I need a charger cord for the truck (of course)? Oh, I would need a plastic cover for cell, along with clear films to cover the screen lest it get scratched and ruin my touch-screen experience.
By the time I left the store, I was reeling. I had a new smart phone with home charger, a charger for the truck, covers and films, and a receipt for the rebate I would get that would help with the cost of the cell. I managed to get out without a data plan, since Ginger's cell is way too old-school for that and it seemed presumptuous to get a plan just for my cell. I was due a new cell anyway and could have gotten a free one, but the free ones aren't smart.
I'm not sure I am, either. I like my cell, mind you, and I have discovered that, with the plastic cover on it, it almost looks -- from a distance -- like an iPhone, so sometimes I look cool using it, as long as I'm not too close to other people. But I got double-teamed by two young women; I think maybe my common sense was overshot by my ego. And I'm pretty sure that I'm not as smart as the phone. I have a nagging suspicion that it is capable of things that I don't understand. If it's true that we typically only use about 10% of our brain's capacity, and if, as I suspect, I'm only using about 10% of my cell's capacity, then I'm pretty sure that my smart phone could take over the world, or at least New Mexico, and I might not even realize it until I found myself taking orders from my cell.
Uh oh -- gotta run. My cell's ringing.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Language is Grand!

YO! Just recently, I have been introduced to three new words in the English language! These are SO cool! Seriously, they are actually English words!

1. "Whilom," adverb or adjective, from Old English "hwilum," meaning "at times." As an adverb, whilom means in the past or formerly. As an adjective, whilom means former or erstwhile. Whilom is a great word for an archaeologist.

2. "Quidnunc," noun, from Latin "quid nunc," meaning "what now?" Quidnunc refers to a curious, inquisitive, and gossipy person. I am a certifiable quidnunc.

3. "Poppysmic," noun, from Latin "poppysma," used for "a kind of lip-smacking, clucking noise that signified satisfaction and approval, especially during lovemaking" (according to In Old French, "popisme" "referred to the tongue-clicking tsk-tsk sound that riders use to encourage their mounts" (also according to It reminds me of the sound women make when they even out their lipstick immediately after application.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dietary Question

If I eat a piece of coconut cream pie, does it count as one of my three pieces of fruit for the day? Coconut is fruit, right?
I'm just asking . . .

Monday, April 19, 2010

Gender and Fruit Communication, Part 1

So, back in the fall my cell died. Yep, my cell. Back when we got our first one -- yes, we had one for our whole family -- it was known as a "cellular telephone." But that was when we all had a lot more time. Before long, though, we didn't have time to say "cellular telephone" all the time, so, like most folks, the name got shortened. To "cellular phone." I think we still only had one phone, but it had a new name, and we were way cooler.
Then we had to replace our cellular phone. The new one wasn't big, it didn't have two pieces connected by a cord, and it didn't have to be plugged into the cigarette lighter in the car. It was small and it flipped open. It was for Miles to carry when he went to school (the tragedy at Columbine High had happened and everyone was scared and needed more immediate communication). And it was a cellular phone.
Then it became a "cell phone." Apparently because, as our phones got smaller, we also found ourselves (all of us, not just us us) with even less time that before, so there just wasn't enough time to say "cellular phone" anymore. We had to go to "cell phone."
They were cell phones for a long time. Cell phones got bigger, a little bigger, for a while, because that whole flip phone thing didn't have a long enough use life -- the wires got crimped or broken or something and they quit working and had to be replaced. Then they started getting smaller again. And then, I guess, somebody figured out what to do with the flip-open thing, because we got phones that opened again. Oh, and I say "we" because each family member ended up with one. Still cell phones.
I went through a couple of them. Not as many as Miles, mind you, but a couple. Ginger went through one; I think she's still on her second one. She takes care of her things. It's a high bar to meet. I won't even begin to discuss Meg's phone cemetery -- and anyway she went off and got married and her phones were someone else's problem.
Along the way, we all lost some more time. Maybe you weren't watching, but we did. How do I know? Because our cell phones became "cells." I no longer have a cell phone. I have a cell. Everyone I know has a cell. Okay, not everyone. My friend Jim doesn't have a cell. He's never  had one, in any of their incarnations. Doesn't want one. He and Jane also don't have a TV. And they have dial-up. Can you imagine? They're positively pre-post-modern.
Anyway, those of us who have one, have cells. Not cell phones, not cellular phones, certainly not cellular telephones. Cells. We don't have time for those old-school communication devices anymore. No sir. Time's a-wastin'. We're burnin' daylight. There are things to see, people to do. These are the days of twerping and sexting and other "I-don't-have-time-to-think-I-have-to-say-stuff-even-if-it's-completely-stupid" means of communication. I predict that soon we will be talking on our "Cs" because we won't have time to say "cells."
"Here's my C number, call me." Then it will be, "Here's my number, C me."

Next time, I'll fill you in on gender and fruit and replacing my C.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Real Victims


Maybe I'm wrong, but I think I'm seeing a pattern. Turns out that Tiger Woods and Jesse James (guys with those names have to become celebrities, don't they?) are junkies. They're addicts. Now they qualify for rehab. And it's a good thing, too. Because it looks like the REAL victims of Tiger's and Jesse's "indiscretions" aren't Elin and Sandra. Oh sure, we all thought they were the victims when the stories first hit the news. We all understand why Elin went after the Big Cat with a golf club, and none of us believed his assurances that there was no club. We have all wept, at least metaphorically, for Sandra when Biker Boy's trysts began to come to light AFTER she made those heart-breaking statements from different awards platforms about how much she loves him and relies on him.
But, folks, it looks like we rushed to our conclusions. It looks like the real victims were Big Cat and Biker Boy. Why, you may reasonably ask? Because, for crying out loud (and they've both done nearly everything but that), NOBODY TOLD THEM that if they weren't careful about where they put their wee-wees and how many times they put them there, they might become junkies!! And that's exactly what happened!
They both have WANDERING WEE-WEE DISEASE. Well, they might have several diseases--that's not been made public . . . yet. Anyway, the point is that because nobody informed them of the potential risks involved in philandering, they contracted Wandering Wee-Wee Disease and they are now junkies, addicts, stricken with an illness. They are the real victims!
Fortunately, our celebrity-obsessed culture and it's unscrupulous media outlets will make sure that we hear about every friggin' step each of them takes as they recover from their illnesses and reclaim the lives that, really, were taken from them by the people--whoever they are--that should have told them about the risks they were taking. Oh, and the women who made junkies of them. It's their fault, too. 
The poor boys. Tiger and Jesse--they're the victims in their situations. They're sick.
I have a cure for their addictive illnesses--it involves a rusty sardine can lid and no anesthesia, but I probably shouldn't lay out the specifics in this venue.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

You might be a Taoseno if . . . (continued, again and again)

 You might be a Taoseno if the Police Blotter section of your local newspaper includes the following entries (and, yes, these are real):

"Caller reported that his trash was stolen." (Really, is that bad? It's TRASH.)

"Caller reported that her son was throwing snowballs at her and refused to go with her in the car." 

"Caller reported three dogs running at large together." 

"Caller reported that there were two people drinking in a car 'full of mud.'" (You are certainly a Taoseno if you understand what that means. Our road isn't paved, ese, and my truck is full of mud right now.)

"Caller reported that she was arrested on a DWI during a traffic stop." (I bet they already knew that back at the station.)

"Caller reported a man telling someone off and getting into a car. Officers found the man was not a criminal but 'just being rude.'"

Saturday, March 6, 2010

National Colonoscopy Day

I've been checking. It seems there is no "official" National Colonoscopy Day. You can Google it and get hits, but it seems there actually isn't one. Which means the federal government hasn't yet designated any particular day as National Colonoscopy Day.
SO . . . I have a suggestion. We should lobby Congress to make April 15 National Colonoscopy Day.
I have two simple reasons for this idea. First, after several years of putting it off -- for what should be REALLY  obvious reasons (don't make me tell you about the sewer snake with a camera on the end) -- I finally went to the doctor and scheduled my "screening colonoscopy." That's the procedure we're all supposed to have when the number of our years reaches 50, which happened to me a little over four years ago. It will provide "baseline data" on the health and condition of my large intestine, ideally before some nasty stuff grows in there that has the potential to decrease the number of my total accumulated years. That's important because I have promised my kids that I fully intend to live long enough to become a serious burden to them; I won't go into the diaper talk here, but I think it could make a nice blog topic for another day. It's also important because I am a pain-and-illness weenie.
So, after getting an introduction to the functional responsibilities of the various parts of my digestive tract, the doc took me to the check-out desk where a young woman looked at the doc's schedule and gave me options for the date of the upcoming procedure. April 8, the soonest, was out for me, so we settled on April 15.
Then it hit me -- THAT'S TAX DAY!! 
Then it hit me again -- I won't be the only one getting a colonoscopy that day. What irony! 
There's my second reason: As it turns out, we will ALL be getting a colonoscopy that day. Oh c'mon, don't fake righteous indignation -- you know paying taxes is a pain in the ___ and you know you have said so many times. And with all our taxes going up AGAIN this year, you know our various governments are switching to bigger cables with bigger collection snippers -- it's a completely appropriate metaphor.
Oh, sure, I'll be getting two colonoscopies on the same day this year, but you will all be joining me for one of them. That may not do much for you but you have no idea how comforting it is for me. Fortunately for you, you won't have to watch me go through either of them -- don't let that mental image linger any longer than you have to. Just know that we all feel each other's pain every April 15 anyway, and this year you can sympathize (some of you can probably empathize) with me during my second procedure on National Colonoscopy Day.
Ha ha -- you'll never think of April 15 the same way again, will you?

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Is this normal? My wife has this ability -- she KNOWS stuff. Stuff about her family. Mostly that stuff has to do with changes in personal circumstances. And those changes often -- although not always -- have to do with movement. For instance, say I'm out running errands, going to the post office, the grocery store, Walmart (I should have my paycheck direct deposited to Walmart). If she's not up when I leave the house, I leave a note saying where I'm going and when I left. I CANNOT TELL YOU  how many times I have been gone for a couple of hours, am finally heading home, turn onto the road to our home or into our driveway, and my cell phone rings. It's her, and her first question is, "Where are you?" I CANNOT TELL YOU how many times I have driven home from work in Santa Fe, turned onto our road or into our driveway, and gotten "the call."
Before our daughter and then our son went off to college, they went through the same thing. Frequently. Pull into the driveway and get "the call." When they were in college, one in Kentucky, the other in Arkansas, the same thing would happen. Maybe no phone call for a couple of days, Mom didn't know where they were or what they were doing, but as soon as they pulled into the campus or up to the dorm, they got "the call." "Where are you?"
Now they're both out of college, married, out on their own. Mom still knows stuff. Might not be when they pull into their driveways, but it will be other stuff. It's not always about movement, particularly with the kids. Something changes and Mom knows.
In our family we call it "Momdar." Like radar, she is always sending out signals, bouncing waves off the cosmos or something (ooh, that sound pretty New Agey, doesn't it?), and getting signals and waves bounced back. Then she knows stuff.
Is that normal? 

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Zen of Competition

It's snowing today. So far, we have about a foot at our house and it's supposed to snow more later today. That's good! I might even take tomorrow off and go skiing.
The bad thing about this particular snowfall is that we lost our satellite TV feed because of snow on the dish. So I had to put on my Carharts and Ginger's wellies and go sweep the snow off the dish. Then I noticed that the birds were out of food, so I had to fill the feeders. Then I thought I would shovel some of the driveway. By the time I came back inside, I had missed a curling competition at the Olympics.

I love curling -- it's a very Zen competition.
Q: "How do we compete without competition?" 
A: (spoken in a hushed voice) "We push a large rock across ice, sweeping the ice so that the game becomes a unification of our lives and the rock's. Be one with the rock because the rock's journey across the ice is one with your journey in the game. You are the rock, the rock is you. As you make the rock's path across the ice, you make your own path through life."

I don't know where curling originated, although it apparently came from Europe. There seems to be an on-going debate about whether it originated in Scotland or was introduced to Scotland by continental Europeans ( Yeah, whatever. Seriously, can you see the Scots -- the people of Rob Roy and William Wallace (Braveheart) -- engaging in a quiet, contemplative, exercise in which humans carefully, thoughtfully assist a rock on its journey across a frozen pond? How about other northern Europeans? These are all people whose ancestors painted their faces blue, rubbed manure in their hair, and ate their enemies. I know -- I'm northern European by genetic heritage. We are NOT quiet, meditative, one-with-the-rock people by nature. We throw rocks. At other people. The Scottish highland games still include a competition in which large men throw really large rocks -- small boulders, really -- across a field. Sometimes, I am told, at each other. The only help that rock needs is a strong arm and back so it gets lots of speed and distance through the air. Why waste a perfectly good rock sliding it across a pond?
No, the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that curling actually originated in Tibet, China, or Japan (Zen was born in the China and flourished in Japan). I can see a Zen monk needing something to keep him meditatively occupied in the winter when the sand in his garden was frozen solid and not amenable to raking. I can see the Dalai Lama (not a Zen practitioner, by the way, but the world's most well-known Buddhist) helping a rock across a frozen pond because it seems the right thing to do. I CANNOT see your everyday European becoming one with the rock in order to assist the rock in its journey, knowing that as he did, the rock would also help the man in his journey.
I am certainly not a Buddhist, Zen or otherwise. But I love curling. It helps me calm down after I jump up and down and yell at the TV during the downhill, slalom, and skier-cross races. Watching the Olympics can be so stressful. That ice dancing is aggravating my ulcer. GO CURLING! Oops -- sorry. Whispering: go curling.

Monday, February 15, 2010

An unusual personal note

Okay, most of this stuff so far has been either just plain silly or masquerading as cerebral. Two unusual personal notes:
First, we give thanks to our God that our son-in-law Brad, Meg's loving husband and the really-good father of our grandgirls Emmie and Josie, is recuperating at home after a week in the hospital in Lake Charles. Brad was admitted with a severe case of double pneumonia brought on by the-docs-are-still-trying-to-figure-that-out. That's an uncomfortable diagnosis in this age of "docs are supposed to know everything." What they did figure out is that, after several days in ICU (you can't even imagine the hospital bill), they vacuumed his lungs, removing the goo that filled them about 80% full (yep, you read that correctly), got him to breathing on his own again, and put him in a regular room where he, his mom Dianne, and his girls could have a Whodat Party while they watched his beloved Nola Saints win the Superbowl. We got to skype with him and them during the game -- what a blessing!
We are particularly grateful that his parents, Dianne and Ray, could rush over to be with him (where else would they be, of course) and to help Meg and the girls. We were about as worried about our Meg as we were about Brad, and we are so grateful to Dianne for staying around and being mom and grandmom (she's Nana to our shared grandgirls). Dianne, we don't know what Meg would have done without you. And Ray had to tend to himself while she stayed in Lake Charles -- we know he's glad to have her home!
We mobilized the prayer warriors at Faith Mountain Fellowship, our church in Red River, and the effective prayers of faithful people were very productive. They joined only-the-Lord-knows-how-many other pray-ers from Lakewood Bible Fellowship, where Brad is "Senior Archbishop His Holiness Right Reverend Pastor" (that's my title for him; the believers at Lakewood just call him Pastor Brad) and many other congregations. It is so cool to be part of the Body of Christ.
Brad remains a sick boy and his doc is watching him like a hawk, empowered by Meg (you have no idea how watchful she can be, so Brad has to be minding his ps and qs right now), but he has received God's grace and will, we are confident, continue to do so.
Brad's been putting down heavy hints that we are to come see them asap -- which we've been trying to do since before Christmas and haven't made it yet. He says they all want to see us, but a phone call from Meg this afternoon confirmed that the real issue is that they are out of posole and red chili and need a fix. Soon, God willing.
Second, and only because this was a much less acute situation than Brad's illness, we just finished enjoying Valentine's Weekend with Miles and Melissa, who drove out from Walmartville, Arkansas (aka, Bentonville) last Wednesday and left this morning. This was their first Valentine's Day as a married couple and we were so blessed that they would share it with us. Oh, and they also brought birthday presents for Ginger, whose big day is next month but they wanted to share them in person rather than by mail -- you should have seen the silly grin on her face. We would never have believed that Miles, although he has always needed to be part of a couple, could be so domestic. As near as we can tell, they just love being married. My son actually calls his wife "Lovey." Really. Miles. No, really. "Lovey." They have all the makin's of a great married couple.

We are reminded from time to time that our kids are growing into remarkable, God-loving, God-serving people. We tried as hard as we could raising them, but are completely confident that their lives are the result of God's love for them, and we are very grateful for that.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Department of Redundancy Department

At the grocery store yesterday: a sign advertising a special price for "DRIED PRUNES."
Do they cost more or less if they're not dried?

Which led to a discussion with the cashier, who pointed out that he always notices when a package from the meat department comes through: "Ground Buffalo."
He wonders if there are other kinds of buffalo, like Tree Buffalos.
I pointed out to him that Ginger saw a story on TV about a marsupial that lives in New Guinea called the Tree Kangaroo. It is a kangaroo that lives in trees. So . . . if a kangaroo can live in trees, can a buffalo . . . ?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Can there be a Christian culture? Part 1: historical issues

          For a number of years now (at least as far back as the Reagan years in the 1980s, but we might find it as far back as the 50s when some folks were ranting against rock and roll because it offended their Christian sensibilities), many in the evangelical Christian church have argued that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, or at the very least that it was founded on "Christian principles" -- whatever those might be, and they are rarely specified. This position usually relies on frequent references to quotes from the "founders" (that is, those men -- womens' roles were behind the scenes and it is nearly impossible to gauge their impacts on the mindsets of their men; Abigail Adams is a noted exception -- who talked a lot and even wrote some of their thoughts) about reliance on God or an entity of higher-than-human authority, generally presumed to be the God of the Bible, during the time they were forming a national identity separate from Great Britain. Since the dominant "faith tradition" (i.e., religion) in England (as distinguished from the rest of the growing British empire) was Christianity in various forms, including both Roman and English Catholocism as well as several protestant sects, and since the founders were mostly (maybe all?) of English descent, it seems fair to assume that the founders were, as a group though not all individually, exposed to and practitioners of Christianity in some form.
          Consequently, it also seems fair to assume that their references to God -- or to the higher-than-human entity -- probably referred to the God of the Bible. Notable exceptions would be Franklin and Jefferson, who were admitted theistic humanists but not admitted Christians; and there may have been other like-minded men among the founders -- I don't know and it isn't pertinent to my train of thought here anyway. (It does seem fair to say that the idea, sprouted in the 60s and early 70s, that most of the founders were theists but not Christians was and continues to be overstated. It is interesting and perhaps significant, however, to point out that two of the three framers of the Declaration of Independence, the document that provides the foundation for a separate national identity, were theistic humanists but not avowed Christians.) Reading quotes of the founders that show they believed in the God of the Bible, relied upon Him as they planned their independence movement, during the war for independence, and after the war as they worked to create the nation they planned and fought for, and ascribed their success in that endeavor to His help and guidance provides compelling evidence that Christianity (in unspecified form or forms) was foundational to the independence movement and the national origins of the United States. 
          Opponents of the notion of an explicitly Christian United States, among them Christians and non-Christians, fall back repeatedly on the "establishment" and "free exercise" clauses of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Probably a reaction to the establishment of the Church of England and the subsequent persecution of practitioners of other forms of Christianity in England, this portion of the First Amendment is argued by opponents of a Christian United States to represent, even establish, the notion that the United States is an explicitly secular nation, a nation founded on the existence of human rights and liberties. If one wants to see those rights and liberties as gifts from God (whom Jefferson called the "Creator" in the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom), that, too, is among one's human rights and liberties but is not demanded by the Constitution. This is among the foundations of the concept of the separation of Church and State, a concept often mistakenly ascribed to the Constitution although it is not specifically found there.
          As an anthropologist, admittedly among the fringe element known as archaeologists, and an erst-while historian, I have watched this on-going debate with considerable interest. Why? Well, among other things, I am an evangelical Christian. I remember being thrilled when some Christians discovered that Columbus, based on his writings, viewed his adventures as Christian endeavors in which the Kingdom of God was expanded across the globe; in fact, some folks have found within his writings that idea that, although a practicing Roman Catholic, Columbus was actually an evangelist of almost protestant proportions. Frankly, I now suspect that this argument runs afoul of  theological history and of the historical theology of the Roman Church, but I'll leave that for someone else to decide.
          I also remember being thrilled when Christians began discovering and compiling the frequent references made by the founders of the United States to their belief in and reliance on the God of the Bible. At last we could take a stand for the significance of Christianity in the founding of the nation. At last we could stand proudly among the big-name Christians who have made this nation. At last the Church could take its rightful place among the founding institutions of the nation.
          Over the years, however, I began to question the position taken by many in the evangelical Church that references to God by the founders, even the faiths of the founders, can actually be taken to mean that the founders wanted to create a Christian nation, or, barring that, that they assumed that was what they were doing anyway. I must ask the question, did the foundational nature of Christianity in the origins of the United States, which I do not deny, actually extend beyond the individual lives of the founders to become a basic or foundational part of national identity? That is, does admitting that the founders, excepting the theistic humanists, believed in and relied upon the God of the Bible during the planning and creation of the United States also require us to admit that they saw their new nation as a Christian nation?
          On the contrary, the emphasis in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution on human rights and liberties, even if "endowed by their Creator," and particularly the very first statement of the very first amendment to the Constitution, suggest to me that they did not. Rather, it suggests to me that they recognized their own adherence to tenets of Christianity (in unspecified form or forms) as individuals but did not assume that all citizens of the new United States would similarly subscribe. If we keep in mind, and we must, that there were theistic humanists among the founders and that at least two of them -- Franklin and Jefferson -- were among the framers of the two founding documents, we must admit that the admitted Christians among the group had to know that not everyone effected by creating the new nation was or would become Christian. In fact, one could probably argue that Franklin and Jefferson openly rejected Christianity while retaining their theism, and that the Christian founders had to know that, yet did not exclude the theists from the nation-forming process. Indeed, one could also speculate that, had there been Hindus, Muslims, or Taoists among the founders, they could also have been included in the process, providing, of course, they were of English or at least northern European descent. That does NOT mean the process was entirely democratic. It is a difficult to see, in hind sight, Roman Catholics, particularly of southern European background, animists, pagans, and people with greater amounts of melanin in their skin as active participants in the process. And we should keep in mind that the founders were members of socially elite subgroups of their respective communities and colonies; not just any Tom, Dick, or Harry was allowed to have his say, and no Jane, Mary, or Fannie was allowed in the door.
          In any event, there actually seems to be no historical reason, to me at least, for people to continue arguing that the United States was ever a Christian nation. That conclusion has profound implications for the modern movement(s) seeking to restore the United States to a historical identity that it clearly does not have today. If the nation was never, historically, a Christian nation, how can it return to being a Christian nation? Christians, of all people, should know that one cannot return to being something one never was.
          One can, though, become something one never was, at least sometimes. Embedded here is the concept of culture, and this will take us to part 2 of the question, can there be a Christian culture?

Friday, January 22, 2010

You might be a Taoseno if . . . (continued, again)

You might be a Taoseno if . . .

You look at the cover of last summer's "Summer of Love" guide, published by the Taos News, and can identify one or more people riding on the bus. ( And you know from which commune the bus came.
I'm just sayin'.

You might be a Taoseno if . . . (continued)

You might be a Taoseno if . . .

  1. Shoveling snow off your flat-roofed, mud house is just part of winter. (That's me today, by the way, keeping the canales running. It's nearly a foot deep up there.)
  2. You remember when the viejitos (grab that Spanish-English dictionary again; except for Shelby) talked and napped in the plaza, while their wives shopped.
  3. You know that the viejitos now talk and nap at Walmart, `cause no one but tourists shops on the plaza anymore. Sigh.
  4. It's hard to make a quick shopping trip to Walmart because you have to stop to talk to so many people, whether you're related to them or not. That includes people who work at Walmart and people who are just shopping.
  5. You know when you're in Taos and when you're in El Prado.
  6. You know when you're in Arroyo Seco and when you're in Des Montes.
  7. You remember when everybody spoke like Larry Torres' column in the paper. (; click on the column on the left)
  8. You believe people when they tell you they hear "the hum." (
  9. You hear "the hum."
  10. You remember when Blueberry Hill was . . . Blueberry Hill. (Think Fats Domino. By the way, did you know that "Blueberry Hill" was written in 1940, 16 years before Fats recorded it, and was first recorded by Gene Autry? Our Blueberry Hill was christened in honor of Fats' 1956 version, for reasons we should not explore here -- google the lyrics and figure it out.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Did the devil pact include earthquakes?

My electronic relationship with Pat Robertson, founder and emeritus leader of the Christian Broadcasting Network and the 700 Club, has had its ups and downs over the years. Quite a while back, Pat, Terry, Lee, and other staff members were regular visitors at our house, via cable transmission from Virginia. We were in periods of theological flux that also involved changing denominational and congregational relationships, and being introduced to a person whose denominational background was the same as ours but who had experienced enhanced depth in his personal relationship with God through the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life was remarkably inspiring to us.
From time to time, we would stop watching the 700 Club for extended periods. This isn't the situation in which to discuss the reasons. But while we might have disagreed, from time to time, with some statements Pat made, on subjects theological and otherwise (one could argue that nearly every public statement Pat makes is theological in one way or another), we have never doubted that Pat's heart is to know God better, speak God's truth more clearly, and bring God's love to a hurting world, wrapped in food, clothes, medical care, and any other possible material form. Since his God is our God, we get it. We haven't watched the 700 Club in a long time, but we still get it.
Since we have "known" (in a long-distance, impersonal, electronic sense) Pat for years, it was not too surprising to hear that Pat had something to say about the Haitian earthquake. It was not surprising, either, to hear that his remarks became controversial pretty much as soon as they left his mouth. I wonder, sometimes, if there are people out there with nothing better to do with their time than monitor Christians with public ministries, waiting to catch them in a real or possible faux pas. Perhaps they're paid to do so. In either case, I wonder if they realize that they are spending a lot of time being exposed to the gospel, and that they are responsible for what they learn. Anyway . . .
So, what did Pat say? He said: "Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French . . . and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.' True story. And the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another."
As a theological putterer with a historical bent, I hunted for some information on the historicity of the story. It seems not to have any verifiable historical basis. I found the following statement from Jean Gelin, a native Haitian, a Christian pastor, and an agronomist with a PhD in plant sciences, posted back in October 2005 on the website

"Have you ever heard how some preachers or theologians try to explain the unspeakable misery that is crippling most of Haiti’s population of 8 million? Everywhere you go, from your television screen to the Internet, what you are most likely to find is a reference to a spiritual pact that the fathers of the nation supposedly made with the devil to help them win their freedom from France. As a result of that satanic alliance, as they put it, God has placed a curse on the country some time around its birth, and that divine burden has made it virtually impossible for the vast majority of Haitians to live in peace and prosperity in their land. Surprising, right?
The satanic pact allegedly took place at Bois-Caïman near Cap-Haïtien on August 14, 1791 during a meeting organized by several slave leaders, under [Dutty] Boukman’s leadership, before launching what would become Haiti’s Independence War. This brutal period lasted 13 years until the last survivors of the French expeditionary forces, dispatched to Saint-Domingue with the sole purpose to re-establish slavery, were allowed by Dessalines to leave the island and return to Napoleon. Those who made it safely to France wrote and reported about the utmost bravery and supreme courage of Haiti’s indigenous army.
Obviously, the idea that Haiti was dedicated to Satan prior to its independence is a very serious and profound statement with potentially grave consequences for its people in terms of how they are perceived by others or how the whole nation is understood outside its borders. One would agree that such a strong affirmation should be based on solid historical and scriptural ground. But, although the satanic pact idea is by far the most popular explanation for Haiti’s birth as a free nation, especially among Christian missionaries and some Haitian Church leaders, it is nothing more than a fantasist opinion that ultimately dissipates upon close examination.
I was born and raised in Haiti, and I am a graduate of the State University in Port-au-Prince. I am also a believer in the Lord Jesus-Christ in accordance with the Bible. In all of my studies of Haitian history, however, I have yet to find a good evidence of even the idea of Satan’s assistance in the Independence War, let alone a satanic pact.
For quite some time now, several articles on the Internet have mentioned the existence of an iron pig statue in Port-au-Prince as a monument to commemorate Haiti’s so-called pact with the devil through Vodou. The statue would be in remembrance of a pig that was killed during the gathering by the African slaves. In an effort to know more about that rumor, I contacted several authors about the exact location of the pig statue that’s incidentally nowhere to be found in the country. Their answer was complete silence, a simple apology, or just the removal of the reference from their texts." 

He goes on to say:

"It’s hard to know where the idea of a divine curse on Haiti following the purported satanic pact actually originated, whether from foreign missionaries or from local church leaders. In his book Ripe Now - A Haitian congregation responds to the Great Commission, Haitian pastor Frantz Lacombe identified a ‘dependence mentality’ in the leadership of the Haitian church, which resulted from the way the Christian faith was brought to the country, historically and through various denominations. Apparently, this unfortunate manner of thinking, which tends to emulate the worldview and culture of North American and European Christian missionaries, has permeated the general philosophy of the Haitian church on many levels, including church planting, church management, music and even missionary activities.
In that context, I would not be surprised if the satanic pact idea (followed by the divine curse message) was put together first by foreign missionaries and later on picked up by local leaders. On the other hand, it is equally possible that some Haitian church leaders developed the idea on their own using a theological framework borrowed from those same missionaries who subsequently propagated the message around the world. Either way, because of this message, Haiti has been portrayed as the country born out of Satan’s benevolence and goodwill toward mankind. Shouldn’t such a fantastic idea be tested for its historic validity and theological soundness?"

(The interested reader should know that I removed references to footnotes from the quotes, and should go to the website to see the footnotes. I did not do a lot of extra looking, so I can't vouch for the historical accuracy of Pastor Gelin's statements, although I noticed several similar notions.)
My first thoughts are two-fold:
1. Pat's statements seem to reflect a common but false notion about the history of Haiti. In a situation in which he felt compelled to say something about the tragedy in Haiti, he should have checked the facts if he was going to discuss that tragedy in light of overarching spiritual conditions. As it is, his statement was irrelevant, which makes any spiritual connections that he thinks he can observe at best meaningless and at worst so false as to be dangerously misleading. That makes them and him irresponsible.
2. The possibility that this situation is related to the history of the introduction of Christianity to Haiti is tragic. If Pastor Gelin's thoughts are at all accurate -- and I cannot evaluate them -- they reflect the Church's frequent insistence that the gospel be brought to people embedded in the culture of those who bring it. That is, evangelists have often -- and I suspect often still do -- attempted to conflate the gospel and their own culture, as if both are needed for salvation. (I am working on my thoughts on whether there can be such as thing as a Christian culture, and the issue of how the apparently false notion of a Haitian deal with Satan came to be is related to that.) That is simply demeaning to native people. Period. So, Pat's remarks take on another aspect: they seem to reflect opinions about Haitian history and culture that degrade the Haitian people relative to European and Euroamerican cultures and missionaries.
Knowing that CBN's Operation Blessing is raising money for ministry in Haiti, and that Operation Blessing has a long history of such ministry in situations where people, of whatever background and culture, are suffering, I am not concerned that it is the position of CBN or Pat Robertson that Haitians had it coming when the earthquake decimated their country.
That said, however, a lesson evangelical Christians should take from the controversy is that we cannot afford to express compassion within the hubris of cultural superiority. Doing so means that our compassion is not real, nor will it be helpful in alleviating human suffering. To the extent that there is an overarching culture characterizing the United States, and I, for one, am not sure there is, it is certainly not superior to others around the world just because we say it is. The gospel of Jesus Christ does not, explicitly or implicitly, endorse our culture and anyone else's. The gospel does, though, explicitly endorse compassion and action to care about and for anyone whose life is traumatized by natural and other events and circumstances.
If you cannot go to Haiti to help, give money to the Red Cross or even to CBN's Operation Blessing. Give generously. Whatever you give will go much farther in Haiti than you might expect.
Pray for the Haitian people. Their lives were, by and large, not easy before the earthquake. Not only have many people -- people who did not deserve this tragedy -- been killed, injured, and made homeless by the earthquake, but many, many more will suffer the same fates. The government was not prepared for anything like this and will probably be very ineffective in caring for its people. And the social unrest that pervaded Haiti before the earthquake is likely to be greatly exacerbated in coming days, weeks, and months, particularly now that the United Nations peacekeeping efforts have been shut down by the earthquake. 
Pray that, in the midst of the current and on-going tragedy and the efforts just beginning to bring help to Haiti, Christians will have many opportunities to assure Haitians that God's love for Haitians is boundless, that God grieves for the suffereing, and that His love has compelled Christians to give their lives for Haitians, following the example of Jesus who gave His life for all of us.
And it might be a good idea to pray that all Christians, maybe especially our leaders, will follow my Granny's wisdom: "Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."