Sidney, Nebraska, to Altoona, Illinois

We left Sidney, Nebraska, at about ten in the morning. Our first stop was the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park out side North Platte, Nebraska. Buffalo Bill’s house was set up the way I remember historical houses being set up when I was a child, with no influence from the cadre of trained museum professionals. No trained museum professional would have a life-sized mannequin dressed as Buffalo Bill greeting you from the parlor on the right as you entered the door of the house; no trained museum professional would have a slightly moth-eaten buffalo head hanging in one of the horse stalls in the barn; no trained museum professional would let you wander around in the hay loft without any signs explaining exactly what you were seeing. We ate lunch at some picnic tables in the shade of tall trees, within sight of four young buffalo the state arranges to have living in a pen a hundred yards from Buffalo Bill’s house. The entire state historical park was utterly delightful, and I got the sense that Buffalo Bill’s ghost (if he has one) must like the whole arrangement very much.

We tried to stop for dinner in Lincoln, Nebraska, but got lost, and finally just grabbed a cup of coffee and a sandwich to go at a bookstore that seemed to sell more tchotchkes and coffee and snacks than books.

As we drove further, everything began looking so very green. It is not green this time of year in California, it is brown. And the air began to feel humid. We were approaching the midwest.

We stopped again at the Pottawattamie rest area in Iowa. From a display on the wall, I learned about the 200 foot high loess hills of Iowa, amongst which the rest area was sited, and which are a geographical marvel. I found a mulberry tree which, by the evidence of the stains on the sidewalk, had dropped all its ripe fruit. Carol found something that looked like blueberries, though the plant was a definite tree, and the leaves didn’t quite look like blueberry leaves:


But the rest area attendant assured her that he and the local FedEx delivery man ate lots of the fruit, so Carol did, too. What a great rest area — a geology lesson, fruit for the picking, a clean and pleasant rest area, with free wifi to boot — and it made me think that Iowa must be an enlightened state, to treat passing strangers as honored guests. Somehow this reminded me that Iowa is one of the states that ratified same-sex marriage. Then Carol got email from one of the people with whom she sells solar panel leases: the Supreme Court struck down Prop 8, and same sex marriage is now legal in California.*

Then we drove and drove until we reached Altoona. And here we are, late at night, in another Motel 6.


*Though the BBC Web site reports that “the San Francisco appeals court has said it will wait at least 25 days before allowing same-sex marriages to resume in California.” But that delay means I will be back in California in time to perform weddings — Amy, the senior minister at the Palo Alto church, and I have talked about doing free weddings for anyone of any gender who wants one, probably on the first day that they are allowed. More on this as the situation develops….

Finding a new direction

Sara Horowitz, founder of the Freelancers Union (my union!), published an edited conversation she had with Gar Alperovitz, professor of political economy at the University of Maryland. Horovitz is one of the more interesting people out there trying to make the world more humane for workers, so it’s an interesting, albeit short, conversation. Here’s one interesting comment by Alperovitz from this conversation:

“I come out of liberalism. That whole movement is largely over — and that needs to be said. I say that with one caution: they’re holding the line in certain areas, importantly, against a lot of pain. But it’s not the way of the future. It’s a decaying and dying system of politics. It needs to be said.”

This is an important critique for religious liberals to think about, because (for better or worse) religious liberalism has tied its wagon to the horse of political liberalism. Like political liberals, religious liberals favor social tolerance (not a bad thing) coupled with a highly regulated form of consumer capitalism. But liberalism, whether religious or political, seems unable to move forward in the face of global climate change and an increasingly exploitative economic system. This is not to diminish the efforts of political liberalism or religious liberalism, for both forms of liberalism are striving mightily to keep us from moving backwards into worse exploitation, and moving backwards into global climate disaster. But we’re in a place in history where just holding steady is not going to be good enough.

Speaking of political liberalism, Alperovitz says, “A whole new direction needs to grow” — a new direction that is not conservatism, nor that offshoot of conservatism, libertarianism. But neither Alperovitz nor Horowitz can yet say what that new direction will be. I think this is true for religious liberalism as well — what we’re doing now isn’t moving us forward, we don’t want to go back to dogmatic religion, nor do we want that offshoot of dogmatic religion, individualistic religion. But what our new direction will be is not clear to me.