It’s National Empty Chair Day! Or Is It National Invisible Obama Day?

The world moves so fast these days.  Thursday night, Clint Eastwood gives a weird, unforgettable performance at the Republican National Convention during which he talks to an empty chair that is supposed to be President Obama.

That day and the following day he gets alternatively ripped and praised, depicted as senile or as crazy like a fox.  And then, social media takes the story deeper.  People from across the political spectrum seize on Eastwood’s empty chair theme.  Democrats mock him with “Invisible Obama” pictures and tweets on Twitter.  Republicans respond with “empty chair” tweets and blog posts.  And then someone declares today to be National Empty Chair Day, and from coast to coast Romney supporters are taking photos of empty chairs in various poses — and the press starts writing about it.

Clint Eastwood therefore has accomplished something beyond the powers of mortal men.  He’s brought Republicans and Democrats, conservative “wingnuts” and liberal “moonbats” together, by making the empty chair a potent political symbol for both parties.  Put chairs out on your front lawn (as some of our neighbors have) and let people guess whether you are marking National Empty Chair Day, or Invisible Obama Day . . . or maybe you just plan to sit in your yard later, with the bare feet in the grass, on the last day of a three-day weekend.  Whatever you mean, why not be part of a goofy national craze?

In the meantime, we can all marvel at the speed of the modern world.  It used to take a week or a month for fads like hula hoops or pet rocks to sweep the nation.  Now, it just takes a camera, a twitter account, and a potent symbol, and within minutes people are off to the races from sea to shining sea.

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Girding Loins In Browns Town

The King James Bible speaks often of biblical figures girding their loins.  Jeremiah 1:17, for example, reads:  “Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise . . . ”

We don’t know precisely how loins were girded, of course.  Some people think the long skirts men wore in those days were rolled up and tucked in somewhere, so that you didn’t trip on them.  I suspect, however, that there was a bit more emphasis on . . . protection than that.  In the old days of single combat, where a kid with a sling might be hurling stones at your most tender areas, you obviously wanted to make sure that your loins were well girded, indeed.  Nothing like a flying chunk of rock in the groin (or the forehead) to take the wind out of your sails and lead to your prompt beheading.

We Browns fans are used to girding our loins.  We’ve taken so many painful shots to the psychic privates, the mental loin-girding process has become second nature.  Sound the clarion call of pessimism, keep your expectations absurdly low, and brush away any brimming feelings of hope.  Only then will your inner loins be fully girded and you will be prepared for the series of gridiron catastrophes that are sure to be visited upon you and the rest of the Browns faithful.

I hope Browns fans will be paying special attention to the girding process this year, because I fear we are going to need all the girding we can get.  With a rookie quarterback, a rookie tailback, a motley crew of receivers, and a defense that stands up against opposing rushing attacks like a cheesecloth curtain, playing in the most rugged division in professional football, the Browns and their fans are going to be taking a lot of shots to the solar plexus this season.

As was said in Job 38:3:  “Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.”  Take heed, Browns fans!  Let the loin-girding begin!

Lincoln On Labor

On this Labor Day, it’s worth a moment to consider what America’s greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, had to say on the topic of labor.

Not surprisingly, given Lincoln’s childhood of hard work helping his father turn wilderness property into farmland, his rail-splitting, and his successful career as a lawyer, the value of labor and work were among his favorite topics.   His most famous statement about labor, given in his first annual message to Congress, showed the significant value he attached to work:  “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”  Lincoln also stated, “Labor is the great source from which nearly all, if not all, human comforts and necessities are drawn.”

Lincoln thought working was important, both for the individual and for society as a whole, and that hard work would lead to something better.  In an 1859 speech, he observed:  “No country can sustain, in idleness, more than a small percentage of its numbers. The great majority must labor at something productive.”   He wanted to give everyone a chance at success from the fruits of their labor, without tearing down those who had already succeeded.  During his 1860 presidential campaign, he wrote:  “I don’t believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good. So while we do not propose any war upon capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else.” 

Lincoln repeated that view in 1864 remarks to the New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association:  “Property is the fruit of labor…property is desirable…is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.”

Lincoln also admired the small business owner, who first worked on his own, established his business, hired his first employee, and then worked side-by-side with him.  In an 1859 speech, Lincoln stated:  “The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land, for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This, say its advocates, is free labor—the just and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way for all—gives hope to all, and energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all.”

I hope our current political leaders assign the same great value to labor, hard work, and small business that Honest Abe did.  In our current economy, there are too many people who don’t have the chance to enjoy the benefits of working that Lincoln aptly described.  Happy Labor Day!