I have to admit I don’t know much about golf. I know many people enjoy it, but I’ve never lifted a club. I suppose part of golf’s popularity is because just about anyone can play it – after all, you don’t have to be 6’5” and be able to bench press 500 pounds to participate. So it would seem to be a good sport for those of us with more average physical attributes.
Since I don’t play it I don’t think much about it. That is I didn’t until the other night when I learned the truth about golf’s origin.
Golf, it turns out, was invented when Bullroarer Took beheaded the Goblin king with a blow from a wooden club. Bullroarer struck the king so hard that his head flew 100 yards through the air and rolled down a rabbit hole.
Bullroarer Took, was, of course, a hobbit – one of the largest of their race. He was so large he could ride a pony nearly as well as a man (which led to him fighting goblins in the company of men).
I know this because my family is reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien each evening after supper. And enjoying it thoroughly.
We read to the kids a lot when they were little, and actually read The Hobbit to William and Angela when they were very young (somehow overlooking the part about golf). But that was before our youngest child, Thomas, was born. Thomas missed out on Mother Goose, Winnie-the-Pooh, Alice In Wonderland and who knows how many other classic books. Not that we didn’t read to him – we’ve got about 400 kids books in a bookcase next to his sister’s bed. But they were all shorter and less notable.
Family reading was a lot of fun, but it seemed like as the kids got older and busier it was something to put away like teddy bears and potty chairs. But then Thomas watched the Lord of the Rings movies and had a lot of questions about the backstory. So we decided to read it together.
It has proven to be a most enjoyable activity. The Hobbit is a well-written book, filled with adventure and fantasy, and written with a wry humor that in hindsight was probably wasted on children as young as William and Angie were when we read it to them (and on my brother and me when our parents read it to us so long ago that hobbits still roamed the land).
What’s most striking, though, is how much more entertaining reading it is than watching TV or a movie. The images conjured by Tolkien’s words contrast to what’s found in the electronic media about the same way a steak dinner contrasts to crackers – sure, crackers have their place, but who would opt for them in place of a steak?
When I was a little boy, my grandmother’s sister, Ruby Wright, read to me every day as I played near her worn red rocking chair. Everything from the brothers Grimm to Black Beauty, the Hardy Boys to Lassie books. And while I enjoyed it immensely I have come to understand that she must have enjoyed it just as much. For sharing a book with a young person is one of the great joys – and greatest gifts – life has to offer.
I’ll admit I egged him on, but I wanted to see how far he would go. “He” was an affable young man eager to share his politics with me. When I could, I’d interject a leading question just to see what he’d say.
The young man was archly conservative and mostly echoing things he’d heard others say. So I wanted to know how well he understood the implications of his beliefs. He was for ending all social programs, including Medicare and Social Security. I asked him what should be done with elderly people who can’t afford the necessities of life without these programs. And while I hope he was just caught up in the heat of his rhetoric, he told me flat-out that they should be ‘tossed under a bridge to die.’
When I mentioned that his father might end up “under the bridge,” he tempered his enthusiasm, at least for the moment. Maybe I was in denial, but I didn’t think he was really as sociopathic as he sounded.
What to do with all the Americans who rely on the government in one way or another – from Social Security to farm subsidies to disaster relief – is something I’ve never heard those who decry these programs explain very well. It’s as if they believe people deprived of this income would suddenly go out and find a way to earn an equivalent amount. Considering that many are elderly and/or disabled – and especially how high the rate of unemployment is – that just isn’t realistic.
So I was pleased recently when CNN/Tea Party debate host Wolf Blitzer asked candidate Ron Paul what should happen to a hypothetical young man who had chosen not to buy health insurance if he were injured and required 6 months of intensive medical care. Paul – whose views are so conservative he believes the government doesn’t have the right to ban drugs like heroin – responded that the government should not pay for this person’s medical care.
Blitzer then asked, “Are you saying that society should just let him die?”
Paul – himself a doctor – said “no,” suggesting instead that churches pay for the care of the uninsured (how could a politician and doctor realistically believe that churches can carry the burden of tens of million of uninsured people!?). But the audience thought differently; some shouted “yeah!” while others laughed in perverse pleasure at the thought of leaving the uninsured to die.
Even Texas governor and presidential frontrunner Rick Perry – who had himself been cheered for saying he’s lost no sleep over allowing 234 executions — said “I was a bit taken aback” by the audience response.
I don’t for a moment believe the majority of Republicans favor letting people die in order to enjoy lower taxes. But it appears that some among them do. And while these extremists constitute a minority within the “Grand Old Party,” history shows us time and again that it is the radical fringes on both the left and the right who put the most effort and passion into furthering their agenda. As a result, they wield a disproportionate degree of influence.
Traditionally, “conservatism” has meant resisting radical ideas, including tossing senior citizens under bridges to die. But until the “party of life” offers a more realistic plan for dealing with serious problems than relying on church collection plates to support the aged and the poor, they are tacitly empowering people who believe helping those in need is more radical than tossing them under a bridge.