Monthly Archives: August 2009

“All I Needed to Know, I Learned at Bennett’s Market”

By Jim Bennett

            “There’s a brick in the kitchen,” the Mrs. observed, gesturing toward the breakfast counter.

            “Yes.  Yes, there is,” I said.

            “Well, how about that?  A brick,” she mused, picking up the crumbling Purington Paver.

            I sighed.  “They tore down my folks’ old store building today,” I said at last.  “I went by and picked up some rubble as a souvenir.” 

            I had known this day would come eventually, of course.  But the razing of that humble little structure touched me in unexpected ways.    

 

            There was a day when Monmouth’s commercial landscape was dotted with myriad neighborhood grocery stores.  Then the supermarkets came to town and, like so many dominoes, the Mom ‘n’ Pops fell.   

            Except for Bennett’s Market, that is; it was the last little store standing.  I don’t think Giant’s or Barnes’ Supervalu ever saw us as a threat, but when Mom and Dad retired, it was because they wanted to, not because they had to. 

            Growing up there, I had the best childhood a boy could have hoped for.  And it was there that I learned virtually every practical lesson I would ever need.   

            The longevity of Bennett’s Market was due in some part to my parents’ work ethic, a value they imparted to their kids.  If business was slow, Dad would sit on a stool in the front and joke with Mom, but he didn’t like his boys slacking; I remember him calling back to my big brothers, Percy and Ben, from his perch:  “Make a little noise back there, boys.”  Translation:  “Do something besides eating up the inventory.”  They would oblige, of course:  Percy would rattle a case of empty pop bottles, and Ben would whistle and stomp.  Good times.

            I also learned people skills.  I believe it was their genuine love of people that kept the customers shoving on that yellow “Salada Tea” door push bar.  I can still hear my Dad’s corny, engaging banter with customers from behind his meat counter in the back.  Mom ran the till and lovingly wrangled the candy-crazed neighborhood kids.  And if you happened to be a girl, my Dad’s teasing was mandatory:  “Sis,” he’d say, grinning, “You must be a movie star!”  He brought more blush to girls’ cheeks than Max Factor. 

            I learned that taking an interest in people takes you to interesting people.  One who comes to mind was a contractor from Des Plaines who had come to Monmouth to do some remodeling work for a local pharmacy.  The man’s employer had recommended Bennett’s Market for our lunch meat, and my Dad had a memorable conversation with this chatty out-of-towner.  Another was a younger, local character known for spinning tall tales; Dad always gave him a hard time about a sassy tattoo on his arm.  The former was John Wayne Gacy, the notorious serial killer who was eventually convicted and executed for thirty-three murders.  The latter was Richard Speck, infamous mass murderer of 8 student nurses in Chicago.  (Governor Adlai Stevenson came in once as well, but his body count was only one, and that was by accident.) 

            I also learned that good sandwich spread can cover over a multitude of sins, and inspire at least one:  One night, my brother Percy, a Monmouth police officer, called Dad with the news that there had been a break-in at the store.  The perpetrator, under the influence of some potent giggle smoke, had succumbed to THC-induced munchies and decided it was time for some Bennett’s Market B-and-E.  The officers found him hiding under the butcher block.  Did the peckish prowler heist the Ho-Ho’s, or purloin the peanut butter cups?  No, but this criminal mastermind’s beard was caked with the old man’s famous ham salad.  It became my Dad’s favorite endorsement:  “Why, it’s so good, potheads are willing go to jail over the stuff!”       

            And Bennett’s Market was where I learned compassion.  My parents frequently extended credit to cash-strapped families, and it wasn’t uncommon for them to forgive a debt altogether.  I remember once seeing them encourage a tearful, out-of-work young father who couldn’t pay, saying, “We know you’re good for it.  We’ll run a tab.”  Both of my folks had grown up poor – Dad even had to drop out of eighth grade to work because of his own father’s penchant for drinking up the rent – so neither he nor Mom could stand the thought of a hungry kid.

            Dad died in ‘97.  Mom followed in 2002.  And it was four years ago this past July that we lost Percy, just 54 years old.   I miss them hard – real hard – every day.

 

            The Mrs. kissed me.  “It’s a fine brick, Buddy.  Possibly the best rubble I’ve ever seen.”

            I pulled her onto my lap.  “Baby,” I said, “You sure know your masonry.”   

           

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“Explicit Language”

       Some time ago, my daughter Lyndsay borrowed my van so she could visit her sister Kayla in Monmouth.  Soon I realized I had left some needed item in the van, so I set off to town to retrieve it.  When I pulled into the parking lot at Kayla’s apartment complex, she and Lyndsay were standing by the van, looking suspicious.  After explaining why I had come, I opened the van’s passenger-side door and was immediately hit by a familiar stench:  When humans encounter this particular odor, we reflexively stand on one foot and then the other, examining the soles of our shoes.  Then I saw the source:  A dog of ambiguous breed was inside, chewing up my treasured “Flatt and Scruggs” CD.

       Back story:  Kayla’s rental agreement forbade pets.  Proving that she could be every bit as obedient to a landlord as she always had been to dear ol’ dad, she immediately went and got herself one unattractive, mentally-ill dog.

       Kayla had overlooked the fact that eventually she would have to take the dog outside of her apartment building for, um, you know.  Then her contraband canine would be exposed to the landlord’s prying gaze.  Her solution?  Coax the dog into a large gym bag, partially zip him up in it, and then tote him out indognito.  But on this day, for reasons that were never satisfactorily explained to me, my daughters released the hound in my vehicle rather than in the nearby vacant lot.

       “Kayla, when Lyndsay came pullin’ in here,” I asked, “did you see a sign on the side of my van that said ‘Incontinent Dog Storage’?”

       Kayla smiled nervously.  “Daddy, you know I ain’t seen no…”

       “DID YOU NOTICE A SIGN ON THE SIDE OF MY VAN THAT SAID, ‘INCONTINENT DOG STORAGE’?!” I repeated, cutting her off.

       “No,” Kayla said.  “I didn’t.”

       “You know WHY you didn’t see that sign?!” I asked.

       “Why?” Kayla responded.

       “’Cause it ain’t there, ‘cause storin’ incontinent dogs ain’t my blasted business, that’s why!”  I shrieked.

       I then turned my attention to Lyndsay.  “Dear, I would have had no problem at all with a dog in my van, provided he could talk and was accompanied by a blonde, scarf-wearing metrosexual and a seedy stoner in a green t-shirt.  You put together a crew like that, and I’ll gladly send you all off in my van to expose paranormal hoaxes at abandoned amusement parks.  But when did I ever tell you that it was okay to offer my van as a puppy port-o-potty?”

       That’s when she said it.  Get ready for awesome:

       “You never said I couldn’t.”

       I’m telling you the truth.  She actually said that.

       “You’re absolutely right,” I said.  “I neglected to specifically prohibit the housing of encopretic dogs in my vehicle.  I should have listed that and all the other things I don’t want you to do to my van:  Please don’t use it as a meth lab.  Please don’t use it to jump over Snake River Canyon.  Please don’t use it as a polling place on election day.  Please don’t allow Salvador Dali to fill it with cauliflower.  Please don’t use it to cook and deliver chitlins. Please don’t fit it with a flux capacitor and accidentally send me back to the 1950’s, triggering a series of time-travel paradoxes that won’t be resolved unless I take my mother to prom.    Please don’t let Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) drive you home from a party in it.  Please don’t paint the…”

       My daughters shrugged, bagged up the dog, and went inside.  I spent the remainder of the evening in the parking lot, shouting my list of prohibitions at Kayla’s building.

       I’m sure you’ve already guessed that I’ve offered this true story to explain my opposition to the Obama  administration’s health care reform plan.  Yes, I despise its paternalistic governmental bloatitude.  Yes, I resent the intrusive, writhing tentacles of liberalism.  And yes, I know California Representative Henry Waxman looks like an extra from “Ratatouille.”  But an even more important concern is that this legislation, if enacted in its current state, will require taxpayers to pay for abortions.

       “But wait a minute, you remarkably handsome, erudite columnist,” you say.  “There’s nothing in the House or Senate versions of this plan that mandates taxpayer funding for the slaughter of the unborn.”

       That’s true:  There are no specific provisions allocating taxpayer dollars for the funding of surgical infanticide.  But the reason this plan allows Big Abortion to raid our pockets is because – to paraphrase Lyndsay Bennett – “We never said they couldn’t.”  When abortion-lovin’ Planned Parenthood handmaidens like our president are in charge, every possible avenue for hijacking our taxes for this barbarism must be imagined, and then a prohibition must be
specifically spelled out in the legislation.  Anything less will assure abortion’s inclusion in government health care coverage.

       Public outcry against this boondoggle delayed voting beyond the August recess.  Praise God.  And now that these lawmakers are returning home, we need to be visiting their offices and telling them we oppose any health care reform that does not specifically prohibit any and all abortion coverage.  The idea of being financially complicit in Margaret Sanger’s Final Solution is too much for this taxpayer to bear.  It’s not enough to withhold permission from these
people.  You’ve got to tell them they can’t.

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Epilogue:  When the  “Explicit Language” column was posted on the Review Atlas website, I received this comment from someone listed as “Eddie68″:

“Oh yeah lovin’ that abortion! Do you truly, in the depths of your heart, believe that anyone loves abortion? What shameful rhetoric. You neither convince nor educate with such pompous oratory. Let us not come together, let us drive deeper the wedge of discord.”

Here is the response I posted:

Eddie69,

(1) ‘Oh yeah lovin’ that abortion! Do you truly, in the depths of your heart, believe that anyone loves abortion?’

Yes, as a matter of fact, I most certainly do believe, in the depths of my heart, that many people, especially your president, love abortion. How else could someone defend the indefensible with such devotion? No one could endorse abortion with his degree of passion without also harboring a profound affection for abortion.

Most people, under the right conditions, could defend something that they do not necessarily love, or even something that they might personally find distasteful; I accept that. However, the obvious delight Obama takes in serving as the pro-abortion movement’s spokesmodel, cheerleader, and handmaiden betrays something more than mere acquiescence to their objectives: He loves it.

Take, for example, the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act (BAIPA). Whistleblower Jill Stanek revealed that personnel at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, IL were taking little babies who had survived abortions into the hospital’s soiled linen room and abandoning them there to die horribly – uncomforted, untreated, and alone. Illinois lawmakers began crafting BAIPA to outlaw this cruel practice.

BAIPA was brought before then-Illinois State Senator Obama’s Senate Judiciary Committee as Senate Bill 1095.
He voted against it in committee on March 28, 2001.
He spoke against it on the Illinois Senate floor two days later.
A revised version of BAIPA, Senate Bill 1662, was brought before Obama’s Senate Judiciary Committee on March 6, 2002. Obama voted against it again.
It came up for a floor vote on April 4, 2002. Obama voted against it again.
By 2003, Obama was chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee. BAIPA came up in his committee as Senate Bill 1082 on March 12. First Obama voted to amend it and adopt the ‘neutrality clause’ language from the federal version of the bill. After his changes were accepted, Obama voted against BAIPA!

(2) ‘What shameful rhetoric.’

President Obama is utterly beholden to Planned Parenthood, the number one abortion provider in the United States.. Watch the YouTube video here and listen to HIS rhetoric.  Listen to him affirming his intent to carry water for that beastly organization. Listen to him gleefully, shamelessly promising to sign the unthinkably barbaric Freedom of Choice Act into law. Hm. Yes. ‘What shameful rhetoric’ indeed: 

One can’t miss his grandiloquence as he declares, ‘I will not yield, and Planned Parenthood will not yield.’ This is not merely tacit assent to Planned Parenthood and their agenda. This is President Obama’s declaration of partnership with them; it’s his vow of fealty to Planned Parenthood and their goals.. Any intellectually honest person will concede that.

If signed into law in its current form, the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) would nullify Carhart v. Gonzales. This, in turn, would negate the Partial-Birth Abortion Act which was enacted in 2003 and upheld by the United States Supreme Court in 2007. Most Americans recognize this procedure as the monstrous atrocity it is. Your President is not among them, obviously. In fact, as that speech to his Planned Parenthood cronies reveals, he wanted his first official act of office to be the signing of the legislation that would revive partial-birth abortion. Partial-birth abortion (or, as I’m sure your President would prefer, intact dilation and extraction) is an incomprehensibly heinous, infanticidal act. When Obama so proudly promises his signature on FOCA, he is also validating partial-birth abortion.

If signed into law in its current form, FOCA would nullify ‘conscience laws,’ those policies and provisions which allow hospitals, nurses and doctors who object to abortion to refuse to participate in, refer for, provide, or fund abortions. My wife’s OB/GYN, Dr. Karla Polaschek, is nationally regarded as one of the finest, most innovative physicians in her field. Unlike President Obama, she is not an abortion lovin’ individual; she has enough decency and humanity to comprehend the fundamental sanctity of human life. She has assured me that when and if conscience laws are nullified (as they would be by your President’s giddy signature on FOCA) , she and tens of thousands of her like-minded colleagues would have no choice but to abandon Obstetrics and Gynecology immediately. An untold number of Catholic hospitals would close as well.

If signed into law in its current form, FOCA would nullify the laws in over forty states that ensure that parents are informed if their minor daughter has scheduled an abortion. The exclusion of parents from a decision of this magnitude in the life of their child is unthinkable. Yet that’s what your President is plum-tickled to sign into law.

(3) ‘You neither convince nor educate with such pompous oratory.’

When I write a column, convincing and educating are never my objectives. For me, it’s strictly about fulfilling my destiny as an insufferable, bloviating hammerhead.

And incidentally, ‘oratory’ refers to speech, not writing.

Your Pal,

Jim Bennett

“Doubt: Reasonable or Otherwise”

 troy-davis-pic

           I have been praying about a situation, and I hope you’ll join me.  A man named Troy Davis has been on death row in Georgia since 1991, facing execution for a crime he may not have committed:  The 1989 murder of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail.    

            In the interest of clarity, I want to state my unwavering support for the death penalty.  God Himself ordained it in Genesis 9:6, endowing human government with the authority to execute murderers:  “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”  In the New Testament as well, God’s inerrant Word indicates that human government is under a divine mandate:  Romans 13:7 states that the ruler “beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”  And Jesus Christ Himself, though falsely accused and wrongly convicted, nonetheless acknowledged that human government is empowered by God to carry out capital punishment.  In John 19:10 Pilate asks, “Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” In verse 11, Jesus responds, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.”

            Furthermore, I have nothing but the highest respect and gratitude for the men and women who daily put their lives on the line as police officers.  Few indeed are the callings that are as thankless, as dangerous, and as unfairly criticized as law enforcement.  “Heroic” is too small an adjective to describe them.

            The victim in this case, Officer Mark MacPhail, is a perfect example:  On August 19, 1989, he was moonlighting as a security guard at a Savannah bus station.  Hearing cries for help, he valiantly came to the aid of a homeless man who was being pistol-whipped by three assailants in a nearby parking lot.  Tragically, one of those men shot Officer MacPhail to death, leaving his wife a widow and robbing their daughter and their infant son of their daddy.  I pray for them as well.  Truly, if the perpetrator of this heinous killing is not deserving of the death penalty, then no one is.

            Though convicted of the crime, Troy Davis, it would seem, might not be the perpetrator.  There was no physical evidence brought against Davis, and the murder weapon has never been recovered.   The prosecution’s case relied largely on witness testimony, and during the trial, the State presented nine non-police witness testimonies that implicated Davis as Officer MacPhail’s slayer.  But even before and during the trial, those witness testimonies began to unravel.  To date, six of those nine testimonies have been recanted by the witnesses, with some claiming they were coerced by overzealous investigators.  A seventh, while not recanted, was contradicted by the witness herself. 

            Of the two witnesses who have not recanted or contradicted their testimony against Davis, one of them is the likely alternative suspect, Sylvester “Redd” Coles.  In the years since Davis’ conviction, not only have prosecution witnesses come forward to state that their testimony was wrong, but nine witnesses have issued statements and sworn affidavits indicating that Sylvester Coles is, in fact the killer.  At least one, Joseph Washington, says he saw Coles kill MacPhail.  Several others insist that Coles confessed his guilt to them.

            Is Troy Davis innocent?  I don’t know.  But I am convinced that there is enough doubt about his guilt to at least justify a look at the new evidence.  The United States Supreme Court apparently agrees:  Last week they ordered the District Court to consider and rule upon “whether evidence that could not have been obtained at the time of trial clearly established petitioner’s innocence.” 

            I am not praying specifically for the exoneration of Troy Davis.  If he is guilty, his wrongful acquittal would be a miscarriage of justice, no better or worse than the execution of an innocent man.  I am simply beseeching God for the revelation of truth in this matter.   

            I am, however, praying for his family.  I wrote to Davis and he had his mother, Virginia, call me.  I interviewed her on my radio program; she told me the harrowing story of the three separate occasions when she has had to say goodbye to her son as he was led away to the death chamber.  Troy was spared each time by a last-minute stay of execution. 

            But it was her parting words to me that left me stunned.  “If God Himself can withstand the unjust execution of His own precious Son for me,” she said, “who am I to say I shouldn’t endure the same?”

TroyMom

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