If You Ask Me ....

These pages contain brief essays written by Thomas R. Borden of Waugh, Alabama. Your comments, challenges, curses and benedictions are welcome. Send Tom an email.


War? What War?

The truth is that the birth of Jesus is not "the reason for the season", as preachers would have us believe. What we refer to as the Christ Mass is in fact a time-honored secular celebration with a thin layer of religion grafted on top of it, and we all seem to like it that way. More ...

Poison?

No, I don't believe that religion in and of itself is poisonous; but I do believe that any actions that seek to impose religion on others should be considered a criminal act of social violence, and prosecuted as such. No preacher, no church, no denomination has the authority to establish its teachings and practices as laws that must be followed by all. More ...


Summertime Down South

Over the last couple of days we have moved inexorably into what the old folks used to call "high summer". Since I am now a bona fide member of the old folks club, I guess I have earned the right to use that term myself without attribution. You know high summer has arrived when the sun-heated air is a solid force, with mass and substance that pushes back against you as you walk through it. More ...


The Class of 1960

One day last week, an article in the paper on local graduation exercises reminded me that the 52nd anniversary of my own graduation from Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery had recently passed without notice or fanfare. I was moved to take my yearbook from the shelf, and leaf through it, barely recognizing the people in the photographs, especially the skinny kid with a crew-cut and heavy eyebrows that had my name typed underneath his picture. More...


Cousins

In early October in South Alabama, there are always a few incredibly bright, clear, nearly perfect days. The sky is so blue and so high that it almost hurts your eyes to look at it. The air is still and sweet, creating no ripples on the surface of the little lake. This particular day fell on a Sunday, a day of rest, relaxation, and being with family. The two cousins were together for the first time in about two months. More ...


The "Ground-Zero Mosque"

We've Been This Way Before

As this entry is written, there is very little that can be said on this topic that has not already been said many times; but I'm going to weigh in with my opinions anyway. The storm of controversy generated by plans to build a Moslem community center in lower Manhattan is a microcosm of 21st Century American political discourse, loaded with innuendo, exaggeration, and outright manipulation of the facts. More...

There are many Alabamians, especially among those of us who were born in the 1930's, 40's, and 50's, who are truly distressed by the idea of same-sex marriage. The prospect of open acceptance of what is already an established practice disturbs and even frightens them. As we grapple with this inevitable social change, it may help to remember that our parents' generation dealt with a very similar situation when we were children. Then, the issue was inter-racial marriage. More ...

An Inaugural Prayer

Congratulations America

Just in case you missed it, On November 4, we elected this skinny mixed-race young man with enormous ears and even more enormous intelligence as President of these United States. He's a good man, with immense talents, but the tasks ahead of him seem overwhelming. More...

"I Voted". That's what is printed on the tiny slip of paper that the poll worker handed me yesterday. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. It looks very much like a postage stamp, and has adhesive on the back so you can fasten it on your shirt. I heard on the radio that I could have taken it to Krispy Kreme and gotten a free doughnut; but I think I'll hold on to this one. It's special. I want my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to see it, and hopefully understand why the old man kept it. More...


Michelle Obama's Gaffe

Right after her husband's victory in the Iowa caucuses, Michele Obama made the statement that this was the first time in her adult life that she had been "really proud" of her country. She went on to say that her pride was not just because Barack had been victorious, but because she saw a new sense of hope and renewed belief in the political process from the electorate. It was an understandable bit of candid exhuberance at the success of her husband, and the landmark elevation of an African-American man to the position of being a real contender for the U.S. Presidency; but it was a political mistake on her part, and she has been plagued by incessant criticism for it ever since. That is the way politics works in our deeply divided country, and she and her husband (and his supporters) will just have to live with the consequences. More...


Let's Count All the Votes

Memorial Day, 2007

I have voted in every Presidential election since the Johnson - Goldwater election of 1964, which was the year I turned 21. In each of those eleven elections, I have voted for the candidate nominated by the Democratic Party, and in only one of those elections, Jimmy Carter's in 1976, has my vote actually been counted. I'm not alleging vote fraud here, although no doubt there has been some in Alabama over that period. The reason my vote has been a non-issue in 10 out of 11 elections is that the Electoral College system operates in Alabama to cast all of our electoral votes for the party that wins a plurality of the state's popular vote. More...

The heroes that I honor are not necessarily the same as those that inspire my neighbors, however. Now, perhaps more than any other time in our nation's life, I believe it is important for us to honor our contrarians, our scolds, those cantankerous loudmouths that warn us, like a canary in a coal mine, that we have made a wrong turn. We need to celebrate those obnoxious, unpopular prophets of true morality who are not afraid to tell us when our national acts are out of sync with our national ideals. We need to remind ourselves that it is the tellers of "inconvenient truths", to quote Vice-President Gore, that have repeatedly saved our nation's soul when it has gone astray. More...


Chasing Their Tails

In my little corner of the deep south, when we see someone expending great amounts of effort for something that has no chance of success, we often remark that they look like a dog chasing his tail. What an apt description that is of the current frenzy to suppress or discredit the movie version of The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown. More...


Daniel and the Christians

Alabama's chapter of the ironically named "Christian" Coalition has been quite exercised all week about the prospect of "The Book of Daniel" being aired in our state. The organization, whose goals and methods are anything but "christian", has been urging its members all week to call local NBC stations in an attempt to keep the program off the air. We have been told that the progam "slandered the Christian family", and was an outrage to the morals and sensitivities of decent people. More...

God Bless Alabama (Boy Do We Need It!)

The truth is that the language of piety is so ubiquitous in the culture of our state that many of my fellow Alabamians would not recognize the phrase "God Bless America" as a controversial religious statement. They would argue, and probably with good reason, that a large majority of our state's citizens believe in the existence of a God. Even so, surely there is a much smaller number, even in Alabama, that believe She would entertain the notion of favoring one political subdivision in Her universe to the detriment of all the others. More...

A Summer Prayer

A Clear and Present Danger

We search for the wisdom to understand that our neighbor doesn't become our enemy just because he worships or believes differently from us. The emotional maturity to disagree without conflict and rancor escapes us; but we need it desperately. More... Let me tell you about an acquaintance of mine named Ed. His name is not really Ed, but that will do as well as any other. Ed is tall, slender in build, and wears glasses to read with. He's an accomplished amateur musician - able to carry the baritone, tenor or alto parts in a vocal ensemble with equal confidence. More...

Judge Moore and His Monument

Fundamentalism

...we all woke up one morning to learn that Judge Moore and his supporters had slipped the monument into the building in the dark of night in a clear "in your face" gesture of contempt for the opinions of anyone who disagrees. Is this really the way they choose to honor the scriptures? More...It is such a liberating experience to have your fears and questions explained and validated. Living as I do in the epicenter of conservative theology, it is easy to feel isolated and alone; More...

Fundamentalism in the Middle East

Notes from Atlanta

But the abiding conflict is over religion and race. The Israeli's call their god Jehovah, and the Arabs call theirs Allah, and neither side can find in itself any modicum of tolerance for that difference. Each believes that their faith is the only Truth, and that anyone who disagrees is a sworn enemy "…for all eternity". That, to me, is the most dangerous aspect of the fundamentalist Christian movement in our country.More...Atlanta is a vibrant, energetic, somewhat frightening city. It seems to reinvent itself every time we come over. The tall buildings spring up (and disappear) like mushrooms in the summer, and the traffic never stops. It is always stimulating to come here, and always a relief to leave again to head back to our sleepy little hamlet in the bend of the Alabama River.More...

The Bordens of Green County

The Robinsons of Choctaw County

Joseph and Fannie, like most educated young people of their time, were good correspondents. We are fortunate that a number of their letters have been preserved. More...The yard on Park Place had several good pecan trees, a fig tree, and a very productive pomegranate tree. This quite naturally meant that every squirrel in the Oak Park area was Papaw's mortal enemy. He devoted a lot of time, and his considerable ingenuity, to devising snares and other apparatus to keep the pesky rodents out of his prized fruit. More...

The McIlwains of Choctaw County

Bringing Up Papa

Soon after Tillman and Ella were married in 1881, the log building of the Adventist Church in Gilbertown was torn down in preparation for constructing a new building. Tillman salvaged the logs from the old building and dragged them overland by ox team to his plot of ground about three miles southwest of present-day Gilbertown. He used the logs to build the one-room house where he and Ella raised a family of seven children and lived for the rest of their lives. More...Watching a boy child of this age eat is something that should only be experienced by his blood relatives. It is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. The first thing you realize is that the fork is not going to be used the way you and I would. More...
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