Tag Archives: kansas

Don’t Know Much About History

For our various driving trips over the past few months I’ve been listening to the audio book version of Don’t Know Much About History by Kenneth C. Davis. It’s a vast overview of American history from pre-Colonial days until 2001. I found it to be oddly captivating, especially as it helped to fill in gaps in my knowledge of history, including the War of 1812, Reconstruction, the Korean War and more.

Any overview of history is sure to have its biases and make choices of content and coverage that someone is sure to disagree with. But some of those choices were especially interesting. For example, the Battle of the Bulge in World War II received more coverage than the Apollo moon landing. Alan Greenspan and his control over the boom economy of the 1990s received about as much coverage as the Kennedy assassination. Uncovered spies in the last decades of the 20th century were given thorough treatment in a chapter on the failures of the FBI, while the World Trade Center bombing was only mentioned in passing during the account of the Oklahoma City bombing.

I imagine it’s hard to put history in perspective, especially recent history. But how we make those choices is certainly fascinating.

Looking back on the entire book, it’s bizarre how much space is given to war. Each and every war was given a thorough overview, including the reasons for the war and the important milestones of each war, such as major battles. It seems odd to give so much space to each individual battle. Surely wars themselves and the reasons for each war were important to cover, but I don’t get the emphasis on each minute rise and fall. Wars shape our society, without a doubt, but I would think other social factors would have more importance than the Battle of Midway.

The other feeling I was left with was the incredible failure of mankind. Again and again we’re confronted with disgusting realities, whether it’s the Constitution declaring black men to be three-fifths of a person, the savage treatment of Native Americans justified by their supposed savageness or the national superiority that sees immigrants as lesser persons, despite the fact that we’re a nation of immigrants.

The Tulsa race riot of 1921 was one such incident, a racially motivated powder keg that saw an entire black neighborhood burned to the ground and several hundred people killed. It was such an ugly affair that it was expunged from local records and never acknowledged until recently.

History is full of this kind of sadness.

But as I was driving across the prairies of Kansas hearing about the civil rights movement, I found moments of hope. In the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case the Supreme Court finally overturned more than 50 years worth of racism that had been enshrined in U.S. court decisions. What’s perhaps most amazing about this is how Chief Justice Earl Warren convinced the other justices to issues a unanimous ruling, leaving no question as to the utter defeat of segregation. The back story is even more intriguing, that the court was actually re-hearing the case and that Warren was appointed chief justice before this final re-hearing. Ironically, President Dwight Eisenhower called his appointment of Warren the “the biggest damned-fool mistake I ever made.”

I was hearing this history while driving past exits for both the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. You don’t always think about it, but Kansas has been a flashpoint for racial progress going back to the Bleeding Kansas days when the territory was at the middle of a slave vs. free state debate.

In spite of all our failures, weakness and stupidity—both then and today, for surely we have our own failures we’ll one day be explaining to our children—there is always room for hope.

Today Has Conspired Against Me

Or maybe this entire week has conspired against me. Let’s count the ways…
(In case you can’t tell, this is one of those whiny, poor me posts, so feel free to move on now)

  • I’ve been sick since Wednesday night with a sore throat and persistent cough. Last night I was coughing so hard my chest hurt.
  • Because of all that I couldn’t go to the Social Media Breakfast on Friday morning.
  • I also couldn’t go to a planning meeting for a group of local church communicators I’m helping to organize.
  • That sickness also meant the date night my wife and I have been trying to have for two months that almost happened this weekend didn’t happen.
  • It also means I forgot about the U2 tickets that sold out in two hours on Saturday morning.
  • It also means I never had a chance to enjoy one last taco at Dora’s (OK, it would have been more like six last tacos).
  • This morning I left the kids with a babysitter and took the bus to the doctor. I missed the bus.
  • Which meant I missed my appointment by 20 minutes and the doctor wouldn’t see me.
  • Then I spent three hours at the dealership while they investigated my car’s uneven tread wear problem, only to tell me they have no answers.
  • Then I got a call from the babysitter that Lexi has been throwing up.
  • I dropped $50 at Best Buy tonight to replace items that have been lost or stolen in the last six months.
  • One of those items was a power cord for the portable DVD player Lexi watches in the car. Thanks to disposable electronics, that portable DVD player will now be the main DVD player powering our living room TV. (Our house has two VCRs and four DVD players, and only two of the DVD players work. And one is portable.)
  • We have two couches in our house. Lexi managed to throw up on both of them.
  • While preparing all the puke-stained items for the wash, I realized the dog peed on the carpet.
  • At this point it was supper time and I realized I never had lunch.
  • Being gone all day meant I got next to nothing done for work.
  • We were planning to go to Kansas for Thanksgiving and I was excited about introducing Milo to lots of extended family that hasn’t had the chance to meet him yet. Tonight we decided we can’t go to Kansas with all the sickness and our complete lack of preparation.

Did I forget anything?

However, this week is Thanksgiving. So let’s find some bright spots, shall we?

Continue reading Today Has Conspired Against Me

My Dad, early 1970s

My Dad.This is my dad, smoking a pipe and reading a magazine, sometime in the early 1970s. Those sideburns are an essential part of Hendricks family history, and I’m proud to say they’re now electronically preserved.

But seriously, for Thanksgiving my wife and I traveled to the flat state of Kansas for turkey dinner with the fam. Part of the holiday included rummaging through a box of family history stuff, including photos from the 1920s-70s and two journals from my great-great grandfather, dating 1908-1910 and around 1920. Very interesting stuff about going to market and the “elegant fine weather.” I’ll have to go into more detail later. The sideburns and pipe photo will have to tide you over for now.

Eulogy for my Grandpa: 1922-2002

My GrandparentsMy grandpa died last week. I pulled these thoughts together for the funeral, and read them to a packed house. I had the whole place laughing, and I think that’s the way Grandpa would have wanted it. The words may not mean a lot to you, but for me they capture my grandpa.

***

I remember spending summers in Kansas with Grandpa. I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, and now I live in St. Paul and take the city bus to work everyday. Spending summers in Kansas was a bit of culture shock.

I remember waking up early and sitting around the kitchen table and listening while Grandpa and my mom sipped coffee and talked. The Hutch paper was always spread across the table, and inevitably, the conversation would turn to me.

“He probably fails all his classes, don’t he?” Grandpa would ask. A slow smile would spread across his aging face as his gaze shifted from my mom to me.
Continue reading Eulogy for my Grandpa: 1922-2002

Visiting Kansas

Kansas. My girlfriend and I just returned from a trip to the land of Dorothy and Toto. Six months ago my mother commanded me to be in Kansas on August 15th. We were celebrating my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary, and it was mandatory that I be there–no excuses accepted. So my girlfriend, Abby, and I squeezed into my truck and journeyed 13 hours from Chicago to Central Kansas. Quite a difference, let me tell you.

If you’ve never been to Kansas, there’s a few things you should know. The noon meal is called “dinner.” The evening meal is called “supper.” In Kansas, “lunch” and “dinner” are synonymous, not “dinner” and “supper.” Also, I drive a ’93 Ford Ranger. It is referred to as a “pickup,” not a “truck.” A “truck” is what I call a “semi.” If I were in Kansas and called my Ranger a “truck,” I’d get a few weird looks.

Aside from the lingo, there’s some other differences. Accents for one. My mother was born and raised in Kansas, and although she hasn’t lived here for over twenty-five years, she still slips into the old accent in a matter of days. Life is also a lot slower out here. Safer too. I never bothered to lock my “pickup.”

You can also see. There’s no hills or buildings or stores or lights to block your view. The horizon is all that stretches out before you, and quite seriously, it’s beautiful to see the vast expanse of open sky. Who would have thought that you’d see something beautiful in the middle of Kansas. God does have his surprises, doesn’t He?