The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Dear Cousin: Thanks, But No Thanks

Posted on | November 20, 2010 | 4 Comments

The senator from Arizona — a distant cousin, our common ancestor having lived in South Carolina circa 1790 — is not my only famous kin. 

My first cousin Pepper Ellis Hagebak is a columnist for the LaGrange (Ga.) News. But her column isn’t about politics, and that’s probably a good thing. Pepper’s still a Democrat, like everybody in our family used to be. Her column is more humor and human interest. So even though she’s a Democrat and writes for a newspaper, she’s not exactly “the liberal media.”

Anyway, I hadn’t heard from Pepper in a while until I got an e-mail from her this morning with the subject line “a1vca g3a7.” And when I opened the e-mail, there were several CCs on it and the complete text of the message was “uem4 nhs kmhc4 hio7pspz,” with a link to a Web site. When I clicked on the link, it was a site advertising “herbal viagra.”

I’m pretty sure that my cousin hasn’t begun writing gibberish e-mails and promoting stuff like that. No, what undoubtedly  happened is that her computer got infected with a stupid virus that hijacked her e-mail program on behalf of the Nigerian herbal viagra cartel. And since the spammers have now got my e-mail address, I have no doubt that other people are probably getting such solicitations in my name.

To my friends and family: No, I haven’t gone into the herbal viagra racket, and I didn’t send you that e-mail. Times are hard all over, but it hasn’t gotten that bad. Not yet, anyway.

Pepper’s mom was my late aunt Barbara Ellis, who was a legendarily popular science teacher at LaGrange High School for many years. Here’s an old newspaper clipping about Aunt Barbara:

Since I’m doing family photos, I might as well keep going. Here’s a photo of Aunt Barbara circa 1964 with her first cousin, Joanne Coleman:

That’s Joanne on the left. Joanne married Ron Shum and they had three kids, including my cousin Elizabeth:

Elizabeth lives in L.A. The last I heard from her, she was playing bass guitar in a punk rock band. Elizabeth’s older sister Amanda, however, got married, has two kids and still lives near Montgomery, Alabama.

Just to show how talent runs in families, Amanda recently traveled to Harvard University to accept an award from the United Coalition for Reason. I’ve occasionally mentioned that I have Jewish cousins in Alabama, and the award announcement says, “Born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama, Amanda was raised by Jewish parents who encouraged her to think independently.” This sentence in Amanda’s winning essay rather shocked me: “Three cousins and two neighborhood friends were not allowed to play with my children because we do not attend church or accept Jesus Christ as our savior.”

Well, (a) I’m upset about those cousins — evidently on Amanda’s husband’s side of the family — and (b) I’m praying for y’all, and praying that your neighbors will see that their attitude isn’t very Christian.

This is where that whole Calvinist thing (Romans 8:28-31) about foreknowledge and destiny sometimes comes up and slaps us in the face. God knows us and has a purpose for our lives, and He also has a purpose for the lives of others — a purpose that we surely can’t know, given that we struggle so often to know God’s purpose for our own lives.

This is why you should hesitate to judge and condemn others. For all you know, the person you are judging has been foreknown and predestined by God for some great purpose — and who are you to sit in judgment of God’s elect?

God calls us even in our unbelief, and it is surely an amazing thing to consider that even when we don’t believe in God, sometimes God still believes in us.

We don’t stop to think how wonderful this is until, as occasionally happens, we get tapped on the shoulder with one of those little miracles that we can’t quite explain.

At any rate, I’m sorry to run on at such length about my kinfolk. But I did want my cousin Pepper to know she needs to check her e-mail program. And as for the “herbal viagra” — well, thanks, but no thanks.


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