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Rick Perry Calls For Prayer As He Afflicts The Poor And The Sick—With Each Plague Of Drought And Wildfire In Texas His Heart Only Hardens

Texas Governor Rick Perry will be taking part in a big prayer rally in Houston on August 6.

(Above–Plague of wildfires afflicting Texas this year as seen from above.)  

From the Governor

” Gov. Rick Perry has proclaimed Saturday, Aug. 6th, as a Day of Prayer and Fasting for our Nation to seek God’s guidance and wisdom in addressing the challenges that face our communities, states and nation.”

You notice that the Governor has declared this day for the entire nation. We hear a lot from Mr. Perry about the federal government imposing upon the states. I guess though it is okay for Governor Perry to impose both a proclamation and his religion on the rest of the nation.

Also from the Governor—

“Given the trials that beset our nation and world, from the global economic downturn to natural disasters, the lingering danger of terrorism and continued debasement of our culture, I believe it is time to convene the leaders from each of our United States in a day of prayer and fasting….”

If people want to pray, that is just fine.

However, if prayer is a possible solution to our problems as Governor Perry asserts, than maybe the natural disasters afflicting Texas in recent weeks are divine judgment for how Texas is treating the poor and the sick.

It has to be a two-way street.

Governor Perry and the Texas legislature have passed a budget that strongly impacts those in Texas least able to take the hit.

At the same time, Texas has been afflicted with wildfires and drought.

With each plague visited upon Texas, Governor Perry’s heart only hardens—Just like Pharaoh’s heart in the Biblical account of Moses.

It should also be noted that a group strongly involved with the August 6 rally—the so-called American Family Association—has some extreme viewpoints.

From the Texas Tribune-

” Sparking the controversy are the group’s views on Christianity, its staunchly anti-gay platform and the inflammatory statements of one its executives, Bryan Fischer. In an interview with The Texas Tribune on Tuesday, AFA president Tim Wildmon said Jews, Muslims, atheists or any other non-Christian would “go to hell” unless they accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Wildmon’s father, Don, who famously took on iconic television programs like Three’s Company for promoting what he saw as an immoral lifestyle, is listed as one of the event’s chief organizers….. Over the years, Fischer has blamed gays for the Holocaust and has called on Muslims to convert to Christianity or face the wrath of U.S. military power. He also once blogged that social welfare programs made black women want to “rut like rabbits.”….” 

Governor Perry appears to be risking more judgement for Texas as he consorts with these persons.

A great book to read if you want to learn about religion as a force for good is The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann. We can’t allow folks like Rick Perry and the so-called American Family Association to define faith for the rest of us.

June 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Houston Memorial Day Observance At Federal Cemetery To Feature Non-Inclusive Prayer—We Each Must Choose What Kind Of Nation We Are Going To Have

A federal judge has allowed a Texas pastor to use a non-inclusive prayer at a Memorial Day ceremony honoring Americans who have died in the service of our nation.

From the Houston Chronicle-

“The nation’s agency for military veterans has agreed to stay out of religious refereeing for now, backing down from its attempt to tell a minister how to craft a prayer for a Memorial Day invocation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Hindrichs told federal District Judge Lynn Hughes that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will not demand that Memorial Day prayers at Houston National Cemetery on Monday be as non-denominational as possible. “(The agency) will let the prayer go on this Monday,” Hindrichs told Hughes. The change of heart came one day after the judge granted the Rev. Scott Rainey a temporary restraining order against the agency after officials told the pastor to edit his prayer to make it as general and non-denominational as possible. Rainey’s prayer, submitted for review at the agency’s request, included the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and thanked Jesus Christ, the Christian savior, in closing….Roy Walter, senior rabbi at Congregation Emanu El, said he agrees with Rainey’s free-speech position. “I do believe the government doesn’t have the right to tell him what he can and cannot do,” Walter said. But the rabbi said Rainey’s prayer doesn’t reflect that all veterans are not Christians. “I don’t think it’s sensitive to the fact that a great many people who are veterans, who gave their lives or lived through service, are not Christian.”

I’ll simply say this–The judge and the pastor here each had a decision to make about including everybody, or not including everybody, in a Memorial Day observance at a federal cemetery.

We all know that people of many religious beliefs, and atheists as well, have fought and died for our nation.

We all have to make a choice about what kind of nation we are going to have.

The judge and the pastor in this matter have presented one view of America.

I would submit that there is a more generous and hopeful choice that can be made that honors the value of every American who has fought for our freedom.

May 28, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Christianity By Diarmaid MacCulloch

Hamburger Wearing An Astros’ Hat–A member of the Texas Liberal Panel of Experts–and I have been both reading Christianity–The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch.

Here is a link to the New York Times review of this book.

We are both going to read up on the history of Christianity. When we are done, we’ll know for a fact all the things we’ve long suspected people who claim to be very religious get wrong when they talk about religion.

While I’m not sure where Hamburger is in the book, I read today about the ancient history of the Christian Church in Syria and about the third century origins on Christian monastic life.

Though Christianity is a long book, it is accessible. It is written for anybody willing to make some effort to learn about an important topic in world history.

So much of what you learn in this book reads as a lesson in world history as well as the history of Christianity.

Some folks have a nearly reflexive frustration about religion. They are tired of some American conservatives using religion to claim moral superiority over the non-religious, while at the same time often supporting social and fiscal policies that are deeply immoral.

My own view is that each person needs to be taken as an individual, and that we have to realize not just the importance of the Christian faith in the world and in America, but that also many millions of Christians share a deep concern for social and economic justice.

Learn what you can learn and use what you learn to express your views. The odds are good that if you make an effort to learn about a specific subject, you’ll end up knowing more than many people who run around claiming they know a lot about that subject.

April 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

John Adams, Barack Obama & American Liberty—The Tea Party Knows Nothing Of Liberty

Many on the right on are criticizing Barack Obama’s support of the mosque near the former World Trade Center location in New York City.

Some of this criticism has come from backers of the so-called Tea Party.

(Above–Paul Revere’s engraving of the Boston Massacre based on a drawing by Henry Pelham.)

Yet as these angry Tea Party folks attempt to claim they are the heirs to our Founding Fathers by calling themselves “Tea Party”, they forget one of the bravest acts of the Revolutionary era.

John Adams represented the British soldiers accused of the Boston Massacre. He did so in the defense of liberty and in the face of great public anger.

Here’s a great web page about the Boston Massacre trial.

(In saying this, please make note that the people building the N.Y.C. mosque are guilty of nothing. And in fact, despite the public outrage over the Massacre, only two of the nine originally charged  were convicted. Public opinion does not always get it right.)

Our modern Tea Party would not know the kind of honor and courage John Adams showed back in 1770.

The Tea Party is a movement that knows nothing but anger at a world not of their own design. They pick on immigrants and the poor. They are the type of bullies who would kick you when you’re down.

Our Constitution protects religious freedom.

The Tea Party asserts they know something about the Constitution.

But the truth is, like a political movement that flourished  briefly in the 19th century, the Tea Party folks are Know Nothings.

August 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New York City Mosque Near World Trade Center Should Proceed

Plans for a mosque to be built near the former World Trade Center are moving ahead.

People are calling this the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.”

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 9-0 to allow the mosque to go ahead.

Here is the home page of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Either we have freedom in this country or we do not.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg got it right.

Here is what Mayor said said about the mosque as reported in the first story I link to in this post—

“With the Statue of Liberty as his backdrop, the mayor pleaded with New Yorkers to reject suspicions about the planned 13-story complex, to be located two blocks north of the World Trade Center site, saying that “we would betray our values if we treated Muslims differently than anyone else.” “To cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists — and we should not stand for that,” the mayor said. Grappling with one of the more delicate aspects of the debate, Mr. Bloomberg said that the families of Sept. 11 victims — some of whom have vocally opposed the project — should welcome it. “The attack was an act of war — and our first responders defended not only our city but also our country and our Constitution,” he said, becoming slightly choked up at one point in his speech, which he delivered on Governors Island. “We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights — and the freedoms the terrorists attacked.”

The 9/11 attacks were not an attack on a building. They were an assault on our values. A building can fall down in a way beyond our control. Our values will collapse only if we allow them to collapse.

While it is understandable that this mosque makes some people angry, I stand with Mayor Bloomberg in favor of the great American values of full inclusion and freedom of religion.

August 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Role Of American Evangelical Christians In Spreading Anti-Gay Hate And Violence In Africa

A story that merits wide public attention is the role of American conservative evangelical groups in promoting brutal homophobia in Africa.

A symbol of this homophobia in Africa is an anti-gay bill in Uganda that if passed could have lead to death sentences for some gays. While the death penalty provisions of the legislation are no longer  part of the bill, a bill remains on the table in Uganda that would do great harm to gays in that country and do great harm to the cause of human rights everywhere.

On July 5, 2010 the severed head of a Ugandan gay rights activist named Pasikali Kashusbe was found on a farm in Uganda.

From the Times of London

Some argue that the African rows over homosexuality are really a proxy skirmish in an American cultural dispute, with both evangelicals and gay rights groups in the US pouring in money and support.In Uganda, attention has focused on a visit by three US evangelicals, Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge and Don Schmierer, just before the anti-homosexuality bill was introduced. They held seminars for MPs and officials where homosexuality was described as a disease that could be healed, although they have subsequently disclaimed any responsibility for the bill. Lively, the president of Defend the Family International, told Ugandans that legalising homosexuality would mean legalising “the molestation of children and having sex with animals”.

These folks say being gay is a disease that can be treated. A disease is something you go after and seek to eliminate.

Here are additional links to articles on this subject—

The Economist magazine writes about steps backward for the rights of gays in Africa, and suggests that some American “Christians” may  play a part in these attacks.

From The Economist—

“In many former colonies, denouncing homosexuality as an “unAfrican” Western import has become an easy way for politicians to boost both their popularity and their nationalist credentials. But Peter Tatchell, a veteran gay-rights campaigner, says the real import into Africa is not homosexuality but politicised homophobia…. This has, he argues, coincided with an influx of conservative Christians, mainly from America, who are eager to engage African clergy in their own domestic battle against homosexuality. David Bahati, the Ugandan MP who proposed its horrid bill, is a member of the Fellowship, a conservative American religious and political organisation. “Africa must seem an exciting place for evangelical Christians from places like America,” says Marc Epprecht, a Canadian academic who studies homosexuality in Africa. “They can make much bigger gains in their culture wars there than they can in their own countries.”

The New York Times writes about American evangelical involvement in the terrible Uganda anti-gay bill.

Here is a Nightline report about the Uganda bill. The report runs just under 8 minutes.

Political Research Associates has published an article by Kapya Kaoma of Zambia that discusses research Mr. Kaoma has done about the link between the American Christian right and anti-gay actions in Africa.

From Mr. Kaoma’s work–

“If they had faced strong opposition, U.S. conservatives might not have been so successful in promoting their homophobic politics. Traditionally, evangelical African churches have been biblically and doctrinally orthodox but socially progressive on such issues as national liberation and poverty, making them natural partners of the politically liberal western churches. But their religious orthodoxy also provides the U.S. Right with an opportunity. Africans resonate with the denunciation of homosexuality as a postcolonial plot; their homophobia is as much an expression of resistance to the West as it is a statement about human sexuality. Similarly campaigns for “family values” in Africa rest on rich indigenous notions of the importance of family and procreation. In Africa, “family” expresses the idea that to be human is to be embedded in community, a concept called ubuntu. African traditional values also value procreation, making those hindering this virtue an enemy of life.”

Here is the link to Mr. Kaoma’s full 42 page report called Globalizing the Culture Wars–U.S. Conservatives, African Churches and Homophobia.

Given the brutality of the social and economic positions of the American evangelical right, any vicious viewpoint or act is possible from this element. These groups should be monitored by international human rights groups and by the U.S. government. We know from hard experience in the U.S that religiously motivated hate can spread across international borders.

July 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up Has Risen For Another Week

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

It is Easter Sunday and the Texas Progressive Alliance blog round-up has risen for another week. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas.

Above you see an easter Sunday photograph of a church in Granger, Texas that was taken in 1943. The photo comes from the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress.

Here is the link to the City of Granger. This community, an hour from Austin, had 1,299 people in the 2000 Census. I hope the people of Granger are filling out the 2010 census and not resisting for some crazy anti-government reasons.

A comprehensive yet manageable history of religion in Texas can be found in the excellent Handbook of Texas Online.

From that history—

“Until almost the end of Mexican Texas, Anglo-Americans seeking permission to settle in Texas had to accept the Catholic faith. Moses and Stephen F. Austin, neither of whom seems to have taken organized religion too seriously, readily complied. Although baptized at birth by a Congregational minister in Durham, Connecticut, the elder Austin assured Spanish authorities in December 1820 in San Antonio that he was “a Catholic.” The son, actually a Jeffersonian Deist who was never formally affiliated with any religious body, likewise satisfied Mexican officials of his Catholicism. Sam Houston was baptized by a priest in 1833. Lured primarily by economic opportunity, early American settlers obviously could wear whatever religious garb was required.”

Here is this week’s round-up—

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme sees vast differences between Rick Perry, his bud David Dewhurst and Bill White. Democrats are for a robust public education while Republicans are doing their darnedest to kill it.

This week at Texas Vox, the commissioners at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) undermine the findings of their own staff in order to follow TCEQ’s mission statement that prioritizes economic development over protecting the environmental health of Texas. Are we surprised?

Are you playing the Barnett Shale economic shell game? Learn the rules at Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS

The Texas Cloverleaf has commentary on Congressional GOP members behaving like adults; if grown-ups were 4 years old, that is. Continue reading

April 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Why Did God Not Just Reason With Pharaoh?

It is Passover for 2010.

Could someone please explain to me why God did just did not reason with Pharaoh instead of intentionally making him harden his heart to the point where the first born of Egypt had to be killed?

Reasoning with Pharaoh would have set a global precedent for the peaceful resolution of conflict.

I’m not being flippant. I’d just like somebody to explain why another solution was not possible.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

Yom Kippur 2009—It’s On!

Yom Kippur for 2009 has begun.

It began at sundown on Sunday, September 27 and ends at nightfall on Monday, September 28.

(Above—Sinagoga Beth El in Sao Paulo, Brazil.)

What is Yom Kippur?

It is when Jewish folks atone to God for misdeeds they may have committed. Many Jews fast on Yom Kippur and attend services.

Here is how Yom Kippur is described at Chabad.org.

Chabad.org has many facts about observing Yom Kippur.

Here are more facts on Yom Kippur from Judaism 101.   There is a lot of information here about Judaism written from a more conservative Orthodox position. The owner of this site is up-front about this fact. The owner of the site, Tracey Rich, seems to have put work and thought into the project.

(Here is a link to a Texas Liberal post with facts about Jews in Texas.)

My wife is Jewish. She is fasting and will attend services.

What must she atone for?

It is none of my business. 

We are all allowed a private awareness or viewpoint on our shortcomings. We are all allowed to communicate this awareness with our Maker or in any other private fashion consistent with our beliefs and good conscious.

September 28, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Stone The Builders Rejected

Reading my Passover Haggadah at our household Seder last night , I came across my favorite words in the Bible. They are from Psalm 118 and are as follows—  

The stone which the builders rejected (has) become the chief corner-stone.

Below is the Hebrew–

אֶבֶן, מָאֲסוּ הַבּוֹנִים–    הָיְתָה, לְרֹאשׁ פִּנָּה.

Here is the entire Psalm in English and in Hebrew. 

Above is the cornerstone of  Gemiluth Chessed Synagogue in Port Gibson, Mississippi. This synagogue, now closed, has an interesting history and is well worth clicking to link to read about.

Here is information about Port Gibson, Mississippi.

Please click here to read about the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience.

The Stone that the builders rejected is become the chief corner-stone is a bible verse an aging punk rocker can love. (Please click here to read my greatest punk rock moments.) 

In the beginning you are at odds with the world. But with time and effort, people will come around to see what you have been seeing.  

If you stay the course and work at it, you can be the stone that was rejected, but that is now a cornerstone in the lives of others.

April 10, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reading Bird Sermon Of St. Francis To A Dancing Duck/Chicken

This is a video of me reading St. Francis of Assisi’s Sermon To The Birds in Houston’s Memorial Park. I’m reading it to a dancing duck/chicken. The video is just under two minutes.

Here is a profile of St. Francis from American Catholic. org.

Here is a link to the Memorial Park Conservancy.

Here is a link to a great deal of information about North American birds from Cornell University.  If you poke around you can learn a lot.

Below is a 1658 painting of St. Francis by Francisco de Zurbaran.

Here is my most recent video before this one—Reading Malcolm X In An Old Black Cemetery.

March 18, 2009 Posted by | Art, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Puritans, King, And This Blogger Agree—Evil Is An Active Force In Life

In his Albion’s Seed–Four British Folkways In America, author David Hackett Fischer writes about five major Puritan doctrines and ideas that were brought to Massachusetts from England in the 17th century.

(Here is information about Puritanism in New England.)

These five were depravity, covenant, election, grace and love.

Here is what Mr. Hackett writes about the idea of “depravity”—

“…depravity…to Calvinists meant the total corruption of “natural man” as a consequence of Adam’s original sin. The Puritans believed that evil was a palpable presence in the world, and that the universe was a a scene of cosmic struggle between darkness and light. They lived in an age of atrocities without equal until the twentieth century. But no evil ever surprised them or threatened to undermine their faith…. They believed as an article of  faith that there was no horror which mortal man was incapable of committing. The dark thread of this doctrine ran through the fabric of New England’s culture for many generations. “

While I’m not religious, I do suscribe to some of these ideas about so-called depravity. Life is often a battle between good and evil. And there is nothing so horrible that it can’t happen.

Maybe I find agreement because on one side of the family I’m descended from Puritans off the boat in 17th- century Massachusetts. Or maybe it is because I’m an ideologue and can relate to fanatics. Or it could just be that I have lived in our world and these are the conclusions I’ve reached.

Evil is not just about brutal acts in foreign nations. Evil is a relevant term for our leaders lying to get us to declare war on nations that pose no threat to our security. Evil is a relevant term for the willful mismanagement of our economy for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many.      

Martin Luther King saw evil as an active force in the universe. Here is what he said in his great sermon “Unfulfilled Dreams”  

“….. you must face the fact that there is a tension at the heart of the universe between good and evil. It’s there: a tension at the heart of the universe between good and evil. Hinduism refers to this as a struggle between illusion and reality. Platonic philosophy used to refer to it as a tension between body and soul. Zoroastrianism, a religion of old, used to refer to it as a tension between the god of light and the god of darkness. Traditional Judaism and Christianity refer to it as a tension between God and Satan. Whatever you call it, there is a struggle in the universe between good and evil.”

Like Martin Luther King, I’m hopeful that evil can be challenged and, at times, overcome. It is good that while evil is a fact of our existence, so is the ability to fight back with faith, reason, kindness and hard work.

(Please click here for the best Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List on the web. I’ll be updating it with two new titles early in 2009.)

December 24, 2008 Posted by | Books, Colonial America, History | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Turns Back On Elizabeth Dole

 
Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, who in a few weeks will be known as former Senator Elizabeth Dole, has lost to State Senator Kay Hagen. Senator Dole had run an ad saying that Ms. Hagen was an atheist.  (Above is a painting of the Hindu goddess Radha. Hindus in North Carolina will have a new senator. Here is a link to the Hindu Center of North Carolina. North Carolina is a diverse place and all people in that state merit representation.)   

There was no divine intervention for Senator Dole tonight. She has lost her race and is out of the Senate.

November 5, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Election Night Blogging, Politics | , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

I’m Sorry My Late Friend, A Black Man & A Democrat, Is Not Here To See Barack Obama

I’m sorry that my late friend, Johnny Castille, a black man and a Democrat, is not here to see Barack Obama on the cusp of winning the Presidency.  

Johnny died late last year or early this year. I can’t recall the exact date. He was in his early 60’s at the time of his death.

Johnny was a sacker at my local supermarket here in Houston. He had served in Vietnam and worked at General Motors in Indiana for many years. He was retired from GM and was working at the supermarket until his retirement benefits kicked in. I don’t know if he would have ever seen those benefits given the state of GM.

Johnny was one of the first friends I made after I moved to Houston 10 years ago. He was a loyal Democrat and a good person. He had a sense of humor. While he was at first a supporter of Hillary Clinton, I’m certain he would have moved to Senator Obama as the campaign progressed.

There is a woman customer I talk to at the supermarket who was also friends with Johnny. I mentioned to her last week that I regretted Johnny was not here to see what was taking place. She said she had had the same thought, but she knew Johnny could see what was taking place.

She told me she has prayed long and hard for Senator Obama to be safe in this campaign, and that in her view he was anointed in some way.

I felt some understanding for what she was saying despite not having the same religious faith or skin color as she.

There are three weeks to go in the campaign. In honesty I wish I had a faith that would allow me the relief of prayer. I am tense over the outcome. Senator Obama offers hope that this country is not the country we have lived in for the past eight years.

Maybe we can move past some of the history that holds us back in so many ways. We’ll elect this black person and folks will see that the world does not end.

I never thought I’d see a black person as President of the United States. In three weeks we’ll see how it turns out. Win or lose on Election Day, I’m sorry Johnny is not here today. But I’m made hopeful by what I am seeing. Maybe it is possible that morning will come.

October 15, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, History, Houston, Politics | , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Yom Kippur Service At Houston Hillel

This morning I attended the Yom Kippur service at Houston Hillel. Houston Hillel serves Jewish college students throughout the Houston area. The Rabbi is Kenny Weiss.

I am not Jewish. My wife is Jewish.

Yom Kippur is the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement.  It is seen as the most important day on the Jewish calender. Jewish folks, such as the wife, fast on Yom Kippur. I had clam chowder for lunch.

When I arrived at the service I was handed a book. As regular visitors to this blog know, I love to read. The book was called a machzor. This is a special prayer book for high Jewish holidays.

At one point were were told to stand and to read silently a 26 page section of the book. That’s my kind of service.

There was plenty of singing at the service. A young woman cantor sang prayers from the machzor in Hebrew. I was not always able to follow where in the book she was singing from, but I did feel I was getting the drift.   

The room the service was conducted in had a big window and was full of light.  

There were both many college students and elderly folks at the service. This mix was good as it spoke to the future and to the importance of the past. It spoke of the ability of the Jewish faith to draw new people and remain relevant for entire lifetimes.

The text of the machzor asked me to confess of the misdeeds I have committed in the past year and to learn from these errors for the year ahead. I am a misdeed a day type of person so I found the words to be relevant.

Nobody asked me if I were Jewish or not. Nobody seemed annoyed by the small baby in the room who made a little noise at times. The Rabbi was both welcoming and clear that the service had meaning.

Good luck to my wife and to all Jewish folks in the year ahead. Good luck to all.

Here is some history of the Jewish religion.

October 10, 2008 Posted by | Books, Houston | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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