In the silence of the slams

Once I turned off the tweets…I learned that if I were to walk due south for about thirteen-hundred miles, beyond the very end of the United States, I’d end up in country they call Mexico. Because I turned off the tweets, I learned come July 1, they’re gonna have a national election. Lord, have mercy.

Leading in the polls with 31 percent is Lopez Obrador. He is the token progressive. In second, with 20 percent is Jose Antonio Meade. He represents the status quo … the swamp. Close behind is Ricardo Anaya with 19 percent. He is the moderate with the “inexplicable” level of wealth. Then there is Maria de Jesus Patricio Martinez … she is the representative indigenous spokeswomen of the National Indigenous Congress … a Bernie Sanders sort.

Once I turned off the tweets, I learned that if I were to walk due north for about 600 miles I’d end up in an exotic place called Canada. I learned that the “holy and uncorrupted arm” of Saint Francis Xavier is making its way across Canada on a tour from St. John’s to Victoria. It travels in a custom made duffle bag and gets its own seat on Air Canada.

What is the holy and uncorrupted arm of Saint Francis Xavier? It’s an arm … a 500-year-old arm … from just below the elbow down.

Saint Francis Xavier lived from 1506-52. He was sort of in charge of the Spanish Inquisition in South Asia. When he died he was buried on this island but his corpse was in high demand. Over the years his body was moved several times from place to place then someone decided it best just to cut off his right arm because it was easier to ship than the whole body. Five hundred years later …it’s on a tour of Canada.

Once I turned off the tweets I learned that in a place called Ngaba in northeastern Tibet, a 30-year-old former monk set himself on fire to protest repressive policies of the Chinese government. His name was Konpe.

Knope was the sixth person to self-immolate as a protest in 2017. He was the 151st person to do this in Tibet since 2009.

I also learned that 2,200 miles southwest of me there is this little island in the Caribbean called Puerto Rico. Three months ago, the island was hit by a hurricane. Today, only one eighth of the population has electricity and less than half has clean water. And that over 281,620 acres have burned, 95,000 people have been evacuated and over 10 billion dollars in damage has accrued in a place called California. Christopher Kareck of Sparks, Nevada was standing on some rocks on the coast of Oregon and was swept out to sea by what is called a “sneaker wave.” Kareck hasn’t been found. That in Libby, Montana, Octavia Skaggs was born to Lexi Combs and Levi Skaggs. She weighed in at six pounds-seven ounces and was 18.75 inches long. That Amanda Louise Parker passed away in Jacksonville, Fla. She enjoyed sewing and cooking and was married for 69 years to her childhood sweetheart.

Once I turned off the tweets I learned that an old leprosy hospital in Norway is now a museum dedicated to the thousands who have suffered from the disease. Back in the eighties there were some 5 million cases of leprosy worldwide. Today, that number is down less than 200,000. It was Gerhard Armauer Hansen, a Norwegian, who discovered the bacteria that caused leprosy in 1873. There are about 200 cases reported every year here in the United States. It’s curable.

When I turned off the tweets I learned that on Jan. 3, 2018, at 11:04 a.m., the U.S. House of Representatives convened to start a new legislative day. At 11:10 a.m. a prayer was offered by the House Chaplain, Rev. Patrick J. Conroy. Then they recited the Pledge of Allegiance. At 11:55 a.m. … the Speaker (pro-tem. Don’t know where Ryan went) adjourned the House Sine Die …meaning … they were done for the day.

Now here’s the funny thing. Five minutes later, at 12 p.m., the House of Representatives convened to start another, new legislative day … on the same day. A prayer was offered by the House Chaplain, Rev. Patrick J. Conroy. Then the Pledge of Allegiance was recited. Two minutes later, the Chair announced that pursuant to section 4(a) of H. Res. 670, no organizational or legislative business would be conducted on this day. They adjourned …done for the day … again.

The next meeting was scheduled for 12 p.m. on Jan. 5, 2018. I wonder how much they will get done. I got this schedule from the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of representatives. What other body on the face of this Earth could find a way to waste two days in one? I was a little embarrassed to read it. But one learns such things when one turns off the tweets.

Since I have turned off the tweets I have learned sometime this year, an 18,740 pound Chinese space station will fall from orbit and crash into the Earth but nobody knows exactly where or when.

Since I have turned off the tweets, I have discovered there is a whole planet of stuff going on there; all sorts of things to read about, to think about, the things that aren’t tweeted. This is all I have learned today.


James Wares lives in Marshalltown and can be reached at