ERROL CASTENS: Banners, schmanners



Roger and I were picking mustard for the prayer meeting supper at High Ridge Church. It felt good to be outside and see sunshine bounce off the swath of Florida Broadleaf, and it was enticing to imagine the resulting harvest on a plate with a square of Roberta’s blue-meal cornbread.

Laboring alongside Roger can make me feel both stooped and stupid – more precisely, ignorant. His fluency on a continual supply of subjects is so dizzying, it’s hard to keep up with either his work or his words.

Crouching between two rows, he pinched big leaves on both sides while dissecting the Crimean Wars (1.0 and 2.0); the military/commercial value of ports and sea gates; Christianity’s spread over First Century trade routes; unapologetic apologetics; Calvinism, Arminianism and Pelagianism; the TULIP acrostic; Dutch tulips and economic bubbles; failure of Hamiltonian economics; and what to see in Hamilton, Bermuda.

Returning up the next rows, Roger began an etude on our own culture wars – abortion, the size and role of government, deficits and taxes, the defining of family. After moving deftly from one subject to the next, he straightened his back and noted the flood of candidates that will seek our votes over the next two years – for Congress, for state and local offices and for president.

“I hear a lot about who’s carried banners for this cause or the other,” he said. “I hear about who’s got a good voting record on this issue or that.”

Roger set down the lug of mustard leaves he was carrying.

“I’m tired of candidates whose boldness stops at checking the right boxes on surveys or making the ‘correct’ vote on issues that are safe and symbolic among their constituencies,” he said.

“I’ll invest time and treasure and vote for anyone who’ll campaign harder for principle than for re-election, who sees elected office as a way to set things right instead of a way to be liked by the ‘right people’ or a path to riches and fame,” Roger said.

“I want candidates who seek office to kick butt and take names, to expose the wrong and advance the right,” he added. “I want people who know attacking dragons is dangerous but appeasing them is ruin – and who seek out other dragon slayers.”

I was wordless. My cerebral neighbor was more passionate than I’d ever seen him.

“When you say you love this state or this nation, don’t tell me what banners you’ve carried,” Roger said. “Any fool can carry a banner.

“Tell me what dragons you’ve slayed,” he demanded. “And if you haven’t yet slayed any dragons, at least show me your battle scars – and theirs.”

Errol Castens is a Daily Journal reporter. Contact him at (662) 816-1282 or

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  • Chip Ingram

    Well said. I can’t wait until the squash and tomatoes come in!