My grandmother and grandfather had one of these. When you wanted to call them you were connected to an individual who would ring you through to their line. I visited that person. She was a friend of my aunts, and she sat in a little cement hut, which is the best way I can describe it, and in front of her was a box with all kinds of cords hanging out of it. The best way I can describe them is they were like the RCA cords we use to plug a guitar into an amplifier. So a call would come on her line asking to be connected to grandma and she would grab the line for grandma and connect. grandma. I believe she (grandma) would get a ring that was 2 shorts and a long. The reason for that was because there were other people on that line as well. They called it a “party line”. So my aunt Lilly might be on that same line and her call was a long and a short. Someone else was on the line and their ring might be a short and a long and a short. It didn’t take long to memorize the ring sequences because when someone called aunt Lilliy, my grandma’s phone would ring. What was interesting was that if you were very careful and picked up the receiver very quietly you could listen in on Lilly’s conversation. I remember staying with my grandmother when my mother called to see how I was doing. I took the receiver as the conversation ended, and tapped it against the phone which made it sound like I was hanging up. It was fascinating to hear how many people hung up after they thought I was done. My aunts friend sitting in the cement hovel on Main Street of Gardena ND could listen to the conversation too.
So, let’s say my aunts friend, aside from being the telephone operator is also the mayor of Gardena’s daughter. Let’s say my grandma is angry because she can’t get the city to make sure the road to the elevator is clear during the winter, or some other civil issue is making her unhappy, and she takes her wrath out on the mayor over the telephone. What would happen if every time my grandmother said something disparaging about the mayor, his daughter disconnected her telephone line. What would happen if the operator, who knew who all the people calling her were, simply decided not to put the connections through and my grandma would never get the call? We buy and participate in services like the telephone with the expectation that we will be able to communicate and receive information from people, otherwise there’s no reason to have the telephone. In those days we expected a little loss of privacy because of the technology. Today there is reason to believe we would lose privacy because of the technology which is incredibly more advanced than it was in grandma’s day.
I’m watching the heads of Twitter, Facebook, and some other platform talking today. The head of Twitter looks like he wants to win the Howard Hughes look-alike contest. I would like to see his hands because I wonder if his finger nails are curled up like Fu Manchu. The head of Facebook looks like a basement boy who never gets into the sun, and he has a permanent look of surprise on his face. I shouldn’t be making personal statements like that but these folks are billionaires and should be able to afford some kind of a makeover.
Anyway they have become like the gal in the cement blockhouse in Gardena if she had the intention of surpressing information. The amount of censorship going on around us is incredible. One of the mysteries is the disappearance of a very popular program called “Live PD”. It was a number 1 show and simply disappeared after the death of Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis. If there was an explanation I have not seen it. People I know get blocked on Facebook a lot, and our own Ken Koehler who has graced these pages before has been censured and banned for publication by the editorial boards of North Dakota newspapers.
The Ayatollahs in Iran have anti- semetic twitter accounts that are never blocked. The head of the Border Patrol in this country is frequently blocked but so what?
So we live in the worst of all possible worlds. Folks are listening in to all our conversations and at they same keep us from listening to conversations that might give us information we need. We can’t even stay on the line and hear all eavesdroppers click off. We are stuck in an information world where the information is controlled by a few.
The Reformation that we celebrate this week succeeded because the more Luther was censored the more people demanded to hear from him and read what he wrote. When his books were banned folks printed them anyway. When he was threatened and told to shut up he shouted all the louder.
Jesus said to those who believed in him that if they continued they would know the truth and the truth would set them free. In a world where truth is getting harder to come by the Reformation belief that God’s word is truth needs faithful witness. It may be blocked on Facebook and twitter but shout it out anyway.