Monthly Archives: May 2011

Memorial Day, 2011

Though I have not had the experience of losing someone close to a war, I felt the need to write something about the sacrifices of the men and women who died serving our country, to acknowledge and indeed honor what they and their families gave.  I’m a little ashamed of having gone a good portion of my life not really taking stock of what this particular day means, beyond the fact that a long weekend comes with.  For years I’ve struggled finding balance with respect to honoring our dead soldiers and being mindful that romanticizing battlefield deaths does a disservice to them.  Instead, I’m going to link to Josh Marshall at TPM, I really enjoyed his take, and in particular these snippets:

“Memorial Day is a very different thing because it honors not the death that awaits all of us but the military dead, people who gave their own lives for a couple hundred million people they never knew. But for me solidarity with the dead is a window into it.”

 

“Some deaths may be more picaresque* or glorious in the retelling or maybe saving of more lives. But each must fundamentally be equal. Because what do we say to the 19 year old in Vietnam who stepped on a land mine to no particular consequence in 1967 when he says to us “I lost my whole life in our common national enterprise. Who will speak for me?”

It is a thoughtful, short and enjoyable read.  Take a minute.

 

 

 

*Your lying if you claim you didn’t have to Google this.

 

 

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Debating Death, And A Dig At Democrats

What more could you ask for?

This post isn’t about Democrats, really, except to say that there is talent out there, on the inner-tubes, and good ideas can be gleaned with a little effort.  I say this because of both Southern Beale and Tiny Cat Pants called out our State party over it’s incestuous, patriarchal, elitist, and dare I say…white bred nature, and they were right to do so.  I don’t have much to add, but I did read something in the comments section over at TPM that I thought was clever and useful for campaigning Democrats.  The thread was about Pawlenty’s suicidal line in the sand over the Ryan medicare plan, and someone referred to it as “coupon care.”  This is what the other side does so well.  They pay mad money to hucksters who are adept at reducing complicated legislative proposals into bumper-sticker sized slogans, which usually appeal to the lowest common denominator.  I don’t like to play that game, but at the moment, its the one being played, and we continue to come in last at it.  They will not stop doing it until we beat them at it repeatedly.  Six Vanderbilt grads with little non-academic life experience, sitting in a comfy room, isn’t likely to brainstorm their way to election day landslides.  Also, if I may, if you continually lose in a specific county, maybe its time to spend a little time there to see if the State-wide, cookie cutter hack-a-thon (thanks Josh!) campaign template is a good fit for the people who actually live and vote there.  Thats all I got.

Alright, speaking of the comments section over at TPM, I read something there today that spoke to me:

“Having watched both of my parents outlive their health and their cognitive faculties by several heartbreaking years, the notion that I should bend heaven and earth to live as long as humanly possible now makes much less sense to me. As a result, I no longer worry so much about that marbled steak or the glass of scotch, or what my cholesterol levels are. If I pop off shoveling the sidewalk at 78, so be it. It beats the hell out of ending up as pathetic and miserable as my Dad did.”

I’m right there with him/her.  This won’t make me popular with many people, but we really have an inflated sense of entitlement with respect to how long we should continue to take up space on this planet.  What system can we come up with that will keep people not just alive, but relatively pain-free well into their 90′s, but doesn’t drain their financial resources?  Something has to give.   I don’t blame people for wanting to live every minute they can, I have children and grandchildren and good friends and I want to be around them for as long as possible.  Here is my beef…if my fondness for tequila causes my liver to give up when I’m say, 75, is it fair to expect that the State or Federal govt pay for a transplant?  If I decide not to burden working people with that expense, and I have a few bucks I’d like to pass on to my kids to give them a leg up, shouldn’t I have a right to go into a room, with a doctor, and ease out on my own terms?  I mean, of course I’d be responsible for the co-pay….

I have real trouble protecting the Medicare status quo.  It simply isn’t sustainable in it’s current form.  I have an 80 yr old relative that saw a doctor for knee pain, and within an hour could have scheduled two knee replacements and a hip replacement.   He’s 80.  I don’t begrudge him the surgery, he worked his whole life and payed his taxes and I love him beyond measure, but there is no way that doctor would have suggested to proceed if the patient in front of him wasn’t on Medicare. Was it possible that a single knee might have taken the strain off of his hip and other knee?  Could drugs and therapy alleviate his symptoms long enough for him to go on about his business?  I can’t blame the doctor, he may still be paying back a quarter million in school costs and surgeons pay a ridiculous amount of money for malpractice insurance.  Were I in his shoes, I’d conduct every test imaginable, as long as Medicare was paying.

Bah, this is so tough to write about.  There are hard questions that never get debated, and thats not likely to change for quite some time.  I guess all we can do is act according to our own ethical boundaries, whatever those may be.

I’m sitting here laughing at myself because my first paragraph was rant about how we don’t best utilize catch phrases and dog-whistles to beat our political opponents, yet everything that followed lamented the sad state of affairs surrounding the Medicare debate, or lack of it.

I’m a riddle.

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Please Tell Me This Is About Semi-Aquatic Marine Mammals

It seems Disney has filed for trademark rights to the term “Seal Team 6″.   I’m pretty sure this isn’t about the wacky adventures of a half dozen friendly pennipeds.  No, they are of course looking to make a movie about the operation that got America’s number one enemy, and that I suppose is somewhat harmless.  But the rights extend into children’s books, toys, Christmas decorations and…wait for it….snow globes.

I’m pretty jaded, but this really floored me.

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Arrogance In Christ

Well, it’s May 21, 2011.  Before I get on the phone or turn to the television to see which of the people I know have been teleported away, I thought I’d try and recap some of the conversations I’ve been a part of this week.  I’ve been invited to hear a pastor in Nashville that a good friend thinks highly of, and I’m excited to spend a Sunday with him, first at church, then for a round of golf.  Another old friend from California wanted to turn me on to “Love Wins” and I informed him it’s already in my book queue.    I’m pretty stoked about Rob Bell and Mars Hill, not so much by the premise of his book as by the fact that he seems willing to challenge long-standing religious dogma, but from inside the Church.  If he indeed intends to “crank the knob to the right” I will most definitely pay attention.

Last week or so I wrote a little about a trip I took to see a local pastor, only to be largely disappointed overall.  From the comments section I guess I should have expected the rather canned, bland,  hollow sermon to which I was subjected.   I can’t completely fault the pastor in question, he is, after all, the de facto CEO of a large entity with a 6 million dollar budget.  Staying on safe ground is no doubt what the people buying the tickets expect, and well, they pay the bills.  No, it has really been a disheartening 2 weeks or so, largely due to private conversations I’ve had with Christian friends and acquaintences.

If you enter into a discussion of faith with me, be prepared to hear the following things at some point during our conversation:

I do not worship.  Anyone or anything.  My relationship with God is one of mentor/student, and there is friendship and trust, neither of us requires an elevated status over the other.  Indeed any attempt at it by me would seem (because it would be) insincere.   I do not fear God.  Where there is love, fear cannot exist.  I firmly believe that God wants me to evolve to the point where I am his equal, and my God-like status will certainly not need worship as an affirmation of my greatness.

I don’t have much use for the Old Testament, other than it is a nifty recounting of genealogy and probably reflects the best thinking of that time.  If you employ certain passages to support a position, I’m liable to point you toward a passage that is  in direct contrast, or dismiss your point altogether.  I’m really more of a WWJD type, and his teachings are pretty much timeless. I can’t even imagine a patriarchal, misogynistic or vengeful Christ, can you?  Then let’s move on.

I don’t pray in public.  Every time I’m somewhere and the people in charge insist on this display of piety, I merely sit there and wait, and not that patiently.  Even in church.  (I can understand the desire to do so in church, but at a city council meeting or a ballgame, really?)  I’m uncomfortable doing it, and so I don’t.  I also do not recite the pledge of allegiance, for much the same reason.

I admire people who sacrifice in their lives as part of their faith, even if its simply a day long fast.  (If you gave away all of your earthly possessions, more power to ya)  There is no need to tell me about said sacrifice.  I’ll see evidence of faith in your daily actions, though that clearly isn’t the point, right?

I accept any teaching that feels true to me.  There are parts of Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Catholicism, and even Paganism that I find useful to me as I grow.  Please don’t belittle other beliefs in my presence.  It is evidence that you have refused to embrace some very fundamental aspects of teachings of Christ…acceptance, tolerance, love.  You may well believe that your path is the ONE TRUE WAY, but I will label you a fraud if you believe it is your duty to be some kind of warrior for Christ.  If there is one term I instantly recoil from, it is this:  Spiritual Warfare.  I’m sorry, but there are not demons out there determined to undermine the Lord.

If you insist on on basing your political leanings on your understanding of Christ’s teachings, you may not do so selectively.  If your opposition to abortion is absolute, I respect that, right up until I spot your indifference to the pain and suffering of those who happen to live where we as a country need “to do bidness.”   Indiscriminate bombing is a form of retroactive abortion as far as I’m concerned.  Be as righteous in your aversion to war as you are to Planned Parenthood, and we can continue to talk.  If you cannot see that there is ample evidence in the teachings of Christ that love transcends mere man-made borders, and that we should not set about making anyone “less than” so that we may treat them as such, then there may not be much need to continue interacting, is there?

There is more, of course, but let’s keep it simple.  Don’t be arrogant in Christ.  I celebrate your beliefs, please be so kind as to return the courtesy.

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Just…..No.

The video below is apparently a trailer for a series of videos a front-runner of the GOP produced to be sold to gullible parents everywhere.  I’m just stunned.  Is there no end to these Conservative grifters?

Gimme yo money!  Indeed.

Big ol tip of the hat to:  TPM

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Lies The Church Believes

Pretty provocative proclamation.  (yeah, I know it isn’t truly a proclamation, but alliteratively more attractive than…”title”)

I hired a man this week to bring his skid steer and backhoe and help me repair some culverts and redirect two different creeks that last May’s rains redirected overnight.  His was the second bid I entertained, and I liked the fact that he was deliberate when assessing the job and he was more than fair about the compensation he expected.  He arrived on time, with all the right tools, and gave me two days honest work.  I made the right choice.  We managed to get a great deal of work done together, and talked frequently and honestly.  Before long, I knew he was a committed Christian, and we were able to discuss faith in a thoughtful and polite manner.  He attends what I suppose is best described as a mega-church and has recently been asked to teach there from time to time.  He really likes the church’s pastor, and so he drives what I’d estimate is 30 miles for services and fellowship.  He told me that the pastor was giving a five-part sermon, “Lies The Church Believes”, and that this week lie #3 was being addressed:

God Is A Republican.

I had to go hear this.  I missed parts 1 and 2 ( “Good People Don’t Go To Hell” and “God Hates Gay People”, respectively) So last night I finished my chores, took a shower and put on the closest things I have to church clothes, and headed out.  The church itself is large, and it is apparently referred to as a campus, and has additional campuses (capusi?) in neighboring communities.  Enormous parking area, but the church has grown such that it had to build auxiliary parking where shuttle buses await.  It is a beautiful place, well-landscaped and set in an unobtrusive way along a major thoroughfare.  I parked close to what I thought was the main entrance, but turned out to be well off to the side.  The main entrance is a cavernous, mall-like area that features a coffee kiosk with all manner of flavored drinks and muffins and snackety goodness.  To the left is a campus bookstore, or ” resource center” I think they called it, and an armed, uniformed policeman.  The place was staffed by fresh-faced, helpful kids who appeared to be having a great time at their various stations.  I bought a coffee for a buck and found myself a seat inside the auditorium.

There were no shortage of big screen video monitors.  No such thing as a lousy seat in this place.  The seats were all ergonomically correct recliners, covered in diamond tuck n roll calf leather.  The enormous stage was by flanked by a wall of 4th generation Dolby®-enhanced Quadio Quadra Quirk 3000 speakers.   (I’m pretty sure I’m making part of this up) In short, the place had the necessary infrastructure to put on a SHOW.  The monitors all have a digital clock counting down time toward the start of the service.  At 5:00 p.m. sharp, the curtain went up.

The service began with an elaborately choreographed musical tribute to Mother’s Day.  It could have been pretty cheesy, but it was actually very well done.  It was a medley of famous pop tunes with a few lyrics changed to fit the occasion, (“loved, conceived, delivered, I’m yours!”)   and the music and singing were both excellent.  Just the right energy for the room.

The service started with a humorous though thankfully short video featuring Lucifer hisself opining on the state of American politics, in which, by the way, he poked fun at both the Democrats and Republicans, but pretty much marginalized the Libertarians as “too Liberal, even for me.”  I, unfortunately, had just taken a pull on my delicious coffee drink which I ended up spraying across several rows in front of me.  “Sorry, Sir,  I hope that comes out.”

Then the pastor began what can only be  described  as message safari on his way to explaining why God is not Republican.  Truthfully, he never arrived there.  He sort of meandered about, briefly exploring various chapters of the Bible and how they might pertain or relate to what it means to be a citizen and a Christian in these, The United States of America.  There was the expected “render unto Caesar” example of Christ’s admonishing of those seeking the Father’s approval for avoiding tax, which I thought could have been fleshed out a bit more, frankly.  I felt that he glossed over Romans 13-1, which says “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities” and “there is no authority except that which God has created.”  (Now, maybe it’s my preference for Eastern philosophies at work here, but I see at least a couple of different meanings to that passage.)  From there he segued into what it means to be citizens of two kingdoms, “civis romanus sum” as uttered by Paul,(the alternative being anarchy, and who wants that?)  and of course, to the hidden kingdom which has no drawn boundaries save for that found in the hearts of men.  He said Christians should “be” these three things:

1.  The moral conscience of America

2. An example of outstanding conduct

3.  Communicators of the Gospel.

From there, I thought the sermon sort of strayed and strained  to set up a admonishment over both our collective debt as a Nation, and our personal debt as American consumers.  He is troubled by too many Christians practicing idolatry, not like those who might light incense and chant over a statue, but by “misplaced love, affection, or trust in substitutes for God.”  He implied that too many Christians worship false Gods, and named three of them.  The God of Materialism, which results in high personal debt, (he deftly tied to this the Church’s budget, lamenting a 30% decrease in the amount of love offerings received by the church, though he startled me when he suggested that the fall off wasn’t attributable to an reduction of wages, as this didn’t afflict most Americans?  Next came the God of Sensual Pleasure, in which he cited various “Promise Keeper” surveys that showed a significant percentage of them having watched pornography that same week, and proclaimed the best way to avoid trouble was to be a tee-totaler, the better to be filled by the Spirit, instead of filled with spirits. The third example caught me a bit off-guard….The God of Comfort and Complacency.  Apparently, many Christians are quite fond of comforts like say, air-conditioning, and almost feel entitled to them as we are all “living the American dream.”  To those people he said, rather emphatically, “God will mess with your American Dream alright.”  I couldn’t have agreed more.

Then followed another not so gentle reminder that the Church is way behind it’s fundraising goals, and went so far as to place a $200.00 per family suggested offering in addition to your normal weekly gift.  (I’ll admit to being pretty thin-skinned about this aspect of the modern Church, and in fairness, they do quite a bit with their staggering annual budget of over 3 million dollars.)

To cap it all off, there was a two minute, prerecorded video clip from, wait for it…..Chuck Colsen.  Now having experienced grace and forgiveness myself, I am all too ready to see it extended to anyone seeking it, but sitting there listening to Chuck admonish his fellow Christians about allowing Govt over-reach was akin to being lectured on frugality by The Donald.  True to form, Chuck then went into a rant about those of us who want Republicans to cut the budget but leave “the entitlements, like social security and medicare fully funded.”  I kid you not.  It ruined the whole experience for me.

I think I’m being too hard on this pastor, and I will certainly admit that I went in hoping to hear a sermon more along the lines of Neal Donald Walsh, or even Rob Bell.  So thats on me.  I liked the pastor, I just left thinking there was so much there to work with, and I thought he pivoted away from any provocation except in the title of the sermon, and stayed on predictable, Baptist doctrine-approved ground.  Apparently, he is doing a great job as Pastor of this large, affluent church, and that can’t be an easy gig.  Also, I was moved when he called MLK  “one of the greatest leaders this country has produced.”  He sounded sincere and I believe he was.

Funniest line of the night?  “God isn’t a Republican, but he is a UT Vol fan.”

I’m pretty sure my friend John Lamb told me God is a Horned Frog.

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This Had To Happen

I suppose I should make clear that I do not support the death penalty.  Never have.  I have never believed that there is any merit to this idea of “closure” for victims, and I am leery of letting the State take a life, the potential for abuse is just too large.

That said, I am relieved that OBL is dead.  His death will probably do little to curb terrorism throughout the world, but he had to be held accountable for planning the attacks on 9/11.  In this case, capture would have been next to impossible, and even if we had managed, would have presented a whole different set of security related problems.

I think we can be proud of the team that carried out the mission.  Even after experiencing a mechanical failure that could have caused an aborted or failed mission, they got the job done with no loss of innocent life.  Those guys had no way of knowing what the security level was inside the compound, and showed both bravery and skill and we have a right to feel proud of the work they put in.

Apparently, there was consideration given to a bombing raid, which was scrapped in favor of this mission.  President Obama clearly made the right choice.

There is probably no way to avoid turning this into a political issue, but I’m not going there today.

It feels wrong for me to rejoice in another man’s death.  That is a personal consideration, but I do understand that for many, this is a time to celebrate, and I’m inclined to be happy for them.

Wouldn’t ya hate to be the Pakistani Ambassador today?

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