Archive for September, 2015

On Australia’s New Catholic Prime Minister – Crisis Magazine

A glimmer of hope from Down Under?

Source: On Australia’s New Catholic Prime Minister – Crisis Magazine

Islam Bulldozes the Past

It is easy to find examples of the destruction of antiquities and relics at the hands of Islamic extremists: Bamiyan Buddhas, Mosul Museum Iraq, Mosul Public Library (8,000 books and manuscripts), Palmyra, Syria, etc. Countless.

This reminds me of how the Nazis and the Communists of the Soviet Union and Red China tried to erase existing cultures in areas they over-ran. But, I digress.

It’s no good pointing fingers at others when our own house is in such a shambles. You know: I should take care of the 2-by-4 in my eye before I dig around for the speck in yours (Matthew 7:3, Luke 6:42). Although we Americans don’t really have much of a past to destroy, what we have in common with the Muslim extremists is a lack of vision of the future.

Vision is not defined by running from anything. Running away is characterized by fear. Rather, vision is the act of moving toward something. So, while the Muslim extremists are hell-bent (no, it took no effort at all come up with that pun, it just rolled off my fingertips naturally, almost organic, you might say) to destroy everything that is older than today, they will soon find themselves in the position of sweeping their arms across a landscape of nothing. No doubt they think themselves better than nothing; but in fact we are all known by the company we keep, and so they will be known as, well, nothing.

Americans are not so different. In our past, we have the invasion of a continent (something we seemingly have never stopped doing) and slavery. Yet, what is the biggest topic these days? Nothing to do with Native Americans or African Americans. It’s as though we have bulldozed those issues under the currently fashionable “everything I am has to do with sex.”

In the movie, “The Bridges of Madison County,” Clint Eastwood asks Meryl Streep to describe her husband. She pauses, searching for an answer, and comes up with: “He’s clean.” Of course, this gets some mileage, and eventually Meryl is able to offer some other adjectives. But all we hear about these days in the media (“press” hardly fits in this internet age) is someone’s sexual preference.

I just read an article that talked about Obama’s administration and how diverse it was. The opening paragraph spoke about Obama’s nomination of an “openly gay man.” While the article does spill some ink on other non-white-male demographics (oh, wait: Eric Fanning looks white to me; apparently the “male” part is up for debate), it does focus on those who identify themselves strictly by sexual orientation. Well, what else do you know about Eric Fanning?

Another paragraph states: “…members of the LGBT community have also made similar advances under Obama: There are now hundreds of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender appointees in the executive branch….” When I was growing up, there was only one minority, and that the one whose roots were in Africa. Now, Blacks hardly get a mention – even from a president who seems to have the same roots. Ironically, Blacks are hardly any better off under Obama than they were under Clinton (14.4% now, “just over one percentage point higher”).

Evidently, the “vision” of this country is not to actually make progress, but merely to ignore the past. Isn’t that what ISIS is doing? I will grant you that the white Europeans did their utmost to destroy the peoples and their cultures that existed for thousands of years, and “we” imported millions of Africans to die in the name of capitalism; but this country has been in a position to help others far less fortunate than us white males for some time. And what are we focused on? Trying to legitimize a life-style. More than that: impose a life-style on those who would rather not. Sounds like homosexuals are the new “white Europeans.” Manifest destiny all over again? Not to worry, they say, we have bulldozers, too.

We need intimate knowledge of the past. Nor that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present.

C.S. Lewis

References:

Islamic State Destruction Renews Debate Over Repatriation of Antiquities,

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/31/arts/design/islamic-state-destruction-renews-debate-over-repatriation-of-antiquities.html?_r=0

Antiquities Scholar: Islamic States Destruction of Museum & Library is Cultural & Ethnic Cleansing

http://www.democracynow.org/2015/2/27/antiquities_scholar_islamic_states_destruction_of

Muslim clerics call for destruction of Egypt’s Great Pyramid and other antiquities

http://freethoughtnation.com/muslim-clerics-call-for-destruction-of-egypts-great-pyramid-and-other-antiquities/

Raymond Ibrahim

http://www.raymondibrahim.com/islam/huffington-post-msm-facilitate-destruction-of-egypts-pyramids/

Islamic State accelerates destruction of antiquities in Syria

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/middle-east/islamic-state-accelerates-destruction-of-antiquities-in-syria-1.2328087

Islamic State militants bulldoze ancient Nimrud city

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/06/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-nimrud-idUSKBN0M20GZ20150306

Islam Bulldozes the Past

http://www.danielpipes.org/15650/islam-bulldozes-the-past

Waqf continues to destroy Jewish antiquities

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/163528#.VgEK3mPdU2s

Retired army general wants Egypt’s St. Catherine’s Monastery demolished

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/98907/Egypt/Politics-/Retired-army-general-wants-Egypts-St-Catherines-Mo.aspx

Obama has vastly changed the face of the federal bureaucracy

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-has-vastly-changed-the-face-of-the-federal-bureaucracy/2015/09/20/73ef803a-5631-11e5-abe9-27d53f250b11_story.html

graphic:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-ups-diversity-in-appointees/2015/09/20/5b042aac-5ffb-11e5-8e9e-dce8a2a2a679_graphic.html

In Unit Stalked by Suicide, Veterans Try to Save One Another

An excellent piece in the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/20/us/marine-battalion-veterans-scarred-by-suicides-turn-to-one-another-for-help.html?mabReward=A2&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&region=CColumn&module=Recommendation&src=rechp&WT.nav=RecEngine&_r=0

Don’t know what else to do?  Reach out and just listen.  Most of what our veterans need is the knowledge that we care.

Pray you never hear “There was no one there for me” (Charles Gerard)

Getting harder and harder

To suffer the fools.

No, I am not looking in a mirror as I write this, although you would be right to say I should. But, suspending disbelief for a moment….

I am quite sure that the “social needs” we have can be represented on a sliding scale, a spectrum, and that some of us have greater social needs than others. If so, I am way down at the bottom of needing much social contact. This is not the same as absolute zero, forever and ever. But, at the same time, I don’t miss people when I’m not around them. I understand the need, both theoretically and practically; I just don’t feel the need.

So, I start from a position of not needing or necessarily wanting people in my life. No doubt this flavors the way I look at people, I mean as far as having any sort of relationship with them. Some examples:

Fantasy Football

Despite having grown up in a typical American household in which American football was an important part of life, as an adult I lived overseas for seventeen years and that pretty well cured me of having to spend every Sunday afternoon in front of the television. Shortly after having moved back here, a friend invited me over to watch football. It turned out to be him and his three sons and various hangers-on; about a dozen people all together.

It might be worthwhile to mention that, when I left these hallowed shores, the cell phone was just becoming something smaller than a brick that some people lugged around.

Honestly, it took me some time to wise up enough to be confused at what I was witnessing in that living room: everybody – and I do mean everybody except me and the dog – was spending more time looking at their cell phones than they were at the large flat screen tv. I had no idea why. If that wasn’t enough, their whoops and hollers and groans didn’t seem to sync with what I saw on the tv. I was a stranger, and this was indeed a strange land.

What was on the tv? Remember, I came from the age of one game at a time on the tube, with occasional references to some other game(s). I did not realize there is now something where the most exciting part of many games was being shown. Doesn’t say much for the game if you need, I don’t know, ten different games all patched together to hold the audience’s attention – this is not baseball, after all.

And so I sat there, sipping on my red wine in a room of strangers, wondering what they found so entertaining (everyone else was, cue the stereotype, drinking beer). And they were being entertained. Clearly, they were being entertained. I was scratching my head. I said nothing.

The invitation remaining open, a couple of Sundays later I went back. I finally felt I knew enough to ask what was going on. My friend very patiently explained the concept of “fantasy football” to me. And the “red zone.” Aha.

Now, I do enjoy football. I played in high school (I went to a small high school). I lived in a college town. My father played in both high school and college. Watching college football on Saturday (in the stadium when Purdue played at home; on tv when they didn’t), and professional football on Sunday. Later, Monday night. I just found out this week that there is a Thursday night game as well – have I finally joined the 21st Century?

But, this “red zone” thing where the broadcasting company scours the airwaves (really, they made contracts with numerous teams months ago) for the most exciting moments in, what to me are countless games. Complete with all the technical wizardry of this fascinating modern age and idiotic prattle of people who have never touched a football (RIP Frank Gifford). Well, ok, I can do this (though the Colts belong in Baltimore). Well, I think I can. Well, I thought I could.

But, but, “fantasy football”??? What, the “real” thing is not enough? And, at the same time? It’s almost enough to make me want to move back overseas.

Managers

There was a time when my goal, my only goal in life, was to join management and climb the corporate ladder. At the time, this was my goal at any cost – yes, those words exactly: at any cost. I wish I knew then that “any cost” meant my marriage. But, despite my sacrifice, I apparently didn’t bow and scrape enough; didn’t laugh at the right time; didn’t ingratiate myself to the right people. Something. I was lacking in something. An engineering degree wasn’t enough. An MBA wasn’t enough. A Marine officer wasn’t enough. I just couldn’t master the secret handshake.

But, in the 30 years with this company I have come to be grateful for not ever having ascended to the lofty ranks of “management.” Because, with just a handful of exceptions, I can’t say I’ve ever found a person that I had the least respect for as a “manager.” Perhaps I should be grateful, to borrow from Groucho Marx, that I would never join any club that would have me as a member?

I have frankly been astounded at what I have heard and seen. I have wondered how people can stay employed doing some of these things. Of course I know how the system works: people promote people who are like them, who share the same values, who laugh at the same jokes, but who are not threatening. And, once the incompetence is revealed (if it is), the person can’t be demoted or moved because that would be admitting failure. Oh, the horrors.

Yes, it’s true that I thought I had all the necessary attributes, and I wasn’t selected to join this hallowed elite, and therefore I am just full of sour grapes. That might be true, except that I am grateful that I was never a “manager.”

For starters, they are mostly well out of their depth, and that stress of trying to do something that they know they can’t must be enormous (assuming they are that smart, which is debatable in most cases). While no longer among the hoi polloi, being a lower-level manager is no wonderful thing: their direct reports constantly complain about things they have no control over. There are so many managers and levels of managers that you’d have to be pretty high up to think you were actually making a difference. And then, if you had any sense at all, you’d know that you had less influence on the day-to-day part of the business than your cat. The irony of the corner office with the large mahogany desk (LMD) and the ficus tree in the corner is the astounding lack of influence. Consider:

I work in a large office building. There are executives on the same floor I’m on. There are even higher executives, vice-presidents and such, on the floor above. Real somebodies from our customers visit. There are resident customer representatives with permanent offices in this building. There is a heliport on the roof. Half the elevators in this four storey building have been out for over a month.

It doesn’t help when the first level manager, who has not seen the football since the kickoff as far as the technical aspects of our products are concerned, wants to be everybody’s friend. He wants to slap people on the back too much. He laughs too loud. He contributes absolutely nothing in this very high pressure office. Mostly, he just gets in the way. But, according to his bio, he’s a damned sight smarter than one of the other managers. BTW, only one of the five managers can spell any better than an eighth grader. Yeah, that’s pretty snooty. Sorry.

What I need is a vacation. I miss my babies.

Thank you

On this road to Serendip, otherwise known as the birth of the Twins almost three months ago, I was surprised at how much pure joy they brought into my life, AND how much I wanted to share that joy. I was not expecting joy (yes, of course: apologies to CS Lewis). Nor would I have thought that sharing it would be important.  But, joyful – and I do mean full of joy – I was and am. And, I needed to share it.

In addition, I have found significance in how people responded to these two little packages.

My wife’s family and friends stepped up to the occasion and then some. Her sister gave more of herself than any sister ought to; her mother came for about a month and a half, now her sister-in-law (and two year old daughter) are helping take care of the Twins. Dunno how we could have gotten this far without them pitching in. Various friends, far and wide, have visited or sent gifts. Most recently, a cousin of a cousin sent a very nice, very warm card of congratulations.

On my side of things, two buddies from my old days in the Marines sent packages. Only one I’ve seen in the 30+ years since I left active duty. Three other co-workers visited and gave gifts.

To all the above, I give my most heartfelt thanks. They added to my joy.

Did you notice the lack of mention of my family? Talk about conspicuous by their absence.

So, I will add to my list of Things to Teach the Twins: look for opportunities to celebrate joy – especially other people’s joy. Try to accentuate the positive. Find the silver lining.

This post took some effort, because I wanted to shoot from the hip and criticize and castigate those that kept their distance. But that would have been negative; kinda like raining on my own parade.

The upshot is, of course, that this joyful opportunity to come closer for all is serving to drive a wedge between some. Pity. But, as I was told once, “mourn the loss and move on.”

To say I thank GOD every day – and several times every day – for the gift of the Twins doesn’t quite capture what I feel when I look into the face of either, of the Twins. For when I take the time to look – really, really look – I have no words.

I do make it a point to add a prayer of thanks, every day. In the over a year that preceded this point, my wife almost daily talked about wanting a baby. I said, “pray.” Given her background it was no surprise she didn’t. But, I did. I prayed that I might be able to do GOD’s will. I did not pray that I might know, or understand; merely do. And so, we were blessed with not one, but two, healthy babies. Clearly, time to say thanks. Remember the story of the ten lepers that Jesus cured, but only one returned to say thanks? And that one was a “foreigner.” (Luke 17:11-19) I know I am a sinner (“leper,” so to speak, not far from the truth); but I also know how to be grateful.

I remain healthy and employed. Tho it did occur to me today that my father had a double bypass when he was the age I am now (shudder). And, very likely to stay employed for at least another year, despite the too-close call this past Spring. My wife is healthy.

Could things be better? You bet: I could win the lottery. ‘Course I suppose I should buy a ticket?

What it means to be a man

If you’re pressed for time, skip to the last line of this excellent column:

Source: There is No Equivalence – Crisis Magazine

‘Course then, you might be moved to read the whole enchilada….

Where Every Christian Can Support Kim Davis

Every Christian, regardless of what we believe she should do, can join with Davis and rejoice that our past no longer defines us.

Source: Where Every Christian Can Support Kim Davis

I’ve often wished I didn’t have a “checkered” past. But, I can’t wish it away. I have to do two things: (1) acknowledge and own the fact that I made mistakes (if I had it all to do over again, I most certainly would not do everything the same way I did); and (2) I need to move on and try to do better.

It seems to me that this is what Kim Davis is doing.

Even if I didn’t have a “checkered” past, I would still not be throwing stones. Sure, she is no saint; but then I don’t see one in the mirror. Now that I think about it, I’ve never met one, either.