Thursday, March 26, 2015

Manufactured History

"How strange that Iraq, WMD, bombing, and preemption reappear in the news, but now without the hysteria of the Bush era."
~ Victor Davis Hanson

Every American voter should read Victor Davis Hanson's article, "The Biggest Lie."

So much is happening in today's world, much of it terrible--and most of it terribly reported by agenda-driven media outlets. It is very easy to forget basic facts of of recent history. Hanson's refresher course in truthful observation is an important and timely reminder for all who are willing to pause, reflect, and face the reality of how we got to the perilous place we are now.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Stepping Up to the Day

Irish step dancing is a workout; I know for a fact. My aunt had lessons as a girl, and she taught me the basics of the jig and the reel in my grandparents' basement when I was nine or ten. I, in turn, taught my younger sister and my daughter. Irish dance music seems to go on forever, and so do the dozens of lively, repetitive steps that accompany it. By the time you finish a full jig, you've more than compensated for the extra calories a St. Patrick's Day dinner brings.

The best part of Irish step dancing, for me, is that it's so exhilarating. It's non-stop motion, almost like flying on earth. When you're really caught up in an Irish dance, you do feel as though you can spread your wings and take off.

Maybe that's why an Irish step dancer's arms are kept still, close to the sides. Happy St. Pat's Day to all.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Electronic Waste

It says a lot about how far this country has fallen that anyone can possibly believe Hillary Clinton should still be a viable candidate for the presidency--a Secretary of State who set up a secret email server, ignoring every law, rule, and regulation on the books for managing official government communications. Not to mention ignoring national security, history, and the right of the people to know what's going on in our government.

Yet Hillary sends out a tweet, hunkers down, and hopes to weather the storm through time, as always. How can she still be taken seriously as a candidate? Are there no more standards of behavior to be respected, no laws to be honored?

It would seem not. At least, it seems that standards and laws don't carry the clout they used to--especially when a Clinton is involved. And she's still considered the "frontrunner" for 2016. How sad for all of us. No wonder the world is in flames.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Pause for Thought

Some interesting perspectives from Fr. Robert Barron after last month's Coptic Christian martyrs were slaughtered at the hands of ISIS butchers.

Using fascinating history from the time of Jesus Christ's crucifixion, Barron gives a clear explanation of why ISIS invests such fanfare and dramatic spectacle in murdering Christians. Simply put, the "Nation of the Cross" gets under their killer skin. Don't they ever stop to question why?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Oscar Afterthoughts

Even though I don't go to the movies much anymore--and I definitely can't tolerate a nano-second of any other awards shows--watching "the Oscars," Hollywood's top-ranking annual self-love festival, is an enduring habit I can't seem to shake.

Although I'd only seen one of the nominated "Best Picture" films this year, I still made my picks, set up my snacks, and settled into the sofa for four hours. (Hey, once a year can't hurt, even if it is Lent.)

Predictably, as always, the show ran overtime and straight into Downton Abbey. While much of the proceedings do tend towards boring, there were a few notable moments, both shining and awkward. Here are my winners:
  1. Julianne Moore - charming and classy in her Best Actress acceptance speech.
  2. Lady Gaga - shocked me with her gorgeous singing in the Sound of Music medley. Who knew?
  3. John Travolta - could use sexual harassment prevention training. Just ask ScarJo or Idina Menzel.
  4. Chris Pine - dude, what's with the tears during Glory? David Oyelowo, yes. You? Get a grip! 
  5. Michael Keaton - good to see him just enjoying being back on the "A" list, but I wish he'd won.
  6. Sean Penn - "SOB" to the Best Picture winner? Really? Joke or no, trashy.
  7. Neil Patrick Harris - fine job as host, but did we really need to see him in his underwear?
Last night was the 50th anniversary of me watching the Oscar telecast. I think I deserve an award.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Presidents of Note

Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota - Four Influential Presidents
Today is "Presidents' Day," a blandly impersonal, generalized celebration of national chief executives. Prior to 1971, there were two specific presidents honored in February, on their birthdays: Lincoln on February 12 and Washington on February 22. Both dates were holidays, regardless of which day of the week they fell on. However, as three-day weekends became more important in American society than our unique history, our two greatest presidents were homogenized into the colossally boring Presidents' Day.

You could call it a redistribution of our historic wealth. We might as well have an "Avocados' Day" or a "Televisions' Day," for all the meaning the day now imparts.

In honor of this watered-down occasion, here's a link to the "Top 10 Most Influential American Presidents." I disagree somewhat with order and choice, but for the most part it's a solid list:

1.  Abraham Lincoln
     No argument. He saved and preserved the nation. Number One for sure.

2.  Franklin D. Roosevelt
     A bit too much on the socialist side for my taste, but due to the events of his tenure, there's no doubt FDR belongs on the list.

3.  George Washington
     I would put "the father of our country" a close second to Lincoln.

4.  Thomas Jefferson
     This is about the right spot for TJ.

5.  Andrew Jackson
     I don't know if Jackson should be listed instead of James Monroe or James Madison.

6.  Teddy Roosevelt
     For creating the National Parks system, TR belongs not only on this list but in heaven.

7.  Woodrow Wilson
     Presided over the implementation of the Federal Reserve and the League of Nations, the precursor to the UN. Influential? Yes. In a good way? Um, I don't think so.

8.  Harry S. Truman
     In using the atomic bomb to end WWII, HST had to make probably the most difficult decision in history. Definitely deserves a place in the Top 10.

9.  James K. Polk
     Polk should be higher on the list. No, he didn't "steal" Mexico. He bought and paid for California, Nevada, and more with $15 million and opened the American West.

10.  Dwight D. Eisenhower
      What DDE is doing on this list is beyond me. See #5.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

When Wrong is Right

When I was growing up, my father always had the same response to news about any murderer of innocent people: "Take him out and shoot him."

In my idealistic youth, I would be horrified that my kind, thoughtful, funny father could make such a cold-blooded statement. "Dad!" I would protest in shocked outrage. "That's just wrong!"

Time is a thorough, patient, and effective teacher. I have learned my lessons well watching world events over the decades. In the wake of the fourth US hostage, Kayla Mueller, being murdered at the hands of Islamic terrorists, I think "You were right, Dad. We should just take them out and shoot them."

A conversation we had during the Iranian hostage crisis gives me a clue how Dad might deal with ISIS. I was visiting my parents in New York; it was summer 1980. The hostage crisis had dragged on since November 1979. Dad and I were watching television, and a review of the hostage crisis showed images of our US Embassy employees when they were first seized. The American captives were bound and blindfolded; their Iranian captors were celebrating as they paraded their human prizes to cheering crowds. I had never seen my father seething with such controlled anger. Curiosity got the better of me, and I asked, "What would you do if you were in charge, Dad?"

He turned from the TV and looked at me, his eyes blazing blue fire. He pointed sharply at the screen, "I would have told them, 'You've got 24 hours to let them go. Or we're coming in to get them.'" He stopped speaking and turned back to the program, but an unspoken "Take them out and shoot them" directed at the Iranian captors hung in the air. For the first time, I began to realize that perhaps such a course of action was not "just wrong," as I had always maintained.

Whenever I see footage or photos of the current Islamic terrorist atrocities being inflicted upon innocent and helpless people in the Middle East today, "Take them out and shoot them" now makes perfect sense to me. I wish I could tell Dad.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Praying for a Leader

Most Americans have heard about President Obama's slap-down of Christianity at the National Prayer Breakfast last week. The best response I've read comes from the Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal:

“It was nice of the President to give us a history lesson at the Prayer breakfast,”said Bobby Jindal. “Today, however, the issue right in front of his nose, in the here and now, is the terrorism of Radical Islam, the assassination of journalists, the beheading and burning alive of captives. We will be happy to keep an eye out for runaway Christians, but it would be nice if he would face the reality of the situation today. The Medieval Christian threat is under control, Mr. President. Please deal with the Radical Islamic threat today.”

Well said, Governor. The Crusades and the Inquisition aren't exactly front page news these days, having occured hundreds, almost thousands, of years in the past.  The president also mentioned slavery and Jim Crow. The 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries also present no clear and present danger. It's the here and now we need to be concerned with, and his job is to protect, defend, and support our nation. As usual, he's off the clock.

I don't know what's going on in the president's head--thank God. But from the pathetically stupid remarks he makes, and his reckless actions and lack of same, his thought process doesn't ever seem to be supportive of our country or history. I'm counting the days until he's gone, and I'm praying for a true leader next term.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Gift Taken for Granted

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
~ Psalm 46

Do you have a Bible in the house? If so, you would be risking your life in over 50 countries. In 2014, persecution of Christians reached the highest level in modern times. You'd have to go back to the Middle Ages to match this kind of pervasive, brutal hostility to a religion.

I still have my college Bible, a required textbook for Theology 101. It's on my bookshelf, complete with yellow highlighted passages and notes in the margins from my preparations for mid-term and final exams. A few years ago, I bought a copy of the complete King James Version (KJV) with Apocrypha (those are the books included in the Catholic Bible, but omitted from Protestant scripture). That Bible is flagged throughout with Post-It notes marking my favorite passages. In my Kindle, I've downloaded three Bibles--the English Standard, New International, and KJV versions. The electronic Bible is so handy (and so economical), there's really no excuse for me anymore; a daily goal (not always successfully met) is to read it for a few minutes each day.

The KJV is my favorite. The language is beautiful and poetic, and you know I'm all about the words. Some scholars believe William Shakespeare worked on it, and I agree. As evidence, please note that Shakespeare was 46 years of age when the King James version of the Bible was released. I now direct you to Psalm 46. At the beginning of the psalm, count forward 46 words--"shake." At the end, count back 46 words--"spear."

Who but Shakespeare could orchestrate that masterful translation?

But back to religious freedom and the increasing worldwide persecution of Christians. Including paper and electronic versions, I own five Bibles. How much trouble would I be facing in over 50 countries?

We take our freedom of religion for granted in the USA. Christians may be derided as "holy rollers" or "Bible thumpers," Bill Maher may take swipes at us on network television, people may scoff at prayerful football players--but we don't have to think twice about reading the Bible or going to church on Sundays. Even if we aren't religious, we should appreciate just how courageous it is to attend Christian services or own a Bible in so many countries.

In North Korea, being a Christian is illegal, and if a person is discovered with a Bible, up to three generations of their family would be executed. That's far beyond harsh punishment. What is North Korea so afraid of? I'd have to say--the Truth.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Statesman of the Century

We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

Fifty years ago today, Sir Winston Churchill died. Ever since I was in the sixth grade, when Churchill was the subject of my first history term paper, I consider him the greatest leader of the 20th century.

As a lifelong lover of words and the English language, I think he was without peer as a gifted speaker and writer. His expression was so stirring, so inspiring, so elegant and profound. I believe it was his depth of commitment, spirit, and eloquence that brought Great Britain successfully through World War II. We certainly could use a statesman of his caliber today.