Thursday, April 19, 2018

An Unexpected Outcome?

Michael Barone's article "Collusion, Anyone?" explores the provocative possibility of former President Obama's administration, not President Trump's, emerging the worse for wear from the ongoing FBI investigation of the 2016 election.

The FBI leaks pertaining to the Hillary Clinton campaign and its bitter aftermath are scheduled to be released quite soon. Let the games--and the surprises--begin.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Stealing from the Best

And if Moses having a temper never led him to leave some gal at the bottom of the Red Sea, well, let's face it, he doesn't have Ted's tremendous legislative legacy, does he?
 ~ Mark Steyn, August 28, 2009

"Moses didn't leave a girl at the bottom of the Red Sea."
 ~ from the movie Chappaquiddick, April 2018

If you're going to lift a line from another writer to energize your movie script, you can't find a better source than Mark Steyn.

I've been planning to see the movie Chappaquiddick, but now I look forward to the experience with renewed interest. Critical reviews are largely positive, and at last the protective patina has largely worn off the Kennedy saga. It's about time.

When Chappaquiddick happened, I was a teenager. I remember watching Ted Kennedy give his televised version of what happened, several days after the accident. (By then, everyone in the Kennedy ranks had the party line memorized, and all were on the same page.) Ted Kennedy was wearing a spanking new neck brace and reading a script. As young as I was, I recognized a coward when I saw one and a lie when I heard one. Finally, a movie is presenting an unvarnished account of the horrendous event.

And if the writers felt the need to retrofit a quote from Mark Steyn in order to craft a more effective story, so much the better.

 Senator Edward M. Kennedy leaves the Dukes County Courthouse in Edgartown, Massachusetts on July 25, 1969, after pleading guilty to leaving the scene of a fatal auto accident. Ted Dully / Boston Globe via Getty Images

Monday, April 02, 2018

Gunning for Change

If today's high school students were required to take Civics classes--which teach how our constitutional government functions--such as prior generations of school kids had to, they would be better prepared to pursue their quest for "gun control." The very term presents a stumbling block, as the definition of such a regulation is open to widely varying interpretations.

I marched against the Vietnam War until Amendment 26 was passed.
At the present moment we are mired in the understandable emotion following the horror and trauma of February's Parkland school massacre. The Florida teenagers have made great strides in keeping national attention focused on the issue of gun violence and the demand for changing the Second Amendment. Even a retired Supreme Court justice has weighed in on the need to repeal the Second Amendment.

I hate to be a wet blanket (because I was once a teenager with a cause, too), but repeal of the Second Amendment is a non-starter. According to the U.S. Constitution, that action would require passage in three-quarters of the 50 states. Can anyone come up with a viable list of 38 states willing to go along with that idea? States like Wyoming, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas--really? Not in this lifetime. So what are these impassioned, energized, highly motivated high schoolers to do?

Focus on state regulations, kids. States have the power to limit and/or amend gun laws. You've already had great success in your home state of Florida. Good for you! Do what works. That's where this argument belongs, in the individual states. That's where your cause has the greatest chance to make a real difference.

That's what any smart Civics class teacher would tell you.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

An Easter Reflection

Jesus prays the night before his death.
And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
~ Luke 22:44

I used to think that the New Testament description of Jesus "sweating blood" in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he was crucified was an example of literary license taken by the Scripture author(s). The writer in me believed that a bit of exaggeration would be forgivable, under the circumstances.

However, in recent years I have learned that sweating blood is a very rare, very real physiological phenomenon that occurs under conditions of enormous stress, fear, and anxiety. The medical term is "hematohidrosis," and it is sometimes seen in condemned prisoners walking to their executions. There are also reports of soldiers going into battle exhibiting this dramatic symptom.

As we anticipate tomorrow's Easter celebrations, we should pause to remember the price of our joy.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Dramatizing Churchill

If you're going through hell, keep going.

~ Winston Churchill 

If I had to choose one person as the most influential and significant of the 20th century, my quick answer would be Winston Churchill. I think that without him and his steadfast courage in the face of unrelenting pressure to capitulate with Hitler, most of us would be speaking German.

Winston Churchill / Gary Oldman
So the movie Darkest Hour has been on my must-see list since its release, and I watched it over the weekend. Actor Gary Oldman certainly earned his Oscar in playing Winston Churchill. Oldman embodied the essence of the great statesman as no other performance I've seen. It was more than makeup and wardrobe, which were impressively authentic; it was the intense personality and determined urgency that he captured. I think it was also his humble acceptance of the challenges of the role that made Oldman's Churchill such a remarkable portrayal. As he quipped in one excellent interview, "If Winston Churchill could take on Hitler at 65, I can sit in a makeup chair for three and a half hours."

I'm a bit of a nut on Winston Churchill, as the quotation on my blog's masthead might suggest. It was as a sixth grader that I first became enthralled with this unique world leader. My social studies assignment was to select a famous person from history and write a paper about him or her. I can't remember why I chose Churchill. But I do remember being captivated by recordings of his speeches, which I checked out of the school library on vinyl records and played on my parents' record player. I listened to the famous "We Shall Fight on the Beaches" speech countless times, experiencing some degree of shivers and goosebumps each time I heard it. Had you been a Briton in that time and place, listening to that speech, you would've jumped out of your chair to run and find the nearest pick axe to wield against the Nazi invaders.

My only quarrel with Darkest Hour is that it dramatizes Winston Churchill to the realms of sub-hysteria. If you listen to Churchill's actual "Beaches" speech, you'll hear that his delivery is quite calm and measured. He is not ranting to the rafters, as Hollywood has Gary Oldman doing. But that is a small personal quibble with a masterpiece of a movie. Everyone who admires the difficult virtue of courage should see Darkest Hour. The film is, as Winston Churchill might have said, "Splendid!"

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Meeting the Challenge of Lent

We are approaching Holy Week, the home stretch of Lent.
Lent is the Christian season of anticipating the
promise of Easter with prayer, sacrifice, and good works. Lent is always a challenge to become a better person, to be more like the best person ever, Jesus Christ. Lent is noted for "giving up" something--smoking, drinking, eating ice cream, chewing gum--some treasured habit or special treat that one enjoys. But equally important is the Lenten call to step up and do more--increased charitable giving, additional prayer, more reaching out to one's neighbors.

I'm afraid I haven't had a very good run at Lent this year. I haven't given up anything. I'm not doing measurably more praying than I usually do. Thus far I haven't made any extra monetary donations to my favorite charities (although I will, I promise!). I missed the Community Penance at my parish church this week. I'm just not very energized towards any of my usual Lenten routines, except for one--spiritual reading.

About ten years ago I began the practice of reading at least one spiritual or religious-themed book during Lent. I've read more excellent books than I can count over the past decade--lives of the saints, histories of Christianity and Catholicism, anthologies of prayers and spiritual writings. I look forward to my Lenten reading so much that it can hardly be called a sacrifice. Until this year.

This year, I'm reading The Confessions by St. Augustine. At least, I'm trying to read it. Having started the book countless times since college days, only to quit in discouragement a few pages in, I decided this would be the year that I slog through to completion. Confessions often appears on lists with titles such as "the best books ever written" or "books you must read before you die" (which makes sense, since it would be quite difficult to read it after the fact). The premise of the book is simple enough. It's the introspective outpourings of the famous bishop, saint, and Doctor of the Church who frittered away his youth as a dissolute playboy. But reading the fourth century classic is a tough go. Not only does the reader have all those "Thees," "Thous" and "dosts" to deal with, Augustine's writing is quite deep, intellectually demanding, and philosophically daunting. (Maybe he's just too smart for me.)

I'm sticking with it, however, and tonight my e-reader tells me I've finished 39% of the book. That challenges me to finish 61% of The Confessions in the next sixteen days. I'll be up late tonight, and probably every night before Easter, fighting off sleep as I battle my way to the final period. When I think of it that way, I suppose that maybe I am doing something for Lent this year, after all.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Out of the Ashes


All men are created equal... then, a few become firefighters.

Photo: Redbox
I watched Only the Brave this weekend. It's the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, nineteen of whom died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013--the greatest number of firefighters killed in a single incident since September 11, 2001. It's the kind of movie that stays with you, especially since it is based on such dramatic and affecting actual events.

Barnes & Noble website
This link to Ouside Online provides a lengthy, detailed, thoroughly riveting account by Kyle Dickman of what happened to those nineteen doomed heroes, including a documentary interviewing family members and the lone survivor of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew, Brendan "Donut" McDonough. He was pulled from the line to serve as a scout on a lookout point, but that's no comfort to a surviving firefighter. There can't be very many crosses more heavy to bear than that of losing all of your brothers to the fire and being left to soldier on alone with the memories--and the guilt of being alive. I, for one, plan to read McDonough's book, My Lost Brothers.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Dark History Remembered

Finding this article was a pleasant surprise: "CNN thinks that socialism is cool. My grandparents from the USSR would disagree."

It's quite rare for a mainstream media outlet to highlight the horrors of Soviet communism. Because of its epic failure decades ago, the oppressive cruelty of communist totalitarianism has largely faded from modern memory. But my late husband's family had firsthand experience with its terrors, thankfully escaping with the clothes on their backs. Many of their close relatives were not so fortunate, being either rounded up and executed or shipped off to Siberia for long prison terms in hard labor camps. The stories around my in-laws' Sunday dinner table were not for the faint of heart.

After the Berlin wall came down and the Soviet Union disintegrated, family members came to visit my in-laws in New York. They were spellbound by our quality of life. One of Pete's visiting uncles brought a lawn chair to the neighborhood supermarket parking lot and sat for hours, just watching people steering grocery-laden carts out of the store. He was incredulous at the bounty of food and other goods so readily available to us. His fascination with our prosperity brought new meaning to the expression "land of plenty."

Today's left-leaning "cool crowd" in media, academia, and Hollywood seems to have no knowledge or understanding of the brutally cruel regime that was the Soviet Union. When dire warnings about our "authoritarian" president are sounded, I have to chuckle. How many towns has he rounded up and slaughtered, as Josef Stalin routinely did? How many people have been hauled off to labor camps in the dead of night, never to be heard from again? How many "enemies of the state" have been dragged off to prison for criticizing the U.S. president?

We are so fortunate in our country to be able to think, to write, and to speak in freedom. All of us should pause to be grateful for such a gift, and to think before we speak.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ten Thoughts on Parkland, Florida

  1. Grieving parents and students can say whatever they want to say. There are no rules.
  2. This country has a Constitution that allows gun ownership.
  3. We citizens can change the Constitution, but it's a long and complicated process.
  4. Gun control laws do exist. They need to be strengthened, expanded, and strictly enforced. 
  5. In the meantime, every school should have an armed guard on duty, all day long.
  6. The guard could be a retired military member or police officer, or a newly created and trained security position. The extra taxes are worth it.
  7. Also, arming qualified and trained teachers with guns makes sense.
  8. If there's a concern about mental health or violent tendencies, it should be reported--no matter what race, creed, or nationality is involved. Political correctness has no place here.
  9. To ensure better success of "see something, say something," there should be no penalty attached to a report that proves unfounded.
  10. Any FBI employee who had any knowledge of and authority to act upon the specific complaints called in prior to the Parkland massacre, but who did not act, should be fired. Immediately.