Friday, March 31, 2006

From the Edge of Eternity

The rescue tapes of 9/11 victims last phone calls are being released. Most are editing out the callers for privacy, but the Hanley family decided to release the full recording. I heard Christopher Hanley’s voice on a newscast this morning. As I wiped away my tears, I wondered at the strength his family needs to listen to the recording of his last words.

The power of voice is an amazing force. It brings a lost loved one into the moment with stunning vibrancy. I know this to be true, because I keep resaving my husband’s last few voice messages in my cell phone. When I find myself swallowed by a lonesome moment and long to hear his voice, I open my phone and retrieve those recordings. It helps to be able to reach back through time and connect with the sound of his voice.

The marvels of modern technology have given us this ability to eavesdrop at the edge of eternity. The 9/11 phone recordings will not be routine tapes, such as mine are. I’m not sure how comforted I would be to hear my loved one calling for help minutes before his death in the inferno that was September 11. But, given the opportunity to hear a beloved voice one more time, to be with him in spirit as he stood on the cusp of death, I’m sure would take that chance.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Soldier's Prayers

Stay with me, God -
A Soldier's Prayer

This anonymous poem was blown into a slit trench in Tunisia during a heavy bombardment in the early days of World War II.

Stay with me, God. The night is dark,
The night is cold: my little spark
Of courage dies. The night is long;
Be with me, God, and make me strong.

I love a game; I love a fight.
I hate the dark; I love the light.
I love my child; I love my wife.
I am no coward. I love Life,
Life with its change of mood and shade.

I want to live. I'm not afraid,
But me and mine are hard to part;
Oh, unknown God, lift up my heart.

You stilled the waters at Dunkirk
And saved Your Servants. All Your work
Is wonderful, dear God. You strode
Before us down that dreadful road.

We were alone, and hope had fled;
We loved our country and our dead,
And could not shame them; so we stayed
The course, and were not much afraid.

Dear God that nightmare road! And then
That sea! We got there-we were men.
My eyes were blind, my feet were torn,
My soul sang like a bird at dawn!

I knew that death is but a door.
I knew what we were fighting for:
Peace for the kids, our brothers freed,
A kinder world, a cleaner breed.

I'm but the son my mother bore,
A simple man, and nothing more.
But-God of strength and gentleness,
Be pleased to make me nothing less.

Help me, O God, when Death is near
To mock the haggard face of fear,
That when I fall-if fall I must-
My soul may triumph in the Dust.

And here is another soldier's prayer. Let's keep them coming, front and center, for our troops.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Evil On A Sliding Scale

Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?
~ Psalm 94:16

Time Magazine Baghdad bureau chief Michael Ware was interviewed on Hugh Hewitt’s program today. He scared the booties off me—Ware did, not Hugh.

Here’s a payday question from Hugh:

"But more importantly, going to the Islamists, about'll agree with me, they're evil. Won't you, Michael?"

And Ware’s response: (emphasis added)

Well, I certainly...I mean, one has to be careful that as the Islamic army of Iraq reminded just last week on Al Jazeera, the insurgent groups study very closely everything that we hear, say and write. And given that we're within their grasp, one always must be diplomatic. Suffice to say, it's very hard to relate to the goals or tactics that the hard-line Islamists employ.

So, we must be “diplomatic” to the head-lopping murderers of Islamic radicalism? I wonder if murdered journalist Daniel Pearl would agree with his colleague Ware about diplomacy being appropriate towards his butchers?

In response to Hugh’s question about having a hypothetical embedded reporter “to go back and forth to Germany to visit various Nazi encampments or policies, would that have been acceptable in World War II, Michael Ware?”

If you believe in the reality of right and wrong, you may want to grab a chair before reading Ware’s answer:

Well, I think the values would be different back then. All I can talk to about are the circumstances that have presented themselves to me, and the wars I've found myself in.

How very scary. How terribly frightening that answer is, and how telling of the troubles of our times. There is nothing relative about evil. There is no evil action or intent today that wasn’t also evil a thousand years ago. Evil is constant, it exists, and it destroys--especially when it deceives humans into viewing it as an accessory to the theory of relativity. It’s Satan’s crowning achievement, this convincing of mankind that he doesn’t exist.

There is no difference between Islamist evil and Nazi evil, except the times and the tools. To be defeated, as we learned well in World War II, evil must be recognized for what it is. The challenge of the GWOT is to stand up to evil, against increasing pressure to fall and roll over.

We must call evil out and beat it down. That’s going to be an impossible goal if, as Michael Ware seems to be doing, we’re grading evil on a curve.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Coming to America

Can you blame them? The illegal immigrants, I mean.

No, I can’t blame them for wanting a better life for themselves and their children. If I had had the bad fortune to be born in Mexico, where the government keeps all the riches of the land for itself and its chosen few, leaving nothing for its citizenry, I would do my best to get across the border, too.

I don’t blame the illegal aliens. And yes, at the risk of sounding politically gauche, the term is “illegal alien.” Not “undocumented immigrants” or “undocumented workers,” as has become fashionable amongst the media elites. Such terminology lends the aura of authenticity and entitlement to the presence of illegal intruders in the country. If they’re in the U.S. illegally, then they are illegal aliens--criminals who are breaking our laws. It really is that simple.

Still, I don’t blame them.

I blame our Federal government for not addressing the problem of illegal immigration years ago. I blame all three branches of government for not having the guts to deal with a socially messy, politically inconvenient dilemma. The government’s inaction has put the bona fide citizens of the United States in peril. Our porous borders are a wide open avenue for potential terrorists and a gaping hole through which taxpayer’s money that was intended to support our social infrastructure—schools, police protection, rescue workers, medical care--drains away.

America is a “nation of immigrants,” no doubt. All of my grandparents came here from Europe. My husband’s family came after World War II. They all came because they were sponsored into the country by a friend or relative who had gone through the proper channels and secured them legitimate jobs. You might say they came as “documented workers”—also known as “legal immigrants.”

The government didn‘t help any of them. It didn’t make excuses for them or hand them any freebies, either. And it certainly didn’t bother to learn their language. Yesterday’s immigrants came in the front door, worked hard learning to be American from the ground up, and they built lives of proud independence.

Today’s illegal aliens could learn a lot from reading the U.S. history of our legal immigrants, including those who have most recently become U.S. citizens by legitimate, sometimes heroic, means. Unfortunately, for that education to occur, the U.S. taxpayer would first need to pay for the government translation.

Friday, March 24, 2006

MSM Disease: The Cause and The Cure

Both of my favorite guests, Victor Davis Hanson and Mark Steyn, were on Hugh Hewitt's radio show yesterday. Both interviews are packed with payday quotes.

Hugh asked VDH, "What is the disease in the media? Where did it come from?"

The answer, in part:

"I think it came to be frank between the journalism schools...this affluent, elite culture...that comes out of the unversities on the left and right coasts...they don't open hardware stores. They don't service cars. They've never worked physically with their hands. They have an idea in this international culture of the West that somehow, all of their affluence, all of their travel, all of their freedom came out of a head of Zeus, and it's not dependent on the U.S. military, the United States role in the world. They have no appreciation for the very system that birthed and maintained them. And they've had this sort of sick cynicism, nihilism, skepticism, and the height of their affluence and leisure, that they don't have any gratitude at all, which is really one of the most important human attributes. Humility to say you know, I'm very lucky to be a Westerner, and have certain freedoms. And that's why he cannot appreciate what we're trying to do in Iraq, because he has no appreciation of the very idea that he can jet out of Baghdad anytime he wants on a Western jet that's going to get him safely to a Western country, where he's going to be protected, that the people in Iraq want that same thing that he doesn't seem to appreciate."
~ Victor Davis Hanson, as heard on Hugh Hewitt's show, March 23, 2006

In response to Hugh's question regarding pessimism about success against the MSM fever of negativity, Steyn responded by referencing the promise of the blogosphere:

"You know, Glenn Reynolds has a marvelous new book out called An Army of Davids. And he promotes this idea he's had on his website, a pack, not a herd. The media are the herd. And the way to beat the herd is with a fast-thinking pack that draws in all kinds of resources, and uses them to the full."
~ Mark Steyn, as heard on Hugh Hewitt's show, March 23, 2006

I recommend reading the full transcripts of both interviews at Radioblogger. Right now, we need to learn from every smart person we can find on how to recognize and combat MSM disease. Our fighting men and women deserve at least that much from us.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Cracked Code

Andrew Sullivan has some interesting thoughts on the media’s double standard towards their portrayals of religion. It is a code strictly honored by today's film makers, and it all boils down to a very simple formula that is applied rigorously in modern movies:

Anything Muslim shown in a negative light = BAD
Anything Catholic/Jewish shown in a negative light = GOOD

The Da Vinci Code, which will premiere at theatres on May 19, is already being rammed down the prospective viewer’s throat. (Pardon my violent metaphor, but after all, I am a Catholic.) Ubiquitous television ads for the movie show shadowy snippets of the Catholic villain who methodically whips himself for being such a bad boy, as Tom Hanks’ furrowed brow and fearful baritone foreshadow the dangerous discovery of the terrible, dark, ancient secret so fiercely guarded by the wicked Church hierarchy.

Oh, the heart-stopping questions this gripping drama has brought before us! Has one of the oldest, largest, most revered religions been built upon a lie? Can the Church survive such a revelation? Has evil triumphed in perpetuating this charade? Will the world be rocked to its foundations by “the truth”?

Yawn. Excuse me, but I have some questions of my own:

Has anyone in Hollywood bothered to identify the number of historical inaccuracies in this novel? Will anyone ever have the guts to make a movie about the evil and brutality of Al Qaeda? Does Hollywood even recognize the difference between good and evil? How about the difference between truth and fiction? And the most urgent question of all regarding the movie “The Da Vinci Code”—

Can I have some more popcorn?

Monday, March 20, 2006

A Cloud on the Cusp of Spring

The prospect of avian flu mutating to the point of allowing human-to-human transmission continues to be a potential global disaster of unprecedented proportions. One expert's estimate is that up to 50% of the world’s population could perish.

I watched Dr. Robert Webster of St. Jude Children’s Hospital, being interviewed on ABC News last week. The scientist’s matter-of-fact discussion of his certainty that this plague will come to pass was bone-chilling. This interview excerpt shows just how seriously he takes the bird flu threat:

"I personally believe it will happen* and make personal preparations," said Webster, who has stored a three-month supply of food and water at his home in case of an outbreak.

"Society just can't accept the idea that 50 percent of the population could die. And I think we have to face that possibility," Webster said. "I'm sorry if I'm making people a little frightened, but I feel it's my role."

*emphasis added

There is a U.S. government website,, dedicated to the subject of avian flu. The site contains recommended advance preparations in the event of a human outbreak, and relevant medical and news developments. The CDC also has an extensive website dedicated to the virus, packed with information and linked to the official government site. I have both sites bookmarked.

Let’s hope and pray that human-to-human transmission of the H5N1 virus never develops. But if it does, we can never say we weren’t warned.

Friday, March 17, 2006

A Saint For the Ages

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.
~ from St. Patrick's Breastplate - a prayer

In today's secular celebrations of beer and corned beef, the rich history of St. Patrick's Day is often overlooked. The fifth century holy man named Patrick began his ministry as a slave and ended as a bishop. St. Patrick converted Ireland's pagan druids to Christianity by using a shamrock to demonstrate the mystery of the Holy Trinity, explaining the three leaves on one stem as representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit present in One God.

Patrick's legacy of learning helped to preserve Western civilization throughout the Dark Ages, when monks in monasteries his ministry had established served to keep literacy alive and history preserved for the modern world.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Read today’s accounts of Operation Swarmer, our military’s offensive against the relentless killers of Al Qaeda. Read about Al Qaeda’s planned infiltration and cold-blooded plans to do harm against civilians in the United States and British embassies in Iraq.

When you are finished reading those two stories, read of Sen. Russ Feingold’s plan to censure President Bush for wiretapping phone conversations between Al Qaeda and its suspected operatives in America.

Go ahead, take your time. I’ll wait…

All finished? Okay, for anyone leaning left on the issue of censure, I have one question. In view of the fact that our nation is at war against Al Qaeda and their ilk, and with proof of the enemy’s continuing and confirmed plans to do us and our allies harm, why should we not listen to their phone calls coming into this country?

If I'm not chatting with Al Qaeda on my phone, I have nothing to be concerned about. Neither does any other American citizen. So why are certain politicians so concerned with U.S. citizen's rights being applied to foreign terrorists who want us all dead?

It's the day we stop listening to these conversations that has me worried. Intercepting possible terrorist phone calls makes perfect, logical sense to me. Of course, in an election year, any logical sense, perfect or otherwise, will be in short supply on the minority side of the aisle. Even if it means another 9/11.

I guess that leads me to another question: At what price power?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Another Perspective

Robert J. Caldwell of the San Diego Union-Tribune posts one of the most eloquent defenses of the defunct Dubai deal. While I don't agree, I have to admire the skill with which he argues his case.

If the UAE really can't understand why we (as in a large majority of U.S. citizens) had a problem with the arrangement, then I don't know if they're smart enough to be as valuable as Caldwell claims. A sophisticated ally will not only comprehend the apprehension of the American people, but respect it as well.

I give the UAE enough credit as our ally to believe that they get it.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Life Lessons

Ten things you learn quickly after your spouse dies:

1. It's hard to follow the plot of "24" all by yourself.

2. The garbage doesn't take itself out.

3. A malfunctioning machine no longer has any power to provoke you.

4. Office politics are suddenly meaningless, rendering them unworthy of your energy.

5. World politics also seem beside the point, a fact that makes blogging tough.

6. You have friends you thought for sure would be there for you, who somehow never are.

7. You have friends you never realized you had, who are willing to help you any way they can.

8. Your children are your fortress and your treasure.

9. The world moves on, with or without you.

10. Since you're still here, it's best if you move on with the world.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Port Whine

The Dubai port deal has sunk, thankfully. It's good news that the UAE had enough sense to back out of the deal. They showed more common sense than the Bush administration. It was such a public relations mess for the White House, and rightly so, that the Harriet Miers debacle must have seemed pleasantly nostalgic in comparison.

Three quarters of American citizens deserve to be heard. Too bad the president doesn't seem to be listening.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Oscar Fright

...Oh, wait, that should be Oscar night--but it was hard not to be scared, especially when the whiffen-pimp rap song won the Best Original Song category. It now takes its place among all the great Oscar-winning songs down through the decades of Academy Awards history: "The Way You Look Tonight" (1936), "White Christmas" (1942), "Mona Lisa" (1950), "Moon River" (1961), "The Way We Were" (1973), "Under the Sea" (1989), "My Heart Will Go On" (1997).

And now, 2005's winner, "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp." That fits right in, don't you think?

After the conclusion of last night's soundly uninspiring show, I thought of a movie I saw in the theatre just last week. "Eight Below" has some really fine acting in it. I'm hoping to see Maya and Max nominated next year. Those two talented sled dogs do at least as well as most of Hollywood.

And much better than some.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Thoughts on Ash Wednesday

"Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return."

I'm feeling kind of biblical tonight. Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of 40 days of spiritual preparation for Easter, the celebration of Our Lord's Resurrection.

It's also 40 days today since my husband died. Peter, same name as the point Apostle, the rock Christ selected to build his church. Pete was my own personal rock, and he's already returned to dust. That's still a difficult fact for me to get my mind around. It takes a lot longer than 40 days and 40 nights to process a loss like this.

We were married for 33 years, which was Our Lord's age at the time of his crucifixion.

It's going to be a different Lent for me this year. I won't be wrestling between omitting peppermints in the morning or cookies with my evening tea. At the moment, I'm not much interested in either of those trifles. This Lent, I'll be focusing more on the big picture and where the road of life is leading us. It will be quite easy for me, during these 40 days of Lent, to remember that we humans are born to die.

Prayers and tears will mix easily. They already do these days, but at least now I've got the season going for me.