Sunday, August 25, 2019

A Glimmer of Hope

The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money.
~ Margaret Thatcher

I read about 22-year-old Morgan Zegers' new nonprofit organization, Young Americans Against Socialism, and felt that warm hopefulness that only good news can deliver.

Young Americans Against Socialism is a very good idea whose time is long past due. Americans touting the benefits of socialism have no idea what they're talking about. They were born and raised in the United States, a land of plenty, a haven of comfort, freedom, opportunities and advantages undreamed of throughout the overwhelming majority of human history. Their way has been made easy, largely by the fruits of capitalism. For the most part, they don't realize how much they are risking by flirting with the stringencies of socialism.

Young Americans Against Socialism. YAAS. Yes!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Reveling in Reading

I'm so tired of the news, aren't you? It's just downright depressing. This is summer time, we should be enjoying ourselves. So let's talk about books!

Aside from instilling in me a devotion to Christianity, the best thing my father ever did for me was teaching me to love reading. Dad was a natural teacher, and starting in my toddler years he used bedtime stories as cleverly disguised lessons. By the age of four, I was a beginning reader. As I got older, I started reading on my own before bedtime, and I've never stopped. Reading is my sanctuary, my therapy, and my continuing education.

For the past few years, I'm usually reading several books at once. I haven't read multiple books simultaneously since my college years as an English major; but, hey, I'm in my sixties now. So many books, so little time. The advent of the e-reader has facilitated this multi-reading experience; I'm usually toggling downloaded books along with hardcovers and paperbacks. It's great fun.

For decades I would read novels almost exclusively; but now, I find I'm leaning more towards non-fiction. I think this transition manifests a need to learn all I can before I begin forgetting everything I ever knew. That's just my theory. Anyway, below are a few books I've enjoyed since June:

The Last Year of the War, by Susan Meissner
This is a novel that doubles as a history lesson. It's the story of a German-American teenager whose family is sent to an internment camp during World War II. She forges a lifelong bond with a Japanese girl in the camp, and the tale unfolds around their enduring friendship. Written in the first person, the story is told with impressive historical detail and haunting poignancy.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann

This is a grim documentary of a forgotten and shameful period in early 20th century American history. The abuses and crimes that were perpetrated against the Osage people are sickening and horrific. But the author gives some very late justice by bringing the atrocities to light.

Knowing: Memoirs of a journey behind the veil and choosing joy after tragic loss, by Jeffrey Olsen

I'm a bit of a nut on near-death experiences (NDEs), and this was the most dramatic one I've found. How do you go on living after half of your family has been killed in a tragic accident? The author, armed with insights from the mysterious beyond, explains how he rebuilt his life.

This summer I've also reread a couple of books I especially love:

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein

Before I went to see the recently released movie, I wanted to refresh the story in my mind. It was like revisiting an old friend. (Kevin Costner sounded very much as I had imagined Enzo would.)

A Grief Observed, by C.S.Lewis

When a former coworker was recently widowed, I recommended this book to her. It was my guidebook the year my husband died. I read it several times then and reread it again last month. I doubt it's possible to read too much of C.S. Lewis.

Below are books in progress now:

The Egg and I, by Betty McDonald
I remember seeing this hardcover book in my parents' mahogany bookcase; I'm reading it on my Kindle. A lighthearted classic from the mid-20th century, it wouldn't be published today--too politically incorrect--but if you have a sense of historical perspective, it's quite enjoyable.

Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passion, Pastimes, and Politics, by Charles Krauthammer

This book groups thirty years of Krauthammer's writings into sections of what is important in life. I miss Charles Krauthammer--his calm intelligence, quiet confidence, and wry humor. This book is like bringing him back for a one-on-one visit.

Books up next ~

Knowing that I love to read, friends often loan me books. The two below are "on deck" on my nightstand:

Eve: A Novel, by Wm. Paul Young
Young is the author of The Shack, which I read when it was first published. I enjoyed it, so I'll give Eve a go.

House Rules, by Jodi Picoult

It's been quite a few years since I've read a Picoult book, but I trust my friend's "thumbs up."

With several pairs of reading glasses stashed both upstairs and downstairs, it appears I'm set for happy reading straight through Labor Day weekend. May you be so fortunate.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

More Questions than Answers

One must look both along and at everything.

~ C.S. Lewis

There is nothing to be gained by expounding upon the national horrors of this past weekend.  Too many people are doing far too much talking. There's plenty of blame, accusations, insults, hatred, and anger on the airwaves, eclipsed only by the amount of stupidity contained in the diatribes.

None of the rough words are going to accomplish anything useful to help the country find its way through to peace. Nothing I see indicates that any of the bloviators care much about the victims. The dead and wounded amount to mere, convenient fodder for various left-wing political agendas. It's a sickening situation. How did we get to this awful place?

It's very easy to blame the president--too easy. The deterioration of our culture has been in progress for quite some time, long before Donald Trump was in the White House. In all the frenzied news coverage, nobody mentions that there were twenty-four mass shootings under President Obama's watch. Why is that, I wonder? I don't mean to imply that the two dozen shootings were Obama's fault, any more than El Paso or Dayton are Trump's fault. That's too one-dimensional, too simplistic of an explanation. Something much deeper is going on in America at a fundamental level, an illness that is eroding our societal foundations.

What has brought us to this dark point in our history? Obama's 2008 election coincides roughly with the birth of the smart phone and the dramatic rise of social media. Could that be the reason? God and religion have been systematically eradicated from the public square in recent decades, and "Nones," people who don't identify with any religion, are increasing. Does that fact contribute to our cultural rot?

How about impact of the 24-hour news cycle, the fractured family structure that so many children grow up under, the lack of courtesy, respect, and community we feel for one another compared to a half century ago? What about the lack of consequences for wrongdoing in so many public schools today?

I'm fairly certain that numerous contributing factors have brought us to this sad and frightening time. I just wish I knew what they are.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Seeing Stars and Bars

I am often asked “Why do Southerners still care about the Civil War?”… Because it is unique in the American experience. Defeat was total, surrender unconditional and the land still occupied. ~ Tim Heaton

When it comes to the current controversy surrounding the Confederate battle flag, I find that I am able to understand both points of view.

By today's intolerant cultural standards, that probably makes me a racist. Nevertheless, I can see both sides of the argument.

First of all, this flag is part of our national history. I realize that the Nazi flag was part of Germany's history, also, but I'm talking about the United States at the moment. Our country fought a long and bloody internal war over two opposing ways of life. We weren't pursuing global conquest; we were tearing each other's throats out, brother against brother unto agonizing death. In fact, it was the bloodiest war in our history. The rift was entirely within our own nation--a violent, devastating family fight, so to speak. The northern states fought under the Stars and Stripes; the southern states fought under the Stars and Bars. Every soldier was an American. I can understand why those Americans whose ancestors died and/or suffered because of the Civil War (also called the War Between the States, or--popular with Southern citizens--the War of Northern Aggression) would want to commemorate that sacrifice by flying the Confederate battle flag.

And there is always the question of First Amendment rights. If "freedom of speech" includes the right to burn an American flag, why is simply displaying a Confederate flag an illegal act?

On the other hand, the economic system of the South incorporated an intrinsically evil institution--slavery--and displaying the Confederate flag affirms approval and acceptance of that evil and the centuries of human misery than resulted from it. In addition, the Confederate flag symbolizes a fractured nation, a country destructively divided against itself. Hoisting such a divisive symbol isn't a good idea, particularly in our culturally hysterical and politically hostile atmosphere.

So where do I stand? I say no, please don't fly that flag. We're all Americans, a century and a half past the end of that bitter conflict between the states. Let's put the "United" back in front of "States" and keep all of us together under one flag.

But if it means that much to someone to fly the Stars and Bars--well, theoretically, this still is a free country. Go ahead and fly your antique flag. I'll ignore you; but I wouldn't try to stop you.