Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Exceptional!


For those who have been reading my column for any period of time know that I love to read. Recently I picked up a book first printed in 1842 by the American Sunday-School Union (ASSU), known today as the American Missionary Fellowship (AMF). The title of the book is, “The Life of Washington.”

George Washington is, by any standard, an exceptional individual. It has troubled me in recent years to hear defamatory remarks made about the “Father of Our Country.” Growing up in New England I well remember seeing the many signs along the roadways indicating, “George Washington Slept Here.” I found this opening paragraph written by Jamie Rhein on the Gadling travel web site: “Chances are you've heard the adage, ‘George Washington slept here.’ There is a reason for the saying. The man got around. I don't mean he got around in a nudge, nudge, wink, wink, ya' know what I mean kind of way, but he did sleep in a lot of places. During the Revolutionary War he traveled across the Mid-Atlantic states and through the Northeast eating, drinking and catching some shut-eye in various taverns and inns.” http://www.gadling.com/2007/02/19/presidents-day-george-washington-slept-here/.

There were plenty of jokes and innuendo about Washington a la the “nudge, nudge, wink, wink, ya’ know what I mean,” inference. But from those who knew him he was anything but a philanderer. He was as uprightly moral as you will ever find in any man. In addition, he was the most humble of men – a quality sorely lacking in today’s government leaders.

George Washington was born February 22, 1732. An interesting anecdote to this bit of information is that Washington’s birthday was actually February 11th. If this is so, how come we recognize his birthday on February 22nd? Good question! At that time in Europe there were two separate means of keeping calendar dates: one maintained by the English, and one maintained by the rest of Europe. In 1752 the English changed their dating system to match that of Europe’s which shifted Washington’s birthday to the 22nd.

Many of you will remember the story of Washington “chopping down the cherry tree.” Revisionist historians have pooh-poohed this story as urban legend in an attempt to discredit the character of George Washington. They say it was all fabricated – never happened. Many of you have probably believed this because you’ve heard this story demeaned for so many decades. Allow me to report to you what was stated in the book. “The story is, that he was playing with a hatchet, and heedlessly struck a favorite fruit-tree in his father’s garden. Upon seeing the tree thus mutilated, an inquiry was naturally made for the author of the mischief, when George frankly confessed the deed, and received his father’s forgiveness.”

At the age of 15 Washington had a strong desire to go to sea as a midshipman in the English navy. His application was accepted. However, his mother was greatly distressed that her son would be leaving hearth and home, for she had been widowed for five years at this point, strongly relying on her sons to look after her. “When he became convinced that by doing so, he would wound the heart of an anxious parent, ‘Honor thy mother,’ he gave up his fondly cherished plan, and yielded his own inclinations, to promote her comfort.”

Several years later during his time serving with the British army in Virginia, he was an aide to General Edward Braddock. During one encounter against the French and Indians, “Washington was the only aid of General Braddock that was left to carry his orders and assist in encouraging the affrighted troops. For three hours, he was exposed to the aim of the most perfect marksmen; two horses fell under him; a third was wounded; four balls (bullets) pierced his coat, and several grazed his sword; every other officer was either killed or wounded, and he alone remained unhurt. The Indians directed the flight of their arrows towards his breast, and the French made him a mark for their rifles, but both were harmless, for the shield of his God protected him, and ‘covered his head in the heat of battle.’” The Indians called him, “The Spirit-protected man, who would be a chief of nations, for he could not die in battle.” The doctor who was in attendance on the battlefield spoke of Washington’s miraculous survival afterward: “I expected every moment to see him fall; - his duty, his situation, exposed him to every danger; nothing but the superintending care of Providence could have saved him from the fate of all around him.”

There is a reason for the term, “American Exceptionalism.” It began with an exceptional man whom God chose to favor. We are, indeed, a blessed nation.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Truth Be Told

Growing up I was aware that my parents were FDR Democrats, which was understandable in light of Roosevelt being the president through most of the Great Depression and World War II. You can’t go through that much as a nation and not feel a certain affinity to the leader who helped you conquer those virtually insurmountable obstacles.

As I came of age where I began to take an interest in world events, and particularly national and international politics, I remember being very much taken with the youthfulness of Senator Jack Kennedy, and his charisma which reached every age group. He was energetic, challenging all of us to exercise more, and get in shape. He encouraged us to go on 50 mile hikes! Remember?

The presidential election of 1960 was historic. The Democrats put up Senator Jack Kennedy, and the Republicans put up Vice-President Richard Nixon. This was historic for several reasons: First, Nixon was expected to win the election seeing as he had just been Eisenhower’s VP for the previous eight years. Second, Kennedy was the first Catholic to be elected president (“The Pope will run America!”). And third, it was the first election where there were a significant number of Americans with TVs to watch the debates. The impression the television provided for those who watched the debates has often been considered to be the reason for Kennedy’s victory. Being black & white TV then, the lighting, and therefore shadowing of the two candidates, was very important. Kennedy had light brown hair and a strong, manly face sporting a ruddy, healthy complexion. Nixon, on the other hand, had dark, almost black hair and pasty, sickly skin, revealing a dark beard that gave him a sinister look. Nixon was clean-shaven, but the camera emphasized his dark hair, accenting his less-than-attractive facial features.

Eight years later Nixon would again emerge as the Republican candidate for president. He came across much better this time, defeating Democrat candidate Hubert Humphrey. The odds-on favorite for the Democratic Party was Bobby Kennedy, Jack’s younger brother, who had served as Attorney General during his brother’s presidency. Bobby was young, attractive, energetic, experienced in Washington politics, and many believe he would have been elected president in 1968 had he not been assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian Christian who was angry at Bobby Kennedy for his promise to send 50 jet aircraft to Israel if Kennedy became the next Commander-in-Chief.

It was a couple of months earlier that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed by James Earl Ray. Thus the great Civil Rights leader was dead only a short time after the Civil Rights Bill had been passed by Congress.

Here’s where the story gets interesting.

The issues of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement were surrounded by politics. No surprise there, but did you know that if it had not been for the Republican Party, the Civil Rights Bill would never have been passed by Congress? President Lyndon Johnson was handed the bill for his signature in 1964. But do you know how the bill managed to get to the president’s desk? Here’s the way it was voted on in Congress. In the original House of Representatives version the vote was Democrats AYES: 61%, NAYS: 39%. Republicans AYES: 80%, NAYS: 20%. The Senate version – Democrats AYES: 69%, NAYS: 31%. Republicans AYES: 82%, NAYS: 18%.

One more bit of history to satisfy your thirst for knowledge. Abraham Lincoln was the first president of the new Republican Party. It was his wish to bring slavery to an end, however, not at the expense of bringing the nation to the brink of civil war. Preserve the Union! was his goal. Even before he took office, several of the southern states seceded from the Union. Undaunted, he still made every attempt to keep the remaining southern states in the Union. He believed if he could isolate the south, preventing them from transporting their slaves with them into the new territories out west, then slavery would eventually die out in the south without the need for civil war. As we know, this strategy did not work. One of the reasons is because the southern Democrats would have nothing to do with liberating slaves, even though only 15% of southerners owned slaves. The other problem had to do with northern Democrats opposing Lincoln’s efforts to bring slavery to an end. They wanted nothing to do with it.

It was this same obstructionist thinking in the 1850s and 1860s that we saw one hundred years later opposing the Civil Rights Bill. The Congress in 1964 was controlled by the Democrats, which means every one of their committees was chaired by a Democrat. A brief look will show that these chairmen were southerners who still held onto their racist leanings.

It was the Republicans who won the day in defeating slavery, and it was Republicans who put the vote over the top on the Civil Rights Bill.

So here’s my dilemma: If it was Democrats who were obstructing the abolition of slavery, and were dragging their feet on Civil Rights, how is it that Democrats are commonly believed to be the friend of Blacks in America?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Reps, Dems, or Whatever!

Oh boy! Things are sure starting off with a bang in 2010 politically.

Quite a number of Democrat Congressmen are deciding to retire from the Senate and the House. The Republicans are salivating at the prospect of gaining seats on the Democrats in both houses. There are also some Republicans deciding to cash in their chips as well, causing the Democrats to think they’ll be able to hold onto their power. Well, whoop-de-doo!

Personally, I’m disgusted with the whole bunch of them. I’m still looking for men and women of conviction. Men and women who are willing to take on the tough issues and stand their ground. Men and women who do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Men and women who stand on principle. Men and women who represent “We the people” and not special interest groups and political action committees. Men and women who do not have skeletons in their closets. Men and women who are willing to risk serving only one term if it means fixing the mess in Washington DC. Men and women who put the interests of their constituents above the interests of their party. Men and women who serve their country because they want to see it prosper, and not because they can financially benefit. I feel as though I am looking for such people in vain.

Have you ever looked at how much members of Congress make each year in salary? It’s very educational. As our nation emerged from the Revolution, members of Congress were paid $6.00 per diem (Latin: per day, or for each day served). In those early days members of Congress only met about half the year to manage the affairs of the nation. Otherwise they were home working on their farms or in their commercial trades. This held from 1789-1815. At $6.00 per diem two hundred days came to $1,200 annually. It then went to a straight salary for a couple of years of $1,500. Then it was $8.00 per diem until 1855 (or $1,600). Over the intervening years the Congressional salary has continued to grow annually with two exceptions: 1873-79, and 1929-35. This is interesting in itself because there have been five periods of economic depression in the United States. But only twice has Congress voted to cut their salaries during these downturns. The annual salary for Congressmen today is $174,000.

Then there’s the retirement plan for members of Congress. This is another issue, so suffice it to say, “Congressional pension benefits are 2-3 times more generous than what a similarly-salaried executive could expect to receive upon retiring from the private sector” (Taken from the National Taxpayers Union). Did you get that? Congressional retirement pay is 2-3 times MORE than those evil, money-grubbing, villainous corporate executives!

So, okay, they vote themselves pay increases every year. We’ve allowed them to do that because we keep sending the same kind of folks to DC.

In 2009 the Democrats have dug themselves a hole with this Health Care Bill. Folks across the country are simply disgusted with this monkey business. The undercurrent of discontent is evident in the polling data which shows a lot of Democrats may be facing uphill battles for re-election. That’s fine by me, because the Democratic Party has shifted so far to the Left that it is unrecognizable. On the other hand, the Republican Party has shown itself to be at sea without a rudder. This party of supposed conservatism has also abandoned its political base by pandering to the policies of the Left. The GOP (Grand Old Party) of Lincoln and Reagan has lost its moorings.

Here’s a question I would like to posit to both political parties. Why should I vote for you?

Listen carefully Congress! You have pushed the American people too far. If you will stand upon principle (Are you listening Senator Ben Nelson?) and do what is right, then I will consider voting for you. If you will serve the American people and not your purse, then I will consider voting for you. If you will aggressively work to reduce the tax burden on the American people, reduce the size of government, and reduce the intrusion of government in the private sector, then I will consider voting for you. Republican, Democrat, or whatever!

I hope you are listening, Congress. We’re ten months away from the next election. Prepare to be surprised.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Absolute Moral Truth

In last week’s column I addressed an article written by Larry P. Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College in a monthly publication by the school called, Imprimis. In my column I expressed the concern our nation has today in losing perspective on the role of the U.S. Constitution.

This document, the Constitution, stands alone among such lofty philosophies of self-governance. The main reason for this can be traced to the faith of the Founding Fathers of the United States. These were men who were very certain about their spiritual beliefs. There references throughout the writings of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, and various other crucial documents written at that time were all firmly set in a theistic framework. Though these men frequently quibbled over points of doctrine (just as people do today), they did not argue over the existence of God and his involvement in the affairs of men. Neither were these men writing platitudes about God so as to somehow appease the masses of Americans who are denigrated by current historians to a mental level slightly higher than the village idiot for having been a people of faith. These same critics of the faith of our forefathers have bought into the philosophy of Karl Marx, who said, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

Such a philosophical position begs the ultimate question: Is there a God? If the conclusion is that there indeed is a God, then we can safely make an assumption that there are also, a priori, moral absolutes in life. If there is no God, then we can also assume there are no moral absolutes, which, on the surface may not seem like a big deal until you follow such a philosophical position to its logical conclusion. If we settle on the belief that there are no moral absolutes, then anything a person does is permissible because there is no law or set of codes that place moral conditions on our behavior. So if I decide that people who have one blue eye and one green eye should die, and then set out to kill such people, what person or standard is going to question my actions? Remember: This is if there are no moral absolutes.

So if I rule out the existence of God who alone determines absolute moral law, then I can be free to behave in whatever manner suits me. Someone might object, saying, “You can’t do that!” I would respond, “Why not?” If we are agreed that there are no moral absolutes, then there is no one person or set of laws to say I can’t. “But that’s not right!” you say. I ask in return, “What are you using to determine what I can and cannot do? Or what’s your basis for what is right and wrong?” Since you’ve ruled out a higher being, or a higher set of laws, then it’s merely your likes and dislikes that are being expressed. They mean nothing to me, because I can do whatever I want.

You may be saying to yourself that such thinking is ridiculous. Really? That’s exactly the thinking that Adolf Hitler adopted when he wantonly murdered millions of Jews, Gypsies, Down’s syndrome persons, the mentally and physically retarded, and anyone else who did not fit his Aryan model of humanity.

Here’s my point. The Founding Fathers understood that for a free people to live under the rule of other men, all those people must agree that there are rules establishing proper conduct in our society, if that society is going to survive and prosper. To agree that there are rules to live by, there has to be a standard that is agreed upon that is superior to man himself. The standard is set by God. This is how we are to be accountable. Otherwise, chaos breaks out.

It is this idea that man does not need to answer to a higher authority that has produced the nightmarish decisions being foisted upon us today. We have satisfied ourselves that there are no absolute moral truths.

The baby in the womb is now seen as an inconvenience. It should only be given birth if it is wanted, healthy, and the parent(s) can properly take care of it. These are moral decisions made by people in authority. This is frightening! I do not want people in leadership making decisions based upon the philosophy that has said there are no moral absolutes.

Tragically, this is what I see in our government today. If we are to avoid disaster as a nation, we need people who return to the principles inherent in the Constitution. Are there any such people?

More on this next week.

Psalm for the Day