Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Observations on Character

Recently I was invited to speak to a chapter of the Kiwanis in Stockton, California. I had originally intended to address the hot-bed issue of illegal immigration, entitled, “Who Is My Neighbor?” As the time approached for this early morning breakfast gathering, I felt I needed to change course in what I was going to share. The reason for this is quite simple: There were simply too many instances of people in the news who had serious character issues.

Here are several of the examples I noticed in just one day in the news.

Representative Mark Souder, a Republican, was to step down due to an adulterous relationship. He said he “sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff. I wish I could have been a better example,” he said. “In this poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal failing is seized upon, often twisted, for political gain. I am resigning rather than to put my family through this painful, drawn-out process . . . We are a committed family but the error is mine and I should bear the responsibility. Not only am I thankful for a loving family but for a loving God.”

Not only does Congressman Souder cheat on his wife, but he compromises his position as a standing member of Congress, opening himself up to blackmail and all sorts of other nefarious problems. Then his comments are a further indication of his lack of character. He refers to his unfaithful liaison as “having a mutual relationship.” Please! He starts the “blame game,” because, after all, “It’s not my fault!” He blames it on the atmosphere of Washington, D.C., which is rife with political chicanery and subterfuge! As for his “loving family and loving God” comment, I hope he is able to restore relations with both. He needs that most of all!

The New York Times reported that Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat and a front-running candidate for the U.S. Senate (a seat vacated by retiring Senator Chris Dodd), has on several occasions suggested – and in at least one instance, flat-out claimed – that he served in Vietnam even though he did not. “On a few occasions, I have misspoken about my service and I regret that, and I take full responsibility,” Blumenthal said Tuesday. But he described those remarks as “absolutely unintentional,” and said the mistake has only happened a few times out of “hundreds” of addresses he’s given.

The arrogance of Mr. Blumenthal takes my breath away! Here we have the Attorney General of Connecticut (my state of birth!) who is chief law enforcement officer for the people of Connecticut, and he only “misspoke a few times.” No, Mr. Blumenthal, that’s called lying and misrepresentation. After five deferments you finally enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve – I’ll give you that. However, it is galling to hear you demean the service of those who actually served in Vietnam by claiming that same service for yourself. You satisfactorily graduated from Marine Corps boot camp – no small feat. You earned the title, Marine! In the annals of history and war fighting, it is a small, exclusive club of those who proudly bear the title, Marine. Was that not enough for you?

Another account of mindless buffoonery, as well as dangerous thinking, was also in the news. One was a high school geometry teacher in Alabama who was teaching his students parallel lines and angles in a rather unorthodox manner. He used a hypothetical example of where the student should stand in assassinating President Obama. What? This man is teaching our children in public school! I don’t care what your political beliefs are – this sort of thinking is downright scary!

Evangelist Dwight L. Moody (February 5, 1837 - December 22, 1899) nailed it when it comes to character. He is reported to have said, “I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man I have ever met!” Hmmm. The more I reflect on that statement, the more I understand what Moody was driving at. A man’s character is always going to be challenged by his sin nature. I may know the right thing to do, but the doing of it is my biggest hurdle. This is why we need a Savior. His name is Jesus. He is in the business of changing hearts and setting us on the road of doing what is right.

It has been said that “Character is what you are when no one is looking.” This is true, except that God is watching you all the time.

Do what is right.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Terrorist Goals

As you are only too aware, another would-be terrorist bomber attempted to blow up a part of Times Square in New York two weeks ago. Our response was to send drones to the terrorist training area in Pakistan and launch eighteen Hellfire missiles into the enclave of those responsible for training Faisal Shahzad, the confessed Times Square bomber. This training area is designed specifically to recruit and train those who will be sent to our American cities to blow up as many people as possible. That is their stated purpose. Who are these people? They call themselves the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Our State Department has known about them for some time but only now, after a near disaster was averted, has this group been placed on the Terrorist List. Comforting, isn’t it?

Or how about the comments made by various officials that Shahzad acted alone in his nefarious deeds? This is most likely true, because the stated purpose of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan is clear, as evidenced by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “We know they run active training camps where people, including Faisal Shahzad, learn how to carry out terrorist attacks," Schumer said of the TTP. "They've publicly committed to killing Americans, and, in a video that surfaced last month, they pledged to make U.S. cities their 'main target,'" Schumer said. Well, golly! That sure makes me feel better!

Here’s my question: When are we going to get off the dime and take these Islamist terrorists seriously?

Go back with me to another time which wasn’t so long ago. I’m referring to the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Many of you will remember that he came into the office of the presidency with 52 Americans having been held hostage in Iran for 444 days. These hostages were released twenty minutes after Reagan was sworn into office. Why? Because the Iranians believed he would make good on his campaign promise to get the hostages back – whatever it took.

In a speech given at the Annual Convention of the American Bar Association, July 8, 1985, Reagan made numerous cogent remarks about the terrorists. Consider the following – then ask yourself: Are we any better off than we were twenty-five years ago? Have we really learned anything about these Islamist terrorists?

“There is a temptation to see the terrorist act as simply the erratic work of a small group of fanatics. We make this mistake at great peril, for the attacks on America, her citizens, her allies, and other democratic nations in recent years do form a pattern of terrorism that has strategic implications and political goals. And only by moving our focus from the tactical to the strategic perspective, only by identifying the pattern of terror and those behind it, can we hope to put into force a strategy to deal with it.”

Later in his speech, President Reagan made these observations. “And all of these states are united by one simple criminal phenomenon -- their fanatical hatred of the United States, our people, our way of life, our international stature. And the strategic purpose behind the terrorism sponsored by these outlaw states is clear: to disorient the United States, to disrupt or alter our foreign policy, to sow discord between ourselves and our allies, to frighten friendly Third World nations working with us for peaceful settlements of regional conflicts, and, finally, to remove American influence from those areas of the world where we're working to bring stable and democratic government; in short, to cause us to retreat, retrench, to become Fortress America. Yes, their real goal is to expel America from the world. And that is the reason these terrorist nations are arming, training, and supporting attacks against this nation. And that is why we can be clear on one point: these terrorist states are now engaged in acts of war against the Government and people of the United States. And under international law, any state which is the victim of acts of war has the right to defend itself.”

The goals of the Islamist terrorists have stayed the same: They want to destroy the United States in every way possible. They want to kill every last one of us. And they want to rule the world.

No amount of sticking our head in the sand will make this go away. We can try and make nice to them until the cows come home. It won’t work. It is seen as weakness on our part. They view such piety as cowardice and have nothing but utter disdain toward what they perceive as weakness. On the other hand, they do respect strength of force.

Toward the end of his speech, Reagan said, “So, the American people are not -- I repeat -- not going to tolerate intimidation, terror, and outright acts of war against this nation and its people. And we're especially not going to tolerate these attacks from outlaw states run by the strangest collection of misfits, loony tunes, and squalid criminals -- [laughter] -- since the advent of the Third Reich.”

Reagan closed with this sober quote from another president. “Teddy Roosevelt -- and he is a good President to quote in these circumstances -- put it so well: ‘We, here in America, hold in our hands the hope of the world, the fate of the coming years; and shame and disgrace will be ours if in our eyes the light of high resolve is dimmed, if we trail in the dust the golden hopes of man.’ And that light of high resolve, those golden hopes, are now ours to preserve and protect and, with God's help, to pass on to generations to come.”

It is clear what the goals of the terrorists are. But what are our goals?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Keep the Vision

A passage from the Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish, but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” A contemporary English translation puts it like this: “If people can't see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.”

The Constitution of the United States was written for just this purpose – to give the people of this fledgling nation purpose so we don’t stumble along in the pursuit of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The Constitution is presented in such a way as to allow us to stay focused on a simplified rule of law, a government that is not intrusive into the daily affairs of the people, and which allows ordinary citizens the freedom to pursue their dreams.

To appreciate just how the Constitution came into being a working knowledge of The Federalist Papers is very helpful. The Federalist Papers were written during the 1770-80s time period when as a new nation we were attempting to establish some structured form of self-governance. This would lead to the actual formulation of the Constitution which was adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. The authors of these papers were Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay in an attempt to explain “the complexities of the constitutional government – its political structure and principles based on the inherent rights of man.”

The opening paragraph in the introduction of the Papers clearly states the intent of the writing of the Constitution. The language is antiquated, which is a nice way of saying we don’t speak or write like this anymore.

“After an unequivocal experience of the efficacy of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.”

I encourage you to reread the previous paragraph several times. In short: the members of the Constitutional Convention were intentional in deliberating over the formation of the Constitution. They understood the importance of this daunting task! Putting this into a document would either be the greatest exercise in human governance the world has ever seen, or it would be a disaster. No nation had ever allowed its citizens to make such liberating decisions concerning how they would be ruled. Why were the citizens of United States allowed to decide how they were to be governed? The answer is found in the previous paragraph: By their conduct and example! This was a very new experiment in leading the people of any nation. All that the world had ever known to this point were kings, potentates, dictators, and despots who typically ruled with an iron fist, believing that only a few in society were exceptional and all the rest of the populace were sheep, needing to be controlled.

Today, our nation faces challenges to the Constitution by those who believe that “we the people” need to be controlled in every area of our lives. Our current government wants to decide what your health insurance will cover, to how much salt you can have in your diet, to the amount of money you should be allowed to earn, to government run programs “to spread the wealth around” that will redistribute your money so as to make sure those with less will have some of yours. That, my friends, is not what the founding fathers had in mind!

God blessed this nation from its inception. The vision of liberty and freedom is still very much alive. But it grieves me to think that our freedoms are being taken away from us at a breathtaking rate. I did not spend thirty-four years in the military where I took an oath to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help me God,” only to see it pushed aside as some out-of-date document that can be ignored or changed at will by our elected officials and judiciary. If things continue at this pace, we may look back on our Constitution with its continued loss of freedoms and realize that the world is much the poorer because we did not fight to keep our hard-won liberties.

God help us!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Illegal Immigration

There is a lot of ruckus over the new immigration law just passed in Arizona in an attempt to bring at least a modicum of control over the illegal immigration problem that has been plaguing our southwestern border states. Amidst all the cry of foul – Racists! Bigots! Xenophobes! – the Arizona issue is not likely to be moved from the front page of the newspaper any time soon.

This got me to thinking – What has been our nation’s legal policy concerning immigration since our inception in the late 1700s? The first European settlers held this belief: “The settling of America began with an idea. The idea was that people can join together and agree to govern themselves by making laws for the common good.”

The first legal document to control illegal immigration was established in 1790, called the Naturalization Act, stipulating that "any alien, being a free white person, may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States." The big concern expressed in this document was an obvious bias against Native American Indians and black slaves.

In 1875 “the Supreme Court declared that regulation of US immigration is the responsibility of the Federal Government.” A few years later in 1891, “the Federal Government assumed the task of inspecting, admitting, rejecting, and processing all immigrants seeking admission to the U.S.” This led to the establishment of Ellis Island as an ingress point in New York Harbor in 1892. The Immigration Act of 1903 was written to reinforce the 1891 law which particularly targeted our border states in the southwest, “calling for rules covering entry as well as inspection of aliens crossing the Mexican border.” The US Immigration Act of 1907 “reorganized the states bordering Mexico (Arizona, New Mexico and a large part of Texas) into the Mexican Border District to stem the flow of immigrants into the United States.” What isn’t mentioned in this bit of history is the continuous problem of Mexican bandits raiding American homes and towns across the border, by no less a notorious bad man than Pancho Villa.
From 1917–1924 “a series of laws were enacted to further limit the number of new immigrants. These laws established the quota system and imposed passport requirements. They expanded the categories of excludable aliens and banned all Asians except Japanese” (rapidimmigration.com from the U.S. Immigration web site). The 1924 Act “reduced the number of US immigration visas and allocated them on the basis of national origin.”

The 1940 Alien Registration Act “required all aliens (non-U.S. citizens) within the United States to register with the Government and receive an Alien Registration Receipt Card (the predecessor of the "Green Card").” In 1950, the actual Green Card was implemented.

USA Patriot Act 2001 “was passed so as to unite and strengthen America by providing appropriate tools required to intercept and obstruct terrorism," and therefore, terrorists.

There were lesser bills and laws passed over the years, but the point in all of this is that there are plenty of laws on the books already that simply need to be enforced. Arizona is frustrated because of an inept and unwilling federal government to enforce its own standing laws. In a current web site article, “How Could They Do That In Arizona!” writer and educator, Victor Davis Hanson, surmises, “As I understand the opposition to the recent Arizona law, it boils down to something like the following: the federal government’s past decision not to enforce its own law should always trump the state’s right to honor it.” Hmmmm. Good point. He goes on to ask whether or not a state has the right to enforce a law the federal government chooses not to enforce. If the current administration follows through with its threat to investigate the legality of the Arizona Law, will they not find that Arizona is simply acting on current federal law?

A major factor in the illegal immigration controversy is the cost incurred by American citizens. Case in point: Hospital closures. In a study performed covering 1995-2000, of all the hospitals closed in California during this time frame, a staggering 65% (15 facilities) occurred in Southern California – specifically, Los Angeles and San Diego. Nearly half of those that closed were “for-profit” organizations. The top reasons given: “Each of the closed hospitals experienced declining reimbursements, income per bed, and utilization in the year prior to closure.” American hospitals, by law, are required to treat anyone who comes through their doors. As reported, the biggest drain on these hospitals in Southern California is illegal aliens that do not have health insurance, or any other means of paying for services rendered. This means the hospital is left holding the bill. You can only do that for so long before you run out of the necessary financial resources to stay in operation, especially if you are a for-profit entity.
As of this writing, news reports indicate a lot more states are considering implementing legislation like Arizona that will allow them to act on what the federal government has been fearful of acting on when it comes to illegal immigration.

This is a growing problem. Cooler heads must prevail if we are to get control of this out-of-control illegal immigration issue.

Psalm for the Day