Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lexicon of PC

I commented during lunch today that the current administration has provided me with no end of items to write about, to which I received several guffaws. It’s true! Where do I start?

Let’s see, because I’m an Evangelical Christian, according to the latest Lexicon of Political Correctness, this makes me a right-wing extremist. This would mean I am a subversive. In a word – I’m a terrorist.

Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, has been stumbling along in recent days making one egregious misstatement after another. Napolitano said that the 9-11 terrorists entered the United States through Canada. Besides the fact that this is patently false, it has understandably upset our neighbors to the north. No meaningful apologies from Ms Napolitano as yet. You have to admire her sticking to her guns even after being proven wrong! Mercy! We wouldn’t want to confuse the lady with the facts now, would we?

The other noteworthy blunder from this person who is responsible for our safety and security on the home front was to openly state that our military personnel returning from overseas combat zones are “susceptible to recruitment” by right-wing extremists. Hmmmm . . . Let me see if I’ve got this right. Is she referring to the same people who voluntarily joined our military to “protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic”? The ones who come home from the battles of Iraq and Afghanistan waking up each night in a cold sweat after having relived in a nightmare the death, carnage, and horrors of combat? The same people whose lives are forever changed because they believed our freedoms were worth defending? The same warriors who would return to the war zone in a heartbeat because they love this land and its people? The same young people who put on hold their plans and dreams to serve us, the American people, sacrificing their lives willingly, if called upon, so we could go about our daily activities unmolested? The same people who would “take a bullet” for her? I’m stupefied by the ignorance and arrogance of such a person who holds so lofty a position within our government.

Here is the height of bombast! To impugn the character of all military personnel in so off-handed a manner is irresponsible to the extreme. Does this not sound like the reincarnation of John Kerry, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, John Murtha, et al? I can fully appreciate why there is a growing number of people discontent with Ms Napolitano, who are openly calling for her resignation.

Further, it has been suggested by those in this administration that if you do not agree with the President concerning his policies then you are a racist. Excuse me? Whatever happened to openly disagreeing with each other? I do not agree with most of this administration’s policies. But how does this disagreement on public policy make such a giant leap to characterizing me as a racist?

I was remembering back to the weeks immediately following 9-11 when many neighborhoods had American flags flying from their homes, freeway overpasses, cars, and large ones erected in the flatbed of pickup trucks. Lapel pins were common (but not by CNN news anchors and others), as well as American flag-designed ties, and all sorts of clothing articles. This exuberant display of patriotism was refreshing! But I feared then that we would quickly forget that we had been viciously attacked by an enemy that still wants to see every American dead.

As a Vietnam vet, I can never forget that our government leaders failed to finish what had been started in that Southeast Asian country. Those of us returning from there were castigated as war criminals, baby-killers, and a host of other unflattering descriptions. In an atmosphere of déjà-vu, the current administration is attempting to place war-crimes responsibilities on those public officials from the previous administration who prosecuted the War on Terror. Amazing!

Ah! But according to the powers that be in America today, I am in error here. The latest change to the Lexicon of Political Correctness no longer refers to terrorism as terrorism. According to Ms Napolitano terrorism is now to be referred to as “man-caused disasters.” Call it what you will – a terrorist brings terrorism against unwitting people. They are thuggish. They are not heroic. They are not freedom fighters. They are not revolutionaries. They are not liberators. They are despicable human beings who use violence and fear to enforce their will. We must be prepared to stop them at every turn.

General William Tecumseh Sherman had this straightforward description of patriotic duty that he delivered to an audience of 5,000 Civil War veterans in 1880: “The war is away back in the past, and you can tell what books can not. When you talk, you come down to practical realities just as they happened. . . . There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but boys, it is all hell. . . . I look upon war with horror, but if it has to come – I am here.”

You need not fear the military veterans for they are patriots. Instead, you should fear the terrorists.

The Lexicon of Political Correctness may well be in a state of continuous change and flux. But the intentional manipulation of words does not change the heart of a patriot.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My Kind of Patriot

This Saturday marks a moment in American history thirty-three years ago when one person on the national stage had had enough of the anti-patriotism that was seemingly so prevalent in that day. A friend sent me the news story as an e-mail attachment the other day and suggested I might want to write about it. He was right. Here it is.

On April 25, 1976, the Chicago Cubs were in Los Angeles playing the Los Angeles Dodgers when two fools, a father and son, ran into short center field where they threw down an American flag they had been carrying. One of these bozos sprayed the flag with lighter fluid while the other clown attempted to light a match. As they knelt by the doused flag, the wind picked up and blew out the first match. Not to be deterred, Einstein made a second attempt. That’s when the fun began.

The center fielder for the Chicago Cubs at the time was Rick Monday. Previous to playing for the Cubs, Monday had played for the Kansas City Athletics (soon after they became the Oakland Athletics). At the end of the 1976 season, Monday was traded to the Dodgers where he finished out his nineteen year career as a major league player.

But on this particular day, Rick Monday would have none of this. Seeing what was taking place, he sprinted to where these geniuses were still trying to burn the American flag. His first thoughts were to bowl into these two miscreants and send them flying. Instead, he swooped in and snagged the flag off the ground on a dead run. Einstein was still fumbling with a match, oblivious to the fact that the flag was no longer on the ground in front of him.

As Monday sprinted clear of these guys, the fans jumped to their feet and cheered. Security rounded up the father and son and carted them off to jail. In the video clip of this incident, you can see the Dodgers third base coach, Tommy Lasorda, sprinting out to center field with the intent of rescuing the flag as well. Seeing that Rick Monday had beaten him to it, Lasorda continued out there to verbally berate these two protesters using a string of words that would be most inappropriate for this article. However, most longshoremen would understand what Tommy said.

When Monday came up to bat in the next half-inning, before a pitch was ever thrown, a tribute was flashed on the left field message board that said, “Rick Monday . . . You made a nice play!” What Rick Monday did that day has sometimes been referred to as the greatest play in baseball history. Monday was later interviewed and asked about the incident. He said, "If you're going to burn the flag, don't do it around me. I've been to too many veterans' hospitals and seen too many broken bodies of guys who tried to protect it.”

Allow me to humbly inform you that Rick Monday was a Marine. Clowns #1 and #2 picked the wrong day, the wrong place, and in front of the wrong guy to pull their little stunt. Oorah, Rick!

At that moment in time Rick Monday stood up for what he believed in. He knew it was the right thing to do even though our nation was still languishing in the mire of a failed policy in Southeast Asia. Our last combat troops had left Vietnam little more than three years before, and our military presence had been evacuated from Saigon not quite a year prior to this incident.

Recently, the baseball Hall of Fame named the quick thinking act of Monday one of the top 100 events in baseball history.

Last September 2, 2008, at Dodger Stadium, the ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by Patricia Kennedy, President and Founder of Step Up 4 Vets. Prior to taking the mound, Kennedy bestowed upon Dodger’s announcer, Rick Monday, a “Peace One Earth Medallion” inscribed, “RICK MONDAY, An Unforgettable Act of Valor, An Inspired Act of Patriotism, April 25, 1976.”

Ever a patriot, Rick was offered a cool million bucks recently for the flag which had been presented to him by the Chicago Cubs organization in 1976. He turned down the offer!

All I can say is, “Semper Fi, Marine!” You’re my kind of patriot!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Death & Taxes

The old saying is true: There are two things you can be sure of in life – death and taxes!

Every April there is a great deal of grumbling going on over the excessive amount of taxes we pay to an ever ravenous government. Most of us dismiss this as part of the price you pay to live in the greatest country in the world.

But what about death?

Now I grant you this is not a topic folks like to discuss, but it is an important one nonetheless. I have chosen to address this topic because of a recent situation that once again highlights the importance of family members conveying their wishes when it comes to their death.

For the past several years I have served on Memorial Hospital’s Bioethics Committee. Many hospitals today have something similar to a bioethics committee, or possibly a bioethicist on their staff. A bioethicist is a person trained in the ethics of medical research and treatment. This person looks at the moral implications of medical treatment as it pertains to a patient particularly when advanced technological means are to be implemented. If the hospital does not have a bioethicist, then they may opt for a group of volunteers to serve on a committee comprised of doctors, nurses, the hospital chaplain, ministers from the community, and various medical consultants. In my case, during my doctoral studies it was my privilege to take several classes in bioethics at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Southern California. Our committee is headed by a physician.

Every two months the Bioethics Committee meets to discuss various issues that the medical staff may be facing. We serve in an advisory capacity to the hospitals medical staff by looking at the issues from various perspectives, recommending alternatives and options perhaps not previously considered. I have been impressed with the level of care and concern demonstrated by the medical folks in seeing to it that all available options are examined in the total treatment of a patient. The family members of the patient also have access to the ethics committee should there be a need. Usually this comes about when there is disagreement within the family as to what medical procedures should be followed. These are difficult moments for all concerned. That being said, there is one area that is particularly difficult for the medical staff to handle.

Occasionally, there is a patient who is brought in with no record of any next of kin. The case we were faced with recently centered on a fifty-five year old homeless man who had lapsed into a coma. His prognosis was bleak. There was no reaction to any of the sensory tests performed, nor was there any brain activity. Herculean efforts were made by all to track down a family member. The nursing staff that has been taking care of this man in ICU is heartsick that he is apparently going to die without any family at his bedside. We on the Bioethics Committee had also made efforts to reach any family members of this man, to no avail.

Barring a miracle, this man is for all intents and purposes, dead. As stated already, there is no brain activity, nor is there reaction to any tests administered to help determine some sign of life short of a pulse.

Here’s where you come in. Does your family know what your wishes are when your life comes to an end? Have you made out a will? A living trust? A medical directive? Anything that expresses your desires should you find yourself in an “end of life” situation? If not, those decisions will have to be made by your family and the hospital medical staff – which means it may not be as you would have wished. You should consider the ramifications of any such decisions because if your loved ones need to make that decision in the crisis of the moment when emotions are running high, it puts everyone at a distinct disadvantage.

All hospitals have medical consultants who could provide or recommend trained personnel to walk you through the steps necessary to make sure your wishes are clearly expressed. As a pastor I have had such folks come and speak to my congregation in the past, which is helpful because it allows you to evaluate all your options without the pressure of making immediate decisions.

My step father had just turned eighty when he lapsed into a coma one morning while reading the paper in bed. The family members traveled from the four corners of the globe to be with my mother. We discussed his prognosis with the doctors. There was no longer any brain activity. As a family, we all knew what his wishes were. As hard as it was to authorize the removal of the respirator, it was far easier knowing this was what he would want.

Don’t put this off. Take time to discuss this with your loved ones and then make sure it is recorded in a document that can be referred to when needed.

It is a hard thing to do, but it is the right thing to do.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Why Easter?

The Christian celebration of Easter has, in recent years, been relegated to a religious holiday once again. As the United States shifts further away from a Christian moral compass, and embraces a world view that is tolerant of all views, we can expect that those in the Christian community will sense an alienation from the foundational faith it once enjoyed from the days of its inception.

There are those who are working very hard to erase any semblance of religion from the public square in America. There are a number of web sites on the Internet that are blatantly anti-Christian, spewing a level of vitriol that is nothing short of breath-taking. In reading through some of the comments made by those who frequent these sites I couldn’t help but see how their hatred for all things religious, and particularly Christianity, had more to do with the hypocrisy of Christians, and less about the truth of the message of Christ and salvation.

Those of us in the Christian church often harm the very cause of Christ because we engage in argumentation that merely reinforces the established distorted views of Christianity’s detractors. Make no mistake! I truly enjoy engaging in the art of Christian Apologetics, but not to argue just for the sake of arguing. A comment made by one of my professors during my first semester at seminary has always stuck with me. He said, “A seminary education is not so you can win arguments. Rather, it is so you can win people to Christ.”

As Christians it is important that we be up front about our walk of faith. There are indeed struggles, a wrestling with our old sin nature. Sometimes we lose in that struggle, and depending on the type of sin, it may be very obvious to others that a particular sin has gotten the better of us. In Hebrews 12:1 we are encouraged to put off “the sin that so easily entangles us.” This sin is like that pesky little dog in everyone’s neighborhood that yaps at your heels causing you to nearly fall over because he gets in so close to your feet. Too often we Christians explain away our sinful behavior by saying such unbiblical things as, “I’m not as bad as some people!” Or “The devil made me do it.” Or the classic “I’m not perfect!” The last thing a believer in Jesus Christ should ever do is make excuses for their sin. The Apostle John writes to Christians in his first letter to the church, “If we (Christians) confess our sins, he (Jesus) is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That’s what the Christian should do – every time.

Because Jesus went to the cross to die for your sin and mine, in him we have someone who works in us, always conforming us into his image. Think about that! God the Father wants us to become just like his son, Jesus. That is an awesome reality! All the more reason that as people of faith we never take our eyes off the Lord and his Word.

It’s important to understand that this is not something that I can bring about myself. I can’t make that happen. Instead, God causes all of the situations and circumstances in my life to be used to mold me, shape me, and conform me so that I gradually take on godly, Christ-like characteristics.

Here’s an interesting discovery that I’ve picked up on over the years. The more I keep looking intently at Jesus, the more I become aware of just how unlike him I really am. I liken this to that high-powered facial mirror that some women use that magnifies every blemish. One side of the mirror is a normal reflection. But that other side! Watch out! It really reveals the flaws and imperfections in the skin. That’s just like us. We’re comfortable with the normal reflection because it doesn’t actually show the bad stuff. But when we flip the mirror over and look into the magnified portion, it’s just like looking into the face of Jesus. His perfection reveals my imperfections. The good news is this: He’s also the surgeon who can make me “look” like him!

So, we celebrate Easter every year, acknowledging that Jesus rose from the dead to once and for all conquer sin and death. When we accept his sacrifice for us, he then begins the miracle of working on us so that we look just like him! Hallelujah!

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A Primer on Being PC

The following is a brief treatise on what it means to be Politically Correct. Thus, you can determine if you are of the Politically Correct crowd or not.

The term Politically Correct is hardly a new concept. It’s only that in recent years we have seen the emergence of this adjectival description perpetrated through the media in a pejorative sense. Words, in their simplest form, are intended to convey ideas, meaning and information. A person who uses words well is thought to be lucid, capable of conveying thoughts, ideas and beliefs in a clear and understandable manner.

Enter: Political Correctness.

With the advent of this term into common parlance, the way in which people of all strata speak comes under close scrutiny by those who are expecting to be insulted, mocked, or in some other manner, verbally denigrated. Thus the free expression of ideas is hampered, casting a shroud of fear on the speaker lest the words used are deemed inappropriate by the listener. Case in point: In 2007, then Senators Joe Biden and Barack Obama had a dust up over the use of a word that under normal circumstances would never be thought to be inappropriate. The word that caused a minor rift between the two Democrat presidential candidates was: articulate. As reported, Senator Biden said that Senator Obama was “articulate.” Supposedly Senator Obama was offended. Why? It is purportedly offensive because it implies that the speaker thinks not all African Americans are articulate and that Senator Obama distinguishes himself only to whites because he is perceived to be more like them.
Here’s where Political Correctness goes beyond the pale. When the use of a word under normal communication is twisted in such a way as to pervert the meaning of the word and the intent of the user, then nothing is sacrosanct from such fractured distortions. Did Senator Biden intend to cast such an aspersion on Senator Obama? I seriously doubt it.

A number of years ago I ran into a military chaplain I had previously served with. I was delighted to see him. After hugging each other I spontaneously said, “Man, I haven’t seen you in a coon’s age!” He gave me a quizzical look and just shook his head. It didn’t immediately occur to me that this phrase might be offensive to him. Since he is African American, I can only assume he thought I was using the term “coon” in the slang and offensive manner used in reference to someone who is black. Such a thing never occurred to me. I was speechless! It was my intention to use the term “coon’s age” in the manner it was first intended – a period of five to ten years – the average number of years a raccoon might live in the wild. Alas, this is not what was understood by my chaplain colleague.

There are many words that are clearly offensive and derogatory and should not be used in the ordinary communication of ideas. Labels that place someone in a certain category are both hurtful and unnecessary. But do we really want the “Thought Police” to dictate what can and cannot be said? It’s frightening to envision a world where we are not free to express ourselves, even if the words we use are offensive. Apart from most sports programs, news shows, and 1950s TV programs (like: “I Love Lucy”) there are way too many programs that are filled with vulgar, profane, and faith-offensive words. Ditto for most movies.

Though politically correct speech goes back to the late 1700s in this country, it has enjoyed resurgence in the past several decades, fueled by a media that no longer reports news, but instead works at fostering disharmony between individuals and groups. There is an ever increasing attempt on the part of the media to publicly embarrass elected officials by pointing out their misuse of words (ala: former Vice President Dan Quayle and former President George W. Bush). Or, as in the case of then Senator Biden, take a perfectly good word that was used properly and was intended as a compliment, and turn it all around so as to place the senator in a fabricated hot seat.

The Bible gives some very clear instruction concerning the use of words, and the manner in which we should speak. Paul tells the Ephesian Christians, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” I like the way a modern translation, The Message, puts this: “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.”

David offers this as a prayer concerning the use of words in Psalm 141:3, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Sounds like good advice!

Even when we speak clearly there may still be those who willingly choose to misconstrue or twist our words, giving them meaning that was never intended. You cannot control this blatant attempt at misrepresentation. But you can speak your words with grace and dignity so that those who do attempt to embarrass you will be ashamed in the effort. God knows your heart.