Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thoughts on Evil

              I’m on vacation. Besides flying from Oakland, California to Portland, Maine, I haven’t done a whole lot. Brother John and I got in a round of golf the first day, but I gave my best impression of a slug the next day.  After a full night’s sleep, I napped throughout the day. When I wasn’t napping, I was reading. More golf in the days ahead, along with visits to some of our favorite haunts along the Maine coastline.

As is the case on any vacation, I have a ready supply of books I’ve been intending to read. I finished one on the plane and started another after arriving at the cabin here in Corea. This book falls into my “strictly entertainment” reading. It is a Robert Ludlum novel, entitled, The Bancroft Strategy. Some of you may know Ludlum from his Jason Bourne character, made into moves. Ludlum’s themes are always centered on secret clandestine government organizations with operatives who tend to go rogue – meaning they increasingly distrust those in authority over them, but still realize there are bad guys who need to be dealt with. Really bad guys.

In the Ludlum book, agent Jared Rinehart, who is known for his rather unorthodox style in dealing with bad guys, rescues an inexperienced agent, Todd Belknap, from the hands of Richard, a seriously bad guy. After dispatching Richard, who was about to have his two henchmen put bullets into Todd’s head, Jared asks Todd, “So what did you think of Richard after your brief encounter?” Todd responds, “Evil.”

At this point, agent Jared says, “What a concept! Unfashionable these days, but indispensible all the same. We somehow think that we’re too sophisticated to talk about evil. Everything is supposed to be analyzed as a product of social or psychological or historical forces. And once you do that, well, evil drops out of the picture, doesn’t it? We like to pretend that we don’t speak of evil because we have outgrown the concept. I wonder. I suspect the motivation is itself deeply primitive. Like some tribal fetish worshippers of ancient times, we imagine that by not speaking the name, the thing to which it refers will vanish.”

This perspective on evil and the way we deal with it in our sophisticated Western society is very compelling. We have allowed ourselves to be lulled into Political Correctness because, my heavens, we certainly would not want to offend anyone, would we!

Listen folks, there is evil in this world. There are seriously bad people who care nothing about you, me, or anyone else. They do not value life. They do not have a conscience anymore. I was sharing some of these thoughts with my sister, Joy, tonight. I asked her if she had read my recent article about the Holocaust. She said she had. In her high school class this past year, they learned about the Holocaust - that despicable evil foisted upon an entire race of people, the Jews, simply because they were Jews. I asked her if the kids questioned whether or not the Holocaust ever really took place. She then made a comment that struck me. “The kids don’t question whether the Holocaust happened – they want to know why it happened.” As I was processing this insight, she followed up with this final comment. “More importantly, the kids wanted to know if we, as Americans, knew it was going on – and if we did, why didn’t we try to stop it sooner!”

These young people are more discerning about evil than many of the adults who are supposed to guide them and teach them! Too many folks today are fooled into thinking that if they just treat evil people nicely, they’ll be nice in return. You can bury your head in the sand all day long with such nonsense. The problem is: evil will still be present.

In the book of Isaiah we read, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.”

Let me ask you: What do you call evil?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Constitutional Warning

This has to take the cake!

Granted, the warning label on the U.S. Constitution is the decision made by a small publishing company, Wilder Publications, but it does rank on the level of the absurd. You say you haven’t heard about the warning label on new copies of the Constitution? Well, grab a cup of coffee.

Here’s the warning statement: “This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today. Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work.”

The warning is intended to caution people that the Constitution is a document written reflecting the thoughts and beliefs of its time, and does not necessarily reflect current values and understandings. Now that’s a bit of brilliance, isn’t it? And that’s not all! It puts the same warning on all of the founding documents of our country, such as the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, and the Articles of Confederation, among others.

The immediate thought that came to my mind when I first read this news story was, “Are we still teaching the Constitution in our public schools today?” I checked with my sister, Joy, who just retired from teaching high school. She reminded me that the Constitution is taught in eighth grade and again in eleventh grade, all part of the requirements for graduation. My reasoning then is this: Since we are still teaching the Constitution in school, such a warning would be unnecessary.

The major difficulty I have with this statement comes in several forms. First, there is a subtle implication in the warning that the Constitution is not to be taken seriously because it is out-dated. Second, it suggests that there are serious enough flaws as to neutralize its importance. And third, it is rightly acknowledged as a classic piece of literature, but it has no bearing on the way we ought to live in a free society today.

Some might argue that this warning label is an anomaly, and not to be taken seriously. On the surface of it, I would tend to agree. However, after witnessing a constant barrage of attacks on every aspect of our nation’s most important decisions and foundations, I have perhaps become a bit skeptical when it comes to anything that strikes at what I know and believe has been the basis for making the United States a great nation. It is clear to anyone with their eyes open that there is an assault on the core structure of our country. If the founding document, the Constitution, can be relegated to a place of unimportance in the minds of the very people it was intended to liberate, then we are pathetic, a people destined to be enslaved by our own ignorance.

So let me ask you: Have we become so hyper-sensitive in our PC world that we are uncomfortable with our own founding documents? Do you believe that the words in these documents are offensive? If so, offensive to whom?

“The work of many minds, the Constitution stands as a model of cooperative statesmanship and the art of compromise.” This statement sums up for me the wonder of the Constitution: written by men who were inspired by God. It is located at: under, The Charters of Freedom. You may find it educational to visit this site.

The U.S. Constitution is unquestionably the most liberating of all historical documents. We are free today because free men and women have loved freedom enough to sacrifice themselves so that you and I might continue to live in freedom.

Wilder Publications may feel it necessary to place this warning label on the Constitution, but I would advise them that the American people have already placed a warning label on it:
“Don’t Tread On Me!”

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Conservative, Part 2

Conservatives are frequently the target of a left-leaning press. Because of the “power of the pen,” the press routinely paints conservatives as racists, war-mongers, lovers of money, heartless toward the environment, and opposed to immigrants coming into the United States.

Such mischaracterization is difficult to counter. It’s sort of like answering the question, “How long has it been since you stopped beating your wife?” There’s no way you come out looking good attempting to answer that question!

A book just out, entitled, “Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today,” by Edwin J. Feulner, addresses the need to return to America’s conservative base. “[That which] will rescue us now are the things that have always made this nation great: free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, a strong national defense, and the rule of law. We must demand accountability and a return to our core principles,” writes Feulner.

As in last week’s article, I provided a list of values conservatives adhere to: “Conservative issues in America include beliefs in free-market capitalism, anti-communism, patriotism, American Exceptionalism, a strong national defense, Christianity, civic morality, law and order, stricter law enforcement regarding immigration, smaller federal government, and lower taxes.” Those with a conservative bent are often puzzled as to why others would not be in agreement with these same values and beliefs. After all, it was these beliefs that the founding fathers espoused that built this country, providing us with the liberties we enjoy today.

Let’s take for instance free enterprise (or free-market capitalism). The free enterprise system sets the United States apart from other nations because anyone can pursue a job, or even establish their own business, regardless of educational limitations, ethnic background, or social standing. America has countless millionaires who started with nothing more than a desire to achieve great things. It is the classic Horatio Alger “rags to riches” story of one person striving for the American Dream, repeated time and again writ large.

One of the values that seems to have been lost is American Exceptionalism. What is the meaning behind this? “American exceptionalism is the theory that the United States occupies a special niche among the nations of the world in terms of its national credo, historical evolution, political and religious institutions, and its being built by immigrants. The roots of the belief are attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, who claimed that the then-50-year-old United States held a special place among nations, because it was the first working representative democracy.”

During the primary elections in recent months was the emergence of conservative candidates from both major parties who attempted to pass themselves off as being conservative, particularly in the areas of illegal immigration, smaller federal government, and lower taxes. Whether they are true conservatives or not will ultimately be determined by the electorate in this November’s mid-term election. The Tea Party movement has been an outward manifestation which is representative of the major and minor political parties, demanding a return to the original values that made the United States a great nation.

The results of the primary elections June 8 seem to show that a lot of candidates that won are professed conservatives, many with the backing of the Tea Party. Incumbents did not fare well from either of the two major political parties. Will this translate into a significant shift in the Congress this November? We’ll have to wait and see. Incumbents are very nervous about this election because they are viewed by many Americans as having gone along with the broken, out-of-touch policies that most Americans have indicated they do not want.

Liberals and Conservatives will continue to butt heads on the national stage, of that you may be certain. The question that remains: Will we be a representative government of the people, or will we be a government run-amok by special interest groups?

It’s our future, America! What will that future look like? What do you really want this country to be?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

What? Me, a Conservative?

I have to laugh! It seems that nine out of ten campaign signs I see for this mid-term election all have the word CONSERVATIVE prominently displayed on the banner. Where did these neo-conservatives come from? More importantly for me as a conservative is to ask the question: Where have you been!?

So, what exactly is a conservative?

After a speaking engagement to a men’s group at a Presbyterian church in Sacramento, I was listening to a talk-radio program during the 80 mile drive home. A couple of different terms were used when referring to conservatives. There was the “Consistent Conservative,” and the “Convenient Conservative.” The radio discussion focused on just what defined these two. A consistent conservative is someone who has been a conservative before it was fashionable. A convenient conservative is someone who simply identifies himself as a conservative because it works to their advantage politically. The reality is this person is not a true conservative. That is to say, at the core of their being, they do not believe in conservative values.

This begs the question: What does it mean to be a conservative? I guess at this point I should mention that this is my take on this topic. There is not a set construct of conservative beliefs that all who claim to be conservative will agree upon.

“Conservative issues in America include beliefs in free-market capitalism, anti-communism, patriotism, American Exceptionalism, a strong national defense, Christianity, civic morality, law and order, stricter law enforcement regarding immigration, smaller federal government, and lower taxes.” This is as good as any when it comes to identifying the positions Conservatives take on the issues confronting our nation. “According to a June 2009 Gallup poll, 40% of Americans identify themselves as conservative, compared to 35% moderate and 21% liberal. According to the same survey, few Americans consider themselves either ‘very’ liberal or ‘very’ conservative.”

The late Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona was the first modern conservative to emerge on the political scene. After securing the Republican nomination for president in 1964, he was soundly defeated in the election by Lyndon Johnson. I was sixteen years old at that time and can well remember the heated debates over various domestic issues, but most notably on national defense, there loomed the impending conflict in Vietnam. Goldwater was described as a “hawk,” which means he was portrayed as a war monger. This was an easy association to make since Goldwater had served in the Army Air Corps achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and later in the United States Air Force, retiring as a Major General. He served in both World War Two and the Korean War. He was castigated by his political opponents for not caring about our troops. Furthermore, he was accused of seeking some sort of glory for himself by pursuing a war footing should he become the President, the Commander in Chief. His opponent, President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ), took the opposite approach: We don’t want to get into Vietnam (even though we had military advisors in there, and had had them there for several years). Of course, history correctly records that LBJ won the election and then turned around and proceeded to send American troops into this little known Southeast Asian nation which would be the cause of nearly sixty thousand American deaths and a nation seriously divided over “the war” and many other issues. This war snow-balled into ten years of chaos and mayhem at home. When it was finally over, more than two million of our military men and women served in this war. The Vietnam War, along with other social and political issues, served as a catalyst where Conservatism and Liberalism would draw the lines of their own conflict, widening the philosophical gap between these two parties ever since.

In the 70s, a minister by the name of Jerry Falwell created a political revolution by announcing that there were many Americans who did not agree with much of what was happening inside the hallowed walls of our nation’s capital. Thus was formed the conservative religious movement, the Moral Majority.

In the 80s, a former actor-turned-politician hit the political scene like a tsunami. His name was, of course, Ronald Wilson Reagan. He completely reinvented conservatism in the United States. His primary target for support was the newly emerging Evangelical Christians that came primarily from the Moral Majority. The next eight years became known as the “Reagan Era.”

Next week we’ll look further into this conservative phenomenon.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Chicken Little Alert!

There are so many issues that we face every day that it is hard to know what to believe. Every issue is presented as if our very existence on planet earth depended on this one thing being addressed. Chicken Little running around screaming, “The sky is falling!” is part of our daily news fare.

There are certain ways I have developed over the years to determine whether or not what I’m hearing is, first, worth my time, and second, a more serious matter worthy of investigation. That being said, because I write this weekly column, I sometimes address topics even when they do not meet the above criteria. I research them because they have become a major news story which often leaves people wondering what is going on.

What I wish to address today focuses on credibility. When my daughters were small they would often hear me caution them to always tell me the truth. I used to hear the same thing from my parents. Seems obvious why this is necessary, but it is also obvious that an awful lot of folks have forgotten why it’s important to tell the truth. I would explain to Laura and Jenny for instance, that if they lied to me just one time and I discovered their lie, how would I be able to trust them the next time, or the time after that?

So, here’s my criterion for determining whether or not I accept information as being credible. This is particularly true when evaluating what politicians say, or what passes for the press today.

First – Are you, as an individual, credible? What is your track record in being truthful? Are you a Joe Friday type with a “Just the facts, Ma’am” approach? Or do you play fast and loose with your information?

Second – Do you work for, or represent an organization or agency that is credible? If you are in the hip pocket of some well-heeled entity that pays your salary, yet has a dubious track record of being believable, you are going to come up short on the credibility scale.

Third – Is there a money trail? Who stands to profit from what is being presented as truth, or for what passes as news? One of Rush Limbaugh’s maxims is “Follow the money!”

Fourth – What are your personal beliefs? Your philosophy of life? This may be a bit difficult to discern right away, but it will reveal itself soon enough in what a person says or writes.

So let’s put my theory of credibility to the test. Last evening I was talking with a young man who off-handedly said that it didn’t really matter what a person believed about global warming. I commented that it very much mattered. Here’s why I believe it does.

When this whole business about global warming first became a news story, I had an immediate negative reaction to it. Why? Considering the criteria I use, here is why I do not accept the global warming theorists.

First – credibility. The guru of global warming is Al Gore, former vice president in the eight years of the Clinton administration, and very nearly our 43rd president! Is he credible? No. He is Chicken Little personified!

Second – organization. Gore is tied in with, or runs several organizations that all stand to profit from global warming.

Third – money trail. This part is scary. In 2007 science was dealt a blow when the Supreme Court of the United States declared that carbon dioxide was a pollutant. Thus was ushered in the Federal Clean Air Act. Do you have any idea what sort of industry this generates, and the enormous amount of money there is to be made?

Fourth – personal beliefs/philosophy. Gore and the global warming cadre believe that mankind is the cause of all the problems in the world, and that we humans are interlopers on planet earth.

This is only a thumbnail sketch of my reasons for dismissing the global warming hysteria. You may be thinking right now, “But, Chuck, carbon dioxide (CO2) is bad for us!” I ask, “Are you sure?” The reply goes something like this – “Well, the experts say CO2 is increasing in our atmosphere!” No, it isn’t. Earth is a contained system. Whatever amount of CO2 is here is all that there is. God knew exactly what we needed to sustain life. Remember your biology class in high school? Plants create oxygen – we humans and other animal forms, breathe oxygen. Humans breathe out CO2 – plants “breathe” CO2 to create oxygen. Plants need CO2 the way we need oxygen. You start messing with CO2 and the whole system of life on earth is endangered.

An excellent book on the global warming issue has been written by meteorologist/radio talk show host, Brian Sussman. It is entitled, “Climategate.” I highly recommend it.

I’ll leave you with this from Sussman’s book. “Carbon dioxide comprises 38/1000ths of the earth’s atmosphere, and of that amount, a mere 3% is generated by mankind.”

Beware of the Chicken Little’s in life!