2013: Year of the Standoff?

Recent headlines focused on a hostage situation in Alabama. Congress is split down the middle over fiscal reforms, threatening cuts where it hurts us most. China and Japan nearly started World War III on 29 January 2013, when the Chinese prepared to open fire on a Japanese destroyer in a disputed sea zone. Why is it people aren’t coming to compromises of late?

In the case of the hostage situation, it’s quite likely a compromise didn’t happen because the hostage-taker was not sane. He refused to act in the best interests of every party involved, including himself, and wound up dead. The hostage could also have been killed: I forgot to mention the recent standoff in Algeria that ended badly for many people. What does it earn a party to stick by their guns if it just means they wind up dead? Maybe there are some principles worth dying for, but $55 billion in defense cuts? A bunch of rocks in the South China Sea? Come on, now. Criminals in standoffs don’t fare well, this we know. But when governments are involved in standoffs with each other, both parties have a high chance of a bad outcome.

In Congress, both parties need to not be ready to “neener neener neener” each other, should one side extend a concession. We need graciousness on both sides, so that we can encourage a functional government. Congress is broken and the partisanship is as disgusting as it is debilitating. This is exactly, EXACTLY the sort of thing that brought down Yugoslavia. We don’t need to go down that road.

China and Japan… the solution is hard. Japan is fading. It needs to step down. Solving major demographic shifts and deep fiscal issues should *not* involve “Go down in a blaze of glory!” as a step. And why should Japan back down in this case? Well, it would be a nice way of starting to say “sorry” for a series of wars that destroyed tens of millions of lives in China and elsewhere. Give China the rocks, it’ll be a nice gesture.

My suspicion is that Congress will make a grudging compromise, but it’ll be so bitter that they will have an even harder time making the next major compromise. They’re not getting better at getting along, they’re getting worse. The USA is not yet at the breaking point. China and Japan are a different story. These guys are already pointing guns at each other, with fingers on their triggers. They are at a breaking point, and that does not bode well for a clean compromise sort of finish.

Love One Another

The other day, I saw a picture making the rounds on the Internet: a sign that says that homosexuals, drug users, gangsters, feminists, Mormons, Buddhists, drunkards, Baha’is, Catholics, wife-beaters, atheists, New Age thinkers, Democrats, environmentalists, Promise Keepers, abortionists, effeminate men, racists, Scientologists, Emos, government recipients, adulterers, fornicators, thieves, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, perverts, idolators, pagans, loud mouthed women, agnostics, liars, freeloaders, liberals, high-fallutin’ sophisticated swine, and sports nuts all loved the devil and were in need of repentance and to then believe in Jesus. Leaving his punctuation errors aside, I’d like to address the charges and exhortations made by the sign-maker.

Jesus said, “As I have loved you, love one another.”

That’s a tall order, really. I could easily join in and add and subtract from the list above, but that would not be loving one another. And maybe there are people in those groups that love the devil, as evidenced in their actions, but that does not condemn the group as a whole. Neither does it excuse those who do evil that are members of other groups not mentioned. Nevertheless, we should not condemn the sinner. We have to find forgiveness in our hearts and then find the capacity to reach out in love.

This is a big world, with many competing, confusing views. I can’t hate a man that’s trying to good in the way he knows best, but follows after a different religion than mine – or no religion, as the case may be. If someone’s trying to do good, I have that in common with him. I call it the pure love of Christ, he may call it the pure love of God or the pure love of mankind – whatever we call it, it’s pure, and it’s love, and it uplifts people. We bless lives by expressing love and forgiveness.

What then of the liars, wife-beaters, drug users, gangsters, perverts, and so on? People whose sins also run afoul of the law? Love them, too. Jesus didn’t give us the option to pick and choose. We love them, too. We can pray for them, encourage them to do better, set a good example and hope they follow it, but at the end of the day, no prayer, encouragement, or example will help them if we haven’t first forgiven and loved them.

The labels themselves are misleading: I have a very good friend that’s on a sexual offender’s list. As it turns out, there are lots of ways for foolish young men to make it to that list that would not generate moral outrage. Child abuse and rape certainly repulse us and fill us with horror, but what about those lesser crimes that are lumped alongside them? Public urination behind a bar can get a man on that list. Making a misjudgment of months while still a teenager can also put a man on the list. Those guys still have to knock on doors in neighborhoods and explain their convictions at every job interview. If our society could at least forgive and love them, we’d have a little less hardship dealt out on a daily basis.

The French have a saying, “To understand is to forgive.” Sadly, I suspect the chap that made the sign isn’t too fond of the French. So, I’ll turn to another J.C., this time Johnny Cash. He made it to a number of the groups on the list above, but he still claimed he felt the love of Jesus in his life and the power of forgiveness. He may have been, as he put it, “a C-minus Christian”, but he still knew that that was a passing grade… with a little love from the Teacher, no doubt. He didn’t hate with his music. He offered understanding, and from that, forgiveness, and from that, love. Johnny Cash is one of my heroes, warts and all. So I’ll let him close this post with a list of his own…

“Man in Black”
Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he’s a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought’a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin’ for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believin’ that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believin’ that we all were on their side.

Well, there’s things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin’ everywhere you go,
But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You’ll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything’s OK,
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.

- Johhny Cash

There’s love in those words, and no matter what his faults may have been, I’ll listen to them and take comfort in them. I’ll pray that I can put the wisdom of those words into my life. I want to be a better man, and I can do that only by walking my own road and taking the help I can get – not by throwing stones at those that are different from me.

Confidential Surveys?

I just filled out a so-called confidential survey for my employer. It’s really not confidential. Aside from some details about me that could be gleaned from my comments, the survey asked for my location, gender, ethnicity, years at my employer, total years of experience in the profession, and for my specific department. Well, if that doesn’t triangulate exactly who I am, I don’t know what will. Even if it narrows things down to one or two individuals, I’m still in trouble if I don’t parrot the party line and say things a potentially vindictive superior doesn’t want to hear.

I’m not surprised. I’m not shrieking about the loss of the right of free speech: that ship sailed long, long ago. My point is that, nowadays, these surveys seem to be less about informing the higher-ups of what’s good and what’s not so good and more about giving them dictatorial-like approval ratings from employees that are too scared about their futures to come forward with anything other than “very satisfied” evaluations for their bosses and work environment.

Allow me to supply the Devil’s Dictionary definition of “confidential survey”: a measure of what percentage of one’s employees are living in fear.

Cold, Dead Hands… Really?

Even though we’ve got a horrible situation as regards the fiscal arrangements of the US Government, much of the nation’s attention is focused on gun control. Well, all right, then… I’ll join in the national dialogue. Rather than go on and on about how the NRA gave legislation to Congress that left the BATF unable to deal with guns in the very way the NRA recently called for them to do, I’ll look at the outpouring of passionate emotions as regards personal weapons and what lies in store for government men that come a-callin’ for them.

First off, the BATF has around 3000 agents, so it won’t be a coordinated, fell swoop that scoops up all the guns. It’ll be individual visits. So, when the BATF shows up to get at a large stash of weapons, what does the person with the weapons do? If he opens fire, he’s committing a criminal act at the very least. If he coordinates with other people that do not want the same fate, then he’s engaging in fomenting rebellion against the USA and its government. No matter how screwed up the government may be, it’s still the government, and it possesses all the resources of the government, particularly in the area of suppressing insurrection.

“It’ll be 1776 all over again!” I’ve heard that sentiment from a number of people, even if not in so many words. Well, just like our Founding Fathers never had breech-loading weapons, let alone fully automatic ones, it’s fair to also say that the colonial governments of the British didn’t have Apache gunships, A-10 ground attack aircraft, or UAV drones, just to name a few things. No, it won’t be 1776.

If people take Charlton Heston’s “cold dead hands” comment to heart, then there is quite a lot of firepower on the part of the USG to make good on that arrangement. The US Army is not about to switch sides and join with a rag-tag band of patriots that have an aggressive interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. The NRA will not be issuing a call to arms to overthrow the government any time soon – and neither will any other group, unless it’s totally insane. I’ll spot the odd war surplus tank or cannon in someone’s private arsenal – they’re bound to be out there, somewhere – but the US Army and National Guard has got any group of half-cocked 1776′ers totally outclassed in terms of firepower, organization, and ability to attain tactical, operational, and strategic goals.

So when the USG manages to pass a set of restrictions on gun legality and someone from the same government shows up to take the firearms, my guess is that most folks will hand them over. Grudgingly and muttering dire prophecies and vile slurs under their breaths, but the folks will hand them over. A few will go down fighting, but there will be no 1776, no 1861, not even a 1968. All the talk about rising up against an overpowering government is just that – talk. The government is overpowering, and, at the end of the day, isn’t about to be bothered by interpretations of the 2nd Amendment that are at variance with its own.

Hannah’s Hug

There is a young girl at my church who warrants special mention. She is proof, to me, that we are all God’s children. She walks with difficulty and speaks with equally labored effort: Dickens would have likened her to Tiny Tim, of that I am sure. She is a wonderful person, though fate has given her challenges that most people do not face. Her name is Hannah, and today, she gave me a hug.

I don’t know exactly what I did to deserve it, but before I could get out of my pew at the end of the services today, Hannah was there and she flung her arms around my neck. She said nothing, just smiled, and I couldn’t hold back the tears. Anger wears down the heart while laughter revs it up: it’s tears, though, that lubricate and maintain the heart. I had me a good, strong, happy sort of cry while Hannah gave me that hug.

She has a lot of hardships, but she sees beyond them – if she sees them at all. And though she struggled to make her way down the aisle to give me the hug I did not expect, she gave freely of what she had to give. She gave a smile and she gave a piece of her heart.

I felt charity with that hug, I truly did. The pure love of God was in that hug, and none can tell me otherwise. I don’t know if it was with a purpose to reassure me for a loss or prepare me for a trial… or if it was simply a wonderful child that needed to share the joy she felt by hugging someone. I don’t know, but I accepted that hug gladly and with humility.

Her hug gives me hope. Thank you very much, Hannah. God bless us, every one!

Masked Wrestlers Save the Day


Currently watching “Santo contra los zombies.” Clunky old black and white b-grade Mexican sci-fi film with cheesy special effects that totally blows away 90% of the garbage coming out of Hollywood these days. 100% fun, fun fun! And if ninjas beat pirates and zombies beat ninjas, then this movie gives hope for humanity: MASKED WRESTLERS BEAT ZOMBIES. Totally awesome news. I’m going to watch “Santo contra las mujeres vampiro” next and I’ll bet pesos to pollos it’ll be way better than any Twilight flick.

Hey, Congress! Remember Sandy? No?

“I would not give one penny to [The Republicans] based on what they did to us last night… [Republicans can] kiss their seats goodbye…because if you can’t provide the most basic assistance for your district, who needs you in Congress?” – Representative Peter King, R-NY

As the House approved the bill to kick the can down the road and climb back up to the edge of the fiscal cliff – because we’re not out of the woods on that one, yet – it failed to consider a bill to assist victims of Sandy. They managed to increase their own salaries and continue to allow the government to wiretap and record all Internet activity without warrant, but they failed to remember the poor and suffering of the nation.

Yes, I know there’s too much spending in government. I heartily agree that there have to be fundamental restructurings of entitlement programs, or we’re all going down the tubes. But one function of a government is to take resources from one part of the nation that’s doing well and ship them over to another part that isn’t. It’s one of the most basic forms of government. I *want* my government to help out the people hit by disasters, not only because I might need some of that help myself one day, but because it’s the right and compassionate thing to do.

The GOP holds the gavel in the House, and it was their responsibility to remember the poor in that body. They have failed, and our nation fails with that decision. No matter how many times we sing “America the Beautiful”, God won’t shed his grace on us if, as a nation, we fail to remember His most simple of rules: to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Congress CAN Come Together!

Congress actually CAN come together on a few things:

1. They approved a pay increase for themselves.
2. They agreed to keep laws allowing wiretaps without warrants.

It’s nice to see that it’s not all bickering and nonsense on Capitol Hill. Sometimes, they can come together and show the nation that on what really matters, their bottom line and increasing the invasiveness of the state, they can roll up their shirtsleeves and do what has to be done.