Giving Thanks for Bad Stuff

This Thanksgiving, there will be a lot of good things for which to be thankful.  But did you ever stop to realize that, without bad things in our lives, we would be less appreciative for the good things?

This Thanksgiving, thousands of soldiers will be far away from home, many in desert regions.  So what is there to be thankful for?  For starters, they are surrounded by those who would defend them with their lives, who share common goals, who are all in it together.  Secondly, they all look forward to just how wonderful it will be to be reunited with their loved ones back home when the day comes.  Never would they have appreciated them so much without the forced separation.

When I am ill, really hurting, there are those moments where the pain subsides, and those moments are glorious.  When I am healthy, I find myself thinking that I am bored or lonely or overworked or unappreciated in some way.  But, after I have been ill, it feels so good just to be well again that I deeply appreciate just being alive and well.

Sometimes, bad things happen that force everyone to understand and face a difficult truth.  In ancient Rome, an innocent young man was run through in a gladiatorial arena.  Seems he had stepped in to try to appeal to an end of such ungodly contests in a country that now called itself Christian.  The young man died, but there were no more gladiatorial contests in ancient Rome.  In Ferguson, MO, and young man died, and all kinds of emotions surged to the surface.  But, it the wake of his death, the ugly truth of black on black crime is finally coming out of the closet for all to examine.  Perhaps this will be the moment when we don’t sweep this ugly truth back under the rug.

When Christians look around and see that the world is chilling to the whole idea of Christianity, it gives them pause to reflect on a few things.  First of all, apathy and even hostility to Christianity begins with the complacency of Christians.  We allow the worldly thinking to slowly creep into our lives and we lose our appreciation of what we gain by being Christian.  Perhaps the greatest example of this lies on the horizon as we contemplate Christmas.  I was talking to a young boy the other day whose father tells me he is Christian.  He is looking forward to Christmas.  I said I was, too, because we get to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.  He didn’t know who Jesus was, but he assured me that Santa was someone he really liked.

I’m not here to condemn people who let their children believe in Santa Clause.  But I’m afraid that most adults also have the same attitudes about Jesus and Santa.  Anyway, it’s times like these that cause one to wake up and wonder what we have missed while we were sleeping.  And it returns us to the understanding that we are waging a constant war for hearts.  If we lay down our arms, the other side will not.  Santa’s forces are always at the ready with the big lie that life is about getting things and being selfish and believing there is no God but Santa.

So, like the Christians of the first century, who were under constant derision and threat of persecution and death, we hear St. Paul’s urging to “rejoice in the Lord always”, and we begin to understand what we have lost and begin to appreciate it like never before.  When America was nominally Christian, we began to send missionaries to far-flung places where there was still “work to be done.”   Now that the veneer of Christianity is gone from America, we see that the work is, as it had really always been, right in front of us.  And we see that we also need to be like those soldiers who sit half a world away in the sand.  We need to be of one mind and purpose and we need to be ready to defend each other, and our Commander in Chief, with our lives.  And that doesn’t mean just being ready to die for each other, but also being ready to live for each other.

Yes, give thanks for the bad stuff.  The bad stuff helps us to focus on the good stuff.

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How Low is the Floor?

Cast deep into the mind’s eye of most of my generation, as school youngsters, was the rosy picture of the founding of our United States of America.   We have been given, I think, this idea that all the great men of the time pretty much agreed on everything and that the country pretty much enjoyed smooth sailing up to the Civil War, with the exception of that small skirmish of 1812 with the British that we easily won.

Closer scrutiny of the founding times, however, reveals that it was not until the Civil War, perhaps, that the USA actually started to coalesce as a nation.  In fact, the first citizen’s rebellion to be put down occurred while George Washington was President!  The election Adams and Jefferson so polarized the country that both nearly led to secessionist moves.  Foreign policy succeeded more by the grace of God than by the actions of the players.  If not for Napoleon’s caprice in granting the Louisiana Purchase, the young country might have had to face a war it couldn’t win or lose a war of attrition that would have seen half it’s territory ceded to the French.

Certainly I have been scathingly critical of Abe Lincoln, whom most feel is in the top three of all presidents.  I did so because he had to suspend habeus corpus and resort to suppression of the press and goading the South into starting a skirmish to give him justification and the ability to execute the war to prevent the country splitting in half.  Based upon further readings, I wonder to myself what I would have done in the same circumstances.  You see, Lincoln’s perspective was not the same as someone from today looking back on his choices.  His immediate precedents were all indicating that any kind of fraction of the country would be the demise of all.

As one looks through American history, especially the early history of the USA, time and time again one hears the major players uttering the same line — that the country must be preserved even at the cost of principle.  Certainly Jefferson did not want to go to war, since it flew in the face of his republican principles of not taxing in order to pay for military buildup.  But he had to hope against hope that all his posturing and sword rattling would be enough to prevent war, or he would have had to forsake principle to do what must be done.  Even though he famously said that states should secede in the government became tyrannical, in an even more famous letter he emphasized that all restraint of such an idea must be exercised, because hardly a greater evil existed than breaking the union.

Neither should it ever be said that the wonderful fathers never had to do a collective about face when the idealistic application of ideals didn’t go so well.  Otherwise we would still be under the Articles of Confederation.  But the rampant abuse of states’ rights lead to the emergency sessions which created what we know today as our Constitution.  Seems it was discovered that Libertarianism didn’t always work so well in practice.

So, here we stand, in modern day America, beset by political chaos such as this country has never seen.  Or do we?  Certainly there have been more peaceful times and more productive times.  But no time is ever without struggle and strife.  This is the human condition.  We will never all see eye to eye and we will always fail to appreciated the perspective of others.  That is why our founders gave us this wonderful system of checks and balances.  We can disagree, vehemently, as they did, and yet we can move forward without revolution.  We can go through regime change without coup d’etat.  We have the system in place to peacefully oust our leaders when they get too full of themselves.

America was looked upon with admiration from everyone because it represented a change from the reason of state.  According to the reason of state, might makes right.  War was the answer to getting what you wanted.  America changed that.  First, when Washington stepped down, we have the first bloodless transfer of power between two unrelated people.  Then, even more impressively, when Adams, the Federalist, was succeeded by Jefferson, the Republican, we saw an entirely new ideology take power in the USA without shedding a drop of blood.  Sure, many Federalists thought that the country was now doomed.  And Jefferson did run some great risks with some of his policies.  But, there were enough cool heads around him to keep the country on course.

The next time you despair about American politics, consider that the floor is not very low.  One doesn’t have to be much less contentious than the present to return to the “good old days, when politics was civil.”  It’s pretty much just as civil as it ever was.  And compared to most countries, a lot more civil.

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Preaching to the Choir


Ann Coulter is an extraordinarily witty and intelligent writer.  I am on my third book from her hand.  I have also read several books by Glenn Beck and even one or two from Rush Limbaugh.  All of them are spot on.  All of them, but especially Coulter, suffer from the same problem–they are inside jokes.  To read them and make any sense of them, one has to have the background information which they reference.  One also has to have a little more literary acumen than can  be obtained in the average college degree. (No, I’m not saying that those who have college literary degrees can’t read them.  But, let’s be honest, how many people go to college for that?  Anyone who doesn’t want a job, or who wants to be a college professor.)  You have to be a card-carrying member of the club to get the inside joke.  So, other than selling a lot of books and making a lot of money, what is the point?

Having directed many choirs in the past, I understand that there is a need for practice.  I would never just hand my choirs a piece of music on Sunday before the service and expect them to play it without a hitch, under pressure, in front of a live audience.  The best of them could probably come close; the rest, the average ones, would need coaching, correcting on note and timing, pitch correction, breathing work, enunciation, you name it.

Of course, the other thing I never asked them to do was to try to play without telling them what to play.  They had to have a piece of music in front of them to direct them and get them all to the same places at the same time.  If they all merely practiced their scales, its not going to get them to where they need to go.

Such, then, is the purpose of preaching to the choir.  They already know how to sing and why they are singing.  They just need to know what to sing and get some practice singing.

The same can be said for Coulter, Limbaugh, Beck, The Heritage Foundation, The Daily Bell, The National Review, and so on.  Their job is not so much about educating the people on the Right about what it means to be Right, it’s more about supplying ammunition.  In this sense, they are valuable resources for those of us on the Right.   But they are not resources that are easily shared with those on the outside looking in.  The mere invocation of certain names will send lefties screaming into the night and kill any possibility of them having an open mind to logical discussion.

For this reason, it is important that conservatives who with to engage with liberals strip off the labels and present the facts without mentioning the preachers.  Even more important, it’s incumbent upon them to find ways to lead the thirsty horse to water and make them want to drink in.  This is a hard task, especially given that lefties are totally unfamiliar with the whole idea of using their own brains to arrive at conclusions instead of being given the answers.

Ann Coulter writes that it’s impossible to understand how killing a tree could be more of a crime than killing an unborn child.  I, too, have said that it’s ludicrous to close beaches to protect unhatched turtle eggs but not close abortion clinics to protect unborn babies.  My statement might make more sense because I compare two things that are unborn (unhatched).  The point in using either example is to get the leftie thinking.  Just don’t say you read it in her book or on my blog.  You will be accused of being a parrot, a ditto head.

Now, the great irony, of course, is that it’s OK for lefties to mindlessly utter lefty slogans without any understanding of the facts, but it is considered parroting for a righty to state the actual facts because they happened to have been stated first by another prominent righty.   How many times have you heard it said that abortion in America has killed more babies (56 million) than Hitler did in the entire WWII?   You can’t say that, though, because you are just parroting someone else and therefore you are narrow-minded and brain dead.  But, those are the facts.  Regardless of who said it first or what you think of someone’s agenda, you cannot change the facts.  Oh, wait, yes you can.  You can say the an unborn baby is just a blob of tissue.  But then the facts tell you that the baby has its own heart beat at six weeks, working fingers in two months, fingerprint in three months, can survive outside the womb at four to six months.  In light of these Facts, at what point can you say that a baby is not a living person?  But, hey, it’s only my opinion, which I got from my righty indoctrinator guru, that abortion is killing a person.  But, wait, it’s still the facts.   Since your indoctrinator happened to be your third grade public school teacher, who is God and cannot be questioned, you certainly are not the brainwashed one in this argument. (By the way, why are we so concerned about children’s rights after they are born when we have no concern for them before they are born?)

OK, we can’t win the war of personal integrity.  It’s not that the Right doesn’t have any.  It’s that those on the Left, the open-minded, compassionate, inclusive ones, deny that it’s possible.  So the facts will have to do.  Never argue with a lefty.  Throw down your facts and move on.  To every new assault bring new facts.  When there is a cease fire, bring more facts.  When you have filled the battle field with facts, you have laid the mine fields that lefties will not be able to jump over to personally attack you.  You don’t allow them to use their mob tactics to shout you down, verbally and perhaps even physically intimidate you.

Go ahead, Ann, Glenn, even Rush, throw the facts at me.  You are preaching to the choir.  But, of course, I am a ditto head if all I can say is “I read it here.”  All the reference come with footnotes.  All the footnotes lead to the facts.  Our guides are our guides.  But blind guides or blind followers leads to the same conclusion.  The preachers provide the starting point.  It’s up to all of us to verify, validate and know the facts for ourselves.

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Is Walmart the Antichrist? Or is it McDonalds?

The term “antichrist” is thrown around a lot by “super enlightened” Christians.  You know the ones I’m talking about, the ones who think that the other 99.99% of Christians are deceived in an apostate church and that they are the only ones who are truly Christian.  (I, of course, realize that only 95% of Christians churches are wrong, and I realize that a lot of Christians in those churches read their Bible and trust in Jesus and don’t even know their pastors are false teachers.  So, probably there are at least 10% who get it, much higher than what the super enlightened think.)   It’s always interesting to watch one group of apocalypse harbingers try to get the upper hand on another group of apocalypse harbingers.  Of course, there is always a little truth in what they all say, which makes it harder to dismiss them offhand.

The term “antichrist” is also used to create lot of gloom and dooms scenarios for movies and TV shows.  And it also fuels a lot of speculation about the demise of America.  But I wonder to myself if America is really destined to fall or whether it is destined to assimilate the world instead.   Which brings us to Walmart and McDonalds.   Now, I could also have said The Gap and Starbucks and probably been able to make the same argument.  It is not America per se that is the antichrist.  It is the pasteurized, homogenized American mega-business model that is being transferred to and is taking over the world.

Read and interesting book, Fast Food Nation.  The book isn’t that new, coming from the end of the last Millennium.  I believe that it cause quite a stir at the time, since it exposed a lot of evils that have grown up around our mobile, auto-based drive through society.  It had a lot to say about those bad Republicans (because it’s always Republicans at fault, isn’t it?) who were to blame for letting things get so out of hand with deregulation and relaxed safety standards.  But it said all these things on the heals of the greatest boom time America has ever seen.  The country was riding high on the conveyor of success and no one wanted to think about putting any monkey wrenches in it.

Now that we have begun to see the wheels fall of the great American experiment, there seem to be a lot of fingers pointing in a lot of directions as to who is to blame.  St. Dodd and Frank won’t accept any blame for Fanny Mae’s blow up.  Brokers won’t take the blame for selling junk mortgage derivatives.  Bankers won’t take the blame for pushing no-money-down mortgages to people with bad credit, saying they were forced by St. Dodd and Frank.  Car companies wouldn’t take the responsibility for over-producing and the unions wouldn’t accept downsizing.  Bush didn’t have the nerve to let the big boys fail and Obama blames Bush for everything even while he triples down all his policies .

What I want to know is when we are going to set the blame where it is required.  Shouldn’t we be looking at the industries that flood America with unskilled jobs that only an immigrant would love?  Should we be observing the mega-corporations who are killing the American Dream for every small business and assimilating everyone into the corporate cogs?

When we look at what of America projects to other countries, it is homogenized corporate brands.  Behind all those brands is the supply structure that must also be super-sized.  China, of course, has no problem with Walmart, since Walmart uses China as a major supplier.  And entire city of eight million was created just to ship products to Walmart.  If it takes that many just for shipping, just imagine how many are involved in production of goods.  Using the huge Chinese engine for supply and the huge American market for demand,  Walmart has become the world’s largest company.  But McDonalds still has it beat in sheer numbers of outlets.

Of course, McDonalds and Walmart didn’t start this trend, nor are they they only players.  CocaCola was the first brand to be recognized around the world, thanks in no small part to WWII and GI Joe.  But most others were blocked for decades by the Iron Curtain.  Now that the Curtain is down, the large brands, fueled by high profits from low wage structures and automation, have taken the rest of the world by storm.   Of course, most of these businesses are now publicly traded.  So, many people, including legislators, are heavily invested in their success.  It wouldn’t be prudent to worry about such things as health and working conditions that could dampen the profit margins and the stock dividends.

Is McDonalds the antichrist?  I doubt it.  But, in a very real way, the American empire is not so much true as a world run by global companies who just happen to have their roots in America.  As corporations continue to grow internationally and merge with other multinational corporations, the corporation one works for becomes more important than the national flag under which one lives.  Eventually, nations as we know them might cease to exist, replaced, instead by worldwide alliances of corporations.  Governments are already run by corporate yes men.  Over time, perhaps it will play out as with the Highlander–in the end there can be only one.  And so, we will see our one world government be a corporation.  Just something to think about over your morning latte.

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Filed under Economics/ Book Reviews

To whom much is given, much is required

There is a tendency, especially among the coddled children of the last three decades, for everyone to feel like they are special.  Whether that means specially gifted or having some part in the manifest destiny, and thus specially marked for greatness is irrelevant.  The point is that, in strictly mathematical terms, the bell curve determines that only a very few are actually special.  But, since schools have been handing out A’s and participation ribbons and certificates like candy, it’s not hard to see how everyone gets the idea that they are special.  And, in a sense, they are, because all people are unique and their lives are precious in the eyes of the Creator.  But, being unique doesn’t make one outstanding.

That being said, some people are blessed and gifted and stand out above the rest.  Sometimes those people stand out in IQ tests or SAT scores or some other forms of measuring intellectual ability.  Sometimes they stand out in other skills that take them to the top of their fields, such as in sports, opera, ballet, or music.  Sometimes, as in case of presidents and politicians or the meat grinder that is pop music, they have greatness forced upon them even though they did not achieve it on merit.  However they stand out, they have been given much and much is required.

Let’s pause for a moment and examine the origins and context of our title.

Luke’s Gospel, chapter 12, verse 48:  But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

The context of this verse is that a rich man has gone away and left his servants entrusted with running his affairs.  He is gone a long time and the servants start to abuse their power and get lazy in execution.  When the man finally comes back, they receive many blows because they knew better.  The rest of the servants who weren’t in charge received few blows for being lazy and greedy because they didn’t know any better.

So, what is Jesus trying to say here?  And to whom is he speaking?   He was not speaking to the Pharisees or to the masses.  He was speaking to his trusted inner circle, the ones who knew him well and were chosen to be special.  In extrapolation, he is speaking to those of us who have had the privilege, by the proxy of studying his revelation (the Bible) and being enlightened by his Spirit, of also being chosen to be responsible for handling his affairs until he comes again.

Now, for those of us who have been given such trust as to convey the truths of God to a dying world, it is at once a great honor and a humbling and terrifying experience.  We learn that God chooses the humble of this world to shame the proud and the foolish to shame the wise.  St. Paul tells us not to think too highly of ourselves.  And yet God has given us this great responsibility.

I remember the day when I knelt before the alter and my fellow ministers laid hand of blessing on me as I received my ordination.  I remember thinking about the vows I was making that day and wondering how I could possibly fulfill them.  I was suddenly overcome with fear.  I can’t do it!  I don’t imagine it was much different for Moses when God spoke to him from a burning bush and told him to go face down Pharaoh and lead Israel, or the day Joshua took over from Moses, or from the day God told Elijah to go back to godless Israel and get back to work.  Any honest mortal knows it’s an impossible task–alone.  That is why daily prayer and meditation and a total reliance on God are the only way to be successful.

So then, you who are endowed with wisdom and discernment that goes beyond what this world can offer, what are you doing with you gifts?  Are you using your time to further the affairs of your boss?   Or are you abusing your power for your own gain?   Or are you just going through the motions and collecting your paycheck?  Or have you given up entirely, gone on to something else, and left the job for someone else?  However it is that you have abdicated your responsibilities, remember that the many blows are reserved for those who know better.

“Do not be deceived; God is not mocked.”  Do you think God cares about how beautiful your church building is?  Do you think he cares how many visitors come to check out your performance on Sunday?  Do you think he appreciates how many people of earthly means and celebrity grace your front rows?  Or do you think it’s more important to him that you do your duty, speak the hard truth about sin and humbly point all glory to him?  After all, God doesn’t need gold or silver or anything.  He gives us everything and all we have to give back is thanks and praise.

Maybe you are disillusioned with being his servant.  Maybe you are tired of telling people the truth that makes them uneasy, uncomfortable,  that makes most people hate what you say and maybe even hostile toward you.  You say you’ve had enough already and you want out.  Let someone else do it.  But who is going to do it?  Are you going to leave it to the poor souls who have just begun to understand the grace of God, who have all kinds of enthusiasm but no roots?  Are you going to leave it to those who will bring in the worldly business plan who will find successful ways to market God by obscuring the ugly truths with catchy phrases and half-truths, the ones choked by the rocks of worldly success and monetary considerations, who are just as ready to move on to the next business endeavor when this one gets too hard?

Maybe you feel you can just whip people up with emotion and appeal to their carnal desires to create a spiritual revival.  If you can just convince people to try harder and decide to get fired up for God, you can make the church into a positive force for political change.  Then the world will be a better place because of your effort.  But Jesus told us that he is not interested in creating a better here and now.  His affairs deal with a heavenly kingdom and leading people to another promised land.  Surely the joy, peace and happiness of being a member of the heavenly fraternity spills over and creates a more joyful and peaceful here and now.  But perhaps you think you can shortcut right to the here and now without changing hearts for eternity.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that those who were my brothers in the the church ministry were highly gifted.  Our ACT scores far outranked the national average for college students, even back when education wasn’t dumbed down.  Genius in music, public speaking, languages and liberal arts was common.  And yet, none of those things in itself is what made them special.  Humble submission to the Spirit of God and a commitment to doing the boss’s work is what made them special.  I look into other denominations and I see gifted men as well.  And yet, being gifted is a temptation to forget who’s in charge.  It’s a temptation to, after long decades have passed, coast.  It’s a temptation to see any kind of setback from a human perspective to be a personal failure, and a reason to give up.   Don’t do it!  Then, when you give your accounting, you will not have to receive many blows.

What shall we say to those who have been entrusted with secular authority?  Are you any less responsible to serve your master, the People, than those who serve God in pulpits?  Is it any less wrong to abuse your power, to play with the lives of people in exchange for political power or privilege?  Is it any less deserving of many blows when you determine to undermine to structures of family and society that bring peace and order, when you forsake doing what is right for what is popular, when you appeal to the wishes of the rich and famous instead of working for what is good for the common person?  What about the 50% of you in the NEA who administrate and don’t educate anyone.  Are you coasting along and working to line your own pockets or are you working for the children?  Are you satisfied, teachers, with going through the motions and allowing 50% of students to keep graduating illiterate?  What about you who operate meat packing plants and fast food restaurants that stress profits over safety and are more interested in government hiring subsidies for hiring underprivileged workers than in the long term success of the workers themselves.  What about you in the entertainment industry who use your celebrity to stir up mobs of hate and discord, who glamorize aberrant and immoral lifestyles,  who appeal to the lowest forms or human nature, who cry endlessly over the bashing of one gay person and yet say nothing about the murders of 53 million unborn children?   To whom much is given, much is required.  When the day of reckoning comes, how many blows will you receive?

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Filed under Environment and Ethics, Meditations

Book Review: Demonic


Demonic, 2011 by Ann Coulter, Crown Forum.

It has often been said that God moves in mysterious ways, and I have often said it myself.  So it is that I find myself immersed in study of Jefferson, the great flip-flopper of revolutionary days, just as I also break the covers of Miss Coulter’s rather ominously titled book.   Once upon a time I purposed to read her just because I wanted to see how much of a fringe radical right winger she was.  I had, after all, heard all the stories.  Upon coming out the other side of her 2003 writing, Treason, I discovered that I had immense respect for her well-researched and level-headed opinions.

Funny thing is, since I read that book, and, as I have continued my path of personal enlightenment, I have found myself squarely walking in the footsteps of Jefferson myself–never able to pin down just where practicality and idealism meet.  I still call myself a libertarian, but no longer with much enthusiasm.  For, as the study of the implementation Articles of Confederation has taught me, the libertarian ideal is quickly overcome by a tendency toward anarchy.

In my zeal to stand squarely for a legalistic interpretation of the Constitution, I have quickly even thrown Abe Lincoln under the bus, he the first man of Republicans, and so have even found myself attacking, perhaps, from the left.  This zeal was thrust upon me by the very same Thomas Jefferson, he the great speaker of all things inherent to the rights of the individual.

Now, suddenly, the fog is starting to clear.  And the once hated enemy of the small man, Alexander Hamilton, is starting to rise in my estimation.  For Hamilton was not, as it turns out, the antithesis of Jefferson, but, rather, his containing force.  Jefferson was capable of great things when his mind wasn’t allowed to wander.  As it turns out, I, too, am a wanderer.  And , for that reason, it is good that people sometimes come along to help me regain some focus.  And so I am brought to a watershed moment in the pages of Demonic.

Yes, Ann, the world is a constant battle of good and evil, rational and irrational, peaceful and productive assemblies and lynch mobs.  And, yes, Ann, the roots of the Republican party are peaceful and productive, while the Democratic party has become the party of the lynch mob.

Those who don’t read  history are destined to repeat it.  In Coulter’s brilliant analysis of the American and French Revolutions, we see that they are also destined to equate fact with fiction.  The anarchic revolutionaries of France managed to wrest the crown from an acquiescent king without hardly needing to fire a shot.  Yet the French revolution managed to still slaughter ten times as many people as died altogether in the American war for independence.  For such is the mob mentality that it tends to eat its own.  The lawless pursuit of the French independence from itself resulted in  one French dictatorship after another for more than half a century and the decimation of Europe.  Fortunately, the founders of America knew a train wreck when they saw if and ran from any complicity..  Unfortunately, the Democratic party never read history and have mistaken the French story for the American one.

Enlightenment is a tricky subject, because those who are blinded to the truth can’t see that they are blind.  To prove they are not blind, they go around flailing their arms and yelling wildly, swinging at wind mills in an attempt to look like they know what they are doing.  Those who know the truth are set free from such pedantic pratfalls.  But, as Miss Coulter warns, one must never mistake the urge to stay calm for a hesitancy to act when confronted with mob mentality.  Even as the liberal masses brutalize the sensibilities and even life and property of sensible people, those same sensible people are vilified if they try in any way to defend themselves.  They are shouted down, sometimes beaten, vandalize and excoriated in the media (or on Twitter for the oh-so-clever of the idiots).  Failure to stand up to such abuse, to “go along to get along”, won’t have any better results that it did for Louis XVI, or for those who opposed Hitler, or Stalin, or Mao, or Pol Pot.

What the title tells us is that nothing good drives a mob.  What the book give us is a fantastically well thought out and researched historical background for America’s current political landscape and its historical origins.  I sense that, in a real way, I and Miss Coulter are arriving at the nexus of a long intellectual journey.  Her earlier books were great.  This one is masterful.  Thanks for clearing up a lot of things for me, Ann.

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Forces for Change — The Personal Equation

This morning I was practicing the piano reduction of the Christmas suite from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.  Sometimes, when I am out tuning pianos for the Holiday Season, I get a chance to play little snippets of it and I see the joy it brings to my audience.  I often imagine the joy I will be able to bring to larger audiences if I ever manage to perfect the whole thing for performance.  I think about how I will inspire many young hearts to turn to the piano as a lifelong companion and I think about how so many lives would be changed forever for the much better.

But, alas, there is a reality.  Piano, especially anything approaching classic approaches to piano, requires a skill set that has no model in our modern society, outside of, perhaps, the gymnastics academies and dance studios.  This skill set is something we used to call sitsfleisch, German for sit flesh, the ability to sit down and concentrate of something.  Kids aren’t really born with it.  It needs to be modeled and taught by their parents.  But none of them have it.  None of their parents had it either.

So, the children will hear me play, just like the small child currently living with me.  I see his response to my playing.  He, naturally, wants to play.  And so he does, making some kind of noise and rhythm.  At four, he’s a little young to be ready to handle organized learning.  But, he has access to the keyboard, and he’s seen someone who loves to play it, so a little of it has rubbed off on him.  His father will encourage him more in the future.  And, when he is ready, he will play.

But what about the children who pass by and hear me play?  Most of their parents are more than ready to whisk them on their way.  Parents are much to busy to notice or even understand what is being awakened in their children.  Even if they do notice, they march on and the idea of having a child who plays piano quickly fades.  The child is enticed with TV, video games and toys, all in an effort to pacify him or her for another day.  Few are those who stop to understand that the piano and learning how to play it represents a far greater satisfaction for the hungers of a child, and, soon, the hungers of an adult, than any video.

My point today is not to solicit new piano students.  It is a life lesson in what it takes to make change in someone’s life.  There are many people, organizations, foundations ready and willing to bring change to the lives of people, especially children.  But, none of these can offer the children anything without roots.  I may inspire them to play piano, but if someone doesn’t help that inspiration grow roots, it will soon die.  Others may offer assistance with food programs or housing programs or help with education.  But, most of the time, these programs are only offering another fish to live for another day.  They are not teaching how to fish.  They are not modeling the fisherman’s life, so that the children learn to fish and live for a lifetime without needing a fish every day.  Mentors can do that, but the mentors come and go, and it’s hard for them to lay down roots that will last when they are gone.

As a musician, I have watched my value drop over the decades.  There was a time when I would have been help up as a role model.  Parents would have encouraged their children to aspire to be more like me.  I could have made a comfortable living off the value that was assigned to what I do.  But now I am asked, more and more, to give myself away.  I am still doing my best to be a model.  But the bills mount up and I am forced to turn to other things which are now assigned more value.  Paperwork is not much more important than making the music and bringing joy to hearts.   A world of greed and deadlines has forced everyone to be selfish with time, to be self-absorbed, with no time to interact with others.  Their is precious little time to for music and other such frivolities.  Of, course, there is always time for the constant, mind-numbing hip-hop or other background drone that keeps us from dying from the monotony of the rat race.  But music that causes us to stop and smell the roses is a luxury we can’t afford.

Who’s going to change the world for our children?  You, parents.  You must do it.  For most of you, that’s going to mean first changing yourself.  It’s going to mean realizing that trinkets and TV are no substitute for you.  It’s going to mean realizing that having children means you are now number two in your life.  Your child comes first.  That is, after all, why you decided to be a parent, isn’t it?  You want to help raise the next generation.  You want him or her to have it better than you do.  Well, then, what are you willing to sacrifice to change the world?   If you can’t put your children first in your life, it would be better that you gave them to someone who will.  No child deserves to be the “mistake that’s ruining my life.”

Politics is important, but only in the sense that our government is an extension of ourselves.  Government will never be able to fix the problem of dysfunctional families.  Strong families can survive without strong government, but not the other way around.  Strong families are led by selfless parents, parents who are servants on behalf of the family.  Good government is provided by those willing to sacrifice for their constituents, their political family.  If we expect change toward good government, it’s up to the parents to model selflessness for their children.   If we expect the government to provide for our children without inserting ourselves personally into the equation,  we are barking up the wrong tree.

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