04
Oct
11

Frail Honor, the Most Dangerous Kind

Well THIS is not what I wanted to write about. But there it is, Freshly Pressed, all about the protest on Wall Street and the virtue of the down trodden. Our future is in a lot of trouble. Seeing all these young Americans out in the cold to support their cause reminds me of an accidental moment of clarity I experienced in high school. It was Veteran’s Day, and instead of enjoying our new snow, I was sitting in English Lit. I’m pretty patriotic, so I had the thought that reading Lawrence Furlenghetti may not be the best way to honor our precious vets. I stood up and mentioned to the class how our time spent studying poetry was indeed undermining the sacrifices made by generations of veterans. Within minutes the tempera paint and posterboard were pilfered from the art room and we had some respectable signs. We paraded through the halls and quickly gathered a following that represented the ENTIRE school. Every student left class to support the Veteran’s Day cause. There we were, in the falling snow, on the side of the highway drinking hot chocolate and shouting something about freedom and sacrifice. The media was there within the hour and we clambered for their attention as they expounded on our devout patriotism.

Obviously, we were all lying. But the question is, were we lying to the media and our teachers? Or were we lying to ourselves? In that moment, every one of us was convinced that it was our teenage duty to honor the veterans. I was a little proud of my act of rebellion. As a teen, I was NOT rebellious and this would go a long way toward redeeming my straight-laced reputation. However, the pride was tinged with a nameless fear. I knew very well that the only reason the entire school walked out behind me was because they wanted to. I had successfully appealed to their inner-most wishes for a day off and I made it look honorable. At that moment, human nature stripped a layer and I discovered the simplicity of manipulation. Turn a person’s frailty into that which makes him honorable and he will stand for much less than he could be. It is easy to recline in one’s excuses, but so difficult to live up to an expectation.

Now, I see these protesters on Wall Street and all over the country, youth who were traded honor for mediocrity, and I am sad for our future. I would like a youth that is prepared to rise up and embrace the challenges ahead, enjoy the freedom of our new found globalism, and spread a better way of life to the truly downtrodden masses (not the ones being fed organic veggies and pasta in the street). Unfortunately, what sleeps on Wall Street right now is only bringing this nation further into despair. With it goes the hope that would bring prosperity to those who need it most.

Advertisements
15
Aug
11

The Lower 48

It’s time to call it. We have lost a decade. Now is the time to sacrifice ourselves, tighten our belts, and save the future. When my grandchildren read about this time in history, I want them to be thankful we got something right. I sigh audibly or even gasp out loud every time new financial numbers are reported. Then I chuckle out loud when the revised no-need-to-panic numbers are released. It’s hard to imagine sustaining a more trying economy, but here’s a gasp-out-loud number – 48%. THAT is the graduation rate in our inner-city schools. I discovered this because our national average graduation rate is 70%, which I found to be unbelievably low since I don’t know a single high school drop out. For the record, the suburban and rural graduation rates average about 88%.

From my rural high school, I worked on a gang violence task force, and had a pretty solid, though distant, understanding of the plight of the inner-city student. As an adult, I took that knowledge and used it to ensure that my children had the best education available. I chose their superior (though under-funded) school and congratulated myself on avoiding those treacherous public schools. Then I slept really well, dreaming of the Ivy Leagues. I happen to have the inside scoop on my peers and I know they have behaved in a very similar manner, shaking their heads sadly over the drop-out tragedy that is not their problem.

I’m thinking now, though, that regardless of where my children go to school, this lackluster graduation rate is absolutely my problem. It may be our biggest problem, in fact. Our economy is in a death spiral. Inner city kids have met nothing but failure – their parents failed them, churches failed them, authorities failed them, and their schools fail them. Now, we have a hopeless situation that strips hope, dignity, and prosperity from a MAJORITY of this population. There is a solid MAJORITY of inner-city dwellers who will be incapable of supporting themselves. A MAJORITY will be dependent upon Government Assistance, turning the United States into a crippled welfare state.

The math is simple. A minority simply cannot support a majority. The problem, however, is complex. This problem cannot be funded into oblivion. We have a family unit that is unrecognizable, so there is no Focus on the Family for them. There is no support, no accountability, no discipline, and no hope for these children who don’t even have the stability to dread their tomorrows. It’s an emotional issue, and therefore open to exploitation, but it is too critical to be treated with such flippancy. This group is disappointed and angry. They carry bigger guns than the police, and they have the bravado of the hopeless. Revolution is the soup du jour, and though I don’t think our inner city children are going to overthrow the White House, I do think that we should keep an eye on the London riots. These youth expect more than the government can afford to provide right now and emotions run high throughout our country. They are surely more intelligent than their schools are capable of recognizing and unrest is imminent in a mind that is under-utilized.

If we are going to save this nation, it’s time to run clean-up. We’ve inherited so many unsavory problems that we are forced to deal with. Children, though, should never be treated as problems. In them, we find an opportunity to save a generation of indeterminate promise. Not only that, but access to a bright future may be the only thing that can save this bleeding nation.

21
May
11

Time to Unpack

I’ve called it History’s Quandary. The Middle East, where enemies and allies change by the day and the best we can ever hope for is choosing the least unfortunate. Right now, our president is standing in fallout that is too deep to sort through, and for that he deserves our sympathy. Presidents before him have acted on the best knowledge to make the best decisions only to be judged by generations of history.

Right now, though, the President is not only drowning in the fallout from the troubled Middle East, but also at home. His Israeli peace plan has brought nothing but controversy over a steadfast ally. I have a knee-jerk opinion on what he said, but I like to do a little research before I speak out on the Middle East, so I’ve spent two days reading the blog circuit regarding this speech, Hamas, Abbas, Netanyahu, the Muslim Brotherhood…Finally I came to a conclusion.

It’s time to unpack, America, or our baggage is going to drown us.

Every comment stream I read turned into a circular argument of name-calling, blaming, excuses, and hate. Is this what our great nation has become? Golda Maier said that there will be war until Palestinians can learn to love their children as much as they hate the Jews. What about us? After reading all I have, it occurs to me that Americans are so caught up in rhetoric, we cannot reach a viable solution on any issue. In the name of being right, we have forgotten that love fosters growth, but hate destroys everything in its path. The Israeli conflict is an appropriate backdrop for such a realization. Israel, though a small and young nation, has grown more than many of its peers in the area. The nation is democratic, based on a general concept of freedom. It’s peers are bent on destruction. Nothing can destroy and intimidate its way to prosperity – not governments, ideas, egos, or armies.

We Americans inherited a legacy of peace and prosperity that we have squandered. Now that it is threatened, we are up to our ears in blame and hate that jeopardizes our future. We cannot even agree on good an evil. When we reached out to the Katrina victims, there were criticisms. The Gulf oil spill? Not an environmental tragedy, but a political blame-fest. We fight about gunmen in our schools and killings on the border. Obama compared children being blown up on school buses with the humiliation of occupation and NOBODY SAID A THING. Children are being killed, people, and we have turned it into a political debate without spending a moment to grieve for humanity.

America has always stood for what is right and good. She has been a bastion of freedom and solace. Right now, though, America doesn’t know what is right and therefore cannot stand. Instead, we have replaced good vs. evil with red vs. blue and are battering both to the ground. I promise that our skirmishes over things like abortion and clean water will look luxurious when we are fighting for existence. If we cannot come together and remember that a dead child is a tragedy no matter who her parents were and that injustice is a scourge, we will fall from within.

Right now, we are carrying our own versions of history in heavy backpacks that weigh us down, hindering our movement and keeping us out of the fight. We have got to unpack those so that we can step up and remember that good is worth fighting for. The enemy is powerful, but he should be easy for us to recognize – he’s the one threatening our future and that of the world. Usually, he has less problem saying he is bent on murder than we have believing him.

01
Mar
11

History’s Quandary…Choosing Sides

The Middle East is History’s quandary. Today’s dubious friendships are the bloody enemies of tomorrow. The enemies of today are the benefactors of our tomorrows. As the Middle East slides into even greater chaos, I am suspect of anyone claiming to have a thorough understanding of the situation. I am even less trusting of someone who claims to know what should be done. This is uncharted territory for me. I like to choose sides, and I like to know enough to choose the right side. I don’t know if there is a right side in this situation.

This could be the moment that millions stand on the crumbling wall that has held them captive for so many years. Or, it could be the moment that millions stand on a crumbling ground and fall deeper into turmoil. Historically, revolutions have not been good for the people. Think of Cuba, France, Russia, Germany…The list goes on. In fact, I cannot think of a people’s revolution that can match the one staged on our behalf. The success of 1776 and the long-term implications defy human nature. It is difficult to look at the American Revolution and the foundations it laid, however bloody, and not acknowledge divine intervention. This is a cautious statement, for I believe that every revolutionary at some time called upon the name of his god, and the results were not necessarily benevolent. But consider the success of our great nation – luck? Extreme wisdom? Favorable conditions? Good weather and a great corn crop? No need to be cheeky, but is there any explanation other than the foresight and wisdom of great leaders? There have been few such leaders in history, yet we had seven of them in our time of need. It’s inhuman when one considers the frailty of our race.

As for the Middle East, we should hope for no less, and we should pray. There is no courage in a refusal to believe our prayer will be heard. War is bloody, and there is evil committed in the name of God every day, but the name of God is invoked by the ego, by the self-aggrandizement that is counter to all God stands for. The evil in the world, particularly in a leader gunning down his own unarmed citizens, should serve to force the hand of the atheist, to deny that the will of man gets to rule this Earth. Pray. Pray for the freedom of Mideastern wives, daughters, sons, brothers, and husbands. Pray that this bloodshed we see is actually the birth of a legacy, that newborn cries of freedom will be heard throughout the Earth and the mountains will shudder against this power that is free will ordained by a Loving God.

17
Jan
11

Soul Force – Lest We Forget a Great Man

“As my wonderful wife @Rep_Giffords continues to make progress, let us all pause and reflect on this MLK day,” Tweet from Mark Kelly.

The words themselves are not profound, but they are well-timed. The wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr. is exactly what this country needs right now. Perhaps tensions were somewhat cooled by the holidays, but as gas prices, food prices, health care prices, and interest rates rise this spring, we are bound to find ourselves suspended in revolutionary tension once again. As with any unspeakable tragedy, there are lessons to be taken from January 8th, lessons that meld beautifully with MLK’s legacy, if only we take notice.

Martin Luther King led a revolution. This nation is forever changed for the better, thanks to his leadership. As a rule, change without violence happens slowly. Without his peaceful example, it could have taken decades to recognize the human cost of racism and segregation. For years, we could have suffered the damage wrought by an oppressed population as the nation crumbled economically and spiritually. With the competing Black Panther movement of the day, there may have been widespread bloodshed, leading to fear and desperation. Desperation takes hold when mankind is rent of the unalienable rights endowed by our Creator. Believe in The Almighty or not, it is accepted wisdom that a man threatened by captivity is a dangerous man. Freedom is a gift straight from the Lord, the gift of freewill. History shows that men will more easily lay down their lives for freedom than any other force.

The human desire for freedom is the beast to appease. That which gives strength to fight to the death is also the greatest weakness. Every infamous leader has understood the precious weight of freedom, and the ability or inability of the citizens to carry such weight. Do Americans still have the stamina to uphold this? Jared Loughner, like Timothy McVeigh and even King’s assassin James Earl Ray, was convinced he would protect freedom, but the violence did nothing but impede his cause. Every time someone abuses his rights in the name of preserving freedom, freedom is compromised.

As in Martin Luther King, Jr’s time, I believe the US stands precariously. We are threatened by economic and social challenges as the world around us changes more quickly than we can react. Our superpower status has been eroded and will continue to do so unless we can unite under an ideology of greatness. As we talk about our fight for freedom, we should understand that the way to freedom was paved for us. Centuries of sons were lost on battlefields to accomplish the conditions under which a nation like ours could be founded. The United States carries a mantle to protect these conditions, to ensure that people can live, trade, and thrive freely throughout the world. We need to protect our economic prowess by reigning in spending and we need to be peacekeepers.
Finally, we must define greatness. It is obvious that we have forgotten the meaning. Greatness is that which allows us to be free – it is strength, courage, justice, and the responsibility to uphold these virtues even above personal interest.

Martin Luther King, Jr. gave us a legacy that possibly sustained us as a nation. He gave us this: “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline… Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

31
Dec
10

Magic on Ice

As the year comes to a close, so does our holiday season. This year, the season settled in with disillusion. I resented the materialism and mourned the childhoods of my daughters, all the while seeking a spiritual connection that went missing some time in September. It was difficult to stave off cynicism, particularly after a Black-Friday all-nighter that left me feeling used and exploited like a night at a frat house caveman party.

Then I took Berlin ice skating.

Ice skating is like mainlining childhood for me. Growing up in Minnesota, I spent many weekends on the lake. If it got dark, my dad would turn on the Nova’s headlights and I would circle the lake, getting more and more bruised as I pursued a doomed Olympic career. The minute my feet are captivated by little white boots with metallic blades, I am eight again, and everything is possible.

So mother and daughter circled the ice, together in childish spirit, chatting about the latest pop stars and admiring our icy grace as we twirled around dodged wobbly grown ups and slow beginners. Most of these obstacles belonged to the same group. When we got cold, we left the ice to sit by the fire and we stopped talking long enough to notice these people. It was a family, reunited from lives that took them all over the country. Grandpa and grandma were there with thermoses of hot chocolate for the brothers and sisters they had borne. The cousins were scattered around the ice and the fire pit, according to age, and they chatted feverishly, distracted only by the effort of gliding around the ice. Remember that? The anticipation, the travel, the arrival, the hiding away with those so dear and precious for their absence?

Magic. I nearly fell off my skates. The season IS magical, there is no denying it. It is the only time we step back from living to make love a deliberate part of our routine. We have parties and gather, but even as we are alone in our daily routines, we think of others. We think of their needs rather than their demands…What to gift, whom to gift, charity, life changes as we catch up through Christmas letters and admire growing families. This season, despite the guerrilla tactics of retailers, exemplifies humanity at its best. I believe that love is our greatest emotion wrought with a power we cannot understand. The media has undermined love with manipulation and lust, but deep, platonic love is the closest we can come to a God who is Love. Perhaps the retailers are stealing Christmas from the Christians as we stole it from the Pagans, but there is a reason it is so sought after. It exemplifies the best of us and that is a perfect reason to hold on to it. There is a movement among Christians to give up the materialism and commercialism of the holiday and while I agree that these things are distracting, I think that the cost of letting them go is too great. Our material prowess is the result of a human spirit set free, and we ave a right to embrace it. If we do not, it becomes a controlling force and embraces us. We are commissioned to act as the Lord’s Hands and Feet, serving humanity. This means many things, but giving is a large part of it, the easy part. The rest comes in time as we learn to express love untarnished by a fallen mankind. We need to practice. We need this season. We need this magic that is really a miracle.

22
Oct
10

Was Huey Lewis Right?

Tell me, just how powerful IS love? This question surfaces every. single. day. Love is what legends are made of. For centuries, there have been sonnets, poems, songs, novels, epics, and movies written about love. If the passing twitterpation didn’t do some damage, then surely the novelty would have worn off, right? I am not a romantic. If I happen to watch a romcom, it is simply because I was alone and tired of watching things blow up. If I happen to watch an epic romance, it is likely because of the leading eye candy or because of an interesting historical setting. The

    Titanic

brand of quickie gimme-72-hours-and-I’ll-die-for-you romance, however, makes me want to kick puppies and I am a pretty big fan of puppies.

As I (gasp) age, I am noticing certain truths about life. Mainly, love is powerful stuff. Our culture has made excellent progress in destroying this, weakening the power by obstructing the source, but still it prevails. It drives the human race. We live to achieve love, however misguided our efforts. It may manifest in our work, dress, knowledge, physique, or simple materialism, but love drives our society. The problem is, we strive for that which is undefined. We don’t even admit to looking for love, rather a “hook-up” or even “soul mate,” allowing the fates to intervene, but it is love we seek.

The media has taken full advantage of this definitive failure and lures us into a trap of pleasure and instant gratification. We fall victim to this at younger and younger ages, generation by generation. The media has sold us a confusing substitute for love – lust. I could easily argue that lust is even more powerful than love itself. Lust takes governors and presidents from their honored posts to darkened offices and hallways full of scandal. Lust misguides teens and leaves them huddled against their broken dreams. Lust divides families and sells hundreds of thousands of daughters into submission. Particularly tragic – lust takes a teen girls heart and mind and plays a dangerous game of keepaway, telling her who to be and how to act until she forgets that she started with a plan, a goal.

Love, on the other hand, doesn’t leave anybody wanting more. Instead, it leaves us able to give more. This is amazing, all we can share when we walk in the comfort of true love. True love can come from a parent, a friend network, even a spouse or significant other, though I believe that offers nearly insurmountable challenge. Love is divine. The Bible says that God is Love. When we truly contemplate the transforming power of love, it stands to reason that it is supernatural. Yet, in the world we live in, love is hindered by human frailty. While we look to spouses for this deep, committed, emotion, we fail to admit that the person we look to is limited by his own frailty. Particularly a spouse, who would look to me for the same validation. I think this is exactly why God says to love Him first, with all my heart with all my soul. God’s love, once realized is everlasting and unfailing. God will never shut me out because of a bad day. He will always love me and treat me objectively in that very love relationship. My spouse may try, but realistically, the world is going to impede his ability to do so. If I hold God in the highest esteem, though, and love Him first, what is reflected in my soul is eternal and divine and my love ceases to fail.

Eternal, unfailing love. It moves the world. Nations go to war. Nations come in peace. The addict finds healing. The abused are transformed. We need the fortitude to love without condition, without self-interest. We truly need the power of love.




What’s here

SuzyJ’s Tweets

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.