Thursday, July 04, 2019

On This Day

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness-That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..."

I have always loved the Fourth of July. Even as a kid living in poverty in Southern California, the holiday always seemed to produce the twin smells of grilling and fireworks that seemed to epitomize the promise of summer and youth and even now makes me smile.

This year I am having difficulty with the day. Not because of a lack of love for my country. I am grateful to call this flawed place my home. I am indebted to those who came before me and those currently serving including several family members, to secure freedoms for me and us. It is our responsibility now to pursue greater justice for our fellow citizens who, in various and historical capacities have been denied equality of opportunity that others have enjoyed. Further, it is our obligation to ensure that our values are not compromised by those elected in our name.

I am having difficulty with the day because as I write, there are thousands of my fellow humans, many of them children, in camps constructed for their detainment. Conditions in these camps are horrendous by most metrics. Conditions that could very well be a ticking time bomb if not systematically addressed. Regardless of how we got here, humanity ought to be non-partisan. In light of Independence Day, and that it is a celebration of the promise of individual freedom, celebrating with those children in mind seems to have lost a little of its luster or now.

Therefore, I want to encourage any and all who are still reading this melancholy reflection to do something. Before you fire up the grill, crack open a beer or let loose aerial illuminations, contact your legislators and tell them you want this to stop immediately. Tell them you want them to stop traumatizing children and reunite families. Tell them you want genuine comprehensive immigration reform and a Marshall Plan for Central America that will deal with many of the causes of our current situation.

Tell them that you'll watch how they respond...and then actually do it.

Let them know that mercy, grace and forbearance are some of our greatest democratic principles.

If you live in Clark County and Washington state, doing so is just a click away:

If you live in a different state, click here

If you are fortunate enough to have a 401(k) or mutual fund, do what I did-find out if you might be inadvertently financing for-profit prisons like the companies running these camps. If you are, contact the broker and tell them you want them to take action against these investments. Nobody should profit from the imprisonment of another person, even if you have committed a crime but especially not children. It is immoral and has the stench of human misery associated with it.

I will celebrate our nation's birth. But not before I do my homework. In all of it's difficult past and uncertain future, she is worth it. Making sure that our national soul and promise is alive for those children and others like them, it is worth it. It is also worth remembering that our ideals are not necessarily a definitive destination, but a continuous work in progress that often means we must look ourselves in the mirror and course correct.

Posting, liking, commenting is not activism.

Acting on principle is activism.

It worked 243 years ago.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Election Day

I have been spending a lot of time these past 11 days talking with my 12 year old about recent events and assuaging his concerns about his nation’s future.

You see, we are Christians and ultimately, our hope is in Christ, his future glory and the redemption of all creation.

As Christ followers in a pluralistic, post-Christian society we believe in forgiveness, love, mercy and justice for all, even if people don’t agree with our values. It is not always easy, but it is necessary and worth it.

So it is with these paradigms in mind, that I find myself trying to explain to a young man who is beautifully empathetic and curious and sincere and loving, how the events of November 8th, 2016 have come to pass.

He realizes that either of the major party candidates being elected would have been less than ideal, to say the least.

But he does not understand how a person who publicly displays some of the most abhorrent behavior that parents instruct their children to avoid, could be rewarded with holding the most high profile power position in our great nation.

He is not alone.

My answers are imperfect, incomplete, brilliant and pedestrian at times of course. He is patient with me.

I tell him that I believe our nation is not perfect, but it is intrinsically good, despite our past and present mistakes and can be a force for good in the world.

I will tell you what I cannot tell him.

Anger, ignorance, fear and desperation elected Donald Trump. Those emotions were manifest in real people who voted, but those were the forces at play.

A foreign government has actively worked to influenced our election in blatant ways and has been handsomely rewarded. What next of China, Iran in the future?

Our institutions have been questioned and may yet be tested as new leadership sees what it can get away with like he has played fast and loose with the law all his life.

Everything will not be all right.

At least not if people of good conscience choose to do nothing if and when we are required to act, agitate, donate, demonstrate, pray and scream out loud to prevent potential injustices to one another and our planet.

Our task is to determine how we best treat the symptoms that lead to the political outcome two weeks ago. It starts within ourselves and then we must move out into the lives of others to be the human agents of grace, mercy, forgiveness that we simply cannot expect a government to facilitate, regardless of who is in the White House.

That’s where I’m going to start.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Last Moderate Standing?

For the longest time,  I have prided myself on being, what I perceived to be anyway, one of the last remaining moderates in America.  While I still hold this maxim to be true, I have to admit that in the last three years I have gone under a bit of a political metamorphosis that I must explain.

I am still not registered with any poltical party, nor have I ever given to any political campaign.  When I vote I invariably end up voting for an almost equal number of candidates from both parties.  What drives me in these decisions is not partisanship, but citizenship.  I vote for ideas, not a slogan.  I cherish country over any party affiliation and in so doing award my vote to whomever I believe has the best notion for moving us in a direction that will benefit the majority of Americans whether it is a federal, state or local election.

Having said that, what few friends I have may believe that in recent years, I have leaned more to the 'left'.  Whatever that is.  I'm not sure that I would characterize it as such, but I admit that I have become less impressed with the Republican party and view them much less favorably.  My comments in private and even in social media betray this attitude. Thus I seem to have lost my objectivity, my balanced apporach to all things political to some people for whom I have a deep respect.

Please do not interpret that as my being satisfied with or identifying myself with the Democratic party.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  On many, issues I find the Democrat position repugnant. 

The problem for me is that even as a Christian living in a secular society, I do not have the luxury of blindly supporting the Republican party because they supposedly represent moral values more.  First of all, I'm not convinced that they do.  Second, I expect Democrats to behave in ways that are perceived by moralists as wrong, therefore the morality of their positions has greater weight on agreeing with them.  I expect that Democrats are going to support abortion, even though I do not.  So I approach how they treat the living as having more morality than Republicans positions.

Does that make any sense?

In other words, if Republicans are supposed to be the party of morality and yet the policies they pursue benefit the aristocracy at the expense of the majority...that is not a defensible position to support.  If Republicans value free enterprise so much yet game the tax code to put small businesses at a competitive disadvantage, that is contradictory at best, dishonest at worst.  If Republicans value life so much in the womb, why do they not seem concerned about quality of life once a baby is outside the womb?

And lastly and most recently, the behavior of the Republican party in the last 3 1/2 years has been detestable and unpatriotic.  The coordinated and concerted effort they have exerted in denying the current president the ability to govern goes beyond merely disagreeing with his policies.  They have put everything on hold for the sake of winning the upcoming election.  They have abdicated their Constitutional duty to govern to the will of party politics.  To me, that borders on treason.

Any movement I may have carried out on the surface, is not an internal betrayal of my core values.  Merely, it is perhaps a temporary resignation that these are the current choices and I am, by nature a political creature.  Though I live with one foot in this world and one in the kingdom to come that should not prevent me from having opinions that may differ with my more conservative friends.  Nor do I pretend to have the market cornered on truth.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Last Night's Debate

After watching the debate three words come to mind: Good, Bad and Ugly. First the good. Romney had a really good night; Stevie Wonder could see that he won the debate. He needed to. It is a perfect environment for him. I watched six Republican debates during the primary season and Romney frequently stood out because he aggressively insisted on replying to everything, regardless of the forum’s guide...lines. He is aggressive in these situations because he is in his element. He only has to relate to two people and he will try to boss them around. His aggression is what has made him very successful in business. That is the nature of politics and business. Governance is a different beast. He steamrolled over the moderator, disregarding rules and insisted in an almost bitchy demeanor to have more say. This attitude of 'my way' is a result of his business acumen. The problem is that the people of the United States of America are not a corporation, business nor a factory.

Yes, he won. But if we are honest with ourselves this debate was about the viability of the Romney campaign going forward. A poor performance last night would have written him off in some people’s minds. He was very clear about his desire to stay in the race and for that he should be commended. However, he displayed this by contorting the truth and facts in a way that detracts from the substance of his performance. The President several times mentioned the 5 trillion dollar cost of Romney’s tax cuts which is true. It is also true that Romney’s math does not add up. If you listened to the subtext of Romney’s denial of this claim he said that his lowering of rates and broadening the tax base would not add to the debt. He is right. The only way it works is if all major deductions that benefit the working class are eliminated. In which case all the flattening of rates in the world will still end up in the vast majority of Americans paying more taxes.

The bad. The president had a bad showing last night. No doubt about it. Some of this may be lack of preparation, and some it may be restraining himself from not telling Romney to shut up with his litany of lies, distortions and flip-flopping. I kind of wish the president would have verbally bitch slapped his opponent more than he did. He should have defended his record of results in spite of Republican anti-patriotic obstructionism. But then again, there are lots of reasons I am not president. The president needs to work on making his answers more concise, though he spoke directly at several points. He correctly pointed out that Romney has not and will not dissuade the more radical elements of his party if elected. The solution is a balanced approach to problem solving that the president advocated last night. That is something Romney will not be able to do if elected because he will be a hostage to the extreme base of his party.

And last, the ugly. Jim Lehrer is one of the last remaining journalists of integrity and it was downright dreadful to see him lose control of the format so quickly and early in the debate. Both candidates exceeded the parameters of time rules. The ugly manner in which Willard Mitt Romney repeatedly assaulted Lehrer and the format should be a cautionary tale for how Romney will treat the middle class if elected.

No candidate is perfect.   Romney had a good performance last night, but nobody should mistake performance for substance.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

On Patriots, Politicians and Citizenship

So, for nearly three years or so I've been marinating on, well, fuming over the turn of the political landscape since the last presidential election and susbsequent congressional election. In that time, as both a believer in Christ and an historian junior grade, I can't help but marvel at what has taken place. In my humble opinion what has materialized is equal parts amazing and baffling.

The emergence of the Tea Party movement(initially formed around the acronym, Taxed Enough Already)is a good place to start. Before President Obama even took the oath of office, elements of this movement were festering in the petrie dish of Ameircan politics through tax protests. Lets be clear about this, before the man even entered office, these concerned citizens were already in objection to his policies. Hmmm. Then, after January 20, 2009 their 'concern' turned to outrage with a steady supply of half truths and half baked conspiracy theories of a socialist take-over served up by the wizardry of Glenn Beck. Their influence has grown steadily and remarkably since then. To a degree, this is to be respected, for these 'patriots' have mustered the man and woman power to sustain a movement that has more people talking about the Constitution than I can recall despite my efforts as a history teacher. And this is my next point regarding this movement. People like myself in the field of civics education have been teaching for years of the need for an informed, educated citizenry. That without such our nation is in peril, our government slave to the corporate interests that buy elections. This is why we teach the Constitution and founding documents. And our thanks for these efforts? To be demonized by the Tea Party as part of the educational elite that controls the thoughts of our youth and that we are instruments of the destruction of our Republic by taking God out of our history. In truth, it seems that because these 'patriots' have a very specific, biased and unrealistic interpretation of our founding, teaching actual history to students is viewed as objectionable and traitorus. Ironically, a good number of these citizens home-school their own children, fearing the likes of me no doubt. Instead of finding the truth of what goes on in the public education on their own, it seems they would prefer to rely on the views of Glenn Kimber, Cleon Skousen,John Taylor Gatto and Glenn Beck. All Mormons, all Libertarians. Hmmm. And so, what I could have seen as a vindication of what I've tried to get my students to see and a call to genuine deliberation on the direction of our society is nothing more than what is: a bunch of angry white men and women. Now the genesis of their anger-big government, out of control spending and unsustainable and stupid acquisition of national debt is real, sincere and agreeable. Their execution and timing are suspect however. I cannot get passed and nobody I've talked to at their meetings I've attended can reasonably answer is: Where was this rage from 2001-2009?

Where were you when I was sick to my stomach at the mechaninations of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney in the runup to the Iraq War? You wanna talk about debt? We borrowed every dime for that damn war from the Chinese. Where were you when disproportionate tax breaks were handed out to the wealthy? Where were you when the conservative majority passed Medicare part D without paying for it and without giving the government the ability to negotiate prices for the prescriptions the taxpayer was now on the hook for? Where were you when energy policy has negotiated behind closed doors? And now you want to yell about how healthcare legislation was handled? Really? You scream how the Democratic party controlled the Executive, Legislative and appointments to the Judicial branch of our government for two years, yet you refuse to understand that same scenario was true of the Republican party from 2001-2006. These are some of the reasons that the Tea Party movement has little standing in my eyes and ought not to have any in the minds of any rational minded American. The concerns of this movement are the concerns of all Americans, making all of us Patriots. Their protestations and conspiracy spinning are the work of paranoia, not patriotism.

I'd like to turn my attention now to those in the Republican party in general. I suppose what I find most surprising, is that I'm surprised at all by the behavior of many Republicans in Congress since Barack Hussein Obama entered office. Their actions are but a reflection of how this party behaved after Bill Clinton got elected in 1992. I can still remeber watching Bob Dole standing on the the floor of the Senate the day after the election saying "Bill Clinton does not have a mandate to govern." What is different this time is that in the 90s Republicans made life difficult to govern they did not obstruct the way the current GOP leadership has. It is clear that soon after the 2008 election these indivduals made the conscious calculation that it was in their best political interest to get in the way of any bipartisan efforts to craft legislation together and that is exactly what they have done. I'm certain there are things President Obama should have done differently to encourage more Republicans to feel as if their ideas were welcome. I'm equally sure that most Republicans in Congress would still have pursued the path they did. Boehner, McConnel and Cantor made sure of that early on. Thus, of course legislation that was passed in the 111th Congress was one sided. It was inevitable based on the Reublican strategy. What concerns me also is that the GOP leadership is considering how it might investigate the Obama administration now that they have control of Congress. With all the problems our nation now faces, they are thinking of how to use the subpoena power of the House to harrass the current administration. Interestingly, in 2006 after Democrats won control of the House, Nancy Pelosi(who I do not like), announced that there would not be an investigation into the Bush administrations questionable actions leading to the Iraq war. And here we are, on the precipice of the re-instigation of the culture wars inside Congress and beyond. Any credibility the GOP had as the opposition party struggling to get their ideas heard stopped when they decided to obstructed rather than help govern. Their actions are those of partisans, not patriots. Politcians, not Americans.

Equally disturbing is the Democratic party. Most of these individuals cannot figure out that life begins at conception. Additionally, they are content with dismantling thousands of years of social history by attempting to re-define marriage and support immigrant rights to the point of circumventing our laws to secure a particular voter base. In terms of fiscal matters, the majority of Democrats don't seem to grasp basic math. Even if taxes are raised(as I believe they should), cuts to entitlement programs are needed. It is simply impossible to keep the promises that have been made. Even moderate Democrats who are willing to flirt with this notion are ostracized by their political peers in much the same way Tea Partiers have made compromise anathema to moderate Republicans. Politicians, not Americans.

And so there you have it. Democrats don't care about life until the child is out of the womb and Republicans couldn't care less once the child leaves the the womb.

This brings me to my last point, that of citizenship. While I'm glad to be an American and proud to say that I have several family members currently serving our armed forces, my citizenship is not defined by the nation in which I was born into. My true citizenship is in Christ. I participate in the pledge of allegience every day at school by standing silently in reflection of what is good about our nation. I do not and will not pledge my allegience to a flag or nation as my allegience is to Christ. As such, it torments me to see so many people who claim to follow Christ blur the line with their political activities. In full disclosure, I am a registered independent, who leans left on some issues, and leans right on others. I have never given money to a political organization or campaign and refuse to believe that one party or candidate has a monopoly on morality or the endorsement of Jesus. So many believers of late seem to talk more about their party and reference the Constitution or a founding father more than they cling to the word of God and the priniciples that Christ has laid out for us to emulate. This is where our country has acquired it's biggest deficit, a deficit of action on the part of followers of Christ to live out the Kingdom of God in great and small ways rather than the platform of the Republican or Democrat party.

There is more. Much more I could write. For now I suppose this has acted as a relief valve.

Be well.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

That Guy-Part II

As my death march toward 40 continues I perpetually come upon occassions reminding me of my mortality, frailty and long lost prime of life.

Take this evening for instance.

I was on my treadmill (conjure up the stereotypical image of a middle aged man on such a contraption). After my 'workout' was over, I got off and stumbled to the closet to take off my shoes. Standing in the closet, I lost my balance, fell back and knocked over a box of memorablia. Luckily I grabbed hold of the wall to prevent my complete collapse.

When I stood straight up again, I gazed down to see what exactly I knocked over and clean up the mess I made. Staring back at me was a picture of me...when I was 20 years old. As I was still short of breath and quite convinced I pulled a muscle when I nearly fell, there, mockingly looking back at me was my former self.

Take a look for yourself.

I think it was 1990. Dear God, time is a harsh mistress.

As if that were not enough, the other day I was really excited to find my copy of Van Halen's 1984. I enthusiastically uploaded it to my iTunes. As I was reading the liner notes it dawned on me that it had been 25 years since the album was released. That is a quarter of a century ago! I was a freshman in high school.

Remembering the show Family Ties? You know when we were in junior high and high school. Alex Keaton's parents would talk about Bob Dylan and a much healthier Michael J. Fox would remind them that was 'ancient history'? I'm now that guy. Some of my favorite albums of my youth are now ancient history.

My life has become a sitcom.

A caricature of over-the-hill domestic manhood.

What happened to the young man in that picture?

I'm going to go bury my yearbooks.

Be well.

Friday, March 06, 2009


In additon to being a sign of poor housekeeping, dust is usually an indication that something has been in one place for a while.

This epiphany struck me the other day in my classroom.

I was looking for a box with student work samples that was stored on a top shelf along with some other teacher miscellany. As I moved things around, I eventually knocked another box off the shelf whereupon it settled on the counter and sent dust plumes rising.

It was not what I was looking for, but it was what I found.

As soon as I noticed I got down and sat in a nearby chair and watched the dust work its way back down to the surface of the box and it got me thinking.

How long had that box been there?

Surely, it must have been some time because that much dust does not accumulate overnight.

Why had I not noticed that box before and where was the box I was actually looking for?

Seriously, how long had that box been on that shelf?

The implications were numerous. If I could not remember when I put that particular item on that paricular shelf and sufficient time had passed to collect a good layer air-born sediment, then clearly it and I have been here longer than I thought.

I live here.

I'll never be 'from' here, but this is where I now live. What else could explain the layer of dust on the item that fell? But there were also several other items put up out of arms reach that I was now noticing for the first time. When did I put them there? Have I been so busy living here that I did not notice that dust was collecting on me?

And so, for whatever reason this reality has come upon me, here is where I am. I enjoy the weather. The cold and rain are preferred to the climate of my SoCal homeland, though I admit, by the end of March I welcome the sun. I don't understand the people here and I imagine they don't understand me much either. As I have said before, I fell like an alien in my own country. I have chosen to see what positives I can. I only see 140 students a day as where before I was used to seeing 185. I do hate that there few sidewalks and there are too many two lane roads. There are so many stupid, backward and naive things about here that I dislike. However, the idea of returning to that rotting corpse that is California is even less appealing and a notion that fades more with each passing month.

It is not what I was looking for, but it is what I found.

Now what?

Be well.