100 Days

I saw a post from a former pastor of mine.  I consider him a friend and mentor – at least, I considered him one.  It’s a confusing thing.  I still love and respect him, admire much of his character and have nothing but the deepest appreciation for the things he has taught me over the years.  But, I feel conflicted, too.  Our ideologies are not the same, and though I have faith in God, I would no longer characterize myself as a fundamentalist Christian in any form.  Over the past few years my friend has become increasingly more vocal in political and religious matters, something I will certainly never criticize, however it has highlighted the rift that is between us when I compare what we think and believe.  He is unabashedly both conservative Right and conservative Christian,  even when those two viewpoints are in direct contention.  More recently, he has taken to bashing both the Left and the Islamic religion, often conflating the two in order to make a skewed point.  Given his background as both an IBM engineer and a teacher of Philosophy, I have no doubt he understands faulty logic- but he no longer pays heed to that in service of rhetoric.  This depresses me.  There was a time when he measured the character of a person by when they were willing to keep their mouth shut.  Have we moved so far past civil discourse that even good men step over the line to protect what they see as their way of life?  Is the perceived threat to Christianity, whether it is by political, social or religious agenda so great that we must forget our principles?

I hope not.

The hole cost

I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/d/dwight_d_eisenhower.html

I really don’t know enough about Eisenhower, but I do know he had some excellent quotes.  Whoever, or whatever else he might have been, he had that going for him.

The above quote brings to mind much of what I am seeing today.  We have a warmongering leadership, and have had one, for quite some time.  Our response to societal discord and discontent is violence.  We glorify it in music and movies – the righteous response of a man done wrong.  We romanticize it.  Indeed, we dream of one day doing it.  “Tear it from my cold dead hands!” exclaims Charlton Heston during an NRA rally.  Whether it’s a burglar breaking in to our house, an armed lunatic in line at McDonald’s or the ever present Government, we know what our response will be and we are primed for it.

There is a parable I am fond of remembering.  I try to keep it in the forefront of my mind at all times; a golden rule, you might say.  The bare bones of it is about a father who has a son that is always losing his temper and lashing out at the people around him.  He is admonished, feels guilty and apologizes to those he has lashed out at, but he continues to lose his temper, failing to change his ways.  One day the father brings his son a hammer and nails and directs him to hammer a nail into the fence surrounding their yard every time he feels the desire to lash out come upon him.  At first there are many, many nails, but over the weeks there are fewer and fewer nails, until one day the son does not add a new nail to the fence.  He has learned the first step to peace.  The father then instructs the boy that for every day he does not put a nail into the fence he may take one out.  Over many months the son slowly removes all the nails until there are none remaining.  He has learned the second step to peace.  Standing there with his father, looking at the fence, the son notices how many ugly holes are now all over the fence, marring its appearance.  His father explains to him- “The nails were your anger, damaging the fence with each new nail you added.  When you removed them, that was your apology.  The holes that remain is the damage left in your wake.  An apology removes the nail, but only by controlling your anger can you prevent the harm.”  The son began to understand the why of peace.

We cherish our anger, proud of how we might use it, but we do not see the holes.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

I don’t post personal things on Facebook much. I don’t believe in airing my dirty laundry, and I happen to like my life, so I see no reason to complain about it, even when I struggle. Having said that, I want to share a bit of a story with you in the hopes that it might provide some perspective on this generation.

When my dad was a kid he prayed in school, got spanked when he got in trouble, went to church and read the bible. He played outside, did sports and hunted. Things were different then, with no Internet, color TV or cable. As he grew up, he joined the military, worked for Milwaukee and BN railroads, got married and had children. When times were tough, he buckled down and worked harder. If people were struggling, he did what he could to help. When his mother was older he bought her a house and took care of her. He looked after a few of his brothers from time to time, too. Cancer took his life, too soon, but by most accounts he lived an honorable life and enjoyed a modicum of success. I guess things were better and different for his generation…

What he didn’t tell many people is how much hated his childhood. Oh, not all of it, of course. Very few people can say that, but he did have his moments. He got picked on and hazed as a kid, horribly so. So badly that people would come up to me 60 years later to tell me how sorry they were that it happened, how bad some of the kids had it back then. You see, it wasn’t popular to be an Indian in a Catholic school and he didn’t have the advocates like he would have had today.

When he was about ten, he got his 1st job setting up pins in a bowling alley. He didn’t do it for fun, he did it so he could buy clothes for himself. You see, alcoholism and gambling were big issues back then, and his family wasn’t immune to the problems they caused. But that wasn’t something that was talked about like it is today.

His older brother took his own life at the age of 17 and decades later that still haunted my father. Times were hard, but you weren’t supposed to talk about it back then.

The world was a very tough, cruel place 60 years ago. Bad things happened back then, just as they do now. Yet Kids in my father’s day generally had it better than their parents did, how could they not? It’s called progress. I had it better than my father did. But you know what? I was bullied, picked on- even ended up homeless for a time as a teenager. The world wasn’t always a great place when I was kid, either.

So why am I sharing all of this? Maybe because I think it’s time we stopped looking at the world through the false lens of nostalgia and idealism and started taking responsibility for the way things are, right now. My father had it tough, no doubt about it. But you know what?  A lot of people did.  What made a difference in my dad’s life, and in mine, were the people that came up next to him and influenced his life in a positive manner.  A nun taught him the value of self-respect and hard work.  A school principal, a teacher and a pastor were huge influences for me.  So were many friends and family members along the way.  This world is what we choose to make of it now, not what it was, not what it will be.  You get out there and you do good things today.

Tragedy as politics

What happened on Friday the 14th was a tragedy.  A tragedy perpetrated by evil for purposes we can only guess at.  No amount of analysis will ever give us all the answers we could possibly want for why such a horrible act occurred.  But that hasn’t stopped many people from coming out of the woodwork to take advantage of the situation for their own political ends.  Well, let me tell you a few things about what what this situation is, and is not.

It is evil, pure evil.  I don’t care why you hate your life, why you hate others, or how miserable your life is.  Nothing that happens to you will ever justify the murder of innocents because of your pain.

Evil acts can and will occur anywhere, at any time.  We do not live in a perfect world, and we are all subject to this tragedy.  Anyone with loved ones has this fear buried within them- the knowledge that senseless tragedy can take them away from us at any time.

Guns were the tool used in this tragedy.  Guns make killing easier, that is what they do.  That said, if guns were not available, other tools are.  Restricting weapons doesn’t make it harder to commit violence, it just changes the method used.

Having guns does not equate to anything other than possession.  Teachers having guns will not make anyone safer unless they are trained in them, constantly and consistently.  Owning a gun does not make me or my family serial killers in training, or even an “enthusiast”.  I own a saw, that does not make me a contractor or a carpenter.  What happened is not about 2nd amendment rights, so knock it off.

Israel is not safer because of all their firearms.  They are a nation at war, under siege at all times.  They have those firearms so they can kill those that are their enemies.  Were they a  nation at peace, surrounded by peace, then a case may be made for their effectiveness.

Switzerland requires gun ownership because their population is the army.  Participation is required by law.  Whether it is effective or not is open to debate because nobody invades Switzerland!

Having God in schools will not prevent tragedy.  Neither will having two parent homes, marriage only between men and women, or any other absurd notion being put out there as a means of furthering a political agenda without regard to rationale or facts.  We live in a fallen world, not paradise.  We can aspire to all sorts of moral summits, to improving ourselves and our society, but that will not take evil out of the world- Evil occurs everywhere, from the holiest of grounds to the most depraved of living conditions.

Twenty seven people lost their lives on Friday.  Twenty seven people who will not know what their future may bring.  That is all that matters to them and to those that knew and loved them.  Leave it at that.