Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Is it really a blessing to have everything we want?

A few months ago I was walking through New York City with some 20-somethings and they saw a Nintendo Store so we had to go inside.  *eye roll*

They scattered throughout the store chasing Japanese-sounding nonsense names of things I have no knowledge of.  So I grabbed a seat by the door and just people-watched.

I saw a young lady (about 20 years old) with green hair tied in pigtails waiting for some friends.  She was dressed in a costume of some sort and carried a purple backpack.  She looked a bit . . . medicated perhaps?  I don't know.  She definitely looked like she wasn't sure where she was (or who she was, or if she was even there at all).  Disturbing.  When her two friends came over (similarly dressed like digital characters), all three of them slowly made their way to the door in the strangest manner I have seen a group of young ladies move.

And I am not sure they were all ladies, but that is beside the point.

As I looked through the store I saw more young adults that seemed to have everything they would want or need but just look so . . . lost.  I wondered to myself if this is what previous generations had in mind when they thought of prosperity, security and peace.

Fast forward: one month later I stood on Omaha Beach in France.

The largest invasion in history happened on this and a handful of other beaches in Normandy.  Tens of thousands of young men were gunned down in their pursuit of the beach and the defeat of Nazism.  Back home, hundreds of thousands of young men and women joined a war effort that helped us out-produce the world in ships and tanks and jeeps and aircraft.  All of them heroes.  All of them in their early 20's.

As I stood in the water of that beach, I wondered if we could do it again.

In a few weeks, the movie Dunkirk will come out.  I am really excited to see it but I am also nervous that I will see a very different time and culture.  I worry that we live in a time that is so focused on the self that we couldn't rise to the miracle of a Dunkirk or a Normandy.  I worry that we are so prosperous that we don't know what it means to sacrifice for the greater good.  I worry that we might be really good at Pokemon but not so good at defeating real evil.

I worry because we have a president that tweets out insults and the rest of us destroy each other because we have different ideas on religion, politics and life.  Ultra liberals are so smug and ultra conservatives are so obnoxious.  The rest of us are somewhere in between the great divide.  It wasn't always like that.  It used to be that we could disagree and still be friends.  Now we draw lines.  We have the greatest tools of connection at our fingertips and we have never been more fractured.

I worry because our entertainment nightly involves watching people shoot each other.  Then we wonder why people are shooting each other in our cities.  I worry because we have songs that glorify drug abuse and using each other and we wonder why our lives are so empty and our young people don't know what to live for.

We were best when our backs were against a wall.  Is it really a blessing to have everything we want?  Or is the blessing to have our character revealed when we have lost everything we had?

I don't want to lose anything . . . but I don't want to continue limping along here in Babylon - where we have everything we want and all the misery that comes with it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Before you get all indignant about Russian involvement . . .

So everyone is talking about how we finally have proof that Russia hacked our elections because of Trump Jr's emails.

Quick disclaimer:  I voted for the guy from Utah whose name I still can't remember - so this is not about politics and all about perspective . . .  

Ladies and gentlemen - foreign nations have been influencing the outcome of elections for hundreds of years.  

Illegal?  Yes.  
Does anyone care?  No.

For example:
In 2014 Obama intervened in Afghani elections when his guy Dr. Abdullah didn't win.  Instead of accepting the result, the Obama administration created the unconstitutional "Office Of the Chief Executive Officer." Both candidates Abdullah and Ghani were livid.  Big brother stepped in and forced their guy to win.

In 2009 Bush oversaw the (ahem) hotly contested election of Hamid Karzai.

In the 90's the Clinton administration was guilty of 'influencing' the election outcomes of Haiti and Honduras.  A claim that they don't deny.

The 1980's - Reagan - 'nuff said.

In the 70's Nixon worked with Vietnam to influence his own narrow victory over Hubert Humphrey (yes, this was while we were at war - unbelievable.)
Illegal and Unscrupulous.

In the 1960's The Kennedy administration brutally murdered Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba in an acid attack because they thought he was a Soviet sympathizer.

Guatemala in 1954.  Iran in 1953.  Winston Churchill colluded with FDR in 1940 to control information to influence his reelection.  Throughout the cold war, Russia mailed fake letters from KKK, started rumors discrediting MLK and began a campaign in the 80's that claimed AIDS was a virus created by the US government to subjugate its citizens.
Just plain weird.

In 2015 Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of Congress that was broadcast to the public about how bad the Iranian Nuclear Deal was.  Talk about foreign influence.  
Honestly - no one even noticed.

So now we are supposed to care that a foreign country showed us the illegal activity of one of our candidates?  Voting booths weren't hacked.  Elections were not tampered with.  It was the release of emails.  

How can we be appalled when it has been our modus operandi for so long?
What's good for the goose . . . n'est-ce pas?

You can access more information on this and other 'collusions' - here and here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

These are the days . . .

These are the last days of June . . .

You should read that with the image of drinking the last few sips of lemonade.

June is soon gone . . .

Seriously, if you are not drinking deeply from the summer you are missing out in life.  You need to repent.

Because these are the days:

These are the days you pined for as you sat under a blanket and it sleeted outside.

These are the days that you ached for as you drove home from work in the pitch dark . . . as you woke up in the morning before the heat kicked on and you felt your way through the dark house for the thermostat.

Summer - days of t-shirts and flip-flops.  S'mores in the firepit out back.  Days at the pool.  Weeks at the beach.  Early morning fishing.  Afternoons in hammocks.  Ice Cream at sunset.

These are the days to forget what the date is.

These are the days to have friends over.

These are the days to throw a frisbee and take walks in the early evening.

These are the days to laugh at SNL as you give your wife a backrub and a fan blows relief through an open window.

Time is short.

Lightning bugs will soon disappear.

Summer has crested.  Even as we speak we are racing back to the shortest day of the year.

Don't miss this day to drink deeply from everything and everyone you love.

Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

                                 -Psalm 90:12

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Run, Hide, Tell? How about fight?

Terrorism is not going away anytime soon.

First off, let's not kid ourselves . . . it's not terror, it's war.  

Terrorism follows the pattern of frightening the public with a repeated list of demands.  It is meant to wear down a public through fear and eventually get them to the point of capitulation to an organization's goals.

So what are the jihadist's goals?

Yesterday a man in France used a hammer on a policeman in France saying, 
"this is for Syria."

Yesterday was about Syria.  Last week it was about God being great.  The Manchester bombing was believed to have been planned on the anniversary of the death of Lee Rigby.  There are no unifying aims coordinated to pursue a single goal of the Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians, Saudis, Hezbollah, Al Aqsa, ISIS or just those that hate Israel.  The purposes for these violent outbreaks are all over the map.

That is not terrorism - that's war.  These are battles.  Radicalized Islam is at war with the Western World or the Western World is in the crossfire of Jihad in the most bizarre way - it doesn't involve holding land or claiming countries.  It wages war by never going away.  

It is never going away.  We can't run from it.

Which brings me to the "Run, Hide, Tell" policy of the London police.  An adaptation of the American, "run, hide, fight" protocol of an active shooter, the police are advising the public to have a response ready when terrorists strike.  Instead of freezing up, they want people to run or hide (or do both) and then let the police know what is going on.

The plan saved many lives in the latest waves of attacks in England because people actually had a plan.  No one played the hero - they got out of the way for the police to do their job.  

I don't disagree with the basic idea - but there is something that just doesn't sit right with me.

If we are in a war, maybe this is the time to be a hero.

If they are never going away, then why are we running?  Maybe we should aim to stop the attack the second it starts - with as many bodies as possible smothering the attacker.

I think of almost 75 years ago yesterday how tens of thousands of our young stepped onto a beach and ran into gunfire because we were at war with evil.  2500 men died that day, but tens of thousands lived on to defeat Hitler.  We changed the world by stepping into danger.

Those were soldiers, not civilians, I get it.  

But if this is a war and they are bringing it to our cities and civilians, then maybe we shouldn't be running and hiding.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

When your biceps aren't big enough . . .

Ok, so I'll ask the question . . .

"Have we become way too sensitive about everything?"

And it really is a question.  I am open to hearing from everyone on this.  I just wonder if we are becoming way too sensitive when someone makes a comment about our bodies that it becomes 'body shaming.'

Here's the situation:

Olympic Gold Medalist Aly Raisman sent out a series of tweets about her experience at the airport.  Going through security, a TSA agent recognized her as a gymnast.  In response,  a male TSA agent remarked that it couldn't be her because her arms didn't look big enough.  

Her full Tweet:

“I work very hard to be healthy and fit,” she tweeted. “The fact that a man thinks he [can] judge my arms pisses me off. I am so sick of this judgmental generation. If you are a man who can’t compliment a girl’s [arm muscles] you are sexist. Get over yourself. Are you kidding me? It’s 2017. When will this change?

Back up.  This is sexism?  According to Raisman, if I can't compliment a woman on her arms I am sexist?  If the comment came from a woman would it still be sexist?  Perhaps the TSA agent was making an assumption about gymnasts, not females.  Again, I could be completely wrong about this, but making a remark about whether you look strong enough to be a gymnast sounds ignorant and weird . . . but sexist?

Rule number one for a TSA agent should probably be: "Don't make remarks about other people's bodies."  I think that this guy should probably have some kind of re-training.  Especially if the guy has creepy stares - I would think you would get rid of someone for creeping people out that just want to get through security.

But to make this about sexism makes me wonder if there is something else at work here.

In my own life, I have seen this first hand.  I am a thin person and sometimes women will say something like, "yeah, but you're so skinny."


Ladies - heads up - skinny is not a compliment for a guy.  Maybe it is for women, but no guy wants to be known as skinny.  Like, ever.  Same goes for beanpole, scrawny, gaunt and bony.   I have heard all of these words in my life but never once equated it with sexism.  In fact, I figured it had more to do with their own waistlines than mine.  

So having experience in this area, I don't think I am blind to it.  To equate this with sexism because some guy thought that gymnasts have bigger biceps seems like we have wandered way too far into ultra-sensitivity.  Aly - you had a conversation with a creepy guy who lacks social grace - to apply this to an entire generation and say that you were judged seems like overkill.

But maybe I am wrong.  I am willing to be taught.  What say you?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What if integrity and character all of a sudden mattered?

Twitter is lit up right now with talk about impeachment.

Yes, I know Twitter is the social media equivalent of Dad jeans, but there is a lot of buzz about this.

Remember - impeachment doesn’t remove someone from office – it just puts them on trial (and it looks like for better or worse it might happen at some point in the next three and a half years).

Not being a fan of the right or the left, I find it interesting to watch it all – especially all the talk about things like honesty, integrity, diplomacy and intelligence.  Is Trump being honest about his dealings with Comey?  Is Trump stupid enough to leak our secrets to the Russians?

Wait, we care about this now? 

Have you ever noticed how all this talk switches sides based on who is in office?  We don't really care about intellect and integrity - it's all a game.  And those of us who don't play politics are done with it.

Remember how important integrity was when someone was caught with an intern in the Oval Office?  Funny how that evaporated in this last election cycle . . .

Remember how important intellect was when we learned our president skips intelligence briefings?  Funny how we never heard the last one skipped two-thirds of them . . .

It's a big game.  This is why we don’t like politics.  Attention to character and values is selective. 

So if we are serious about impeachment, then let’s make sure that character and morals and values matter once and for all.  We should sign a document that says, “we are done with politics – these things are needed for the next president of the United States. – regardless of what side of the political spectrum they are on.” 

The president needs:

1.      IntegrityIntegrity is having noble character whether or not you have an audience.  It means you have genuine values that are not for show or for sale.  Integrity means you really care.  It means you really want to lead through serving.  You take one person’s concern about pre-existing conditions just as seriously as another person’s concern about what gender shows up in their bathroom.  If you are smirking at this, you are not fit for the job.

2.      Real World Experience.  The next president has to have held a job – like a real job.  The next president needs to have been a teacher or waitress.  They should know what it is like to save up for something.  The next president cannot have gone through life as a professional politician or living off of a family fortune.  They need to know how much a loaf of bread costs.  They need to have experience comparison shopping for cheaper hotel rooms for their family vacations.  If this is foreign to you, keep your seat on the board of directors.

3.      WisdomThere are lots of measures of intelligence.  Book smarts.  Emotional IQ.  Analytical ability.  These are all pre-requisites but it must be paired with wisdom.  Jimmy Carter was a grad student in nuclear physics but you don’t hear anyone clamoring to return to the Carter age.  Our current occupant could be the diametric opposite with a similar result.  You need wisdom to lead.  Anyone can know the truth.  The wise person lives it out (which takes us back to no#1 above).

What if we did pursue impeachment?  If our culture really decided that truth and integrity matter, how could any of us disagree?  As a culture, we could deeply benefit from a return to character.  How wonderful would it be if we could all agree that those who serve us in government need to be people of noble character?  That is something all of us could get behind.  A nation thrives when its leaders have integrity.  

What I fear is that we are using this kind of language to get rid of someone because we don’t agree with their politics.  This is game-playing.  Let’s stop the games.  

When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.  Proverbs 29:2

Monday, May 8, 2017

The fraternity system needs to change now.

What in the world are fraternities good for?

It's actually a question. 

Yes, I will respectfully listen to your answer, but you are going to have a hard time convincing me of anything good in light of what we learned from State College last week.

Back in February, Nineteen-year-old Tim Piazza was just celebrating being initiated into Beta Theta Pi at Penn State.  He and some other initiates were 'running the gauntlet' - an activity that included guzzling beer, wine and vodka.  Receipts from the house show that thousands were spent on alcohol.  Thousands spent on alcohol from the model fraternity at Penn State because of its strict rules that stated members were to be expelled if they drank.

They obviously were lying.  

With his blood alcohol level at .36, Piazza fell down a flight of stairs and hit his head.  He was taken to a couch and he laid there unresponsive just after midnight.  Security cameras show 'brothers' pointing and laughing and eventually pushing away the only person who was adamant about taking him to the hospital.  

Instead, he laid there for 12 hours.  

Twelve hours.  Twelve hours of hand-wringing and arguing about what to do next.  Twelve hours of worrying about how this would look and what it would mean legally for the rest of the 'brothers.'

Piazza attempted to get up multiple times and through the night but kept falling and hitting his head.  Fraternity 'brothers' even loaded a backpack with books and laid it on his chest to keep him from moving.

Early the next morning Piazza fell down the basement steps and laid on the floor before fraternity 'brothers' brought him back to the couch and agonized about their next steps for almost an hour.

At that point, they googled how to cover up their negligence and sent Group Me texts to everyone in the house to get rid of the alcohol and clean up the blood.  Then they took him to the hospital.  

He died the next morning.

I went to Penn State.  I have been at those fraternities.  It is a miracle that we don't have more of these incidents happen every semester.

I am not saying every fraternity or every fraternity member is a liar or guilty of involuntary manslaughter.  I am saying that the fraternity system I saw at Penn State is a breeding ground for this kind of negligence (and I've said nothing of the pernicious and often times predatory sexual practices employed by fraternities).  

This is usually where those who support the fraternity system talk about how community minded these organizations can be and to look at how much good frats do in events like THON.  

I agree - fraternities have some great sides to them.  They can bring out some of the best in young adults.  It just seems like over and over again we wind up in situations like this where alcohol plays such a devastating role in a young person's life.

So let's do something.  Let's focus on the good and get rid of the bad.

Get rid of the fraternity house.

Let's get rid of frat houses that hide parties like this.  There is no way that Tim Piazza would be dead today if he was lying on the floor of a dorm lobby.  Too many eyes would have seen it and done the right thing.  It is under the cover of these frat houses that this kind of thing happens. 

So get rid of the house.  Keep the frat.  You can still have THON.  You can still do all the community work.  You can even have the parties - you just have to have them where everyone else can see what it going on.  Accountability.  That way you can't have the privacy of getting someone so drunk they can't say no.  That way you can't haze young initiates.  That way you don't have to rely on frightened nineteen-year-olds to do the right thing in the middle of the night.

My guess is that if you got rid of the houses, you would destroy the system.

Which tells me it never was about 'the community' in the first place.