Thursday, December 21, 2006
The winter of 1938 was an auspicious time for the world and posits lessons for us as we reflect upon our current challenges. 1938 was the turning point in Hitler's march toward domination in Europe and the destruction of the Jews. In 1938 the forcible union of Germany and Austria occured without a shot fired or any strong protest by other powers. The infamous Munich Conference in the Fall dismembered Czechoslovakia while its architects declared "peace in our time."
These diplo-militaristic triumphs reiforced Hitler's hubris and opened the door for the campaigns that would plunge a world into war by September 1939. Hitler was emboldened to remove the last of the independent-thinking generals on his staff and make immediate preparations for consuming the rest of Czechoslovakia (March 1939) and destroying Poland (September 1, 1939). The failure of the West to intervene, in spite of superior manpower, opened the door for the temporary pact with the Soviet Union (August 22, 1939) that would ultimately enslave the eastern half of Europe during and after WWII.
But there is one more event that moved civilization toward the Abyss. That event was the Nazi-orchestrated, "spontaneous" destruction of Germany's Jewish people and property on November 8, 1939. This infamous Kristillnacht ("Night of the Broken Glass") resulted in hundreds of deaths, thousands of beatings and arrests and the final economic collapse of Jewish assets. The excuse was the execution of a military attache in Paris by a lone Jewish gunman. The real policy was a mix of greed and hatred and a testing of the national and international political waters. There were protests from around the world, but no significant action.
Kristillnacht was a critical step toward the "Final Solution" that would be implemented from 1941 to 1945 and result in the death of six million Jews and millons of other "undesirables."
Why is this moment in 1938 relevant for 2007? We are watching the same demonic opposition toward the Jews and serious Christians by Islamofacist radicals. Like Hitler, they begin with propoganda to marginalize. For the past several years, Israel has been blamed for most of the unrest in the Middle East in various international and Islamic circles. Hitler blamed the Jews for everything from Germany's defeat in WWI to her economic and social ills. Today's mullahs do the same and they are joined by millions of willing accomplices who hate Jews and the State of Israel.
After marginalization and persecution comes terror and violence just short of open warfare. Kristillnacht has been reborn in the terror of Hamas and Hezbollah and the numerous spineless politicians who are willing to sacrifice the existence of Israel on the altar of oil profits. It is also the name of a neo-Nazi band and a code word for post-modern hatred of the Jews!
On January 30, 1939 Hitler warned the world of a coming war in Europe, stating that if war did come (and Hitler had all the Polish plans ready), it would be the Jews fault and result in their "destruction."
Today as we read Iranian prophecies of Israel's destruction and observe the growth of anti-Semistism throughout the world, the response of most people seems to be to ignore it and get to the next mall for "Holiday" shopping.
We must stay alert and not allow our fear or self-hatred to blind us to the current threats to Israel, Europe and the USA. Radical muslims are already demanding separate legal systems and some foolish Western intellectuals are proposing a "plurality" of norms to accomodate them, thus destroying 2,500 years of moral and legal progress. Well-meaning leaders must get free of the delusion that Iran, Syria and other parties will ever negotiate in good faith. The destruction of Israel and demise of the West is still the agenda for Damascus, Tehran and every Islamic group, including the terrorist front in the USA called CAIR.
We do not have to repeat the same mistakes of apathy and delusion of our predecessors.
Israel is not perfect. She must be held accountable for her mistakes. She has been and is willing to negotiate land for peace - as long as that peace includes recognition of her legitimacy to exist as a sovereign nation in secure borders. So far, unambiguous guarantees are not forthcoming from any party in the current conflict. The immanent nuclear threat of Iran and the overt hatred of so many nations justifies her vigilance.
The USA must not give in to Arab and Iranian demands; in fact, we should be demanding more accountability from nations whose wealth could ameliorate the poverty of the "Arab Street" overnight!
Poverty can incite violence - witness the bread riots throughout the Medieval times in England. Poverty, however, is not the cause of the animus toward Israel. Unrelenting hate-filled propoganda against the Jews and the USA fills the minds of the very people who could bring peace.
As we celebrate this special Season, perhaps we can pledge ourselves to peaceful and powerful activism for peace in the Name of the Prince of Peace. Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." The peace we promote begins with humility toward God, grows as we are honest with one another and ends in real justice and shalom for all parties currently at war. There can be peace - if we learn from the past and create a different future.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Today my mind is drawn backwards and forwards. "Back to the Future" is not only a fun trio of movies; it is one of my mottos for sanity. You see, when we look back, we find great resources for the future in the heroism and heartaches of our ancestors.
Politicians can be noble. William Wilberforce was probably the greatest social reformer in Western history, working tirelessly for the abolition of slavery for half a century and championing scores of other social reforms in late 18th and early 19th century England. Wilberforce was everything campus radicals of the last four decades claim they hate: He was an aristocrat, an evangelical Christian, a Member of Parliament and (gasp!) white. This diminuitive little man thundered like a prophet, divested much of his wealth, called his peers to account and kept England from the anarchy of the Continent! Where is the next one?
Preachers can be pure. As Billy Graham moves into retirement, we see a legacy of integrity worthy of emulation. A man on a mission, Rev. Graham found the balance between an unalterable gospel message and the necessity of personal growth and social flexibility. He never wavered in calling people to personal faith in Christ and in his firm commitment to racial and social equality. He willingly lost friends when he integrated his meetings in the South during the 1950s. When haircuts grew longer, he let his grow a bit and welcomed young people. As music styles changed, he opened the door to fresh talents while keeping the message clear. And through all of this he remained faithful to his wife and never allowed a hint of financial scandal to taint his efforts. Let's be thankful for such examples.
Business Leaders can be compassionate and ethical. The Owenite communities of England in the 1820s and 1830s were radical attempts to educate, house and train laborers for a better future. Malden Mills kept all the employees on the payroll while the factory was rebuilt in the 1990s. Today there are hundreds of business networks and investment firms going past the letter of the law and making sure that everyone - from the farmer to the retail clerk - gets a fair share of the revenue. Please patronize companies known for fairness and opportunity.
Families can be healthy. We hear about abuse and divorce; we are deluged with experts inventing new pathologies. In the midst of all this, millions of Americans are staying married, raising healthy kids, going to religious services and giving back to the community.
I guess this is a Thanksgiving essay after all!
Enjoy the food and the football - and make sure faith and family come first.
Monday, October 02, 2006
(One caveat: As an educator, I am aware and sympathetic to chidren and adults who struggle with ADD, ADHD and similar challenges. In this article. I am referring to the plurality of the public who are carried along by the hyperstimulation of our sound-byte era.)
As I write, another political figure is found to be sexually corrupt and resigns in disgrace. The timing of the expose causes his party to cry, "foul play!' while opponents assume a posture of moral sobriety completely contrary to their defense of adulterer Bill Clinton.
At the same time, tragedy strikes several schools, including murder in an Amish community. Psychologists, sociologists and a few celebrities will comment on the "culture of violence" and the ubuiquity of guns and call for more government involvement. Meanwhile, families will grieve, religious leaders will offer comfort, local communities will rally and the third planet from the sun will keep on spinning.
In the midst of today's headlines, far more serious issues are obscured. Borders are still porous, North Korea and Iran are still going nuclear, Iraq is a mess and our national debt goes up nearly $50 billion dollars a month! In spite of 24/7 internet communication, satellites everywhere and millions communicating, it is hard to find agreement on the most basic facts of current events. For example, Bob Woodward of the Washington Post argues that there are scores of attacks every week in Iraq while the Administration contends that slow progress is being made. Whom do we believe? It depends on your sources - but even more perniciously, for many, it depends on conscious or unconscious ideological assumptions that affirm or negate the "facts" of any matter.
Until the last two generations, historians and philosophers argued vigorously about the meaning of events and ideas; however, they were, for the most part, deriving their conclusions from the same body of information. Today, the pessimism of the powerful who were trained in the 1960s unites with postmodern agnosticism concerning any "facts" to produce a lethal alchemy of subjectivism that daily reinvents the universe . When this poison is mated to a short attention span, finding knowledge and wisdom becomes even more daunting.
How do we battle this epidemic? We can not retreat to a premodern existence. We can not avoid our civic and moral responsibility to be informed and take action for the world. Let me suggest the following mental pathway to sanity. I am stating these ideas as personal affirmations:
- I am personally responsible for much of what occurs in my life, especially my reactions to circumstances, the quality of my relationships and my moral choices.
- In a representative republic such as the USA, I bear responsibilty - with my fellow voters - for the quality of government we have. My apathy or activism makes a difference. My own moral compass impacts whom I vote for and how I hold politicians accountable for their actions.
- I owe it to myself, my fellow-human beings and future generations to learn all I can about the critical issues of our day and to think seriously about the implications of public policy.
- I can not solve every problem or even understand every issue perfectly, but I can assess whom I trust to partner with to tackle the issues.
- I must SLOW DOWN inside my own head and heart and be careful about hasty conclusions or refusing to consider evidence contrary to my prior notions.
- I need to be clear about my guiding moral and spiritual principles and find others who will help me develop into a more mature person.
- I choose humility daily, refusing to capitulate to the arrogance of the immediate or fuzzy nostalgia.
- I will learn from history even as I realize that my choices create history every day.
Friday, August 11, 2006
I am speaking of the visceral hatred for the USA, Israel, Great Briain and the few other nations willing to name the enemies of freedom and combat the perfidious evils of our day. Here is just a sampling of the idiocy that passes as significant political discourse, followed by the proper response to such refuse:
Lie: "Zionism is colonialism and racism"
Truth: The founding of the modern State of Israel is the reversal of colonialsm and a proper response to a world that wants all Jews eliminated. Please show me another real democracy in the Middle East.
Lie: "The neocolonial, capitalist machinations of Bush and others keep millions of Arabs in poverty and fuel terrorism."
Truth: Yes, world capitalism props up corrupt Arab regimes; however, there are enough petrodollars controlled by Muslim powers to ensure that there is no poverty!
Lie: "Israel is the aggressor in the current war and if she would just show restraint we might have peace."
Truth: Israel's soldiers were kidnapped. Israel's civilian population is targeted by amoral cowards hiding in villages. The 'freedom fighters' entire raison d'etre is the destruction of Israel.
Lie: "Israel's 'Lobby' controls America."
Truth: The USA is committed to Israel's well-being, but the State Department is full of people who dislike Israel and America is one of the few 'honest brokers' in the region.
Lie: "The USA is an uncultured bully, seeking to dominate the world."
Truth: The USA is one of several compteting power blocs, including the EU, China, India, Russia and OPEC - we hardly have a corner on money and power
The list could go on endlessly. Between doctored photos of Qana and Mike Wallce's outright treason, it is difficult to remain calm. Why do so many in academic and media circles promote such foolish and subversive thinking?
The root cause is a deep self-hatred of all things American, Christian, Jewish and/or Western by those nurtured by the radicalism of the 1960s and 1970s (some of which was fed by the unrepentant Marxists of the 1930s and 1940s!). All the evils of West are catalogued, commented on and castigated, with almost no appreciation for the fact that the only places freedom has a home are where these "out-of-date" values have been planted.
This self-hatred is so deep that some on the Left have joined (at least emotionally) forces with the Islamonazis to aid in the destruction of 3000 years of civilizing progress.
Such self-hatred is self-destructive of the very liberties that allow the venom to be published.
There is another even more sinister explanation: moral license. For half a century these self-anointed guardians of radicalism have urged us to cast off traditional morality and redefine decency, sexuality and family. The result is anarchy, disease and even greater contempt from our enemies. Sexual and financial restraint unleash amazing creativity and ptroductivity, while indulgence saps energy and motivation.
Let's not let the forces of license and self-hatred defeat liberty rooted in virtue.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
The greatness of America can be found in these very divergent feelings and thoughts. It is possible to swell with pride when the Flag is raised and forcefully oppose current policies. The freedoms enshrined in our Constitution call us to intelligent patriotism. America is not about the dehumanizing ideologies of Left and Right that ravaged the 20th century. We are not about blood, race and soil. Our values and virtues are richer, more trancendent, and call forth virtue, not blind obedience, from each citizen.
The United States of America is the noblest experiment in political freedom in human history. During our two centuries of nationhood, we have offered the world an example of liberty. The first freedom - conscience and religion - is our greatest gift to humanity and to our own religious communities. All other freedoms derive from this basic one - and we are still striving to live up to the aspirations of our First Principles.
It took a Civil War to humanize millions living among us. It took a World War to let women vote. Another World War united with peaceful religious protest finally allowed millions access to our national bounty.
This gradual and painful march forward was made possible because most citizens - native born or newly received - shared similar values regardong God, family and country. But in the last 50 years this consensus (not unanimity) has eroded and been displaced by narcissism and solipcism that threatens the very freedom we enjoy.
The generation that endured the dust bowl and the sands of Iwo Jima has given way to two generations of self-absorbed and self-destructive citizens who do not understant the virtues necessary for freedom.
The way forward is not blind, visceral patriotism that ignores our faults. Neither can we redefine family, morality and society and expect to enjoy real liberty. We must find a third way - just like our Founders. They understood that liberty rested upon responsible individuals. We must reaffirm our personal responsibility for the welfare of our nation and stop blaming the very people we elect! At the same time, there are no "good old days" that we need to reify.
Let's be intelligent patriots. Let's love our flag, our land, and our fellow citizens. Let's also keep striving to live up to the ideals of our Founders and never rest until all enjoy the blessings of liberty.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Current crises in education and in family stability are causing many to wonder if the androginization experiments of the last 50 years have been helpful or harmful.
"New" research is "discovering" what every rational parent has known for millennia: boys are different from girls and both lads and lasses need positive male influence for their psychological well-being.
The last half-century is not all a loss - women do have more legal and social protection, educational opportunity, and improved employment prospects is some western countries.
But there are more ominous consequences of social experimentation and secularism:
- No-fault/one party divorce and ease of remarriage and "alternate" living arrangments have brought great chaos to the psyches of our children. Men in particular have forsaken their responsibilities.
- Sexual liberation is an oxymoron. By its very nature, sexual intimacy is much more than a momentary pleasure The coasening of our sensibilities and separation of sex and family ties has produced and confused, hedonistc generation that is urged to "think for themselves" about where they fit on a spectrum of gender/identity choices.
- Even in fairly stable homes, a fair and realistic assessment of male and female expectations and roles is hard to find. Somewhere in between "burning man" machismo and "queer eyes for the straight guy" is a clear pathway of peace for men and women.
Back to Father's Day. We need to celebrate the special role of fathers, enjoying the fact that they are
- Men. Yes, males, with all the challenges and joys of that gender. There is no one stereotype, but we need to honor the fact that maleness is part of Creation, not the Fall (for all of you armchair theologians)
- Husbands. The best way to love children is to love their mother unconditionally and prove that love in sacrifical service. If the marriage is strong, children will feel secure.
- Dads. We are irreplaceable, whether we fix cars, do origami or wrestle on the family room floor.
- Humans made in God's image - fantastic and flawed, infinitely valuable and imperfect - and capable of enormous good.
Let's honor Dad this week!
Monday, May 15, 2006
No, this is not a narcissistic blog about my struggle with hay fever. I want to use the metaphor of allergies to express some direct thoughts on the current stae of affairs in the the public square of the USA.
I am allergic to
- "Conservatives" who talk about reduing debt and government waste while missing the opportunities to do so.
- "Liberals" who want "justice" but have no firm princples upon which to define the word itself.
- Educational leaders who call for parental generosity (endless fund-raising), involvement and responsibility while undermining all of these with politically correct campaigns to rewrite history and redefine anthropology and morality in the name of diversity.
- Church leaders who reject the teachings of their traditions while reaping all the financial rewards of the their clergy status. A special shame on Epicopalians such as "Bishop" Spong who should start their own separate religion instead of sponging off of the leagcy of faithful, orthodox Christians.
- Global business leaders who care nothing for borders, national sovereignty or the conditions of their workers.
- Politicians who still, after 40 years of failure, do not understand that you can not maintain an indefinite welfare state and wage a serious war at the same time.
- Denominational leaders who call upon their faithful to be witnesses in the world while urging their withdrawl from public schools.
- Secular, Western elites who love to villify anything Jewish or Christian while insisting for special respect for the Islamic way of life.
- Muslim leaders who preach hatred and violence in their mosques while claiming to be for peace when they speak to the press.
- All who claim history is nothing but the stories of the victors, while they selectively use history to push ideological agendas.
Well, it is time for another pill for the sneezing. Stay tuned...I have a feeling that my next article will contain more items to awaken our allergies...
There are remedies - like facing the truth and creating sacrificial solutions.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
No one is seriously talking about the deeper issues affecting the future of our nation.
What does citizenship mean? When is a law no longer a law because no one will enforce it?
If we "normalize" the current 11-15 million undocumented workers, what systemic changes will be in place to prevent another crisis with millions more in a few years?
The cohesion of a culture - even a very diverse one - rests on shared values, vision and virtues. Our Founders knew this and generations since have been falling short and striving to achieve the equity and justice rooted in moral and spiritual values.
How do we move forward with compassion and conviction, with opportunity for all and upholding the rule of law, and with a clear pathway to citizenship?
Here are some first thoughts:
- We must distinguish three levels of participation in American socirty and the rights and responsibilities of each.
- "Guest Workers" need to be registered, seasonal and treated well; however, they are not year-round, permanent residents and must exit and re-enter in an orderly fashion.
- "Resident Alien" status can be expanded, but it must include proper documentation, taxes and learning English. Failure to participate in the larger educational and social fabric of our culture undermines the harmony-in-diversity we long to achieve.
- "Citizenship" should be an achievable aspiriation for many, provided they have learned the language, history and values associated with America.
- Employers must be accountable to register all workers and be in compliance with immigration and labor laws. All the protections for American workers must apply to guest workers and green card holders. Without this, nothing will change.
- We must be very clear that borders matter and enforcement must be consistent and fair. We do not need to establish policy based upon historical guilt for 1848!
The presence of millions who will work for substandard wages and live in poor housing may help some of the poverty across the border, but the only real winner is global capitalism. The losers are American workers and ultimately our entire culture.
There is much to be done. Blanket amnesties and huge fences are not the answer. Moral courage and a quest for cultural cohesion must win the day or the American Experiment will be another casualty of world history.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Here we go again. Well-meaning leftists (including many of Jewish lineage, if not practice) calling for "balance" and " fairness" in how we see the Middle East. Israel should remove her security fence (though bombings are way down) and give back all land that is not part of the 1949 truce lines or the 1947 partition - then maybe the Palestinians will believe them and come to the table.
Some church groups even call for divestment of investments from Israel, even though they are not sponsoring terrorism!
Here we go again. The UN sponsors a day of remeberance for Palestinian martyrs and unveils a map of Paestine without Israel!
We live in the Information-but-Ignorance Age. How quickly we forget our history! Here are some reminders:
- Jewish men and women have a claim on this Land that is older than its current Arab occupants.
- During the 19th and early 20th century Jewish settlers legally purchased land from the Ottoman-led landowners. Very few Arabs were disposessed if they were willing to partner with their new neighbors.
- In exchange for an alliance during WWI, the British promised support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, with Jew and Arab living in peaceful coexistence.
- By the 1930s, this promise proved hollow and the British stopped allowing Jews to emigrate to their Mandate in Palestine in significant numbers.
- At the height of the Holocaust in 1942-45, the nations of the world turned their backs and refuse to open their doors to desperate Jews.
- Finally, in 1947, the UN, with the approval the the USA and USSR, offers a partition of this Mandate, with a Jewish (Israel) and Arab (Trans-Jordan, now Jordan) State living side-by-side.
- By 1948, the new State of Israel is besieged by armies from all the Arab States. Cries of "Jihad!" and "Death to the Jews!" thunder throughout the"Arab Street". Israel tries to calm her Arab populace, but thousands flee, with the promises of a short exile and return to the land when the Jews have been "thrown into the sea."
- Israel achieves a truce in 1949, and defends herself in 1967 and 1973, with the final Yom Kippur War almost resulting in an Arab victory.
- By 1978, Israel and Egypt make peace - the Sinai is returned and a pathway forward for another Palestinian State is forged.
- The Oslo Accords of 1992-1993 offer an emergent Palestinian State 97% of the West Bank and the Gaza. Nobel Prizes are awarded, but Arafat's duplicity and his ultimate aim of Israel's destruction stalls any progress.
Again and again Israel has shown forebearance, relocated settlers, offered terms - and all it does is embolden the enemies committed to her destruction.
We need a new leader for the Palestinians. A leader must arise from the ashes of failure and unequivocably commit to 1) Israel's right to exist securely and is full diplomatic relations with her neighbors; and 2) an end of terrorism and a williness to partner with Israel to devolp the economies of the region.
Israel is not perfect. She can be politically paranoid and her reactions to terror overdone at times. But Israel's moral and political superiority must not be ignored - it is a model of freedom and diversity in a region bound by conformity and enslavement.
Let's take time to get the facts and pray for peace. Let's refuse to buy the drivel proferred by the Islamofascists and Holocaust deniers.
Let's choose life and support Israel - AND a new Palestine that will be her friend.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
OK - things are mess. What can one person do? Plenty!
British writer J.B. Phillips once commented that we need to unlearn some things before we can properly learn the truth of any matter. Whether the topic is God or politics, economics or parenting, Phillips argued that getting"unfocused" for a moment and then refocused with the right questions is crucial.
Before we set out to "solve" the many problems of our age, perhaps we need to "unplug" from the "organs of anxiety" and get our mental and emotional footing. I am not suggesting we all retreat to Amish farms or Luddite communes. Many of us have jobs that plug us in all day to the Internet and other media. In order to parent well and be relevant to our neighbors, we need to stay abreast of the world globally and locally.
So how do we "unplug" a bit? How do we "unfocus" so we can tune in to what matters?
In the spirit of David Letterman, let me present to you the Top Ten Ways to Unplug in 2006. These are presented as preparation for plugging in the right way. Here we go:
10. Turn off the TV. Start with one evening a week and gradually withdrawl until the only time it is on is for special, intentional programming. You will be amazed at how much more mental and physical energy you have - not to mention time!
9. Turn off the computer - unless you must correspond, do research or engage in business. Stop trolling the web and please stop forwarding the latest rumors and scams.
8. Turn off the iPod and listen to reasonable decibel-levels through a stereo while you read, work or converse. Maybe someone in the family will talk to you if those buds are out of your ears.
7. Turn off the car radio (OK, you can listen to me each Thursday on KSFO!) once in a while and enjoy some silence.
6. Turn off the negative voices of despair that rob you of hope and joy. I am not talking about a denial of pain or a refusal to get help for serious needs. For most of us, the nagging negativity keeps us less productive and it has no foundation in truth.
5. Refuse to participate in any kind of gossip. If a conversation turns sour, confront it gently and walk away if the others refuse to change the subject. Resolve to deal with people directly and with their best interest in mind.
4. Turn away from the magazines and tabloids that litter the supermarket checkouts and shelves. Enough said.
3. Unplug from toxic people - or at least put strong boundaries on time spent with those who bring you down. You may not be able to avoid some challenges and even negative people deserve attention. It is not selfish to stay positive - you are more good to God and the world if your attitude is hopeful.
2. Stop recreational shopping. Only buy what you need when you need it. You will have much more money and time for the fun and important things!
1. Finally, unplug from self-centeredness and choose to see your life as a thank you to God and a service to others. The paradox is that we are happiest when bringing delight to others!
Do you notice that when you unplug in these ways you are in fact plugged in to what really matters?