Monday, December 29, 2008

The Possibilities of 2009

Now that we are weary of the "Best of 2008" programming, it is time to turn our attention toward the future. As I write, prognosticators and popular pundits are all making predictions and hedging their bets at the same time.

Instead of giving predictions, I offer possibilities. I recognize the potency of human choice and the permutations that flow from our decisions. Looking at history, have you ever imagined a world

* Where Hitler is accepted into Art School and becomes a successful part of the bohemian scene in the 1920s instead of the demonized dictator of a Nazi regime that results in over 50 million deaths?

* Where the Great Powers negotiate instead of mobilizing in 1914?

* Where Pope Pius XII speaks out loudly and specifically against the Holocaust of European Jews and calls on Catholics everywhere to resist this evil policy?

* Where The Palestinian Authority leaders unambiguously guarantee Israel's right to exist in secure borders and the PA and IDF begin joint operations to root our Hamas and Islamic Jihad?

OK, such are my counterfactual musings on a cold winter's night.

What about 2009? What are the possibilities ahead for the USA? Here is a sampling of possible futures, contingent on the choices of women and men in authority - AND the pressure applied by concerned citizens.

* If we finally agree that guns and butter cannot mix perfectly, let's cut domestic spending by 10%, make sure our military is effective and strategic (there is 15-20% that can be cut without a loss of effectiveness), and call on all Americans to produce more than they consume, we could have the greatest turnaround in economic history. Will this happen? Probably not. Too many politicians and robber barons want our populace on a new road to serfdom.

* If we construct Welcome Centers in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas and LEGALLY invite, assess, categorize and integrate our friends who want to be part of our land, we can end the fear and violence and reaffirm the rule of law. Will this happen? Well, the Democrats cry "justice" and want cheap votes and the Republicans cry "free markets" and want cheap labor. Another opportunity we will miss. Besides, we cannot allow US citizens to receive the same in-state tuition benefits that "undocumented" students receive, can we?

* What if millions of Americans call for economic and moral accountability from their elected officials? How about an end to secret sessions, back-door deals and the violations of human and property rights by petty dictators? How about balanced budgets, clear communication, the end of union aggrandizement and corporate rapaciousness? Can this happen? YES! Many voices raised in unity DO make a difference. Countless ordinary neighborhoods are transformed as block-by-block people unite against gang violence, corporate redlining and hopelessness. Imagine hundreds of informed and passionate citizens insisting on an end to both egregious eminent domain policies and the payola schemes of developers!

* What if We insist on private-public partnerships to rebuild infrastructure? There is so much to be done and we need the creative genius of the academy and business and the proper oversight of government to coalesce. Bridges, roads, tunnels, wildlife preserves, sensitive habitats, urban renewal - all need attention. Here is a novel thought - let's stop looking to Washington, D.C. for every solution and re-empower local and state authorities and citizens.

It is too simplistic to say, "let the market run itself." Even Adam Smith, the author of The Wealth of Nations in 1776 and the intellectual father of modern capitalism, spent a a large portion of his work affirming the private and public virtues necessary for free enterprise to flourish! Unrestricted capitalism is not a solution. It is also illusory to think that a collectivist-statist economic policy will work. Whatever the ideology or language, an over-controlled economy does not ensure long-term freedom and opportunity. The answer? Real government oversight of the ethics, policies and processes of corporations, but not government administration or micromanagement.

My real hope for 2009 is that all thoughtful people will take an honest look within and without and find the courage to face reality and work sacrificially to solve the consequences of our unbridled greed and selfishness. These problems are beyond the Left-Right shouting on cable television. The great Russian author and dissident, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, challenged his hearers at Harvard University: "The line between good and evil runs down the center of the human heart."

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Advent of Hope

Advent is the Season of Hope as Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. Over time, this momentous event of Divine humility has been commercialized, romanticized and sanitized - but the power of the Babe of Bethlehem is never eradicated.

Voltaire prophesied that the Bible and Christianity would be dead by 1850. The faith is dying a slow death in the West, even as it grows exponentially in the rest of the world. Non-Western missionaries are re-evangelizing the lands that originally brought the good news to them.

Why does Advent tug at our hearts? Why does Christmas still speak to millions, even in moments of cultural and economic turmoil?

The birth of a baby is a universal good. It resonates with our desire to see the next generation flourish.

Baby Jesus' parents were hard-working artisans living as a minority in a huge Empire. Their struggles with taxes, shelter and liberty touch the psyches of many in our world.

A dying, paranoid dictator tries to kill Jesus and does not care about the trail of blood and tears in the wake of the soldier's swords. From the Armenian massacres to the Kulaks, from the Holocaust to the Cultural Revolution, from the Killing Fields to Darfur, we see the innocent caught in the snare of ideological totalitarians.

The coming of the Wise Men to see the toddler Jesus reminds us of the universal message of Christmas.

The angelic choirs heard by humble shepherds helps us to remember that those who are condescended to and despised by elites are often the recipients of the greatest insights.

Jesus is announced as Lord and Savior. He is not praised for being a guru, a prophet or a rabbi. He is the final word in the Divine plan of salvation for all people. It is here that Christmas becomes "uncomfortable." As long as we speak in inclusive, pluralistic generalities about universal love and peace, Christmas is "safe."

Jesus of Nazareth was born to die. The creche of Bethlehem became the Cross of Calvary. The Savior announced by angels became the Suffering Servant announced by the Prophet Isaiah hundreds of years earlier. To receive the message of Christmas is to receive Christ as God Incarnate, the Lord of heaven, who, for our sake, humbled himself, took on our nature, died for our sins and arose bodily from the grave offering real hope.

The hope of Christmas is not only the hope of heaven for those who believe. Advent hope fuels our present partnership with God to see justice, love and peace begin to reign now. Advent hope means that humility is the pathway to honor, meekness is the road to majesty and forgiveness is the doorway to a better future.

I invite all who read this to take another look at the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and consider the invitation of God to join Him and all the faithful of every nation to love and serve one another.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sneaky Agendas

I was hoping to publish a warm-hearted Christmas article and get ready for the celebratory season of year-end family activity. I will still publish my gratitude for Advent soon - probably before week's end.

Events compel me to comment on the sneaky and subversive actions going on during our transition to an Obama Presidency. Here are some warning signs that our 220-year experiment with representative government is threatened by ideologues who think it is their prerogative to rewrite our Constitution.

Thomas Sowell, the august Hoover Institute scholar, wrote a book a few years ago entitled, "the Vision of the Anointed." In this work Sowell exposes the superiority complex afflicting the Left. Those coming to power really believe they have the obligation and opportunity to improve the Constitution.

Obama's intellectual and moral mentors are part of a radical, revisionist elite who see our Founders as slave-owning oppressors, our history as one of unimpeded colonialism and our future as a humbled participant in a world government. They are collectivists who believe that a qualified oligarchy should redistribute personal rights and accumulated wealth.

I know this group, because I went to university and grad school during the 1970s to 1990s as our educational establishments fell into the hands of former SDS members, with even Angela Davis getting tenure! As a University of California at Santa Cruz "Banana Slug" alumni, I am proud to say that my history professors were women and men of the highest integrity and their work reflected honest assessment of facts. Yes, they had liberal opinions and enjoyed using some of the tools of social history to evaluate the past. They respected my findings and ideas and none of them believed in creating an artificial narrative to serve political ends.

Alas, the current power-brokers and Obama himself have no problem manipulating history to serve their aggrandizing ends. I am still stunned by the audacity of Barak Hussein Obama's deceit. He insists that he did not hear Rev. Wright's racism and anti-Americanism. His campaign complained when his middle name was used in speech or print. Now it will be part of the Oath of Office on January 20.

Here is a sampling of the demagoguery passing for serious thinking:

For five years, leftist political writers have suggested that the "natural born" citizenship requirement for President be eliminated as outdated and unfair to our "nation of immigrants." This is a brazen attempt to undermine the intent of the Founders and possibly cover for the dubious records underpinning Obama's past.

The call for a Constitutional Convention simmers just below the surface. The agenda for such an unprecedented event is very clear: abortion, euthanasia, wealth redistribution and the redefining of First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth and Tenth Amendment rights. A Convention in the hands of those educated over the past 30 years is a frightful prospect. By the way, we DO have a legitimate Amendment process!

Every four years the Electoral College comes up for review. If we want to destroy the American experiment in representative government, let's go to a straight popular vote for President. The role of states will be further diminished and the potential for all elections to end up in the House of Representative because of the intrusion of third and fourth parties looms large. Our current system is the fairest and most stable guarantee of balance and liberty.

The most egregious agenda item of the new elite is the geometric rise in government intrusion into the economy. It is a good thing to spend money on private-public partnerships for our infrastructure. It is not helpful to prop up companies that refuse to modernize. It is not right to pander to either Wall Street barons or UAW officials. No Honda or Toyota workers in the USA are complaining about their lot!

As citizens we need to be vigilant and not allow the sneaky political class to steer us away from liberty. We must

Learn our history - the good (The Constitution, the Civil War elimination of slavery and Republicans who started environmental protections), the bad (slavery, "Manifest Destiny" and Latin American interventions) and the simply factual (we have the most stable government in history and we rescued Europe twice in the 20th century).

Know our Constitution. It is a brilliant, sparing document that vests ultimate authority in the people. It also assumes a self-regulating, virtuous citizenry.

Defend for all others the rights we want for ourselves. Apart from direct threats to our nation, we have a system that allows us to debate and live with our deepest differences.

Conservatives lost out in this election season because of their failure to articulate a compassionate and cohesive philosophy. The utter lack of spending discipline, sane immigration policy, the delayed surge, the economic meltdown. and the inability of President Bush to communicate, opened a door to victory that any Democrat could walk through.

2010 is coming.