Thursday, March 25, 2010

Some Questions for Both Sides of the Aisle

The current descent into the politics of intimidation and reaction is not serving our nation well. As long as the votes are there, the current administration doesn't give a fig about what the other party or even a majority of Americans think - they know better and they are counting on ignorance and neediness to fuel their agenda. The Republican and Tea Party reactions (not always the same thing) are sometimes cogent and sometimes incoherent, but they are powered by a deep anger rooted in the loss of liberty. The problem for the Republicans is that they have not demonstrated how to cover the uninsured cost-effectively and empower the states to roll up their sleeves and solve the problems. For every Republican who screams against the stimulus and big government, there is another one cutting a ribbon on a project funded by Washington.

I have some questions for both sides that may unite thoughtful people behind a real revolution of love and service.

Mr. President, will you please come clean with your history and dispel all the rumors about your birth, education, publications and past work efforts? You promised transparency and we are getting obfuscation. I think you may want a veil of mystery to demonize your enemies, polarize the web world and stay in power. Please open the files and all this can go away. I am a historian - I just want to know. I wish I could take your word for it, but Watergate taught me to be skeptical. Allay my fears and tell the truth.

Mr. Steele and the RNC, will you please offer solutions to real problems that unite instead of divide, demonstrate justice and compassion and the proper balance of federal and state power? Many in the Republican Party forget that it took the federal government to enforce the rights of millions to vote. It was Republican lawmakers, along with fair-minded Democrats, that gave President Johnson a Civil Rights Act and a Voting Rights Act. Along with individual and neighborhood initiatives with civil and religious groups, there is a place for the federal government - enforcing the inalienable rights of the Constitution. It was Eisenhower who intervened for education. It was a Supreme Court that ended the nonsense of "separate but equal." Stop railing and start offering statesmanship and perhaps non-white voters will see your side.

Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid, how about living with the same rules that you impose upon us? In fact, in the name of fairness and public service, how about having all federal employees live under the same rules the rest of us endure? How about having pension plans that reflect real money in, a normal risk and pay out what the rest of the hard-working population receives? Why are you exempt from the ethical and financial rules? How come your negotiations were secretive when you promised a new tone in Washington?

Dear Tea Party friends: In addition to protest and petition, blogging and electioneering, how about mobilizing business, civic, educational and religious leaders to transform neighborhoods, one friendship and one project at a time? You do not need to change your convictions. Your desire to "throw the bums out" and have new voices is refreshing. But your passions are hollow without concrete action.

To all "Progressives" - most of which are funded by global capitalists like Moore and Soros: While you continue your venomous attacks on Israel and the USA, on Catholics and Evangelicals, on conservatives and others who stand for liberty, where is your call for personal integrity and responsibility? Why do you have to excoriate a Democrat like Bill Cosby for his advocacy that Dads and Moms actually be adults? Why do you ignore the failed experiments of Soviet and Eurcommunism and keep advocating for more bureaucratic machinery? Why do you pile on ad hominem attacks on Sarah Palin while ignoring the lives destroyed by Rahm Emmanuel?

To all conservatives: Where is the fresh vision for the future that is more than nostalgia? Where are the real answers for immigration that protect us and open opportunity for hard-working folks? Where are the infrastructure resources going to come from? How can the free market be greener and unleash its creativity? Will you be more nuanced so we can defend traditional marriage while allowing others some legal way to share joy and suffering, property and posterity? Can we be completely pro life and not only defend the unborn and aged, but the working class from Walmart exploitation?

Americans are better than the current rhetoric. Let's prove it with renewed faith, new friendships and a future empowered by our Founder's principles.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Coming Awakening

The collectivists have won a Pyrrhic victory with health care. Far from uniting Americans, The Obama Administration has unleashed a new level of histrionics and partisanship. The Chicago-style arm-twisting and pay-offs to drug companies, politicians and federal unions is not what we were promised in 2008. Conversely, the Republicans have failed to offer solid hope to the millions of uninsured and their leaders are all competing for attention while we sink deeper in debt and dependency. The language of both sides makes Watergate look like the Waltons.

Critiques from the Left and Right are easy to find. Where are the voices proposing solutions that empower individuals and communities?

There is great news in the midst of the chaos and posturing. There is an awakening coming that we can prepare for and participate in. This awakening is moral, spiritual, political and social, with economic ramifications for generations to come. This awakening transcends ideology and policy disputes while upholding timeless ethical standards. This awakening is a gift and a demand. It is a grace beyond our control and it will cost us our arrogance and antipathy. This awakening will expose the oppressions of global elites and unveil our personal hypocrisy. We will be called to live with the paradoxical truths that humility is the pathway to honor and service the is the road to success. Narcissism - the pathology of so many public figures - has no place in this awakening. Ideologies and propaganda will yield to enduring principles and caring explanations of truth.

I am not speaking of some kind of nebulous "new age" cosmic consciousness. It is alarming that so many want ecstasy without ethics, spiritual flights with no relational integrity.

I am also not speaking of some kind of 19th century Christian theocracy. There are no "good old days" - only the mixed record of real people grappling with issues. For every great social reformer, we see colonizers and slaveholders defending their turf. For every awful moment of US hubris, we have many more moments of sacrificial love and service by people of all faiths or none.

The awakening I pray and prepare for is spiritual. I still believe the Good News of freedom and forgiveness proclaimed by Jesus. This said, there is an overflow of spiritual awakening that blesses all people and releases the best in humankind, whether or not we all believe the same thing. Yes, I want my friends to believe in the Cross and resurrection and find a good church. But I will partner with all people of good will and defend the rights of others to believe and worship as they see fit while we work for better neighborhoods and cities.

This awakening is moral. After 50 years of increasing relativism and secularism, we find ourselves without a private or public center that transcends the trends. Apart from abandonment, abuse and adultery, parents owe it to their children to face their issues and learn to love and respect each other. A loving marriage is the greatest legacy parents can give. Having children is NOT about personal fulfillment - it is about faith in the future and donating ourselves to the next generation.

This moral awakening includes an "off" button for the television and computer. Self-discipline is more powerful than censorship and marginalizing the purveyors of degradation is better than legal sanctions. This said, a real awakening will stimulate discussion over what we permit, prohibit and promote as a society. Will we have civil discourse or just keep yelling epithets at one another?

This awakening unites ecological sanity and economic stimulation. Entrepreneurial passions are joined with social responsibility for a better future. Private property is protected and reasonable local standards upheld. Governments and individuals learn to live within their means and discover the abundance that is available to help the less fortunate. Global capitalism and political collectivism are exposed and rejected in favor of ethical free market policies judiciously regulated.

Active peacemaking will humble the haughty in the State Department and restrain the militarists. In between the extremes of some forms of Zionism and pan-Arabist extremism are answers for Israel's survival and the thriving of Arab Palestinians.

As millions of Christians decide to live the red letters in their Bibles and walk with integrity, others will take time to consider their own moral and spiritual center. If all people of conscience live according to their highest aspirations, our world is a better place. We can still evangelize each other. But we should, in the words of St. Peter, do so with gentleness and respect, allowing our lives to speak more loudly than our words.

We do not control the will of the Almighty and the winds of awakening. We do, however, have the power to live each day with a view to God's glory and the good of others. We do have the opportunity to serve our neighbors. We can work together to educate, heal and protect one another.

For my fellow-Christians, let's humbly and tearfully cry out for Divine mercy as we serve the broken, poor and vulnerable. Let's stop warring over trivialities and let the truth of our beliefs show as we walk in faith, hope and love.

For my friends of other faiths or none: I really do want you to believe and receive the Gospel. In the meantime, let's be friends, work together where we can and debate our deepest differences with mutual respect. My "narrow road" is not intolerance. In fact, as you survey where freedom exists around the world, you will see some influence of the Judeo-Christian perspective (as well as Classical and Enlightened thought). That said, I stand with you to oppose all forms of bigotry and hatred. We will not agree on everything and sometimes our exchanges will be heated. But we can find common ground to build something better for our children.

This awakening will not be one event in one place, led by one leader. I think it is already beginning in thousands of hearts and hamlets. Thank you to all the humble clergy and laity, educators and social workers, executives and workers who are part of the solution.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"Bring Him [Her] Home"

The haunting lyrics and music of "Bring Him Home" in the musical Les Miserables provide the context for consideration of U.S. foreign policy and the deployment of our military around the world. The moment family and friends say farewell to our women and men in uniform, the longing for return is present. We celebrate the courage and sacrifice of those who are in harm's way, while lamenting the circumstances that place them there. I have spoken to many military officers and to a person they aim to protect their soldiers while fulfilling the mission.

Since World War II, the USA military has been present around the world. In some cases, we are welcome, as we provide the first line of defense for smaller nations against totalitarian aggressors (think South Korea). In other locales, we have born the brunt of the cost of freedom while historic allies rebuilt their economies (NATO). At other times, we have engaged in controversial conflicts with mixed or negative results (Vietnam, and multiple Caribbean and Latin American interventions) that fuel anger and distrust.

The foci of our efforts since 9/11 include defeating terrorism overseas and defending allies from regimes bent on their destruction (Afghanistan, Iraq and other Middle East deployments by air and sea). The results are mixed. Bush-haters point to the loss of life, fiscal black hole and animus toward the USA. Conservatives respond rhetorically with, "Well, no one has attacked us since 9/11, have they?" and they point to recent intelligence materials that reveal a complex web of misinformation on WMD's.

President Obama rode a wave of disgust toward the Bush years as well as a tsunami of historic hope all the way to Washington. He also pledged to bring American troops home as soon as possible, declaring Bush policies a failure in their current constructs.

Well, the exigencies of governing in the real world bring us to our current state of confusion. How do we confront terrorism, without egregious loss of life, unending occupation of other lands and spiraling deficits?

We need a Third Way for 21st century military action. Without being the world's policeman, a neocolonial occupation force or reverting to "fortress America", we can forge a sane policy. The answer is to target specific locations of terrorism, intervene with overwhelming force and hand over the reigns to local leaders in weeks, not months. Terrorism knows no geography and is no respecter of civilian and military opponents. Our military actions must fall within very specific boundaries of just war theory. We must reject the preemptive philosophy of Bush and the contempt for the military that is just under the surface of the current Administration.

We should station strike forces strategically so that we can respond to known threats in consultation with allies. We should also bring home all but essential personnel from any lands capable of defending themselves. NATO needs us as one ally, not the bank roller and burden-bearer that lets the EU develop her competitive economy while we bear their military costs.

We should help create an Iraqi Confederation that will defend itself soon and keep some troops there (as part of a real Allied force) to respond to serious threats. Afghanistan is almost intractable. She has resisted multiple empires and seems organically incapable of moderate self-rule. The best we can hope for is a UN presence and thousands of business and charity agencies establishing sufficient critical mass so that the major tribes can resist the Taliban. Let's turn over the nation-building to public and private civilian agencies and charities made for that purpose and bring our troops home. Let's bring most of our European troops home. Let's streamline our systems, give our great soldiers the support they need for care and transition and start rebuilding our domestic infrastructure.

Peacemaking is more than Sate Department elites engaged in endless conversation. Peacemaking is more than military intervention. Peacemaking requires the courage of millions to say no to fear, stand up to intolerance and forge a better future. Where are the Palestinian leaders who will unequivocally acknowledge Israel as a legitimate nation and future partner for peace? Every truce, every accord has come with an offer of friendship, yet the radical leaders refuse. Will thousands of Arab Christians and moderate Muslims finally say, "Enough!" to Hamas and others and decide to renounce all terrorism, all extermination language and secure a place for their children to grow up without hate? The media focuses on the 1,600 homes in East Jerusalem and misses the self-destruction of Gaza after the Israeli withdrawal. The fences bring derision, while unreasonable demands are couched as part of "negotiations." How about mobilizing thousands of Afghan Muslim women to say no to the Taliban? What about waging peace with massive business development and relief efforts in Iraq that will reveal the paucity of radical alternatives?

We need more peacemaking, more private investment, more charitable action and more moral courage. We do not need more government programs with all their corruption and inefficiency. Let's bring our brightest minds from all fields together, work on plans that will work and watch the real genius of liberty transform what look like intractable situations into opportunities for freedom.