Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Yes, but...

I have had far too many arguments with left-leaning friends and strangers in the past few years. I suppose it really got lathered up during the Bill Clinton years but it has really gotten nasty since the Bush/Gore election in 2000, ratcheted up again in 2004, reached a fevered pitch in 2008 and now, on the eve of the 2010 mid-terms it is beyond the pale. I am as guilty as any and I freely admit it. We have all – each and every side (and there are many) dug into our foundations and we refuse to move.

I have been tracking articles, conversations, speeches, Internet blogs and Facebook exchanges in recent months and I’ve seen an interesting and edifying pattern. Conservative individuals (not The Tea Party Talking Heads or other inane and incompetent spokespeople) answer questions directly. I’m not saying they’re always correct; I’m simply commenting on their steadfastness, commitment, honesty and short, decisive responses. On the other hand, liberals never have decisive, direct and simple answers. They tend to begin any answer with, ‘Yes, but…’ This is complicated; this is indecisive; this is uncertain; this is waffling; this is whining; this is the blame game; this is Democrat.
Take this for example: Question: Did President Obama triple the deficit in his first 24 months in office?
Conservative: Yes
Liberal: Yes, but during his first year in office he was working with Dubya’s fiscal year budget which added something like $1.46 trillion to the deficit and then Obama reduced that to $1.24 trillion in his first year.
Let me ask this again: Did President Obama triple the deficit in his first 24 months in office?
Conservative: Yes
Liberal: Yes, but he also devised the stimulus package which shielded us from the biggest depression ever visited upon our country, created jobs, gave our citizens hope and ensured health insurance for every American citizen.
One more time: Did President Obama triple the deficit in his first 24 months in office?
Conservative: Yes
Liberal: Yes, but he is going to bring our soldiers back from Iraq and Afghanistan; re-build the infrastructure of our country; stabilize our economy; make us a big-player on the world’s stage, once again and bring the deficit under control.
Did President Obama triple the deficit in his first 24 months in office?
If you are a working (or unemployed) American citizen your portion of our current debt is: $124,000. Pay up.
Yes, but...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Preparation For Mourning

Many of us have lost loved ones following a period of illness, pain and struggle. In retrospect I believe that the years, months, weeks and days that precede the final departure prepare us for what is to come. Our bodies, minds and spirits align in a pattern that both predicts and lays the foundation for the deep mourning we will soon endure. When a traffic light turns green it is both dangerous and destructive to lay the pedal to the floor. It is wiser, safer and much more efficient to ease to your cruising speed. So it is with the soul.
At the age of 16 – 2 months after I got my driver’s license in PA – my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 47. For 5 months I heard and watched him die a painful death in his and my mother’s bedroom 20 feet down the hall. In those deep and dark nights I trembled beneath the covers on my twin bed as I heard the frightened and anguished cry of my father wishing death over this nightmare. Something happened to me during those months, something involuntary and something over which I had no control. I changed. Those 150 days fashioned the balance of my life in ways both good and bad. Looking back on that period of time I can see that I was beginning to mourn; I was preparing for the final moment.
40 years have arrived and retreated since those sad days in 1968. Although the memories of that regrettable time still surface I can state without hesitation that my life has been filled with abundant blessing. And yet I feel a familiar feeling – a 40-year-old feeling – and I’ve been feeling it for quite some time. At this very moment its presence is profound. I am preparing to mourn once again. I believe death is at the doorstep of my beloved country. I know in my heart that the end is near. Oh my, how I love America!
But I hear Her crying out in the night not wishing to die but no longer able to sustain Her dream. There is too much pain, too much demand, too many expectations, too many promises She cannot keep, too many enemies, so many who hate Her, so many that rape Her, so many that treat Her like a Whore, anger all over, debt beyond imagination, what I deserve over what I can do. My country is riddled with cancer and there is little hope for Her recovery shy of a miracle. Oh how I shall weep when She is gone! Oh how this world will suffer when She is gone.
I have little recollection of those 5 months when my beloved dad was dying. I have supposed that this is part of the protection and preparation for mourning. I do recall that I did my very best to live and learn and grow and put on a good face during that time. And so I shall work, learn, live, serve and love with the hope that this will all get better. Join me – and have your black suit laundered.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Still Trying to Imagine

Today is a big day for Beatles fans – especially the many who leaned toward Mr. Lennon when asked my generation’s most critical question: who is your favorite Beatle. Among other things this is the eve of what would have been John's 70th birthday. It is also the 39th anniversary of the release of ‘Imagine.’
Early this morning I made a simple post on Facebook that reads: ‘On this day in 1971 John Lennon releases Imagine.’ Almost immediately my daughter responded with a question for me: ‘Dad, I thought you didn’t like that song?’ She was recalling a conversation we’d had from years ago when I made a few critical comments about the lyrical content of Lennon’s absurdly successful (brilliantly simple) song.
Frankly, it is impossible for me to dislike Imagine and so what if I do? Who cares? But since my stubbornness about and momentary distaste for this song has been published on FB I feel I should explain. I know that my initial discomfort with Mr. Lennon’s words had to do with their distinct and unquestionable dismissal of religion (Imagine there’s no heaven; no hell below us; and no religion, too.) There is a clear socialist, even Marxist expression in some lines (Imagine no possessions; Imagine all the people sharing all the world.) Anarchy is also present (Imagine there’s no countries.) Now, I have little doubt that the humble Mr. Lennon had innocence in his heart when he parlayed these thoughts and verses into an icon of popular music. I doubt that he intended to tear down all things sacred, become a socialist dictator or annihilate our system of global government when he placed paper to pen and fingers to ebony or ivory. Nonetheless, Imagine troubled me at a visceral level. Even though political expression had certainly found its way into the pop music of the era, I felt this tune and its composer possessed a power of influence over my generation unlike any song or recording that preceded it.
Still, there was another underlying reason for my ambivalence toward Imagine. It lacked the musical fire, imaginative chord progressions and wonderfully tight rock melodies of Lennon’s prior work with The Beatles. (Imagine this: ‘When I was young, oh so much younger than today – I never needed anybody’s help in any way.’) I surely don’t begrudge any artist their right to explore and expand but Imagine caused me to mourn for the Lennon of old. Not fair, of course, but very true.
Finally, we must all face the sad and mighty truth that none of Mr. Lennon’s tangible desires outlined in this song – whether we embrace them or reject them – have been realized. (‘Nothing to kill or die for; Imagine all the people living life in peace; no need for greed or hunger.’) What a silly and wonderful dreamer he was. I really miss him. I hope someday I’ll join him - in heaven.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Nine Peace Negotiators Walk Into a Bar

Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin, Bill Clinton, Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat, Hillary Clinton, Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas walk into a bar. The bartender says, ‘Is this some kind of a joke?’
The new, brilliantly conceived US approach to Israeli/Arab peace talks is to pressure Israel to hold off building homes, businesses, parks and playgrounds on their own land. Is this their land? Oh please, this argument has been going on forever. The better question is this: Will the US act in accordance with the legal principle that this IS Israeli land? The answer, finally, is NO!
As I stated in a prior and recent post – America is on the verge of turning against our longtime friend and ally – The State of Israel. These ridiculous demands on the Israeli people and cow tows to our not-so-friendly Arab friends are simply precursors of the final withdraw of US support. Yes, this is difficult to believe. And it’s not funny.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Cornering the Market on Bullies

A few days ago on this blog I expressed my heartache and outrage regarding the events surrounding the death of Tyler Clementi – the young Rutgers student tortured by the uncertainty of his own sexuality and the despicable antics of his roommate that resulted in Tyler’s decision to take his own life. A sadder and more horrific story I have not heard in many years.
In the aftermath of that incident the media and other individuals have seen fit to focus on the act of ‘bullying’ specifically as it relates to the gay community – as if this were the only group of citizens ever impacted by the harsh acts of bullies. This may be understandable on the heels of this nightmare but it is also very narrow reporting. An adolescent child perceived to be gay (for whatever twisted reasons) by the self-appointed truth squad in any school or neighborhood is a prime target for bullying – no doubt. But it is shortsighted and misguided to suggest that a young person in such a circumstance – isolated and fearful as he or she may be – should serve as the poster child for an effort to thwart bullying.
Bullying did not begin with a young man’s sad and desperate leap from The George Washington Bridge. Bullying is old as Time. Cain and Abel come to mind. (Did you note that little rhyme?) In my lifetime – especially as I recall my own childhood and, years later, the lives of my own children – I have witnessed bullies wreaking merciless havoc on a wide array of innocent targets and few, if any of those targets, were gay. During my formative and adolescent years – from roughly 1957-1967 – I saw some of my classmates and playground chums bullied because they were fat, stupid, didn’t or couldn’t play sports, had braces, wore hand-me-down clothes, donned thick glasses, played violin, peed in their pants once-a-week in class, picked their nose, dad was a loud drunk, family couldn’t afford lunch money, held back in school, Jewish, first generation immigrants, lived in the projects, carried a Bible to school, couldn’t ride a bike, had bad acne, just moved to town, really smart, had polio, etc. A few times during those years I jumped in the middle of these dark episodes of isolation and tried to make the bullies stop. But more often than not my friends and I would stare in amazement at the brutality and pain perpetrated upon the innocents. We would watch as the victims ran home, tears streaming down terrified faces, blood trickling from a cut lip, books scattered on a sidewalk, cries of ‘Mommy help’ rising in the air and sinister laughs emanating like Satan’s cackle from a group of little pricks who had just filled the roles of judge, jury and executioner.
As an adult I have witnessed that bullying is more refined and private. Much of it happens behind closed doors in office settings and boardrooms. The power hungry abuse their authority by belittling underling employees, berating the weaker co-worker and manipulating situations to cover their own sorry ass while placing blame on the innocent. The cut lips and scattered books may not be present but the tears, silent cries for help and humiliation remain.
We are the hollow men – and women. There is something very crooked in our collective soul that manifests itself in the act of bullying. No, we cannot stand by and allow it to continue; no, we can no longer be fearful of the threat. We must disarm the bullies whether their target is a chubby little girl, a limping immigrant or a young man desperately trying to figure himself out in college dorm room. ‘Mommy help!’

The Demands on Our Father

I had lunch with a dear friend this afternoon. We have written a number of Christian songs and chorales together. We share the same childhood faith experience – pretty conservative. Recently I wrote a lyric for a melody and orchestration he had developed and we were both quite enthused about its potential.
In the meantime my friend has quietly shared our recent work with other colleagues in the ‘Christian’ music business and a few ministers and music directors within our community. He shared the results. The title of our recent piece is ‘Blessed Father.’ It has not been well received. ‘Father’ is not so widely accepted in the halls of modern Christendom: it offends, detracts, minimizes, unduly celebrates, degrades, underestimates, etc. He was not so much asking me if I would consider changing the gender word – he knew what my answer would be and I know, deep down, he agreed – as he was reminding me of exactly what is going on in our culture and what we were facing. It was also clear to me that our potential distribution systems had narrowed. Many (most) mainline Protestant denominations are reluctant to publish hymns that use male gender words for God. (Open a hymnal in any mainstream Protestant sanctuary in America and you shall encounter the gender-bending antics of many so-called songwriters and music editors who have infiltrated the process over the past 4 decades.) I told my friend, ‘I’m not going to change this. I will happily work at Papa John’s, Five Guys or Burger King rather than write songs that alter and redefine Christ’s relationship to God. This is, after all, my Father’s world.’
As I was driving home I got really angry. I realized that those who cannot (or refuse to) tolerate the truth and reality of the Bible have placed so much pressure on the body that they have caused us to hesitate using the word Father to address and define God. Today, for just a moment, they actually had two worthy and creative people wondering what they should do. This is repulsive; it may be much more than that; it may be a dark spirit.
I, for one, shall refuse to move from my position. Jesus referred to God as His Father; far be it from me to disagree. I love my mother, I love my wife, I loved my sister, I love my mother-in-law, I love my daughter and I love my nieces. I treat them with the utmost respect. Men can be cruel, violent, abusive and unfaithful. Father, forgive them.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Do You Believe Me Now?

Now that our children are reasonably grown up and no longer living in our home, my very kind-hearted wife, Sarah – a lifelong and dedicated Democrat - and I have reached a compromise regarding the evening news. I stated, ‘Not MSNBC.’ She stated, ‘Not Fox.’ Our conclusion (and, yes, I bent over backwards) was CNN.
So this evening, over a most delicious bowl of minestrone that Sarah had prepared, we tuned in CNN. Much to my astonishment we learned that Eliot Spitzer was going to be a host on a brand new show – presenting news and commentary on the state of our union and our world. As the kids say, ‘OMG!’
There is one relationship on the face of this earth by which a man and a woman can be judged on issues of truth, trust and discernment: marriage. This man has failed on each.
So now, in their wisdom, this so-called bastion of truth, trust, justice and fairness has hired a lying, secretive, dodging, elitist, political, wife-cheating son-of-a-bitch – paid him a salary, gave him center stage – and expects us to tune in and believe him! Will the feminists please rise up with me and bring this guy down within the first week? Of course they won’t! He will deliver the crooked news of liberal politics for them! He will be their hero! He will skew the news to fit their needs. But he fundamentally and irrevocably used and tread upon women in the most repulsive manner. Both a wife (with whom he committed to an eternal bond) – and a prostitute (with whom he had a momentary and monetary contract.) Can you not see that? Can you not understand that this man is not to be trusted?
And now we are expected to hear the truth from him?
The compromise is over. I think from this night forward my Beloved Sarah and I will watch The Dog Whisperer. Dogs are very faithful. They can be trusted. I wish they could talk. They could deliver the news – and I would listen.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Mr. Stewart: I Don't Get It

I believe I may be the only American that thinks Jon Stewart isn’t funny. I don’t get him at all. He is not only not funny he is obnoxious, simple-minded, anti-intellectual and gets away with murder. What is it about him that so many people find so witty and hilarious?
First of all, he’s a mugger. Curly and Shemp were muggers and they did it very well – 60 years ago. Secondly, he is obsessed with over-obvious notions and responses. He is possessed of little or no irony in any of his observations. Thirdly, he represents nothing. His is a vacuous, skip-to-the-beat mind devoid of interesting opinion or commentary. Finally, he is unable to define himself. He is attempting to be part clown, part satirist and part political pundit. In so doing he misses on all three.
Not unlike the rest of our culture our taste for true wit and brilliant comedy has been dumbed down to a new common denominator. That’s not funny.