God

While I haven’t actually lived 2300 years, I’ve been sentient–in one form or another–throughout all that time. It has its advantages. For example, I believe I have a better understanding of God than those who’ve only been allotted a lifetime of three-score plus ten years. So here goes:

God – Don’t try to figure Him out–you can’t. Don’t try. Don’t interpret on his behalf. If He we human think we can speak for Him, it would make him crazy.

Scripture – Scripture, regardless of the flavor (Torah, Bible, Q’ran, Words of Bahá’u’lláh, whatever) is a book of lessons. It is not a historical record!

Why?

God is not affected by time. That’s why He, when asked His name, replied “I Am!” He probably created time for us pathetic humans (by His standards) to sort things out. To Him, however, the past, present future, and whatever, are all at his–so to say–fingertips.

God’s relationship to man – God has sent many prophets, one of which was a piece of himself, which we perceive as his Son, and who we Jesus. Now the bad news for many who claim to follow Jesus.

  1. Jesus was a Jew. You know, the Jew–who people love to hate and blame for everything. Hitler wasn’t the first, and won’t be the last (even though his bloodline may have had a bit of Jewish blood in it.
  2. Jesus was not blond-haired with blue eyes. He was a person of color. People in that part of the world are not, and at His time COULD NOT BE, BY VIRTUE OF HISTORY, white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants.
  3. Jesus’ earliest followers saw Christianity as the next step for the Jewish faith and the Jewish people. It wasn’t until God knocked Saul off his horse with a lightning bolt (or whatever–God can use whatever he chooses) that anybody realized that Jesus came for everybody.
  4. Jesus spoke Aramaic. He did not speak Old English as in the King James Version of the Bible.  
  5. Jesus did not instruct his followers to restrict the teachings of scripture to the elect clergy of the Catholic Church.

So where does that lead us?

  1. There is a God.
  2. He loves us.
  3. He has jumped through hoops to try to get our attention
  4. We keep modifying our image of Him to fit our personal biases and benefits.
  5. He forgives us.

All in all, that’s pretty awesome. Thank you, God,

A United States President

 

tyler
John Tyler Gravesite, Richmond, VA Courtesy Wikimedia

Pardon me for not writing much lately because everything seems so contentious, so I avoid writing anything that might be offensive to the President, Congress, any City Council, or PTA, anywhere.

It’s not as if I don’t like writing about politics and presidents. With my love of history–considering I’m a historical figure myself–I naturally, I find them fascinating. However, I’ve decided to limit myself to politicians from the 19th century or earlier, one of the most fascinating of whom is John Tyler, our tenth president.

Originally a Democrat, he became a member of the Whig political party (gotta love the name–and it has nothing to do with hair!). The Whigs did not have a platform, choosing instead to campaign against Martin Van Buren and the Democrats, blaming them for the poor economy that had begun three years before the election.

The Whig’s candidate, William Henry Harrison was elected president in 1840 with John Tyler (“Tippecanoe and Tyler, too” was their slogan) as his vice president. Harrison died of pneumonia 31 days after being inaugurated, and before the cabinet could declare Tyler as “Acting President,” he assumed the title of “president.” He was derided, behind his back, as “His Accidency.”

As president, he was often at odds with the mainstream members of his party; he was a fan of tariffs and frequently vetoed bills–even those from his own political party. His reason was that he believed the president–not Congress–should set policy. Members of his cabinet resigned and a number of his nominees for the cabinet were rejected by Congress. There was talk of impeachment, and the Whigs expelled him from his own party. One of his major efforts was to annex Texas to protect it from Mexico, although Texas statehood did not occur while he was in office.

After the attack on Fort Sumter, Tyler signed Virginia’s Ordnance of Secession in November, 1861 and was appointed to the Confederate House of Representatives. He died before the first session in February 1862.

Tyler was the only President of the United States whose casket was draped with a foreign flag (the flag of the Confederacy). He was also the only president who was named an “Enemy of the State.”

I Hate You, Pick Me!

Today, pride and self-promotion are the primary driving forces; in other words, today’s philosophy is, “It’s all about me.” This cannot lead to good things for the nation in either the short term or the long term.

As the White House uses and discards people, there is no lack of others eager to step into those positions. These same people, last week, last month, or last year, were condemning the very administration to which they now bow and scrape for a piece of the action.

Power is that seductive; these glory seekers contradict their own statements without apology. John Adams told us that “Facts are stubborn things . . . ,” but many people are far more stubborn than facts.

The revolving door in Washington, DC will continue to spin. Ambitious people will step in—regardless of qualification or commitment—willing to do anything (and I mean ANYTHING) to wrap themselves in prestige, even if it’s only for a short while.

 

*“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

John Adams, ‘Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials,’
December 1770, US diplomat & politician (1735 – 1826)

How Soon We Forget

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Pearl Harbor, Hawaii–Sunday, December 7, 1941, 7:48 AM

Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. (click for link) 

On December 8, 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt began with these words; he ended with his request for Congress to declare that a state of war existed with Japan, as is consistent with our Constitution. 

Over sixteen million Americans served in the military in the Second World War, with 405,000 dying—292,000 killed in battle. Throughout the world, 1.9 billion people served in various armies, air forces, navies (including coast guards), and marines resulting in 72 million deaths.

The Japanese had not signed the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war, killing, torturing, or enslaving Americans and their allies.

Nazi Germany established a series of efficient death mechanisms, including death factories (camps) to systematically murder over 6 million Jews, along with the handicapped, Roma (calling them gypsies is like using the n****** word), Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other innocent people who the Nazis considered unworthy or inconvenient.

How times change. That was the last war in which Congress passed a Declaration of War.

We won, and to the victor belongs the spoils, so by tradition, we could take whatever we wanted from those we vanquished. Instead, America provided aid to our allies and many of our former enemies so they could survive, recover, and rebuild. 

 This was not a business decision, it was a moral decision and the right thing to do. This was a long-term investment, which would cost the “greatest generation,” but benefit the children and the grandchildren of those who took the moral high ground. Many of these countries have worked together, with America as a senior partner, toward common goals, for decades. Together we have grown morally, intellectually, and economically. There is competition, of course, and we don’t agree on everything, but for over 70 years we’ve been able to resolve disagreements with these nations in western European and with Japan without a single shot fired in anger.

Today, if you ask people about the Second World War, many cannot tell you when it was fought, who we fought, or why. As the last veterans of that war die, is the knowledge and wisdom dying with them?

Although the United States has had military troops in combat more often than not since 1945, Congress has not enacted a declaration of war since 1941. They’ve avoided making a decision, but as was said in the 1960s, “Not to decide is to decide.”

This great nation of ours that broke the bonds that held them to King George III has, over time, allowed each president to assume more unilateral powers; to make the executive order as powerful as law—and if they’re not careful—as powerful as the constitution.

So, where are we? Without our leadership, other countries who once “had our back” are following our example and more concerned about how their nation can prosper regardless of the consequences.

 In 1775 it was “Give me liberty or give me death!” In 1836, “Remember the Alamo!” In 1864, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” In 1898, “Remember the Maine!” In 1918, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?” In 1941, “Remember Pearl Harbor!”

 Today, it’s “I want mine.”

 Unfortunately, December 7th didn’t live in infamy and its lessons are barely remembered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.ibtimes.com/franklin-delano-roosevelt-full-text-day-infamy-speech-famous-pearl-harbor-address-2456447

Jabberwocky*

In the eighteenth century, 13 North American colonies of Great Britain decided to declare themselves independent. Simplistically, the colonists had gotten used to doing things their own way and hey were determined to continue to do so.

The official explanation, as found in the Declaration of Independence states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

The colonies traded a monarchy for a confederation, which evolved through various successes and painful challenges into a constitutional federal republic. Is it better? Many believe it is, but in any case, it is safe to say it is most definitely American.

A monarch rules while a president serves.

Throughout history, monarchs have claimed that their power was granted by God, gods, or another extraordinary source. People were convinced of this because the anointed monarch had a trained army with weapons, while the commoners only had farming tools.

On the other hand, Presidents derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, usually through the election process. A successful election process depends on a population that is educated and that makes rational decisions rather than ones that are responding to emotion. Compare the American Revolution, which had (and limited voting to) an educated and prosperous population with the French Revolution, where education was restricted.

So, where are we now? How will history judge the times in which we live?

 

 

*“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”   –   Lewis Carroll

 

Is it Real, or Is it . . . . ?

Often, as I waited in the checkout line at the grocery store I couldn’t help but notice the supermarket tabloids. They sort of look like newspapers—they seem to use the same type paper stock—but they consistently featured unbelievable, outrageous headlines about scandalous affairs, celebrity divorces, the latest news about the extraterrestrial aliens the government was hiding, Big Foot, and, of course, Elvis’s current whereabouts.

I used to feel a sense of superiority—I was certainly not going to read their tripe. In fact, I wondered what planet did the readers and writers live on?

I’m afraid it was this one. Today, legitimate newspapers are reporting scandalous affairs, celebrity divorces, and the latest news about what the government is hiding or ignoring. Unlike the tabloid articles, though, these stories are not figments of the writers’ imaginations; they are fact-checked descriptions of real-world events. The legitimate newspapers have not gotten worse, but reality has.

Ouch.

If you’re confused as to which is a tabloid and which is a newspaper–if the headlines include extraterrestrial aliens, Bigfoot, or what Elvis has been doing, it’s a tabloid.

Truth

In the movie, Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark, Harrison Ford–as Indiana Jones–tells his class that archaeology is the search for fact. He recommends the philosophy class for those who are seeking truth.

John Adams said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” Truth, like beauty, is subject to interpretation; facts are not.

For example, when it comes to religious beliefs, people rely on faith to find their truth. Their god or gods cannot be proven, yet many view their beliefs as the one true religion. This is no criticism of truth or faith–after all, it would be a fairly pathetic god who could be factually proven to exist or not exist. A leap of faith, which is probably unique to human beings (at least on this planet), is often appropriate and, indeed, justified. My God expects me to walk by faith, not by light.

Facts, on the other hand, must meet more stringent criteria. Ideally, they can be tested and proven with the results subject to verification by others. That’s how science works. Facts are used to this, which is why many scientific and mathematical “facts” are properly referred to as theorems (or, for the popular press, theories). Many  are challenged regularly, perhaps in every high school chemistry class around the world, year after year.

Today, truth, facts, news, fake news, tweets, social media, etc. should all be held suspect instead of being accepted as absolute, irrevocably proven. They must be challenged. There are many things presented as “truth” that are not facts, that are not substantiated by evidence, and cannot be proven.

Maybe you belive I am stuck on this particular subject, which is likely so. However, it was I who carried a lit lamp during the day, searching for an honest man. In fact, I was not searching for an honest person, I was trying to emphasize this very point.