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Friday, October 19, 2012

I'll be gone for the weekend. Love to all. Bacon makes everything better. So does George Michael. There is in fact baseball in Heaven. And no commercials. (Aside from that "no tears" thing.) Be sure you say what matters before you lose the chance.

Love means ALWAYS having to say you're sorry. Westley was right: Life is pain, but it is pain with purpose. If you go toward God, you found the purpose.

I've been wrong more than I've been right. Let's not keep score, because Love wins.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Election Update: Debate Reaction--At least the president didn't lay down this time. He was more assertive. Whether that will help him is highly questionable. His whole presentation was an ad hominem that amounts to, "Romney and the Republicans hate poor people." Which, even if I were left of center, is not an affirmative argument in favor of anything.
Romney was Johnny Interrupter, but it was understandable. Candy Crowley of CNN was working for the Obama campaign. I don't say that lightly. Lehrer was fine, and Raddatz was fantastic in the VP debate, I thought. Crowley corrected Romney on Libya, drawing applause from the undoubtedly liberal audience, even though she was wrong. (And to her credit, said as much after the debate.) And Romney neither got equal time, nor replies to very contentious points. Easily the worst moderated debate, ever.
Watch this Libya thing; I still think at some point that it will get very ugly for the president. Reading and hearing his statement on the consulate attack in the most charitable way possible, you could make a case that the president called it a terror attack. If they knew it was a terror attack the next day--again, crediting the president with the most favorable reading possible--why did Clinton and Rice blame a protest and a video for many days after? Why did the president mention the YouTube video in his speech to the UN on September 25 6 times, if he knew that it was al-Queda, and there was no protest outside the embassy because of the video? If we read his statement in the Rose Garden in reference to 9/11--as conservative commentators, even at full-froth, are willing to do--then he doesn't need to mention this specific attack as a terror attack. Mentioning 9/11 in the context of commemorating Ambassador Stevens and the other heroes makes the point more than sufficiently. But that's exactly it: If we were all supposed to pick up that meaning on September 12, the president and his team don't have any good reason to tell us, "we don't know; we're still investigating" if it was known by the real-time intelligence that it was co-ordinated by al-Queda. The president knowing that, again, is predicated on the most pro-Obama reading of his Rose Garden statement.
It's fine for Hillary to take the blame for not answering Stevens' requests for more security; she is the Secretary of State. But it seems clear that a resurgent enemy contradicts the narrative of a "new and improved" Middle East policy, in contrast to the Bush administration. If they denied Stevens for that reason, they are playing politics with people's lives. Same with blaming the video. I'm not saying this because I prefer Mitt Romney's more bellicose approach; I don't. But don't undercut the "hearts and minds" aspect of the War on Terror. The West needs to show resolve in all ways, even if--no I would say especially--in choosing not to engage in more military intervention. They didn't do that here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

There's just something about us, isn't there? We're capable of so much good; we can change the world with the stroke of a pen. And yet, we are capable of unspeakable evil; we can change the world with the stroke of a pen.

One of the great lies we've been told is that it doesn't really matter what we do. I'm not a president, a CEO, or even a father. Who cares what I do? A succession of little choices makes a world; don't let anyone lie to you.

I think I was aware today that others have it worse than me. There are lots of little meritorious struggles--and big ones--that we'll never see. But God sees. How we respond in the little tests is how to see if the mountains move. Even if today was uneventful, I wonder: Did I make the mountains move?

O God, please be with Jenny and Jamie. Bring healing, and Your comforting presence. Quiet anxious hearts around them. Still their own hearts if they are troubled. I offer You my quiet, good day for their benefit. Forgive my failures, and forgive all of our sins, by Your boundless mercy, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Plan

Sometimes, our hearts are way ahead of The Plan. Maybe things won't even come close to what we thought. But we get stuck. Do you ever feel stuck? [Cue the Lionel.--ed.] If you want the truth, I feel like a catcher fielding a throw from center field; the ball has beaten the runner by a significant margin. The catcher knows. This is going to hurt.

Of course my epic stupidity is involved. When is it not? I definitely thought I was smarter than this; I thought I was wiser. I'm not wise; I'm an idiot.

Lucky for me, Jesus loves idiots and scoundrels and fools and saps. Never forget this as long as you live: God loves you more than you do. The only people in any real trouble are those who don't believe this, and, not realizing how warped their definition of "love" is, love themselves more than they love Him.

Then again, that appears to encompass a great many people. What are they looking at? Jesus must feel like Ebenezer Scrooge sometimes. You know, at the beginning. No one can see him, though he's right there. [You need another 'e' there.--ed.] Yeah, well, the literal transciption right from the Hebrew looks more right. He is our Helping-Stone, but we'd rather grab something else.

There are worse holes to be in than mine. That's true. But I'm here, nonetheless. O Jesus, take this desire and make it useful for the Kingdom. Amen.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Political Philosophy, In Brief
 
 
It has been instructive and fortunate to come of age during the ascendancy of the Republican Party, a party nominally dedicated to constitutionally-limited government, free enterprise, and self-determination. I say "nominally" because most of us are aware of that party's complicity in the erosion of personal liberty and economic self-determination that brings us to this moment of crisis, this time for choosing, to borrow a phrase. Though we will choose our leaders in just days, my concern is not that choice; indeed, if we do not pause to reflect upon ourselves, the results will not matter, and we have to wrestle with the plain fact that our purposeless running about may prevent that choice from ever truly mattering again.
 
The protest movements that have merited comment in the last few years share affinites with, if you will, both ends of our political spectrum: one on the right, and one on the left. The Tea Party started spontaneously as a result of a jeremiad against a political class that sought to insulate individuals from poor moral choices, which takes the form of using the government to eliminate the economic aspects of imprudence, immorality, or sloth. Naturally, those who lacked access to those resources, or who take a principled stand against being wards of their own government will be frustrated when that government can no longer be moved by those who establish it: the people. In short, the energy, or driving concern of the Tea Party is unresponsiveness. The people look on in horror as the outsized apparatus of the federal government rewards the powerful and well-connected, as well as buys the loyalty of the dependent.
 
The Democratic Party has been largely responsible, though because wealth follows those who seek power, they could not do it without support of large firms, and Republican politicians, who, whether out of venal self-interest or ignorance, prevent challengers to these firms' economic hegemony.
 
The truth of this is somewhat ironic, because the acolytes of the other notable movement, the Occupy movement, as beneficiaries of New Deal progressivism, witness the leaders of their own Democratic Party betray the anarcho-socialist populism they cherish. Those leaders get cozy with the heads of big firms who epitomize the injustice of the "capitalism" they despise. Nor can they dislodge those who sit in the seats of power, nor realistically dream of sitting in those seats themselves. If the New Deal has inspired several generations with grandiose promises of prosperity and economic redistribution, Occupy is ample evidence that those bills are coming due.
 
It is also tragically fitting that the forfeiture of economic self-determination should be sold to the people with the mirage of absolute personal autonomy. That personal autonomy absolutized destroys the moral basis for healthy free exchange of goods and services. "Social justice" is itself a mirage when the concept of justice has been relativized. The government cannot be an instrument of the common good when that good cannot be defined. It naturally invites the State apparatus--in many ways, it can be likened to an organism--to define its own purposes, quite apart from those it claims to serve.
 
But if capitalism is the mutually beneficial free exchange of goods and services, we have to ask if access to that space is important to us. Not all of us, either by accident of birth, or unfortunate happenings, come ready to both contribute and benefit from the system of free exchange. More than that, are there parts of human life that cannot be commoditized? Is there something about being human that doesn't quite get captured by the ruthless efficiency of markets? Do we owe ourselves and others something that can't exactly be bought or sold? We feel compelled to answer "yes," and emphatically, at that.
 
We are endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights, that is, a dignity. A dignity that cannot be ignored in the march to enforce an "economic justice" that respects neither self-determination, nor personal responsibility. It is a dignity that cannot be cast aside by absolutizing personal freedom, to the point of destroying persons. If that dignity is greater than simply allowing people to pull themselves up by their boot-straps, we must also say we are duty-bound not to kill them before they have boots. Ironic that socialism and its paternalistic State denies justice, freedom, and morality, all the while claiming an exclusive high ground.
 
But no man is an island. We do not possess our remarkable abilities as people in order to "store up in barns" or enrich ourselves alone. Shall we bow to the god of Self instead of the god of the State? No. It was the earnest hope of our Founders that this great country would be populated by a people who recognized a higher Law, given by that Creator. One that binds government from the tendency to tyrannical domination, and one that binds men from their own selfish whims. This is why civil society is distinct from the public space, so people of good will may find and do the good for one another without interference. A properly limited government stands ready when the good cannot be bought or sold, or hardship or injustice puts it out of reach. In any case, the errors and excesses of left and right are anthropological: the rightist error makes the individual into a god; the leftist one makes the State into one.
 
The choice has never been between maximum coercion and none; the good is somewhere in the midst. And it is time to put human dignity at the forefront of the question.