Sunday, November 27, 2022

We Will Run Again

 

I walk my dog most days.  Usually we walk the fields, but when it’s too wet we take to the pavement.  Barney is a two-year old English Springer Spaniel.  We often call him Barney Two or B2.  We had another Springer named Barney but that was years ago, a different time and many different places.

 

When Barney One was with us I could still run.  We ran many miles together.  And when we lived in Montana, he would go up into the mountains with me.  I would let him off the leash.  But he never ventured too far away and would come running back when I called him.  I always worried that he would run into a mountain lion someday or maybe even a bear.  But he loved being off the leash whenever possible.  So, I let him run.

 

But the years and a bad knee have ended my running days.  The bad knee has been replaced, but I’m a big guy and the doctor said it would be best if I did not run on it.  I might run if I was being chased or in an emergency.  But for exercise it’s down to walking.  With some recent back problems, even the walking is not what it used to be.  I reckon it’s not more than 3 mph and sometimes less.  Barney Two loves the walks, but I know he wants to run or at least walk faster.  It’s taken a lot of hard tugs and hard words to make him quit pulling.  But when something excites him, he still wants to take off.

 

At times during our walks he looks back at me as if to ask “Is this the best you can do?  Can’t we just pick up the pace a little bit?”  I think he somehow knows that once upon a time I could do better.  When we show him old photos of Barney One, I wonder if he knows that we ran together, that I wasn’t always old and slow.  

 

We have a large fenced back yard and Barney will run the fence line barking at birds in the field or squirrels in the trees.  Sometimes when I go out in the yard, he will run up and jump as if to say, c’mon let’s run.  It feels great.  Then he will stop and just stand there waiting for a hug because he knows that’s the best I can do until it’s time for our walk.  But as I hug him, I always tell him that someday I will run again and that he and Barney One will be running with me.  Just not today.





Friday, November 11, 2022

Not The Same Game

 

If Conservatives want to win more elections they must play a different game than their Progressive opponents.  Red meat rallies and attacks on Progressive ideologies, institutions or leaders will only be turned around and used against them.  When conservatives go after Progressives, it becomes hate speech, or it is somehow inciting violence; or it’s racist or homophobic or misogynistic.  In the end it becomes a threat to Democracy. 

 

On the other hand, when Progressives start calling out Conservatives; it’s filtered as main-stream news, fodder for talk shows, a skit on SNL or receives a  tweet storm of approval.   We just need to accept that Progressive criticism of those on the Right is mostly considered accurate, constructive, relevant and moral.  But that’s not how it works in the other direction.

 

Conservatives are forced to play a different game.  Essentially offer positive solutions to the problems most people are facing without blaming, shaming or finger-pointing at those mostly responsible for the problems in the first place.  Better yet take some responsibility for the problems and apologize.  Seriously, just say you’re sorry.

 

The playing field is not level.  Don’t feed the narrative.  Play nice and don’t make it personal.  The other side has already made up their minds about you…don’t keep reminding them. 

Monday, October 31, 2022

What Matters Most...

 

Early voting has begun in what might be one of the most contentious mid-term elections since the last one....and the one before that one...and the one before...I’ll stop there.  In all honesty, this might be the most contentious mid-term election ever.  It’s just where we are these days.  Divided on so many fundamental issues that there seems to be no middle ground left to stand on. 

So who wins and who loses?  It all depends on what matters most to the most people.  And that depends on who is voting. And it will look a lot different in “blue” states than in “red” states.  Even within those colors, the voting will vary by county and region.  Even Texas is starting to increasingly reflect shades of blue.  Winning and losing in today’s divided nation comes down to the margins.  Which side can control the House and Senate.  In Presidential elections and close Senate races it can come down to a few key counties in a few key states that determine the outcome. 

Both parties can rely on their solid cores.  The Democrats traditionally struggle with turnout, but they’ve done a better job since Trump’s big upset win in 2016.  The blue core is going to vote.  The Republican core will always turn out.  But demographics are working against them.  Republicans must convert independents as well as members of traditional Democratic “identity” groups such as Latinos.  Even some Blacks are starting to lean right, but for the most part they are going to vote Democrat.

So what moves the needle for those voters who are not “hardcore” in either camp?  The Democrats are banking on Abortion rights and lingering anti-Trump sentiment to motivate independents to vote Democrat.  Gun Control, Climate Change, Diversity-Equity-Inclusion issues are foundational to hardcore Democrats.  But it’s Abortion and Anti-Trumpism that really matter at the margins.

Republicans must push the buttons on inflation, crime and kids while creating some distance from Trumpism.  Border security tends to be more of a regional issue, important but not so much for the majority of independent voters.   The number one pain point for most people is inflation.  That should be a winner for the Republicans.  Not because their hands are clean on the issue, but because the Democrats have really lost control of the economy. 

Crime is a clear winner for Republicans.  People are just fed up with the surge in criminal activity.  The Democrats have earned their reputation for being soft on crime and it will be a major factor for independents. 

And with kids, it’s about education vs indoctrination and a growing awareness that something is “off” in the way kids are being taught and what they are being taught.  Parents of all races, ethnicity and religious backgrounds are pushing back on CRT and progressive gender/sexuality ideologies being taught to their children.

But, Republicans must not underestimate the impact of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that essentially pushed the abortion issue back to the States.  And with many Red States passing extremely restrictive abortion legislation, this has become a rallying point for women including many in the center who might otherwise be inclined to vote Republican.

And then there is Trumpism.  Outside of his hardcore followers, one finds very little support for Trump even within the Republican party, much less among independents.  At some point, Republican leadership must rip the band-aid off and be done with Trump once and for all.  Even if it means the Trumpers start a third party movement and cripple the Republican party in the near term.  A Republican Party that allows itself to remain hostage to Trumpism cannot survive. 

In a two-party system both parties must remain viable.  The Democrats are allowing far left Progressives to push them into a 30-40% support corner from which they can only win if there is no better alternative for moderate, middle of the road voters.  Now the big question is which is the lesser of two evils?  Far Left Progressivism or Far Right Trump Nationalism?  If those are the only two options, The Left has the advantage.  They are standing on the moral high ground of our postmodern secular culture when it comes to women’s reproductive rights, social justice for the “marginalized” and fighting against The Fascists (aka Trumpers).  

These mid-term elections are likely to determine the direction of both parties for at least the next ten years.  If there is a “Red Wave”, Trump will claim much of the credit.  He will either be the Presidential candidate in 2024 or determine who will be.  If the Democrats can find a viable candidate, they will win the White house. 

However, if the Democrats were to do better than projected and the Republicans finally realize that Trump is more of a liability than an asset, it might trigger a major shift for the party.  Two more years of Progressive policies and chaos would almost certainly open the door for sweeping changes in 2024. A more moderate, inclusive Republican Party would likely win the White House as well as seize control of both the House and the Senate.   

We will soon see how this all plays out.  It should be interesting, even if it's only more of the same.


“Politicians are like bad horsemen who are so preoccupied with staying in the saddle that they can’t bother about where they are going.” – Joseph Schumpeter

Monday, October 10, 2022

Growing in Grace

 

Two weeks ago I wrote about how our plans are never certain.  God may not laugh at our plans, but he does not bless them either if they are not according to his plans or his purpose.  I still don’t know why God allowed my back problem to become disabling just before we were to head off for two weeks in Italy.  Even more baffling, my pain level started going down last week and by the time we would have arrived back in the States I was probably back to 80% of where I was before this episode began.  Candidly, if I had felt no worse than this on September 22, we would have boarded that flight to Italy and taken our chances. 

Perhaps God in his wisdom knew that the long flight, sleeping in strange beds, dragging luggage around, walking up and down old stone pathways, standing in line to view the “must-see’s” one must see when one is in Italy, too much good Italian food and drink; or some combination of these would have triggered the disabling pain.  Certainly not a thing one would wish to experience while on an overseas trip. 

Now based on the MRI and the back specialist’s assessment, this problem may be treatable without surgery.  Especially given that the pain has subsided and there are no signs of lost strength or nerve damage.  But my lower back remains in need of professional therapy and treatment.  That this painful event was going to happen at some point is almost certain.  That it happened when it did I believe was providential.  We had asked God to bless this trip and watch over us.  I think he did just that. 

The lesson here is that God sometimes answers our prayers in ways we would not have expected nor wished for.  He knows more about us, and for that matter everything else, than we do.  He knows that our bodies are breaking down as we age and that some of us accelerate that process be it through pride or pleasure or just plain stupidity.  Our journey in this life is short.  That we experience some pain and suffering along the way is simply part of that journey.   But, thanks be to God that we are not alone.

 "I am certain that I never did grow in grace one-half so much anywhere as I have upon the bed of pain." – Charles Spurgeon


Sunday, October 2, 2022

Unspeakable

 

The other day a friend of mine posted a report on the world’s largest social media platform regarding newspapers cancelling the Dilbert comic strip.  The issue has become somewhat controversial. (Was Dilbert 'Cancelled' as Comic Creator Scott Adams Suggests? (newsweek.com).   

 

Was Dilbert, in fact, too politically incorrect?  Did Scott Adams, Dilbert's creator just in end up on the “wrong side” of the political divide in this country?  These are good questions.  But in all fairness, newspaper comics have been dying for a long time and newspapers are cutting back on that space.  So maybe Dilbert is just one of many…or maybe not. 

 

 I simply responded to his post with an old quote from Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda: “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play”.  I credited the quote to Goebbels for context.  This prominent social media platform promptly took it down and notified me that I was banned from making comments or posts for thirty days.  Interesting.

 

I guess I got a digital time.  But this action simply confirms the very issue in question.  If I had made some sort of “Woke” endorsed comment about Dilbert being canceled,  I am confident there would have been no backlash. But even the hint that perhaps our government, directly or indirectly, is influencing what we read, hear, write or speak is somehow forbidden.  And having the audacity to connect such practices to those of the Nazi’s is just a line you do not cross.  Nazi is the other N word these days…unless, of course, it happens to be The View using it to describe a white gun owner.  History is only relevant if it can be used to support certain agendas. Otherwise, it’s off limits.

 

And just to put a fine point on it; you may have missed this story if you only follow mainstream media, but it’s a very real and very scary example of what’s going on these days:  Groundswell of Support for Mark Houck, Catholic Father of 7 Arrested in FBI Raid| National Catholic Register (ncregister.com).  

 

Once upon a time I could not have imagined federal agents showing up at a citizen’s front door to haul him off for purely political purposes.  But it’s happening these days. This is McCarthyism on steroids. Be warned, it’s not a big leap from social media cancellation to things like this….or much worse.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

A Change of Plans

 

“Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht” is an old Yiddish adage meaning “Man Plans, and God Laughs.”  Although I’m not Jewish, that has become a favorite saying of mine.  I have learned over the years that a lot of things do not work out the way I expect, even when I make great efforts to plan and prepare.  And while I remain a pessimist by nature, I still live with this illusion that if I plan well enough and prepare as much as possible, the outcome will be positive.  But Forest Gump was correct when he observed that life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re going to get.  I have experienced this more than a few times in my life.  Believe me, that lesson has been learned. But apparently God decided that I needed a refresher course.

 

In January 2020 my wife and I planned a trip to Italy.  Our plan was to travel in late September and spend two weeks in Italy.  We had everything lined up to the last detail.  And then there was Covid. That shut everything down.  We thought, well maybe 2021.  But Covid still had the world tied up in knots.  So, we looked to 2022.  With over two years of planning and research we had the perfect trip planned. Not that I didn’t have concerns. I always have concerns.  I worried about our flights, the weather, were our accommodations going to be as good as advertised and worth the money?  Would the tours we had booked be worth our time (and money)?   Still with two weeks left before our departure everything seemed to be in order.  We had covered all the bases.  What could go wrong? 

 

Off and on throughout my life I have had the occasional back ache.  But nothing major.  In fact, I’ve been blessed with good health and have been able to stay fit.  But in recent years the back aches have come and gone more frequently.  Early in the summer I’d noticed some of that pain radiating in my right hip.  Just to be safe I went to the doctor.  No big deal, no arthritis, just very tight muscles in my hips and thighs.  He prescribed some physical therapy and after a few weeks all seemed to be well and getting better.  

 

And then the unexpected.  Two weeks before we were to leave, the hip pain returned.  So, I ramped up my stretching program along with continuing my normal exercises of walking, using the elliptical machine and strength training.  But the pain just got worse spreading from my hip into my thigh and my calf.  Five days before departure I could barely walk. 

 

So, we ended up back at the doctor. This time he x-rayed my back.  The results were not good.  

“Mr. Click your lower lumber spine appears to be the source of the problem. The pain in your hip, thigh and calf are from nerves in that area.  It would be a very bad idea for you to take that trip to Italy.  In fact, I am advising you to just rest and do as little as possible for now.  We will schedule you to see our back specialist.  In the meantime, let’s get an MRI.  He will want those results when he sees you.  Here’s a prescription for pain and a muscle relaxer.  Go home.”

 

Ok God, I get it.  Haven’t I had this lesson often enough?  My plans and your laughter.  I know there are things I cannot control.  But who or what is in control of something like this?  As a Christian, I know that you are ultimately in control.  You are the Creator and I am one of your creations.  But why this, why now?  If you want me to go through back surgery or whatever this turns out to be, couldn’t you have scheduled it for some other time?  Is this just all part of us living in a fallen, broken world?  Or am I the victim of some Job-like wager made in the heavens?  Given that Job was much more righteous than I am, that could not have been an even bet.   Was it pride that motivated me to push myself too hard for too long over too many years?  Did I ignore the warning signs?  Is this going to be a lesson in humility?  Is it time to just accept that I am getting old and this body is wearing out?  

 

And God you know that I have prayed for patience.  Is this how you want me to learn it? I have no choice now.  I must wait for doctors and wait for tests and wait for a diagnosis.  And then more waiting for treatment, possibly surgery.   If surgery is required, then wait through a long recovery period for an uncertain outcome.  So, I must learn patience…and hopefully find some peace along the way.

 

God, are you telling me to listen more to you and less to myself and others?  That I tend to pursue the things I want to pursue and then ask you to bless them?  Maybe you are telling me that I’ve had things backwards. When I pray: “Thy Kingdom come… Thy Will be done… On Earth …As it is in Heaven”; that doesn’t mean the wind will always be at my back and the lights are always green.  Perhaps it really means Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven according to your purposes and your plans, not mine.  Not my will, but yours be done. 

 

God has a way of getting our attention one way or the other. I may wish that he had chosen another way of getting mine, but I can only trust that He knows best.  And God is not laughing at me.  He is just loving me...and for that I am most thankful.


“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55: 8-9






Thursday, August 25, 2022

The First Spoiled Generation

 



I am part of the Baby Boomer Generation.  The children of the Greatest Generation.  The Baby Boomers grew up during what has been called the Golden Age of America.  After The Depression and World War II, America emerged as the dominant world power.  The 50s and 60s were times of progress, prosperity and promise; certainly for white folks at any rate.  We stopped briefly to protest in the late 60’s.  The 70’s were a bit of a rough patch.  But then we caught the next big wave of the 80’s and 90’s.  And many of us ended up living very well….still do.

So what’s wrong with that?  Maybe nothing or maybe everything.  But what is clear is that we Baby Boomers were the First Spoiled Generation.  And that has had enormous consequences for this nation.   Our children became the First Generation begat by Spoiled Parents.  That circle of indulgence and entitlement, once begun, remains unbroken and grows ever wider.  What we are experiencing in 2022 goes back to that First Spoiled Generation of Baby Boomers.

It's interesting to watch Baby Boomers try and find the reset button.  We think if we can sound and act like our parents and grandparents, then maybe it’s not too late to set things right.  Once upon a time Billy Joel sang “We Didn’t Start The Fire”.  And he might have been right.  But we darn sure poured gasoline on it.  We didn’t destroy the foundations and cornerstones of our society, we just ignored them.  We even celebrated that ignorance and neglect with our music and our movies. 

Aging Baby Boomers now talk about God and Faith and Family Values as if we were the last upholders of moral virtue.  But we know the truth.  We just don’t like to admit it.  We opened a Pandora’s box of sexual liberation, drugs and materialism.  Divorce rates skyrocketed.  Addictive behaviors got worse.  Too many of our kids and grandkids struggle with mental and physical health issues.   We grew to enjoy raw sex and graphic violence in our entertainment.  So we got more and more of it.  And now that there are lines being crossed which we could never have imagined; we self-righteously object and demand a return to those good old family values.

Boomers are angry.  But more than angry they are scared.  We know that we have sown the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind.  America would look much different today if we Baby Boomers had been faithful to God and Family.  It’s now up to the younger generation to find the way.  The best thing Baby Boomers can do is confess our sins and stop preaching. We’ve done enough already.


"Teach your children well. Their father's hell will slowly go by.  And feed them on your dreams, the ones they picked, the ones you'll know by." - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (written by Jeff Healey)