Sunday, November 11, 2018

Where Have All The Young Men Gone?

A few weeks ago I wrote about my impressions of Great Britain after spending some time over there. One thing I didn’t comment on was the way they remember the World Wars and honor those who served, and certainly those who died.

The reminders of World War One and World War Two are everywhere. The United Kingdom had over 750,000 killed or missing in action in the First World War. And some estimates are closer to 1 million. This from a population of less than 50 million at that time. This is very comparable to the combined losses of the North and South during the American Civil War. (And we still remember that one, except where we don’t. But that’s another conversation.). Virtually every village and hamlet in Great Britain has a memorial with the names of “their boys” who died in that war.

And while the loss of life was actually less for the Brits in World War Two, it is more recent history. Survivors are still alive. They remember the weeks and months of bombing by the Germans, the civilian casualties and coming so close to losing it all at Dunkirk. The never-give-in urgings of Winston Churchill and the mustering of troops for the D-Day invasion. My Dad was there. A teenager in the 101st Airborne, preparing to do what he and the rest of them had to do. Most all them, like my father, just kids. The war games they played were for real.

When Veteran’s Day comes around each year, of course, I think of my father and my uncles and others of that generation who served. It seems to be having an even bigger impact on me this year after the time spent over there. One cannot help but think of those who died and those who came back wounded. Lives were changed forever.

Certainly the people of Great Britain were changed. All of Europe for that matter. Two World Wars tested the faith of Western European Christianity and some would say that the Wars ultimately won that test. While I don’t believe this is the primary reason for the decline of Christianity in Western Europe, they were contributing factors. Many requests to the Almighty were never granted and many questions remained unanswered.

How could a loving God allow such terrible things to happen? That is the question we all ask eventually. And whatever answer you come up with only leads to more questions. Wars and natural disasters and diseases, and just the all around pain and suffering this life has to offer, are enough to make even the most faithful among us have doubts.

I recently re-read C.S. Lewis’ classic Mere Christianity. It was based on a series of radio broadcasts he gave on the BBC during World War Two. Why do we have wars and pain and suffering? Read Mere Christianity. Then after reading it, ask for forgiveness and try to forgive. That’s the best advice I have on this day, a day of remembering.

“All blood runs red.” ― Phrase painted on the side of the plane flown by Eugene Bullard in World War I, the first black military pilot

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Our Deeds Disguise Us

Riddle me this: What’s Red and Blue, has two tails, one eye, no ears, spins in a circle and craps on the bed?

Answer: The American Two-Party Political System.

It’s not even necessary to run down the list of what’s wrong with our broken system. We all know it and we can’t do much about it because The System controls The Game. The System makes the rules, prints the money and bites the hands that feeds it. You want to change The Game? Change The System. You want to Change The System? Change The Players.

Not that it will ever happen, but I’ve been thinking…what if? What if we could change things? What if the people in the middle, which is most of us, came up with a legitimate Third Party option. Not far right Libertarianism or far left Socialism. Neither of those boats will ever float in this country. But something more fundamentally sound. A party that most of us can get behind because it’s for us, not for itself.

What would it look like? What's “the platform”?

Number One, without question. Term limits. You want to get the American peoples’ attention and support. Start with term limits. Make it a policy that members of this new party can only serve so many terms in office. Politics will not be a lifetime career. A party that embraces term limits has a chance.

Number Two, push legislation to reduce the Federal debt to a manageable level over the next 20 years with a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases (taxes AND tax reform). Just be honest about where we are and what we have to do to fix the problem. It’s OK to carry some debt, a good deal of debt in fact. But, too much of a good thing, becomes a bad thing. Just come clean, admit to the problem and go about fixing it.

Number Three, invest in infrastructure. We need to fix our roads, bridges and ports. We need mass transit systems that move us toward fewer cars on the highway over the next 50 years. It will cost money, it will create jobs; and most of the money will stay in our economy and have a positive multiplier effect.

Number Four, fix our education system to include job training. And this is mostly a state and local issue. It will require national funding help in many cases, but make education and vocational training priorities. Provide up to two years of “free” community college or vocational training. It’s money well-spent.

Number Five, Immigration. Bite the bullet and establish a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Control the borders. “Open borders” is an oxymoron. But we don’t need a wall, not with the technology available today. We do need to control who comes into our country. Most nations in the world do so and we should as well.

Number Six, Healthcare. Good, affordable healthcare is a right, not a privilege. If saying that violates the conservative pledge, then modify the pledge. What we have now is unsustainable. We can fix it. It will cost money and sacrifice. Both of which we are already paying out in abundance and not getting much in return.

Number Seven, International Trade. We need free, but fair, trade. We haven’t always been smart in our dealings with other nations. But you can’t fix it overnight without seriously disrupting our economy and everyone else’s. The current administration’s objectives are on target. But like so many things with this bunch, their approach is too heavy-handed. It will take years to work through the trade issues and using tariffs as the primary weapon is ill-advised.

That’s it. You may ask what about all of the “other issues”, i.e. abortion, LGBT rights, the military , foreign policy, racial discrimination, gun control, global warming/energy/environment, women’s rights, the electoral college, supreme court nominees…the list goes on…and on…and on. No question, these are all very important issues. But, if everything is a priority, nothing is… and nothing ever gets done. Seven priorities is probably four too many, but these are critical. If we put our nation in better position on these seven issues, the majority of Americans would benefit enormously. These seven issues are the cracks in our foundation. Leave these unrepaired, focus on the “other stuff”, and you just end up with an impoverished nation run by professional politicians and special interests groups. In other words, pretty much what we have now.

Our deeds disguise us. People need endless time to try on their deeds, until each knows the proper deeds for him to do. But every day, every hour, rushes by. There is no time. – John Locke