Monday, March 29, 2010

What is a citizen?

What is a citizen? That is a tricky question. Everyone used to know the answer, today I'm not so sure.

I believe that in our quest to produce "well rounded children" we have forgotten to teach them something very essential; what it means to be a citizen of the United States. Do not confuse “citizen” with a legal standing, or a label to be thrown around in an election year. By citizen, I mean a person who understands who we are as Americans. A citizen understands not only our rights, but also our responsibilities. A citizen understands our history, warts and all. They understand the ideas behind our founding, and the origins of democracy and western civilization.

No matter your ethnic background, the nation in which you were born, whether you can trace your family history back to American Revolution, or you were recently sworn in as a new citizen, you need to know a few basic things about America. In order to function as Americans, we all need this same basic understanding of where we came from, and who and what shaped us. In short, we need to know our history.

We need to know a little about the Greeks and the Romans. We need to understand the origin of western law, philosophy and science. We need to understand a bit of European history. The Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther and the Age of Enlightenment. We need to know who the Puritans were, and why they left England for the new word, to start this little experiment in religious freedom we call America.

We need to know who the founders of America were, what they believed in, what they feared, and why they wrote the Constitution the way they did. We need to know what the Constitution says, and what it does not say. Why they chose this form of government. We need to know the meaning of free-market capitalism, socialism, communism, and fascism. These are not meaningless labels; they are difference between being a citizen, and being a subject.

A great deal can also be learned by studying military history. From Alexander to Napoleon, from Alcibiades to the Duke of Wellington, from George Washington to General David Petraeus, all these men had a profound impact on our world. We need to know the stories behind places like Saratoga, Shiloh, The Somme, Bastogne, Guadalcanal, Inchon, Ia Drang, Kandahar and Fallujah. The sacrifices our men and women in uniform have made, and are making, have secured our freedoms. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and even the freedom to walk around without a clue.

We need to know when we head to the mall and see a half million square feet of retail space, or see a grocery store teaming with fresh produce and meat, these things didn’t just get here by accident. We need to know if you work hard, really hard, you can achieve great things in this country. We need to know when we go the polls, if we don’t like the folks running the government, we can throw them out, and they will go. We need to know that for society to function, the citizen must be informed and involved. As I like to say; the world is run by those who show up.

Being a citizen of the United States carries some responsibilities, although you would not know that by today’s society. Today, we have two or three generations who believe their rights come from the government, they don’t. I am not sure what part of “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” people do not understand these days, but it they are slowly losing touch with what being a citizen is all about.

If we are to stem this tide, I believe we must start with this generation of children. How do we instill this sense of citizenship in them? That is the question we need to answer, and fast.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A good day and a good night's sleep

For any of you out there wondering if I was under a suicide watch over the Obamacare vote this Sunday, let me put you at ease. Sunday evening came and went, and when my head hit the pillow, I was at peace with the world. I had a very long, very tiring day, and I could not have felt better.

The reason for my contentedness come Sunday evening was twofold, the first was the great service at church, a message that really spoke to me, and the other was the realization that my son Steven is growing into a fine young man.

We woke up at 5:30AM on Sunday and headed to breakfast. It is kind of a treat, for getting up early on the weekend, and we always go to Country Waffle. We ran into my friend Doug who is a usual there for breakfast on Sunday. We talk about life, politics and kids over California omelets, pancakes and coffee.

Our worship leader, Peter, had asked my son to play guitar at Sunday service and this weekend was his turn to play. My son was a bit nervous at first, he has been playing for a few years now, but playing to a full house at church is different from jamming to Metallica in your room. I try to help with the setup team on the days when Steven plays. I seem to be my son's personal road crew anyway, so I might as well be useful setting up the stages and tables for church. With everything set up, sound system dialed in, it is time for one last run through of the play-list and then the doors open for the first service.

Like every proud parent, you always think your children are special, they have special talents, they are going to do great things, etc. If your child has ever gone four-for-four in a baseball or softball game, won the spelling bee, or brought home an all A's report card, you know the feeling. Watching my son play on stage with a group of very talented musicians, and holding his own, is a wonderful feeling.

After church, and a short nap, we headed back into town for our church's youth group. They are starting a new youth band and just to give the kids a taste of what it will be like, some of the worship team, along with Steven, jammed for an hour or so. After the youth program wrapped up, the guys played a few songs and then just went free form. “Just play something in E”, they told Steven and he started playing some lead guitar licks with the band. Another very cool time for both of us.

On the way home, we talked about guitars, music, God, and what it means to become a man. Steven loves music, he lives for it. At times, I wish he loved chemistry as much as music, but that is not the way he is wired. He is my artist. I don't know if I will ever get him on a horse again, or go duck hunting in the pouring rain with me, but I will always enjoy watching him play. I especially love the times when we play together; I just wish I were good enough to keep up with him.

When we came home around 10:00 that evening, I was exhausted. I heard about the vote in the House and began to think of what it all means, and then I remembered something; God is still in charge. As I faded off to sleep that night, I understood how much I love my family, and how much greater God's love is for me. I slept soundly Sunday night.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The time for talk is over?

In the past week or so, I must have started writing three or four pieces on the sham, masquerading as the deal to pass Obamacare. I have written on themes from how America has gone from the land of the free to the land of free stuff, or asking people to point out exactly where the "right" to health care is found in our Constitution. Each time I finish a piece, I realize that nothing I write will make much of a difference. I seem to be the guy crying wolf, and all the smart people say there is no wolf, and even if there is, the wolf probably won't eat all of us.

If Nancy Pelosi and the gang in DC have their way, they will throw the rules away, and pass a bill without voting on it. Then they will amend the bill they didn't pass and reconcile it, etc, etc. Everything I know about how a bill becomes a law I learned from the 1970's animated ABC program School House Rock. Maybe they left out the part on how to "deem" a bill passed from that show. In any case, I guess it's good to be the king, or queen.

Let's imagine that this bloated monstrosity of a health care takeover actually passes. How many people will dance in the streets, rejoicing that they now have free health care? I'm sure there are many of the President's supporters, the true believers, who think are going to have free health care as soon as the ink is dry on this legislation. Boy, are they in for quite a surprise. Its four years of new taxes before any of the "free" stuff kicks in, it's how they skewed the numbers to make it look cheaper than it really is.

Let me know when you folks finally realize the limitations of the government. Until then, the time for talk really is over. You folks are not listening, you are not paying attention to the facts, you are still stuck in some imaginary world. A world where the government is far more efficient and effective than the evil corporations. A world where politicians don't lie, or say anything to stay in power, a world where facts, rules, and people are manipulated until they fit into the master plan.

So, I guess I am writing to the rest of you, those with a fair grasp on the realities of the world. If this debate is about lowering costs, Obamacare doesn't. If this debate is about covering everyone, Obamacare doesn't. If this plan is about saving Medicare, Obamacare doesn't. This is thousands of pages of bureaucratic double speak, written by trial lawyers and about twenty other special interest groups to make sure they still get their piece of the pie. If Obamacare passes, it will have effects no one, and I mean no one, will fully understand for years.

Speaker Pelosi says she has the votes, we will see. If the Democrats don't have the votes by Easter break, they may just hide out in Washington DC. The last thing they want is to come home to an outraged constituency, again. If you thought the August recess was messy, wait until Congressman Mike Thompson holds an actual, open to the public, town hall meeting on health care. But what am I saying, he isn't going to face his constituents in an open setting. The consent of the governed is just a phrase in some old, faded document somewhere in a museum.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Sticks and stones

I was sitting down at my computer, having coffee this weekend,when Bill Weir from ABC’s GMA Weekend interrupted my nice quiet morning. After a report about the shooter at the pentagon being angry with the government, he brought on an "expert" Brad Garrett and they both proceeded to label people who disagrees with Democratic administrations as right-wing and mentally ill. I cursed at the television, so I guess I am guilty as charged.

This was just too much to take.

As soon as the story came in, the main stream media jumped on it, labeling the shooting as another example of anti-government, right-wing extremism. John Patrick Bedell, the right-wing extremist, was about as right-wing as Joe Biden. Even with a day to get the real facts behind Bedell's history, did the MSM tell you he was a registered Democrat? That he hated President Bush, and was a 9/11 conspiracy nut? Nope. It doesn't fit the media's agenda. It seems if you are a medical marijuana smoking, registered Democrat who spends him time trying to figure how Dick Cheney blew up the World Trade Center, you get lumped into the angry, anti-government, tea party movement. Great job people.

I hear a lot of talk about why the MSM is losing readership and viewers by the bushel basket full. Here is my take on the subject. You suck at your job.

Anyone who disagrees with your politics is not only wrong, but their views are extreme. I grow tired of hearing you are politically neutral journalists. That ship has sailed my friends, you have been riding the Obama Hope and Change express, with first class accommodations, for a few years now. It's no wonder Fox News is absolutely killing CNN, MSNBC and the rest in the ratings. It's not that they are straight down the line, objective journalists, I don't think such a thing exists, the reason Fox News is beating its competitors, three to one in some time slots, is they give you both sides of the issue.

The same can be said of the print outlets. When I see an Associated Press byline, I know I will have to research the story myself to know what really happened. The AP generates much of the content in local newspapers all over the nation, and that's a shame. I am sure the AP reporters can type 95 words per minute, and know every rule in the Chicago Manual of Style for writing properly formatted stories, the problem is their ideology. They bring it with them to every story they write.

If you attend a tea party, you are part of the angry right-wing extremist movement. If you oppose President Obama's health care take over, you are an angry right-wing extremist, and probably racist to boot. Many liberals have told me the reason I don't like the President is because he is black. That gets my blood up. That makes me angry.

Barack Obama's skin color and ethnicity makes zero difference to me, absolutely zero. I look at the man's track record, his policies, and the people he surrounds himself with. The President gets a failing grade on all three from me. The people who make these claims regarding race are usually the ones who know very little about his proposals or facts surrounding the issues. It's just easier to rebut your argument by calling you a racists. You hear the same thing on MSNBC. Here is some free advice to all the progressives out there; don't put your values on me.

I'm sure that in a nation of 300 million, you will find every sort of crackpot imaginable, on both sides of the political spectrum. When progressives commit atrocities, the media will try to gloss over their liberal backgrounds. The mentally ill professor who shot her colleagues at the University of Alabama loved President Obama, she was obsessed with him. Does that make every professor with an Obama/Biden bumper sticker a threat to our nation? No, it doesn't. It just means one crazy person committed a crime.

During the Obama Presidency, there will be a right-wing wacko who commits some horrific crime against the government. In a nation our size, it is bound to happen. However, instead of generic portraits of extremists, the MSM will do one-hour, prime time shows detailing the background of this person, along with every group they associated with. If there is a photo of this person at a tea party, the media will make him or her the poster child of the tea party movement. But I will bet you haven't heard about the man in a wheel chair attacked by a SEIU union members at a health care rally this past August. The media's double standard at its finest.

As the President and Democrats in Congress make their final push for the government takeover of our health care system, I am sure tempers will flair. People on both sides of the issue are passionate about it, and there is a tremendous amount at stake with this vote. I wonder if how many times will hear or read "angry mob, or anti-government extremists" in the next few weeks? Remember when all the anti-war activists were marching in the streets? I guess dissent being the most sincere form of patriotism only counts when you are protesting President Bush.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Even numbered years

Sometimes I wish I lived a place so remote, no one could ever find me. I dream of a small cabin in the woods, with no mail box, no phone, no TV, no Internet, just me enjoying God's splendor. Kind of like the Uni bomber's cabin, without the manifesto and explosives. This scene seems particularly appealing to me in election years, right about June and then again in November.

If you haven't noticed, along with pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, the election cycle for 2010 has started in earnest. My mailbox now contains one campaign mailer a week and I am getting at least one phone call asking to contribute to someone's campaign. As for email, my inbox is now being filled at a rate of seven or eight per day.

One thing about being a political junkie, I get email from everyone. If you write to your local congress critter about an issue, you are now on their email list. I'm not sure how candidates find me, but I know what Steve Poizner, Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, Chuck Devore are doing every day, even if I don't care to know.

Each week I receive solicitations from every political action committee imaginable. The NRA, National Republican Congressional Committee, pro tea party, anti tea party, even the Sierra Club, a while back. How I made it on their mailing list is a mystery, probably one of my friends playing a trick on me, and them. I cannot understand how the US Post Office is going broke with all the political junk mail being sent out by the metric ton.

I guess all this direct marketing works, why would they do it otherwise? I understand that to run for a statewide office takes millions of dollars, but whatever happened to getting in front of voters and answering their questions? Whatever happened to holding town hall meetings? Why do I need ten or twelve pieces of glossy literature telling me a certain candidate stands for truth, justice and the American way, while their opponent likes to kick kittens for fun?

Why not let your results speak for your abilities. Flowery speeches and focus-group approved messages seem to be the way to win an election today, but the only way to know what you stand for is to look at your past results. Do you have any real results, or do you talk one way on the campaign and govern another way in office? Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution?

To all the office seekers out there, let me save you a bulk-mail stamp or two. If you want my vote, come get it.

You know where I live. If you want my vote, why not show up for a town hall meeting in Woodland, or better yet, a debate with your opponent. If I can’t count on you to show up and listen to my concerns when you want something from me, my vote, I doubt you will listen to my concerns once you get into office.

We live in a representative republic. If you want to represent me, you might want to know where I stand. You can't do that with a mailer.