Thursday, July 28, 2016

Democratic Government, for by, and of the People

Historian D. K. Goodwin wrote  regarding William Howard Taft in her history of THE BULLY PULPIT (Simon and Schuster, NY, 2013, p. 741). "While William Howard Taft had embraced the role of the conservative during the presidential race" with Theodore Roosevelt, wrote Kerns, "he, too had long since rejected the laizzez faire philosophy, that had dominated politics since the Civil War, committing himself instead to the progressive belief that the government had a responsibility to remedy social problems, improve working conditions, safeguard public health, and protect our natural resources."

Governments must work hand in glove with the citizenry for the common good. Otherwise that government is a failure, whatever its national status, and its citizenry will be disenfranchised in one way or another. Government that is of, for, and by the people, as most of us believe in America, will be a popular government; i.e. democratic, or of the populace. Dictatorship is an undesireable form of government that is neither of nor by the people. Neither is it for the people in most circumstances. It tends to be autocratic, myopic, self-perpetuating and self-centered, as was the case with England's King George, who claimed the right of divine sovereignty.

Our founding fathers forged a nation together out of the people, that was for the people, and by the people. Government became a cooperative friend rather than a predatory enemy but many Americans forget this today. They revert back to the old laizzez faire that ignores the truth that government should be the friend of the people as practiced by the people, all of which takes education and cooperative practice.

They maintain status quo for the privileged and focus on representing the privileged, and they vigorously oppose efforts to be inclusive of all peoples of all classes, colors, and cultures.
Government cannot replace the people, nor should it be totally responsible for the citizenry, but neither is it the enemy. On the other hand, no nation can long be successful unless the people and the elected governmental officials work together for the common good of the culture, unless they maintain safe and healthy working conditions, and safeguard public health, while protecting natural resources (as opposed to treating our natural as our own to spend without thought of following generations).

By the Grace of God and our own good luck we Americans are a blessed lot of people and we are the envy of the whole global community, none of which can be attributed to our deserving it. We did nothing to be born into it, but in our gratefulness we need to practice the wisdom that former Basketball player and media commentator shared with his son, when the younger Kellogg and his college team entered the NCAA Finals Sweet Sixteen: "Lose yourself in the game."

The world watches as we Americans elect a leader to become the "point man" of our government. That person will also be in a position to morally influence the administrative affairs of global nations around the world. Let us throw off the weights of personality celebs and of misguided issues, and let us lose ourselves in the game of making our society a more fair and just society, and a place of equal opportunity for all of God's Children (red and yellow, black, and white, as the Christian Hymn suggests.

Let us lose ourselves in the game of making this a more livable place for everyone in America so that as a nation we may in turn be used to transform global relationships into something to be enjoyed and shared, rather than feared and avoided.

From Warner's World, I am

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The UNITED States of America

American Creation discusses the Triumphs and Tragedies of the Founding Republic. Written by Dr. Joseph Ellis, the author is a controversial among scholars but his skills are recognized as a foremost University History Professor turned popular author. He is described as likely the most widely read author today on our Founding Fathers. He has authored several award-winning books, particularly on John Adams, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson, in that order. He viewed Adams as greatly under-valued and focused his studies on our earliest founders.

At the time, I noted his thought suggesting the success of the individual (Bill of Rights) came in protection of the whole (Constitution), rather than just Washington, Jefferson et al, including Clay, Lincoln and etc. I further noted how he viewed our first two presidents, which I found most interesting:
               1. Adams - pragmatic provization
               2. Washington - control of space (West of Mississippi)
               3. Control of pace - race put off (slavery) although okay with the Indians.
               4. Space and pace not matched with Race (black).

As Ellis noted, America’s founders developed in an age when they would have been otherwise confined because they lacked aristocracy. When you view our Founding Fathers, whatever else you may determine about them individually; for the most part they offer a group portrait. They were our founding fathers, not just George Washington, or Adolph Hitler, or Donald Trump, they were the group.

As a group, they won colonial independence, established a nation sized republic by popular consent, that was also a secular state (as opposed to a theocracy) that also included overlapping authorities (which I see for example in the balance of power with the presidential leader, the congress, et al, and again in the separation of church and state). Moreover, they established Institutionalized channels for dissent while failing to settle slavery and failing to resolve/implement the issue of Indian settlement.

Ellis suggests to my mind that we can charge America’s founders with failure because of the multiple issues of slavery, Indians, women, equal economics, et al; but he seems to say “not so fast!” He believes they established a context for resolving those issues and the rest is up to us. And that seems to be where many of us hang up and square off at one another today.

I am well aware today of two opposing forces in America. One suggests the Constitution is a sacred document as written, very much like the King James Version of the Bible, and that although it was written expressly by scholars approved by King George of England and had to pass his approval, it was nevertheless good enough for the Apostle Paul and should be good enough for me. 

On the other hand, there are those who accept the fact that the Constitution, as inspired as it was, did not finally resolve for all time the issues of slavery and human rights and that it gave more citizenship rights to a white male landowner than it did to women and slaves etc. Moreover, it was written in a time when we were thirteen separate colonies with each colony having its own independence, infrastructure et al and it left a lot of the development of our nation to be worked out by succeeding governments working in their own times.

The author quotes Adams (p49) in 1776: “When asked, Adams would always concur that a republic was bottomed on the principle of popular sovereignty, but the political expression of that sovereignty in any government must be plural rather than singular because the interests of ‘the people’ were diverse and often mutually exclusive. Hindsight again allows us to detect a truly modern idea entering the conversation in ‘Thoughts,’ the idea of multiple or shared sovereignties.”

Concludes Ellis: “While Adams was a firm believer in making the American Revolution happen slowly in order to cushion the shock of abrupt change, this particular feature of his political thought represented a fundamental break with past wisdom that contained truly jarring implications for any singular definition of political authority.” Thus, Ellis would conclude that Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence owes its acceptance to John Adams “Thoughts” that enabled colonies to oppose King George’s top-down authority from the bottom up.

It is an American tragedy that so many Americans today do not, cannot, will not, accept the wisdom posited by our second president, John Adams, for had not our founders agreed with Adams, they would never have found mutual basis for allowing a bunch of commoners spread across thirteen British colonies in North America to dissent from King George and break away to found the “United” States of America.

I am at Warner’s World, praying

God again enable us to become sufficiently devout so as to be grateful enough to again be the United States of America. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Sudden Wonder: Strange Grief shared by Jeff Ingram the son of our longtime friends

Sudden Wonder: Strange Grief: Because of the layout of our living room, our TV faces the window. I hate it, because it faces the afternoon sun and we're constantly c...

Monday, May 30, 2016

Decisions! Decisions! Decisions!

A Florist received multiple orders for bouquets. One order went to a young housewife on her birthday. The other order went to a young mother on the birth of her first child. Somehow the two cards got mixed.
Consequently, the young housewife received an unplanned birthday card that announced, “Congratulations. Hope the baby is doing fine.”

The other card arrived unscheduled at the home of the new mother and her new child. Her unsolicited greeting declared, “Twenty-seven; hope you have many more!”
Life would be far less traumatic if more of life’s mistakes could be viewed as humorously as most will see this story. How often did I as a pastor hear some anguished parent express concern for an adult child that refused to attend church as regularly as that parent would like. Yet, I knew that same parent seldom attended church during that child’s formative years, if ever.

The unfortunate truth is we reap as we sow. I have now lived long enough to understand that life permits us to choose to travel through life on a various levels of highways.

For the more discerning, there is a high road to be gained with some effort. There is also a low road for those who want to drift along, or who do not wish to choose something that requires choosing to become something beyond the norm.
Natural consequences follow each and every choice we make, or refuse to make. Moreover, God never forces us to choose one road over another. He may nudge us along by allowing some circumstance to encourage us this way or that, but when we make our choice, he allows us that freedom--even when it breaks his heart. The poet expressed it anonymously:
               But to every man there openeth

                              A High Way and a low,

               And every way decideth

                              The Way his soul shall go.
People and circumstances will heavily influence our lives, but when all is said and done, we make the final decision as to what we will do with our circumstances. In effect, our lives are just about what we want them to be. However; after we have decisionally determined what we will do with our lives, we also have the privilege of reaping the results of our choices:

               For those who seek the answer     

                              In houses, lands, and rings,            

               Will someday find that empty things          

                              Are just as empty filled with things.

Mistakes are the trademark of humanity and we each make our share of them. Nonetheless, those daily decisions we make provide the seed that produce tomorrow’s harvest. This is asking “What kind of crop are you planting for harvest?”

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Thinking Man's Choice

Audrey Kushline believed in moderation. Abstinence from alcohol was not only impractical but unnecessary and absurd! In 1993 she thoughtfully organized Moderation Management to provide an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous. Fourteen local chapters eventually organized.

Through attending Moderation Management (MM) sessions, problem drinkers were taught to reduce their drinking rather than totally abstain, as recommended by AA. Moderation Management recommended no more than nine drinks per week for women and fewer than fourteen for men. They insisted drinking was a learned behavior rather than a disease … until Mrs. Kushline found herself facing the Judge in an Ellensburg, Washington court room.

She faced two counts of vehicular homicide that resulted when a young father and his twelve-year-old daughter died as a result of her moderation. Her charges followed a head-on collision with a second vehicle, while driving the wrong way on Interstate I90.  At the time of her accident, Audrey’s BAC (blood alcohol level) was three times the legal limit.

Weeping while making her courtroom appearance, Audrey pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and causing a wreck that killed two people. Following that unhappy experience, Mrs. Kushline disavowed the Movement she had organized. She resigned as the spokesperson and candidly admitted, “MM. . .is nothing but alcoholics covering up their problems.”

As a result of incidents like this, new voices now publicly promote abstinence from alcohol. The Smithers Addiction Treatment and Research Center of New York became one more of the pro-abstinence voices when they issued a public statement reaffirming an earlier commitment they had made to abstinence as the only viable treatment for an alcoholic.

Thinking people do understand that sober people generally think before they act. Bill’s clouded mind, however, no longer comprehends this fine line of thinking. His claim of “moderation” enables him (in his own mind) to deny what everyone else knows is “his problem.” It reveals to both his friends and his family his inability to think clearly; thus, betraying his insistent claim and his flawed condition.

Life offers many experiences that allow us to freely indulge ourselves without harming ourselves. Some other activities call for moderation. There are also those things that are best left alone--except at great risk. We can freely indulge in alcohol only at great personal risk to our health and to our relationships. Phengsene learned his lesson the hard way. The forty-four year-old Laotian emigrant to Minneapolis made the mistake of drinking and driving.

Margaret Zack, Staff Writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, sadly reported Phengsene drove his vehicle the wrong way of the southbound lane of Highway l00 in nearby St. Louis Park. His vehicle struck a second vehicle driven by Kevin Garnett. The impact killed Garnett‘s companion--Malik Sealey, then a guard on the  Minnesota Timberwolves basketball team.

The County Attorney argued that Phengsene made the decision to get in the car and drive the wrong way. The Judge, following state guidelines, sentenced Phengsene to four years in prison. His sentence received the same time given to Lynda Jackson a few months earlier, after she drove the wrong way on the Mendota Bridge and killed Lynda Frein. In addition, Phengsene faced the terrifying possibility of being deported back to Laos.

Whether or not one agrees with abstinence as the right response, one thing is certain: alcohol is a depressant. That means it reduces one’s inhibitions with the very first drink and after that there is no definable point at which a person becomes legally unaccountable for behavior (emphasis added). In other words, that first drink reduces one’s decision-making ability. It greatly reduces one’s ability to say “no!” to that second or third drink. And since alcohol has no definable line by which impairment can be judged, abstinence automatically becomes the one and only logical choice, simply because one loses more controllability with each drink taken.

In September 2002 Michigan’s 91st Legislature consequently eliminated the so-called voluntary intoxication defense by passing House Bill 5398. In the meantime, ten other states have also taken action to clear some of this legal fog, thereby effectively slamming the door shut on “too drunk” as a legal defense.

Simply stated, moderation management, or moderate indulgence in alcoholic beverages, does not work. It effectively puts too many roadblocks into place and seriously threatens personal health, family relationships, and public safety. Abstinence is not the only choice I have, but it becomes my “thinking man’s choice.”

From walkingwithwarner,
It is my choice, but abstinence remains my only safe choice. It remains my most cost effective choice, and the most ethical choice - thus,my only responsible choice!