“You Have The Right To Remain Stupid”

Obama Egypt Policy John Kerry SC You Have The Right To Remain Stupid

After hitting the ground running in Berlin at the beginning of the new year on his “inaugural” Secretary of State trip, John Kerry told the world that “in America, you have a right to be stupid.”  Given his legal education (and mine), I am troubled by that broad conclusion. I submit that he must have suffered a momentary lapse of legal history and reason.

Second-year law students are taught in a year-long class (known as torts) that each individual owes a duty of reasonable care to every person he or she encounters.  That being the case, all of us (at least in British common law nations) are called to exercise reasonable caution and care so as not to expose others to unreasonable risks of harm.  Failing to do so, one may be said to be negligent, especially if the behavior in question causes some measurable damage to the affected person.

Ponder for a moment, if you will, what Mr. Kerry’s remarks actually mean.  There are multiple components to the accepted definition of “stupid”, one of which reads “showing or marked by a lack of good sense or judgment.”  It is nearly impossible to ignore the obvious paradox here.  Mr. Kerry’s utterance was unwittingly self-fulfilling as he exercised the very “right” he believes he shares with his fellow Americans.

If Americans, indeed any citizen of the world, are free to be or act stupidly, we are in more trouble than we think.  Acting without good sense or judgment goes hand in hand with ignoring the tenets of natural law and reason.  By ignoring what is inherently right and wrong or good and evil, one is instantly free to act in any number of ways, save for the intelligent one.  Acting stupidly is no more of a right than requiring rational behavior as an obligation. Either is dictated by our God-given free will.

Proclaiming to the world that Americans have the right to be stupid is tantamount to apologizing for the alleged transgressions of the United States throughout history. Mistakes in judgment have undeniably begotten ill-advised results.  But in nearly all cases, the judgment in question was deeply considered and thoroughly analyzed before implementing action.  Granted, there are innumerable instances of federal legislation and executive orders that conveniently qualify as outright stupidity, along with an abdication of public duty.  A failure to make good and purposeful laws is not a right, but a result, of our government structure.

The proclamation of the right to be stupid arose out of the Secretary’s off the cuff explanation of our constitutionally-protected right of free speech, which he connected to the “virtue” of tolerance.  I don’t believe, however, that this most fundamental of American rights is much related to tolerance as to the free exchange of information. It is indeed unfortunate that a lawyer like Mr. Kerry, in an apparent effort to be hip, slick, and cool, made such a flippant and ignorant statement.  But considering the source, along with his political leanings, there is an ironic and prophetic truth…perhaps Mr. Kerry was talking about himself and his party affiliates.


God Bless Us, Everyone

Christian cross SC God bless us, everyone
As we enter the Twelve Days of Christmas, the words of Dickens’ Tiny Tim readily resonate at this special time of year for it is so convenient for so many to fail to see the blessings of daily life during the often monotonous grind of ordinary time. To be sure, some of us may seem more blessed than others and perhaps there is an arguable relativism to our comparative stations in life. It’s easy to garner envy for those who are wealthy and powerful but despite their material gains and successes, we are all in need of something beyond power or gold. For those with higher levels of creature comforts, we may find pity, sorrow or even feel guilt because of those who are wanting and struggling while they, perhaps without our realizing it, find comfort and solace in an unshakable faith.

The post-pagan understanding of a blessing is “to be favored by God.” The modern meaning of the term may have been influenced in translations of the Bible into Old English during the process of “Christianization” to translate the term benedīcere meaning to “speak well of,” resulting in meanings such as to “praise” or “extol” or to speak of or to wish well.

It is no secret that I strive to be a man of faith. Perhaps struggle is a more apt description because faith is merely a personal choice. Like some of you, I fight an almost daily battle to make sense of this existence and the circumstances that surround us. Depending on one’s state of mind, it can be overwhelming to even attempt reconcile good and evil. It just can’t be done.

Faith is trust. You either have it or you don’t. It often seems incongruous to trust in anything that cannot be seen or perceived directly by our senses. After all, our trust is broken time and time again from that disappointing moment when we realized the truth about Santa or the tooth fairy and on from there as years of broken promises accumulate. Our personal relationships and behavior test our trust for ourselves and others over the years. It is easy to become jaded and skeptical.

So what about this notion of blessings? Are we favored by God and we just don‘t realize it? I suppose the answer all depends on your acceptance or rejection of faith. Some may believe that everything which happens is purely random without plan or purpose. I don’t believe that our lives are a series of coincidences and events of probability. Believing otherwise is contrary to an ordered universe. Without waxing metaphysical, I believe in and accept St. Thomas Aquinas’ notions of natural law that concludes that God has in His intellect an idea by which He governs the world. We are supposed to use our human gifts of reason and understanding to perpetuate order and prevent chaos. Perhaps we cannot bestow blessings upon ourselves but staying focused on God’s will instead of our own helps.

Blessings often come disguised as disasters, illnesses or even the death of a loved one. How is it possible that such negative events might bestow us with anything except grief, misery and sorrow. Willingness and acceptance come to mind; willingness to accept current circumstances and patience to see what is yet to come. If we are watchful, the blessing eventually appears.

After the election last month, I was gravely disappointed for several days. My disenchantment has gradually dissolved into trust, not for our elected officials, but in God. There is no other option for me. I either turn my life and my will over to God or I will remain stuck in misery and fear. I prefer some semblance of happiness and contentment over gloom even though I have to sometimes work harder to attain the former. But joy should not require work to achieve and it really doesn’t. It can be found easily enough in so much of this world’s grandeur and wonder. It’s been said that happiness is an inside job meaning it is really nothing more than a decision, a choice just as Abraham Lincoln meant when he stated that “most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Like an aging masterpiece, delight in this day is often hidden beneath decades of accumulated filth and immoral grime. We only need to find an efficient solvent to remove it to see the glorious creation beneath it. My solvent consists of faith and my attitude. Regrettably we cannot restore our world to what it was. When you think about it, even a so-called restored masterpiece is not authentic because without reliable photographic or other evidence of its original appearance, the restorer can only rely on speculation or supposition to attain a reasonable facsimile of the actual creation. Studying history as Churchill taught us, will not only help us to avoid the pitfalls of our past but help us keep reason and morality in the forefront of our existence, conserving our sacred form of government.

We are blessed whether you want to recognize it or not. Although our personal freedoms seem to be shrinking and our country remains on a crash course for disaster, we have this moment to enjoy. And, if we have faith in God, all will unfold as it should according to His plan and in His time. Even if it all comes tumbling down, (as it most notably failed to do on 12/21/12), I still have this moment, and all the others before it, to remember the spectrum the blessings that have been bestowed on me. I hope you might find the same is true for you.

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“Can We Still Be Friends?”

Republican Democrat SC Can We Still Be Friends?

The victorious liberals want to let bygones be bygones.  They urge the GOP to work cooperatively for the good the country. Democrats are genuinely perplexed by our disenchantment and fear about the future.  Some young lefties think we hate black people.  How else could their immature minds rationalize our disdain and distrust for this, the most opaque executive in the history of our country? Perhaps they are feeling the effects of the peace and love hangover of their parents’ and grandparents’ Woodstock ideals.  Government as the provider of the rule of law is oppressive.  Government that provides “free” services is essential.  They wonder what all the fuss is about.

I confess that I am a Facebook junkie.  I regularly spend too much time there reading the entertaining variety of useless speak and humorous pokes.  I have nearly 300 “friends”, most of whom are mere acquaintances who I would likely never socialize with in real time.  There are a handful of fellow Facebookers who are indeed good and genuine friends, some quite closely so and others a bit more distant.  Many of the latter are former high school classmates, including some who I knew well back then along with a smattering of younger and older alumni who I have become closer to as a result of that social network.  Some are liberal.  Most are conservative.  Before the election, I estimated that about 25 of my Facebook friends would likely vote for BHO with the remainder supporting Mittney.

During the firestorm of rhetoric that preceded the election, I found it increasingly challenging to withstand the ignorant and irrational mutterings from the left as much as they found equal difficulty in reading my conservative rants.   While I did not unfriend anyone, I was moved to block the irritating blasts of a few.  I wonder if they did the same to mine, even though I avoid personal attacks and aspersions.

After the election, I am pleased to report that there was not an overabundance of gloating and “I told you so”, but a quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson appeared multiple times that said: “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”   I suppose that means Mr. Jefferson, unlike myself,  would not even block posts from his Facebook friends, let alone unfriend them.

The dictionary tells me that a friend is defined thusly:

1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.

2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.

3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.

4. One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement:

Despite the elucidate wisdom of one of our founders, it’s patently apparent that three of the four definitive options above pertain to trust, cooperative agreement, and unity.  An acquaintance is only loosely related to being a friend, a precursor to identifying the common beliefs and values that foster trust and a united front.  So, while I may agree in principle with TJ’s declaration of friendship, my only authentic and literal friends are necessarily those who I like, trust, mutally support, and are allied with my beliefs and values.  That being said, I am sorry to say that all the others are mere acquaintances or the least of friends.  Sounds harsh and insensitive, even flippant I know.  But I am prepared to be regarded in the same manner by those with whom I fall short of meeting their causes and struggles.  That’s the true nature of friendship.  After all, there is but a fine line of divide between bare friendship and enmity.

Perhaps this kind of evaluation of friendship is what causes the divisiveness across the aisles on East Capitol Street.  Maybe the Democrats really believe in a looser definition of friendship.  That would explain their inability to comprehend the right’s frustration and perceived obstinance.  It’s akin to a rerun of the Summer of Love’s generation gap.  We are miles apart in our perception of the world and its future.  Little was accomplished then to assuage that chasm, which causes me to contemplate whether much can be done now to exceed that less than stellar margin.  And it’s growing wider and deeper, garnering an even greater unlikelihood that it can ever be narrowed, let alone completely filled in.

I am instructed by my Lord to love my enemies, but I am also told to shake the dust of my sandals when I leave anyone who will not listen to the truth.  So, to my acquaintances with whom I share little in the way of things political, social, and economic,  I love you, even though we do not agree about most things.  If I block your Facebook posts, I understand if you shake your shoes off and leave because I was merely doing the same.

I am mindful that I am ignoring that time-tested fill dirt for the holes of division – compromise.  But that’s a whole ‘nother topic for another time.

Photo credit: DonkeyHotey (Creative Commons)


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Strangers In A Strange Land

Obama Biden Fantasy Island Strangers in A Strange Land

When I first began to take an interest in things political as a  high school civics student, I garnered a sort of paradoxical love of country juxtaposed against a expanding distrust of the Establishment of the time.  I was secretly astonished by the genius of our Founding Fathers and the balanced government structure they gave to us; but it was 1969, and I was getting caught up in the youth revolution and opening volleys of the culture war  that has since unknowingly and insidiously accomplished the very objectives I so naively and innocently embraced.  Unfortunately, it has taken nearly 45 years for me to see exactly what has happened and how it transpired.

If my parents’ was the Greatest Generation, mine was probably the most ignorant and altruistically naive.  We laughed at the likes of Senator McCarthy and his successors.  We thought them alarmist buffoons with an agenda for perpetual wealth and social oppression of those with less.  We viewed communism as something as likely to happen in America as a fairy tale.  Rules were to be broken, authority questioned at every opportunity.  We did what felt good and did it as frequently as we wanted.  We regarded most laws as inane, unnecessary, and unduly authoritative and oppressive expressions of the ruling class whose banks and stocks were the very bane of our existence.

Back then, I was part of a liberal minority with hopes and dreams of permanent change; yet, any legitimate or objectively measurable change seemed distant and unobtainable.  I, along with many of you, were not aware that it was already surreptitiously happening slowly, quietly, and insidiously below the surface of the mainstream social strata that I was gradually embracing as my early career was underway. As I became a working taxpayer and then a parent,  I noticed even less the subtle transformations our social and moral fabric was undergoing while I moved from left to center and ultimately to the right. Things just seemed to be progressing normally and steadily.  Our country never seemed in domestic danger.

Now I am part of the conservative minority, aging, becoming more irrelevant by the day as our land continues to implement the changes and transformations that have been in the works for a half a century or more.  Like a distant unseen aging relative, I am astonished by the wear and seeming grotesque change in the manner of things American.

I am a stranger in a strange land.  I live in a country where God is not welcome in our public schools.  Education about “safe” sex is preferred over abstinence.  Marriage between two people of the same sex will soon become as mainstream as the institution and sacrament heretofore limited to a man and a woman.  Welcoming diversity is more important than unity and integration.  Patriotism is old-fashioned and barely hanging on by the weakly-sung verses of “God Bless America”  in the middle of the seventh inning at many major league baseball games.  The Pledge of Allegiance is essentially dead, irrelevant and ignored because of its proclamation that we are “one nation, under God.”   Atheism is the new religion of America as God is edged out no longer by ACLU lawsuits alone but by social and familial customs and practices. Business success and profits have become unpopular signs of greed, selfishness, and injustice.  Even our coins look and sound like the play money of my youth.

Political and social correctness is king.  Girls can do whatever boys can, but the reverse is not entirely true as 18 year old males continue to be obligated to register for the Selective Service.  What the media says about  potential leaders and their transgressions is more important than their ability and willingness to lead.  How ironic given the attitude of relativity that seems to apply collectively to the individuals who make up the American citizenry.  The winner of American Idol is as significant to so many as a successful candidate for the presidency because both exude coolness and hip (hop) relevance.

In the words of Michael Voris, host of ChurchMilitant.TV, “. . . the Culture War is lost. Let’s face it. Plain and simple. It’s over.”  Homosexuals and their gende- confused allies have been given preferential and protected class status, a first in American law.  Freedom of religion is on its deathbed, and separation of church and state is as good as if it were constitutionally mandated.  Our right to bear arms is under siege and will come under successful attack as higher priorities on the liberal agenda are checked off and accomplished.  Like a surrealistic Wonderland, we’ve become a nation of contradictions, uncommon sense, and non-sequitur economics.  Alice’s succinct summation that ” It would be so nice if something would make sense for a change” is more than prophetic.  It’s just simply true.

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Why Did He Win?

President Obama face WH photo SC Why Did He Win?

Two days following the election, I rejoined a men’s Bible study at the parish church I attend.  One of the other members is an interesting fellow I’ve known for many years.  We both have law degrees, so I suppose our sense of camaraderie flows at least in part from the way we think about things.  After we finished our discussion of this week’s Sunday scripture readings, he asked me a provocative question.  During our closing prayers and petitions, I mentioned the hardships and losses of those still suffering from the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy who are, as I am writing this, under another weather siege popularly referred to as a nor’easter.  Many are still without heat or power, and the losses are almost incalculable.

The question my friend asked me was why did I think BHO won?  Given my expression of great disappointment and emotional upset during our meeting, I knew he was not asking this from a political perspective.  Rather, he was inquiring about a supernatural or spiritual perception.  Naturally, I paused for an instant, somewhat astounded by the astute nature of his interrogatory.

I told him about a liberal acquaintance on Facebook who prayerfully asked on Election Day that God’s will be done and that He select the best candidate as our president for the next four years.  I responded to her post by pointing out that it was not God’s will that would be expressed after the last vote was counted.  Rather, I opined that the selection of the president would be an expression of the free will of those who cast their ballots either way.  She thanked me for my opinion and stated that she hadn’t really thought about it in those terms.

It was not God’s will that the master of opaqueness was awarded another four-year term.  That resulted from slightly more than fifty percent of those who voted and happened to be in the right states that tipped the electoral college in his direction.  His take of ballot casters constituted just under three million more popular votes than Mr. Romney received. God’s hand was no more in the results of this election than it is when a psychopath enters a crowded movie theater armed to hilt and mows down scores of innocent film buffs.  Sometimes circumstances collide in unexpected ways that result in a bloody massacre or, in the case of last Tuesday’s election, a horrid ending that has many, including myself, gravely concerned for the well being of this once great nation.  For the first time ever, I use the adjective “once” to describe the state of our country.

As we left our meeting room, I continued to express my perception in an effort to provide some sort of answer to the question he initially posed.  I want the reader to understand that I am not a far-right religious fanatic.  Most Catholics are not, at least not the ones I know.  Nevertheless, I told my friend that I think he won for a variety of reasons, some objective and some less so, the latter being steeped in questions of faith and personal beliefs.  I mentioned the shredding of our moral fabric and the relativity of right and wrong that currently permeates our families, schools, and other public institutions along with new generations of citizens who expect something from others instead of deciphering what they might have to offer.

I thanked my friend for presenting his thought-provoking question and told him I was going to use it as a topic for my next article.  Having given it additional thought and analysis, it is too easy to say that the people have spoken and leave it at that.  There is much more to the story, as renowned radio commentator Paul Harvey used to remind us on a daily basis so many years ago.

From my perspective, the rest of the story can be summed up in two words – social evolution.  I do not use evolution in the sense of positive adaptation to natural changes because the circumstances that have caused us to evolve socially and politically are not natural.  Rather, they are the results of carefully orchestrated attacks and intrusions on what the offense has viewed an antiquated or inconvenient.   We all know the party lines.  I know I do as a reformed liberal myself.  They are the slogans and familiar vernacular expressed in time-worn phrases like “do your own thing” or “whatever.”

The attitude that pervades so many quite simply stems from the unabashed shunning of authority and accountability. If someone engages in activities or behaviors that allegedly do not hurt someone else, we are told (and even I have said), no one has the right to tell that person to refrain.   What so many fail to consider is that adherence to the rule of law does not stem from the right of someone else to judge and correct another’s actions.  Instead, it flows from our implied or expressed conviction to respect ourselves and each other.  Whether you like the Golden Rule’s succinct summation or you prefer more elaborate exhortations from religious books, it does not matter.  What matters is an acknowledgment that we are responsible for ourselves and for each other.

This begs the question “what role does the government play?”  Once upon an ancient time, the principles of organized government stemming from Aristotle to Rousseau taught us the simple premise that we need one another and as such are responsible for creating good political communities.  Aristotle told us:

Since we see that every city-state is a sort of community and that every community is established for the sake of some good (for everyone does everything for the sake of what they believe to be good), it is clear that every community aims at some good, and the community which has the most authority of all and includes all the others aims highest, that is, at the good with the most authority. This is what is called the city-state or political community.

I cannot fault the liberal left for believing that their current body politic is firmly engaged in accomplishing “some good”.  The standoff between us flows from what good we believe our government should be creating.  When the notion of goodness become relative instead of absolute, the delegation of authority to anyone is convoluted and ambiguous.

So why did he win? Why does it matter anyway save for those in the GOP who are already casting dreams towards 2016.  I’m not certain even God knows why, but I suspect it has something to do with the brilliant human characteristic He bestowed upon us that we call free will.   In the words of that great philosopher/singer from the Greatest Generation, “what will be will be.”


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