Sunday, December 30, 2007

Column for Dec. 28, 2007

Do we REALLY want change? I doubt it.

I have been reflecting over the course of events both in my personal life and here in my community for 2007. I must say that there have been significant changes, probably some of the biggest changes I have personally ever gone through. In some things, however, I can say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. There is one local shop owner who laments to me every time he sees me, "Ah, Troy, my friend, I'm telling you...people in this town, they don't want any change!"

So what has changed here in Selma this year? Some houses and old dilapidated buildings were torn down. Some stores were sued. Some properties were going to be annexed but that may well be held up in court or nullified. We have a new fire chief on staff. What has remained the same? The same potentially illegal and dirty political tricks were employed in this year's municipal election. The same town council with one exception has been elected. Will our course as a town bring more change or maintain status quo?

There are all sorts of opinions as to the efficacy of the current administration here in town. I have heard from several different sides of arguments and concerns. I have talked to people who know this town's government better than most anyone and gotten some insights as to how things were run in the past and are currently being run. That is always a great benefit to me personally, since I get more than one side to a story or situation. I am not going to write about those perspectives or people, since I agreed to not do so, but I encourage everyone to ask questions rather than to take every statement, position, or situation you hear as the truth. Often truth is subjective, which is what defines politics.

I personally stand for what is right, not necessarily behind an individual. For instance, I did believe that there were some inefficiencies in our town spending that could have been tightened and they were. I believed that we needed to have a fire chief in Selma for various reasons. I stood by that position regardless of the hate mail I got, the names I was called, the acts of cowardice such broken glass that was purposely sown at the end of my driveway, anonymous comments left for me, people knocking on my door in the middle of the night and running off, vicious rumors, and a few other things.

Right is right. I have no aversion to standing up and taking a few tomatoes thrown my way for taking a stand. If I am wrong, I am wrong and will change accordingly. I had this conversation on several occasions with people I have known. That "take a stand" mentality has both gained and cost me relationships and friendships this year. As I study more and more about original intent and history of the Constitution as well as the Revolutionary War period, I come to understand more and more what was meant by "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

I can not begin to describe the changes I have made and have endured in my personal life. In reflection on 2007, I can honestly say that this has been one of the most exhilarating and yet painful years of my life. I recall the beginning to the book, "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens. It begins, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." That truly describes my year. I began on a tepid plain, went through a long, fiery plateau, traveled through a furnace of a valley, and have ascended a mountain all this year. And yet through it all, I have grown as a man.

For the town of Selma, however, I can see where we have had many things stay the same. We have debated growth, we have redefined a few things from within, and yet this year is pretty much the same as any other of the past two years. We have made some progress in some areas, yet possibly regressed in a few others. Can we as a town, a county, a state, or a nation endure the changes necessary for true progress? Personally, I doubt it. Changes can be more easily effected on the local level, but I don't know as though people are ready for it. If people were ready for it on the county and state levels, we would have radical changes in leadership. The quadrennial election cycle is forthcoming, and I just do not see the resolve in this nation for a change from our present course. The ones that do have the resolve are being lampooned as lunatics, and yet I display my resolve for change on my front door. This paradigm seems to trickle down to the local levels of government.

What will 2008 bring? Will it bring change to Selma, Johnston County, North Carolina, or the USA? I can see some personal changes coming for the better. I can only pray I will see it on a grand scale, as well.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Column for Dec. 20, 2007

Demonstrating the Christmas spirit of giving

Every so often, I get the opportunity to be witness to acts of true love. These past few weeks, I have seen people give selflessly to others and show the true spirit of Christmas. One thing that I have said for years is that I would rather be the church than "go to" church. I would rather never darken the door of a church building and do as James wrote, "show you my faith by my works" than do just the opposite. This is the spirit we are supposed to celebrate at Christmas. God gave his only begotten son, which is what we commemorate each year on December 25th, and again in the Spring when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Christmas may get more attention each year, but without what most refer to as Easter, nobody would care about Christmas.

There is one couple who is very dear to me. They have been close friends for over fifteen years, have seen me through some tough times as well as some good times. Just today, as I am writing this, they are blissfully celebrating the love they have for three special girls. These three girls have been in the foster care system for almost six months now. Their mother could not continue to care for them, since she had to leave her abusive husband for fear of her own safety and that of their five children. The three girls were split up and put in foster care, along with the twin baby boys, after the mother could not support the family on her own. I personally know this mother, having been introduced by the proud, new foster parents that I call friends, and also now call the mother a friend.

This couple was happy to take in these precious girls, ages 2, 4, and 6 years. They have selflessly gotten toys, clothes, food, car seats, and bedding supplies for these children, as well as spent a great deal of time in preparation wading through the government bureaucracy, the eventual arrival, and now the actual care for these girls as a total labor of love. These girls were going to spend Christmas apart, in two different foster homes. Now, because of the relentless labor of love by one special couple, the girls will be spending Christmas together in a loving home and get to know the true meaning of giving.

Another act of kindness I have personally witnessed on more than one occasion is by another person with whom I am well acquainted. This man does something that I personally recommend to each and every one of you reading this column. This man travels frequently across North Carolina, sometimes into South Carolina, and up and down the eastern seaboard on occasion. I have personally seen this man take the opportunity to take the time to thank men and women who serve in our armed forces.

How he does this, as his favorite method of expressing gratitude to our military, is when he is dining out during his travels and sees military men or women in a restaurant, he will either simply ask the wait staff to bring him the tab for the soldier(s) or personally walk over to the military personnel and ask to pick up their meal tab and tip. If the wait staff is agreeable to bringing him the check, he personally walks over to the military personnel when they are about to leave, tells them that he is picking up the expense of their meals, shakes their hands, looks them square in the eye, and thanks them for their service to our country.

He does not go to them to tell them he is getting their meal to give his gifts before men, but rather to let them know why he is paying for their meals and to express personal, heart felt gratitude. I find that to be classy. Having witnessed this simple yet effective means of thanking a serviceman or woman, I have continued this tradition during my travels. If more people would also take up this idea as a means of materially as well as verbally expressing gratitude for service and sacrifice for our nation, I do believe that we will foster a better relationship with our military, indelibly mark the consciences of fellow men and women, as well as foster personal habits of expressing gratitude. Won't you try this same thing the next time you see someone in uniform at a dining establishment? Why not try this in other variations, such as for clergy, police, fire, or other such people who often work thankless jobs for the benefit of the greater populace?

I know that this week's column is a bit more sappy than normal, but I wanted to write this as my way of hoping that just before Christmas arrives, that you will know and maybe yourselves demonstrate what it means to give at Christmas time.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Column for Dec. 13, 2007

Enslavement of the soul and wallets

Why do we mortgage our future for the sake of some amount of control and political gain in the short term? One thing that liberalism has done to our nation is quite frankly, enslave the masses into a paradigm of selfishness for short term reward and a lack of long term gain.

We see this in such things as the continued use of affirmative action, welfare, prescription drug programs, earned income tax credits, Medicare, and Social Security. These programs make promises of long term gain, but the measurable gains are in fact few. The promise of a long term retirement plan was sold to previous generations in the form of Social Security benefits. Many use this as a primary method of planning for retirement instead of doing anything on their own. People look to the government for a minute fraction of a return on investment. Welfare recipients get a government check that keeps them in economic bondage, just as Social Security recipients. Entire generations of people are being limited as to the amount of money that they can earn or face losing the entitlement payment they wish to continue receiving.

When someone can get more money from the government for doing nothing than earning a living and taking personal responsibility for their own well being, then the government usurps the role of God as a provider and becomes an idol to be worshiped at the altar of a check or automatic direct deposit notification. What is the purpose of this manipulation of the economic system? Power. People who suckle at the teat of the government funding sow tend to vote for those who will perpetuate their hand outs, thus keeping them in power.

Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1787 and delivered to the Constitutional Convention the following words, as excerpted from the notes of James Madison. "Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence on the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice; the love of power, and the love of money. Separately each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but when united in view of the same object, they have in many minds the most violent effects." This is true of both the ones who provide the dole and the recipients.

Another form of economic slavery is the mortgaging of our own futures for the sake of short term solutions. With all the recent attention paid to the collapse of a bridge in Minnesota and a parking deck in Charlotte, we in Johnston County are dealing with the state of our bridges over Interstate 95. Johnston County has the oldest stretch of I-95, since the interstate began here. We also have the lowest bridges as a result. Overpasses are often being hit by trucks and closed. The bridges get repaired and then get hit again. Instead of replacing the bridges, the Department of Transportation, in their infinite wisdom, is going to pay to raise the bridges so that they do not get hit any more. We are going to pay almost $4 million to raise the same, old, damaged bridges about one foot. Why not just replace the bridges now? It will cost more, but we are also talking about the oldest bridges on the interstate. We have old, banged up bridges, and instead of replacing them with wider, newer, better engineered bridges at the same time, we are going to just raise the old ones. This is abject stupidity to me and a waste of tax payer money. This is one instance where I firmly believe that we should spend more money now to save some later.

Why do we have the problem of needing, nay, wanting to spend less now and then turn around to spend even more later? Because a huge portion of our budget is going to entitlement programs. Both the federal and state governments are doling out cash like a sailor on shore leave to those who will take it. People who are not even citizens and citizens alike get free money, housing assistance, food assistance, transportation, health care, and tax credits at the expense of the rest of us who foot the bill.

Why do we allow the corruption of our values, the sale of our tax money for votes, the enslavement of our people, the abrogation of responsibility, and the pillage of tax payers? Benjamin Franklin had it right, and we tolerate it as a people to our own demise.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Column for Dec. 6, 2007

I do love my liberal friends, honest I do.

I have been told that I am rather opinionated. I don't mind being considered such, since we all have opinions. Some of us are just not as afraid to express them as others. If I was afraid to express them, then I would not be sitting at my computer writing this column each and every week and you would not have the pleasure (or not) of reading my rants.

For Thanksgiving, I was invited to a friend's house to fellowship with the family. I knew enough about this person's family to avoid topics of politics and religion. For those of you who have read my columns for any length of time, you know that I am not the least bit afraid to tackle those topics at all. It is amazing that I was a really good boy. I kept my mouth shut for quite some time. The family members were the ones engaged in discussions of topics relating to politics and religion. I kept hoping that the discussion would be limited to those participants and they would leave me out of it. But nooooo! Sure enough, I was asked my opinion, and good ol' Troy had to be Troy and be honest.

One thing about my opinions and perspectives is that I have consciously spent a great deal of time working on them, pondering them, reading, praying, and refining them. In short, I put thought into what I believe and why. This was not always the case. I used to be fairly liberal in many of my views and a bit conservative in others. Once I realized how emotionally based my liberal views were, and usually baseless, I changed those views. Even today, some of my views are being shaped and refined as I grow older. Even just living in the South for two decades has rendered some perspectives I would not normally have.

I was asked my opinions on things such as the death penalty and abortion. Those are two heated debates and I don't pussy foot around them. When told that someone has a faith of a certain religious order, and then start quoting Bible verses outside their context or intended meaning, I am not the type to just nod my head. For instance, I was told that the Bible says, "Thou shalt not kill" and therefore we should not put convicted murderers to death. At the same time, I was told that it is not right to tell a woman what she can and can not do with her own body and therefore it is acceptable to abort a fetus. My response was simple and logical, that I was just told that "thou shalt not kill" apparently does not apply to a baby; that it is wrong to punish the guilty but fine to slaughter the innocent. Of course I also had to expound on the fact that the death penalty was instituted by God Himself and that "thou shalt not kill" refers to murder, not the justified taking of human life. But I guess that I was not smart enough to stop there. I even offered to be the one to flip the switch on "Old Sparky", the electric chair since that is how much I stand by my conviction and know it is right. And I have not even gotten to the part about talking with a Jewish woman about her love of eating ham with our dinner.

I used to feel the same way as my friends about abortion. By way of confession, when I was a young, stupid heathen, several of my own children were killed in the womb for the sake of convenience. I am neither bragging nor flagellating myself over it. I am merely stating fact to demonstrate the concept that my views have changed over time and I realized how illogical my thought process was.

I usually find most all so called liberal thought patterns to be rather illogical and rooted in emotion. By way of example, my friend is a liberal Catholic and big time Hillary Clinton supporter (why someone would even think about voting for someone so evil is beyond my comprehension). I, on the other hand, am a conservative Protestant (for lack of a better term for it, though I don't consider myself Protestant or protesting anything) who thinks that Hillary is about the closest thing to the Anti-Christ we will see in these United States.

The ironic thing that I find about liberals is that they often skewer conservatives as being narrow minded and intolerant. Actually, I often find the reverse to be true. I tolerate the opinions of others, even among close friends. I have friends that are Christian, agnostic, atheist, homosexuals, and heterosexual. Just because I believe that someone is wrong does not mean that I can not tolerate them as people or debase them in any way. What I find ironic and often hypocritical is the claim that having convictions makes a conservative narrow but makes a liberal open minded. I find that the liberal is often the one intolerant of contradictory views.

Now that I know that I will never be invited for Christmas dinner or even get a Christmas card because I was asked my views on politics and religion and hold fast to those views, I just shake my head in amazement.