Thursday, January 28, 2010

Column for Jan. 28, 2010

I just cooked a homemade meal for the family consisting of freshly made meatballs and baked ziti and we all ate heartily. Family meal time occasionally entails some "guy time" with our six-year-old. Just this past week, he had time off from school and I had a day off from work, so we did what many dads and first graders do, we headed to McDonald's. It is something small, but my boy enjoys going and I enjoy the time together. McDonald's is a family sort of restaurant, so I expect a family atmosphere. Boy were we surprised at how wrong my expectations were that day.

While we were enjoying a Happy Meal and an Angus burger, there was a young female who was standing near the dining area and talking loudly on a cell phone. I say female since she was certainly not a lady. She was unleashing a barrage of "F bombs" and other vulgarities at high volume into the telephone mouthpiece. I am fairly tolerant of crude language, having grown up in a family and culture where every other word seemingly was a cuss word. When I was a young stupid heathen, that was normal fare. As a middle aged Christian, I certainly endeavor to refrain from such. When it it affects my children, I get a bit ornery. I let this female continue for a bit, and even gave her a few dirty looks, which she well saw. She knew that I was annoyed, but she continued to disrespect every person within earshot and cuss worse than any sailor I have known.

After cringing for a few minutes and giving her time to desist, I just could not take this blatant disrespect any longer. I turned to this female and shouted, "Hey! There are children present! If you don't curb the language, I am going to take away your phone!" Upon hearing this, she immediately withdrew from the immediate area, though staying within view, took the volume down to a whisper, and remained quietly on the phone for a while longer. I don't know if she continued the same crude subject matter about which I can not write, but she was at least not offensive to all nearby.

My wife likes to watch American Idol. I don't watch a lot of television, even though I work in the television industry. When I do, I like to catch a show that we can enjoy as family. Two weeks ago, there was a Black, retired military, 62 year old man named Larry Pratt who has since become a media sensation. Though not eligible for the show, the producers allowed him to audition, presumably for the sake of entertaining television. He made up a song that impugns young males of his own race who wear their boxer shorts exposed well above their pants. Their pants are usually at or below butt cheek level. This is a cultural thing full of disrespect rather than a racial thing, in all honesty. One's race has nothing to do with the values to which one chooses to adhere or the degree of respect one has for other people and for self.

The song was entitled, "Pants On the Ground". It went like this:
"Pants on the ground,
Pants on the ground,
Lookin' like a fool,
With your pants on the ground!"

There were other lyrics, but you get the idea. A mature, respectful Black man was annoyed at the disrespect shown by his own people. He had the guts to stand up to it on television in front of millions of viewers and he has received a lot of media attention, guest appearances on talk shows, and millions of discussions and video plays of his performance on the internet. He stood up against disrespectful behavior, and there are too few people today who do that. I did that once at a Raleigh fast food restaurant and once at CiCi's Pizza in Smithfield and both times I was threatened with bodily harm and cussed out. Eh, stand in line.

That is one thing I liked about Stancil's Amoco Food Shop (now a Marathon gas station) on Pollock Street. I don't know if the sign is still there on their entrance door, but it said something like "People with exposed undergarments not allowed in store". I respect those who stand up for public decency, especially at the risk of a loss of business, and patronize them as a result. If more people stood up for decency and respect, perhaps we would not have so many "pants on the ground" and can stop cussing, hollering females at the Golden Arches.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Column for Jan. 21, 2010

Have you been following the news about last week's earthquake in Haiti? Each day, it is on the newscasts on local and national news. My heart truly goes out to the victims of the quake. There are many North Carolina residents who are either immigrants from Haiti or have ties to Haiti via church missionary work or non-profit agencies. The video clips of collapsed buildings, injured people, and lines of refugees are heart tugging.

The latest figures I have seen are that there may be over a hundred thousand dead. That would be approximately 71% of every resident of Johnston County gone in a matter of moments. That figure is hard for us to imagine here. We have not had that sort of devastation in America. Sure, we have seen reports of tidal waves and other natural disasters overseas, but not here in North America. It is hard to relate to that magnitude of loss of life. Just to give one example, for eight or so years we have heard the death toll of American soldiers in Iraq. By contrast, in World War II, we lost more American soldiers in one week than we have lost in the entire war effort in Iraq. I am not saying this in support of any war, but just by way of comparison. In present day America, we are out of touch with large scale loss of life, property, and modern conveniences. Heck, we get annoyed and upset when we lose electricity for three days following a hurricane.

One thing that I know for sure is that aid to Haiti or any other nation in times of disaster should not be a matter of politics. It is not a Democrat or Republican matter. America is the most generous nation in the world. As a nation, we often have huge fundraisers for aid in times of disaster. We annually have telethons for non-profit organizations that work for disease research and medical cures. We support religious organizations, relief workers, sponsor missionaries, and have "foster children" overseas for whom we send monthly donations. After Hurricane Katrina, we sent millions of dollars in food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and even cleaning supplies to victims. I see that there are upcoming telethons to raise money for relief efforts. I have seen footage of US soldiers continuously hauling food and water into Haiti. Supplies are constantly being flown by military aircraft and hauled by US ships. We as Americans are paying for all of those relief supplies, fuel, and manpower with our tax dollars. In times of national disaster, I have no problem with assisting with the rescue of and preservation of human life.

In the aftermath, I have heard pundits pontificating on things such as the reason for the disaster, the amount of relief that should be sent to the nation, and for merciful giving. I have heard a former President of the United States optimistically claim that the United States will rebuild the nation of Haiti. I have heard talk show hosts railing against the concept of nation building. This too, should not be a matter upon which to capitalize politically. To preserve life, safeguard against the further loss of life, and helping to feed and clothe victims of natural disaster is one thing. To pay to rebuild an entire nation is another. The United States has always responded favorably to crisis situations like in Haiti from the private sector and by all accounts and projections, we will again.

I am not going to say that I subscribe to Pat Robertson's assertion that the earthquake is a direct result of that nation's leadership making a pact with Satan. I will say, however, that Haiti has not positioned itself financially and culturally in a manner that would allow it to prosper and rebound effectively. Perhaps such a large scale disaster will necessitate some changes in its national conscience. Perhaps they will see the aid that has come from more prosperous, generous nations and seek to emulate that culture. Perhaps the people of Haiti will also be receptive to the followers of a compassionate God sharing the love of Christ for them. Many missionaries have already labored and now died in Haiti for the love of Christ. We as a people now have the opportunity to share that same love for them in their time of need.

Part of me wants to get on a plane and go to Haiti to assist in relief efforts. The reality is that it is not practical for me to do so. I can, however, do my part in supporting the efforts of those who can go and in the purchase of relief supplies. As much as I have disdain for the way Haiti has run its government, treated its people, and turned to false and evil religions during its history, the love of Christ for my fellow man is greater than my political and civil biases. May it be that way for us all, and may out of our own personal hearts and abundance show ourselves generous.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Column for Jan. 14, 2010

Democrats are going to lose big in the 2010 elections. At least that is what I keep hearing. I read a lot of news sites on the internet and listen to a decent amount of talk radio. Occasionally I get to watch some news shows with commentary on the television. One mantra that keeps getting repeated is that the Democrats are going to lose a lot of seats in Congress. I am not so sure of that.

I do know that there is a huge groundswell of resentment towards the continuing tax and spend behavior of government at all levels. I know that millions of people are royally miffed at the attempted hijacking of our economy, our health care system, and our form of government.

Just this week I was reading an article in which a newspaper listed the 100 most influential liberals and the 100 most influential conservatives in America. The list was almost laughable, since some very liberal Republicans such as Lindsey Graham made the list of conservatives. The one thing that this newspaper misses is the same thing that most politicians in office miss. There are a huge number of conservatives in this country and they are not necessarily Republicans.

I am one of those people. I did not hold my nose and vote for John McCain in the last presidential election. I just could not do it. Even if he were the lesser of two evils, it would still have been a choice for evil. In the Selma municipal election, I had the same quandary. I will probably have that same dilemma often in the future.

I just read an opinion column with some of the same sage advice that I have been dispensing. The column had 10 tips for Republicans in the upcoming election season. Amongst them were considerations for a return to conservative principles. For all the rhetoric we heard in the last Presidential Primary season about Ronald Reagan and Reagan style principles, the Republicans ran leftward anyway.

Just because people want liberal Democrats out of power does not mean that they want Republicans in power. Unfortunately, there is not much of a choice in this two party dominant system we have today. The GOP cheesed me off a long time ago but I held my nose in their support for years. Eventually I wanted fresh air. Alas, I have found no viable or effective third parties with which to affiliate.

I am a conservative. I do not apologize for that. Actually, I could be more correctly described as a classic liberal, which is not to be confused with what are commonly called liberals today. I believe in freedom. I believe in small government, fiscal responsibility, personal accountability, and morality in all levels of government. My political views are determined by my moral views, which are determined by my religious views. I was not always a conservative. I used to be a Democrat voting, abortion supporting, and religion hating ignorant fool. Though I was for small government and fiscal responsibility, I was fairly loose on many other issues. Then I grew up.

Personally, I don't know if we can rescue the country from the hands of America hating socialists now. They are determined to weaken this nation from within rather than from without. Internal weakening will by default cause us to be weak from without, as well. Here is what I do know. If the GOP wants to rescue this country, not just win, they are going to have to get radically conservative. What good are Republicans in office if they capitulate to and continue in the ways of their predecessors?

In order to fix a radical problem, we need a radical solution. A return to the political values that won the Cold War, flamed the Industrial Revolution, and won The American Revolution in the 1700's seems so radical by today's standards. But that is what we need. Otherwise, why bother? Putting a finger in a leaking dike may delay the inevitable deluge, but it won't solve any problems.

I hear the Beatles song "Revolution" in my head. Sure, I am on the opposite side of a lot of their ideologies, but the lyrics are actually applicable to how I am thinking right now.
"You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world…
You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan…
You say you'll change a constitution
Well, you know
We'd all love to change your head.
You tell me it's the institution,
Well, you know
You better free your mind instead."

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Column for Jan. 7, 2010

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Do these words sound familiar? Of course they do. They are from one of the founding documents here in America, the Declaration of Independence. This premise is the basis for our freedoms and later the Bill of Rights, comprised of the first ten amendments to the US Constitution.

Do you have a right to pursue happiness? Sure you do. As long as your rights do not infringe upon mine, I say go for it. I am very libertarian in my philosophy in that regard. Even in things I detest, I believe that you have free will, whether for good, for evil, or for innocuousness.
Apparently, the North Carolina Legislature and Governor Beverly Perdue disagree with me on that point. They also disagree with your right to do with your private property as you wish. This time, this disregard has manifested itself in the form of a ban on smoking in public, specifically in restaurants and bars.

Let me start by saying this. I detest smoking and always have. I have never tried a cigarette, pipe, or cigar simply because I find the purposeful inhalation of products of combustion unfathomable to my good senses. I also find the putrid odor detestable. I have walked out of many restaurants simply because they did not offer a non-smoking section or have sufficient separation between smoking and non-smoking. Several of these establishments are right here in town. I refuse to sit in or near a smoking section.

I will admit that part of me really loves the idea that any restaurant I choose to patronize will be smoke free and not offend my sense of smell. However, I am even more offended at the abridgement of private property rights and the pursuit of happiness. Hey, if smoking tobacco products makes you happy, knock yourself out. Just keep it away from me and my family.

A restaurant (or other business) owner should have the ability to decide if he/she wants to allow smoking in their establishment. Sure there are health concerns over tobacco smoke. I have the same concerns. If you have ever had a family member smoke like a chimney and later die of a heart attack, cancer, or emphysema, you would have the same concerns, too.

The problem is that the right to stupidly inhale cigarette smoke is, I believe an inalienable right. That means that it is given by God, not man. Government tends believe that it is the giver of rights. If a government can give rights, as it is attempting to do with the so-called right to health care or the right to an abortion, then it can also take those rights away.

Property rights are encompassed in the right to the pursuit of happiness and were actually considered to be the object of the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration. That right has been rescinded not by the giver of the right, but by a controlling governmental body who apparently knows more about you and your good health than you do.

I believe that a ban on smoking on airplanes was an excellent idea for the same reason that smoking is not allowed on elevators. An enclosed space with no way of escaping the smoke is an inappropriate place to keep people for any length of time. The right to breathe non-cigarette tainted air is abridged in such cases. One can not step outside of an airplane flying "at altitude" to avoid a toxic tobacco cloud and its stench. One can easily step outside of a dining establishment.

Fresh air as provided by God should be considered part of the words "life" and "liberty" in the Declaration of Independence. Just as I can avoid establishments that serve alcohol (a legal product) if I am morally opposed to the substance, I can also avoid restaurants that allow smoking (of a product that is also legal). I vote with my wallet in the marketplace rather than demand that government take that decision for me by abridging someone else's rights. This was the very problem with the 18th Amendment and Prohibition from 1920 to 1933.

Yes, I believe that someone's right to smoke ends where my nostrils begin. I will enjoy the air at restaurants that will be fresher henceforth than it was up through January 1st of this year. Part of me leaps on the inside with joy in that knowledge. Part of me also weeps with despair as I watch government continuously erode the rights of private citizens.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Column for Dec. 31, 2009

Several months ago, I read an article on the internet on the top ten dumbest dog breeds in the world. It just so happens that I own a dog that is one of those dumbest breeds. I have absolutely no quarrel with the assessment of the Pekingese as portrayed in the article.

I pretty much got stuck with this "dogtard" as I call her. I never really wanted a Pekingese to begin with. A family member who was living in my household at the time was a Pekingese lover and wanted one. We had a Peke that died of old age about two weeks before we got my current one.

Daisy was a rescued dog. She was on a WRAL news story over three years ago. When we saw the news story, we inquired about the dog, tracked down the dog's keeper, and ended up adopting her. She had a rough life. Her story and videos are on in case anyone wants to see her and find out her story.

Daisy has often been indiscriminate about where she leaves "packages". Even though Christmas is over, we still get packages. I found one just this morning. She is fairly housebroken, but being one of the top ten dumbest dog breeds in the world combined with the fact that she is a special needs pet, she often does not end up on the prescribed puppy pad or wait until we go outdoors. Our 75 year old granny, who is staying with us while recovering from surgery, has a great deal of sympathy for this little dog. Neither of them walks well. Daisy seems to have bad hips and Granny just had total knee replacement surgery and needs the other knee done, as well.

John, our six-year-old loves to play news reporter whenever Daisy the Peke leaves a package for us. He expects someone to snap to attention, march to the bathroom or kitchen, get some sort of paper towel or tissue product, and dispose of the malodorous package immediately. I have been trying to use this as an object lesson in my boy's life.

I have been constantly instructing the child that instead of playing news reporter and shouting the news of the existence of such a package preceded by the interjection, "Eeeeeeyewwwww, dog poop!" that he should take charge of the situation and clean up the mess himself. He often balks at this idea and would rather that someone else clean up a mess he discovered.

In my job, my life, my relationships, and in much of the ministry work I have done, I have been working to clean up the messes left by others. It seems to be a recurring theme in my life. Sometimes I have to clean up my own messes, as well. Things that are within my scope of responsibility and ability need to be addressed by me. Things that are within my family need to be addressed by my family. Daisy is within the scope of the entire family and therefore needs to be addressed by the family as a whole.