17 December 2005

On Christmas…

It seems that the true meaning of Christmas (at least as I see it) has been lost on the general public. Instead of a time of peace and love and generosity towards our fellow companions on this spinning rock in space, we spend money on stuff and bicker about naming Christmas and how saying Christmas might offend someone. Every year the stores role out the Christmas decorations earlier and earlier; some stores had begun setting up their displays in September this year. I think that the commercialization of Christmas misses the whole point of the season. But before I opine on this much beloved holiday of children everywhere we need a history lesson of how it started and look at some its traditions.

A Brief History of the Origin of Christmas

The history of Christmas dates back over 4,000 years. Many Christmas traditions were celebrated centuries before Christ was born. The 12 days of Christmas, the bright fires, the Yule log, the giving of gifts, carnivals with floats, carolers who sing while going from house to house, holiday feasts, and church processions can all be traced back to the early Mesopotamians.

“In the Roman world, Saturnalia (December 17) was a time of merrymaking and exchanging of gifts. December 25 was also regarded as the birth date of the Iranian mystery god Mithra, the Sun of Righteousness. On the Roman New Year (January 1), houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. To these observances were added the German and Celtic Yule rites when the Teutonic tribes penetrated into Gaul, Britain and central Europe. Food and good fellowship, the Yule log and Yule cakes, greenery and fir trees, gifts and greetings all commemorated different aspects of this festive season. Fires and lights, symbols of warmth and lasting life, have always been associated with the winter festival, both pagan and Christian.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th Edit. Vol. II, p. 903)

The exact day of the Christ child's birth has never been pinpointed. Traditions say that it has been celebrated since the year 98 AD. In 137 AD the Bishop of Rome ordered the birthday of the Christ Child celebrated as a solemn feast. In 350 AD another Bishop of Rome, Julius I, choose December 25th as the observance of Christmas. According to researchers of the Christian scriptures, Christ was probably born in the fall instead of the winter. December 25th was most likely not selected because it was the birth of Christ or because it was even near it. It was probably selected because it coincided with pagan festivals such as Saturnalia.

The Brief History of Gift Giving

The idea of Santa Claus developed from stories about a real person named Saint Nicholas. Historians know little for certain about him. He was probably born in Patara, in what is now Turkey. When he was 19 years old, Nicholas became a priest. He later served as bishop of Myra, near Patara. He died during the A.D. 300's.

According to legend, Saint Nicholas once aided a poor nobleman who had three daughters. No men would marry the daughters because the nobleman did not provide any of them with a dowry. Saint Nicholas threw three bags of money through an open window of the nobleman's house to show that the daughters now had dowries. As a result, they were able to marry. The legend of Saint Nicholas as a man who brings gifts may have developed from this story.

The custom of giving gifts on a special day in winter was practiced before Christianity was founded. After Christianity was well established, Saint Nicholas became a symbol of the custom among Christians. During the Reformation of the 1500's, Protestants substituted nonreligious characters for Saint Nicholas. In England, for example, the saint was replaced by a gentleman called Father Christmas.

The Origin of Other Christmas Traditions

In Scandinavia, a period of festivities known as Yule contributed another impetus to celebration, as opposed to spirituality. As winter ended the growing season, the opportunity of enjoying the summer’s bounty encouraged much feasting and merriment. The popular ritual was the burning of the Yule Log, which is strongly embedded in the pagan worship of vegetation and fire, as well as being associated with magical and spiritual powers.

The Celtic culture of the British Isles revered all green plants, but particularly mistletoe and holly. These were important symbols of fertility and were used for decorating their homes and altars.

New Christmas customs appeared in the Middle Ages. The most prominent contribution was the carol, which by the 14th century had become associated with the religious observance of the birth of Christ.

In Italy, a tradition developed for re-enacting the birth of Christ and the construction of scenes of the nativity. This is said to have been introduced by Saint Francis as part of his efforts to bring spiritual knowledge to the laity.

A prominent figure in today's Christmas is Saint Nicholas who for centuries has been honored on December 6th. He was one of the forerunners of Santa Claus.

Legend has it that a 7th century a monk from England, used the triangular shape of the Fir Tree to describe the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to people in Germany. The converted people began to revere the Fir tree as God's Tree, as they had previously revered the Oak. By the 12th century it was being hung, upside-down, from ceilings at Christmastime in Central Europe, as a symbol of Christianity (It would seem that this tradition is making a come back…so that we can put more presents under the tree!).

The first decorated tree was at Riga in Latvia, in 1510. In the early 16th century, Martin Luther is said to have decorated a small Christmas Tree with candles, to show his children how the stars twinkled through the dark night.

In the mid 16th century, Christmas markets were set up in German towns, to provide everything from gifts, food and more practical things such as a knife grinder to sharpen the knife to carve the Christmas Goose! At these fairs, bakers made shaped gingerbreads and wax ornaments for people to buy as souvenirs of the fair, and take home to hang on their Christmas Trees.

The best record we have is that of a visitor to Strasbourg in 1601. He records a tree decorated with “wafers and golden sugar-twists (barley sugar) and paper flowers of all colors”. The early trees were biblically symbolic of the Paradise Tree in the Garden of Eden. The many food items were symbols of Plenty, the flowers, originally only red (for knowledge) and White (for innocence).

Tinsel was invented in Germany around 1610. At that time real silver was used, and machines were invented which pulled the silver out into the wafer thin strips for tinsel. Silver was durable, but tarnished quickly, especially with candlelight. Silver was used for tinsel right up to the mid-20th century

Why Have We Lost the Meaning of Christmas?

Merchants regularly report that over 60 percent of their annual retail sales occur during the Christmas shopping season. This represents a tremendous amount of gift buying. Most today believe that gift-giving comes from the Bible example of the “three wise men” presenting gifts to Christ. A long-standing, ancient custom of the East was to present gifts when coming before a king. These men understood they were in the presence of the “King of the Jews.” The Bible carries many examples of people sending gifts to kings or presenting them upon arrival into their presence. This custom is common today when ambassadors or others come into the presence of a world leader.

This season leads the entire year in adultery, loneliness, jealousy, drunkenness and drunk driving, family arguments (and worse), and accumulation of debt that often lasts until March. This problem is so significant that almost all churches typically report that their incomes, ironically, drop during this period as people “recover” from all their spending!

Some children expect big presents and become disappointed when they do not get them. There always seems to be ”the present” that every kid wants. It all hit home on Saturday morning after Thanksgiving when I was watching the news reports of the shopping “sales” that began early in the morning the day before. People were falling down and getting trampled in the rush to get the best “deals.” Fights were breaking out because of this. This is what Christmas has become; nothing more than a gluttony festival – harkening back to some of its pagan roots.

Then there is the whole political correctness ridiculousness. Why are we offended when someone says Merry Christmas? Why are we offended by a nativity scene? Why do we spend so much time (and in the case of the ACLU, money) fighting this issue? I used to be a Christian (I will not get into the reasons for my moving away from the faith at this time), but I am not offended by Christmas or a nativity scene. It is part of our history. Instead of rewriting history, as many liberals are apt to do, we should learn the lessons it can teach us. In the case of Christmas there is more than meets the eye because it is a culmination of many cultures and many traditions. What offends me is the blatant disregard for this season and the incessant need for ever increasing political correctness in our culture. The secularists are screaming that it is too religious. The moment you slap Merry Christmas on a store front selling widgets it has already become secularized, don’t you think? Political correctness in this country has become so bad that we are proposing to hide historical paintings and cover up famous sculptures. Don’t get me wrong, I am for being sensitive to a degree, but the moment we turn our backs on history or try to rewrite it we run the risk of repeating it.

Instead of being offended by Christmas or God in the pledge or on our money or the Ten Commandments (good general rules to live by whether you are Christian or a pagan), we should be offended by racism, poverty, homelessness, HIV/AIDS, cancer, battered women and children, and religious extremism (NO, celebrating Christmas is not religious extremism). But those issues would require too much energy to solve, so we wallow in mediocrity and are offended by inconsequential annoyances; much like our politicians who would rather debate the bowl championship series or steroids in baseball instead of rolling up their sleeves and doing something about the deficit.

I like the idea of this holiday. For me it celebrates hope and peace and family. Unfortunately, these things have been lost in the media and in our hearts.

May the holidays be good to you and may you treat others this season as you would like to be treated.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

08 December 2005

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

21 November 2005

On the Iraq War…

Why are we talking about pulling out before the job is done? What did the American people think was going to happen? Did they expect a Grenada? I suppose the politicians and public are so deluded to think that democracy can brought to Iraq in the span of a reality show. I am tired of the negativity and more importantly I am tired of America’s short attention span. I maintain that if we had this kind of attitude during World War II we would have called it quits before the first troops hit the beaches on D-day. Thank god that that generation had the spine and balls to see that ugly war through and defeat the fascists before they had a strangle hold on the world. The Americans in charge of our political system today are weak, spineless, lazy, and decadent. They are more concerned about which way the political wind is blowing than doing what is right. It’s a wonder we have held it together for this long.

Did I support the war initially? NO. I did not think Saddam was a threat. I thought it would be best to concentrate on Afghanistan. Do I think that the Bush administration deliberately lied to America to go to war? NO. If you are so deluded to think that a president of the United States of America would intentionally lie to America and sacrifice the lives of men and women of this country for oil or some other far fetched idea you need some serious psychological help. Please seek help immediately. Please spare me the evidence Mr. Wilson supposedly brought back from his “trip”. Consider for a minute that Mr. Wilson could have been told what he wanted to hear. Do you really think that a bureaucrat could get real intelligence? Consider that many other countries had intelligence that Saddam had WMDs. Consider for a minute that Saddam was in violation of a number of United Nations resolutions. Consider for a minute that he had to appear as though he had WMDs to look credible in a region where power is everything. Fine, the intelligence today looks suspect, but would we have found that out if we had not gone into Iraq? I postulate that we would not have.

Well here we are. Iraq is not stable yet and we have all these factions going at each other. Killing each other in mosques, nonetheless (and we Americans get yelled at if we bomb the mosques when our enemies hide in them – yet Moslems are free to kill other Moslems in them – even during worship). DO I SUPPORT A PULL OUT? NO. WE STARTED IT AND WE MUST SHOW THAT WE ARE WILLING TO SEE IT THROUGH. What the majority of the spineless Americans calling for a pull out do not understand is that power talks. Being spineless wins no one over in the Mid East. I just do not understand what America was expecting. I was under no delusions when America went in that it would be easy. Before you enter such a situation, you damn well better know the history of the region and factions involved. I guess that kind of knowledge was not very sought out by the Bush administration or more likely ignored before deciding to get into nation building.

That said, we must see this through. We must support the fledgling democracy in Iraq to our fullest capability. To bow out now because we have lost too many soldiers and spent too much money is showing the real enemy (Islamic extremism) that America is weak and will bow if enough pressure is applied.

Are we helping the Iraqis? YES. I recently had reason to speak to a person who has been going to Iraq to help the Iraqis rebuild the agriculture machine that Saddam had run into the ground. She presented a picture of hope. She told me that a group had traveled from southern Iraq to be part of a training she was helping facilitate. Along the way they encountered a checkpoint at which point they were told they could not proceed any further because of danger. They waited and then finally got through and made the training late. But they were so excited at the opportunity of this training that they immediately engaged and did not want it to stop. She has seen hope. Yes, there are problems. The main stream media does its best by telling us morning, noon, and night of the death toll. What they do not tell us is that schools are being built and kids are going to school; people are learning about opportunities and trying to make a difference; progress is being made. I have heard firsthand accounts of engineers returning from Iraq and stating that yes, they are getting there. Will it be accomplished by the time the last person is voted off that ridiculous reality show? Probably not, but what did you really expect?

16 November 2005

“There are two kinds of people in this world - those who are always getting ready to do something, and those who go ahead and do it.” ~ Roycrofters: Epigrams of the Day

08 November 2005

On the French problem…

What do you expect will happen when hooligans this age have nothing to do? What do you expect will happen when none of these scum bags have any respect for authority? What do you expect in a socialist society where the hand outs are never enough?

Twelve days. It took the French government 12 days to get off their asses, admit there was a problem and implement a solution. And we thought FEMA was bad? The French solution is even half-assed. A curfew? Give me a break. How about implementing martial law? How about letting your police officers shoot to kill when shot at. Hama rules; that is all the Muslims understand.

I think what these Muslim hooligans are doing is downright despicable. Do these idiots really think that mayhem and destruction will make the authorities respect them?

More than 5,000 cars have been set on fire during the 12 days of unrest (http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/). I guess that news will at least make the environmentalist fringe happy. I think I will throw a party when say, 6,000 cars have been torched. Maybe I will protest at the United Nations at the injustice of this massive squandering of resources. I will propose that automobile manufacturers in France start a phased pull-out because 6,000 cars have been lost.

The French claim that these Arabs and North Africans are not assimilating into French culture. These ethnic groups are forming their own cohesive areas, a la Little Italy or German Town. News flash to the French: They have a lot in common so of course they group together. Maybe if France had given the youth better educational opportunities the French would not have such a quagmire on their hands. The French should spend their outrageous tax revenue on education and expanding business opportunities instead of these socialist programs that encourage laziness. Spend it on programs that help all French to get ahead not stay behind, and they may be surprised at the outcome. Other developed countries take note: We are all in the same boat. Unless we recognize that the world is changing and we need to change with it, we will be in for a long hard slog.

06 November 2005

"Don't tell what you would do if you were someone else - just show what you can do yourself." ~ Roycrofters: Epigrams of the Day

02 November 2005

On the Federal deficit…

In case you have not heard, the Federal deficit has recently exceeded $8 trillion. Okay, not the most exciting topic. Most of you would probably rather hear the latest celebrity gossip, but it does affect you. I am disturbed by the tax cut and spend Republicans just as much as I am worried about the tax increase and spend Democrats. I think that politicians have lost touch with what is important and why we elect them to office in the first place, which is why I have decided to start writing my representatives. I want to show them that I am watching and I want my view to heard. Below is a letter I wrote to Senator Kit Bond (R) of Missouri the other day.

Dear Senator Bond:

The Federal deficit has recently gone over $8 trillion. I am outraged that the Republican majorities of the Senate and the House have not shown any fiscal restraint, but have supported tax cuts. Tax cuts have helped our economy, but spending cuts go hand-in-hand with tax cuts.

Please spare me the excuses of 9/11, a war in Iraq, and the multiple hurricanes making deficit spending necessary. Please do not come back with the argument that deficit spending is okay. I have heard it before and those are two lines that I will not accept as excuses. If I have an unexpected expense I cut back my spending in other areas. If I spend beyond my limit I incur expenses in the form of interest on the money I borrowed which also reduces my future spending power. The Federal government should show more responsibility towards the budget and fiscal restraint. I had hoped with President Bush winning re-election that a message had been sent by the American people. My hope was finally squashed and spit on when the Senate refused a simple request to eliminate unnecessary spending in the recent transportation bill. Obviously, those in Congress were not listening to the American people as usual.

I find it difficult to support anyone in Congress that wantonly spends America's future. It is high-time that the Federal government learns to tighten its belt. If I had the same cavalier attitude towards my money that you politicians seem to have with America’s money, I would be bankrupt ten times over.

Need I remind you of the trillions in unfunded Medicare and Social Security liabilities? Spare me the argument that all will be okay until 2018 or some other far flung year based on projections. Not committing to a reasonable plan of action now will have unintended consequences far into the future.

Please support bills that encourage spending cuts and fiscal restraint. If we can’t afford it, we need get by without it.

I encourage every citizen of every persuasion to lift themselves off the couch, turn off the “reality” TV, and get involved. Unless you speak up your voice will not be heard. Please look at the links on this blog to find out how you can get in touch with your congress people.

31 October 2005

"There is no joy in life equal to the joy of putting salt on the tail of an idea." ~ Roycrofters: Epigrams of the Day

28 October 2005

On why Americans are disengaged from the political process

I finally figured out why Americans are apathetic towards politics in this country. After I came back from a two-week vacation last June I was in one of the best moods I have ever been in my life. For those two weeks I did not pay attention to national or world events. I went hiking and sightseeing and truly relaxed. I did not watch television or listen to the radio. I spent time with my family. We discussed politics occasionally, but no heated arguments, we were amongst family after all. Shortly after coming back to the real world I started paying attention to news and listening to the talking heads. My mood started to darken. I now shout at the radio and TV regularly because I am so pissed off at the demagogues on the left and right. It seems at times that, as before my vacation, I am the only one that gets it. I am sick of the “corruption” of our political system from the federal to the local level. Money talks and common sense walks. Politicians no longer think of what is best for the American people (maybe they never have), but rather what keeps them getting elected and what is “politically” popular with their constituency. As these thoughts converged in my brain of average intelligence I discovered why Americans do not want to discuss politics or engage in the political system… ignorance is bliss.

Just once I would like to meet a politician that thinks like I do. This politician would serve the people that elected him or her. However, getting elected is not about how much pork you can bring back to your district; it is about using common sense to help the people of your district and America as a whole. It is about fighting for the future of America and not saddling future generations with huge debt or ill-conceived programs. This politician would support common sense legislation even if that would mean he or she would not get reelected. This politician would not bow down to the lobbyists who throw money wantonly around Washington, D.C. and our state capitals for one cause or another. This politician would realize the importance of honesty, fairness, dignity, compassion, and common sense. This politician would reject the demagogues.

Alas, no such politician exists or will ever exist.

1 November 2004

We need meaningful change. From the media to our government.

The economy is not in shambles as the media would like to portray. Have we increased the number of jobs in the U.S.? Yes, there is a 5.4 percent jobless rate (envy of the EU). Is the economy growing? Yes. Are there lower paying jobs? Yes. You cannot compare the unsustainable years of the internet bubble to today’s job market. President Bush inherited a recession. September 11 took a huge toll on the economy (1 million jobs lost). That takes time to recover from. What about outsourcing? Well, if you look at the facts and not a distortion by the media, you will see that the majority of jobs lost are not due to outsourcing, they are due to productivity increases. In other words, we are working ourselves out of our jobs. How do you to create jobs? You have to grow your economy. Companies have to grow. To remain competitive with other companies the world over, they must reduce operating costs. Unfortunately, outsourcing is a necessary evil. It reduces operating costs. When the company grows again, it may then be able to add stateside jobs. Here is another way to look at it. Outsourcing provides jobs to people in less developed countries. If they have a job they are more likely to be peaceful and buy goods from us instead of turning to fundamentalism and try to destroy us. As bad as it is to lose jobs to outsourcing, we have to take a more pragmatic, bigger picture of the world economy and our place in it.

Both political parties are undesirable in my opinion. Neither has a meaningful plan to save Medicare or Social Security. We are heading into a financial disaster (which is coming fast) no one wants to discuss because it is not a “sexy” topic. The Democrats do not see the problem and assume tax increases will solve everything, while the Republicans see the problem but think supply-side economics will solve everything. Neither party is be willing to make the hard choices needed to maintain these programs: cuts in government spending, cuts in social security and Medicare benefits, and an increase in taxes. Americans need to change the way they think. We need to have a frank discussion of what needs to happen so that we can keep our promise to those retiring but not bankrupt our future at the same time. I am 32-years old and have already concluded that I will not be getting a social security check when I retire. Both Republicans and Democrats have no plan to fix it the way it needs to be fixed. If I ran my books the way our government runs its, I would have been bankrupt tens times over. Our lawmakers are too busy focusing on the small cracks and are simply ignoring the huge crevices.

We need to come together and debunk this hypothetical division the media is so keen to point out. I, for one, do not the see the division. I see a minority of leftists and a minority of rightists arguing with each other. The independent minded, more centrist majority of this country (me included) just does not understand this "divided nation" bull. We were so united after September 11, 2001. I was very proud to be an American and see the nation come together, I still am. Unfortunately, Americans, which tend to have a short attention span, soon forgot that unity. I still hear complainants in the media about the 2000 election and now the 2004 election. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? Does anyone but an extreme Al Franken-like zombie liberal care?

You may ask yourself what exactly am I trying to say? We need Americans to stop and think about what is important. We need to look at our society and how we are portrayed by the world (Hollywood is not helping by putting out all the mindless crap on the airwaves – reality TV and other mind dulling, drool inducing crap to say the least). We need to ignore the pundits and come up with our own conclusions based on the facts. We need reporters to report the facts and not opinions. We need to say to our lawmakers (both Republican and Democrat), enough is enough. We need pay-as-you-go reinstated. We need meaningful entitlement reform. We need our representatives to be there for us and not be a politician working for themselves and special interests (that goes for both parties in case you think it is just a Republican problem). We need to stand up to the status quo and say enough is enough, do what is right for once, not what is convenient.

On losing shining stars before their time…

It is very sad to me when someone so young and full of promise dies. Youthful vigor and optimism are replaced by a cold and lonely place in the earth. A life cut short due to tragedy; cancer, AIDS, or some other disease does not seem fair to me. Why should this person with so much potential be taken away while I should remain? A deep sadness invades my soul. What do I have to offer? What have I offered? Through my sadness, all the regrets I have in life well up within. What if I had done this instead of that?

Those of us, like me, that live life without really experiencing it just wander day in, day out worried about the most inconsequential bull shit. Am I making enough money? Is my car cool enough? Am I dressed right? The list goes on and on. We lose sight of what is important. We become obsessed with the minutia and forget to see the bigger picture. We are so consumed with mundane aspects of everyday life that the magnitude of losing truly good people to a tragic event before their time is lost on us.

Life is too short to worry about whether your café latte is properly prepared. We should focus on what is important. Family, Friends, Community. That is what is important.

27 October 2005

After hearing once again about the insanity of political correctness, I banged out the following testament to frustration with our social and political system. The letter of angst (which has a little bit for everyone) below is timely as the stores are already laying out the holiday decorations for another season of gluttony.

19 December 2004

Over my brief 32 years I have noticed a steady decline in civility in the United States. We had a brief respite after the tragedy of 9/11. Americans soon woke up though and it was business as usual. Here are a few examples: all time low respect for law enforcement, authority in general, and the elderly; more people are running red lights; road rage; gangster rap which glorifies drug dealing, pimping, and violence; and the degradation of the family unit. Children are raised by a stupid sponge, a purple dinosaur, or video games because their parents are too busy making money to teach their kids values and personal responsibility.

What is at stake today? The United States of America. We are divided by the far left led by Michael Moore, MoveOn.org, out of touch rich Hollywood types, and Al Franken. The far right led by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and Michael Savage attack the middle from the right. Who speaks for me? No one, as far as I can tell.

Somewhere along the line we have lost our common sense. If you listen to any media outlet we have drifted from the middle and now lean one way or the other. I think the majority of Americans are centrists and may lean slightly to left or the right depending on the topic. You would never think that listening to the media. One part paints half of America as out of touch with the 21st century and hanging onto evangelical beliefs. The other part paints half of America as whacko’s bent on destroying religion and industry and legalizing drugs and gay marriage. The whole time these two extremes, which dominate our media, are arguing over which is worse while important issues are being ignored in favor of petty ones (just look at some of the cases the ACLU has pursued recently and the criminals the ACLU is defending).

I do not fit into either category, left or right. For one I am an agnostic. However, I respect our history and accept the religious beliefs of our forefathers. I think the Ten Commandments are generally excellent rules to live your life by. I say “Merry Christmas” and not “Happy Holidays”. I am not offended by any aspect of Christmas. I do not have the feeling that religion is being shoved down my throat. In fact, I am angered every year by more and more extreme political correctness taking the important message out of Christmas and replacing it with commercialism. It is Christmas not Merry Spend Lots of Money and Dig Your Debt Hole Deeper Day. Get over it. Are you really that offended, or are you just an idiot? Be offended by a more than $7 trillion national debt. Be offended by poverty and starving children in the most prosperous country in the world. Be offended by child pornography. Be offended by battered women and children. Be offended by more than $4 billion being spent on the 2004 political campaigns. Be offended by cancer, AIDS and other diseases that impact the lives of many Americans everyday. Be offended by an inefficient public education system that is not teaching mathematics and science to a level our children need to remain competitive in the world. Please see that there are many more important things in life than whether a Christmas carol is sung in a public place or a tree is called a Christmas tree or a manger scene is displayed in a public place or whether the Boy Scouts are being sponsored by an Army base or whether a tiny cross is being shown on the seal of a county. We are spending so much time worrying about the small, inconsequential BS that we fail to see the larger picture.

After witnessing the birth of my daughter I think that abortion is appalling. Life is precious and I think that this idea has been lost on the throw-away society we have created in America. Abortion is being used more and more as “extreme” birth control. Let’s face it, thanks to Hollywood more and more kids are finding sex earlier and earlier. Maybe we should teach responsibility in this society rather a quick fix for everything.

I am fiscally conservative. I think the government should rein in its spending. I think we should face reality and realize that entitlement programs will not be affordable as they are now structured (economists from our own federal government to the International Monetary Fund have long established this as FACT). I am 32 years old and am not counting on any Social Security from the government when I retire. The baby boomers demand their share. They worked hard, but by giving them everything they think they deserve an insurmountable burden (in the form of an economy crippling national debt and sky rocketing income tax) will be placed on my generation and future generations of Americans. I welcome personal savings accounts. The $2 trillion it would cost to implement this program is nothing compared to the trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities the Social Security and Medicare programs are already running. I have ownership of my 401K, IRA, and other personal investments. I have no ownership over the portion of my paycheck I forfeit to the Social Security Administration every other week.

I am environmentally liberal. I think that the without some form of regulation industry would not be environmentally sensitive in their operations. However, I realize that environmental laws need to be structured so that they work with industry without impacting the bottom line.

I do not support gay marriage. I do not see why this needs to be legalized. However, I do support civil unions. I guess in this respect I am old school. I cannot explain why I lean this way, I just do. I will say this much though; folks like Britney Spears, other celebrities, and ordinary heterosexual Americans besmirch the institution of marriage by their cavalier attitude towards this sacred union.

Where do I fit in? In that silent, middle majority which leans left on some topics and right on others. I ask again, “Who represents me?”

Against the Odds Posted by Picasa
I finally decided that I needed to share my thoughts with my fellow citizens and hopefully get some feedback to help my understand what others are thinking and more importantly why they think that way. Not to mention that my wife is getting irritated by my constant opining so I had to find another forum, lest she think I am just becoming a grumpy middle-aged man.

What drove me to this, you might ask. To be honest, I was mostly ignorant of the world for a long time. In high school I was rather unsophisticated. In college I was too busy with engineering school. The first few years after college were used as a period of decompression from long hours spent studying engineering. Then I started thinking about the world and my role in it. I started paying more attention to news, politics, world affairs, and religion. Every now and then I have a need to write my thoughts on certain subjects – “a mind dump onto paper”. As an introduction to KCThinker, I will share one of those recent sessions with you.

24 June 2005

Daily we see the news reports about the death toll of Americans in Iraq. Daily we hear the cries for our withdrawal from Iraq. Daily we hear lawmakers lament on the loss of American lives in Iraq and the cost of war. We do not hear anything about withdrawal from Afghanistan. Have we become so jaded after Vietnam that 30 years after that war it still guides our national psyche and policies?

I would postulate that the constant barrage of negative attitude by our lawmakers and national press corps has jaded us on this war and sticking it out. Although if you really listen to the results: schools, hospitals, jobs, water treatment in Iraq at levels better than during Saddam’s reign, you have a different impression. Alas, only the daily dose of suicide bombings makes the news. The soldiers returning cannot believe what they hear in the news when they return home. They have seen positive results. All we hear are the negative. We created the mess and therefore we must se it through; however misguided, misinformed, misled, and ill-prepared we may think the United States was in going into Iraq. Are we to be known as the nation which makes messes but are too lazy to clean them up because it costs too much in lives and dollars. Each time we start something and do not finish it we lose face in the world. It projects weakness, not power.

We have lost our stomach for war ever since TV began beaming daily reports from the “frontlines” into out living rooms. Mind you, hating war is not a bad thing. But I do not think that being divisive and crying out against it at the first sign of difficulty or because it is causing us to reach too deep into our pocket books is a reason to high tail it out of there. I would bet that if the same negative attitudes were being projected during World War II, the United States might not have stuck it out. If the true loss of American lives on French soil on D-day would have been front page news, America may not have seen the war through.

We certainly do not have this attitude when it comes to the environment. Cleanup the toxic waste dumps at all costs. Save the spotted owl no matter the cost (in dollars and jobs). Reduce carbon dioxide emissions even if that means the economy will falter and people will lose jobs (not to mention that signing Kyoto will do little if anything anyway). Start a war, overthrow a government, destabilize a country, but if things start going south get the hell out. I guess the war on AIDS in Africa is a winless situation, let’s not dump any more money into AIDS research and fighting the spread of AIDS anymore, it costs the United States too much money. We need to adopt a new attitude of “if we cannot win, why even try in the first place.”

I think we are witnessing a major attitude shift in the public. The public is not willing to be a world power if that means getting into a quagmire ala Vietnam. I think it is time that the United States be honest with itself and take its place at the side of the former great European nations. Just a minor player, criticize the hell out of everyone, vote no to everything on the United Nations Security Council, and project little if any power. The time has come for the United States to hang up its world power belt. It was a nice run, let the Chinese be the world police. Let North Korea run unchecked. Let fascism reign. Let the people elect religious zealots to run their countries. Let’s rip up our constitution, because the Supreme Court is already doing that anyway. Let’s raise taxes, scrap the military, grow hemp, and spend wantonly on social programs like welfare. Let’s work 32 hours a week and get paid for 40. Let’s grow fat and lazy and embrace our dilettante European cousins. Let’s open our borders and become North Mexico. At least the ATMs will not need to be reprogrammed."

Some of what I wrote above is obviously tongue-in-cheek. But it reflects my growing unease at what America is becoming. I think America is becoming decadent. We are becoming stupid and lazy. My unease is reflected in less American students going into science and engineering. My unease is reflected in a dumbing-down of our society. My unease is reflected in a growing national and public debt level. My unease is reflected in the do-nothing, talking heads in Washington D.C. (both on the Democratic and Republican sides). My unease is reflected in the unwillingness of the American public to realize that the world is changing; the playing field is being leveled, and Americans damn sure need to adapt or we run the risk of becoming a footnote in history.

That is the way I see it. I will try to expand on my thoughts in the future, as time permits, and post some of my earlier writings. I welcome your honest reaction and thought-provoking rebuttals as well. Tell my why I am wrong to think the way I do.