Monday, May 26, 2014

MEMORIAL DAY 2014

When I was young, even before my memory took hold in my mind, Memorial Day was a Holiday that was to be spent in Blue Springs, Missouri at my Aunt Mabel and Uncle Dan's house.  It started mid morning when we would start packing the car up for the trip to that town east of Kansas City.  There would be dishes of food that my mother had prepared both the night before and earlier that day.  Depending upon the dish, they would either be carefully set in the trunk of the car or decided to have one of us kids hold it on our lap for the long drive out there.  It was the day that we gathered our baseball gloves and catcher's mitt and a baseball and place them in the trunk just as carefully as the food was placed there.

Upon arrival at Aunt Mabel's place, we would get out of the car and see people that we had probably not seen since the previous Memorial Day.  My great Aunts Oley, Mabel, Cora Lee,  and Mary who were my grandmother's sisters would all be there. The only great Aunt missing most of the time would be Aunt Irene. My dad's siblings Aunt Fay and Aunt Norva and my Uncle Jim would be there along with their families, my cousins.  Every once in a while my Aunt Velma would make it although she and her husband, my Uncle Duane, tended to save their trips back home for Christmas.  Other relatives that I did not know even though I probably saw them every year would be there and as the crowd began to stabilize in size, the day's activities would begin.

The men and would set up out back and after a little bit of horse shoes clanging on metal stakes, the important thing would start.  The baseballs and ball gloves came out of every car parked in that driveway and the sound of leather popping into leather could be heard a block away as the men played catch and talked.  Us kids would play catch off to the side of the adults and our gloves did not pop as loud but it was what was to be done on Memorial Day before lunch.

After sitting under the large tree in the front yard and eating as one big family, cars would be loaded with people to drive the short distance to the Blue Springs Cemetery.  The Clark family had a family plot there and flowers were taken out to be placed on each of the graves.

The only grave that I could make a connection to in my mind was my Grandfather Clark's.  It was strictly a mental connection though.  Perhaps a spiritual connection would describe it better.  I never knew my Grandfather and he never knew me.  He died when my dad was a child and so to me, my grandfather on the Clark side of my family consisted of a small piece of granite with his name on it as well as the dates indicating his life span.  Dad would take me to other markers and I would hear stories from family members about some of the names indicating who was buried there.  There were more than a few of the markers with little American flags stuck in the ground beside the markers.  These were relatives of mine that had served in the Armed Forces of the United States.  I can't remember if any of them died while active in the service, but my memory does seem like there were a few.

After we visited the cemetery it was back to Mabel's to finish eating, clean up, and then head back home for a quiet evening and the beginning of summer.  Those are the memories of a little child up until probably a sixteen year old when I started to realize what Memorial Day was really about.

When I was sixteen, the war in Vietnam had been escalating and had become an item that led off and closed out each news cast by Walter Cronkite on a daily basis.  At the end of each broadcast, Cronkite would give us the toll of those injured and those killed from both the American and South Vietnam troops as well as the Viet Cong numbers of killed and injured.  It seems like this was part of the news each day every day of my life.  It was as standard of a part of the CBS news as the scores of various sporting events were of the local news.

Looking back it was about this time that I kind of got a sense of the enormity of the war across the ocean.  It was also around this time when I started seeing older kids at the church start to go off to war.  Each year they would hold a draft, which was like a lottery where they would pull days of the year and in the order the days were pulled, if that was your birthday, that would be the order in which you were sent to Vietnam.  I started to watch the draft to see where October 13 was in the order of things.  I was lucky though.  President Nixon ended the draft before my time came due, but that didn't mean the war was over or that the killing in the world had come to an end.

The Vietnam war did eventually end, but it was followed by other wars.  In between the wars there were skirmishes, in between the skirmishes there were events and I came to realize, along with my education in history, that conflicts between nations, or religions, or races never did seem to stop.

As I entered into my adult life I realized that Memorial Day was set aside to honor those who served our country.  The American people took advantage of the situation to decorate and remember others that had gone before, but basically it was to recognize those in the military.

As I came to know the ways of the world and our country I realized there were two days that our country recognized the military.  Veteran's Day was set aside to thank and honor ALL of the men and women who had served the country by going into the service.   Memorial Day however, is set aside to honor, and remember those who died while in the service of their country and there are so many to be honored.

I  take both Veteran's Day and Memorial Day very seriously.  It is the men and women who are honored on these two days that allow me to write anything I want here on this blog.  It is by their service that American's everywhere can make choices.  America still has a long ways to go in assuring equality for everyone in this country, but we work at it and we are able to work at it because of those who fight and are ready to defend this country from having those rights taken away.

It is also because of those that served that has allowed people around the world to at least have a chance at knowing what it is like to live in a free society.

Memorial Day should be one of the most sacred and spiritual days we as Americans mark as a country.  From the pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary war all the way to the wars we fight today, men and women have given the ultimate sacrifice.  We must not forget that there have been many others who gave their lives while wearing the uniform of the United States Military that were not involved in a war per se', but have been killed while defending embassies and military posts stationed around the world.  There have even been some who have given their lives on the soil of this great nation, some on military bases where they served.  It seems like the killing is an endless event without a break.  It never really ends.

Take moment today, just a moment, to think of all of the lives since the beginning of this nation up until the year 2014.  Give homage and honor to all of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in order to serve the people of this great nation.

And to those who wear the uniform today of the United States Military and put yourselves in harm's way for the people of this country, thank you, and be careful out there and may God bless you all.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

MICHAEL SAM - TAKING SIDES

I don't write in this blog as much as I use to.  It is a semi-retired blog.  There are occasions when I feel the need that an issue needs to be addressed from my point of view and when that happens I put a little something in it.  The Michael Sam "controversy" is such an occasion.

What triggered my need to address this was a post on facebook by a good friend and pastor of mine concerning another blog attacking Sam for coming out as gay and the hoopla that accompanied his announcement.  The blog was the Matt Walsh Blog that proclaimed "absolute truths" ( http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/05/12/homophobic-rant-michael-sam/2/  ).

In the blog, Mr. Walsh bribgs up the point of Tim Tebow of Florida taking shots for praising God.  It seems that there was nothing positive out of Tim Tebow's actions but only attempts to make Tebow stop what he was doing.  To make it an "absolute truth" it should be included that hundreds, if not more, college players and high school players took from Tebow the ability to praise God for their abilities as well.  It was not all negative on the Tebow front.  Taking it a step further, how many times have we heard post game interviews with players thanking God for allowing them to win.  No one questions that even though it kind of suggests that God didn't care to much for the other team.  How many times have we seen a player drop to one knee and bow his head and cross himself after scoring a touchdown?  No one questions that that I remember.

Mr. Walsh also claims that Sam was a fringe player that probably had no chance of being drafted had he not come out as gay.  Let's look at the absolute truth.  This is what Sports Illustrated wrote about Michael Sam before the draft:

Michael Sam is known principally as a fierce and ferocious 260-pound Missouri defensive end, the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a potential high-round pick in May's NFL draft. From the draftnik's notebooks: He holds the point of attack. He has a good motor. He can play 4-3 or 3-4. True, Sam played unremarkably at the Senior Bowl last month, but he was stationed for the first time at outside linebacker. His maturity -- he's already 24 -- and work ethic reside on the extreme edge of the bell curve.

Now to me that does not sound like a player that had much to worry about when it came to the draft.  He was often awarded the SEC defensive player of the week, the SEC defensive lineman of the week, as well as the SEC player of the week during his senior year.  The SEC mind you, is the toughest conference in collegiate football.  Michael Sam was a definite draft pick.  The fact that he wasn't picked until the seventh round by a team in Missouri, makes Mr. Walsh's argument on that null and void.  If you are going to proclaim to write the absolute truth, it might be wise to check what it is before you write it.

Okay, that is all I wanted to say about Mr. Walsh's "absolute truths".  Let's move on to what the issue is really about.  I don't pretend to speak for anyone other than myself so what follows are my observations and my personal thoughts.  Most of you will not agree with them and that is fine, I expect people to carry their own thoughts and opinions.  If everyone agreed on everything, no doubt civilization would be far behind where we find ourselves now.

I was a member of a church many years ago.  There was a lady who was a member there.  she was married and had kids.  Eventually, she divorced her husband but continued coming to church and retained her membership in the church.  A few months later, a friend of hers that had been coming to church with her joined the church.  She was welcomed with open arms and was given a membership to the church.  A few months later, the first lady's husband came to the church and informed the pastor that his former wife and this other lady were living together ... as lesbians.  It seemed the whole of the church turned on them.  They were not made to feel welcome and were shunned for the most part.

To the church's credit, they did the Biblical thing and sent some leaders of the church out to talk to them about their situation and their relationship to the church.  They had to change their lifestyle or they would lose their membership.  They refused to change their lifestyle and a big special business meeting was called to decide whether to "church" the ladies or not. 

Now, I do believe that each church has the right to decide who can be members or not depending on the dogma that they adhere to.  In this church, homosexual lifestyle disqualified membership within the church.  Fair enough.  The business meeting however, quickly got out of control in my mind.  The ladies did not attend probably from fear.  There were speeches made about how they were not welcome in the church at all.  Not even their kids were welcome in the church because they had been indoctrinated in a sinful lifestyle.  There were threats that men would block the doors if they tried to enter the church.  They would not be allowed to even stray onto the church property.

That was the last time I was at that church.  It was the last time I would be a member of a church of any kind.  It was embarrassing and shameful.  To think that  God would approve of turning anyone away from attending a worship service went against my deep beliefs.  God welcomes everyone into his house of worship to hear the Word.  I have never seen or heard of any person being blocked from attending a house of worship.  At that point, the church was taking it upon themselves to damn these women to hell instead of letting God do the judging.

I do agree that when celebrities come out as gay, the press goes a bit overboard in celebrating the "courage" that they have shown.  However, a gay couple have years of history of being discriminated against because of the way they feel on the inside.  They have suffered beatings, killings, and general non socialization if they are open in their sexuality.  It really isn't much different than what the African Americans went through except the fact that a black person finds it difficult to hide his race.

Hetero sexual couples have always felt free to show public forms of affection.  Holding hands, kissing, even walking with hands on each others behinds are readily exceptable and not given much thought.  But a gay couple even today draws looks and judgement from those who don't know them or understand them.

It was illegal for interracial couples to marry until the late 1960's.  The case for gay marriage is still being argued and discussed.  The gay community, by making these announcements, are only trying to make a case for their right to believe what they feel is right.

Personally, I feel that marriage itself is unconstitutional.  Civil unions should be the standard for all Americans.  The marriage ceremony should be just that ... a ceremony.  A member of the clergy should not be signing any official papers issued by the state.  The joining of a couple in a legal contract should be left to the State.  Again, my opinion.


Bottom line is that I really don't care if Michael Sam is gay or not.  He has shown over the years at Mizzou that he is a good person.  He is a reliable person.  He is a very good football player.  I also don't really feel like it is any of my business if my friends Rick and Dan are gay or not.  They are good people and I like them.  My friend Craig in Seattle is lesbian.  Lovely person with a huge heart and a very caring person.  Should I throw that friendship with this wonderful person away because she doesn't believe the way I think she should?

I believe that God wants us to accept all people, to offer help and Christian love no matter what they may or may not believe.  "Love your neighbor as yourself" pretty much sums it up.  Perhaps by accepting people who believe differently than you will help to open communication to try to share our beliefs and those that we disagree with may just learn something.  Be careful though, because if you open that communication up, you may just learn something from them as well.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

PUTIN TAKES CHARGE

It has been a long slow process.  It started about halfway through President GHW Bush's term as President and has been sliding ever since.  The speed of the decline of the influence that the United States has in the world has increased in speed since President Obama has taken office in my opinion.

Every once in a while history brings together two forces that totally change the landscape  of how history is lived out.  This is what has happened in the world today.  Barrack Obama and Vladimir Putin have landed on the world scene more or less at the same time and the result is that the course of history is changing dramatically.

Obama came on the scene with very little experience in governing and without any plans on what to do if certain situations came up.  He has shown repeatedly over the years that he does not understand foreign policy, which should be the main thrust of the main carrying the title of President.  President Obama is a campaigner.  That is what he is and he is very good at it.  He tells people what they want to hear and then does nothing about it or tries to push through something without thinking of the overall consequences.  The current President of the United States does not have a clue on how to deal with foreign leaders in the world and has come to be disgusted by several of them.  Chancellor Merkel of Germany is one such leader.  She has no use for Obama and has pretty much said so several times in public remarks.  She sees the United States as weak with out leadership.

Meanwhile, Mr. Putin is raising the Russian state back up towards it's previous position of power.  He has done so very carefully and deliberative.  He is a strong leader with a strong mind.  He holds his ground and leads his people, and those of countries around Russia to his goals.  When an international crisis breaks on the scene, Putin will be there leading the way towards a resolution for both sides while Obama sits in the White House or wanders a golf course not taking any action at all in order to show some back bone or leadership.

The reason why Obama has no leadership or back bone is simple.  He has absolutely no grasp of what these situations can mean and personally, I think he is a little afraid to make a decision thinking it could be the wrong one and things would not work out the way he thought they should.

Putin on the other hand has shown stability and quick decision making over the years.  He has shown a complete understanding about how the world interacts and what decisions can mean to certain situations.  He has shown a remarkable ability to even get the European Union to sit up and take notice, to listen to what his thoughts are and to take him seriously.  Meanwhile those same countries look at Obama as a big talker that can't be trusted by his words.  He seldom follows through on his word and sits around trying to make a decision while the crisis is being solved by ... that's right, Mr. Putin.

Putin is not afraid of offending someone, he just says what he thinks and says it with authority.  Putin has placed himself up on the stage of international politics and has taken further steps to push Obama from center stage to take it for himself and Obama is too week to stop Putin from doing such.

What the Obama administration has given us is a new leader of the civilized world.  For the first time since Franklin Roosevelt, the President of the United States is not seen as the leader of the world.  The reigns of power have been transferred to Putin and he is using those reign very wisely and with a strength that is getting difficult to ignore, much less stop.

Putin has become such a powerful figure that with his strong leadership and determination to make a decision quickly and to see it through, Russia has become the country that people keep an eye on to see where the world of politics is heading.

I dare say, that is Putin were to run against Obama for the presidency of the United States, I would be hard pressed not to vote for Mr. Putin.

Thanks to President Obama, Putin has now delegated the United States to a second rate power.  One must respect Putin for what he has accomplished, even if you don't agree with his philosophy.  He has done what no other leader has been able to do since 1941.  He has single handily made the American President just another head of another country.