A few Sunday Questions

Given today is a day of religious reflection in many circles, let me ponder a few questions.

Today I read about the Values Conference where US evangelicals meet. At the conference, Steve Bannon, the nationalist editor of Breitbart and former Senior Advisor spoke of war on the parts of the Republican Party that are more reasonable and offer some needed sanity. Why should folks heed this man when he speaks against those who dare question the President, saying they are placing our military in danger? So, the President’s decrying diplomatic efforts is not doing that? It is our right to question our leaders.

At the same conference, Harvey Weinstein is being vilified, but the focus is on Hollywood not reining him in and the fact he is a Democrat funder. Whether it is Weinstein, Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes or Donald Trump, using one’s power to sexually harass, demean, use or assault women is criminal. The President is highly supported by this group, even with his lying, cheating, stiffing and assaulting of others because he said he would do their bidding. So, my question is if Harvey Weinstein was President and appointed a conservative Supreme Court Justice would that make his exploits OK as it does with Trump?

In my home town, there is a lawsuit by a gay married music teacher at a Catholic High School who was fired after he got married to his partner, officially coming out. The Bishop says they cannot support an openly gay employee. The question asked by a Catholic father of a gay son is why should the church stop there? Why doesn’t the church fire all women who use birth control, all people who have had affairs and all people who have divorced which also violate the church’s rules? The father noted his son said no one would choose to face the ostracism, hate and discrimination unless they felt they were being true to themselves by coming out.

I am a practical person of faith. I think the over arching instruction to treat people like we want to be treated is the most important mandate. In the Christian world, this mandate is even called The Golden Rule. It can also be found in other religious texts. We need to be tolerant of our differences. Bannon has the right to speak out, but he should not be denigrating the right for others to do so.

So, regardless of what political or religious tribe we belong to, we belong to an even bigger tribe that interacts with each other on a daily basis. Let’s do our best to treat others as Jesus instructed. That is worth talking about at a Values Conference.

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It is your call on whom to marry

I was fortunate that my future wife asked me to meet her for a drink after work. Yet, before that happened, two of her friends counseled her that I was not for her. We have been married for over 32 years now.

Often, it is the parents who stand in the way of matrimony between their child and his or her chosen partner. While I am sure some disastrous pairings have been averted or delayed until a better time, it is not the parents’ decision and often they are wrong in their initial assessment.

I have a relative whose parents did not want him to marry a young woman. In an all too common rationale, they deemed her unsuitable due to relative standing on the socio-economic strata. They have been married now for over 40 years and are parents and grandparents.

I have a friend whose parents felt the same about his future bride. In this case, the rationale was she was older and had a child. My friend and his wife have been married longer than we have and are now grandparents.

Yet, my favorite example are some friends who were not allowed to be married when they were young and in love. She was the daughter of a Protestant minister and he was Catholic. Religious differences are an all too common reason to deny marriage. These friends each married other people and had families. After they each divorced and a few years had passed, the young lovers got back together and married each other. They have been married now for 30 years and seem to still enjoy their renewed affection.

For matters of the heart, it is your call. Everyone else may advise you, welcomed or not, but it is your call on whom to see and be married to. I do recognize that a teen living under the parents’ roof needs to listen to parents’ counsel, whether you heed it or not. They do see things you may not. But, as you get older and are about to make a commitment, at the end of the day, it is your commitment, not theirs.

So, parents should counsel wisely and judiciously. Yet, the best we can do is teach our children good values and encourage thoughtful decisions. But, it is their life to live, especially when they make that important step of choosing a life partner.

When is the right time?

We should mourn the loss of innocent American lives at the hands of one shooter. We should offer our prayers, thoughts and support to the victims, injured, caregivers and their families and friends. And, we should demand from our lawmakers to act like parents and grandparents and to stiffen our gun governance.

NRA funded politicians, who unfortunately include the leaders of the two chambers of Congress and the White House, say now is not the time to discuss gun control. When is the time? The NRA is likely horse whispering in their ears to stiff arm the gun control proponents until the crisis abates. Then, lip service will be given to the subject as it is defeated once again, given the NRA’s ability to highly mobilize its confederation of zealous followers, even though they are small in number.

Speaker Paul Ryan has noted that it is more than a gun issue, it is a mental health issue. Two comments – it is a mental health issue, but make no mistake about it, access to guns is an issue. As an aside, there is an obvious disconnect between saying it is a mental health issue and supporting legislation that would kick twenty million Americans off their health plans, which include mental health benefits.

Now is the time to address better gun governance. It is actually passed time. Gun homicide deaths per capita in the US dwarf that of other western and non-western countries. When suicides are factored in, we look even worse.

I have written multiple posts over the years about better gun governance. Before summarizing them yet again, let me add what I have mentioned before – it is a mental health issue, it is a civil discourse issue, it is a safe gun storage issue, it is a violent entertainment issue and it is a drug crime issue which has infiltrated places of poverty. On the gun control side:

– background checks on all weapon purchases are essential,

– elongated waiting periods are also key, as this will help with suicide prevention and give time for authorities to track purchases – the Las Vegas shooter bought 33 highly lethal weapons in one year,

– finger printed trigger mechanisms (or the like) would prevent accidental deaths by kids and teens,

– ammunition needs to be coded so that bullets used in crimes can be traced, and

– like the expired Brady Law (another NRA victory), automatic assault weapons (and devices to convert semi-automatic weapons) have no place in non-miiitary settings.

The sad truth is the significant majority of Americans want the first two items to occur. Yet, nothing happens. Not only that, actions have been taken to make it easier to buy guns (if mental health is a concern, why did this Congress take people on Social Security disability for mental health reasons off the watch list for gun purchases?).

Now is the time. And, when you hear people say “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” the response is no “people with access to guns kill people. No gun, no gun death. No automatic weapon, fewer multiple gun deaths.

Rule of Law is a weak anti-DACA Argument

I read a letter to the editor on Wednesday that spoke to me about the President’s decision on eliminating the Dreamer’s program referred to as DACA, short for Deferred Action for Children Arrivals. I won’t cite her name, as I don’t have permission, but the letter quite succinctly and forcefully addresses those who are saying DACA is not a law as it was passed by executive action and therefore must be eliminated.

“Slavery: rule of law. Women, blacks have no vote: rule of law. Married women can’t own property: rule of law. Japanese-internment camps: rule of law. Jim Crow: rule of law. Children as young as 6 can work 12 hour days: rule of law. No requirements for child restraints in cars: rule of law. Gays can’t marry: rule of law. Anti-DACA people: Find another excuse for your cruelty.”

For those not familiar with DACA, it was executed by President Obama when Congress failed to act. It allows children of undocumented immigrants to remain in the US legally. These approximate 800,000 children, who know not the country they came from, are now at risk.

Let me be frank. President Trump can talk all he wants about “loving dreamers,” but don’t pee on their head and tell them it is raining. These folks add value through intellectual capital and revenue to our country. They came forward to sign up as they love our country and embody the true spirit of America. I agree Congress should pass laws to take care of them, but screwing these kids as a lever is not the way to do that. This is on your shoulders Mr. President. You did this.

The first missed anniversary

In late August, the 66th anniversary of my parents wedding occurred. Yet, it was the first one that neither parent was alive. My mom passed away last Christmas morning. Being a religious woman, it is somehow fitting she left us that day.

My dad passed away just over eleven years ago. We still miss his laughter and love, but have gotten used to him being gone. They were married just shy of 55 years before he died having met at Berry College in Rome, Georgia.

Mom’s memory had been on the decline for several years, as she was diagnosed with a progressive memory disorder, most likely Alzheimer’s. On the phone, she knew I was her son, but in person she often mistook me for her husband as I look like my dad did when he was my age. She often thought my sister was her older sister Betty.

They were a loving couple that endured each one’s imperfections. Young folks are looking for the perfect match, but there is no such person. We are all fixer uppers. So, couples teach each other how to coalesce.

Both my parents were smart. My mom became a teacher working primarily with first or second graders. After she retired, she was a devoted bible study fellowship leader. My dad started in the grocery business, but migrated to a new profession called data processing. He used to take me to the elevated computer room which was quite cool. I remember the tape readers were as large as refrigerators.

My brother, sister and I were blessed to have such wonderful parents. They loved and supported us, even when we hated being pushed out of bed to attend Sunday school. Thanks for everything Mom and Dad.

Yet another gun story

The title represents a quote from a local news broadcast in my home city – yet another gun story. America’s obsession with guns continues full tilt and we cannot expect anything to be done about it at the federal level for the time being.

We have a problem with gun deaths that does not look like it will abate anytime soon. To discover for yourself, for one month, count the number of gun death stories in your local newspaper or on your favorite news station.

Yet, we have one political party and a few in the other that do not recognize the gun problem for what it is. These folks are backed by one of the more strident lobbyist groups in the NRA.

While these legislators don’t recognize the problem, most gun owners do. Most gun owners do not belong to the NRA, which tends to care more about gun sales where they used to care more about gun safety.

A few questions still remain unanswered:

– why has one political party prevented funding of the study of gun deaths by the Centers for Disease Control?

– why have we not lengthened the waiting period for guns when experts have said it will reduce the probability of suicide, the most significant gun death by far?

– why have we not extended background checks on all weapon purchases?

– why did this political party lead Congress to eliminate people on social security mental disability from the watch list for background checks?

– why do we not require every new weapon with finger print control to reduce children deaths or the death of the owner?

– why do we not codify every bullet to help in solving crimes?

Please note, with the exception of limiting people who don’t pass background checks and elongating waiting periods, none of these suggestions will greatly hinder the rights of Americans to buy guns.

But, we should not stop there. We need more civility in our discourse. We need every gun owner to complete a safety course. We need to improve areas of poverty where crime fills a void. We need to condemn pseudo-news and entertainment sites when they use hyperbole. Alex Jones of Infowars said the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax – that is just asinine and offensive.

Let me close with a provocative statement. One of the reasons shooting deaths by police officers are increased is these officers recognize that more people are armed and they have to make quick judgements that are sometimes fatal.

We have a gun problem in America. Common sense steps are achievable that will make a difference. One thing is obvious – doing nothing has not.

Two favorite memories

Many moons ago, my wife and I drove to New York City with her parents. Our mission was to visit her sister’s family on Governor’s Island, since, her brother-in-law was in the Coast Guard stationed there. The trip was eventful and a lot of fun, but two memories linger on as favorites of mine.

The first memory is of a kids play area which overlooked Manhattan. We would sit on benches as our niece and nephew played in a huge sandbox with the skyline across the river. In the early evening after dinner, it offered such a relaxing view and allowed easy conversation. I should note the Coast Guard moved off the island and those two kids are now married, one with two of her own, and the other expecting a first.

The second memory was on the ride home. While we split the ride into two pieces on the way there, we decided to drive the fourteen hours home in one day. But, that set the stage for the memory which was my wife’s parents singing old songs in the backseat after sunset.

My father-in-law was a good guitarist and singer who tried to make a living early on in a band. Unfortunately, he was unable to make a living, so he limited his singing to church and retirement homes, as he got a more mundane job. So, he knew lots of songs to sing on our journey home. We heard Sinatra, Bennett, Como, Clooney, Martin, Cole, and many others.

They are both gone now, but when I think of them, this memory comes to mind. What a nice trip. Thanks for the memories. What are some of yours?