Saturday, December 31, 2016

Can We Just Be Civil this Year?

My mother-in-law moved from New England to Kansas in a covered wagon. She watched her children jet their way around the globe and pass through the door from the space age and transition into the unexplored information age. Today, we pedal hard to keep pace; thus, Taylor Chapman walked into a Dunkin’ Donuts shop with her phone in hand. Once inside, she recorded an eight-minute video transaction with a clerk, launched it globally and received 6.5 million views in return.

In this fast-paced fluidity, people are “testing out the boundaries” of what seems to have suddenly become a “new political climate,” concludes Stephen O’Connor, Louisville Psychiatrist. Such circumstances, avoidable and otherwise, push us into potential hurricane winds as 2017 becomes reality. Viewing our differences as adversarial, and people different from us as adversaries, we demographically dissect ourselves ethnically, politically, and religiously, not to mention economically.

The more we defend this behavior, the more we lose our sense of the common good, which leaves us swimming in shark-infested waters with questionable ability, unpredictable behavior, and untested equipment. That is troubling, to say the least!

Stephen Carter has given thoughtful and constructive thought to this business of relating to one another: Civility Manners Morals and the Etiquette of Democracy Carter/Basic Books/NY/1998). I find his thinking helpful for facing the next four years of our national history. His theme of civility is a quality I find much needed today but very short in supply. Carter suggests, “Nasty language, whether vulgar or violent or simply bigoted, does nothing to encourage a thoughtful and reasoned response. It sparks anger or shame but not dialogue. So it makes it harder for us to talk to each other, and thus hurts democracy.”

If this is true, we are in for some troubled conversations, for if everyone is to be heard today, we will each need to earn the right to be heard by first becoming good listeners. With that in mind, we will need to stick to the thought(s) being discussed; we will find it necessary to value the rights of the person speaking (or writing); and we will attack ideas only, and intentionally avoid attacking the people speaking [or writing].

Such behavior of civility should be the norm of a good team member whether one is red, yellow, black, or white; rich or poor; citizen or emigrant. Carter believes “If we fail to distinguish desire from right, we will not understand that rights are sensible and wise only within particular contexts that give them meaning” (p. 69). To this he would add) “And once we are persuaded that we have no background values in common, it is a very small step to being persuaded that we are not a people at all.” (p.95).

Carter points to a principle reason for our social fragmentation when he concludes too many people “feel” deprived of their proper social status, be it an issue of color, economics, religion, or morality. They feel “their accepted place” in our society has been replaced--wrongly displaced

Civility becomes a very personal issue. It suggests a common code of social behavior, and whether or not we will intentionally live lawfully. Civility is a word that divides us between people who practice civil discourse and live responsibly by intent, and people who by choice reject civility, preferring to live only by their own moral code.

For whatever reason, individual responsibility to maintain “law and order” seems to be in short supply today, leaving everybody free to blame everyone else for whatever the perceived problems might be. Here, Carter draws a sharp distinction; he writes, “Our ability to discipline ourselves to do what is right rather than what we desire is what distinguishes us from animals” (p. 111).

While we debate peripheral issues of whether or not we are Democrats, Republicans, or Libertarians; socialists or capitalists; and we argue that we are a Republic rather than a Democracy, the real question seems to be “Are we going to live like human beings who act thoughtfully, constructively, and intentionally, or will we live like animals that exist by whatever instinct that animal has?

I‘m reminded of Mama Skunk and her two little skunks, In and Out. One day “In” got lost. Mama ordered “Out” to find “In”. Don’t come back without him, she declared. It did not take long before Out found In and the two little skunks returned home together. When Mama asked Out how he found In so quickly, he quickly replied, “In-stinct!”

Playing a huge role in our individual behavior today is a mass communication system that drives our behavior considerably. Thus Carter writes: “So if we glorify killing in our films and our music, select aggressive metaphors in everyday speech, and declare that our every cause is a war, we are proclaiming ourselves to be people of violence” (p. 154).

“Television has grown so violent over the past two decades,” concludes Carter, “that no serious researcher any longer doubts that over exposure to televised images of violence helps transform gentle children into brutal adults” (p. 158).

I have no comprehensive cure-all, no panacea, but I offer two areas pf personal behavior in which every single person will make a personal choice as to which side of the fence they will stand on.

1) We will be civil in all our relationships—by intent. Or, we will reject civility and choose  division, disharmony,  chaos, and destruction of the social structure by which we relate to each other.

2) We will take charge of our entertainment menu and feed our minds a diet of what is good and pure and purposeful, or we will  reject that poppycock and assert our right of war, violence, and self-seeking destruction that will eventually destroy our social fabric and leave us wishing for a return to freedom, with liberty, and justice for all.

Recalling the comment referenced earlier by Stephen O’Connor, perhaps we should give some credence to the “new political climate” and hear his conclusion, which was “And its sort of up to the rest of us to appropriately push back and say that’s not acceptable behavior” (Winchester Sun, 1-7-17-A5).

From Warner’s World, this is

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Peace Be With You...


David Cortright. (Paradigm Publishers, Boulder, CO., 2011)

David Cortright is Director of Policy Studies at Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, South  Bend, IN. David is a Vietnam veteran, as well as Director of SANE, the largest disarmament organization in the United States. He has now helped create Win Without War, a coalition of national organizations opposing the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Following are some Cortright quotes and thoughts, along with some personal reactions on my part both when I read the book several years ago, and now.

p. 12 - “Wars are conflicts between sinners, not between the righteous and the wicked.”

I believe “Just War” is a political rationale for what is otherwise an immoral behavior. Therefore, the “Just War” theory does not deserve political support from the church. War is a non-Christian response.

P12-13 - “When foreign policy is heavily militarized, as in the United States, the use of armed force often becomes a primary response rather than a last resort.” 

It was this current policy that allowed George Bush to invade and occupy Iraq. The U.S. Military-Industrial Complex has now taken over American politics and uses its economic rationale to maintain itself, for so-called “security reasons. This allows it to dominate American Diplomacy, which is precisely why some nations abroad call us “Yankee Imperialists.” Beneath the political umbrella global policing becomes our self-justified American imperialism.

12-13 - Cortright finds the “goal of a ‘more accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan” a worthy goal, but as he points out, that did not necessarily require our military action. In fact, Cortright gives evidence that our military emphasis actually hindered our supposed objectives in Afghanistan.

Al Queda suicide attacks have killed more civilians than have U.S. troop operations.

Our extended military presence in Afghanistan has proven to be the best motivator for enlisting additional suicide attackers; thus, our heavy military presence hindered more than helped our primary goals of protecting civilians and building up the nation.

Afghan women’s rights was more of a political issue than primary goal for President Bush, and using women as a defense for the military action is a questionable ethic,

Cortright suggests women [rape] more justified in Africa than Afghanistan, but not as politically expedient or desirable to military interests.

The author refers to 9400 conflict related civilian deaths in Afghanistan between 2006-2010, and bombings killed hundreds more in Pakistan, 70% of which were caused by Insurgent Forces, whose primary motive for insurgency was American military presence.

p29 - “The greatest threat to U.S. Security is not al Queda itself, but the misguided strategy of countering terrorism with military means.” Cortright insists that “Terrorism” is a police issue and not a threat by a government using military force … Large scale military action caused death and injury to tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers, eroded international relations, and cost more than $1 trillion, in addition to “creating” Islamic recruits.

P32 - Military occupation is the driving force of suicidal terrorism. This point was also made earlier.

P123 - “The current strategy of large-scale counter-insurgency and target bombing is questionable morally, unsinkable politically, and unsustainable politically. The alternative may be risky but it is preferable to the known dangers of war.”

P99 - “To be sustainable, peace must grow from below.”

Peace cannot be forced from the top down by military force. Unfortunately,

P100 - Development and deportation efforts have remained subservient to military operations. Aid programs foundered on intractable problems of insecurity, corruption, and the rejection of foreign intervention [military intervention]. Cortright lists a 5-point development program suggested by aid organizations, but not yet accepted by the military.

P101 - A 2009 Carnegie Endowment Report concluded: “

“U.S.-led forces should halt offensive military operations and focus on protecting civilians.”

P102 - “The increasing involvement of U.S. and allied troops has been a principal cause of insurgency and the growth of Taliban influence” (emphasis added).

Some would find this “dry” reading. As I read it, I wondered to myself, “Am I reading a blueprint of what President Obama is actually trying to bring to fruition as he closes military operations in Afghanistan?” It appears to be an academic approach to resolving an irreconcilable war.

IF our desire is to prove our military might, we are paying too high a price. Politically, we seem to be saying, we can afford a war but we cannot maintain our infrastructure at home. In this case, al Queda is wining, because they are escaping defeat while making us PAY DEARLY.

If our desire is to protect the citizenry of Afghanistan and establish the nation’s governmental powers, then we need to CHANGE OUR MILITARY STRATEGY, REDUCE OUR “PRESENCE”, and turn the job over to the people who know how to do the nation building (which is not in the job description of soldiers of war).


Al Queda remains an illusive, non-governmental  organization of loosely-knit terrorists and global criminals. THE TALIBAN are conservative extremists of Islamic faith, with whom we disagree politically and religiously. They OPPOSE OUR FOREIGN PRESENCE, but if we removed our troops, they would take the lead in opposing Al Queda and work with us in some kind of nation-building effort.

Posted Christmas week, 12-20-16 as we celebrate the birth of whom it was said:

“(23) Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emman uel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (24) Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: (25) And kjnew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS” Matthew 1:23-25 KJV).

Merry Christmas and May the Peace of God rest upon our Global Community. As we celebrate Jesus’ birth his week, we continue a trek that takes us to the Miracle of Easter . . . from

Friday, December 9, 2016

Moral Economics

Well…Republicans won this round. Soon we will have a new President to adulate or hate. What Republicans do with this opportunity God alone can guess. Will Democrats use this as an opportunity to serve the common good or will they play the game of Party Politics? Duh… Who knows; I don’t.

What I do see is that we have a whole new set of demographics. People are demanding that we return to days of more nostalgic greatness. But, what does that mean? I‘m not quite sure who “we think we are or when that was. ” I’m less sure of who we want to be, and even less sure that “we” are even aware there is a world of people out there wanting a piece of “our greatness.” I doubt “we” even care!

I’m satisfied “they” come from less than what most of us take for granted. I’m also convinced they feel they deserve as much as we do to feel equally-well provided for and to live comfortably and safely. After all; who doesn’t? While many continue asking questions … demanding changes … I,  fwiw, agree!

So let me ask an economic question that calls for some moral reasoning (people are pretty well decided on what they agree or disagree about the great moral issues): Will you agree that a CEO be paid as much as the market will bear?

Some of you will quickly say “Yes, I believe in free enterprise.” I ask, “for whom?” Some [like me] hesitate answering before first considering contextual factors. Others could say, “No! That is the way of Pharoah vs The Exodus!”

This question actually came up in ‘06 when median family income was up 18%. Simultaneously, income was up 200% for the top 1% of the wealthiest families (War on the Middleclass/Dobbs/16/2006). It actually climbed to 400% in some cases.

Lou Dobbs, that staunchly Republican standby, reported CEOs at AT&T, BellSouth, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, Lucent, Merck, Pfizer, Safeway, Time Warner, Verizon & Walmart) were paid an aggregate of $865 million in compensation over the previous five years, during which time shareholders lost $640 billion.

That widely researched statistic only verified the upward economic surge of the last forty-or-so years, during which time the gap between the haves and have not's widened even further, being funneled upward by a politically established, economically-motivated ripping of the American social fabric.

Becoming richer at the expense of the more vulnerable were the wealthy. The trend remains today, although sounding much like the Biblical stories of Lazrus and Dives, or the farmer that tore down his barns to build bigger ones. Yes, the masses still rant, rave, review, and revolutionize, doing it in forms both conversational and sometimes violent.

All the while, we brand demcratic dissenters as socially elite, liberal left, and mindless media. We call them disingenuous! They should work for a living like we do. We pronounce them liberal, left-wing idiots; some are religious idealists,  but all are products of what we think is an urban socialist society akin to Communism and greatly inferior to our rural-suburban politic. We really want them to know they cannot live at the expense of our supporting them governmentally, as if providing a social safety net is something deeply immoral.

I  believe what we really need is a radical return to the teachings of Jesus. For this, you can call me “an idealist,” a religious fundamentalist (code word for domestic terrorist), even a socialist, left-field liberal or anything but white, evangelical, and male.

It is true, I am a white male. I am also strongly evangelical. And yes, I believe we need to return to the core teachings of Jesus rather than teaching the false gospel some teach, as Scripture warns us. We need to again hear the words of The inclusive Christ, as opposed to exclusive; That One who taught us to love our enemies and treat others as we want to be treated. His principles are laid out in the Sermon on the Mount and in the four gospels, but they are affirmed and taught throughout the Scriptures.

The fact is, Jesus went to the cross rather than compromise his God-given mission. Among his final words on earth were those uttered to a dying thief as Jesus put off his own dying long enough to include one more unregenerate thief, comforting him with his own word, “This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

That was the inclusive attitude of the Jesus some of us call “Lord!” There is room at the cross for all of humanity. The way of the cross really does lead homeward. As such, it forms the heart and soul of the Christian gospel that Paul and others only helped interpret. Paul essentially instructed “you follow me as I follow Christ.”

Even the Old Testament Prophet looked forward [with gospel insight] trying to help his people honor God in a God-pleasing way (cf Isaiah 58, especially NCV). Their usual festivals and pilgrimages of ritualistic fasting, flagellating themselves et al, simply fell too far short of personally knowing and experiencing God. They needed to hear God say,

          “I will tell you the kind of special day I want: Free the people you

           have put in prison unfairly and undo their chains. Free those to

          whom you are unfair and stop their hard labor. Share your food

          with the hungry and bring poor, homeless people into your  own

          homes. When you see someone who has no clothes, give him yours,

          and don’t refuse to help your own relatives. Then your light will

          shine like the dawn and your wounds will quickly heal. Your God

          will walk before you, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from

          behind. Then you will call out, and the Lord will answer. You will

          cry out, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’”

Do I mistranslate this when I suggest that if one is pro-life; eg, one will not stop with simply protecting the pre-born fetus but hold all of life, sacred, and perhaps the end of life as well—a sacred and respected value--regardless of color, creed, culture, or …

The business man will begin treating employees as s/he wants to be treated and much more than a bottom-line commodity good only for trade for larger profit.

It could imply a game- change, even for House Leader Paul Ryan et company. If we act consistently with what we claim we believe, it will dramatically change our game plan and that will include dramatically improving the lives of multitudes of vulnerable people--including emigrants. It will change our relationships by envisioning for every other individual “an equal-opportunity to win”rather than the predatory currency of “I win you lose” hard-core capitalism (more gently called free market economy).

It means nationally we will tone down our nationalistic patriotism and recognize God’s Global Community as a human family where ALL are in the ballgame-of-life TOGETHER, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender, ad infinitum.

In as much as you did not do it unto the least of these, Jesus concluded, you did not do it unto me. “How long will we ignore the one person in history who willingly gave himself that ‘we’ might ALL move forward?”

Could it be that our biggest problem is neither our political differences or our economic status but (horror of horrors) our own personal moral issue? Pondering this question from Warner’s World,

I am