Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Veteran Died Today

He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion,
Telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.

And 'tho sometimes to his neighbors
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew where of he spoke.

But we'll hear his tales no longer,
For ol' Joe has passed away,
And the world's a little poorer
For a Veteran died today.

He won't be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.

He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won't note his passing,
'Tho a Veteran died today.

When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Veteran
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?

The politician's stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.

While the ordinary Veteran,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.

It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever-waffling stand?

Or would you want a Veteran
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Veteran,
Who would fight until the end.

He was just a common Veteran,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his likes again.

For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Veteran's part,
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor
While he's here to hear the praise,
Then at least let's give him homage
At the ending of his days.

Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:


H/T: Susie

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Need for Mutual Respect in the Debate of Gay Rights vs. Religious Rights

There seems to be a lot of overblown and heated rhetoric in the news recently pitting gay rights against religious rights, thanks to an irresponsible media whipping up stories where none really existed. Let’s look at two theoretical scenarios of just how such issues could play out.

Scenario 1
Gay man: Hi, I would like to order a wedding cake for me and my husband-to-be’s wedding.

Bakery owner:  I don’t think so.  I don’t serve homosexuals for any event, especially weddings.  In fact, you need to leave my store right now!

Gay man:  Whatever.  I am going to make damn sure your business is boycotted and ruined, you hateful bigot.

Scenario 2
Gay man: Hi, I would like to order a wedding cake for me and my husband-to-be’s wedding.

Bakery owner:  Well, I really am very sorry.  My religious beliefs dictate that I cannot help you out with your wedding though.  I certainly don’t have any animus against you and will be happy to serve you with whatever other needs you might have such as pastries, birthday cakes, and so on.  I do hope that I don’t lose your future business because of this.  I also hope you understand and can respect my position and the fact that I must follow the dictates of my conscience and faith.

Gay man:  Well that is disappointing to hear because you do have wonderful cakes.  I can appreciate that you are trying to live life according to your conscience though. Can you recommend another bakery that might be able to help me?

Bakery owner:  I don’t know for sure.  There is that bakery on Main Street that you might try though. Their cakes are nearly as good as mine.  (laughs)

Gay man:  Okay.  Thanks.  I’ll try over there instead.

For some reason, it seems that collectively we as a human race are losing all common sense and decency when it comes to how we treat and respect each other. These scenario’s present just two options of how the same situation could be handled. Although this begs the question, shouldn’t respect for each other be something that ALL people practice?

Indiana and Arkansas have now passed state versions of a law mirroring the bi-partisan federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993, which was introduced by former Democrat Congressman, now Senator, Chuck Schumer, which passed the House unanimously then the Senate to win by a 97 - 3 vote, and was then signed into law by President Bill Clinton.  The difference is that the new Indiana law, which is essentially the same as the federal one, has caused nothing but hate and discontent.

Gay rights advocates assume this Indiana law will protect wide-spread discrimination against them. They fear that the new norm under this law that twenty states now have on the books will allow something similar to scenario 1 above to become commonplace.

I am certain there are people in America that would act just like that and there are people of differing faiths with just such a mindset.  However, there are even more people, including Christians, that would not respond in such a way.  I would hope that most people would be sufficiently polite and respectful of each other, even if they have disagreements, to act more like the second scenario. Indeed, in our nation of diverse views and beliefs, wouldn’t it be far better if we could show respect towards one another, even when we disagree?  Wouldn’t it be nice if we all could behave like the two gentlemen in the latter, rather than the former scenario?

Now if a gay person were indeed to be denied service by a business merely because of the fact that he or she was gay, then a legitimate case of discrimination could be made.   But if a gay person is insisting on service that goes against the conscience of the business provider, then isn’t that a violation of the business owner’s ability to exercise their first amendment right to freedom of religion?   Respect for each other’s rights MUST be a two way street.  Unfortunately, this is not what seems to be happening lately.

Recently in Walkerton, Indiana, a local business named Memories Pizza experienced the wrath of those that were against the business owners abiding by their consciences and faith.  A local ABC news affiliate was trying to create a story by canvassing local businesses after the passage of the state’s religious freedom restoration act. They happened to strike pay-dirt when they asked the co-owner of this family-owned pizza parlor if they would hypothetically cater a gay wedding.  The owner said that her religious beliefs would not allow her to do that.  Even though the business happily serves gay people on a regular basis, the uproar caused by this small business owner simply stating her beliefs, has brought forth chaos, death threats, and even a local high school coach advocating others to march with him to burn the business down.  Needless to say, the family had to close their business and go into hiding for a week until the initial outrage passed.

Douglas Laycock, a constitutional scholar at the University of Virginia Law School who helped win passage of the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, said no one has ever successfully used such laws to override nondiscrimination statutes. He expressed frustration that gay rights advocates seem to be ignoring this in their attack on the Indiana law.  “I don’t know if they don’t know that, or whether they’re pandering to their base,” Laycock said.

States began passing their own Religious Freedom Restoration Acts after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that the federal law didn’t apply to states; consequently, twenty states now have their own Religious Freedom Restoration Acts.

The Indiana law, the federal law and those of the other 19 states with similar laws do not even mention the words “gay”, “marriage”, or “homosexual” anywhere within them.  It wasn’t drafted to be an “anti-gay” bill, but rather to allow a defense in court for businesses had  they felt  they were being forced to participate in actions that went against their consciences or religious convictions.

Former Senator Santorum summarized the debate quite aptly on Face the Nation two weeks ago.
“No business should discriminate … because of who you are,” Santorum said. “But it should have the ability to say, ‘We’re not going to participate in certain activities that we disagree with on a religious point of view.’” …”If you’re a print shop and you are a gay man, should you be forced to print ‘God Hates Fags’ for the Westboro Baptist Church because they hold those signs up?” he asked. “Should the government force you to do that? And that’s what these cases are all about. This is about the government coming in and saying, ‘No, we’re going to make you do this.’ And his is where I think we just need some space to say, ‘Let’s have some tolerance (and) be a two-way street.”

Indeed!  Simply because many Americans have a religious belief that God created us male and female, and that marriage is a sacrament that unites these two basic expressions of humanity in a unique covenant, really does not amount to a form of bigotry.  We, as Americans, need to respect each other, even when we disagree with each other.  Hatefulness on either side of this debate only serves to exacerbate an already out-of-control matter.  The ultimate victim if we persist with such a lack of tolerance and respect for each other will be our God given and constitutionally protected right to live our lives according to the dictates of our conscience and faith.  That is an America I do not want to live in!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The 150th Anniversary of the End of the Civil War

One hundred and fifty years ago today, the bloodiest war in American history came to an end as General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Confederate cause to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.

Having lived in Virginia for several years back in the early 1990’s, I was struck upon first seeing Appomattox Court House in how small and unassuming it was, particularly because this was the place where the culmination of our nation’s bloody atonement was concluded for our pernicious sin of slavery.

Many other nations at the time of our Civil War engaged in slavery, and indeed many still do today, but America purged its soul and finally made the first monumental step in keeping the promise of our Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal”.  More than 700,000 people died in the cause of our Civil War accordingly.

Sadly, the sesquicentennial anniversary of this event that saved our nation and its soul will probably not even be mentioned in most media outlets today.  As Americans, most of us will ignorantly go about our daily lives and not stop to thank God and pray for those men who 150 years ago today ended our Civil War where they fought, bled, and died to save the union and make amends for a great evil.