Yearly Archives: 2012

Ready to Vote?

In twelve days, Americans go to the voting booths. We will participate in both continuity an change as we cast our ballots. Some officials will be re-elected; others will find new work. Some ordinances and propositions will become law; others will await the next cycle or become a memory. It is good for us to pause in our celebration and recognize that the American Experiment is both exceptional and hard-won.  Our founders’ vision was extraordinary and the stability bequeathed to subsequent generations remains unprecedented in world history. This experiment in virtue-based liberty built on First Principles is something to celebrate.

This liberty has come with much suffering as well. It took a Civil War and Civil Rights to grant the franchise to millions of African-American citizens. Women were finally accorded the vote in 1920, after decades of petition and protest. Our soldiers suffering in Vietnam were the catalysts for opening this opportunity to 18 year old women and men. As we approach this election, we can rejoice that millions have the opportunity to shape the continuities and changes in local, state and national direction. We must also be vigilant that every legitimate vote is counted, from our military overseas to absentees at at home. We must reject all attempts to intimidate citizens as they express their freedom. At the same time, voting is the privilege of citizens, not documented or undocumented guests.

Are we ready to vote? I offer the following as a “The Twelve Days of Voting” preparation strategy that will make our nation stronger. Whether my readers agree with my opinions is less important than adhering to precepts of excellent preparation. Here are Twelve Questions, one for each day, as we prepare to cast our ballots:

Day One: Are we getting informed about our local and state issues as well as the Presidential race? Are we reading about the ordinances and propositions for our city, county and state? Are we aware of the positions of local and state candidates on issues that are important to us?

Day Two: Are we thinking about the Public Checkbook and electing men and women that will be good stewards our OUR money? We can and should argue how to spend public funds – there is much room for important debate here. But we must end the red ink at all levels.

Day Three: Are we investigating the voting records of incumbents and their connections with various special interests, regardless of party?

Day Four: Will we pause and pray for Almighty God to show mercy to a nation absorbed in her own pleasure, captivated by image, numbed by information overload and too eager to receive largess without considering its sources?

Day Five: After this pause, will we make friends with people outside our self-congratulatory circles, engage in civil dialogue and encourage others to vote?

Day Six: Will we focus on the local issues, asking ourselves which issues matter for future flourishing?

Day Seven: Will we concentrate on state issues, remembering the names of our assembly and senate leaders, evaluate their ideals and positions and prepare to cast our ballots intelligently?

Day Eight: Let’s look at the larger world as we examine our choices for Congress and the President. Which leaders do we trust the most to represent America well, both in our economic and safety interests as well as our ideals of freedom? What leaders will show courage in the face of Islamicist terrorism?

Day Nine: Which congressional and presidential candidates will balance the federal checkbook better? Which women and men will consider future generations in the budgets they pass?

Day Ten: Today we pause and consider the visions and values of the candidates and how they resonate with our own. We want character and competence, but ideals matter and we hope they have some humility as well, remembering that they serve us and not the reverse.

Day Eleven: Time for a final review and much more prayer and we implore the Lord for grace, love and truth in all things. This is a good day to read some quotes from Washington, Madison, John Quincy Adams, Lincoln and others.

Day Twelve: We vote, open our homes and stay up too late watching the results, celebrating peaceful transitions and preparing to hold all officials accountable.

Let’s be ready to vote with wisdom.

The Power of Our Choices

With less than one month of electioneering remaining, the battles intensify as all the candidates at every level begin their sprint to the finish line. Beyond the elected offices are thousands of local and state propositions. It can be overwhelming, but it is a historical privilege to have a real say in our future. Please get informed, pray often and vote! Our choices matter and the future of our nation rests upon responsible, virtuous citizens exercising their God-given and Constitutionally guaranteed rights.

But there is even more power in other choices we make. Who we elect is not the most important factor in our destiny. Both conservatives and progressives are concerned about our future, often for similar reasons. Conservatives are deeply troubled by the ever-expanding reach of the federal government. Progressives bemoan the increasing gaps between rich and poor. Conservatives see under performing schools and agitate for vouchers. Progressives see the same realities and opt for increased public funding. Economic uncertainly is the concern of all, with each group offering different solutions, but no one is in denial that we need change. Conservatives are deeply uncomfortable with a foreign policy that tries to accommodate enemies dedicated to our demise. Progressives want to change perceptions of America and express more humility and interconnectedness. Both groups eschew intolerance and want to minimize violence.

There are choices we can make that will alter our national trajectory, even if we keep arguing on many public policy matters. Here are a few that may unite us instead of divide us further:

  • Apart from abuse, adultery and abandonment, we can stay married and serve our children. This is the single greatest factor for future success and stability, trumping economics and education. We can make sure our children arrive at school ready to learn.
  • We can offer our companies, families and communities a full day’s work, with good motives and ethical-relational integrity.
  • We can do business with the aim of adding value instead of extracting it from others.
  • We can balance our own checkbooks and hold public officials responsible for how they spend the people’s money. (Yes, we will still argue over how to spend it – the key is not spending more than we take in!) 
  • We can defend the poor, broken and vulnerable, from conception to coronation.
  • We can offer our time to help others instead of just agitating. The victims of social evils need friends as well as money and professional help.
  • We can look for ways to create wealth, not just redistribute current assets.
  • We can add beauty to the world by voluntarily celebrating and supporting the arts. Not every effort needs a government subsidy.
  • We can make friends with our neighbors.
  • If we turn off technology and get physically active, we are contributing to reducing health care costs without spending any money.
  • Our prayers matter to God and the future of the planet.
  • We can pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Affirming Israel’s right to exist as a beacon of democracy and supporting a new democratic Palestinian nation dedicated to peace is the only way forward.
  • We can make some new friends across cultural and generational lines. It will be fun to eat new foods, understand new ways of seeing the world and build a virtuous consensus in our communities.
  • We can reject hatred even while we critique choices and ideas. Every person we meet is made in God’s image.

Our nation’s future depends upon the mercy of God and the choices of millions of “regular” people. We can end the pernicious influence of pornography – there is an “off” button! We can reduce abortions by loving those already pregnant and helping the unmarried see the wisdom of waiting. By the way, the fathers need to own up to their part in this process! Civility is not passivity or just being sweet. Civility is looking for connections and choosing respect over rejection, affirmation over anger and forging new agreements when possible instead of picking up our toys and leaving the conversations.

At first, these choices seem self-evident and simplistic; however, actually living this way is a challenge. Sometimes there are addictions and traumas requiring extra care. We must not have contempt for those that struggle. But we must affirm the struggle! In our world of deep wounds and pernicious narcissism, the way of civility and service is rarely navigated easily. But it is worth our effort to offer succeeding generations a world worth enjoying.

Time to Grow Up

Now that the conventions are done and we are finally in the election homestretch, it is time for serious evaluation of the issues. To clear our minds, the following cliches are NOT allowed to obscure the important issues:

  • “There are two sides to every issue.” Yes, but that does not mean two equally solid or valid positions. Sometimes there is a right or wrong stance, or at least a better or worse position.
  • “Both sides play dirty.” Sometimes, this is true. But this is also an excuse to avoid listening and research. If we do not like something, we call it “politics” and avoid the issue. 
  • “Wall Street and the selfish capitalists are the reason we are in this economic mess.” Partly true. But federal government policies since the late 1970s contributed to our mess and institutions were coerced into poor lending practices. Have we forgotten the “golden parachutes” of Democratic Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae leaders and the special tax incentives to GM so that UAW power continues to cripple the company?
  • “The Palestinians are oppressed and deserve a state next door to Israel.” As soon as their leaders stop denying the Holocaust, denying the Temple and denying the Jews’ right to a small strip of territory in their ancient land, peace becomes possible.
  • “The rich should pay their fair share.” OK, who decides what is fair? The top 5% in the USA pay 57% of taxes now, with 50% of US adults paying nothing.

Quick insight: Rich liberals are fine with high tax rates for two reasons. One, they know how to shelter their wealth well; and two, they regard government as their charity. Conservatives give an exponentially higher percentage of their wealth away through private channels. Both are generous – the fundamental question for our future is which agencies do we task with managing our generosity?

With these simplisms out of the way, let’s look at what our nation needs in the season ahead. Both candidates admit that the road ahead is not easy. Underneath these admissions are radically different philosophies of federal government power. That alone is cause for concern and reflection.

An Open memo to all candidates running for local, state and federal offices:

  • It is time to grow up and stop behaving like adolescents, with emotional appeals, vapid generalizations and “you don’t understand” as excuses for laziness.
  • It is time to balance our budgets. End of discussion.
  • If we need more revenue, we need to open avenues for the private sector to create wealth (yes, within ethical and environmental guidelines).
  • When public works are planned, a open business plan and competitive process will ensure the best service at the best price.
  • No veteran should be without care. No soldier should be under supplied. This said, there are billions of over bloated Pentagon budgets that deserve a real scalpel.
  • All deserving recipients of public aid should receive their help in a timely fashion. Our goal must be reducing this number, not advertising for more customers.
  • Success should be celebrated, from a diploma to an IPO, from getting off welfare to discovering a new drug.
  • Religious freedom is the first freedom of the First Amendment. Jewish and Muslim circumcision is not a public health threat. Catholic caregivers must not be coerced into providing services that violate their conscience. Big Brother does NOT trump the conscience of business owners! If a Muslim owner wants to pause business for Friday prayers, that is fine. If Chick-Fil-A wants to close on Sunday, that is their call. If a Jewish establishment closes for the Sabbath, Gentile employees get time off. If owners have personal convictions that  some oppose, customers can take their business elsewhere.
  • Israel is a moral and political gift to the world. This does not mean agreeing with every policy. It does mean unequivocally affirming her right to exist.
  • Freedom only works when founded on virtue rooted in timeless truth. Even if we solved every economic and structural problem in the public square, we still face our greatest challenge: our own depravity. The best leadership can only do so much.

Good and evil is not Democrat vs. Republican. Good and evil are within each person and choosing the former requires courage, faith and humility. Schools will be as solid as the families that populate the neighborhood. When husband and wife stay together, they give their kids the greatest chance of future success – yes, even greater than educational level. Here is a novel thought: If Mom and Dad cannot live together, have the parents shuttle between houses rather than the kids. Mom, Dad, why don’t you pack up every other weekend or every week or two and provide your kids with the stability of one location. (Yes, counselors, I am assuming no abuse or other pathologies that place kids at risk, just the narcissism of of one or both parents.)

It is time to grow up. This begins at home. How hard is it to send kids off to school with some oatmeal inside them, clean bodies and clean clothes on them? For some, this may be hard and they deserve our help. For most, it means placing our kids before ourselves and our future before our present pleasures. This is what adulthood is all about, from parenting to politics. If we merely want present power, we avoid tough choices and honest dialogue. If we really care about our posterity, we will cleanse our double minded hearts, roll up our sleeves and clear away the obstacles to prosperity.