Category Archives: Obama

Surreal Subversion

American and Western European histories are filled with moral and social conflict and political battles. For the past three centuries, the trajectory toward human liberty and economic opportunity has been positive, with serious battles against totalitarianism in the 19th and 20th centuries. Coalitions of Center, Left and Right in Europe and lots of “horse-trading” in the USA have ensured relative stability for millions of people.

This stability depends upon four critical factors: consensual personal and social morality, human liberty, economic opportunity and the rule of law. These elements are interdependent and indispensable for human flourishing.

Our very civilization, built on these foundations, is threatened by the ideologues in power in Washington, D.C. (And by extension, Sacramento, CA)

I am normally optimistic, looking for the best in people, even those I disagree with. What is happening right now is the culmination of a century of subversion inaugurated by Woodrow Wilson, accelerated (with often noble intent) by FDR, turbo-charged by LBJ’s Great Society and mostly unopposed by even the Republicans designated as conservatives. The past five years, however, are fraught with exponential change that is subversive of the values enumerated above and enshrined in the Constitution.

I do not believe we can dismantle 100 years of structural change overnight…nor should we. What we must do is understand the times we live in and recognize the seriousness of our situation. All people of conscience, regardless of particular policy perspectives, must unite to stem the flood waters of self-destruction and turn the tide toward a preferred future.

Our current President and Administration are not content with adjustments that ease economic pain, build infrastructure and ensure opportunity. They are after forcible redistribution of wealth and the creation of a permanent working underclass that will vote for more largess from the federal trough. In addition to runaway spending, totalitarian control over health care and education and deliberate anarchy on immigration, they are undermining the four foundations mentioned above in the following ways:

The personal and social mores of hundreds of years are willfully discarded for “evolved” thinking of marriage and family, sexual license and special accommodation to Islamicists that despise everything the West stands for.

Human liberty – including freedom of conscience and worship, assembly and speech and redress to the government – is being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness and incipient totalitarian control over families and individuals. When people of goodwill cannot comment on marriage and morality, critique another religion or worldview (except Christianity) and are told that their most cherished values are subservient to state interests, we no longer have a functioning Constitution.

Economic opportunity is threatened by a militaristic environmentalism rooted in debatable science, excessive regulation and utter disdain for entrepreneurship that does not spout the correct social cliches. It is interesting that class envy is used to increase government control while major corporate donors pay little in taxes and garner contracts with public money.

Finally, the rule of law. Or should we say, lawlessness. Everywhere the current party is in power, crime grows, economies decline and social unrest is at an all-time high. Any suggestion of smaller budget increases or greater efficiencies in social programs are greeted with howls that millions will starve. Immigration reform is a joke. Millions will be pardoned for breaking the law. Instead of deporting felons, enforcing borders and crafting pathways to citizenship that continue our grand values, we are opening the floodgates for cheap labor and cheap votes.

We have a small window of opportunity to change this pathway to oblivion. It will require moral courage, spiritual awakening and wisdom to meet the needs of many types of people. It will also require Congressional and Presidential leadership willing to debate civilly and seriously and forge policies that represent all Americans.

Surreal artists distort reality and provoke reactions with exaggerated forms. The people in power are doing the same with their histrionics and propaganda. Their refusal to debate, stubborness in the face of many concerns and fiat-wielding power speak for themselves. They have a distorted narrative, an exaggerated sense of their own superiority and utter disdain for all that are less “enlightened.” It is time to compel them to get real jobs by voting in women and men of integrity that take the Constitution seriously.

Humility, Please

As President Obama begins his second term, we celebrate the peaceful transitions of power that make the USA the most stable expression of representative government in history. Even in our most contested elections, no militias have seized power and no parties have outlawed dissent and no dictators have risen to eradicate our experiment in self-governance and shared power.

Today is also the commemoration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s life and legacy – a life cut short by a racist’s bullet, but a legacy of compassion and justice we still aspire to as a nation.

With these celebrations undergirding our souls, we must not deceive ourselves that all is well and that life will continue on as it always has. Ominous economic, moral, spiritual and social realities cannot be completely obscured by distracting hot-button issues like gun control (reasonable controls are fine, but assault weapons account for less than 1% of all murders) or more federal largess to ravenously dependent constituencies.

We have to face the debt and deficits. We must recognize our foreign policy weaknesses and shore up our relationships with allies like Israel and Poland. Will we confront family implosion with moral and spiritual solutions, not more programs doomed to fail because children desperately need a daddy and mommy? We must stop ruminating about “de-industializing” America as the rest of the world charges past us in the global economic race. We must cease deceiving ourselves that we can spend our way out of recessions and talk our way to peace with totalitarians.

Mr. President, there is one key to a great second term. You cannot control all events, from nature’s fury to foolish decisions made in other nations. You cannot make a speech and heal the economy or the planet. There is one character trait that will unlock the door to a brighter future for all Americans. What is this key?

Humility. The humility to learn from those outside your ideological bubble. Humble people learn from mistakes, increase accountability change habits. Humility opens hearts and minds among adversaries and increases the chance of successful negotiations. Humility thinks of the good of all for the foreseeable future instead of one’s personal image or legacy. Humility opens the door to divine favor and reconciliation among warring factions. Humility is more powerful than intimidation, because it compels thoughtfulness instead of polemics. Humility knows when to compromise on some practical matters.

Humility is courage wisely managed and power carefully exercised. Humility liberates from the destructiveness of narcissism. Humility opens the door to heretofore undiscovered answers to baffling problems. A humble heart will show respect for all people, thereby garnering openness for new ideas.

Mr. President, allow God’s love to remove the barely concealed contempt you have for your political adversaries. The athletic competitiveness of your youth and the radical fervor of your win-at-all-costs young adulthood community organizing needs tempering as you realize that Paul Ryan is just as smart as you are. If you listen and negotiate with him, you will go down in history as one of a few Presidents with a great second term. In our century, Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton fostered trust, forged compromises and made the world a better place by swallowing their pride and working with opponents.

The “one thing needed” (paraphrasing Jesus of Nazareth in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 10) for progress is also the most difficult virtue because it requires dismantling of defenses and  construction of character on a foundation of reverence and for God and respect for all people. Humility liberates us from self-imposed demands of personal omniscience and the pressures of perfectionism.

Humility, please, Mr. President.

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.