The Truman Primary

In the check out line this weekend, I happened to see the cover of Newsweek: Wanted: A New Truman. Pictured along the top were the current contenders for the Presidency. Which one of them has what it takes to be another Truman?

What?!? I’m sorry, I didn’t realize we were looking for one of those. I asked my husband what he thought they might mean by this. Maybe because Truman ended a war? he guessed. Yeah, by dropping atomic bombs and completely obliterating two cities (which also happened to have the highest percentage of Catholics residing there, but what’s my point with that anyway?). Is this what they want to do? Should we withdraw all the troops from Iraq and then just wipe it off the face of the earth? It’s a technique…

I didn’t buy the magazine, but the article is now online.

Rudy Giuliani notes that Truman was unpopular in his day, but if he hadn’t stood up to the Soviets in the late 1940s, asks Giuliani, “Who knows how much longer the cold war would have gone on?”

Gee, by my calculation, the cold war raged another 4 decades. But okay, if we want to credit Truman with keeping a lid on it, sure.

The case of the now sainted Truman, the Platonic presidential ideal of 2008, is an example of just this phenomenon. In 1953, when Truman left Washington for Independence, Mo., few were unhappy to see him go. His administration was accused of corruption and the Korean War was stalemated.

Wow. We’ve now got a St. Harry to whom we can turn for intercession in finding a decent leader for our country. Isn’t that peachy? St. Harry, please not Rudy, please not Hillary, please not Obama…St. Harry, please isn’t there somebody good? Not somebody like you, but somebody good?

Buffeted by war, unhappy with President Bush, many Americans—Democratic,
Republican, independent—seem hungry for a Trumanesque figure, a truth-telling,
bare-knuckled president who will give it to us straight. The question now is
whether anybody in the 2008 field can measure up.

The article then goes on to discuss the various figures vying for the top dog slot and how they compare to our beloved saint. The writer of this article, Evan Thomas, was born in the early 50s. Do you think this might be a case of wearing rose-colored glasses? I guess I’m pretty lucky that I was born during the Nixon presidency. We lost that war he presided over. Yes, I know he didn’t start it, but between that and the Watergate scandal, his cause for canonization is pretty much kicked out the door, thank goodness.

I’m not declaring Truman good or bad. I’m not going to take a definitive stand on whether the Atomic bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki truly ended the war faster and ultimately saved American lives. I mean, I think they did do that. But I’m not sure that the ends (ending the war with fewer American casualties) justified the means (destroying two cities filled with civilians, many of whom just happened to be Catholic…blood-thirsty, war-mongering Catholics, I’m sure).

But I am saying that another Truman is surely not what America really wants and needs. Is it? Basically, if ol’ Saint Harry were on the ticket, would you vote for him?

What did you learn in school this year?

Last fall, after I tried to burn my house down, the fire department came out to check my smoke detectors. I was talking about school and kids with one of the guys and he said, “I’m in the third grade!” I said, “Me, too!” Even though I have a college degree and I feel that I have continued the learning process past my formal school days, I know that I am right there with my oldest child learning things I either never knew or forgot long ago. And since I will be repeating these lessons over and over again to a succession of children, I really can’t imagine that this “new” information, seen through adult eyes, won’t stick with me for much longer than it did the first time I was exposed to it.

Since I use the Baltimore Catechism for religion, and since I was educated in the ’70s and ’80s and that mainly through CCD classes, pretty much everything I teach from that book is stuff I didn’t know. Well…Who made you? God made me. I got that. But the concise and clear answers to much of what we believe and why we believe it were never transmitted to me. I really enjoy religion class.

In math and grammar, I’m happy to report, I haven’t learned much. I have had to check the answer book on occasion to clarify a punctuation rule or a part of speech, but not very often. The teacher’s math book is only used so I can check answers quickly and not because long division or averaging numbers is particularly difficult.

But of all the subjects, Fritz and I share an immense appreciation for history. I liked it back in my school days, too, and studied it quite a bit in high school. In college, I just didn’t have the time to take any classes given my heavy core curriculum load, except for one class, The History of the Low Countries, which I was able to take while studying abroad in Belgium (one of the Low Countries). Awesome class.

In the last three years, history for Fritz has been primarily American History and more specifically the time around the American Revolution. Each year, the curriculum gives more details about the 1700’s and expands the student’s awareness of where that era is in relationship to all of world history. When Fritz was in kindergarten, he summarized his knowledge of history like this: “First there was Adam and Eve, then there was Jesus, then there was George Washington, then there was us.” By now, I’m sure he can name a few more people between Adam and Christ, and our history lessons have exposed him to the Vikings as well as the big players from Europe who claimed the Americas and explored, settled, and fought over them: the Dutch, the Spanish, the French and, of course, the English.

These are lessons that I learned over and over again throughout my school days, but it is great to read about this period of history with a much greater awareness of the global implications of certain events, for example, France’s historical interest in aiding the Americans over the English in our revolution or the American Revolution’s influence on the French Revolution.

One of the books we recently read was If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution. I really like the If You Lived… series. I’ve found them to be chock full of information but written clearly enough for young students to comprehend. At the end of this book, the authors state their intention of presenting a balanced view of the conflict and presenting non-Patriots in a fair manner. On Amazon, reviewers either gave it 5 stars or 1 star, depending on how they felt about the treatment of the Loyalists. Those who thought it was good, thought it was balanced. Those who thought it was bad, felt that the Patriots were portrayed as bad guys and that it only mentions the negative circumstances surrounding the lives of the Loyalists. I will admit that there is little mention of any suffering on the part of the Patriots. According to the book, about one-third of the colonists favored independence, one-third were loyalists, and the remaining third attempted to be neutral. Surely for every Loyalist’s child who wasn’t permitted to go to school, there was a Patriot’s child who had a similar experience. There were pockets of like-minded people, and human beings throughout history are not known for their kind and generous behavior toward those who think differently.

But since the winners write the history books, I don’t feel that a few kind words on behalf of real human beings who had valid reasons for choosing to support the crown will damage a young student’s budding sense of patriotism. And as for myself, this and other literature we read this year have made me ask myself where I would have placed my own loyalties in 1775.

I consider myself fiercely patriotic. I’ve lived “on the economy” in other countries for long enough to know that as bad as it might be here in some ways, it is better than any other alternative. This is home, and it doesn’t matter whether it is Ohio or Virginia or Pennsylvania or New Jersey or Florida or Kansas, it is all home. But Belgium is not Germany is not the Czech Republic is not England and none of them are the United States. I am eternally grateful for all the hard choices made by the people who lived here in the late eighteenth century who suffered, fought and died to create this country. I would really like to think that I would have been a Patriot and would have done my best to contribute to its founding.

But no matter how I look at it, I can not support actions like the Boston Tea Party which breaks both the seventh commandment which forbids the unjust taking of another’s property as well as the 4th commandment which includes obedience to lawful superiors. Perhaps if I were twenty years old in 1775, I would be cheering the heroes of that raid, but I can’t imagine that this 36 year old devout Catholic would be in favor of it. It is one thing to boycott a product and quite another to destroy it.

But in my final analysis, I look at my view of current events. I am conservative and religious and vote accordingly. But I do not always agree with the loudest voices belonging to this side. I don’t agree with every plank in every platform and certainly not with every vote by every Republican in Congress. There are times I think we make some poor choices as a country, but I still think it’s the best place on earth. I think about the polls that show “only” a 39% approval rating for the President, and think I might be in the category of the 59% who disapprove (it’s all how the question is worded…and what about being neutral as an option?). And I compare that to the one-third who supported the American Revolution, and I think the President is doing better than General George Washington would have been doing if the Rasmussen Report had been around back then. I do think I would have been a Patriot, and I have faith that our country, despite the doom and gloom predictions from all sides, will do just fine as we suffer through these difficult years of foreign war and domestic strife.

OK, I’m finishing the 3rd grade, I’ve learned a lot about the American Revolution, and I vote in favor of breaking ties with England. How about you? What grade are you in, what did you learn this year in school, and are you or are you not in favor of the American Revolution?

The New Gospel according to the Left

Hold on to your Bibles, folks. A new preacher is heading into town.

Slowly over the last week, the liberals have been coming around to the idea that, perhaps, the election defeat they just suffered was due to morals. Perhaps. Liberal columnist after liberal columnist is mentioning morals and values with the tentative acceptance that, yes, vast numbers of people turned up at the polls to pull a lever for someone who, they thought, had a more moral platform.

For them, this is very difficult to accept and understand. They just simply don’t think like that. To them, it’s the economy, stupid. It’s the war in Iraq. It’s things that really MATTER.

So, at first it began with the left saying, “What’s the matter with these people? Don’t they know that the Democrats want to help them? Why do they support tax cuts for the rich when they are so poor?” Ignoring the fact that the increase in the child tax credit helped EVERY taxpayer who had children or that the revisions to the marriage penalty taxes helped EVERY dual income married couple (who pays taxes) regardless of income. They make it seem as though nobody from middle America actually pays taxes.

Then, the left began to ponder if all those exit polls could possibly be true. “People who thought morals were important voted overwhelmingly for Bush.” They lament the ignorance of these people, the apparent hatred and close-mindedness of those who are not in favor of gay marriage. Who needs them anyway, they think. Yuck, we can’t embrace idiots and bigots. We are so much better than they are.

Then the reality: oh, we can’t win an election if we DON’T embrace them.

“Whatever shall we do?” they cry with all the drama of a Southern Belle.

And now, they are starting to formulate a plan. And here it is: they need to take back some moral high ground. They need to prove to the American people that they are moral too by pointing out how moral they are and how immoral the Republicans are on some issues.

Notice the “some issues” caveat. And here’s where the New Gospel according to the Left gets published. You see, they CAN NOT side with conservatives on the two biggest moral issues going: abortion and gay marriage. They just can’t do it. Too much of their base is made up of those who support views completely divergent from those of MOST of America (#1 abortion on demand from conception until about 10 minutes after birth and #2 total acceptance of homosexual relationships as equal to that of heterosexual relationships). MOST Americans think first trimester abortions are ok and MOST Americans care little about what goes on in someone’s bedroom privately. But the hard core liberals don’t want mere tolerance and certainly don’t want to be secretive about their lives. They want to indoctrinate new generations into total acceptance of abortion and gay marriage with no caveats. They want to suppress any religious views that say otherwise. The only intolerance allowed is intolerance of the religious. And the rest of the party follows along in fear of losing that base.

So, here comes the new list of morals that the Democrats have the upper hand in:

#1 The war in Iraq. This war is immoral, they believe. And they want us to believe it too. They will begin to quote from the Pope, soon, I’m sure, to regain those Catholics who for the first time in a long time actually favored a Republican over a Democrat. The problem with this issue comes if the elections go well and the Iraqis begin to manage their own affairs. I expect some odd behavior on the part of Democrats to actually THWART democracy in Iraq so that they can hold on to this issue. No kidding.

#2 Gay marriage. What? How can they win the moral high ground here? By turning the issue around. We need to look at the coin from the other side, they’ll suggest. Gay marriage is GOOD. Gay marriage is MORAL. It means these couples are monogamous. It means these couples can help take care of unwanted children through adoption – children who might otherwise be aborted. {If you don’t allow gay marriage, the blood of some babies will be on your hands, they’ll suggest.} These couples love each other. Their relationship should be given equal weight to that of heterosexual relationships. These couples just want to live fulfilled lives and anyone who is opposed to that is guilty of hatred, bigotry, and the confused notion of supremacy. It is IMMORAL to be hate-filled. It is EVIL to be bigoted. And then the tear-jerker arguments: a dying man unable to see his partner in the hospital, a loving “spouse” left penniless when her partner dies without a will, a stay-at-home dad with no health insurance because his “husband” can’t claim him as a dependent at work. And it’s all the fault of the right-wing conservatives who think their God wants them to oppress people. Jesus preached love and forgiveness and tolerance. What WOULD Jesus do? Approve gay marriage, of course. He probably would have done it in the Bible if that had been an issue back then, but since he couldn’t foresee the future (he was just a man, you see), he couldn’t preach on the topic.

#3 The poor. Yes, the poor will once again get dragged into the political arena. This time, though, any idea other than a government controlled “steal from the rich and give to the poor” program will be touted as immoral. We MUST help the poor and the only acceptable way is to highly tax the rich to fund all sorts programs for everybody else. It is IMMORAL for someone who makes $500,000 a year to be able to keep it all for themselves. And these evil (by default) people can not be trusted to fund the proper programs, so it is only fair for the government to take about half of that income to give to those less fortunate. Should the current administration succeed in getting some faith-based programs well established with government funds, expect that a liberal administration would seek to regulate the faith in these programs to ensure that those helped are well protected from any religious influence.

So, start watching for that new preacher. The one who will tell you that gay marriage is good. The one who will talk about innocent life in Iraq (and be silent on innocent life in the womb). Be prepared to be lectured on the new reality of good and evil. Their best hope is to get these positions established as bono fide moral issues. And then get people to look at HOW MANY issues the Democrats have the upper hand in. They will not try to win abortion, but will try to win as many other issues as they can in the hopes that America will see them as more moral because they are better on more issues. {This is like trying to convince someone that FIVE pennies is better than TWO dimes. It works great for a simpleton, but won’t cut it with anyone with an IQ exceeding 80.}

And now, my suggestions to the Democrats, not that anyone would really listen. I think the Democrats need do only two things to win. I still wouldn’t vote for them, but I think most Americans would fall for these ideas. If you want to take back middle America, here’s all you have to do:

#1 On gay marriage: do not side with the gays and lesbians on gay marriage, especially on a federal level. State that you think the states, particularly the PEOPLE in the states, should be able to decide for themselves. Do not support a mandate that one state accept another state’s gay marriage. Support civil unions only, except where a popular vote indicates marriage as acceptable. I think most Americans would “tolerate” civil unions. Promote this tolerance.

#2 On abortion: do not side with abortion on demand. Support parental notification. Denounce partial-birth abortion. I think most Americans would be satisfied if they were sure their daughters were protected and if they were spared the gruesome details of partial-birth abortion. I think the left has made enough people reluctant to criticize a woman who is unexpectedly pregnant who feels she has no choice but to abort the baby. There is enough talk about the health or life of the woman or those who were victims of rape or incest to make people feel that there might be a reason to allow an exception in favor of abortion.

Although neither of those new positions would change my mind, I think many, many Americans would be more comfortable in siding with the Democrats if these more moderate stances were adopted. In my opinion, however, the left is too entrenched in the radical policies of its base to change, this time. It will take yet another defeat when their new morality is not accepted before they will begin to change.

And my advice to my right-wing politically minded friends: stay alert. Be ready to confront this new way of thinking before it takes hold in your less conscientious friends. Be prepared to reiterate that the issue of abortion is much more important that any other moral issue. With regard to other issues like the war or helping the poor, be ready to talk about ways that the Republicans try to accomplish much of the same thing. Remember, conservatives (most of us) have a different idea of HOW to help the poor. The methodology is not a question of morality, it is merely a different idea. It is not immoral for the government to support greater charitable giving from an individual to a charity (as opposed to the socialist idea that the government will take it all and THEY will decide how to fairly distribute it). Gird your loins, friends, we’ve got work to do.

post election ruminations

It is two days after election day. I am thankful that the ordeal is over and hope we can all get back to the business of being Americans and not pro-Bushies or pro-Kerries or anti-Kerries or anti-Bushies. I am thankful that we do not have a drawn out process full of hanging chads and recounts and litigation.

I am completely saddened at the high level of negetive emotions that have been displayed over the last few months. From my perspective, the anti-Bushies (the Michael Moore devoutees) have been completely consumed by a hatred directed at the person of George Bush. They desire, not only, to see him removed from office, but actually wish physical harm to come his way. Wouldn’t it be nice, they ponder, if someone just simply assassinated him?

I do not see this level of ill-will directed at John Kerry. I myself do not like the man’s policies. I have no opinion of him as a person, beyond my usual judgement about his character (or lack thereof). I admit that I have high standards when it comes to evaluating a person’s integrity, but the consolation I offer is forgiveness for not meeting those high standards. In other words, I have limited respect for the policies and values of someone who does not uphold my high standards, but I readily say, “It’s not his fault – he’s just swallowed the notion that morality is dictated by popular vote and not natural law.”

Of course, forgiveness for this mentality does not equate to any desire to see the person running the country.

But at least my attitude to John Kerry is one of annoyance at his limited viewpoint, his failure to understand human nature, his insistence of believing falsehoods as truths. But hatred? No. Especially not directed at him personally.

So, my thoughts go back four years to our last election. Was the level of hatred the same? I definitely did not feel intense hatred towards Al Gore. My attitude was much the same as that towards John Kerry. I had no desire to see him President, but did not feel all consumed by an intense loathing of him or his policies. I do think the personal hatred toward George Bush began four years ago with the perceived notion that he stole the election. But, of course, those who hated him had a limited arsenal of things to hate – he hadn’t done anything yet.

But I force myself to go back even farther to the years of Bill Clinton. Did conservatives have the same sort of personal hatred toward Clinton as the liberals have toward Bush? My instictive answer is “No…no way!” And it’s an emphatic answer, too. Yet every time I try to recall those emotions I felt those many years ago, my mind turns from the task. This leads me to suspect that the emotions did, in fact, run deep. The man’s bulbous nose still evokes a roiling of the stomach. Of all the people on the planet, I think Clinton would be one of the last I’d be interested in meeting. Perhaps his wife is #2. Did I wish him death? Perhaps I might have hoped for a sudden heart attack….except of course, that this would mean an Al Gore presidency. I am pretty sure that I never wished upon him the agonizing death I’ve heard desribed by one anti-Bushie who wanted to personally shoot the president with numerous shots to his extremities in the hopes of a slow and painful death.

So, did I hate the man, Bill Clinton? Yes, at the time I directed my hatred to the man AND his policies and not just to the policies. Do I still hate the man? No. He repulses me, but that’s not hatred. That’s the same gut reaction one might have when accosted by a beggar with leprosy. It is not an appropriate reaction, but a purely human one.

Will the anti-Bushies hate the man, George Bush, ten years from now? It is undoubtedly true. Liberals continue to despise Ronald Reagan and rejoice in his demise. They probably would have rejoiced in his illness, except that his mind was not able to comprehend it, and they would wish upon him an end of full consciousness of its misery.

What baffles me most, though, about these hate mongers who personally depise the President and wish him and his family and anyone like them ill, is THEIR insistance that conservatives are filled with hate. It seems to me a case of pointing out the splinter in your neighbor’s eye while ignoring the log in your own.

I know that most of the problem stems from the perception that the policies of social conservatives are xyz-ophobic or anti-abc. If we oppose gay marriage, we are homophobic. If we oppose illegal immigration, we are xenophobic. If we oppose abortion, we are anti-woman. If we oppose high taxes, we are anti-poor.

I’m sure the farthest thing from their minds is that social conservatives envision a better America…a more loving America…a freer America.

I explained to Bill last night: I think there was a time when society cared most about producing a better society. And that meant, promoting good and protecting children. It meant enforcing public decency. It meant encouraging behavior that was best for children and families, the building blocks of society and the seed of the future. It meant personal sacrifice for the good of all.

Today, this concept is seen as oppressive. We have freedom of speech, which includes foul language in public places. We have freedom of expression, which includes the right of young people to wear revealing clothing and grope each other in public. We have freedom of religion, which includes the right to attack or belittle other religions. We believe that no one, and certainly not the government, has any right to infringe upon our ability to do whatever we want and whenever we want. We can marry…we can divorce. If children are hurt by this, too bad.

Speaking of which, I have a student in my CCD class. I don’t know which one. I think it’s a girl. At the end of class, I ask each student to write a prayer request on a slip of paper which is placed in a prayer box. They are not read aloud, but I read them after class. Apparently this child’s parents are going through a divorce. Every week, without fail, she prays for their reunion. She doesn’t pray for their happiness. She doesn’t give a crap about THEIR happiness. All she cares about is HER happiness, which is non-existant in the current situation. I know many people think that a child would be happier in a divorced home, because living with two people who dislike each other would, in theory, be miserable. I propose that it is only miserable for the adults, and the children care little about how their parents feel about it. But there is an overriding right of parents to happiness, and it matters little that their children suffer immensely.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all lived in a bubble and our actions had no effect on others?

Someone once said that freedom does NOT mean being able to do whatever you want. FREEDOM MEANS BEING ABLE TO DO THE RIGHT THING. We can’t do whatever we want. Our actions DO have an effect on others. We can’t kill our neighbor. We can’t steal from the grocery store or the mall. We can’t drive recklessly or at outrageous speeds. We can worship (or not) however we choose. We can publicly denounce a wrong action by another or by the government. We can get together in small or large numbers and have meetings about whatever we want and can do so on public property with proper permits. We can vote and can encourage others to vote and we can complain or celebrate those results.

And we can wait peacefully until the next election to change the government if we don’t like the way the current one is running things. And while we wait, we can work on grass roots efforts to educate others about the problems we see.

politics and religion

In Germany in the 1930s, there were many different issues that concerned the local populace. The economy was a huge issue. Germany was suffering under heavy World War I reparation debt. People were without jobs. Food was scarce and rationed. Hitler promised everyone jobs and the unlifting of that massive debt by, well, going to war with the rest of Europe that was oppressing them. He was a liberator, really. Yeah.

Looking back, now, the economy hardly seems to be what the God-fearing Christians of Germany SHOULD have been thinking about. The first concentration camp was opened in 1929 in Dachau, just outside of Munich. Sure, they all like to say that they didn’t know what was going on behind those walls. Maybe they didn’t know what was going on behind the walls, but the Germans were very aware of Hitler’s policy of confining Jews to ghettos and concentration camps. They knew Jews were going IN to Dachau…they turned a blind eye to the fact that none came OUT.

Hitler had convinced the general population that the fate of the Jews was no concern to them. They really shouldn’t care…after all, they were just Jews. Eventually, Hitler convinced many that the Jews were sub-human. Perhaps some were not convinced of that idea, but didn’t feel that they could do anything about it. And of course, by the time things really got going, Hitler was no longer an elected official…he was dictator.

The problem is, when any group of people is deemed second class or sub-human or inferior, we ALL suffer. And none of us is truly safe from being lumped in with those who are persecuted. If we don’t actually fit into that category (Jew, slave, disabled), we are labeled a sympathizer and our own freedoms are jeopardized.

When you have a situation like that of Germany in the 1930s, there is no other issue about which to concern yourself more than the treatment of the persecuted. If one among us is not free, then none of us is free. If Jews are being deprived of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then it’s NOT the economy, stupid, it’s freedom.

When you have a situation like that of the United States in the early 21st century, there is no other issue that is more important than that of abortion. Millions of babies are killed every year. Yes, euthanasia is a good issue to be concerned about, but euthanasia does not kill a million innocent people every year. Yes, the war in Iraq is a good issue to be concerned about, but the war in Iraq does not kill a million innocent people every year. Yes, the economy is a good issue to be concerned about, but the economy, even if you blame the economy on all the poverty in this nation, is not responsible for the deaths of a million innocent people every year.

Do you ever wonder how the Germans could tolerate living in a society that killed people just because they were Jewish? Do you think you’d have had the guts to stand up for their rights? Do you think that when they voted for Hitler, his suporters had any idea where he’d be leading their country? Do you know that when the Reichstag voted for him to be their Prime Minister (or whatever he was called), he won be one vote?

We must take the stand now. Do not tolerate legislators or presidents or governors who think it’s ok to kill an unborn baby. Do not allow anyone to distract you with other issues that are not as important as abortion. There are very few issues that are clearly a case of right versus wrong. It is a moral obligation to vote on moral issues in a moral manner. The economy, the environment, the war: there are multiple sides to these issues. We are free to discuss them and to agree or disagree. THERE ARE MULTIPLE RIGHT ANSWERS. On abortion, there is only ONE right answer.

If you want more information, I recommend www.priestsforlife.org. They have links to voting guides and apples to apples comparisons of different politician’s opinions.