Friday, September 25, 2009

The Practicing Progressive

I do believe Dan Brown is on to something.

The best-selling author of “Angels and Demons”, “The Da Vinci Code” and the just released, (Already over 2 million copies sold!!!), “The Lost Symbol” has found great success in revealing fictional conspiracies involving non-fictional organizations. “Angels and Demons” went after the secret, allegedly, Catholic society, The Illuminati and “Da Vinci” went after the secret, assuredly, Catholic society, Opus Dei, while “Lost” takes on the decidedly non-Catholic, Freemasons. And while I haven’t read this latest adventure starring the Harvard symbologist, Dr. Robert Langdon, the reviews I’ve read indicate it is as fast paced and filled with heart-stopping, page-turning excitement as his other two.

Since my own royalties are measured in mills rather than millions, I have taken note of this industrious author’s clever and very marketable ability to root out the surreptitious activities of one revered organization after another. Why, I wondered, if it worked so well for this former teacher turned world-renowned novelist, wouldn’t it work for a former pastor turned occasionally irritating local columnist?!!!

My hard-to-put-down, incredibly-conspiratorial, shockingly revelatory, story begins with a little item from the Los Angeles Times a few days back that reported on the mutterings of a certain California Assemblyman named Mike Duvall who was caught bragging to a fellow Assemblyman about his more than friendly relationship with a female lobbyist: "So I am getting into spanking her," Duvall told his colleague, during a break at a hearing in Sacramento. Unfortunately for Assemblyman Duvall, a stalwart advocate of family values, a microphone picked up the entire unsavory conversation. "Yeah, I like it. . . . She goes, 'I know you like spanking me.' I said, 'Yeah, that's 'cause you're such a bad girl.' "

Duvall resigned from office a few days later. One more politician caught not exactly with his pants down but close enough so he would have some serious explaining to do when he got home. And it is his home that provides the first real clue in my already riveting tale!!! You see, Duvall is from that bastion of traditional family-values, Orange County!!! Here is the astounding thing: Orange County is only a 5 hour drive to that bastion of anything but traditional family values, Las Vegas!!! Las Vegas is the home of another family-values politician, Senator John Ensign who, a few months back, admitted to his own fling with the wife of his, once but not anymore, good friend!!!

Now if you drive due north from Las Vegas, and you don’t mind a thousand miles or so of unrelenting barrenness, you will eventually arrive in Boise, Idaho!!! Boise is the home of former family-values senator, Larry Craig, who, you may remember, was just another unknown politician preaching piousness until he got caught, you guessed it, in that proverbial pants-down position, trying to make more than a little contact with an undercover Minneapolis policeman.
This is where it gets really amazing!!! If you go east from Boise and then a little south but not too far, you will come to South Carolina, home of a family-values governor who isn’t living with his family any longer after his wife and the rest of the state found out about the state of their marriage.

I didn’t know this until I looked at my map but if you go straight north from Governor Sanford’s former home in Raleigh and don’t mind driving some two-lane roads, you will wind up in the keystone state of Pennsylvania!!! Pennsylvania is the home to former Congressman Don Sherwood, a politician strikingly similar to the aforementioned others in his commitment to family values. Now there are some who still deny that his involvement in an extra-marital affair was the cause of his electoral defeat in 2006 but I think the pieces to this shockingly suspenseful puzzle are really falling into place!!!

Do you get it yet? OK. Here’s my final clue that will unlock for you this incredibly astonishing secret. Pennsylvania butts (!!!) up to New York where one-time Governor Elliot Spitzer, (a Democrat!!!), did you-know-what with a you-know-who. Now, New York isn’t all that far from North Carolina, if you don’t count New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, where John Edwards, (another Democrat!!!), behaved most unhusbandly to his wife Elizabeth. On the way, you may have passed through Washington D.C. where a former president (Yes! Yes! A Democrat!!!) claimed he didn’t do anything with a woman named Monica!!!

So there you have it!!! Connect the dots and you’ll get a kind of really neat geometric design but what’s more you’ll discover that each and every one of these politicians is… (Quick! Turn the page!!!)

… a member of the human race!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Practicing Progressive

I have sinned.

And just like Adam in that ancient garden, I blame it on Eve.

Hamartia is the Greek word used to denote sin. Literally, it means “missing the mark” and, boy, I sure did with some of the folk who read last week’s column. Judging from the lengthy letters my (endlessly patient) editor received in recent days, my small attempt at sarcasm was a big flop for some. But rather than defend my original intention, I will, as mentioned above, blame my wife instead.

She is, after all, the final arbiter in all things dispensed from the Dell on our shared desk top. Before any column, sermon, speech or letter to the editor is sent into cyberspace, my dear spouse carefully peruses the document for both grammatical errors, of which there can be many, and tenor and tone, where her prudence and compassion often trump my zeal and zealotry.

Unfortunately, this multi-talented woman was gallivanting up Mt. Lincoln on a beautiful fall-like day and failed to remember her poor spouse’s deadline. I’m forwarding all my hate mail to her this week.

As any wizened husband will admit, wives often provide the proper balance to the ship of marital state. A quick perusal of presidential spousal history has us, for instance, nodding in gratitude for Abigail Adams, our second First Lady who famously tempered her mercurial husband’s hot temper and probably did more to save our tenuous national union than 99% of the politicians then in office. And it was Dolly Madison, remember, who refused to leave The White House when our nation’s capital was under attack until she had rescued Gilbert Stuart’s priceless portrait of George Washington. No one mentions where her husband James was during all of this but, as a husband myself, I can probably hazard a good guess. And by all accounts, Mrs. Woodrow Wilson was, for all intent and purpose, the president of the United States when her husband’s stroke left him both incapacitated and incoherent during his last year in office. And, of course, we can all thank Laura Bush for offering a balance of grace, dignity and thoughtfulness in The White House when some of us worried that it was all out of whack.

It does seem that political wives in particular have distinguished themselves even at the most undistinguished moments. Think of Hillary Clinton’s poise in the midst of Bill’s fumbling fabrications. Kudos as well should go out to Elizabeth Edwards’ similar style while learning with the rest of us of the nasty doings of John. Of course, wifely wisdom isn’t limited to one side of the political aisle. Democrats, Republicans and Independents were united, I do believe, in finding something to applaud in Jenny Sanford giving the boot to her South Carolina Governor husband John for hiding out in Argentina with someone other than his wife.

And speaking of South Carolina’s wifely wisdom, one can hardly forget the immediate response of Roxanne Wilson, wife of Representative Joe Wilson, the now infamous congressman who called President Obama a liar in front of his fellow legislators and 32 million Americans. Roxanne phoned her husband after the speech and asked: "Joe, who's the nut who hollered out, ‘You lie’?” Mrs. Wilson meet Joe Wilson (R-SC-NUT).

With all this talk of wifely wisdom, one can’t help remembering the somewhat shocking quote from Christian recording artist Amy Grant who said, “If a politician isn’t doing it to his wife, then he’s doing it to his country.”

Now I know that won’t get past my dearly beloved but (tee-hee) she’s out right now climbing another mountain. So if you’re offended…blame my wife. I know I will.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Practicing Progressive

I am going to try not to get hysterical here…but when I see what this Communistic, socialistic, tree-hugging, Hitler-following president is trying to foist on innocent God-fearing, freedom-loving, patriotic Americans, I can’t help but want to shout out from the floor of Congress, “You are a liar!” What better way to express the outrage we loyalists are feeling as we watch our nation plummet into the pit of a socialistic prison? God bless America that we have such brave men as Representative Joe (“The Shouter”) Smith of South Carolina who, in the fine tradition so admirably employed by Messieurs Limbaugh and Beck and other true patriots, was not to be constrained by two hundred and thirty years of noble tradition and boldly heckled that white-hating racist we have for a president.

But I mustn’t let my emotions get the better of me. Still, when I think of what those traitors are trying to do to our beloved health care system, I could just sob…and design clever placards of B. Hussein Obama with a little moustache…and shout down any attempt at reasonable discourse…and laugh when gangs of fatigue wearing freedom fighters show up with chips on their shoulders and guns on their hips. It just takes you back to those wonderful years when uppity boys knew their place and the closest any of them would have gotten to the White House was mowing the west lawn.

I best take a deep breath here and compose myself but it is so hard when you reflect on all the hard work that has gone into creating a system where real Americans can climb boldly to the top of the ladder of success without the infringement of socialistic infidels demanding we actually give a rat’s-a** about those below. If they only wait a little longer they’ll get trickled down upon, you bet.

I can feel my blood pressure rising even now as I think of all the hard work our former president put into expanding our national debt with his semi-impressive but wholly inspirational invasion of Iraq while at the same time allowing Wall Street to go on a financial frenzy unfettered by governmental goons. Is it any wonder our brave Republican men and women in congress are so outraged? What of Bush’s legacy? It’s hidden, of course, somewhere amidst the trillions being spent to counteract all the hard work that great American accomplished in his eight short years in office.
Then there is the sad fate of our “Birther” brothers and sisters who sought to save our constitutional republic by unequivocally providing proof that you-know-who isn’t even a real American-born citizen. I know I can speak for millions of patriotic partisans when I say that the Republic of Kenya’s birth certificate proving his birth in Mombasa and thus utter unfitness for his present office was absolutely authentic. I know, I know, but a little thing like the fact that Mombasa wasn’t a part of the Republic of Kenya when the absolutely authentic birth certificate was filed shouldn’t dissuade us from the truth! The man is an imposter!

Easy, boy. Another deep breath. But when I think of what that man did to the millions of innocent school children this past Tuesday, I could just explode. Imagine someone like the great George H.W. Bush perpetrating such a propagandist attack over the TV! Worse, just picture G. W. B. or dear Laura trying to do the same thing! Oh, the horror! The horror! Is it any wonder hundreds of the faithful refused to allow their children to hear a U.S. president’s message? Who can blame them when there are so many other more reliable resources available? Just knowing our children can be inspired by the likes of such stalwarts of American values as Rush and Glenn and Jon and Kate makes Obama’s pitiful attempt at propaganda so ridiculous, don’t you think?

I want my America back! An America before there were death panels sending Sarah Palin’s grandmother to the great beyond! An America when people knew their place and everyone stayed right where they belonged! An America where regular folks like me and you didn’t worry about the government intruding on our lives! An America where health care was a privilege and not a right! An America where the poor weren’t so pushy and most politicians were Presbyterians! An America that demanded self-reliance and rewarded our independent, pull- yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps spirit! Oh those were the days! And we’re going to take them back, I’m telling you! Now! Now! Now!

Or just as soon as I pick up this month’s Social Security check.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Practicing Progressive

The blogosphere has been all abuzz this past week over prominent conservative columnist George Will’s apparent defection to the dark side in calling for the rapid withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Most of Will’s chicken-hawk cohorts on the right are aghast at his chicken-hearted lean to the left. Putting aside their fanatical commitment to beat Barack Obama back into pre-Civil War submission, the crazies on the conservative fringe (and closer), find themselves aligned with the president on this particular issue which must have the parties on all sides questioning their sanity.

Personally, I find our military presence in Afghanistan confusing at best and filled with the kind of ambiguities that disallow the self-assured moral convictions that usually make producing a weekly op-ed column a piece of cake. Instead of certainty, and despite the President’s current policy, I confess to holding the same doubts many Americans share about the wisdom of continuing to sacrifice lives, both civilian and military, to a cause that appears to be less and less winnable.

Some of the same concerns that many of us shared over the war in Vietnam hold sway over our involvement in Afghanistan. Accounts differ as to civilian casualties during the Vietnam War, ranging from the hundreds of thousands to millions of lives lost, but our own cost in military lives is carved in marble on The Mall in Washington D.C.: 58,209.
As of today, over 700 US troops have died in Afghanistan since our 2001 invasion but that sad statistic grows daily and many of us remember how our limited involvement in Vietnam soon grew to awesome proportions.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a colonel in the Air Force reserves, declared after a brief tour of duty this week in Kabul, that Afghanistan “…is not Vietnam.” His intention, clearly, was to assuage the worries of more and more Americans. And in one very important sense he is absolutely right. Vietnam was different because Vietnam was not a religious war. We were not fighting wild-eyed religious fanatics in Southeast Asia but we most certainly are in Central Asia. The presumed Buddhism of the North Vietnamese doesn’t appear to have been instrumental in waging war against their fellow Buddhists in the South but Afghanistan is another story, a decidedly different story.

The Taliban is bent not just in controlling the government in Kabul but in perpetuating the eradication of all infidels both within its borders and without. The kind of fundamentalist and fanatical brand of Islam represented by the Taliban and others is not amenable to peaceful co-existence with either non-Muslims or modernity and that salient fact makes this war very different indeed.

Dying for one’s country is seen by most of the civilized world as both profoundly tragic and inspirationally noble. Surely such sacrifice emboldened the soldiers in Vietnam on both sides. But when one sees such a death as the passage to being in the presence of God with all the concurrent sensual pleasures grimly forfeited while on earth, we are faced with a very, very different enemy.
Religious fanatics of any stripe present a particular strategic conundrum. From the earliest of times, soldiers convinced of heavenly rewards for earthly errands make for formidable and sometimes unfathomable opponents. From the thousands of Crusaders promised eternal salvation by the Pope to the 19 heaven-bound Al-Qaeda terrorists of September 11, the religious rationale for waging war offers no room for negotiation. One does not, after all, compromise on the commands of God.

Unlike the neo-atheists of late who see the eradication of religion as the only reasonable option, many of us find ourselves in the morally confusing situation of knowing first-hand the value of healthy religion to a society. We have seen and even participated in the enormous social benefits that can come when people are inspired by a divinely ordained mandate, from local soup kitchens to global activism against AIDS. But when that mandate morphs into murderous marching orders, we are left wondering whether the spiritual assets outweigh the earthly liabilities.

The victors in Vietnam have spent the last few decades rebuilding and reconciling their country. Industry has established itself, tourism is growing and peace prevails over a country once rent asunder. If and when the bloodshed in Afghanistan comes to an end, whether it happens sooner or later, will the same hope-filled result occur?

When religious fanatics are part of the equation the answer is almost certainly no.