Rendezvous…

I have certainly had some fun visiting the rendezvous in the last few years.  They are becoming my favorite venue for my micro-RV trips. With temperatures in the 60s today and much of November, it doesn’t feel like winter (thank goodness) but I am still in the mode of looking back with my picture portfolio. So, I have gathers some pics to celebrate rendezvous.  Someday, if I live long enough I just may try to join some of these folks.

As usual, click on any pic to see a larger slideshow view:

 

As you can see, my favorite flavor of rendezvous are those celebrating our heritage and settlement history.  I am just not a believer in celebrating war, it should be mourned not celebrated, so I don’t usually attend the civil war versions and such.

Teach theology, not religion

The quotes below come from input from Irish high school students when asked about having religious studies in their school system. The wisdom of these kids’ words are way beyond their years.

2016-08-29_17-39-25.pngBy giving all children the opportunity to learn about the beliefs and values of diverse groups in society, the government would be providing for their education in some of the liberal democratic values on which the State itself is based. They include openness to a range of views along with inclusive and respectful citizenship.

MANUS CHARLETON

Perhaps, as religion is one of the greatest causes of conflict in the world, rather than teach religion in schools we might study theology and get a greater understanding of our fellow man.

CIARAN McNAMARA (age 16)

Source: Teach theology, not religion

The Irish certainly know something about religious strife having lived through decades of Catholic/Protestant war in the north of their country.  They are basically proposing the teaching of theology instead of a particular religion. Theology has a very high brow look to many of us but it is really quite simple. It is the study of religion.

Given that there are currently about 39,000 different versions of Christianity alone we need to study and learn why so many have deemed it necessary to leave one version of their religion for another.  Then there is the Shia, Sunni, and other versions of Islam that need to be understood.

Everyone seems to be almost seeking their own private version of God. Maybe it is time to study that fact instead of insisting that “our” version be the only one to consider.

I imagine that there are many inside all the various religions who fear that if their kids learn that their parents religion is not the only one out there that they may lose their souls. But the reality is that whether they like it or not their children do not “inherit” their parents faith. They must come to God on their own terms. Seriously teaching them the entire religious spectrum may be better than trying to force them to join a particular version with no knowledge of other options. Everyone must come to God on their own, no one else can do it for them.

Just a thought for this Sunday morning…..

 

Happy July 4th… And…

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First of all I want to hope everyone has a good day on this important national holiday. 240 years ago a bunch of rebels got the idea to make a nation based on freedom of choice. The exact right group got together to hash out the details and those details have allowed us to for the most part flourish since then. I thank God for the wisdom of our founders. If only we could get a little of that today, especially in our presidential campaign… but that is another story.

Now comes the “And” part of the title.  In yesterday’s post I talked about the strange, at least to me, fascination with our country’s wars. Some make it a major part of their lives to recount every battle in our biggest failure as a country and that was the Civil War. They celebrate our biggest failures? Some, especially in the south, look back at the pre-Civil War days as the time when America was at its greatest.

Too many are too fascinated with our wars!  Even our national anthem glorifies the little-known war of 1812 and particularly the battle of Fort McHenry in the Baltimore harbor. Some say that war was chapter two of our war for independence. I believe we as a nation of immigrants are much greater than our wars.  For that reason, I would love to see a drive to replace our current national anthem with “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie.

Our National Anthem should celebrate the beauty of our land and our success as a people who cherish our land everyone who fills it.  Woody Guthrie’s song epitomizes that feeling.  I will close out here with the lyrics to again say:

Happy July 4!!!

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.
As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.
I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.
When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

(Original 1944 lyrics)

Memorial Day Is Not On the Church’s Calendar

I have been holding off on this post so as not to offend some people’s views of that holiday.

My friends at Red Letter Christians have spurred me in thoughts once again. This time it is about Memorial Day. I have always found it strange that we as a nation celebrate our wars. Some even seem obsessed with them. To me war is the failure to accomplish our goals in a Christ-like manner of peace.

“Bound together by Christ, not nationality” is a real but seemingly pretty naive thinking in today’s world but that is my reality. I know I am often one who goes against the grain of conventional thinking so you should not be surprised by my words.  To even have the U.S. flag behind most church alters is wrong-headed to me. We are told that we should be children of humanity through Christ who knew no borders in his teachings.

I am a U.S. history buff in that I have read hundreds of books on the topic and have also visited hundreds of historical site throughout the country. But I purposefully avoid the monuments and battlefields of our wars. Wars are not to be celebrated, but they should be mourned for the loss of life they incur. That is what Memorial Day is to me…

 

U.S. Reveals Death Toll From Airstrikes

President Bush’s use of drones and elevated them to an extreme level. We are told that the innocent lost of life because of these drone strikes are one of the primary reasons so many hate us in that part of the world.  They strike so quietly and devastatingly to strike terror into innocent citizens of those Middle East countries. Yes, we are known by some as terrorists in that part of the world.

If only we could have admitted our mistakes as soon as they happened we might be in a very different place in our world.  But given the renowned bravado of U.S. citizens that was never going to happen. We would never say we were wrong about WMDs and then quietly leave. Instead we simply dig a deeper and deeper hole for ourselves.  Instead of liberators we have become those hated Americans to far too many in that part of the world.

Vietnam was the war of my generation. We invaded that country to keep the world free of communism. Of course we know that didn’t happen. In fact our number one trading partner, read someone who makes all our “stuff”,  is an avowed communist nation.  We also know that the body counts the generals came up with in that war were grossly over stated. I admit that because of that and other things I am a skeptic when it comes to information coming out of our military establishment, they are all kind of Dr. No’s to me, so I expect the same thing this time around.

Hillary Clinton who is likely, if we maintain our sanity as a nation, our next president is on the surface is much more hawkish than the current office holder. I can’t imagine what kind of trouble she will get us into.  My mantra is “Give Peace A Chance”. Pretty naive isn’t it?

How America has waged an eternal war in the Middle East

I think I heard somewhere that the U.S. has more than a thousand military bases throughout the world and I suspect many of them are located in the Middle East. We as a country seem to be so fixated on telling others how to live that we spend huge amounts of money and our citizens’ lives trying to do just that.  Here are some words about that:

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Every year the United States seems to be torn between further retreat from the Middle East and deeper military involvement in it.

Over the past four decades, America has bombed pharmaceutical plants in Sudan and cars from Yemen to Afghanistan. It has promoted democracy in the Palestinian territories, then subterfuge and civil war in Syria. In Iraq alone, it has tried war, sanctions, no-fly zones, shock-and-awe, regime change, withdrawal, and, now, bombing again.

Instead he points out that while the Middle East will still be an irritant to America for some time to come, the energy that the world depends on is now found in abundance in the Western hemisphere and the balance of economic power is shifting dramatically to Asia. The unstated and perhaps morally unsatisfying conclusion is that while America’s expansive military policy in the Middle East may reveal itself to be a bad deal in the near future, geopolitical forces may conspire to push America to move on without ever truly reckoning the cost of its folly.

SOURCE: How America has waged an eternal war in the Middle East

The one thing I disagree with the above quote is the use of the word “irritant” to describe our Middle East quagmire. Trillions of dollars have been wasted that along with thousands of our young men and women. It is much more than an irritant.

I’m sure a lot of the Middle East think has been because of our quest for energy resources, which up until recently have been mainly oil. The Middle East has always been unstable, at least during my lifetime which began with forceably inserting Holocaust victims  directly in their midst.  Thank heavens renewable energy sources use is quickly expanding and  therefore reducing in cost. I can see a day when most of our energy is obtained that way. That along with newly discovered natural gas will soon make the Middle East irrelevant when it comes to energy.

I kind of suspect that if we left the Middle East citizens alone to their own fates that they would not have such a hatred for us.  If as my Republican friends now seem to want, let’s put up a fence around that part of the world and leave it to them. The Shias and the Sunnis can battle each other for the voice of Allah without our interference.

One of my strongest upsets about America is that we just can’t seem to take any lessons from the rest of the world. We think we “know it all” and therefore want to form the rest of the world in our molds.  We just can’t fathom that maybe we might be wrong about some things.

Its time we learned this lesson….

 

Were We Wrong??

From the title it is hard to determine where this post is going. We can be wrong about almost anything in this life and there seems to always be someone around to alert us of that fact. If we get something set in our minds that just isn’t true then we are the worst kind of wrong. But… that is not where this post is going. 🙂

2015-12-27_12-48-23.pngFinally, here is the full question,  were we wrong to separate from mother England, especially through  violence?

Looking back with hindsight it is always easy to judge the past by today’s criteria.  I will try not to do that but will use the wisdom of what came next to speculate how we might be different if we had not collectively made the decision we did.

It seems that the primary reason for our revolt against the mother country was money.  We simply didn’t like being taxed, especially since we had no say in where those taxes would come from. Of course the other primary reason was probably the arrogance of a king and the nobles who depended on him for their lifestyles.  They saw America as a source for income and not much else. When that income started dwindling they just raised taxes even more.

Was this reason enough to go to war over? Like most wars our revolution was an ongoing thing. One thing led to another. The Boston massacre might have started it but then a tit for tat scrimmages escalated it.  Initially there was little thought of becoming an independent nation. We simply wanted to keep more of our income to ourselves instead of shipping it off to people we knew little about.

Even when the war became official with our “Declaration of Independence” barely half of us agreed with that document. Raising an army to go against the toughest in the world was by no means a sure thing.  But soon the you kill us and we will kill you mentality took over.

In the overall scheme of the world we are still a relatively new country. Less than three hundred years of existence where many are ten times that old.  Most countries have little or no idea about how they came about because they seem to have been always there.

What would have happened if we had not rebelled? A likely scenario would be Canada. Yes, they are independent of their mother country but did so by peaceful means about a hundred years later than us.

On my visits to our northern neighbors I have realized a basic difference between us and them. They, for the most part are much less belligerent than we are. They spend on the military about the same percentage as the rest of the world whereas we spend almost a hundred times more.  Is part of this aggressiveness on our part associated with our founding? Is our obsession with guns and the NRA part of it too?

Canada, who for the most part have the same lineage as us took a very different track to world affairs. Would we be more like them if we had not rushed to war in 1776?  That is an idea certainly interesting to ponder…

 

Obama’s Neocon Critics…

It’s an incantation repeated among Obama’s neocon critics: the Iraq surge worked; things were going swimmingly until we withdrew; the same thing will happen in Afghanistan if we pull out completely.

Let’s assume it’s true, that we could keep peace and order in these countries if we kept tens of thousands of troops (or more) on the ground.

Here’s my question: Why on Earth would we do such a thing? How does it serve American interests to spend vast quantities of blood and treasure serving as a national police force for countries on the other side of the globe with no end in sight?

These are the questions that we must keep in mind as we assess Obama’s foreign policy.

It’s easy to say we should have done “something” in Syria three years ago. That “something” usually means helping supposedly moderate rebels to overthrow Assad and form a decent, democratic government. Sounds lovely. Except for the fact that everything we’ve learned since 2001 tells us that it wouldn’t have gone like that at all.

Overthrow Assad and the place will tear itself apart even more thoroughly than it already has.

Source: Putin isn’t humiliating Obama in Syria. He’s doing the U.S. a favor.

MyScans167I am very much a peacenik. I think war is absolutely the last thing we should try in tackling almost every problem.  So, when I hear the latest version of neocons wanting to race to yet another war as a solution for everything it turns my stomach.  I agree with my Quaker friends War is Not the Answer. Especially when we have no idea of what to do after we have defeated the bad guys. Most often than not they are just replaced by other bad guys who are sometimes even worse.  The answer in Syria, like it should have been in Iraq and most other middle eastern countries, is to just let it work its own way out. Don’t butt in with our great wisdom when we obviously don’t have any. There has not been a war in my lifetime that had even a remote semblence of what we thought would come out of it.

When Biden suggested that if we MUST invade Iraq we should then turn it into three different countries: Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish.  That might not have totally solved the problem but we certainly would have been better off if we had taken Joe’s advice than to rush in with our unbaked ideas of forming a democracy in that part of the world that has no conception of what a democracy is.

These new neocons seem to be ready to jump into war as a solution to everything. They never see a conflict that they don’t want to take over or a military budget that they don’t want to increase. Is this what the USA is all about now or is this just another fringe wing-nut group asserting themselves on the rest of us? I just don’t know.

Simply stated we just don’t need to be the policemen of the world. We are just not very good at it in the first place.

The Good Old Days…

2015-09-17_10-04-38a world that is boiling over in violence and cut-throat theocracy makes me nostalgic for the days it was merely “simmering in resentment and tyranny

Source: How the refugee crisis is teaching us the value of Hussein, Mubarak, and Gadhafi

Don’t we all wish for the “good old days” when Saddam ruled with an iron fist and as a result kept the lid on the Middle East.  Yeah his bravado rankled many but we for the most part just ignored him. He did kill thousands of his own people to maintain control but millions have been killed in the aftermath of his takedown by the U.S. military under their commander-in-chief George W. Bush.

Civil wars have tarnished history throughout time perhaps no more so than our own war over the right to own another person. The same can be said for religious wars. We seem to be a race that “MUST” always have an enemy in one form or another. If we don’t have one we search far and wide until we find one.  I often wonder if the other civilizations in the universe are as belligerent as we are or have they learned to coexist with each other?

Yeah we took down Saddam’s regime but I kind of think that the old saying “Be careful what you wish for as you just might get it” holds true here. There are perhaps thousands of lessons about needless wars in our past and we just never seem to fathom them especially when a new opportunity presents itself.

The U.S. has by a very wide margin the biggest war machine in the world. I wonder what would happen if we spent half the amount we spend on our weapons of destruction on finding a peaceful way to just get along.

I know that I am a naive idealist but isn’t thinking against the grain how paradigm shifts happen?

The New GOP…

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QE BannerFor those of you who haven’t visited here much I will state up front that while I am very much a social progressive but I am also a fiscal conservative. I too think as indicated in this editorial cartoon by Jack Ohman “where did the Republican party go?” They once were the party of small government and keeping expenses under control.  During those days I voted Republican about as often as I voted Democrat. But those days now seem to be a distant memory.

  • The new GOP seems to be made up of screamers who want infinite military budgets so that can go after the “bad guys” wherever they can find them.
  • They ignore thousands of needless deaths in order to justify their unlimited quest for the next gun.
  • They say they are pro-life but don’t want to provide easy access to contraceptives to prevent unwanted births.
  • Instead of providing mental health facilities and other social services they also seem to want to imprison everyone who might frighten them.
  • They have mountainous fear and very little empathy or trust.

It saddens me to see the party taken over by what was once its radical fringe. I pray that those who are on the drum beat to another war give peace chance with the Iran situation.

Question everything….

How About…

 Spouting Off… Being Loud But Not Being Obnoxious

One of the things I missed the most about my hiatus from RJ’s Corner is spouting off. It does the heart good to question everything and sometimes put forth a thought or two.  I plan on doing that rather frequently in the future here  on the new/improved blog so get used to it! 🙂

QE BannerI hear all the latest rumbling (as in ready to explode in a bout of diarrhea) about how the peace accord worked out with Iran is so worthless.  Some seem to think that our only solution to conflicts around the world is war. “Blow the bad guys away” is their mantra. Of course the loudest of these critics are the Republican presidential contenders and those in Congress.  I got an idea to turn that around.

MyScans167How about we send all the kids and grandkids of those folks off as the first line in the battle. Let’s make them put their loved ones lives on the line. I bet if that were a requirement the opposition to trying peace this time would quickly die out.  There is nothing like “skin in the game” to change people’s attitudes.

2015-02-08_08-42-25In the same light there are all those senior citizens out there that are so opposed to allowing  our citizens to obtain reasonably cost healthcare. How about taking all those folks off Medicare and let them fend for themselves in the cutthroat business pre-ADA.  I bring this idea up frequently when I get into it with them and have yet to have any of them accept my proposition.

I’m Back……..

War and Families…

2015-06-24_08-25-58This post is a continuation of my story about my father and his early years. I know there there millions of families that have been seriously affected by all the wars we have been involved in during my lifetime. Some grievously damaged, some to a lesser extent. I see too many people who are still living with the wounds of my generation’s war and that is Vietnam. They can’t let go of their feeling and seem to live them almost daily. To what extent my father’s war time experiences effected the family is hard for me to grade.

Dad graduated from high school in June of 1941 and was inducted into the armed services in February of 1943 at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis. He was not yet twenty years old. I suspect due to his hunting experiences he was rated as a carbine-sharpshooter and was sent to Europe. According to his “record of separation” report from the army he was in Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe. So it is fairly obvious that he saw more than his share of death during his two and a half years of war.

Dad only mentioned his war time experiences to me one time in his life and that is when there was the possibility that I would be drafted and sent to Vietnam. He told me of his platoon being sent out on a mission and everyone but him was killed. He was wounded and taken as dead by the enemy but managed to get back to his lines. When he got back he told his superiors to “take this gun out of my hands or I will go AWOL”.  He knew that I was a very anti-violence kid and if it came to it he would support me going to Canada to avoid going to war.  I was totally overwhelmed by his words.

They did take the gun out of his hands and he became a medic and that is what he did until he was finally back home.  He must have been a good soldier/medic as he received an American Theater Ribbon, EAME Theater Ribbon w/ 5 Bronze Stars, and a Good Conduct Medal.  He was mustered out of the military in November 1945 and received a little over $300 payment upon discharge.  Except for his discharge papers, dad kept nothing related to those years so there are no pictures for this post except the map above showing where he might have been.

Soon after his discharge he met my mom and I was born eleven months after he returned home. More on that later. I don’t know how much of dad’s stoicism was the result of his war time experiences that the kept totally to himself but I do suspect that a fair part of it was a result of those deadly years.

It seems that we have been in one war or another throughout my life but none of them compared to the war my father went through. It is good to see that more attention and resources are now being spent to treat PTSD in the soldiers returning from our latest wars in the Middle-East. Maybe a few less families will be destroyed as a result.

The next “Dad” story will be about his marriage and abandonment of his wife to greener pastures..

Weighing Nuclear Option…

2015-03-16_09-11-08“We were ready to do it”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he considered putting the country’s vast nuclear arsenal on alert to prevent outside agents from stopping the Kremlin’s forced annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine last year.

Putin’s admission was aired during a prerecorded documentary called Homeward Bound, which was broadcast on a state-backed television network Sunday in the run-up to the first anniversary of Crimea’s annexation later this week.

SOURCE: Vladimir Putin Admits to Weighing Nuclear Option During Crimea Conflict | TIME.

During our 30+ years of the Cold War and the nuclear standoff with the USSR a strategy was developed by the west called MAD. It stood for “Mutually Assured Destruction”. It went something like this. If the USSR bombs us with a nuclear weapon we will send off our entire nuclear arsenal on them and that will basically ensure that both countries, and probably the rest of the world, would be totally destroyed. The USSR then said we will do the same to you.  I’m sure that was constantly on the minds of both country’s leaders during those times.

Why do we constantly fear another country, rogue or not getting a nuclear weapon? The sixty year old technology is pretty much known to all the world’s scientists now. It is just a matter of getting the materials together to build one. We need a different deterrent to stop the spread of nuclear weapons than just trade embargoes and such. We need TAD, “Totally Assured Destruction”. That is the statement signed by all, or almost all, countries that says that if you use a nuclear weapon on another country the rest of the world will do whatever it takes to insure that your country is totally destroyed. No “if”, “ands” or “buts”. Your country is toast.

Can you image a hundred war machines immediately charging into Iran for example because they used a nuclear bomb on Israel. Would they really want to use a bomb under those circumstances? Of course part of this new tactic would require that the rest of the world start carrying their share of military might and that the US trim down our totally dominate war machine.  But wouldn’t that be a win-win scenario for everyone.

Let’s enact TAD and stop all these political games of one-upmanship that goes around a country buying aluminum cylinders..  Stop the current stupidity and come out plainly with “You use a nuclear bomb and your country will cease to exist”.

Occam’s Razor is a widely known theory that in its most basic form is “Keep things simple!“. That should apply here. We have prevented possible aggression with NATO in the past. Now it is time for TAD

Enough said….

Is It Worth It???

2014-09-04_09-31-04If it were challenged by Russia, how important is Estonia’s sovereignty to you? Would you kill and die for it? Send your children to do so? Would you risk the nuclear annihilation of your civilization? Is your gratitude for use of Estonia’s airspace during the war on terror that great?

SOURCE: Don’t save Ukraine – The Week.

The publication “The Week” is becoming a favorite of mine. It is from a British organization so it lends a different viewpoint than most traditional U.S. sources.  It seems to have the same contrarian philosophy as me. When we take away all the spin of being the “policemen of the world” is preventing part of a country’s population from splitting off into a different allegiance worth billions of our dollars and more importantly thousands of American kids lives? That should be the first question we ask ourselves whenever we get involved in yet another conflict on the other side of the world.  I know my answer to that question and I suspect you know yours without hesitation.

Wounded Souls….

Christians have a presumption against war as well as an obligation to help heal those who suffer its consequences.

2014-05-17_10-56-06The above title and words come from a Sojourners Magazine article by Gregg Brekke in the April 2014 issue. I have made it clear on most of my blogs that I am pro-peace in almost all regards and of course that makes me anti-war. All the wars and conflicts that the U.S. has fought in  my lifetime have not had any long, or even medium term, consequences. If they had not been fought at all nothing much would have changed.

The big war of my generation was Vietnam. Because of my hearing loss I was not drafted into fighting in it but I did lose several good friends in it. That war claimed 55,000 American lives and many more thousands in psychological and emotional duress. Even today after almost 50 years there are still those of my generation who can’t get loose from their experiences in Vietnam.

I would add a list of all the wars we have been involved in since Vietnam here but that would take up most of my self-imposed 500 word limit for this post. Thousands and thousands of  young American lives have been lost in our meaningless wars. Being a follower of Jesus, it is clear from his words that he was against all forms of violence. I very much align with those thoughts. Does that mean I am against those who fought in those wars, either by choice or were drafted? Absolutely not!! As the quote above says we followers of Jesus Christ have an obligation to help heal those who suffer from war’s consequences.

The article from which this quote comes goes on to cite  examples of those injured and killed by war. PSTD is a new acronym explaining an age-old condition. You can’t expect anyone to come back from war in the same way they left. The very act of killing in the name of your government and in defending your life in those circumstances changes everyone exposed to it. Some return much more damaged than others. Some don’t return at all.

As the article says veterans can be the biggest allies in advocating for peace. They have been exposed to the ugly realities of war. I feel very deeply and emotionally for the wounded souls who have fought in our wars.  It is up to us as Christians to do everything we can to ensure that help is there to heal those who have been grievously injured both physically and emotionally. We need to make it very clear to them that while we don’t condone the wars that they might have fought in we will do all we can to understand their pain and to help them overcome it.