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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."

-Declaration of Independence

I cannot claim the credit for this observation: every nation has a July 4th. Not every nation has an Independence Day. Invariably, today's opinion pieces across the country will use the national holiday as subject for some editorializing. Your dear Henry is no different, but I thought I would take a slightly different approach. Sure, many people will lament the absence of solemnity on this day, as if the holiday has become an excuse for consumerism or debauchery. Profiteers will laud today as a day of sales. Business will remain open, staffed by those who would enjoy nothing more than to celebrate their freedom with beer and hot dogs.

There will also be those who state that President Bush and the Powers That Be have much maligned our system of legal freedoms, sighing that we no longer have what we once did. Others will celebrate the sacrifices of the fallen, the wounded, and those who serve in Iraq and elsewhere. Finally, some will even say that the decline of America started when Major League Baseball adopted the wild-cards and the playoffs.

All of these are, of course, true because they exist in the minds of people who do have real freedom, freedom to think. If we are to believe the exhaustively researched articles presented this past week in the Washington Post, Vice-President Cheney has done a number on the legal protections created by the Founders. If we see the numbers and the faces of the men and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can choose to believe they died for a noble cause. Or we can believe their lives are wasted in a fruitless cause, the absurd idea that people elsewhere can govern themselves.

What the events in London this past week demonstrate is that there are those who have freedom to think and there are those who want to take that away. In my opinion, and by God or Allah or Whoever, I have the right to introduce my sentence that way, what we really need to celebrate is not the freedom to act, but the freedom to think. Ugly as it is, those bombers in London have the same rights as the straight-laced Brit. They can think it, malicious and hateful as it is, and that freedom is what people fight to protect.

So, we are in a terrible fix, but the idea is bigger than any one individual or brain-washing terrorist cell or political group. We celebrate Independence Day, warts and all, not on July 4th, but every day.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Henry's Hiatus

Folks, many many thanks for the well wishes and communications during my hiatus. Amazingly, after six months of no new posts, some of you still visit. Your loyalty alone has brought me back with a promise to be more faithful.

So let's see... I think it best to avoid all the politics until dear Henry gets back on his feet. Instead, I'll pique your interest with a recent book I have just read. The novel, A Good and Happy Child by Justin Evans, tells the story of George Davies who mysteriously cannot come to hold his new born child. After many months, eventually he seeks a therapist who helps him unpack a confusing past. This past entails horrific details that eventually lead adult Davies to begin a series of journals. These journals eventually tell the tale that involves demonic possession, exorcism, murder, and supernatural occurrences.

The novel also brings up serious questions about faith, and thankfully does not devalue or eliminate the notion of faith having a serious and important place in society. It proffers not a political agenda, instead it asks a pertinent question: does evil exist and is faith the way to combat it?

I cannot help but believe that the ubiquity of therapy and therapists is simply a replacement for what the church used to provide. People want to talk to someone who will lend them the patient ear and offer, perhaps, a consoling word. Organized religion has gotten beaten up in years past, but people's personal problems remain. They seek so many answers to dark, hidden questions, and they will willingly pay by the hour to get to the bottom of things.

People often dismiss the church out of convenience. Hence, they make excuses not to visit their place of worship because it intrudes on their personal time. (For the matter of full disclosure, your dear Henry has oft delivered this excuse to his family. Shame on me.) However, who cannot visit a church or cathedral when few are present and not feel some inner calm? That calm is spirit, my friends and dear readers, and spirit is how you combat the uglies deep inside you.

Evans' book is a winner. It abounds with lucid imagery, meticulous research, and creepy tone. Who would know of documented exorcisms that find their ways into his prose? Who would know of accounts of possession and Christianity's answer to the problem if not for one man, Evans, willing to make numerous trips to a library and (GASP!) research actual books that document these events.

So go get it. Here's a link. But read it during the day time. Your imagination will get the better of you, and you might just need to find someone wearing the familiar black and white collar.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Bombs for Parking Decks And Bombs for Liberty

Inter arma leges silent. - Latin maxim

Happy New Year to my loyal readers. As once professed to me, "the only thing that is certain is change," and 2007 will bring much to celebrate and contemplate.

Consider the recent bombing in Madrid. Apparently, the media in the United States didn't give it much coverage, but your dear Henry P. got plenty of it while traveling in Spain. Yes, days after staring at a large parking deck upon disembarking from my flight, ETA, a local terrorist group, flattened it, killing at least two people. I can only surmise that its limited exposure in the US is due to the fact that ETA in not affiliated with al-Qaeda or any other Muslim extremist group. ETA, the Basque separatists, want, among many demands, to have their own state in the middle of Spain.

Now consider the irony. In 2004, al-Qaeda operatives killed hundreds of people with bombs detonated on the Madrid subway. The Spanish populace responded by voting out the government. Two years later, an old thorn in the Spanish side, ETA, ends the cease-fire. And hours later, your dear Henry P. waded through a protest calling for a new government, one that will deal a fatal blow to the terrorists once and for all. In 2001, US citizens stiffened their resolve to take the fight to the murderers who started it with their hi-jacked planes. We didn't call for resignations.

Consider news of new policies regarding travel to stymie the growing complaints of long lines and delays at security. For a fee, travelers can register with the government, to include an ID card that has a microchip full of data and a fingerprint and retina information for an eye scan. After your background check, you earn a pass for special lines that promise ease and limited lines. If you've read 1984 by Orwell or Brave New World by Huxley, you may think of Lady Macbeth's words, "I feel now/ The future in the instant." We have arrived; you may sacrifice your liberty for convenience. But then you say what difference does it make if you don't participate in terrorism. Never mind the abuses that this system can lead to.

Consider how ideas change; years of patient pressure applied in multiple uncomfortable places. It doesn't occur by voting out an entire government. It doesn't come through appeasement. And it certainly doesn't come by sacrificing the principles that separate us from the medieval knuckleheads who want to enslave the world into a world-wide caliphate.

Consider the Latin above, "in war, the laws are silent."

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Reason for the Season

While we all wither away in numerous traffic jams and shopping lines, thinking about the "perfect gift" for the child or adult who has everything, I thought I would offer a few thoughts on Christmas.

It is no accident that parents spend lavish amounts of money on Christmas. We are, after all, a nation that believes the "pursuit of happiness" is an endowed right. Any parent, aside from the shamefully negligent, wants to see his or her child smile and be happy, and thus, children can be easily gratified with the latest and greatest. In case you don't believe the youthful exuberance that just the right gift can bring, look at this recent BMW commercial that features a home movie of two youths opening the Christmas present of their dreams. The kids go beserk.

But, this season is also about children. After all, the reason we convene and exchange presents, whether we believe in Christ or not, is to celebrate youth. We gather family around, we exchange gifts, we take a moment to catch our breath. We also take a moment to award youth. As a child, I lay awake for hours hoping that Santa had come. When I grew older, I thought of the presents I was entitled to have by virtue of my hard work in school or my obedience to my household's rules. Now, I just want socks. However, the gifts, even the mundane ones, return us to our youth, when someone else took care of us.

The parent celebrates youth by supplying happiness, and in a way, that adult is reliving those sleepless nights of yesteryear, when a wagon or BB gun or doll would have made him or her go beserk. When Modern Mom can duplicate that feeling in her child, she feels validated and valued. When Modern Dad can savor that moment of anticipation, he can revisit his own parents' delight at his excitement 30 years prior.

More importantly, the season is about a child, one born in the dust and grime, but one born with hope and one born to instill hope. Regardless of how much people buy into the Christian message of this season, they still buy into hope. Even if we lose our collective mind as a society, we will never lose hope. It makes us human.

Merry Christmas (and Hope) to all, and to all a good night.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I Told You So

"When military service is compulsory, the burden is indiscriminately and equally borne by the whole community. This is another necessary consequence of the social condition of [democracies] and of their notions. The government may do almost whatever it pleases, provided it appeals to the whole community at once."
-Alexis de Toqueville, Democracy in America (trans. by Henry Reeve)

According to today's Washington Post, the US Marine Corps and US Army seek to augment their personnel numbers for future engagements. Your beloved author has discussed this issue in previous posts, and I again mention that the United States has two choices: change foreign policy goals or change the manpower situation.

It still baffles me that Congress, with the exception of New York Democrat Charles Rangle, and the Defense Department maintain that current troop levels and quality of those troops do not necessitate the need for a draft. Rangle's point is more to illustrate the inequity of who shoulders the burden of fighting the wars rather than make the changes to support the current war. But as the article aptly discusses, the potential scenarios that illicit pangs of fear in the Defense Department require numerous and complicated solutions with a military that is basically unable to handle its current demands.

So I ask you a few questions. What happens if:

1. Iran nukes Israel? Either by missile or a truck laden with a nuclear weapon.
2. Pakistan suffers a coup d'etat? (They are a nuclear power, after all.)
3. Refugees from Iraq spill over into neighboring states? Syria and Jordan and Saudi Arabia don't want Palestinian refugees. Why would they accept Iraqis?
4. Other nightmare scenarios in Asia actually occur: North Korea moves South, China crosses the Taiwan Straight?

Some will accuse me of painting the gloomiest of possibilties. But, what will this country do if just one of these events happen when so many of the youth of America shun military service?