A Tale Of Two U.S. Cities

Charleston

Violent protest from violent people

Violent counter-protests

Violence begetting violenceImage result for charleston sc violence August 2017

Houston

Hurricane Harvey

Violent weather from the hand of God

Rapid local and national response

Violence begetting extraordinary compassion Image result for houston flooding cajun navy

Two sides of violence

Two sides of the U.S.

Which one is the real picture?

Are both?

America is like a family.

Her people fight among themselves like cats and dogs.

 But when something from the outside threatens,

her people pull together to fight it together as one.

 

 

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Fighting Terrorism

Who fights terrorism in our world today? Is it the military? Is it undercover operatives and spies, gathering information to prevent attacks? Is it police and other organizations on the home front? Or does the battle belong to all of us??

I recently was thinking about this after listening to a CD by LIFE Leadership founder Claude Hamilton. He said the attitude he takes when dealing with challenges he faces in his life is, “Well, at least we’re not fighting terrorism here!” It’s his way of reducing the size of his challenges, and putting them into proper perspective. It’s a good attitude for dealing with the things life throws at us on a daily basis.

As I thought deeper on Claude’s words, I remembered something I learned in school. I studied World War II, and how the ordinary citizens of the free world responded to the war efforts. Let’s investigate that a bit.

The men went off to fight. Some men who tried to go to fight were denied because of age (either too young or too old) or infirmity. Others stayed behind because they were needed at home, or in critical industries or positions, and governments refused their service. And if brothers joined and all but 1 died, the military sent the remaining one home, as was portrayed so vividly in the movie Saving Private Ryan. Those who didn’t go to fight served at home, in civil defense and in other crucial roles.

The women supported the men. Some went to work in factories to make the arms and munitions required. Some joined the Red Cross to help the wounded. Some joined the USO to help morale. Others knitted socks or sweaters or scarves to keep servicemen warm. Some rolled bandages. They took care of children and took on all the roles their absent men would normally have done, all in the effort to support the men.

Even children and young people got into the act. They collected metal for recycling into munitions and arms. They participated in civil defense activities. They helped out neighbors who were participating in war efforts and who were caught short for workers on the home front. They learned about the principles of freedom, the philosophies the free world was fighting against and about the places where they were fighting.

In some way, from oldest to youngest, everyone in the free world helped out in World War II. They all saw it as “doing their part for the cause of freedom.” In fact, this was a common thread in the newsreels and advertisements of the day. War Bonds were purchased by the thousands by ordinary folks, just so they could do their part. It was considered abnormal not to support the war, and people were shunned in society for it. People from all walks of life rationed luxury goods, and even things they’d previously considered necessities, all to support the efforts to win the war. And win they did.

Terrorism is the war that we are fighting today. Our news media, politicians and political candidates remind us of this on a daily basis. So, in light of what we’ve just discussed about World War II and the free world’s war efforts, I want to bring us back to the questions with which I started this post: Who fights terrorism in our world today? Is it the military? Is it undercover operatives and spies, gathering information to prevent attacks? Is it police and other organizations on the home front? Or does the battle belong to all of us??

I believe the war for freedom, against terrorism, is the same as those who we now call “The Greatest Generation” fought in World War II. While the military, the undercover operatives and spies, the police and so on are our active fighters today, we all have a part to play!

What is our part? Allow me to ask a series of questions, to define some possibilities for you:

  • Do you know the principles of liberty and freedom on which Western civilization, and most particularly your country, was founded? Have you read and can you understand your country’s founding and most essential documents?
  • Are you financially sound? Are you out of debt? Do you have a plan to get out of debt, and are you working actively on that plan? Do you understand and practice the principles of sound financial management, as taught by Warren Buffet and Benjamin Franklin (get out of debt, stay out of debt and invest in self-education)?
  • Are you stable relationally? How’s your marriage and family life? Do you communicate and work well together? Are you committed for life? Do you have friends on whom you know you can count for life?
  • How are you spiritually? I’ve written about my relationship with God a lot on this blog. Do you know Him? Do you read what He says in the Bible and follow it?

I could ask other questions, but I think you get my point. For every person who understands freedom better, for everyone who leaves the bondage of debt slavery, for every better marriage and stable family, that’s that many fewer people who have the potential to be terrorists. That’s families standing up in a trickle, flow, then flood for freedom, for liberty, for marriage and family and for the values they hold dear. This is fighting at the grass roots, folks! We are fighting for the hearts and minds of individuals and families, which is where the only true changes take place.

I use the information from LIFE Leadership as my weapons in this fight.

  • I understand liberty and freedom better, thanks to the Freedom series.
  • My husband and I have crawled out from under almost $100,000 of consumer and other debt, and just paid off our last credit card and car loan, thanks to the Financial Fitness series and Wealth series information. (We’re not debt free yet, but we’re a whole lot closer to it!)
  • The books I’ve mentioned in other posts and the Marriage Pack of CD’s have made our good marriage into a great one, that improves all the time. The Parenting Pack has helped us be better grandparents, even better than we were as parents. The books and CD’s of the LIFE series have helped us to make new friends, and be better friends to the ones we already had.
  • The books and CD’s of the AGO series, along with the coaching of our mentors, have helped our spiritual lives.

Consider what might be your part in our current war. Terrorism doesn’t just impact us at home when a sleeper cell is activated, or someone sneaks over a border to do something. It has already impacted the way we live, the way we travel and the way we view the world. It has impacted our children. What we need to do now is decide the impact stops here, it stops now and push back against it. We all need to fight against it together. No one is exempt this time, either. Because, as Benjamin Franklin said,

We must hang together, gentlemen…else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.

 

Not So Fast Food

A lot of comment has been made recently on social media regarding the decision by the New York State Wage Board to recommend a hike of the wages of fast food workers to $15 per hour incrementally over the next 6 years. I have a few comments and questions about it.

First, I want to address it from my personal perspective. Sorry, gang, like everyone else, I’m just a tad selfish, and think of my own interests first at times.

I work at a job that requires a minimum of an Associates Degree and prefers a Bachelor’s Degree. (I actually have about 1/2 of a Master’s Degree, but that’s beside the point.) I work in a business office setting, dealing with peoples’ confidential information. My work requires skills in multiple computer software products (including Lotus Notes, Microsoft Office Suite and work-specific software), high-level typing and data entry skills and dealing with the public. While it is not a professional position, it does require skills I needed to train to acquire to get the job, as well as experience in the field.

My starting salary was less than the Wage Board’s recommended $15 per hour. After almost 10 years with my current employer and multiple raises for high performance, it’s still less than $15 per hour.

Where will it end? I know professional teachers, health care workers, first responders and members of our U.S. Armed Forces who make even less, despite the incredibly higher stress levels of their jobs, let alone the greater physical demands placed on them. These people deserve much higher wages than I make and often make less, and in the case of our military, much less. But where does the “Me, too!” attitude stop??

Something isn’t quite right with a system that demands fast food workers are paid higher wages than employees on jobs that demand higher levels of training and skills. Fast food has always been meant to be an entry level position for a teenager, a stop-gap someone older might get while training to get a better position, or a job a retired person might get to supplement their pension. It was never meant to fund a lifestyle, which is what the demands for a $15 per hour wage really is when you look at it realistically.

I am not meaning in any way to criticize families who are caught in a minimum wage trap through no fault of their own. I know some of them. They are good people, caught in a circumstance beyond their control. They are making the best of their situations, and working to get out. Such folks deserve all the help we can give them. I’m just not sure $15 per hour is the answer. It’s too broad a brush to paint across too many different lives and circumstances.

Many fast food corporations have training programs for ambitious young people to move up within the company, to take on more responsibility and make more money. McDonald’s Mike Andres started as a manager of a family-owned store. and is now its U.S. Corporate President.  McDonald’s Charlie Robeson started as a crew person and is now its U.S. Corporate  Chief Restaurant Operations Officer. Restaurant Brands International’s David Clanachan started as a crew person for Tim Horton’s and is now the Corporate Vice President, as well as President and Chief Operating Office of the Tim Horton’s chain.  (Their bios are easily found on the corporate websites.)  These are just a few of the corporate success stories available.

How are businesses going to afford this? Before you tell me, “Out of their corporate profits,” may I remind you of something? Fast food restaurants are generally operated as franchises. Corporate owned stores are the exception, not the rule, and the corporations tend to try to get these back into the hands of franchise holders as quickly as possible.

This means the corporation offers its name, training, and supplies and leaves management up to the franchisees. The corporate profits of an entity like McDonalds come out of franchise fees and a percentage of the daily take. The rest of the daily take is what the franchisees use to pay their bills for lights, heat, taxes, salaries, supplies, food, losses, improvements, training and whatever else is needed, and eke out a living for themselves and their families. When the employees or managers don’t show up, franchisees have to be ready to fill in. When there is a crisis at a store, the franchisees have to be available to fix it, or arrange for it to be fixed. In other words, franchisees, like all other small business owners, take all the risks, and don’t really net all that much in profit.

Speaking of risks, are you aware of how much it costs to become a franchisee in the first place? A simple internet search yielded some astonishing results! Someone wanting to take such a risk must have a minimum of $100,000 for a smaller franchise with low returns on investment. To buy into McDonald’s, a minimum of $1.1 million is required, and often you need to have extra for the land, and you don’t get to decide where you’re putting it. They do. The returns on investment on one franchise are so low, most own at least 3 to eke out a living wage for themselves and their families.

It is from these people the NY Wage Board wants to take the $15 per hour. Not corporate entities like McDonald’s or Burger King. But the owner of the store down the street, who must raise prices and/or let go staff, and/or find other ways to cut costs to meet these demands.

So where will these wage hikes come from? If these business owners don’t cut staff or otherwise cut costs, then the only pockets these raise hikes will be coming out of will be those of the consumers. Because sure as I am sitting here writing this, prices must go up to accommodate it if nothing else goes down proportionally. This means fewer people will be spending less at fast food places, and more will close for lack of business, causing job loss and business closures, leading to these workers making less money, instead of the more for which they petitioned so vigorously.

Do you want some proof? Here’re a couple of links: Fox News Article and Give Away Pundit Article.

Getting back to my own (perhaps a tad selfish) perspective, with this decision by the NY Wage Board, my already stretched budget just stopped including any fast food place that pays its workers $15 per hour. On my salary, quite frankly, I just cannot afford it. And the problem is, I don’t think a lot of others can, either.

Repost – Historical Leaders — When “Well Enough” Isn’t Good Enough

The following is a repost from October 31, 2011. I have updated a few dates and timelines. Happy Reformation Day!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In my studies on Leadership, I have discovered a few traits leaders share.  One of these traits is a refusal to abide by the status quo.  Leaders want to change things, and just can’t leave alone anything they see as being in opposition to their vision of the future.  “Well enough” isn’t good enough for leaders when better is possible.  Here is the biography of one such leader.

He was born in 1484, in what is now known as Germany. His parents were trades people, with upwardly mobile aspirations for their son. Thus, he received the best schooling his father’s money could buy.

His father’s ambitions were that he become a lawyer, but the leader in him found law unsatisfying. So he dropped it almost immediately, and tried philosophy. That, however, proved unsatisfactory, as he found it questioned his religious faith too much. He later wrote “philosophy is good for the questioning of man, but man could only learn of God through divine revelation and the Scriptures.”

Shortly into his college career, he had an experience that led him to believe he should be a monk. This was very much against his father’s wishes, who felt he was abandoning his education and family. His friends were skeptical of his suitability to it, also. Individualist that he was, he continued the course once he decided it.

He tried very hard to be a monk, and later wrote if trying had been all it took, he would have been the best. But his superiors knew he was cut of different cloth (perhaps they knew a budding rascal leader when they saw one!), and sent him off to university to study theology, Biblical studies and the priesthood. He became a priest and earned a Doctorate in Theology, becoming a professor in it at Wittenberg University in Germany, a post he held for the rest of his career.

It was here he finally flowered and attained his now famous greatness. A representative from Rome came to his beloved Wittenberg, and began to sell tokens, called indulgences. These indulgences were meant for people to have the souls of their loved ones released from Purgatory upon the purchase of them. The church’s purpose in selling them was to raise money for St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The church at the time taught faith alone cannot justify people, and that acts of charity, not faith, were also necessary to be saved.

By now I am sure you have guessed the identity of our historic rascal leader, so I will use his name from now on. Martin Luther was incensed at the selling of these indulgences to the people of the church over which he was pastor. He initially wrote to the Pope by way of his Archbishop in protest, with the first draft of his 95 Thesis, saying the wealthy Pope and church should pay for the building projects of Rome, and not the humble peasants they were supposed to be serving. He claimed he wrote it as a scholarly dissertation and objection, not a direct challenge to Papal authority and power. His 95 Thesis were also printed and posted on the door of the cathedral of Wittenberg on October 31, 1517, now known widely as Reformation Day, in accordance with the Wittenberg customs of scholarly debate.  Today marks 437 years since that act.

The 95 Thesis were quickly reprinted from Latin to German and spread throughout the land, one of the first known historical controversies so spread. The word, spread thusly, went like a wildfire.

In direct contrast to the church’s teachings, Luther spent the succeeding years preaching and teaching (and writing) on justification by faith. Eventually, the catch-phrase, “By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone” became the hallmark of his growing group of followers.

However, the Catholic church did not take Luther’s perceived challenges lightly. They launched investigations, set up heresy hearings that devolved into shouting matches, attempted to arrest Luther (the German King protected him) and threatened him with excommunication. Eventually, he was officially excommunicated. But it just didn’t seem to matter. No one would silence this rascal leader, and nothing would deter his beliefs.

Finally, the secular authorities had at him at the now infamous Diet of Worms at Wartburg Castle in January to May of 1521. Emperor Charles V presided, and the Elector of Saxony (and Luther’s patron) provided safe conduct through hostile territory for him to attend.

The Emperor and an Archbishop finally demanded in exasperation he recant. Luther replied,

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand and can do no other. May God help me. Amen.

The Emperor and Archbishop, of course, voted against him, declaring his life forfeit. The Elector of Saxony helped him escape to safety on the return trip. He found chaos on his return, started by disciples who had taken Reformation too far. He cleaned up the mess, preached and wrote against the excesses and generally worked to lead people back to where he envisioned the Bible was telling them to go. Much to his dismay and distress, the radicals did have their way in larger Germany, igniting what is now known as the Peasants War, against which he preached and taught.

Luther rescued a group of nuns who no longer wished to serve as such and were being held against their will after he returned from Worms. Among them was Katharina von Bora, whom he eventually married, and with whom he had 6 surviving children. He had long advocated a married priesthood within the Catholic church, and now that he was out of it, enjoyed the benefits of it as a married pastor.

Opposing the Roman church’s central system, Luther organized the church that today bears his name in a decentralized system of synods, loosely aligned in common purpose. He declined to be leader of distant synods set up in his model, and preferred to merely advise them. He successfully laid out theology and catechisms (Large for pastors and teachers and Small for everyone to memorize and learn) for the church’s doctrine and its teaching for all ages. He rewrote the Mass to be a simpler service, a celebration for all ages that allowed for freedom of ceremony within synods and churches. Pastoral care and Christian education were both addressed as well, as he had seen problems with both of these areas in his prior service.

While in Worms, one of the things Luther did to pass his time was to translate the New Testament into German. This was the first time the Scriptures of any kind had been in the language of the people of the land since the fall of Rome to the barbarians. Later, he also worked with Bible scholars to translate the Old Testament, also. His version influenced William Tyndale, who translated the Bible into English, and the translators of the King James Bible, the first authorized English version.

Rascal leaders not being content with the status quo in anything, Luther also wrote hymns for his church. “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” is, one might argue, his most famous.

In 1529 to 1531, Luther participated in a series of debates hosted and convoked by Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse, involving doctrinal unity among the emerging Protestant regions. It is out of these debates the Augsburg Confessions arose.

In a war with the Turks, Luther had to deal with the differences between Holy War and secular war. He urged the German people to defend their country on a secular basis. However, he told them it was not a Holy War, and believed the Turks could be left alone in their Islamic faith. He continued in his beliefs until he read a translated copy of the Qur’an.

No leader is perfect, and Martin Luther certainly wasn’t. His writings on the Jews introduced into German thought and culture an anti-Semitic thread that just wasn’t there prior to him. He held them in disdain, and his views on the subject were repudiated by the Lutheran church in the 1980’s.

Luther’s final acts were on behalf of his extended family’s financial interests. The count who ruled over the city of his birth had in mind to take over their means of livelihood, which was the same as their father’s, and Luther stepped in to negotiate. The successful negotiations were barely concluded when he suffered what appears in retrospect to be a series of heart attacks, followed by a major stroke and then shortly after by his death. Just before the stroke, he was asked by his assembled followers and protégées,

“Reverend father, are you ready to die trusting in your Lord Jesus Christ and to confess the doctrine which you have taught in his name?” A distinct “Yes” was Luther’s reply.

The rascal leader Martin Luther died at the age of 62 in the town of his birth. He was buried under the altar of his beloved Wittenberg Cathedral. Later, when the soldiers of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V invaded Saxony, the Emperor strictly instructed his troops not to disturb his grave. He is celebrated in the Calendars of Saints of the Episcopal, Church of England and, of course, Lutheran churches. The final Sunday of October is Reformation Sunday in the Lutheran church, celebrating this leader’s revolutionary 95 Thesis, now from 437 years ago today.

(My thanks to my Lutheran teachings and books, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther for some of the specific details herein!)

Yours Mine Or Ours (The Encroaching of Collectivism)

How do we define where our rights as individuals end and our responsibilities as members of collective society begin? Is it fair to define what is mine without society telling me what I can or cannot do with it within the confines of reasonable laws and sensibilities?

I recently came across an article online that got me thinking about this question. It also got me thinking about something that came up about 6 months ago along the same lines. I’ll get back to that in a bit.

The article was about some people vacationing in Europe and having dinner at a restaurant. The group ordered their food, and received more than they could eat, leaving about 1/3 of it behind. Others got upset with them, and called local officials, who fined them 50 Euros for wasting food. The article, from http://36meals.blogspot.com/2011/10/money-is-yours-but-resources-belong-to.html, went on to say the following:

The officer then told us in a stern voice: “ORDER WHAT YOU CAN CONSUME, MONEY IS YOURS BUT RESOURCES BELONG TO THE SOCIETY. THERE ARE MANY OTHERS IN THE WORLD, WHO ARE FACING SHORTAGE OF RESOURCES. YOU HAVE NO REASON TO WASTE.”

A senior police officer of the Hamburg police ...

The tourists were sympathetic to the officer’s position, and the blog went on to condemn the Western attitude of being able to order and eat as we please, perhaps wasting some in the process. While I cannot condone the greed and gluttony which prompted ordering and wasting of large amounts of food, the attitude of the officer and the reaction of the tourists disturbs me. Greed and gluttony are two of the Seven Deadly Sins, the others being wrathslothpridelust and envy. However, society has had a history of failing to successfully legislate and enforce legislation against any of these human ills. This is because morality is an issue of the heart, and not of just behavior.
English: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four La...

The Seven Deadly Sins

The other side of it, the one from 6 months ago, was a report of an MSNBC network news reporter stating children belong to the community at large, and not their parents. (http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2013/04/09/critics-slam-msnbc-hosts-claim-that-kids-belong-to-community-not-parents/

Melissa Harris-Perry recorded a commercial for the network in which she stated that children do not belong to their parents, but are instead the responsibility of the members of their community.

“We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had kind of a private notion of children. Your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children,” she says in a spot for the network’s “Lean Forward” campaign. “So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.”

Melissa Harris Perry

Ms Harris-Perry faced a firestorm of criticism from pro-family, religious and politically conservative groups for her statements. Many considered her comments to stem from elitist thinking, while there were those who supported it. To declare parents are not the primary responsibility for their own children, as they have been since parents started having children, was radical at best and polarizing to say the least.

In both cases, there is an allegation being made that the rights of the collective societal community are greater than the rights of the individuals within it. It is asserted the state is a tribe, collective or hive, protecting the resources for the good of all within it to distribute as it sees fit. It is this collective mentality I seek to address.

The U.S. was founded on the principles of human freedom, dignity and individual rights over the rights of a collective state society. The founding documents are clear in these areas. It is only when the rights of the individual overstep and move into the rights of another that the state has a right to step in and declare the boundaries have been violated. To put it in more simplistic terms, as I learned it as a child, my rights end where yours begin, and it is the state’s job to make sure those lines remain clear. And the state’s job ends where my rights, and yours, begin.

In this individualized paradigm, for the most part, the needs of the few outweigh the needs

Individuality

Individual

of the many. The few or one are given as great a weight in considering decisions as are the many. Individual rights are more difficult to trample, as are the rights of minorities. When everyone has rights and they are all honored and respected, it becomes easier to accord rights to others, and the society as a whole benefits. In such a society, leaders come from within, rising as defenders of rights of individuals and minorities. Leadership becomes something possible for the many, not the few.

The U.S., Austrailia and Canada have been good examples of this individual societal paradigm. Founded on the beliefs the rights of individuals are paramount, these states have enjoyed social and economic freedom envied around the globe. Historical examples can also be found in Greece and pre-Empire Rome.

bee hive

bee hive

The attitude I see in both stories is the rights of the hive or collective or tribe is greater than the individuals within it. When a tribe is given the rights of the resources, whether these be food, shelter, clothing or children, the tribe becomes more important than the individuals within it. The needs of the many in this case therefore outweigh the needs and rights of the few or the one. Only the needs of the society as a whole are considered.

When no one has rights to be respected, it is rule by majority, with individual and minority rights being lost in the mob. In this society, leaders are those with best access to resources, or who are given power by those who already have it. Leadership becomes something impossible for the many, but not for the few.

Examples of the collective societal paradigm can be studied in the communist societies such as pre-Glasnost Russia, East Germany, North Korea and Cuba, to name but a few. It’s not a paradigm that’s not been wanting and not tried. It’s been repeatedly tried and found consistently wanting.

Best-selling author, blogger, leadership expert and business leader Orrin Woodward said

Orrin Woodward

Orrin Woodward

the other day on Twitter,

Societies, Civilizations & Corporations all decay from within before they are overcome from without.

Any attempt to move the U.S. from its fundamental principles of individual human freedoms as clearly outlined in its founding documents is decay in its society. I’ll say that again: Any attempt to move the U.S. from its fundamental principles of individual human freedoms as clearly outlined in its founding documents is decay in its society. Attempts such as these examples, and others like them we see on an alarmingly almost daily basis, are to be resisted.

The only way to remain a free society is to decide we want to be one, and then to take the necessary actions in the social media, the mainstream media, the voting booth and in legal protest to make sure our voices are heard and clearly understood. Sometimes, all it takes is someone standing up and saying, “NO!” Let’s all be that someone.

LeaderShift

LeaderShift

Where Were You When Our World Changed?

It’s September 11, 2013 as I write this. The question which is the title of this post (and variations on the theme) is the most common one being asked on FaceBook today, as it is every year at this time.

I started to answer it there, quickly realized I would need some more space to chronicle my thoughts and feelings and came here to you, my beloved loyal readers. This anniversary is a hard one to write about, and an emotional topic for all of us who lived through it. Maybe, if I sort out my feelings through my words, I can help you work through some of yours.

We live in upstate NY. I remember it as such a lovely early fall morning. The sky was clear blue. The trees were just starting their annual turning, and were mostly green. The weather that day was warm, but not hot, and brilliantly sunny. It was a gorgeous day in every way, and the kind of day that makes me wake up glad to just be alive.

My husband Bob had an unusual day off that day. Because we knew in advance he was getting it, we’d scheduled a brunch meeting with someone to discuss a potential partnership in our business, and then planned some other things while our son was in high school. Our daughter was away at college.

While I was doing my makeup and hair, the phone rang. Bob answered it, and it was my mentor and best friend, Cindy. She said there had been what looked to be an accident in New York city, that a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center, and we should turn on the morning news.

We saw the replay of the first crash right after we turned on the bedroom television. While the hosts were talking about how all the people who worked there would get out, the camera suddenly went to the plane flying into the other tower. As a host shouted it was another plane into the second tower, I looked at Bob and said, “This was no accident. We are under attack.”

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...

Bob looked ashen, frozen between the television and me. I saw the clock on the screen, realized what time it was, and asked him to turn it off. I said, “We have a meeting in a half hour. We can deal with this later.” As I finished my makeup and hair, I kept telling myself not to cry, not to muss what I was doing, and just get through the morning. Cindy called back in the midst of it, gave me a pep talk, and said the same things to me I was saying to myself, reinforcing my resolve.

We went to the restaurant. We had coffee and waited, watching the coverage on the television there. When the towers fell and it was quite some time after the scheduled meeting time, we called our new partner. He never showed up. He spent the day frozen before his own television, and when we finally met with him his grief prevented him from being able to see what we were showing him.

There is more, but it involves others and their stories, and I don’t have their permission to tell them. This post is about me, and my story. It will have to be enough to say about the rest of it there was a series of other hard events impacting many people, including the death of our last grandparent, during the month or so after that day.

We had a chance to go to the New York City site some weeks after it happened. But out of respect for the dead, and at the request of those others I mentioned before, we declined the opportunity. It wasn’t the right time. We did other things in New York City that day, including cheer and wave with our friends at every fire truck that passed.

When Bob and I did finally go, it was in July of 2002. It was a hot, steamy summer day, with street temperatures in the low 100’s. But when we got to the area around the site, where the operations were still going on, the air coming up from the pit was freezing cold, much colder than a place like that should have been on such a day. The pit was much less than 1/2 way down to where the foundations had been.

English: New York City - Ground Zero (former l...

New York City – Ground Zero (former location of the World Trade Center)

Most people stood in silence, or spoke in whispers. So a small voice speaking normally was very audible. “Mommy, why is it so cold here?” I heard the child ask, and the parent softly replied they didn’t know. Inspiration struck me, and I turned to the group where I’d heard the child’s question. I found the child, knelt and gently said, “Because it’s always cold where evil touches, honey. Most grownups think the evil behind the hate is hot. But evil leaves everything it touches cold. Love is warm, and leaves everything it touches warm.”

It took a long time for Bob and I to leave that day. The comment passed from group to group, from language to language, as people pointed me out as the one who said it. I have never, before or since, been hugged more in a day than I was then, even on our wedding day.

Our world changed 12 years ago. September 11, 2001 was a defining moment, one where everyone knew where they were and what they were doing when they found out. To most, it was just as defining as when President John F. Kennedy was shot, when Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated or when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. We all remember when and where we met our Significant Others, the births of our children, the deaths of loved ones, graduations and other defining moments which are the meetings and partings of life.

But where were we, and what were we doing, a year before September 11, 2001? Or a week ago last Thursday? Unless it was a day with a defining moment in it, or we keep a daily journal, most of us likely don’t remember. Did these pass by in the blur of “getting by” and doing the stuff we all have to do to live and work daily??

It comes down to whether we are living our lives on purpose. If we don’t live them on purpose, our lives pass by in a blur, punctuated only by defining moments, which are really too few and too far between. William J. Bennett spoke to this when he said,

Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always, even death itself.  The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for?

So, what were you doing 12 years ago? And what are you doing now, this day, to make today and the future worthwhile for you and those who come after you?? How are you living on purpose???

I invite you to continue the discussion in the comments.

The Courage To Stay (Part 2) – Historical Examples and Lessons

Hernán Cortés

In 1504, explorer Hernan Cortes left the island of Cuba and landed on the mainland of Central America. He and his 500 men were sent to explore and conquer the territory they found.

When the men learned they were severely out numbered, they tried to return to Cuba. Cortes stopped them with threats and promises of treasure. He then sent his most trusted officers to sink the ships they came in, to cut off their means of escape. The tactic was initially unsuccessful, and attempted again the following night. By this time, the men knew what Cortes was doing, and there was an angry confrontation. Cortes convinced his men this was a war they could win. They agreed to burn the remaining ship, cutting off their last hope of retreat. History records they conquered the Aztecs, taking back much wealth and treasure of many kinds to Spain in colonial glory.

In 1849, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, along with his fellow members of the Petrashevsky Circle, was sentenced to death for what the Russian courts considered

Photo of F. Dostoevsky Русский: Фёдор Михайлов...

subversive activities. At the last moment, his sentence was commuted with a note from Tsar Nicholas I, and changed to 4 years of hard labor in Siberia. Raised in wealth and opulence, the imprisonment was hard on Dostoyevsky’s health, and he suffered life-long consequences. He took out of it a firm resolve to make his writings count, and write each as if it were his last. By facing death so clearly, Dostoyevsky allowed it to rise himself above the trivialities of his life. Initially a journalist, he became one of the most beloved classic Russian authors.

Baden Panorama

Baden Panorama

In the stories of King Arthur and his Round Table, there are tales of the battle of Baden Hill. Arthur and his knights were surrounded, and hopelessly out numbered by their foes. (Who their foes were differs from story to story.) Using the stones of the hill, it is told they built a fort, where they took a small time to regroup and rest. Then, using what they had with horses, men, arrows and spears, they engaged their enemies. They had a great victory, with almost total defeat for their enemies, and some injury but almost no loss of life for them.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Like the parable in my earlier post, in these historical examples,I have explored with you, dear reader, aspects of the courage it takes to stay when others are running away. I know, there is a proverbial saying, “He who fights and runs away may live to fight another day.” But oftentimes, he (or she) who runs away might not get their chance to fight another day.

Sometimes, standing and fighting, even in the face of what looks to be insurmountable odds, is the thing you have to do, because you know it’s the right thing to do. It’s often been said the toughest fights are not seen out of people (or creatures) until their back is against a wall, whether the wall be physical or proverbial.

Strategists call this place “death ground.” When a person or group is on death ground, they will fight as if their very lives depend on it, because they do. Sure, running away evades and avoids a conflict that might end in death ground. But staying, even if it means risking a conflict on a death ground, leads to a greater potential of reward, even if the reward is in honor and personal satisfaction, and not treasure or riches.

So, what can we do if we find ourselves on death ground, or with a good possibility of being there?

  1. Take that one and only chance approach. If you’re not already on death ground but it’s close, sincerely consider its risks and rewards. 
  2. Act as if it’s you, or you and your companions, against the world. There is almost nothing more exhilarating than a death ground fought with a good and trusted company of warriors. King Arthur’s Round Table was just such a group.
  3. Do not wait to be ready. Act sooner. “He who hesitates is lost” is a proverb more often than not true.
  4. Stay restless. Don’t seek comfort. As New York Times best-selling author and award-winning blogger Chris Brady says, It’s not a comfort zone. It’s a familiar zone.”

What if you are the aggressor, and your opponent is on death ground? Be aware that opponent has nothing to lose. Death ground works for them, and against you.

The wise understand death ground will come at times, whether they look for it or not, and meet it with courage and strength. Fools run around looking for it, even when they don’t need to, and will even make it happen, for the thrill it brings. Cowards avoid it, fearing its losses and not seeing its potential rewards. Those who have the courage to stay and wisely face the death ground they are given are the ones who rise, rewarded by the love of their followers and the wealth of their experiences there.

The Courage To Stay (Part 1) – A Parable

Once upon a time, there was a land ruled over by a benevolent and kind king and his council. His subjects, though few, were happy. His dukes and princes came from the ranks of common people and acquired their titles through great service to them.

Each duke and prince was responsible for the well-being of the people in their region, and they worked hard to help they prosper and succeed. It gave the common people joy to know they could aspire to their ranks. As word of the happy kingdom spread, more people came, desiring to be subjects of this good king, and thus the kingdom grew and prospered.

Eventually, as time passed, the good king grew old and tired, and passed the rulership of his kingdom to his sons. He counselled them to listen to the advice of the council, as well as the dukes and princes. And for a time, as the sons learned to rule, they took this wise advice. So the kingdom continued to prosper and grow.

After some time, however, some of the older council members passed their titles on to newer ones the sons chose. Unfortunately, the sons began to slowly choose people who would want to do things to help the sons and the council, and not always the people. They also began to build up armies, which quickly grew great in size and influence.

Many of the dukes and princes started telling the sons and the council how their decisions were harming the people and the kingdom. Some started visiting other kingdoms, and the sons sent their armies against them, declaring them traitors. The dukes and princes who stayed kept telling the sons about the harm they were doing. At the same time, they were encouraging the people to do the right things for the kingdom, telling them not to visit other kingdoms or rebel.

Finally, the sons, their council and the generals of their armies met with some of the leaders of the dukes and princes who were speaking out for the people and kingdom. The dukes and princes were told if they did not stop speaking, they would be called traitors and the armies would be sent against them, too. With great courage, these dukes and princes said they’d rather be called traitors and have armies against them, then to harm the people any more.

The dukes and princes went to a no man’s land, where no kings dwelt. Many of the people who were encouraged by them followed them. Life was hard there, with no livelihood, and the armies of the kingdom coming against them. The dukes and princes gladly gave of what they had so the people would be able to live. Most of them stuck together, and the strong survived the wilderness.

Eventually, another kindly king heard of their plight, and offered to give the dukes, princes and people land to build new homes. The offer was gladly accepted, and all the people rejoiced at the compassion of the king. The people, who had grown weak and almost starved on their journeys, began to recover and thrive once more.

But the armies of the sons’ kingdom still came against them again and again. Time after time, the dukes and princes would have to go to war, while the common people were able to rest in safety, and often in ignorance.

Eventually, a few of the dukes and princes tired of the war, and signed a peace treaty, while the others fought on. The peace treaty divided the dukes and princes, and eventually the people. Those who signed the treaty went to another part of the new kingdom, farther from the borders and war, to live in more safety. Most of their people left with them, but some stayed. These were called turncoats by their dukes and princes.

Those who refused to sign the peace treaties stayed with their people, refusing to sacrifice their honor for some safety. It took great courage for these dukes and princes to stay! The dukes and princes saw some of the people who stayed had no one to lead them, and accepted them as their own. These people had great gratitude towards their new dukes and princes! Most of the people knew very little of the fight of the dukes and princes, and the toll it was taking on them. But the dukes and princes continued the war, because now it was a matter of honor to them.

After long years and much struggle, the dukes and princes won their war. The victory was a quiet one for them, because most of the people still didn’t know how hard they’d fought. Soon, though, they went to the new king and told him they wanted to start their own kingdom, in alliance with his. They would move mostly out of his territory, into uncharted lands that looked to their scouts to be very prosperous, which were right on the borders of where they now were. They offered trade agreements and exclusive accesses. To their delight, the kindly king agreed to all their requests and gave they his blessing! The dukes and princes who’d moved into safer areas tried to join them, but the king and the brave dukes and princes who stayed said only those who’d had the courage to stay during the hard times of war were welcome during the prosperous times of peace.

The dukes and princes who had the courage to stay became the ruling council and set up a peaceful kingdom, where the people flourished and the kingdom grew quickly. New dukes and princes arose, and some even rose to the ruling council. The alliance with the kindly king held firm, and the agreements blessed both sides. The kingdom was a happy place, and the people rejoiced in the wisdom and courage of their rulers.

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There are many examples of courage in literature and history. In my parable, I have explored with you, dear reader, a few aspects of the courage it takes to stay when others are running away. In my next post, The Courage To Stay – Historical Examples (Part 2), I will go more specifically into it.

That Ought To Be A Crime!

Recently, I overheard some folks discussing how people shipped things overnight places to hurry processing of their items. Often, people pay substantial fees beyond normal postal rates for this service. However, all it does is get the item to its destination faster. It does not promise faster processing once it reaches where it is going. The difference is 100 times regular cost in some cases! When one of them realized how much it cost, they said, “That ought to be a crime!”

While I am aware the person was speaking for emphasis, I immediately realized at least some of the holes in their argument. It is these holes, and the paths down which they lead, away from our essential freedoms, I want to discuss.

To decide to regulate and criminalize how we spend our money is to violate an essential freedom we have as human beings. The person who spends 100 times more than someone else to get his item to its destination overnight (instead of the 3 to 7 business days for normal postal delivery) is spending their own money. They’re not spending my money, nor yours. It’s theirs. As such, the right of property ownership means they get to decide what happens to their property, so long as it does not harm others. If I use my property, like my car, to deliberately hurt or kill someone, that’s a different story. We can all agree the law would be right to step in such a case.

Our freedoms guarantee we have the right to live, work and recreate as we choose, within the confines of a sensible legal system. They give us the ability to think, create and invent. Without freedom of choice and property, there is no creation, no invention, no innovation. The most repressed societies of the world have contributed the least in scientific developments, except for military applications. The greater the freedom in a society, the greater the creativity, in all walks of life.

The inventor Albert Einstein said,

Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.

I considered these thoughts during the debate over Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s declaration sodas of a certain size (or larger) would no longer be sold in New York City. His decision to do it was for the health reasons of the people of his city, and its visitors. But I kept wondering what right he had to decide how much soda my family and I drink? Yes, sugared soda is harmful, when consumed over the long-term in large amounts. To me, as a diabetic, it’s even harmful (in more than very small quantities when I am having a low blood sugar episode) in the short-term. But it’s also my right as an adult to drink this legal beverage, in as large of quantities as I choose, and take the consequences of my behavior upon myself.

Is a 32 ounce cup of sugared soda sensible? Probably not. But our adult son buys and drinks them occasionally, and when he does it with his own money, all I can do is casually mention our family history of diabetes (besides me, both my parents & several of my grandparents), and the risk he’s taking of it. But it’s his choice, his money, and if he wants to spend it foolishly, it’s his business. My husband occasionally drinks them, too, as do our daughter and son-in-law. Not sensible, but their choices. Our grandchildren, however, drink water or milk when we’re out with them. We can control the behavior of 1, 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 year olds. Well, not the behavior, but at least what they drink! 😉

When it come to each choice, the consequences generally also fall on the people, or those closest to them. To say we must criminalize some behavior because of its potential for long-term damage is to remove the consequences of both the behavior and the damages. As humans, we all instinctively know our actions have consequences, whether we like them, or admit it, or not. By removing all consequences, we remove all personal responsibility, and thus remove all personal choice.

My father died of esophageal cancer, caused by being a smoker most of his adult life. Was it sensible for him to smoke? Of course not! He tried to quit many times, and failed. It was only in the last few years before he died that he succeeded. Does that mean I want smoking criminalized so other families don’t have to go through the pain he and we as his family did? Of course not! His personal choices, determined by his personal freedoms, lead to his personal consequences, and thus our own personal consequences as his family.

To remove all personal responsibility, and thus all personal choice, is to remove all freedoms. For each freedom criminalizing and regulation removes, we are a more restricted people. Yes, there needs to be a rule of law, to dictate things a society considers inappropriate, like hurting or killing one another or stealing from each other. Yes, there needs to be laws about how what side of the road to drive on, and what to do when emergency vehicles are seen. These are sensible, and good, and we can all agree on such things.

But to go to extremes, to remove all personal responsibility, and thus all personal choice, is also to remove much of what makes us human. We instinctively want to choose our careers, our lifestyle, our cars, our homes, our clothes, our food, our life partners, whether we have children (and how many), how we school our children and ourselves and so on. Even the world’s most repressed peoples have some choices in life, no matter how tiny they seem to us in the “free” societies of the world.

As toddlers, we understand instinctively the rights of free people to have property and choice. Watch small children at play if you don’t believe me! Even if an adult starts them by encouraging coöperation, the play among toddlers normally quickly descends to a “Gimmie! That’s MINE!” level, unless an adult stops them. And if an unsuspecting adult tries to force an unwilling toddler into a situation, outfit or activity in which the child has no interest in participating, this instinctive want of personal choice becomes all the more clear, and loudly verbalized!

With each cry of “That ought to be a crime!,” we have that many fewer freedoms. A free society is loosely regulated. The more regulations and laws, the less free the society becomes. We are moving closer to less and less freedom, and more and more restrictions daily. All because so few are stopping to think that just because it’s not sensible, doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be regulated or criminalized . . .

Pledge Of Allegience

In time for the US Independence Day, I offer the following link. It’s my absolutely favorite Red Skelton video. I love it so much, I bought an entire set of his videos just to get my own

Red Skelton

Red Skelton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

copy . . .

Enjoy!

http://youtu.be/eMR6d_9GsCQ

Independence Day