Crisis of Confidence

This entry is part of 2 in the seriesCrisis of Confidence
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I recently heard an interview with a top US politician (more on that later), although it wasn’t likely intentional, her words alluded to a crisis of confidence that we are dealing with as a nation.  In the coming days, you might hear more about her inartful and poorly chosen words.  Of course, knowing the media these days, there might not be much about it at all.  But there certainly should be.

That got me watching another speech from another American politician.  Below are some excerpts.  Read them, and ponder them as you read.  They affected me.  The words seemed to directly apply to America now, maybe even more than they did when they were spoken.  As I listened, I longed for them to be spoken to our country and our people.

My notes on how I’ve represented the text are here

The politician’s speech

…[Recent events] confirmed my belief in the decency and the strength and the wisdom of the American people, but it also bore out some of my longstanding concerns about our nation’s underlying problems…

… But after listening to the American people, I have been reminded again that all the legislation in the world can’t fix what’s wrong with America. So, I want to speak to you first tonight about a subject even more serious than [policy]. I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy.

I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They will endure. And I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might.

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways.

It is a crisis of confidence.

It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the Fourth of July. It is the idea which founded our nation and has guided our development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else — public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution of the United States. Confidence has defined our course and has served as a link between generations. We’ve always believed in something called progress. We’ve always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own.

Our people are losing that faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy. As a people we know our past and we are proud of it. Our progress has been part of the living history of America, even the world. We always believed that we were part of a great movement of humanity itself called democracy, involved in the search for freedom; and that belief has always strengthened us in our purpose. But just as we are losing our confidence in the future, we are also beginning to close the door on our past.

In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.

The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world.

As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.

These changes did not happen overnight. They’ve come upon us gradually over the last generation, years that were filled with shocks and tragedy…

…Looking for a way out of this crisis, our people have turned to the Federal Government and found it isolated from the mainstream of our nation’s life. Washington, D.C., has become an island. The gap between our citizens and our government has never been so wide. The people are looking for honest answers, not easy answers; clear leadership, not false claims and evasiveness and politics as usual.

What you see too often in Washington and elsewhere around the country is a system of government that seems incapable of action. You see a Congress twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well-financed and powerful special interests.

You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another. You often see a balanced and a fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends.

Often you see paralysis and stagnation and drift. You don’t like it, and neither do I. What can we do?

First of all, we must face the truth, and then we can change our course. We simply must have faith in each other, faith in our ability to govern ourselves, and faith in the future of this nation. Restoring that faith and that confidence to America is now the most important task we face. It is a true challenge of this generation of Americans.

One of the [people that I recently spoke to put it this way], “We’ve got to stop crying and start sweating, stop talking and start walking, stop cursing and start praying. The strength we need will not come from the White House, but from every house in America.”

We know the strength of America. We are strong. We can regain our unity. We can regain our confidence. We are the heirs of generations who survived threats much more powerful and awesome than those that challenge us now. Our [ancestors] were strong men and women who shaped a new society during the Great Depression, who fought world wars and who carved out a new charter of peace for the world.

We ourselves are the same Americans who…put a man on the moon. We are the generation that dedicated our society to the pursuit of human rights and equality. And we are the generation that will…rebuild the unity and confidence of America.

We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I’ve warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.

All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path — the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to true freedom for our nation and ourselves. We can take the first steps down that path as we begin to solve our energy problem…

…Little by little we can and we must rebuild our confidence. We can spend until we empty our treasuries, and we may summon all the wonders of science. But we can succeed only if we tap our greatest resources — America’s people, America’s values, and America’s confidence.

I have seen the strength of America in the inexhaustible resources of our people. In the days to come, let us renew that strength in the struggle for an energy-secure nation.

In closing, let me say this: I will do my best, but I will not do it alone. Let your voice be heard. Whenever you have a chance, say something good about our country. With God’s help and for the sake of our nation, it is time for us to join hands in America. Let us commit ourselves together to a rebirth of the American spirit. Working together with our common faith we cannot fail.

Thank you and good night.

This forms the bulks of a very famous speech given by an American President, although not for the reasons you might think.  You’ve likely never really heard this speech in its entirety, just as I hadn’t.  I have seen small excerpts.  You likely have too, or at least possibly heard this speech referenced.

OK, OK…I’ll tell you who gave it and when.  Scroll down for the reveal.

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The speech was given by former President Jimmy Carter on July 15th, 1979.  He gave it live on American TV from the oval office.  It’s formal name is “A Crisis of Confidence,” but you might know it by its better-known nickname.  It’s commonly called “the malaise speech.”  You can watch the whole, 33 minute address here. Oddly enough, Carter did not use the word “malaise” anywhere in the speech at all.  Not one time.

But the reality was that Carter was just not a strong president, and he was dealing with bigger crises than many presidents could successfully face.  In the election of 1980 (a year and 9+ months later) he was destroyed by Reagan’s landslide victory.  He should have been.

In the biggest section that I cut out, Carter talks about some policy decisions for cutting our dependance on foreign oil quite decisively, growing our own energy production, and developing solar energy capabilities.  All of this seems to make a lot of sense for the times.  He also talks about turning the thermostat down at home and patriotically parking your car an extra day of the week.  That doesn’t sound like a strong leader at all.

But, the bulk of the speech was what Americans needed to hear, and I think it’s what we need to hear now.

At the climax, he says,

“Little by little we can and we must rebuild our confidence. We can spend until we empty our treasuries, and we may summon all the wonders of science. But we can succeed only if we tap our greatest resources — America’s people, America’s values, and America’s confidence.”

I wanted to stand up and applaud.  These days we won’t spend our way out of the Covid crisis, rampant inflation (that’s a big part of how we got here anyway), racial strife, huge percentages of Americans who just don’t want to go to work anymore, or any of our other giant problems.

Modern science has given us things like Covid vaccines, fleets of electric cars and trucks, and private space ships.  But our problem isn’t really energy, inflation, climate change, or a world-wide pandemic.  Yes, those are problems for sure, and they aren’t small ones at that.

But the real problems we face are 3-fold, as I see it. 

1- A Crisis of Confidence in Our Leaders

We have a country that many of our people no longer even really like, and leaders that are not representative of the best among us at all.  Most Americans see our main institutions as both dishonest and not respectable.  And we have a political system that seems to not be able to even recognize that it is severely out-of-step with most Americans.

2- A Crisis of Confidence in Our Faith

We have a crisis of faith, whereby we have turned our collective backs on the spiritual foundations that led to us being a great people. 

3- A Crisis of Confidence in Our History

We have forgotten and rewritten our history as a nation.  Turning our backs on the principles, people, and structures that created the societal glue that held us together, and teaching our children lessons that are not honest about our collective history has turned us into a collection of tribes.  These tribes don’t even see themselves as one nation, they see their tribes as a nation, and others outside of their group as hostile foreigners.

I’ve written recently about how I expect this year to be a challenging one for people all over the world, and Americans particularly. I believe strongly that solving these three challenges facing our country will be key to us overcoming a difficult time.

Over the next few posts, I’ll deal with these three points directly.  We’ll see how these areas need to be changed in order for us to return to a healthy country.  Unfortunately, if we do not set about fixing these 3 things, there are two directions that are possible for our nation, and I see these as a complete inevitability.  We will either break up into smaller nations or worse, we will redefine America into something that is very different and opposite in many ways from what made us a successful country.

But, there is also great hope.  If we, in the words of Carter, start walking, sweating, and praying, then we can tackle these problems.  We can emerge triumphant, and return to that place as a great, shining city on a hill that the nations of the world saw as a beacon of freedom.

For the quoted section

I have removed parts that applied specifically to the situation of that day, and some that alluded to current events of that time, as well as sections in the beginning that don’t flow as well to the reader.  I’ve also removed anything that indicates who is directly giving the speech.   I don’t want the reader to get any preconception of what to think based on a sense of who is speaking.  I’ve added or replaced words at times where it wouldn’t make sense otherwise. 

I have always put those inside brackets [].  I’ve put ellipses … in places where I’ve removed something. 

There is one main section I’ve deleted that talks specifically about proposed policy, and I’ve talked about that after the quoted section.  Other than that, I’ve tried to copy and paste with no other editing.

Here’s the full text of the address.

2022 Predictions

I don’t need credit for anything that isn’t official, but just so the reader knows, I wrote the majority of this in the two weeks before New Years.

I’m sorry to say, those that are waiting for 2021 to end in the hopes that next year couldn’t possibly be any worse are in for a rude awakening.  Remember 2020, when this whole COVID thing just got going?  It was a year of political turmoil, the sheer terror of the nightly news telling us we’re all going to die, everything was being locked-down, and there was no end in sight.  We all looked to 2021 in the hope that it would all get better when the calendar turned to January. 

But it didn’t.  2021 turned out to be worse.  There was the complete failure of the US in Afghanistan.  The news is not talking about it much, but a famine has now rushed through that country endangering much of the population.  In fact, the number of those starving to death might make this the largest world crisis in the world right now, but you haven’t heard about it on CNN. More than 20 million people are on the edge of starvation. The Taliban are fully in control and they are just as bad as they always were.

The border with Mexico turned into a horrible mess.  The numbers of people rushing into the country are without comparison.  This year is the highest on record for illegal alien apprehensions at the southern border.  Also, there are more people being caught from countries other than Mexico that people from Mexico, almost twice as many.  Yes, that means people from Ecuador, Honduras, and El Salvador, but it also means people from Yemen and Somalia, and other countries where some people really want to hurt America.

With vaccines and therapeutics for COVID out and accessible (or going in that direction).  It is easy to forget that there were actually more COVID-related deaths in the US in 2021 than in 2020.  On the final day of 2020, the US had reported over 350,000 deaths in total.  Right now, there are almost 900,000 reported deaths.  This means that in 2021 there were far more deaths than in the previous year. I’m trying to stay out of the politics of this, but I keep hearing Biden, during the Presidential Debates saying, “Anyone who is responsible for that many deaths [220,000] should not remain as President of the United States of America.”

As much as people were clamoring for a better year in ’21 than ’20, there is almost no way that we can say it has been.  The economy is worse, the geopolitical situation is more tenuous, COVID has been more deadly.  Maybe US societal strife can be seen as the one outlier, but that is mostly due to the media (and related) establishment not having vitriol for the current president, and Joe Biden not using Twitter.

Before you read this, you might be interested to see last year’s predictions.

I’m sure that many people are hoping and praying for a better new year.  But, I just don’t see it in the proverbial cards.  Here are my guesses as to what 2022 might have in store for us.

# 1 – Russia invades Ukraine

This won’t be a surprise to anyone.  Russia has been massing large amounts of troops on the border.  Yes, if you get your news primarily from Facebook you likely missed this one entirely, but it’s no secret. 

Biden had a video-call summit with Putin about this.  He threatened that the US would “make it very difficult for Russia to do this.”  This obviously means that the US would try to levy economic sanctions.  This isn’t even conjecture.  The administration clarified this the week after Biden made the statement.

If this threat were a deterrence to Russia’s plans they would have responded in a way that gives the US government a way to diffuse this situation.  But that isn’t what they did at all.  Instead, they gave a list of demands which included that NATO interests leave the Eastern Block of former Soviet influence. 

This is not doable for a US administration, unless they publicly give in the Russia which makes the US look very weak.  Certainly, the administration is trying to back-channel their way out of this.  I can’t see this possibly working.  There are a whole host of reasons that Russia cannot back down.

There are two options here.  It is possible that Russia is doing this as a test of a weak US administration…a bluff.  The other option is that Russia sees the opportunity to act, and they have long viewed Ukraine as a prize for a host of reasons.  It doesn’t make any sense for this to be a bluff, and if it is a bluff then Russia has already won.  The US has already committed to act only in response to Russia invading.

So, why are they waiting?  Well, it’s all about oil…clearly.  The Nordstream II pipeline into Germany and the rest of continental Europe is still uncertified by the EU.  It cannot legally deliver the oil that it’s built for.  But, Europe is over a barrel (pun intended) on this one, and they are in a situation that they created.  EU environmental regulations don’t allow them to produce the quantity of oil that they desperately need, and so they have to rely on importing that fuel.

Incidentally, I can’t quite understand how countries (including ours now) won’t drill for oil because they are ostensibly trying to save the planet, and so we ask other countries to do it for us? It isn’t like those countries inhabit some other planet. But these contradictions are normative now, and this is a topic for a different post, I guess.

This all means that Europe will have a difficult time making it through the winter, and especially a very cold winter, without this needed oil.  Once the pipeline is certified and functioning, it will be very difficult indeed for them to shut it down.  The Trump administration was able to apply very strong economic pressure to prevent companies from building this pipeline, but the Biden administration didn’t follow suit.

The US Senate will debate possible advance sanctions related to Nordstream II companies in mid to late January, or at least some elements will push for that.  If that passes, it is likely too little, too late.  But a strong Congressional stance is the only thing that could prevent a conflict here.

I suppose that the US could give in to Russia’s demands and avert a war.  The problem is that those demands are really demands on NATO, not on the US directly.  Giving in would also be such a great sign of weakness for the US and NATO, that the implications are worse than a Russian invasion.

So, after all this exposition, I’m saying that Russia will invade Ukraine.  The trigger will be the certification of the Nordstream II pipeline.  The buildup will get very tense in maybe January or February, and will result in a false-flag type of event similar to the German invasion of Poland or the Gulf of Tonkin incident.  A full-scale invasion will follow.

#2 A domino effect in geopolitics might result from Russia’s actions

  I’m not sure what all will be involved, but look for China attacking Taiwan, Iran becoming aggressive, or North Korea doing something…well, North Korea-like.  Depending on the situation, this might result in surprisingly little reaction from Washington, or a major response.  I can’t be sure now.

#3 If China does act on Taiwan, it will also be under the guise of responding to a great perceived slight against China

  That’s how China does things. Also, China losing face (or at least thinking their losing face) from the Covid pandemic will motivate them to show strength internationally.

#4 Iran will announce to the world that they have nuclear weapons, barring preventative action from America or Israel stopping them

This will be a huge thing.  I don’t know if Israel or the US will do something to prevent this.  They probably should.  If they do, then this might avoid Iran getting nuclear weapons this year. 

#5 The American economy will be in bad shape, for sure

The stock market cannot continue it’s nearly eternal growth.  Interest rates will increase, likely several times.  I think that inflation will continue, and I’m not sure what unemployment will do.  Many things in the economy now just don’t make sense.  If there isn’t some collapse or near collapse, then economic theory makes no sense anymore.

#6 Joe Biden won’t be President

I’ve long said that Joe Biden will announce that he cannot continue as President before Q2 of 2022.  With the unpopularity of Kamala Harris, I no longer know how palatable that will be.  If it will happen next year, I would think that Q1 would be when it is best politically done.  Either way, for sure we won’t end 2022 with Joe Biden still as President.

By the way, lest you think this is wishful thinking, I prefer Joe Biden to those down-steam in presidential succession. In my view, this will be tragic.

#7 The GOP will take control of both Houses of Congress in the November elections

#8 Democrats will make a big deal of this January 6th

This isn’t a bold prediction.  It is only a day away as I write this, and they’ve already announced it. But look for some pretty crazy over-the-top stuff.

#9 Trump will be active in advocating for candidates in the run up to the election

He will might not just be out there in the general, but also in the run-up prior to the primaries.  Whether or not he will be trying to stay the political disruptor, or will be together with the main part of the party will be telling, for sure. It will be really telling if he is more active during the Primary season, or in the General afterwards.

If he actively challenges Republican candidates in the Primary it will be bad for his future in his plan to inevitably run in 2024. If he has seen by the party as supporting Republican efforts, then he’ll get large Republican support. If however, he goes after established Republicans in the primary it will both be seen as a vindictive effort against those who didn’t support him enough, and it will be seen as endangering the party’s chances of taking back power. Either way it breaks Reagan’s 11th Commandment of Politics.

#10 North Korea will be a big story in 2022

There is a good chance that North Korea won’t end the year with Kim Jung Un as their leader.  If that happens there are two directions that things could go in there.  Either, there will be consolidation around a new leader, and the current frontrunner is his sister.  The other option is for great internal strife.  If that happens, look for a Chinese-brokered solution.  The Chinese will not allow a re-unified Korea under a Democratic-style government on their border. 

In either event, look for North Korea to be pretty large in the news in 2022.  Possible belligerent acts are used within the North Korean power structure to cement leadership there.  An “us versus them” outlook is often used to build unity in many countries, and North Korea is a classic example of this repeatedly. 

#11 There will be a political revolution in at least one major country this year

The forced Covid lockdowns in both Western-type Democratic countries, as well as the extreme draconian Chinese lockdowns are creating powder-kegs that are ripe for explosions. 
I’ve heard former journalist Dan Carlin’s theory about societies needing pressure-release valves for the people to keep their internal pressures from building up too much.  When that is not allowed or available is when the people lose their self-control.  I think he’s completely right in this regard.

We’re seeing some big protests in some locked-down countries.  If the governments won’t listen and respond, it’ll boil over.  Some governments won’t.  Things could get messy.  We’ll have to see.

Bonus:

I’m not sure that Biden will do this, but I think if the former Vice-President officially  changed his first name legally to Brandon, it would be cool.

Squeegees and Lyrebirds

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I have a wide, white squeegee* in my shower.  Occasionally, although not often enough for me to avoid feeling guilty, I will remember to use this squeegee to get the water off of my shower tiles after bathing.  I suppose that this is intended to keep the shower clean and mildew free, but that isn’t really why I have the squeegee at all.

My grandfather had a similar squeegee in his shower when I was a kid.  The shower was small, but had large mint green tiles.  Nothing else matched that color in the bathroom.  I always wondered if he had the shower done all in green as some secret surprise in an otherwise bland earth-toned bathroom.  People would use the restroom and never know the wonderful secret that lurked hidden behind that frosted glass door.  But I suppose in reality, the shower had always been that color and was just not updated some time before my birth when the bathroom had been remodeled.

I remember when I was a child, old enough to not only take baths but still young enough to be instructed on shower basics, my Granddad told me the importance of the squeegee, and showed me how to use it.  He used meticulously placed downward strokes, with even pressure through the whole motion with the care that my grandfather used in almost everything he did.  It made that beautiful shhthwhack sound that every squeegee makes.  It is a pleasing sound, maybe just to me, but I suspect everyone likes it.

That is why I always have had one in my shower, I suppose.  All because my little brain tape recorder was fed the instruction that after a shower the tile must be dried, and that every shower must contain a squeegee.  When I am in a hotel I often feel a little bit robbed when I don’t see one in the shower.  I don’t know why.  It is obviously the maid’s job to clean it, and that is far more often than anyone’s home shower would get any such attention at all.

I got to thinking about this kind of thing recently while visiting a really odd church on some anonymous Sunday morning.  Some of the people were friendly enough, but the service had a lot of weird things that nobody explained.  They weren’t weird in a cultish way, but in some cultural expressions that they didn’t bother explaining.  It was like celebrating Christmas with a family other than your own, and at dinner they serve Hot Pockets.  Even though it seems really odd, but you feel too shy to ask.

Anyway, during the church service I saw a mid-twenties aged man in the front row.  He had one son with him, probably about 5 years old.  The man got down on his knees in worship and his son knelt quickly down next to him.  The man raised one hand in worship then two, and the son followed suit each time.  The child kept his head pointed toward his dad the whole time so that he wouldn’t miss even some small motion.

He was learning how to worship, and some day 30 years from now, he’ll be in the front row of the church on his knees and he won’t know why, other than that this is the best way to worship God.  It will be stuck in his little recorder, part of his functional DNA, and he also won’t understand why some other dude only worships in the back bobbing his head.

There is this bird in Australia called the Lyrebird.  It is different than the birds that congregate outside my window and wake me up in the morning.  Each spring morning I hear the chip-chirp-cheeee of the Warblers repeatedly until I either submit to the headache or wake up and shower.  But that is the only song that they know.  They do it repeatedly throughout their lives.  They are programmed to sing that.

But the Lyrebird doesn’t do things that way.  He takes the sounds of other birds in his forest and repeats them, weaving them all into his own little song.  He mimics them perfectly.  If he hears a chain saw or a camera, he does those sounds too.  You’d swear it was the real thing.  All these sounds put together into a song.  It is the life of the forest in one medley-remix.  The camera and chainsaw aren’t that melodious by themselves, but the Lyrebird makes it melodious.

I hope I’m kind of like that Lyrebird.  When I swim I think about the time as a child that my dad explained to me how sound travels faster in water than in air.  When I cook I repeat actions I learned long ago from my mom and grandma.  And there is a squeegee in my shower.  I want to believe it is my beautiful song with my own spin on the melody.  I don’t want to be just a Warbler, repeating the same thing endlessly.  I think we are pretty inventive as people, but in a beautiful way, we’re often just repeating the forest sounds of our youth. -Ryan

*I have recently discovered that “squeegee” is a very fun word to spell
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Insensitivity

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I worked in management for Sears throughout college.  It was a good job that treated me well and gave me a great opportunity to build a business management resume that has benefited me throughout my whole adult life.  But that was a very different Sears that I have seen over the last 10 years.

Last week, I was on lunch and decided to pull up a YouTube video of Chris Tomlin (a Christian worship music artist) singing a song I’d hurt at church the weekend prior.  As most of us know, YouTube regularly plays videos of sponsored content (a.k.a ads) before your chosen video.  It is part of the monetization that Google brings to all of its products.  When a company pays for an ad to run, they specify all of the criteria that will determine who sees the video.  This includes thing like the geographic location of the watcher, the viewer’s history, and the specific thing searched for, as well as everything in between.  I’m simplifying the process, but it is nearly infinitely customizable, ensuring that the only people who see your video are the exact people you want to see it.

So, I search for Chris Tomlin and the title of the worship song (I don’t remember right now exactly which song it was) and I click on the video.  Before my video starts to play, this is the ad I see (feel free not to watch the whole thing):

I skipped the ad when it gave me a chance and watched my worship video, but the more I thought about it the more upset I became.  I can’t think of a YouTube history on my account that would have been pertinent or anything else that makes sense…unless either they were putting that out to everyone, or they were specifically targeting people watching worship videos.

So, I took to Twitter, incredulous that Sears would be so insensitive.  The screenshot from my Tweet, and Sears’ response not long after, are below.

Sears Tweet

It is 2014,  know.  I am not surprised by a company supporting homosexual marriage.  I don’t like it, but I know it happens.  I don’t support the homosexual mafia attacking companies like Chik-fil-a simply because their CEO said that he believes a marriage is between a man and a woman.  But most of all, I can’t support the incredible rudeness of a company deliberately attacking the morality of Christians in this way.  Whether their Tweet to me was an automatic response to mine or not, it doesn’t matter.

I’m not one to start a boycott and get worked up over anything secular.  I think that secular complies not guided by Christians will not act Christian.  However, companies that deliberately attack Christians is another story altogether.

You know why they do it?  They do it because they know that they will insult us and treat us disrespectfully in whatever ways they choose, and we will buy their products just the same.  We might post a Facebook complaint and feel like we accomplished something, but as soon as the next sale comes along, we will open up our wallets again.

For me, it stops here.  I have drawn a line in the sand.  I have a lot of Craftsman tools and a Sears credit card.  I’m canceling the card and have bought my last tool from them.

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Incidentally, if you want the story behind the video (which I actually haven’t seen in its entirety), Sears sponsored a float in the recent Chicago homosexual parade.  On that float they had 4 homosexual couples getting “married” and this video was celebrating that.

Next time you buy a Sears product, know that is where some of your money is going.  If you support that, then great.  If you don’t, you are supporting it anyway with your money.

 

A Cool Excerpt

I am not saying that I agree with this completely.  I am saying that it is inspiring of deep thought.

  So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another–their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun…

Do you wish to know whether that day is comping?  Watch money.  Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue.  When you see that trading is done, not by consent but by compulsion–when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing–when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors–when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you–when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice–you may know that your society is doomed.  Money is so noble a medium that it does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality.   It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half loot.

Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men’s protection and the base of a moral existence.  Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper.  This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values.  Gold was an objective value, and equivalent of wealth produced.  Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it.  Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims.  Watch for the day when it bounces, marked: ‘Account overdrawn.’

When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good.  Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral.  Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded.  Do not ask, “Who is destroying the world?”  You are.  

-Francisco d’Anconia

12 Gripes of Christmas – part 4

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series12 Gripes of Christmas

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4. For the fourth gripe of Christmas I will give to thee: Poinsettias, Mistletoe, and Holly

All of these interesting plants represent the Christmas season in some way.  We have all seen bright red Poinsettias in every house or church, kissed under some mistletoe, or sung the words, “deck the halls with bows of holly.”  They are pretty green plants in the middle of Winter.  But did you know these plants also have something else in common?

All three are poisonous.  Yep, that is right, they will make you go poo-poo something awful.  That is, if they don’t kill you.  The one you have probably heard the story about most is actually the least deadly.  Poinsettia can give you a pretty painful stomachache, but that is about all.  The other two can put you in the hospital with some serious vomiting and a case of the fire-pigoo.

Add to the mix that mistletoe is a vampire.  Mistletoe grows as a sap-sucking parasite in tree branches.  Of course, that inspires you to let your loved one suck on your own face as you stand beneath it this yuletide.–Ryan

12 Gripes of Christmas – part 3

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3. For the third gripe of Christmas I will give to thee: Neighbors crappy Christmas lights.

Christmas lights are actually one of my favorite parts of the whole season.  When it comes time to set up the tree and other decorations, I enjoy heading outside and getting all the lights up on the outside of the house.  I like driving through the streets of town and seeing other people’s houses decorated as well.  It can be beautiful.

But, then there are displays like this, and every neighborhood has one—one wonderful family that ruins it all for the whole block. I know, because this video was taken in my own neighborhood:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qhj1ghyq44Q
About a mile from my house is an area of a few blocks where all the houses are decorated with a common theme.  One of the highlights of the season is driving down that block.  It is peaceful.  It is serene.  There are houses with lighted reindeer, houses with lights on almost every square inch of the roof, and there are homes with cardboard cutouts of snoopy and inflatables all over the lawn.

You know what you won’t see in that neighborhood?  Blinking lights.  That’s right.  No one has ever said, “Wow, that house with all the blinking lights really makes me feel all warm inside and peaceful.”

The blinking lights send a different message entirely: “Gamble Here!”  When anyone turns down the main street to my neighborhood, the first sight they see is much less O Holy Night and far more Live Dancing Girls.

There is a reason that light red blink-inducing bulb comes in a hermetically sealed bag when open your new stringlights.  It is a warning.  If you want your lights to cause seizures, keep it inside your own house, and stop terrorizing your neighborhood.–Ryan

12 Gripes of Christmas – part 2

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series12 Gripes of Christmas

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2. For the Second Gripe of Christmas, I will Give to Thee: A mall Santa in front of JC Penney.

I generally like Saint Nick, particularly the German version who either rewards good children with fruit or takes them to sell into slavery.  But as I don’t want to sound too much like Dwight Shrute, I will let that be.

My issue with Santa is actually quite extensive.  First, there is the typical complaint that Santa is a huge distraction from the whole point of Christmas, and while that is definitely true, I am not a big enough grinch to advocate kicking Santa entirely out.  But there has been a clear effort to kick Jesus out of his own birthday party.

When I was a child, my mom told me that Santa was good, but that Jesus was the real reason to celebrate Christmas.  Now we have “progressed” to the point where even acknowledging Christmas at all is frowned upon generally.  Instead, we call it Holiday.  But, while Jesus has been largely thrown out of the party, Santa is still allowed.

The problem is that Mr. Claus is pretty much an anti-Jesus figure in many ways.  Santa makes a list and checks it twice in order to separate the good children from the children whom Santa’s NSA network has built a strong enough case against.  The children who have acquired enough good karma are rewarded with gifts.

The story of Jesus is that He came to give free gifts to those who especially don’t deserve it.  Jesus is specifically showing the message that God is not making a list and checking it twice.  This is especially true when you exegete the song a bit.  If he is “making a list and checking it twice,” then he is specifically doing it to properly identify the bad kids.  If he were only checking his list once with the kid’s behavior, then some kids who were naughty might actually get gifts anyway.  Instead, he is making doubly sure to weed out the bad.  But God in Christ, is sowing grace prodigally.

But Santa is even more confusing than that.  In my childhood, we lived in a house for a while that had a fake fireplace which had been boarded up years ago.  I was very concerned about how Santa would get in.  My mom offered to keep the door unlocked, a proposition that I felt was unsafe.  She told me that Saint Nick had his secret ways.  That led to a realization, and many sleepless nights.

Santa is basically the same as a cat burglar.  He sneaks in through the chimney or some other weak point in the home.  He brings a giant bag, and only enters if everyone is properly asleep.  He has the perfect getaway vehicle.  At the end of the night he will sneak out of the country.  He goes by several assumed names, and he has been casing your family for a long time.

The fact that Santa leaves things instead of taking them is a minor detail he may work out at any time.  And how do we know he hasn’t actually been stealing stuff for years.  You know all those socks you think the clothes dryer has been swallowing?  You can’t prove that he hasn’t been taking them all along.–Ryan

12 Gripes of Christmas – part 1

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series12 Gripes of Christmas

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I know that I might upset a few people with this one, but really when has that ever stopped me…

I have always been kind of a bah-humbug type when it comes to much of the Christmas festivities.  I could do without most of it, and skip the entire month of December entirely.   And I am not alone.  Many people feel this way.  We are all just afraid to say it.  Why, you ask?  It is because all of the Christmas Nazis out there will shame us as if we threatened all of existence by not liking the holiday.

Now, let me make myself clear.  I love the idea of celebrating the birth of Christ.  I like spending time with friends and family, and I have some fond memories from my childhood.  I also do not wish to ruin other people’s joy in any way.

But that being said, there are a few things I need to get off my chest.  Let’s call them my 12 Gripes of Christmas:

1. On the first gripe of Christmas, I will give to thee: Awful Christmas melodies. 

Christmas music is terrible.  There, I said it, and I won’t take it back.  Yes, yes, there are some really good songs that are emotionally powerful, and some fun to sing.  But the only reason that any of us enjoy most holiday songs at all is that we have heard them every single year for our entire lives…every year…for a month straight.

Think about that.  If you imagine your five favorite songs of all time, would you really want to hear them every year for a month non-stop?  Would you like to hear the Beatles Day in the Life as an all-instrumental version in every mall?  How about Billy Jean done by the cast of Duck Dynasty?  And these are actually good songs.  Instead we get to listen to:

The 12 Days of Christmas: A twelve-verse hymn consisting of a lover gifting his beloved with wildly inappropriate items such as farm animals, overly expensive jewelry for every finger, and apparently slaves.  I don’t care who you are, if you love me please do not gift me with maids-a-milking.  I do not need that much cow juice, I have nowhere to put the accompanying cows, and owning another person has been illegal since the Civil War.

No one knows all the words to this song, and no one wants to hear this song all the way through.  It should be permanently banned and used only for torturing terrorists.  If you think about it, there is nothing even remotely Christmas-y about this song except that the writer wants to inform you that the obsessive stalker is using this particular holiday as the cover for his psychotic behavior.

Baby It’s Cold Outside: This is a more recent addition to the songbook, after people started looking frantically for years in desperation for a new Christmas song that is halfway decent.  “Decent” is probably the worst word to use to describe this song.

All one has to do is read the lyrics in order to see that this song is about a man trying to use every means at his disposal to get this somewhat unfamiliar girl to stay with him overnight, including: giving her a spiked drink, bribing her with cigarettes, frantically changing the subject, flattering her, and indirectly threatening her life.  If a man talked like this to your daughter, there would probably be a homicide.  And we listen to this on the Christian music station.  Also, this song doesn’t mention Christmas even once.

We Wish you a Merry Christmas: This song does get bonus points for mentioning Christmas—over and over and over again.  Essentially, that is all the song points out, at first.  The bulk of the song is just “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”  It is a festive sentiment, meant to evoke the idea of some carolers coming door-to-door singing.

But once the listener opens the door, we realize that this is actually a home invasion robbery.  The second verse demands, now that we are successfully inside, that you bring us plenty of food (and everyone knows how much we love figgy pudding) or else we will trash the place.–Ryan

Gun

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Today I ended a two-week marketing contract for a major cellular phone provider that had me spending most days in my car, driving from one location to another.  This meant that as the events of today’s school massacre in Connecticut unfolded, I was listening on the radio.  I heard all happen right before my ears.

Events like this usually don’t inspire a strong reaction for me.  While I am passionate about current events as they pertain to politics and world events, things like the OJ Simpson murders, Casey Anthony, and Virginia Tech just don’t impact me as much for some reason.  That is just how I’m geared, but this case is different.

We have heard lately about mall shootings, football player murder/suicides, and the Movie Theater mass shooting in Colorado.  Some people, like Bob Costas, have used these opportunities to talk about increased gun control.  That may be a good conversation to have, although I personally do not believe that more gun regulations will be the solution.

As the radio told me of the teachers that hid their students in closets and bathrooms, police making the kids leave the school with their eyes closed, and a room full of kids gunned down by hundreds of rounds of ammunition, I became enraged.  I can’t think of any other emotion to feel when that kind of evil is present, and I don’t think any other emotion is appropriate.

The Bible says to “be angry, yet do not sin.”  It also talks about God’s fury at sin, and particularly those who intentionally hurt His little ones.  Yet we live in a world with increasing evil.  I don’t care to debate this with anyone: murder rates, violent crimes, and corruption cases are telling, but the simple fact is that evil is becoming far more evil than ever.

I mourn for our country and it’s people.  Christians must stand and say, “enough.”  We cannot be blamed for things like this.  It is not the church’s fault that things like this happen, but evil triumphs when good men do nothing.  And that is what we have done.  We have hibernated and cloistered while the gates of Hell have advanced, laughing at the impotence of God’s people.  We don’t fight our wars with guns or fists, but on our knees and making all else but the gospel secondary.  This has not characterized God’s people of late.  More church programs and laws won’t stop this advance of evil.  More steadfast men of faith will. -Ryan