Wish I'd said that!

In recent decades, the ACLU has used its so-called "wall" to fight tooth and nail to prevent government sponsorship of the Pledge of Allegiance, memorial crosses, Ten Commandments displays, nativity scenes, Bible displays, and virtually every other acknowdgement of America's religious heritage.

At the same time, it is worthwhile to note that there have been some instances in which the ACLU has endorsed public displays of religion. For example, When New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani threatened to cut taxpayer funding from the Brooklyn Museum of Art for displaying a painting of the Virgin Mary with cow dung and pictures of female sexual organs pasted all over her body, the ACLU was first in line to defend the display. U.S. District Court Judge Nina Gershon ruled that New York City's elected officials were not allowed to place conditions on the museum's funding.

In another instance, the ACLU offered its support to the taxpayer-funded National Endowment for the Arts, after the agency sponsored an art show featuring "Piss Christ" - an exhibit consisting of a crucifix submerged in a jar of urine.

In the ACLU's myopic world, it appears that the only permissible publicly-funded displays of religion are those which blatantly mock or disparage the Christian faith.

-- Indefensible: 10 Ways the ACLU is Destroying America, Sam Kastensmidt, 2006

Friday, January 28, 2011

With eyes wide open

The end is near! It has been a theme used often in sci-fi films, shows and books since the onset of the Nuclear Era in survivalist lore, and in warnings from various pundits and authors, albeit in in a variety of contexts. A,yone who knows me understands that it is deeply embedded in my psyche and my personality. Yep; that's me; Mr. Doom and Gloom.  I've been a member of that unpopular fraternity since I was a teen. I can still recall standing in the corner grocery store as a child sometime around 1961-62, when the air-raid siren blared, traffic pulled over and people stepped into doorways and disappeared into buildings. It generated an eerie silence that I never saw again until September 11, 2001. But it left an indelible mark on my young mind, that the world I was familiar with could change abruptly and without notice. It was fostered by growing up during the Cold War period, and a passing acquaintance with nuclear weapons and their effects during my time in the Army didn't exacly help me to ignore the dark possibilities.

Unfortunately, in more recent times, Americans in particular seem to have an aversion to worst-case scenario thinking. Perhaps this attitude of aversion stems in part from the desensitization produced by a lifetime of watching disaster, war and horror scenarios played out on TV and in movies, almost always with some degree of happy ending - at least for the stars. And with those you could always head to the kitchen or walk out of the theater into the sunshine or the nightlife. (Of course, for all those people who experience in-your-face, real-life disasters, their attitude takes a dramatically different direction.)  This unwillingness to contemplate even the possibility that seriously bad times could suddenly befall us will leave those so afflicted with little or no protection or recourse in such circumstances. The worst aspect is that our current folly of willful ignorance has come at what is perhaps the most threatening time in our nation's history; certainly since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis that instigated the air raid drill I witnessed as a child. With radicals trying to create an atmosphere ripe for chaos (promoted by some friendly with our present leadership), terrorist armies gathering just across our border unopposed in any substantial form, foreign military powers strutting their military prowess (much of which is stolen, bought or given by our own countrymen), we can no longer afford to depend entirely on government to defend us as we have always done. By the way, don't get the impression that I'm stuck on telling you that nuclear holocaust is the only thing that might bring destruction to your doorstep.

In my work I occasionally instruct employees and managers of companies the basics of fire protection, in
particular the use of fire extinguishers and systems. As part of my instruction, I try to impress upon them that crisis mitigation requires mental and physical preparation - which, for the purpose of quick action or reaction, often has more to do with developing muscle memory than strength or endurance. Panic, simply defined, is little more than being caught by surprise and lacking of a plan of action. In order to build a plan, you must have at least a basic situational awareness; not only of what is happening around you, but what could be about to happen at any moment. Think 'worst-case scenario' and plan from there. If you have prepared for the worst you can imagine, anything less than that which occurs should be a comparative breeze.

Another valuable part of building both awareness and a plan is an ability to connect the dots; to study conditions and trends, and to try and predict the possible effects of a given cause. For example, you've probably seen or heard about what is currently happening in Egypt and its potential impact on the rest of the world. Think what it might be like if such an event ignited in your own town, your own neighborhood. What would happen if local stores were trashed and looted, police and troops were in your streets, martial law and a curfew were imposed? What if you were unable to get to work, buy food, communicate with loved ones or have access to emergency medical help? What then? There aren't always easy answers because each person's circumstances are different; but there are common themes that can be addressed (e.g., protection, water, food, first aid, communications, etc.).

I say all this because there are a lot of things going on around us that may not present an obvious threat to us at the moment (most of which is brought about by the Washington follies), but by watching the trend you begin to see how it might eventually intrude upon your own personal stability and safety (and of those you care about). During a recent chapel service at John Brown University, Reverend Franklin Graham stated that "The spirit of anti-Christ is everywhere." And while you may not be a Christian, or even have a religious faith, the point he makes is applicable to the 'big picture'.

You'd have to be living in a cave (which, by the way, could be a pretty good disaster shelter) or intensely wrapped up in sitcoms and/or sports not to notice that the world is changing rapidly all around us. The rising tide of civil unrest, terrorism, the breakdown of public discourse, the gross mismanagement of resources and the creeping intrusion and control measures by governments near and far, the fear of outbreaks of pandemics, revolutions and wars, the possibility of bombardment by space rocks, the increasing persecutions of Christians (and Jews) worldwide, the renewed threat of nuclear attack and the imminent collapse of global and national economies all combine to produce a hair-trigger effect in which a single event could quickly cascade into a continental or global cataclysm. The worst(?) aspect of most of these threats is that there are organized forces in the world and in this country actively trying to induce them for the purpose of creating a "vacuum of order" in society, which would presumably allow them to insinuate themselves at the top of the political food chain.

And yet, millions of Americans whose lives may not have yet been touched by generalized hardships or social calamity blithely go about their lives, oblivious to anything outside their personal 'bubble'. This is important because, if a catastrophe occurs (and it will; somewhere, sometime), all those unprepared, frightened, angry, hungry, panicked people will cause even more problems for everyone else.

Some people try to get the message out, in varying contexts and degrees of success. One imaginative elementary school teacher in Britain recently caught flak for a history lesson with a fake "London blitz"-style attack, complete with a quick trip to the basement "shelter" and sound effects which convinced the children it was the real thing. As could be expected, the kids were terrified. But I actually agree with the premise of his exercise - to get through to a desensitized generation and make the lesson relevant, although it was aimed at an audience that was too young to grasp what it was all about.

I should close this topic by saying that I'm not nearly as prepared as I would like to be. Sometimes the best of motives can't easily be backed up by actions, for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, any preparations you can make to mitigate potential disasters will be an asset to you and your loved ones, and hopefully, an inspiration to others to forestall panic.

Don't let your kids get on this bus!
One of the biggest social dividers of the modern era is the perpetual battle between good and evil, light and darkness. OK; that's the biggest divider, and it often divides us against ourselves. But on a practical - or at least a political - level, the social divide is between the principles of capitalism (individual economic freedom) versus socialism (state control of the economy and virtually everything else), or as more broadly described these days, the differences between liberalism and conservatism. In turn, the biggest obstacle is that most Americans today have not learned (have not been taught) about the gulf that exists between those systems and what the result has been for the people who live under them.

Our country has never been perfect (neither has anyone else's) and we have things to  be ashamed of and mistakes to learn from. Nevertheless, there are aspects of our heritage that Americans can rightly be proud of. In my estimation, American civics has not been taught from a pro-American perspective for decades in our public schools or in most universities, based on the apparent level of ignorance when you ask most young people things that should (and used to) be common knowledge. Of course, the basic functions of our government have been taught, and so has economics, although both have been pushed from an increasingly socialist perspective over the years. In some American law schools, for example, the US Constitution isn't taught in its original context, it is often misapplied to teach budding lawyers how to work around constitutional principals. In middle- and high-schools, it is taught as a treatise that legitimzes racism and slavery, when in fact it was designed to do just the opposite. I don't even know if the teachers are entirely to blame, because that's the way they learned it in the teaching colleges. And each successive generation ends up knowing less than the one before it.

Hope is on the rise, though. In just the past two years, discouraged citizens have begun banding together to reclaim our nation's history, warts and all, with the goal of ushering in an age of renewed individual liberty, economic freedom, open discourse and personal and institutional responsibility.

But the enemy never sleeps; the Southern California Young Communists League has a solution: a school bus tour to "instruct" (read indoctrinate) young skulls full of mush in the glorious (but false) promises that communism offers. One has to assume they will conveniently leave out those unpleasant episodes where communism hasn't quite worked out so well, such as the Soviet Union, Mao's Red China, Cuba, Laos, Zimbabwe, Ukraine and any of the Eastern Bloc countries under Soviet domination, and so on. In fact, communism has never heralded an actual success story - in which the economy boomed without sucking off some other nation's teat, or the ordinary people who do the work actually made out better and had the freedom to choose. But hey; why get picky over details, right?  All aboard!

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