Category Archives: philosophy

The “Saving Principles” of the Declaration of Independence

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Abraham Lincoln spoke these words in Springfield, Illinois on June 26th 1857, nearly 160 years ago. They are part of a continuum in the development of his philosophy of liberty and how he understood the words of the Declaration of Independence, and how he believed that the authors 0f that document understood the words that set the United States apart from all other nations. The words “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” were revolutionary for their time and the Jefferson understood them in that manner.

“They [the signers of the Declaration of Independence] did not mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were then actually enjoying that equality, nor yet that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact, they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right; so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit.”

Though at the time they words of the Declaration only applied to white men, the words and writings of many of the founders were uncomfortable with the actual condition of black slaves as well as Native Americans. The had enough integrity to understand that what they wrote was a proposition that had universal implications which were not yet realized and would take time to happen. Those who mocked the document, the proposition, the founders, and the new nation understood that as well. It was a watershed moment for all of Europe was still under the control of Kings and despots. Thomas Jefferson understood how these words threatened despotic rule around the world and in 1821 he wrote to John Adams:

“The flames kindled on the 4th of July 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism; on the contrary, they will consume these engines and all who work them.”

But this was something that the people of the United States would have to wrestle with for decades before the most glaring aspect of inequality, that of slavery was overthrown. Frederick Douglass understood the importance of the Declaration even as white Americans on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line crafted compromises that left blacks in slavery and gave unfettered access for slave owners to go to Free States to recover their human property. In 1852 he wrote:

“I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.”

It is that ring bolt and it must be understood in its universal application and people in the United States and in countries which have embraces some portions of the concept and fight for it, otherwise it could be lost. Harry Truman noted this danger in 1952 when he said:

“We find it hard to believe that liberty could ever be lost in this country. But it can be lost, and it will be, if the time ever comes when these documents are regarded not as the supreme expression of our profound belief, but merely as curiosities in glass cases.”

Today the rights, protections, civil liberties, and opportunity to advance themselves of Americans are being rolled back in a manner that a few decades ago most of us would have found unimaginable. They are under threat many ways, too many to mention today and they must be continually fought for or we will lose them.

As Independence Day draws near I will continue to write about this subject even as I write about the Battle of Gettysburg. It matters too much.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Filed under civil rights, History, laws and legislation, News and current events, philosophy, Political Commentary

“Everything happens fast, but nothing actually happens…” The Trap of the News Cycle

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I came back from my trip to the Congressional Baseball game with my friend Vince Miller yesterday and as we came back we pondered and discussed a number of subjects. On of those was how we as Americans allow ourselves to be sucked into the media vortex surrounding any given crisis and how for the media every story is a “breaking news story.”

As we discussed the subject the words of historian Timothy Snyder came to mind. Snyder wrote:

“Everything happens fast, but nothing actually happens. Each story on televised news is “breaking” until it is displaced by the next one. So we are hit by wave upon wave but never see the ocean.”

I used to be a cable news junkie. I had CNN, Fox. or MSNBC on constantly, especially whenever a crisis occurred. In addition  to those I would also be checking every news source that I could. My motives we good. I wanted information, but instead I got sucked into stories that has no resolution and were quickly replaced with other stories. When I read Snyder’s words in his book On Tyranny they struck me to the core, because they rang true. The adrenaline rush and hyper-vigilence that I experienced from the continuous onslaught of each breaking news crisis wore me out and left me exhausted without any resolution.

This devotion to breaking news can become as much of an addiction as drugs or alcohol and the result is not good. We become slaves of the news cycle. While I always to to remain informed I now try to do it on my terms and instead of allowing myself to be bombarded by what I see on television. Instead I try to take some time, check the veracity of stories and examine them from different printed viewpoints and wait for more information to come out. By doing this I have found that I don’t get sucked into the news cycle and still live my life, appreciating friends, family, and even my Papillon dogs.

Likewise, by taking in information in this manner I can spend some time thinking about it and examining it in the context of history, philosophy, ethics, and theology without the hype and unrelenting drumbeat of “information” put out by television news. I find this is more helpful and healthy for me than siting in front of the tube as vapid hosts ask arrogant and often as badly informed analysts or talking heads questions of which can only be answered by speculation as the speed of the news cycle does not allow for well thought out answers or for that matter the truth to come out.

Anyway, I am going to be working around the house this weekend and taking some time to reflect on the events of this week as I continue to read through my current stacks of books.

So have a great day,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under News and current events, philosophy

A Sense of Foreboding and a Determination to Fight

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Hannah Arendt wrote: “When evil is allowed to compete with good, evil has an emotional populist appeal that wins out unless good men and women stand as a vanguard against abuse.

She was right. We are seeing a populist appeal that is embracing evil and it is happening before our very eyes.

I cannot shake the deep sense of foreboding I have regarding the country and the world after President Trump’s repeated attacks on NATO, his shredding of the Paris Climate accord, and the threat of war on the Korean Peninsula are enough to concern any right thinking person. Likewise, the swirl of allegations concerning what appears to be treasonous activities by his closest advisers and his apparent attempts to have them covered up by the FBI and various intelligence agencies. There is something very wrong going on and it almost feels that I can see the disaster unfolding before it happens.

I am not the only one to notice, leading conservative writers, foreign policy experts, and constitutional scholars have pointed out the same things that I have been saying for over a year. I do try to be positive and to believe that things will work out for the best, but the more I observe the more my confidence in our leaders and for that purpose many of our people to do the right thing is diminished.

That being said I do not give in to the feelings of foreboding or intend give up without a fight. I want my country to live up to its ideals, I am concerned about the real world, our alliances, our environment, and the real threat to freedom.  I believe in a particular universal ideal enunciated in the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence that All men are created equal, and as such that I must continually stand for what is right, what is true, and what is enduring.

I am worried about our democracy and I agree with Timothy Snyder who wrote:

“Democracy failed in Europe in the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s, and it is failing not only in much of Europe but in many parts of the world today. It is that history and experience that reveals to us the dark range of our possible futures. A nationalist will say that “it can’t happen here,” which is the first step toward disaster. A patriot says that it could happen here, but that we will stop it.”  

It can happen here, and if we are patriots and not simply nationalists we must stand for principle and work for a new birth of freedom even as it seems that freedom itself is in danger. So as I write about some of the notable events of our history that we commemorate over the coming days please know that I take inspiration from them as I hope you will.  We must stand.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Remembering Those Who Helped Make Us Who We Are

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Historian David McCullough wrote something that I think is all too easy to forget in a world where many people, including our current President seem to think that everything is about them. McCullough wrote:

“We are all what we are, in large degree, because of others who have helped, coached, taught, counseled, who set a standard by example, who’ve taken an interest in our interests, opened doors, opened our minds, helped us see, who gave encouragement when we needed it, who reprimanded or prodded when we needed it, and at critical moments, inspired.”

When I look back at my own life I see the tremendous impact of how others, family, teachers, coaches, pastors, people who I have served alongside or under the command of in the military, as well as just simple people who knew me and cared enough to put an arm around my shoulder, offer an encouraging word, piece of wisdom, of maybe even a observation that wasn’t comfortable to hear, have helped make me what I am today. In fact there are so many of them that it would be almost impossible to list them all, and as we come up on Memorial Day next week I tend to become a bit melancholy thinking about those military personnel who impacted my life and mourning those who have passed on. I have written about many of them and probably will do so again over the coming months, not only the military people but the others, if for no other reason to ensure that they are not forgotten and to remember that everything in life doesn’t have to be about what is going on in the news cycle.

Even so it is humbling to know that if all of these people had not been part of my life that I would not be who I am today.

So anyway, if I can say anything to anyone today, try to remember the people who have helped you become what you are.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy, remembering friends

Margaritaville a Time Out from Trump All the Time


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Despite the continued bombardment of news about the Trump administration and the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to oversee the investigation I am going to take a breather from what is beginning to feel like “all Trump all the time,” not that there is not more to write about but unless something even bigger blows up in regard to the investigation of what appears to be the most incompetent, most inept, and possibly the most criminal and treasonous Presidential administration in American history, I’m going to take at least a few days to write about other things.

It is possible to become so enmeshed in breaking news without end that one loses perspective and forgets about other things, important things such as family, friends, pets, travel, hobbies, and life in general. I like reading, writing, building model airplanes and ships, hanging out with my wife, traveling, playing with and snuggling my dogs, going for walks, going to baseball games, and hanging out with friends over a couple of beers at my local watering hole.

But last night I scored tickets at the last minute to see Jimmy Buffet in concert. Great time. I like Margaritaville a lot better than Trumpland and I made use of my license to chill. 

So until tomorrow, have a good day and if you can remember who you are and what you enjoy, we’ll have plenty to deal with regarding Trump in the coming weeks and months and after effects that like the half-life of Plutonium may linger for years. But that being said, it’s five o’clock somewhere. 

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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Living an Adventure: The Importance of Travel


Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Mark Twain noted: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

I’ll be traveling this weekend, nothing really to write home about, just a quick trip to Houston for my denominational Chaplain training symposium. But that being said it gives me an opportunity to share a couple of thoughts about the importance of travel and getting out of one’s comfort zone. The fact is that two-thirds of Americans do not have a passport, and most have never ventured out of the country, many having seldom left the state or region that they are from.

I’m not one of them. I have visited much of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and lived as a child in the Philippines and as an adult in Europe. At an early age I was blessed to be a Navy brat and to live in a number of places and truthfully when my dad retired from the Navy I was upset because that adventure of moving and traveling was ending. Of course as an adult I have been in the military for nearly 36 years, and continued live that adventure and to satisfy my wanderlust. I really cannot imagine what it would be like not to travel and not to experience the world in its fullness.

Likewise, I can fully agree with Twain’s words, for as one travels, as one meets other people, and experiences different cultures it expands the mind and I think the heart as well. Like Hannah Arendt I find that living abroad is joyful and easy, she wrote: “Loving life is easy when you are abroad. Where no one knows you and you hold your life in your hands all alone, you are more master of yourself than at any other time.”

So until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Best of Times – Worst of Times, but the Only One We Got

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

it is amazing how many truly frightening things are going on in the world. In fact as I went through the rush signing out of the Staff College, transferring to Little Creek, and getting signed in everywhere I needed to, as well as visiting my friend John in hospital where he is being treated for cancer, I have only caught tidbits of what is going on, but even that gave me pause.

So since I am tired and haven’t had a chance to write anything too complicated, I’ll share this short thought from the late great Art Buchwald.

“I don’t know whether this is the best of times or the worst of times, but I assure you it’s the only time you’ve got.”

Kind of says it all huh?

Peace

Padre Steve+

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