Tag Archives: natural disasters

Irma Strikes

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

As I write this article before going to bed I am watching Hurricane Irma begin her journey of destruction through Florida after having traced a path of devastation across the Antilles and the Bahamas. Irma is massive and no-matter where she makes landfall the entire state of Florida will see some impact before she is done.

Irma has decreased a bit in strength having spent a little more time over Cuba than expected but will gain at least some of that strength back before she his the mainland. Winds in Key West were already gusting to hurricane force shortly after 11:00 last night. I have a friend who has remained in Key West to help those who cannot get out, even though he could have evacuated on Wednesday. He is now on some of the highest ground on the island in a cinder block house waiting for the storm to pass to begin his work. I have numerous other friends, mostly people who I have served with or taught who have evacuated to other locations from south and central Florida. I am quite anxious for them.

As I have watched Irma move across the Atlantic I have been mesmerized by her fearful symmetry, the large and well defined eye and the massive bands of rain. The radar and satellite images of Irma almost remind me of a beautiful yet deadly Great White Shark, beautiful to behold yet deadly.

My thoughts and prayers are with those in the path of Irma.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, natural disasters, News and current events, weather

Of Hubris, Hurricanes, Hydrogen Bombs, and Harder Alternatives

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I got five mile walk in with my dogs Minnie and Izzy along the Potomac River and has a good amount of time to enjoy them, to take in the woods and wildlife, and to do some thinking. As I walked in the quiet with my girls I thought about what I wrote yesterday about the blessings of solitude. Going out with them meant that I had time to think and ponder a number of crises that have the possibility of impacting all of our lives in major ways and the hubris, arrogance, ignorance, and incompetence of the so called leader of the free world. Max Hastings description of Kaiser Wilhelm II is frighteningly descriptive of President Trump: “a brittle personality whose yearning for respect caused him to intersperse blandishments and threats in ill-judged succession.”

First, there was the catastrophe of Hurricane Harvey with the massive destruction to Houston and much of East Texas to which despite two visits to the region the President still seems emotionally untouched by. Then, after North Korea tested a missile that could hit the United States I conducted a test of its largest nuclear weapon to which after he made his obligatory angry tweets to North Korea, President Trump then both threatened and scolded South Korea.

Now there is the real possibility of another natural disaster as Hurricane Irma bears down of the Southeastern or Gulf Coast of the United States as a major, possibly category four or five storm capable of massive destruction and loss of life, and the realization that we have a President that only seems to see these crises in the light of self-promotion and how they make him appear, and the realization that most people do not prepare themselves for worst case scenarios.

This is nothing new, Barbara Tuchman wrote of an earlier generation “One constant among the elements of 1914—as of any era—was the disposition of everyone on all sides not to prepare for the harder alternative, not to act upon what they suspected to be true.”

Likewise over the weekend I have been doing a lot of reading. I finished Max Hastings book about the opening months of the First First World War, Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War, Bradley Gottfried’s annotated atlas of the Battle of Antietam, The Maps of Antietam, which was helpful as I walked the battlefield on Thursday, Meg Groeling’s The Aftermath of Battle: The Burial,of the Civil War Dead, and Breaking Point of the French Army: the Nivelle Offensive of 1917 by David Murphy. All three books to some extent dealt with the hubris of leaders and the human cost of war. Likewise, my walk of the Antietam battlefield was a good way for me to put both hubris and the human cost of war into perspective.

While natural disasters cannot be avoided they can certainly be mitigated if leaders and people are willing to do the hard thing prepare for worst case scenarios. What happened with Hurricane Harvey is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars to repair and even for the region to partially recover. Houston will rebuild, and recover but many of the poorer small towns down the Gulf Coast of Texas will not. As I write this the potential damage and loss of life to whatever section of the East Coast or the Gulf Coast that Irma hits will be substantial.

As for North Korea, it seems that the President is determined to provoke the already tense situation on the Korean Peninsula by not only threatening North Korea, but our ally South Korea as well. I don’t know about you but my training as a young officer on the Fulda Gap during the peak of the Cold War taught me to prepare for the worst and I don’t see the leaders of our country or for that matter most people planning, or even thinking about how bad this could get. My motto is that of Hannah Arendt “Prepare for the worst; expect the best; and take what comes,” to which I would add be flexible.

My hope is that Irma will turn away from land and head into the vast reaches of the North Atlantic, but with every new update I see the possibility that as with Harvey, millions of real people are going to have their lives upended. The same is true if the situation on the Korean Peninsula comes to war. It’s just the way I think, and I would rather be ready and have done my best to prepare for the worst case scenario hoping that it never comes to pass, than through a lack of planning, inaction, and careless words or gestures make things exponentially worse.

So anyway, until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, national security, natural disasters, News and current events, Political Commentary

Hurricane Matthew and the “Judgment of God” 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Tonight a short update about our situation and some comments about what some supposedly “Christian” people and pundits are saying about Hurricane Matthew which when all is said and done may be one of the most destructive weather events of past century. 

First, our situation. We have a new car and the vehicle that was totaled yesterday was towed off today. We had our Mustang looked at and thankfully it was not totaled and we should have it back sometime next week. Likewise I was able to do some more work to seal up our living room and hopefully keep any groundwater out in future storms. I have more work to do on this but I think we are now in a better place than we were a few weeks ago. 

Now as for Hurricane Matthew. This is really an ugly storm. As he goes up the east coast of Florida he will be a category four or maybe even a category five storm. Matthew will hit areas of Florida that have not been hit in decades. The damage potential and the potential loss of life from Matthew is something that we have not seen in a long time. I am praying for my friends and relatives in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. This is not good. Thankfully President Obama has already declared a disaster which will speed federal assistance to the areas, and all of the governors are doing the right thing, bit even so there will be people who either cannot get out or in some cases decide to stay for the thrill of it all. 

But even worse are the supposedly “Christian” pundits and preachers who are calling Matthew “God’s judgement.” Of course for them the reason that this storm is God’s judgment is because of the Gays, President Obama, and Hillary Clinton. Of course if Matthew is God’s judgment, which I sincerely doubt, then why the hell isn’t God targeting areas with majorities of gays and liberal Democrats? The fact is that Matthew is targeting counties in the southeast that are majority Republican and if you look at religious democratics heavily conservative and evangelical Christian. So if you are a Christian rooting for Matthew to be an instrument of God’s judgment on the Gays and the Democrats than you better make sure that God can hit his target and not your friends, allies, and dare I say your Christian brothers and sisters who are in the path of this storm. But then the sociopathic fundamentalist ideologues who promote this tripe in the name of the Christian faith have no honor, no empathy, and I would dare say are apostles of evil. 

Of course let’s talk about the college dropout but expert in everything, Rush Limbaugh. Rush said today that hurricanes are something made up by liberals and in the process went into full attack mode against real scientists. But then Rush reflects the anti-intellectual and unscientific base of his listeners, many of whom are in the path of Matthew. I’m sorry, but in no other first world country would such bullshit be rewarded with multi-million dollar contracts. My European friends are aghast at the anti-intellectual and anti-scientific attitudes of so many Americans. 

But at the end of the day we have to face reality. Millions of people are evacuating in the face of a massive storm that has the potential to kill many people and destroy billions of dollars worth of property; the property of decent, hard working people, to include homes and businesses. 

I don’t know about you, but honestly I have major problems saying that God is creating Matthew just to punish Gays and people who support Hillary is abhorrent. Such thinking shows an ignorance of the Bible and the Christian faith in which disasters, natural or human, were directed against God’s disobedient people, especially self-indulgent clergy living high on the hog that ignore the plight of the poor, not against unbelievers or pagans. On only has to read Jeremiah’s Temple Sermon to get an idea what I am talking about. But then, fidelity to the actual teachings of scripture is less important to such people than cherry picking verses to support their hatred of other people. 

Anyway. It has been a long day. I’m tired and I wish all of you well, especially anyone in the target zone of Hurricane Matthew. Please be safe. 

Peace,

Padre Steve+ 

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Filed under christian life, natural disasters, News and current events, weather

Massive Tornado: Pray and Do Something to Help the People of Oklahoma

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This week has been a rough week for many locales in the Midwest with serve weather and an outbreak of tornados. Ground zero for many of these storms has been the State of Oklahoma, the center of we call “Tornado Ally” and today that state, particularly the suburban communities around Oklahoma City were devastated by what might be one of the most powerful tornados ever to hit an American city. Ground zero was the city of Moore Oklahoma, no stranger to such weather having been hit by major tornados in 1998, 1999 and 2004. Today’s tornado is estimated to be at least an EF-4 with winds of 160 miles an hour and some estimate that it could be an EF-5, the strongest category of tornado with winds of 200 miles an hour cutting a swath of destruction a mile wide at the base of the tornado and a path 20 miles long. It was on the ground about minutes hitting its crescendo as hit struck Moore. Whole neighborhoods are destroyed with only driveways and foundations remaining.

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See the time lapse video on NBC News: http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nbc-news/51945473/#51945473

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The casualties continue to mount. At least 51 are known dead and hundreds injured at the present time and the toll is certain to mount. The areas hit included residential areas as well as schools and hospitals. Two schools received direct hits and one of those schools has reported that students were killed. The major hospital in the city was destroyed and now unable to operate. First responders in many cases are often victims themselves and quite possibly will return to their homes and find that they no longer exist. Lives destroyed and disrupted and property destroyed or severely damaged.  The people in Oklahoma are incredibly resilient and tough but they will need help from other Americans, both through the Federal and State Governments but also from various relief agencies such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army Disaster Services and other agencies who are trained and equipped to give aid.

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This happened to our fellow citizens, Americans. These are American citizens just as other Americans were impacted by Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, the city of Joplin Missouri destroyed by a tornado much like the one that hit Oklahoma today. In other places in this country whole areas have been devastated by flooding along the Mississippi, Red  and Missouri Rivers, and earthquakes like the one that hit the San Francisco Bay area in 1989.

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I have been through tornados, major hurricanes and severe earthquakes. I have provided emergency assistance directing an emergency shelter for a hurricane and post disaster counseling to staff members of a school destroyed by a tornado. All things being equal I would rather go through an earthquake or hurricane any day of the week before I ever want to go through another tornado. There is something unearthly in the way they wreak devastation, almost a terrible randomness as to where they hit and what survives and does not.

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Please pray for those affected and do what you can to help. To do so through the Red Cross either go to their website www.redcross.org or text REDCROSS 90999. To do so through the Salvation Army go to their website https://donate.salvationarmyusa.org/uss/eds/aok or text “STORM” to 80888 to make a $10 donation through your mobile phone; to confirm your gift, respond with the word “Yes.” A state religious group, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma is also providing relief services and those that want to donate to them can do so through their website at http://www.bgco.org/ministries/disaster-relief/donate-to-disaster-relief

Of course there are other ways to give but those are the first that came to my mind and ones that I believe will be able to respond quickly.

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Please, these are Americans. I know that last year when Sandy hit the East Coast that some pundits and politicians did what they could to obstruct aid to the affected areas citing their “principles.” However to me it doesn’t matter if an American is a Republican or Democrat, if a State is a “Red State” or a “Blue State” but rather that they are Americans and that as Americans we are either in this together or we are not. As a Christian I cannot simply say that person is not my neighbor because they do not vote like me, share my faith or live in a different part of the country. They are my neighbors and if you are an American they are yours. Please do what you can to help through private means and encourage your representatives to speed Federal assistance to the people of Oklahoma and other areas hit by these terrible storms.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under natural disasters, News and current events

Ecumenical Jihadists and Hurricane Sandy: At Last Something that Christian, Moslem and Jewish Extremists can Agree On

While much of New York, New Jersey and West Virginia struggle under the effects of the damage of Hurricane Sandy and millions of people are either homeless, without power or transportation there are those that know why this happened. Close to 60 million Americans have been affected as well as people in Jamaica and Cuba.

While men like President Obama and Governor Chris Christie, elected officials from opposite sides of our partisan chasm work together to coordinate the assistance needed for the millions of people now homeless or without power there are some people that know why this happened.   I don’t know about you but I was impressed by how well Governor Christie and President Obama laid aside the partisanship and worked together to fulfill their respective Oath’s of Office and responsibility to the people that they were elected to serve. That is how real leaders deal with crisis, be it natural or manmade disasters, economic crisis or something like war.

However there are people out there that do not agree. To them the current crisis has nothing to do with global warming or climate change. No it has nothing to do with the fact that like most major metropolitan regions worldwide New York and New Jersey are maritime areas, what we in the Navy like to call the littorals. Over 70% of the worlds population lives on the littorals. The major trade, banking and industrial cities of the world, those on which the world economy depends sit alongside the oceans of the world.

No, geography, economics, or climatology have no answers. After all scientists are stupid political hacks dependent on the government who don’t believe in God anyway. According to those that really know the facts, you know, people that say that God talks to them and reveals things to them that non-believers don’t understand the issue is secular America, gays and abortion. In fact there is a broad ecumenical agreement among religious fundamentalists, Christians, Moslems and Jews that is almost taking a perverse Schadenfreude, or joy in the sufferings of others going on whenever a natural disaster occurs.

Yes my friends there are Christian ministers in the United States, Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Rabbis and Moslem Imams and Mullahs are all chiming in, all citing their Scriptures and their dark understanding of a God who hates his creation. Just google “Hurricane Sandy  God’s judgement” or “Katrina and God’s Judgement” or whatever disaster you want to name with “God’s judgement” and see what pops up. You’ll be surprised at the perverse joy that some religious people take in the sufferings of those that they believe to be God’s enemies.

The sad thing is that many of the people suffering are Christians, Jews and Moslems, which kind of makes me wonder about the people writing the screeds that say that God judging these people. I wonder if the shoe was on the other foot what they would be saying.

It is really amazing to me to see the amount of Ecumenical Jihad that a natural disaster inspires among the faithful. One would think that such zealots wouldn’t be able to agree about anything but but they are surprisingly in agreement when it comes to death and destruction of the people that they deem to be heretics, unbelievers or infidels. At least a leading Saudi Cleric has condemned the Moslem extremists comments but I don’t see many big name Christian leaders condemning the nutty and hateful views of Christians. Maybe it is just that they are too busy doing partisan campaigning for political candidates in states that are not affected by the storm to be bothered with caring about people in states that won’t vote for their candidate anyway. But then maybe I’m wrong and just have become cynical.

I wish that was so. However there is a reason that many if not most mainline Evangelical leaders won’t criticize the nut cases. That is because in their hearts many agree with them and actually say similar things year round and have said them for years but are smart enough not to say it during the storm because it might cut down on donations to their ministries, their market share in Christian broadcasting or their political influence before an election that they have gone all in for one party. Likewise almost all of the leaders of these ministries are have their headquarters in places far from any real danger of natural disaster other than blizzards, thunderstorms and tornados or drought. I hate to say but having lived through all of those disasters plus major hurricanes, floods and earthquakes I can say that those a child’s play compared to events such as Hurricane Sandy, Katrina, the Japanese Tsunami or a massive earthquake.

I don’t know about you but I have a hard time with those that decide that somehow they know all that is in God’s heart and are quite willing to throw other people that don’t believe like them under the wheels of their God’s bus. Well, c’est la vie.

Please pray and act to help the people in need. There is plenty of work to do and needs to be met. I posted information last night on how to give to the Red Cross and Salvation Army relief efforts. Those links are provided here again:

http://www.redcross.org/support

http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/www_usn_2.nsf

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, leadership, natural disasters, Religion

Praying for the Gulf: Hurricane Isaac Channels the Ghost of Katrina

Hurricane Katrina was a devastating event. The hurricane nearly came ashore as a category 5 hurricane, weakening at the last minute before coming ashore in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Even so the storm had major and long lasting effects. Over 1800 people lost their lives and property damage exceeded $81 billion. Parts of New Orleans still remain an uninhabited ghost town. It is etched in the psyche of the inhabitants of the Gulf Coast and the nation. Whenever a storm forms in the Gulf of Mexico it brings back those terrible memories of August 2005 when death came to New Orleans in the form of Katrina. The ghosts of Katrina still remain and Hurricane Isaac has channeled those ghosts.

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In 2005 I was serving as the Chaplain for the Marine Security Forces in Norfolk. I preparing to fly to New Orleans for a conference on Sexual Assault and Prevention. I was watching the weather closely and as Hurricane Katrina tracked toward New Orleans and grew stronger I got word that the conference had been postponed. I was disappointed because I was looking forward to the conference, meeting some colleagues that I had not seen and had planned to see a Minor League ballgame when in town.

My disappointment rapidly shifted to concern about the areas of New Orleans and Gulfport Mississippi. Initially I wasn’t too concerned but watched in horror as the storm strengthened. I was thinking hard about the Navy in Gulfport where I had talked the detailer out of sending me in to be the junior chaplain in the base chapel 2003 because I wanted to remain operational. Had I meekly agreed to the detailer we would have been directly in the path of Katrina’s track.

To watch the disaster unfold was frightening. To see people suffering and the breakdown in civil order as the city was inundated was frightening. Emergency response was woefully insufficient, public order completely broke down as levees failed and local response providers became victims themselves. The Super Dome was a prime evacuation center but it was hit hard, supplies we short and the attempt to provide shelter to the poor who could not evacuate a disaster. State, Local and Federal responses were poorly coordinated and executed.  I some ways New Orleans will never completely recover from Katrina.

It appears Isaac is tracking to New Orleans and Gulfport.  If it continues its path and the models are correct the effects should be nothing like Katrina although massive rainfall and storm surge could create some chaos. Thankfully some dry air is keeping Isaac from gaining too much momentum however Katrina surprised many by gaining a huge amount of power in a very short time.

Local, State and Federal government agencies are on alert, the National Guard has been activated in some areas and evacuations of coastal areas have been going on for a couple of days.

Isaac will have economic impacts beyond any life or property damage due to the storm but, hopefully only short term. Oil drilling and production facilities will be shut down for several days even if they sustain no or little damage and gas prices are moving up. Oil platforms have been strengthened since Katrina but all it takes as one platform to fail to create an ecological disaster.

Isaac has delayed the Republican National Convention in Tampa which was very much in the target zone just a few days ago. Anyone who has ever been to Tampa knows the danger if a storm was to hit it. There have been studies one of which, Project Phoenix http://www.tbrpc.org/tampabaycatplan/pdf/Project_Phoenix_Scenario_Info.pdf  which analyzes the effects of a worst case scenario. In 1921 Tampa was hit by a category 4 storm that did great damage to Tampa and St Petersburg which were then much smaller metropolitan areas.

Damage from the 1921 Tampa Bay Hurricane

While Tampa should suffer little from Isaac, the city was right to take preparations and the GOP leadership was right to delay the start of the convention. Since hurricanes often make unexpected moves and sometimes strengthen in ways not expected they could not take that chance. That being said if Isaac hits New Orleans hard it could put a damper on media coverage of the convention. After all in our society natural disasters and human tragedies always get more coverage than political rallies.

I have been through about 6 or 7 hurricanes or tropical storms in North Carolina and Virginia and another in Okinawa. I have rode out hurricanes and Indian Ocean cyclones at sea. they are not to be taken lightly. Last year I experienced Hurricane Irene which was a very large slow moving category one storm which did enough damage in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania to be classed as one of the top ten natural disasters in the history of the country.

So I pray for all of those in the path of Isaac tonight and in the coming days as the storm hits the Gulf Coast and then moves inland.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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One Nation: Natural Disasters Show How we Swim Together or Sink Alone

“In our personal ambitions we are individualists. But in our seeking for economic and political progress as a nation, we all go up or else all go down as one people.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

I am amazed when I see the Unholy Trinity of Pundits, Politicians and Preachers declare that when disaster strikes one part of the country or another that the Federal Government which represents all of us has moral or constitutional right to provide assistance to the stricken region.  The latest is the  unprecedented drought in Texas which has turned the state into a tinder-box that is now going up in flames.  It seems that in our now poisonous political climate the some have even used natural disasters to indicate their belief that God is either sending a message or judging the country.

We have allowed our political leaders, pundits and politically minded preachers of the political Left and Right to lead us to the precipice of calamity as they use fear and loathing to deepen the division of Americans for their fellow Americans.  They have been wildly successful in their efforts and we all are paying the price for their hubris.

We have seen the wealth of the nation squandered by government as well as the great financial houses and multi-national corporations that for all practical purposes own the government.  Dwight Eisenhower warned us of the danger of the “military-industrial complex” but I think that the “banking-financial complex” is far more dangerous because it is far more insidiously enmeshed in every aspect of our lives as individuals and as a nation.  As a result we are in dire financial straits that some say are so great that we can no longer help one another and those individual regions afflicted with disasters beyond their ability to respond to protect life, property, critical infrastructure and even business interests will have to get through disaster on their own, without assistance.

In the past couple of years we have seen many natural disasters compounded by a crippled economy devastate the lives of Americans or all political philosophies, faiths, regions and socio-economic classes.   In times past these disasters would have brought us together.  It would not matter if the disaster was an earthquake in California, floods in the agricultural heartlands of the Midwest, hurricanes along the Atlantic or Gulf coasts, wildfires that lay waste to lives and property in the Southwest or drought in various parts of the country, we used to be moved to provide every bit of assistance that could help.  Assistance provided by individuals, churches, relief organizations, local and State governments and the Federal Government.  But now because we are in deep financial constraints we see some politicians, pundits and preachers on the political right who make their living hating government are for practical purposes saying that we should leave our countrymen and women to their own devices even when overwhelmed by events that they cannot control and do not have the means to respond.

We that is the case until their neighbors are endangered or devastated, unless you are House Majority Whip Eric Cantor who told the residents of Mineral Virginia and the surrounding area that assistance would have to be matched by corresponding cuts when they were struck by the largest earthquake the region had seen since 1897 when a 5.8-6.0 temblor hit Pearisburg Virginia.  We saw Ron Paul openly state that the Federal Government had no business in responding to the ravages of hurricane Irene which killed about 40 people and caused an estimated 7-10 billion dollars in damage from North Carolina to New England which places it in the top 10 hurricanes in terms of insurance losses.  This is while some pundits mocked the areas affected by gloating about how Irene weakened before coming ashore and about the “over-reaction” the Federal, State and Local governments concerned with the effect of the storm on their citizens.  Of course the same people deriding the “over-reaction” would be the first to use a lack of action or poor preparation and response against the very leaders that they deride for doing too much.

However the truth is that we do need each other and are interdependent on each other as states, regions and individuals in ways that our ancestors never were.  It is impossible to turn back the clock as hat happens in one region does affect the rest of us.  When agricultural regions are flooded, dried up by unending drought or winter weather the cost of food goes up, when a hurricane shuts down oil production in the Gulf of Mexico the price of gas and heating oil goes up, when a tsunami strikes Japan automobile factories in the U.S. have to shut down for lack of key components and the cost of cars goes up because supply goes down.  The list can go on and on and on and if we do not begin to think of ourselves as one nation instead of a collection of “Red States and Blue States” we will see this grand experiment go down in flames.

The time for political, social and economic fratricide is over; we cannot endure long if we continue down this self destructive path.  The multiple crises that we face demand that we come together to solve them.  As President John F. Kennedy said, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer.  Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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