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Barak Obama and the Beginning of the End of the Castro Regime

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In 1961 the Kennedy administration imposed a diplomatic and economic embargo on the nascent Castro regime in Cuba. At the time with the Cold War going full steam ahead the decision seemed logical and appropriate. Never mid the fact that decades of American policy which favored the Bautista dictatorship, the economic interests of American corporations and did nothing to help Cuba’s poor had helped bring about Castro’s rule. Likewise never mind the fact that Americans using Cuban mercenaries only pushed Castro further into Soviet orbit with the Bay of Pigs invasion.

But following the Cuba missile crisis the embargo and diplomatic isolation remained in place. However, in 1972 President Richard Nixon brokered a deal of detente with the Soviet Union, a superpower that was an existential threat to the United States, as well as Mao Tse Tung’s Communist China, a power that we had fought to a standstill in Korea, and which had just a few years before embarked on its “cultural revolution” one of the bloodiest and ruthless events of the twentieth century.

Nixon was a diplomatic genius who was not so wedded to his own extremely anti-Communist ideology not to recognize when a moment to change history was in the offing. Otto Von Bismarck noted that “The statesman’s task is to hear God’s footsteps marching through history and then to try to catch onto his coattails as He marches past.”

Bismarck was right and both Nixon and Obama heard the footsteps of God in terms of diplomacy and foreign relations. Sadly very few ideologues, like Senator Marco Rubio ever get this nuance and would rather maintain a failed policy that neither benefits the United States or the Cuban people, but which is one of the few things that have kept the Castro brothers in business long after most Communist regimes ended up on the ash-heap of history.

The amazing thing is that the polices of Richard Nixon regarding the Soviet Union and China had dramatic and positive effects that his successors, be they Republican or Democrat really did not grasp. Instead, when the Iron curtain came down we in the west did all that we could to humiliate the former USSR and brought about the bellicose dictator by another name Vladimir Putin. Likewise we failed to understand the pragmatic and nationalistic nature of the Chinese Communist regime that was brought about by Mao’s successor Deng Xiaoping. In both cases our failure to grasp the reality of our former opponents created new adversaries.

But such was not the case with Cuba. Cuba was different, especially after the Cold War ended. Despite our differences Cuba and the United States should have been able to overcome the effects of Castro’s seizure of power and brokered an understanding. Yes Castro was and is a Communist, but that, even during the Cold War did not prevent effective diplomacy with other Communist states such as Tito’s Yugoslavia, a country that had there been a conflict between the Soviet Union and NATO that might have well sided with the west. But with Cuba there was no nuance. Castro was the enemy.

The irony was that in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s it was Cuban soldiers that protected U.S. based oil company refineries, installations and American personnel in Angola against CIA sponsored insurgents.

The American economic embargo has been a failure for decades. This was even more the case after after the fall of the Soviet Union when our allies in South and Central America and Europe realized that Cuba was no longer a threat and refused to support our embargo, rendering it impotent, except in the domestic politics of South Florida. Only fools believe that continuing it will change Cuba. The economic and diplomatic isolation has been going on for 53 years, 23 of them after the fall of the Iron curtain, and it has failed. Fools like Marco Rubio who even before President Obama made his announcement was at a microphone condemning the decision. But then Marco Rubio is both an ideologue who basks in his status of being a victim of the dying Castro regime.

The arguments of Rubio and the other partisan flacks in the American domestic political scene for maintaining the economic embargo and diplomatic isolation are not only short sighted and play to their own local political constituency, but they work against the United States in trying to achieve a responsible and workable solution to the impasse that has poisoned Cuban-American relations for six decades.

The fact is, despite the protestation of Rubio and others we deal with a lot more unsavory characters than the Castros. Yes, they are thugs. Yes they run a police state with few freedoms and where religious liberty is not protected, but they didn’t support Al Qaida like some of our closest allies in the Middle East did, they never near sank a U.S. Navy ship like Israel did in the six day war, and they didn’t kill or wound tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel like the Chinese did when they intervened in the Korea War. From a terrorist or real military threat to U.S. National Security interests the Cubans are minor leaguers and their leaders know that.

President Obama has brought about a political and diplomatic coup in Cuban-America relations, and for now on there will be no going back. Maybe now the United States and Cuba will be able to fulfill our common destinies to work together for the betterment of our hemisphere and world.

Of course for taking this long overdue action, something that either President Bush or President Clinton should have done years ago is now being called a traitor and worse by his domestic political opponents. However, like Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict and now Pope Francis realized, the time has come for change in our relationship.

This is a historic day and a decision that was long overdue. It is a watershed, and even if the Congress refuses to lift the economic aspects, things in Cuba will change. Freedom will come and soon Cubans and Americans will finally have the chance to build a constructive and positive relationship that helps both peoples.

I have stood at the Northeast Gate of Guantanamo Bay, I have looked over the fence line at Cuba, and I pray that one day I will see the rest of that country.

This is a good night… And as a side note it will be great for baseball. Just imagine the course of history had Fidel Castro been drafted by the Yankees in the early 1950s. Hell he might be the President of the America League by now and he might not have agreed with the designated hitter rule.

But that being sad, Barak Obama should be getting the accolades given to  Nixon, and later Ronald Reagan when he dealt with Gorbachev in 1986 and 1987. This is a watershed and it will change Cuban-American relations for the better, and help the Cuban people. This is a win for the good guys, and even more importantly it will be a win for baseball.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Foreign Policy, leadership, national security, Political Commentary

Spendin’ the Nighttime Reminiscing: Padre Steve Remembers the Music of the 1970s and Early 1980s

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I don’t know about you but the music that I really enjoy is the music that was popular when I was in Junior High, High School and College.  For me that period spanned the years 1971-1983.

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It was a turbulent era. The Vietnam War was ending and Nixon was resigning due to the Watergate break in cover-up despite going to China and establishing the beginning of detente with the Soviet Union.  Assassination attempts on political leaders, successful and unsuccessful, were common. Two attempts were made on Gerald Ford.  Prime Minister Aldo Moro of Italy and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt victim fell to terrorists while President  Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II were felled by bullets which did not prove fatal.

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The Cold War was tense despite the beginning of detente and signing of Nuclear Weapons treaties between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Middle East was in turmoil even as Egypt and Israel hammered out a peace treaty withe the help of US President Jimmy Carter. In Iran a revolution swept the Shah of Iran out of power bringing the Ayatollah Khomeini into power.  The seizure of the US Embassy and the 444 day hostage crisis punctuated by a failed rescue attempt demoralized the United States. In October 1983 247 Marines were killed in a terror bombing of their barracks at the Beirut International Airport.

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The Soviets invaded Afghanistan which would become their Vietnam, as part of the Cold War this lead to US involvement with Mujahideen. The US support with the Mujahideen was a fateful alliance that brought the Taliban to prominence and introduced the world to Osama Bin Laden. The Cubans were fighting in Angola while the Anti-Apartheid movement struggled with its leader Nelson Mandela languishing in a South African prison.

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High profile terrorist attacks became common. The Palestinian terrorist group Black September killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. European terrorist organizations including the Red Brigades, the Red Army Faction and Bader Meinhof gang, the Irish Republican Army and the American Weather Underground provided a constant string of terrorist attacks even as Middle Eastern terrorist groups highjacked airliners in daring fashion, matched at times by equally rescues by Israeli and German anti-terrorist units.

The American and the world economies were in a state of recession much of the era. There was a major recession, the American auto industry needed bailouts, inflation was running in double digits as was the unemployment rate. The dollar was weak and OPEC wreaked havoc on world oil markets with embargoes in 1973 and 1979.

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However it was music in the 1970s and early 1980s that provided a diversion for many people looking for respite from all the bad news that echoed around the airwaves and in the newspapers.  Thankfully there wasn’t a 24 hour cable news cycle yet otherwise people would have probably been jumping off of buildings.  It was the heyday of AM Top 40 type stations and the beginning of rock oriented FM music stations. Kasey Kasem gave voice to the hits with American Top 40. As for me I had countless 45s and LPs of my favorite groups and artists.

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I listened  Doctor Donald D Rose of KFRC in San Francisco and my car, a 1966 Buick LeSabre 400 had a retro-fitted 8-Track tape player and speakers.

Great groups and artists ruled the pop and rock airwaves and the era produced some of the best rock, pop, R&B, soul, country-rock, disco and new-wave music ever done. It really was an amazing era both in quality and diversity of music .

It was not “message music” like much 60’s music but focused on entertainment.  Power groups like Journey, Starship, REO Speedwagon and Boston made power ballads, while AC/DC and KISS shocked and entertained at the same time.  Groups like the Blondie, the Eagles, Chicago, Paul McCartney and Wings, Abba and the Commodores dominated the pop charts while individual artists such as Olivia Newton-John, Elton John, Carly Simon, John Denver, Lionel Ritchie, Barry Manilow and others satisfied the more mainstream pop crown.  Disco enjoyed a brief heyday with the popularity of Saturday Night Fever and the Bee Gees.  R&B enjoyed a renaissance due to the unlikely duo of the Blues Brothers who helped re-launch the careers of Aretha Franklin, Johnny Lee Hooker, Cab Calloway and a host of others. Country crossovers became big with Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton and Glenn Campbell leading the way.  As the 80’s came along new groups and styles were introduced including New Wave and Rap. It was music that helped us through those times.

I listen to that music all the time and remember those turbulent days well. It certainly wasn’t the fact that things were great in the world. That being said despite bad news there was still some sense of that things would work out okay.  Music helped provide part of that sense of hope. It was an escape and the music of that time is still with us. Many of those those groups haven’t gone away and people look back with fondness to the music of the era even as the artists age and pass away.

Here are some of my favorites with links to the videos, they are in no particular order nor are the representative of all the groups that I have in my library of CDs and DVDs, but I enjoy the heck out of them.  Have fun and enjoy.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

Little River Band “Reminiscing” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZ_3G4xqSDQ

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Olivia Newton-John “Magic”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7WPwH8Rd6g

and “I Honestly Love You”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zGLSnZGZts 

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The Commodores “Sail On” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zg-ivWxy5KE

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The Eagles “Hotel California” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnkJcjBCG88

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AC/DC “You Shook Me All Night Long”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lo2qQmj0_h4

KISS “I Was Made for Loving You” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7fxN3g5sLw

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton: Islands in the Stream http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=recWNQddJeE&feature=related

Rupert Holmes: Escape (The Pina Colada Song) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaOXWJKsX-U

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Donna Summer: Last Dance http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cPIT_T3mYU

Roberta Flack: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9jmusgMgro&feature=related

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Bee Gees “How Deep is You Love

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpqqjU7u5Yc

Dr Hook “Cover of the Rolling Stone” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJu6Up9w2Hc

John Denver: Take Me Home Country Roads http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukUL_I14GPw

Three Dog Night, Joy to the World http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2x3af_three-dog-night-joy-to-the-world_people

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The Carpenters “Rainy Days and Mondays” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPmbT5XC-q0

Paul McCartney and Wings  “Band on the Run http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qx2jEfBsqY

The Trammps “Disco Inferno” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_sY2rjxq6M

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Rod Stewart “Tonight’s the Night”

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1p96h_rod-stewarttonights-the-nightgonna_music

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Abba “The Winner Takes it All” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92cwKCU8Z5c

and “Waterloo” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sj_9CiNkkn4

Elvis Presley: Suspicious Minds

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBmAPYkPeYU

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Elton John “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kMVdazvII4 

Journey “Don’t Stop Believing” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcjzHMhBtf0

Albert Hammond: It Never Rains in Southern California http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pyC7WnvLT4

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Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ9rUzIMcZQ

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Blondie “Heart of Glass” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGU_4-5RaxU

Neil Diamond: Sweet Caroline

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vhFnTjia_I

Boz Skaggs “Lido Shuffle” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIu0jQ5TaRQ&feature=PlayList&p=8201408B8B6E42C8&index=2

Katrina and the Waves “Walking on Sunshine” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPUmE-tne5U

Billy Joel “Piano Man” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxEPV4kolz0

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Barry Manilow “Mandy” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AM7SQzq3yHQ

Heart: Crazy on You

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gpNqB4dnT4&feature=related

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Village People: YMCA

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS9OO0S5w2k

Fleetwood Mac “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8arvEzHsA8

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Laura Branigan “Gloria”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tVutw8rjFk

Carly Simon “You’re So Vain”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQZmCJUSC6g

Chicago “Saturday in the Park”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWxA3e9f6rY

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Linda Ronstadt “When Will I Be Loved”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmE7tTzJkbU

Foghat “Third Time Lucky”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fj1O2KtH4kE

The Captain and Tennille “Do that to Me One More Time”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNHcgk5bf7o&feature=related

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Finally, the Blues Brothers “Everybody Needs Somebody”

http://www.mojvideo.com/video-the-blues-brothers-everybody-needs-somebody-to-love/ac0b631b54ff095fd5c0

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Filed under History, music

30 Years of Marriage: Marriage the Definitive Icebreaker in an Ever Changing World

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Luke Skywalker has returned to his home planet of Tatooine in an attempt to rescue his friend Han Solo from the clutches of the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt. Little does Luke know that the GALACTIC EMPIRE has begun construction on a new armored space station even more powerful than the first dreaded Death Star. When completed, this ultimate weapon will spell certain doom for the small band of rebels struggling to restore freedom to the galaxy…

Cut! Wrong galaxy…

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The year was 1983 and a newly commissioned Army Second Lieutenant was marrying the love of his life in an old Presbyterian Church in Stockton California. The wedding was done on a shoestring but was quite nice, you would never have known that on that warm but not too hot day in Stockton California, only 89 degrees at game time with almost no humidity. Since the groom’s 1975 Chevy Monza didn’t have air conditioning that was a good thing.

Other things were going on in the world that day and that year.

Yasir Arafat was expelled from Syria after his accusations that President Hafez al-Assad was behind the anti-Arafat rebellion among Palestine Liberation Organization troops in Lebanon.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana had just had their first son, William.

Evita closed on Broadway after 1568 performances.

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Flashdance…What A Feeling by Irene Cara was the Billboard top single.

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Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video became the biggest video hit of all time and he would die on our 26th wedding anniversary in 2009.

In sports an Indian team led by the legendary Kapil Dev overcame the mighty, two-time champion West Indies at Lord’s to win the Prudential World Cup.

The Orioles lost to the Tigers 9-3, the Giants lost to the Padres 3-2 and the A’s lost to the Rangers 8-3. The O’s would go on to win the World Series.

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Superman III was the top box office draw but would be de-throned by Star Wars VI, Return of the Jedi on the 26th. The top ten box office hits for 1983 were: Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Terms of Endearment, Flashdance, Trading Places, WarGames, Octopussy, Sudden Impact, Staying Alive, Mr. Mom and Risky Business.

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M*A*S*H had ended its epic run as one of the favorite television shows in the United States.

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The Car and Driver Magazine Top Ten Best list included the 1983 Pontiac 6000STE, 1983 Porsche 944, 1983 Toyota Celica Supra, 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI, 1983 AMC/Renault Alliance, 1983 Chevrolet Caprice Classic, 1983 Ford Mustang GT 5.0, 1983 Honda Accord, 1983 Mazda RX-7 and the 1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SEL. Pontiac and AMC are no more and we now own a 2013 Mustang.

Ronald Reagan was President and Yuri Andropov the Soviet Premier as the Cold War began to reach its crescendo even as both countries were enmeshed in wars or attempts to subvert each other’s allies, the US in Nicaragua and the Soviets in Afghanistan even as Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative or Star Wars program.

The Polish Pope, John Paul II was making waves in Poland as the Solidarity movement continued to confound local Communist authorities and the Soviet Union, helping to set the stage for the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in then a repressive and racist apartheid South Africa.

Iran and Iraq were locked in a bloody struggle, Israel had invaded Lebanon and become  involved in a quagmire and Saddam Hussein was considered to be our friend. Osama Bin Laden was supported by the United States in Afghanistan.

The Space Shuttle Challenger returned to earth after a historic mission with Sally Ride the first woman to go into space.

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It is hard to believe that all of that was going on. In fact since there was no internet yet and even cable news was still in its infancy most of us lived in a world that was not so complicated. In light of the current concerns regarding privacy which make Orwell’s 1984 seem all too real, that novel was merely interesting.

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Who would have thought then that the world would be where we are today. Likewise who would believe that Judy and I are still married after all these years? Sure I think that most people enter into marriage with the intent of it lasting the rest of their lives but tragically so many don’t. In light of all the failed marriages out there I almost wonder if 30 is the new 50 as far as anniversaries are concerned. I guess that we are rather fortunate. We have done the whole sickness and in health, for richer or poorer deal a number of times already, seen our shares of joys and heartaches and since I have been in some type of military service our whole marriage endured many separations.  So far we still love each other.

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One of my favorite movies about marriage is the classic Four Weddings and a Funeral. There is a great sequence in the film which sometimes I wonder might just be true:

Gareth: I’ve got a new theory about marriage. Two people are in love, they live together, and then suddenly one day, they run out of conversation.

Charles: Uh-huh.

Gareth: Totally. I mean they can’t think of a single thing to say to each other. That’s it: panic! Then suddenly it-it occurs to the chap that there is a way out of the deadlock.

Charles: Which is?

Gareth: He’ll ask her to marry him.

Charles: Brilliant! Brilliant!

Gareth: Suddenly they’ve got something to talk about for the rest of their lives.

Charles: Basically you’re saying marriage is just a way of getting out of an embarrassing pause in conversation.

Gareth: The definitive icebreaker.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Just for fun, Loose thoughts and musings, marriage and relationships

Some Thoughts on Poverty and Suffering on a Friday Night

This is one of those emotional and drifting posts I do apologize that it is not one of my more witty, pithy or more well researched posts, but it is what it is.

I have become much more cognizant of the plight of the poor and suffering in the course of my adult life. Over the past few weeks and months, probably due to the nastiness of the election campaign and some of the things said about the poor and the less fortunate  have caused me to notice the poor around me as well as others that suffer in mind, body or spirit.  I have met some of the poor and even the homeless in my area. The ones that I have met all work, but don’t have enough income to pay for a place to live and live in their cars. I remember working in the projects of San Antonio and with the homeless in the Dallas Fort Worth area in the late 1980s. I remember the crush of humanity in the emergency room waiting area at Parkland Memorial Hospital while doing my residency there. I am drawn to the plight of the people who I met that were victimized by war, violence and oppression in the Middle East and the Balkans. The sight of refugees in camps in the middle of the desert wanted by no nation still gets to me. The sight of children that have been wounded by terrorists, insurgents and supposedly friendly fire made a deep impression on me.

Some comes from my own experience of poverty and often not knowing where the next rent payment, tank of gas or meal would come from after I left the Army in 1988. I understand what it is to be uninsured, to work hard, have a better education, training and experience than people that I worked for and to be treated as if my work and value as a person was of no significance as opposed to their personal or corporate bottom line. I have experienced the humiliation of having to ask for help between jobs, and believe me until you have not employment and have to work 2-3 jobs to have a place to live while going to school to hopefully achieve your dreams all the while dealing with the illness of a family member as you pursue your calling and vocation you may never understand.

When we were in the second year of seminary we were losing our home, our cars and being bombarded by calls from often hateful and uncaring bill collectors. At that time I felt that I had sacrificed everything and come up short, a failure facing the end of my dream I called a prayer line. The house we lived in was in a dangerous neighborhood, old and dilapidated only a couple of gas space heaters worked during on of the coldest winters the Dallas area had seen in decades. With the temperature of -8 degrees outside and with ice forming on the inside of the house windows and the landlord refusing to make repairs to the heating we huddled in our bedroom with our two dachshunds. I just wanted to have someone care, maybe offer a word of encouragement.  Instead I was told by the lady on the other end of the line that “I must not be in God’s will because if if I was he would be blessing me.” I was also asked if I wanted to donate to that ministry.

Somehow I don’t think that is the answer that Jesus would have given.

Eventually I did get through seminary and did pay off every bill instead of declaring bankruptcy. When I got my first hospital chaplain job after my residency it was a a full time contractor that made less than staff chaplains at the hospital and had no medical coverage. It is really hard to believe now that I was caring for people in that hospital’s ER and had no medical coverage myself. Of course when I was mobilized as an Army Reservist to go to support the Bosnia operation my contract was ended.

I guess when I hear politicians, pundits and politically minded preachers more guided by the principles of Ayn Rand than the Bible, or the Christian tradition it bothers me. When I see the Social Justice tradition of the Church, that referred to by Pope John Paul II as the “preferential option for the poor” mocked openly by leading political and religious figures I get upset. When I hear someone at a Presidential Primary debate yell “let them die” in regard to someone with a serious illness and no insurance or ability to pay I get concerned. We I see poverty and suffering in my own community, few social services and limited employment or educational opportunities it troubles me. I do what I can but it really isn’t enough.

I try now to listen to suffering people knowing that I cannot fix much of anything.  I guess that one of the biggest issues that I see is that when people are down and out that a lot of people treat them very disrespectfully and never take time to either get to know them or understand their situation. Instead it seems that as a society we tend to want to lecture people about all the ways that they have failed, how they have screwed up their lives and how they are lucky that we either give to some charity to help them or to blame them for being a burden on society.

Like I said, this is all emotion and meandering thoughts brought on my some recent experiences with people that have triggered painful memories of what it was to be in similar situations and memories of other peoples suffering in this country and overseas.

So since I am so emotional right now I will simply close with a prayer to close the night.

“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake.  Amen.” From the Book of Common Prayer

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, philosophy, Political Commentary

Bishop Jenky’s Obama and Hitler, Stalin, Bismarck and Clemenceau Comparison: Bad History, Bad Theology and Bad Politics

Bishop Daniel Jenky 

History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.” Thomas Jefferson

I normally would not criticize a Roman Catholic Bishop for speaking out on he through were legitimate threats to the Catholic faith. However, when a fellow Christian cleric of any rank or denomination chooses to become a bad historian and use historical lies and distortions to demonize an opponent I as a clergyman and American must point it out. I have waited several days to publish this post and reworked it a number of times simply because I do, even if I disagree with them respect their office.

What sparked my ire was when Roman Catholic Bishop of the diocese of Peoria Illinois, Bishop Daniel Jenky wildly and stupidly overstepped his knowledge of history and American Religious Freedom. Bishop Jenky in his homily to a Catholic Men’s group during the Second Sunday of Easter Mass made this comment:

“In the late 19th century, Bismark (sic) waged his “Kulturkamf,” a culture war against the Roman Catholic Church, closing down every Catholic school and hospital, convent and monastery in Imperial Germany. Clemenceau, nicknamed “the priest eater,” tried the same thing in France in the first decade of the 20th Century. 

Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care. 

In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, President Obama – with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.

Now things have come to such a pass in our beloved country that this is a battle that we could lose, but before the awesome judgement seat of Almighty God this is not a war where any believing Catholic may remain neutral.”

I am a big defender of all religious freedom, even that of the prelates of the Roman Catholic Church to state the beliefs of their church clearly and without even the slightest fear of persecution. However I am not a fan of clerics using their pastoral role to become the partisan voice of any religious party. Bishop Jenky’s comments in his homily go well beyond voicing his disagreement with the Obama Administration, or for that matter with the policies of the Reagan and both Bush administrations who actually enunciated similar policies.  Likewise even more importantly he used the most vile of historical distortions to buttress his partisan opinion.

If President Obama was a Republican grousing for “pro-life” votes by giving lip-service to Evangelicals and Roman Catholics Jenky would never have said a word. However Obama’s problem is that he does not give the same deferential lip service to the anti-abortion groups in the Republican party that neither of the Bush’s or Reagan did. People forget that Ronald Reagan signed into law the most liberal abortion laws in the country prior to Roe v. Wade. George H.W. Bush was not only pro-choice but was a big backer of Planned Parenthood and despite some of his policies against abortion in the settings of military healthcare and in foreign aid programs did almost nothing other than to mouth empty platitudes in support of Pro-Life policies.

I find it fascinating to find the major Catholic figures in in conservative American politics, Paul Ryan and John Boehner are just as selective in their support of official Catholic teachings as are their Liberal counterparts that Bishop Jenky so roundly condemns.  It is what I call Conservative Cafeteria Catholicism. It was reported today that the American Council of Catholic Bishops wrote to express their concern about Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget plan. The believe that it contradicts church teaching regarding the responsibility of the Government to provide adequate services to the poor. Ryan claims that this budget based on his “Catholic Faith” but it stands in total opposition to Papal Encyclicals such as Renum Novarum (On Capital and Labor) issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 and the Second Vatican Council regarding the care for the poor. This was reiterated in 1991 on the 100th anniversary of Renum Novarum by Pope John Paul II. He called the church to advocate for the “preferential option for the poor.”  Today Speaker of the House John Boehner basically told the the Bishops to pound sand and that they, the Bishops “needed to see the big picture.” So I guess it really isn’t about defending the rights of the Church to such politicians just using selective parts of Church teaching to buttress their political support. But I don’t see Bishop Jenky calling either Boehner or Ryan “Judas.”

Bishop Jenky is a bad historian, but then that goes for the vast majority of clerics. He compares the Health Care Mandate in regard to contraception with the Kulturkampf  of Otto Von Bismarck.  In fact the the Kulturkampf was not just something that Bismarck and German philosophical and theological Liberals (Classic Liberalism) dreamed up simply because they opposed the theology of the Catholic Church.

What Jenky fails to mention is was the period of German Unification and Germany was opposed by Austria-Hungary which was a Catholic Empire hugely supported by the Vatican. The Catholic Church opposed the Protestant Kingdom of Prussia because it was weakening the power of Catholic Kingdoms throughout German speaking lands. It might be noted that at the same time the Vatican, which around the same time period was fighting the unification of Italy and the dissolution of the Vatican States.  It seems that throughout the 19th Century that the Popes, especially Pius IX and Pius X were constantly fighting the right of people to their own government and were willing to fund and support the Hapsburg Dynasty of Austria which was the direct descendant of the Holy Roman Empire.

Bishop Jenky’s comparison of President Obama with Hitler and Stalin is an act of demagoguery that other Bishops as well as politicians should condemn. They were dictators that launched wars of aggression on other nations as well as murdered millions of their own people. What Jenky condemns President Obama for is not in the same league.  The same is true about the comparisons to Clemenceau and Bismarck is also wrong headed and a selective and distorted use of history to demonize a political opponent. To compare President Obama to Hitler and Stalin is the tactic of the religious despots of Europe that our Founders so rightly rejected.

Our founders were quite right to push back hard against the church denominations of their day that strove to enhance their power and privilege by attempting to become state churches or become the privileged denominations.  Bishop Jenky seems to forget that the United States was not founded to be the vassal state of the Roman Catholic or for that matter any other Church denomination.  If we actually value religious liberty or for that matter the Gospel itself we need to remember little things like that no matter what men like Bishop Jenky say.

John Leland, the Baptist leader who fought for the separation of Church and State that both Jefferson and Madison enunciated said:

“The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever. … Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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A Few Concerns Regarding Matters of Faith and Morality

“The fearful danger of the present time is that above the cry for authority, we forget that man stands alone before the ultimate authority, and that anyone who lays violent hands on man here, is infringing eternal laws, and taking upon himself superhuman authority, which will eventually crush him.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I think I feel a sermon coming on….

I am increasing appalled at the statements of Christians and those that they have allied themselves with in the political arena.  Mind you that almost all of these folks claim to be “pro-life” because they are anti-abortion. However just because someone is against abortion does not mean that they are necessarily pro-life.  They may be pro-life in the instance of abortion but if that is all then they are one dimensionally pro-life, which means that in many other areas they are pro-death.

Several examples I will note and they are so abominable, so un-Christian and so evil that they have to be called out. I am refraining from politics because this is a matter of faith and morals that have had to categorically oppose throughout our history, even when our Christian brothers and sisters are the perpetrators.

I the past couple of weeks alone we have seen bold faced immoral and distinctly un-Christian comments being made in full public view on television for all, even God to see.

First there were the cheers when Governor Rick Perry said that he never “loses sleep” over any of the 234 men and women that he has signed the death warrants of in Texas, not even worrying that some might have been innocent.  When Perry pronounced this authoritative statement “But in the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed.” The cheers were raucous.  This despite the fact that the witness of the Christian Church before Constantine was universally against the use of capital punishment, evidently the fact that Jesus was unjustly crucified had some play in their beliefs.   But of course one the Church became part of the establishment that began to change and well we know how that worked out, if you disagreed with the Church the crime was also against the State and those who did not recant well enough were summarily executed, often with a clergyman pronouncing eternal damnation.

You would think that someone who is pro-life would at least reserve the ultimate justice to God, and at least wrestle with the implications of each death warrant that he signs.  The death penalty may be capital punishment but it is still temporal justice, God alone has the right of deciding “ultimate justice.” For anyone not to understand that shows a callous disregard for the earliest witnesses of the Christian faith and cannot in any way be considered to be “pro-life.”  Pope John Paul II in his Papal Encyclical “Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) said this

“Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfills the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people’s safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated.

It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: ‘If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.'”

The Second little instance was when a question was asked of Ron Paul about what he would do if an uninsured 30 year old man suddenly slipped into a coma and needed care and people in the audience started yelling “Let him die, let him die!”  To be fair Ron Paul as a physician would treat the man, but the fact that people in the audience which was in large part drawn from Evangelicals shouted such epithets in a debate televised for the whole nation to see revealed a sentiment that was in no way pro-life or Christian.  In fact it reminded me of the shouts “crucify him, crucify him!”

The Third and last for tonight’s sermon, I do occasionally like the three point sermon, was prominent televangelist and one time Presidential Candidate Pat Robertson’s comment today on his show The 700 Club. Robertson gave this warm and cuddly advice to a man asking what to say to a friend who had started seeing someone else because his wife had Alzheimer’s Disease “I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.” Citing the Gospel of Mark, Robertson continued “If you respect that vow, you say `til death do us part, this is a kind of death.”  That statement is neither pro-life nor pro-family, nor can it find any support in the Christian tradition, nowhere.

All of these statements that I have described show no respect for the human person and betray what Hannah Arendt called “the fearsome word-and-thought-defying banality of evil” because those that utter them do not believe that they are evil words or acts. The “banality of evil” was  a term she coined about Adolf Eichmann who made sure that the wheels of the Holocaust moved smoothly forward.  Of course Eichmann said in his defense that he didn’t have anything against the Jews, he even had Jewish friends, and it was just his job and that he had done nothing wrong because he acted within the law.

These expressed thoughts and sentiments of Rick Perry, Pat Robertson and those in the debate crowds that cheered for death show a terrible dark side to our supposedly “Christian” nation.  It is easy to use scripture to condemn abortionists as well as those that are considered sexually deviant or to condemn those of foreign creeds enemies, but when the questions are the treatment of the poor, the sick, the aliens among, the prisoners, or to the children of people that we see as enemies far away who just happen to be in the same tent as their woebegone parents who might or might not be terrorists when a drone launched Hellfire missile tears their bodies to shreds we scarcely see the moral, ethical and religious principles that are violated.

Bonhoeffer was indeed correct “that above the cry for authority, we forget that man stands alone before the ultimate authority, and that anyone who lays violent hands on man here, is infringing eternal laws, and taking upon himself superhuman authority, which will eventually crush him.”

Just some things to think about….

Peace

Padre Steve+

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