Monday, May 30, 2011

Our True National Debt

With all of the political debates going on these days, dividing Americans and stirring up passion and emotion, it can be refreshing to think what it is that has held us together as a country, and who we pay tribute to this Memorial Day: our veterans.

This is our most immense national debt. One which increases everyday, and can never be repaid. Only with our thoughts, prayers, memories and support can we begin to scratch the surface of repaying the debt we owe to our men and women in uniform, past and present.

My paternal granfather, Stan Grimes is among those who sacrificed so much for the cause of our freedom. He served in the European Theatre of Operations in the Second World War - in Algeria, Tunisia, Italy, France and Germany. He did not pay the ultimate sacrifice as so many like him did in the war, but today we remember him and those who did.

A Tribute to SSGT Grimes, Battery C, 451 AAA

When we were twenty-three...

I was thinking about where to spend my summer vacation after my senior year in college;
You were crossing the Atlantic with your men on the USS Cristobol.

I was applying to graduate school at Miami University;
You were helping establish a beachhead in Nazi occupied North Africa.

I was deciding what classes to take now that my first semester was coming to a close;
You were defending the airstrip at Mostaganem from nighttime attacks by the Luftwaffe.
When we were twenty-four..
I was saying goodbye to old friends as graduation came and went;
You were huddled in a foxhole while bombs fell on Monte Cassino.
I was driving to Massachusetts for my summer job at camp;
You were landing at Marseilles – ready to push towards the Siegfried line and into Nazi Germany.

I was finding it a challenge to keep up with all of the readings in my economics classes;
You were liberating the camp at Stuttgart -witnessing atrocities that few in the world had ever seen.

And then came the day...

I stood by with pride as the guns rang out in the crisp November air;
And you were laid to rest under the flag you had so honorably served.

What a story. What a soldier. What an American. What a life.
In memory of Staff Sergeant Stan Grimes. 
February 21, 1919 - November 6, 2009.

... and all of his brothers in arms who have fought to keep our country free.

Consider making this Memorial Day more than a fishing trip, a picnic, or an extra day off work. Tell a veteran how much you appreciate their service, pay respects to a soldier's grave, say a prayer for our men and women overseas - we owe them much more than this - but what they have given, we can not give back.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

An Objective Look at My Life

For those of you who were hoping to find here a thoughtful reflection of the joys and heartbreak of my childhood, I should disclose to you now that the subject matter of this post relates to Bill Clinton’s autobiography, “My Life”, published in 2004 by the Knopf Publishing Group. So, if that’s not what you were looking for, I’m sorry to disappoint; that post may come someday when I’ve had a few too many Glenlivets and I’m feeling weepy and homesick, but not today.
Let me say first that I’m not a speed-reader, and I’ve always been amazed by people that can get through a thick book in the course of two nights and be able to retain more than just the title. That being said, I’ve also known how to read for several years now, and would consider myself fairly apt at the task of reading… I can usually complete a book in a week or two if I put my mind to it. All of that is to say this: I’d been reading this book for four months. When Bill sat down to write this book, he made darn sure you knew not only that he grew up in Hope, but that on the day of his birth, the population of Hope was 5,020, which made him at the time he was delivered 0.0001992% of the population, which is ironic because, as he recounts in subsequent chapters, that was the year of his election to the presidency! Well, I’ll admit that I made that one up, but I will tell you that unless you plan to compete in a quiz bowl on useless trivia of Bill Clinton’s life, most of the information you get out of the book is absolutely superfluous.
It is clear that Clinton did not want to leave out any fact about his life, and he did not want to let any person that helped him along his way to success go unmentioned - I can appreciate the thought, but it makes for an unnecessarily long book for the majority its readers. For that reason, I don’t think this will go down in history as a great autobiography, simply because it frequently reads like an Academy Awards acceptance speech (before they began the practice of playing people off the stage with the orchestra). But unfortunately, since there is no orchestra, and since he’s calling the shots since it is his book, you are forced to trudge through it all if you actually want to undertake the daunting task of reading the thing from cover to cover. He also does not title the chapters, so it is exceedingly difficult to just open it to the Monica chapter, read that, and sell it on Amazon - it can be done, mind you, but since there’s 3,668 chapters, even that seemingly simple task is going to require your entire evening.  
Well since I don’t want this post to get too “My Life-ish”, I’ll actually try to form some sort of coherent review of its content, rather than go on at length about its length. Bill Clinton did have a fascinating story, and one worth retelling (in a more succinct way, preferably… last comment about the length, I promise). He is an intelligent man and an adept politician in many ways. Both of these qualities are evident in the book. Although I often found him to be on the wrong side of history many regards concerning the economy and foreign policy, I found his deliberations and thought process in reaching many decisions to be fair and objective. He also seemed to have had a knack for engaging other world leaders and fostering trust and personal diplomacy.
That being said, the man spends a good amount of time in the book defending indefensible positions. He seems to cry foul that even back to his campaign for governor in 1978 the right was unfairly attacking him for his character. Maybe it’s just me, but the big elephant in the room at this point seemed to indicate that maybe there was in fact truth to some of these claims, and maybe in fact some years down the road he would provide a few reasons why maybe people should question his character… or it could all just be a “vast right-wing conspiracy” too right?
If one takes Clinton at his word, you would think Ken Starr was just a lawless, hateful right-wing nut job, out to simply ruin the president and all of his friends’ lives at any cost. Clinton seemed to think that he was in some sort of holy war with the right-wing, and that the front line of that war was Starr’s investigation and his impeachment in the US House of Representatives. He seems to think that the Republicans were impeaching him “just because they could,” and not because he turned the Oval Office into a forum for acts which I cannot even begin to recount, because I haven’t checked the “adult content” filter for this blog.
If one is hoping for a humble, repentant man who is sorry for what he did to the office or the presidency (in both a literal and figurative sense), you will not find that man in My Life. What you will find is a shrewd politician, and a man that couldn’t see that the outcry against what he did was not just the right yet again playing politics with him.
To paraphrase Mark Dever, a Baptist preacher from Capitol Hill Baptist Church in D.C., true repentance is when if convicted of sin, you side not with your sin – but with God, against yourself. Unfortunately, Bill, the good politician that he is, can’t seem to come to side against himself, even when it’s clear that he probably should.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Justice Has Been Done

Tonight is a night which I will remember all of my life. Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the mass murder of September 11th, was killed in Pakistan. Nothing can be said or written about how profoundly changed the lives of thousands of Americans were as a result of the hate and cowardice of one man. President Obama said it well:

" ... we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world.  The empty seat at the dinner table.  Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father.  Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace."

Most of us will never know the pain that still torments those who lost their fathers, wives, husbands, and children that horrible day - but tonight we can say with certainty that the murderer of their loved ones has been brought to justice. No, Osama will never see the inside of a courtroom. But I still take heart. He will not ever see the justice that a gallows has to offer, but still... I take heart tonight. I take heart because tonight he faces the justice of an almighty God. The God that has been at the side of all of the widows whose husbands did not wake up by their side on September 12th 2001. The God of Love - counselor, redeemer, creator, but so importantly tonight: judge. I take heart that there was no cave, compound, or network of terror which could protect bin Laden from the fate that he deserved.

What a great night for not just America, but for those who love justice everywhere. God bless America.