Sunday, July 19, 2009

Shadows of the Heart

(The entry title is my own, given of this work by Ella Wilcox entitled "In The Crowd")

How happy they are, in all seeming,
How gay, or how smilingly proud,
How brightly their faces are beaming,
These people who make up the crowd!
How they bow, how they bend, how they flutter,
How they look at each other and smile,
How they glow, and what bon mots they utter!
But a strange thought has found me the while!

It is odd, but I stand here and fancy
These people who now play a part,
All forced by some strange necromancy
To speak, and to act, from the heart.
What a hush would come over the laughter!
What a silence would fall on the mirth!
And then what a wail would sweep after,
As the night-wind sweeps over the earth!

If the secrets held under and hidden
In the intricate hearts of the crowd
Were suddenly called to, and bidden
To rise up and cry out aloud,
How strange one would look to another!
Old friends of long standing and years -
Own brothers would not know each other,
Robed new in their sorrows and fears.

From broadcloth, and velvet, and laces,
Would echo the groans of despair,
And there would be blanching of faces
And wringing of hands and of hair.
That man with his record of honour,
That lady down there with the rose,
That girl with Spring's freshness upon her,
Who knoweth the secrets of those?

Smile on, O ye maskers, smile sweetly!
Step lightly, bow low and laugh loud!
Though the world is deceived and completely,
I know ye, O sad-hearted crowd!
I watch you with infinite pity:
But play on, play ever your part,
Be gleeful, be joyful, be witty!
'Tis better than showing the heart.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Absolute Power (Corrupts Absolutely)

From Yahoo News: Report: Bush surveillance program was massive

"The Bush administration built an unprecedented surveillance operation to pull in mountains of information far beyond the warrantless wiretapping previously acknowledged, a team of federal inspectors general reported Friday, questioning the legal basis for the effort but shielding almost all details on grounds they're still too secret to reveal.

The report, compiled by five inspectors general, refers to "unprecedented collection activities" by U.S. intelligence agencies under an executive order signed by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks."

Batman: Beautiful, isn't it?

Lucius: Beautiful, unethical, dangerous. You've turned every cell phone in Gotham into a microphone.

Batman: And a high-frequency generator-receiver.

Lucius: You took my sonar concept and applied it to every phone in the city. With half the city feeding you sonar, you can image all of Gotham. This is wrong.

Batman: I've gotta find this man, Lucius.

Lucius: At what cost?

Batman: The database is null-key encrypted. It can only be accessed by one person.

Lucius: This is too much power for one person.

Batman: That's why I gave it to you. Only you can use it.

Lucius: Spying on 30 million people isn't part of my job description.

Batman: This is an audio sample. If he talks within range of any phone in the can triangulate his position.

Lucius: I'll help you this one time. But consider this my resignation. As long as this machine is at Wayne Enterprises, I won't be.

To President George W. Bush,

Mr. President, I am bearing closely in mind that the news media loathes you and would seek to destroy you and your legacy. I will not accept this rumor unquestionably, since I know that it is the result of a hostile news media and an administration that his hostile to you.

I am grateful to everything you did for this country in eight years. I am one of no large number of people who continues to revere, admire and respect you and the things you stood for and accomplished in office. You shouldered or were charged with so many grave responsibilities, many of which you did not deserve.

You presided over a dark day in history, the likes of which had not been seen in this country in decades. The devourers and destroyers made great headway on September 11 by striking terror into our hearts, and you stood strong when we looked to gave us strength.

You were not perfect, as no president is. People make mistakes, and you made some humdingers. Some were hammered on mercilessly by friend and foe alike, people who could do no better and who might do far worse. Some were heeded little, even though they were of greater importance.

But sir...if this report is true, I am greatly disturbed.

It's not a matter of trust, sir. I don't doubt that such a program is much safer in your hands than in the hands of someone else, such as our current president. That's not it. It's that you set the precedent. You opened a door that, once opened, is very difficult to close. It truly is too much power for one person.

The problem is, any powers that you took, that anyone takes, in the name of safety are soon enough in the hands of a those who believes in the power of the State, not of the individual. That is the problem with taking great liberty in the power and control of government, sir. Though the goals be just, the overarching problem you create is not; you leave the means of control in the hands of your successor, who can, by the same power you used, undo the good you did, and expand greater power and control.

The secrecy is also troubling. I understand well the need to fight terrorists on levels which the civilian cannot see. You told us many of the victories in this war would occur behind the scenes, underground, in quiet shadows of secret dealings. But still, would we tolerate this level of spying with our current president?

This was originally why America was founded sir, as well you know. That's what makes us so different! Other countries were founded in history, sir, history and culture. Ours was founded on philosophy, on ideals. It was conceived in liberty.

If these whispers are true, it is those liberties that took great harm by your actions. I fear for the empty machinery and vessels of control which you created for good, but which you now have no control over.

It may be late now sir, but for you, for me, for future generations of people who will be trusted with the task of governance, we must all at least remember this one truth:

The mightiest expression of power is not using it.

Yours with great respect,

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Two Outcomes (When Wolves Invade)

If there's one thing that comes close to the sheer terror of being victimized, it's observing someone else being victimized.

I was reminded of this again today when, after uploading my latest armed citizen video, and decided to search YouTube for other armed citizen videos. It turns out mine dominate the search list (and even score well on Google if you search "armed citizen"!) and have even been compiled into playlists by other YouTubers. One of the videos (911 Caller Without Gun in Home Invasion) was of a woman who was NOT an armed citizen, and only by the grace of God did she live to regret it.

Having injured herself in a car accident, and with her husband away, this woman was incapacitated when an intruder began beating on her door. She quickly dials 911, and in the time it takes police to rush to her aid (a mere five minutes), a drunken intruder forced the door, located her and began to rape her. Police were finally able to make it to the scene, and it took five deputies to secure him.

The fear and panic seeped through the speakers when hearing this. Every sheepdog instinct, every fibre in my being, wanted to be there, to protect the woman and pulverize the criminal who dared to assault her. But just as I could not be there, the police could not either, not for five minutes. As it happens, five minutes can be the rest of your life in a violent situation.

Contrast this to the video I made (Armed Citizens: Calling 911 Doesn't Always Work - turns out it's been duplicated by several viewers!), which contains the same terror, panic and fear, but also the will to survive. Rather than waiting for the police, the terrified woman was able to use a gun to neutralize the attacker.

When I see these videos...when I see the horrible things that can and do happen, and the need to protect and preserve innocent life, it is incomprehensible to me that there are those that still advocate disarming the Citizen.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Why You Should Never Talk to the Police

A fellow sheepdog friend of mine posted two video lectures he found online regarding how -- or how NOT -- to deal with law enforcement in the event that you are charged with a crime, detained for questioning, or even interviewed as part of an investigation.

Even if you, like me, never expect to encounter police officers in a hostile situation, these are important videos to watch. This is especially true for law-abiding citizens who carry concealed or open weapons in self-defense.

And let me state plainly for the record, this is not in any way oppositional to police officers. They are brave men and women who risk their lives to promote general safety. I have gotten along with any and every law enforcement officer I have had the pleasure of meeting. (Of course, I have never been so much as ticketed for speeding either.) This is not any sort of anti-police sentiment whatsoever. This is simply sound legal counsel for anyone who may come in contact with law enforcement at some point in the future.

Friday, July 03, 2009

On the Use and Power of Stories

I've never been a fan of that apple-pie-and-porch-swing rendition of the Bible known as The Message, but if there's one utility it does serve, it's converting the sometimes archaic wording and images of the Bible into modern-day terms.

Sometimes the fact that the world of about 26 AD is so foreign and puzzling to us that we lose sight of the fact that Jesus appealed to incredibly contemporary and commonplace images like farming, taxes, shepherding, lamps and fruit trees for illustration. It takes scholars who studied the era to tell us that the "weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth" descriptions of hell were analogous to the burning trash heap outside Jerusalem, or to underscore the significance of the prodigal son's father running to his son (IE, socially inappropriate for men to run like that).

Of course, Jesus "cheated"; being one with the omniscient Designer before time, these analogies for life were built in before humans walked the earth to see them.

Sometimes I wonder how that ordinary would translate over into today. Did the angels of the Bible carry swords because that was their preferred method, or because that was the weapon of the day? Would angels today carry guns if they appeared today? It sounds a little goofy, but it's a fair question. (And I believe angels do still appear today, though perhaps not to where we recognize them.) It sounds anachronistic, but that's the whole point; Christ was entirely modern for his day. And really, while being deep and profound, He was also extremely ordinary, which is what kept some from believing, because they had sensationalist images of their messiah that held them back.

Sometimes I wonder what Jesus would be if He came in today's world rather than two thousand years ago. Would there be parables about cars, eBay, Wal-Mart?

In his book "Eli", Bill Myers attempts to dramatize an alternate world in which the messiah comes in a modern-day world. He is born in the back of a laundromat rather than a stable, and worshiped by hippies rather than shepherds. In his introduction, Myers makes no apologies about exploring this notion with the firm knowledge that nothing in our world would be as it is now without Christ's arrival as it was. And the whole question is really a moot point anyway, because we are told that Christ came to earth "in the fullness of time", meaning that an omniscient God saw all possibilities, factors and variables and elected that point in time to enact His plan of redemption. Some who look back at the timeline of history note that with Rome's expanded highway system, the prominence of Jerusalem in merchant travel, and civilization being just prior to an expansion across continents, it makes perfect sense to start the seeds of salvation at just the right time.

Returning to the notion of stories...some time ago, I was talking about one of my favorite topics, the Lord of the Rings series, and a friend suggested that it and the fantasy genre was not altogether useful, and perhaps even harmful. I disagreed, asserting that a story is the most powerful and instrumental of teaching tools. I base this in part on the methods that Jesus Himself used, but also in my own experience.

People love to hear stories, or to read them, or to watch them, and without necessarily trying, we can learn and be taught so much by them.

"In order to comprehend the experience one is living in," wrote author Walter Wangerin, "he must, by imagination and by intellect, be lifted out of it. He must be given to see it whole; but since he can never wholly gaze upon his own life while he lives it, he gazes upon the life that, in symbol, comprehends his own. Art presents such lives, such symbols. Myth especially - persisting as a mother of truth through countless generations and for many disparate cultures, coming therefore with the approval not of a single people but of people - myth presents, myth IS, such a symbol, shorn and unadorned, refined and true. And when the one who gazes upon that myth suddenly, in dreadful recognition, cries out, "There I am! That is me!" then the marvelous translation has occurred; he is lifted out of himself to see himself wholly."

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Corps-à-corps of Hypocrisy

Oh dear, another scandal is rocking the front pages.

Or rather, was, until Michael Jackson died. You know, I think Mark Sanford might have had a hand in that...

This time, yet another politician got caught with his pants down, South Carolina's Governor Sanford. And this latest sets into motion a time-honored string of actions in the political sphere, the inevitable clash of party values.

Republicans/conservatives (in general) smack their foreheads at the flagrant and incompetent dealings of one of their own, and then retort that if he were a Democrat, he would be propped up, supported and even venerated by many on the left who continue to support philandering heroes such as Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, John Edwards and Barney Frank.

They are also upset that Democrats suddenly seem to care...a good portion of liberal philosophy is based on moral relativism, looser moral standards and greater tolerance of loose sexual behavior. Yet, when they smell scandal in the air, they suddenly sprout massive "moral" implants and become deeply troubled by a candidate's conduct and question his capacity to continue to serve.

Like most implants, these morals may look good on the surface, but are strikingly and absurdly fake.

Democrats, meanwhile, are busy accusing Republicans -- the party of family values and standards -- of hypocrisy because of the many Republicans who have been caught cheating.

"We thought you were the party of values!" the proverbial Democrat Donkey jeers.

"We thought you didn't care about their private lives!" the Republican Elephant shoots back.

"We thought you DID!" the Donkey returns.

And so it goes.

But Republicans take their own to task more than the Democrats do, that much is certain. While Newt Gingrich, John Ensign, Larry Craig and Mark Foley have all been collectively spanked by their party and sent to bed without supper, the Clintons, Jacksons and Kennedies of the world continue to rock on with full support from their party.

In the end, both parties live up to their standards.

But what to do when one party has a whimsical affair with values for the sole purpose of beating the other party over the head with them? The question remains...who is the real hypocrite?

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