Tag Archives: current events

A Tale of Two Lives

The Daily Mail headline was beyond disturbing!

Transsexual, 44, elects to die by euthanasia after botched sex-change operation turned him into a ‘monster’

This story appeared on the Daily Mail website back in the first part of October. When I first read it, I was shocked and saddened. (The MailOnline story also provided details about Belgian twins who have been euthanized. I’ll restrict my comments to the person referred to in the headline.)

Today, I happened to read additional details about this individual. What a tragic tale that made me grieve all the more! Born Nancy Verhelst, she grew up feeling terribly unloved. Indeed, the mother who wanted sons has freely admitted her daughter’s choice of lethal injection “… does not bother me. I feel no sorrow, no doubt or remorse.”

I am totally unable to fathom the detachment of this mother to her offspring!

Reading about Verhelst, I was reminded of another individual, one whose lot in life was certainly fraught with complexity. If ever an individual had the right to be bitter and disillusioned about the challenges and “unbearable suffering” (as the doctor in Verhelst’s case referenced) such as he knew firsthand, it would be Nick Vujicic. But this young man has tackled life from a totally different perspective. Also, check his other website, Life Without Limbs.

Every time I’ve watched this video, I can’t help but be amazed at the positive outlook Vujicic models! Whatever my complaints, I realize how insignificant they are compared to Mr. Vujicic’s daily battles!

I will leave it to other commentators to wax eloquent on the wisdom of sex-change operations. Clearly, in Verhelst’s case, the anguish she experienced as a woman only compounded following her surgical procedures. But I believe Verhelst’s death was unnecessary and tragic! The doctors who performed anatomical changes failed to minister to her emotional/psychological distress.

I will be less reticent about the movement toward euthanasia in Belgium and elsewhere. No matter how benign we dress it up, no matter how we cloak it as just one more life-choice, I believe it’s barbaric and a short path to worse evil. I shudder to imagine the world we’re leaving our grandchildren.

Failure No Longer An Option

It’s been a long time since I sat in the bleachers watching one or another of my children playing sports. At various times, we were spectators for t-ball, soccer, softball, little league baseball, Kiwanis Kids Day football, junior high basketball and football, and senior high basketball and football.

I feel like I’ve probably left something out but you get the idea. With four children in athletics, there were times we (two parents) needed to be in three different places to attend concurrent events! It was a challenge.

However, only this week did I realize how radically different children’s sports has changed … I knew just how different when I saw this video relating the details of “Silent Saturday.” (I’ll let you make up your own mind about whether you think this is a positive transformation or not.)

Do a Google search and you’ll get results of numerous soccer associations experimenting with this notion of “Silent Saturday.” Their claims are noble − purporting to champion the needs of vulnerable children and prevent [screaming] adults from “invading the children’s playtime.”

For me, “Silent Saturday” is simply one more indication some children are introduced to sports far too early. One of the measures, it seems to me, for gauging a child’s readiness for sports is his/her ability to hone better listening skills (i.e. pay attention to coach, filter out other distracting voices).

As a parent on the sidelines, I observed that most grade-school children who participate in sports just want to have fun! To that extent, it is indeed the “children’s playtime.” Children definitely love to run, to chase a ball, to do the running and chasing in the company of other kids their age. But by the time they enter sports, they’ve already begun to understand the significance of cheers (and boos), of wins and losses, of excellence in performance and the mediocrity of lax performance. They may be playing, but they’re playing for keeps on some level.

Still, as long as parents encourage and permit their kids to enjoy the fun, undue pressure to perform at a high level can be minimized (except perhaps for the few who seem to feed on sports because of their intense competitive drive).

The sports skills children learn (at this young age anyway) are often incidental to the camaraderie and teamwork that takes place on the field/court/diamond, etc. In fact, I’ve known some children who learned the camaraderie and teamwork well without ever actually mastering the sports skills.

Why? May I suggest it was due to their personalities. For some, the sports were only an avenue for social interaction (and possibly because mom or dad wanted the kid to participate).

But even the children who don’t really care about the sport and aren’t naturally gifted athletes do have their ears tuned to their parents’ voices. Why shut down that parent-child communication? Children thrive on the feedback and they long to hear their parents praise them! I shudder to imagine the child who believes he/she has performed a “great” move but mom/dad can’t offer the immediate affirmation and praise they hope to receive! What’s next? A star on the pillow from the tooth fairy? A non-committal thumbs-up for A’s on the report card?

How does a child’s maturity most likely flourish? From the artificial imposition of “Silent Saturday” or from experience (whether win or lose) where the child internalizes natural feedback that can help him/her become a better player and/or a more understanding (wiser) human being?

Children who engage in sports require maturity, but their engagement also encourages added maturity. They learn to deal positively with affliction (sustaining losses, being a benchwarmer instead of top-dog, accepting legitimate criticism sans tears, etc.)

Sanitizing sports events by inflicting children (and parents, onlookers) with “Silent Saturday” is a sure way to squash any interest in competitive activities that move these kids away from the inactivity of computers and video games. The social engineers try to encourage children in physical activity (to prevent obesity) but then spoil the sports activities by pressing a competition-is-bad mumbo jumbo agenda!

I’m betting the kids would prefer less interference, more working-it-out amongst themselves, and a generous portion of normal free play.

The Rant

squidward

… I’m tired.

… Scratch that. I am sick to death!

… I’ve had it up to here! (See Squidward’s hand? Mine is way higher than his head.) My patience is utterly sapped by the current cultural disposition that demands an unrelenting, dictatorial homogeneity of thought disguised in the garb of all-inclusive diversity! No divergence of opinion, no allowance for ideas that fail to toe an invisible line some unknown autocrat has drawn … for our own good, of course.

Day after day, rappers and celebrities heedlessly employ the term ni**er in their music and discourse, sometimes humorously, other times hatefully … and always with casual disregard. Yet esteemed writers like Mark Twain have been censured and deprived of their historic respectability in the literary canon for daring to have written works that express the everyday conversations of their time!

And speaking of language, I want it back! I hate that a word like niggardly has been tainted by someone’s misguided belief the word is an extension of the previously mentioned epithet.

… I’m angry there are “scholars” today who condemn C. S. Lewis, accusing him of veiled sexism in his portrayal of fictional female characters! How could he possibly have imagined such an idiomatic and ideological shift would so sever his world from ours?!

… I’ve had my fill of people who cry “racist” when legitimate criticism is directed at a US President who happens to be half-black. Okay, some people who hold opinions about our Commander in Chief might just be racist … but maybe they’re anti-white. (Conceding the man is half-black, doesn’t that also mean he’s half-white?)

… I’m done − I say, D-O-N-E-! − with know-nothings who presume to dictate which objects / topics / associations /relationships / clubs / etc. should be subject to micro-analysis for potential charges of racism / sexism / homophobia / heterophobia / jingoism or any other “no-no” based solely on someone’s contrived standard that presupposes their moral high ground, their hyper-sensitive intuition and their discernment. (Their attitude about your thoughts to the contrary are irrelevant and unwelcome, by the way!)

… I am especially exasperated with overindulged, politically-correct busybody trolls on the internet whose self-appointed mission is to act as doorkeepers and arbiters of right and wrong (as defined by them). Anxiously trolling electronic media, they pick fights with any writer who fails to adopt their oh-so-enlightened views of the world.

Yes, I am a knuckle-dragging neanderthal so I’ll never view the world through some troll’s warped lens. Certainly, I agree slavery was evil and continues to be an evil that unfortunately still exists today. But the so-called “systematic victimization and oppression” committed in the past … is past. Let it go! Learn from the past and refuse to slavishly perpetuate this tiresome victim narrative!

I find it tedious when people still insist today that Thomas Jefferson (or any other historic figure from that era) should be denigrated for owning slaves and/or having conjugal relations with slave women. Though in all times and all places, multitudes of powerful people have treated others despicably, the troll’s broad brush of disparagement blackens all figures from that time, not just the evil ones.

Sin is part of the human condition. Hearts are wicked and the base instinct of rule or be ruled will prevail. The powerful have never been shy about wielding the sword to their advantage. (Is it any different today? I don’t think so.)

… I am weary to the bone − yes, yes, yes! − with shameless academics who shirk their responsibility of imparting critical core knowledge to their students, preferring instead to indoctrinate students with a peculiar brand of deconstructive psychobabble that renders said students into useful idiot-hood.

Assuming every element and symbol of American thought is once and for all reduced and stripped of its “hierarchical,” “colonialist,” “patriarchal” (and other objectionable) constructs, what then? Do we gain nirvana or just end up as a mass of individuated ignoramuses? Instead of being propagandized, wouldn’t students be better served by learning how to think clearly and to develop lifelong problem-solving skills?

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’ve described this as a rant and it is. But none of what I’ve said is meant to be malicious or hateful. That’s not who I am. If you consider my rant oozes with “intolerance,” I welcome your views. But be forewarned. “Tolerance” usually receives short shrift in my book. Why shut down the marketplace of ideas in favor of aberrance?

[On the other hand, if a troll reader is determined to deconstruct my rant and delve into my deepest “issues,” I trust I’ve provided sufficient material for the endeavor.]

Am I the only one ready to push back against a prevailing ideology that no longer makes sense? If my observations provoke similar thoughts for you, then this was a rant worth having. Glad I got that off my chest!

SpongeBob In Granite

With Halloween arriving next week, what better occasion to talk graveyards and headstones? Today’s news had a story about Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum announcing its decision to banish two recently installed gravestones. One gravestone marks the spot of deceased Army Sgt. Kimberly Walker while the other monument honors her twin sister Kara (still living and currently a Navy IT specialist).SpongeBobgrave

The problem with the gravestones? They depict SpongeBob Squarepants, Kimberly Walker’s favorite cartoon character. The two monuments stand more than six feet tall, weigh 7,000 pounds each and were purchased for $26,000 by the Walker family to honor their slain daughter. These massive granite structures show SpongeBob in military attire.

From the get-go, let’s agree cemeteries are unusual places. (Some would say odd.) According to Wikipedia, Spring Grove is the “second largest cemetery in the United States.” It’s a National Historic Landmark. Its 733 acres are the last resting place for numerous notable individuals. The gallery on Spring Grove’s website features impressive photography of their park-like setting and displays serene vistas that are positively alluring!

I think it’s a fair question to ask why the SpongeBob monuments would be deemed “inappropriate” by cemetery authorities. The headstones were created only after consultation with cemetery personnel; of course, the CEO blames an underling who failed to follow the cemetery guidelines. Right.

scrabble

Gravestones typically provide information about the person buried beneath it. Oftentimes, though, gravestones are useful as a final statement (whether bold or restrained) about the deceased individual. How about this one (at right):  a Scrabble board with its own unique message, presumably providing clues to the person’s unique character. I’d bet the cemetery where this gravestone is located gets its share of visitors wanting to see the unique burial monument.

According to information available on findagrave.com, Spring Grove has over 226,000 interments. Statistically speaking, odds are good there have to be at least a few other headstones on the grounds that could be described as “inappropriate.” Have any of them been removed?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConsider this curious headstone (left), which leads me to believe Sharol and Leon must have shared some really special times around the pool table (or at the neighborhood pool hall). I’ll bet their family and friends still smile thinking about the unusual monument, but it’s a shared moment to remind them of their departed friends.

My 3 year old grandson loves to watch SpongeBob videos and I’ve viewed the show with him, though I don’t consider myself a fan. Cartoon characters won’t be on my headstone but that’s just my personal preference. Is the Spring Grove cemetery fearful one or two SpongeBob monuments will ruin the classy tone of their establishment? Nonsense!

I haven’t seen the monument up close and personal, but the picture of Walker’s monument makes me smile. It’s happy, maybe even a little dopey, but as a window into this young soldier’s heart, the monument seems to intimate she was light-hearted, fun-loving and proud of her military service. That’s enough for me; I don’t know why anyone would consider it “inappropriate.”

In my genealogy research, I’ve stomped through many a cemetery in search of one relation or another. It can be a challenge to locate a specific gravestone in a sea of gravestones. I like the idea of a SpongeBob grave marker. Instead of searching out the tedious details of lane, section, lot and space numbers, a SpongeBob moument would be easily located and identifiable. The cemetery might even receive more visitors wanting to view Walker’s grave than would view their purportedly “famous” interments.

What do you think? Am I being too flippant? I invite your comments.

The Wilier Wiles of the Devil

With Fall in the air and Halloween approaching, everywhere we go the images of goblins and devils have become prominent − in stores, on billboards, you name it. Perhaps that’s what writer Jennifer Senior had in mind in her recent New York Magazine interview with Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.scalia

This Senior/Scalia conversation moves quickly from one topic to another, but the writing has a curious subtext (at least as I read it). Senior appears baffled that a man of Scalia’s brilliance still holds firmly to Christian beliefs, tenets many (including Senior apparently) consider antiquated.

The interview paints the portrait of a distinguished jurist (as one might expect) but also sheds light on the gentle, reflective soul whose affinity to Catholic doctrine is unapologetic. Halfway through the interview, Scalia implies an afterlife and Senior asks, “You believe in heaven and hell?” One can almost hear Senior’s horrified gasp!

More questions follow, but looming ever larger is that proverbial elephant in the room. Finally, Senior can no longer contain herself and asks, “Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?” Scalia’s answer delivers a much-deserved get-thee-behind-me-Satan rebuke. He notes that people more intelligent (than he and Senior) believe in the Devil. (Indeed, a September 2013 survey found 57% believe in the Devil!)

Realizing she’s offended him, Senior expresses regret but Scalia answers back with a question of his own:  “Have you read The Screwtape Letters?” Senior replies “Yes” and quickly pivots the interview to an inane question about pop culture, a line of questioning with which Senior must have felt less awkward.

For 21st century people, Scalia notes the Devil has become “wilier,” succeeding to convince people “not to believe in him or God.” So Scalia’s question is apt:  “Have you read The Screwtape Letters?”

Screwtape

In the summer of 2001, an announcement of the HarperCollins Publishers and beliefnet.com C. S. Lewis Essay Contest called for entries. The invitation summoned writers:  “Now it’s your turn to play devil’s advocate.” Using Lewis’ beguiling work The Screwtape Letters, writers were encouraged to envision − and write an essay describing − the techniques a 21st century Screwtape might employ when training Wormwood, his student of demonic instruction.

As someone who has always enjoyed Lewis’ creative vision via Screwtape, of course I decided to try my hand. I harbored no lofty ambition to surpass (or even match) the mastery of Lewis; I believed the essay might stretch my writing muscles and be a worthy learning exercise. (It was.) Certainly, I was hopeful (as always when entering a contest) to win the grand prize, a six-day trip for two to Oxford. When winners were announced, I was fifth (of 10) runners-up from a total of 250 entries.

My entry incorporated seven letters from a modern-day Screwtape to his demon-charge Wormwood. The contest entry deadline was July 1, 2001. Winners were to be announced on September 1, 2001, but notice was delayed until mid-November 2001. Think back. Is it overly dramatic to assert our pre-9/11 world bears faint resemblance to today? Considering my Screwtape in context, the wickedness he encourages seems tame by today’s post-9/11 standards.

The first of my seven letters refers somewhat obliquely to a “non-descript yellow truck.” Some may still remember the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was destroyed in 1995 when a rented Ryder truck became a lethal weapon to end the lives of 168. Though memories from that horrendous event had grown distant, the June 2001 execution of Timothy McVeigh returned his evil act to the front pages.

Over the next seven days, I’ll reproduce each of the seven letters exactly as they were written for the essay competition. Though I frequently find ample opportunities for fine-tuning my compositions, I prefer in this instance to present the letters as originally written. As always, I invite your comments and interaction.

God Bless Our Vets!

My dad served in World War II. (Read a bit of his story in this post.) With the World War II Memorial (an open-air venue in Washington DC) barricaded (purportedly due to the government shutdown), I’ve had cause to think about my dad’s service many times over the eight days of the shutdown.Norman_Grandma1

Dad was twenty years old when he enlisted in the Army in December 1942. (Picture to the left shows him in uniform standing with his mother.) Dad’s older brother joined the same day; his younger brother enlisted the following April. Their eldest brother had family responsibilities and begrudgingly remained in St. Louis. Thankfully, all three brothers survived their service to country and returned home to resume civilian lives after the war ended.

Dad and his unit were part of the D-Day assault force at Normandy. (I can only imagine how that must have been for him. It wasn’t a subject he readily talked about.) Being transported toward Utah Beach in a flat-bottomed, amphibious assault vehicle, my dad (who didn’t know how to swim) carried a full pack on his back and, as soon as the ramp was lowered, he and his mates disembarked into water over their heads. The soldiers who didn’t drown worked their way slowly toward the beach where others of their number were navigating around obstacles on the fortified beach. Some had already entered the intense fray against German occupiers.Norm_Military_3

After my dad retired, he returned with my mother to France. I seem to recall my mother said it was a particularly difficult visit and as it turned out, he chose not to actually go back to the beach, preferring the nearby towns. From the distance of so many years, I know Dad needed to go but hauling himself back to that beach was truly A Bridge Too Far. As with most of the soldiers involved in WWII, a part of my dad died on that beach.

Were Dad alive today, he’d be 91. He died in February 1994, just months shy of the 50th Anniversary commemoration. Had he lived long enough to attend, I think he still would’ve stayed away. Most of the men with whom he’d served predeceased him, and being there previously with my mom was simply too painful.

Each time I’ve viewed the film Saving Private Ryan, I’ve wept. I can’t help it. The film centers around rescuing the one remaining brother in a family of brothers. So much of the action feels desperately familiar to me. And several years ago, when I visited the World War II Memorial in Washington DC, I was similarly moved, struck with awe at the beauty and solemnity of what the memorial represents.

When I heard about the National Park Service shutting out elderly WWII veterans due to the government shutdown, the news was terribly disturbing. So few of these heroes are still living. Fewer still will be able to make a return trip to DC. Denying them access (and the precious time for meditation) at this open-air structure dedicated to their heroism is an insult that confounds reasonable explanation. I grieve for them. (I’ve read various reports that veterans later received a special dispensation to enter, but I haven’t been able to confirm that.)

My daddy didn’t live long enough to raise his voice in unity with these blessed elderly men. I feel like I must do it on his behalf. Without raging at any particular person or organization, I firmly believe whoever gave the order to close the Memorial should be relieved of duty immediately … and air-flighted into the nearest combat zone for recompense.

Divorced From Government

The religion of Islam permits a man to divorce his wife through the thrice-repeated pronouncement of ṭalāq. triple_talaqGiven today’s deadline for filing income taxes, plenty of folks all over the country — RIGHT NOW! — wish a simple “I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee!” would suffice to sever the bonds that inextricably tie us to this overtaxing, overspending, insatiable monster called government.

Many American taxpayers find themselves in the untenable position of doing what they consider to be “right” (paying their taxes) and “wrong” (funding government’s irresponsible and socialist practices). Recall the pre-Revolution complaint “No Taxation Without Representation!” It was one basis for our Declaration of Independence. The concept is as relevant today.

What does the Bible teach? Is it biblical for a Christian to opt-out “for conscience’ sake” (Romans 13:5) ?

Aside:  I ran across a Tweet and its blog rebuttal betwixt my two adult daughters. My (unsolicited!) contribution demanded more than 140 characters but elder daughter’s blog comments were disabled; thus my post here. Elder daughter’s first post (with younger daughter’s Tweet prominent) and a companion post are thought-provoking (recommended) reading.

Second Aside:  Comments about same-sex marriage (which prompted the original Tweet/blog exchange) are reserved for another occasion.

Third Aside:  If my comments here seem lop-sided, it’s only because elder daughter provided posts while younger daughter opined in a single Tweet.

… Enough disclaimers! Elder daughter’s post Married to Government makes many points with which I agree. I won’t address the Erick Erickson column, except to note I concur how laughable it is to employ euphemism (gay marriage vs. civil unions), the “mental gymnastics” that only promotes cognitive dissonance. Ugh!

So, let’s do as elder daughter proposes:  reconsider Romans 13. By titling this post Divorced From Government, my hope is to draw balanced parallels between my elder daughter’s post and my own. She argues that many Christians blindly affirm the belief that Romans 13 dictates robotic fealty to government. She challenges this autopilot mindset.

For my part, I agree with her critique! Any Scripture passage viewed in isolation makes possible a myriad of errors. It’s appropriate to question how one may judiciously weigh Romans 13 (Paul’s treatise) against Peter’s Acts 5:29 declaration, “We will obey God rather than men.” Do Peter’s words contradict Paul’s?

Fourth Aside:  My elder daughter describes Romans 13 as “the favorite Bible passage of would-be tyrants” − a debatable charge (in my view). Seldom have tyrants (would-be or otherwise) sought or needed Scripture’s imprimatur to justify their misdeeds. But I quibble.

Elder daughter supplies a compelling list of saints who stood firmly against oppressive rule. These saints keenly remind us of God’s infinite grace in the midst of grievous circumstances. However, if we focus only on their choice to obey God, we ignore the “parade of believers” who were subject to the tyrant’s brutal whim.

Having celebrated earlier this month the Resurrection of Christ, I reflect how unlike Peter (in Acts 5) Jesus was. In fact, when the soldiers came to seize Jesus, this same Acts 5 Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of a slave. The Son of Man instantly admonished Peter:  “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (NIV)

Peter’s instinct was to wield his sword against an unjust arrest. Yet, in remarkable contrast, Jesus’ mission from the Father enabled him to surrender Himself to the soldiers. Neither man’s actions belie the truth of Romans 13 (that “there is no authority except that which God has established” NIV) nor, in my view, would either man’s actions condemn the other’s. They were both intent on fulfilling the Father’s will in their lives.

My elder daughter observes:  “Most governments FAIL God’s standard ….” (She’s usually more circumspect about all or nothing statements than I am.) Still, I think she’d actually agree with my contention that ALL governments inevitably and repeatedly fail God’s standard.

So let’s return this discussion to April 15, 2013, and as elder daughter maintains, we must choose as did the Founders. When it comes to government diktat (in this instance, the payment of one’s income taxes), we each determine whether and when to prudently submit or stand in defiance. Neither action represents a superior position, but rather the call of God in an individual’s life.

May I humbly suggest that viewing the “witness of Scripture as a whole” requires balance wherein both submitting and standing in defiance must be compatible.

Men like Daniel are rare, but when our commitment is to serve the Lord, we know with confidence that we’re in His hands “to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) The ultimate outcome belongs to Him.

Heads Will Roll

Though I have strong opinions regarding most political matters, Wise Blood was never intended as a political blog. Today, however, I’m treading — albeit lightly — into political terrain.

Current events trouble me. I find this video chilling. See what you think.

 

Individuals who hold elected positions — we used to call them “dignitaries” — were once deemed to deserve and be accorded with due respect … no matter their political point of view.

So it disturbs me Congressman John Lewisan invited guest — was turned away from the event. He made the effort to come. (Whether or not his appearance was calculated for political points is irrelevant, at least to me.) Continue Reading →

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