Tom in Iraq as a Military Observer

Tom in Iraq as a Military Observer
They sent me here just to watch...

Saturday, February 17, 2018

School Shootings

I believe that the long-term solution to the school shooting problem lies in returning to God, valuing life, and loving our neighbor.  That said, we need a short-term plan to mitigate the existing hatred and skewed moral compass of too many in our society so that we don’t have to endure shooting after shooting.  We must address the condition of the human heart and security in our schools concurrently.

I do not want teachers armed.  It sounds like a plausible idea on the surface, unless you know what teaching involves.  We do not need to add one more thing to the burden that teachers already carry on top of their teaching duties.  Teachers must focus on teaching.

Security demands full-time attention.  Passive measures and active shooter procedures are good but insufficient.  If security is truly required by the nature of the threat—and in many places it surely is—at least one person if not more must be dedicated solely to the purpose of security.  Numbers depend upon the school population and campus.

If you have cameras, they must be monitored constantly, or they only record the tragedy instead of providing a real chance of preempting it.  Where security is required, it is not an additional duty.  Someone must proactively be in charge of security on a full-time basis.  Safety measures, training, and crisis procedures should still be a part of each school system’s security plan, but someone must be on the job full time.  Someone must have the stand-alone duty of security.  They may or may not have a security staff depending upon local circumstances.

We have two major balancing acts.  The first involves guns.  That is a constitutional question.  The liberty of the republic and the perceived security of those represented must be balanced with wisdom not more words of hatred screamed at the President.  If the will of the people is truly to change this fundamental document, there is a process.  It is a difficult process but not impossible as 26 Amendments to our Constitution have verified.  On average, that’s an amendment for every 10 years of our republic’s lifespan.  Yes, these changes come in seasons, but there is no reason to ignore the constitutional process based on emotional appeal.  The process still works so if the overwhelming majority of the nation truly desires change, the door is open.

The second balancing act requires no constitutional action.  It takes money and willpower.  Will we decide to secure our schools with some measure of a full-time security force?  Budgets are tight in most states.  More security means more expenditures.  Whether it comes from an already strained education budget or constantly underfunded law enforcement budget is not the question.  The question is:  Are we ready to pay to secure our schools?

The answers to both balancing acts will be irrelevant if we don’t address the underlying problem—the decayed condition of the human heart.  We do not value life in this country.  We kill babies in the womb.  We ignore the signs and music that say, “Kill all the cops" or "I'm gonna shoot up a school.”  Our movies and video games sell best when there is plenty of blood.

It is time to turn our hearts and our nation back to God.  We tried it without him for a few decades.  How’s that working for us?  God first gave these words to his chosen people, but they surely apply to us now more than ever.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

Lord, Heal our land!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Services will be held next week for a long-time friend of many

Services will be held next week for a long-time friend of many.  Enlightened and enlightening were trademarks of our dearly beloved companion who lost a battle with acrimony and vitriol over the past several years.  Civil Discourse—known to many as just Friendly Conversation—died a painful death, holding on to hope until the end, but the end has come.

It is a sad day in our nation and even in the small communities where Friendly was known so well.  In the halls of government, Civil Discourse was recognized and welcome on every occasion.  We will miss Civil Discourse in the days, months, years, and decades ahead.  While time is said to heal all wounds, only a true memorial to our friend written on each and every heart will bring back our companion who was truly a servant to all.

I already miss Civil—a true friend and often a mentor.  Modern conversation is terse, hollow, and mean-spirited without the presence of mutual respect.  I have always enjoyed different opinions, perspectives, and thought processes; however, without Civil Discourse, it’s all just hateful noise.

I enjoyed learning something from people who thought differently than I did.  That’s almost a deadly sin now—to listen expectantly and respectfully to others because we might not actually know everything ourselves.  I miss you Civil Discourse but at least I can say that I had the privilege to know you and call you friend.

The service for Civil Discourse will be without meaningful comment so as to avoid memories that might offend those with nothing better to do than being offended.

Civil Discourse
BC 500  –  AD 2018

Rest in Peace

Friday, November 10, 2017

Please stop leveraging the pain of victims for something you have done nothing about for 228 years

It is time to stop the emotional appeals for more gun control based upon the most recent tragedies.  Each tragedy brings a call for consoling the victim’s families and those who hurt for them.  It is not the time to leverage their pain for your purpose.

How heartless!

No, this is compassion.  This is the time for prayer and healing not the cynical comments about the very things needed at those time.

If you want to change gun laws; change the Constitution.  You have had 228 years.  Present your facts, make your argument, and do what is required to change the Constitution.  It is not an easy process but the evidence of 27 amendments tell us that it is very much doable. Yes, 10 of them were ratified at once.  The last amendment took almost 203 years, but the process is there for the using.  Most take what most would consider a reasonable amount of time.

And now is the time to make your move.  Ignorance as to the purpose of the Second Amendment is at an all time high.  Emotions are high.  Understanding of a system designed to prevent tyranny is at an all-time low.  If gun control is your objective, start the process to amend the Constitution.

But with all of this violence, can’t we just ignore the Constitution just this once? 

It seems the cries for this grow louder each year, but they ignore our history and the consequences of setting aside the wisdom of our founders.  I don’t think there has ever been a more divinely inspired group of men in the history of the world who designed a system of government than our Founding Fathers.

Yeah, sure, what a bunch of high grandiose patriot-speak.  We need changes!

Hmm…  Let’s think about what happens when we ignore the Constitution.  The last declared war for this country was World War II.  We have not declared war in more than 75 years.  Can you believe it!  We have enjoyed 75 years of peace.

What?  We have not enjoyed 75 years of peace?  Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Beirut, Panama, two Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, the war on terror, and the occasional firefight in Libya or Syria happened without a declaration of war.

How can that be?  Only Congress can declare war!  The President can only make war in response to an attack, which in today’s fast paced environment would surely include the imminence of attack.  But these conditions were not applicable in Vietnam, Korea, or the Gulf Wars.

You counter, “But now we have the War Powers Resolution.”

Consider what value is an ordinary law such as what we most often call the War Powers Act if the Supreme Law of the Land—the Constitution is ignored.  This act did not clarify the Constitution.  It attempted to regain part of the authority of Congress that should have never been lost.

Back to guns.  If you want to enact new gun laws, then make your case for amending the Constitution first.  Realize that casualties from tragedies that involved firearms will be insufficient.  You must demonstrate that the republic will be as strong and as safe as it is with the Second Amendment intact.  You must convince the American people that they will never have to throw off a tyrannical government—ever. 

It is a tough challenge but an emotional appeal to bypass the Law of the Land is cheap publicity at the expense of hurting families.

Casualties—the cost of liberty—are sometimes high.  Consider the casualties of our own Civil War.  While it wasn’t all about slavery, owning a human being was not something that our nation could live with any longer.  It would have been less costly in American blood not to have engaged in this war, but we did, and we paid the price.

Was it worth it?  Few would say that they would rather have continued into this century with slavery.  But the price was high, very high in American blood.

The question that those who want gun control in a nation that preserves the right to bear arms at a foundational level have to answer is:  Has the cost in blood been too much?

They must answer this question in full.  They must account for the price we paid so that all people could enjoy liberty as free men and women and compare it to the price we pay for liberty by empowering the citizenry to throw off an unjust, tyrannical government. 

It’s a tough sell, especially among those who understand our system of government and know that liberty always comes at a price; but if you are serious about it, start the process.

In the meantime, quit leveraging the pain of victims of evil that resides in the hearts of a few.

For more on the purpose of the Second Amendment, read Paradox of Power.

It is the nature of our republic, that our domestic tranquility is afloat on a sea that separates revolution and tyranny.

Monday, November 6, 2017

He knew what he signed up for...

I don’t know all the facts, but that has not stopped the media from reporting what they think happened.  About what?  Something that President Trump may or may not have said.

He knew what he signed up for.

This evidently got people up in arms.  That’s a poor metaphor considering the topic of that sentence was a young man under arms—a serviceman deployed to hostile territory—and the people raising a ruckus had never been near a shot fired in anger.

Here is my thought.  Whether the president said it or not, it is a good thing to say.  It should be accompanied by a follow-on statement.

He knew what he signed up for, and
He went anyway!

That’s just courage.  It is common among those whom I served with.  I think it is still ubiquitous among today’s service men and women. 

Over 72 years ago, American Admiral Chester Nimitz reflected on the incredible sacrifice of the Marines who fought at Iwo Jima by saying, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

Valor is still present among today’s fighting men and women.  They knew what they signed up for and they went anyway.  And they went anyway!

Semper Fidelis
Bravo Zulu

Well done!

Taking a Knee--Moving Forward

Once more with the NFL and this kneeling business.  Many could just remain disgruntled and tuned out, but I think it’s time to move forward.  Here’s my proposal in two parts.

Part I – Game Day

The announcer begins:  Ladies and Gentlemen, please be silent for a minute for prayer, meditation, or deliberation upon those blessings and issues that we face in America.

--Note:  Americans are not good with silence.  The first time this was done, it would have to be about 25 seconds.  The next time 30.  The next 35 and so forth until finally a full minute was given to this.  During this time, fans, coaches, players, and vendors could stand, sit, kneel or whatever they needed to do while considering others  around them in this short time that was set aside.  This is a time of silence not showtime or political activism.  At the end of this time, the announces would say.

The announcer continues:  We ask that all stand and face the American flag—the symbol of this great nation in which we enjoy the blessings of liberty and have the best chance of resolving all that afflicts us.

The national anthem is played, the game kicks off, and people who feel alienated by the disrespect to our National Ensign might once again return to the NFL.  Now, anyone who took a knee or raised a fist during the time to render respect to our flag and what it stands for would be saying, “It’s all about me.”

Part II – Working on Issues

The players who believe they have something of value to say, need to say it.  I suggest a website and a few commercials sponsored by these players.  These promulgations begin with a letter of apology.

We who have taken a knee these past few months seek your forgiveness.  We had our reasons, but we did not exercise wisdom.  We want you to enjoy professional football once again and we want to perform our best for you.

We acted rashly in our decisions to take a knee.  We had what we felt were legitimate reasons, but we did not account for those that would be disrespected.  We do not want to disrespect our service men and women who stand in the gap to preserve the very freedom that we exercise.  We do not want to alienate any American who loves this nation so dearly that such acts could not be viewed as anything but disrespectful.

But, and this is a big one here, we needed to and still need to get people’s attention.  We need help addressing our nation’s problems. Taking a knee angered many and mobilized few in helping anyone.  We want to keep your attention, enlist your assistance, and be as patriotic as those whom we have angered.

So, from now on, we will stand for the flag and ask your help to make this nation realize all the ideals which it represents.  We are blessed to live in a nation where we the people can be a part of the solutions to some very serious problems.

Please forgive us.  Please help us.  Please don’t forget the issues because we have chosen a course of wisdom over disdain.  And please accept our sincere apology.

I am tired of division, divisiveness, and cowardice in this nation; however, I am hopeful that we can move forward and not be entrenched in these positions.

Young boys taking a knee during the National Anthem

I went to the last high school game of the season and was happy to see everyone being respectful.  Early this season, every player had run onto the field with an American Flag held high.

But at this last game,  a few young boys off by themselves took a knee.  They were too young to understand what they were doing, but they had surely seen this on television.

Much like when I was young, boys kicked their leg high because that’s the way Juan Marichel did it or held their bat high over their back shoulder because that’s the way Carl Yastrzemski did it; these boys did what they had seen professional players do.

No message was attached to their kneeling.  They had simply done what they had seen on television.  Most learned how to show respect for the flag from those around them.  Now they learned how to disrespect it from people on television.

The children learned only disrespect.  They do pay attention to our actions.  They are prone to emulate.  Is it the desire of NFL players to produce a generation of discontent?  Is divisiveness the new norm for celebrities?  Is it their goal for our nation?

Every parent knows that actions speak louder than words.  Most of what these children know are the actions they have seen.  Parents, scout masters, and even classroom teachers show children the right way.  It only takes a celebrity miscalculating the cost of an action to set back the values that so many hard-working people have given their time to instill.

You could call this the law of unintended consequences or just selfishness, but it needs to change.  To the one who is given much, much is expected.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

There is no targeting foul in politics

I am taking off my pastor hat for just a moment and putting on my training and consulting hat.  Yes, I know they overlap sometimes.
Why am I doing this?
I want to talk about this not standing for the flag business.  Peaceful protest in a free society is the hallmark of many of our advances.  Many I know well have fought to preserve that freedom.  Many gave the full measure of devotion.
Freedom is fantastic.  Enjoying freedom in our nation even more so!
I want to share something that the Apostle Paul said about freedom.  OK, I never really take my pastor’s hat all the way off… 
Paul said that he may do anything, but not everything is profitable.
I am free to do all things, but not everything is beneficial.
Which brings us to one of my favorite words:  Efficacy.
Efficacy is the power to effect desired change.  Self-efficacy is about making change in ourselves.
Efficacy is what enables you to lose weight, stop smoking, study more, correct performance errors.  Efficacy is what is required to raise your batting average from .225 to .275.
Efficacy is why some companies succeed and others fade away.  Efficacy is why some sports teams adapt and overcome and others wish they made the play-offs.
Efficacy is why some national and international issues get resolved and others linger.
Efficacy was a word that I used over and over again with inmate clients.  What is your goal.  To never come back to this place again.
I agreed that one belonged at or near the top of every list.
Then, something would happen.  A piece of property was confiscated.  Someone cut in the chow line (yes, I’m still talking prison not 1st grade), or some other thing that in the context of getting and staying out of prison made little difference.
But inmates went to extremes to call attention to the injustice of having an unauthorized item of electronics confiscated often at the extent of internal sanctions.  When the inmate came back for counseling, I asked, “Did that outburst get you any closer to your goal?”
Words were not necessary.
So let’s jump to the NFL and players taking a knee.  Does it get them any closer to their goal?
Unless their goal is to alienate about 95% of the people in this country—most of whom love the peaceful protest as a right few around the world enjoy like we do, the answer is no.  I am not really sure what the goal was, if there was one when all of this knee-taking started.  I’ve heard race relations, police relations, and even cop hating. 
If all you do is upset most of the people who love America, how can you get anything accomplished other than making whatever problem you think you are bringing to light move farther and farther into the background while the focus narrows to the act of protest itself.
Prostests and protestors seldom are logical when they get going, but this one has been going on for a while and none of the protestors are doing the wise thing.
What’s that?
Clarifying their message.  What is their message.
Here’s something they might want to try.  It is within the domain of efficacy—the power to effect desire change.
Take something that most of us don’t have—a lot of money, and put some of it towards a coherent message.  Take some of it to start programs to help fix the problems.
I know some of the knee takers have made token investments.  If these causes were important enough to tick off most of the nation, support them with real investment.
While you are at it, stand for the National Anthem.  You are going to need those people that you anger every week if you really want something fixed in this country.
So you are angry that President Trump called you out on this.  Here’s the deal:  When you step onto the playing field of politics—and that’s what you did when you took a knee during the National Anthem—there are not refs to protect you. 
You think that you hit hard in the NFL.  You guys are wimps compared to playing on the field of politics.  That stuff is for real.
You can’t run with the ball and then call for a fair catch in politics. 
You wouldn’t let junior high kids play against an NFL team.  The kids would get hurt.  So why think that you can play politics with the big boys and not get laid out on occasion.  There is no targeting foul in politics.
You played with the big boys.  It hurt.  Stop crying foul where there is none.
Do I think that many of these players taking a knee have something to say about real problems in our nation?  Yes, I think that they do.
I also think that practicing efficacy will get them closer to what they want to accomplish, much more so than seeking to draw attention to themselves.
Which is more important:  Calling attention to me or garnering support for solutions to things that need fixed.  Is it all about me or is it really about those things that matter to me?
Many of these players went to college.  Some graduated.  By academic standards they should be considered well educated, but they choose to practice ignorance.  They chose to evoke negative emotions where unity is needed.
They thrive on being divisive, when divisiveness will not bring about solutions. 
I want to know what has these players think we need to fix.  I won’t find that out by watching them take a knee.  I am not going to try to figure it out by searching news clips and web posts.
Come out and tell me in a public service announcement but don’t ask me to choose between loving my country and the flag which so proudly most of us hail and your antics.  The best that you can hope for there is that I just ignore you.
My freedom permits me to do all things, but not all things are profitable.
Hey!  Players!  You guys who for years most people thought were pretty good guys.  This take a knee play that you are running isn’t working.  You are losing yardage.
You make the sports reel every week but it’s in the bloopers section.
Try something else.  Try something that gets people on your side.  Believe or not, most of us want a better America for everyone.
We are the people that you want on your team.  Stop alienating us.
Here is the thing that I hope these college educated football player can grasp.  This is the country where we the people have the best chance of fixing things.
We have the best chance—of all the nations in the world—of making things better, but a house divided cannot stand.
If you want division, then you are succeeding.
If you want to work together on real problems and issues and explore new opportunities for all Americans, It’s time to run a different play.
Run a different play.

God bless America.