Tom in Iraq as a Military Observer

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

Monday, June 22, 2020

American Privilege



I hear the words white privilege and know that in many cases in America it is present.  I don’t buy that the condition is ubiquitous, but prevalent is surely a viable assessment.  Many are in shock when I state that such privilege can be put to work for good, to bring glory to God and help our fellow brothers and sisters.

Too many mock God and insist that we must repent of our skin color.  God will not be mocked so don’t look for me in that club though the membership is growing daily.

Now, I’m really going to get under the skin of many of varied hues.  I will tell you that there is American privilege.  If you are American, the chances are that you are privileged regardless of the color of your skin.  You—we—have so much more than the rest of the world just because we are Americans.

Better food, housing, education, transportation, acceptance, respect, and much more just because we are American.  We may or may not have worked for this somewhere along the way.  We may or may not have deserved this, but it is there.  Not every person outside of our country loves us, but they love what we have—opportunity, in addition to the other previously listed blessings.

Most people in the world, at least the ones not sworn to destroy us, envy what we have.  We are privileged and most don’t even know it.  American privilege is real.

And yes, we have wealth.  We are rich and I mean almost all of us compared to half the world or more.  Do you know what a privilege—let’s say blessing—it is to have running water that comes inside our homes? Do you know what it is to travel coast to coast without government-approved endorsements?

Do you know what it is like to speak your mind and the most you will see in retaliation are some hateful comments.  You don’t end up in prison.

Do you know what a privilege it is to have health care services that we can complain about instead of wishing we had something more than a clinic that serviced two million people.

Do you know what a privilege it is to be able to travel to most of the globe, even to countries that are not America’s best friends, just because you are American.

American privilege is real but not the topic of the month.  It’s not popular because one group of Americans can’t point their finger at another group and say they have it or we don’t or combinations thereof.  Just about every single American enjoys privilege.

The question posed before us is the same one I pose for white privilege.  If it’s real and you have it, what will you do with it?

Will you divest yourself of it?

Will you use it only for your own needs?

Will you bury it in the ground?

Will you put it to work at once for the glory of God. 

Don’t feel guilty about privilege.  You didn’t earn it.  It was given to you. 

Do with it what you would do with other gifts.  If someone gave you $10 million, would you refuse it?  Would you use it only for your own selfish needs and desires?  Would you bury it in the ground?
Would you put it to work for the glory of God?

Privilege is not merit.  Merit is about earning more.  Privilege is granted based upon who you are or who your group is.  The question is, what do we do with it?

I have experienced white privilege.  I have also experienced increased danger because of my skin color.  When you come out of a building in the Middle East and see someone you don’t know leaving your vehicle in a hurry when they see you, you break out that telescopic mirror and make three laps around your vehicle instead of the usual one.  Your senses peak and your look for anything out of place.

You can live with a knocking sound in the engine.  Sounds that go boom are unforgiving. 

I know what it is to be singled out for my skin color.  When you are one of two white men in a community of almost two million black people, some point at you.  Some fathers bring their sons out to show you to them.  You are different and a rarity. 

There is usually no hostility.  When you walk down a street in these places, you will attract attention from the less than friendly element.  All is not just the uniqueness of a white man in western Kenya.

So, I have known privilege and I have known danger, and I have been singled out for my race. 

I have been singled out for being an American. I never desired to be worshiped so when I was, it was somewhat unnerving.  I was in Kuwait City shopping at the outdoor market set up by the Iranians that came across the gulf with nuts and other items of interest.  Suddenly, I was surrounded by dozens of women making all sorts of unfamiliar noises and waving their arms at be in something of a bowing motion. 

They were Kurds.  American forces had saved thousands of Kurds from Saddam.  They saw the American flag on my left shoulder.  The United Nations patch on my right shoulder was ornamental to them.  The American flag drew much attention and extremely favorable attention.

If you have white privilege, use it for the glory of God.

If you have American privilege, use it for the glory of God.

If you are privileged because you were born into or inherited wealth, use it for the glory of God.

Here is a little something I know about privilege.  As a commissioned officer I had head of the line privileges in most places on base.  Seldom did I exercise them but they were there and sometimes you needed to be in three places at once and you did use your privilege.

That same privilege applies in the field training exercise or in combat, but officers just don’t use it.  When Marines receive hot chow in the field, it’s a big thing.  Officers eat last because sometimes the chow runs out.  It is a privilege to eat last.

It’s time to take off the blinders that those who wish to generate and maintain hate have placed on us.  There is white privilege.  There is white profiling—mostly overseas.  There is American privilege that is much more pervasive than anything based on skin color.  There is American profiling. 

Many factors in our lives give us privilege and advantage.  Some of those same things come with existential risks attached.  That’s life, but what do we do with privilege, advantage, danger, risk, and so many other things that we receive in the course of a lifetime.

The question remains, what will we do with what we have and what we will be given?

Refuse it?  Use it selfishly?  Bury it in the ground?

Put it to work for the glory of God!

The only answer with any efficacy in reconciling one to another is to put it to work for the glory of God.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Fools and Pharisees – The Demons of Discussion



‘Tis the season for fools and Pharisees.  What do I mean?

It seems there is a whole bunch of “If you can’t see this my way, then you are the problem” comments floating around social media.

Social media has not only given false bravado to cowards but a place for the mindless to speak their minds.  What is the person who seeks civil discourse to do?  What is the person who desires intelligent conversation to do?

Move on.  Delete, block, or whatever is needed but move on. Don’t give in to the temptation to engage.   If you were driving around town looking for a hardware store, you wouldn’t stop for the afternoon at the local tavern.  Some do and there goes the afternoon and whatever project was in store for it.

The Proverbs counsel us not to discuss or argue with fools.  Well that’s putting someone down to call them a fool.  I know, in today’s world, correctness calls us to regard the absurd with reverence. 

You don’t have to play that game and you don’t have to label anyone a fool.  Just abide by your part of the guidance.  Don’t engage.  Unfollow, block, delete or whatever you must do not to indulge your cravings to engage.

It casts your pearls before swine.  What?  Now instead of calling people fools, we call them pigs?  No.  Consider the counsel as don’t give your best efforts—to include your well-reasoned arguments—to the least profitable engagements.

How do I know that I should engage no farther?  If what you proffered in sincere thought and respectful verbiage is countered with name calling, labeling, often hateful labeling, and I won’t discuss this, then disengage.  Many come to discussion sites not to discuss but to seek disciples of mindless devotion to the meme or platitude of the day which must be beyond reproach.  Actually, it is presumed to be beyond reproach.  These are usually filled with logical fallacies and often the offense that they so hypocritically address.

There is no intellectual profit here.  Disengage.  Unfollow, block, unfriend or whatever you must do to make sure that you do not return to your vomit. 

Sometimes this is difficult as the partner in such diatribes seems to be drowning in their own fallacies.  There is no lifeline to be thrown to the person intent on drowning.  Disengage.

Then there are the Pharisees who are civil in presentation but dogmatic in engagement.  If they believe that the world is flat, the presentation of facts becomes irrelevant. 

I encountered both fools and Pharisees once when I published and posted a short piece about teaching creation in public schools.  I was against it thinking that whatever was taught would have to be some sanitized version approved by multiple secular levels and void of original intent. What prompted my pontification was an ongoing dialogue about teaching something other than the theory of evolution. 

My thoughts were to directly teach thinking skills instead of hoping that students learned to think in math, science, or composition.  We could teach students how to know what they believed on faith, how we determined something to be fact, and what was theory.

I got a plethora of one-word replies:  Moron.  That was the extent of their dissent.

Others invested more verbiage without corresponding brainpower.  

Evolution has been a theory long enough that it is now a fact.

There was no valued discourse in either case.  Not a single response addressed the thought of teaching thinking skills.  Perhaps these many mindless responses were indirect validation of the need.  There is no valued discourse in such encounters. Sometimes you just move along.

The good news is that every once in awhile, not often, but every once in a while, you will find someone who is of the iron sharpens iron mode.  Pray that when you find such a person they are not of the same mind as you at least on some matters.

If you want to grow in your knowledge, analysis, wisdom, and fulness of life, you need someone who not only listens to understand your perspective, but will present theirs to you for like consumption and analysis. 

These are the discussions worth maintaining.  These are the relationships that build with each discussion.  Debate is not argument with disdain for the other’s point of view, but in full consideration of it.

Debate and discourse value diversity.  This requires a teachable spirit.  As adults, we find ourselves responsible for our own learning, even when in a structured program.  We need to be challenged in our thinking.

If we only want to confirm what we know or believe, we seek disciples.  If we want to learn, we seek those who value thinking.  Topics may vary.  Passion may be attached to some, but it is the willingness to understand each other so both may grow that makes these encounters worthwhile. 

Finding the right discussion partner is much like dating.  You may have 1000 first dates before you find someone worth asking out a second time.
Don’t give your best thinking to mindless banter and bandwagon slogans.  

Find the iron sharpens iron partner or partners and grow.  No second dates for fools and Pharisees.  They are the demons of discourse.



Monday, June 15, 2020

Must we disgrace the professional because of the criminal?


Must we disgrace the professional because of the criminal?  We don’t need police reform.  We need a culture of continuous improvement.  Everyone is so busy fixing blame that nobody wants to fix the problems. 

Why do you buy a new phone every two or three years?  The old one probably works, but the new one is better.  Kaizen—continuous improvement—has been at work in the commercial sector for decades.  Which companies don’t have it?  Not many because most that didn’t improve disappeared. 

We don’t need to defund, dismiss, disband, or disrespect the police.  We need to reinforce the most professional practices and procedures every day and every year.  We can do this without hate and without disrespecting the many who are now receiving the scorn of the few.

We need to practice law and order.  Do you want Derek Chauvin prosecuted and convicted?  If you defund the police, do we just let him go? 

There are people doing evil things in this world.  The police are often the first or second line of defense for many.  When police break the law, the offenders must be prosecuted swiftly, but must we throw the baby out with the bathwater?

The disrespect for the many honorable men and women in today’s law enforcement agencies has gone too far.  This reeks of the days of people spitting on Vietnam Veterans when they returned home.

This is hate arising from the human heart.  It has no place in America.  That last statement purposely has no qualifiers.

It’s not,  hate has no place in America, but…

It has no place.  Hate has no place.

Do we want to be better or do we want to satisfy the hate and anger that can only be reconciled through Christ Jesus?

Neither human law nor practice, protest or pontification, or any other proposed remedy of human design will get to the heart of the problem. 

Do we want to fix the problem or live in ongoing hate and disrespect? 

What is your goal?

Here is a term that we all need to know.  The word is efficacy.  It means the power to effect the desired change.  It is a word that I insist people know if they are committing to counseling or any sort.

It is a rudder and an anchor simultaneously.  It is a filter and a paradigm meter.  It challenges us to ask the question:  Is what I propose going to get me any closer to my objective?

Protests and posts and other peaceful forms of redress get some attention.

Riots and lawlessness get more, but do they move you closer to your objective or put more obstacles in the way?

How do you make it harder to get what you want?  Loot a Target or Walmart or your neighbor’s store that was barely making it as it was.  These make big statements but generate more resistance than support.

Do we want to accomplish what we set out to do or must we satisfy the hate in our hearts?

But… There’s that word that keeps us from reaching our goals and objectives.  But, peaceful protests are slow to make a difference.  But, replacing elected officials takes time.  But…

We must ask if the change we desire is worth our continued effort over whatever period of time it takes, or do we give in to our hate and hope for the best as we alienate more and more people who were once with us?

Efficacy asks us:  Do we want allies or enemies?  If we are willing to disrespect honorable men and women, we are creating more enemies than you realize and you will not reach your objective.

This is called selfishness.  This is self-gratification.  This is I must satisfy my hate even at the expense of the cause I claim. 

If you are loyal to your cause, this is called treason. 

How did we get from disrespecting police officers to treason?  It’s a journey of very few steps.  I do not recommend it.

Let’s keep our heads, our sound minds if you will.

Let’s agree to seek solutions not barter a tenuous peace treaty.

Let’s kick fear to the curb (it’s not from God) and courageously make our nation better than it was yesterday.

Our history is a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, selfishness and sacrifice, abundance and scarcity, but our future must be one that values and respects each other and desires a better America for our children’s children.



Saturday, June 13, 2020

Humanity Matters


Social Distancing???

We should consider the words with which we have abided to some degree for the past few months.  Chief among them is social distancing.  What does that mean?

Some would say that physical distancing would be more accurate for we are social creatures and surely, we are not to be disconnected from each other, are we?  Are we?  We just need to spread out more, right?

I propose a new term:  human distancing.  That’s what we have been asked to do, put distance between humans.  We are now defined as carriers of contagion.  People have been through thousands of years and countless diseases and contagions without having to live their lives at double-arms interval. 

The guidelines that emerged this year are dehumanizing and we accepted them.  The other extreme of dehumanizing is packing people in like cattle such as in a crowded subway car.  There should be some sane limits applied, but not to the extent of having to look at every person like they had the cooties.

The discussion and arguments about which lives matter rage once again.  Black Lives, Blue Lives, All Lives seem to have taken center stage at some point in this unique year.  Always left voiceless in the background are those yet to be born but still thriving in their mother’s womb until they are not. 

We paused momentarily to recognize those working the front-line medical services, but did we realize that we were being conditioned to dehumanize each other?

As we divided and subdivided which lives mattered, still at work was the model that no lives mattered.  Life and lives existed for the manipulation of the few seeking to seize or retain power, many of these not being elected officials.  Life in the aggregate had become a commodity to be bartered.

Social distancing was proof that fear was a powerful tool.  Suddenly, we were afraid of each other.  Mass manipulation was not only possible but easier than anyone would have thought in a land formed out of independent will and pioneer spirit.

So now the discussion is moving towards how do we get back to work and to school.  I say let’s do it without using the term social distancing.  If we are going to separate people by distance, we should be required to use the dehumanizing term, human distancing.    Let’s remind ourselves that we are treating ourselves as carriers of contagion instead of creatures made in the image of God. 

Should we wash our hands more?  Absolutely.  Should we stay at home when we are sick? Yes!  That goes for keeping your kids at home when they are sick as well.  Should we keep an abundant supply of hand sanitizer?  Why not, and maybe some moisturizing lotion for when our skin begins to crack.

And yes, even you teachers and supervisors need to stay at home when you are sick.  The world will survive without you for a couple days.

There may be some work-at-home models that continue because they were good for both employee and employer and not because they saved the world from a mostly impotent contagion, at least as far as things declared to be plagues go.  There may be some adjustments to sick leave policy for working parents with sick children.  The employee who produces a great return for his employer will be worth this perk.

Let’s kick social distancing to the curb.  Let’s not accept it’s first cousin physical distancing as a fill in.  Let’s use the term human distancing so we are remined that what we are doing is dehumanizing.

People use the term New Normal a lot these days.  If the New Normal does not improve the quality of human life, I say let’s kick it to the curb.

Let’s not lose our humanity in this fa├žade presented to save humanity.

If you are sick then stay home.

If you are vulnerable, then be on the lookout for where you are at risk.

If you are ready to live life to the full, then don’t let the propaganda hold you back.

You, we, are more than carriers of contagion, and our humanity matters.

Humanity Matters!

Monday, June 8, 2020

Be careful what you ask for...


Those who want to get rid of police forces have not been paying attention.  Power abhors a vacuum.  If there are no police there is a simple dichotomy:  anarchy or another force to maintain order.

Do you not see the non-government forces at work now?  Look at the censoring executed by Facebook and YouTube.  You can’t always tell with Google.  Their algorithms could just take what they don’t like out of your search results and you would never know.

Gates and Fauci want control over your lives.  Maybe it’s not the mark of the beast, but being tagged like cattle just doesn’t sit right with me.

When the police are gone, the people will demand something else and in so doing will surrender even more of their liberty that was paid for in the blood of patriots.  Someone will be ready to provide what the people want or think they want.

Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Have we triaged the Republic so soon?


Quarantine, flatten the curve, social distance, and even washing your hands make for news these days.  In months where we normally would have been talking March Madness, the opening day of baseball season, graduation ceremonies, and summer vacations; we are swamped with medical terms and approaches to living.

M9 or M95 masks?  Images of ventilators and respirators and antigen testing devices bounce around in my head.  Social distancing has put social media on steroids and now we are all medical experts.

Amidst the medical jargon that abounds, I wish to voice a concern that the Republic seems to have been triaged to the expected category.  Yes, I know there are new terms, but I will stick with the original for not expected to survive.

The fatalities in establishing and preserving this Grand Experiment called America must not be left out of the discussion consumed by the fear of a single contagion.  Let us not dismiss so quickly the price paid for the liberties that we know.

Let’s not throw it all away for fear of one of the many things in life that could kill us, but probably won’t.  I am not ready to put the Republic on morphine and call the chaplain over just yet.

Friday, May 1, 2020

CBA for COVID-19


For any endeavor of this sort begun at this stage, the words more to follow are essential.  This is a snapshot of our current situation that hopes to provoke further thought on what has happened and will likely happen.

It is a provocation to bring forth thinking and analysis not to assign blame.  Some are not equipped for such a process and are advised to rant elsewhere.

But the time is upon us to analyze what the past few months have cost us and what benefits we as a nation received.  Well-considered thoughts are welcomed in the comments in the hopes of advancing this dialogue.


Cost

Shut down much of the economy

Incredible unemployment

Major medical procedures and doctor visits canceled (or postponed) in large numbers

Reward for not working

Suspension of Constitutional liberties

Fear expanded rapidly on a large scale

Incredible spending on COVID-19 expenses

Incredible spending on expenses not related to COVID-19 but tied to expenditure measures

Essential service workers exposed at higher risk

Leveraging of national emergency for political advantage

Further exploration of national liberties to be suspended beyond the authority of the government

Loss of major events of social importance (graduations, proms, baccalaureates)

Educational structure lost or required modification

We saw the worst of people (hoarding) and government (overstepping authority)



Benefit

Kept contagion from exceeding national and regional hospital capacity

Saved many lives compared against predictive and stochastic models

Increased awareness and practice of hygiene measures

Contagion slowed (perhaps reduced) by social distancing

Many people had more family time

Creativity employed to continue education

We saw the best of people (generosity and helping) and of government (incredible logistics)




Analysis

Many practices of 2020 are not sustainable

Fear has too much of a grip on people in this age

Hygiene and distancing practices must be devised that permit continuation of commerce, liberty, and the republic that retains the idea that power emanates from the people

A declared emergency of this magnitude must not become commonplace

Constitutional authority usurped by the government at any level is returned to the people in smaller measures and presented as a new normal.  All must be on the lookout for subtle reductions in liberty

The press must return to its role as the watchdog of government, taking no sides on issues or personalities, reporting with integrity across the board

People must be able to trust the media again.

Distancing technology will likely become more commonplace

Balancing the role of government in promoting the general welfare and restricting the role of government to those powers granted it by the people (via the Constitution of the United States) must be a real dialogue in the year ahead.