Tom in Iraq as a Military Observer

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

Monday, February 26, 2018

Fair Trade?

Let’s move this gun business along quickly.  Let’s repeal the 2nd and 4th Amendments to start with.
Hold your constitutional horses!  What’s the 4th Amendment got to do with guns?  I just want to change the law—OK, the Supreme Law of the land—to take away protection for guns.
You don’t need a Constitutional Amendment for that.
No?  Really?
In fact, you don’t have to do anything.  Guns have no protection.  The 2nd Amendment protects the right of the people.  Our Constitution protects the rights of people, not things or places.  These first few amendments protect people.
But what’s this 4th Amendment business?
It protects people as well.  It secures the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.  It’s tied in closely with the 3rd Amendment that says that the government can’t just start quartering soldiers in your house. 
I’m missing the connection with the 2nd Amendment.
If we take all the guns from those whom currently are guaranteed them as an individual right necessary to the security of a free state, that means we are relying solely upon our government for security and liberty.
Sure.  What’s wrong with that?
Nothing, unless you are ready to surrender in short order all forms of privacy.  The government will provide for the continuation of the government.  It will capriciously search any and all information that previously belonged to you--all with good reason, of course.  Security and safety will be their mantra.  They will place enforcement officials wherever they want, to include your homes.  Privacy as you know it will be gone.  Liberty will be something you can only read about in history books, until they too are prohibited or at least redacted.
That’s just crazy.  We would vote out anyone who took away those rights from us.
And if they suspended elections in the name of security.
We would not let them do that.
How would you stop them?
With protests.
And when those were outlawed?
We have the right to protest.
Today you do.  Will you still have it when the people are no longer capable of taking back their government when it has ceased to be their government?
That could never happen. 
You are entitled to that belief.  I hope you will search through the history of humankind and see what happens when power is unchecked.
Are you telling me that the 2nd Amendment is part of the checks and balances process?
No.  It is not a part it is the sine qua non of that process.
This self-government business is tough business. 
We can agree on that.  The question is are we dedicated to preserving the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity?
That sounds familiar.
It should, it’s from the Preamble to the Constitution—good stuff—if you are into liberty and opposed to government having too much power over you.
But, and this is a big but, is the price that we pay for the right to bear arms too high?
That is the heart of the question.  How high of a price are we as Americans willing to pay to preserve liberty?  And how do we measure this price?
That last one is easy.  We measure it in lives lost. 
Fair enough.  There are metrics available for that.  Should we just look at school and church shootings are all gun deaths.
All.  Definitely all. 
OK, sounds good.  The CDC reports that there is an average of 33,000 deaths per year in this country due to firearms.
Wow!  That should be convincing enough in itself.
That is a big number by anyone’s measure.  Before I jump on this bandwagon based upon numbers, I must ask if you are in favor of slavery?
What?  Are you crazy?  Nobody is in favor of slavery.  I think slavery is an abomination to the human spirit. 
I agree.
So why do you bring such a bizarre question into this discussion?
Because despite the very exceptional efforts of our Founding Fathers in drafting our Constitution, they did not guarantee liberty to all.  There was a movement to rid this new nation of slavery during the Constitutional Convention, but it could not garner enough support.
But we fixed it later.
Yes, we did.  Were you glad that we did?
Of course!  Who wouldn’t be!  You can’t just deny a certain group of people liberty.
No?  I think that you can, and we had done just that for almost a century as an independent nation.  Slavery was the order of the day in many states.
Yes, but Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation set the slaves free.
At what price?
What do you mean?
We are measuring the cost of liberty in lives, are we not?
How many American lives were lost in the Civil War?
Well, I don’t know, let’s say a bunch.
Bananas come in bunches.  Civil War casualties come in the hundreds of thousands.  I think the conservative estimate is 618,000.  Other estimates push 700,000.
Those were not all from firearms.
Correct.  About one-third to one-half were killed in during the course of the battle.  About another third due to infection and disease that followed being wounded.  There were—as always in battle—some non-combat casualties.  But the direct and indirect number of deaths from guns was pushing half a million.  That’s a big number.
Yes, but that’s war.
Yes, a civil war with nearly all casualties being American.
But, it’s still war.
It was a war with the liberty of some Americans at stake.  Was it worth the price paid in American blood?
Who can answer that?
I will rephrase.  Would you be content to be an American and have a segment of the population that was still enslaved today?
No.  Of course not.  But I don’t think slavery would have continued this long.  The world is changing.  Slavery is not acceptable.
Again, I suggest a review of history and current events.  There is still slavery in the world.  It might be called indentured servitude, but it is modern slavery.
Yeah, OK, but we would have gotten rid of it here by now.
So, instead of a violent civil war, you would have just let things run their course for another 100 or 150 years until people saw the light and the commercial interests of slave owners would give way to public opinion?
That’s not fair.  How can you ask me to decide that?
You don’t have to.  Others decided it was worth the very high price.  Your decision is how high of a price are we as a free people willing to pay to preserve liberty in this modern century?
But so many victims are innocent.  They did not deserve to die.
That is beyond discussion.  So many lives have been taken maliciously.  We are in total agreement.
So, what are we to do?  Is there no other way than protecting guns?
Remember, our Constitution does not protect guns but…
People.  I understand.  I get it.  I also get that the other protections guaranteed to the people might fall as well if the ultimate protection—to kick an unjust government to the curb forcibly if needed—was surrendered.  But, I can’t stomach the violence anymore.  What course of action is left to us?
For the past half-century, we have ignored the problem and cried out against the symptoms of our national disease.
We don’t value life as something sacred anymore.
Life is a gift from God.  It is special.  It is beyond special.  It is sacred.  We must value life from the womb to old age.
You mean our thoughts and prayers are with you.  I’m tired of hearing that.
Those words do get old after a while, especially, when nothing is done to treat the disease.  Those words are the best that we can do if we choose to continue to ignore the real problem.
Valuing life?
Do we need a law?
We have plenty of laws.  In fact, we surely have more than we need.
So what do we need?
Love.  We need to commit to loving one another.  This is God’s model.
Do you still want to keep your guns and love one another?
It would be wonderful to see the day when we turn our weapons into farm implements and pruning shears.
You mean swords into plowshares.  Not all gun control people are biblically lacking.
But until that time…
I will stand vigilant against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  The latter has not reared its ugly head to the point that the election process has become obsolete, but I would prefer to be ready and provisioned if it does.
But is it worth the cost?

Good question.  What’s your answer now?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Let's have the gun debate

Let’s have the gun debate.  Let’s consider all factors not just those that support your slant on the subject.  Let’s consider the intent of the founders of our Republic, the cost of liberty in this post-modern world, and the consequences and sequels of repealing or eroding the sanctity of the Second Amendment.  That is what most people who advocate gun control are asking for—to make an ordinary law supersede the Law of the Land or to amend that supreme law.

I just ask that we consider what happens if we remove something that is a part of a very interconnected system.  Let’s not ride the wave of emotion while ignoring that we might be crashing into a rocky coastline instead of a sandy shore.

It’s just one amendment, right?

Yes, and no.  Consider that the first few amendments to our Constitution are about personal rights and liberties.  We are free to peacefully assemble, worship as we desire, and even petition the sovereign for redress of grievances.

We are free from excessive government intrusion in our lives.  We can’t just be rounded up and sentenced.  We have legal protections from our own government.  We even have a right to privacy that is not enumerated but which our highest court found in the penumbras or edges of other rights.

Within these first few amendments are contained the right to free speech and a free press.  Most believe these are critical to a free society.  But what if, speech and media became inundated with falsehood and deception.  Oops.  That’s happened.

Are we ready to regulate the press?  Are we prepared for censorship of our tweets and posts and all things communicative?  With the amount of fake news and never-ending editorials masquerading as news across the modern media, maybe the price we pay for free speech and the free press is too high.  Let’s consider kicking it to the curb as well. 

And this whole business of the right to privacy might not fit well in our modern world.  If the government could keep better watch on everyone, we might have fewer school shootings.

Hold your constitutional horses!  I thought that we were talking about guns?

We are.  I will make my point.  The right of the people to keep and bear arms is the right to make sure that the other rights and freedoms of the people are not revoked.  If our government becomes tyrannical (the concern of our founders) or perhaps Orwellian would be better suited for this time, we must be equipped to take our government back.

I don’t ever want to see that day.  So, I ask that those who want to enact some measure of gun control, consider that our founders connected this whole business of self-government by first separating executive, legislative, and judicial power at the federal level; then separating rights and liberties that belong to the federal government, state government, and the individual.  The mainstay of individual freedoms resides in the Bill of Rights.  The founders of our republic also buffered the potential for emotional tidal waves that might put an Oliver Cromwell on an American throne.  We know this as the Electoral College. 

Individually, we might not like the college or the right to bear arms or the protections afforded liars posing as journalists; but these are not stand-alone protections.  Our system of government was surely blessed by God to withstand the consolidation of power in any one area.

It’s not the most efficient system in the world.  Dictatorships are generally much more efficient, but for almost 242, we have valued liberty—especially individual liberty—over efficiency.

So, let’s have the debate.  Let’s bring in all the facts and information including the impact on our Constitutionally guaranteed liberties.  I would think that you might perceive my political and constitutional leanings, but I am willing to listen to facts—complete data not something skewed to support any position—and I will see if I need to accept some or all of the factually supported proposals.

Part of this consider-all-factors discussion must be the motivation to amend the Constitution.  Why do people want gun control?  Is it to give the government more control?  Is it to save innocent lives?

This is where some people are going to become angry that they read this far.  If it is to save innocent lives, then let’s include the abortion issue in this all factors discussion.  Those are the most innocent of lives taken by the hundreds of thousands each year.

But, the Supreme Court says that the fetus is not a life. You can’t argue with that!  The Supreme Court also upheld that the Second Amendment is a right guaranteed to the individual. 

So, if we are going to change things at the fundamental level to save lives—innocent lives, let’s get to some real life saving and remove the right to choose (kill) from our acquired individual liberties. 

This business of self-government is tough business.  Emotions must never carry the day.  We must have the same inspiration and dedication to make changes that we believe essential to preserving our liberties not just for ourselves but for our posterity. 

Let’s have the full discussion on guns and life and liberty.  Set aside the vitriol.  Use all of the facts and statistics and make a case for what you think is best.  Listen to the positions of others who abide by the same inspiration, dedication, and self-discipline in their arguments.  Then see what the best course for our nation is.

This is discussion and debate not a vitriolic condemnation of opinions other than our own.  If we are going to have a real debate, then do it right.

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