Issues Divide, the Constitution Unites

“The Greatest good we can do our country is to heal its party divisions and make them one people.”

~ Thomas Jefferson, 1801

I’m sure you’ve noticed how the two Big Box parties have pitted Americans against each other. The liberal Democrats, who seem to prefer to be called “progressives” lately, take on their issues and demonize their conservative Republican opponents – some of whom have become nationalists and neo-cons – and of course, the Republicans are capable of just as much rudeness and demonization of the Democrats. A lot of us are sick of this. It really makes our country weaker when we have class wars and moral wars.

I used to be an issues voter, you know, where I had one thing that weighed more heavily than anything else. My issue now is the Constitution. They can’t play me anymore!! By the way, I had to laugh this morning when I heard Tim Russert say the other Republican candidates are afraid to go after Huckabee because they don’t want to run off the evangelical voters. Pandering to one group is now chewing on their rear ends!

The thing is, each group of voters who is trying to fight it out in Washington and in the courts believes they are doing the right thing, the thing that would be best for our country. When we let the politicians divide us this way, it stops all constructive dialog. I’m learning that a more libertarian view of things gets the Federal Government out of our way so we CAN talk in a sane way about things we disagree on. And it gets us out from under the manipulation of politicians. They are all using these issues to keep this and that group on their side for votes. It makes it look like they’d rather be in power than do what is best for America.

I think it was the ideas of government-mandated health care that got my attention in a big way. This caused me to look at the Constitution and see that most of what we have been haggling over for the past 20 years isn’t even the Federal Government’s job.

Anyway, if we can’t get politicians back on track so they follow the Constitution none of the other issues will matter. One side or the other of all these different issues – marriage amendment, abortion, health care, taxes, whatever – one view or the other can be deemed to be dissent eventually. I read about a man today who was held up at an airport and they think it was probably a talk he gave that was critical of George Bush’s policies. Well, apparently, he’s a dissident so there’s no eventually – it’s now. He’s a professor and retired marine. Here’s the link to the article – http://www.motherjones.com/mojoblog/archives/2007/04/4123_terror_watch_li.html

If we were to start paying attention to what the government is doing – supposedly to protect us – we would notice
all kinds of violations and potential violations of our civil rights. I heard a report on CBN News this morning about Anti-Terror Centers. There are 43 of these in the United States. They are supposed to be concentrating on terrorists but all but two of them – one in Kansas and one in Rhode Island – have gotten off into regular ‘ol street crime and natural disasters. Of course, the Administration says the best way to stop terrorists is to gather info on all kinds of crime. From the report I read on CBN’s website, it sounds like Homeland Security just handed out $130 million in a panic, and told people to get busy collecting info. We need to let our congressmen and senators know this is out of hand and needs to be stopped. And we need to remember that we are all Americans, no matter what our view on the various issues and the Constitution is what unites us.

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President Reagan is on His Way to Our House!

I dreamed that I bought a house that was bigger than any house I would really want. The yard was huge and I like that! I have a son who is one of those very social people who knows someone everywhere he goes. In this dream he had a conversation with Ronald Reagan and invited him over to eat. My son was going to grill steaks. I was thinking, “Oh, my, look at this place and President Reagan is coming here!” We had just moved in and everything was quite a mess. I asked my husband if he would neaten up the pile of limbs and wood that were out by the street for the city to pick up. That stuff had been there for two years – ever since a big hurricane – and hadn’t been picked up yet! He said he would after he finished what he was already doing to make the place look a bit better.

Then it occurred to me that my parents were living down the street and I should have let them know President Reagan was coming so they could come see him if they wanted. So I told them he was coming and they could come down and meet him and they said they couldn’t because they were on their way to see the queen. They were going to Mississippi to some church thing that had something to do with a friend of theirs but they weren’t really meeting a queen. They just said that because of what kind of church it was. But I don’t have any idea what it was.

My son and President Reagan had not set a time for him to be at our house so I felt like I better hurry up and get a shower taken so I would be ready whenever he showed up. The shower was one of thsoe huge walk-in outfits that my husband told me once he would  like to have but I told him that is more shower than I would ever want to clean. As I was getting my clothes together I heard President Reagan on the radio doing an interview. I figured I’d be ready when he got to our house when I heard him.

There was another problem though. My son had not asked how many people would be coming with the President and we only had steaks for us and him and not his whole entourage.

David And Goliath

Yesterday I heard a version of David and Goliath that I’d never heard before. I’ve been a Christian for a long time but a few years ago we changed ‘flavors’ and it has exposed us to a whole different perspective.

What I had always been told is that we are supposed to be like David and have faith and fight Goliath, aka the giants, in our lives. The giants can be big problems or spiritual warfare. I also heard that Goliath had four brothers and that is why David picked up five stones but that is nowhere in the Bible.

How about this? Goliath represents Satan, God’s enemy. We really, if we are honest with ourselves, are more like the Israeli army than we are like David. David represents Jesus who has fought sin, death and Satan and won the battle for us. Goliath even fell on his face and lost his head, just as Dagon did in I Samuel 5:4. David used a Philistine sword, Isreal’s enemy’s own weapon, to take Goliath’s head off, just as Jesus used death, Satan’s own weapon to defeat him on the cross, as it says in Hebrews 2:14 “…that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil….”

This view has a different effect on me than what I used to hear. I used to feel pumped and like, yeah, I’m going to believe God and go after _________ – you know, whatever. After hearing this sermon yesterday, I feel humbled and in awe of God and His wisdom and power and grace and love and mercy and…wow.

If you’d like to read it for yourself, it’s in the Old Testament in I Samuel the 17th chapter.

New Americans

I’m calling this “New Americans” because I’m not talking about illegal immigration here. That is a whole ‘nother deal. But for the record, I’m not in favor of it.

Here’s what’s on my mind. I’ve heard people say – and I’ve said this myself – if I moved to a foreign country, I would not expect to be catered to with government forms and pre-recorded phone messages and even signs for the aisles in hardware stores in my native language. I would expect to adopt the language, customs, food and dress of my new country as my own. Really? Would I? Totally??

In some countries it’s a requirement of the government that if you want to live there you must learn the language, such as Austria, where you’ve got six months to get on it and start learning German if you don’t already speak it. I don’t think we make folks do that in the US. Typically, the first generation of an immigrant family will learn at least enough of the new language to get around. The second generation will be bi-lingual and the third will only speak English unless they have made a special effort to learn their ancestors’ language.

I’ve also heard – although this doesn’t bother me at all – that some folks are upset by people who come here from other countries who bring their cultural celebrations with them. I wonder what America would be without our melding of customs for holidays like Christmas and Easter? And everyone celebrates St. Patrick’s Day whether they are Irish or only wish they were for a day.

Speaking of Irish, a few weeks ago my brother handed me a book that he was really excited about. He urged me to read it and I am. The name of the book is “‘Tis” and it is the memoirs of Frank McCourt. He came to New York City from Ireland in 1949 when he was about 18 years old. Eventually, he became a teacher but could not get a job at anything other than a technical high school because of his Irish brogue. He wasn’t welcome to teach the children of middle class New Yorkers. I read in this book that some businesses had signs in the windows that said “No Irish Need Apply.” Can you imagine? And other Irish immigrants told him to stay with his own kind. Don’t mix with the Italians or the Greeks. Or, even with the Protestants or Jews. Frank McCourt complained about all the hyphenated Americans just as we do today. He wondered why we couldn’t just all be plain American?

What I read in this book reminded me of what I read in “Don’t Know Much About History” by Kenneth C. Davis. In the late 1800s when unions were first trying to organize they ran into some problems. The workers “did not all speak the same language and were suspicious of one another. The Irish hated the Italians. The Germans hated the Irish. They all hated the Chinese. And, of course, blacks were beyond the pale to most white workers.” This is unthinkable to most of us now. Except concerning new immigrants.

Where I live there is an Irish Club and a Scottish Club. There is also a monument to the Italians who settled in this town. And a nearby town is known to be settled by Dutch folks and has attractions that tell their history. We have the India Cultural Center and LULAC, which is for Latin/Spanish folks. Who knows what else is here? I know we have Black folks, Greeks, Jews, Cajuns, Vietnamese and lots of other fairly new Americans from the Far East and the Middle East. And if there are any Lutheran Churches where you live, you have probably seen Oktober Fest celebrations.

I’d like to ask folks who get upset by people that they think aren’t assimilating where their ancestors came from? Do you know? How many generations of your family have been here? My great-grandpa came here from Germany. And in his German accent that he surely had, he told the census taker he was born in Texas. I have a copy of his work card that proves otherwise. It was 1910 when he spoke with the census taker and not a good time to be German in America.

I think we need to chill and don’t worry about our new citizens not becoming “American.” We ought to welcome them, learn what we can from each other and enjoy the variety. As we all adopt each others’ customs it makes our own lives more interesting. And by the way, I told a friend once, who happens to be fully Italian but totally American, that I am Heinz 57 because I am such a mixture, and he said in the kindest sense of the word, I’m a “mutt.”

The following is an email that I wrote to a friend 6 months after writing the above. I told my friend that what happened in my neighborhood reminded me of “New Americans” :

I wrote this back in November for my MySpace blog. I thought of it because of what I just watched this evening among neighbors. I was sitting at the computer and I heard BAM, BAM, BAM, BAM over and over. All metal and no brakes. I knew that couldn’t be good! It was coming from around the corner from where I live. I couldn’t figure out if a bunch of vehicles all collided – big ones, going fast – or if someone knocked a building down or maybe hit a building with a vehicle and took it down. My son thought it sounded like they may have rolled several times. After a few minutes I heard a bunch of sirens so I put my shoes on and went to see what on earth had happened.

A pickup truck had hit a vehicle, took down a stop sign that is in the street between the ‘go straight’ lane and the ‘turn right only’ lane, kept going, veered off to the right and went through a fence, ran through and over rose bushes, flowers and fruit trees, through the fence on the side of that yard, across a small front yard, hit the corner of a house and was spun around facing the opposite direction, leaving the house with the entire front wall of a bedroom knocked down and front porch supports scattered in the yard.

Someone told me the driver said she didn’t want to go to the hospital. I am amazed the driver could say anything! The fire department said she had a sugar episode and blacked out.

The reason this reminded me of the blog is that it was an interesting group of folks gathered to see what happened. Some white, some black, some hispanic. I really found the whole thing – not the wreck, but the onlookers – to be entertaining in a way. I watched black people who didn’t know each other talk like they had known each other for years when they were telling each other what happened with such gusto and expression. White folks don’t do that. We are usually pretty reserved with strangers unless drunk or high.

My dad wanted to talk with the lady whose fence and fauna were destroyed. I went with him into her yard. Well, that was another deal. She is hispanic and she was on the phone speaking in Spanish to someone telling them about the truck that ran through her yard and hit the house. I speak just enough Spanish to have the man at the bakery misunderstand me when I mispronounced a word and he thought I wanted him to be my Sweet Daddy but what I wanted was a Sweet Potato Empanada. Boy, did I embarrass us both! But I know enough to know what the lady was talking about. When she got off the phone my dad spoke to her but she didn’t seem to be able to answer him. I think she understood but couldn’t speak much English. Kinda like me with Spanish. I knew enough to be able to tell her I was sorry about her trees and flowers but it was fractured. About like her yard. But no weird misunderstandings.

After I got home I thought about how she probably wouldn’t have spoken to my dad much anyway, even if she did speak enough English to carry on a conversation. There’s a cultural thing there where men and women don’t really chat a lot if they don’t know each other. I’ve been very careful with my neighbor, especially the first couple years he was here, because for me to talk freely to him could mislead him. Kinda’ like the poor man at the bakery.

Well, as is typical of second generation immigrants, the lady’s son is bilingual and he spoke to her in Spanish and spoke with my dad and me in perfect English.

Cleaning Up a Street

In the last blog I wrote I said that I live in the kind of neighborhood where I see prostitutes all the time. Several years ago I did something about them getting too close to my house. I’ve got to write this even if it’s only interesting to my future generations.

There used to be a patch of woods across the street from me which made a little side street a little too private, considering the kind of privacy some folks around here wanted. I would find all kinds of icky stuff on the street when I was walking and jogging that these people had thrown out the car windows.

One night my down the street neighbors, who are also my parents, called me and told me they had a call in to the shift sergeant and he was on his way to their house and I was welcome to come down and talk to him, too. There had been yet another car parked out there in the dark and they were fed up.

My neighbors, who are also my parents, had saved a couple of plastic gallon bags of the icky stuff, along with beer bottles and drug paraphernalia I had picked up and they were ready to lay out the situation and show him the evidence. I didn’t want to miss this. I wanted to tell him about it myself.

You wouldn’t believe his response. He said we had to call every time there is a car parked out there. It didn’t matter that a lot of times it happened at hours that most people are sleeping. And I couldn’t see the street from my house. The cops would not make a turn and go ONE block off a busy street that they drive down all day and all night to keep an eye on this problem. My parents pleaded with him. I told him, “I’m tired of stepping over this mess when I’m working out.” He said, “Ok” and turned back to my pleading parents. Two more times I quietly told him I was tired of stepping over this mess and the second time when he said, “I heard you, ma’am” again, I thought he didn’t hear me at all and he should know that cops need to pay more attention to the quiet person off to the side than they do the ones who are making the most noise. Those quiet ones do things.

The next day was a Saturday and I got out there with a rake, plastic garbage bags, a lawnmower, and clippers. I picked up, mowed, raked and clipped. It took all day. The next day I got my dad, my husband and a son to cut down a tree that was blocking a street light. I didn’t know whose property the woods were and I didn’t care. They wouldn’t care or even know if we cut down a tree on the corner and like I said, I was tired of stepping over this mess.

As I looked at the results of all the hours spent on cleaning up, I noticed it would be too easy for cars to pull off the edge of the street and pull up right next to the woods. So, I fixed that, too. I went to the hardware store and bought one by two’s and had another son cut them into stakes with pointed ends, and then to his stunned embarrassment, I got him to help me hammer all those stakes in the ground along the edge of the pavement.

Then to finish it off, I painted two signs and posted them at the ends of the nice, cleaned up block. The signs said, “Neighborhood under surveillance. Take Johns elsewhere.” It was evening by the time I got to the signs and when my poor embarrassed son and I were putting them up a car turned onto the street, stopped suddenly, backed up and turned around and drove away.

The next thing I did was I wrote a letter to the shift sergeant telling him what I did and that if I found anything at all on the pavement that shouldn’t be there, I would pick it up, spray paint a circle where I found it, and write to him again. For a few weeks all was quiet, then I found something. When I wrote to the shift sergeant I told him to tell his men not to shoot the lady in camo. I was going to be out in the woods in camo watching that street. No one came by and there were only two or three other times that I found anything icky on the pavement. Mission accomplished.

Questions About Morality Laws

Have you ever noticed inconsistencies in laws regarding moral matters? I was on a jury today in which the defendant was charged with attempting to pay for a “deviant sexual act.” When the lawyers were asking prospective jurors questions, the prosecutor asked if anyone thought prostitution should be legal, or did we all agree that it should be illegal, as it is in Texas at this time.

Oh, boy. Here we go. I raised my hand. I could feel everyone’s stares as I explained that this is one of those things that I’ve thought of lately that I’m not sure of anymore. All I said in explanation was that I wasn’t sure if it should be legal, illegal, probably state regulated if it IS legal. Just not sure. The prosecutor asked me what about DWI? I said, “Illegal!” I guess he was trying to figure out if I’m an anarchist. I’m about as tame as I look. I actually look a bit boring.

We were asked as a group if we all agree that prostitution is harmful to the community. I certainly agree with that. So, why do I have questions? Well, there are already things that most people believe are immoral, such as pornography, that are legal. I believe porn is harmful for everyone who is involved in any way. I don’t believe it’s a victimless thing.

Well, let me back up for the sake of my Christian friends who may be wondering if I’ve lost my mind. Yes, porn and prostitution are sins. They break the commandment that we should not commit adultery even if it’s only in our thoughts, as Jesus brought it to that very level. It is a total dissing of the Covenant relationship that God wants His people to have when they are married. Marriage is supposed to be a visual example of the Covenant that God has with His church. Honesty, fidelity, love and exclusiveness are part of it.

But, have you ever noticed that there is no law against adultery? A married person can break their covenant promise and there is no fine or jail time or anything. Very few people believe it’s OK to do that, but some do. It’s the kind of relationship they choose. So, should adults be free to make these kinds of choices? If adultery and porn are legal, why is prostitution illegal? Would it cut down on the spread of disease if it was regulated and the prostitutes had to see a doctor regularly? Would it make our streets safer if we didn’t have prostitutes hanging out on the streets? I see it all the time. I live in ‘that’ part of town. Just wondering……

Addendum to Questions About Morality Laws, September 2, 2009.
What we are doing isn’t working. There was a sting last week here in town; there were 15 arrests. Twelve of the arrests were for prostitution, or loitering for the purpose of prostitution and out of the 15, 7 were on a street that is near where I live. This street is known for this activity. It’s 3 miles long and has a total of 12 churches. I didn’t count the ones I could see on the cross streets. This part of town is saturated with churches. It’s also saturated with crime. Hopefully, over the years some folks have made their way from the street to the churches, but the ones who were taken to jail last week are probably right back out there as I’m typing. Some folks will never darken the door of a church for various reasons. And some folks will do the wrong thing no matter what. We offer drug treatment and we should. That is what is behind a lot of prostitution. We are carting addicts off to jail, fining them, turning them loose, they go right back to what they were picked up for in the first place. The same people are arrested over and over. I wonder how many times the lady had been picked up who I watched pound on the door of the drug addict’s house? This happened when we lived a few blocks from where we are now. I was outside, the house was on the corner, no one came to the door and it was obvious people were there. After yelling repeatedly and pounding on the door, then the window, then the door again, she went back to the window and tried to take the screen off. My kids were not outside so they didn’t see that. Most likely, other kids were outside.
I did a bit of research into prostitution laws in other countries. There are a variety of ways to deal with this. I have no interest in sorting it all out into a blog, but you may want to take a few minutes and search “prostitution in Sweden”, Israel, Canada, Australia, Denmark, etc. I wish we could do something to get it away from our kids, get the resources and the people together who want to get out of it, quit wasting law enforcement time and dollars on this when there are much more serious things going on, and keep the disease rates down among prostitutes. Like I said, what we are doing isn’t working.