Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Christian's Fleet of Faith

The Colonel had the opportunity to lead a devotional for Wednesday Evening Prayer Service. Text follows:

As a Marine, I spent a lot of time on Navy ships. My sailor friends reminded me often, that despite the fact that we Marines spent a lot of time wallowing in the mud ashore, I was first and foremost a Naval Officer. They impressed upon me from my earliest training just down the road here in the building on campus that formerly was known as McCain Hall, that I needed to understand the fundamentals of naval warfare just as much as the fundamentals of warfare ashore. So, I learned how to talk sailor--they have a different word for everything: a wall was not a wall--it was a bulkhead, a door was called a hatch, the floor was referred to as the deck, left was port, right was starboard. They didn’t even use the simple "yes, sir"—it was aye, aye sir.

Later on in my naval career, I learned about the capabilities and tactics of navigating and fighting a single ship. I learned that rarely did a single ship sail and operate alone. No matter how powerful and capable a single ship was, it was not near as strong and capable as it was when combined into a balanced fleet of ships each possessing unique characteristics and functions. This fleet team was able to operate farther and influence a much greater patch of territory on the globe than a single ship. At the heart of each fleet is one or more capital ships—a battleship, for example. The other ships in a fleet support, defend, and add their capabilities to that most powerful ship. All of the ships in a fleet, large and small, have critical roles. Lose a particular type of ship and the fleet operates at much less than optimal strength and effectiveness—sometimes loss of a key small ship leaves the fleet vulnerable to crippling attack, or leaves the fleet unable to accomplish an important mission.

There is a Christian Fleet of Faith. It is composed of several separate and distinct “ships,” each of which possess unique characteristics and functions. By themselves, each of these “ships” has some ability to operate and have positive effect on their own. But, each of these “ships” also has functions and characteristics that lend themselves to increasing the effectiveness of the rest of a Christian’s fleet. Let’s look at each one of these ships separately for a minute and see how each one complements the other and makes the whole fleet stronger.

The first “ship”, Worship, is the “battleship” at the heart of your fleet of faith. We find the first instance of man’s worship of God in the book of Genesis—12:7 As the relationship between man and God grew, so did our understanding of worship as our primary function with regard to God. Worship of God is the first thing we do when we accept Jesus as our Savior. In the ninth chapter of John’s Gospel, the disciple tells of Jesus giving sight to a blind man. In verse 35 John tells us that Jesus asked the man “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Let’s look at the response—verses 36—38. What did the healed man (Can’t call him the blind man anymore!) do immediately upon believing in Jesus? He Worshiped Jesus! Worship is the first and most important thing in our relationship with God. Just as a fleet would be weak and ineffective without its battleship heart, so the Christian’s fleet of Faith is powerless without worship. I won’t belabor this point—it is obvious to you. Instead I want to focus on the other supporting ships in our fleet.

If Worship is the battleship in our fleet of faith, then the twin ships Membership and Fellowship are the heavy cruisers. A heavy cruiser is powerful, but not as powerful as the battleship. A heavy cruiser can operate alone, but not for very long. Its real mission is to defend the battleship so that the battleship can focus on striking the enemy and not waste effort defending itself. Likewise, membership in a church family and fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ strengthens our worship. From membership, and participation, in a Sunday School class we study scripture and learn God’s will in our lives. In the fellowship of that Sunday School class we share our spiritual and physical needs. In that group of Christian brothers and sisters we share in worship and minister to others. There is no other group in any church family that is as powerful as a Sunday School class. Period. Let me say that again—there is no other group in any church family that is as powerful as a Sunday school class. I won’t argue that point—I’m right. If you are not in a Sunday School class, your fleet of faith is suffering from a weak fellowship. If you are not in a Sunday school class, there is one that, among the many that meets every Sunday at 9 am, is just for you. And since you already know how to find your way to this room, there is a class that meets right here every Sunday morning. Stand up, Miss Brenda. This, for those of you who have never met her, is the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda. Now you know where a class meets and you know someone in that class. Join us in fellowship. This is too easy. So, let’s move on and look at another ship in our fleet-- Discipleship

If Worship is the battleship heart of our fleet of Faith and Membership and Fellowship are the heavy cruisers that support and defend the heart of our fleet, then Discipleship is the Marine landing force of the fleet. Jesus gave several missions to our Christian Family Fleet of faith. In the 22nd chapter of Matthew’s gospel, the disciple quotes Jesus telling the Pharisees the greatest commandment in the Law was “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” –that’s worship. Jesus went on to say that “the second is…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus told us to love and support each other in the Church Family—that’s fellowship. He told us to love others outside of the Church Family—putting that love into action is discipleship. Jesus gave us a mission we call the Great Commission. In the final verses of his Gospel, Matthew quotes Jesus giving this mission to his disciples and by extension to all believers: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” Jesus was very specific about what His mission for us was. Just as it makes no sense for a fleet to exist without a mission, it makes no sense for us to exist as a church family without one. But, the mission of discipleship cannot be accomplished at long distance. A fleet given the mission of capturing a piece of enemy territory cannot accomplish that mission by standing offshore and lobbing shells onto the land. The Marines have to go ashore and get up close and personal with the enemy. Supporting fire from ships and aircraft is important—but boots on the ground win battles. So it is with discipleship. Jesus commanded us to go ashore—not sit safely on the ship.

So, our Fleet of Faith has at its heart the battleship of Worship, it has the supporting and defending heavy cruisers of Membership and Fellowship, and the Marine landing force of Discipleship… there ares two more ships in our fleet of faith we need to talk about.

The least considered but clearly most important ship in any fleet is the supply ship. The other fighting ships of the fleet can only carry so much fuel, food and ammunition. They have to be resupplied often. Without its supply ships, a fleet quickly becomes ineffective. In a Christian’s Fleet of Faith, the supply ship is Stewardship. Without stewardship, the battleship of Worship, the supporting and defending heavy cruisers of Membership and Fellowship, and the Marine landing force of Discipleship are far less effective—often completely ineffective. But, not because God needs a paltry tenth of our money to accomplish his designs. He doesn’t need “our” money. God took two tiny fishes and five small loaves and fed thousands! Do you believe God is Great? Amen? He’s the Mighty Yahweh, the Great I Am. He’s the Divider of the Red Sea, the Deliverer of Israel. He dropped the mighty walls of Jericho; He crushed the camp of a hundred thousand Midianites, both with just the toot of a horn! He’s the God of Abraham to whom he gave a son by Sarah when he was a hundred years old and she was 91! Do you believe God is Great? Amen? Listen to this: My God is so great that He looked two thousand years into the future and saw me, one of billions on this earth, dead in my sin and rebellion against Him, and He sent Jesus, His only son, to give His life as a blood sacrifice to cover my sin from God’s eyes. Do you believe God is Great? Amen? Believe this: Every bit of “our” money, every penny, is God’s to begin with. Can I get an Amen? Do you believe that everything we have comes from God, because God created and owns everything to begin with? Amen? So, God doesn’t need for us to give Him one red cent. It is his already, and believe me, he will take it back if he wants it. God doesn’t need us to give him an offering. But, We Need to give God an offering. Our tithes and offerings are not for God’s needs! Our tithes and offerings are for OUR Needs! And for OUR blessings. Malachi spoke for God when he told the people of Israel “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” I don’t believe there is anything else about which God has given us permission to test him.

Here is my testimony. A Sunday School teacher led me to salvation when I was nine years old. A missionary taught me to eat the meat of the word when I was a teenager. A church family, right here at Abbeville Baptist Church, ministered to me and my new bride for two years starting thirty-three years ago. They loved us, taught us, fed us, and stayed in our hearts as we wandered the globe for the next three decades. Brenda and I believe without a shadow of a doubt that God brought us back here two years ago as part of a blessing to us for exercising the faith we learned here. This church taught us to tithe and to give. We didn’t give much—we didn’t have much. God didn’t need our tithe and our offerings for this church. But, we needed to give it. Folks, we had nothing but each other in those days—and there wasn’t much of that to go around, either! And yet, we never lacked for anything we needed. There was no way our budget supported tithing on paper —there was not enough income to cover our needs let alone to give a tenth off the top to God. We finally stopped trying to budget a tithe and just trusted God. We tithed and then budgeted the rest. Let me say that again, we tithed, and then budgeted the rest. God blessed us with more than we needed, and we lived our lives that way from that time on. Okay, I’ll admit to you that there were a couple of times where we were tempted to skip a tithe in order to get ahead of the budget curve. But, you know what happened? The car broke down. The refrigerator quit working. God disciplined us for our lack of faith and we got right back on the tithe wagon before He started taking anything else back. I am convinced that if we had not continued to tithe first and budget the rest, we would be in debt up to our eyeballs and living somewhere else. From the time Brenda and I began to share our dreams 38 years ago, we wanted to be right where we are now. I am certain that we are blessed with the fulfillment of that dream because of our faithfulness to give back to God. There is no other explanation. That’s my testimony.

Someone taught me a long time ago that the true measure of our faith is not what we say, but what we do? Do you believe this? Amen? If so, what does our giving say about our faith?

The Christian Fleet of Faith has the battleship of Worship, the supporting and defending heavy cruisers of Membership and Fellowship, the Marine landing force of Discipleship, and the supply vessel Stewardship. There’s one last ship in the Christian Fleet of Faith—Leadership.

As Christians we are to discern and subject ourselves to God’s will by the leadership of the Holy Spirit. That’s something we’ve all been taught from day one in our church experience. Further, we are commanded to subject ourselves to the leadership of the man God appoints to pastor his church. We know this. But, did you know that as a Christian you are called to be a leader, too?

Napoleon often remarked that every private in his army carried a marshal’s baton in his knapsack. What he tried to instill in his army was the belief that every man in the army was a leader who could step up and take charge in a given situation that called for that man’s appreciation of an opportunity on the battlefield. We Marines have a similar belief that every Marine is a Leader. All American armed forces believe the same thing. I believe that Jesus considered us all leaders. The Great Commission calls for us to share the Gospel and LEAD others to Christ. Each one of us in this room, beyond the age of accountability, is a leader. Someone in our lives looks to us for our wisdom and example—a child, a sibling, even a parent; could be a co-worker, a neighbor, someone we may not even know by name. Like it or not, you are a leader. And, our Fleet of Faith will not be near as effective as it could be if we do not accept the responsibility as Christian leaders. I’m not talking necessarily about a formal leadership position in the church—I’m talking about the leadership we provide to our children by teaching them about their Fleets of Faith—Worship, Membership, Fellowship, Discipleship, Stewardship, and Leadership. I’m talking about the Christian example of Faith we provide to the new brothers and sisters in Christ who look to us for leadership. In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul said “for if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle.” The context for this was his instructions regarding prophecy and speaking in tongues, but the message is clearly one regarding standard setting and setting the example by leaders. Paul was using the Roman army as an example for his point. The Romans had a series of distinctly different bugle calls by which roman leaders ordered their soldiers’ daily lives. One call woke them in the morning, another told them to stop to eat, another to get back to work, another to put on armor and assemble for battle. If a leader, through his bugler, produced a call that was misunderstood, a soldier might start cooking lunch when his leader needed him to get ready to fight. The lesson for us is that as leaders we must clearly pass on the teachings of Christ and lead by example. If we send mixed messages—saying one thing, but doing something different—then those we should be leading will not be prepared to battle against sin or to grow in their faith to the point that they are receiving the blessings God is prepared to give them. If a fellow Christian is not being blessed, we might do well to look at our leadership example to them. We may be the ones leading them astray. And, I believe that one of our greatest leadership failings is in the matter of stewardship. The example of our giving, and how we manage our finances, is perhaps the single greatest impression we leave on our children and others regarding the strength of our faith in God.

Do you believe God wants you to be a leader? Say Amen, shake your head yes. Do you believe God wants your Fleet of Faith to be effective in accomplishing His work here on Earth? Say Amen, shake your head yes. Is there some “ship” – either Worship, Membership, Fellowship, Discipleship, Stewardship, or Leadership -- that is weak or missing from your Fleet of Faith? Say amen, shake your head yes. My prayer is that God will convict us of the weaknesses in our faith and make us miserable until we bend to his will.

From Fire to Freedom

Sometimes a severe trial by fire prepares one for an even more demanding crucible.

Thirty-two years ago today, the USS Forrestal, the lead ship in the Forrestal class of true "supercarriers," and named for James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy during the Second World War, was on "Yankee Station" in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam conducting strike operations against communist targets. Just before 1100, as Forrestal's embarked air wing was preparing to launch the second strike of the day, a disastrous chain of events began to unfold that would involve the carrier's crew in a fiery fight for the very life of their ship.

On the crowded stern half of Forrestal's flight deck a score of strike aircraft were fueled and armed and preparing for taxi to the catapults on the forward half of the flight deck. One of the aircraft parked on the starboard side of the flight deck, a two-seat F-4B Phantom II, was armed with a pod of air-to-ground Zuni rockets. As the aircraft switched from external to internal power, an electrical surge inexplicably caused one of the rocket motors to ignite. The rocket shot across the flight deck and into the aircraft parked along the port edge of the deck. The rocket hit and ignited an underwing fuel tank on a single-seat A-4E Skyhawk. As firefighting teams rapidly responded to the fire, fuel tanks on adjacent aircraft overheated and ruptured, adding their fuel the fire. As the pilot of the stricken plane scrambled out of the cockpit and leaped to the deck, one of the bombs slung externally under the aircraft "cooked off" in the intense heat of the fuel fire and exploded. The pilot, and most of the firefighting crew, were killed in that explosion. As other bombs cooked off, pilots of adjacent aircraft also abandoned their cockpits. One, Lieutenant John S. McCain III, rather than climb down onto and then off the wing of his jet (which would have led him into the middle of the growing conflagration), climbed out onto the nose of his plane and jumped clear. While helping another pilot escape, McCain was hit by shrapnel from an exploding bomb but managed to get away from the exploding inferno with his life. It was a miraculous escape, by any estimation.

The fire on Forrestal got much worse before it was gotten under control. With most of the first line firefighters killed in the initial blasts and much of their specialized firefighting equipment destroyed, the remainder of the crew responded with improvisation that in some cases actually aggravated the situation--such as when seawater pumped onto the fire washed away the foam fire retardant initially sprayed on the deck and carried burning fuel below decks. By the time the fire was out, 134 men were dead and scores more grievously burned.

John McCain could have gone with the Forrestal back to Norfolk where months of extensive repairs were required. Instead, McCain and others volunteered to transfer to the air wing on another carrier, USS Oriskany, also conducting strike operations against the North Vietnamese. Almost three months to the day, October 26, 1967, since his escape from the fiery maelstrom on Forrestal's flight deck, McCain was shot down over Hanoi. Severely injured in his ejection and subsequent capture, the North Vietnamese initially refused him treatment and expected him to die. When they realized who McCain was, the grandson and son of admirals, they reluctantly tended to his wounds on the assumption that some propaganda advantage might be gained. When his father assumed command of Pacific Command and the war effort in 1968, the North Vietnamese offered to release McCain as a "humanitarian gesture." McCain recognized this devious ploy for what it was, and refused repatriation until all of the POWs shot down before him were released. The communists of course refused this and McCain would languish in agony from his wounds and frequent torture until all of the POWs were released in 1973.

In the summer of 1977, the Colonel was experiencing the not-so desperate, yet grueling non-the-less, crucible of Officer's Candidate School at Quantico, Virginia. Sometime in July of that year--the date escapes the few remaining cognitive cells lying fallow in the recesses of my brain housing group, but had to be near the tenth anniversary of the Forrestal tragedy--then Commander McCain, still on active duty, was invited to speak to our class. I don't remember many of the details of the hour he spent on stage in front of the 250 of us seeking to follow in his patriotic footsteps. I was impressed, however. Not much else from that sweltering summer on the banks of the Chopawamsic remains as indelibly marked in my consciousness as the humble seriousness of the man who quietly recounted, not so much his heroics, but the heroics of the others who shared the incredible privation of imprisonment at the hands of the communist Vietnamese sadists. There was no empty sloganeering--just a plain spoken recounting of men enduring a crucible their civilian contemporaries safely back at home could not conceivably comprehend nor appreciate.

The man is no saint. But he is an American hero, from a generation that shamefully produced too few. He and his comrades sacrificed their very freedom so that the rest of us could enjoy ours. And now he is enjoying the freedom only a fiery trial can peacefully provide.

The Colonel has a sneaking suspicion that the Senator may be almost relieved not to be imprisoned by the office he sought last year.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Raindrops are falling on my head..."

A steady rain has fallen here at the northern end of southern nowhere for the better part of the last eighteen hours, and the weather guesser says he thinks it will continue to do so for the rest of the week. The persistent precipitation has not, and will not be allowed to, dampen the Colonel’s spirits for the following reasons:

First Hug. Number One son and his bride, she of the highly exalted and fiercely protected position of Provider of Grandsons, are staying with the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda and the Colonel while they prepare for transition to their own abode. As a result, the Big House here at Eegeebeegee, capital of the virtual republic, The Tallahatchie Free State, has perceptively shrunken in its accommodation of the Colonel’s two grandsons, and the hope of 21st Century civilization, Caleb and Taylor. Caleb and his “Pop”, as the Colonel has chosen to be addressed by his granchillin’ (in tribute to my grandfather, Vernon “Pop” Gregory), are, thanks to much time spent together in the first year and a half of his life, bonded buddies who share loving hugs at greeting and farewell. Different story with his little brother. Taylor demonstrates perhaps a much more finely tuned judgment of character than his big brother and has heretofore refused, rebuffed, and otherwise denied the gruff ole Colonel’s request for a hug. Until this morning. Mr. T graced the Colonel with a warm, albeit brief, hug at first greeting this morning. Heart melting stuff—even for the man curmudgeoned before his time. Let it rain!

Filling the Lake. Number Two son and the Colonel belong to a brainless brotherhood known as duck hunters. Said brotherhood participates in perhaps the most idiotic and masochistic endeavor (outside of following Ole Miss football) known to man. Duck hunting is best described as interminable hours of cold, wet, windy, muddy misery, infrequently interspersed with brief moments of feathery delight. Said pursuit is made even more idiotic and masochistic when our ever-changeable climate produces years of below average rainfall necessitating arduous decoy bag-hauling and brush-busting to reach shrunken water holes to which a paltry few waterfowl venture from the flyway to frequent. The best duck seasons are those preceded by prodigious precipitation that fills our local flood-control reservoir to overflowing. Let it rain!

Tempering the Temperature. The Colonel’s temper has, with the accumulation of orbits round Ole Sol, cooled significantly from the white hot intemperance of youth to the simmering stew of older age; except when the outside temperature climbs above ninety. There was a time when I gloried in a bath of sweat while laboring or working out in temps pushing triple digits. Not so, no mo’. Interrupt the Colonel on a hot summer day whilst in the midst of a strenuous task and you are likely to witness an eruption rivaling Vesuvius, complete with explosive molten exhalations and fiery rain. Not bragging, mind you—the foregoing is more of an embarrassing admission. Needless to say, the Colonel’s temper has embarrassed him fairly regularly during the first stifling hot days of this summer. A rain-bearing cold front is, therefore, a welcome relief to the Colonel as well as to those around him. Let it rain!

Of course, I might get a case of the “red eye” if my driveway gets washed out.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Korean Case

Precedents established in exhausted expediency always complicate future endeavors.

Fifty-six years ago today, the antagonists arrayed against each other in bloody stalemate on the Korean peninsula agreed to an armistice to halt active combat operations and bring an end to the three year war that had begun with a communist North Korean attack of South Korea. The communists’ goal was to reunite the Korean peninsula, divided by the Russians and the Americans at the end of the war against Japan in late summer of 1945. The June 1950 Northern aggression, at least tacitly approved of by the Russians and Chinese, quickly routed the over-matched Southerners and the few American forces diverted to the melee from their cushy occupation duties in Japan. In a matter of weeks, the remaining effective South Korean and American units had retreated to a small perimeter around the southern port city of Pusan--ceding virtually the entire peninsula to the communists.

The United States, who eight and a half years previous had answered Japan's aggression with a formal, unilateral declaration of war, went this time to the newly created United Nations for a mandate to conduct "police actions," as Harry Truman called it. There was no formal, unilateral American declaration of war (as mandated by OUR CONSTITUTION). Instead, we experimented with a world government (in violation and ignorance of OUR CONSTITUTION). The results were just as unsatisfactory at this first attempt to change human nature and subvert nationalism as they have been at every juncture since. Without a formal declaration of war, the United States attempted to win the Korean conflict “on the cheap.” No formal declaration of war meant that there was no basis for rallying the American people and marshaling American resources for the express goal of defeating an enemy. Whereas during the Second World War, in which a formal state of war existed between the United States and the Axis Powers, the American economy was virtually entirely devoted to the production of war material (there were NO private vehicles produced by American car companies; sugar, gas, and rubber were rationed), during the three years of the Korean conflict, the American population experienced virtually no sacrifices at all.

A “surge” of limited American military power reversed the North Korean gains in the fall of 1950. American forces not only liberated the South Korean capital, Seoul, but pushed the communists all the way to the Yalu River—the border with China. When the Chinese entered the war against American forces on their doorstep in December of 1950, destroying the better part of two US divisions, the United States should have formally and unilaterally declared war on the Communist Chinese. Instead, American politicians, caring more for their re-election prospects than for the good of the American nation, demurred of definitive action and sought to prevent another round of the public privation it took to achieve victory in the recent war with Germany and Japan. The result was stalemate and wastage of American blood and treasure.

After two and half more years of meat grinding along the trenched front stretching across the Korean peninsula, newly inaugurated President Eisenhower sacrificed the communist enslaved peoples of China and North Korea to the ease and comfort of the American people. The Armistice, not a Peace Treaty, signed by China, the United States, and the two Koreas in the late summer of 1953, did bring a Peace, of sorts, to the Region. The cost to the United States was high—a permanent American “trip-wire” presence in South Korea against the prospect of a resumption of hostilities. The cost to the Koreans was even higher—the two continued to squander a vast proportion of their respective GDPs on armies squared off against each other across what became, and is still, the most dangerous border in the world. Lucky for the South Koreans, their American allies developed an insatiable desire for cheap goods the production of which eventually spurred the development of their economy to the point that it vaulted from the primarily agrarian to the rapid standard-of-living-raising industrialized nation ranks. The personality cult-oppressed people of the northern half of the peninsula were not nearly so lucky—they just continued to starve. And China? Well, Mao’s subsequent “cultural revolution” had a death toll second only to the infanticide since Roe v. Wade. And, ultimately, Communist Chinese (and Soviet) support of the nationalist socialist designs of Ho Chi Minh resulted in the near destruction of American society in another undeclared war American political leaders (and I use that word loosely) attempted to fight on the cheap rather than sacrifice domestic goals (see Johnson’s “Great Society”).

Since the end of the Second World War, and following the horribly unconstitutional precedent of our Korean experience, the illegal war-making of the United States has continued with alarming regularity. Without formal declarations of war (required by OUR CONSTITUTION), the United States has dabbled in open-ended military adventurism the world over without much to show for it beyond frustration and embarrassment. The case can be made that every American president from Truman to Obama has committed the impeachable offense of extra-constitutional war-making. But, don’t take my word for it, break out a copy of your American Citizen Owner’s Manual (aka: United States Constitution) and see for yourself.

Short of that larger point, however, is these re-United States' currently quagmired quest to eliminate (or at least marginalize) radical Islamic terrorism—the so-called War on Terror. Because there was no formal, Constitutional, unilateral declaration of war against the nations employing terrorism as a political weapon, or aiding and abetting those who were, there was no basis for rallying the American people and marshaling American resources for the express purpose of defeating an enemy of America. As the Colonel’s kids can quote with eyes rolling, near term sacrifice is the only sure route to long term gratification. Attempting to fight a war on the cheap, without marshaling the nation for victory, may prevent public privation in the short term, but having never achieved victory it actually results in much longer delayed fulfillment of our ultimate gratification goals.

It's clearly a case of pay me now or pay me more later. We continue to pursue the latter course of action--to our nation's great detriment.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Uplifting Lift-off

What a difference a decade makes.

Forty years ago today, the most ambitious mission of exploration ever attempted by man left the launch pad and rocketed moonward. At the tip of one of the greatest controlled explosions ever created, and at the apex of one of the greatest technological efforts ever attempted, three men carried the fascination of the world and the pride of a nation away from the Good Earth toward a rendezvous with what for most of man’s history had only been a strangely shape-shifting light in the sky. Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins placed their names at the bottom of the world’s list of explorers whose names are immortalized for taking a chance—Jason, Zhou, Yang, De Gama, Erickson, Columbus, Magellan, Polo, Lewis, Clark, and Pike, to name a few.

Thirty years ago today, the most ineffective and embarrassing American president since Grant accused the American people of slumping into a self-absorbed “malaise.”

In ten years’ time, the psyche of the American people plunged from pride at the penultimate achievement of man’s innate drive to know the other side of the mountain to self-pity and national loathing. A nation tired and leery of strong, purposeful leadership in the office of President voted for change and elected a pseudo-intellectual populist, and the nation drifted from prominence to purgatory. A desultory dance with a sputtering economy and a hapless response to events in Iran doomed the Carter administration and relegated it to an embarrassing one-term footnote in American presidential history.

In another ten years the nation was back on its feet, the sole survivor of the super-power struggle between socialist tyranny and free-market republicanism. Here’s hoping history continues to repeat itself.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday MOTOs; Vol II, Ed. 4

A good and kind Monday morning to one and all from the northern end of southern nowhere. The Colonel is ensconced in the highly esteemed Chesty Puller Chair of Curmudgeonly Commentary topside at the Big House aboard Eegeebeegee, capital of the Tallahatchie Free State, a virtual republic and government in opposition established as much hand on wallet as tongue in cheek, and this morning brings the latest regularly irregular Monday installment of the Colonel's awards for Mastery of the Obvious (MOTO), as displayed by the great, near great, and ingrate to such an inane degree as to be impossible for the Colonel to spare commentary thereupon.

The Colonel's MOTO Bronze Medal this week goes to Senator Barbara Boxer of the Peoples' Republic of California who, according to Rob Hotakainen of McClatchy Newspapers warns that "if the Senate doesn't pass a bill to cut global warming, there will be dire results: droughts, floods, fires, loss of species, damage to agriculture, worsening air pollution and more." This fear mongering would be nearly enough to cause the Colonel to call his senator in support of the legislation were it not for one tiny little detail--droughts, floods, fires, loss of species, damage to agriculture, and worsening air pollution have been occurring, with the exception of damage to agriculture, since Creation, and including damage to agriculture, since man cultivated the first plant. Senator Boxer and her ilk demonstrate the height of hypocrisy, worshiping on the one hand at the altar of "undeniable" Darwinism and refusing on the other to allow nature to take its course. Survival of the fittest, Senator (I dare not call you "Ma'am" as I understand that term—considered one of respect in every other locale in these re-United States--offends the sensibilities of the political--ahem--ladies from the soon-to-be-bankrupt state of California) applies to ALL organisms and species on the planet (man, and his institutions, included) or it applies to none.

The Colonel's MOTO Silver Medal is bestowed this week upon the Apologist in Chief for his trap-like grasp of the situation in Afghanistan. In an interview with Britain's Sky News, President Obama opined regarding current operations that "...we still have a long way to go. We've got to get through elections. We've got a serious fight on our hands and we've got to deal with it smartly but we've got to deal with it effectively." The Colonel's not-so-humble opinion, provided ad nauseum to anyone he cornered and to anyone who has wasted valuable rod and cone time perusing posts on this weblog, is that we would not have had such a "long way to go" had we fought this war brought upon us nearly seven years ago like a WAR and not pussy-footed our way with minimal application of power and treasure as if our fight against Islamic extremism were only a weekend hobby. If we had fought our war against Japan and Germany like we have pursued this fight, the year 1949 would have found us still mucking about on Guadalcanal--seven years after our first landing on a Japanese-held island--and would have found us still participating in the minuscule and ineffective air raids against German targets we began with a paltry force of bombers flying from British airfields in 1942. Further, in the last sentence of the quote above the President contradicts himself and displays an unfitness for warfighting rivaling that of his predecessor. The so-called, and grossly misnamed, War on Terror, could have been and should have been wrapped up three years ago, following a ruthlessly effective series of campaigns against the supporters of the terrorists. Remember, we CRUSHED Germany and Japan (who possessed the largest and most effective military forces in the world at the beginning of that conflict) in 3 and 1/2 years and they have been among the strongest of our allies since. But, alas, Americans no longer have the stomach for winning.

And finally, the Colonel's MOTO Gold Medal is awarded to Senator Connie Mack of Florida for his criticism of the Obama administration's stance regarding the situation in Honduras. During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing during which the members discussed the forced removal of the Honduran President by that nation's military and congress for his attempt to illegally change his nation's constitution, Senator Mack opined that, "By calling this a coup and by early statements insisting on the reinstatement of Mr Zelaya, the administration now stands with the likes of (Hugo) Chavez, (Evo) Morales and (Daniel) Ortega, and not with the Honduran people." Even the most casual observer can readily ascertain that the Obama administration, in league with the liberal leadership of the party in power in Congress, stands with anyone who would dismiss even the most sacrosanct of constitutional laws and principles and drive their nations clearly into the socialist lane. No surprise here, Senator.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Spirit of the Pioneers

The Colonel is proud, and a bit jealous, of his #1 son and daughter-in-law team. They don't realize, and would quickly assume a glazed-eye stuporous state were I to indulge my desire to provide them an hours-long dissertation on the historical context, that they embody the spirit that centuries ago animated freedom-seeking American pioneers to leave behind the comforts of the East, load their worldly goods in wagons, and trek into the relatively unknown West to begin again.

For #1 son, pulling up stakes and plunging into the unknown is of little terror, given the bi-annual practice his father's career in the Marine Corps forced on him. Uprooting and replanting comes almost naturally to him. My daughter-in-law, she of the highly exalted and fiercely protected position of provider of grandsons, has been uprooted from the only hometown she has really ever known, has boxed her every possession and treasure, and has followed her husband from the comfortable sandy shores of the Redneck Riviera to the hills at the northern end of southern nowhere. This is no small event. Despite our best attempts, the Colonel and the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda have not been able to identify with the trauma and trepidation she is experiencing, and our encouragement, born of our nomadic wanderings the first fifty years of our lives, that this move is no big deal and that she will survive it and thrive, does not seem to reassure her. Understandable--I'm sure Rebekkah Boone gave ole Dan'l the gimlet eye the first time she was uprooted and transported westward into the wilds.

But, the Colonel is of the envious belief that they are embarked on a grand adventure that will strengthen them like it steeled their pioneer forebears, not to mention this old bear and Miss Brenda. Further, the Colonel is convinced that the greatest blessings come to those who seize God's hand and plunge into the unknown. And that they have done.

Two centuries ago American pioneers faced hardships unimaginable to the comfortable, spoiled generations currently occupying beakers and Petri dishes on the laboratory desks of the American experiment. They endured the physical challenges of hunger, hard labor, and lawlessness. They also withstood the emotional challenges of isolation and culture shock. Many succumbed. Most survived. Most of the survivors thrived. There is a lesson in this for today's Americans.

If they would only read a little history beyond the public school pablum.