No such thing

Russia has invaded the Ukraine and the headlines in much of the western hemisphere and Europe are strongly against the invasion. Chinese headlines primarily concern the missteps taken by Putin and the invasion of the country. The absence of condemnation for the invasion of Ukraine is often immediately seen as a moral failing of the main stream media in China by the western hemisphere however, one would do well to keep in mind that the eastern hemisphere does not have a morality issue with what they see as a “just war”. Again there is the knee jerk reaction to take some moral high ground especially in the United States but it may be important to keep in mind that the United States has invaded at least 69 countries since 1776. That is a lot of “just war”. The invasions are merely the tip of the iceberg for the United States of America. The United States has also sponsored terrorism and paramilitary operation all over the globe since the 1960s. Invasion’s and terrorism are tools of nations for social control. Scratch that last statement, the major tool for social control by nations is violence. When a nation uses violence to gain social control the term for justification of the use of violence is “just war”.

I say this as a former solider and I truly mean it, war, whether you are serving on the side of the victor or the defeated, is a crime.

Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.

Ernest Hemingway

Often war is started by the leadership and carried out by the followers. It is imperative as a nation that we demand no war from our leadership. As strongly as we cry out against the Russian invasion of the Ukraine we as a group should also speak out against the United States invasions.

I want young people to be hesitant to glorify war and to demand of their leaders justification for the sacrifices they ask of our citizens.

Walter Dean Myers

Violence cannot be the answer. Violence is psychologically attractive for human beings and leadership has tapped into this when convincing men and women to commit acts of violence. The only issue is that violence is not sustainable. Violence involves the dehumanization of the victim of the aggressor and it is in this dehumanization that violence is most damaging.

There are these “rage rooms” that are becoming more popular now. A rage room is a safe room where a person can go and smash plates, furniture anything they can get there hands on. This is a great way to vent out aggression, however venting aggression should be coupled with understanding the roots of the aggression. Is your aggression healthy or is it rooted in some un faced childhood trauma?

The path to peace and away from violence has to start by looking inward. Again violence is easy to be a part of but we have to, if we as a species are going to survive and thrive, askew violence and embrace peace.

The pen and the sword

Words can influence, inspire and destroy a soul. Violence only brings death or harm and sometime both. Violence is a complex process but its rewards are short lived. Words live on for generations and inspire grandparents, parents, and children.

What we say to others matters so much and what we write down matters even more. Words can help but they can also hurt. Lies can and often do result in harm and in extreme cases death.

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You can lie to everyone and use the lies as a tool to get what you want. You may never even suffer the consequences of lying to others however you will one day be faced with a situation in which you have to look to your self for truth and if all you have done is lied you will not be able to trust yourself.

Lets make a focused effort today and this week to use true words that make the world better.

Children and Parents

Last week in the news there were two stories. One story was about the shooting of a 15 year old girl. Another story covered the shooting at a senior living facility. The victims at the facility seem to be workers not the facilities customers.

The two things that struck me right away concerning these stories were; the dichotomy of the demographics and the similarities of the tragedies. One story involved a child whose whole life was ahead of her. Chances are high that she had plans and dreams but these dreams and plans were killed when she was gunned down. The other story involved men and women who had lived a lot of their lives and dreams and hopes. Both stories involved gun violence.

Here is another story about gun violence in the United States. It seems that this year 2021 is on track to be the most violent year in regards to to gun violence in the last twenty years.

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Prior to this year America was living in one of the safest times ever. What has happened? The last time major change has happened from the Federal government with regards to gun control was about 25 years ago during the Clinton administration.

Both the Brady Bill and the Federal Assault Weapons Ban were signed into law while Bill Clinton were enacted during the Clinton administration. These two laws did a lot for the safety of the country with regards to gun violence. Some interesting numbers here, show that 1993 had the most gun deaths and that 2021 is now on track to beat that number.

Through the years the Brady Bill has had much of its rules stripped and the Assault Weapons Ban was allowed to expire. After the expiration and the watered down Brady Bill gun violence went up quickly. This is strong evidence that the federal laws worked to keep the guns out of the violent peoples hands and protect our children.

Despite evidence for the importance of gun control many people believe that gun control is not needed.

Hope and denial are two human traits. Hope is trust that something good will happen. Denialism is a persons choice to deny reality despite the facts. Denialism is unfounded hope. Denialism is a trait that has no power. Denialism is what seems to have fueled the push for the lapse of the Assault Weapons Ban and the stripping away of the Brady Bill. Denialism masquerading as hope.

There is a hope that people will not harm people but this hope seems to be unfounded when people have the massive firepower in hand(pun intended). Throughout history we have seen that un checked power results in human devastation. In biblical times all the way through current history this has been the theme.

When someone has a gun or access to a gun with little to no checks or rules in place we see extreme acts of violence. We have twenty years of a study in place to prove that this is truth and yet the debate is still raging on.

Lets live and work together with hope not denialism. Lets end the needless debates and do some good.

What matters the Most

Me my wife and kids (I almost typed “My Wife and KIds” there, man I loved that show) worked in our church’s soup kitchen for about 8 years. I loved seeing and helping people my wife loved feeding people and the kids were young enough that they still did as they were told.

Working in the soup kitchen was strange. We would check the supplies and if needed head out to a grocery store and purchase supplies. The grocery store was full of food. The grocery store has always been full of food even at the height of the pandemic very few food items at our local grocery store went un stocked. That abundance seems to be the evidence for success of the United States social system. Here is an interesting article comparing the shopping differences in different countries. The grocery stores in the United States are amazing we do not seem to be bound by geography or season, you can get food from all around the world in and out of the season that the food is grown in. I am no longer working in the soup kitchen however I enjoy cooking at the house and it is not uncommon for me to find a recipe online travel to my local grocery store and get the ingredients I need to prepare the food, no matter what time of the year it is.

After picking up all the needed supplies we would go back to the kitchen and start cooking. Quick note here, most of the supplies we picked up were perishables, the community and church patrons have been very generous and we always had supplies on hand. As we started cooking and opening up the kitchen to the public folks would poor in. It took time and there were lulls in the customers coming is so my wife and the kids would spend that time playing scrabble of course

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Something that struck me then and I still find startling is the demographics of the hungry in the United States. Most of our customers were children under 16 and adults over the age of 55. So basically people who could not work.

The same system that created the circumstances for the abundance in the grocery store has also created a rather high amount of poor hungry children and senior citizens. Economics is a required class for most in college. When I first got out of the US Army I spent a fair amount of time at the employment office looking for work and speaking with the veterans assistant. When I couldn’t find employment I was told that “it was the economy”. Being the smart alec that I am I asked the assistant to define the economy he couldn’t. The economy is; the resources of a group and how they are managed. That is it simply put it is how we get all that food in the grocery store onto our plates or how it is kept away from our children’s plates. That is the economy and it is not working.

Children are staving while food spoils. Ecological systems collapse and parts of the world become unlivable for humans and almost any animal. I think about the Cedars of Lebanon and their destruction and I see a parallels to the logging that the United States has done out west and now what is left is being destroyed in fire and drought. In Flint Michigan the drinking water was poisoned and there are cities in Pennsylvania that people cannot live in and have fires that have been burning for over 50 years.

I know todays post seems like a bummer and it can be easy to dismiss it all by saying I am not responsible for the hungry children because they are not my kids and I go to work and kill myself everyday to make sure my kids are not hungry. What happens when you can no longer kill yourself? Will you be at the soup kitchen? Many of the retired soup kitchen customers had family. I know because they would show up when tragedy struck for the customer. We like to believe as parents that our children would not abandon us but what if our children are killing themselves to provide for their children and do not have the bandwidth for us. Well then we can dismiss the system with our 401k’s pension plans and medicare right? I have seen story after story of cases were 401ks and pension plans have been robbed and where medicare has not covered the bills. I am not trying to scare anyone but I am beginning to frighten myself. My dad is preparing for retirement right now and I cannot imagine what his anxiety level looks like. Dad and mom worked ungodly hours to take care of me and my sisters for years. Me and the family recycle and I find it tempting to dismiss the ecological disasters with the idea that we recycle so we are not adding to the problem but aren’t we?

See there is a difference in thoughts and idea here. The current economic system in most of the world involves induvial rights and freedoms and no responsibility. Instead of being responsible for our success and our families success the attitude has to change to a sense of obligation for everyone and everything. Here in the United States we are taught that, we are born with rights. In the document that declared Independence from the Monarchy the founding fathers spoke highly about the rights. The founding fathers called them Unalienable. Unalienable means that the rights are impossible to take away or give up. They say that in mans creation they are endowed the rights by the creator but these rights cost something don’t they? The rights are LIfe, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Life requires food and our children are not getting food. Liberty requires freedom and in the United States for every 100 000 people there are 655 that are incarcerated. Happiness is a hard one isn’t it. “Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them” – Tolstoy. It is hard to define and hard to be happy with the current world state. How can we take solace in the poverty, pestilence and war?

Working at the soup kitchen would seem depressing seeing hungry kids and senior citizens should have really bummed me out but it didn’t. I am not cold and unfeeling that is not why it didn’t bum me out. I got to connect with these folks, by talking and playing board games and on nights when me and the wife cooked enough eating with them.

That community helped me realize the major problem with society. We think about rights instead of obligations. Instead of protecting everyone and everything we decide to take care of our rights and our family rights. This thinking causes stockpiling and the few times grocery stores have ran out of food was do to families buying more supplies than they needed.

It is fear and lack of knowledge that keep us away from our obligations. You have an obligation to humanity and the world you live in. We have to take care of each other and the world. When I think of obligation I think of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

We are commanded in the Christian religion and every religion to Love each other and we have that definition for love. This is what we should live by. Love should enforce our sense of community and obligation to others.

I am not sure about you but freedoms and rights give me little solace with the current state of the world but love and the power of love… That is my happy place. Love is the only hope I see for my children and it is the only path that has seemed to work in the past.