Archive for October, 2012

Hallowe’en then, now and at the White House

I said the wrong thing at church on Sunday.

A minister at St. John Lutheran Church kindly invited my brood to the church’s annual “trunk or treat” event. Hosts decorate themselves and their open car trunks for hungry young souls in need of a sugar fix.

One man stationed beside an open minivan was dressed in medieval monk garb. I introduced him to my kids as St. Francis of Assisi.

Nevermind that I was standing in a Lutheran church parking lot. Or that Lutherans and other protestants often celebrate “Reformation Day” on October 31, the day in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his protests to a Catholic church door. Naturally, the robed man by the minivan was Luther, not St. Francis.

I hope my kids had fun trunk or treating. We won’t be invited back next year.

Obviously, I know very little about this week’s holidays. My explanation of the origin of Halloween to a curious first grader went something like this:

All Hallows’ Day used to be a prominent Christian holiday, kind of like Christmas or Easter. Each November 1st, Christians would celebrate believers who had passed on from this life. On the night before the holiday, some bad people would dress up and do bad things and try to scare people. My thinking: It was like the debauchery of Mardi Gras on the night before Lent.

I made clear that we don’t believe in hurting people or damaging property or scaring the bajeebies out of folks, but we do dress up for fun. Perceptively, my first grader noted, “Yeah, the only bad thing we do now is eat too much sugar.”

Michelle Obama would be happy with his awareness. She can’t be happy about Barack’s comment last week mocking the dried fruit she’s distributed at Halloweens past:

“It’s an election year, so candy for everybody!” the president announced with calculation.

The president is a political monster. He likely knows Obama masks are outselling Romney masks by 20%, according to retailer Spirit Halloween. He won’t know until November 6 whether that’s a trick or a treat.

According to Catholic tradition, All Hallows’ Evening (contracted to Hallowe’en) was a prayer vigil for the dead before two feasts began, All Hallows’ Day and All Souls’ Day. (A somber vigil could not be kept during a celebratory feast.) The browning earth provided a fitting backdrop to consider the end of days.

“Soul cake” desserts were distributed to poor doorknockers who pledged to pray for a dead soul in exchange for the treat. One legend tells of a matriarch who cut a hole in the center of her cakes, leaving a doughnut to symbolize the never ending nature of eternal life.

Costumes may have demonstrated the folly of the outright evil, the torment of those who delay, and the beauty of those who accept the righteousness that leads to life. Disguises also may have been used to hide from spirits seeking their last bit of earthly vengeance before exiting to eternity.

Long-faced jack-o-lanterns represented souls languishing in purgatory. They also may have been used to frighten off the roaming souls.

No doubt intricately carved pumpkins decorate the White House this time of year. Along with all that candy, I wonder if President Obama will pass out résumés. He’s surely fresh out of dollar bills.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

Vets for President

A faithful friend asked me recently if this was the first presidential election without a Christian on the ballot. Obviously, my friend both questions President Obama’s religious loyalties and considers Mormonism an unacceptable deviation from Christianity.

Since both Mr. Obama and Mitt Romney call themselves Christians, I chose not to wade into that debate.

I did wonder: Have we ever had a presidential election without a military veteran on the ballot? (Neither Obama nor Romney has served in the armed forces.)

We have, but not since World War II, ironically, when Thomas Dewey took on FDR.

Since then, every president has served his country militarily except for two: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Both those men defeated distinguished and decorated, even disabled, veterans of foreign wars: George H. W. Bush, Robert Dole and John McCain.

While Dwight Eisenhower’s service would be most revered and George W. Bush’s most ridiculed, how does the armed forces prepare a person to be president, a.k.a., commander in chief?

I speak from observation, not experience, though I long to stand when branch fight songs play at Memorial Day concerts.

1. Veterans learn discipline under pressure. Adversity defines and refines one’s core beliefs. The U.S. Presidency is obviously a unique crucible. So is boot camp, not to mention combat. Military service reveals character and would help prepare a person for the heavy weight of world leadership.

2. Veterans understand authority. Some answer to you; you answer to some. No one is outside the chain of command. As president, the military may answer to you, but you answer to Congress, the American people, the Constitution, the rule of law. Therefore, proceed cautiously. Move slowly on society-changing issues. Make sure you understand your orders.

3. Veterans have a firm knowledge of good and evil. Those who engage in war understand its stakes. They face evil incarnate, mad minds who seek to destroy the goodness our predecessors have built. Veterans know the unreasoning character of freedom’s enemies. A president should, too.

4. Veterans sacrifice. They lay down their desires, even their lives, for their comrades, their country. They are proud types, sometimes arrogant. But their confidence drives them to serve something greater than themselves. It’s about us, not me. Our agenda, not mine.

5. Veterans are committed to unity. No place binds brothers together like a foxhole. Veterans understand that a front divided cannot stand. They’re not going to push a far out ideological agenda at the expense of what made – and makes – us great: the U in U.S.A. Semper fi. E pluribus unum.

Our present commander in chief has had it backwards. He’s shown deference to dictators and sketchy characters around the world but vitriol to fellow leaders in Washington.

Who can forget his huge fraternal grins with Hugo Chavez? Or his off-mic “I’ll have more flexibility after my election” to Vladimir Putin?

Meanwhile, he invited House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan to the front row of his 2011 budget speech only to slam his plan to reduce the deficit.  And this after Democrats’ electoral “shellacking” in the 2010 mid-terms.

I wish we had a vet on the ballot this year for commander in chief. In lieu, I’ll take the business chief executive officer over the global community organizer.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

Perplexed at a homecoming parade

An alumni reunion landed my family and me at my high school’s homecoming parade last month. As the parade floated by, so did the memories.

Much seemed the same. Some things seemed different, and cruder. Like the sexually charged signs on certain parade floats.

“Cross country girls do it in the woods,” read one.

“I’ll show you my breast if you show me your fly,” read another, courtesy of the girls swim team.

Clever, yes. Becoming, no.

The brashness was alarming. I can sort of understand the lure of selectively flashing such signs in front of fellow students. But all the way down Main Street before grandmas and nephews alike?

On the other hand, what else should we expect from a generation whose vernacular includes the term “sexting”?

It’s naive to wonder where they get it. A BMW television ad tells the cultural trend:

An awkward, tuxedoed teenage boy presents a flower to his prom date before chivalrously opening her car door. On his way around the vehicle, he makes a series of sexual hand gestures which are captured by the car’s back-up camera (the feature advertisers were attempting to highlight).

Upon entering his side, the in-dash monitor – plus his date’s shocked expression – convict the boy momentarily. That is, until she plants a sultry kiss on his lips, as if to say she can’t wait to be slapped on the backside.

The commercial exposes pervasive attitudes in pop culture: that females, particularly youthful females, are as sexually wound as their male counterparts; and, worse, that females exist primarily to fulfill masculine fantasies.

Now, I don’t need a liberal lesson in adolescent hormone secretion. And I understand that sex sells.

But are we communicating to young people that other things sell, too: intellect, character, lofty ambition – and to a higher end clientele, I might add?

During my high school reunion weekend, I encountered several schoolmates who had been through divorces, some with young children already in the mix. I couldn’t help but connect the dots: Not much sacred separates marriage from dating these days.

So I cringe when I see “sexy” shoe polished on a teenager’s vehicle. Call me Puritan, but it seems like administrators could prohibit such displays on public school parking lots. Parents could also wake up at the wheel before cars leave their driveways.

Or has the free speech of immature minors grown to include misguided and short-sighted messages on car windshields and parade floats? Are teenagers, like customers, always right even on matters morally wrong?

Contrast the aforementioned with the cheerleaders at Kountze High School near Beaumont, Texas. They have come under fire recently for using Bible verses to inspire their football team. Heaven forbid!

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is hot on the case. A district court judge is currently mulling the girls’ fate. Question: Would the Freedom From Religion Foundation sue my high school for the spirit-of-the-age signs that offended me?

Consider the paradox: Freedom of speech advances vulgarity while freedom of religion subdues morality. Not likely what James Madison had in mind when he penned the Bill of Rights to the Constitution.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Subscribe to his columns at www.kwt.info.

Value of debates not debatable

Debates are fundamentally good. The intersection of ideas inevitably reaps positive results. Yet, President Obama appeared irritated with the concept in Denver last week. As if the whole ordeal weren’t for the good of the country.  It was.

I certainly see how he disbelieves anything good comes from exchanging perspectives. He has indeed governed apart from such faith. While his surrogates label opponents extreme, it’s hard to imagine anyone more zealous.

Let’s review. Mr. Obama took office with a congressional super-majority. He used it to pass a gigantic spending bill that, putting it kindly, fell flat.

He then muscled through a gargantuan but single-sided health care entitlement that hasn’t kept my insurance premiums from increasing 10 per cent a year since.

Then he signed an equally hefty financial system law (Dodd-Frank) that garnered precisely 5 Republican votes out of more than 230 Republicans in Congress at the time. Community banks are paying the price: higher compliance costs without the scale to lighten the load.

In late 2010, America voted to take away his congressional majority. But instead of finessing to the center, he forsook Congress and, by executive order, handed out treats to liberal constituencies:

The Defense of Marriage Act signed by President Bill Clinton would no longer be enforced. Neither would some federal immigration laws. Health insurers must provide free contraception.

Working together to solve problems is just not in his playbook. Pushing punishingly his far left agenda – now that’s his modus operandi.

The most telling line of last Wednesday’s debate was one of style, not substance. Moderator Jim Lehrer told Mr. Obama that his two minutes allotted for one response was over.

Obama, smirking:  “No, I think I had five seconds before you interrupted me.”

He proceeded to drone on for forty more seconds about Obamacare’s similarity to Governor Romney’s health care law in Massachusetts.

A little untruth mixed with doing what I want – that’s the story of his presidency.

Mr. Romney used the president’s long-windedness to highlight a distinct difference between the Massachusetts law and Obamacare: bi-partisan support.

Mr. Obama rarely looked Mr. Romney in the eye Wednesday night, even when the latter was speaking. Mr. Romney, however, engaged both verbally and non. Maybe that’s why his rebuttals were so persuasive.

For example, Mr. Obama bemoaned broken record style the tax break for oil and gas companies. Mr. Romney cogently retorted that the break costs taxpayers $2.8 billion a year, a fraction of the $90 billion Mr. Obama has spent on bankrupt green energy companies.

Romney: “I had a friend who said you don’t just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers.”

And when Mr. Obama lauded the Cleveland Clinic’s health care efficiencies, Mr. Romney reminded him that the institution is a private enterprise.

It got so convincing at one point that Mr. Obama sought cover by aligning with Mr. Romney.

Obama: “…on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position. Social Security is structurally sound.”

Aside: When’s the last time you heard “Social Security” and “structurally sound” in the same sentence?

The ole cliché states that when all you have is a hammer, every problem is a nail.

Likewise, when all you have is a redistributive economic philosophy, every problem is one 5% tax hike – or one government mandate – away from a solution.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.


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