Thursday, April 21, 2011

Immigration Reform?

The President is talking about serious, comprehensive immigration reform. On Tuesday he invited a small group of people to the White House to talk about it. Problem is – of the people he invited, very few have anything to do with immigration or its consequences. And the list was missing some very important people who deal with it every day.

President Obama sat down Tuesday with a group that included New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Rev. Al Sharpton, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.). The guest list didn’t include any current governors or members of Congress, though it did include some business leaders, including the CO of Facebook and former Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), who now works for JPMorgan Chase.

Now, I can understand former Senator Martinez, being Hispanic and representing the interests of other Hispanics. I can also understand Governor Schwarzenegger, since he was the governor of California, which also has an illegal immigration problem and he’s a legal immigrant himself. But I’m having trouble understanding the Roles of Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL/CIO, Obama’s newest BFF, the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerburg, Al Sharpton and Michael Bloomburg. Huh?

Somehow it seems those last four are out of place in a discussion concerning illegal immigration and a change in immigration policy. OK, maybe, just maybe Trumka is wanting to organize the illegals into a bargaining unit. Given his background and current position I can almost see that. But what have Al Sharpton, Michael Bloomburg and Mark Zuckerburg got to do with immigration, legal or otherwise?

Blatantly missing from the group were the governors of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, the three states on the most dangerous part of the border. Does anyone think they may have had some really good information to share at this meeting? Or is the White House off limits to Jan Brewer since the Obama administration is suing her over her anti-illegal immigration law?

Only President Obama knows why he chose those particular people for the meeting. And I’m sure, in this so very “transparent” White House, he’ll make the reasoning public one day… (OK, I’m not holding my breath and neither should you.) There is one thing of which you can be certain – if any changes are made to the immigration laws they will be done at a time and in a manner to help President Obama get as many votes as possible in the 2012 election. After all, you can hope for a lot more change with 12 million new votes for your side.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sometimes Commercials Really Are Important

I’m not really big on television commercials. Like most people, when the commercials come on during a show I find something else to do. They’re loud, annoying and there are far too many of them to suit me. That said, there is one currently on the air that gets me every time and even though I’ve seen it about 100 times, I still watch it every time it comes on.

It’s the one about the kid who goes to the pianist’s recital with his parents and wanders away from them. Somehow he ends up back stage and sits down at the piano. Just as his parents realize he’s missing the boy starts to peck out a tune. The curtain goes up and the parents, completely aghast, see their son playing the featured pianist’s piano. To make things worse, the pianist walks up behind the boy, much to the parents’ embarrassment.

Rather than get angry and escort the boy away the pianist tells him to keep playing and begins accompanying the boy and together they perform the most beautiful and extravagant rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” ever heard. The audience is enthralled and when they finish the pianist tells the boy “Great job” and together they take their bows to a standing ovation from the audience and from two very surprised but very proud parents.

The message of the commercial is encouragement of a child’s dreams and actions. I understand the actual commercial is a bit far-fetched. The chances of a boy wandering away from his parents and ending up backstage are likely very slim and the probability that the pianist would encourage and accompany the boy rather than being angry and dismissing him is also slim. But the message hits home and it tugs at my heart every time I see it.

I’m guessing it’s because of my own son that the commercial gets to me. I remember him about the same age. He loved to sing and actually had performed in front of an audience when he was only 4 years old. He’d sing in the car when we were driving without any embarrassment or fear. Of course, that changed somewhat as he grew older and by the time he was a teenager I doubt he ever sang in front of anyone again. And when I’d mention those performances in the car (Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart” mostly and yes, I know…. but he was a kid.) he’d get embarrassed and tell me to shut up. But I have my memories.

Sometimes there are commercials that are simply done right. If you haven’t watched this one I highly recommend that you do. If you have and haven’t let it sink in, watch it again. I thank its creators and whoever put it on the air. It’s a wonderful reminder that our children need our love and encouragement, and need to know that sometimes even if something starts out wrong it can end up right. And it doesn’t only have to be the parents who give the encouragement.

Thanks to those same people for giving me a wonderful reminder of my son. As I said a couple of weeks ago – sometimes it happens in the most unusual ways.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Have We Really Become That Diassociated?

I just read an article about a female traveler who was recently raped in Denver International Airport, at 12:30am, in one of the concourses. According to the story, the woman had missed a connecting flight Monday evening and had to spend the night at the airport. She said her assailant had struck up a conversation with her in a restaurant, and then followed her out of the eatery, sat down beside her and tried to kiss her, according to a family member. When she objected, the man threw her to the floor and assaulted her. He was arrested there in the airport and charged with sexual assault.

While the rape itself is tragic and disgusting, it’s not the main focus of my post today. There are several things about the story which are far more disturbing.

The article went on to say the woman saw several people walk by while the man was assaulting her and they did nothing. He was eventually pulled off of her by two airport employees and turned over to security personnel. Several people witnessed the incident and did nothing! I find that terribly sad and frightening at the same time. Have we really become a society where people will see a woman being assaulted in an airport and walk on by?

In addition, the official statement from the airport administration was also disturbing. "We have many, many layers of security," spokeswoman Jenny Schiavone told the newspaper. "We believe the airport is absolutely safe." Really, Ms. Schiavone? It’s completely safe? I’m thinking maybe that wasn’t an accurate or even intelligent statement but you might want to ask the victim in this case. Maybe I’m wrong.

Denver police said employees and witnesses responded accordingly and that calling authorities is what police advise for anyone witnessing a crime. In this day and age of violence I can almost understand that… almost. In an airport, where people are not likely to be carrying weapons due to heavy security, there are many things a person could do to stop an assault without endangering themselves. I’m pretty sure you could pick up something and hit the suspect and be justified since he was in the act of committing a crime of violence. And if you can’t bring yourself to do that, wouldn’t it be more helpful to stop and begin yelling for help, letting the man know he was being watched and making him think he was going to be caught? Wouldn’t that be more effective than simply walking by and then, maybe, making a call to the police? It’s certainly possible it wouldn’t stop him but in my opinion it would be better than the alternative.

The other thing I found disturbing was when I began reading the comments after the article. While most people vilified the suspect and showed sympathy for the woman, there was one person who basically said since she talked to him in the restaurant it was probably her fault she was raped. The contempt I feel for the person who said this is such that I can’t put it into words. A woman is engaged in a conversation by a man in a restaurant and that gives him the right to rape her? I think that’s the most disturbing thing about the entire article.

One can only hope this suspect is identified and convicted by the victim and the witnesses who walked on by and goes to prison for a long time. Maybe another inmate will strike up a conversation with him in the dining room and take a liking to him….

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Is Pastor Terry Jones A Patriot?

There’s been a lot of news lately about Terry Jones, the pastor of the Florida church who’s burning of a Quran recently led to at least two innocent Christians being killed in retaliation in Afghanistan. A question was asked on a conservative web site if Terry Jones was an American patriot for doing it. The article accompanying the question asked “How long is the West going to remain hostage to the primitive sensibilities of illiterate thugs in the Third World? For how long will we let the Muslim world off the ethical hook, even going so far as to blame ourselves when they riot and slaughter over some perceived grievance? How long are we going to kid ourselves about this religion?” I think the answers are complicated.

Islam has proved itself to be a very emotional, even fanatical religion who’s followers not only believe very deeply in its teachings but are more than willing to fight, die and even kill to support those beliefs. Terry Jones knew this when he decided to make his point by burning a Quran. He knew it was possible that innocent people could be hurt or killed in retaliation for his actions. Regardless of personal feelings toward Islam and their beliefs, if you commit an act of complete and utter disrespect toward a group knowing your actions could cause someone else to be hurt or killed, I wouldn’t call that patriotic. I’d call it fanaticism, not that much different than those against whom you’re protesting.

Let’s take a look at the questions posed and how I would answer them.

1. “How long is the West going to remain hostage to the primitive sensibilities of illiterate thugs in the Thirld World?”

That answer remains to be seen. There are those in this country (including, it appears, our President and Attorney General) who certainly go out of their way, far beyond reason, to appease and even coddle Islam so as not to upset them. Someone in said last week that burning the Quran is worse than burning a Bible because “the Quran is the written word of Allah and the Bible was written by men.” (This was an American ‘journalist’ who said this.) Sorry – but the Bible and the Quran were both written by men who were, by all accounts, inspired by God/Allah and therefore are equal as far as their religious value. The main difference is that Christians do not kill those who believe differently than they. America as a whole needs to stand up and say “We will not bow down to Islam any more than they will bow down to us.” Then, if the fight is on, so be it. At least America as a whole will be involved. Some nut with a church and a microphone who gets people killed by his individual actions is not really helping the cause

2. For how long will we let the Muslim world off the ethical hook, even going so far as to blame ourselves when they riot and slaughter over some perceived grievance?

I don’t hear too many people blaming us (ourselves) for the violence committed by radical Islam. There are some here in the U.S. but they are numbered and they are misguided. The majority of Americans are appalled at the violent acts committed by Islam against innocent people. That said – when one commits a disrespectful act against a violent group, knowing retaliation is very possible, it is the fault of that person. And the deaths of those two Christians in Afghanistan are on Terry Jones’ hands. He was asked not to do it – not out of fear of Islam but out of respect, even Christian respect for another culture and religion. He chose to ignore those requests. This is not the stuff of which patriotism is made.

3. How long are we going to kid ourselves about this religion?

I think this is the most important question and its correct answer is vital. We have many people in this country who believe, or try to believe, we have nothing to fear from Islam and that if we simply get out of the Middle East and leave them alone, they’ll leave us alone. I think by now they (Islam) have proved this is not the case. As long as the radical Islamic organizations (Al Quada, Hezbola, the Taliban) are out there we will know no peace with Islam. These organizations hate the Western culture and believe everyone in the entire world should be Muslim, by conversion if possible and by force if not. England is being overrun by Muslims to the point that the majority of babies born in England last year had Muslim names. They are spreading throughout Europe and are moving here in larger numbers every year.

According to various reports (one example - Christians are leaving the Middle East in droves out of fear for their very lives. It seems Christians in the Middle East are becoming like Jews in Nazi Germany – having to relocate to other countries to keep from being persecuted and/or killed simply because of their religious beliefs.

People say radical extremists in Islam are a small handful compared to the large number of peaceful Muslims in the world. And while statistically that may be true, there are many of those “peaceful” Muslims who condone the violence of the extremists and even support it, not only verbally but financially. And it seems those numbers are growing. The “radical” element of Islam seems to be growing and as it does it’s a growing danger to the rest of us. It’s time people wake up to that reality and see Islam for what it is – a religion that is determined to take control of the world. It’s interesting that this could be something against which Christians and atheists unite.

Is Terry Jones a patriot? If he loves his country, probably. Was his act of burning a Quran patriotic? In my opinion, not at all. When you commit an act so completely disrespectful to a religious group that is other than Christian, knowing full well innocent people could be killed because of it, that’s not patriotic. I would call it hateful and misguided. Terry Jones is a minister, supposedly a man of God who is supposed to be teaching his congregation to love and respect others, as Jesus would have. His actions, like that of the pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church, demonstrate and encourage hatred. In that example I’m not sure what makes him any different than those in radical Islam.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Some Things Are Worth Fighting For

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” - John Stuart Mill, (1806 – 1873) English Economist and Philosopher

It is with this sentiment that I write today. There are many who believe there is no good reason for anyone, particularly this country, to go to war. I disagree. As ugly as it is, as devastating to those fighting and to the families of those fighting as it can be, there are circumstances, even in today’s advanced society, in which it is not only justified but a necessity.

The big problem is determining when it is necessary and justifiable. There are many armchair quarterbacks who believe they know those answers better than those who make the decisions. Yet those in the positions of power have access to information the rest of us don’t have.

Before President Obama took office he not only condemned the war in Iraq, he said he would end it almost immediately and bring the troops home. He also said he would close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and put all the detainees in prisons in the United States. Once he was elected and went to the White House to receive his national security briefing, complete with the top secret details to which he was not privy before the election, he changed his tune. He has finally ended the war in Iraq for all intents and purposes (it certainly wasn’t immediate) but Guantanamo Bay is still open.

People who condemn war in general make me wonder if they would ever fight for what they believe in. My ex-wife once said to me “I would rather wear a burqa than see another of our boys die in Iraq.” I’m not sure she meant it but what a statement. Are there those who are so against war itself they would allow radical jihadists to take over America? If our country, our freedoms and our way of life aren’t worth fighting for, what is? Our forefathers certainly thought it a noble and worthy cause. They fought the motherland, Great Britain, to secure our independence and freedom. Now, just 225 years later, we have Americans who wouldn’t fight, or even support a fight, to keep what our forefathers earned back then. It’s shameful.

I served in the U.S. Air Force for eight years and I’m extremely proud of that service. Fortunately for me there was no war going on at the time. I got out of the service in 1986. When Desert Storm began in 1991, the only thing that kept me from re-enlisting was the fact that I had a wife and a young son and a great career to support them. I couldn’t justify it to them to leave and go to war. But I would have gone.

“The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” In my book, truer words were never spoken. How sad it must be to see nothing in your world worth fighting for.

I believe war is a necessary evil. It is sometimes necessary for the preservation of freedom, sometimes for the preservation of life, be it our own or that of some downtrodden and mistreated people, and sometimes necessary for the safety of the masses. Those who fight it are not evil, except for those few who make their own rules. Those who fight it are doing what they are told, what they volunteered to do, and what they know needs to be done to preserve our way of life. Regardless of the place, the cause or the mission, the ultimate reason for war is for the preservation of America and our way of life. And those who offer their lives for the protection and safety of the people of America deserve our respect and admiration.

Yes, there are justifiable reasons for war. The casualties, the losses, are grievous and devastating but at times necessary. We would not be the United States of America if it wasn’t for people who put their country and their freedom ahead of their personal safety. And I, for one, am grateful to them and to every man and woman who volunteers to do the same thing today.