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Archive for December, 2006

Pray For The President

I don’t watch network television often. We have a screen for watching
movies but had no antenna until I rigged up an old fashioned rabbit ears set
when the Detroit Tigers, after many bad years, made it to the World Series last
fall. If you placed the antenna on a pile of books on top of a chair in the
middle of the living room and jiggled it just right you got a fuzzy but legible
picture.

After the Series the rabbit ears went into storage.

So most of my information is obtained from the written word, and it is rare
that I see a televised image of a public person.

Thus it was fascinating when I was in Alabama in October, with the midterm
elections looming, to watch President Bush on my motel room’s TV.

I remembered something a friend, an Evangelical seminarian, had told me
long ago: if you want to know what is really going on with a televangelist, turn
off the sound and just watch the emotion.

I tried this once, and there plain as day was the Reverend Copeland’s naked
arrogance, Brother Swaggart’s sexual tension, and Pastor Bakker’s smarmy and
transparent dishonesty.

So, sitting in my motel room, I turned off the sound and watched Mr.
Bush.

And it struck me: This guy is scared to death.

I don’t know what was frightening him; Lord knows it could be anything: the
midterms, the disaster in Iraq, impeachment, imprisonment, Mrs. Bush.

I haven’t seen him on TV since, but from my reading he’s still scared and
now floundering.

The neoconservatives who counseled him into invading Iraq have mostly
headed for the hills, casting aspersions as they fled, blaming everyone but
themselves for the mess that they have made, even in some cases denying their
clearly documented role in the disaster.

They are no doubt plotting their return even now, but let us hope they will
be laughed off the stage when they attempt it.

Mr. Bush, who if nothing else values loyalty, must be stung by their
betrayal.

I am among those who voted for Democrats in November, and so far have no
regrets. The nation was steaming full speed ahead toward attacking Iran, which
could well have sparked world war, which the neocons were gleefully proclaiming
to have already begun. It seemed certain to me that if the Republicans
maintained control of Congress that this was inevitable. This met, to me, the
Church’s criterion for a "proportionate reason" to vote for candidates who are
not opposed to legal abortion.

And it worked:  the momentum toward more war was broken.

Rumsfeld was sacked immediately and the President began openly seeking an
alternative in Iraq.

He no longer spoke of "staying the course".

The Iraq Study Group offered its analysis, and whatever its flaws at the
least offered more realistic options, not least the rejection of the
administration’s juvenile, if not infantile, policy of refusing to talk to those
it deems enemies.

But what will Mr. Bush do? After all, Dick Cheney is still lurking in the
shadows. I picture him brooding in some dark tower, which I think is
figuratively if not literally accurate.

To the dismay of many, the President’s early post-election search fo
alternative strategies seems to be hardening into the idea of sending more
troops; in other words to escalating the war, ala LBJ.

George W. Bush has long been an enigma to me.

In the most charitable assessment, he is a devout and well-meaning man who
was misled by trusted advisers.

In the worst, he is a lying scoundrel.

The truth is probably somewhere between these two extremes, or some tangled
combination of the two.

But whatever the case, this is a time like no other to pray for President
Bush.

Pray that he will be receptive to wise counsel. Pray that he will have the
courage to ignore every consideration that does not place the common good of
both America and the Iraqi people in the forefront.

And pray that he will have the humility to admit his errors, the humility
to disregard cares about how history will view him, for the pride of this single
man can lead to more innumerable and unnecessary deaths.

Daniel Nichols

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Untitled Christmas Eve Note

Just a bit late. I posted this brief note on Christmas Eve and totally forgot about posting the usual link here.

Maclin Horton

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The Liberal Conservative 2

Maclin Horton

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The Liberal Conservative (1a)

Maclin Horton

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Citizens or Subjects?

I think this little anecdote from a comment Daniel makes on the "Commandos" post below deserves some emphasis: "I was talking about this incident at work and one guy said ‘Well, you were driving on a state road; therefore it is their road and they should be able to stop you if they want.’"

Their road?!?! This is worse than the politicians who call a tax cut an expenditure, and as bad as the educators who think they have a greater right to your children’s minds than you do. If this sentiment is very widespread, then my gloomy sense that most people are really not cut out to be citizens, but would rather be subjects, is all too accurate.

Noted gloomster John Derbyshire of National Review has repeatedly challenged the conservative (or, probably more accurately, neo-conservative) assertion that everybody wants the kind of freedom offered by modern democracies–I mean, even aside from the obvious current problems of sleazy entertainment and general decadence, he thinks the Western concept of political liberty is just not a factor in the way most human beings look at the world.

My own (as I said, gloomy) suspicion is that this may be the most fundamental problem, truly transcending views on specific issues, for today’s democracies.

Maclin Horton

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Commandos

As most of you know, I work as a letter carrier. Of the many things I like
about my job- including the exercise (I walk 11 miles a day), the fresh air, the
generous leave policy (5 weeks a year, plus 11 federal holidays)- I would have
to include the rotating days off. That is, one week I have Monday off, the next
week I’m off Tuesday, and so on. As the work week begins on Saturday, that means
that every six weeks I get a three day weekend. This makes up for not getting
the two day weekend every week that most of you take for granted, fruit of the
sacrifices of the labor unions a century or so ago.

Generally, we travel to Michigan on my long weekend, to visit my widowed
mother and my sisters and brother.

My mom is 80, but could pass for much younger, a family trait. To give you
an idea of her youthfulness, last summer she came to Ohio. The children took her
to see their fort in the woods adjoining our backyard. "That’s nice," I said
when they told me they had taken Grandma to the fort. Then, a few days after she
left they took me to the fort and I realized that getting to it involved
crawling under a fence and scrambling up a brush-covered hillside.

This past weekend the children were more eager than usual to visit Grandma,
as the previous long weekend, six weeks before,  I had gone to Alabama to see
Maclin’s daughter, my godchild, marry, and they had stayed home.

So it had been a good long while, especially to a child, and we had a grand
time, even though my brother and his family were out of town and there were
therefore no cousins to play with. The weather was bad too, cold and wet, and we
were housebound except for a trip to the Flint Institute of Art, a very fine
museum for a city that size, let alone one that has endured decades of
decline.

But all good things must end, and Sunday, after Divine Liturgy and a quick
lunch we headed back to Ohio.

The trip was uneventful, aside from the increasing agitation of Michael
Seraphim, who is a year and a half and our fussiest baby so far. He was, as an
infant, known as "Fussy Fussmore", "Doctor Cutie and Mr. Fuss", and "The
Horrible Adorable Baby", among other things.

He is also, by the way, incredibly cute, so we cut him considerable
slack.

But his annoyance grew the longer he was confined to his carseat. As it is
illegal in Ohio to take a baby out of his carseat, even to nurse – which is
legal in Michigan- we are loathe to do so unless the alternative is a screaming
fit.

The children did their best to distract him. Maria, who is nearly four, and
who told me last week "I’m half wild and half magic", is particulary adept at
consoling Michael, but even she was unable to get his mind off the woes of
confinement.

When we were about a half hour away from home, driving in the dark, we
started telling him that it was all right, that we were almost home.

Then I saw a sign: "RIGHT LANE CLOSED AHEAD". No big deal; traffic wasn’t
that bad and it shouldn’t slow us down much.

Then I saw the brake lights, and soon  it was stop and go.

"Must be an accident", I said.

And then I saw the next sign: "OVI CHECKPOINT AHEAD".

"What the heck is ‘OVI’ " we asked. We know a Romanian priest named "Father
Ovidieu", "Ovi" for short, and we joked that it was Father Ovi, stopping every
car and incensing it.

We decided that "Ohio Vehicle Inspection" ws the most likely candidate, and
we started worrying. Maria is not quite four, the age when it is legal to be out
of a carseat. Does she weigh more than 40 pounds, the other criterion?

I began getting pretty outraged at this random police stop and quietly
prayed that I would hold my tongue. I mean the nerve. Here we are, innocent
citizens- well, mostly- driving home from Grandma’s, for heaven’s sake, with a
fussy baby and we’re stuck in a traffic jam because of some random checkpoint.
What is this, Iraq? The Soviet Union?

The children, true to form, had exciting theories. The police were looking
for a escaped killer! Or there had been a kidnapping and they
were trying to rescue the victim!

Patric, who is nine, told Joey, who is six, "Make sure your seat belt isn’t
too loose or the police will take Mommy and Daddy to jail !"

When we got nearer we saw Lawrence Township, Stark County, and Ohio State
patrol cars and dozens of police officers and deputies, wearing reflector vests
and waving flashlights around. There was a large sheriff’s bus on the side of
the road. Spinning police lights were everywhere.

But as we neared they just waved us on; apparently traffic was backed up
too far and they wanted it to move.

The next day I bought a local paper, trying to find out what it was all
about, but there was nothing. Nada.

When I got home from work I called the Lawrence Township police and asked
what was up on highway 21 last night. The policeman explained that it had been a
checkpoint for the Ohio Vehicular Intoxication unit, coordinated by the State
Highway Patrol.

I understand that being a cop in rural Lawrence Township is probably a
pretty boring job, and that participation in the OVI checkpoint is likely the
most exciting thing that’s happened all year, but that did little to stem my
outrage.

"Isn’t that like a police state, or a communist country, just stopping
people randomly?" I asked.

"But sir, we apprehended one seriously intoxicated driver. Wouldn’t you
rather endure a little inconvenience rather than have a drunk driver injure or
kill your family?"

"By that logic we should all just give up our rights and allow the police
to randomly strip search us for hidden weapons. I mean, what if someone has gun?
What’s a little inconvenience?"

He protested that it wasn’t the same at all, but I was unconvinced.

The police are supposed to be public servants, and there is a world of
difference between stopping a criminal in the act and stopping passersby in
hopes of nabbing a criminal.

But then too many police officers have forgotten their vocation these
days.

I remember a story in the local paper a couple years ago. There had been a
drug raid in Millersburg, the county seat of Holmes County, just to the south of
us. For some reason, like all the local drug busts I recall, all the people
arrested lived in the poorer, rundown parts of town. Real kingpins, I always
think.

There was a photo with the story, a group of deputies walking down the
streets of Millersburg after the raid. They were wearing camouflage clothes and
black berets, like commandos.

Huh? I thought. Why do they need camouflage? This is a small town street,
not a jungle, in Millersburg, biggest town at 3,500 or so in the county with the
largest Amish population in the world. Real camouflage would be straw hats and
suspenders.

Such nonsense reveals a dangerous attitude toward law enforcement, a
militarization which is the antithesis of our traditions of common law, common
sense, and the common good.

Statism, bigness, and centralization take many forms today, all symptomatic
of the alienation of citizens and the arrogance of their erstwhile
overlords. And from the Bush administration to the Lawrence Township Police, the
argument is the same: we must endure inconvenience and loss of freedom if we are
to be safe and secure.

We almost take it for granted, though occasionally it is made clearer and
more vivid than usual, sitting in traffic with a crying baby, eager for
home.

Daniel Nichols

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The Liberal Conservative (1)

Maclin Horton

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