The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Amendment XXVI

Section 1.

The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.

Section 2.

The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Perhaps you will think that because I’m older (and you probably think crotchety as well), I decided to write this post.  Well, I am older than I used to be and I would hope my bubbly upbeat personality and rosy view of life will dispel the other issue from your minds.  But I just decided to write on the subject because I haven’t put up anything very controversial lately – and I was in the mood for doing so.  Call it personal whimsy.

LBJ’s explosive expansion of the war in Viet Nam in the mid – late ‘60’s ignited one of the greatest hell fires of division in American society that we had seen since the Civil War.  The college protests against the war were viewed by mainstream America as being nothing more than a few radical leftists who were lucky to live in a country where freedom of speech was a part of our heritage.  Most Americans supported our war effort.

Soldiers started coming home in body bags, mothers lost sons and sisters lost their brothers.  The attitude of Americans shifted from one of support for the war as more “non-radical”, mainstream people were personally affected by the mounting number of American deaths.

It was from this climate that we began considering the issue of whether, for the fourth time we should expand the right to vote by extending this to 18 year olds.  The mantra of the day was, “If you’re old enough to die for your country, you’re old enough to vote.”   In 1971 the amendment was passed and ratified.

When the Constitution was written, the average life expectancy was approximately 35 years.  By the time the 16th amendment was adopted, that had increased to about 75 years.  (As an interesting side note, in the last 43 years, despite all our medical advances, the current expectation is approximately 80 years).

So a young man in the newly constituted United States of America might be able to vote in only seven congressional elections and three presidential elections before he went into the great beyond.  Given the short life spans, establishing an age of maturity of 21 seemed to be rather a high bar – intended to insure that people who were sufficiently mature and informed would be the participants in the voting process.  With the lack of universal mandatory education, it is reasonable to believe that not every voter was as well informed as the Founding Fathers might have hoped.

Americans have been both blessed by and suffered from out relative size and our location on the globe.  We have been blessed because we are generally isolated from hostile governments and have been spared incursions by them on our home soil.  We have suffered because our isolation has kept up generally insulated from an understanding of what is happening in much of the world as the following video demonstrates:

Okay.  I’ve tried to offer an explanation for why we may not be as well informed as we should with respect to foreign events.  But that is hardly an excuse for our lack of information about basic facts regarding our own nation:

In reviewing these two videos, it should be apparent that age is no respecter of stupidity.  So no matter what age we deem a person to be “eligible” to vote, it is apparent that is no guarantee that the citizen so empowered will exercise good judgment in exercising that right.

I would like to reiterate my belief that while voting might be a “right,” its intelligent exercise is a responsibility.  I have previously suggested that all voters, irrespective of age be tested – say once every 10 years – to make sure that their cognitive functions are still operational.  By that I mean that they be able to meet the same standard of scoring at least 58 correct answers out of the 99 questions as we require of those who apply for citizenship.  I have provided the link to “The Christian Science Monitor’s” citizenship test so that you may review your own knowledge of America and American history.

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2011/0104/Could-you-pass-a-US-citizenship-test#Could-you-pass-a-US-citizenship-test/Who-signs-bills?&_suid=139829406131408742607584329032

Good luck.  NO GOOGLING.  And no talking among yourselves.  Grab your pencils, open your test books – GO!

About thirty years ago, long before we had topical treatments or the Hair Club for Men had gained its large following, a friend who was in his late twenties was experiencing a very significant amount of hair loss.  Because he was very conscious of his appearance this disturbed him and he did everything he could to comb his hair in a way to minimize the appearance of his diminishing follicular growth.

It happened that his loss occurred on the pate of his head and was nearly perfectly circular, looking almost like a monastic tonsure.  But despite his best efforts to cover this bald spot, it kept expanding.  Finally, realizing that he was fighting a losing battle, he decided to embrace his condition and look at it as a badge of honor.  The rationale he came up with was that, “If you lose your hair at the back of your head, it means that you’re a lover.”

Another friend also had a problem with hair loss.  But unlike my first friend, his hair loss occurred at his rapidly receding and thinning hair line near his forehead.  He never made much attempt to cover the loss because, other than growing long bangs, there wasn’t much he could do cosmetically.  His explanation for his hair loss was, “If you lose your hair at the front of your head it means that you’re a thinker.”

These two chaps and I had mutual friends who were a couple who loved to host dinner parties.  Both the husband and wife were gourmet cooks and an invitation to one of their gatherings was always a treat to which their guests looked forward.  The three of us happened to be invited to one of these affairs.

At the dinner I was seated between these two guys.  They had reached a point of acceptance with their thinning hair that they enjoyed joking about it openly.  My one friend made his assertion, “If you lose your hair in the back it means you’re a lover.”  My second friend asserted, “Yes, but if you lose it in the front it means you’re a thinker.”

Well, I couldn’t resist.  So, to the amusement of the other dinner guests sitting nearby I asked, “So does that mean that if you lose your hair both in the back and the front it means that you only think you’re a lover?”

Secretary of State Kerry has perhaps the fullest head of hair belonging to a human being that one can imagine.  One would think it were otherwise – because he apparently “thinks he’s a negotiator.”

In all fairness to the Secretary, it shouldn’t surprise any rational person that, despite what I deem a sincere effort, the Israeli/Palestinian talks broke down.  This is not an issue that will be easily resolved as 1500 years of history have demonstrated.  And the naiveté that good intentions would be sufficient to get the parties to sit down and make nice nice with each other borders either on sheer hubris or a total lack of understanding of the intense emotions that are involved.

The Little Engine That Could mentality is a great lesson for our toddlers, inspiring them to do things that they didn’t believe possible.  But there’s a difference between the challenges that a six year old may face and which confront adults in a very hostile, fractured world.  I’m not sure that either the Secretary or his boss, CIC Obama appreciate that fact.

In Syria, that land which crossed the “Great Red Line,” there are disturbing reports that over the last several days, chlorine gas was used by the Assad regime against its citizens.  We (courtesy of Vladimir Putin) negotiated an agreement that all of Syria’s chemical weapons were to be turned over and destroyed by the end of June.  The last (and only) report I have seen that as of the end of January, the international group overseeing that effort had only received what is estimated as two percent of Syria’s supply of such weapons.

Then, of course, there’s Ukraine – or what’s left of it.  Given our past performance in negotiating diplomatic questions, the only one at issue in that sovereign nation is whether or not we are going to award Secretary Kerry and the State Department the Clement Atlee achievement award.

There’s been a trend among some men for a number of years to embrace baldness in its most extensive form and shave their heads completely.  If Secretary Kerry took that dramatic step and shaved his locks, while it might not help his skills as a negotiator, at least he could claim that he was chic.

I hope that my long term readers would agree that I try to make my points in a civil manner and without resorting to defamatory language.  At least that is my goal and if I am not meeting it, I would sincerely appreciate your honest chastisement.

I also understand that a user on a given site agrees to abide by the standards that site has established.  Being a person who believes in respectfulness, I read the terms of service for “The Huffington Post” and have tried to write my comments in keeping with their stated policy.

The “Post” put up a story about retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens who is touting his latest book in which he calls for amending the Constitution.  In the article the retired Justice admits that the amendments which he is suggesting are ones which, had they been in place, would have substantiated a number of the minority opinions he wrote when he sat on the bench.

I decided to leave the brief comment which follows:

“Both Justice Stevens and conservative commentator Mark Levin have suggested a variety of amendments to the Constitution which each feels are necessary.  Whether either of their hopes comes to fruition is probably a moot point, given the fact that the present administration seems to have difficulty enforcing the Constitution as it is presently written.”

Okay, that was my comment and apparently it generated some interest.  In my notification box I had five replies to it and was going to see what these fellow readers had to say.  So I clicked on the first one to find the following message:

“This comment has been deleted.”

And with the deletion of my comment came the deletion of the comment(s) left in response to it.  So I never got to read what those  commenters had taken the time to write.

This experience caused me to think of the verse from John 8:32:

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (KJV)

But apparently that isn’t true at “The Huffington Post.”

I read an interesting article on “The Huffington Post” early this morning.  It was a detailed description of how our federal government has become a breeding ground and a proponent for total lawlessness.  The original was printed in the “New York Times,” and I’ve attached a link to the story below.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-engelhardt/crimes-of-state_b_5184961.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

Naturally, I felt compelled to leave a comment.  In that comment I mentioned Alexis de Tocqueville – stuff like that.  By way of reference, I should tell you that I read the story and posted my comment around three o’clock this morning, about twelve hours before I am writing this post.  As of a few moments ago, the article had garnered 15 commentators and 20 comments in total.

Several hours ago I saw another story on the website which announced that Meb Keflezighi had won the 2014 Men’s Boston Marathon, the first American to do so in 31 years.  Within less than an hour, that post had generated close to one thousand comments.  That is similar to the volume of comments and commentators who respond to articles on gay rights or the legalization of pot and is probably not something that is unexpected in what is a decidedly liberal medium.

I have, for some time, had a sneaking suspicion that those on the left believe that if you shout something loudly enough and get enough people to join you in the chorus, it doesn’t matter what you say but, by sheer dint of noise pollution, they will make their case.  Facts are, in their view, extremely malleable and hyperbole carries far more weight – and the more outrageous, the better.

One of the comments that posted to the article was by a man who wrote the following:

“This is small potatoes compared to the very real increases in the instance where the rich are let off the hook for crimes that would put anyone else behind bars for life.  The rape of a baby.  The killing of a pedestrian by a drunk.  The looting of pensions and the manipulation of global bank rates by Wall Street mobsters.”

“The Courts have decided that the rich must be protected, at all costs, even that of your child’s life.  The Govt’s opaque treatment of its own wrongdoers pales in comparison to the very concrete examples of how the 1% are now allowed to wallow in crime and corruption with impunity.  We are their prey.”

You may not be surprised that this chap has 1,384 “fans”  – which I gather is the equivalent of those whom Word Press calls “followers.”

Well, never accuse me of leaving well enough alone but I responded to this comment with the following:

“I was riveted by your comment – particularly your first paragraph.  I am considering writing a post for my blog and am particularly interested in your statement, ‘The looting of pensions and the manipulation of global bank rates by Wall Street mobsters.’  As I try to be factual on my blog and do my own research to verify any information which I use, I would appreciate it if you could provide me with references to this statement.”

“Thanks in advance for your assistance.”

I’ll let you know if I get a response to my inquiry.  But as a word of advice, don’t hold your breath.

Easter, 2014

“There are those who have a religious faith and those that don’t, and that has pretty much been the way it’s been throughout mankind’s history.  It’s unfortunate that people who fall into either camp disparage those who believe differently from themselves.  I think of it as philosophical racism.”

“Whether or not we have a religious orientation, I suspect that most of us, if we were to read the Pope’s remarks without knowing who the author was, would applaud his statement.  It seems foolish, if not reprehensible, to discard or demean his comments simply because they come from a religious figure while, if the same speech were given by Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela, we would applaud it as an outstanding piece of oratory.”

The above two paragraphs were a comment that I left for someone on the Huffington Post who had thoroughly denounced Pope Francis’ Easter “Urbi et Orbi” proclamation.  While I presume from the tone of the statement this person left that he or she is an atheist, the same sort of intolerance unfortunately can be found within the ranks of the religious – both towards members of other belief systems as to those who profess to having none.

If there is one thing that we who claim to be Christians (in whatever form that may take) should most remember at Easter particularly, but throughout the year as well, it is that if you look at the three year ministry of Jesus, he drew everyone to Himself without regard to their physical condition, their status in society or their financial situation.  Much of that message appeared in Francis’ speech at the Vatican.

Easter is a time for renewal and optimism.  So let’s hope before we celebrate it again next year, each of us will be filled with the message of tolerance and love for one’s neighbors that Jesus taught and that we may find that next year the people of the earth are more at peace with one another and with God.

INTO THE LION’S DEN

For years I have had Yahoo as my home page.  I’m not exactly certain why I selected them, but I did.  They carry at least a few interesting stories every day which often give me thoughts on new subjects for my own posts.  Some of those stories come from other sources – such as the Huffington Post.

The other day I was reading one such story and decided to reply to it.  The story was one which denigrated the Koch brothers and asserted that they were in the process of turning the country into an oligarchy in which they would reign supreme.  It seemed a little bit over the top and I wanted to try to offer a comment which would put things in a more balanced perspective.

Before I posted my own comment I read through those that had already been posted by other Huffington Post readers.  I was truly amazed.  After I scrolled through well over one hundred such comments, (this article generated a great deal of interest with more than 900 responses posted), I realized that I was stepping into the proverbial lion’s den.  Of the comments that I read, only one challenged the assertions in the original article.

Now I realize that the Huffington Post is a liberal vehicle.  But you would have thought that they had taken a lesson from Kim Jong Un on how to rig results.  I was surprised that there appeared to be such unanimity of opinion among the Post’s readership.  I mean, I read liberal journalism with some regularity, merely to see what it is that they are thinking.  It’s hard to offer an alternative to a differing philosophy if you don’t know what it is.

So I penned my comment after creating an account with the Huff Post and hit the “Submit” button, anxiously awaiting the appearance of my thoughts on the web page on my screen.  Instead of seeing my comments posted, I received the following message:  “Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter your comment is awaiting moderation.”

That took me aback as discussing campaign contributions and the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court didn’t strike me as being nearly as “sensitive” as watching Miley Cyrus twerk on prime time TV, looking at ads for vaginal creams to lessen the pain of intercourse after menopause or seeing ads by Hotels.com for an app in case you scored at the bar and suddenly needed to book a hotel room so that you could make the beast of two backs.  But maybe that’s just me.

Well, true to their word, three hours later whoever is responsible at the Huffington Post for reviewing comments and “moderating” them decided that my comment was “acceptable” and it was posted.  Much to my surprise there was a reaction to my brief comment as the next time I logged into the Huffington Post website, in the space that indicated “notifications” I found that that I had 22 of them.

I wasn’t sure quite what that meant, so I clicked on the notification button and found that six people had “faved” (their equivalent of like) my comment and 16 comments had been posted in reply to mine.  It will not surprise you that there was only one which supported my comments.  It will probably also not surprise you that the remaining “comments” were not actually a response to the points I had raised but were personal attacks.

It’s been a long time since I was called a “Fascist pig.”  In fact, to the best of my recollection, it’s never happened before.  Frankly, my response to reading that comment was to chuckle.  And then I thought to myself, no wonder there is such much division and dissension in this country – and such a lack of serious conversation on important issues.

One of the first lessons that the coach of my high school debating team advised us team members was that engaging in ad hominem arguments and personally attacking our opponents was the surest way to lose a debate.  If we resorted to that tactic it meant that we simply didn’t have either facts or logic on our side and clearly the person whom we were debating had triumphed.  I sincerely doubt that many of the Huffington Post’s readership ever was a member of a debating team.

As a result of this experience I’ve made a decision.

Now this may sound mildly masochistic to you, but I’ve decided to continue commenting on the Huffington Post’s stories.  I’ve gone out and purchased a new set of chain mail to protect me from the slings and arrows and the mauling that I expect will ensue.  But it seems to me that while preaching to the choir offers some psychological validation, it doesn’t have the potential for effecting change as going into the camp of one’s opponents with the hope of finding one or two of the troops who might be willing to consider an alternate point of view.

We’ll see how this goes.  But just in the event that there’s a weak spot in my newly acquired armor, I’ve laid in an adequate supply of gauze bandages and disinfectant.

HUMILITY

foot washing

 

“Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”  – Matthew 25: 40 (KJV)

 

 

As we prepare to celebrate the most holy period of the Christian calendar I wanted to take the time to wish all my readers a blessed Easter and the hope that all of us will focus on those things that are truly important, remembering that all else will eventually “pass away.”

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