6.29.2005

They're All Doing It

They're All Doing It...Natalee Holloway in Aruba

"She's doing the same thing any normal kid would do."--Geraldo Rivera and Mark Fuhrman commenting on Natalee Holloway, on Sean Hannity Radio Show Tuesday, June 28

That’s the problem. I agree that teenagers doing ‘the things teenagers do’ should not get them killed. However, that same behavior may very well have put them at risk. In reality, Natalee’s choice of friends and activities in Aruba did put her at risk. It may be politically incorrect to say that hanging out in bars with strangers is a stupid thing to do. It may be insulting to say that having sex with someone you just met after a few drinks is another poor choice. But, it appears to be absolutely unacceptable and even intolerant to say that those decisions actually put Natalee in danger. They did.

Yes, many teenagers would have done likewise. But, it doesn’t change the fact that those very behaviors that “any normal kid would do,” to quote Rivera and Fuhrman, jeopardized her safety and her life.

She is a victim, nevertheless. No one deserves to be victimized. But, it’s one thing to be held at gunpoint while getting in your car to drive home and quite another to voluntarily make yourself vulnerable to people whose intentions you do not know. I’m concerned that conservatives, like my friend Sean Hannity, who pretend that her behavior on the island didn’t put her at risk, send a deceptive message and do other teens a disservice.

Let’s aim higher. Let’s offer high school graduates celebrations that don’t jeopardize their physical or mental well-being. There are many options to celebrate academic achievement without day-after guilt, regret or grief.

I pray for a miracle in this case. May she be found alive and in good health. And, may we all learn a few lessons in the meanwhile.

6.28.2005

Fools in Love

Have you ever been around new love? The first months of a romance? Newlyweds? The object of affection can simply do no wrong.

I believe that a particular love has reached epidemic proportions in the public square. However, the object of affection is the same: self. And, just as the object of affection in relationship can do no wrong, public figures are behaving in a manner that makes fools in love look brilliant.

Commenting on the Senate Filibuster Deal, Peggy Noonan remarked that, "Every announcement of news in America has become an Academy Awards show. And every speaker has become a variation on Sally Fields: 'I like me, I really like me!'" Her insight sheds light on what might otherwise appear as an epidemic of inexplicable stupidity.

If the problem were mere stupidity, then we might feel pity for the culprits. Unfortunately, I cannot summon even a trace of pity. The apparent foolishness is symptomatic of a much more serious condition, one that permeates our culture: self-absorption.

You see, when you understand that the focus of all things has everything to do with "me" and "my perception" of events and issues, silliness and destructiveness, find a contextual home. They find a contextual home in the same sick way that any swelling or pain makes sense once we discover the source of those symptoms. We don't hate the lump half as much as we do the cancer that paved the way for it. The cancer that has created the lump of the irresponsible, stupid and even dangerous words spoken and written is self-absorption.

It's everywhere. From the Senate floor to the Amazon best seller list, there are signs of this love, respect and adoration of self.

The most flamboyant of the examples of this self-love is Senator Durbin of Illinois. His inane, irresponsible comparison of our troops to the Nazis drove a knife into the back of our nation's military and military families, put our troops in danger and hurt millions of people around the world. He was eventually coerced to apologize, like a child insisting that he was still right, striving to defend himself, reaching for an Abraham Lincoln quote hinting that in the end, he may be proven right. An apology that consists of "I'm sorry that hurt you" is no apology at all. It's his way to say, "it's your problem, not mine, that I'm right." What an obnoxious, arrogant stunt-jeopardizing our nation's reputation abroad, the morale at home and the safety of our troops-in order to prove a point about his own rhetoric. I think the Senator would have done well to quote a different Lincoln quote. How about this one, Senator:
“Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged.”
Our public officials need to be reminded that they are servants of the people and not of their own egos and agendas.

The most chilling consequence of this self-love epidemic is the recent Supreme Court rulings. Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life so that they aren’t swayed by public opinion. I believe our Founders would turn over in their graves at the thought, much less an actual, ruling to hijack private property and to declare it unconstitutional to post the Ten Commandments in a courtroom. The Founders, who replaced “the pursuit of property” with “the pursuit of happiness” because they were virtually synonymous. The Founders who declared that we are “endowed by (our) Creator with certain unalienable rights.” The Founders who pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor in service to their God and the people they served. These men put self on the altar. They considered their lives a sacrifice for the nation they served. If they were in love, it was with something much greater than themselves; it was for a cause, a people and a land.

Sometimes love is blind in a very scary way. I fear for our nation in the way I’d feel for a woman in an abusive relationship. We have obliterated the concept of absolutes; we have eroded respect for the Law of our land…all the while, we have consistently honored and adored self. If we don’t return to God-fearing and self-sacrificing leadership, we’ll be doomed to the tyranny from which our founders escaped.

6.17.2005

A Thousand Words...

A Thousand Words…

It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. I’m often a bit confused as to what exactly the president and other Republicans think they are communicating so many times. I'm not sure what they are thinking but I'd like to give them a peek into my thoughts about some noteworthy pictures.

January 8, 2002: President Bush and Teddy. President Bush shared the stage with Teddy Kennedy in celebration of the No Child Left Behind compromise. What a noble cause. Compromise can be a good thing. I trusted the President. I thought I could. He wouldn't compromise on core issues, right? Wrong. He did. Increased federal control; decreased parental choice; increased spending. It wasn’t consistent with the Reagan model of conservatism he so boldly espoused.

Seeing that picture of the President and Senator Kennedy sharing the stage at the bill signing simply turned my stomach. What was that about: the best we could offer the children of our nation or an attempt to gain political praise? That photo op represents yet another conservative political and PR gaff accompanied by the all-too-familiar savvy, crafty liberal machinations. Not a good picture.

May 13, 2005: Newt and Hillary. I had just returned from overseas. I logged on to the internet to find out what I'd missed. What headlined the Drudge Report was a picture of Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich. I’d only been gone for a week. Had hell frozen over? Was this jet lag, a bad dream or reality? I am supposed to believe that the Clinton-Gingrich alliance is simply a cooperative effort in the interest of health care in our nation.

Honestly, it looked more like a union borne out of self interest and designed to earn political capital of the two individuals participating in the deal. I don’t doubt that they both have a burden to improve health care. However, there’s too much history there. The most likely and most liberal Democratic Presidential nominee standing alongside one of her husband’s greatest political nemesis strikes me as magnificently calculating. Another bad pose. I hate it for those who really are in desperate need for health care. I hate the posturing and the manipulation it represents.

Now: President Bush and a porn star. Apparently, the National Congressional Republican Committee has invited Mark Kulkis, president of Kick Ass productions (a porn production company), to dine with the President. “I’m honored to be invited to this event,” Kulkis said. “Republicans bill themselves as the pro-business party. Well, you won’t find a group of people more pro-business than pornographers. We contributed over $10 billion to the national economy last year.” Kulkis and Mary Carey, porn star, are guests of the president. What, exactly, is the White House thinking? Why is the pro-family president of the Faith Based Initiative associating with this most perverse, destructive and degrading of “businesses.”

What would compel the president and the Republican Congressional Committee to set up a photo op with glorified pimps and prostitutes? It’s obvious, based on Kulkis’ statement, what it is that they seek from the president. What does the president stand to gain? Nothing. As a matter of fact, worse than nothing; he will have quite a bit of explaining to do. Is the Republican party so desperate for money that they don’t care where it comes from? They better take note. That’ll be another picture many of us remember. We're not likely to have fond memories of this one either.

It’s been said that bad company corrupts good morals. It may also be true that bad company reflects a condoning at worst and a tolerance at best of those morals. President Bush can’t escape his role as the First Citizen, the model for Americans—adults and children alike. If he doesn’t redeem this photo op, many Americans who proudly elected him will be ashamed of their president. It’s going to take more than a thousand words to gain that respect back.

Human Trafficking...The Irony

Human Trafficking…The Irony

The State Department just released its Human Trafficking Report last week. Officials rebuked several ally nations for not doing enough to combat human trafficking in their respective nations.

I’m thankful that the United States continues to voice human rights concerns and doesn’t hesitate to sanction its allies. It’s more than can be said about most nations. Far more. However, the irony in the matter of the value and consequent treatment of human life is striking. We frown upon the mistreatment of women and children, and rightly so. (According to the State Department, 80% of the victims are women and 50% are children.) No human being should be considered property. The permanent stain of slavery on the pages of our nation’s history will forever remind us. However, it appears we have lapses in our memory.

The nation scolding the world for degrading and defiling human beings for self-gratification and greed exploits women and children as the largest exporter of pornography to the world. The adult film industry produces approximately 6,000 movies each year and grosses over four million dollars, comparable to the annual gross revenue of the National Football League. (New York Post, September 25, 2003) If anything degrades and debases women, pornography does exactly that. The 80% of the human trafficking victims are women is not simply because women are such good domestic workers and nannies; the sex trade is rampant. It’s like pornography, the exploitation of a woman’s body for personal or professional profit. And with the internet, the industry is growing at an unprecedented rate. Where are the women’s rights advocates? Does the fact that women choose the degradation and humiliation make it any less a form of slavery? Does it demand any less of a response from human rights adovactes?

With the government’s blessing, abortion has claimed the lives of over 42 million victims. We virtually idolize a woman’s right to choose. In the name of ensuring the ‘right’ for women, we trample upon the most fundamental of all rights, the right to life, of all the girls and boys in the womb. If we can place a higher value on comfort, convenience, career and pleasure than on any life, why would it ever surprise us that we can place our own comfort, convenience and pleasure over the innocence and necessity to protect the body and soul of a child? If life is disposable, then nothing is sacred.

I’m dumbfounded at every report of a teacher abusing a student for sexual gratification. It’s sickening anytime, no matter the culprit. Those entrusted and expected to care for children disregard responsibility for their own base motives. The crime is so common among male perpetrators that those stories rarely make the national news cycle anymore. Is it an indication that we’ve lost our bearings as a culture? Or, have we created a culture of disposable children? If they can be aborted for selfish purposes, then why can’t they be otherwise used for selfish purposes? Now that female teachers have taken center stage with the perversion, the silence is deafening. Where is the outrage from the same voices who are the first to condemn the international community for ‘human rights abuses?’ Where are the voices who rightly condemned the prisoner abuses in our state-run Abu Gharib facility? These violations aren’t taking place at Neverland Ranch; they’re in the state-mandated education facilities.

We may look down on nations not fighting human trafficking. But, I propose we take a closer look at our own human rights violations. What happened to the vision of a ‘city on a hill’? What are we asking the world to emulate: The degradation and defiling of women and children? It may not technically be human trafficking. But, it’s the root of all human rights violations.

I’m not sure how seriously the State Department’s report is taken Saudi Arabia or Bolivia. But, if we don’t re-evaluate our own human rights practices, it may not matter. In his book Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “America is great because she is good. If America ceased to be good, America will cease to be great.” It’s time that we restore good to the fabric of our culture. It’s time we restore the value of women, the innocence of children and the commitment to life.