How Not To Respond To The Prodigal Son

What do you say to a Democrat who says

“This isn’t fair! I worked hard to be honest and caring to my fellow man, and was active trying to get laws passed that would benefit humanity, thinking it would eventually get me elected as President of the United States. Then Trump comes along, insults everyone he can think of, gropes women, thinks only of himself, offers nothing but lie after lie in a blatant effort to tell people whatever he thinks they wanted to hear, and doesn’t even try to hide his ignorant, hateful, and self-centered ways. Yet there he is, now working out of the oval office. Why did I waste my whole life being so good?”

This is not a new problem, with precedents going back thousands of years.  There are even a couple of cases in the Bible that may shed light on this situation.

The Prodigal Son

This story D is about a father and his two grown sons. One day the younger son asks for his inheritance. The father relents, and the son takes off and squanders his new assets on drink and parties.  He falls on hard times, eventually realizes that even his father’s servants are better off than he is, comes to his senses, and returns to his father’s house begging for forgiveness.  The father is thrilled to see him back and throws a party.  Most sermons focus on this part of the story, but one of my preachers went on to discuss the ‘good’ older son, who remained with the father and looked after the farm while the younger son was away.  Like the Democrat mentioned above, the older son wasn’t so happy that the father threw a party for the errant son and not him, even though he was the one who did all the work.

A Deathbed Conversion

Then there is the issue of ‘deathbed conversions’, where a long-time sinner repents just before s/he dies. In the earliest case, mentioned in Luke 23:39–43, a lifetime thief being crucified on a cross next to Jesus’ asked to be remembered when Jesus gets to his kingdom. Jesus agrees. But if you were to Google “deathbed conversion” you would find plenty of articles questioning the existence of a genuine last-minute change of heart. I, for one, can appreciate a little skepticism, but as Reverend Billy Graham points out in www.christianpost.com, God is a lot harder to fool than many christians give him credit for, and less predictable. The doubting “christians” whose complaint follows the same reasoning as our first Democrat mentioned above may be telling us more about what’s in their heart than the heart of the convert, as I discussed in “It’s The Light”.

How I See It

Those people who complain about having missed opportunities to be jerks simply don’t understand the concept and are not good Democrats, or christians, or just regular people, as the case may be. If you don’t see the benefits of improving the lot of your fellow wo/man as well as yourself; if you don’t really believe that honesty and fairness make for happier people in both the short and long run than debauchery or ass-holiness do, then you are just another fraud – no better than those who you are complaining about.  It’s that simple.

I apologize for the lack of diversity of my examples – both are from the  New Testament of the Bible.  I didn’t remember anything pertinent from Greek mythology (I did find plenty of life lessons in those stories while in school even though their gods had even more flaws than our current President), and there are plenty of other realms and resources about which I know nothing.  If you have better references for this issue, I would be glad to hear them.  I would even accept counterexamples.

For another example of cluelessness, see my blog post Another Clueless “Christian”? As to the matter of forgiveness, the questions I posed in What I Still Don’t Know About Forgiveness have yet to be resolved.

Not Quite Clear On The Concept – Part 1

Earlier this month, the Catholic archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, decreed that after four years of Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) basketball together, the St. John’s 5th grade team (nine boys and two girls) would not be allowed to play the last two games of the season with girls on the teamA.

First, A Little Math

The maximum of any subset cannot be greater than the set maximum.  This means that if the largest member of your weight-watching group is, say 400 pounds, then as people leave the group, that maximum will not get instantaneously larger; it could remain 400 pounds for a while, but will probably eventually get smaller.

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The average group weight, on the other hand, could go up or down depending on how people are selected for removal from the group, but averages aren’t generally used to measure greatness.

Similarly, in sports you cannot raise the level of competition by restricting participation, meaning that you can’t say your team is the best in the universe if any member of the universe was barred from competing.  Consequently, the only logical reason for restricting membership would be to protect those members from unfair competition, meaning a team would only ban girls if they thought their boys weren’t ready for real competition. As we all know, a group’s stated reasons for an action may differ from their real reasons.

I suspect the archdiocese’s advertised reason for the decree is to protect girls from competition they can no longer handle.  But for that argument to have any credibility at all, at least two new conditions would have to be in effect:

  1. There would actually have to be a girl’s team if you want anybody to believe that their interests are really your first priority.
  2. You would protect a “weaker” group by banning the unfair competition from that group, not banning the allegedly weaker competition from the “stronger” or open group. The later option will rightly cause others to question your motives. “Who are you really protecting?”

The required game forfeitures would be further evidence of their true motive. A team is required to forfeit a game only if they won using an unfair advantage. You would not make a boxer forfeit all the matches he won with one hand tied behind his back. Obviously, the other boy’s teams not only considered the girls a threat, but most likely the sole reason for the team’s success.

A Happy Ending

On hearing the decree, the St. John’s 5th grade team immediately and unanimously decided to stick with their teammates and forfeit the season.

The girls, understandably, felt bad and offered to sacrifice themselvesA.  St. John’s athletic director honorably rejected that offer (although in the body of that article, it suggests that the league director had already cancelled St. John’s season, making the athletic director’s gesture moot.)

A new Cardinal reversed the ban and allows St. John’s to playA.

A Not-So-Happy Ending: Politics Trumps Logic

I just read about a different, but logically related case in TexasA, where a girl was taking testosterone to become a boy and wanted to compete with boys, but was required to compete as a girl and won their state wrestling championship. I’ll leave the application of principle and subsequent comments to the reader.

Another Clueless “Christian”?

Not long ago, on the Facebook page of an acquaintance, a discussion was brewing about the Pope having the audacity to say Donald Trump was not a Christian.

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I won’t give you a link to the Facebook discussion, but here’s a New York Times article describing the Pope’s remarksA.
One person suggested the Ten Commandments were the true litmus testD of Christianity.  This week I read that The Donald’s favorite Bible verse is “an eye for an eye”A. There seems to be some sort of misunderstanding here. Were this a characteristic peculiar to Trump supporters I would probably have let it slide, but I’m concerned that it is indicative of a growing segment of the population who call themselves Christians, but are clearly clueless about the concept.

My Background

I don’t  consider myself any sort of theology expert.  I’ve even been rumored to have nodded off in the middle of a sermon or two, and am not even guaranteed to come to the same conclusions as our pastor when reading any particular passage.  On each of the few occasions I actually tried reading the Bible cover-to-cover, I was becalmed in one of the begat sections.

Although I’m not a Catholic, I have been impressed with the latest Pope; he didn’t just memorize verses, he actually seems to understand a Biblical concept or two.  In fact, he is so different in my view from his predecessors that I’m amazed he was actually elected (maybe it was Divine Intervention).

The point is you shouldn’t take my word for any of this.  Maybe you should just read the Book.  I’ll give references when I can.  But just beware the begats.

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OK, if you must know, you can find some of them at Genesis 5:1 to end, Genesis 11:10 to end, Genesis 36:1 to end, . . . , Matthew 1:2 through 17, Luke 3:23 to end. This list is not exhaustive. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Bible Background

The way I understand it, the Bible has two parts; the first, called “The Old Testament” could be considered the prequel.  It includes the Jewish (who would prefer not to be called Christian) Torah, their most important text, and spans the period from the creation of the universe (now referred to as the “Big Bang”) up to, but not including the birth of Christ (from which the word “Christian” is derived), a.k.a. Jesus, a.k.a. all kinds of other titles. The New Testament is His story.

The Ten Commandments are in the Torah and therefore are in the Old Testament (Exodus 20:1–17D and then again in Deuteronomy 5:4–21D).  “An eye for an eye” has an even longer history. According to Wikipedia, the principle of “an eye for an eye” goes back to Babylonian LawA, where it was actually an attempt to limit any retaliation so that it wasn’t worse than the original offense.  In English, that means it represents the maximum allowed punishment, not the minimum required punishment (although that interpretation does not seem apparent to me in the language of the Bible).   The rule is repeated three times in the Old Testament (Exodus 21:24D, Leviticus 24:20D, Deuteronomy 19:21D).

The Problem

As I hinted before, the Old Testament does not define Christianity.  Christ (also known as Jesus) defines Christianity.  The Old Testament repeats principles that are shared with half of the (non-Christian) population of the middle east.  But we are in luck; Jesus did specifically address the “eye for an eye” idea.  In Matthew 5:38 through 42, He clearly states

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evildoer. On the contrary, whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go two with him. 42 Give to the person who asks you for something, and do not turn away from the person who wants to borrow something from you.”

(Is this where the Pope got his Communist streakA?)

But What Did Allah Say?

Since the “eye for an eye” idea seemed to be so pervasive, I decided to check one more reference: the Quran.   As far as I can tell, it is only mentioned once:

“And We wrote for them in it: a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and an equal wound for a wound; but whoever forgoes it in charity, it will serve as atonement for him. Those who do not rule according to what God revealed are the evildoers.”

I think this mirrors the sentiments of Jesus.  While doing research, I found another interesting story that may support this view:

“A man came to the Messenger of Allah with the killer of his relative.
The Prophet said: Pardon him.
But the man refused.
The Prophet said: Take the blood money.
But the man refused.
The Prophet said: Go and kill him, for you are like him.
So the man pardoned the criminal.”

Conclusions?

You can’t have your cake and eat it too.  If you are not going to follow the teachings of Jesus (the Communist), then you can’t continue to call yourself a Christian.

Sometimes I come away from an issue with more questions than answers.  In this case I’m wondering what Mr. Trump is really trying to say:

Is he, like the Babylonians, citing this rule as an upper limit on our retaliation?  And recognizing that since September 11, 2001 we have killed far more Muslims (over 100,000 in Iraq alone) than we lost in those terrorist attacks (under 3,000) and the Iraq war (around 4,400) combined,  is he suggesting we should end our war on terror?

Is the real reason he wants to bar Muslims from coming to America is that they make him look barbaric?

By quoting the Quran, I am not endorsing Islam; nor do I have any intention of converting to Islam.  For many of you “Christians”, however, it sounds like it might be a step up.

Another Reason Why Moderate Muslims Matter

On a friend’s Facebook page recently, I found a videoA which turns out to be from a hearing of a Heritage Foundation panel on the Benghazi attacks on June 17, 2014

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Possibly one reason I hadn’t seen this video earlier is that I knew right away what House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy admitted in SeptemberA, which is that the Benghazi investigation, like the investigation into Hillary’s emails, is all a sham. A sham that has cost taxpayers millions of dollars without gaining any useful information during its many, many months of existence (it is rather pathetic, even shameful, that ANY politician would use those four poor souls as pawns for some lame political agenda). Consequently, I haven’t been paying it much attention.
In this video, one of the panelists, Brigette Gabriel, goes off on an unsuspecting member of the audience, Saba Ahmed, who, while asking a serious question about the merits of an ideological war vs. the more traditional “nuke ’em ’til they glow” approach so popular with the Republican Party, had the audacity to suggest that most Muslims in the world (and America) weren’t the enemy.  Ms. Gabriel made it clear that she couldn’t give a sh# about moderate Muslims (in her words, they are “irrelevant”).  In Ms. Gabriel’s rant, she mentioned that “according to ALL intelligence services around the world”, 15 to 25% of all the 1.2-1.8 billion Muslims in the world were radical (and by the tone of her comments, I assume she was perfectly happy with the traditional approach and is willing to fight an all-out war with ALL Muslims to protect America).
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Ms. Gabriel is not alone in her tough talk on foreign policy issues. It seems that all the Republican presidential candidates like to pound their chests and talk tough, yet not one of them has even one minute of service in the United States military.
The sad part was that Ms. Gabriel received a standing ovation and on the site where I first saw this videoA, 81% of responses were thumbs up vs. 19% thumbs down.

How The Numbers Show That Ms. Gabriel Should Care (About All Moderates)

First, A Fact Check

Apparently Ms. Gabriel missed a few of the world’s sources of intelligence.  On the first page of my Google search I found a site that raised serious questions about the methods of those making such outlandish claimsA and at least one sourceA who claims that less than one percent of Muslims in their area “are at risk for becoming radicals” (emphasis added).

The Infamous Blue Taxi

Next, although the math used in my argument can be broken down to basic fractions, it is foreign (no pun intended) to many people. Specifically, I will be using the same reasoning used in the well-known story of the blue taxi cab, as presented by Presh Talwalkar in the Mind Your Decisions blog. I suggest you check out that article. If the math and logic makes sense to you, then continue here, where I will explain how that reasoning applies to this situation.

Before I start this particular line of reasoning, I would like to point out that there are several reasons, whether religious, ethical, or just pragmatic, to treat your neighbors with respect.  Note that political correctness is NOT on this list of good reasons.  Nothing I say here should be taken as trying to discount those other legitimate reasons in any way.

In the story of the blue taxi cab, a witness identified a blue taxi as the culprit in a hit-and-run accident late one evening.  Even though the witness was 80% reliable in identifying the color of taxis at that late hour, in this case it was shown that he was most likely wrong.  In jumping to conclusions, most people don’t realize there are two situations in a case like this that one needs to consider: the obvious situation is the likelihood that the witness correctly identified the blue taxi (which was pretty good, actually).  What most people fail to consider is the likelihood that the witness incorrectly identified a different-colored taxi as blue.  Because of the scarcity of blue taxis where this story took place, the second consideration proved to be the most significant factor.

Changing Muslim Minds

Since moderate Muslims are irrelevant, there would be no reason for Ms. Gabriel to treat them any different from the ones out to terrorize America, which means you can expect her to treat all Muslims very badly as part of her ”war on terrorism”, as you can see in the first video.  How many terrorist minds do you think she will change?  Although they technically wouldn’t qualify, I’ll let you count the ones she kills.  If she gets half of them the first year (being grossly optimistic), that would represent less than one half of one percent of all Muslims, so let’s say eight million “converts to Christianity”.  Since all Muslims look the same to her, we can assume a similar number of moderate Muslims will bite the dust.

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As a quick reality check, compare those sixteen million dead Muslims to the number of Iraqis that were killed in the Iraq warA – 17 thousand Iraqi government troops, less than 4 thousand additional ‘friendly’ casualties, 27 thousand bad guys, and 66 thousand (innocent) civilians.  Most of these casualties occurred in the first four years of the conflictA. Also consider how many Americans died trying to achieve those numbers – around 4,400, with another 32 thousand wounded.  (That’s over a thousand times the number that died in Benghazi.  How many hundreds of investigations did the Heritage Foundation hold on that “scandal”? (OK, I admit that although this seems to be standard Republican procedure, it is lame for me to insinuate wrongdoing with absolutely no supporting evidence.  In the interest of fairness, I will publish any exonerating details when you provide them.)  It is possible that some dead American soldiers are worth more than others to opportunistic politicians).  To summarize, for every hundred bad guys killed, 63 of the local good guys were killed and 244 innocent civilians, meaning only one out of four casualties was a bad guy.  Now you can extrapolate these figures (just multiply everything by around 300 (bringing American deaths to over 1.3 million) to get an idea of the true costs of this strategy.  In preparation for the next paragraph, you might also ask yourself “How many of those other casualties were really converted (or convertible) to Christianity?  And how many of their families and friends would be?

Making More Terrorists

Just like the blue taxi cab witness, the reason Ms. Gabriel is wrong is that she failed to consider the taxi cabs that aren’t really blue.  In English, that means if she really wants to win the war on terrorism, she needs to consider the non-terrorist – the moderate Muslims – that she so willingly threw under the bus.  In that first year that Ms. Gabriel killed those eight million terrorists (and luckily only eight million innocent bystanders), which represents half of all the ‘known’ terrorists in the world, it is unlikely that she converted a single surviving Muslim, terrorist or not, to Christianity.  It is much more likely that she converted many more moderate Muslims into “terrorists”.  And it doesn’t have to be at the same rate at which she “converted” the terrorists (50%), it doesn’t have to be even one tenth of that (5%).  If Ms. Gabriel radicalizes Muslim’s at only one hundredth of the rate at which she eliminated them, she (and we) are in deep trouble; there will be more terrorists at the end of the bloody year than there were at the beginning.  In the next year, when Ms. Gabriel gets even tougher on these heathens, the results are guaranteed to be worse.

And Then There Is Israel

If you think this couldn’t or wouldn’t happen, consider Israel.  They have been battling the “terrorist” Palestinians for over fifty years.  When Palestinian teenagers throw rocks, Israeli soldiers call in the tanks.  When a genuine Palestinian terrorist fires a crude scud missile that falls harmlessly to the side or is destroyed by Israel’s advanced missile defense, the Israelis fire a dozen high-powered smart missiles to obliterate whole communities of women and children (the going rate for an Israeli casualty was only 30 Palestinians during the last war, down from the 100 lives for each Israeli that has been their tradition).  When the Palestinians aren’t fighting back, the Israelis put up road blocks and check points everywhere and even build large walls through the middle of Palestinian communities.  They set up a blockade to keep the regular Palestinians from rebuilding and moving on with their lives.  How many Palestinians do you think have converted to Judaism in those last fifty years?  While I suspect that the Israelis have killed enough people to account for the original terrorists many times over, there are (surprisingly?) more genuine Palestinian terrorists today than ever before.

Don’t Try This Trick At Home, Kids

A rational person might be asking “After fifty years, why are the Israelis still using those same failed tactics (after all, they’ve got to be smarter than Cubans, right?A).  The truth is, the Israelis aren’t looking for converts.  The Israelis aren’t looking for peace.  The Israelis are apparently only looking for cheap land.  Since our goals are not the same as the Israelis (we already stole all the cheap land we could possibly use), and since we don’t have another country subsidizing our war effort, we cannot afford to follow the same tactics as the Israelis.  We should, however, take advantage of the results of their little experiment in how (not) to modify human behavior.

So Now What?

All I know for sure, after doing the math and studying world history, is that Ms. Gabriel’s approach is doomed to failure.  But history has given us other (even successful) examples.  Do some research (must I do all the heavy lifting?).  Maybe we could learn something from Gandhi, for example.  It’s possible that Ms. Saba Ahmed’s idea (from the first paragraph above) about an ideological war (whatever that means) could have merit.   Another Book on human behavior comes to mind which contains wisdom that has stood the test of thousands of years – yes, I’m referring to the Bible.  Taking the higher moral ground has repeatedly shown definite positive benefits (and I’m not referring to the Hereafter).  So re-read the Book; take notes this time – but if you’re not planning on using your Bible, maybe you could get a good price for it from Ms. Gabriel’s converts.  Since we apparently have no further use for the Statue of Liberty, I’m sure the Republicans have already started looking around for a potential buyer so they can further cut taxes on their poor rich buddies.  Maybe they could gather up a few million “like new”, very lightly used Bibles to sweeten the deal.

I am actually concerned about the citizens of the United States of America abandoning the values that made this country great.  I’m concerned about the apparent dumbing down of America.  Those factors could be related.  It seems like the pace of this decline may have picked up after “9/11”.  I’m reminded of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s remark “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”D.  If I get a chance, I may try to answer the questions “What the hell was he talking about?” and “Why the f*& should we care what some dead President had to say?”  Future articles may also address our education system.  An even more timely topic would be “What to look for when deciding which politician to vote for”.  Unfortunately, I don’t yet have a definitive list of the important characteristics (and the least important characteristics), so all I can do for now is to encourage you to stop being so shallow.  Stay tuned.

P.S.

I did not post a comment on the Facebook page which had the video mentioned in the first sentence.  That friend happens to be a high school math teacher (and by all accounts, a very good one).  As far as I know, we are still friends.

What I Still Don’t Know About Forgiveness

Remember those times in school when you were able to just follow along while your teacher was explaining a topic, and it made so much sense that you didn’t bother to take notes or study that night for the next quiz, only to discover when reading the very first question, that your grasp of the subject wasn’t nearly as strong as you first thought?  That’s where I am right now on the topic of forgiveness.  I’m beginning to suspect that my earlier understanding of forgiveness may have been incomplete.

The Definition

Maybe I should go back and review the definition of forgiveness.  The Free Dictionary starts with “To give up resentment against or stop wanting to punish (someone) for an offense or fault”.  That sounds simple enough.  Forgiveness is something my preacher has covered many, many times, and it’s not too hard to see that without it you can wind up in a feud like the Hatfields and the McCoys that goes on so long that neither side can remember what the original disagreement was all about.

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OK, this might be the simplified Hollywood version.  For a more historical version, you can check out www.todayifoundout.com.

A Possible Motive

For Christians, forgiveness has a central role in the Lord’s PrayerD, which Jesus recited when asked by one of his disciples how they should pray to their God, as described in two places (Matthew Chapter 6, Verses 9 through 13 as well as Luke 11:2-4).  Just for reference, the line in that prayer that is pertinent to this discussion goes something like “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” For the longest time I focused only on the first half of that sentence. It was only recently that I woke up to the second clause and realized that when saying the prayer I hadn’t just been asking for blanket forgiveness, as I had originally thought, but was telling God to follow my lead – meaning if I wasn’t willing to forgive others, then He was off the hook for my own transgressions.  That was sobering.

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At the time, I thought this “awakening” of mine was an epiphany brought about by my greater understanding of biblical concepts.  Now I see that for those of you who weren’t so blessed, this idea is spelled out in Matthew 6:14, immediately after the prayer.

The Questions

So here is my question. I would have gone to my preacher, but I was not sure he would have taken me seriously. And although I’m not the kind of person who takes everything literally (and I’m not suggesting that you are such a person, either), this question will use trespassing as the sin of choice.  Suppose you are on your own property and you see somebody walking along. You identify yourself and ask them to leave. Do you forgive them before or after they leave your property? And if they refuse to leave, do you forgive them before or after you shoot them?

Here’s another aspect I’m not clear on.  I guess you could call me greedy; for some time now I’ve wanted more from God than just forgiveness. What I’ve been praying for instead was to be cured of that particular sin so I don’t need to be forgiven over and over again.  Would that be cheating?

Are those questions related somehow?  Perhaps they are just two sides to the same coin.

Now it’s time for me to shut up and turn the discussion over to my readers.  Any help you can give me toward greater understanding would be greatly appreciated.

The Statue – A Modern Fable (or Allegory?)

Once upon a time, in the not so distant past, in the land of Euwessovay,

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The anglicized version of the Greek word Euwessovay would be “U.S. of A.”

a huge island far off the coast of ancient Greece, there lived a great sculptor, who came from a long line of great sculptors descended from PygmalionA.  This sculptor was commissioned to create a statue for the leaders of the Scotus Society,

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One club in the new land was so enamored with this ancient society that they made their name a backronymD of the older group. They now call themselves “The Supreme Court Of The United States”.

and as you’d expect, he did an outstanding job.  The Scotus Society was a powerful group of old men, who were considered to be the wisest in the land, and as many of you know, “statue” is an ancient Greek word for corporation.  Everybody in ancient Greece knew that a statue, although created by humans for the benefit and enjoyment of humans, was not really human; even Pygmalion knew that.  Unlike the famous work of this sculptor’s ancestor, this statue was not in the form of a beautiful woman.  To ensure his commission, the sculptor took a lesson from another compatriot of the old country, NarcissusA, and made the statue in the likeness of the society elders.  When they received the statue, the members of the society each saw himself in the statue and immediately fell in love.  They loved the statue so much that they unanimously decreed that it would thereafter be considered human with all of the rights and privileges thereof.  And thus was the law of the land.  Not quite satisfied, they later decreed unanimously that this statue would be granted the highest honor and privilege in the land, specifically the right to completely disregard the “Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness”
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This quote is attributed to Thomas Jefferson, who in the Declaration of Independence claimed these terms were unalienable Rights endowed by our Creator.

of all lesser humans, namely women, and to ignore all of their needs and individual religious beliefs, as his gods commanded him.”

Nobody yet knows how this story will turn out.  Although it was born from the mind of men, this statue is no AthenaA. And in this version of the Incarnation, it is the mother’s role that is missing instead of the father’s; maybe this new human will be the atheists’ answer to Jesus Christ.  Nonetheless, this statue is now a proper and natural citizen of the great island state of Euwessovay, which means that because it is male, this statue could well be declared the country’s next Grand Commander.  And because statues never die, we could all be serving this great leader for years to come.

The Blind Men and the Elephant – The Full Story

There is an old story about several blind men who encountered an elephant.  This story plays an important role in several religions around the Indian subcontinent, as explained in great detail in Wikipedia.

Here Is My Version:

“Once upon a time, an aide brought an elephant into a home for the blind in India where a team of scholars was writing the first blind dictionary.  The elephant was soon surrounded by a number of blind men.  The first man, after feeling the elephant’s leg, declared that an elephant is like a pillar, and then proceeded to jot down his notes.  The second man, holding the tail, announced that an elephant was like a rope before he recorded his findings.  The scholar next to the elephant’s ear decided that this creature was like a winnowing basket, while another by the trunk couldn’t quite figure out whether he was dealing with a tree branch or a water spout.  He took careful notes.  Other men found the belly to be a wall or a granary, and the tusk to be either a solid pipe or a plowshare.   The head resembled a pot, the back a throne, and lastly, the tip of the tail evoked a brush.

While reviewing their notes, a discussion broke out among the scholars about their differing individual findings.  Since each of the men was certain that his own observations were correct, an argument developed, which grew heated, and before long the team was embroiled in a full brawl.  Only one man survived the scuffle.  He proceeded with the project and as a result it was his (limited) definition of an elephant that ultimately went into the blind dictionary, and so it remained for many, many years to follow.  While this man was finishing his work, the elephant was neglected, and eventually became hungry, and then agitated, and then wound up trampling the man to death as it made it’s escape.”

The Rest of the Story*

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* with a tip of the hat to the late Paul HarveyA

The aide returned a couple days later to find everyone dead and no elephant, so he ran to get the police and then returned home.  After their investigation of the scene, the police concluded that the elephant was the principal suspect in all of the killings and so, using the last scholar’s description, they put out a bulletin for it’s capture.  When they canvassed the neighborhood, one gentleman asked if this was the same pink elephantD that had been haunting him for years.  After reviewing the notes of the victims and other evidence at the scene, they found nothing that would rule out that possibility.  After an exhaustive search, however, the perpetrating pink pillar was never found and the case was eventually closed.

So What?

There have been several morals derived from the earlier versions of this story.  I feel that it reveals important human foibles and I may be referring to this story in future discussions and possibly coming to my own conclusions.

Who I am (Part 1)

What you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for:

Those of my attributes that aren’t relevant to the discussion at hand are really none of your business. My sex is one of those, or should I say gender, because you will not find on these pages any “battle of the sexes” comments about why one sex is better than the other or engaging in any discussions using cliches and tired stereotypes to bash the opposition.  I always thought those were stupid, even as far back as the preteen years, when catching cooties from members of the opposite sex suddenly became such a huge concern for most of my friends.   Similarly, I won’t be discussing my sexual orientation.  I know what it is, and my partner knows what it is, and since you are neither of those, I’m hard pressed to understand why you care.  I doubt my height, weight, or race will have any role in this blog either.

Why I’m doing this:

Many people would consider me old.   You would probably pick up on that soon enough.  Back in the 1970’s, during the CB radio craze, “Silent Knight” was my handle (“Holy Knight” was never considered).  Being true to character, however, nobody ever heard that name from me. I had learned early in life that you can learn more with your mouth shut.  As I’ve been aging (especially more recently), I find myself becoming more opinionated, however, or maybe just more concerned about the direction this country is taking.  I understand that’s the path a lot of people take as they get older.   I just hope I have a few more good years left before my wildest fears get the best of me and I’m forced to become a Republican.

Politics is an acceptable topic for this blog.   Religion is also an acceptable topic for this blog. Since I am by no means an expert on any of these topics, I was hoping I could count on my readers to keep me honest.  As I hinted in the first paragraph, I will not let these discussions deteriorate into mindless sound bites and one-liners.  I expect respondents to actually address the issues and questions brought to light by those before them instead of talking past them in parallel conversations. Facts are important (but might be refuted by other facts). Facts cannot be trumped by theories or opinions, and even anecdotes could be considered suspicious.

We will discuss people’s rights in this blog. As an example, this is my blog and your right to free speech ended when you entered.  I expect to be a gracious host

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
As usual, “host” here is the generic, gender-neutral form which could include “hostess”.

and welcome encourage opposing points of view, but I am under no obligation to let you trash all rules of civility and intelligent discourse to spout some mindless, unsupportable crap.  In that case, I may or may not use you as another fine example of an idiot, at my sole discretion.

More about me:

As you guessed, I consider myself to be liberal in most areas (although what once was considered liberal has since been relabeled “socialist”, and may now even be called “communist” by those who obviously have no idea what they are talking about.

Although I mention religion as a possible topic, I didn’t say anything about my own religious views yet.  That’s not something I can do in 25 words or less; I was hoping I’d have time for that later.  Also later, the astute reader will learn some of the various life experiences I have had, but only as they relate to a particular topic.

The last thing you may need to know is that I have absolutely no fear of numbers.  Numbers are merely a subset of human language and a shorthand in effective communication.  I am likely to fact-check the numbers before other parts of an article.  But if you think you can avoid scrutiny by simply leaving them out, be aware that any argument you make that is devoid of facts (many of which are best described with numbers) may suffer in terms of credibility and may not make it very far in this conversation.  Just saying.  Thanks for listening.  I am looking forward to a hearty discussion.