The Cottage on the Moor is a place where I'll keep a fire going on cold winter nights and a breeze flowing through the windows on steamy summer days. There will be a "cup of warm" waiting for you to stimulate your mind. I'll try to keep it fresh by adding something every now and then. So come often. I hope you find it worth your while.
Just as the nation was waiting to hear from the “re-invented”
Mitt Romney (or is that the “re-re-re-invented Mitt Romney), expecting – well,
at least hoping – to hear perhaps the first civil, truthful speech of the
recent Republican Convention, we get . . . Clint
It is hard to imagine that the organizers of the convention
or the Romney campaign are pleased with what Mr. Eastwood delivered. Hard to
imagine, perhaps, but not impossible. The response of the crowd, standing,
cheering, waving banners, guffawing of Eastwood’s obscenities really told the
whole story. Whether Eastwood went “off-script” or did as he was directed to
do, it went over like a million helium-filled balloons.
For those who didn’t see his performance, Eastwood spoke
with an empty chair beside him which was intended to represent President Obama.
Eastwood invented a conversation in which he “questioned” the President and
then invented the answers he thought would please his audience. The entire ten
minute speech was a rambling insult to intelligent discourse but there were
two particular points at which Eastwood stepped over the boundary of human
At various points in the speech, he pretended that the
President was telling him to “shut up.” Of course, being Clint Eastwood, no one
tells him to shut up. But the really
onerous sections of his performance was when he suggested that the President
was telling him, first to tell Romney to . . . well, you have to read it
yourself to see the impertinence of it:
What? What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that.
That. He can't do that to himself.
And then, later
in the speech this again:
OK, well, anyway. All right, I'm sorry. I can't do that to myself either.
To be fair to the
delegates at the convention who endorsed this guttural trash talk with their
cheers and applause, it is possible that, in a noisy environment, they didn’t
really comprehend Eastwood’s words; that they were just excited to hear someone
trash the man they love to hear trashed. But they can now read the transcript
and see exactly what was said. Does anyone expect there to be a cry of outrage
that the “convention of family values” was sullied by such a performance? The
refusal of candidate after candidate to repudiate the errors and lies from
their speeches, even when pointed out by multiple fact-checking sources, does
not give one much reason to hope for such an outcome.
was in the wings as Eastwood was speaking and I assume did not hear his offensive
remarks. But if he has not heard of them by now he is being ill-served by those
around him. As a man of virtue (which testimony after testimony declared him to
be) he should publicly and firmly rebuke Eastwood and those who brought him on
for sullying the meeting with gutter-talk; a meeting in which Romney’s own
wife, Paul Ryan’s wife, his and Ryan’s children, and Romney’s grandchildren
were present; a meeting which much of the nation was watching; a meeting that
purported to cast the Republican Party as the party of righteousness and family
values; a meeting that proclaimed, over and over again, that America is
exceptional in all good things.
exceptionally embarrassed at Eastwood’s performance.
As the political conventions approach, the nation yawns.
Fortunately tropical storm Isaac has added a little drama to the Republican
Convention in Tampa, raising the possibility that there will be more excitement
outside the Convention Hall than inside. It appears that nothing is on the horizon
to enliven the Democratic Convention next week. Of course the media will do
their best to convince us that earth shaping speeches are in the offing from
those who either chose not to run or were rejected when they tried to, or even
more pathetic, from the spouses of the candidates.
For a nation that eschews class and royalty we, nonetheless,
give almost as much press to our celebrity politicians and their families as
the British do their royalty. It has always been so – our history is littered
with clowns who wanted to be, almost became, and actually were elected
President. And they all had, or found before running for the office, a
beautiful wife to buttress their own lack of charm. It makes for interesting
and entertaining history, but it is especially irritating when it happens in
one’s own time.
Our first President, George Washington, was a toothless old
gent who sent most of his messages to be read to Congress rather than endure
the pain of wearing his false teeth, to say nothing of the distortion of his
speech they engendered. His “first Lady” seldom was at his side during public
appearances, preferring to stay at Mr. Vernon where the “press” made little
attempt to interview her. In those quaint years it was apparently thought that
the opinion of the person actually seeking the office of president was more
important than that of his spouse.
Washington’s wish for a non-partisan approach to the
selection of our government leaders was short lived if, indeed, it ever was
realized. So, through a succession of caucuses, smoke-filled rooms,
conventions, and now primary elections, we have arrived at the era of the
celebrity spouse, or in the case of one of the vice-presidential candidates
this year, the celebrity mom.
All of this is interesting and sometimes amusing. It
conjures the image of boys picking at, and fighting with each other while their
moms vouch for the goodness of their boy.
But the really significant change in our selection process
goes deeper than the glamour of the candidates or their spouses. The power of
those allurements would be greatly diminished if it were not for the ubiquitous
media, eager, by its magical kiss, to make princes from frogs, and at some point
a frog from a previous prince, all to the glory of their ratings and the profit
of their stock holders. And back of it all is the money machine, pouring out
billions of dollars – yes, this year perhaps two billion dollars between the
two parties – in support of, or against, one or the other candidate.
That last point should give us significant pause. We have a
situation now in which, at all levels of government, candidates and their
supporters are willing to spend hundreds of times more to get their candidate
elected than he or she will earn in pay for that service. Of course the honor
is worth something – for the winning candidate. But what do the millionaires
who, from the shadows and sidelines, are pumping millions of their personal
wealth into these campaigns hope to gain? Any thoughtful honest person knows
that they expect to “earn a profit” on their investment.
It is time to admit that the “march of democracy” has led us
to the brink of democracy’s extinction. When one man in Los Vegas can buy the
attention of the nation and use his influence to destroy the reputation of a
candidate he opposes through deceptive TV and internet ads, we can check off
the democratic principle of “one man, one vote” and relegate it to the ash heap
of failed political experiments. Democracy, if not dead already, is dying.
Can anything be done to revive the patient? It is hard to
find any hope. Ultimately any hope lies in the honesty of each voter as they
approach the polls in November. They will not have the choice between one
wholly virtuous person and another wholly evil, although the ads would have
them believe that is the case. Instead, they will have to choose between two
imperfect individuals, one better suited to serve in the office he or she seeks
than the other. As they enter the polling booth they will need to shake off the
fog created by months of lying ads and try to discern who that “better suited”
candidate is and then put their X by him or her, regardless of which party
their name is listed under.
It is the only hope that democracy has for survival.
When the religious leaders of His day came to Jesus,
taunting Him by demanding that He show them a “sign” that would authenticate His
claims to be the promised Messiah. His response was curious. He said, “A wicked
and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except
the sign of Jonah.”
Of course Jesus was not implying that all the Jewish people
of that generation were adulterers in the sexual sense. He was using the
language of the Old Testament prophets who had condemned the people of their
day for wandering from the worship of the true God, Yahweh, and serving false
gods. The not very subtle implication was that Jesus saw that generation of
Jews as worshiping gods other than Yahweh while pretending they would offer
their devotion to Yahweh if only Jesus would give them a sign significant
enough to convince them that He was the true Messiah. His searing rejoinder was,
“none will be given . . . except the sign of Jonah.”
The sign of Jonah! As Jonah was in the fish three days and
nights and impossibly returned to life, so Jesus would lie entombed in the
earth three days before miraculously emerging whole and alive. If that “sign” were
not enough to turn a generation from its petty gods to worship the true and
living God, there would be no hope for it.
Lets face it: we live in a wicked and adulterous generation.
Only the willfully blind can deny that. Those who wish to deny it, point to the
good that is done – sometimes by people who are otherwise not “good” – as
evidence of the basic goodness of mankind. We must thank God for all the “good”
that is done in the world; all “good and perfect gifts” come from Him. But a
sober assessment of the world we live in reveals a different situation. Even
the world's greatest living “saints”, when examined honestly, are deeply flawed
in ways that should embarrass the human race. We all sin, even the best of us,
and fall short of God’s plan for our lives. But worse, the world is filled with
devotees of evil; worshipers of power, violence, money, sex-for-sex’s-sake, physical
and sexual abuse, drugs, alcohol, and more . . . so much more.
Too bleak, you say? If only it were. In most of the world
one can see the results of the worship of the gods of this world on display: war-torn
bodies strewn in the streets; prostitutes lurking in sleazy neighborhoods; children
begging for food or dying for lack of it; crime and violence and drugs on open
display; dictators cruelly crushing their subjects under an iron heel; powerful
holders of wealth denying even the crumbs to masses. It would be impossible to
paint those pictures too bleakly.
But in America we have sanitized our gods, made stars of our
adulterers, lionized our billionaires, legalized our addictions, rationalized
our wars, trivialized infidelity, hidden our poor, and when they cannot be
hidden, labeled them “lazy” so we can safely deny them the fruit of our wealth.
America has elevated monetary success to the status of “National
God” and then declared, “In God We Trust.”
Mr. Romney– himself the epitome of the American $dol – recently chose as his Vice Presidential
running mate, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. Ryan has made no secret of his
devotion to the economics of Ayn Rand, the author of Atlas Shrugged.Mrs. Rand’s
materialistic philosophy has become the anchor for Paul Ryan’s vision for the
American economy. Mr. Ryan thinks so highly of Rand’s work that he gave each of
this staff a Christmas gift of her book. The Ryan/Rand economic philosophy cements
the acquisition of wealth as the supreme good in human existence, ignoring the words
of Jesus that “man shall not live by bread alone.” Ryan’s and Romney’s philosophy
flaunts the Biblical warning that “the love of money is the root of all evil.”
In their rush to protect and enhance their wealth and that of their friends
they are willing to “grind the face of the poor” reducing or eliminating
programs designed to protect the vulnerable poor in our society.
Next to Mrs. Rand’s casket, during her funeral, stood a
six-foot high floral arrangement in the shape of a dollar sign. Whether that
“tribute” to her life’s philosophy was of her own choosing, or devised by her
admirers, it nonetheless summarizes the hedonistic – and truly godless – aim of
her work and her writings.
Our politicians – at this time in history, the conservative
ones, especially – like to portray America as a God-fearing, God-loving nation
and themselves as the High Priests serving at His altar. And that we are; and
that they are. But not as they believe. When America is finally laid in its
casket – as all nations eventually are – and its final history is written it
will have to be noted that the god it feared – the god it loved – was not
Yahweh-God, as revealed by His Son, Jesus the Messiah, but rather the great god,
Mammon. And the eternal symbol of our devotion to our god will be the dollar
The recent media flap over the statement by the owner of
Chick-Fil-A that he opposes gay marriage, and the consequent attempt by gay
activists to boycott restaurants in the chain, followed by a show of solidarity
for the company and its franchises by opponents of gay marriage, illustrates a
very important point about American’s love for freedom of expression. It is
Both sides want freedom to express their opinions regarding
controversial subjects but would also like to curtail the ability of their
opponents to do so. Both sides want their opinions to be taken seriously and respected
even though they often disparage the opinions of their opponents. Both sides
claim moral legitimacy for their beliefs and practices and naturally refuse to
grant such legitimacy to opposing views.
The history of our nation is a history of such
controversies, the most famous being, of course, the struggle over black
slavery. But there were others: Jim Crow laws, the right of women to vote,
prohibition of alcoholic beverages, polygamy, legal prostitution, Sunday blue
laws. And now, in our time, the “hot issues” revolve around abortion, birth
control, euthanasia, stem cell research, and of course gay rights, including
As a nation we have approached these problems in a variety
of ways: all out war in the case of slavery; constitutional amendments in the
case of Jim Crow, women’s voting rights, and prohibition; state and federal
laws to regulate polygamy, prostitution, and blue laws. None of these issues
was easy to resolve and the resolution of each of them left a portion of the
population dissatisfied with the result. But those who were displeased found
ways, through either active avoidance, or passive resignation, to live with the
new status quo. Occasionally someone
or some group decides to flaunt the will of the majority and the courts are
required to determine if they have that right or if they must be forcibly
required to abide by the law. Such “civil disobedience” is a method of
protesting that society has “gone off the rails” and needs to be put right
again. But there is a price to pay for such actions.
In most cases – in the cases currently troubling our
society: abortion, birth control, euthanasia, and gay rights, the struggle is
between those who have no intention of doing these things but feel strongly that
they must prevent anyone else from doing them, and those who feel it is their
right to decide for themselves what is permissible for them to do. The options
available to us for resolution of our differences are political-legal
regulation, moral persuasion, and a combination of the two.
The difficulty with political-legal solutions is that they
can be overturned as we saw with prohibition, and with various Supreme Court
decisions. Political-legal solutions do not determine right and wrong, they
only declare the present state of toleration for certain behaviors. Only moral persuasion
offers a solution likely to last; it brings agreement as to the rightness or wrongness
of various behaviors.
But moral persuasion takes time to work. Its effectiveness
is lessened by human imperfection. And, over time, the conclusions about what
is moral or immoral can change.
So what are we to do while we wait for our political system
and our moral community to do their work. If we value the freedoms our
forefathers have handed down to us we need to dial back our rhetoric, attempt
to understand what our opponents are feeling and saying, work in a civil manner
to persuade others of the righteousness of our cause, patiently and
respectfully work to enact the laws that reflect our sense of right and wrong,
and, above all else, treat others in the manner in which we wish to be treated
We are constantly reminded that we live in a highly
polarized time. There may never have been a time in our history not highly
polarized, but it is certain that ours is. Much of the polarization of American
politics has little to do with the issues discussed above; these issues are
merely convenient pawns being used by powerful interests who know they can
marshal certain elements in society to their cause by feigning a desire to
correct the particular ills that are troubling the culture. The Republican
Party, since the days of Ronald Reagan, has used the conservative Christian
community to propel its candidates into office but has, for the most part, done
little about the moral issues they care about. The Democratic Party plays to
the fears and aspirations of various minority groups, including gay rights
activists but, like the Republicans, seldom do anything substantial about the
concerns these groups have.
To a Conservative, words like “liberal” “progressive” “compromise”
are dirty words. “Socialist” is treasonist. To a Liberal, “conservative
Christian” “neo-con” “right wing” “Tea Party” have equally negative
connotations. As long as we continue to define each other by these terms we
will make little progress toward resolving differences between us. It will take
brave souls to begin the process of dialogue. Such people will not be electable
to public office. But if enough of us become those kind of “peace makers” we
can slowly begin to put the engine back on the track again.
Under our system of government the owner of Chick-Fil-A has
every right to own and express his opinion. He appears to base it on a long
tradition supported by most of the religions of the world. And those advocating
homosexual marriage have every right, under our system, to advocate for what
they believe to be right and fair. It is possible for both sides to hold their
opinions while still respecting those who disagree with them.We do it all the time in a myriad of
For the first 250 years of our nation’s history homosexual
couples have had to abide by the laws and moral understandings that forbid them
to establish open and legal marriages. If those laws change then those who see
homosexual marriage as morally offensive will have to live with that situation in
just the same way that they have learned to live in a society in which other of
their moral persuasions have been rejected.