Thursday, February 28, 2013

Politics By Any Other Names

“How’s all that Conservatism workin’ out for ya?” (A paraphrase of Sarah Palin’s jibe at Obamacare: “How’s that hopey changy stuff workin’ out for ya?)

The Republican Party is repeating the mistakes of the Democratic Party of the 1970s; playing to its most extreme wing while forgetting the basic tenants of its political philosophy. The sad aspect of such mistakes is that it usually spells political defeat for the party practicing extreme partisanship which consequentially allows the opposition party to seize power so firmly that it too plays to its most extreme elements. The Democratic love affair with lightheaded Liberalism in the 1970s gave us a decade of Ronald Reagan; several decades if one wishes to see the current Tea Partyism as the logical extension of the “Reagan Revolution”.

It is hazardous to attempt any assessment of the future; certainly hazardous to predict the political future. But it appears that Tea Party Republicanism has the potential of severely damaging the Republican Party for the near future and potentially for decades to come. We have, after all, seen political parties come and go throughout the history of our nation. There is no reason that could not happen again. In fact there are those within the Republican Party who are saying that it should; that it is time for a new political expression of conservatism in this country.

Humans love to demonize their opponents. Extreme rhetoric and harsh actions are much easier to justify when they are directed at a well-known demon. Both “Liberal” and “Conservative” are spoken today as contemptuous bywords more often than with respect. Liberals are linked, in Conservative rhetoric with “Socialist” or “Communist”; Conservatives are accused by Liberals of “Fascism” or “McCarthyism”. And thus, two formerly useful descriptors of human philosophies are rendered almost useless in our day; incapable of conveying the meaning their etymologies would suggest.

In a well adjusted individual both conservatism and liberalism exist in a healthy balance that allows that person to value (and conserve) certain proven assets while judging other aspects of his life to be in need of change. The healthy individual neither seeks change for the sake of change nor hoards useless relics of the past. A sign of pathological disorder in the individual is his or her inability to balance the conservative and liberal impulses. We easily allow for a range of deviance from true equilibrium between conservatism and liberalism but at a certain point we begin to think of the “deviant” as eccentric or even dangerous.

It is natural for those who tend toward one end of the conservative-liberal spectrum or the other to group together, socially, religiously, economically, AND politically. Misery isn’t the only thing that loves company. So does eccentricity. Usually, even in those gatherings of eccentrics that we call Political Parties, there is enough homogeneity to keep them from running over the cliff and destroying themselves. But sometimes there is not, and then we get an Anarchist Party or a Tea Party; gatherings of extreme eccentrics who would rather destroy the structure of society than budge one inch on their principles.

It would appear that the Republican Party is now dangerously close to such a situation. Due to the insistence of Mitch McConnell, and aided by the incompetence of John Boehner; cheered on by the rhetoric of Limbaugh, Beck, Palin, Bachmann, Santorum, and others, the Republican Party has wasted four years in a stubborn and futile resistance to all that President Obama has been working to achieve, for the avowed purpose of seeing to it that he was “a one term President.” Rush Limbaugh’s honest confession, made the day after President Obama was declared the winner in the 2008 election, that he wanted the President to fail, is proof positive that he and those who follow him are willing (or say they are) to see everything destroyed rather than endure an idea contrary to theirs.

I suppose such intransigence can be called Conservatism. I would call it eccentricism of the most radical and destructive kind. It is equal to its opposite – Anarchism – in its impracticality for the human race. We need a balance of liberalism and conservatism in our lives. It is never easy to find the appropriate balance between the two. We have chosen, in the United States of American, to use political parties as the expression of these two philosophies. When both Parties have had a viable minority opinion operating within their ranks we have seen them function at their ideal best. That is not where we are at the present. But it is where we should be working to arrive at, and soon; before we all go over the edge of the cliff.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Frigid Sin

by Jim Rapp

Yesterday’s storm left the pine tree weighted
with an inch or two of snow.
Its needled branches, oft by bird song freighted,
carry now their burdens low.

But wind and squirrel soon will clear a path,
each delighting to bestow,
with swishing tail or sudden blast, a bath,
poured down the neck of those below.

So I indict you, Wind, so cold that pine trees shudder
‘til their limbs are bare again,
and you, his furry friend, who delights to frisk and judder;
both are guilty of a frigid sin.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mom, Math, and Pumpkin Pie

by Jim Rapp

She must have cut the pie in six –
for five of us and one left for the server.
But a four-year old can barely count,
and may struggle even to reach six.

A math problem for a four-year old:
there are six members in the family;
how many times must the pie be sliced?
a. 3, b. 5, or c. 6? Truth be told

there are many ways to slice a pie
but none that interest a four-year-old;
it is the pie – the very slice of pie –
that interests him. I recall that I,
heedless of the math involved,
petitioned Mom for yet another piece.
She, careless of the math, complied and
only later, when the math was solved –

when finally I’d filled my selfish tummy –
I realized that minus five plus minus one,
in some strange way meant zero. In ignorance
of math, the child had robbed his mommy.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

At The End Of The Rainbow

(A Valentine Memory for my Wife)

I find it hard to believe that rainbow
was created by a lowly “bug,”
or that one tracing to its earthbound end
would find a treasure sitting there.

I spied its shimmering, fleeting flow
each time the breeze would tug
its filament and make it bend
its arc toward your summer chair.

A last I saw it; a long thin thread
that flowed from eave above
and fastened to your chair back,
visible, invisible at whim of air.

Visible, invisible as I have said
until by breeze it moved;
then catching sunlight in its track
it formed a fleeting rainbow there.

Was the spider watching
from some hidden lair
to see what treasures she
had, by her art, ensnared?

Did she know, attaching
sunlight to your summer chair
would turn my gaze to see
the rainbow’s treasure sitting there?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Couldn’t You Do Without Us Lord?

Our Father who art in heaven, hollowed
be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will
be done on Earth as it is in heaven.

I ask, Father who art in heaven,
does the waywardness of our planet
endanger the whole of your creation?
Does all creation groan because of us?
Would your universe
miss a beat if we were gone?
Are we essential to your plan?

Father, you say
that you are no respecter of persons;
that in your kingdom
the least shall be greatest
and the greatest shall be least.
That puts me in a bind;
to claim I’m least
is to claim I’m greatest;
claiming to be at all –
either greatest or least –
it seems is sin.

Alas, there truly is
none righteous,
no, not one.

But here I stand, unrighteous –
unrighteous, and hesitant to claim
I’m either first or last – just
wishing your kingdom to come,
your will to be done . . .
here on this earth,
as it is done in heaven;
trusting there will be
a place in it
for sinners such as I.

I am not the worst of sinners,
in my view.
Therefore, Father, in your view, I am.
None are greater in their sin than I;
in your kingdom the least of sinners
is no less a sinner
than the greatest of them.

Feel this earth’s sinfulness;
sense its wobbling under the weight
of human perversity;
under the weight of
young mothers clubbed and knifed to death,
children mowed down by the score,
families fleeing their homes in a hail of lead,
strong men raping, pillaging, and murdering the weak,
lewdness lauded and rewarded,
ignorance elevated to the status of knowledge,
foolishness fawned over as though it were wisdom,
arrogance living in opulence amidst squalor,
brutality packaged and sold as art.
I ask you, Father who art in heaven,
does the waywardness of our planet
endanger the whole of your creation?
Does all creation groan because of us?
Would your universe
miss a beat if we were gone?
Are we essential to your plan?

If not, then Lord,
as you thought to do in Moses’ day,
just uncreate us.
But if you must redeem
our waywardness because
our wobbly path is part of
all you’ve planned to be;
if your will cannot be done
except you show your grace and power
by saving our bedraggled world,
then let your kingdom come –
quickly let your kingdom come –
let your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.