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 week or two. So come often. I hope you find something you enjoy.
The New York times is reporting good
news; both California and Wisconsin (and a handful of other states) are
expecting budget surpluses in their next biennial budgets. So we have to ask,
who is to blame, or in this case, who is to credit for the good fortune?
The interesting irony – perhaps a paradox – is that
California has a Democratic governor and a legislature with 2/3 Democratic
majorities while Wisconsin has a Republican governor and both of its
legislative chambers solidly in Republican hands. Hmmmm! That complicates
If the dire reports following the Great Recession were
accurate, and there is little doubt that they were, both states faced serious
fiscal problems, California facing what appeared to be catastrophic problems.
Both states responded by cutting programs, cutting the pay and benefits of
state employees, and attempting to spur economic growth through encouraging
business development. I suppose you could say it has worked in both cases;
Wisconsin is expecting to see a 500 million dollar surplus over the next two
years, California a 1.2 billion (or some say 4.4 billion) dollar surplus.
It will be tricky for the two sides (Democrats and
Republicans) to claim the credit for the good fortune in the states they
control without having, logically, to give credit in the states their opponents
control. Of course logic isn’t
necessarily the gold standard in politics so they will find a way to dance
around their inconsistencies, giving credit to their side while denying it to
There are explanations being given as to why this bonanza
has suddenly appeared. It would seem that a revival of consumer spending with
the consequent reappearance of some new jobs might be a logical (there we go
again) explanation. Some economists give credit to a one time boost in taxes
paid by wealthy investors who took advantage of opportunities to increase their
wealth at the end of last year by some reshuffling of their assets.
The good governors of both California and Wisconsin would
like to claim the credit for the surplus, I’m sure, but it is doubtful that
anything done at their behest really had the effect of improving the economy.
Both implemented severe cuts to programs that typically spur the economy. So
any increase in economic activity is occurring despite their wrong-headed
approach. We’ll not hear any such admissions from them or their trumpeters.
The real question is what to do with the surplus. And that
is also the question that divides Republicans and Democrats. Republicans argue
that the surplus should be returned to the taxpayers in the form of reduced tax
rates. Well, they do have a few things upon which they would spend some of the
bonanza, but the primary cry is for tax rate reduction. Democrats, on the other
hand, are divided between those who would like to restore cuts made to social
service programs and those who call for the establishment of a “rainy day fund”
in case the sudden upturn in good fortune is ephemeral. Undoubtedly the
solution to this stalemate will play out differently in Wisconsin and
California simply because of the political realities of the day.
I’m for establishing “rainy day funds”, at least for the
short term. Twice in my lifetime Wisconsin governors (both Republican) have
insisted on giving back surpluses to the taxpayers in the form of rebate
checks. They were wonderful to receive. Each amounted to about $300 per
taxpayer on average. But the money was soon spent and the state discovered
within a year or two that it was running a deficit again. A little caution and
a willingness to “wait and see” could have saved the day and distributed the
pain more evenly over time.
There is little hope that our politicians will apply either
history or logic to our current crisis of surplus. They will be driven by
politics as always. Expect a wee reduction in the tax rate (more at the higher
income brackets than at the lower) in the next couple of years and then more
reductions in government services when it is discovered a couple of years
further down the line that we had squandered an opportunity when we had it.
Oh, it might be wise to establish a “rainy day fund” of your
own, just in case. That is if your budget projections are as rosy as those in
Wisconsin and California. Unfortunately, retirees’ personal budgets aren’t
showing any signs of surplus just yet. State retirement checks in Wisconsin,
which has, by the way, the most fiscally sound system in the nation, have been
reduced again this year by an average of nine percent; nearly twenty-five
percent over the last five years. It must be much the same for others whose
private retirement savings were nearly wiped out by the Great Recession. We are
all waiting for the rain to end and the sun to shine.
(Note: At the time this was written and posted no burial site had been found for Tamerlane Tzarnaev. He has now been buried in an Islamic cemetery in Virginia but the county officials in the county where the cemetery is located are looking into ways to have his body removed.)
Paul Keane was raised by a mother who, at least in one
regard, attempted to instill her standard of righteousness (right behavior) in
her son. Paul credits his mother with teaching him to “love thine enemy.”
Paul does not name the source of his mother’s insistence
that even one’s enemy is deserving of love. Her admonition sounds very close to
statements from the Christian Scriptures; particularly the teachings of Jesus
and the apostle Paul.
Mr. Keane has offered a gravesite for the burial of the Boston
bombing suspect, Tamelane Tzarnaev. Public resistance has so far made it
impossible to find a place in the United States where his body can be buried. There
is an unused grave next to the one in which Mr. Keane’s mother is buried. He is
offering that burial site on the one condition that its use be considered an
act in honor of his mother’s memory. At present it seems unlikely that his
offer will be received. Less charitable citizens are objecting to Tzarnaev’s
burial anywhere in the United States.
Mr. Keane has received hateful letters and even veiled
threats of violence against him but insists that in allowing the burial next to
his mother he would only be living up to the principle she taught him. When
someone suggested that having Tzarnaev buried on his mother’s plot might result
in vandalism to her grave and marker. Mr. Keane responded, “I don’t think that
would bother her at all. She was not a materialist.”
So far nearly 200 offers of burial plots have been proffered
but none have been accepted because of objections by the officials in charge of
the cemeteries where they exist.
When Jesus, the Messiah, was crucified he died between two “malefactors”.
It isn’t entirely clear what their crime was, some say thievery, others murder,
but for that time they were the worst of the worst. God, the Father did not
insist that his Son be given any special consideration, though we are told he
could have employed ten thousand angels to rescue his Son if he had wished.
Instead the Son of God died a criminal’s death between two admitted criminals.
One of the malefactors expressed his faith in Jesus’ coming Kingdom and was
promised a place in it: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
God did not have to choose crucifixion as the means by which
His Son would redeem the world. Many other forms of death would do. I’ve
wondered though if God chose that mode of death – that day and that place – because
he knew that on that day a pariah of a man would be dying there and that His
Son could offer him eternal life.
Most Muslims see all Americans as Christians. From a truly
Christian point of view our nation is about as far from “Christian” as any
society on earth. We know that only a fraction of Americans are devout
followers of Christ. But in the minds of Muslims in many lands, the actions
taken by any American is representative of what Christianity is all about.
Certainly the hate-filled, eye-for-an-eye denial of a decent burial for one of
their faith can only reinforce stereotypes that are harmful to our nation and
to the Christian faith.
Mr. Keane has taken a step toward “loving his enemy.”
Tzarnaev’s body is incapable of receiving any love but those who care about him
and are desirous of giving him a proper burial, according to their customs, are
not beyond the power of love. If America wishes to be seen as a beacon of
goodness in the world it could do well to follow Mr. Keane’s mother’s advice
and show some love – or at the very least, respect – toward its enemy.
When King David heard that the bodies of his enemy, King
Saul, and that of his son, Jonathan, were being displayed and held up to scorn
he sent men to retrieve them and give them a proper burial. That act helped
establish him as a fair minded man in the eyes of those he hoped to have as his
subjects. Not a bad strategy.
I applaud Paul Keane for his offer, made nearly on the eve
of Mother’s Day. What a gift it would be to his mother’s memory to have her
remains lying next to one who could have benefited by her advice.
new tricks to old dogs
but I have proof of otherwise.
My Pa, who countenanced
the slaughter of the hogs,
stood in line for a New Deal prize,
leaned on a shovel for the WPA,
and voted faithfully for FDR,
(supported Truman too) –
after living to enjoy his
“Old Age Pension” and his
Medicare – in his waning years
was seduced by
Nixon’s anti-Commie talk
and Reagan’s patriotic,
He would have cheered
the NRArrogance displayed
this week in Houston.
Dad? He was a gentle soul.
Ya gotta love him – I sure do.
One hundred per American! A Christian too – a real one!
He lived a good life,
raised a good family –
with the aid of
New Deal reforms –
but died a Republican.
Sometimes things like that happen.
Sometimes old dogs . . .
Well, it’s sad, isn’t it?
Sit! Heel! Shake hands!
Roll over! Play dead!
America has a body to bury and no one wants it buried in their
“back yard.” That is a problem, not because bodies decay and cause a stink, but
because refusal to bury the body of one whom we abhor says something important
about the soul of America.
Anyone who has read my blog regularly would know that I don’t
subscribe to the myth (as I see it) that the United States of America was
created as a Christian nation. Granted that nearly all of the founding fathers
professed some form of Christian belief and that a good number of them were
devout in their practice of their religion, but when they gathered to “form a
more perfect union” than that which had been formed under the Articles of
Confederation, they purposely created a secular state. The document with which
they constituted the new nation (The
United States Constitution) is antiseptic in its God-excluding language. Those
founders did not exclude God from their personal lives nor from the life of the
nation. Indeed they expressed the need of a religious population in order for
their secular government to succeed. But the government itself was not a
Christian institution and was strictly forbidden to become the advocate,
defender, or supporter of any religion. No one was to be forbidden
participation in the government based on his (or her) religion or lack of
But there is a myth abroad, supported by prominent
protestant theologians and authors, claiming that we are now, and have been
since the inception, a Christian nation. It seems, if we can believe the chatter
on the conservative Christian networks, and much of the conservative
non-religious media, that a large number of Americans, perhaps a majority, believe
our nation is specially favored by God, is in fact a Christian nation. So, for
the sake of argument here, lets assume that is the case. What, then, does a
Christian nation look like and how does it conduct itself toward its enemies,
particularly toward its dead enemies?
The relatives of a young man, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, are seeking
a place to bury his body. Mr. Tsarnaev has become a pariah in our society
because of his alleged participation
in the bombing at the Boston Marathon that resulted in three deaths and two
hundred injuries, some of them very grave. Additionally he is accused of
gunning down one police officer who later died and seriously wounding another
who has survived. In the mind of many Americans, and apparently a majority of Massachusetts
residents, he is undeserving of a formal burial in this country or in their
It is ironic, I believe, that Massachusetts is the very
heart of our reputed Christian nation. It was in Massachusetts that the
Pilgrims landed and the Puritans established their “city on a hill” that was intended
to instruct the rest of the world in righteousness.
So it might be useful to ask ourselves, “What would our
Pilgrim Fathers Do?” Sadly, our history reveals that they exhibited very little
tolerance for aberrant beliefs or behaviors, sending Roger Williams (the
founder of Rhode Island) and Anne Hutchinson packing when their doctrines did
not line up with those of the Winthrops and the Mathers. And their record in
dealing with accused “witches” left something to be desired as well.
So it might be more useful to ask ourselves, “What would our
Pilgrim Fathers have done if they had
been following the precepts of the one they professed to be serving, Jesus of
Nazareth?” And of course that boils down pretty quickly to the question, now usually
asked with a smirk, “What would Jesus Do?” But smirk or no smirk it is exactly
the question a Christian Nation should be asking. And more specifically, it is
the question that any person who professes to be a Christian should be asking.
The answer is not hard to find. Here are a few of Jesus’
statements that give us direction in cases like that involving Mr. Tsarnaev’s burial:
“I tell you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father
“Blessed are you when people
insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because
of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven . . . ”
“. . . if you forgive other
people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But
if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your
Granted that none of these statements address specifically
the treatment of a dead enemy’s body but it should be clear to any who wish to
emulate their professed Lord and Master what he would say.
The man proclaimed to be the greatest theologian of the
Christian church also had something to say on the subject that is relevant.
Hear these words from the Apostle Paul:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.”
“Do not be overcome by evil, but
overcome evil with good.”
So, what is a good Christian Nation to do when its enemy’s
family (many of whom are citizens of the nation) requests the right to give
their deceased a decent burial under the terms of their religious understanding
Well, I leave it to you. It seems we could respond
in Christian charity. But then we could suspend our Christian nation status
just long enough to do unto our enemy what we would never want our enemy to do