Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Postal Christmas Stamp

Having recently exhorted my son NOT to play some Christmas music he had recently checked out from the library and to wait until after Thanksgiving, I suppose I risk some degree of hypocrisy on this blog post. I believe we shouldn’t rush into the Christmas season just yet. Merchants go from orange and black to red and green overnight. And while I’m more than happy to see the witches and black cats disappear from the shelves, I wish we’d see more pilgrims and fewer Santas in November. I definitely think it wise to linger over Thanksgiving and give praise and thanks to God.

But upon opening my mail today, I noticed a flyer from the United States Postal Service advertising their domestic Priority Mail Flat Rate holiday delivery. Scanning through the little pamphlet, I noticed a section "Don’t forget your holiday stamps!" Yes, I caught the more benign "holiday" as opposed to "Christmas". But what really irked me was the picture of the three stamps they promoted.
With news of the recent Harry Potter stamps and the 2005 misunderstanding still in my mind (the USPS, for the first time in its history didn’t print a new ‘Madonna & Child’ design, but used the previous year’s design), I feared something amiss. Fortunately, a visit over to allayed my concerns. While there are more choices for non-Christian stamps than Christian ones, patrons can purchase ‘the Holy Family’ stamp or choose between two different designs of the ‘Mary & Child’ motif.

Still, that the Postal System promotes Hanukkah and Kwanzaa in their ‘holiday’ section of this pamphlet at the expense of Christmas was disturbing. My computer is running too slowly for me to research how many stamps of each the USPS sells; or how many Americans celebrate each of those holidays. But I think common sense tells us more Americans observe Christmas than the other two combined.

We are approaching Christmas. CHRISTmas. Yes, it’s all about Jesus. A Savior who was born, died and saved us from our sins. Perhaps my son can start playing his Christmas music after all.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Gettysburg Address

Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.

When Robert E. Lee decided to invade the North in July of 1863, luring the Army of the Potomac out of Virginia, he had no idea that he would lay the foundation of the Conferacy's defeat and set up one of the most ephocal moments in American history.  Within the span of three days, names like Devil's Den, Cemetery Ridge, Little Round Top, Culp's Hill, Peach Orchard and Pickett's Charge would forever be engrained into every American history book.  And within those same three days, nearly 8,000 soldiers died and another 28,000 injured.

During that summer, the town of Gettysburg tried to recover from the massive death toll.  Judge David Wills wrote to Pennsylvania's governor about corpses that lined the streets and other unseemly situations.  “In many instances, arms and legs and sometimes heads protrude. And my attention has been called to several places, where the hogs were actually rooting out the bodies and devouring them.”

Within a few months, Wills had devised a plan for a national cemetary and invited several dignitaries to speak at a dedicatory event.  Edward Everett was the keynote speaker, with President Lincoln giving a brief remark afterwards.  In fact, his Gettysburg Address was just 272 words in length, consuming only 180 seconds of history. 

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Lincoln believed "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here" but he could not have been more wrong.  Those 272 words have become the best known words of American history.  Future President Teddy Roosevelt called one of the "great classics of human eloquence--of that eloquence which shows forth its human soul."  In the view of historian James McPherson, it stands as "the world's foremost statement of freedom and democracy and the sacrifices required to achieve and defend them."

At the time, many were unimpressed.  Harrisburg's Patriot & Union declared Lincoln "the jester" and stated that "whatever may be the President's virtues, he does not possess sense."

Today, President Obama created yet another stir.  Film-maker and master story-teller Kens Burns, doing a project called Learn the Address, filmed some 61 high profile Americans reading Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.  President Obama omitted "under God" when reading "the nation...shall have a new birth of freedom."  Supposedly, Mr. Burns provided the White House with this version, called the Nicolay version.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Subtle Erosion of Liberties

I am always amazed that the voices of our Founders, now some 240 years distant, remain as relevant in our day as when they were first spoken.  One of the firebrands of liberty was Samuel Adams, who stated:
The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.

 Adams’ last statement, “to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men” is the telling one for our generation.  We often romanticize the struggle for liberty.  If faced with a tyrant like King George and his marshaled forces of the British Empire invading New York, Boston and Philadelphia, then we think we would resist.  Or if, like me, you grew up during the Cold War and participated in bomb shelter drills of the 1980s or the “Duck and Cover” drills of the 1950s, you (at least in your mind) were ready to defend America against a Soviet invasion.  So liberties “wrested” from us Americans would, no doubt, be met with a struggle.
But what of liberties “cheated” from us from “false and designing men”.  What of subtle changes that appear benign enough, but that nevertheless strip us of liberties, perhaps something as simple as choosing one’s own healthcare plan?  With the NSA spying on our telephone conversations, it is perhaps safer to blog about these things than to speak of them to one’s friend.  But it is difficult for a thinking person to reach any other conclusion than that we are, in fact, being cheated out of our liberties.

What then should we do?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Presidential Incredulity

Does President Obama seriously believe he can unilaterally disobey the Obamacare law he and his cronies worked so hard to foist upon the American people? I think so. I believe our President has very little knowledge of the Constitution, much less respect for it. After all, American history was hardly the focus of the foreign schools where Obama grew up. Now, he is telling America that he is going to let insurance companies extend their policies to distraught Americans for one year.  The President recently spoke, outlining his new edict.

We’re also requiring insurers who extend current plans to inform their customers about two things: One, what protections these renewed plans don’t include. Number two, that the (Obamacare) marketplace offers new options with better coverage and tax credits that might help you bring down the cost. So if you received one of these letters, I encourage you to take a look at the marketplace. Even if the website isn’t working as smoothly as it should be for everybody yet, the plan comparison tool that lets you browse costs for new plans near you is working just fine… It is important to understand, though, that the old individual market was not working well. And it’s important that we don’t pretend that somehow that’s a place that we’re going back to.”

Civics 101…the President doesn’t get to violate the law; well, unless of course you are Barry Soetoro (a.k.a Barak Hussein Obama).  Hopefully, enough Democrats in the Senate will feel the heat of American's fury to break their blind allegiance and fix this mess (yes, Congress is the only legal fix available).

And speaking of violating the law, the House of Representatives seems to be seriously considering articles of impeachment against Erik Holder, our nation’s chief law breaker…I mean, law enforcer. As Attorney General, he continues to ignore Congressional subpoenas relating to his actions on Fast and Furious. He refuses to enforces our nation’s Defense of Marriage Act, involved himself in the Fox News/James Rosen scandal and a dozen other serious offenses that leave our heads spinning.

I doubt however, the calculating Republican leadership will allow such. What was it James Russell Lowell wrote? "Truth forever on the scaffold. Wrong forever on the throne."