Monday, May 31, 2010

Whitman's "Dirge for Two Veterans" - Memorial Day 2010

I've been home from Iraq for two years now. Whitman's poem seems appropriate to remember those who've given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Dirge for Two Veterans

The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finished Sabbath,
On the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.

Lo, the moon ascending,
Up from the east the silvery round moon,
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon,
Immense and silent moon.

I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-keyed bugles,
All the channels of the city streets they’re flooding,
As with voices and with tears.

I hear the great drums pounding
And the small drums steady whirring,
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.

For the son is brought with the father,
(In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell,
Two veterans son and father dropped together,
And the double grave awaits them.)

Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive,
And the daylight o’er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.

In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumined,
(‘Tis some mother’s large transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)

O strong dead-march you please me!
O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Erosion of Our Freedoms—the Supreme Court's Power and the City of Chicago vs. McDonald

Decades of poor decision-making and on-going trends in the U.S. Supreme Court have begun to erode our Constitutional freedoms! Why? Because there's been an abandonment of the separation of powers, namely the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of government. The Justices have too much power. Where are the checks and balances?

Years ago, a professor of law at the University of Texas, Lino A. Graglia, had this to say about the abandonment of fundamental principles found in trends in the U.S. Supreme Court:

"Purporting merely to enforce the Constitution, the Supreme Court has for some thirty years usurped and exercised legislative powers that its predecessors could not have dreamed of, making itself the most powerful and important institution of government in regard to the nature and quality of life in our society…

"It has literally decided issues of life and death, removing from the states the power to prevent or significantly restrain the practice of abortion, and, after effectively prohibiting capital punishment for two decades, now imposing such costly and time-consuming restrictions on its use as almost to amount to prohibition.

"In the area of morality and religion, the Court has removed from both the federal and state government nearly all power to prohibit the distribution and sale or exhibition of pornographic materials… It has prohibited the states from providing for prayer or Bible-reading in the public schools.

"The Court has created for criminal defendants rights that do not exist under any other system of law—for example, the possibility of almost endless appeals with all costs paid by the state—and which have made the prosecution and conviction of criminals so complex and difficult as to make the attempt frequently seem not worthwhile. It has severely restricted the power of the states and cities to limit marches and other public demonstrations and otherwise maintain order in the streets and other public places." (as qtd by Ezra Taft Benson, The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner, Deseret Book Company, SLC, Utah, 1986, 26-27).

Of this, the late ecclesiastical church leader and former Secretary or Agriculture, Ezra Taft Benson, wrote:

"To all who have discerning eyes, it is apparent that the republican form of government established by our noble forefathers cannot long endure once fundamental principles are abandoned. Momentum is gathering for another conflict—a repetition of the crisis of two hundred years ago. This collision of ideas is worldwide. Another monumental moment is soon to be born. …[W]ill men be free to determine their own course of action or must they be coerced?" (Ibid.)

Now, I'm not espousing, advocating or even encouraging any rise in conflict or physical battle. Violence to me, as a veteran of war, is horrible and disturbing. And yet, the mere idea and suggestion of some great rolling stone that is gathering momentum for yet another conflict on U.S. soil is not that far away.

I recently wrote to a local city leader who is listed on the Internet as being a Democrat. Years ago I registered as a Republican. Now, though I'm conservative, I view both parties corrupt. Nonetheless, just the mention of the D-word or the R-word, or the words "conservative" or "liberal" can divide a people as it's divided our nation unless we look past those things. We can and should have differences of opinion, but should we not automatically look at each other as brothers and sisters in the human race and not label ourselves—or view one anther—as positioned with and associated with the uncanny rulings and platform stances of one party or another? Yet, I must admit, I do—almost unconsciously. We think: oh, well, she must believe in this or that, which I'm opposed to. And, that might be the case!

The bottom line is we as a people must—MUST—uphold the inspired documents that made our nation and country what they are today. We cannot rule as the federal judge recently did in Wisconsin—that a national day of prayer is unconstitutional. That's absurd! Does she not know the history of the founding fathers? Has she ignored the references to the Divine in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence? Has she totally ignored the fact that our coins have "In God we trust" on them? Or that upon the highest point and spire of the Washington National Monument—the height of which no other building in DC can go above—has the Latin words of Laus Deo (Praise be to God)? Does this misled federal judge ignore the Almighty when in some future day when America is attacked again as it was on December 7, 1941 or on September 11, 2001 and say we can go it alone, without the help, guidance and inspiration of heaven? We need prayer. We need faith, hope and charity both today and tomorrow, whatever the horrific challenges, or conversely, the peaceful conditions we face.

Now, back to the Supreme Court and wacky rulings all over the country (e.g. the absurd rulings that have come from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals)…

The views of the First Amendment have been stretched to ignore the decent, honorable and civil. Going beyond anything lovely or praiseworthy, some have voted to uphold the crude, base and vulgar, claiming the "right" to free speech, while totally ignoring morality or virtue. What happens to our children? Who's protecting them? Even the FCC—unfortunately, paid for by you and I—has made changes in what words can be communicated over the airwaves and television sets that would have never been allowable 20 years ago. Have we forgotten decency? Have we traded in public morality for open debauchery? Have we forgotten God, choosing instead to profane His holy name, even by an acronym now made commonplace (e.g. OMG)? I suppose it would be easy to do when powerful judges make rulings and decisions like removing the Ten Commandments from any public place. Who would know that "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" is a commandment if the commandments are no longer studied, upheld or publicly displayed?

And what about any ruling making burning or desecrating the flag a legal act? I was recently considering the Marines who hoisted the flag at Iwo Jima. If we disregard the treasure of Old Glory and U.S. history—from Betsy Ross first flag to the flag that held through the night which Francis Scott Key beheld that blissful morning—then we ought to go live in Mexico, China, Russia or Cuba!

We've successfully removed God from public schools—that same God mentioned repeatedly in the words and documents of our own national heritage. How is it that this hijacking of our country's founding principles have occurred?!

How is it that some feel so powerfully to separate church and state that they, in actually, are in total opposition to anything moral or religion in nature? We've seen witness of this in the debates on defining what constitutes a family or what makes up a marriage—as if a man and a woman were not meant to be together? Or that somehow two people of the same gender could create children on their own? It goes against the logic of even every kindergartener!

And then, when religious organizations unite in support of the family, such as they did in California for Proposition 8, there's a vehement attempt by the minority few with loud, but powerful voices, to say that's against church and state. Pshaw!

Former Utah State Supreme Court Judge, obviously in opposite ilk to the aforementioned federal judge of Wisconsin, said of this plight,

"The greatest infringements of religious freedom occur when the exercise of religion collides with other powerful forces in society. Among the most threatening collisions in the United States today are (1) the rising strength of those who seek to silence religious voices in public debates, and (2) perceived conflicts between religious freedom and the popular appeal of newly alleged civil rights." ("Religious Freedom,"Transcript of Elder Dallin H. Oaks speech given at BYU-Idaho on 13 October 2009.)

Next to the First Amendment in level of importance is the Second Amendment.

What if the Supreme Court votes to uphold the outlandish 28-year old law imposed by the City of Chicago in the City vs. McDonald? The thoughts are sickening! Where is the right of an individual to protect himself? How is it possible that such a law has been upheld over the past three decades anyway? Why have the people stood for such a law? Have we forgotten the reason for the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights so much that the definition of what a militia means today outweighs what a militia meant—and how one was organized—back when the Second Amendment was written?

Recently, in a 5-day period there were 45 shootings within the City of Chicago. The violence and crime has been skyrocketing. I assure you it wasn't Mr. McDonald who cannot even own a handgun in his own home to protect himself! I assure you those shootings weren't done by anyone obeying the law. No, when you outlaw guns only outlaws will have guns, and criminal activity—and the increase thereof—has shown that in every country where guns are outlawed crime has risen exponentially.

What if the Supreme Court votes to uphold Chicago in the City vs. McDonald? A continuation of the erosion of our inherent freedoms will continue unabated. I hope such a trend in decision-making and case law will cease and desist immediately. Nevertheless, the spirally, downward trend seems like it will not. Therefore, wise men—good, honest and wise men (and/or women as the case may be)—must be sought for positions of leadership, influence and power. If not, our Constitutional freedoms will slowly begin to erode even more, leaving the Constitution hanging by a thread.