The power and the glory

“Ask yourself, why do you seek the Cup of Christ? Is it for His glory, or for yours?” That was the question from Kazim, a Brother of the Cruciform Sword in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It’s a quote that we should consider as we head out to the polls this fall. Those of us who plan to participate, that is.

I watched a few minutes of the presidential debate the other night. That‘s all that I could stomach. There was a time when I would’ve ingested the entire spectacle, but that time has passed. It’s all a bit too predictable and cliché at this point. Nothing new comes up, policy wise, in these things. It’s just a chance to get in one liners and rack up some sound bites for the media to hype until the next debate. As I watched this one, all I could think about was how mad I would be if I were a Democrat. They’d likely never admit it, but they must be furious. They have been force fed the worst candidate anyone could possibly imagine. Some would make the argument that the Republicans have been force fed as well, but that would be false. Whatever your qualms about Trump, he was the clear choice of the electorate. He’s unconventional, but his votes are his own. He won. Hillary however, won nothing. She was anointed for the spot. So afraid were the rank and file senators and governors in her party that they didn’t even try opposing her. She had the field almost completely cleared by sheer name power, and still nearly lost to the placeholder, socialist, geezer from the Northeast, Bernie Sanders. No one else even stepped in to challenge her. And now they’re stuck with her. I know exactly how they must feel. I felt that way in ‘96 when we were force fed Bob Dole as our “choice” to run against an enormously popular Bill Clinton. We all knew it would be a joke from the beginning, but it was his turn, so the establishment let him have it. They knew whoever ran would lose, so why not Bob? It happened again in ‘08 when we were stuck with John McCain. No Republican could follow Bush and win. McCain had been in Congress since Mash was the number one show on television. In 2008,  he should have been shopping for retirement homes and taking regular naps, not making a bid for the Whitehouse, but it was his turn.

Hillary was supposed to have gotten her turn in 2008, but the course of events got away from her. She had put in her time in the Senate, establishing her own pedigree sufficiently that she would be able to run then. And then Barack made that good speech, and the money men saw an opportunity. So deals were made, and Hillary got put on the back burner. She would have to wait until she was older than she’d have liked. A few concussions and God only knows what else later, she’s now in the fight of her life with a very unconventional candidate, and you might add in a very different country than what we were in 2008.

The debate was an overall snoozefest from what I’ve seen of the clips. Clinton said exactly what you would have expected, and Trump was far more restrained than anyone might have thought. He was polite and held his composure for ninety minutes; a plus for him. Clinton stood erect without coughing for ninety minutes; double plus good for her. All in all, it looked to be a draw, optics wise. Take away the obvious aid and comfort given to Clinton by Lester Holt (He may have been under duress; Clinton’s problems have a way of ending up dead), and you would’ve had a pretty even draw across the board. Quick aside: Theory posited online this week from professional poker players says that Clinton was tipping off Holt using hand signals. He did respond every time she touched her face. I’m just saying.

Price once said that the two party political system was nothing more than an illusion of choice; a veiled form of fascism where our vote doesn’t really count. It would be easy enough to agree when we are always faced with the lesser of two evils. We may not be facing that this time. As I look at the two candidates with all their flaws, I’m struck by this: Clinton is in it for her own glory. She has no special policies or abilities that couldn’t be put forth by any of 100 other more likable Democrats. She’s doing it because it’s what she has set out to do. Trump on the other hand has less to gain, and more rarity to offer. For as bombastic and arrogant as he can be, his desire to save the country seems genuine. He had a very comfortable life, and he is risking it. The paramount question is this: Was this risk for his glory, or for that of the Republic? Time shall tell.


Solemn promises

It’s time for another dirty little secret: I hate The Pledge of Allegiance. For whatever reason, it’s always felt wrong to me. As the country has begun the descent into chaos these last twenty years, it’s felt more and more wrong every time I’ve been at a gathering where it is said. I’ve slowly stopped saying it. I’ll usually stand, but I don’t recite the words any more if I can do so without attracting too much attention. God forbid someone question my patriotism! It’s curious that in a country where so few people under fifty know how many branches of government we have, or what the Constitution even says, that people will question your patriotism for such a small thing. That’s where we are though.

The Pledge always felt a touch un-American to me. I never could quite put my finger on it, but it always sounded a bit more communist than republican (as in republicanism, not the Republican Party) to me. With a little research, I found out why (hat-tip It was written by a socialist minister named Francis Bellamy in August of 1892 with the thought that it could be used by citizens in any country. So it’s not really even an American thing. According to Wikipedia, Bellamy “championed the rights of working people and the equal distribution of economic resources, which he believed was inherent in the teachings of Jesus.” It’s the whole “Jesus was a communist” theory that you can hear preached in so many churches these days. Of course they don’t use the “c” word. Communist is one of those words that we aren’t supposed to bandy about anymore. Communism was defeated in 1989. It’s all over folks; nothing to see here. Move along. It would take more space than we have here to debate whether or not Christ was a communist, so I’ll save that one for another day. It’s pretty safe to say that any compassionate person cannot be a communist however. Since Christ is closely associated with compassion, let’s assume for a moment that he was not a communist. Most people have little idea that the first European system of economics attempted in North America was indeed communism. Many of the settlers at Jamestown in the 17th century starved to death trying the whole “from each according to his ability to each according to his needs” thing. They found when there was no incentive for someone to strive for success that everyone suffers. That’s yet another history lesson we don’t have space for. Look it up. Starvation and cannibalism are the end results of communism whether you’re in Jamestown, VA or Kangwon, North Korea.

Back to the pledge… A pledge is a solemn promise. I take my solemn promises pretty seriously. In fact, I don’t make many. I definitely don’t make solemn promises that are poorly worded, or given to inanimate objects that can be hijacked by lesser men (and women, Hillary fans) than I. The cool thing about the Constitution is that it’s simple, it’s written down, and you know exactly what it says. It’s also difficult to change. I can pledge allegiance to something like that. It’s an idea with which one can agree or disagree. It is not a symbol. Symbols are tricky. They can change with the times. They can be used by one group for one thing, and another for another thing. What means hatred to one group can mean love and acceptance to another. A star to a Satanist is something nefarious. To my children, it’s just something pretty in the sky. We live in epic times. All the tumult can lead you to think about a lot of things: pledges, solemn promises, what really matters, and what does not. This study on The Pledge of Allegiance led me to think about the epic movie, Braveheart. During his interrogation and right before his torture and death, William Wallace is asked about his king. “Never in my life did I swear allegiance to him,” he replies. His interrogator answers back, “It matters not, he is your king.” Stories like that are popular because they speak to fundamental truths. Every red blooded American watching that scene was moved with compassion for the brave heart about to be sent to death. He was acting with treason towards a corrupt and unjust crown to which he’d never sworn allegiance. He never made a solemn promise to his evil king. That’s one of the reasons we live in a republic and not a monarchy. Men are corruptible. Truth is not. People that swear allegiance to a man or a flag can easily be led astray. People that swear allegiance to an idea can walk to the gallows with a clear conscience. Flags can be hijacked. Truth cannot. For that reason, you should think carefully about the solemn promises you make, and go with your gut. People who are not socialists ought not say socialistic prayers.