Sunday, May 24, 2009

The politics of charisma (pt. 1)

Initially written before last November's election, and revised after Obama's historic win:

Since the day he announced his Presidential intentions in the same place Abraham Lincoln delivered his "House Divided" speech nearly 150 years earlier, Change, Hope, and Yes We Can became the ubiquitous battle cries of a political movement that penetrated the American ethos and propelled Barack Obama to a level of stardom not seen since JFK. But with a notable list of contentions that would have ripped like a chainsaw through any other campaign, one is compelled to question how Obama remained all but unscathed as his views and affiliations persisted amid a shroud of uncommon perplexity.

The abundance of opinions about the now-former junior Senator from Illinois nullified any chance for a consensus, but the impassioned drive to land this dashing and youthful idealist into The White House has perchance caused many to overlook the fact that Obama is far from the first politico to employ catch-terms such as change and hope into his platform. Accordingly one may also consider how this particular candidate managed to pierce the national consciousness by wielding almost elementary political methods while concurrently billing himself as major shift from the norm.

Having collected a plethora of endorsements before a clear front-runner was established amid the Democratic primaries, the Obama campaign garnered a "cult-like" distinction and quickly reached a momentum that has yet to hit its pinnacle. Still the common observer is most likely vexed to find how many Obama supporters often faltered when asked to pinpoint the precise reason(s) behind their chosen allegiance -- aside, of course, from the requisite echoing of campaign slogans that are as simplistic as they were effective.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Some of the best from our first President

Ten pearls of wisdom from George Washington, a man whom I hold in the highest regard and possibly the greatest of all Americans:

"Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company."

"Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence."

"Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth."

"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."

"Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism."

"If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known, that we are at all times ready for war."

"Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God."

"The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained."

"It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible."

"Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

144 years ago today...

Different sites in Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina claim the location of the "last battle" in the War Between the States. Yet this distinction most likely belongs to Palmito Ranch near Brownsville, Texas.

Located at the southernmost point of the Lone Star State, the final exchange between Yankee and Rebel came to an end on May 13, 1865 -- about six weeks after Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia -- when Major John Salmon Ford and the 2nd Texas {Confederate} Cavalry "Mounted Rifles" Regement (among others) battled the 2nd Texas {Union} Cavalry Regiment, the 62nd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment, and the 34th Indiana Volunteer Infantry.

In one of the more ironic twists of the entire War, the Southerners won.

Texan forces formally surrendered on May 26, 1865. General Edmund Kirby Smith ceded his corps in the Trans-Mississippi Department one week later on June 2.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Quotes of the Week

"How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it?"
-- Marcus Aurelius (c. 121-180 AD), last of the "Five Good [Roman] Emperors." He was also among the most important Stoic philosophers of his time.

"A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams."
-- John Barrymore (1882-1942), actor

"If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we'd all be millionaires."
-- Pauline Phillips, aka Abigail Van Buren, of the "Dear Abby" advice column

"Democratic nations must try to find ways to starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend."
-- Baroness Margaret Thatcher, Leader of the British Conservative Party ('75-'90) and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom ('79-'90)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Matters of the heart

I remember certain dates reasonably well. Notable birthdays and anniversaries don’t often escape memory. Such is the case on this particular day, as it marks the observance of my first evening with a golden-haired beauty from the not-so-distant past -- for whom I was 15 minutes late picking her up -- and it is in Sarah’s honor that I write the following post (because I’m largely responsible for dropping the proverbial ball).

Christians often cite the qualities of a "Proverbs 31 woman," but we frequently overlook the concurrent virtues listed in 1 Peter 3:3-4 [NIV], which reads as follows: "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight."

Indeed, and purely for the record, there is a certain raven-haired (and recently engaged) beauty for whom I will always be reminded each time the above-mentioned verse is referenced. That special, almost undefinable feeling she so effortlessly sent through me just by entering the room is something I won't experience again anytime soon.

In essence, I never liked this peerless lady (whom I’ve purposely not identified) because she’s pretty; I relished this lovely woman because of her heart. The mere sound of her voice is poetry and I may never encounter her equal. For all the women I've come across over the years, her impact upon me is altogether unmatched.

On an equally personal note, I’ve never been with someone just for the sake of "being" with someone. If it doesn’t mean something, it basically means nothing, and too many people I know are hellbent on finding some unsuspecting soul who might unwittingly take on the sizable responsibility of mending a broken heart and mind.

Thus, because I prefer to mope on my own instead of dumping on someone I might genuinely care for, I endeavor instead to avoid dysfunctional co-dependence. No matter how attractive she is, I just don't have it in me to let her in if she doesn't speak to my heart.

Socially, I have witnessed a tragic and growing overemphasis on external appeal over the years and an almost complete lack of emphasis on the inner kind of beauty that doesn’t evanesce with time. It is one of the most neglected personal issues one can face without fully realizing it.

I'm still learning how to be a man, but if I could offer a suggestion to any young woman who reads this, I implore the following: You can attract a man with your looks, but it’s better to make him love you because of your heart. It is the best kind of beauty you have.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Quote(s) of the Week

In a time of limited and diluted faith, I thought I'd share some words of wisdom:

"Faith is reason grown courageous."
-- Sherwood Eddy (1871-1963), author

"All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired."
-- Martin Luther (1483-1546), German monk, theologian, and father of the Protestant Reformation

"I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs."
-- Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), author, orator, and abolitionist

"Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair."
-- Gilbert K. Chesterton (1874-1936), journalist, author, and philosopher

"Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand."
-- Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), philosopher, theologian, and one of the 33 Doctors of the [Roman Catholic] Church