The Horror of Poverty
Let me give you a little clue.
TOP TEN SIGNS YOU MIGHT NOT REALLY BE POOR.
10. If you have a roof over your head that you own, you aren't poor.
9. If you have a car to drive, and gas to put in it, you aren't poor.
8. If you have a TV, a DVD player, cable, and/or internet access, you aren't poor.
7. If there's food on the table and more in the fridge, you aren't poor.
6. If you can afford takeout dinner once a week, you aren't poor.
5. If your kids have clothes that belong to them only, you aren't poor.
4. If you have a family doctor, you aren't poor.
3. If you go out to dinner once a month, you aren't poor
2. If your children sleep through the night because their bellies are full of food, then you aren't poor.
1. If your household income is above the US median ($50,233 in 2007), you most certainly are not poor.
If the above conditions describe you, then you aren't poor. You just want more than you've got, a feeling that afflicts many of us regardless of our income.
So stop whining about it.
You want to talk about poverty? Let's talk about the folks living in Sevier County who know about real poverty. Let's talk about a little boy who had to wear his older sister's dresses because hand me downs were the only clothes the family could afford. Let's talk about the kids going to school without proper supplies because there was no money for books, or paper, or a freaking $1.00 ruler from Walmart. Let's talk about the kids in Cocke County and Union County and Greene County that go to bed hungry each night; who can't wait for school to start so they know they'll get at least one good meal a day. Let's talk about the illegal immigrants who brave the desert, the Border Patrol, and racist fools in order to perform backbreaking labor for money most of us would laugh at, just so they can send it home, so their kids can eat.
You want to cry about how poor you are because you can't afford a new purse? Tell it to the lady who can't afford to take her little girl to the doctor to correct a cleft palate.
Let's talk about real poverty. Let's talk about Africa, where kids grow up without parents, because they were taken by disease or violence. Let's talk about kids going to bed every night, hungry, helpless, and hopeless. Let's talk about these kids growing up trapped in an unbreakable cycle of poverty, doomed to miss out on an education because their family needs them to work. Doomed to miss out on job training because they are too busy hauling water to their homes.
And you want to cry because your car needs tires and you'll have to give up your dinner out this month to pay for them?
Grow up! All of you!
Let me clue you in to something. If you live in the United States, chances are you've never experienced true poverty. There are isolated pockets of true poverty in America, but most people never see them, much less live in them. I went from being single with no dependents to married with 4 small children and one on the way, and I made less than $24,000 a year as an E-5 in the Navy. By every US standard, I was poor. I qualified for food stamps, assisted housing, WIC, ADFC, and any other welfare program you care to name. I never took a single dime. Not out of pride; if I needed help, I took it, but I didn't need it. I had a car, a TV, a computer, a stereo, furniture, and all the other material things I needed. None of it was new; none of it was particularly nice, but it did the job. My wife was a smart shopper and we operated on a very tight budget. Since I got out of the Navy, I've had some good years and some very lean years. One year, I made almost $60,000 working on a small island in the Pacific ocean, cleaning up a plutonium site; three years later, I made less than $18,000, managing a fast food restaurant while trying to start my first business. I ran up a tremendous amount of debt, and worked for several years to pay it off. I'm not telling you all this to blow my own horn, only to point out the truth. There were many times when I didn't have all the money I wanted, and more than a few times when I didn't have all the money I needed.
I may have been broke, but I was never poor.
You see, while I was in the Navy, I saw real poverty. We pulled into port in Rio de Janeiro. We spent a lot of time on the beaches, partying with the local ladies, but one day, while on a bus ride to Ipanema, I looked out the window and saw a mountainside covered with cardboard shanties. A few of them had corrugated metal roofs, but most of them were just cardboard, held together by faith and duck tape. There was nothing green on the hillside; everything was mud and filth. No bathrooms, no running water, no sanitation whatsoever, no electricity, no food.
Nothing, except kids standing ankle deep in human waste.
I wish I could say I did something, asked some questions, or got involved somehow, but I didn't. It was just too big to deal with; there was no way for me, an upper middle class American, to comprehend poverty on such a large scale. Besides, I was a sailor, and I was there to have a good time. If I worried about the kids I saw in that cardboard hell, I wouldn't enjoy my liberty. So I turned my head, pretended I didn't see it, and rode the bus down to the beach.
I'm not really good at pretending sometimes.
I hesitate to talk about this, because I don't want to be accused of being prideful, but I recently committed to giving 10% of my gross income to God, and I usually choose to do this through charities that minister to the truly poor. I tell you this not to sing my own praises, or even to inspire you to do the same, although that would be wonderful, but to explain why my stomach churns whenever I hear somebody crying about how poor they are while blogging from a desktop computer in their air conditioned home. My anger is not directed solely at their whining, as much as I would like to believe that's the truth.
My anger springs from remembering a callous young man, who saw children struggling in true poverty, and spent his money on food and fun instead of immediately using it to help however he could.
Look, I know times are tough right now, and they're only going to get tougher, and I know some of us have it harder than others. But the honest truth is that nobody reading these words, unless you're homeless and in a library escaping the rain/heat/cold for a few hours, has experienced real poverty. None of us are poor.
We're just spoiled.
Independence is More than Just a Word
To be sure, there were many who did not leave voluntarily, but were exiled because of their inability to accept the status quo in a decadent and decaying society, characterized by a rigid class system that decreed a man should not rise above his station.
I think about all of those people, willing to sacrifice so much, all in order to take a chance, and with no guarantee of success. If they failed, there was no government safety net to catch them. They had to rely on the kindness of their fellow man, or they died. And many of them did die. Hostile natives, disease, famine, war; these all killed many of the men and women who took that magnificent leap of faith. And they knew going into it that death and failure were strong possibilities, but they chose to go anyway, because independence was more important to them than life itself.
These strong, brave men and women crossed the ocean and carved out a new life for themselves, and a new nation for their children. And when the old world tried to restrain them, they threw off the shackles of the past and embraced an uncertain destiny. They rebelled against the government that tried to control them from across the ocean. They defied the mightiest military force in the world. Again, there were no guarantees of success. In fact, the most probable outcome was humiliating, crushing defeat. Just like in the previous generation, when the majority elected to stay home in comfort and security, while a brave few chose to risk everything to stand as free men, limited only by their own abilities and their own character, in the new colonies, most of the people wanted to cling to the government, to accept the indignities and insults offered by a mad tyrant rather than to risk their prosperity and their security in a bid for freedom. Yet a few brave patriots stood against the tyrant and boldly proclaimed that they were free men, citizens, not subjects. On July 4th, they signed a document that pledged their Lives, their Fortunes, and their sacred Honor in the cause of freedom. They were willing to give up everything in order to win the one thing that truly matters.
Just over two centuries later, men and women who feel the same way are not just mocked and scorned, but are called dangerous, and potential terrorists. The government of the United States published an article that said that carrying a copy of the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence is a sign of a potential terrorist. A man who believes in the exact same ideals as the men who founded this nation is considered a potential criminal by that same nation.
How far we have fallen!
We've gone from a nation of men who fought and died for the right to succeed or fail based solely on our own merits to a nation of children who look to the government to ensure that all of our most basic needs are met. The prosperity that was earned by our ancestors' willingness to risk failure has turned us into cowards who seek security over freedom, welfare over opportunity, and dependence over independence. The people of the United States are now demanding that their state and local governments take bailout money from the federal government, no matter what strings may be attached. They are willingly surrendering their basic rights and freedoms in order to accept handouts from the federal government. They would rather be taken care of than take care of themselves.
The United States were a noble experiment in maximizing independence and individual liberty, but after a promising start, the experiment failed. The people have voted to give up everything their ancestors struggles, fought, and died for. We've come full circle, from giving up the comforts of being a subject in favor of independence to giving up that independence in favor of being subjects. Our history has demonstrated that the majority of people are not equipped to handle freedom, that they need and want to be taken care of, to be told what to do. Independence has always been the dream of a minority of people. Only a hardy few chose to leave Europe to find that freedom, and a generation later, only a few stood for independence from tyranny. Today, there are only a few who still believe that opportunity and independence are more important that safety and security, and those few risk arrest and retribution. We've come full circle, from rejecting a paternalistic tyrant in order to gain the freedom to excel, to rejecting freedom in favor of a maternalistic tyrant.
You can have freedom, or you can have security.
You can't have both. The freedom to achieve is also the freedom to fail, and bear the consequences of that failure. If you attempt to limit one side of the equation, you automatically limit the other side as well. As a nation, we;ve chosen security.
Our ancestors would be ashamed.
Anonymous Blogging: Why I Don’t Do It.
There's a kerfluffle in the blogosphere right now concerning when it is ok to "out" an anonymous blogger. Apparently one righty blogger got mad at a pseudonymous lefty blogger and outed him. Now there's quite a bit of blowback coming at the exposer for exposing the exposee, leading to the question, should bloggers who blog anonymously be subject to outing and when?
First of all, as my buddy SayUncle would say, there's a huge difference between blogging under a pseudonym and blogging anonymously. Those who use a consistent pseudonym create an identity that is recognizable, and to a certain extent accountable. Total anonymity, on the other hand, has no accountability at all, as you can easily verify be reading the comments section of your favorite newspaper website. Cowards hide beneath the blanket of anonymity and say things that they wouldn't have the nerve to say to your face.
However, there's still a problem with blogging under a pseudonym. At least there is for me. There are two reasons that I blog under my own name. First off, I want to be held accountable for everything I write, good or bad. As anybody who has read me for any length of time knows, I can get intense from time to time. Knowing that my mother will read whatever I write, along with future employers, keeps a check on me whenever I start to go a little bit too far. There are some who believe that I haven't held back enough, that I've crossed the line a time or twelve, and I'm sure I have. But when I'm called on it, if I agree that I've gone to far, I apologize. If I disagree, I explain why, and politely confirm my original opinion. The point is that I am constantly aware that what I put up on this blog, or what I write in comments on other blogs gives people a reflection of my character, and I want it to be as true a reflection as I can manage.
There are other bloggers who prefer to do the opposite. They create a character when they blog, and use that character to say or do things they aren't willing to do in the real world. They fear repercussions from work or family, or from society in general and so they hide their blogging behind a pseudonym. In some cases, it's because they are acting out, adopting language and attitudes that they know are unacceptable in polite society. In others, it's because they are acting out adolescent fantasies of "sticking it to the man," or "speaking truth to power" when in real life, they may or may not believe the rhetoric they spew; they just like causing a ruckus. And others hold opinions that they suspect, and usually accurately, would get them into trouble, whether at work or with family/friends and while they want to follow the cardinal rule of never discussing politics, sex, or religion, they simply can't. They have to express their opinion, and blogging under a pseudonym allows them to do so without suffering the usual social repercussions. The final category is the true revolutionary. He holds views that he knows would get him singled out for repercussions and he must communicate anonymously or he could be killed, jailed, or audited by the IRS.
I hate to break it to you, but no US blogger falls into the last category. At least, not yet.
And that's the second reason I blog under my own name. I believe that if you're going to climb up on a soapbox and start sounding off, you should have the courage to do so under your own name, regardless of the potential repercussions. I know other bloggers feel differently about it, and that's cool; they have to look at themselves in the mirror everyday. For me, it just isn't an option. I hold beliefs that some people are reprehensible. They look down on me for them, but that's cool too. My beliefs are what make me who I am and I have no intention of changing who I am for anybody, and I'm not going to hide who I am in order to get along with anybody.
I'm a Biblical Christian. I believe in the God of the Bible, not some kindly grandfather in the sky who will love us no matter what we do to Him. His name is God, not Santa Claus. Islam is not the religion of peace, no matter how many heads they cut off trying to prove it. Islam has as its goal the submission of every human being on the planet, through proselytization if possible, but by force if necessary. Read the Qu'ran if you don't believe me. I believe President Obama is the culmination of a decades long effort to turn American citizens into American subjects. I'm Pro-Life and anti-death penalty. I'm for ending welfare as a life choice and for ending the war on drugs. I believe in a small government that needs to get its nose out of my business and its hand out of my pocket. I believe gays have every right to a state marriage and that homosexual activity is a sin. I strongly support the US Constitution as written, not as interpreted, and that includes the Bill of Rights, particularly the 2nd. I believe that the wall of separation is not a one way wall, but that it protects religion from the state even more than it does the state from religion. I believe men and women are not the same, that their biology makes each excel in different areas, and that sometimes, the best man for the job is a man. I believe that no matter what surgery you've had, a man is a man and a woman is a woman. I believe that evolution as a scientific theory has some major holes that need filling, but Intelligent Design is even worse. Global Warming, or "Climate Change" as we're supposed to call it now, is one of the most overly hyped con jobs ever played on a gullible populace, and that the majority of warming we've experienced is due to solar activity, not greenhouse gas emissions. If Al Gore, the patron saint of global warming, really believed the crap he was peddling, don't you think he might turn off a light or two at home? Or maybe take the bus instead of the Gulfstream? The guy is the biggest hypocrite on the planet right now, and that's the really inconvenient truth. Energy independence is vital to our nation's survival, which means it's way too important to trust to fairy tales like "the hydrogen economy," fuel cells, or any of the other alternative energy sources that are years if not decades away from being practical. We need nuke plants to power the grid, distributed solar, passive and PV, for our homes to reduce the load on the grid, and to develop domestic oil supplies, even the hard to get at ones. I'm first a Christian, then a father and husband, then a Tennessean, and only then an American.
Read the above list. There's something there to offend just about everyone on the planet. Which part should I hide?
This is who I am folks, and if I feel like I have to hide behind a false identity to say what I believe, then what I'm really saying is that I'm ashamed who I am. That means that I'm more concerned over how I will look to people than whether I'm right or not, and that's backwards. I'd rather be honest than fashionable.
Too Much Fun Not to Share…
A Brief Interlude
Of the 4 Disney parks, I rank them as follows:
This surprised me, because I have some very good memories of Epcot Center 25 years ago. Then it was informative and fun. Now it's preachy and less fun. The Animal Kingdom and Hollywood both get star marks for their attention to detail and execution of their themes. It was fun just walking around in those two parks; the rides were almost a bonus.
I'll have more details later, but now its time to return to the honeymoon.
PS: If pictures of me in mouse ears appear on the internet, do not believe them. They are poorly photoshopped fakes.
Do I Dare Blog on my Honeymoon?
Counting My Blessings
We had a couple of family crises today; nobody is sick or in any danger, just family members going through difficult circumstances. But it is times like these when you find out just how blessed you really are.
My family and my friends came through for me in every way that I could have wished for and then some. Without question, without condition, they answered my call for help.
That is a true blessing, and one that I thank God for every day.
Music to my Ears: KSO Blogger’s Night
Now I already have a bit of a reputation as a know-it-all, so I'm not going to make it worse by going into detail about the pieces played and comparing the Baroque period to the Romantic or any of that stuff. I'm much simpler in my approach to music. It has to have a melody, and harmony. I can appreciate the technical merits of some of the more modern works, but they really don't do anything for me emotionally. That's why I was very happy that last night's program included J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #3.
One of the first albums I ever bought was Wendy Carlos' Switched on Bach, where she played several Bach compositions on a Moog synthesizer. Now for all you youngsters, playing a synth back then was a much different process than it is today. The Moog synthesizer was an analog machine, not digital, so while it was much more versatile, it was also much more difficult to use. Sounds were created by physically connecting modules together that worked to modify a base tone. Each module could be tuned to vary its effect on the base tone, and it could take hours of connecting and tuning modules to develop the correct sound. Once the artist created the sound, she recorded that track, and then had to start all over for the next one. Carlos built up her performances one track at a time, but the result was astounding. Each and every note was crystal clear, existing in its own space, yet blending together to form a coherent whole.
I was hooked.
I next went out and got a Berlin Philharmonic recording of the Brandenburgs and my record collection began to grow.
Last night I got to hear the 3rd Brandenburg performed live for the first time and it was amazing. 11 musicians playing 11 instruments, sometimes all playing different notes and lines, other times playing almost entirely in unison, yet always playing together.
And that was just the start of the concert.
Navah Perlman played next, performing the Mozart Piano Concerto #24. Ms. Perlman played beautifully and expressively, and it was easy to forget how demanding the piece was to play.
There was a reception after the concert, and Lissa and I got a chance to talk to Ms. Perlman and it was amazing to see just how normal she was. I know, that sounds kind of silly, but I've always thought of classical musicians as just a little bit different than the rest of us. After all, they have something special inside of them, something that allows them to focus their talents to an extent most of us could never understand, much less achieve, and using that talent, they produce art. So when you meet an accomplished person like Ms. Perlman, and you wind up talking about grocery stores and the perils of raising twins, it's a bit surreal.
And quite nice, actually.
The final piece of the night was Mendelssohn's Symphony #4, with its instantly recognizable first movement. Conductor Lucas Richman and the symphony got to play for a bit on the first movement, while the bass musicians had their turn in the second, playing a walking bass line that will be familiar to any blues lovers in the crowd.
It was a great evening of music, and reminds me of how much better music is when performed live. No recording can capture the energy of a live performance.
For all of you that don't think you'd like classical music, you should give it a shot. The KSO has a number of concert series that include something for every taste. The Masterworks Series presents major pieces, including some commissioned specifically for the KSO. The Pops Series usually feature the KSO along with a guest artist performing more popular music. If you're looking for a gentle introduction to orchestral music, this may be the way to go. And if you're into chamber music and smaller orchestra, like I am, then the Chamber Classics Series is right up your alley.
And if you're worried about how to conduct yourself properly while at the symphony, don't be. Just be polite, don't snore, and wait for somebody else to start the applause.
As a final thought, you may have noticed that I've included a ton of links to the KSO website. That's because they have a very active website which is informative and easy to access. You can see who is coming, what they will be playing, and even preview some of the pieces. There's also a blog, and conductor Lucas Richman posts shortly before each concert to let people know what to expect, and give a little background into the pieces and why he selected them.
Finally, I'd like to thank Stephanie Burdette, who organized this whole thing and made sure we all felt welcome. It was a fantastic evening, and I look forward to the next one.
I'm not going to rant about the war on Christmas because it doesn't touch me. If shopkeepers want to go with the generic "Happy Holidays" to avoid charges of political incorrectness, or to avoid offending the habitually offended, that doesn't change my response to them, which is and always will be "Merry Christmas." Not because I'm trying to prove a point, but because that is the holiday that I am celebrating, and my wish is that they too will celebrate with me.
That's a very key point that I wish more of my brothers would remember and practice.
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, God Among Us, who became flesh for us so that we could be reconciled with God. That's Christmas in a nutshell, and there's nothing that anybody can say or do that will change that, so why should I worry about it? Besides, the world has a long history of rejecting Christ; why should things be any different today? Just about everybody knows the words to John 3:16, even non Christians.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
But how many are familiar with John 3:19?
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.
We are to walk in the world but we are not of the world. Saying "Merry Christmas," but meaning "I'm going to say this just because it's my right to say it, and you can't stop me, and I like to see that annoyed look on your face," is of the world. It's a lie because we aren't wishing them a Merry Christmas at all, and they are right to be offended. You should apologize for giving offense.
But if you can say Merry Christmas from the heart, truly wishing that the person you are addressing will enjoy the blessings of Christ, then if they are offended, all you need say is "I am sorry that you are offended," and move on. Their unbelief has no power to affect your belief.
So to all of my brothers and sisters, I wish you all the blessings of Christmas.
And to be perfectly frank, I see no reason to add to the Blagojevich fracas, Obama is still cementing his place in mediocrity, the housing and credit markets will continue to crash, the Fed will continue to print money like it's going out of style, because, well, it is.
In short, now is a perfect time to take a breath, catch up on chores, and spend some time with family and friends.
Don't worry, I still have pieces working, including finishing up my Bible discussion with Part 3, and an in depth look at the whole analog/digital divide as expressed in computers, along with a few other posts that I'm working on. But my style has always been to put together longer, well thought out posts, and it's difficult to just throw those together. They take time in large chunks, and all I get are splinters right now. While that works wonderfully for guys like Say Uncle and Instapundit, if I start writing when I have five free minutes, I look up an hour and a half later, which means I've lost 85 minutes of billable time that I have to make up somewhere else, usually at 2AM or something like that.
Starting January 1, I will begin posting daily again.
By the way, if any of you knows somebody looking for a freelance know it all, direct them here. I'd love to get paid for doing this, and if I can bill hours for writing like this, I can do more of it.
Feminism in Full Flower
Him: You're right. If you aren't capable of handling a gun safely, you shouldn't be armed.
Her: How dare you say I shouldn't have a gun! Who do you think you are!
The mashed potatoes are ready to bake tomorrow; the turkey is bathing in brine; the ham is ready for glazing. I've made and frozen three flavors of ice cream, double chocolate truffle, pumpkin hazelnut, and vanilla. Tomorrow after the turkey comes out, I'll put a pecan pie in the oven.
We'll get up early and head over to my mothers house, toting all of the food with us. We'll get there about 10AM or so and put the turkey in the oven and finish up all the sides and trimmings while watching the parades and football.
Around three, we'll sit down with our family, mine and Lissa's as we celebrate our first real holiday together. And it is fitting that the holiday is Thanksgiving because I have so much to be thankful for.
Thank you for all of the blessings you've given me in my life. There are more than I can easily count, and I'm sorry that at times, I lose sight of them, and grow angry because things aren't going the way I want them too, or I want something I don't have, or in any of a thousand other ways, I lose sight of all that you have done for me.
I have six wonderful children, all healthy, reasonably happy, and growing up strong. I have two more members of my family, Lissa's kids, who will become a part of my family, in whatever way they want. And I have Lissa, whom you brought into my life at a time when I thought that part of my life was finished. I have two grandsons, both healthy and happy and wide eyed and curious as only children can be. I look at them and sometimes I can almost remember how it felt to see the world as a new thing, filled with constant surprises. I have my mother, brother, and sister, and their families. I have aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces. I am blessed with a large family filled with individuals who value their independence, but are there to lend a helping hand whenever they are needed.
As long as they know help is needed. Sorry about that Sean.
I am part of an even larger family. My boss, who is also my closest friend, is also the leader of my Bible Study group and You worked through him so that I could hear and answer Your call.
Lord, You gave me many talents, and I know I've let them slide for a long time, but I thank you that I'm now finally discovering the reason you gave them to me, and what I am to do with them. I ask You for the strength and the direction I need to make sure that my words do not fall on the ground.
Father, we live in a time when we tend to be thankful for the wrong things. We are thankful for wealth, or success, or health, or a car, or a job. All of these things in themselves are of the flesh, not you. Instead of being thankful for being financially secure, we should be thankful that You hold our security in Your hands. Instead of being thankful for the health of our bodies, we should be thankful that Your Son died for the health of our souls. Instead of being thankful for our freedoms, we should be thankful that You chose us to enter into Your service. Everything that we mistakenly hold dear can be snatched away in a short moment. Our wealth, our health, our freedom, all of these things can be taken from us, and that means that they never were really ours in the first place.
There is only one thing that cannot be taken from us, one thing that is truly ours forever. That one thing is You. We are bound to You through Your Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross almost 2000 years ago so that we could be freed from the penalty of our sins. That sacrifice is all I need to be thankful for the rest of my life.
When the hard times come, I ask that You help me to remember the real blessings that I have, and that I remain just as thankful as I am today.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
A Safety Reward
I'm using it to purchase a new SA XDm .40 for myself.
Because I want to stay safe.
Lissa will be purchasing an XDm 9mm for herself.
I May Not Be Holier Than Thou, But I Am Most Certainly Geekier Than Thou.
I'll post pics of my new toys when they arrive...
Don't tell Lissa, but I'm going for a trifecta Friday!