Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday, 2010

“But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table.”

Good Friday. The darkest day on the Christian calendar. Judas betrayed Christ to the San Hedrin. His other disciples fled after his arrest. The disciple who proclaimed himself his most faithful follower denied three times that he even knew him.

He was arrested by the Jews, tried by the Romans, and denounced by the same crowds that had once flocked to hear him preach.

Pontius Pilate, upon a warning from his wife who was a follower of Jesus’, washed his hands of the crowds’ sentence upon Christ. He was mocked, whipped, and tortured, given a crown of thorns, and led through the Jerusalem’s streets to be crucified.

There on the cross, he suffered for nine hours until God called his spirit home. And why was he tormented? Well, basically, because he challenged the authority of the Jewish leaders and the Roman government.

Because he challenged the authority of common man to hold himself above God’s laws. Because he told the truth, and none of them liked it very much. His whole life was like that. The people of Nazareth once tried to throw him off a cliff.

“A prophet is without honor in his own country,” he said to them. Then brushing himself off, walked away and went on his mission.

Among his last words, in prayer, were: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Sentenced to be crucified with him were two thieves.  One of them asked Jesus, if he was the son of God, why he didn’t save himself?

The other remonstrated, “Don’t you fear God, since you’re under the same sentence? We are punished justly for our crimes. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

He then asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom.

“Truly, I say to you:” Christ responded, “today, you will be with me in paradise.”

Phoebe Prince, and all the other children who could no longer bear a punishment they did not deserve, are now with him in that same paradise, under His everlasting protection.

Jesus had begged God not to put him through the torture to come. But he understood and answered his own prayer, “Yet not my will, but yours, be done.”

Jesus would not have any innocent child throw their life away needlessly. Children are not taught to pray and trust in God as they once were. Ask, and the Almighty will send you help.

Probably the help will arrive in some human form. If the help fails, tell God, and ask Him again. With me, it was my mother, bursting unexpectedly through the classroom door, like the cavalry charging over the hill in a western movie.

He is listening, and watching. If you don’t ask, though, there’s not much He can do for you. He has to know that you want His help and you have to believe that He’ll help you. As for those of you watching, but not doing anything, God is watching you, too.

Most of all, He’s watching the bullies. He’s watching you as you gleefully pummel the innocent, thinking there’s nothing anyone can do about it, not even God. He listens as you listen to Lucifer instead of Him.

You think you have everyone intimidated. The weaker kids. The teachers. The principal. Even your parents. You defy censure and punishment. You bide your time with physical intervention. Tomorrow is another day.

They can stop you, you think, but they can’t change your hearts. You believe in Darwin, not Jesus. Survival of the fittest, the strongest, the best-looking. The cunning. The savvy. Your rule is the law of the jungle, not civilization. You’re totally fearless.

You’re the best-looking girl in school. Your boyfriend is the captain of the high school football team. He wanted to make you jealous, so he took advantage of the new girl in school then dumped her for you and your friends to vilify. So what?

Or maybe you’re the captain of the drug gang. Or maybe just a thug who grew up believing that might makes right, and that homely girls never had a right to be born, or that the fat should stop gorging themselves, or that gay kids should go back in the closet – even if you are the one who dragged them out in the first place.

Or even if they aren’t actually homosexual. They act like it. That’s good enough for you. The nerds. The geeks. The dorks. The queers.  They’ve all got it coming, don’t they? Yeah.

You’re not afraid of anything. You can laugh off any admonition, mock any warning, dismiss any prediction. You have “the power.”  Psychologists call you “sociopaths"; the only name anyone dares to call you.

Still, here’s a warning for you (you’ll find it in Revelations 3:10):

“I know your deeds. You have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Obama's April Fools Joke

On March 31st, Obama stated, “Today we are announcing the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration.”

What he didn’t say was the drilling would be in places where there’s little chance of finding oil and upsetting the Greenie vote, like in Utah. Or in ANWR. Or Prudhoe Bay.

April Fools!

Obama campaigned on this ‘oily’ platform: “We only have three percent of the world’s oil supplies. And we use 25 percent of the world’s oil. So we can’t simply drill our way out of the problem.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told Sean Hannity, “Well, he actually ended up blocking up more land than he ended up opening up. And if you look at what he's doing — if you look at California, for instance, you could create more jobs and get more oil immediately off the coast of California.

"You can't do anything now off the coast of California.

“So — and of the 14 billion barrels of oil that we know on the outer continental shelf, he locked up 13.1 billion [barrels] of it.”

On Feb. 11, 2009, the Washington Times reported: “Facing gas prices near $4 a gallon and a pivotal national election, congressional Democrats allowed a ban on offshore drilling to lapse in September.

“But times change, and on Tuesday, the Obama administration - with gas prices roughly half what they were and many Democrats' having been swept into office - blocked offshore drilling plans put in place at the last minute by the Bush administration, including plans to open the national outer continental shelf for drilling.

“Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar also announced last week that his agency would block drilling on public lands in Utah, criticizing the Bush administration for releasing its offshore drilling plan just days before leaving office.

“A former Bush administration staffer said the extended review process needlessly drags out an already thorough process. [That’s what Obama said about Health Care Reform, but at least we knew what the off-shore drilling was about.] The Times continues: The congressional moratorium, which had been in place since 1982, lapsed just months after President Bush lifted an executive order banning offshore drilling.

“Offshore oil exploration and drilling became a tough topic for Democrats during the 2008 elections, as gas prices topped $4 a gallon and public opinion polls showed broad support for expanded domestic oil production

Rep. Rob Bishop R-Utah, also speaking on Sean Hannity’s show, added, “We were ready to start drilling off the coast. His proposal will change the plan so we don't even start talking about it until 2012.”

A column in today’s Bergen Record noted how New Jersey Democrats, and even Gov. Christie, were upset about the prospect of drilling off the Jersey coast.

However, according to the New York Times: “Under the plan, the coastline from New Jersey northward would remain closed to all oil and gas activity. So would the Pacific Coast, from Mexico to the Canadian border.”

The Washington Times article notes, “Offshore drilling advocates were ecstatic in July 2008 when they thought a deal had been reached with green groups to permit drilling off Santa Barbara, Calif. — the first since the January 1969 oil spill there.

But, “(D)espite the "agreement" and approval of offshore drilling by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, the Greens subsequently got the California State Lands Commission to deny the offshore leases and then, in July 2009, got the California Assembly to block Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to revive offshore drilling.

“Last December, the Obama administration actually granted Shell Oil leases to drill three exploratory wells in Alaska's Chukchi Sea. But claiming a shoddy approval process, the leases are being challenged by green groups in the enviro-friendly 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Despite campaign rhetoric about supporting more drilling, last fall the Obama administration canceled drilling leases in Utah previously granted by President Bush.

“The leases were denied for the flimsiest reasons, including possible damage to the habitat of the sage grouse and avoiding the dust and noise pollution from drilling.”

Anyone who believes Obama is a fool.  Anyone who believes Obama is a fool is a fool.  He is no fool, though; the president is looking towards Cap and Trade, the misnamed bill that will tax businesses on their energy consumption, and the RINO votes he needs to pass it.

Pundits have noted that he has agreed to drilling in the places where there’s the least likelihood of success, keeping his Green base happy while appearing to be moderate on the energy issue.

He hopes critics will be painted as cranks who oppose moving forward. He hopes the voters will have long forgotten the facts, if they ever knew or cared about them in the first place.

It’s all a grand April Fools joke. When voters realize their mistake, too late as usual, they’ll trot Nancy Pelosi out on cue in her sexiest Harlequin costume to mock the American public.

April Fools, America!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sweet Phoebe Prince

"Good-night, sweet prince
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest"

If someone were to publicly attack an adult, onlookers would immediately dial 911 on their cell phones, aiming those cell phone cameras at the perpetrators. The police would arrest the attackers. If found guilty in court, they would be sent to prison.

Why then do we think our children are less deserving of protection? Why have we always dismissed bullying and teasing as playground antics, harmless and innocent? Why do we tolerate behavior in children we would not tolerate in adults?

Why do we look away and tell our children not to bother us? To handle it themselves? Why do we tell them that such criminal behavior is a normal part of real life when, in real life, we punish it?

The same children who bully will grow up believing such a behavior is acceptable and turn into criminals. Only then do we arrest them, having neglected their poisonous growth while still in the nursery bed, when it could have been uprooted.

Phoebe Prince was pretty, smart, sweet, and the new girl in town, with a lilting Irish brogue that seemed to make her attractive to at least one senior high school football player at South Hadley High School. It also made her a target.

We always think it’s only the awkward, the homely, the misfits who are targeted by bullying. I was bullied mercilessly in grade school because I was homely. The teacher stood by silently as the 5th grade schoolyard bully incessantly slammed his desk into the back of my chair.

The torment only stopped when my mother burst into the schoolroom unannounced, threatening the boy with expulsion and the teacher with termination if it wasn’t stopped immediately.

When I was 12, I was beaten up by a gang of kids while on my newspaper route. One of my customers rescued me.

Phoebe’s mother was there for her. But the school administration was not. They dismissed her Jan. 14th suicide as the act of a “complicated” teenaged girl. The principal said we would never know why she took her own life.

The details of the case have been slow in emerging. Evidently, she briefly dated the two boys who have been charged with statutory rape, with the implication that she somehow consented to sexual relationships with them, bringing on the harassment.

It’s an old trick and an old story where an older, upperclassman will lure a younger, innocent girl into a sexual relationship. She’s the new girl in school, pretty, inexperienced, an underclassman, probably a freshman.

Within a few weeks, the captain of the football team takes notice of her, squiring her about to the exclusion of all the attractive, upperclass girls. Pretty soon it goes to her head. She figures she must be doing something right, that she’s pretty special to have all this attention

One thing leads to another, and the Cinderella fairy tale turns into a horror story. After consummating the relationship, “Prince Charming” drops her, then betrays her secret to the school cliques, ruining the girl’s reputation.

Knowing that she was now “available,” did the next boy sympathetically offer Phoebe his “services”, only to do the same thing to her? There may have been emotional blackmail involved, as well. Because she killed herself, we now only have their side of the story.

They knew exactly what they were doing, all these “Prince Charmings” and “Ugly Step Sisters” and feckless “Stepmothers”. There’s definitely no “happy ending” to this story, though perhaps there is a fairy godmother, albeit, a posthumous one.

The District Attorney is a gutsy woman. These two young men apparently didn’t comprehend their state’s statutory rape laws. The law differs from state to state. Or will they claim Phoebe just didn’t look her age?

The victim may be sexually mature, but if there is a sufficient age difference between the victim and attacker, the prosecution can argue that the mentally younger victim lacked the judgment to understand the consequences of consenting.

In the good old days, the boy would write the girl’s name on the wall in the boys’ room. Today, they use Facebook and Twitter. But it’s still the same old story of “Blame the Victim.” Caveat emptor. She was willing. She gave in. She “enjoyed” it. She was a girl of “easy virtue.”

Never mind what all this made these guys. The old double standard is in their favor.

The indignant mother of one girl claims that she raised her daughter with strong values. If only we knew the “truth,” we wouldn’t be so sympathetic. If we knew the whole story, we’d know it was all Phoebe’s own fault. That her tormenters spoke the “truth.”

Other students who know the “truth” about South Hadley harassment have been effectively silenced. A student who told a television news crew about the bullying was thrown against a locker as soon as they left, and beaten in the head. By a girl member of the gang.

These were no inner city, urban ghetto gangstas. Their pictures show seemingly clean-cut, wholesome, suburban progeny, just as my tormentors were, from “good” homes. Violence is not the sole province of poverty, by any means. Angelic faces can mask a hideous evil.

These monsters have not been expelled and have not been daunted by public outcry. Phoebe’s death was not enough for them. They signed onto her memorial Facebook page and continued their harassment, posthumously humiliating her.

So far, not all of them have been expelled from school and the outrage is spreading nationwide. The school is taking a circle-the-wagons public relations approach. Perhaps they fear the “truth” will come out.

After all, if it was known that Phoebe “consented”, she might be relegated to “Client Number Nine” status by the media. The school would look foolish then and be subject to lawsuits by the aggrieved parents of the “wronged” students who taunted Phoebe.

It’s a pity that it took a pretty girl’s death to raise awareness of school bullying. But if justice is done for her and all the other countless victims of harassment and abuse, then her death will not have been in vain, and she will be remembered as the angel of tormented children.

There have been so many, many others. Countless innocents, the victims of various degrees of abuse, who weren’t old enough, strong enough or defiant enough to fend off their attackers. The guilty live to swagger down the hallways of life, while we create memorials to their victims.

People have told me to just get over what happened when I was young. Not for the life of me would I allow my tormentors to drag me back down into that den of ugly memories, sobbing on some psychiatrist’s couch. I live, I laugh, I love. But I haven’t forgotten, either.

I once promised my chief tormentor, the 5th grade bully, that I would live to turn his laughter around. I would make people laugh and bring happiness to them, until his laughter was drowned out by theirs.

I also swore I would never forget any of those children like me who did not survive. I swore to fight tyranny in all its forms, social, religious, and political, and when I was victorious, to bring roses of peace to the graves of those whose spring was blighted.

Good night, sweet Phoebe Prince. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, child.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hold Your Fire

The news that 24 percent of Republicans believe Obama might be the Anti-Christ isn’t even a week old, and already, militant extremist militia groups are ready for the Battle of Armageddon.

Their guns are drawn and their targets in site. They’re ready for Jesus to come down here in that cloud of rapture and bear them away to glory.

Only Jesus isn’t quite ready, yet, and neither are we. We’ve only put our big toes in the water here.

Undoubtedly, Nanny Pelosi’s mocking mug drove these guys, and their comrades in arms, mad with rage. They chose some poor cop, however, in some little town as their first example, allegedly planning to shoot the mourners at his funeral.

Thank goodness for the FBI. They’re experts at handling nut-jobs. Long experience, I guess.

We’ve a long way to go before we reach that epic battle, where firearms might, might I say, be necessary, as a last, desperate measure. Regretfully, even peaceful Jesus acknowledged as much.

Before the world comes to an end, America must come to an end. The government will have to strip us of all our rights first. Our right to free speech, to freedom of religion, to being able to establish a militia, to a right to trial by jury, and all the rest.

Obama might just do it in one, fell swoop, tearing up the U.S. Constitution. He’s already taken over the banking, insurance, education, and car manufacturing industries. He’s determined to finish off the other private sector industries with Cap and Trade.

He rammed through Health Care in a strange contortion of legislative maneuvers, using all the usual politic tricks at his disposal – bribery, threats, corruption, scandal. Then mocked the American people for opposing him.

Then the government will begin throwing us in prison for opposing them, protesting, and criticizing them. For practicing our religion. For disputing their scientific theories. For daring to educate our own children or citing the Founding Fathers.

For threatening the U.S. government. For treason.

Nanny Pelosi must be laughing hysterically now. This extremist militia group, plotting a pro-active coup, rather than a defense of home and country, has given the Liberals exactly what they wanted – an excuse to repeal the Second Amendment.

The FBI might not like to hear it, but a “well-regulated militia” is the last defense of a free people against a tyrannical government. We just haven't arrived at freedom's last stand yet.

But removing that protection will make removing the other “weapons” of freedom and democracy much easier.

Stand down, you militia guys. Freedom still has a fighting chance.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Prepare for Emergency Landing

All day Sunday, I put off writing my column. Weary from a week of writing, I feared I had run out of energy and passion.

Finally, I decided I should keep up the momentum, and chose Palm Sunday as a fitting topic for that day’s blog.

Long ago, I lost my childhood Bible. Tired of its stern brow-beatings – no matter what page I turned to, a bible-thumping was in store – I banished it from one corner to another, until finally, I lost it altogether.

If I thought I was well-rid of it (at the time), my Bible felt the same way about me. I’ve searched my home up and down trying to locate it, to no avail. I’ve cleared every book shelf, looked into every nook. Disgusted with me, I think it ran away from home.

So, I’ve had to resort to a secondary bible, New Testament only, when I wish to quote the scripture. It’s a modern-language Bible, and not one I’ve always had great faith in. But any Bible in a storm.

This Bible, which I picked up in my teens, it turns out, was published in a town not far from me, the same town in which I played percussion in a church band for awhile.

To this Bible I made reference when discussing Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his subsequent teaching at the Temple there.

I cited the Parable of the Tenants and also made reference to some of his teachings regarding the End Times. I hadn’t realized he’d spoken of the sun, the moon, and the stars, and astrological prophecies.

Christians I know have always scorned astrology, I assumed, because Jesus did.

Very interesting. But no matter. I read some other interesting quotes from Jesus, too, which I didn’t include in my blog.

“Be careful,” he said, “or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life, and that day (Armageddon) will close on you unexpectedly, like a trap.

“For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always upon the watch and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Whoa! Heavy duty stuff for 10:30 at night. I saved what I had written and posted it quickly so that it would appear in my Sunday blog. Then I went to watch a little television before I retired.

Channel-surfing, I discovered one of my favorite movies, Titanic. I tuned in during the great ship’s last moments. But this was more doom and gloom, of which I had had enough. I figured I’d watch the last commercial and hit the off button.

A new beer commercial came on. A jet had crash-landed on a remote, tropical island. A dripping wet young woman announced she had discovered the plane’s radio. They’d be able to call for help and be saved.

But then a guy’s voice called out. He’d discovered the ship’s refrigerator, conveniently stocked with the company’s beer. The other idiot passengers cheered in jubilation and danced around, leaving the girl with the radio dumb-founded.

“We’ve been saved!” a passenger cries, kissing the beer bottle.

I suppose it’s funny. I have a sense of humor, just like anyone else. And I would have laughed, if not five minutes before, I hadn’t read Jesus’ admonition about being weighed down with drunkenness.

Those actors didn’t look very weighed down to me. Nor did Sen. Chuck Schumer sound very glum when he told NBC’s “Meet the Press:

“’As people learn what's actually in the [HealthCare Reform] bill, that six months from now, by election time, this is going to be a plus because the parade of horribles, particularly the worry that the average middle class person has that this is going to affect them negatively, will have vanished and they'll see that it'll affect them positively in many ways.’”

Fox News reports that a non-plussed “David Axelrod, President Obama's senior adviser, predicted to CNN that once people get their benefits, they won't want to give them up.”

"’Millions of small businesses this year will get tax credits for health insurance for their employees. Kids with pre-existing conditions will get coverage for the first time. They won't be excluded any more.

"’If people really want to repeal those things, then go and make the case to the American people. After all, that's what elections are for.’"

Evidently, the Liberals figure we’ll see this as our great-grandparents’, grandparents’, and parents’ health care. That it’s in our genetic make-up to accept freebies and not question their cost, constitutionality, or corruptibility.

Fox News ended its report thus, “Democratic Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak held a two-hour town hall meeting on Sunday. It was supposed to be an opportunity for him to explain provisions of the law to constituents. Instead, he got an earful from voters who said the bill will bankrupt America and shred the limited government intent of the U.S. Constitution.”

We may lose our labor in the repeal process. But we are obligated to make the attempt all the same. We must have faith in our fellow Americans’ good sense and virtue. We must pray they don’t take the devils’ bait.

Of course, it will be hard work. We must convince thick-headed, beer-swilling neanderthals whose idea of retirement planning is playing the lottery that our country is trillions of dollars in debt. There’s a good chance they’ll just laugh and ignore us.

If they do, however, we must break out the life preservers and prepare for an emergency landing.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday, 2010

We all often wonder, what would Jesus say if he saw our modern world? Would he be pleased or would he be appalled. Would he think we’d made progress or that it was the same old, same old.

If Jesus entered say, New York City, instead of Jerusalem, was given a ticker tape parade up Broadway, with confetti instead of palm fronds, what would he think of what he saw?

It’s doubtful this one-time carpenter would be very impressed with our steel towers, our cars, or our computers. He’d probably ask to be taken to the poorest section of town.

Although he would find comparatively poor people, he’d also find that they were not starving. Fat, even. He’d listen to their complaints of poverty, of social injustice, and inequality. He’d be told of the suburban McMansions with their wide, paved streets.

Proudly, the Socialists would boast of the great strides they’ve made in resolving these inequities. But Jesus would also see criminal gangs, prostitutes, and drug dealers. He’d see fatherless families and x-rated movie theaters.

“Did you pray to God for the blessings you have?” he might ask.

Some would answer they had. God had helped them in their mission to rewrite justice, to tax the wealthy, and redistribute their wealth. They would make no secret of their hatred for the wealthier classes, and their satisfaction in wreaking vengeance upon them.

And then, he might ask, “And how have you repaid God’s bounty? You are fed, clothed, and housed at His will, you tell me. You have changed your society, for the better. But how have you altered? How have you thanked God?”

Then he might ask to be taken to the suburbs. He might then feast with them. He would ask his host if he had contributed to the needs of the poor. The host would say he had made charitable donations.

But the host would also complain about being taxed to support able-bodied citizens.

“Is not charity an act of free will, Lord, not compulsion?”

We hope he would say that the poor should ask of God, not men, and let God move other men’s hearts to goodness. As we ask the question here, we cannot speak for Jesus’ answer. He would probably have some harsh words for us, as well.

Like, "If you're so worried about property taxes, why do you live in such large houses?"

He did say this, though, when preaching in Jerusalem during the Passover.

After he had entered Jerusalem, palm fronds thrown in his path in great welcome, Jesus began teaching in the temple every day.

One of the stories he told was the Parable of the Tenants. A rich vineyard owner rented his vineyard out to some local farmers. When he sent servants to collect some of the fruits for his table, the local farmers killed them.

Then he sent his son. He figured they’d show some respect for him. But, ‘This is the heir,’ the farmers said. ‘If we kill him, the inheritance will be ours.’ And so they did.

Jesus told the people that the owner would come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. His listeners were horrified. Jesus, in response, quoted from Isaiah: “The stone that the builders have rejected has become the capstone.”

He said all who fell on that stone would be broken to pieces, but those on whom it fell would be crushed. Jesus was speaking of the Sadducees, the givers of law of the Temple, who were cheating their people and who were suspicious of Jesus.

Jesus not only correct assessed the political situation in Jerusalem, but prophesied his own death. What parables he would tell today is anyone’s guess. The time for storytelling, indeed, may be over.

This parable still holds lessons for us today, both in the rejection of the capitalist marketplace, and the government’s usurpation of its place, and in the place Christianity holds today in our society’s estimation.

Like a domestic commodity that threatens imports in the market today, for which traders can command a cheaper price through cheaper, foreign labor, our government is inexorably outlawing Christianity. It would regulate its fields and sell them to others.

Socialism is effectively destroying the material marketplace in order to have better control of it. Socialists tout worthy philosophies, but reject the philosopher who taught them. He promised one day there would be a reckoning.

He did promise all sorts of calamities, man-made and natural.

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines, and pestilence… and fearful events and signs from heaven.

“There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.”

Jesus said all this would come later. But first, his followers would be persecuted, thrown in prison, and even executed. “And all on account of my name. Watch out that you are not deceived, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he!’ and ‘The Time is Near!’

“Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first. But the end will not come right away.”

He tells them not to worry about what they must say to defend themselves, although he says all nations will turn against them and imprison them.

“For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your heads will perish.

“By standing firm, you will save yourselves.”