Archive for August, 2004

Forgiveness

Sunday, August 29th, 2004

Forgiveness

There seems to be some confusion about forgiving. Often the harmful acts of another seem to defy the extension of this human form of grace. Some deeds are of such an appalling nature that we recoil from the very thought of forgiving. The Lord said he will forgive whom He will forgive, but of us lesser beings it is expected that we forgive all other humans, 70x 7 times. This is not an easy commandment for any of us to observe, especially when we are behind the wheel and surrounded by idiots; especially when we have high expectations of a spouse, a family member or a close friend or associate. We need to be clear that forgiving is not condoning, that we do not have to accept the unacceptable, that we are not required to lie down in the path of someone who intends us harm. Still, we must understand the meaning and purpose of forgiving in order to lead a rewarding and value filled life.

We have also been told that we are not to judge another, lest we also be judged; another problematic concept unless we have obtained a broader field of view. To say that the wrongful act of another is “unforgivable\” is not only judging; it misses the mark entirely. In terms of laws and consequences, of crimes and justice, a civilization, to remain viable, must undertake to deal with wrongful acts, with criminal behavior, in order to stave off anarchy. This is wholly appropriate. But polluting the principle of forgiveness with these considerations causes a further clouding of the concept. This is not to say that nations and cultures are not held to the same standards as are individuals when it comes to forgiving. Take for example, Germany in the 1920\’s and 1930’s. They were arguably dealt a significant injustice by WWI’s victors via the Treaty of Versailles, but that nation’s failure to forgive not only the authors of that treaty but also the perceived treason of Germany’s own citizens (the Reds and the Jews) brought an even heavier burden and penalty to that nation, as well as an heretofore unimaginable conflagration to the rest of the world. Who committed the greater wrong? We can and should draw a personal conclusion from this calamity.

Old man Plasket lived his 90 some odd years overlooking the Big Sur coast. How many people would love to do the same? Yet, for this man, life was bitter. The surrounding beauty escaped him entirely. I met him near the end of his days and he told me his sad story. His family had come to the area in the mid 1800’s and claimed the land from the indigenous population. They raised cattle on the southern end of their expansive holdings in an area we know as San Simeon. In the 1920’s, William Randolph Hearst, the newspaperman, bought this piece of land from Jed Plasket. Hearst imported the rich and famous of the day to the “castle\” he constructed atop a hill that commanded a spectacular panorma. The stars of the silver screen illuminated this previously unknown part of the world, making it far more valuable than it had been when its use had been purely agrarian. Plasket began to think he had sold the land for far too little. He felt himself to be the victim of the rich man’s intrigue. Old Jed was sure that he had been abused by the wiles of his worldlier counterpart in this transaction. Jed never forgave Hearst for taking advantage of him. He also never forgave himself for selling the land at the agreed upon price. He could and perhaps should have been a very rich man. He lived out his life in a small house above the dramatic shoreline and below the redwood forest, alongside a small creek that bore his name. He managed to travel to Los Angeles once in his life and San Francisco an equal number of times. Apart from that, he never traveled further than King City, over the hills less than 50 miles to the east. Here in this magnificent setting, where California none-too-gently meets the vast Pacific, he withered a prisoner of his own self-inflicted bitterness and remorse, from the consequences of his failure to forgive.

Picture a sleek and beautiful sailboat rising and falling with each swell that passes beneath its hull; the sails are filled with a bountiful breeze, cotton ball clouds course the cobalt sky. The vessel doesn’t move. The anchor is stuck on the rocks at the bottom of the bay. The only way this ship will ever continue its journey is to weigh anchor. This is the point and purpose of forgiveness. It is to free ourselves from the people, the things, and the actions that hold us in our present setting. We cannot control the wind, the waves or the actions of others. We can control the course of our own vessel. We will never arrive at our destination unless we let go of the past, unless we forgive those who have contributed to our mortal tutelage by their misdeeds and unless we forgive ourselves for our own weaknesses and shortcomings. Forgiving ourselves is part of the commandment to forgive “all\” men. We must henceforth steer a surer course, in order to more fully free us from the necessity to forgive ourselves.

Whether or not we forgive another may have no impact whatsoever on that other individual. That person may never even know that they have wronged us. But our failure to forgive him or her will surely lead to the hardening of our own hearts, the cankering of our own consciences, and the forfeiture of a peaceful, joyful future. Conversely, understanding that the act of forgiving is for our own benefit will allow us to move forward with peace in our own hearts and prepare us to appropriately and positively deal with anything that comes our way.

The Big Nothing

Friday, August 27th, 2004

Upon reviewing Kerry’s 1971 testimony before Fulbright’s committee in the US Senate, some truths emerge. One, the Democrats in control of the committee were using Kerry to support and promote their anti-war agenda, and Kerry knew it. Two; Kerry was against the war in Vietnam. Three; the testimony given would never be admissible in a court of law. It was hearsay (if not outright heresy). Four; Kerry was using the opportunity to promote himself. Five; Kerry has had cosmetic surgery in the intervening years.

Questions remain. Was Kerry was against the war before he went to war? Did he go to Vietnam to serve the country or to serve his own purposes? Had he intended to use his war-time service as a spring board for anti-war activism? Did he stay in Vietnam just long enough to qualify to leave with the films he made of himself and the medals he pulled strings (or were they ribbons) to get? Did his subsequent and public anti-war stance have less to do with his passion to end the conflict than it had to do with his positioning himself to run for political office? These are fair questions at this juncture, especially in light of a comment he made in 2002 that being against the war and serving in the war could only be helpful to his own cause.

By this, John Kerry has not only offended the veterans, he has offended the anti-war activists. I was against the war in Vietnam and felt that principle required me to refuse to go. If John Kerry had really been against the war, he would have been courageous enough to not to go.
what he saw, in this highly contentious moment in US history, was an opportunity to insert himself between the numerically balanced factions. He straddled the ever-widening credibility gap (a gap he continues to straddle), knowing that in that moment he would be able to set himself apart from the crowds on either side. He saw a chance to grab the limelight. He was right about the timing. He was wrong about nearly everything else.

Much has been made of his comments to the Senate about atrocities supposedly commited by our troops. He now claims that he was repeating what was said at the Winter Soldier conference in Detroit. He now claims that he did not mean that all US military personnel were guilty of the crimes he enumerated in Boston Brahmin tones. But what of his reference to the “Monster\”. In that same testimony he declared that America had created a monster in the form of millions of young men who had been trained to trade in violence; that they were turned loose to inflict that culture of violence on the Vietnamese, on behalf of the “big nothing\”. “The big nothing!\” Is this not a condemnation of the mothers and fathers and teachers of all of these “monsters\”? Is this not a condemnation of the country he claims to love and now seeks to lead? Is this not a condemnation of all the young men who went to serve their country, not just in Vietnam but everywhere our violent culture has sent them? The big nothing. What does this say about him? Was he one of those \”monsters\”, or is it possible that the ultimate “big nothing\” is the man who went to serve himself?

DNC Musings

Wednesday, August 25th, 2004

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