The Fallacy in the Furor Over “Fifty Shades”

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50 Shades Criminal MindsHopefully surprising no one, Fifty Shades of Grey tanked in its second week at the box office, but before the lines of voyeuristic housewives and notebook carrying college students dried up, the movie version of the best selling novel series since Harry Potter grew up unleashed a bee in the collective bonnets of moral conservatives throughout this great nation. I’ve read blog post after blog post and listened to sermon podcast after sermon podcast denouncing E.L. James’ books and the movie based upon the first novel as the latest sign the Apocalypse is upon us, Christianity has lost the culture war, and America has officially gone the decadent way of ancient Rome. While I agree with all three of those assessments, my reasons have nothing to do with this hideously written fan fiction masquerading as some sort of modern Anais Nin novel. I think we’re doomed, but that’s the subject of other posts for other times.

The segment of the blogosphere and Facebook most incensed by Fifty Shades of Grey is the group made up of parents of daughters — especially Christian parents of, ostensibly, Christian daughters. Fathers and mothers are posting and reposting their fears of some Christian Grey-esque person insinuating himself into their little girls’ lives and using his wiles to turn them into latex gimp suit clad BDSM sex slaves imprisoned in a Red Room of Pain somewhere far from their chaste upbringing. I’m here to tell you that fear is wrong on every level that matters.

First of all, the majority of people terrified of BDSM have no idea what the BDSM lifestyle is all about. It’s a lifestyle. It’s weird to us who don’t live that way, but lots of lifestyles are weird to people not living them. I for one am completely mystified at the vegan lifestyle. I have great respect and love for all animals except mosquitoes and roaches, but God did not put Adam at the top of the food chain so his descendents could eat rabbit food. Still, I don’t knock vegans because I believe what a grown, educated person puts on his or her plate is not my business and doesn’t affect his or her salvation in any way. By the same token, what a husband and wife choose to do for pleasure in the privacy of their own bedroom . . . or red room . . . is none of my business either. It’s not something I would choose, but I don’t see it affecting salvation either; unless, of course, it becomes an idol, but that’s a whole ‘nother can o’ worms.

My church did not one but two entire series on The Theology of Sex and I’d put our two teaching pastors’ exegetical ability up against anyone past or present. Make no mistake about it, the Bible has a lot to say about sex. Rape? Explicitly Forbidden. Bestiality? Explicitly Forbidden. Incest? Explicitly Forbidden. Polygamy? Explicitly Forbidden. Adultery? Explicitly Forbidden. Homosexual Sex? Explicitly Forbidden. Sex before and outside of marriage? Explicitly Forbidden, and that means “swinging” or “wife swapping” is forbidden too.

What a HUSBAND AND WIFE, aka. “Happy and Healthfully Married Couple” do to give each other pleasure is none of my business. If they are Christians, and that’s who I’m primarily talking to, their sexual appetites are bound only by the dictates of Scripture and some may disagree with me, but I’ve never read anything in the Holy Bible — and I’ve read it cover to cover many times — about BDSM being forbidden to a married couple.

This guy is not your problem . . . .

Now, THERE’S the rub! Every post I read and every sermon I listen to speaks with abject horror about the evils of BDSM but no one yet has said anything about the fact Christian and Anastasia are NOT MARRIED! It doesn’t matter WHAT kind of sex they have; it is wrong according to the Bible and it’s THAT kind of thinking that has so many of our teens and young adults screwed up today. They try to use the slipperiness of words to justify having a sip of forbidden waters without the commitment of marriage. If BDSM is wrong, we just won’t do that and we’ll be okay. Sex means vaginal intercourse, right? Well then, oral isn’t really sex, right; anal isn’t really sex, right; *blank not involving her vagina and my penis” isn’t really sex, right? So, we just won’t do “that” and we’ll be okay AND have a good time as well . . . right?

Not according to the Scriptures.

. . . . but this guy could turn out to be a dad’s worst nightmare.

My second point is this — if parents are worried about a theoretical Christian Grey introducing their daughter to the wide world of kink, they are worried about the wrong guy. A saying I am fond of from the world of medicine goes, “When you see hoof prints, look for horses before you look for zebras.” It’s highly unlikely your little girl is going to catch the eye of some philandering, kinky billionaire. If she does, worry about it then. On the other hand, it is extremely likely she has already caught the eye of the cute boy next door or the sweet guy who sits near her in biology class or maybe even Dreamy McDreamerson sitting across the room in her youth group. THOSE are the guys you have to worry about, teach about, and plan against. Horses, not zebras.

The worst enemy of a girl’s chastity is neither some mythical billionaire dom nor some leather jacket wearing motorcycle riding bad boy. The worst enemy to a girl’s chastity is the good guy, the nice guy, the guy YOU like and trust. I know what I’m talking about because I WAS THAT GUY. {If you’re a family member of mine or an ex-girlfriend, now would be a good time to quit reading unless you want to learn some things about me you’d probably live just fine until death without knowing. You’ve been warned.}

Bad choices are made here way more often than . . .

My beloved wife of almost 20 years is not the first woman I ever had sex with. She knows this. Actually, she wanted it that way, but that’s another story ENTIRELY. I had sex with five other girls / women before her. Four of the five were while I was in high school and college. Believe me when I say I was not a billionaire playboy. I wasn’t even especially good looking. I was NICE, KIND, THOUGHTFUL, and TRUSTWORTHY. At least that’s what two sets of parents and two single moms thought anyway.

They were right about that too . . . except for the trustworthy part. I’ve never been physically, mentally, or emotionally abusive to any woman, much less a girlfriend. I loved to send cards and flowers and other little gifts to make them feel special because first and foremost I DID want them to feel special because of what I’d seen my mother go through but I’d be lying if I said the possibility of sex wasn’t lit up like a bright neon sign in the hormone soaked nether regions of my adolescent brain. So, after holding hands, then kissing, then heavy petting, the next order of business in the fulness of time was sex. More than once, it was the girl’s idea, not mine.

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. . . here. Keep that in mind.

Keep this in mind, too. My papa was a Pentecostal preacher. I was raised in church and when I say raised in church, I mean I was born on a Friday and Mama took me to our little white church the following Sunday. I had been taught by many adults I respected and loved that sex before marriage was wrong. I wouldn’t have called myself a Christian back then, but I knew right from wrong; however, when the time was right, I JUST DIDN’T CARE and neither did the “she” of the moment.

I’m not saying this to brag or air my dirty laundry unnecessarily. I suffer the consequences of my youthful wrong decisions on a daily basis. What I’m saying is all you parents need to quit worrying about the Christian Greys of the world and start worrying about the guys in your daughter’s life whom you really like because those guys, like it or not, are the ones most likely to end up in a situation with your daughter that’s going to end in one hell of an emotional train wreck, and if you’re lucky that train wreck will be ALL. Much worse things can happen.

So go out and rail against Fifty Shades of Grey, not because of the BDSM, but because it makes sex outside of marriage seem okay and without consequence and both those assumptions are dead wrong.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

Can’t Buy Me Class

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You have got to be effing kidding me?

Somebody needs to say it and since it seems no one is jumping up and down going “Oh, oh, pick me, pick me!!” I guess I’ll say it . . .

Kanye West, sit down and SHUT THE $%&# UP!

I try to be good to everyone. I try not to speak harshly about people I don’t know extremely well because I haven’t walked that proverbial mile in their shoes, but in this case, I’m making an exception due to overabundance of evidence of douchebaggeriness and all the evidence points out Kanye Omari West is without a doubt the biggest douchebag on the planet.

I don’t care if you think he is “talented.” I don’t care if you think he is a “musical genius.” I don’t care that he has more money than several small countries, has won over 20 Grammy Awards, and married the biggest skankapotamus in a FAMILY of skankopottomi since Paris Hilton. All his success, fame, and wealth have managed to prove is no amount of money can buy class, taste, or sophistication.

I will never have the man’s money or fame and I wouldn’t touch his wife with a ten foot pole, but I am proud I have one thing he with all his riches will never get — I HAVE RAISING! I don’t know what Kanye’s ex-Black Panther father and tenured professor mother taught him, but manners apparently never made it onto the syllabus. At least I know how to lose with as much grace as I win . . . of course, I’ve had a hell of a lot of practice, but still.

Mama, Daddy, both Papas, and both Grannys as well as several coaches and teachers over the years all taught me when you win you shake the other person’s hand and when you lose you do the same. You don’t barge into their moment of glory like an asshat to blather on about how much more you or Beyonce’ deserved this or that award. Three times this overgrown adolescent has stormed the stage of an awards show to interrupt the people legitimately getting the award in order to grab the spotlight and put forward his own version of life.

Somebody please give Baby a sucker or a binkie and explain to him life is like that.

The man spouts off whatever comes into his head regardless of how factual or farcical it may be. He has the audacity to call the sitting President of the United States a racist. Oh really, Kanye? Of course the son of a Black Panther couldn’t be just the tiniest bit racist, could he? Wouldn’t know a THING about that would he? Oh, and for the record, YES some black people are hugely racist. So are some Asians, South and North Americans, Europeans, Australians, and — if we could communicate with them — we’d probably find out some of the damn penguins on Antarctica are racist too. “Red and yellow, black and white; everyone’s a racist if the issue’s right.” When West didn’t get picked to open the 2007 VMA awards in favor of Britney Spears, he famously pouted, “Maybe my skin’s not right.” Sure, it’s all because you’re black, Kanye. The fact you’re also a raging asshole has nothing to do with it.

Long as I’m on the subject, it seems funny to me a man who seems to think everyone but him is racist has never barged in on an acceptance speech by a fellow black artist. Why is that? Are only WHITE artists not as good as Kanye West? Personally, I’d love to see him storm up on stage when someone like Tupac, DMX, Cypress Hill, or Biggie had been accepting an award. I’m thinking they wouldn’t have stood off to the side like timid little girls and let West spout his screed.

I don’t agree with too much President Obama says lately, but when he called Kanye a “jackass,” I had to send the POTUS a thank you card. Seriously, how big of a douchebag do you have to be to get called out on national media by the freaking PRESIDENT?

Also, I’m curious. What’s all the butt-hurtness over Beyonce’ not winning ten or twelve more awards anyway? If I was Jay-Z, I’d be getting a little tired hearing my wife’s name in the mouth of such a man as Kanye and if I was Kanye, Jay-Z would be one of the last people I’d want to piss off. What about Kim Skanadashian? Can’t she keep a better leash on her man? Isn’t she a little upset about him always gushing over another woman . . . c’mon, girl!

One last thing. It takes some serious hubris to pose on a magazine cover as the Son of God, and I can’t fathom the arrogance behind naming an album Yeezus and actually allowing people to all but worship oneself. Of course, this is a man who has stated on more than one occasion his line of work is just as dangerous as serving in a war or working as a police officer.

Oh, almost forgot, one MORE last thing. For all you MORONS who think Kanye “Waste” somehow “discovered” Paul McCartney, Sir McCartney has also won 21 Grammy awards AND an Oscar to boot. He won half of them before West was even a twinkle in his daddy’s eye. Paul McCartney didn’t need Kanye West to make him famous, a small side band of his managed to do that for him quite well. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? They’re known as The Beatles.

Just saying.

Always remember, even though I despise Kanye West, I love y’all, so keep those feet clean.

 

Tom Brady’s Balls Lie A-Mouldering in the Grave

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http://suffolkvoice.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/54bfc2f009f97.image_-600x340.jpgMy mother tongue fails utterly and completely to provide me words to describe how tired I am of hearing about Tom Brady’s balls. I don’t care about Brady’s balls, Blount’s balls, or Belichick’s balls. I don’t care about any of the New England Patriot’s alleged soft balls.

I. Don’t. Care.

Unfortunately, I can’t turn on the radio or the television without some talking head giving some exhaustive explanation of whether or not the Patriots had soft balls and if so why and who is responsible for the whole unintentionally-fraught-with puerile-humor debacle now known as “Deflate-gate.”

De-freaking-flate-gate. Really?

For my foreign readers and those who — luckily — are heretofore blissfully unaware of what I’m ranting about, allow me to give a brief precis of this whole tawdry affair. A week ago yesterday, the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots played a game of American football to determine which of the two would represent the American Football Conference in the upcoming Earth-rotational-pausing event known as Super Bowl XLIX (that’s 49 for those Roman-numerally challenged among us). During said game, a Colt defender intercepted a pass thrown by Tom “Golden Boy” Brady. The Colt defender pointed out to someone that the ball felt somewhat “flat” or “deflated.” The referees took possession of the dozen balls the Patriots had been using throughout the first half of play and determined — using a gauge, bare hands, or possibly chicken-blood-based voodoo, no one seems to know — that eleven of the balls were, indeed, underinflated by 1 to 1.5 psi less than the rules allow. Apparently, the Patriots were cheating.

Much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth followed.

Because of these flabby balls, I have endured a solid week of accusation and counter-accusation; blame laying and blame deflection; players defended and players used for speed bumps for the team bus. Saturday, I sat through a physics lecture by an NFL head coach. If you are looking for something to compare that to, imagine Neil deGrasse Tyson and Richard Dawkins teaming up for a series of revival services at the local Southern Baptist Church. Awkward, ridiculous, and out-of-field do not provide even a good beginning description of how horrible that interview was.

I realize lots of you have the same question: “If you hated hearing about it so much, why did you bother listening and watching it all?” My very simple answer is I DIDN’T HAVE A FREAKING CHOICE!

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Ya freakin’ THINK?!?! The REAL Watergate didn’t get this much coverage.

This crap has been everywhere for a week. I expect ESPN to discuss something like this ad nauseum because, after all, they are a sports network so it’s kinda their job. I wasn’t even surprised when my local sports radio station opened last Monday morning with this story as lead. I was a little worried when it was STILL the lead story on Friday, but, again, it’s a sports station. However, I AM standing mouth agape at the amount and priority of coverage real life NEWS stations gave and are still giving this insanity. ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News have all run more than one sizable story about what is, at its core, ONLY A STUPID SPORTING EVENT!

How about this? Did anyone realize, in the midst of all the ballyhoo about balls, that the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the hand of the Doomsday Clock two minutes ahead so that it now sits at 11:57? That’s three minutes til Armageddon. The symbolic clock hasn’t been set this close to symbolic midnight since 1983 back when Ronnie Ray-gun was Hell-bent on winning the Cold War even if it meant we all went up in a red-white-and-blue mushroom cloud. Instead of reflection on what this says about our fragile world, Americans sat glued to talking head explanations of how a ball should feel in the quarterback’s hand.

What about coverage of the events leading up to the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz Death Camp? One would think marking the seventh decade since one of the most horrible dens of atrocity known to man was broken open for the world to see might garner extensive attention. Unfortunately, the poignant ceremonies leading up to the January 27 anniversary have all fallen under the shadow of a giant grey hoodie with the sleeves cut off.

A massive, once-in-a-century type storm is brewing in the northeast, right in the backyard of the “Deflate-gaters.” This storm has crept across the northern USA steadily gaining strength for a week now, but the only cold air people seem to care about is the air in those limp Patriot balls and volume upon volume of hot air is being released in the explanation.

In Syria, the Kurds won a major victory over ISIS militants. In the Ukraine, thirty people died and 130 fell injured by shellfire from Russian separatist militias. President Obama had high level talks with the Indian Prime Minister for the first time in the POTUS’ two terms in office. Ebola killed several more people in West Africa and Boko Haram attacked yet another city in Nigeria. Yet, in America, NONE of these stories garnered a FRACTION of the attention surrounding a dozen undersized balls on an American football field.

Why do we still wonder why the rest of the world thinks we’re idiots? We ignore massively important issues in politics, science, economics, etc, but flock like buzzards to a rotting carcass over an insignificant story surrounding a GAME. We turn our backs on events and movements of supreme importance, but we make sure everyone knows the status of Tom Brady’s balls.

This was a great country once and I think it is still the best on Earth, but our priorities are so out of whack I shudder to think what another few decades will bring.

#declineandfall

Love y’all and keep those feet clean, but PLEASE, in the name of all that’s holy, don’t mention Tom Brady’s balls to me again!

Great War Wednesday: 1915 — Year Two

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1915The Christmas Truce was long past as were the balmy days of autumn 1914 when the cream of Europe’s youth marched off to war singing “It’s A Long Way to Tipperary,” “Les Marseilles,” and “Deutschland Uber Alles” all safe in the knowledge that the war would be over by winter just as their generals promised. Mons, the Marne, and First Ypres had given the lie to that overly optimist tradition. With the cold of January 1915 came the beginning in earnest of the trench warfare so iconicly associated with our notions of the First World War. Movement along the front ceased and what followed were months of bloody, muddy, and fruitless carnage.

1915 is a bit of the redheaded stepchild of the Great War. It doesn’t have the claims to newness of 1914 or the major meatgrinding battles of 1916 that followed. Truthfully, the year gets short shrift often in works on the war. However, it would be a mistake to think nothing happened in the twelve months between 1914 and 1916. This was the year of the failed French offensives in Artois and Champagne. It was the year the Canadians arrived in Flanders near where a lonely mound of mud called Vimy Ridge waited.

This was the first year of the submarine. Immediately after the war began, Great Britain flung a blockade around the German ports and slowly began cutting off supplies from the Kaiser and his army. While the German High Seas Fleet remained bottled up in port, the unterseebooten were able to slip past the great grey warships of Britain’s Grand Fleet and begin unleashing havoc in the north Atlantic. At first, the u-boats practiced unrestricted warfare and sank anything in sight; unfortunately for the Kriegsmarine, U-20 sank a great prize on May 1, 1915 . . . The RMS Lusitania. The deaths of nearly 100 American passengers aboard the liner woke the sleeping giant and though swift and obsequious German diplomacy soothed the great beast for awhile, she would doze but fitfully for just a few more years before striding across the Pond to defend the country which birthed her.

Belgian troops with early, crude gas masks.

1915 also marked the first use of arguably the most infamous weapon of the war when the Germans opened cylinders of poison gas which then drifted languidly and deadly across the fields of the Ypres salient to begin the Second Battle of Ypres. Before long, all the combatants rushed in a headlong sprint to develop newer and more effective gasses to kill one another as well and better gas masks to keep their own casualties to a minimum.

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Artist David Collin’s beautiful rendering of the Red Baron’s Albatros D.V

The men in the trenches during the early months of 1915 began hearing a strange new sound far above their heads as the first aircraft designed specifically for warfare and aerial combat took to the skies. All throughout the beginning of the hostilities, both sides were using the newly developed airplane for scouting and artillery spotting, but somewhere along the line, some enterprising jake carried a rifle aloft with him and started taking potshots at spotters from other countries. Then someone else took a few grenades up on a mission and began chucking them over the side once they reached the enemy trenches. Before long, both sides had developed planes with forward mounted machine guns and the world of fighter combat opened and in that world, no citizen was a greater star than Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen aka “The Red Baron” who would begin his storied career in 1915.

As a result of the actions taken by the so-called “young Turks” of the Ottoman Empire, 1915 would see the introduction of a new word into the lexicon of warfare and international law — genocide. For the first time in modern history — depending greatly on when one begins counting “modern” — a government actually turned its military and full resources on its own people, not to quell some rebellion or restore order following a natural disaster, but to exterminate a hated minority, in this case the Armenian Christian population. The “forgotten fire” of the Armenian Genocide would later fuel another madman’s idea to exterminate another hated minority population and lead to yet another word — Holocaust.

Finally, 1915 would see the emergence of a future master of puppets arise in Great Britain. First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill would mark his entry onto the world stage with a brilliant idea to end the war. With trench warfare so entrenched along the Western Front, he proposed moving the area of attack somewhere else. His strategy involved redirecting massive numbers of troops from Great Britain and the other Commonwealth nations such as Australia and New Zealand from France and Belgium southward across the Mediterranean to the Dardanelles in order to attack what he referred to as, “The soft underbelly of Europe.” The place the troops landed would give its name to the ensuing campaign and the campaign would give Lord Churchill his walking papers from the Admiralty and very nearly political life in general. The name of the chosen landing zone?

Gallipoli.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean!

On Snipers

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Earlier today, documentarian, social commentator, and bad film maker Micheal Moore enraged some and emboldened others when he declared the late Chris Kyle, subject of the current box office front-runner American Sniper, was — like all snipers — “a coward.” I believe Mr. Moore to be incorrect in his assessment of military snipers; while I do not ascribe any particular courage to snipers, I am certain they are in no way cowards. In fact, of all the combatants on the modern battlefield embroiled in modern warfare, snipers know better than any other the true face of war and its unfathomable costs.

Long years ago, warfare was bloody, smelly, claustrophobically close, and violently personal. In ancient times, men would stand in the heat of a summer day hacking at one another with swords, spears, and axes of copper, then bronze, then iron. A soldier saw the face of each opponent he killed. Often he would leave the battlefield soaked in blood and gore which was not his own, but belonged to his foes . . . or his friends. War was serious business.

Beginning in the Medieval period, however, the distances between combatants changed. Longbows and a little later crossbows lengthened the battlefield from face to face out to a couple of hundred yards. Unquestionably men would still finish the day with sword and axe in hand to hand combat, but the archers and crossbowmen firing in massed formation seldom saw the person who fell pierced to the heart by their projectiles.

Then came firearms and the game evolved dramatically. Now men stood at distance and blasted at one another with muskets while their compatriots in the artillery corps shot cannonballs through the ranks opposite them. Some military historians debate if the smoothbore musket was a great improvement over the longbow in terms of accuracy and rate of fire. One thing is certain, the Brown Bess took much less training and practice than the yew stave stringed with gut cord so common people rather than warriors started becoming more active participants in war.

Long about the American Revolution (sure, leave it to the Yanks) though, some enterprising gunsmith rifled the barrel of a musket. Now, instead of a range of a football field, a man with good eyesight could shoot an opponent through the vitals at over 400 yards. Thus were the first snipers born on the battlefields of North America.

From the beginning, snipers have been a hated group. The British during the American Revolution repeatedly wrote about how “unsporting” and “barbaric” the rag tag American riflemen were for refusing to stand in neat ranks and march resolutely towards another line similarly arrayed whilst shooting at one another all the while. The early Kentucky rifle carrying militia men were hated, but they lived to shoot another day . . . and they taught the British the folly of those bright red uniforms with the big brass buttons.

Ever since rifles became widespread in combat, every military — at least in times of war — maintained units of snipers. Sometimes, they were professional hunters or of similar occupation allowing excellence with a rifle and superior marksmanship. Later, men would train in the art of sniping. No matter what their background, however, it was (and remains) the sniper who carries the tradition of the personal, bloody killing of the ancient battlefield.

Today, snipers don’t carry an assault rifle capable of spraying down jungle and plain alike with hundreds of rounds in a blink. Snipers don’t have the conscience clearing luxury of blindly firing during battle at some movement and later being able to say to themselves, “Maybe I didn’t kill anyone.” Snipers KNOW they kill people. It is what they are trained to do and every time they look through their telescopic sight atop their high powered sniper rifle and pull the trigger, the SEE the target — the person — crumple and fall. Combat for snipers is ALWAYS personal, even if it may not necessarily be close.

On the battlefield, snipers are always certain of one thing — if they are captured, they WILL be summarily executed. EVERY army kills enemy snipers unlucky enough to be captured, “international laws of war” be damned. Captured snipers are killed out of hand for one simple reason — RAGE. Nothing on the modern battlefield is as terrifying as a trained sniper. If you get killed by a mortar round, it was your time. Shot during a firefight? Same thing. But sitting quietly eating an MRE and your buddy’s head explodes next to you like a pumpkin dropped from the roof? You know he died because a MIND, a THINKING person deliberately WANTED him dead. Snipers rob an army of its peace even in the rear area.

A sniper can change history with one pull of the trigger, or one shot not taken. For example, in 1777 at the Battle of Brandywine, British sharpshooter (sniper) Capt. Patrick Ferguson had an unusually tall, American officer in his rifle’s iron sights but he chose not to shoot the man because the officer had his back turned and it wouldn’t have been very “gentlemanly.” That tall officer was George Washington. Imagine how different the American Revolution might have been if Ferguson had pulled the trigger.

So, to answer Mr. Moore simply, “no, snipers are not cowards; they are soldiers.” Of all soldiers save medics, the sniper knows the blood of war most intimately. He is a hunter of men; a killer of men. A killer, but not a murderer. The sniper kills those who would kill him, his friends, and his fellow soldiers. I’ve personally known two snipers and also heard Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock speak at a dinner I attended. None of them bragged about the men they had killed. They did what they were trained then instructed to do, just like Capt. Paul Tibbets of the “Enola Gay.” They put sights on a man, pulled the trigger, and watched him die. I can’t imagine a coward being able to do that.

Love y’all. Keep those feet clean.

Who Did We Have Supper With?

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question-mark3aSomething passingly strange happened to me earlier tonight. Budge and I parked at the Fatz on I-26 in Clinton to meet up with our Brown friends (their surname is Brown; they aren’t actually brown) and take charge of our fuzzy niece while they go to Indiana for a funeral. After making the exchange, of Nyah, best wishes for safe travel, and hugs all around, Budge and I decided to go ahead and eat supper at Fatz instead of traveling back to Simpsonville to eat locally.

Now as we had driven up the entry road to the restaurant, I noticed a guy with a backpack looking thoroughly unkempt making his way up the same road. By the time Budge and I got Nyah settled in her doggie bed in the backseat of the Santa Fe and made ready to go in and eat, this guy had reached the front porch of the restaurant and was sitting at the far end on a bench staring into space and rocking like a metronome. I could tell he was probably one of the legion of homeless that wander our roads here in the South this time of year. Since southern winters tend to be much milder (not this year) than the same season up North, our homeless population spikes between early December and late March as the dispossessed abandon the frigid cities above the Mason-Dixon Line.

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Hobo sign language for “A kind lady lives here”

I need to pause here to explain something. The need to feed hungry people runs deep in my DNA, both spiritually and ancestrally. Mama grew up beside the state highway and the railroad tracks that ran through Gray Court and apparently word had gotten around in the hobo jungles that my Granny Imogene was a woman of culinary skill wedded to a spirit of boundless compassion. Every so often, Mama would relate to me, a soft knock at the back door signaled a hungry mouth had found the one house in town where he was certain to obtain food. If it were around meal time, Granny would offer a place at the table, which the men (and they were always men in those days) invariably declined. Instead, they would head back towards the railcar with a paper sack full of baloney or egg sandwiches, some cookies – homemade, never store-bought – and some fruit if any was available.

My sainted Granny Wham also had a soft spot for the hungry. One famous story in the family tells how Daddy brought two boys home with him on a long weekend pass. The two were Yankees and had no way to get North and back in the allotted time, so Daddy drove them home with him. Two days later as the trio made their way back to base, both those Northern boys said, “Frankie, one more day and your momma would have killed us with food!” It wasn’t an exaggeration either. As far back as I remember, the first thing Granny Wham would ask me after her welcoming hug would be, “Are you hungry?” In fact, she was notorious for mentioning to me that I should “try to lose a little weight because all that fat around the heart wasn’t healthy” but then — usually in the same breath — asking me, “But do you want a little piece of pound cake? I made it just for you.”

So tonight seeing such a downtrodden looking fellow all alone, a little voice way down deep inside me urged me to feed this man who was probably hungry. I checked with Budge to make sure she would be okay with it and with her blessing, I went to fetch him inside. I walked up to him and asked him if he was hungry. He paused in rocking for just a moment, looked at me and slowly nodded his head. So I told him to come on in and have a meal with my wife and me. When he stood up, the air around him caught on the wind and nearly brought tears to my eyes, but I was raised to never look down on someone less fortunate so I took him by the arm and led him to our table. At that point, things got a little . . . odd.

He scarcely spoke and when he did, it was nigh impossible to understand him. We did manage to figure out he wanted a Sierra Mist to drink and the steak and ribs with a salad for his meal. I offered him some of the amazing rolls Fatz serves before their meals, but he just stared at the basket and went back to his slow, methodical rocking. All of our salads arrived and he was mannerly while eating. He chewed with his mouth closed and when he coughed, which was often, he always covered his mouth with a napkin.

Before our entrees arrived, however, I noted some quirks in his appearance and behavior that raised my threat antennae to maximum sensitivity. First of all, his hands were immaculate. The nails looked almost manicured with no chew marks, no hang nails, and no cuticles protruding from the sides. Also, not a single nail had the slightest bit of dirt underneath it. I don’t want to make stereotypical generalizations but I’ve met a great many homeless both men and women and one thing they almost all had in common was a pair of grubby hands. It’s not a knock against them; it’s just a fact of the lifestyle. This gentleman’s hands were cleaner and better groomed than mine, by a long distance.

Also, his backpack was gleaming. It was a leather model trimmed in brass and it looked like it had just arrived from L.L. Bean. The brass was mirror-like and the dark green leather looked buttery smooth with no scratch, wrinkle, or stain anywhere visible. He also never took his foot off the straps, but I didn’t set much store by that because anyone on the road soon learns to maintain contact with one’s stuff or quickly lose it. Altogether though, the hands and backpack didn’t fit with the rest of his appearance from the wild, unkempt hair to a beard and mustache worthy of Santa Claus to the rest of his ill-fitting, roadstained attire.

What really set me to wondering and made me slide a tiny bit closer to Budge though, was his gaze. He never stopped rocking and his eyes never stopped darting left to right then up and down. He seemed to be searching for something, but even as his eyes ceaselessly roamed around the dining room, his face remained an impassive, blank mask . . . except when his eyes would fall on Budge. Every few circuits around the room, I would notice his eyes boring a hole into Budge. She had initially tried to be pleasant and include him in the conversation, but finally stopped looking at him altogether and it took me just a moment to see why. Every time his eyes stopped on Budge, he would linger and stare and his face would flinch ever so slightly into a predatory leer. It made the rest of supper somewhat awkward.

As soon as we finished our meals, I sent Budge to the car to “call Laura and tell her we were running late” while I made one final attempt at communication. I never got his name, but he mumbled something about being from Kentucky. When he did, I asked him if he was from western or eastern Kentucky and he replied, barely understandably, “Western” so I asked him if he lived near Harlan County. He said he did and I knew it was time to part ways . . . Harlan County is almost as far EAST as you can go and still be in Kentucky.

I paid the check and left the waiter a generous tip for dealing with this surreal experience. My dinner companion mentioned, again, barely audibly, that he needed a new pair of shoes. Normally, I’d have tucked him in the car, taken him to WalMart, and gotten him some decent footwear . . . but not this time. I pressed a $20 into his well-groomed hand, wished him luck, and got in the car with Budge to leave. When I looked back, he was going back into the restaurant; why, I don’t know.

If I had it to do over again, I’d still brought him in to eat. My favorite Bible passage is in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus said that feeding the hungry and giving water to the thirsty was the same as waiting on the Son of God Himself. I’d get the man’s food again because it was the right thing to do. For the first time, however, out of all the myriad times I’ve tried to help someone, some stranger, this was the first time I didn’t feel the usual sense of accomplishment. Instead, I felt a little worried. Budge thanked me profusely for extricating her from the situation because she was completely skeeved out within ten minutes. She knows my heart and how much I long to help everyone I can, but like I told her tonight, no attempt at a good deed trumps her safety . . . she comes first — always.

So I’m left wondering — just who did I treat to supper tonight? Some of the stranger’s mannerisms — especially the rocking and nervous flitting of his eyes — reminded me of the autistic children I’ve been blessed to work with from time to time. I don’t know. I am nearly certain, though, that he was either mentally ill in some way or putting on a really good act. It makes me think I served a meal to either a very grubby angel in disguise or a highway wandering serial killer . . . and I wish I was joking.

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“Jesus the Homeless” by Timothy P. Schmaltz

Love y’all. Keep those feet clean, and I don’t usually ask for comments, but if any of you have some insight into this odd occurrence, I could use some perspective.

2014 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 17,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Don’t Go “Into the Woods”

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If the dead are cognizant of what occurs in the land of the living, then somewhere in the Great Beyond, Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm are weeping bitter tears along with Monsieur Charles Perrault. The reason for their sorrow is the travesty of a movie which purports to be based on several of their folk and fairy tales. I am speaking of the train-wreck that is Into the Woods.

The TL;DR version of this movie review is, “that’s two and a half hours of my life and $22 I’ll never get back.”

To go a little more in depth, the movie was oddly reminiscent of fingernails on a chalkboard. If a warden in some American prison happened to force the inmates under his control to view this film, he would be brought up on 8th Amendment violations before the ending credits rolled. If any of the nine SCOTUS judges have seen the movie, the plaintiffs wouldn’t need to go through any appeals process because the offended judge would likely issue an immediate writ of certiorari and declare original jurisdiction over the case. It really is that bad.

First of all, it commits the mortal sin of being a musical on screen. Musicals, with only a handful of exceptions, belong on a stage, not on a screen. Furthermore, if the movie is going to test the snake infested musical movie waters, it should at least have memorable songs eg “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria,” “Memories,” or “Cell Block Tango.” None of the ditties making up the score of Into the Woods is the least bit likely to become an earworm. Of course, what the movie lacks in memorable songs it makes up for in interminably LONG songs — think “Freebird” or better yet “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.” For instance, the first number lasted at least twenty minutes. Exposition has no business being sung.

Secondly, the movie itself is entirely too long. I counted at least three good points where they could have rolled the credits and ended the audience’s misery. The film clocks in at 124 minutes running not counting coming attractions and believe me, after the previews, it was all downhill. The last third of the production is an unending series of ham-handed attempts at an M. Night Shymalan style twist ending and I’m talking Lady in the Water, not Sixth Sense.

To make matters worse, I simply could not feel anything for the characters. Whenever I started to develop a tiny bit of genuine connection or sympathy for Cinderella, Jack, or Red Riding Hood, the character in question would burst into one of those godawful songs and whatever goodwill I’d managed to dredge up evaporated “like snow in the glance of the Lord.” Over and over again something would happen that was completely inexplicable. For instance, why would Meryl Streep’s witch burst into the bakery and tell the baker and his barren wife about the curse she placed on the house when the baker was a baby? What’s the point? Is it supposed to be like, “I’m a witch and now I’m going to be a bitch, too?”

Speaking of characters, Johnny Depp needs to fire his agent, get into rehab, or do something else to stem the tide of truly hideous movies he has “starred” in lately. Depp is a fantastic actor when he’s playing a character worth playing such as Captain Jack Sparrow or Edward Scissorhands, but recently, he has managed to sign on to some serious stinkers. I can only imagine he is in some sort of horrible debt and has large, sweaty men in cheap suits threatening to break his kneecaps so he has to take whatever drivel comes along. What else can explain Dark Shadows, The Lone Ranger, and now this groaner? Thankfully though, Depp has little to do in this film. If you remember Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Deep Blue Sea or Steven Segal in Executive Orders, you know what I mean.

Finally, I’ve sat through some terrible movies. Maybe one day I’ll relate my experience with the artsy-fartsy film Prospero’s Books which remains the worst movie I’ve ever seen and I endured it in its entirety, In the case of Into the Woods, however, the only two things which kept me from walking out twenty minutes in and cutting my losses were the facts I was with my extended family whom I love dearly AND Budge had the car keys. Otherwise, I’d have bolted long before the giant showed up.

So, avoid this movie, keep your feet clean, and remember I love y’all!

Great War Wednesday: The Christmas Truce of 1914

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The London Times from January 9, 1915: “British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches”

“Had he and I but met
      By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
      Right many a nipperkin!

     “But ranged as infantry,
     And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
     And killed him in his place.

     “I shot him dead because —
     Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
     That’s clear enough; although

   “He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
   Off-hand like — just as I —
Was out of work — had sold his traps —
   No other reason why.

    “Yes; quaint and curious war is!
    You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat if met where any bar is,
    Or help to half-a-crown.”

Thomas Hardy’s “The Man He Killed”

Men in their natural state show little inclination to go off and kill one another. The taboo against homicide is so ingrained within us that those who would be soldiers have to undergo desensitization to killing and interestingly enough, one key way of doing this is using violent video games, but that’s a post for another time. As a society we have labels for those who like to kill or enjoy killing or aren’t even bothered by killing. We call them psychopaths or sociopaths or simply “monsters.” Some studies of combat troops have found as many as 1 in 5 soldiers never fired their weapons during battles in which they participated. It seems despite all the sensational novels and television shows, even in the face of The Fall and our broken human natures, enough of God’s image remains within most people to cause severe distaste and discomfort when faced with taking the life of another Image-bearer of our Creator. Few events throughout history show this proclivity towards peace more clearly than the spontaneous Christmas Truce of 1914.

Ever since August, Tommy, Pierre, and Fitz had been killing one another on an industrial scale from the border of Switzerland to the English Channel. What began as a war of movement now degraded into a stagnant morass of trench warfare with misery compounded by machine gun fire. By the time Yuletide came around, men on all sides realized they had been lied to — the war certainly would NOT be over by Christmas. So it was along the Western Front as the troops hunkered down in their muddy trenches on December 24, 1914 and prepared to spend the most miserable Christmas Eve of their lives cold, damp, and utterly devoid of cheer. Then, something changed.

By most accounts, the Germans started the affair up around Ypres by singing Christmas hymns and lighting candles. As the strains of “Stille Nacht, Heil’ge Nacht” drifted across the shell-pocked moonscape of No-Man’s Land, a few adventuresome Brits climbed atop their trenches to listen and then join in. When they didn’t tumble back into the trench with holes through their heads from snipers, more soldiers climbed out of their burrows to join in the singing.

At some point, accounts say, some German lad attached a bit of white cloth to the top of a small evergreen tree, climbed out of his trench, and walked towards the British.  When he didn’t fall to an Enfield round, more of his comrades joined him. The Brits, realizing this wasn’t a ruse, climbed out and the two erstwhile enemies met in the midst of the barbed wire and shell holes between their trenches.

Their first action was to gather up the dead, some of whom had been lying unattended for weeks, and carry them back to the rear for proper burials. That grim work accomplished, the two groups began some tentative conversations and the spirit of Christmas took over from there. The troops began exchanging small gifts — the English had a surfeit of tobacco; the Germans an abundance of chocolate — so these two commodities rapidly changed hands. Some men exchanged caps or buttons or whatever trinkets seemed to interest the other party. They sang more carols together. In some places up and down the front a game or two of football — soccer for the Yanks — broke out. As the old cliche’ says, “a grand time was had by all.” Then, some hours after the festivities began, it ended. Both sides embraced and returned to their trenches with the knowledge they would soon begin the unsavory work of trying to kill one another anew.

Officers on both sides were appalled by the impromptu ceasefire. They knew actually meeting the enemy and seeing he had a regular face and neither horns nor fangs made killing said “enemy” much more difficult. Orders went up and down the chain of command. The Christmas Truce of 1914 would be the last for the duration of the war. The enlisted were threatened with court-martial or worse should any of them be so silly as to attempt such a humane action ever again. The old men who send the young men to fight and die for the wars the old men started had spoken.

Still, for a brief shining moment in the midst of Satan’s playground, the Prince of Peace reigned supreme. The joy of Christmas stopped the mouths of the artillery and silenced the bark of rifles, if only for a time, proving for anyone who cared to ponder on the topic that peace is stronger than war if only men would embrace the light.

Love y’all and Merry Christmas! Keep those feet clean during these celebrations.

O Come All Ye Faithful!

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http://www.industryleadersmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/BLACK-FRIDAY-shoppers-1024x593.jpgIt’s time for Christians to stop griping and moaning about the commercialization and secularization of Christmas. For years I’ve endured rants and whines about how society has “taken Christ out of Christmas” and “no one knows what the season is really about anymore.” Both those statements are a load of reindeer droppings.It’s time to face facts and get the record straight.

First of all, “church going folk” need to understand how impossible it is to take “Christ” out of “Christmas.” Christ is not a name; it is a title. Jesus of Nazareth’s last name wasn’t “Christ.” He didn’t even have a last name unless it was bar-Joseph since He was supposed to be Joseph’s son. The title “Christ” means “the one who saves” and “Christmas” is a Latin contraction of sorts roughly translating to “Celebration of the one who saves!” With that in mind, Christ is just as much a part of Christmas as ever. Christians are just incensed it’s not the Christ THEY want celebrated. A Christ is celebrated from mid-October right through December 25, which brings me to my second statement.

EVERYONE knows EXACTLY what the season is really about and they are celebrating it like it’s 1999, to quote Prince. Here in America, Christmas is about one thing — SPENDING MONEY! That’s right! The Christ being celebrated for the entire last quarter of the year is America’s Savior, the Almighty Dollar. Jesus hasn’t been dropped from the holiday; He’s just been relegated to what is deemed His proper place in our society — Church, and then only on Sunday.https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcR6HXP6BQKZzt36r4kATe8ovgcV6r56h13Pw9lcSzeXCZGCFKhL

Just look at where Christmas is celebrated. Both China and Japan have huge Christmas seasons and neither one of those countries is even remotely Christian. China is officially atheist and Japan, if they are anything, are Shintoist with a good does of Buddhists. India has held on to some of the traditions left by their former British Empirical rulers by celebrating Christmas even though the country is overwhelmingly Hindu.

Face it, Christmas hasn’t ever really been a pure Christian holiday anyway. No Scriptural evidence points to Jesus’ birth being in December (or whatever the Jews called December). A bunch of Christian missionaries decided they wanted to find a way to get more pagans to convert to their new religion and since everyone likes a holiday and parties, they co-opted several of the pagan’s holidays and put a Christian whitewash on them. Almost everything about the traditional celebration of Christmas has a pagan origin. December 25th was originally part of the Roman Feast of Saturnalia which just so happened to include gift giving and parties.

Christmas trees are as pagan as Thor’s hammer. They call back to the Druidic, Germanic,and Viking celebrations of Yule or Midwinter’s Day when the Winter Solstice finally passed and the days started getting a little longer in those cold northern climes. It’s the same with the lights and candles. They have pagan overtones, too. Oh, and long before jolly old Saint Nicholas of Turkey became famous for delivering presents around the Christmas holidays, the god Woden would visit the faithful and bless all good men. Mistletoe, the bough under which couples try to stop, is STILL the most sacred plant to those who follow the Druidic customs and religions today. Of course, I’m not suggesting we do away with Christmas like some dour, bitter old Puritan. I just think Christians need to realize we stole all those customs from the ancient pagans and now the modern pagans have taken them back. Isn’t that fair? Aren’t we supposed to be all about “fairness” these days?

I realize, however, we need to make some changes to reflect the new Christ the world — especially America — worships now at Christmas. I think the best place to start is the classic nativity scene. Sure, we can keep the nativity in Pagan Christmas. Instead of a creche representing a barn, it’ll be a miniature storefront and instead of a star on the peak it’ll be a neon sign flashing Wal-mart, Target, or Costco. We’ll take out Joseph and replace him with Warren Buffett or maybe Bill Gates. Mary can ONLY be replaced by America’s greatest current spiritual advisor — Oprah Winfrey, but if one can’t find a suitable figurine of her, just substitute Angelina Jolie since so many people look up to her. Of course, with same-sex marriage and rights being so vital to our society, one may want to skip the lady characters altogether and have Bill and Warren.

http://everydaypr.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Santa-Nativity4.jpgThe wise men will still come from the East. Some of them will ride with Deepak Chopra or Shirley Maclain, but most will arrive in traditional middle eastern garb from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, and Qatar. Instead of camels, they’ll be in their oil-wealth bought luxury Mercedes and Rolls Royces. Both groups will represent oil interests with the latter being crude oil and the former being of the snake variety.

We’ll need shepherds and who are more like shepherds today than our slew of pundits and talking heads? We’ll need miniatures of Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilley, and Rush Limbaugh . . . that last one may be hard to find in “miniature.” They’ll be on one side of the creche with the rest of the Fox News clan while the other side will be balanced out by a group of poll-watchers from MSNBC. We’ll have a few angels even. Put some wings on Mariah Carey, Taylor Swift, and Miley Cyrus and let them flit around. They angelic chorus can be the Victoria’s Secret Angels since they seem to already know the part.

Finally, we’ll have to have some livestock, and I suppose that’ll be us. After all, we’re the sheep who follow these people. Like cattle we line up in front of stores Thanksgiving Night and prepare to shop til we drop instead of waiting until Black Friday like our ancestors were wont to do. It’s only when those cash registers and credit card machines start ringing and dinging that the real sounds of the season take to the air!

Now some of the quicker ones in the crowd may have noticed I left out a key figurine from the new nativity scene. Who do we put in the manger? I thought about that for awhile. At first, I thought a stack of $100 bills might be the best representation of our new savior. I pondered maybe a smartphone with several shopping apps open and promising great deals, but finally, I decided to leave the manger empty. After all, that’s what we’re really worshiping in our praise of the Almighty Dollar — emptiness. So rather than force the issue, let’s leave the manger empty, just like our hearts tend to be all throughout this new pagan Christmas season!

Love y’all . . . really. Now keep those feet clean.