Archive for March, 2013

To Protect and Defend

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there lived a tribe of people, called Americans who refused to accept the rule of a mortal king.

Following the Boston Tea Party, almost 240 years ago, that tribe dumped 342 containers of tea into the Boston harbor, prompting their mortal king to enact a series of taxes called Acts of Parliament in response to the rebellion in Massachusetts. Collecting those taxes required putting more police on the streets.  A few months later, General Thomas Gage, arrived in Boston with four regiments of British troops.

The First Continental Congress met in the fall of 1774 in Philadelphia with 56 American delegates, representing every colony, except Georgia. On September 17th, the Congress declared its opposition to the repressive Acts of Parliament, saying they are “not to be obeyed,” and also promoted the formation of local militia units.

Thus economic and military tensions between the Americans and their mortal king’s police escalated. In February of 1775, a Provincial Congress was held in Massachusetts during which John Hancock and Joseph Warren began defensive preparations for a state of war. The British Parliament then declared Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion. Without the other colonies joining in the fight, Massachusetts would fail.

On March 23rd 1775, 238 years ago delegates of the most populous and powerful colony of Virginia met in St. John’s church in Richmond. Resolutions were presented by Patrick Henry putting the colony of Virginia “into a posture of defense…embodying, arming, and disciplining such a number of men as may be sufficient for that purpose.” Before the vote was taken on his resolutions, Henry delivered the speech below, imploring the delegates to vote in favor.

He spoke without any notes or cue cards in a voice that became louder and louder, climaxing with the now famous ending. Following his speech, the vote was taken in which his resolutions passed by a narrow margin, and thus Virginia joined in the American Revolution.

“… They tell us, sir, that we are weak — unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?
Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of the means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.

The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable — and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come!

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, “Peace! Peace!” — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field!

Why stand we here idle?

What is it that gentlemen wish?

What would they have?

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?

Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”

What followed was a long and bloody war known today as the American Revolutionary War or sometimes the American War of Independence (1775-1783).

Patrick Henry was an attorney, farmer and politician who became known as an orator during the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia, from 1776 to 1779 and from 1784 to 1786.After the Revolution, Henry was a leader of the anti-federalists in Virginia. Initially he opposed ratification the proposed United States Constitution, fearing that it endangered the rights of the States as well as the freedoms of individuals until it adopted the Bill of Rights–also known at the first ten Amendments of the Constitution.

The Bill of Rights is the list of the most important rights of Americans. The citizen rights often most contested are the inalienable rights–those rights not given to the citizens by the government, but instead affirmed by the Constitution as given to them by a higher authority. A Bill of Rights hinders would-be tyrants. A detailed study of the rights included there, and the behavior of the most terrible tyrants of history shows they are exactly the rights removed before tyranny was possible. Once tyranny is established it has never been removed peacefully. The wisdom and boldness of men like Patrick Henry were essential for Americans and others to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for more than two centuries. With the addition of the Bill of Rights, opposition waned, and the Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788 so it could replace the Articles of Confederation from 1777.

It is interesting to note and understand that the Constitution of the United States was created by the American citizens through the authority of the preexisting states. The American tribe is comprised of a free and armed people who have a history of not being ruled by any personality or government, instead the people have permitted a few of their tribe to temporarily enjoy elected positions of limited authority so as to govern according to an established set of laws and rules, the supreme law of the land being The United States Constitution. For it is the power of The Constitution of the United States which makes the Federal government and all of its supporting agencies legal.

That’s why when our fellow citizens are elected or appointed to positions of authority we require them to take an oath to protect and preserve The Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

It just makes sense.

Forgive to Survive

Friday, March 8th, 2013

We all struggle with it. Forgiveness. Somebody wronged you, and you don’t like it. It wasn’t your fault. You didn’t do anything, or at least you don’t have a memory of doing anything to justify the immensity of the crime committed against you. The shadow of the crime keeps you awake at night. It prevents food from digesting as it should. Your stomach feels like it’s tied in knots. Your eyes are dry and red. Maybe your hair or your eyebrows are falling out. You’re losing weight, or gaining too much of it. Then as if adding insult to your injury, somebody tells you to forgive them.


But you don’t want to forgive. You want to render unto your tormenter the harvest from the seeds of misery they planted in your flesh. Give them back some of what they gave you. Maybe you don’t want to personally harm them, but you’ve imagined your joy at hearing about them falling into great suffering. You might even have wished for them to experience a car accident, leaving them disfigured for life. Or maybe you’d prefer to hear how they fell victim to a random act of violence by another truly evil person because, after all, you’ve already judged them to be evil. They deserve the worst.

You’ve discovered your thoughts about your nemesis are embarrassing. It’s not comfortable talking to anyone except maybe your closest friends, because you’re afraid other people will think there is something wrong with you. A character flaw, which prevents you from doing one simple thing, forgive. You consider having to forgive that evil person the same as making a sacrifice, and you think you’ve sacrificed enough as the victim.

Maybe you’ve gone so far as to pray for God’s judgement to come early. You wait, but day after day, it doesn’t. Ironically, if you continue to cling to those dark feelings, you’ll only destroy your future, finishing whatever damage your nemesis started.

After you share some of the details of your problem with one of your Bible-reading friends, they might offer you one of many Bible verses to help you forgive. For example:

Colossians 3:13 says, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do.”

If that verse was sufficient for you, you’re probably not reading this article. So I’ll continue for the rest of us.

Even if you’re a Christian, hearing advice based on the example of Christ might not help you understand why you need to forgive. Without understanding the why, you’re stuck in a paradigm which prevents you from doing the very thing you must do to survive.

Let’s put this all in a different framework by taking a walk through a distant forest.

There’s an earthen trail here that leads to a quiet pond where you can fish if you like, or just sit quietly and maybe read your favorite book. It’s so far out of town, your cell phone can’t even pick up a signal. You’ll be undisturbed for as long as you desire.

In preparation for this hike, you wear a brimmed hat to protect your face from thin branches along the trail. Wisely you wear jeans and a long sleeve shirt to protect your skin from any biting insects. Covering your feet, inside your hiking shoes, are thick cotton socks to help prevent the hike from forming any blisters on your toes. Your backpack not only has a couple of water bottles and granola bars, but also a first aid kit and hunting knife. You’re prepared for a wonderful, relaxing journey.

But you didn’t think of everything.

Just before you get to the pond, a rattlesnake shoots out of the weeds by the trail and strikes your calf, sinking its fangs through your jeans and into your flesh. The pain is immediate, feels like fire.

What do you do?

You could try to understand the snake. Did you startle it? Was it your fault? You don’t want to get bit again, do you? Eventually you’ll come to the conclusion that it was not your fault. You had merely been walking down the path, intending to enjoy the pond, and for whatever reason the snake attacked you. Maybe you should have avoided the snake, but you can’t start where you were. You have to move on from where you are.

Now what do you do?

You could take your knife out of the backpack and pursue the snake. After all, it had wounded you for no justifiable reason. It bit you. The audacity of the vile creature. Certainly you could find it. Snakes are not so fast that even when wounded, you couldn’t run it down. Once you finally caught it, you could drive your knife into its flesh. How does that feel? Maybe you could make the death slow and painful, just to salve the building hate for snakes bubbling up deep from within your soul.

But you wouldn’t do that. That would be stupid.

A human is smart. You know other things are more important than mindless revenge. The time you would invest into hunting down and killing the snake, would be better spent dealing with the poison killing your body.

You’d almost instinctively put some distance between you and the snake, at the very minimum, you’d move beyond striking distance. If it really was a rattlesnake, you know you’ll need anti-venom treatment. That’s something that’s not in your backpack. You know you shouldn’t panic, because everything you’ve read about snake bites have told you to remain calm. So be calm and think. What to do?

Maybe you’d look at the first aid kit. But this is more than a scratch, and you’re not a doctor. The pain tells you there is precious little time to waste and you need someone to help you now.

Get help.

You could try sitting down and yelling, maybe somebody might hear and come to you. If they don’t, you need to get up and go to where the help is, or you will die. Calmly walk back to your car or at least as far as needed to where you can pick up a signal on your phone and make the call. In order to survive, you get away from the snake and get some help so you can save yourself.  In other words:

Forgive the snake.

Life is too short to chase snakes through the brush because when you do, your life becomes even shorter and meaningless. Do the smart things: just walk away; let the snake go; go to the people who are able to help you; let your body heal with time; in the future try to avoid other snakes if possible; and enjoy the rest of your life.

It just makes sense.

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