War Hero

Two political posts in a row? Yuck. I’ll keep this one short.

Everyone knows that John McCain was a war hero and a POW in Vietnam. What I wasn’t aware of were some of the impressive circumstances of his time in captivity. From Wikipedia:

“In mid–1968, McCain’s father was named commander of all U.S. forces in the Vietnam theater, and McCain was offered early release. The North Vietnamese made that offer because they wanted to appear merciful for propaganda purposes, and also wanted to show other POWs that elites like McCain were willing to be treated preferentially. McCain turned down the offer of repatriation; he would only accept the offer if every man taken in before him was released as well.”
If only being a war hero were all it took to make someone a viable presidential candidate, I think we’d have a winner.


Obama Like Jackie Robinson?

Apparently, making ridiculous statements runs in the Jesse Jackson family.

Today, Jackson’s son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) compared Barack Obama to baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson.

I suppose some legitimate comparisons could be made (Robinson being the first black player in the Major Leagues in the 20th century, Obama potentially being the first black U.S. president), but the comparison that Jackson Jr. actually made doesn’t seem to apply:

“Barack Obama has the capacity to hit, but he is in the situation where he can’t hit back, which Jackie Robinson could not do…He had to be able to run the bases, even though the crowd was jeering the first African-American on the field.”
As I wrote some time ago, the description of Robinson is accurate (he agreed not to fight back when verbally attacked for the first three years of his career), but I don’t know why that makes him like Obama—I certainly haven’t noticed Barack refraining from “hitting back” at any point throughout the campaign.


The Jungle on Jesus

Towards the end of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, a Socialist ex-preacher rails on the way a capitalist society has twisted the character of Jesus:

And why should Jesus have nothing to do with his church—why should his words and his life be of no authority among those who profess to adore him? Here is a man who was the world’s first revolutionist, the true founder of the Socialist movement; a man whose whole being was one flame of hatred for wealth, and all that wealth stands for—for the pride of wealth, and the luxury of wealth, and the tyranny of wealth; who was himself a beggar and a tramp, a man of the people, an associate of saloon-keepers and women of the town; who again and again, in the most explicit language, denounced wealth and the holding of wealth: ‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth!’—‘Sell that ye have and give alms!’—‘Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of Heaven!’—‘Woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation!’—‘Verily, I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of Heaven!’ Who denounced in unmeasured terms the exploiters of his own time: ‘Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!’—‘Woe unto you also, you lawyers!’—‘Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?’ Who drove out the business men and brokers from the temple with a whip! Who was crucified—think of it—for an incendiary and a disturber of the social order! And this man they have made into the high-priest of property and smug respectability, a divine sanction of all the horrors and abominations of modern commercial civilization! Jewelled images are made of him, sensual priests burn incense to him, and modern pirates of industry bring their dollars, wrung from the toil of helpless women and children, and build temples to him, and sit in cushioned seats and listed to his teachings expounded by doctors of dusty divinity…” (emphasis mine)
Capitalism isn’t the great problem of the world as Sinclair might suggest, and socialism isn’t the great solution, but I think he’s hit upon a lot of truth here.

How Christians (myself included) get so mixed up about wealth is beyond me.


“You Did Well That It Was In Your Heart”

After the death of King Saul, there is a struggle between David and Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, for the throne of Israel. With God’s support, David eventually wins out, things settle down, and everything seems to be okay.

But David isn’t happy. He isn’t happy because he realizes that while he lives in a nice, comfortable house made of cedar, the Ark of God is kept in a tent!

This doesn’t seem right to David, so he determines that he wants to build a temple for the Ark to be housed in. That sounds like a good idea, but God rejects his offer in 1 Chronicles 22.8-10:
“But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to My name, because you have shed so much blood on the earth before Me. Behold a son will be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’”
Later, Solomon talks about his father’s desire to build a temple for God in 1 Kings 8.17-19:
“Now it was in the heart of my father David to build a house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. But the Lord said to my father David, ‘Because it was in your heart to build a house for My name, you did well that it was in your heart. Nevertheless you shall not build the house, but your son who will be born to you, he will build the house for My name.’”
Because he had been a man of war, David was told that he would not be the one to build a temple for the Lord—but God still appreciated that David had the desire to do so.

“It’s the thought that counts” is a common saying that we tend to throw around when we receive a gift we don’t like. It’s somewhat of an ironic saying, since often the reason we receive bad gifts is specifically because very little thought was put into it, but I think it’s still a true statement, and it’s basically what God tells David in this story.

While our actions certainly matter, the thoughts behind our actions matter as well. We can’t always control how things turn out, but we can control our intentions.

When we decide to try to do something good, even if it doesn’t work out the way we plan, it’s still important that we try.

If you try to help a friend with a problem, but your assistance is refused

If you try to influence others for good, but your example is ignored

If you share your faith with someone, but it falls on deaf ears…

Whatever the circumstance, it’s still important that you try.

“You did well that it was in your heart…”


Nadia Comăneci

After my last post, you might think I’m becoming a gymnastics junkie. I’m not, but I thought this deserved a post of its own.

While watching gymnastics in past Olympics, I’ve always heard about the amazing Nadia Comăneci, who won the all-around gold in 1976 while scoring something like seven perfect tens.

In this day of YouTube, I thought I’d be able to find some video of her, and I wasn’t disappointed. Watch this clip of her two perfect ten routines on the uneven bars:

The routines are somewhat different from what you see today, and seem to be quite a bit shorter, but I see why they still talk about her—I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so graceful in my entire life.

Gymnastics, And Other Olympic Thoughts

Americans Nastia Liuksin and Shawn Johnson took gold and silver in the women’s all-around competition last night despite what seemed to be some shady judging.

I say that to introduce the main point of this post: gymnastics is not a sport.

Don’t get me wrong—gymnasts are amazing athletes. I consider myself to be fairly athletic, and I can’t do even the easiest parts of most gymnastic routines.

But here’s the problem: any sport whose winner is determined by the selective opinion of a group of people, is not a sport (that would include other athletic events as well, including some I really enjoy like platform diving).

How does a real sport determine a winner? Through objectivity. Fastest time, greatest distance, most runs scored. Officials are a part of sports, but their job should be to make sure that rules are followed, not to choose who the winner is.

• • •

What do Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Togo and Tunisia have in common? They’ve all won more Olympic medals thus far than our beloved neighbor to the north. Canada has yet to grace the medal platform a single time.

I know it can get cold up there, but surely they could find a heated pool somewhere and practice swimming laps or something, right?


An Observation

I think that one of the smartest and dumbest things that people do is to assume that others will react to a certain situation the same way they do.


Ordinary Men

Sometime last month I finished reading Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland by
Christopher Browning, and the experience was disturbing enough that it sent me running to the comforts of Star Wars books for the next couple of weeks.

Ordinary Men is an in-depth study of German Reserve Police Battalion 101, and the way it was used to massacre and round up Jews for deportation to death camps in Poland during World War II.

It isn’t exactly an easy read—long sections of (necessary) background information explaining Nazi policy and wartime police organization plagued by unfathomably long German words are juxtaposed with matter-of-fact accounts of the commission of unspeakable atrocities. But Ordinary Men succeeds in making its point.

That point—that ordinary people placed in unusual circumstances are capable of doing terrible things—is not an unusual one (think Lord of the Flies or Heart of Darkness), but it’s a point that is driven home with more force than usual because this time, it clearly is rooted in historical fact.

Browning argues that the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 weren’t your stereotypical uber-Nazis. For the most part, they were middle-aged men, rejected by the army and without Nazi party affiliation who were old enough to remember when Nazis weren’t in power and Nazi ideals weren’t the norm. As a whole, they weren’t especially racist, they hadn’t been thoroughly indoctrinated with Nazi propaganda, and they weren’t battle-hardened. They were just ordinary men.

And yet, the vast majority of them found it easier to kill Jews than to stand out from the group.

As Browning concludes:
“…The collective behavior of Reserve Police Battalion 101 has deeply disturbing implications.

There are many societies afflicted by traditions of racism and caught in the siege mentality of war or threat of war. Everywhere society conditions people to respect and defer to authority, and indeed could scarcely function otherwise. Everywhere people seek career advancement. In every modern society, the complexity of life and the resulting bureaucratization and specialization attenuate the sense of personal responsibility of those implementing official policy. Within virtually every social collective, the peer group exerts tremendous pressures on behavior and sets moral norms.

If the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 could become killers under such circumstances, what group of men cannot?”
It’s a chilling question to consider. After all, I’ve always considered myself to be fairly ordinary.


Recurring Dreams

I hate having the same dream over and over. I mean, I guess having recurring dreams could be a good thing, if it’s a good dream that you get to reenact time and time again, but it never seems to happen like that for me.

I had both of the following dreams (again) yesterday, one during my afternoon nap and one last night:

  • The Minor Car Wreck: Back in December, I rear-ended someone one morning while I was driving in slick conditions. It had iced the night before, and was raining when it happened, and although I could see the car stopped far in front of me, when I put on the brakes, I got no traction, the car hydroplaned, and I hit the car in front of me. No one was hurt, but my car was pretty messed up. Ever since then, I’ve dreamed over and over about getting in car wrecks. Sometimes in parking lots, sometimes on the road, sometimes my car is damaged, sometimes it isn’t, but always it’s because my brakes won’t work, and always I can see the wreck coming in advance and this feeling of dread comes crashing down on me.
  • Excessive Class Skipping: Back in college, I skipped class quite often, but I always did so in a calculated fashion—I always knew how many times I had skipped, how many skips I had left, and, in those wonderful classes in which attendance wasn’t required, how often I needed to actually go to class and still do well on tests. My recurring bad dream about class skipping is different though, in that generally, I completely forget that I’m in a certain class and later realize that I’ve skipped class for several weeks and now am in the difficult position of trying to resurrect my grade after not going to class all semester.
Anyone else ever have recurring dreams? Does anyone ever have good recurring dreams? Because personally, I’m getting really tired of fender-bending my car and failing Gen.Ed. classes.

It Could Be Just A Coincidence, Right?

Since I am a fan of both Band of Brothers and Lost, I added both of them to my Flair application on Facebook.

When I did so, I noticed a striking similarity in the graphic design of the cover artwork for the two series:

I’m pretty sure that someone is copying off of someone else. And since Band of Brothers came out in 2001, and Lost came out in 2004, I think I know who is to blame…

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