Sons and Daughters of Liberty

What does it mean to be an American today? Whether you are a U.S. citizen by birth, or a naturalized American, you should think about this daily. What is an American? What is it about our way of life and culture that makes millions of foreigners risk life and limb to get here? Do we have a unique American culture? Why do people fear us? Why are there those out to destroy us? These are the questions and issues that will be explored here.

Location: Pasadena, California

Monday, December 29, 2014

I'll Give You Something to Blog About!

To all the people who keep writing these "To the Person Who Hurt My Kid's Feelings" blogs: when I was a kid, guess what? Sometimes people, other kids mostly, but sometimes adults, said rude or mean things to me or my friends. Sometimes we said rude things back, sometimes we didn't (depending on how big or how many they were, haha!), but one thing certainly NEVER happened. We never had "our day ruined," nor did we run home crying to mommy or daddy so they could blog about it to everyone and reveal to the world that we were coddled, over-protected cry babies. 

Why? Because our parents taught us that there were good AND bad people out there, and how to deal with both. They taught us the Golden Rule, "Sticks and Stones...," and that sometimes life wasn't fair, and they told us not to whine about it. They raised us to be independent, self-sufficient, tough and thick-skinned, to roll with the punches (and punch back!), to survive on the streets, to know how to stay out of trouble, when to stand up for ourselves, and when to run. 

Our parents taught us that we weren't entitled to anything unless we earned it. "Want a trophy? Win First Place!" was their motto. And guess what else? When we did something bad, our parents SPANKED us! With belts! And we never told any social workers or teachers because our parents LOVED us and raised us in a loving home. And they taught us to love God and country, respect them, respect our elders, and to respect authority, as THEY did. And when a teacher, babysitter, or neighbor told my parents we had done something wrong, my parents believed them, and just didn't jump to our defense because we were their kids (and we'd get spanked again!). 

There were consequences for our actions. Us kids had to take personal responsibility, and only then, after we EARNED respect, good grades, privileges, etc, would we get our allowance, get to take the car out, stay out late, etc. Blog about THAT!

The New McCarthyism

Attacks on controversial Health Department chief put us all on a slippery slope

Dr. Eric Walsh, director of the Pasadena Public Health Department, was recently placed on paid administrative leave. This was done so the city could conduct an investigation into allegations made by a Pasadena City College student activist group that Walsh had made bigoted comments while delivering one or more sermons in his role as an associate pastor at his Seventh-day Adventist Church, which may be affecting his job performance.  

Naturally, a city has a stake in ensuring that all the citizens it serves feel they will be treated humanely, fairly and without prejudice or discrimination in any form, and that none of the city’s policies, procedures or codes of conduct have been violated by any member in their employ. I’m fine with that. 
What I’m troubled by is the idea gaining traction in our society in which a person, no matter their title, position, level of education, training and professionalism, can be ostracized and publicly branded a bigoted hate-monger based not only on their religious beliefs, but on how they worship in their church, or preach from their pulpit.

Whatever Dr. Walsh’s personal religious beliefs may be, is it that difficult to conceive that the man would be able to check his religion at the door when he went to work? That as a medical doctor, his personal faith would not interfere with his ability to deliver compassionate, professional health services to all citizens, whatever their race, creed, religion, sexual orientation or political persuasion happens to be? By the way, Walsh has been doing just that in his post, without complaint or public outcry. I know, because I have worked with him and his staff and have seen firsthand the types of services they offer, and have used them myself. I have seen no bigotry or hate toward any group on the part of Dr. Walsh or his employees.  
The idea that someone is incapable, or physically, psychologically or emotionally unable to keep their personal beliefs to themselves and act in a professional, compassionate and humane manner in a work environment, whether in government or the private sector, invites serious questions. 

So, a member of the National Rifle Association can’t organize and lead an anti-gun violence coalition’s gun buyback or peace march because they believe in an American’s right to own firearms? Conservative Republicans can’t volunteer at a homeless shelter or food kitchen because they might believe that poverty and homelessness are the fault of individual actions and behaviors? 
I’m Presbyterian. I believe that Jesus Christ is God, one and the same, who came to us in human form, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. I believe Jesus rose on the third day to ascend to Heaven, where He (God, the Son) sits at the right hand of God (the Father). I believe that people are born saved or not, and that everything is predestined, whether we like it or not. 

Now, there are some who would disagree with my religious beliefs, and even others who might be offended by them. Does this make me a hate-filled bigot? Does this mean I am now incapable of carrying out my duties as a police officer, which I have been doing for 21 years, or as head of a nonprofit agency dedicated to helping families struggling with mental illness?

Do you see how intolerant and potentially dangerous this type of thinking is? That’s the real bigotry that’s developing in this country; this idea that if you don’t believe as this or that group does, if you don’t believe in climate change and evolution, or if you believe that homosexuality is a sin as stated in the Bible, or that moral relativism is wrongheaded, secular bunk being sold to our children in public schools, or that rap music is inspired by the devil, and you express these beliefs in public, then you must be a hate-mongering, racist, bigot unworthy to hold any professional, business or leadership posts. 
Basically, it’s an end-run around the First Amendment, and it’s the same type of oppressive mentality that led to McCarthyism. Who cares if you’re not getting arrested, fined and imprisoned? If you can be publicly ostracized, placed on leave or fired, professionally ruined, have your livelihood stripped, or be forced to sell your property because of your thoughts, beliefs, writings, sermons or religious faith, it’s the same persecution and a violation of one’s constitutional rights. Freedom of speech, worship and the right to have a dissenting opinion or unpopular viewpoint are in serious trouble in this country.

Today, Dr. Walsh is on administrative leave while being investigated to see if his controversial religious views have impacted his job performance, based upon the complaints of a political group that didn’t like his beliefs. Tomorrow, you might be deemed a hate-filled bigot and placed on administrative leave, fined, fired and have your livelihood taken away because you a. voted Republican, b. joined the NRA, c. own guns, d. have a son in the Boy Scouts of America, e. belong to the Freemasons, f. wrote an article like this one …

Scary, isn’t it? 

This article first appeared in the Pasadena Weekly of May 14, 2014.

Location, location, location

There are better places than Old Pasadena to build the Armenian Genocide Memorial

As an alumnus of Art Center College of Design, I am thrilled that one of our own, 26-year-old Catherine Menard, produced the winning design for the proposed Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial, scheduled to be completed in Old Pasadena’s Memorial Park in 2015, the centennial of the beginning of the murders of more than 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks.
As a native of East Washington Village, Pasadena’s traditionally Armenian neighborhood, I’m also glad to see that this memorial, a timely and fitting remembrance of the 20th century’s first genocide, is finally going to happen.
However, I’m somewhat concerned that the same creativity and originality that went into the design apparently did not go into the selection of the location for the memorial’s placement. It’s not a stretch to imagine that someone went from Point A to Point B with the thought: “It’s a memorial. We have a park called Memorial Park. Let’s put it there.”
Good idea, except for one thing: Memorial Park is a remembrance space for US military service personnel, currently those who were killed in the Vietnam War and those who fought for the Union in the Civil War. It’s not a drop-off center for memorials from any number of groups from around the world that suffered some historical tragedy. If it were, or if it were allowed to become one, we would soon have a long line of “memorialists” clamoring for stone and steel remembrances to be erected there — from victims of the African slave trade and the Holocaust to the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II and the Rwandan massacre.
It’s not that those horrific events would be undeserving of their own memorials. Many already have them, only — and most importantly — they have been placed in appropriately well-thought out locations. I, for one, as much as I support the proposed Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial, would like to see Memorial Park remain the sole domain of US military remembrances.
This brings up my second argument. Memorial Park is small and on the verge of becoming cluttered, what with the Levitt Pavilion hosting concerts at the park’s amphitheater throughout the summer, a children’s play area, the Pasadena Senior Center, both war memorials and the old city library ruins. Why would anyone want to place the large and majestic Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial there anyway? Would it even fit? Old Pasadena, and for that matter the rest of the city’s west side, is already top-heavy with almost all of Pasadena’s artistic, historical and cultural edifices and institutions.
Are Pasadenans to be convinced that those who came up with the proposed home of the Armenian Genocide Memorial could not envision a better location for such a monument in East Washington Village or somewhere in East Pasadena?
I’m no urban planner, but even I could conceive of a stand-alone park space built at the intersection of Sierra Madre and Washington boulevards, or at Eaton Blanche Park, or any other suitable location in East Pasadena which could be turned into the home of Pasadena’s memorial, maybe one that included a roundabout, a parking area and a small visitor’s center, along with lights to illuminate it at night; a place where it would be separate, dignified and contemplative, and not just dropped into a “used” space in Old Pasadena like an afterthought. Think Washington, DC, or Grand Army Plaza in New York. Come on, be creative people! Let’s spread some of the cultural and historical wealth out east. Pasadenans and, more importantly, the victims of the Armenian Genocide, deserve as much.
This article first appeared in the Pasadena Weekly of of May 8, 2013.  Follow Victor Cass on Twitter @Victor_Cass.   

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cowardice has a new name: Schettino
There are few things more universally scorned than a leader showing cowardice in the face of mortal danger, especially when that leader is the captain of a sinking ship. The translated radio transmissions between Costa Concordia Captain Francesco Schettino and the Coast Guard Commander ordering him to return to the doomed ship gave a stunning glimpse into the bankruptcy of the moral and physical courage displayed by the fleeing skipper.
Schettino is now facing charges of manslaughter as the investigation continues into the actions that led to the Costa Concordia running aground and sinking. His future will be much grimmer than it already is if it is proved that the fatal disaster was the result of him purposefully steering the titanic ship off course to salute a colleague.
Those of us that voluntarily put ourselves in harm’s way to serve our community, our country, and in the defense of our fellow citizens, understand only too well the responsibility and inherent danger that comes with the respect, honor and prestige of such service. Nobody forces us to choose our career paths, just as no one forced Schettino to accept the mantle of leadership dictating that he be responsible for every human being’s safety on his ship.
That’s what captains of ships, planes, military units, and even civilian companies do, take responsibility. And when they fail in their duties, they need to be held accountable.
Imagine how different the “Miracle on the Hudson” aircraft water landing would have turned out if, after successfully gliding his plane to safety, Captain “Sully” Sullenberger had trampled women and children to be the first one out of the sinking craft, so that he could save his own hide. But he didn’t, because he’s the captain, and he waited with courage and integrity as every passenger got off safely. Only then, did Captain Sullenberger exit the plane, the last man off.      
There is no excuse for Schettino’s abandoning his ship before the rest of the more than 4,000 souls aboard had been safely removed and accounted for. And his newfound story that he “tripped and fell” into the lifeboat that carried him to safety heaps even more disgrace upon him.
I’m reminded of how Civil War-era Dr. Samuel Mudd’s name became synonymous with shame and dishonor, upon treating the assassin of Abraham Lincoln. “His name is Mudd,” has been a predictor of future scorn to this day.
I won’t be surprised if the name “Schettino” becomes a verb, much like “Tebowing,” albeit in an infamous way. “He schettinoed out of there before the s—t hit the fan!” will become the new charge of shirking, running away, or not doing one’s duty.
Cowardice has a new name.  

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

General Petraeus Warns Against Freedom of Speech? Say it Ain’t So!

General David Petraeus may very well go down in American history as one of our country’s most brilliant military leaders, right up there with Generals Washington, Grant, Crook, Patton, and MacArthur. His leadership and vision during the Iraq War, especially in regard to the “Surge,” subsequent successes against Al Qaeda in Iraq, and with counterinsurgency operations in general, will no doubt be studied for decades to come. If there is one American who can inspire confidence among the public that what the U.S. is doing in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, has any chance of success, it’s this guy.

That’s why I cringed when I saw that General Petraeus entered the national debate over free speech and the burning of the Quran by Pastor Terry Jones’ Dove World Outreach Center. Somebody should have pulled the General aside prior to his remarks and told him “don’t go there.” The last thing America needs is for General Petraeus, of all people, to call for an American NOT to exercise his Freedom of Speech rights. General Petraeus? Say it ain’t so!

According to General Petraeus, Jones’ Quran-burning would be exploited “for propaganda purposes, drumming up anger toward the U.S.,” and making the military mission more difficult. The most compelling argument the General makes is that the lives of American soldiers would be put at risk.

Forget for a moment that the reasons given by General Petraeus why Pastor Jones should not burn the Quran are, on their face, seemingly valid! That’s not the point. Burning a Quran, or a Bible, or an American flag, whether you support such behavior or the politics behind the threat, act, display, or utterance or not, is constitutionally protected speech! Do you understand what that means? It means that it doesn’t matter how many folks don’t like it, it doesn’t matter how many people it offends, it doesn’t matter how many people it drives to acts of conniption, craziness, or violence, Pastor Jones has the right—the freedom—to do so. This is what makes America America! This is what separates us from the rest of the world.

Even more disappointing than General Petraeus’ foray into domestic and constitutional politics, is the fact the he bites on the enemy’s (and the anti-war Left’s) most insidious propaganda lie about America’s war effort. That through the “actions” of the United States: invading Iraq, prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib, the accidental killing of civilians in air strikes, and the burning of a Quran by a no-name pastor in Florida, Muslims the world over will become “enraged,” creating “new terrorists” and causing irreparable harm to our image while endangering the lives of American soldiers.

That this is the single greatest lie perpetrated by the anti-war Left, and successfully exploited by our enemies, is irrefutable—proven by the fact that this fallacy has been repeated so often that it has become media, political, and international gospel—to the extent that there are those who think we shouldn’t kill terrorists, because we only create more terrorists! Do you see the idiocy in this argument?

For one thing: the attacks on September 11, 2001 occurred before we invaded Iraq, before the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib, before any Muslim civilians were accidentally killed by any errant bombs, and before any pastor decided to go around burning Qurans! In other words, there were plenty of “enraged Muslims” willing to murder American men, women, children, soldiers, etc., and they needed no extra incentive.

Secondly, the anti-war Left, pro-immigrant rights groups, and Muslim community can’t have it both ways. For years they’ve stated that Islam is a “peaceful religion” and that the majority of Muslims are peaceful and non-violent. Am I to understand then that photos of hooded prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Quran-burnings are suddenly going to make these “peaceful” Muslims hate America and turn into terrorists? So what is it? Is Islam a religion of peace, and are the majority of Muslims peaceful, or not?

The fact of the matter is that Islamist terrorists, and terrorists-to-be, are NOT coming from the “peaceful” Muslim camp—they already hated America and were on the road to jihad, and, as I mentioned before, they’re not going to be swayed whether we burn Qurans or not. They will still come after us. They hated America before 9/11, and they will always hate America. Even President Obama, despite all of his touchy-feely outreach efforts to the Muslim world, is still “Public Enemy #1” on Al Qaeda’s hit list, trust me. Contrary to what General Petraeus thinks, American soldiers aren’t going to be put in any more danger by the burning of Qurans than they already are just by being American, being non-Muslim, and being there!

At the core of the lie that angering Muslims only creates more terrorists, as well as the sad arguments that General Petraeus and others have laid out, is this: that by burning the Quran, fighting the location of the “Ground Zero” mosque, and criticizing Islam, you only sow the seeds of fear and hate, which are hallmarks of our Islamist enemies. And if you give in to fear and hate, somehow, Al Qaeda and the terrorists “have won,” and Americans have surrendered our values.

This is the biggest propaganda lie of all, and the one that the terrorists have used to their greatest advantage. Don’t criticize Islam, don’t criticize us, don’t fight back, don’t resist Islamic culture, because if you do, you’re anti-religious, racist, and imperialist, and you’re oppressing poor Third World peoples. And we’re going to exploit your liberal, Western post-WWII collective guilt, and make you feel like you’re surrendering your values, and shredding the Constitution of the United States…while we (Al Qaeda and the Islamists) do whatever it takes, and by all means necessary, to destroy you!

And you ate this bunk up, General Petraeus! Just keep your mouth shut, sir, and take the fight to the enemy like you’re supposed to.

Because you see, the truth is actually the reverse! Let this wacky so-called pastor burn all the Qurans he wants, let hippies burn the American flag, let lefties call Bush a criminal and a murderer, let American Nazis and skinheads march through downtown Skokie, and let the Klan wear their hoods. Because when this happens here, in the USA, and the world gets to see Americans exercising their Freedom of Speech—no matter how much it offends other Americans—and the world sees that no one is arrested, persecuted, imprisoned, censored, stoned, blown up by a suicide bomber, or has their head sawed off, guess what?

The terrorist lose, and we win.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Legal Immigration vs. Illegal Immigration: America’s Dilemma

Sadly, the immigration debate in America today has been politicized, marginalized and split down party lines to the degree that true “reform” seems nearly impossible. The Left has portrayed Republicans, Tea Partiers, and all those opposed to illegal immigration as racists and bigots. While those on the Right have branded all those demanding “immigration reform” and “pathways to citizenship” for illegal immigrants as, at best, liberal proponents of “amnesty,” big government, and the welfare state, and, at worst, anti-American lefties who secretly want to undermine the “traditional” (read: white) fabric of this country. The truth, curiously enough, lies somewhere in the middle, and is being obscured by the fact that there are plenty of Americans, from every political stripe, who are pro-legal immigration, yet are staunchly anti-illegal immigration.

America has always had a love-hate relationship with its immigrants. Since the dawn of the good ol’ US of A, the Americans who were already here (ironically, the multi-generational descendants of immigrants themselves) were highly suspicious of those newly-arrived folks, dying (sometimes literally) to become Americans too. There are plenty of historical, military, and social reasons for this Nativist fear of “outsiders.”

The most obvious reason for 18th century American distrust of foreigners was that prior to and during the time of the American Revolution, foreigners came to our shores or encroached into our territory usually to attack us or create mischief (think French and British soldiers, their Native American allies and insurgents, Hessian mercenaries, etc.). The African slave trade further complicated things socially and politically for Americans, as half the country was opposed to slavery, and a great many were uneasy just having the Africans here at all, thanks to sensationalized slave revolts in the Caribbean.

In the 19th century, Americans feared, loathed, and tried to limit the immigration of all types of national and ethnic groups, including Irish, Chinese, Italian, Jewish, Polish, and Russian, most of whom were fleeing one famine, revolution, or other man or naturally-made disaster. Eventually these immigrants of old acculturated, assimilated, or integrated themselves into American society to one degree or another. They learned English, as did their children. They fought our wars, ran for office, and soon were part of the fabric—the so-called “melting pot”—of American society. Americans grew to love them, or at least “accept” them, because eventually they were us and we were them.

And they were “legal,” as far as immigrants could be in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They registered in places like Ellis Island or the Texas border, and most of them became law-abiding new Americans. And they really did do the labor-intensive jobs Americans “didn’t want” because back then, most Americans with high school diplomas had good-paying jobs at factories, warehouses, and manufacturing plants, shipyards, dockyards, and in construction. All of the jobs were here, most of them were held by Americans at “American wages,” and it looked like it was going to be that way for a long time.

Fast-forward to the 21st century. America is at war and the economy is in shambles. Traditional blue collar jobs are extinct due to international outsourcing for cheap labor. And a new type of immigrant has caught the ire of frustrated Americans—the “illegal” immigrant. As far as a great majority of Americans are concerned, illegal immigrants have disrespected our borders and our laws, they have overburdened our social services system, clogged our hospital ERs, taxed our police and fire services, failed to learn English, failed to fully assimilate or acculturate, and are having babies—so called “anchor babies,” automatically getting “unearned” citizenship for their offspring—which they are having at a higher rate than traditional Americans.

Meanwhile, Americans are seeing another class of immigrants who have done everything right, entered the country above-board, have patiently endured the paperwork, long waits, and labyrinthine bureaucracy to go through the naturalization process to become legitimate, legal Americans. Nothing stirs the patriotic fervor of natural-born Americans like seeing legal immigrants, en masse, with their hands held up, waving small U.S. flags, taking the oath of citizenship in convention centers around the country.

And who should Americans be cheering, supporting, and going to bat for? The immigrants doing everything right, waiting patiently, filling out forms, taking classes, sometimes for years, learning about our history and our culture, learning English, and integrating themselves fully into our society? Or the immigrants who have started their life here by breaking our laws, which only make them more prone to criminality? The immigrants, who, because of how they sneaked into our country, are more prone to commit hit-and-run vehicle collisions, more prone to lying to police about their identity, more liable to turn their formerly American neighborhoods into miniature versions of villages and towns in their home country, complete with foreign flags and signage in their native language?

This country is scheduled to become majority non-traditional American by the year 2050, and a great proportion of this new “majority” will be the offspring or second generation children of illegal immigrants.

Do you understand the dilemma Americans find themselves in? Liberals, Democrats, college-educated types, Republicans, Tea Partiers, right-wingers, artists, poets, writers, all find themselves, at one time or another, hand-wringing and getting angry over some aspect of how illegal immigrants have changed the fabric of this country. Many Americans want to do the right thing. Many of us are in support of legislation like the Dream Act, which aims not to punish the successful children of illegal immigrants, who, through no fault of their own, as they were babies when their law-breaking parents crossed the border, embraced their new home, thrived in school, and ended up getting accepted to places like Harvard and Yale, only to face roadblocks due to their immigration status.

But at the same time, Americans don’t want the United States of America to become Mexico, or China, or some other foreign country. If we wanted to live in those places, we’d move there. And we resent being called racists or bigots because we are standing up for enforcing our immigration laws, securing our borders, and demanding accountability and punishment for law-violators. We resent being told that illegal immigrants are working jobs that traditional Americans won’t do, because that is a distortion of the truth. Americans won’t do those jobs at the “slave wages” that illegal immigrants are paid. Pay Americans the traditional “American” wages that they used to be paid and they would all flock to those jobs!

We can support legal immigration, and be against illegal immigration. We can be for “immigration reform” that does not include amnesty, and that does include penalties for those who broke the law.

True immigration reform is not a one-way street. It will depend on good faith and cooperation from immigrants, both legal and otherwise, as well as from the foreign governments of those countries where the majority of illegal immigrants are originating from. And it’s going to cost law breakers something, and it’s going to hurt.

When Americans break the law, we have to face the music. It should be no different for law violators who are foreign-born.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Final Word on the Iraq War?

On the last day of August 2010, the Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces, President Barack Obama, faced the nation and explained what the “end” of combat operations in Iraq means for Americans. This wasn’t the speech the Left would have liked to hear, and perhaps some on the Right, while still skeptical of Obama, were pleasantly surprised. However, after this speech, maybe the bitterness and divisiveness of the last seven years can finally be put to rest. Whatever the end result, as Obama outlined, Americans have much to be proud of.

Obama acknowledged that our country still faces security challenges, and that we’re not out of the woods when it comes to fixing our domestic economic and social woes. Obama pointed out, though, that this “milestone” [the official close of Operation Iraqi Freedom] “should serve as a reminder to all Americans that the future is ours to shape if we move forward with confidence and commitment.” This is more FDR than Carter, and is certainly a far cry from the latter’s “malaise” speech. Here is a positive reminder that we are moving in the right direction.

As the commander in chief, and with many Americans unsure about his commitment to the military, Obama made it clear that not only does he support our troops, but insists that they are the ones that have shaped the Iraq legacy into the eventual “success” story that it appears to be evolving into, albeit slowly and still painfully. “Yet there has been one constant amidst these shifting tides,” Obama said, “At every turn, America’s men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve.”

And these were not hollow words. Obama could have pandered to the anti-war critics, who still harp on the “illegality” of the Iraq War, the lack of WMDs, and how Bush et all led our country into war under false pretenses. Instead, Obama rose to the occasion as our new “decider,” acknowledging the final result and benefit of having removed Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party.

“The Americans who served in Iraq completed every mission they were given,” Obama said, “They defeated a regime that had terrorized its people. Together with Iraqis and coalition partners who made huge sacrifices of their own, our troops fought block by block to help Iraq seize the chance for a better future.”

However, this was no flip-flop on Obama’s part. He dutifully mentioned that the Iraq War had been a “contentious” issue among Americans. He acknowledged having disagreed about the war with former President Bush. Yet in the same breath, Obama let America now, that he had respectfully called Bush on the eve of this historic speech, and added: “No one can doubt President Bush’s support for our troops or his love of country and commitment to our security…And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women and our hopes for Iraqis’ future.”

And he took no undue credit and laid no blame.

Thoughtfully, Obama spent the second half of his speech outlining his war plans for Afghanistan and the continued fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban, while emphasizing that the military alone cannot deliver American influence globally, and that “we must use all elements of our power—including diplomacy, our economic strength, and the power of America’s example—to secure our interests and stand by our allies.”

Obama outlined strategies for ensuring our continued national strength and influence by promoting domestic prosperity and growing our middle class. He emphasized the need for Americans to carry the same burden in reducing our dependence on foreign oil, changing our energy policy, and implementing education reform—what he refers to as the “tough decisions”—as that carried by our military over the last decade. And he looked ahead to ensure that our returning veterans were well taken care of with increased funding for benefits and health care, including a “post-9/11 G.I. Bill.”

Most poignantly, Obama echoed the reality of gauging military success in the post Cold War world. “In an age without surrender ceremonies,” he said, “we must earn victory through the success of our partners and the strength of our own nation.” At the same time, he stirred the memories of Lexington, Gettysburg, Iwo Jima, and Khe Sanh, while summing up the hallmark of American military tradition and the true heroism behind those servicemen and women who laid down their lives in Iraq.

“Those Americans gave their lives for the values that have lived in the hearts of our people for over two centuries,” he said somberly, “They fought in a faraway place for people they never knew. They stared into the darkest of human creations—war—and helped the Iraqi people see the light of peace.”

If we needed any evidence that Obama has perhaps “arrived” as a Commander in Chief for all Americans, perhaps this speech is it. Obama, in all of his trademark eloquence and magnanimousness, declared not victory nor failure in Iraq, but that Americans had “met our responsibilities” and that it was “time to turn the page.” This is what we needed to hear from our commander in chief, that it was okay to stop playing the blame game and to accept all the good that had come from the bad. That it was all right to let history be the final judge and have the last word on Iraq.

And that “beyond the pre-dawn darkness, better days lie ahead.”

Monday, August 30, 2010

Religious Tolerance Does Not Mean Cultural Submission

Lost in the heated debate over the so-called “Ground Zero” Park 51 Mosque is the question as to whether American traditional religious tolerance means that we must submit and give way to the “culture” of Islam. One, religious tolerance, is a pillar of our free society. The other, cultural submission, is what the Europeans and other social democracies have let themselves get caught up in through their hapless efforts to placate their growing and restless Muslim populations. Radical Islamist movements have taken advantage of misguided European “multicultural” tolerance policies, to push their agenda of cultural dominance over their European hosts, while retaining the right to cry “racism and bigotry” whenever a Western politician speaks out against the “Islamisization” of their continent.

As a progressively-minded, constitutionally-conscious American who believes in the separation of church and state, as well as the freedom to worship as one chooses, I’m all for “peaceful” Muslims doing their thing. From Presidents George W. Bush to Barack Obama, and from liberal to conservative champions of religious freedom, we’ve all been trumpeting the cause of tolerance and equal rights for the “peaceful Muslim.” The only problem is that the West is still waiting for that great mass of peaceful Muslims to rise up and let themselves be counted in their group-denunciation of terrorism, misogyny, mass murder, and state-sponsored religious and cultural imperialism.

Instead, the only “face”of Islam that has successfully been shown to the West, is the so-called distorted, perverted “Islamism”—the kind whose followers fly planes into our buildings to massacre thousands of innocent men, women, and children; who blow themselves up in crowded marketplaces and recruiting centers; who cheerful wage war against their own Islamic brethren; who detonate bombs in London and Spanish train stations, and Bali nightclubs; who support the launching of missiles and mortars into Israeli population centers; who saw the heads off of non-believers and stone adulterers; who frequently call for holy wars against Western countries, and for the state-sponsored assassinations of individual leaders and dissidents; who support and host terror training camps; who murder their own family members in honor killings; and the list of murderous deeds goes on and on. This is the only “Islam” that makes itself known.

One of the problems is that Islam is not just a religion. It is a culture. It is a political ideology. And for all intents and purposes, it is a race of people. You cannot separate the three—religion, culture, and politics—from the Muslim, because they are all intertwined and important to what makes them a Muslim. In a “pure” Islamic state, there is no separation of church and state because the church is the state, and vice versa. There is no religious tolerance because every Muslim is either a Muslim or an infidel. “Religious tolerance” on the part of Muslims, if you can call it that, only exists in Western countries where Muslims are still in the minority and not part of the power structure…yet.

Westerners are rightly confused and anxious, especially in the United States, when so-called “peaceful” Muslims talk about building bridges with Christians, healing old wounds, and making friends, then completely ignore American feelings when it comes to the location of the Park 51 Mosque. Wait a minute! I thought you guys cared about our feelings and building bridges.

Then by attaching the insidious name “Cordoba” to the project, even unofficially, only makes it appear that the Islamic founders are banking on American historical ignorance of the significance of that Spanish city to Islamic imperialism. They could have named the Park 51 Mosque anything, but to refer to it as the “Cordoba House,” which harkens back to the Caliphate of Cordoba in the Muslims’ attempt to conquer Spain and then Europe, is nothing but a slap in the face to Westerners, and will do nothing to promote interfaith dialogue. In fact, it only fuels Americans’ fears that Park 51 will actually be a subversive Islamist monument commemorating the September 11, 2001 attack.

You want a show of good faith dialogue—move the mosque then we’ll talk. Then the actions will match the words.

In the meantime, we have to read about Muslim efforts to do away with Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and make “Mecca Time” the international time standard, as they build the largest clock tower in the world, atop the soon-to-be second tallest building in the world (the tallest is also in an Islamic country), in Mecca, which they view as the “center” of the world. We have to hear about Muslim children taunting their European peers in Holland, Denmark, and Sweden, that they will soon “take over” their countries (Muslim immigrants are having children at a rate of 4:1 over their European hosts), and how some parts of England might actually have to put up with Sharia Law.

Putting up with these efforts of the Islamic world to dominate the West, and eventually the rest of the globe is not religious “tolerance.” It is Western cultural submission, and that is something that we, as Westerners, and especially as Americans do not have to tolerate.

I’m all for any peaceful Muslim immigrating to America legally, applying for and obtaining his or her citizenship, getting educated, starting a business, and praying at this little mosque or that community cultural center. As long as that Muslim becomes an “American” Muslim, supports our socio-cultural-political foundations, keeps their “church and state” business separate, tolerates all religions, and denounces worldwide jihadist Islamism. And follows and obeys U.S., state, and local, civil and criminal laws and statutes.

That means no Sharia Law, no honor killings, no fatwas, no jihad, no female circumcision, no misogyny, no terror funding or training camps on U.S. soil, no damn “Mecca Time” and NO monuments or commemorative locations anywhere on U.S. soil, to honor or remember any Islamist attack, aggression, or victory against the West, ever. Don’t even think about it. Don’t even dream about it.

We must tolerate the religion of Islam, as long as it remains just that, a quaint, peaceful religion practiced in homes and community mosques. We do not have to tolerate Islamic attempts to push aside American and Western culture, and replace it with Islamic culture. It is every American’s duty to resist this always.

Our house. Our rules. Live with it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Enemy Within: Legalizing Pot is the First Step on a Short Road to Total Moral Decay

This November Californians will vote on the future of this country. That’s right, the future of America. And it starts right here in California with the marijuana vote. Proposition 19 represents more than a misguided effort to decriminalize “casual” users and make a little money for cash-strapped California. This is ultimately an ideological struggle between one way of life, represented by all that’s good in America, and another way of life that has already torn our neighbor asunder and stands poised to destroy us from within. And it all comes down to whether voters think legalizing marijuana is a good idea or a bad idea.

We’ve all heard both sides of the debate. The War on Drugs is a failure. Legalizing pot can generate millions in needed revenue and eradicate drug trade violence. It eases the pain of terminal disease sufferers, and besides, weed isn’t half as bad as alcohol and tobacco. Look how many people booze and cigarettes kill, right? Opponents of the measure claim marijuana is actually more cancerous than tobacco, drug dealers will still have a market to minors, and that violence reduction will be minimal.

I’m going to present what should be the only argument for never legalizing marijuana or any other illegal drug for that matter—our children. And here’s the litmus test—would you want your kids smoking legalized weed?

Marijuana kills drive and destroys ambition, plain and simple. It zaps the zest for academic achievement and getting a job right out of a kid. Marijuana will make you do self-destructive things by impairing your judgment. It will inhibit your ability to be respectful and responsible. It will interfere with your desire to be a good son, daughter, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife, because you will no longer care about providing, being thoughtful, taking care of yourself, or making money (except to support your pot craving). You will also believe you can drive safely while under the influence of pot.

Does this make legalizing marijuana sound like a good idea?

If you’re a privileged teen from a good home, become a long-term pot smoker and at best, you’ll be a lazy, overweight, disappointment who’s financially supported by your parents for a while, until the marijuana exacerbates whatever underlying personality disorders you have. Then you’ll have your first mental health break, usually during your freshman year of college, if you even make it to college. You will drop out, move back home, and spend the rest of your days in and out of psychotherapy, becoming a burden to your family and to society. And your parents, being too naïve to put two and two together regarding the marijuana usage, will spend the rest of their days wondering where they went wrong, while waxing poetic about how they saved California’s economy by voting to legalize pot.

Now, picture if you will, an at-risk youth from a low, socio-economic neighborhood in Any City, USA. Throw in a non-existent or incarcerated father, a harder drug-addicted mother with a violence-prone boyfriend, street gangs shooting at each other outside, classmates waiting to assault you as you walk to and from school, sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, neuro-psychological issues like autism, ADHD, PTSD, Bi-Polar Disorder and let this kid get his hands on marijuana.

Still think legalizing marijuana’s a good idea?

It’s easy to preach about the benefits of a nightly, pre-coital marijuana joint, when you’re a privileged, self-absorbed, rich Hollywood type sitting pretty in your multi-million dollar home, or a childless, lefty hipster sneering at conservative American values or anything smacking of “Reagan-Bush.” Most of the Hollywood celebrities, rappers, and star athletes promoting marijuana usage are just mental health cases with money. They are just lucky (most of the time) to have sober “handlers” (assistants, agents, etc.) to keep them out of trouble, jail, or the psych hospitals.

But what if you don’t have money or a clean and sober sycophant looking out for you? What if you’re a poor kid from the inner city, self-medicating with pot because you just can’t bear the misery of your existence: no role models, no education, no jobs, no money, no self-worth, no self-respect, no hope, and no future? Now this kid is high on pot, with nothing to live for, and his buddy hands him a gun and says let’s go rob someone.

Legalize marijuana and drug dealers will still thrive, preying on children and teens. There will still be drug-related violence. The Mexican cartels will just tweak their operation a little and the war will continue. All the so-called taxes that you hoped to raise from the “legalized” pot (which won’t be nearly as good as the still “illegal” pot peddled by the dope dealers, who will of course branch out into the “legalized” pot business, pushing out the licensed dispensaries), will have to be spent on mental health, homeless, and joblessness benefits incurred by the drug users, as well as other medical and social services. Are you willing to explain all of this to your children, when they ask what went wrong?

The problem isn’t that the War on Drugs is a failure. You see, law enforcement held up their end of the war. They did their part. WE did not do our part. Parents, who should have raised their children with good morals, values, and behavior, so that their kids did not want to take drugs or involve themselves in criminal activity, did not do their part. Peers, teachers, coaches, and clergy, who should have continued reinforcing what the parents should have instilled, did not do their part. Academics, activists, journalists, sociologists, politicians, and the media, who should have supported law enforcement and the other pillars of the home front in strengthening family values and maintaining the positive fabric of our society instead of promoting divisiveness, victimization, race-identity politics, materialism, sex, violence, and tabloid journalism, did not do their part.

If every one of us had done our jobs properly, law enforcement and the courts would be just one successful spoke in a wheel of societal success stories involving education, empowerment, employment, leadership, and drug and alcohol treatment. But no, we all wanted to sit back and wallow in collective bad behavior, and then point at law enforcement, as if they were the only group that should have been tasked with waging a war on drugs, and blame them for the failure, as if they were supposed to play hand maiden to us all and raise our kids for us while interdicting drug smugglers.

All of us holding up our end of the bargain in the war on drugs would have required politicians and community leaders to tell parents that they were messed up! And that wouldn’t have got them re-elected. It would have required public school administrators and school board members to tell parents that the problem was at home, with them, and how they had failed in raising their children with good behavior and decent values, and not with teachers, and that wouldn’t have got them funding for their schools. It would have required greedy, sex and drug-obsessed CEOs, Hollywood celebrities, sports figures, musicians and rap stars to look in the mirror, and realize that they were part of the problem, and that wouldn’t have been good for business.

And it would have required doctors, scientists, professors, community advocates, you, me, all of us parents and citizens—people who should have known better—to say enough! Drugs are horrible. They ruin lives. They destroy our children. They tear up the fabric of our community, our neighborhoods, and just make all of society’s ills that much worse. It would have required us all to stand up and say that we’re no longer going to tolerate or celebrate law violators, criminality, illegal immigration, bad behavior, hate speech, flag-desecration, anti-Americanism, insidious teachers and college professors who preach anti-Christian “secularism,” socialism, and race-identity politics, and any others that would degrade our values, and that would have been politically incorrect.

I get that so many of our underprivileged youth are smoking pot, and that minorities seem to get hit the hardest with marijuana enforcement action. So the answer is to “decriminalize” their bad behavior instead of helping them to see a better way? Okay, sure. Legalize marijuana. Why not? Heck, all of our young people and our poor “oppressed classes” are doing it. At least maybe we can decriminalize them so they can “get jobs.” And some day, when enough kids are committing petty theft, we’ll say, aw, heck, let’s legalize petty theft, otherwise all of our kids will be criminalized even further. And some day, we might just tolerate the forcible taking of property from another person. Why not? It’s just property. Stuff. Let’s make robbery legal, too.

And where does it end?

I’ve seen first hand a woman from a good family in a wealthy neighborhood who called the police to deal with her 12-year-old son, who was “out of control.” This boy refused to go to school, had long, greasy hair, and only wanted to smoke pot 24-7. His room was in shambles, he cussed his mother out daily while screaming that he hated her, and had no respect for her. His one goal in life? He wanted to be homeless, so he could have the freedom to smoke marijuana. He was 12-years old! When I asked the mother where her son got his marijuana, she sheepishly told me how she grew marijuana plants because she had a “medical marijuana” card. She lamented that her 12-year-old wouldn’t obey her when she told him that he couldn’t smoke weed.

Where’s the modeling, people? Is this the message you’re willing to send to your children? That you, me, we all let the pot heads, the gang members, the American drug-dealers, and the Mexican narco-terrorists determine the future of our way of life? That we all waved the white flag and surrendered to them? That their way—a world with legalized drugs and who knows what else?—was the better way? Let’s just take the money?

If we all vote to legalize marijuana, we’ve lost our children forever. They will never respect you or me as parents or value anything we ever told them. Our children will think we are all hypocrites and liars. Our children will shake their heads in shame and say: “How could you—who always taught me to do the right thing and say NO to drugs—have voted for this!?”

Believe it or not, a great many of our young people, some who aren’t old enough to vote yet, want marijuana and other hard drugs to remain illegal. These kids actually believe in our great country and traditional American values. They go to church, serve as scouting camp counselors, participate in community service projects, feed the poor and care for the homeless, while relishing their role as “part of the solution and not part of the problem.” They cherish their loving parents who establish boundaries, enforce rules, and mete out discipline, along with praise, hugs, and kisses, because it makes them feel safe, and loved, and grounds them by giving them something they can believe in that’s bigger than themselves. These children, many of them teenagers, actually listen to and respect their parents, even over their peers. These might even be your children.

If you give up, and surrender to those who would undermine the fabric of our society, your children will give up. You can forget about your children getting good grades and going to college, your son earning his Eagle Scout, your daughter getting her Gold Award, and their continued affiliation with anything worthwhile, because what would it all mean anymore? They’re not going to care because the adults who want legalized drugs don’t care. Not about their children, their futures, nor about the future of our nation. These adults just want to smoke pot, cross their fingers, close their eyes and hope and pray they can at least make a little money in the process, and that the crime and bad guys will go away.

Do you think your children are going to feel safe with now-legalized pot dispensaries popping up at the end of your block, next door to your house, with riff raff hanging out, drinking, and smoking dope in front of everybody?

Marijuana is the broken window in the “Broken Window” theory of neighborhood decay. Perhaps you’ve heard of this legendary sociological theory of urban blight. Break a window in an otherwise nice urban area, and leave it broken, don’t fix it. A passerby will see the broken window and assume it’s an area that no one cares about and he’ll have no qualms about throwing his litter there. Now you have a broken window and trash in the street. Then a tagger will come along, see the broken window and the litter, think that nobody must care in that neighborhood, and then he’ll tag the walls with graffiti. Now you have a broken window, trash, and graffiti. Along comes a pimp, a drug dealer, and some gang members…and you can guess the rest of the scenario.

Marijuana is that “broken window.” It’s the first bad decision in an inevitable string of increasingly worse decisions, because after legalizing pot, legalizing cocaine won’t seem so outlandish, and then methamphetamine. Pretty soon people committing crime while high on drugs will just “come with the territory.” Then what else will we tolerate? Outsourcing our protection to armed gangs of narco-criminals like in Mexico? Doing away with law and order altogether? Forget the Pledge of Allegiance! What is America, anyway? Let’s all burn the flag! Hey, Sharia Law’s starting to look good.

Remember NIMBYs? NIMBY stands for “Not In My Back Yard,” and was usually the reaction by citizens whenever someone wanted to build, erect, or establish a program, project, or site that could have a detrimental effect on a neighborhood or property values (think parole office, drug-treatment facility, homeless shelter, toxic waste dump, etc.). Those concerned citizens who didn’t want anything to do with the proposed neighborhood site were called NIMBYs.

I’m going to coin a new term here, a NIMFAB—Not In My Flesh and Blood. And I’m going to stand up and be counted as the first official NIMFAB. I have an intelligent, kind-hearted, patriotic, religious, and beautiful daughter, who believes in giving back to her community and helping people. She gets excellent grades, plays the piano and the violin, and is growing as an athlete. And she is an outstanding Girl Scout, who will no doubt earn her Gold Award and make her Eagle Scout father proud. She already knows what college she wants to go to and what she wants to do as a career.

She is 9-years old.

I’ll be damned if I’m going to give up and surrender to legalized marijuana or any other legalized craziness. And I’m not going to sit around and watch a bunch of degenerate yahoos tear this great nation apart. I’m going to rail against this and stand up for what’s right, as long as I have to. I’m going to do it for my daughter, and for all of her awesome friends, and for all of our children. Because I’m not willing to sacrifice a whole generation of our young people so that pot-smokers can be “decriminalized” or so that California can raise money. Not drug money! Not ever. Legalizing marijuana is the first step to the social and moral decay of the United States, and that is a bad idea. And I feel the same way about that bad idea, as every dutiful parent feels about every other bad idea.

Not in my flesh and blood!

A shorter version of this article appeared in the Pasadena Weekly of September 9, 2010.