Category Archives: Uncategorized

Culture shock at the 99 cent store

The local 99 Cent Only Store is quite an experience. It’s the only place I go shopping where I get a sense of panic as I mill around.

I don’t care for shopping in general, but I mostly tolerate it. But at the 99 Cent Only Store in my community, I seem to actually suffer psychological stress.

I believe I have pinpointed the cause of this angst. The place is literally a cross cultural meeting zone.

Having lived in a small city in the Midwest the last few years I am encountering some overall culture shock out on the West Coast anyway.  The 99 Cent Only Store is just part of my transition from traditional America to a place that seems to be a separate, multicultural nation. My anguish at this shop is just a symptom of the kind of response a cultural transition triggers,

Some of the my uneasiness isn’t due to differences in culture. It is provoked more by the  more universal experience of moving from a rural area to the big city. Unlike my fly-over country town, in this Pacific megalopolis there are crowded highways and crowded parking lots. Further, there are heavily populated shopping malls. Even the hiking trails are loaded with people.  Back home I am used to isolation and peace and quiet.

The 99 Cents Only Store is just a part of this local phenomenon of commotion. The shop has its own set of noise and clatter caused by its masses. Every aisle and checkout line is full.

As I do when I drive in traffic,I have to stay totally aware to avoid a collision as I cruise around this repository of cheap goods.

Going to buy the elements necessary to living at a 99 Cents Only Store in this locale is not only similar to driving the freeway, but also a bit like shopping abroad. In a recent trip there, I had a list of items and had trouble finding them. The Latino lady I asked for help didn’t understand my English. She didn’t seem to comprehend my question about the location of radishes and green onions. A fellow Anglo, probably a more experienced expat with perfect language skills told me where to look as she passed by and observed my struggles.

After I picked out my treasures, I maneuvered my shopping cart through the herd to the cashier line and waited as the people in front of me checked out. It was there that the event I have dreaded since I have been out West occurred. I had a wreck.

This accident was not my fault and it was only the equivalent of a parking lot fender bender, so it was really no big deal. It was only a nudge from behind.

Although the rear-ender was minor, I still felt as if my personal space had been violated. As a result I began to feel annoyed. Then I turned around and was totally disarmed.

Before me stood a short, wiry Asian fellow. “I need a walking license,” he said smiling. I laughed and replied, “So do I.”

Like an old friend, this man began to talk. He told me his name was Pham.

This senior citizen asked me, “How old do you think I am?” I looked him over and answered,“Oh, I would say early to mid 60s.”

My new Vietnamese pal answered with a look of glee and a sparkle in his eye. “I’m 80.”

I was astonished because he clearly had taken a drink from the Fountain of Youth. Pham was a good-looking guy, slim with an appealing face and a non-descript coloring to his hair.

“That’s incredible. You’re a handsome guy!”, I said. He kept smiling.

A senior Vietnamese lady came to his side and I asked Pham, “Do you know this lady?” He said, “That’s my boss.”

Pham’s wife said without missing a beat, “He’s 80.” I expressed my amazement to her as well.

Pham proceeded to tell me about his life. He told me proudly and with his continued smile that he had been a fighter pilot. “I flew 600 missions,” he said. That seemed like a lot to me. But Pham confirmed to me that he was telling the truth because he rattled off the designations of the planes he had flown. Having been around Navy pilots as a young man, I knew that HE knew what he was talking about.

I wondered how a Vietnamese guy could be a fighter pilot and wanted to ask him about it. Guesses flashed through my mind. I surmised that he had fought for the US in Vietnam or that he had immigrated and joined the service.

I wish I had had time to have a long talk with Pham about his four-score life. But the throngs kept pressing and we had to move through the checkout line.

I also found myself to be disoriented, one of the symptoms of culture shock. As a result, I stopped at an empty cashier station to make sure I had all my purchases and the things that I brought with me.

Sure enough, the cashier who had checked me out saw me and brought over the cell phone I had bought the day before. (I can tell you it was more than 99 cents.)  As I went through my backpack and purchases Pham and his wife passed behind me and exited the store.

I was sorry to see him go, for he was a gift from God. My positive meet up with this elderly Asian man has helped me to  move on from my cultural fatigue in the Pacific States. It also reminded me of why decided to work cross culturally years ago: I am intrigued and fascinated by the customs, language and people of other nations. I feel re-energized and feel the allure of international life once again.

My last visit to the 99 Cent Only Store was far more valuable than the inexpensive items sold there.

 

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Filed under Civility, culture, language, Shopping, Uncategorized

Out and about with the down and out

Comedian Dennis Miller was recently asked by now-disgraced pundit Bill O’Reilly how things were going in his home city of Santa Barbara, California.

Miller said something to the effect,”I tell ya Billy. I only go out when I have to. I leave home, do my business and scamper back to the compound as quickly as possible.”

Hisstatement comes as a surprise considering that he lives in a resort city with a Mediterranean climate. The inference from Miller was that the world has just become too full of nutcakes  who make modern life just completely unpalatable, even in a place like Santa Barbara.

Yesterday, after I had spent some time in downtown Los Angeles and nearby Pasadena, my brother asked me how it went. My response was similar to Miller’s.  I mainly was trying to get a laugh out of my brother because in truth yesterday’s experience was different than the comedian’s, even though I did indeed meet up with what most people would say is a strange dude.

After dropping my brother off at work, I traveled to Pasadena and took the light rail to Union Station with a friend to view a Nordic exhibit featuring food and nature scenes from the region. We were both interested because we had once lived in Finland.

Before I had even looked at one image, a fellow was in my face. My normal response over the course of my life when accosted by strangers in public transportation centers has been to flee the scene as quickly as possible. But for some reason, this time I took a different approach. I carried on a conversation with Jorge.*

We talked and I think at first I didn’t understand that this middle-aged man might be mentally ill or perhaps homeless.  We quickly got into details of our personal lives and I found we had a lot in common.

However, at times my new friend seemed a bit unhinged, at least for my taste. Jorge hugged me twice, which made me a little uncomfortable because I am not a “hugger”, especially with men. Fiat times came close to breaking into tears when I shared something about myself that moved him.

In addition, he tended to drop f-bombs regularly, complained about security at the train station harassing him and made comments to passing females.

Although my pal claimed to have a job, a wife and a home and also said that he had just come from a doctor’s appointment, he seemed to linger at our venue. His backpack was parked over in a seat in the station lounge.

Further, Jorge’s demeanor wasn’t one you would expect from a person you had just met. He followed me around the exhibit and kept talking.

Unusually for me, I took it all in stride. In fact, although I don’t think I did anything untoward, I think he might have wearied of me. He said he had to go to the rest room and left, never to be seen again.

I jokingly told me friend that perhaps I had been more overbearing than Jorge was and he had had enough.

I believe my newly minted view toward talking at length to strangers, even those who seem down and out, has come from my own encounter with setbacks in life. I guess what they say is true, that life tends to keep you humble.

It’s not that I have totally objected to talking with unfamiliar people in public places before I met the train station man. In my travels in the US and abroad I have grown bolder.

Just this week I introduced myself to an old age pensioner in Starbucks. He was wearing a hat with the moniker “Sisu”emblazoned above the lid. The term is Finnish and is loosely translated “guts” (i.e., courage, determination and toughness).

Having lived in Finland and knowing that the language isn’t exactly common in Los Angeles, I was curious. I figured the man must be from there or at least had traveled to this out-of-the way place.

Turns out he was that Los Angeles rarity: a transplanted Finn. Heikki and I had a lengthy conversation about his homeland, California and our lives in general.

I was amazed when he explained that he was born in Rovaniemi, a city on the Arctic Circle pillaged by the Germans in World War II and had to flee to Sweden at the age of one. I have a relative from there who had the same experience.

It was interesting to learn of his travels in Europe after the war and his eventual location to California to become an engineer. He told me he worked for decades in the aeronautical industry and even for the C.I.A.

The reason I was willing to approach Heikki was that we were in a Starbucks frequented by paying customers. Unlike loiters in bus and train stations, I could expect that the inhabitants of the coffee shop were not threatening. (I hope Heikki had the same expectation. He could have had questions when I walked across the room to introduce myself. I don’t always look that approachable.)

I noticed that I was tempted to revert to my unwelcoming attitude toward the debilitated when my friend and I returned to Pasadena. On the train back I held a mildly negative view toward a peculiar fellow who felt free to impose himself on our conversation about the fascinating local natural phenomenon, the Jacaranda tree. But I didn’t hold my disdain for long. I was mostly amused.

I was less amused when a young man came by our table as we dined and asked for food. When another clearly homeless and aging man sat on the sidewalk and directed some unintelligible verbal ire toward us as we exited the restaurant, I also wasn’t pleased. But to be honest, I was more annoyed with the restaurant for allowing these men to harass its customers.

It’s not that I lack compassion. It’s just that I feel a bit put out because I don’t personally have the wherewithal to deal with all of society’s less fortunate.

I know there are government and private institutions out there that will help them.  They don’t need to be harassing the general public as they go about their business. I tend to get unhappy when  I face off with these folks because I feel they are choosing to take this approach to dealing with their lack instead of making use of the resources available to them.

Even so, I hope my attitude from yesterday’s meet and greet with Jorge at the train continues and grows. As a Christian, I walk around with the subliminal question “what would Jesus  do?” floating around in my brain when I face off with the distressed.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the way I handled the situation with Jorge yesterday was more in line with how Jesus would have responded. In fact, while taking the time to talk with him, I was briefly able to share my faith and perhaps move Jorge toward faith.

In the  final analysis, the state of his eternal soul is more important than improving his physical and mental condition.

 

 

 

 

*(name changed to protect the innocent)

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Christianity, Finland, Homeless, Jesus Christ, Media, redemption, religion, Uncategorized

Westerners don’t understand the danger they’re in

“We don’t revolt because we don’t understand.”

Phillip K. Howard wrote these words 20 years ago as he decried how overbearing regulations put forth by government have crushed American freedoms.

Howard didn’t believe that our leaders have ill intent in making all the rules that dictate everything we do today. In a view toward being fair to everyone, the author believes they just thought that laws should be as specific as possible, with a view toward being fair to everyone,

However, he says that our lawmakers’ efforts toward being precise have produced the opposite effect. In trying to cover every eventuality by making blanket rules for all, they have created huge costs and imbalances.

This is why I almost hate to read the news today.  Stories of injustice imposed on the majority of inhabitants of the western world by elite politicians in order to deal with a problem affecting a few are prevalent in the media.

One of the most recent examples of such inequities involves the rape of a 15-year old girl in an Austrian town. She was attacked by three male “refugees” from Third World countries, people who purportedly were in the little nation through the benevolence of the government.

If you follow the news, you know that European leaders are taking in people fleeing the war-torn hellholes these men came from. I don’t know the motives of the politicians, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they are just trying to alleviate the suffering of some of the folks who suffering from war in other places.

But in performing what seems to be a righteous act for the sake of some escapees from among the millions in these wretched countries, these office holders have put their own people at risk. Instead of owing up to this malfeasance, some of Europe’s public servants are trying to cover for the crimes of the migrants.

For instance, when a 10-year old boy was raped by one of these “refugees” in a swimming pool last summer, officials asked that Germans try to understand that the attacker comes from a different culture. One of the excuses offered and concurred with by leaders was the migrant’s statement that he had not had sex in four months and felt pressure.

As someone who has worked cross culturally for over a quarter of a century, I appreciate anyone who tries to put themselves in the shoes of another person who might have different customs than they do. But citing differences in cultural norms for pedophilia is of course ludicrous.

I do wonder though what makes these evil people think they can get away with their transgressions in Europe.  Somehow I think the power- that- be need to dig a little deeper for the cause of the motivations behind the assaults.

Could it be that “refugees” arriving from these strict Islamic countries feel free to rape and pillage after they spend a while observing European society?  After all, they watch television programs and view internet sites full of all kinds of immorality.

Perhaps the pols could learn something from television, too. I know I do.

I recently caught part of a M.A.S.H. episode in which Colonel Potter (played by Harry Morgan) becomes kind of a father figure to an injured soldier cared for by his doctors and nurses.

Private Danielson is getting harassed by a couple of men in his unit who are also in the M.A.S.H. ward. It seems he doesn’t believe in sex before marriage and has let the other guys know that he treats his girlfriend back home with respect. These men haze him with jokes and pranks, including tricking him into playing poker with a deck of cards with naked women on them.

Danielson tells them,”Why don’t you guys just leave me alone?”

One replies,”Danielson,  you don’t like women, you don’t like to drink, you got the old man looking out for you. You’re about the sorriest excuse for a man I ever saw.”

To defend himself, the private tells his abusers that he has been accepted into a unit responsible for the dangerous job of defusing bombs.  It’s a lie, but Danielson then seeks to cover it by asking Major Houlihan how he can get into the ordnance disposal unit.

Potter gets wind of his plan and argues with Danielson, who becomes angry. Potter ends the soldier’s ill advised course of action by keeping him in the hospital. In the end, he comes by to apologize to the Colonel.

Before Danielson leaves for his original unit, Potter tells him “Make sure you stick to those values.”

The Western world ought to take Potter’s advice. But first, its leaders and people should evaluate what those values are.

What is it exactly do European countries and their cultural descendants in the  United States and Canada stand for today anyway? Answering that question could go a long way in determining whether or not our leaders will handle our problems without violating common sense, or at least what used to count for sound judgment.

This morning as we drove down the freeway a  friend of mine and I were discussing the complete disconnect between people in the US these days. He hit on the cause of all this strife.

“People’s world views are so different, we will never have unity in this country,” he said.

I do believe what my pal was referring to was the idea that in America we are in a “culture war”.  The term was coined by University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter  a quarter of a century ago to define the conflict between conservative (traditional) and liberal (progressive) values in our country.

Pat Buchanan, who ran for president in 1992, made a major issue of this culture war, adding to its definition by calling it a battle of religions.

There has been no letup in this collision of beliefs . The battle has only increased as the country changes, a metamorphosis fueled by unbridled immigration from countries which heretofore have not had much representation in the States.

 

 

Until this clash of civilizations in the West has a clear winner, we will continue to see such outrages as are occurring in Europe now.  The only reason we have the disgusting events of late on our hands at all is that the majority of the citizens in western countries either haven’t understood what is happening to their nations, or don’t care to.

Until we begin to understand that we are in a war and care to do something about it, the outrages will go on.

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Filed under culture, politics, religion, Uncategorized, United States

Curses! Don’t be the source of them

Beetle Bailey

Monday morning I was sitting in my den, drowsily watching a replay of the NASCAR race from Kansas, when I was shocked from my stupor by images of the flaming number 10 car of Danica Patrick.

She got caught up in a fiery wreck with Joey Logano and Aric Almirola, the latter who plowed into them from 10 positions back. All three cars were engulfed in a brief inferno. Thankfully, today’s race car is built for safety and includes fire retardant material.

Patrick and Logano escaped injury, but Amirola had to be cut out his car and taken to the hospital. He suffered a broken vertebrae in his back, but wasn’t torched.

Repeated clips of the collision showed Logano clipping Danica from behind after his brakes failed, sending her into a spin which put her into the track wall.  Thus, the incident wasn’t her fault.

The only female driver in the Monster Cup series, Danica is always at the focal point of media attention. It doesn’t hurt that’s she’s “hot” either. (Not my words. Those of her boyfriend and fellow driver Rickey Stenhouse, although I agree. He also has said that she can cook.)

So of course the Fox Sports people talked Patrick afterward about the accident.

“I just don’t understand why so much bad luck happens,” she said.

Danica told her interviewer she couldn’t believe a brake rotor designed to withstand a lot of pressure could cause her demise. The rotor had broken on Logano’s car, causing him to lose control and smack her.

“Why?” she asked in dismay at her misfortune. “What else can I say?

“On the other hand, I was having a really good night and that’s what makes me the MOST mad…is that every time I’m doing better something STUPID happens. It’s just killing me.”

Patrick talked about her sense of foreboding over her repeated accidents on the NASCAR circuit.

After wishing Almirola well, she said, “One of these times one of these accidents is not going to go good for me. I’ve been very fortunate so far. One of these times it’s not going to go well.”

Danica wreck

Danica isn’t the only one worried about her future. Danny Peters of Frontstretch.com wonders if she is done.

“All told, Danica has no wins, no top-5’s, a measly six top-10 runs and just 57 laps led in 165 races across six seasons. Put another way, her results don’t match her level of equipment – not by any stretch of the imagination

“My overwhelming takeaway to what was, to be fair, a ‘heat of the moment’ response? This will be her last season.”

I hope Danica doesn’t quit. She’s still young for a NASCAR driver (age 35) and is fast. But if she believes she is cursed, maybe she will, or perhaps she will get fired because of her self-fulfilling prophecy about her “bad luck”.

I don’t know whether Danica is correct about her personal driver’s curse or not. Good men disagree on whether our troubles can be caused by God, the devil or other humans invoking doom upon us.

In the hit TV show “Frasier”, the series’ namesake and his fellow psychiatrist brother Niles have a discussion about whether or not “destiny” conspires against his success every time his high school reunion comes around.

Niles tells Frasier his concerns are “folderol”.  Frasier disagrees.

“Every time my reunion comes around it results in a severe downturn in my life,” says Frasier. He notes that his reunion has coincided with his being dumped at the altar, his divorce, and falling into a patch of poison ivy. Now that the reunion is again nigh, he is sure it was the cause of a recent job loss at the radio station where he hosted a call-in show.

Furthermore, Frasier believes he will not get a new job he will interview for in the next few minutes because of the reunion.

“How can you know that?” Niles asks.

“Because Destiny won’t allow it,” replies Niles.”I feel like I have a curse on my head.”

Niles seeks to reassure his brother and convince him of the folly of his position.

“Frasier, you are a man of science. You know curses don’t exist. There’s a perfectly rational explanation for all of this. You tripped and fell into poison ivy; your radio station changed formats; your wife didn’t love you.

“The only reason why you’re giving credence to this curse mumbo-jumbo is because you’re nervous about your job interview.”

Frasier's Curse

Niles tells his brother Frasier that his belief in a curse on him is “folderol”.

As a Christian, I am interested in my faith’s point of view on the existence of curses. But again, as Michael H. Brown indicates in his article “Are there Really Such Things as Curses: Can someone affect you by what they say or think?”, there is even disagreement among believers in Jesus:

“It’s a controversial aspect of Christianity. Some say they see no biblical basis for it. Others argue that there are repeated references to just such a thing from Genesis through the New Testament — not only from God, Who is often mentioned in the way of cursing sinful men, but also the curses of others. In Proverbs it says that a curse without cause can not have an effect but implies that there is indeed such a thing and that it can come from others.”

Where I think Brown may be on target is in his belief that we can afflict others with great evil even if we don’t mean to.

“Knowingly or unknowingly, we have all cursed others,” he says. “When we dislike someone, and worst of all, when we hate a person, it’s like throwing a spiritual dagger.

“And it can have physical results. In some cases people take sick (think of the term ‘ill will’), and often we find ourselves in frustrating bondages. No matter what we do, we can’t succeed. We can’t make ends meet. We can’t finish a job.We can’t succeed at school. We can’t find good relationships. We can’t reach peace in our families.”

Brown notes that the reversals people encounter are mostly due to the normal suffering of life, but he thinks “there are occasions when it’s because of ill will.”

“The fact that we can curse people without even knowing it is why we’re called to constantly control not only what we say, but what we THINK.”.

That’s a tall order. As someone who wants to use words to influence people for good, I know I need to do better at reigning in my speech towards others. I concur with one of Brown’s associates, a minister named Victoria, who says that “words are power.”

“When we call someone dumb or bad or ugly,we can be casting a real shadow on them,” she says.

Perhaps Frasier carried around such a cloud of condemnation with him due to his school days. He was known as the “Bryce Crier” and throughout the series it was clear he was bullied in school.

Charlie Brown dread

Yesterday as I viewed the blue/green ocean surf I cringed at the name calling I have engaged in during my own life.  I regretted my own ill will toward others, also.

In a time of prayer I asked God to forgive me and to take away my curses. What is more, I asked Him to negate the curses put forth against me.

I wanted to do something to symbolize my request and to demonstrate that I was serious about repenting of my loose tongue and heart. Therefore, I began to think how I could make a spiritual landmark at my spot on the shore.

Given that the place was rocky and had no trees or large boulders where I could leave permanent graffiti, I decided to do what tourists do: I took a souvenir. Instead of  seashell (there were none anyway), I picked up a rock that looked different than the rest.

IMG_20170518_144850111

My “memorial” stone

I am convinced there is spiritual evil at work today despite the dismissal of such things by so-called “modern” man, especially people in the secular media .

No, I don’t look for the devil behind every rock, I just don’t want to be the source of someone’s . Would that we all learn to keep our mouths shut and our emotions in check. The world might be a better place if we did.

         

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Filed under Christianity, Civility, Speech, Uncategorized

Beetle Bailey Comic Strip for May 14, 2017

Beetle Bailey is a comic strip about a perpetual goof-off navigating life in the army. It is ironic that Beetle Bailey, the laziest character in the history of comics, was created by Mort Walker, one of the hardest working and most prolific cartoonists of all time.

Source: Beetle Bailey Comic Strip for May 14, 2017

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How my TV viewing influences my writing

I have always had an awkward friendship with writing.

When I was in journalism school our connection was more of a love/hate relationship. There were times I was really “jazzed” about a career in print. Then there were the other times.

When I got out of school, I gave a fair to middlin’ effort in finding a job with a newspaper. However, as I lived in our nation’s capital I faced a dilemma. My attempt at looking for work locally was akin to a high school player attempting to sign on to the Washington Redskins to play professional football. I lived in  a major league city where the big boys and girls already had a spot on the team.

What I needed to do was go to small town America to hone my skills and gain some experience. At least, that’s what I was told.

But at the time I was a big city guy and liked DC. So I demurred. Ironically, I have spent about a third of my life in Podunk since then, but working as an educator instead of reporting on hog futures.

I haven’t given up on writing though. The romance is gone, but I still feel married to it.

The desire to be in print and get paid for my prose has waned and I write as a hobby now. The “what might have been” in terms of a professional writing career got up and left a long time ago.

But I still have a goal. My highest objective is to use words to influence people. I’ve had this ambition since high school, when I was a sports reporter.

I have learned from the experts that I don’t have to have “feelings” for my writing in order to produce. In fact, the gurus tell you that you just have to keep at it. So I do.Most writers have spells they just don’t feel like putting words to page, so I know I have lots of company.

What helps me to generate is to know my interests and write about those things.

What are the kinds of stories I gravitate too? I think I can tell by what I watch on television. For instance, the programs I have recorded on my DVR are a good indicator of my favored genres.

The other night I was watching TV with a friend and he couldn’t believe the number of programs I have recorded. I told him that I the reason I have so many recordings is that I scan the menu of programs offered by the satellite provider and click on those that arouse my curiosity.

If my predilections were determined by the number of recorded programs on the DVR, the analyst would  note that I am drawn to humorous stories. I must have 30 recordings of the 1990s situation comedy “Frasier.’

It is no wonder this show is constantly available after 20 years. Like “M.A.S.H” and “Seinfeld”, the sitcom is a series of one liners wrapped around a story. The writing is superb.

In addition to  providing a list of amusing stories, my DVR also reveals my penchant for history. I’ve always loved history. In fact, I minored in it in college. Thus, I tend to watch stuff that provides me with insight into the events and lives that came before me.  I especially like military history.

I have numerous historical accounts presented by American Heroes Channel. Right now I am recording “Apocalypse: World War 1”. The series is filled with over 300 vintage pieces of film documenting the conflict.

I have also spent hours and hours watching Turner Classic Movies. The channel provides history within history. Not only do I get a story of days gone by, but the films themselves are documentation of earlier times. The stories give us a look at the technology and culture of the early to mid 20th century.

Recently my friend and I watched  “The Gallant Hours” (1960). It was unusual for an American movie.  Even though it was a film about war, there were hardly any battle scenes or explosions. The focus was on the characters, especially naval commander Bull Halsey, a man who helped the US Navy defeat the Japanese in the Pacific in World War 2.

“The Gallant Hours” was ahead of its time in its biographical story telling.  Released in 1960, it used the “up close and personal” technique developed by ABC’s Roone Arledge later. At the time Americans were not that interested in Olympic sports, or foreign countries for that matter, so Arledge lured us in with his features on their private lives. Arledge focused on the challenges the athletes faced and overcame to become an Olympic hero.

Indeed, “The Gallant Hours” combined several features draw me in to a story.  For example, the docudrama style combined the Hollywood embellishment of fiction with the facts of the characters’ real lives.

In addition to tales containing  humor and history, I am also drawn to mysteries, especially the kind represented by crime shows. This interest surprises me in that I have never thought of myself as someone interested in depictions of wrongdoing. But the truth is, I watch a lot of “Law and Order” and “NCIS”.

I think what attracts me about these stories is the gradual revelation of the truth I get from detectives, police, lawyers, witnesses and criminals. I have always enjoyed researching something and then presenting the results. This is why I have been able to stay in teaching so long.

Sports also provide a compelling narrative. Every weekend I record a NASCAR race. While auto racing is not at the top of my sports viewing, I share an interest in it with friends and relatives. This season I have watched a race almost every weekend.

Last weekend at Talladega the unique story was about Ricky Stenhouse.  Up until that Monster Cup series race he had never entered victory lane. Stenhouse has mainly been known as Mr. Danica Patrick, the boyfriend of the only female driver in the series.

Races at Talladega are known for their massive wrecks. The TV announcers kept talking about the “Big One” they expected. It did not materialize until the end. Stenhouse managed to escape the carnage and get the checkered flag.

Of course, the Internet was full of pictures of Danica hugging and smooching Ricky and . Who said sports doesn’t have romance.

As I reflect on it, the subject matter may initially attract me to a show, but what keeps me coming back again and again is good writing.  I admire stories on TV that are well written and I believe I subliminally desire to emulate those who create them.

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Filed under Classic Films, Media, Television, Uncategorized, writing

Stopping America’s Slide to Self Destruction

Crying I cannot believe the world that I see
Is not for me
Praying please take me home
I’m here all alone and slowly I fade
If you could see my misery
Would you believe in opacity?-Ebony Tears

I am no philosopher. I don’t have the mind for it. But I know I have to have some understanding of this field of study because I am pretty sure the current problems between people in my country boil down to  differences in world view.

Even this non-intellectual can see that there is an underlying cause to the self destruction going on in American today.  In my lifetime, we Americans have gone from a people who had a basic faith in God, country and each other to a certain nihilism.

It has gotten so that I don’t want to open up news sites on the Internet anymore, although I am an avid follower of world events. I try to avoid following the news too deeply because I become anguished. It brings me evidence of the condition of the human soul in the 21st century.

The media tells me that political nihilists are using violence to do away with the previously established order in American society. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that the culture I was born into is no longer there and has been gone for many years.

For example, I heard the sermon of a now-deceased pastor yesterday describe how an asinine judge (his words, not mine) entered a judgement against a man who had shot an intruder. The latter had sued this man, minding his own business in his own home, and won. This was 30 plus years ago.

I confess that my own basis for life comes from the Bible. From the Scriptures I can tell right from wrong, although I also admit that I am not always good at following their instructions. That a man could win a lawsuit against someone who was defending himself and his loved ones in his own home just seems completely upside down and definitely violates the tenets I have garnered from the Word of God.

By definition (I am informed by a group called “All About Philosophy”), nihilists reject the values I believe in. In fact, they oppose any values or truth at all, believing that values are worthless and knowledge of truth is not possible. Further, those nihilists involved with politics believe if any good is to come they need to do away with religion in addition to political and social orders.

As I contemplated these philosophical thoughts the last couple of days, the New York Times published a column by Pankaj Mishra which basically confirms my idea that nihilism is alive and well in America. Mishra finishes his discussion, entitled “America, from exceptionalism to nihilism” by noting that America has accelerated it. He calls nihilism our country’s “most insidious tendency”and that we are helpless to stop it. His article is worth reading for his tracing of how we have arrived at this point in our history.

In my view America’s plight is primarily a spiritual issue. Many of our people it seems have so rejected God that they are incapable now of accepting truth.

This situation is not new. Swedish death metal band Ebony Tears discussed the condition of such individuals in lyrics published 20 years ago. In their song “Opacity” they describe a person full of hate, confusion and pain.

Today some of these folks portrayed by Ebony Tears are out on the street dressed in black and covering their identities in masks, lashing out at the institutions and people they believe have caused their demise. They are living through a nightmare and involving the rest of America in their haunted ordeal.

It’s easy to throw up the hands over the darkness around us in America today. But as one who believes in a living God I know He is powerful and I therefore can be hopeful of renewal in the nation that I love.

Evangelical pastor Greg Laurie noted a few years ago in the Christian Post that America has had four spiritual awakenings in its history, all during tumultuous times: during the formation of the nation; during the expansion to the West when lack of love and sexual sin was common; at the time of a stock market crash in the mid-19th century; and in the 1960s when the Jesus Movement took hold in the midst of the assassination of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr and the debilitating war in  Vietnam.

Given the prevalence of evil our current times are surely a candidate for revival. Only the intervention of God and his truth will overcome the closed hearts of today’s nihilistic Americans.

How do we get to revival? I do know that revival starts with the individual. I cannot influence what others do, but I do have control over myself. So I can begin revival by starting with myself.

I can also ask God for it. Over 40 years ago Phil Keaggy, one of the greatest musicians America has ever produced wrote about how God can effect my own personal transformation:

All my life I have been searching
For that crazy missing part
With one touch You just rolled away
The stone that held my heart
Now I see that the answer was as simple
As my need to let love in

Keaggy further describes the consequences of opening the heart that has heretofore refused to allow God’s light and love in:

Like waking up from the longest dream
How real it seemed
Until Your love broke through
And I was lost in a fantasy
That blinded me
Until your love broke through

I don’t have to continue living in a horrible dream. Neither do my fellow Americans. All of us– progressives, conservatives, libertarians, and even the nihilists can allow God’s love to break through and change our dark, self loathing, destroyed hearts.

With a nationwide heart change, one caused by a turning to God, Americans can stop the self-inflicted damage we are causing to our country and turn it around.

 

 

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