Friday, August 31, 2007

Hail Britannia

This morning, driving to work, I pressed anxiously through my radio's preset buttons as I often do. The Thanksgiving Service honoring the memory of Princess Diana caught my ear. I stopped my nervous ritual, relaxed, and listened to a beautiful hymn performed by chorus and orchestra.

I did not recognize the hymn but it didn't seem to matter. The resonant intonations provoked memories and stories of Britain's splendor. I thought of Churchill and the Battle of Britain, of Mel Gibson's rendering of William Wallace in Braveheart, of Queens Elizabeth and Victoria, and of William Shakespeare.

Earlier, while readying for work, I had caught some of the service televised live on Fox News. Held in the chapel of Prince Harry's military unit, the setting did not possess near the majesty and grace of other British high-church events that I have seen through the years. Nevertheless, the pomp and circumstance of British culture, even in its simplest form, still stirs my blood. And in my view, no church has captured the beauty component of the "goodness, truth and beauty" triad quite like the Anglican Church.

The Church of England's controvertible beginning clouded its future. King Henry VIII's chicanery and corruption led to his break with the Roman Church and his installation as the supreme head of his newly-founded Church of England. His quest for a male heir and his lustful ways led Henry down a path that took him through six different wives. He even ordered the execution of two of them.

Despite the turpitude surrounding its birth, the Church of England not only survived, but went on to flourish. Its Book of Common Prayer remains the source for much of early Protestantism's liturgical underpinnings. In my view, the grace and beauty of Anglican services remain unsurpassed in Christendom.

On the heels of Britain's break with Rome, several luminaries emerged, establishing the ideological groundwork for the birth of our own nation. John Knox, the Scottish reformer whose sermons and writings are the cornerstones of Scottish Presbyterianism, also influenced the early Puritans, who, along with the Separatists (Pilgrims), established a strong beachead of Christianity in the new world of New England.

The Scottish Presbyterian scholar, Samuel Rutherford, penned Lex Rex: the Law and the Prince which espoused the idea of "the rule of law" as superior to "the divine right of kings." From Lex Rex we derive the more common phrase, "the law is king," the antithesis of "the king is law."

Rutherford's ideas influenced John Locke, an English philosopher whose writings nurtured the social contract theory, a precursor to the idea of national self-government under a mutually agreed-upon contract or constitution. The concept of the right to personal property sits at the core of Locke's ideas. He identified the human conscience as "the most sacred of all property," a possession that no individual should be forced to surrender. His ideas and writings influenced America's founders, particularly Jefferson's penning of our Declaration of Independence.

Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Law of England likewise sowed seeds which sprouted in American soil. A Puritan, Blackstone influenced the thinking of our nation's founders, particularly in the realm of God's gift of unalienable rights to every person. His writings became instrumental in shaping both English and American law.

For several hundred years, Britain spread her culture throughout the globe. British world dominance, both militarily and culturally, is widely characterized as imperialistic in nature. At one time, Britain boasted colonies on every continent except for Antartica.

British influence can still be seen in places like India, which now boasts the world's largest democratically governed nation with over a billion people. Among a myriad of other countries, the Brits occupied Egypt (1882-1954), Afghanistan (1878-1880), Iraq (1918-1945), South Africa (1910-1961), and Kenya (1888-1963).

English has become the dominant language in business, science, communications, aviation, and diplomacy throughout the world. So wide is Britain's remaining influence, that the nations which still employ English as their primary language are considered part of the "Anglosphere." Great Britain is also the home of the "Commonwealth of Nations," a voluntary association of fifty-three sovereign countries, most former colonial outposts of the British Empire. Australia, Canada, and India are the largest among them. These three, along with Kenya, Nigeria, New Zealand, and forty-six others, together count almost two billion people, or one third of the world's population, allied with, and still influenced to some degree, by Great Britain.

Though not a member of the "Commonwealth of Nations, our own nation, the U.S.A., is also Britain's offspring. Great Britain remains our closest ally. Despite our split in 1776, the subsequent Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812 in which the Brits burned down the Whitehouse, we are today best of friends.

We have joined forces in a number of wars including WWI and WWII. Brits and Americans worked hand-in-hand, planning and plotting for the invasion on Normandy. Our leaders and diplomats, as well as our top-level security people, work together, sharing information and intellegence.

Sadly today, with the swell of immigrants flooding into Britain, the face and shape of this great nation is shifting quickly. Melanie Phillips, author of Londonistan, documents the dominance of Islamic influence and power in various sectors of this great city, once the hub of Western, Christian culture. Because of political correctness, and the fear of confronting and offending, these pockets of anti-Western communities are growing stronger and stronger by the year.

Outwardly, Britain still reflects much of the majesty of her former glory. But inwardly, Britain is struggling to find its way through the morass of multiculturalism. Where British culture once dominated the world scene, it is now, itself, under threat of domination by those who seek to destroy her.

Western, Christian culture, led chiefly by Britian and the U.S., has given much to the world. Britain's seeds of self-government, and their offspring of political freedom and economic prosperity, have delivered billions of people from the curse of poverty and oppression.

When I hear the strains of the great British hymns, and see their people, their queen, and all that attend them, celebrating British life and culture, a sadness often comes over me. I cannot help but wonder how many more years it will be before this sickness which has stricken her, will bring about her last breath.

But I also harbor a hope that Great Britain, and to a lesser degree, our own America, will soon awake from the curse of multiculturalism and political correctness, those enfeebling afflictions, and rise to retake their place once more as respected leaders of the world.

Hail Britannia!

Friday, August 24, 2007

When Truth Stumbles

So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance;
truth has stumbled in the streets
, honesty cannot enter.

(Isaiah 59: 14 NIV)

Truth stumbles when those without sound arguments for their untenable positions use derogatory labels to denigrate their opposition.

  • City of Manassas Park: In an official statement by the Manassas Park Governing Board, those who are working within the law to oppose illegal aliens are labeled as "vigilantes." Here is part of their official statement: "This group’s false representation of the City’s position serves only to support a vigilante agenda that the City believes is irresponsible and offensive to everyone who productively serves the community in volunteer, elected and paid positions." The American Heritage Dictionary defines vigilante as "one who takes or advocates the taking of law enforcement into one's own hands." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved August 26, 2007, from website:
  • President Bush: On March 24, 2005, following a meeting of SPP members Vincente Fox and Paul Martin, our president, George W. Bush, had this to say regarding the volunteer Minutemen group aiding in the protection of our border with Mexico: "I am against vigilantes in the United States of America." (see above for definition of "vigilante")
  • Senator Lindsay Graham: Senator Graham of South Carolina, speaking to the National Council of LaRaza (NCLR), had this to say regarding those of us opposed to the Senate Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill: "We're gonna tell the bigots to shut up."

Truth stumbles when officials ignore the law, or apply the rules unequally to avoid confrontation with those who don’t meet the accepted standard.

  • Prince William Co. Schools: School officials are talking out of two sides of their mouths. On the one hand they say officially that they are "committed to providing an education for all students every day, regardless of their immigration status." On the other hand, they say that "A certified copy of the child’s birth certificate is required at the time of registration, along with proof of residence, a social security number, and a valid immunization record signed by a healthcare professional." Sounds like double-talk to me. Read the official news release for yourself.
  • Many jurisdictions throughout the Northern Virginia region: Zoning ordinances pertaining both to overcrowding and condition of property are being ignored in some cases, and enforced in others. Building permit requirements, and business licensing laws have not been enforced evenly either. Some are allowed to violate them, while others are penalized.
  • State governments: Some state governments offer “in-state” tuition rates to illegal aliens attending publicly funded state colleges and universities, while denying the lower rates to everyday American citizens.

Truth stumbles when people present themselves as something they are not.

  • Fraudulent documentation: Illegal aliens forge or steal identities in order to present themselves as legal to obtain employment, as well as government services and benefits.
  • Outright lying: Hospital patients have been observed saying “no pay” at the payment window and then being picked up by family or friends in a shiny, new Lexus or other expensive vehicle.

Truth stumbles when people make excuses for not doing their jobs.

  • Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff: The secretary told reporters on June 17, 2007, that "We’re living in a world in which lettuce and fruit is not being picked because we are enforcing the law." In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Chertoff said this: "... we have 12 million people who aren't going to be deported. They aren't going anywhere." And on July 1st, 2007, Chertoff had this to report on FOX News Sunday: "We're going to continue to enforce the law. It's going to be tough. We don't really have the ability to enforce the law with respect to illegal work in this country in a way that's truly effective." Mr. Chertoff, isn't it your job to enforce the law? How can a country that defeated both Germany and Japan in WWII, won the Cold War, and put men on the moon, not be able to enforce the law within its own borders?
  • Manassas Park Virginia Governing Board: Defending the Park's inaction on their growing illegal alien problem, Councilwoman Fran Kassinger made these remarks about those challenging city leaders to begin taking the necessary steps to remedy this pressing issue: "There are those that are working off an emotional base, combining the two groups [illegal and legal immigrants] into one and saying that, basically, we need some ethnic cleansing in this area ... And I think that is unjust, I don't think that's the American way." Ms. Kassinger is making unsubstantiated claims to avoid her responsibility.

When truth stumbles, as it is in our nation today, then what is right and fair is turned back at the city gates, and cannot find its way in. And goodness keeps its distance from us as well, reluctant to taint itself with the colors of betrayal. We are living in an age where falsehood and deception, even from our elected and appointed officials, have cast a foreboding shadow over our land.

These spineless and defectively motivated leaders of ours remind me of a crooked stream, which is formed by following the path of least resistance.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The One, Two Punch: Punch Number Two

"Be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves."
Jesus (Matthew 10:16)

Have we Americans been had? We have been going about our everyday business, trusting our elected leaders to run our country. Have they been doing some things behind in secret, behind our backs?
If you have not done so, please read about Punch Number One.

What follows is a collection of information. I lay out a few things that I have learned about recently, things going on under our noses. Although I will begin with a broad overview, the information provided below will eventually lead to an exposé about what is happening in my own backyard of Northern Virginia. However, if you are from some other part of the country, please continue to read. This same war is likely being fought on an American battlefield near you.

Please track with me as I attempt to build as clear of a picture as I can:

I will begin by introducing an idea known as Aztlan. Technically, it is still only an idea, not yet a finished product. On June 27th of this year, I posted on this blog, a youtube movie clip titled The Nation of Aztlan. If you have not seen it, you will be shocked by what you see and hear. Here's a bit of text from a speech by Jose Angel Gutierrez, Professor, University of Texas, Arlington:

"...We have an aging, white America. They are not making babies. They are dying. It's a matter of time ..."

Here are some words of Art Torres, former Chairman, California Democratic Party:

"... people say to me on the Senate floor ... 'Why do you fight so hard for affirmative action programs?' And I tell my white colleagues, 'Because you're going to need them' ..."

Hal Netkin, a community activist in Los Angeles, penned the following two paragraphs which describe Aztlan quite effectively:

"The myth of Aztlan can best be explained by California's Santa Barbara School District's Chicano Studies textbook, "The Mexican American Heritage" by East Los Angeles high school teacher Carlos Jimenez. On page 84 there is a redrawn map of Mexico and the United States, showing Mexico with a full one-third more territory, all of it taken back from the United States. On page 107, it says "Latinos are now realizing that the power to control Aztlan may once again be in their hands."

Shown are the "repatriated" eight or nine states including Colorado, California, Arizona, Texas, Utah, New Mexico, Oregon and parts of Washington. According to the school text, Mexico is supposed to regain these territories as they rightly belong to the "mythical" homeland of Aztlan. On page 86, it says "...a free-trade agreement...promises...if Mexico is to allow the U.S. to invest in Mexico...then Mexico allowed to freely export...Mexican labor. Obviously this would mean a re-evaluation of the border between the two countries as we know it today." Jimenez's Aztlan myth is further amplified at MEChA club meetings held at Santa Barbara Public Schools."

Mike Austin is a Christian writer and teacher in Latin America. He deftly writes about Aztlan here.

In summary, Aztlan represents all of Mexico, and the American southwest from Texas to California. Believers in this mythical piece of real estate see it now as unconnected, but hope to one day reconnect it into one large country. They believe that this land is rightfully theirs, and that their uninvited presence in our country does not make them illegal because they see it as their homeland.

Next, please be patient with me as I provide a brief overview of Mexican history. I do this to demonstrate just how unstable the country south of our border truly is, and how a small band of revolutionaries are behind much of the illegal alien flood into our country in recent years.
Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, and in 1823, set up a new government. In 1845, the Republic of Texas became the 28th state in the U.S. War with Mexico ensued. In 1848 the U.S. prevailed and Utah, Nevada, California, New Mexico, and most of Colorado came under American control.

Despite its independence from Spain, and its initial attempt as a self-governing republic, Mexico has suffered a long history of political turmoil spawned by poverty.

Porfio Diaz seized power in 1876, and for the next thirty years ruled Mexico with an iron fist. Then, in 1910, Francisco Madero championed a revolt against the Diaz government but was quickly overthrown by General Victoriano Huerta.

But Huerta, too, was unpopular, and the revolution and turmoil continued. Two peasants named Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata raised armies and waged geurilla warfare on the Huerta government. Villa's armies fought in the north, and Zapata's armies fought in the south.

Huerta's government soon collapsed and Venustiano Carranza, a wealthy landowner and friend of Fransisco Madero, took control. Villa and Zapata's uprising was finally crushed in 1920.

After decades of struggle, many poverty stricken residents began to place their hopes in a resistance movement. In 1994, following the creation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the resistance was reborn in Mexico's most southern state, Chiapas. Naming themselves after Emiliano Zapata, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, or EZLN) took control of several cities in Chiapas. Their website is in Spanish, and is currently under revision. I have made numerous attempts to find some real solid, verifiable information, but have come up with little. Here are some secondary sources to look at on your own:

And I am not real confident in the integrity of Wikipedia, but here is a link to their site.

The EZLN is led by a man who calls himself Subcommandante Marcos, known to have Marxist leanings. No one has seen Marcos' face. He covers it with a ski mask, as do many of his followers.

I provided some detail on the Zapitista Army (above) because of its local connection to Mexicanos Sin Fronteras (Mexicans Without Borders), a group with local influence here in Northern Virginia.

Mexicanos Sin Fronteras has an office in Washington, D.C., and as you will see from the pictures on their website, they have connections to the Zapatistas. Here is a Google translation of text from a page on their website:

"To be anti-capitalist anti-imperialist in the capital of the most terrorist country of world-wide history and not to question the commitments or challenges, to us would free the critics and outside the play. Our movement takes to the other campaign. From our campaign it has been yesterday against racism, the persecution and the discrimination of most unprotected across of the country. We recognize our obligations like migrants and our rights so pisoteados in, we think there that a glance to those of here is necessary being wanted to go for there and to those of there being wanted to return. We are thankful to the zapatismo by the lesson.

We appreciate the attention to our word and we authenticated our solidarity and our commitment to them with the mother country."

As you will see on header of the Mexicanos Sin Fronteras website, there is a link to a group called The Woodbridge Workers Committee (WWC). Now we are getting really close to home.

On their website we find these comments:

"Members of the Committee travel on a regular basis to various organizational meetings and cultural events in Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Delaware and Pennsylvania to help form coalitions and educate around immigrant issues. We speak regularly to area churches and community groups about the importance of showing solidarity with the new immigrants and about the difference between charity and solidarity work."

Just the two words "Workers Committee" do more than hint at leftist/Marxist ideology, which is clearly where these people are coming from. As you read the very first paragraph of this article, you will see a direct connection between the Zapatistas, Mexicanos Sin Fronteras, and the WWC. The second paragraph explains that the event described took place in Zapatista controlled territory in Mexico, and occured on New Years Eve/New Years Day 2006/2007.

I guess these innocent "Woodbridge workers" actually do more than travel in the states, huh?

In summation, "Punch Number Two" is the insidious civil war going on right beneath our noses, the war to reclaim American territory for Mexico. The war is bolstered by the idea of Aztlan, a country that does not exist but in the minds of millions of Latinos and their Marxist ideologue helpers in the United States.


Meanwhile, as many of us stand up to defend American sovereignty, our president and our Congress do nothing. Those of us working to restore our communities are slandered as racists, bigots, and latest "label du jour," xenophobes.

We Americans have been way too trusting of our leaders. Rather than taking ownership of our own country, we have become far too dependent upon Washington.

"Be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The One, Two Punch: Punch Number One

"Be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves."
Jesus (Matthew 10:16)

We Americans are a generally trusting lot. Perhaps too trusting these days.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2004, American citizens of voting age numbered 215 million. Of that 215 million, only 147 million, or 68 percent, were registered to vote. And of the 147 million registered to vote, only 126 million actually voted. That's 86% of registered voters, but only 59% of those eligible to vote, actually voting.

Less than 60 percent of us care enough about what's going on to even participate. And for those of us who do, we often vote and then pay little attention until the next election.

There are at least three reasons for this non-participation:

  • we frankly just don't care
  • we are so disgusted we have simply given up
  • we are too trusting of the people that we elect to run our country

For years now, most of us have not really been watching what goes on in Washington. And while we have been going about our business, trusting others to run our country, some seriously questionable things have been happening. More questionable than usual.

These last few years, the American people have been hit hard with an unexpected one, two, sucker punch. Sucker punches characteristically come without warning, while one is not prepared.

Here are some questions I have been asking myself:

  • Why does our president refuse to secure our border with Mexico?
  • Why does he seem so disinterested in enforcing the immigration laws?
  • What is really behind the arrests and convictions of Border Agents Ramos and Compean and their unspeakable treatment by U.S. District Attorney Johnny Sutton and his cohorts?
  • Why was our president so anxious for Congress to pass the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill and do it quickly, with little debate, and under such a cloud of secrecy?

I must be honest and say that these unexplainable actions and non-actions cause me to seriously question our president's commitment to the Constitution.

Have you by chance heard of the North American Union (NAU)? The phrase is being kicked around more and more these days.

What is it, you ask? Well, many believe that there is a secret conspiracy to merge our country with Mexico and Canada, much like the European Union. Here are some things I have read and heard are happening in the shadows:

  • the elimination of borders between these three nations
  • a massive superhighway (the NAFTA Highway) running from from the Texas/Mexican border to the American/Canadian border
  • the setting up of an inland port in Kansas City (under the sovereign governance of Mexico) which will, in essence, serve as the North American Union (NAU) customs center
  • the opening up of American roads to Mexican freight haulers (already happening)
  • the delivery of Chinese goods to Mexican ports, and their subsequent transport via the NAFTA Highway, eliminating the need for West Coast, American longshormen
  • the issuance of NAU ID cards which will replace American passports
  • the merging of our three, national currencies into a common currency known as the "Amero"

These are certainly outlandish claims. But there is so much noise about them, that one seriously wonders if they are true. Is this a sucker punch to trusting Americans? Does it originate with our own president? Could these radical conspiratorial ideas explain why the man many of us worked hard to elect, and then re-elect, refuses to secure our border with Mexico? The more I read of the NAU and the NAFTA Highway, and another mysterious agreement called the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), the more I think I maybe understand the twisted logic behind the strange policies of the man in our Whitehouse.

Many believe that the push for these radical changes in national policy has been spearheaded by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), an organization in which our president's father, Bush 41, has played a significant role. Many are saying that the CFR, along with the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderberg Society, have been quietly building a "shadow government" behind the scenes, and under the cover of darkness.

I do remember hearing about the CFR way back in 1980. Ronald Reagan had just accepted the Republican nomination for his party's candidacy. And his chief opponent in that race was George H.W. Bush (41). Reagan had stated that he would not create a role for the vanquished Bush in his adminstration. But then, without explanation, Bush suddenly became the vice presidential candidate on the Reagan ticket.

A year or two later, in the early 1980's, I read a book titled The Unseen Hand, by Ralph Epperson. Epperson's claims, though well documented, seemed too fantastic to believe. He essentially reported that a consipracy had been set into motion with the goal of bringing together a one-world order, built around an economic model, and controlled by elites through business, trade, and banking.

Shocked and stunned, I could not quite bring myself to embrace Epperson's theories. I set the book, and my thoughts about it, aside, and went on about my business.

Though entertaining a teeny, tiny question in my mind about the Bushes' role in this fantastic story, I voted for both candidates in all four elections, the only loss coming to Bush 41 with his defeat at the hand of Bill Clinton. But now, as I am seeing first hand, right here in my own community, the direct impact of these illogical policies of the man I supported, this conspiracy theory actually seems to have some real legs to it. Within the past six months, more and more of this story is coming into the public eye, and as it does, the dots are beginning to get connected.

If this is true, if our sovereign, self-governing nation is about to be taken over by power hungry, money grubbing elitists, America will soon cease to be the world's singular beacon of freedom. Instead, we will be reduced to a bland, run-of-the-mill country that places us on par with many of the world's other nations.

The love of money, or mammon as the Scriptures label it, has been the corrupting power in so many fallen nations. Has the love of mammon, the pursuit of wealth, and consumerism itself replaced the once treasured American ideal of liberty?

America's greatness emerged in large part from the individual entrepreneur, set free to dream and tinker with ideas and possibilities. Think of Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, both untethered from from big-brother government regulators nosing around in their laboratories. Consider George Washington Carver, born a slave yet liberated to explore the world of the peanut, eventually uncovering nearly three-hundred uses for that dwarfling of shelled, dry fruit. Ponder Benjamin Franklin flying his key-laden kite string into an electrical storm, an experiment that led to his invention of the lightning rod. Or what about Elisha Graves Otis, the inventor of the modern elevator?

Those named above are but a smattering of American individuals operating in an environment of freedom and self-government that liberated and set into motion ideas that represent the best of the human race. America leapt way out in front of all other nations of the world only because of our unique culture of freedom, personal responsibility, individuality, and opportunity for success. In America, everyday people have been free to pursue their own dreams.

If what I have noted above is true, and if those purportedly behind it are not soon stopped, the fires of freedom which once burned so brightly in this land will be extinguished. Our exceptional country, made great by the idea of "government by the people," will be subsumed into a larger conglomerate where "government by the corporate and bureaucratically elite" will rob us of freedom's gifts. Are we now on the threshold of trading in our treasured freedoms for a tame, tasteless, and tedious system which will sap us of our national vigor?

Part of me wants to believe that this story is true. Another part of me does not want to believe it.

Don't take my word for this, investigate this story for yourself. Buy Epperson's The Unseen Hand, and read it for yourself. Read Jerome Corsi's book, The Late Great USA.

And here are some online resources and places to start your pursuit of this troubling topic right now:

1) Videos from Lou Dobbs of CNN (who would have thought that I would be promoting something produced by CNN?)

Lou Dobbs Slams CFR & North American Union
North American Union Orwellian Brave New World
Lou Dobbs CFR Treason, NAU
Lou Dobbs Interviews Elitist Robert Pastor
CNN Lou Dobbs NAU Means Paying for Mexico

2) Christian activist Phyllis Schlafly, founder and president of Eagle Forum, has been vigorously researching and writing about this "shadow government" for quite a while now. Here are links to a couple of audio interviews with Ms. Schlafly:

Crosstalk Interviews Phyllis Schlafly on the North American Union
Worldview Weekend Interviews Phyllis Schlafly on the North American Union

3) Journalist Jerome Corsi has been doggedly pursuing this topic for a good while. Here are links to several of his articles on World Net Daily:

World Net Daily reviews Corsi's new book The Late Great USA
A Seamless "North American" Air Traffic Control System?
Local Leaders Plotting in Secret to Undermine US Sovereignty

Also, read these provocative articles on how businesses are taking over the role of government in international relations:

Businesses to Run the North American Union for Profit?
Dark Moon Rising: Surrendering Sovereignty
The Nafta Highway

And I strongly urge every reader of this blog to listen to at least one of these audio presentations:
Worldview Weekend Interviews John Loeffler on the North American Union
Chuck Baldwin interview with Jerome Corsi

Oh yeah, Canadians are up in arms about this, too: ViveleCanada

Here's a photo of Mexico's former president, Vincente Fox, our president, George W. Bush, and Canada's former Prime Minister, Paul Martin (l to r), shaking hands in Waco, Texas on March 23, 2005. Note the SPP logo on the wall behind them. Are they secretly plotting to destroy their nations' respective sovereignties?

Check out the Fire Society column on the Security and Prosperity Partnership.

I cannot say for certain that this story is true. I don't want to be a conspiracy theorist. And yet, so much seems to be pointing to its validity, that it is hard for me to ignore.

Is any of this (or all of it) true? Has America been sucker punched?

I am just asking ...

"Be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves."

Go to Punch Number Two

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Preserving Home: Part V

You are reading Part V in my series of articles about how I came to love America, and why I have joined the fight to stop the madness of lawbreaking illegals in our community (by the way, every illegal alien in America is a lawbreaker simply by virtue of being here without permission).

Read Parts I-IV here:

The summer prior to my entering the seventh grade, my parents purchased a home in the quaint, Ohio town of Berea. Berea's name came by the flip of a coin in 1836. Town founders could not decide between the names of two Biblically referenced towns, the other name being Tabor. Reverend Henry O. Sheldon, a ministering circuit rider, flipped a coin. John Baldwin, a town founder, called heads. Berea won.

Berea was a city in Greece during apostolic times. Today the once ancient city is known as Veria. Biblical Bereans are known for their daily examination of the Scriptures to confirm the veracity of Paul's messages to them.

"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (Acts 17:11)

It would take a number of years after I moved away from Berea before I made the connection between those early Christian Biblical scrutineers, and the town where I grew from boy to man. But today, I can only smile as I consider the irony. For it was in that town that I met my Lord one March evening in 1968, and began to understand that the Bible would forever be the most important book in my life.

Once again, our home did not sit at the top of the rise on the grade of our street. But it did sit angled on a corner lot, occupying almost a half an acre. Built in 1948, our Cape Cod style home included a full basement, an attached garage, and a half-story finished attic with two shed-roofed dormers off the back. This large room with a half bath at one end served as a shared bedroom between my younger brother and myself.

My view from our front porch brought into focus little more than the homes and yards of a few neighbors. But over time, my view from that home expanded geometrically, as I lived through not only the most tumultuous decade of my life, but also through the most tumultuous decade of my generation.

My clearest memory of that first year in Berea is from November 22nd, 1963. That afternoon, sitting in Mrs. Snodgrass' sixth period, seventh grade English class, we heard the chilling announcement by our Junior High School Principal, that our President, John F. Kennedy, had been shot in Dallas. The principal's voice came unexpectedly over the small speaker mounted on the classroom wall above the door. The news not only interrupted our lesson for that day, but irrationally disordered our world for a good while.

Mrs. Snodgrass held herself together until the bell rang, signalling the end of the period. As the last student exited the classroom, Mrs. Snodgrass burst through the doorway, a handkerchief held to her face. Darting past students and other teachers, she cried unashamedly as she ran down the hall toward what I can only assume was the comfort of a fellow teacher or friend. I still choke up today as I replay that scene in my mind. I saw then, perhaps for the first time, that the adults I looked up to for guidance and leadership, were, in moments like this, almost as weak and as vulnerable as any young child. The seemingly insurmountable gulf between me and my adult mentors shrunk a bit that afternoon. My march toward manhood had begun.

That weekend our family sat huddled around our small, black and white television, and watched everything we could of that horrible episode as it unfolded in real time. My innocence shattered. Little did I realize how Kennedy's murder would set the stage for a massive, cultural upheaval that would forever change American culture.

On my fourteenth birthday, my parents gifted me with a guitar. Bob Dylan had entered my life, and his songs had begun to take me to distant places, places of the imagination. His A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall grabbed hold of me, shook me, and pierced me through the heart.

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?

The "blued-eyed son" is perhaps the Anglo-Saxon American, sheltered from the horrors of life in the dark corners of the world, or perhaps even the dark corners of his own country. Dylan takes us through this story in several stages. First he asks the "blued-eyed son" where he has been. Among other places, the son replies:

I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard

Dylan then asks what the "blued-eyed son" has seen. Among other things, the son replies:

I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin'

"What have you heard?" he asks:

Heard ten thousand whisperin' and nobody listenin'

"Who did you meet?"

I met a white man who walked a black dog,

"What'll you do now?" he asks:

I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin',
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest,
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
Where the executioner's face is always well hidden,
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
Where black is the color, where none is the number,
And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin',
But I'll know my song well before I start singin',

That song, and others like it, opened a doorway for me into a world I knew existed, but which I could not see first hand. Tucked away in my cozy, suburban home, television images and lyrics from Bob Dylan carried me beyond my insulated existence in baby boomer America. Yes, I had seen the "Whites Only" signs in Huntsville, Alabama, a stunning reminder that all was not right in America. But twice now, I had attended an integrated school, once in Cincinnati, and now, here, in Berea, where the neighbors behind us and across our street were black. But this was suburban Cleveland, not the inner city, and not the deep South. I partially grasped the reality around me. But still, I understood very little.

Yet Dylan began to take me there. With his songs "Oxford Town," "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," "The Ballad of Emmitt Till," and later, "Hurricane," Dylan painted a portrait of an America that few of us "blue-eyed sons" really knew. His lyrical renderings brushed fresh imagery into my imagination, and beckoned me into a world of deeper understanding.

Dylan's work is so complex, so rich with linguistic artistry and intimation. He is clearly the poet of my generation. Sadly, many are put off by his gravelly voice. Seeking a more soothing and produced sound, they have missed out on this prophetic troubador's poetically powerful message.

This song, along with similar tunes, laid the groundwork for my teen years. I had begun, at fourteen, to hear the call. I did not yet recognize its source. Nor was I able to articulate its meaning or its purpose. But resonating with a profound echo in the caverns of my soul, a transcendent voice began to speak my name.

Read More ...

Preserving Home: Part IV

Over the last fews years, illegal aliens have flooded my community in droves. Everywhere I turn I see Hispanics on foot, on bicycles, in SUVs, and sometimes piled into the beds of pick up trucks. Internally, I am constantly raising the question: legal or illegal?

Some estimates put the illegal population of my community at 11%. If true, that means that more than one in ten people living here has no legal right to be here. It means that more than one in ten living here have crashed the border, broken the rules, and entered without invitation.

In March of this year, I entered the fight to rid my community of those who have come without permission, by joining Help Save Manassas, a non-partisan group of citizens who have begun to speak out and demand action from our local government leaders. To date, our voice is being heard and our leaders are being responsive.

I have been telling the story of how I have come to love my country. My love of country is behind my desire to defend it from invasion. You are reading Part IV of a series. If you have not done so, please read Part I, Part II, and Part III before proceeding any further.

Our ten months in San Antonio zipped by. Before I even had time to think much about it, we once again piled into our Chevy Nomad, and headed up the road and back to Ohio.

Our route home took a slightly different course. We stopped in Dallas and spent a day at the Six Flags Over Texas theme park. While there I learned of the six flags that have flown over Texas. They are: Spain, France, Mexico, The Republic of Texas, The Confederate States of America, The United States of America. Texas was actually its own country from 1836 to 1845.

Heading north out of Dallas, we reached Tulsa, Oklahoma. There, our Nomad took us onto the famed U.S. Route 66. Known as America's Mother Road, old Route 66 connected Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California. Work began on Route 66 in 1927. Eleven years later, in 1938, the paving was finally completed.

By the time our Nomad's wheels touched the Mother Road, almost half of her life-span had already occurred. In 1985, the US Department of Transportation decommissioned Route 66 because the Interstate system had superceded her usefulness. Today, a few sections of the road in Illinois, New Mexico, and Arizona are considered "Historic U.S. Route 66." In November of 2005, I traveled a brief stretch of the old historic route near Seligman, Arizona, the setting of the Disney/Pixar film Cars.

Legend and lore surround Route 66. During the Dust Bowl era of the 1930's, thousands of Okies (that's short for Oklahomans) traveled the road west to California's Sunshine state, seeking opportunity for work and simple survival. John Steinbeck's classic American story, The Grapes of Wrath, is set in this time period, and along this road. Immortalized by Bobby Troup's jazz composition, (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, and later by a television series of the same name, the legendary road boasts many stories and tales.
Route 66
by Bobby Troup
Now you go through Saint looey
Joplin, Missouri,
And Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.
You see Amarillo,
Gallup, New Mexico,
Flagstaff, Arizona.
Don’t forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernandino.

I remember passing through eastern Oklahoma and the endless collection of fields and farms. As our Nomad slipped quietly along the dark ribbon of highway between canyons of wheat and corn, I received a new, fresh sense of this land called America, breadbasket to the world. I had not yet heard the Biblical phrase "beat their swords into plowshares," but as I grew older, I would come to understand that here, in America, it had really happened.

In my life, I, a Protestant Christian, have dined with Catholics and Orthdox Christians, as well as Muslims. I have become friends or made aquaintance with first generation Vietnamese, Polish, Pakistani, eastern Indian, Nigerian, South African, El Salvadoran, Venezualan, Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian, Romanian, Belarusian, Norwegian, Peruvian, Kurdish Iraqi, Iranian, Korean, Serbian, and Afghani immigrants. And I am certain I have overlooked a few.

Recently, at a committee meeting for Help Save Manassas, I sat a table with two Catholic men as we brainstormed some ideas for a project we had been brought together to work on. It occurred to me that just a few hundred years ago, such a meeting would not likely have taken place. For in those days, one or the other of us would have been labeled a heretic and burned at the stake by the other.

But not here. Not in America where people of good will from all corners of the earth have learned to respect and honor one another despite the differences. We men sat at that table together, focused on a common purpose, not even thinking about how our ancestors had already beat their swords into plowshares, and determined to make "war no more." We, the blessed beneficiaries of those decisions made long ago, often take for granted the shared peace we enjoy as Americans.

Sadly, there are forces today committed to disrupting that peace, joined in a battle to destroy what our parents, grandparents, and their parents and grandparents built in generations past. Sometimes we have to temporarily beat our plowshares back into swords to defend ourselves against invaders and interlopers of various stripes.

For four diificult years, America's peace was disrupted as we fought amongst ourselves. Our plowshares became swords employed against our fellow Americans. But those swords were beaten back into plowshares once that conflict ceased. We have since beaten our plowshares into swords only to defend ourselves from foreign invasion, or what we saw as that potential.

The invaders who have recently and illegally crossed our borders and taken up residence in our communities, have not come with swords. Instead they come with false identification papers, and a claim to the same rights as native-born and naturalized Americans. On the whole, they show little respect for, and even less understanding of, the "swords into plowshares" idea.

Others who seek to do us harm are holed up in caves, halfway around the globe. They plot our demise, and conspire to destroy us with stolen and ill-approriated technology that their feeble cultures could have never produced on their own.

But our greatest enemies are those here rightfully by birth. These are Americans who have forsaken the original vision of our forefathers, and seek to rewrite not only our history, but our future as well. Such are those infected with a putrid philosophy that reaches back to Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and the like. They weaken us.

All of these people, at their core, hate liberty. But they love license, as long as they are the ones holding the license, controlling the purse strings, and sitting smugly in the seats of power.

Yes, we are temporarily beating our plowshares back into swords. And we are beginning to mass ourselves along the wall, taking up our posts in defense of our city, our state, our nation.

Oh beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.

We reached Cincinnati in three days. My sister, brother and I stayed with my aunt and uncle, while Dad and Mom continued on to Cleveland to get themselves oriented, and find us a place to live.

They found a home for rent in the Cleveland suburb of Parma. Our two weeks with our cousins passed quickly as Dad and Mom returned to collect us and take us north.

Our rented brick rambler did not sit at the top of the rise on the grade of our street. It sat about halfway between the top of the hill and the bottom of the hill. I could only see a few houses in each direction.

But across the street, and up several houses, a wooded, vacant lot called my name. On that lot a tall tree beckoned me. In Cincinnati I had spent three years with a massive forest as my own, private backyard. In Texas we barely had a single tree. I had to climb.

From the top of that tree, which swayed precariously under my weight, I spied the Cleveland skyline some twelve miles away. I had never seen anything quite so fascinating. Yes, I had seen pictures of the New York City skyline. But seeing one with my own eyes, my own personal skyline, now that was something else.

My America took another giant leap forward.

We stayed in that house but one short year. A Polish family lived next door. The kids had been born in America. But their parents had just recently immigrated here from Poland. What a lovely family.

Parma was a true blue-collar town. Though boasting an Italian name, Parma's residents were primarily Polish. I would later learn that much of Cleveland's West Side consisted of immigrants from eastern Europe who had come to America to make a better life. Most were first or second generation families.

The Cleveland winter of '62-'63 brought much snow and cold. One night our neighbor's car stalled down the hill, and Dad and I went down to help. Snow whipped at our faces. Wind tore at our parkas and hoods. The next day I learned that the tempature that night had dropped to 19 degrees below zero. This frigid reading came before weathermen employed adjustments for the wind chill factor.

With a wind speed of twenty-five mph (not at all unbelievable considering the gusts), I calculate that the wind chill dropped the temperature to an equivalent of 70 degrees below zero that night. I will never forget that dark, frigid, frozen episode. And miraculously, my Dad got our friend's car running, and he was able to get it back up into his driveway.

That winter dumped tons of snow on Cleveland. Sitting on Lake Erie, we often suffered winter's most brutal wrath. School closed for a week, an unprecendented move in northern Ohio. Drifts of snow reached up to our roofline, engulfing gutters, and completely covering windows. We had to shovel ourselves out the front door.

We built snowmen and snow forts and tunnels. Our Flexible Flyers quickly whisked us down the icy street to the bottom of the hill. Laden with boots, scarves, gloves, and hooded parkas, we trudged back up, sleds in tow, and shot down again and again.

Good times indeed. And what a contrast to the previous winter in San Antonio, where we ran barefoot through the grass in January.

Summer came, school ended, and Dad and Mom purchased a home ten miles to the west in a quaint little town named Berea. There I would spend my teen years, and grow through youth and into a man.

Four and a half years later, in Berea, Ohio, a quiet suburb of that dirty, bustling, rust-belt city of Cleveland, I would encounter the living God face to face for the first time, and say "Yes, Lord, yes."

Part V

Preserving Home: Part III

You are reading Part III of a story I have been telling. My purpose is to provide a bit of background history, and some reasons behind my decision to become engaged in an effort to defend my community, and my country, from illegal aliens. Illegals now reportedly make up 11% of our Prince William County, Virginia population.

I recently joined Help Save Manassas, a non-partisan group of citizens who have begun to speak out and demand action from our local government leaders. If you have not done so, please read Part I and Part II before proceeding any further.

Most everyone has a place they call home. Of course in our day, with so many, constantly on the move to new jobs in new cities, "home" is not always so easy to identify. One of the weaknesses of our present-day, American culture is our sometimes disconnectedness from a place we call "home."

God built into every human heart the need for "home." Home can be a physical place, a strong, bonded relationship, a city or a state, or even a country. And it can be all of the above.

Virginia has been my home since 1971. I moved here from Ohio with my parents on the threshhold of my adulthood, and have lived here ever since. For a while, I wanted to return to Ohio, but after a few years, I began to consider myself an adopted son of Virginia. I cultivate a healthy pride in my adoption by this historically rich commonwealth.

But I also cultivate a pride in my native-born home, Ohio. Nineteen years of my first twenty took place in Ohio, half in Cincinnati, and the other half in Cleveland. And in between, ten months in San Antonio, Texas almost equally split the two halves of my childhood and youth.

Shortly before I turned nine, my father learned that his position at the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) would soon be eliminated. He set out on a quest for a new employer, often flying to other cities for job interviews. One of several opportunities for employment presented itself in Hunstville, Alabama.

Dad decided that it would be a great time for a short, family vacation. So we all piled in our car, a 1957 Chevy Nomad, and headed South.

Several things still reside in my active memory from that trip. As we drove south, the boldly painted words "See Rock City" kept appearing on barns along our route. More than 900 such barns can be found in nineteen different states, all painted by one man, Clark Byers.

Whether planned or spontaneous, we did see Rock City, an iconic tourist trap in northern Georgia, not far from Chatanooga, Tennessee. Among the legends and lore of this interesting roadside attraction is a spot known as "Lover's Leap," where a young American Indian is said to have fallen to his death after his love for a girl from a neighboring tribe was disallowed by her father. The legendary story is strangely reminiscent of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet tale.

From Rock City's Lookout Mountain, we stood and gazed at what the attraction's promoters boldly claim are seven different states: Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia. The claim has never been authenticated, but I recall the view as being quite spectacular.

From Rock City, we continued south into Hunstsville. While Dad interviewed with his prospective employer, Mom, myself, my sister, and my baby brother went sightseeing around the town. No longer in Ohio, we now stood in the deep south. The civil rights movement had just begun in earnest, but the Jim Crow mentality remained very much in play.

In town, I gazed quizically at the odd signage. "Whites Only." "Colored Only." The most shocking sight of my young life to date, I could not easily grasp its meaning.

In school, I had several "colored friends." Although different in skin tone and hair texture, these friends were as American as me. We spoke the same language, sat in the same classroom, ate lunch together, and played on the same playground. At Crosley Field, where I had been to see the Cincinnati Reds, colored people sat in the same areas as us white folks. No signage separated us.

Mom did her best to explain the odd and unsettling signs. Nonetheless, they stabbed at my heart. Was I still in America?

Of course I was. One hundred years earlier, men from Ohio and other Northern states had joined arms in an effort to restore our broken country to wholeness. Men from Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and other Southern states had met men from our side on battlefields all across the southeastern U.S. Even Gettysburg, Pennsylvania had seen a gross amount of bloodshed in that horrible conflict.

But it would not be until much, much later in life that I would come to grasp that men from the South did not see themselves as fighting to preserve slavery, but rather to protect their homes from invasion. This War Between the States came to pass for reasons much too complex for a nine year-old to understand.

Dad's job in Hunstsville did not materialize. Instead, he took a position in San Antonio, Texas, another state that, as I would come to learn, had also raised armies under the Confederate flag.

We piled into the Nomad once more. But this was not to be a vacation. We were leaving our Ohio home, our family, our friends, and beginning a new adventure.

Our journey took us west, along Route 50 to St. Louis, Missouri where we spent our first night in a shabby, flea bag motel. The next morning our trip continued and by our the third morning, we had reached the Texas border. Along a new stretch of four lane divided highway, my little brother threw my mother's straw hat out the car window. It bounced along the grassy median until it disappeared from sight, just like our life in Cincinnati.

We found a small, brick rambler to rent in a suburban community just outside of San Antonio. Like our previous two homes, our Texas home likewise sat at the top of the rise on the grade of our street. We could look out and see not only a good part of our neighborhood, but the heavily travelled intersection of our local community, where all four street corners hosted gas stations who constantly battled for business. Locals called them "gas wars," and the price per gallon often dropped as low as 17 cents. Looming beyond that bustling intersection, stood a tall, netted batting cage. Dad took me there on occasion to hone my skills.

Mom registered my sister and I for school. Instead of negroes, our classes were lightly peppered with Hispanic children. Our school lunches consisted of tamales and enchiladas. My palate had not been prepared. But we still pledged our allegiance to the same flag and to the same nation. And we still sang patriotic songs. Though far away from home, these familiar practices united my past with my present in my two disparate yet common American experiences.

Winter never came. January found us playing barefoot in the front yard. My baseball career continued, though. I played first base on the Kiwanis team. And Dad coached first base while our team was at bat. I hit a grand slam home run in our championship game that season, and our team won both the game, and the league's first prize. My small trophy from those days is still tucked away somewhere in storage, waiting to be freshly discovered.

Texas' wildlife differed dramatically from Ohio's. Instead of tadpoles, salamanders, and crawdads, I picked up horny toads and scaly lizards.

We visited the Alamo at least eight times. And we enjoyed the San Antonio River Walk more than once. We made a trip out to Bracketville where John Wayne (Davy Crockett), Richard Widmark (Jim Bowie), and Laurence Harvey (Col. William Travis), had recreated the tragic events of 1836 in the film epic aptly named The Alamo. Old San Antonio had been reborn for the making of that film, and we all got a little taste of what the early days of Texas were like. On the way home, we stopped at the Lone Star Brewery where Dad sampled some Texas beer.

During our short time in Texas, we shuttled out to the Gulf of Mexico, visiting Corpus Christi and Aransas Pass. We doused our toes in the warm gulf waters, dug for seashells, and ran along the sandy beach.

A day trip took us to Laredo, a Texas border town on the Rio Grande. We crossed that river for a few hours to taste and see the sights of Mexico's state of Tamaulipas, and its counterpart border town of Nuevo Laredo. We visited shops, spoke with a few locals, and saw the city square. And I will not forget the smiling face of the young boy who tried to sell me Chicklets chewing gum, as our family wandered among the many street vendors.

In just a few short months, my vision of America had expanded well beyond that small circle of familiar sights and surroundings in my home town. It now encompassed some of the Old South, the vast Texas prairies, and the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and of course, the Lone Star state.

America no longer existed solely in an imagination fed by books and stories and photographs and maps on the wall. America had become a real place for me, an idea embodied in flesh and blood and forests and meadows and mountains and valleys and rivers and streams and bridges and tunnels and histories and borders.

When opportunity arose for Dad to return to work in Ohio as a U.S. government employee, he could not reject the offer. Dad would be resuming his government career, and we would be living, once again, close to family.

Mary Fahl's Going Home:

And when I pass by
Don't lead me astray
Don't try to stop me
Don't stand in my way
I'm bound for the hills
Where cool waters flow
On this road that will take me home

Preserving: Home Part II

Recently, I made the very difficult decision to join an organization whose mission is to compel our local, elected officials to deal more effectively with the affliction of illegal aliens in our community. Having already chosen this course, I am now setting out to better understand my own choices and actions. In these blog entries, I am examining my priorities, and the underlying motivations for my chosen course.

As a Christian, my actions are in conflict with the actions of some of my Christian brothers and sisters on the other side of this controversial issue. Some feel compelled to assist those here illegally, and do so because they believe that is what Christ would have them do. My theological construct leads me in a different direction. However, I absolutely respect these folks for their deep convictions, even though we think differently.

In 1957, our young family moved from our home in the city to a brand new house in the suburbs. We purchased a three bedroom, one bath, brick rambler with a full, unfinished basement. Our new home sat at the top of the rise on the grade of our street, and we could look out from our front porch and see much of our neighborhood and beyond.

Our new place occupied a lot that backed to a huge forest. And for the next three years, my buddies and I made that woods our home. Our treehouse served as our base of operations as we launched out to explore the primeval wonders of those woods.

We found buckeyes, tadpoles, and vines for swinging. From the creek and surrounding hills, we harvested Indian arrowheads, and fossils of ancient creatures who once occupied those grounds. Again, my imagination fired as I contemplated life in a Shawnee village before we white men came.

Our community not only abutted a lush forest, it also abutted a black neighborhood. Back in those days, we referred to people of African descent as Negroes. And sometimes we called them colored people. In second grade, my best friend was a Negro. By moving us to this community, whether intentionally or not, Mom and Dad had greatly broadened my experience as an American.

My first "crush" came early. In that second grade class, our lovely young teacher, Mrs. Rice, told us of the Pilgrims, the first Thanksgiving, and of Squanto, the Indian who aided them in their first, difficult years. I fell in love with Mrs. Rice.

The map of America on the wall danced with color this time, and I began to orient myself with respect to other parts of the country. The wonderful Mrs. Rice began to introduce us to our rich American history. I learned of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. She taught us about the pioneers who had crossed the Appalachian Mountains, and rafted down the mighty Ohio River, in search of a new home to raise their families. I also heard the story of Johnny Appleseed, who decades earlier, had come through those parts, scattering seed on the fertile, Ohio soil.

The beautiful Mrs. Rice also introduced us to our Ohio history. And in later years, I would learn even more of Tecumseh, the brave, Shawnee warrior, who had made his home not too far from mine, and about "Mad" Anthony Wayne and William Henry Harrison, also known as "Tippecanoe." Eight presidents claimed Ohio as their home. Harrison was one, as well as William Howard Taft, and the very popular Ulysses S. Grant, the Civil War General who finally won Mr. Lincoln his long sought victory.

We daily pledged allegiance to our flag and to our nation. And we often sang patriotic songs.

Harriet Beecher Stowe had lived in Cincinnati for a while. She wrote the novel that some say changed the course of American history. Her Uncle Tom's Cabin set the nation talking about the scourge of slavery, and the need for change. Her family, heavily involved in the Underground Railroad, became iconic in their abolitionist stance.

Like most Ohio born youngsters, I learned to look down on the South. Associated with the North, I came to believe that Southerners were either ignorant or evil, especially the ones who lived before the Civil War. The very idea of one person owning another seemed beyond humanity.

As I matured, and later as I moved to Virginia, my strong opinions softened. And even later, as I studied more of history, I came to realize that every evil done by one American could not only be offset with the good done by another, but that in the balance, despite the failures and mistakes, America was essentially good.

For every slaveowner in the South who grossly mistreated his slaves, one can find more slaveowners who treated their slaves with a measure of kindness. Of course it is still slavery, no matter how you slice it. But the abolitionist, or the operator on the Underground Railroad, should not be overlooked. In the end, the good found in America far outweighs the bad.

I had not yet connected the dots of course. But something had happened long ago in my home known as America, something that split and set us at war with one another for four years. By grieving over slavery, a sin neither I nor my home state of Ohio could claim as personal vices, I had begun to identify myself as an American on a much broader scale.

On Saturday mornings, my dad often took me with him to my grandmother's house. In her shabby little kitchen, with the floor that sloped downward toward the room's back corner, she regularly cooked us up breakfasts of biscuits and gravy, sometimes supplemented with bacon and eggs. If we came in the afternoon or evening, she filled our bellies with navy beans and cornbread, both staples in her household.

My grandfather and uncles dabbled in auto mechanics. Engines on blocks littered their backyard which sloped upward toward an alley that ran behind their house. Parked in front, on the narrow street, big, black, Buick Eights stretched along the curb, their shiny chrome glistening in the afternoon sun.

Grandpa had moved his growing family here, to this very house, in the early 1930's. Coming out of a "holler" in south central Kentucky, Grandpa came to find work in desperate, depression times. From that point forward, he worked in a paper mill not far from their home until the day he retired.

Grandpa and Grandma raised eight children in that tiny, rickety house. My dad, the oldest, had been born in a Kentucky log cabin in 1926. Most of his seven siblings didn't arrive until after the family had resettled to that dirty, factory town.

In the summers, we often gathered at Grandpa and Grandma's house on Sunday afternoons with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. While the cousins played outside, and the aunts collected themselves in the kitchen to swap stories and tell of their ongoing trials, the uncles pulled up chairs in the living room around the tiny, black and white television, and enjoyed Reds baseball while downing a few beers. Those were great times.

During this season of my life in our new home that backed to the woods, my father began to involve me in baseball. He had played baseball in highschool and beyond, and wanted me to continue the tradition. Like him, I loved that game. I signed up for a local Knothole League team as a first baseman, and began to really learn the fundamentals of baseball.

My buddies and I collected baseball cards. We organized them, we traded them, and we clothespinned them to the frames of our bicycles so they would flap in the spokes of our turning wheels. We pretended our bicycles were big, loud, fast motorcycles.

Dad occasionally took me to Crosley Field to watch the Reds play. Crosley Field seated only 30,000. Even in those days, it was, I think, the smallest stadium in the league. At my first professional game, gazing out onto that wonderful field, I saw my heroes, Vada Pinson, Frank Robinson, and Gordy Coleman. The rich, green, beautifully manicured outfield, contrasted with the sandy, lime-striped baselines. In the center, again offset by the rich, green, manicured infield, the pitcher's mound rose ever so slightly. The stadium lights, the large advertisements on the outfield fence, the scoreboard, the crowd, the smells, the hot dogs, the raucous cheering, captured my young imagination.

In my childhood and youth, most considered baseball to be America's pastime. Football, though popular, had not yet eclipsed baseball in America's sporting heart.

Baseball is referred to as a "gentleman's game." I suspect the reasons for this are its orderliness, its strict adherence to rules, and the fact that it is, with a few exceptions, a no contact sport.

I think baseball as I knew it in the past—a more gentlemanly game than it is today—was much like America as it used to be—gentlemanly, orderly, a nation of laws, and with a few exceptions, a nation where everyone respected the space of others.

Today we are a nation that looks more like the highly popular NFL game. Everyone it seems, is pushing, striving for that next piece of ground that belongs to someone else. We will stop at almost nothing to gain or protect that ground—blocking, tackling, name calling, trickery, brute force, and piling on. We, as a nation, are far less civil today, than in the years I grew up.

It saddens me, as I am sure it saddens you.

In those early second- through fourth-grade years, the boundaries of my home continued to expand. Slowly, and almost methodically, America became less of a crude map on the wall behind Dave Garroway and J. Fred Muggs, and more of a real place. A real and wonderful place.

And soon, my vision of America, my home, would take a dramatic leap forward.

More from Mary Fahl's Going Home:

I know in my bones
I've been here before
The ground feels the same
Though the land's been torn
I've a long way to go
The stars tell me so
On this road that will take me home

Part III

Friday, August 03, 2007

Preserving: Home Part I

I am a Christian. I began the process of relinquishing my life to Christ in March of 1968. Thirty-nine years later, the difficult, yet joyful struggle to yield everything to Him, continues.

Recently, I made the decision to join an organization whose mission is to compel our local, elected officials to deal more effectively with the affliction of illegal aliens in our community. Because of my Christianity, my decision to move in this particular direction is not without some controversy. Christ, after all, did teach us to care for the poor and less fortunate. In this posting, and several that will follow, I will attempt to lay out some background history, and some specific reasons behind this difficult choice.

Before I became a Christian, I was an American. I have not always been a Christian. But I have always been an American.

In my heart, Christ is first. My allegiance is to Him.

But I also love my country. I cannot remember any moment when I did not love my country.

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending an event launching the campaign of Virginia House Delegate, Jackson Miller. I like Mr. Miller and plan to support him in the fall. But he is not the reason I went. Ron Maxwell, the film director and producer of both Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, gave the keynote address. I was there because of him.

I penned an entire blog posting dedicated to my experience that evening. I mention Mr. Maxwell here, because he spoke some profound words that night. And a significant component of his message focused on the importance of "home." Here is an excerpt:

"When we are aware of the past, it means we respect the past,
respect our parents, our grandparents, our great grandparents,
and the generations all the way back to the beginning of
recorded history. It means we read with exhilaration,
the historical works of Thucydides, or the artistic works
of Aristophanes and Sophocles, reaching back
over the millennia - which informs us, which makes us
who and what we are, and which enlivens us and
which broadens our small world into a world
of infinite space, an infinite space of thinking,
of contemplation, and of realizing our kinship
with the many generations that have gone before us.

"It means as well that we cherish the place where we grew up
and we regard, as you may recall from the
opening credits of Gods and Generals, astronomy;
as belonging to that little lot of stars that we see
hanging over our backyards every night; if we are fortunate enough
to live in a place that is not dulled by light pollution
all night long. It means that we cherish that homeland,
that home place,where we first realized there was such a thing
as trees and grass and wilderness and wildlife, open sky.
We all started off our lives in a place. We are connected
to those places; we are rooted to those places.
They are what make us who we are.
It is what we call home."

My life began in Cincinnati, Ohio. My first breath was of Cincinnati air. And though I have not lived there since 1960, I still consider Cincinnati my home. I visit there less frequently these days, but a piece of my heart still resides in that Queen City on the Ohio River.

Born in 1951, I entered early childhood in the era of Howdy Doody, Roy Rogers, and Rin Tin Tin. Back in those days, Today Show viewers had not yet heard of Matt Lauer, Meredith Viera, Katie Couric, Bryant Gumble, or Jane Pauley. Our Today Show was hosted by a fellow named Dave Garroway, and his chimpanzee sidekick, J. Fred Muggs.

I think the crude weather map hanging on the wall behind Mr. Garroway first clued me in to the idea of America. Sitting there in front of our tiny, black and white television set, I tried to grasp hold of America, wanting to know more.

Sometime in the late '50's, my parents bought me a book. Trails of Adventure, The Friendly Hour published in 1936, soon took hold of my imagination. I loved that book of short stories, illustrated just enough to make me want more. Reading it took me to places I never knew existed, but wanted to see. My heart swelled with wonder. I began to fall in love with America.

We lived on a heavily travelled street, right in front of a very dangerous curve. Accidents occurred frequently. Our house sat at the top of the rise on the grade of our street. Looking out from our front porch I could see a factories and a myriad of industrial smokestacks.

Half a block west, down the hill and across the road, a footbridge carried us over a busy, four-lane expressway. Standing mesmerized on that bridge with my mother, dirty old trucks belching diesel exhaust rolled noisily beneath me. I still love the smell of diesel exhaust.

On the other side of that bridge sat a different town, with more factories and the county fairgrounds. Between the end of the footbridge and that next town, several glistening ribbons of steel tracks guided black, behemoth, steam locomotives. Their trains of freight cars rolled along slowly in their wake, clanking and clacking as their engines ground to a slow stop on the various sidings. Sometimes, their lonely steam whistles split the air with a sound that seemed to pierce my very soul.

Where had those trains been? And where were they headed next? I wanted to know.

By the time I came along at mid-century, the brightly painted diesel locomotive had already delivered a huge, though not-yet-deadly blow to the black, steam-powered giants that built America. For a hundred years those coal-fed monsters had plied the rails as our nation spread west, hauling people and goods to far away places.

The railroads did play an absolutely vital role in the development of our country. The joining of Central Pacific and Union Pacific rails in Promontory, Utah in 1869, greatly eased the long, arduous, overland trip west. Soon, hundreds of thousands would make their way to the Golden State and other west coast Edens.

But the railroad industry has grown less significant in the fifty years since my days on that bridge. No longer is it the cog in our nation's economic machine. Passenger travel is all but gone save the government subsidized Amtrak system. Travel by car and plane have nearly crushed that once, thriving industry. And freight by rail has dwindled as well with the development of our Interstate Highway network, and the big, diesel-guzzling eight-wheelers carrying their loads up, down, and across our great nation.

As a four year-old boy standing on that bridge and watching those noisy steam goliaths riding on iron rails, and those filthy, malodorous configurations of steel supported by rubber rolling on asphalt, I could not visualize the vastness of the rails and roads they traversed. Nor could I even begin to comprehend that our exceptionally great system of free enterprise had set these two giants of industry at odds with one another in a battle for dominance.

The idea of America was still but a tiny seed, freshly planted in my childlike mind.

Traveling east up our street, in the other direction, we passed our local tavern and drugstore. Beyond those familiar landmarks lay a commerical area with shops and stores. We would often travel that road by car, heading to my grandmother's house. I especially loved driving at night along that busy, commercial stretch.

Back in the 1950's, neon washed the night sky with amazing color. Nothing like it exists today. Nothing. Brightly colored flashing lights crafted to look like bowling balls rolling, and pins falling down; Moving arrows pointing the way to a hotel or restaurant; A ferris wheel made of colored neon lights that flashed on and off and moved in a circle; And my favorite was the large, feather-headdressed, neon Indian, his flashing, moving finger pointing the way into a car dealership.

Beyond these sights, even further away from home, we would sometimes drive past an old junkyard. I eyed it as we negotiated a curve in the road, and began to travel down a grade. Off to the right sat acres and acres of old, battered car bodies, mostly black, piled on top of one another. That lot seemed to stretch for miles.

At my young age, I had seen so little. And yet with books, television, and the occasional travels outside of my little world, my yearning to see more deepened every day.


Our house on the curve at the top of the grade still occupied the center of my life. Trains and trucks, neon lights and a vast field of abandoned cars, defined America for me. But with each passing year, the repeat of every familiar sight, and the occasional introduction to something new for my eyes to behold, the boundaries of my world, and of my home, pushed ever outward.

At that tender age, I could not yet grasp the concept of "the way things are" vs. "the way things ought to be." It would be years before that construct would begin to grip me, and later still before it would begin to demand a response.

At the beginning of Ron Maxwell's film, Gods and Generals, folk artist Mary Fahl sings a most beautiful song touching on the love of home. On the screen, as she sings, state flags flap and flutter in the wind, one at a time, setting the stage for the dramatic story that follows. Here are the words to the first stanza of Going Home:

They say there's a place
Where dreams have all gone
They never said where
But I think I know
It's miles through the night
Just over the dawn
On the road that will take me home

Read Part II ...