ALS, ASL, Hope and Testimony

Years ago, when I lived in Detroit, serving as a missionary for my Church, I met a family who were some of the best examples of being positive in the midst of adversity. Their examples have been, in the years since, some that I have worked hard to emulate. I’ve often failed in that attempt, but… I’d be surprised if they didn’t fail in that attempt sometimes, too.

The father of the family, I’ll call him Bill (it wasn’t bill, but neither can I remember his name, nor would I share it if I could… because  this story is about my experience with them, rather than their experiences directly.) – Bill was a very successful martial arts instructor in Detroit. Very few martial artists get to do more than make an hobby out of their sport. Fewer still actually get paid for that sport. And even fewer still earn enough in that pay to be able all of their bills, and still fewer earn a good living. He was one of the rare few who could. He’d made a lifetime career out of training others in the martial arts, and in some particular forms that were uniquely his; he had customers seek him out from throughout the world to learn from him. He had comfortably provided for his family for many years, doing what he loved; training and performing and competing in the martial arts.

This was all before I met him.

And then he got Lou Gehrig’s. His was a particularly aggressive form of ALS. If my memory is being honest, the way that Bill described it to me was something along the lines of “I’m lucky because, as bad as it is, Lou Gehrig’s Disease only last’s for a couple of years! I can expect to be fully free of the disease in 3 to 5 years!” I was entirely ignorant of the disorder, and for someone who had been such a physically powerful man, the wheelchair laden man who’s arms were bound tightly to his chest by muscle spasms belied his history. “That’s wonderful!” I said…. only to get the sly look of an obviously intelligent man with mischief in his eyes….. he knew that I was ignorant of his disorder… “The only down side,” he continued, “Is that it’s fatal in every case so far….” Most healthy, 20 year old boys don’t know how to respond to that. I was no exception. I stuttered the obligatory “I’m so sorry!” as his wife playfully chided him for teasing the missionaries.

For those who, like I was, are ignorant of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, it’s formally known as ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). It is an aggressive disease, which for most people (Bill being one of them) has no known cause, and no known cure. It is fatal in every known instance. Most people die within 3-5 years of diagnosis, but some live as long as 10 years (or more). It attacks the brain, the nerves, people’s speech (making it very difficult to understand them) and the muscles, causing everything to become progressively weaker until the lungs and heart no longer have the strength to do their job, and the person finally succumbs and dies.

The years since I met Bill have been met with a substantial increase in public awareness of this disease, and a substantial increase in research and understanding of it. Doctors and scientists say of ALS that little is known… and that’s after all of the major advancements we’ve made. When I met Bill, next to nothing was known.

And so here I was, meeting a physically diminished man, who had several days of scruff on his face, because he could no longer shave, and it was hard for his wife to shave him every day, on top of her other responsibilities like bathing, feeding, and helping with bodily functions… She had left her professional career to take care of him full time, and they’d just left their home, which was a beautifully restored house from Detroit’s Golden Motown Era (seriously, do some googling…. the architecture from that time frame is amazing…. simply stunning!) in order to move into a small place  with no stairs where he could maneuver in his motorized wheelchair. The previous 3 or so years had been nothing but broken lives and turmoil, all with the known and foreseeable undesirable end.

And yet, here Bill and his beautiful wife were not only content, but happily joking and teasing those around them. They weren’t just accepting of their circumstances, but thriving in them.

In our Church, once a month we forgo sermons or prepared talks to allow the congregation to share with each other our testimonies of faith and be strengthened by others’.

Just before I completed my mission, and came home to Idaho, we had one of these meetings. Bill rolled his wheelchair to the front of the chapel, and (painfully) stood from it. As he reached the podium, he put his mouth near the microphone (he was getting hard to hear, as his voice’s strength was going too.) He began by telling everyone that he wanted to take every chance he could to proclaim his faith, because he was starting to get too weak to continue to come to church, and he knew that he wasn’t going to live much longer.

Setting this premise for the congregation, who had all grown to love and cherish this amazing man, he continued.

“I know that it’s hard to understand my speech, so I’d like to share my testimony to you in Sign Language.”

He clumsily stepped back from the podium and raised his painfully wrenched arms and hands to shoulder level, the task clearly wore him out, and he had to lean back to do it. Everyone in the congregation felt embarrassed for Bill because we could see what he obviously couldn’t: there was no way he was going to do any signing.

Stepping back to the podium, arms still raised, he awkwardly looked from one hand, and then to the other, as if realizing for the first time that they weren’t working the way that they should.

“Dang it.”

And the congregation, uncharacteristically for our Church, burst out laughing through our tears on his behalf.

Of course Bill knew that he couldn’t sign. And that was the point. He knew that he’d just darkened the mood of the room, and he solved it at his own expense.

He then went on to bare a beautiful testimony of faith, redemption, and of hope.

The reason that Bill and his wife could have such positive attitudes surrounding his rapid decline in health and his impending death, was that they had been married together, not just until death parted them, but for time and all eternity. They had faith that the promise of the Savior for resurrection, perfection, and wholeness would all be fulfilled. They believed the Savior’s promise that they would get to be together with Him. This life, after all, is just a trial period. And that trial might be ending for him, but there was more to come.

I left within the next couple of weeks. I don’t think that I ever saw Bill again. I don’t imagine that he lived much longer… though I’d be happy to be wrong.

But their example has lived on in me.

And so has his faith.

Hopefully it can make your day a little better today, too.

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Get Off My Lawn, You Mangy Kids!

We’ve got a couple of rough scalawags that live behind us. These young hooligans dress shabbily (the family obviously has the means to dress them nicely, but shabbily is their choice of clothing attire), their friends are even rougher than they are. There’s a fight on the front lawn ever day or two (our yard goes the whole way through the block, their front yard faces our back yard), and those fights usually have 4 or 5 people standing around laughing…. it’s more “rassling” than “brawling,” really…. but….. still….. There’s often profane language from someone in this group of young ruffians. I have often wondered where their parents are, and why they aren’t teaching these rascals some respect!
So tonight, as I was struggling to get half of the back lawn mowed (I managed the front last night, and I’ll finish the rest of the back yard tomorrow night, health permitting), I was limping along….
Can I take a moment to point out that push mowers and canes don’t go well together…. and push mowers don’t provide all that much support for leaning on…. I mean… really…..
…As I was mowing the lawn tonight, across the back fence, I saw two of these young hoodlums, what…. swagger? Is that what the cool kids do these days? Two of these young punks swagger up to my back fence and… stare? Glare? I wasn’t sure…. They waited for me to turn the mower off and empty the bag.
Just then, as I’m struggling with the bag (those things are heavy!)… the older boy, the one dressed in a ratty black t-shirt and heavy, baggy jeans (it’s 80 degrees out) says something like this:
“I can’t help but notice that something is wrong with your… leg? It’s obviously hard for you to mow. Would you like me to do it?” His brother, I presume, who had walked over with him, said “I can help!”
All in that instance, my worldview (not for the first time) was shaken. These young men, these boys who play hard, who may be rough around the edges, noticed a fellow human being struggling with a basic task of life, and rather than stare, or turn their eyes away in shame, rather than wonder what to do; these young men came over to a stranger to offer their strong backs. The made it clear that the offer was standing, and it wasn’t just for tonight.
Who are these men? And who are their parents? Other than noticing them and their rowdy friends, other than seeing their parents come and go, I don’t know these people from Adam… and yet, here there are, offering to help a perfect stranger for no other reason than that they saw that he needed it.
Tonight, I was reminded that my personal judgments about the character of strangers needs to be challenged; I was reminded that, no matter how rough the state of the world, there is hope in the rising generation; I was reminded that there is decency, and goodness, and charity – even outside of those around me. I was reminded that a little goodness goes a long way.
I was reminded that I don’t need to be an old, crotchety neighbor, chasing kids off my lawn whilst shaking my cane… just because I feel old and crotchety, and have a cane.
I needed those reminders. The world has felt pretty dark for me for a while now, and I’ve wanted to just hunker down and protect my family from the enveloping darkness…. but there’s light out there still. I needed to remember that, and I need to seek it out.
Thank you, you young roughians. Thank you.
(DISCLAIMER: Some of the elements of the roughness of these boys was embellished, as was some of the extent of my judgmental-ness…. It’s story telling, after all…. I just don’t want you to think too hard on me after reading it….)

Advent, the Nativity, and Forgetting Christ

In homes and congregations throughout the world, the month leading up to Christmas is spent preparing for the Nativity – this period is known as Advent. In our family, we often set up our Christmas tree the day after thanksgiving (though it was the middle of December this year), followed by a Christmas party with our congregation in the beginning of December. The rest of the month, like many of us, is often spent worrying about presents, stressing about bills, and trying to bake delectables for those we care about. I won’t waste your time saying what more eloquent people have said before me; I’ll let it suffice that I worry that the most important part of the season is lost to most of us.

So forgive my ramblings as I share some thoughts (not just my own).

For centuries the chosen people had waited for the Messiah, the one who would save them and make them free. Some looked for a political savior, others for a teacher and others yet for a redeemer. And the signs were given that the time for the Messiah was at hand. Some thought the Maccabees would fill the role. Others looked onward, all waited for the Advent of the chosen one of God. With the oppression of Rome, the plea for a redeemer grew ever stronger.

Sometime in the summer between the years 6 and 2 BC, a young woman was visited by an angel, telling her that she had been chosen by God to carry His son and bring him into the world.  I can’t imagine the elation and terror she must have experienced. We aren’t told how, but the Spirit of God descended on Mary, and she became pregnant with the very Son of the Living Father. Mary, did you know?

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In the following months, we know, that the young woman married her betrothed, Joseph. We know little of the man, but that he was good, just and faithful is clear.  And some time in the spring of the next year, the expectant couple traveled to their ancestral home of Bethlehem to be taxed and counted. The small town would have been bustling and though she was nearing labor, Mary and Joseph were refused room in the boarding houses. One could infer that it was due to their poverty that they were turned away, but irrespective of the reason, Joseph prepared room in a stable for his wife to bring her Son into the world. I can imagine the feelings of helplessness he experienced, because the helplessness that all husbands feel during childbirth hasn’t changed over the long centuries between Joseph and me.

We don’t know how long she labored, but sometime in the early days of our month of April, Mary gave birth to her first son, and, swaddling him, laid him in a manger meant for feeding sheep.

Despite the songs, the Judean landscape has few plains, but is full of hills and valleys. It was in these hills around Bethlehem that shepherds grazed their sheep and watched them through the night. download

It was to these simple people that the first angelic announcement of the arrival of the Messiah came. The angels told them that He would bring peace on earth to men of good will. Many songs have been, and will yet be, written about this visit.

Without doubt, the shepherds left their flocks, following the angelic direction, entered the town to find the baby with His mother and Joseph. Having worshiped the Messiah, they left to spread the word of His birth.

Sometime before or during the holy birth, a new star appeared in the sky. Astrologers and astronomers have spent 2 millennial seaking an explanation, but there can be no doubt that it was recognized as both a miracle and a sign, at least to some, and perhaps only in the east, from whence came the wise men. The narrative gives us little clues to their identities, or even their numbers, but tradition tells us that there were three wise men, and names them: Melchior, Balthazar and Caspar. images These wise men came in the months or years following the Messiah’s humble birth in the stables of Bethlehem.

That Mary made the sacrifices of purification using doves, rather than a lamb, shows the family’s continued poverty.  But when the wise men arrived, and found the Holy Child,they gifted the Holy Child the kingly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. After the angel warned Joseph to flee to Egypt to protect his ward, I imagine those gifts paid the way.

The wise men, warned in a dream of the wicked intentions of the murderous Herod, returned to their own lands by alternate routes, and are lost to history. Enraged, Herod butchered all of the male children under the age of two, rightly earning his reputation that will carry through history. Joseph’s faithful adherence to the prompting a of the angels protected his wife and her son.

Thus the first Christmas story is completed. The Son grew to a man, astonishing even the elders of the synagog with his wisdom and understanding. Only 33 short years after his birth, around His 34th birthday, the Savior of Mankind would labor in Gethsemane. Ironically, the symbol of the scapegoat was lost on the Jewish elite, and they gave Him up to be crucified among thieves, fulfilling His earthly mission. It was His resurrection that broke the bonds of sin and death, and his prophesied return that will fill all the forms of Messiah that Children of Israel sought.

We, like the shepherds, are commanded to spread the good news of Jesus the Messiah to all the world.  And as Advent comes to a close, and we celebrate the Nativity, I will be seeking to remember Jesus, and to spread His joy to those in need. I hope you’ve felt that joy as you’ve read my insufficient story, and listened to the beautiful music I’ve linked.

And from my family to you, merry Christmas. May the hope of the Messiah carry you through the new year. May we remember Him in our actions. May we embrace the Advent, celebrate the Nativity, and never forget the Christ.

If You Can Do Anything

They were getting worse.

Staring at the broken furniture next to him, he wondered how long this one would last. The blood was already smeared on the floor from his son’s head, but he knew he had to wait until this was finished before he could try to patch the wound.

The shaking and moaning was frightening his wife and other children, he knew, but what could he do about it? Last time he tried to hold the boy down, he’d nearly broken his arm.

So he waited. And he hoped that he wasn’t disturbing his neighbors again. The shouts and tears were hard enough without everyone else involved. The questions tomorrow would be embarrassing for him, but his wife would cry herself to sleep with hidden shame tonight.

And he was still shaking. Oh, God! How long would this one last?


Each one of us is burdened with hidden shames, hidden pains, and hidden worries. Some of them are brought on by our own sins, by our own weaknesses. Others are beyond our control.

I have often tried, fruitlessly, to hide my pains, my sorrows, my brokenness  from those around me. My kids think the pain is normal, my wife, bless her, has endured more than any woman should have to. And I try to hide it from my friends and family, playing off my falls as if I’m being silly, and just need to sit down. I try to hide the panic attacks, and play them off as mild distractions. My kids know better, they’ve come to watch the grown man huddled in the corner, weeping like a child, with only mild interest, knowing that the best they can do is wait it out. I try to pretend that my pain is just “discomfort.” My 8 year old has come to gently ask “do you want me to get your cane, or your medicine?” And my 4 year old, “are you happy now, dad?” while worry wells up in his eyes.

What are your hidden pains? What do you fear the world will see?


He heard them before he saw them. His son was walking with him, no sign of the previous night’s fit but the healing cut on his head. These men always drew a crowd now. He knew why: they had made a lot of friends, and probably more enemies.

When the drew close enough, he meant to shout out to them, to offer payment for them to help, of even beg if he must. He didn’t have any pride left, what was it to beg?

But when they came near, his son looked dead. Here he stood, as calm as a summer breeze, but his eyes were gone. This wasn’t his son anymore. He knew this look. It was too soon! They weren’t inside, everyone would see! There would be no secrets remaining! “Please, wait,” he  thought to himself. “Please, not here!” And then his son fell.

The shouts of startled fear and derision parted the crowd like Moses and the Red Sea. As the foam fell from his son’s lips, the throng surrounded him: there was no escape now!


Sooner or later, all things come to light. Every secret, every shame, will be known as if it was shouted from the rooftops. Are you prepared for that moment? Most of us aren’t. For years, I’ve tried to behave normally, but it only takes one breakdown in public for everyone to look at you differently, to doubt you, to doubt the reality that you’ve come to accept.


Now he found himself surrounded by the judgmental sea of people, drowning in his shame. His son, oblivious to the stares of those around, continued to convulse. Tears in his eyes, the broken man begged the men: “please, can’t you see what it does to him? Drive out the devil that is doing this to my son! I know you can, I’ve seen you heal others!”

Confidently, the men approached his thrashing son. As they did, the attack began to subside. It was almost as if whatever demon had seized him for so many years, was preparing to leave! What joy! What hope! His son would be whole again!

As they placed their hands on him, their enemies in the crowd started to shout: he couldn’t hear what the healers were saying over the shouts, but he had no doubt in his mind that they would heal him.

For a moment, it looked like they had! The foam stopped dribbling from his mouth, and his body relaxed: and then as the angry men around him began to quiet, the boy started shaking harder then ever! His nose began to bleed, and his bowels released.

In terror, the devastated father ran to his son, trying to stop the terrible trembling that looked like they would kill his son. He ignored the jeering of the crowd, both to him, and to the healers. It took what felt like an eternity,  but the attack finally stopped. His son was unconscious, and trembling now, he cradled the head of his oldest son, weeping tears of despair onto his son’s neck.


Healing can be hard. For those who have had their spirits and minds broken by some great and terrible event, the healing can feel like it never comes.

Sometimes we place our trust in others, expecting that they can help carry, or even relive us of our burdens completely.

And if they fail, the hurt to our soul can be worse than if they had never tried to begin with. The darkness is greatest at these times. The burdens the heaviest. When hope is gone, we begin to doubt even the faith that we cherish.


He didn’t know how long the men had argued with their critics. He didn’t know how long his son had lain there. If it weren’t for the weak rising and falling of his chest, he would be sure the boy had died. He wished they would leave him, allow him to maintain some dignity. But they wouldn’t.

And then, after a few hushed shouts, the crowd went silent.

“What were you arguing with them about?” He heard the Man ask the critics. But no one answered.

With tears still on his cheeks, his eyes red, and his voice weak and horse, he spoke in reply: “Teacher,” he addressed the man, “I brought you my son who is possessed by a spirit that robs him of his speech.” His voice broke, but through the sob, he continued “whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground.” He showed the Man his son, as if he couldn’t see for himself. “He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid.” Looking at the healers, he continued, “I asked your followers to drive out the spirit…” his voice broke again, “but they could not!” And the tears began in earnest again.

Looking to the crowd, and with… was it despair of his own? Anger? He couldn’t tell, but the  Teacher spoke. “You unbelieving generation'” that part was almost under his breath. His followers cowered in shame, and the opposing leaders squared their shoulders, defiant to his challenge. “How long will I stay with you? How long will I put up with you?”

And looking at the the father, the Man said “bring the boy to me.”

Gently, the weeping father picked up his unconscious son, and carried him to the Teacher.

Before he even got to the teacher, the boy started shaking again. So severely that his father  lost his grip. The boy fell to the ground, shaking, and rolling. The foam started again.

“How long has he been like this?” The teacher asked

“Since he was a child,” the father replied, looking around to see who had heard him admit it.


It is in these moments of darkest despair that we must turn ourselves again to the Teacher. We must muster what strength and faith remains and turn to He who bore our burdens.


With almost a whisper, he continued, “it has often tried to throw him into the fire, or into the water, to destroy him.”

The tears came again, unbidden. He looked to the Teacher and, summoning what faith for healing he could, he begged, “if you can do anything,” the bitterness returned now, and he wondered why he was even bothering to ask, “take pity on us, and help us!”


Sometimes, in our moment of despair, we fail to notice those around us who despair, who toil, who are working with us. It is hard to see those who have made our struggles their own.


The Teacher spoke now, his tone lovingly chastising now, “if you can just believe.” He said to the father as then to the crowd around, “anything is possible to one who believes.”

“Lord!” The man exclaimed, “oh, I believe!” Hadn’t he brought his son here to be healed? Hadn’t he loved his trust in the healers? But in that moment, the introspective and humble father realized his own doubt; “help me overcome my disbelief.”


In these dark times, when we have relied on the faith we once had, it is easy to forget to do the thinks we need to do in order to grow faith. Faith is either growing, or diminishing, it never remains stagnant. In your moments of darkness, have you ever stopped growing your faith? Do you have the gift of introspection enough to see the strength of your testimony?

The story could almost end here, why? Because the miracle that follows is less important than the faith that predicated it. While the Teacher will always lift our burdens, it isn’t always on our timetable. It isn’t always even in this lifetime. While all things are possible to those who believe, the belief must be in God, and in his will; not our own.


After looking around, the Teacher spoke: “you deaf and mute spirit, I command you to come out of him and never enter him again.”

There was fierceness in the Teacher’s voice that the man had never heard before.

And his son began to retch. A horrible gurgling sound burst from his son’s lips. Then the boy was still and pale.

The crowd began to whisper, quietly at first, then louder, “he’s dead. He killed him.”

And the Teacher reached out, taking the boy’s hand, and helped him to his feet. The color was coming back to him now.

And the boy smiled.

Reconciliation, Reparations, and Seeing Each Other as People Again

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

-Abraham Lincoln’s 2nd Inagrial Address
As a graybeard millennial, I don’t have the anecdotal experience to back up the following claim, but I still think it’s accurate:

This is the most divisive campaign in living memory!

Not only is right fighting left, republican against democrat, but we have brother fighting g brother: the split of the conservative right is nearly complete. A similar, though not as extensive, split can be found in the liberal left.

There are proTrumpers and NeverTrumpers, PrincipleOverParty and AnyoneButHer, ImWithHer and FeelTheBurn. Regardless of how you vote, the next week will bring a close to the campaign season.

But can it bring a close to the divide in our Republic?  

The country has seen great division before, whether it be the claims of a hermaphroditic claims against Adams or the warning that ‘your young daughters will all be raped’ against Jefferson; be it the blue coats or the grey coats; we’ve seen division before.

So the question, the call for debate: Can we heal as a nation? If not, why not? If so, how do we bring this healing wind about?

What action do we, as a people, do to restore unity and peace to our country?
Does the method change depending on who next week’s winner is? Why? How?  

Today, I Am Peter

When they set out to cross the lake, a journey they had made many times before, the day was coming to a close. It had been an extraordinary day, one filled with wonder, power and miracles. But now, they had to make the 8 mile sail across the water. Usually, by setting the sail to catch the wind, combined with hard work at the oars, this trip was pretty quick.

But though it was hard work, it was work that Peter was used to. There was some joy and peace in the labor. He’d spent most of his life on this lake. He was a strong sailor, and a strong swimmer. If the truth was to be told, he’d forgotten more in his short life than most men ever learned about the trade. His hands knew the tasks at hand, so he could take the time to think about what he’d seen. He could reflect on the day.

None of the others talked much. Besides the hard work, it seemed like they all had a lot on their minds. How had he done that? Where was he now? What would they do next?

And then the winds changed. They were only about halfway across the lake, but with the wind shifting to become a head wind, they had to drop the sails. This meant that the remaining 4 miles would need to be done at the oars alone. This was never fun, but, like the rest of this work, Peter was confident, calm, and prepared for the trouble of it.

And then the waves started to form. Theirs was not a small boat, but she was sturdy. Really, she was bigger than many on the lake, but these waves were easily large enough to crash over the sides. They were easily big enough to capsize the boat if they turned her broadside.

So here they were, rowing hard against the waves which pushed them back for every stroke. If the stopped rowing, they’d turn, and the waves would have them. They couldn’t raise the sails because the wind was at their bow.

And it was totally dark. The moon was still low, too low to be an effective guide.

It was dark. The wind howled. The men were tired, and sore, and alone. There was no other boats nearby, not that they’d be able to see them in these waves and darkness. If they lost control now, they’d surely drown. Peter was starting to worry.


Life has a way of dishing out its worst right after we have experienced great blessing. The Adversary works his hardest to challenge us at these times; to make us doubt the joy and peace of God’s gifts; to forget the grace that we’ve received; to focus only on the momentary, the challenging, and the worrisome. And he’s pretty good at it.
I’ve gone from being at the helm, metaphorically speaking, of my life; knowing what I was doing, where I was going, and how I was going to get there… to not knowing how I’m going to function in the most basic ways; to not knowing how I’m going to raise my children; not knowing how to even take care of myself; and (sometimes) to not know where my next meal will come from. It’s been a pretty major shift for me. I’ve been content with the work of it all. I’m no stranger to hard work. But there is still fear in not knowing. There is fear in the challenges of life.


As they worked to keep the boat straight against the waves, Peter heard a shriek of terror come from behind him. As he listened to hear why his friend had cried out, he saw it: the ghostly apparition on the water. Peter had never been one to believe in silly superstitions, but how could he deny his own eyes? The evidence was overwhelming, and his shipmates confirmed the same: there was a figure on the water.

The moonlight reflected off the white of the figures robes, creating an halo of pale, blue light. The figure was moving across the storming seas as if they were simple hills.

And Peter was terrified. Was this was some apparition from the after-world coming to claim him and his shipmates? Surely, they were about to die, and this figure was their host into the next world.

As they began to fear for their lives, the boat started to turn. Peter cried out for his friends to keep her straight! Even in that moment of sure death, he wasn’t one to let it come easily. The spirit of death would have him, but not without a fight.


There is an old Christian trope that “God will not give you more than you can handle.” While it has some basis in truth, the understood implication is that whatever challenge we are given can be borne by us. This just isn’t true.

Oftentimes,  life presents us with challenges far to great for us to carry on our own.

The burdens that we bear sometimes curve our backs and break our wills. And just in that moment of deep despair, the challenges of life will sometimes side swipe us with a pickup truck. This can be overwhelming. Having had the broken will and spirit, being crushed by the weight of the world, we are given only two options; to surrender and die is the easier option. But what else can we do?


Just then they heard the voice, carried clearly above the winds and the waves.
“Don’t be afraid! It is I! Take courage!”

Peter looked out over the waves, and in the darkness he saw, for what seemed like the first time, that the apparition was his friend, his brother, his master: the Galilean. But how could this be? No man can walk on the water. Yet, after what he’d seen earlier today, how could it be anyone else?


And so His voice comes to all who are broken in spirit. When the burdens have destroyed all hope that we can carry on alone, He calls to us: “don’t be afraid! Be courageous. I am here!”

And we, like Peter, have to choose: do we let fear win, and go down with our boat? That is the easy choice.


Like the Sons of Thunder next to him, Peter was impetuous. He was brave. And he knew that the Miracle Worker could do anything.

“If it’s you,” he cried to the Man on the water, “tell me to come out to you, on the water!”

Even in his challenge, he doubted himself. These waves were too strong for his boat, they would surely sink him. If he got into the water, he’d surely be a dead man. What was this challenge? Why had he called it? If he was wrong, he’d pay for the mistake with his life.

“Come!” Came the reply.


When the master calls to us, we have the final choice: the easy one? Or do we risk what stability we have now, no matter how destructive that stability is, and come to him? Do we surrender to Him our fears, our hopes, and even the ground beneath our feet at His bidding?


Keeping his eyes above the waves, and ignoring the gasps of terror of his crew, Peter stepped out of the tossing boat onto the waves. His eyes fixed on the Man, Peter began walking… walking! On the water! It was as if the sea had solidified under his feet, and he allowed his pace to quicken.  And then it hit him: literally. He hadn’t noticed the wave until it crashed into his side, drenching him further to the bone. And he looked down to check his footing. There was nothing but the sea beneath him!

And he doubted.


When we come to Him, keeping our eyes fixed on He who is our salvation, the terrors that had only moments before had overwhelmed and even threatened to destroy us, seem like a thing of the past.

But when we look to the challenges, and not the Man on the water; we falter. Every time. The proverbial waves that had threatened to destroy us are no less powerful, and we no more powerful. We haven’t suddenly grown the ability to defeat the challenges on our own. And once we start to wonder if it is by our own power that we are succeeding, we will surely begin to be swallowed up by the very things we wonder if we’ve defeated.


The doubt came quickly, and as it rushed upon him, so did the cold, dark water. He just had time to cry out desperately, “Lord! Save me!” As the water came up over his head, anxious to claim him to its depths. He kicked, he tried to tread, but the next wave washed over him, and he knew he had lost.

And then the hand grabbed his.

And his Master pulled him into His strong arms. “You of little faith,” He chided, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.


Like Peter, I have witnessed the miraculous. Like Peter, I have stood when the world said I should drown. Like Peter, I have begun the fearful journey of walking to the Master. And like Peter, I have doubted. I have tried, again and again, to do the work on my own.

But like Peter, I have cried out “Lord, save me!”

And He has. And He will again.

I just hope that, like Peter, I don’t forget the salvation offered to me. Today I want to be like Peter. 

God grant me the grace to see You above the waves of life. Give me the courage to call out to You. Give me the faith to follow You. And guide me to Your Glory.

Introducing Terror

4 years ago (to the day) I experienced terror: not for the first time.

4 years ago, after a grueling, long, and dangerous labor, my beautiful wife gave birth to our second son, completing our family. He was big.

Over 10 pounds big.

He was such a monstrous little thing that he got stuck in the birth canal. The labor caught the hospital by surprise, despite being a planned birth, and my poor wife delivered him mostly without an epidural (they got it in for the end)…. And then he got stuck. We spent almost an hour hearing “this push should do it!”

But it didn’t.

And when he came out, he was pale, like ash, and he wasn’t breathing.

The doctor and nurses did their best to hide this fact from us. They showed Julie her beautiful son, set him in her arms for less than a second, and then whisked him away to clean him up, and try to get his lungs to work.

I was watching the doctor’s eyes.

He was scared. He’d never lost a child in childbirth. His record was amazing (one of the reason we picked him.)

And he was scared.

So was I.

The doctor had more work to do, as there always is after a baby is born: there’s still more to come. I won’t detail this, for the blissfully ignorant and the faint of heart. Julie was in rough shape, to put it mildly, after a 10 lb baby with a late epidural, and she was exhausted.

The doctor told us what was happening as soon as he could: the baby wasn’t breathing well on his own, so they were going to put him into the critical care unit.

When Julie was well enough (an hour maybe? Time started playing games with me) we got to see him… But not hold him. He was in a lung plastic box.

We spent the better part of the next week taking turns being at his side. He got to move from the box into a head sized bubble after a day or two. We didn’t get to hold him until then.

But he was strong, not just big, and he was a fighter. (That hasn’t changed)

And he got well.

4 years ago, today, my second son was born. 4 years ago I felt terror that few can understand without experiencing it themselves.

4 years ago, today, God gave use a little terrorist. (I can say that, right?)

And I’m happy he did.

Happy birthday, Nathaniel. Please stop breaking things. 😅

Living Liberty: We’re Doomed, What Do We Do Now?

Recent polls show that only about 12% of Americans believe that the Federal government does the right thing all or a majority of the time; compared to 81% who believe that the Federal government rarely or never does the right thing. Combined with over 50% of Americans who believe that the federal government has lost all legitimacy – we have to begin to ask, “what can we do about it?”

With such overwhelmingly depressing outcomes at the federal level, the American people are left in fear and despair about the direction of the American government: worse, we don’t know what to do about it. We don’t know what we can do about it.

So here we are, pretty much everyone agrees, we’re doomed! So what can we do? Elect an excellent president, of course! Someone who understands the constitution; honors the rule of law; will increase our allies’ trust in our country; who has unassailable moral character; and who can lead our country through these dark times with a clear vision of the future.

Wait…

Who are we choosing between?

Dang.

Well…

Excuse me for a moment.

<Weeps bitterly>

Well, I suppose we can retreat to our bunkers and live off of food storage while we wait out the coming apocalypse?

What?

The American people are in more personal debt than ever before, combined with generations of no increase in individual wealth? 

So…. There aren’t any bunkers? 

And nobody has food storage!?!?

Excuse me for a moment.

<Weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.>

<Wiping away the tears, choking back sobs> well… At least we have a congress that is trustworthy!

What? 9… 9% percent approval rating?

Oh. I see. 

Excuse me again.

<Runs out of tissues. Screams loudly>

What can we do? The federal government is so broken as to be an effective kakistocracy (good word, look that one up). And if this election is evidence of anything, it’s that the broken mess is so complete as to be above correction.

Or is it?

Personally, I think we are left with one of two options. I wish I was being a defeatist here, but I’m afraid that (short of someone presenting another option), I don’t see another solution. The first option is a bad one. No, like… literal blood in the street… Bad.

This option is the complete dissolution of the Union. I have variously found myself desiring this option: the nation would dissolve into an handful of smaller independent nations. The Liberty belt might include Texas up through Arizona, Utah, and Idaho: over to Oklahoma and Georgia. I’d be in Texas as fast as an heartbeat. The People’s Socialist Republik of California might include Washington and parts of Oregon. DC might be the seat of the new United Socialist States of America, including New York, Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maine. The Dakotas would be designated as factions fought over access to electrical power…. But before any such dissolution, there would be the requisite civil war: literal blood in the streets, and war-caused poverty for a generation (or more). The Liberty States might well become wealthy, at the cost of generational war from both sides as the bitter socialist-leaning states insist on stolen birthright, or something epic like that. In short: this would be bad. I do not support this action. I’ll go a step further, those who (actively) do, are dangerous. War, when there are better options, is a bad thing.

But what other choice do we have?

The founders expected and planned for a day when the federal government had stomped over the protections defined in the constitution. They anticipated a day when the federal government, obsessed with power, took no action to limit itself.

And they defined the ways that power could be restored back to the people: these methods are defined in article 5 of the United States Constitution. The particular section allows for what has become known as a convention of states:

On the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress.

This convention allows for the people and the states to restore power where it rightfully belongs: to the people, not to politicians and bureaucrats in DC. This convention has support in each of the fifty states, but hasn’t been proposed by each state’s legislature yet (as required… Well, in 2/3’s of them anyway). Over the course of this series, I hope to make the case for changes to the constitution that would restore both power to the people and the faith in Washington. I hope to alleviate the concerns claimed by opponents to the convention. And I hope, most importantly, to restore hope when it is currently so tenuous.

I don’t pretend to be any sort of expert. I am an opinion writer. I, of course, believe that I am right on this solution. However, I implore you to seek knowledge on the topic by those more articulate and better informed than I am: I recommend that you start by reading The Liberty Amendments by the great one himself, Mark Levin. We’ll be back to talk specifics later.

 

Knowing the Language in Politics

 

There seem to be 3 or 4 main languages in the United States. English is the most common language, and Spanish is common. But Washington DC speaks 2 different languages altogether: Legalese and Politics.

Legalese is a very precise language, though never concise. I have some skill in interpreting this language, having worked in law enforcement. We spend entire courses on understanding this language. Good Legalese is written in such a way as to be entirely specific: meaning that there can be no misunderstanding (given a knowledge of the Legalese language). Bad Legalese is deliberately vague, and when used, writes bad law.

But I want to talk about the other language used in DC: the language of politics.

This language sounds more like English than Legalese, but is much more pernicious. Why? Because it changes rapidly and meaningfully. This is the language which, if used incorrectly, can end careers and, at times, has ended life.

But there are some old and some new terms and words being thrown around in the world of politics, and an understanding of them will become important for you in the months leading up to the election. Please note that this list is not comprehensive. Also note that the political language, by design, rapidly changes when a term becomes viewed as negative: as such, some of these terms don’t mean the same thing they meant even last year, and some will change soon as well. I intend to editorialize.

 

Alt-Right – self described as an ‘alternative to the right,’ (hence, alt-right) or as an ‘alternative to conservatism.’ This group is neither conservative nor right wing. Many have an openly socialist ideology, or are at least sympathetic to socialism. They are, almost universally, nationalist in nature. They fundamentally oppose immigration (not just illegal immigration) as an invasion on the ‘American Culture,’ (note that they, generally, aren’t concerned about immigration from Western European countries… Their fear is that non-European originated, read “white,” people are not capable of integrating into American Culture.) Their beliefs are Statist in nature, favoring ever increasing federal power in an effort to protect their twisted view of Americanism. They base their views largely on the concepts of tribalism, which is, each race naturally forms tribes which are definitive to the race – black people, white people, Jews, orientals, etc should maintain separate counties based on their own tribes and should not try to intermingle. If you feel slimy reading this, that’s good: it’s pretty slimy stuff. For more detailed information about the Alt-Right, please refer back to my post The “Alt-Right,” Triangle Badges, and the Lie of Otherism.

Communism – differs from pure socialism because rather than being a purely economic system, it is a governmental system of forced equality. Communist governments have always, however, lead to a two class system: the extremely impoverished ruled class, and the wealthy ruling class. Communists, however, like Marxists, call for power to be gained by revolutionary means: they, like Marxists, want to violently overthrow the current government to install a new government.

Conservative – in the last century, this term has come to mean “classic liberal,” but recently has come to mean something entirely different. This term now holds a substantially negative connotation because it has come to mean “regressive.” It has come to represent a person who desires a return to the systematic racist and misogynist past. This change is, of course, patently ridiculous; however, the change is nearly complete. Before long, all those who identify as conservative will be actively dismissed by the mainstream. Those of you who have been conservatives, consider redefining yourself as what you really are: “classically liberal.”

Democratic socialism – a term actually coined by Stalin himself. Democratic socialism, like communism, is forced socialism. However, unlike Marxists or Communists, democratic socialists desire the governmental change by elective means. These are less violent… But still desire the force of government to enforce economic equality – this “equality” is, without exception, a low standard of living: everyone is equal in poverty.

Federalism – the belief that the Federal government should be restricted to constitutionally defined authority only, and that all other powers and authority shroud be decided at the state level. This term might also be, rightly, interchanged with ‘Constitutionalist.’ Most federalists are classic liberals, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. One could, theoretically, be a federalist and a Statist, though I’ve never met that person.

Globalist/Globalism – this term is used strongly by the alt-right to describe anyone who opposes them. The real meaning is used to describe those who favor global governance rather than national control over law. Some people are rightly described as globalist, for example, President Obama, who continually issues Executive Actions or pushes for laws and treaties that transfer power and infrastructure to the UN, power that overrides American Laws; or that consistently appeals to so called ‘international law,’ rather than deference to American law. While there are those who rightly are globalists, generally speaking, if you hear this term, the person speaking it is probably part of the dangerous, nationalist Alt-Right.

Liberal/Liberalism – classically, liberal has meant one who believes in and supports individual liberty. The founding fathers could easily be classified as classic liberals. The term was adopted by the progressive movement in the early 20th century. Since then, “liberal” has come to mean “progressive.” Today, however, the term is beginning to find its way back to its roots. There are many social liberals who are struggling to identify with the extreme authoritarian progressive left, and thus are beginning to identify more with classical liberalism despite being socially left. Those identified as liberal need to be further questioned to really know where they stand, as the term has become, intentionally or not, a completely muddled term.

Libertarianism – the idea that the government should be as small as possible and thus have as little influence and power over the individual as possible. The idea is usually tied closely to classical liberalism, but one could theoretically be a libertarian socialist…. But again, I’ve never met that person.

Marxist/Marxism – Marx detailed the economic socialism as defined here, and called for the “working class” people to violently rise up, to create a government that forced equality, for a time, before fading gradually away to the “pure” form of socialism. Understand: a Marxist is necessarily a radical. Marxism literally calls for violent overthrow of democratic government. Marxism, like pure socialism, is a theory that has never happened. Every Marxist revolution has lead to true communism, and never lead to pure socialism. Why? Because once a government has absolute power, it doesn’t surrender it without being compelled to do so.

Nationalist/Nationalism – the belief that one’s country is inherently superior. A nationalist, usually part of the alt-right, believes that peoples’ origin define their ability to integrate into a society. Nationalism is not patriotism. It is the blind belief that anything your country does is good because it is your country. The Nazi’s were literally the Nationalist Socialist party. Nationalists usually support racial division of classes/races/ethnicities because, as I’ve already said, they believe that a person’s origin defines their ability to integrate into a society. They believe that culture and race are usually integral. They believe that some cultures (and thus some races) are inherently superior to others.

Patriot/Patriotism – pride in the success and righteousness of a person’s country. The patriot is proud when their country does right, but opposes wrong action on the part of their country because it shames the country and its citizens. Nationalists often deliberately identify as patriots in order to identify all patriots as nationalists in order to increase the supposed support of their radical agenda. Globalists deliberately conflate the two terms in order to classify patriots with the extreme Nationalists.

Journalist Sydney Harris differentiated the terms like this:

The Difference Between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does , and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility while the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to a war .

Populism – the idea that the majority (50% plus 1 person) of the people should hold absolute authority. A populist believes that if the will of the majority of the people is behind a decision, that decision must be inherently right.

Progressive – the American progressive movement of the 20th century were those who, while accepting fully the ideology of Marx, desired to avoids the radical revolution of the communists of the day. Instead, they desired to implement the communistic form of government a little at a time, or progressively. The term fell out of favor with the rise of Hitler, who had been in active contact with America’s progressives (like Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, who desired to rid the nation of “blacks and other undesirables,” through eugenics, i.e. birth control and abortion. Today, Planned Parenthood’s practices, would make her proud) – at that time, the term “liberal” was deliberately hijacked by the progressives, who began calling liberals of the time (classic liberals) the derogatory “conservative” in an effort to show how “regressive” their ideas were. (That meaning, as I’ve said, is coming back around and being accepted: conservative = regressive, even though it is applied to the classical liberal… And liberal means progressive who are really regressive and anti-liberal…. Confused yet? It’s intentional.) The term was restored to popularity with Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid. Closet progressives who have been calling themselves liberals for half a century are now calling themselves progressives again, but the meaning has not changed.

Socialist – one who adopts the economic view of complete economic equality, forbidding individually owned property, insisting that all property belongs to the community. While this has been tried many times throughout history, it has never worked. Why? True Socialism requires every individual to buy in. If even one person isn’t fully converted (a religious term, because the level of buy in required is bordering on fanatical or religious), the whole system either fails or reverts to forced socialism. Forced socialism (communism), however, is no longer an economic system, but a governmental system. Every attempt at pure socialism in history has resulted in government involvement or the failure of the system, without exception.

But it’s important to understand what socialism is. Most people who call for socialism are speaking solely of the economic system. They really don’t think that government is needed (unless they are Marxists, democratic socialists, or communists). This system is a theory of economy only. It cannot and has never existed. Remember that.

Statist a person who pushes for social change by force of the state. The solution of the Statist is always increased legislation. In the United States, a Statist usually desires an increase in authority of the federal government, rather than state governments. It is theoretically possible for a person to be both a federalist and a Statist: desiring increased power of state government, but decreased power of the federal government.

 Why do these terms matter? Because language matters! And the language shifts so quickly. Many of these terms have had their meanings shifted, at least once, over the last 100 years. And each will be used to either describe opposition, or to self describe individuals. You have to understand the language to be able to effectively use it. Thus, political language bleeds over to English.

 

Argument Ad Naseum; What’s the Point?

This is a type of meta post, and it may present me in a negative light. Understand, I am making a point about arguing…. And it this may come across as…argumentative…

The other day I found myself embroiled in a proverbial civil war on Facebook. A good friend (while I find I agree with him less and less, he remains a good man, strong in character, and kind above most) had posted an (unintentionally) inflammatory socio-political blog post. My brother countered the argument our friend was making with another, and I replied to my brother’s comment with a short, sarcastic comment. I meant little by it, but to show support for my brother’s counter argument….

What ensued, however, was the longest comment thread I’ve participated in (nearly 350 comments). Over the course of the next 48 hours, sides entrenched, and arguments were made. My brother and I found ourselves nearly alone against a barrage of opposing arguers. Our other brother joined the battle occasionally, when he could, on our side. And near the end another joined us still.  The opposing side had a nearly revolving door, except our friend who made the original article: he had the decency to stay through the battle, rather than swoop in and hurl proverbial air support insults at the opposition before retreating to the safety of internet oblivion.

Side note: God blessed my family with great intelligence, even if He didn’t provide us with wisdom…. And even if we haven’t learned humility…. 

I have to say that my brothers and I were equal to the task. We stayed consistent to to our principled stance, and provided substantial logical and factual information to the fight. Of course, I don’t believe the same to be true of the opposition.
I could hear the wives of everyone participating singing with exasperation “still arguing?!?” I can feel their eye rolls as they wonder about the stubbornness of their husbands who argue with friends and strangers alike for 2 days on the same conversation. And I feel their frustration as they point out that their husbands have failed to convince anyone on the other side to their own point of view.  I know that my sister-in law and my wife joined in those frustrations… And I’m sure that the wives of the others involved felt the same. And they aren’t wrong.

My friend wasn’t convinced of his wrongness. My brothers and I weren’t convinced of our cold heartedness. And I’m sure than none of the fly-by pilots chose to settle their planes on my brother’s battlements after surveying the field of battle.

So, like our wives, you might ask: what’s the point? Why argue when everyone is entrenched, and no one will change their minds? I believe I can speak for all involved when I answer those questions. (Maybe not, in which case, I speak just for me).

Why argue when no one will change their mind?

1. Arguing challenges me: how will I know that I am right if I am never challenged? One of the damning principles of modern education is the lie of “consensus.” If we only surround ourselves with those with whom we agree, we start to believe that everyone agrees with us: this builds up unhealthy narcissism. If we are never challenged, and preferably aggressively challenged, we never develope our own thoughts to the point of value to society. Without opposition, our own views become one sided, weak, and arrogant.

2. Sometimes I am wrong. My wife says that I always believe that I’m right. I fail, even after years of marriage, to see this as a bad thing. If I argued principles and points that I believed to be wrong, wouldn’t that make me a liar? Of course I think I’m right… But I am sometimes wrong. Arguing presents information that challenges mine. On occasion, that information, those arguments, convince me that I am wrong.

I remember one such conversation clearly: while on the phone for work, I had a customer delve into the forbidden territory of politics; and I silenced myself to avoid getting in trouble. She asked if my state had universal sales tax, that is, sales tax on every purchase including food. I answered in the affirmative. I believed that any other such tax, or a tax not applied universally, would open the door to corruption and beurocratic nightmare. (I didn’t say this, of course, lest I get in trouble for misrepresenting the company for whom I worked). In one single sentence, this woman, a self avowed socialist, changed my view: “do you think it is okay that you have to be taxed for food; that you need your governmental overlord’s permission to eat?” I found myself legitimately flummoxed (something that I have to admit, doesn’t happen often). In one question, she convinced me of the immorality of taxing food. I was sold; governments  should not tax food. The principle developed further, as I studied it further, but this is to illustrate that I am willing to have my mind changed given convincing evidence and superior arguments.

3. The third point belongs to my brother, and is his answer to his wife when she asked “why are you still arguing? You won’t change their minds.” His response was simple “because they’re wrong.”  He continued (paraphrased) “just because they are entrenched, and because we are entrenched, doesn’t mean that everyone is entrenched. There will be people who read this argument and are swayed one way or the other. There will be people who haven’t formed an opinion, who haven’t taken a side: and of no opposition is offered to the wrong viewpoint, they will be convinced that the wrong viewpoint is correct.”

This answer, my brother’s, is perhaps the most moral reason why arguments must be made. Even the Savior (while I emdeavor to emulate Him, please don’t understand that I am comparing myself to him), even the Savior argued with the leaders of the day. He always won those arguments…. Because He’s perfect… But he argued nonetheless. Especially when the topic is not trivial, it is critical that opposition to the wrong side be presented. Because, though it may seem like it by the commentating class (myself included), by the overtly opinionated (myself included), by the openly argumentative (myself included), not everyone has picked a side. There are those who will be convinced one way or the other. If the right never stand up to the wrong, which side will the unconvinced choose?

4. Speaking just for myself: it’s fun. Mankind’s history has always been met with combat and competition. When society has changed, the forms of competition have too: including competition of status (winning in the workforce, to be able to “humbly” show your fellow man how much better you are by driving a nicer car, or wearing an Armani suit or otherwise “winning”). Man’s bloodlust hasn’t satiated over time, it has just changed. I am not convinced that this competitive drive is wholly unrighteousness, so long as it is curbed and controlled; not allowed to consume and define the man. I’d love to admit that I am free of that competitive desire: but I am not. I like winning. Being physically broken, intellectual debate provides the last area where I can be the competitive equal of my opposition. Intellectual argument is the last proverbial arena were my manly desire for combat can be satiated with the (again proverbial) blood of my foes.

So what happened? Who who the argument?

Some may want to know the end result of our bitter ideological entanglement: I will oblige. Understand, that a participant in a debate is never a fair judge of it, and so my view is far from unbiased.

If ours were a moderated debate, werin the rules of civilized debate were adhered to and counted for or against the arguer: my brothers and I won the debate. We worked hard to avoid personal attack and logical fallacy. The opposition, contrarily, bounced from one fallacy to then next (I joked that they had read a list of the logical fallacies and were trying to incorporate each into a single argument…. but the joke wasn’t without cause). One of the opposition insisted, no less than 5 times, that I was ignorant without once providing reason for the insult nor countering my points to show my ignorance.

Ifs the were a bloody arena combat, I have to say that the battle again favored my brothers and me. Our arguments were consistent and principled, as opposed to the our opposition who abandoned theirs as frequently as we defeated the arguments , rather than defend them with new information or reason). This method is called the shotgun approach: get as much lead downrange as you can, and see if you hit something.

If the object was to convince the bystanders, I cannot speak definitively. I hope that my side, working hard to keep from personalizing our attacks, maintaining the higher ground; combined with consistent argument and unrefuted information: I hope that ours was the more convincing argument.

If the objective was to convince the other side, we all lost. I am sure that no one who participated, was convinced.

As for friendship; I feel that some friendships were damaged. My friend was first my brother’s friend. Growing up, I looked to them (more him than my brother) as the definition of charismatically cool. In adulthood, my limited exposure to him has lead me to define him as my friend, irrespective of my brother. Their bond is unassailable, despite frequent socio-political grievances. However, during the course of the debate, our friend made a conclusion based in the assumption that I disliked him. This error, I must wholly own. My opposition to his politics (of which, like me, he is very verbal) has lead him to the incorrect beleif that I dislike him. In short, I have failed to communicate love and admiration during heated debate. In this cause, I have lost. And it is a loss that I mourn.

So why do we continue to maker arguments when everyone has already picked a side? Because not everyone has picked a side. And just like battles of old, friendships are often the casualty of the war. I regret these casualties most of all.