Independence Day: Who We Are

Food for thought, on this 231st Anniversary of our Nation’s declaration of Independence from the British Empire

* * *

First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

John Wayne, an ultra-conservative, on hearing of JFK’s election in 1960:
“I didn’t vote for him but he’s my president, and I hope he does a good job.”

George Will, conservative pundit, 11 January 2001:
     Some presidents' names become adjectives--Lincolnian gravity, Rooseveltian reassurance, Kennedyesque charisma, Nixonian deviousness, Reaganesque leadership. To understand the meaning of "Clintonian," parse this from a 1997 news conference: "I don't believe you can find any evidence of the fact that I have changed government policy solely because of a contribution."
     It is reasonable to believe he was a rapist 15 years before becoming president, and that as president he launched cruise missiles against Afghanistan (a nearly empty terrorist camp), Sudan (a pharmaceutical factory) and Iraq to distract attention from problems arising from the glandular dimension of his general indiscipline. As president he was fined $90,000 for contempt of court, and there is no reasonable doubt that he committed and suborned perjury, tampered with witnesses and otherwise obstructed justice. In the words of Richard A. Posner, chief judge of the 7th Circuit, Clinton's illegalities "were felonious, numerous and nontechnical" and "constituted a kind of guerrilla warfare against the third branch of the federal government, the federal court system."
     Clinton is not the worst president the republic has had, but he is the worst person ever to have been president.

Keith Olbermann, liberal pundit, 3 July 2007:
This President decides that he, and not the law, must prevail.
  • I accuse you, Mr. Bush, of lying this country into war.
  • I accuse you of fabricating in the minds of your own people, a false implied link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.
  • I accuse you of firing the generals who told you that the plans for Iraq were disastrously insufficient.
  • I accuse you of causing in Iraq the needless deaths of 3,586 of our brothers and sons, and sisters and daughters, and friends and neighbors.
  • I accuse you of subverting the Constitution, not in some misguided but sincerely-motivated struggle to combat terrorists, but instead to stifle dissent.
  • I accuse you of fomenting fear among your own people, of creating the very terror you claim to have fought.
  • I accuse you of exploiting that unreasoning fear, the natural fear of your own people who just want to live their lives in peace, as a political tool to slander your critics and libel your opponents.
  • I accuse you of handing part of this republic over to a Vice President who is without conscience, and letting him run roughshod over it.
Aaron Sorkin, movie writer/director, 1995, in the mouth of his fictional President, Andrew Shepherd:
     America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free".

Francis Scott Key, "The Star-Spangled Banner":
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation,
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our Trust"

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

(also posted at ThanBook)
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Bible Quiz

You know the Bible 98%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

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Amazing. I even beat zsero, and with the same handicap (having to guess at most of the NT stuff). Probably by one question.

Lonely Man of Faith

Steg described himself in another blog as a "tree-hugging MO". He demonstrated this as follows:

«hugs a tree»
«reads to it a bedtime story from Lonely Man of Faith»

which inspired the following:

The Lonely Bear of Faith

Little JoeBear was looking for his God.

He looked in the toybin,

he looked in the closet,

he looked under the bed,

he even looked in his tatty's bes medresh,

but he couldn't find his God.

But he had faith that there was God.

So he went out for a walk.

* * *

He met a boy, who looked strangely familiar.

Do I know you? JoeBear asked.

I don't know, said the boy. Call me Adam.

OK, said JoeBear. Call me JoeBear. Have you seen God? I'm looking for Him.

No, said Adam. One can't see Him. But I know he exists.

So what does he want of us? asked JoeBear

To do good, to rule His world and build it up.

Wow, that sounds like a lot of work.

Yes it is, said Adam.

Can I help? asked JoeBear

Yes, but you have to find your own way, said Adam. My way works for me. It will not work for you, but you must find my way for yourself.

That's confusing, said JoeBear.

Yes it is, said Adam, but that's the way it has always been.

I'll have to think about that, said JoeBear.

Adam said, While you think, I have things to do, so see you around.

OK, see you later, said JoeBear, and continued walking.

* * *

Along came another boy, who also looked strangely familiar.

You look familiar, said JoeBear. Haven't we met somewhere?

Could be, said the boy. Call me Adam.

OK, said JoeBear, but I just met another Adam, so maybe I could call you Adam II?

That's fine, said the boy. What brings you out on this long lonely road?

I'm looking for God, said JoeBear.

Well you won't find him here, said Adam II. I've been looking for him too, and haven't found him yet.

So what keeps you going? asked JoeBear.

My faith that He exists, responded Adam II.

Can we look together, so I don't look everywhere you haven't found him?

That won't help. The quest is a lonely one. Each of us has to look for himself.

That sounds sad, said JoeBear.

Yes it is, replied Adam II, but I rest assured that all of us are engaged on the same journey. I know He exists, because God promised us so.

That makes me feel better, said JoeBear.

I've got to keep looking, said Adam II, but good luck on your quest.

I've got to think about these Adams, said JoeBear, and sat down on a quartered log.

* * *

After a while, JoeBear's Tatty came along.

JoeBear! You're all right! I've been worried about you, gone so long.

Yes, Tatty, said JoeBear, and told him of the Adams he had met.

I don't know which is right, the Adam who is out to conquer the world, or the Adam who shares our quest for God.

Tatty thought about it a while, and said, They're both right.

How can that be? cried JoeBear.

Tatty gave JoeBear an example. A funeral passes a bes medresh. Do we keep learning, or do we follow the funeral? The answer is yes - both have good reasons.

JoeBear thought about that a while.

Finally, JoeBear said, so you mean we have to follow both Adams? That both are trying to do God's will, and God's will is for both?

Yes, JoeBear, that's it. But it is a lonely quest, where you have to find your own way through the tension.

Hmm, said JoeBear. Those Adams looked strangely familiar. I wonder if they were me?

Could be, said Tatty. Could be.

And they went home to conquer a kugel.

The End

The Donkey's Mouth: Miracles and the Natural Order

I gave a d'var torah at seudah shlishit this week in memory of my great-uncle Joseph Ezra Wisan, the man whose initials proclaimed his religion. Actually, he wasn't religious, but he was a professor of American history and international relations at City College of New York duirng its heyday as the Poor Man's Harvard, chairing the History department for 20 years.

You can find the d'var torah on my website.

It's about miracles as part of the natural order, and how various philosophical commentators resolved that apparent contradiction.