Sunday, July 20, 2014
Immigration Issues And The Golden Rule
by Rev. Paul J. Bern
After watching all the haters this week in the mainstream media, I would first like to say that I have had a belly full of those who are ranting and raving about the flood of child immigrants crossing our country's southern border. Those persons whose battle cry is, “not in my back yard” have forgotten – or chose to ignore – that the United States is an entire nation of immigrants. Our country is a melting pot for people of all nations, races, genders, nationalities and faiths. We are not being invaded by an army from the south. What we actually have is a humanitarian crisis of colossal proportions. For example, if a kid you never saw before came to your door asking for food, would you give it to him or her? Let's not forget what it says on the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...“ Let's also not forget three different things taught by Jesus Christ. The first is, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matt 19:14). The next one is, “... Jesus said, I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure” (Matt 11: 25-26). Hidden what, you ask? The entire concept of unconditional love and acceptance while living in peace and harmony escapes those who are hateful, bigoted, prejudiced and intolerant, but the kids understand it completely – just ask one. Better yet, go and ask one of the so-called “illegal” children and teens crossing America's borders. They know exactly what living in peace and harmony means because they have all escaped from the war zones down in Mexico and Central America.
But the most famous and timely quote from Christ regarding this entire issue can be summed up in one short paragraph. “The the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothed you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'.” (Matt. 25, verses 34-40) The righteous who did all these things during their physical lives will reap an eternal reward, but those who thought only of themselves will receive eternal condemnation.
We all know, or at least have heard of, the story of the Good Samaritan as told to us by Jesus Christ. I won't quote the entire parable verbatim because my posting today is about how it applies to the subject of so-called “illegal immigration”. If I put the story into modern terms I can cite two different examples, one of how this could work out and the other as it actually did. A certain traveler from a foreign country was making their way through the US seeking to find suitable work and re-establish themselves in their newly adopted country. While on their journey, this hapless foreign national gets jacked up, beat up, and left semi-conscious and bleeding on the side of the road. A short while later a religious leader and church pastor who are passing by see the beaten and now-penniless victim, pause for a moment and say a quick prayer, and continue on their way. A few minutes after that, a well-paid IRS agent passes by the man and doesn't even bother to stop and help even though he/she could have easily afforded to do so. An hour or two later, after this crime victim has been lying bleeding, severely injured and baking in the hot sun, a homeless man happens upon this person. This street person from the impoverished inner city (fill in the blank with the city of your choice) cleans up the victim's wounds as best as he can and then dials 911 on his/her prepaid mobile phone, summons medical assistance to that location, and waits for the ambulance to arrive while protecting this luckless individual from further injury and harm. Once the ambulance has picked the injured person up and taken them to the nearest ER, the homeless person who helped the injured traveler goes on their way, enjoying a quiet satisfaction within themselves at the good deed they have done. But they say nothing to anyone about it, not wanting accolades or applause from anyone, but only to do good and to be merciful towards all God's children. “Blessed are the merciful”, Jesus said, “for they will be shown mercy”.
Allow me to now present a somewhat similar story from the Internet, but the outcome is altogether different. A person from Central America gets severely injured in an auto accident through no fault of his own. He spends a lengthy time in the hospital recovering from his injuries and racks up a $1.5 million dollar-plus medical bill. In the end, he is deported to his country of origin because he was here illegally, even though he was still an invalid at the time of his deportation. Basically, the Florida hospital had taken care of an “illegal immigrant” from the country of Guatemala for a period of almost three years at a cost of $1.5 million dollars. The hospital requested and received permission from the court to physically remove the patient from the hospital and send him back to Guatemala. The purpose of the posting was to get people riled up over so-called “illegal immigrants”. It basically states our rising health-care costs are totally due to caring for illegals, which simply isn't true, but that's a subject for another day. When I was reading this blog posting I wondered why this person had been hospitalized for a period of almost three consecutive years, and why the total cost was so relatively low. I've been in the hospital a few times lately and $1,100/day barely gets you a bed, much less sheets and a pillow. At any rate, in the eyes of God there is no such thing as an illegal human being, and I think that those who think otherwise would do well to let go of their “wild west” ways. I say again – there is no such thing as someone who has no right to be here. At any rate, the foreign nationals injuries happened as follows:
On April 5, 2000 a drunken Donald Flewellen, age 52, driving on a revoked license, borrowed a neighbor's vehicle and was involved in a hit-and-run accident in Fort Pierce, Florida. This accident resulted in two deaths and left Luis Jimenez, our Guatemalan illegal, a paraplegic with brain injuries. At the time of the accident, Flewellen had only been out of jail for four months for his previous conviction of two counts of DUI manslaughter. It appears Luis Jimenez was approximately 28-years-old at the time of the accident and in his early 30's when the Florida court approved his return to Guatemala, where he is now residing in a small mountain village in a one-room house with his mother. I'm curious as to how Americans would feel if the situation was reversed. What would happen if one of our youngsters was in a foreign country, legally or illegally, and suffered brain damage, and became a paraplegic at the hands of a foreigner, someone who should have been in prison? What would you feel like if you were a mother and had your son returned to you, in the condition Luis Jimenez is in, and were expected to care for him for the rest of his life without any assistance or funds to provide assistance?
One of my pet peeves is Internet and MSM articles and blog postings that take a stand on a subject without bothering to provide all the facts. The bottom line on this particular subject was – had the family of Luis Jimenez appealed the court decision on this case, Jimenez would still be in this country, and we would be “forced” to provide him with medical care. Decisions regarding the status of illegals are Federal, and State courts simply do not have the authority to remove individuals from this country whether they are here legally or illegally. Over and over again, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that illegal immigrants have the same constitutional rights as U.S. citizens and, until that is changed, federal law prevails.
Aside from the legal aspect is the moral aspect, and morally this country caused the injuries to this young man and it is our obligation to care for his needs. We are, after all, a Christian nation, are we not? Didn't Jesus heal the sick? Then we should be doing likewise, and those who disagree with me on this point have forgotten their Christian heritage, lost touch with their humanity, or both. When I was a kid, I was taught that kindness wasn't a choice, it was a command. It wasn't something you considered doing; it was an automatic reaction that came straight from the heart. We just did it because that's what Jesus would have us do. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
Let me be absolutely clear about what I regard as a travesty of justice. Immigrants, whether they are here legally or not, are not invaders from another country. They are economic refugees. I will use Mexico as an illustration, although the man in the story is from Guatemala. The average blue-collar worker in Mexico has a take-home pay in Pesos that is equal to about $50.00 a month in US dollars. When any given migrant worker comes to the US and takes a job at minimum wage, that works out to a net pay after taxes of about $740.00 per month for a single person, more than a fifteen-fold increase over what they used to make. Now, let us ask ourselves this basic question: if we were offered a job in our profession in Canada, for example, at fifteen times our current pay rate, any one of us would naturally be eager for the chance, is that not correct? Now you know why so many economic refugees from the third world are coming here, and it's not just from Mexico or Guatemala. They seek economic opportunity just like anyone else would, and it is a level of opportunity available in few places elsewhere.
So why does this issue upset so many people? America is and always has been a nation of immigrants. There has never been a time in American history when this was not so, not even in WWII. Every time we welcome one more immigrant into America, we take on the role of the Good Samaritan all over again. And that is a role we should all continue to emulate everywhere we go.
Sunday, July 13, 2014
Fall of An Empire: An Inside View
By Rev. Paul J. Bern
Much has been discussed and written about the decline of America over the last several decades, and increasingly so as time marches on. The latest announcements via the main stream media about rumors of wars and the earth's damaged environment – damage that absolutely must be repaired if humankind are going to survive as a species – are becoming ever more frequent. I've been studying these two interrelated phenomena for the last eight years or so, and achieving world peace and environmental cleanup are the twin finish lines in the race for permanent peace and balanced living globally. So, if this is the finish line to this race for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as it is described in the Declaration of Independence, then where is the starting point? I had to stop typing and just sit and think for a short while before I wrote down any more of this, but if I had to pick a single starting point, it would be American education.
The average student loan debt upon graduation from college with a 4-year degree was $40,000.00 as of 2011. If you are just graduating or recently graduated from college, you will have to go back to school and earn a new degree, or otherwise change vocations, about once every ten to fifteen years over your lifetime in order to keep up with changes in the job market and new technologies. That is a frightening prospect for anybody. I argue that if we have to go back to school that many times in our lifetimes just to stay gainfully employed, then it is the system that is broken. The graduates are doing their part by their years of diligence in school, but the educational system has stopped putting up their fair share, and the results are an educational, financial and vocational train wreck for every new graduate.
Higher education as it stands right now is only for those who can afford it, or only for those who can “qualify” for predatory student loans that bury new graduates under mountains of debt so large that many can never be fully repaid. Unfortunately for these people, it is now standard operating procedure for prospective employers to check the credit of job applicants, and this is a practice that needs to be outlawed because it too is discriminatory. The end result of this is that the further behind one gets on his or her student loan payments due to unemployment the worse one's credit rating becomes, and so the harder it becomes to find suitable employment, and so on. This is a social injustice that must be vigorously opposed at every turn. It amounts to economic discrimination based on class; in this case employers (those who possess wealth) vs. the unemployed (those who have none), and that is a civil rights issue if ever there was one. And so, to correct this injustice, higher education should be free to everyone who desires it, and it should be available unconditionally. For details on how this can be accomplished simply and without reinventing the wheel, please order my book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”. Thanks so much!
I cannot overemphasize the fact that the loss of housing, jobs, savings, pensions and other investments, plus transportation, access to higher education and the human dignity that goes with them, and the loss of access to health care, are all civil rights issues for the early 21st century. The fact of the matter is that we all have the right to all of the above as American citizens – the fundamental right to shelter, to a livelihood and a living wage, to preventative health care, to free education for life instead of having to pay for it. But instead I'm sure you all have noticed, as I have, that America's existing constitutional rights are being systematically taken away from us a little bit at a time by the top 1%. The only way to stop this from occurring is to take to the streets in nonviolent protests, to organize and initiate general strikes, to flood the social media in order to better organize, and to keep doing these things until satisfactory changes are made. What will happen if this does not occur? Where will our formerly great country end up if everybody sits idly by and does nothing? Let me paint a portrait for you of what would likely happen in that event, a devastating portrait of a country in ruins. The end, you see, has nearly arrived. In fact, the end of all things as we have known them is a lot closer than you may have previously thought. Allow me to present a few examples.
 The number of Americans that have become so discouraged that they have given up searching for work completely now stands at an all-time high.
 Half of all American workers now earn $505 or less per week before taxes.
 Since 2001, over 42,000 U.S. factories have closed down for good.
 In 2012, 1.6 billion cellphones were sold worldwide. So how many of them were manufactured inside the United States? Zero.
 According to a new study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, if the U.S. trade deficit with China continues to increase at its current rate, the U.S. economy will lose over half a million jobs this year alone.
 According to Tax Notes, between 1999 and 2008 employment at the foreign affiliates of U.S. parent companies increased an astounding 30 percent to 10.1 million. During that exact same time period, U.S. employment at American multinational corporations declined 8 percent to 21.1 million.
 As of the end of 2009, less than 12 million Americans worked in manufacturing. The last time less than 12 million Americans were employed in manufacturing was in 1941.
 In 2001, the United States ranked fourth in the world in per capita broadband Internet use. Today it ranks 15th.
 One prominent economist is projecting that the Chinese economy will be three times larger than the U.S. economy by the year 2040. At any rate, the Chinese economy will eclipse the US economy by 2016.
 The U.S. Census Bureau says that 43.6 million Americans are now living in poverty and according to them that is the highest number of poor Americans in the 51 years that records have been kept.
 The true U.S. unemployment rate, if everyone is counted who currently aren't being included in the “official” government numbers, is at least 20%.
 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are currently 6.3 million vacant homes in the United States that are either for sale or for rent.
 Since the year 2000, we have lost 10% of our middle class jobs. In the year 2000 there were approximately 72 million middle class jobs in the United States but today there are only about 65 million middle class jobs.
 18 percent of all residential mortgages in the United States were in negative equity as of the end of the third quarter of 2012.
 In 2010, 55 percent of Americans between the ages of 60 and 64 were in the labor market. Ten years ago, that number was just 47 percent. More older Americans than ever find that they have to keep working just to survive. Retirement in America has become a lie and a cruel joke.
 As 2007 began, there were just over 1 million Americans that had been unemployed for half a year or longer. Today, there are over 6 million Americans that have been unemployed for half a year or longer. If we have all this economic and military might while one third of our children come from households that rely on food stamps to eat, then I would say there is something really wrong with this picture.
- There can be no doubt that the USA has become a second-rate country when half of its working adults can't find meaningful work.
- There can be no doubt that the USA has become a second-rate country when it is the last developed nation in the entire world without national health insurance for its citizens.
- There can be no doubt that the USA has become a second-rate country when all the good jobs get out-sourced overseas for pennies on the dollar while formerly employed Americans and small business owners lose their houses, their cars, their savings and wind up homeless and destitute.
- There can be no doubt that the USA has become a second-rate country when it is the last developed country where there is no family leave for its workers.
- There can be no doubt that the USA has become a second-rate country when our nation has more people in prison than any other country in the world.
- There can be no doubt that the USA has become a second-rate country when our country has accumulated the largest foreign trade deficit and federal budget deficit in the history of the world. Since the government is either unwilling or unable to address these issues in an intelligent manner, it is up to us, “we the people”, to tackle the job from the bottom up since the top-down approach apparently isn't working.
Today, the United States spends roughly 76 cents of every federal tax dollar on just four things: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on the $14 trillion debt. That leaves 24 cents of revenue to pay for everything else the federal government does. Barring serious efforts to curb the growth in the country's debt, by 2020 Washington could be spending 92 cents of every tax dollar on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest alone. That would leave just 8 cents to pay for everything else. This is just one reason why the country's fiscal course is often described as "unsustainable." There is one more major thing that makes America as we have known it to be "unsustainable", and that added ingredient is oil.
World civilization is based on oil. The world is running out of oil. The oil companies and governments are not telling the truth about how close we are to the end. Whoever controls the remaining oil determines who lives and who dies. Sixty percent of this oil is under a triangular area of the Middle East the size of Kansas. But instead of an alternative energy plan we got the invasion of Iraq by oilmen wedded to a dying business, willing to kill hundreds of thousands to cling to the last drop. The US is never leaving the region or withdrawing from Iraq. The oil won't last that long... It's not about greed any more. It's about survival. Because the leadership of this country was initially too greedy to switch from oil to solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable alternatives, it may now be too late. Had the hundreds of billions of dollars poured into the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan (might as well include western Pakistan plus Yemen and Somalia while we're at it) been put into alternative energy the world might have had a fighting chance. As of now that is far from certain.
World oil reserves are far lower than officially reported, the situation far more serious than publicly admitted, and we're already past “peak oil”. That's the word from two anonymous IEA whistle-blowers, The Guardian reports. To add insult to industry, the figures were deliberately massaged, at least in part, to appease the United States: Apparently the IEA was concerned that reporting the true reserve numbers – and keep in mind that determining oil reserves is as much art as science – it would trigger a buying panic. The US enters the picture encouraging the IEA to underplay the rate at which oil fields are being depleted – something which the IEA has admitted in recent months is occurring more quickly than previously acknowledged – while at the same time overplaying the possibility of new large discoveries.
There should be protests and demonstrations in the streets because of big oil's hijacking of the US economy (the Occupy, Anonymous and “99%” Movements were only the start). I must say I'm a bit surprised and disappointed by this fact, but I continue to be hopeful for a resurgence in protests all across America. But what will millions due in a real national emergency? For example, right now gas is about $3.75 a gallon. But America's supply chain for petroleum has a problem. Over 80% of US oil refineries are located in the Gulf Coast area, consisting mainly of southern Louisiana and southeast Texas, right in the middle of hurricane country. All of these refineries are at least 30 years old. All it will take is one category 4 or 5 hurricane to knock these refineries off-line for a few weeks or months and the US will find itself in very serious trouble. Then there is the fact that the US gets 40% of its imported oil from one country, Saudi Arabia, which ironically is the birthplace of Osama Bin Laden. If Saudi Arabia decides to cut off our supply of Middle Eastern oil, the US will also be in very serious trouble. If Iran decides to blockade the strait of Hormuz (Google or Yahoo that), much the same thing will occur. No matter what happens, the price of gas is sure to rise up to between $6.00 and $7.00 per gallon by the end of 2016 or the beginning of World War 3, whichever comes first. What will we do then? At these price levels, working Americans could be paying nearly $200.00 to fill up their cars with gas, even more for full-size trucks and SUV's. What will we do when we can no longer afford to drive to work? I'll bet you won't be sitting at home alone crying in your coffee!
Can you now see that we as a united people must protest all this systemic greed in order to keep these things from happening, or at least to lessen the severity of their impact? As I watch the street battles in Egypt, Syria and Iraq on TV and the Web, all I keep thinking about is how they have mustered the courage to fight their government's tyranny while Americans remain unready to revolt against the peculiar American brand of consumer tyranny. How ironic that in the nation with monumental gun ownership among its citizens there is no hint of people giving up on meaningless elections and taking to the streets in massive numbers to protest their corrupt government. Just this week a new report documented this: Nearly a year and a half into the economic recovery, some 45.6 million Americans continued to rely on food stamps, and that was in November, 2012. That amounted to more than 14 percent of the population relying on food stamps to purchase groceries, just another result of stubborn high unemployment and low incomes among the employed. As of late 2013, that number in now approaching 17%. For this to be happening in the richest country in the world is simply inexcusable.
Anyone with a smidgen of intelligence and critical thinking capability knows that in almost every conceivable way the US is in awful shape for a large proportion of its citizens. The nation needs to shift into revolution mode. Watching the Superbowl, pro wrestling, the World Series, Dancing With The Stars and American Idol will not improve our situation. Neither will playing video games. While we're all preoccupied with the nonsense and insanity of everyday life through all our little electronic diversions of endless variety, America's government, banking and financial sectors are awash with corruption, greed and dishonesty. Our health care system no longer produces healthy citizens compared to many other nations, despite costing much, much more. Our physical infrastructure is a disgrace, crumbling and threatening public health and safety. Upward mobility has largely disappeared and the middle class continues to sink into a lower class. Economic inequality has skyrocketed with the rich becoming richer and everyone else suffering more and more. The large number of homeless, hungry, poor and imprisoned Americans defines a nation that has lost its glory and its luster.
It is the tyranny of silence that prevents so many of us today from rising up to protest the "forever wars" against illegal drugs, and especially for oil, that we cannot hope to win and can no longer afford. It is the same tyranny of silence that prevents us from rising up to protest the government takeover – not by socialists – but by extremists on the right who readily give tax breaks to the ultra rich at the expense of everyone else. This same cadre of the military-industrial complex has also been successful in more or less co-opting an otherwise capable president into believing that cutting spending on everything except war is the only way to solve our debt crisis. And it is this same gang of madmen that characterized the inaction of those of us who have suffered foreclosures of their homes, and those of us who find ourselves without jobs, and those of us who "played by the rules and worked hard" to get through school only to graduate into an America of diminished expectations and heavy debt, as well as all of the rest of us who have seen our salaries cut, our benefits cut, our pensions cut, and who now say to ourselves, "It's okay I guess, because at least I still have a job". Yes, it is all of us, including me and you, who see the protests in Egypt and cheer for democracy but are too afraid to reassert our ownership of the democracy we have at home. We all have been made afraid, having been bullied by the system. We live in a tyranny of silence. The time to break that silence has arrived. And, as Thomas Jefferson so profoundly expressed it: "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."
America 's founding fathers stood up for their freedom, winning it from the British. The Egyptian people have stood up for their freedom, too, winning it from the Mubarak dictatorship, finding their courage even when Mubarak's thugs flew fighter jets low over their heads, beat and murdered protesters, and otherwise threatened violence. But how does America compare with Egypt? The truth is there is a stunning amount of inequality in Egypt. But America is even worse.
* Egypt's Mubarak stole billions from his people, while the American oligarchs have stolen trillions.
* Egypt has been living under a state of emergency for over 30 years, yes. But Americans have been living under a continuous state of emergency for 13 years straight.
*Mubarak was supported by the military. But the military-industrial complex has taken over America as well.
*Mubarak ignored the wishes of his people. But has the American government been listening to its people? Consider the 2010 Rasmussen poll which found that "just 21% of voters nationwide believe that the federal government enjoys the consent of the governed."
A 2010 Gallup poll determined that nearly half of all Americans believe "the Federal government poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens." Poll after poll shows that "both national parties are deeply unpopular with an electorate looking for something new and different." Polls reveal that 82% of all Americans wanted Wall Street to be reined in, in a substantial and meaningful manner, and yet our government has let Wall Street have its way on all the important issues. Polls find that Americans want the big financial players who acted with fraud to be punished, and yet our government has let all of the big fish off the hook.
The heart of the matter here is that what has happened in Egypt, Syria, Libya and Greece desperately needs to happen here in the US. Even if we successfully repair America's broken educational system, that is only the starting point. If we do not then we will have only ourselves to blame, and we will get whatever kind of tyrannical government we deserve. But I do not believe that the American people will continue to put up with this situation any longer. In fact, I am convinced it is a certainty that the American people, if confronted by the continuing class war that I have been writing about, will ultimately rebel, forcing the current government from power and installing a new one in its place by popular vote just like what happened in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011. That rebellion has already started with the Occupy, Anonymous and the 99% Movements, and I have no doubt that these movements will continue to grow as time goes on. I participated in Occupy DC when it started in early October of 2011, and I must tell you that it felt really good to be a part of this historic and significant movement of the people. I would urge everyone who reads this to get involved in some way in this noble undertaking. If you can't physically be at the protest, organize one in your local area instead. Use the social media to promote it. Or to be a donor to existing Occupy Movements near you, simply search for them on the Web.
Besides, the alternative is unthinkable. The alternative would be for the US to turn into a third world country. We are dangerously close to that point already. But we can still stop that from occurring and turn things around in our favor if we unite together for change, and a sea of voices rising up from a multitude of humanity can most certainly change things for the better. The momentum for this movement is already underway, so let's capitalize on that and really get things rolling. Besides, it's a good positive experience to be a part of a new 21st century civil rights movement such as this. Be sure and get started with this today, and for those who are already participating, keep up the good work!
Sunday, July 6, 2014
Why I Don't Sing the 'Star Spangled Banner' Any More
by Rev. Paul J. Bern
The United States of America hasn't been winning very many popularity contests overseas as of late. The last two presidents – and particularly Barack Obama – have stepped up military drone strikes against Islamic extremists, but also those countries that have numerous oil fields who are working to undermine the US dollar. Countries such as Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Egypt, Pakistan and Nigeria are currently in negotiations to collaborate using an alternative currency to the US dollar, such as the Euro or the Russian ruble, but these oil-producing countries are also using gold as a form of currency. Resorting to such tactics by any of the above countries would be a direct threat to US interests both foreign and domestic, and it would provoke a strong military response.
Here on the home front, our cities are deteriorating due to a glut of boarded up houses, long-dormant industrial sites and abandoned shopping centers. Much the same has happened to many small rural towns for the same reasons. The least common denominator to why this is occurring is the lack of jobs, or jobs that pay a fair minimum wage of, say, $15.00 an hour. And then there's our police forces, who are supposed to be protecting and serving the public. Instead, they have mutated into a national law enforcement apparatus equipped with military-grade weapons, and many if not most of them are more trigger-happy than they would care to admit. As of this writing, the FBI, BATFE, NSA, DEA and the DHS have ordered a total of over 3.5 billion rounds of hollow-point ammunition. That's enough to kill everyone in America 10 times over. So why did law enforcement purchase such an enormous amount of ammunition knowing that it was more than they would ever use? It was partly for the purpose of denying American gun owners access to ammunition by buying up the supply of ammo that would otherwise go to gun dealers and on to the retail and consumer markets. This enormous amount of ammunition has been purchased for the same reason the police departments are acquiring military grade assault weapons and armored vehicles. They are preparing for mass protests and possible rioting over food and fuel shortages that could even mushroom (no pun intended) into a civil war. Although it is also intended to cut off the supply lines of weapons and ammo to criminals, cutting off the entire supply to every man, woman and child all across the country is a poor choice. It is also arguably unconstitutional as it likely violates the 2nd Amendment right to “keep and bear arms”.
But, it has been my observation that there are far more clandestine reasons that are carefully hidden underneath the surface for this to be occurring. The forces and enforcers of the status quo are the same individuals who stand to lose everything when the US dollar loses up to 79% of its value and the capitalist debt-based economic bubble finally bursts for good, as it eventually will. (And maybe sooner than expected. Jesus said. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where it will rust or be eaten by moths, or that thieves break in and steal. But instead, store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moths don't eat up your clothes, where nothing ever rusts, and where thievery is nonexistent.”) When that collapse finally does occur, it will bring the American, Canadian, European, Japanese and Russian economies down along with it. Even here in the USA, there are presently numerous individuals, and even whole families, who are engaged in activities known as “prepping”. I have begun to do this very thing myself, mainly by storing food and water. What does this say about our country? It looks to me like there are many saying, “We've had enough of all this crap. The entire American political and economic landscape is a disaster area, and the government is also broken beyond repair. So it's up to us to fix it ourselves.”
The obvious choice is to abolish the current American Republic and replacing it with a modernized and up-to-date Web-based paperless government. Thanks to the proliferation of the Internet throughout the world, hierarchical governments and organizations ruled from the top down will soon be replaced with a Web-based democracy with a horizontally administered command and organizational structure. In effect, it would be a kind of lateral organization the runs as a group of peers (in some cases), like a cousin to beehives in some ways. The main thing will be finding an alternative economic system. This will include walking away from capitalism and its accompanying debt-based economy, which is an entire topic by itself.
All I am saying for this week is that my country seems to be slowly dying, and that gives me great concern for my future as well as that of everyone else. One thing is certain; America is a hollowed out shell of what it used to be. The job market is absolutely decimated – never mind all of the propaganda that comes from the mainstream media about gaining 240,000 new jobs in the month of June 2014. They are almost entirely minimum wage jobs everywhere I look. It makes me glad I am retired from the work force and grateful for my small disability check. At first when I became disabled I complained about how small my monthly check was. But, having the time to sit back and watch the implosion of the American job market from 2011 up until now, I stopped complaining a long time ago. In fact, it was sinful of me to have done that, and so I confessed that sin to the Lord and begged His forgiveness and he fully restored me (hallelujah!). He wants to restore us all, so confess your sins and Jesus will forgive you too. It doesn't matter how bad you have been, or what you did and when,or what your past has been like. The blood of Jesus washes it all away.
So for the last few years my faith in the Lord has greatly multiplied while my faith in my country has suffered because of the atrocities I have seen when I view the news websites such as CNN, Yahoo, Alternet and Whiteout
Press (among others). Since 2003 there have been about 100,000 civilian casualties during the second Iraq war during America's second Iraqi incursion. Now, barely five years later Iraq is descending into a 3-sided civil war. If that happens, it will be a blood bath, no question about it. So I am seeing all these things going on over in the Middle East and I find that I'm not really very proud of my country any more, if I ever really was at all.
Recently there came across the news wires (I don't remember which one) a short piece on a certain US college, who decided that the “Star Spangled Banner” would not be played before athletic events. As could be expected, the decision was met with confusion and contempt. Wasn’t this just another example of our traditional values being trampled by the unrelenting march of political correctness? What sort of ingrates object to our nation’s anthem, anyway? Fluffy-headed campus philosophers? Lazy latte-sipping liberals?
It also caused widespread concern and confusion among the college’s students, professors, alumni, supporters and, yes, donors - many of whom felt like playing the anthem compromised Christian values. All of this is a prelude to a time in the not too distant future when there will be persecution of Christians right here in the USA. Laugh at me if you want, but it's most definitely going to happen, and those who refuse to believe will face eternal judgment.
I once met a man who is the pastor of a Mennonite congregation, and I became interested in at least some of their beliefs. Mennonites live in countries all over the world. Though they speak many languages, have different ethnic origins, and express their faith in diverse ways, all can claim the Anabaptists in 16th century Europe as their spiritual ancestors. The Anabaptists agreed with most of the ideas of the Protestant Reformation but felt that reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin didn't go far enough. Anabaptists rejected the practice of infant baptism, for instance, believing that water baptism should be reserved for believers who confess a faith in Jesus Christ alone. Because they understood the exercise of state power to be inconsistent with the church’s identity and mission, Anabaptists also advocated for the strict separation of church and state. This then-radical stance was prompted by both theology and necessity: Anabaptists had the distinct notoriety of being tortured and killed by both Catholics and Protestants wielding the power of the state against them.
Instead of compromising their core convictions about what it means to follow Jesus, thousands of Anabaptist men and women adhered to their freedom of conscience even as they were mocked by neighbors, burned at stakes and drowned in rivers. Although there certainly are diverse viewpoints among individual Mennonites today, they continue to advocate for the strict separation of church and state. Most Mennonite churches do not have flags inside them, and many Mennonites are uncomfortable with the ritual embedded in the singing of the national anthem. That’s because we recognize only one Christian nation, the church, the holy nation that is bound together by a living faith in Jesus rather than by man-made, blood-soaked borders.
Being a Mennonite, I learned from a lengthy conversation that I had with this gentleman, means having a living faith in Jesus while faithfully living the way of Jesus. Jesus called his disciples to love their enemies and he loved his enemies all the way to the cross and beyond. Following Jesus and the martyrs before us, we testify with our lives that freedom is not a right that is granted or defended with rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air. True freedom is given by God, and it is indeed not free. It comes with a cost, and that cost looks just like a cross. How do we plug ourselves into the unlimited power of the cross of Calvary? First, it is imperative that we all believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Next, we must all repent, for the world cannot know of its brokenness and hopelessness without a Savior to show them a superlative way of life. There needs to be more people practicing the ways of peace while putting away their childish arguments. The world cannot know that there is an alternative to violence and war without a people of peace making peace. The world cannot know that the weak and the vulnerable are cared for by God without a people practicing an economy centered on sharing and mutual aid. Let us ask ourselves this basic question – if I die in my sleep tonight, what kind of legacy will I leave? However you ask yourself this question, let's all make sure the answer will be that which motivates us all is the propagation and proliferation of peace, which is only achieved by worshiping the Prince of Peace.
The world cannot know the unmeasurable worth of human life without a people who consistently work to protect it – in the unborn, in the convict, in the immigrant, in the homeless, in the soldier, in the retirement homes, in the mental hospitals, and in the enemy. These convictions do not reflect ingratitude or hatred for our country. Rather, they reflect a deep love for the church and a passionate desire for the church to be the Church. In order for any church to be qualified as a church in the sight of the Father, it is paramount that they first make themselves servants of Christ. After all, it is written: “Whoever wants to be called the greatest among you must first become the greatest servant”. I love my country, but I sing my loyalty and pledge my allegiance to Jesus Christ alone. This is because, in the end, our souls and our Savior are all that's going to be left.