Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Constitutional Thoughts

With the vote on health care complete there are so many things I have been contemplating about the specifics of the bill that was passed.  Today the brain trust at the lunch table had a healthy discussion on the topic on such things.  However for me the problem is not so much the bill (as destructive, expensive, and foolish as it is) as to what it means in America that we would vote for a bill such as this.  This vote is a major step away from the Contstitution.  The very Constitution formed to prevent a move toward total government.  A constitution that was meant to avoid the problems of the European form of democracy that allowed too much control from aristocracy and monarchy.  In a move completely foreign at the time, the founders transformed government to be the people endowing rights to the government instead of the government endowing rights to the people.  It was a government that had a Bill of Rights that addressed only rights given by God to an individual.  There are not items in the Bill of Rights that endow individuals with rights assigned to them by the government or that require collective sacrifice by all of society to grant to all people like Jobs, Housing, and Medical care.  The government is conferring "rights" on the people and are not doing it through the Constitution.

 Everytime I read the founder's writing I find nothing but gold.  No founder could even recognize our government in its current state.  Until such time as this country votes to ditch our Constitution and adopt some western European type mish mosh...this is the Constitution I want upheld in the land.  You may note a famous quote contained within this letter from Benjamin Franklin to the last session of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. I have highlighted what I think are the most relevant passages.

Mr. President

I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error. Steele a Protestant in a Dedication tells the Pope, that the only difference between our Churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines is, the Church of Rome is infallible and the Church of England is never in the wrong. But though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain french lady, who in a dispute with her sister, said "I don't know how it happens, Sister but I meet with no body but myself, that's always in the right — Il n'y a que moi qui a toujours raison."

In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die. If every one of us in returning to our Constituents were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavor to gain partizans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects & great advantages resulting naturally in our favor among foreign Nations as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the strength & efficiency of any Government in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends, on opinion, on the general opinion of the goodness of the Government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its Governors. I hope therefore that for our own sakes as a part of the people, and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution (if approved by Congress & confirmed by the Conventions) wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts & endeavors to the means of having it well administred.

On the whole, Sir, I can not help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it, would with me, on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.
~Benjamin Franklin
So alas the war continues for the virtue of the Constitution and the battles that lay ahead will determine its fate.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Victory is Growing

Tonight the "Elders" of Victory met.  We were meeting to discuss the calling of a second pastor for our church.  Attendance has been growing and growing.  Last Sunday we had 209 in worship.  Our averages are about 170 a week now with 30-40 kids in Bible Quest.  Additionally our church has been self-supporting for a little bit now and has been growing a surplus in the general fund.  We are putting together a request to call a second pastor from the seminary to be a "Tent Minister" for Victory in charge of church in-reach and nurturing while Pastor Ben continues with a focus on worship and evangelism. Additionally we hired a children's ministry director last July and we will again have our Summer ministry assistant.

God has truly blessed this mission as we reach a new milestone. Where we can extend our ministry even further we will praise God.  It would be our hope to convert the pastor from a tent minister to a full time pastor within two years.  With nearly 20 seminary grads not likely to receive calls, this is a great way to allow a new pastor to stay in the ministry and get started even if they may have to work an additional job while they ministering.

I am excited about these new opportunities.

Over Parenting Strikes Again

Last night was a yet another tribute to the downfall of over-parenting.  Around 9:00 we heard a knock at the door.  Since no one ever visits us this would be strange and those that do visit us would never knock.  When I answered the door it was a blast from the past.  I didn't recognize him at first because of his short haircut and glasses but it was indeed Ike's long lost friend Nick.  He had run away from his house and was looking for a place to stay.

A little history on Nick.  He has been Ike's friend for awhile back from St. Paul's, Muskego.  He has had a number of problems in school with learning disabilitites and ADD and things like that.  He can be a follower at times and could easily be swayed into minor mischief and trouble making that I would mostly classify under "boys will be boys.." by other friends of his.  When he was at our house he mostly was himself though which really was a decent and quirky.  Whatever trouble he might be willing to engage in with other friends he kept in check at our house. 

About this time last year Nick would bike to our house more and more frequently as he tried to avoid being home when his parents frequently yelled at him and the viscious circle began.  When it was getting so common and he was leaving without permission they finally yanked him from 2/3rds of the way through Freshman year and sent him to a school for troubled kids in FL.  He has been there for a year and Ike had no contact with him but his parents brought him home a couple months ago because they were not seeing the results they wanted.  He has been home for two months and on Tuesday will be going to Rawhide Ranch.  He hasn't been allowed to contact his old friends and has been very isolated. Last night represented the first time Ike has talked to him in a year.

So Nick was on my doorstep seeking refuge which of course we gave him.  He had left after another fight with his Mom.  I did make him call his parents so they knew where he was but his Mom hung up on him and said maybe she'd see him when she was a good enough parent. 

So what is the issue?  It's hard to say and I only have Nick's side of things.  From what I can tell, it would appear that his parents both came from very strict households and lived very obedient and problem free lives growing up. His grandparents were authoritarian and conversely his parents are authoritarian.  Whereas Nick has issues with his anger management it would appear he has indeed learned some methods to diffuse his anger.  He was very articulate last night on all the steps he was taking to not blow up or over-react and to behave at home which according to him he has done up to this point.  However I think the contention still is that his parents will keep shipping him off to special schools until he is obedient AND happy about it.  Whereas he has been learning to deal with anger his parents want it gone.  The issue last night started over his mother not allowing him to go outside with his sister.  That part was fine but then she yelled even more when they both went off and grumbled about it (if I could have a dollar for every mumble mumble mumble ..SLAM!!)  That is what prompted Nick to run away. Nick says his sister who is the oldest child when he is away at school is now also being increasingly yelled at.

Now I know this is all the side of the wounded 16 year old and I'm sure there is plenty that could be worked out as to Nick behaving a bit better and his parents easing up a bit more but until this cycle is broken I see Nick getting pushed farther away. He actually sounded encouraged about Rawhide because it has mandatory family counseling involved.  He thinks that will be interesting if his parents have to step a bit towards his direction and participate in counseling.  In many respects Nick seems a lot more mature despite all his shennanigans at the school in Florida (frequent leaving of campus unauthorized and running away).  Unfortunately I think the past year has made Nick more at risk than when he left a year ago.  Shipping him off was the wrong prescription then and it probably is now.

This morning at 6:15 while getting ready for work there was a strong knock at the door.  I had hair gel in my hands and was only in boxers but at 6:15 am I don't care.  I answered the door to Nick's father who came to collect him.  His face was like ice and he barely spoke to me.  I'm sure he was resentful that the first place Nick runs has always been our house even after banning him.  He also had a certain look of pain like he can't reconcile what is all going on.  I wish I could share with him the things Nick has said and have him really listen but he is not ready to listen yet.  Certainly not to me.  It is a situation that I will pray about. As Nick was walking out of the house all he said was "I can't wait until I am 18 and can leave..."

They're BACK!!!

Spring has sprung and our Skunk is back. Although the actions of the Milwaukee Animal Control office was significantly helpful in curtailing Squirrel Man from putting out his infernal corn and veggies and every other pest attraction he had, it would appear that the skunk enjoyed her cushy hole under my garage so much last year that she returned for another season. Alas…not last year’s hole but a new hole closer to the sidewalk. That way she can spray us without having to leave the comfort of her hole.

I cannot tell you how happy I was this winter that the flock of birds that would fly from tree to tree around Squirrel Man’s yard waiting for bird feed and such disappeared. Our cars in previous winters were targets of unrelenting and targeted bird bombings that delivered more ammunition on our cars than a drive-by on the north side. The amount of corn buried in our yard and growing corn stalks this year was minimal to none because the squirrels dwindled down to typical city levels after their gluttonous corn fest ended. Our fence remains standing because they didn’t eat my fence all winter. Why even the snow in the back yard remained pristine and untouched all winter without a super-highway of squirrel and bunny tracks.

This is why all yards should be Astroturf like the Brady’s yard. My skunk garden should just be paved over and install artificial flowers. This is the way nature was intended for the city. Prepare for death this season Pepe. Yeah…LeDead….mort..fin.