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Time to follow St. Francis

Uncle Sam
Twenty years ago, I visited the hilltop Italian town of Assisi. Although I am not Catholic, nor even Christian, it was one of the most intensely spiritual places I have ever been. Perhaps it is the influence of the town's beloved native saint, Francis, a man who, according to American Catholic, "astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally -- not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a mite of self-importance."

The Prayer of St. Francis reaches out beyond any one faith and is a guide for us all:"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy."

Compare these words to the rantings of the alleged faithful like the Rev. Wiley Drake, pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Vista, Calif., who back in June announced on "The Alan Colmes Show" that he was uttering "imprecatory prayers" against "The usurper that is in the White House "¦ B. Hussein Obama."

An incredulous Colmes asked: "So you're praying for the death of the president of the United States?"

"Yes," Drake replied. "If he does not turn to God and does not turn his life around, I am asking God to enforce imprecatory prayers that are throughout the Scripture that would cause him death,
that's correct."

Remember Christopher Broughton, the guy standing outside President Obama's Aug. 17 speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Phoenix with a loaded Glock 17 and A15 assault rifle? He's a parishioner at the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Ariz., where pastor Steven Anderson has been unashamedly encouraging his parishioners to pray for Obama's death.

The day before Broughton showed up in Phoenix toting serious weaponry and saying that he was prepared to resort to forceful resistance against the Obama administration, Anderson preached a sermon titled, "Why I hate Barack Obama." Here are a few choice excerpts:

"I hate Barack Obama. You say, well, you just mean you don't like what he stands for. No, I hate the person. Oh, you mean you just don't like his policies. No, I hate him "¦ Why should Barack Obama melt like a snail? Why should Barack Obama die "¦ Why should his childre
Uncle Sam
Michael Rowe has a good piece over at the Huffington Post about the degradation of American political dialogue.

There was a time when decency, even honor, was an essential part of the American dialogue in its most ideal form, and part of its very identity. There was a time when our culture would have recoiled in horror at the vituperation flowing unchecked from radios, televisions, and the Internet, instead of applauding it as "common sense," "free speech," or "mavericky," or "a spin-free zone."

There was a time when intellectual honesty was not considered unpatriotic; when compassion for, and understanding of, your fellow man was a sign of strength, not weakness. There was a time when the phrase Have you no shame? meant something, and the First Amendment was not used as toilet paper to wipe up the excremental verbal degradation of vulnerable segments of the American population. A time when it was expected that citizens would understand the difference between free speech and irresponsible speech. Somewhere along the line, a cancerous segment of American popular culture and media cunningly exploited the long-standing, honorable American "cowboy" motif and mentality. They grafted cruelty, divisiveness, and ignorance to it, making the two appear indistinguishable, and natural allies. And they are neither, or at least ought not to be.


Amen.

Clearly, I'm not a big fan of Fox News, but truth be told, I'm starting to get a bit of a Fan Girl crush on Shepard Smith. It started with his unequivocal statement that "We are America, We don't F*CKING torture!"



After the shooting at the Holocaust Museum, instead of hunkering down with the rest of the Wingers and denying that any of the anti-Obama hate speech might have had anything to do with it, or that the DHS memoradum, which they'd all screeched was so offensive and unpatriotic, might have actually had some merit after all, Smith expressed concern about the increasing vitriol and hatred in his viewer e-mails:



How refreshing is it to hear a guy on Fox News call the kind of Winger smears we heard during the election "Wrong, ridiculous and preposterous" and actually talking about how these people are "feeding each other the same bunch of hate that's not based in fact"? It gives me hope. Of course, the rest of the nutjob wingers are piling on, calling for him to be fired. I hope he survives because he's the only person I can stand watching on Fox for more than 30 seconds without wanting to puke.

Prayers for more than one reason

Uncle Sam
I was saddened to hear that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is fighting a battle with pancreatic cancer.

She is in my thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery.

But the second prayer I offered after hearing the news was one of thanks that we have Barack Obama for our President instead of John McCain. A potential Supreme Court vacancy with McCain/Palin in the White House would have been the kind of situation nightmares are made of.

Renewing our commitment to our ideals

Uncle Sam
I haven't blogged about politics here since election day, but now, with the eight year nightmare of the Bush era finally behind us, I'm inspired to start talking again. Along with millions of others, I watched Barack Obama sworn into office yesterday, and felt a sense of renewal and optimism.

Yes, we are in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The facts of that haven't changed just because a new man is in the White House. We still have a long, difficult road to hoe.

But this is what gave me the sense that all is going to be right with the world again:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers ... our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.



"Humility and restraint". Haven't seen much of that in the White House these last eight years, have we? If I had to use one "H" word to describe the Bush Presidency it would be "hubris".

But Obama, unlike his predecessor, seems to understand that it is no use declaring you are invading Iraq to give the Iraqi's freedom and liberty when you are waterboarding people and engaging in warrantless wiretapping, contravening the laws of your own democracy. He is clearly a man who understands the meaning of the word "diplomacy". He clearly understands that there is no point sacrificing the lives of our soldiers to protect the American Way of Life if we are relinquishing the very values we as Americans hold sacred.

I'm sure the temptation for the President and Congress, especially given the overwhelming economic problems facing the nation, is to look forward rather than back. I can understand that temptation. But I think it's really important for our national psyche and our standing in the world to prosecute members of the Bush Administration who were involved in the decision to use torture, even if it goes right up to the top.

We need to know, and the world needs to know, that in the United States of America no one is above the law, and that we won't let fear cause us to throw our nations highest ideals under a bus.

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Yay for feisty Irish broads!

Uncle Sam
I just got back from doing some poll standing for local Democratic candidate Ed Krumeich and I met this wonderful lady stopped to speak with me on her way out of the polls. She pointed to my sign and said, "I voted for him" and then pointed to the "Obama Biden" sign I was next to and said, "I really hope they win."

She told me she was ninety years old, a child during the Great Depression, and has been a registered Republican her entire life but couldn't believe what a mess the current Administration has made of our country - how everyone abroad hates us and the economy is a disaster and her kids said if she didn't vote for Obama they wouldn't speak to her. She also said she voted No on the Constitutional Convention because the people fighting for that were the ones who wanted to ban gay marriage and abortion, and even though she'd been brought up Catholic and been to Catholic school her entire life she couldn't abide by people trying to tell other people how to live their lives and what they should do in the bedroom. She said her son calls her a "feisty Irish broad" and I said, "G-d Bless you for it!"

I only hope I have that much energy when I'm ninety. I wished I had a "Feisty Irish Broads for Obama" button to give her. Instead, I just told her to go home and tell all her friends to get out and vote.
But talking to her really made my day.
Uncle Sam
We all know where McCain's heart is vis-a-vis Iran:



Now, his VP running mate Sarah Palin can't seem to remember in which countries we're currently conducting military operations (I'll give you a hint: Iran is not one of them.)



But then, this gal is so full of hubris she doesn't even know what she doesn't know. If you haven't listened to it, you have GOT to listen to this episode where Palin was pranked by two radio personalities in Quebec.



One pretended to be French president Nicholas Sarkozy. It's almost painful to listen to - you can't believe that anyone, particularly someone who is in the running for the second highest office in the land is so frighteningly IGNORANT of foreign affairs - when the guy mentions incorrectly names the Prime Minister of Canada Palin doesn't know that it's the wrong name, even though Canada is our largest neighbor and she can almost see it from her house. I really had a chuckle when "Sarkozy" says "I followed your campaign closely with my special American advisor, Johnny Hallyday" - Palin replies "Yes, good!" SNORT!!! Hallyday is a well-known French singer and actor - he's considered by some to be the French Elvis Presley.

You have to wonder that Palin's team didn't screen the calls better, and it sure shows that there isn't much communication between the McCain and Palin camps because I'm sure McCain might have given her a heads up that it is unlikely the real Sarkozy would be calling for a friendly chat. But Palin's ego is such that she didn't question the unlikeliness of that scenario. Oh no. She's totally believing in her own PR these days - and is trying to rogue it up for 2012.

It'll be interesting to see what happens to the GOP after what I hope and pray will be a total decimation of their ranks on Tuesday. In the recriminations and the soul searching and the inevitable bloodbaths that follow, will the party move even more into the anti-intellectual, Bible Spice Palin camp? Or will saner heads finally take over again, guiding it back to the Republican Party of my youth? If they do head down the Palin road, they're gonna be in the wilderness for a very long time. Mark my words.

Meanwhile, for your listening pleasure, here's "special American Advisor" to Sarkozy doing a French version of a song that even Sarah Palin might recognize:

New Palin song video

Uncle Sam
Enjoy this ditty from Eric Schwartz and Eliza Jane Schneider:



Then you can go read my latest piece on La Palin, Gosh Darn, it costs to be a hockey mom! over at OurGreenwich.com.
Uncle Sam
to watch the Palin/Biden debate, let's remember what our Congressman Chris Shays thinks about Govenor Sarah Palin - in a word: "Awesome!"



Shays has got to be feeling a bit nervous today after hearing that the Himes campaign raised over $800K in the 3rd quarter, a record for any challenger against him and a pretty tidy sum for any Congressional challenger nationwide. This race is on the map, people. Of course, Shays has got the National Association of Realtors PAC funding him to the tune of $510K according to The Hill.

"Shays, who faces businessman Jim Himes, received $510,000 in assistance, including $260,000 in direct mail and $210,000 on TV ads...Shays...got about $40,000 in surveys, as well."

Shays is wasting some of that money sending me, a registered Dem, his weaselly literature declaring that he's got "The Hopefulness of Obama, The Straight Talk of McCain". Yeah right. That schtick won't stick, especially now that the financial system is falling to pieces around our ears, thanks to the deregulation promoted by him and his GOP buddies. Trying to be Both Ways Shays as always, but I don't think the voters are going to buy that story any more.
Uncle Sam
cause if you do, I'll just replay you THIS train wreck of an interview with the person who is gonna be a heart beat away from the Presidency if McCain wins.



The bloom is definitely off the rose. Palin's poll numbers don't look so good. Guess to know her isn't to love her.

Red State Jesus freaks for Obama

Uncle Sam
I posted before about YA for OBAMA, a social networked formed by authors of books for teens to get young people involved in political discussion about the upcoming election and talk about why we,the people who write books for young people, support Barack Obama.

The site launched officially on Monday, and there have been some great essays up there so far. I particularly recommend "Faith and Science" by Printz winning author John Green and "Do the Math" by Scott Westerfield, author of the NYT bestselling Uglies series.

But the one I really want to highlight today is "Red State Jesus Freaks for Obama" by Sara Zarr, whose book, STORY OF A GIRL was a 2007 National Book Award Finalist. Sara wrote a wonderful essay about why she, as a theologically conservative Christian, is supporting Barack Obama.

The crux of it is the difference in the world views between McCain and Obama on the subject of Evil, as exemplified by their answers at the Rick Warren's Saddleback Forum.

She points out the flaw of McCain's answer that he will "defeat evil" -

When I follow the logical train here, I come up with this: If A) you believe evil can be defeated, and, B) you believe that military force is the best tool for that, then, C) you're basically planning for endless war, the death of countless innocent people on both sides of the battle, and continued destruction of cities and rural areas all over the world where regular people are just trying to live their lives. As a Christian, I have a problem with that.


Contrast that with Obama's more nuanced response at the same venue:

"Evil does exist. I mean, I think we see evil all the time. We see evil in Darfur. We see evil, sadly, on the streets of our cities. We see evil in parents who viciously abuse their children. I think it has to be confronted. It has to be confronted squarely, and one of the things that I strongly believe is that, now, we are not going to, as individuals, be able to erase evil from the world. That is God's task, but we can be soldiers in that process, and we can confront it when we see it. Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for to us have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil, because a lot of evil's been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil."


Guess who got the better response from the crowd? McCain of course, because Obama's response requires thought. It requires one to recognize what Christians and Jews are taught - that the potential for evil lies in each and every one of us, and that it's not a matter of just US vs. THEM.
It requires, self reflection and humility, not something that has been much in evidence in the Bush White House, nor, it seems, in the McCain campaign.

Read the essay. Sara is much more eloquent than I am, and she's written a thought provoking piece.

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