A Democratic Manifesto – Why Democrats Must Prevail in November

“One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”

~ George Orwell, 1984

Democrats typically don’t turn out to vote in great numbers for mid-term elections. This year must be different. Here’s why…

History’s dictators all came to power the same way, by dividing citizens against one another. They used fear and hate to pit ethnic, religious and racial majorities against minorities, siding always with the majorities. Trump isn’t a dictator, not yet, but he wants to be. He has even speculated about possibly becoming President for Life on day. Accordingly, he’s doing what any would-be dictator would do. With him in the White House we are becoming more and more divided every day. Events are being staged and the media is being manipulated to distract us from the worst of what’s really going on, namely the wholesale destruction of our representative form of democracy. Government no longer represents the people; it represents corporate interests and those who have the money to buy legislative favor. This, my fellow citizens, defines Fascism.

Think about it. The same thing happened in Lenin’s Russia, in Hitler’s Germany, in Franco’s Spain, in Mussolini’s Italy, in Zedong’s China, in Hussein’s Iraq, in Pasha’s Turkey, in Gaddafi’s Libya, in Kahn’s Pakistan, in Assad’s Syria. It matters not whether their regimes were Communist, Fascist, Monarchy or Military, all were authoritarian regimes, all were dictatorships.

Trump, in a revolutionary move supported by a foreign power — Russia, has taken over the Republican Party. This party, since the Equal Rights Amendment, has become predominantly white and holier-than-thou, Evangelical Protestant and Mormon. It’s not the party it was when I was younger — when I was still trying to decide which party best aligned with my beliefs. It has become the party of militant, phony patriotism — the party of anti-intellectuals — the party of anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-choice and anti-labor. It’s the party that was long ago co-opted by wealthy industrialists. With Donald Trump now at the head of the party, with both houses of Congress under Republican control, and with conservative justices dominating the third branch of government, the Supreme Court, the revolution has accelerated. Corporations are now people with an unfettered right to buy political favors. The Voting Rights Act is now history, states are free to disenfranchise whole groups of people at will. Now, with Brett Kavanaugh confirmed, the highest court in the land is primed and ready to decide whether a sitting President has absolute pardoning authority and is above the law – immune to indictment.

The Republican Party no longer needs to pretend to be the party of fiscal responsibility, or even the party of family values. The Republican Party can ignore Trump’s many impeachable offenses to include: obstruction of justice, human rights violations, suspected campaign finance law violations, conspiracy to interfere with states’ free elections, and violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

The revolution to which I am referring is not the typical blood-bath type of revolution. There has been no armed insurrection, no open warfare between the people and government. Up until recently, it has largely been a quiet, long drawn-out, political revolution with corporate interests gaining more and more influence on our two major political parties, Democrat and Republican, especially Republican. The revolution was put on-hold by mutual agreement between all parties involved during the Second World War. But it started up again soon afterward with the Republican Party making a brilliant move, the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. The Republican party controlled both houses of Congress then, as it does now, and so, it had enough votes to override President Truman’s veto. With the Act made law, individual states were given the latitude to impose Right-to-Work laws on labor unions. Workers over time lost the right to organize and collectively bargain for fair wages and working conditions, a right guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (the Wagner Act) and parts of the Federal Anti-Injunction Act of 1932.

The revolution continues today, one political faction against another, corporate interests against individual citizens’ interests. And Donald Trump has come along at an opportune time to accelerate things to his personal advantage.

No, the Republican Party isn’t against everything, seemingly implied by me in a previous paragraph. No, the party is for some things: lower taxes, especially for the rich who are ostensibly our job-creators; for corporate subsidies and high defense expenditures, even for new weapons systems that the military neither wants nor needs; for laissez-faire free trade (deregulated capitalism), and; for stand-your-ground, open carry gun laws. The party protects the Second Amendment they say, so that we can protect ourselves against all-comers, including the “deep-state” government. Unfortunately, this means that we have to have the highest, by far-and-away, gun violence rate per capita of any civilized country in the world. But that’s just the price of freedom, the price of protecting the Constitution.

The party exploits our fears of drug gangs, of bad hombres, of foreign-born and native Muslims (terrorists), and especially our fear of big government, i.e., creeping socialism and a takeover of our freedoms.

The Republican Party exploits passions as well as fears. The Christian majority among the religious in America has been conditioned over recent years to assail against a woman’s right to choose, her right to decide whether to allow a zygote to develop into a fetus and mature into an unborn. But being anti-abortion has not always been a GOP tenant. Republicans supported legalized abortion before the Roe v Wade decision in 1973. Letting women, not lawmakers, decide whether to give birth was in line with their ideological affinity then for individual rights and small government. Republicans were also more likely to prefer abortion over subsequent years of taxpayer-funded support for poor women and children. Moderate Republican governor, Nelson Rockefeller of New York, was a main force behind his state’s abortion reform law in 1970, just as Ronald Reagan, a leader of the party’s rising conservative faction, signed a similar bill in 1967 as governor of California. But, once the school segregation issue was resolved by the Civil Rights Act in 1964, superseding all state and local laws requiring segregation, the party needed a new moral issue for the influx of Evangelical Southern whites. Aided by the strict edict against abortion by the Roman Catholic Church, abortion fit the bill after the Roe v Wade decision was made, and moderate Republican politicians toed the line.

The Republican Party generally gives tacit support to other passions of Evangelical Christians. One of these is to allow, even require, prayer in public schools. Another is to permit religious displays on government property, thus blurring if not eliminating entirely the Separation of Church and State. Some within the party would reverse the recent federal decision to make same sex marriage legal, and they would reinstate the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell guideline for gays serving in the military.

There was a time when, for Republicans, the national debt was a major concern of the party. At least they claimed it was. Party leaders blamed Democratic Tax-and-Spend fiscal policy for it. But the facts did not fit their narrative. When Democratic administrations used expansionary fiscal policy (deficit spending), it was when the economy was left in deep recession by Republicans’ “trickle-down” tax cuts and deregulation. In each case, when Democrats took the budgetary helm, the economy rebounded generating increased tax revenues. So, Republicans cannot make this claim, not with evidence to support it, and especially not since the most recent Republican tax cut. The top 1 percent of Americans will derive over 80 percent of the benefit American Jobs and Tax Cut. The CBO and the Treasury Department are both projecting annual trillion-dollar deficits as a result of it. To bring budgets back into some semblance of balance, Trump’s proposed budget for 2019 makes massive cuts to social programs, even Medicare and Medicaid, programs he pledged to protect before the 2016 election. Now Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, is pushing to revise Social Security, increasing the retirement age and reducing benefits.

So, why is the Democratic Party a better choice? Here are thirteen reasons off the top of my head:

1. Democrats don’t want to live in the past.  The party isn’t as progressive as some younger voters would like, but it’s moving in that direction. We don’t want to make America Great Again. We want to make America Greater, not just for some but for everyone, making our nation a land which is truly one and truly indivisible, with liberty, justice and opportunity for all. Democrats, for the most part, believe the mantra, Greed Is Good, represents an economic ideology which will never advance this goal.

2. Democrats believe in democracy. We believe in a democratic form of government, one that exists to achieve, as a community, state and nation, what we cannot achieve as individuals. We believe too that government must serve all its citizens. Now, while by our Constitution, ours is a “representative” form of democracy, we cannot fairly and equitably be represented if citizens are not allowed to vote. But Republicans have no problem with, through gerrymandering and restrictive voting laws, disenfranchising people of color, Hispanic heritage and culture, and economic disadvantage, from registering to vote, accessing polling places and having their vote considered with diminished weight.

3. Democrats believe in responsible fiscal policies. Congress and the President are responsible for fiscal policy, which is laws on taxation and government spending designed to influence the economy. Fiscal policy is always in place; that is, there are always laws in effect that determine tax levels and government spending. Fiscal policy which rewards businesses and upper the upper echelons of society in the short term and at the expense of average tax payers is irresponsible. This is not just what Democrats believe. It’s what the majority of economists believe, and for good reason; time and again we have seen what policies like this precipitate — time and again, Democratic Presidents and lawmakers have had clean up the mess that Republican administrations have left in their wake. Trickle-down, supply-side fiscal policies and deregulation are components of a sinister, corporate con game.

4. Democrats are not xenophobic. Democrats recognize and celebrate the fact that, except for the few remaining Americans which are one hundred percent Native American, if there even are any left, we are all immigrants or sons and daughters of immigrants.

5. Democrats are not homophobic. For the most part, Democrats believe the science on gender identity which affirms that LGBTQ are who they are, not by choice but by nature. According to a Gallup estimate, 4.5 percent of American adults identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The percentage works out to be more than 11 million U.S. adults. Accordingly, these persons are very much a part of our society and they deserve to treated with the same rights, privileges and respect as the rest of us.

6. Democrats are not racist. Not that all Republicans are racist, but, according to Pew Research, 83 percent of all registered voters who identify as Republican are non-Hispanic whites. Many Democrats used to be, the so-called Dixiecrats. But, since the Civil Rights Amendment, they’ve all become Republicans. People do not usually proclaim their racist attitudes. Sometimes they do, like when those “fine people” among the Alt-right and KKK members who marched in the torchlight demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia. Recall their chant: “Jews will not overcome us!” But my go-to argument du jour for why I believe so many Republicans are racist is that they cannot understand and will not accept that the “Take a Knee” demonstrations by NFL players are acceptable, Constitutionally-protected protests about Black Injustice, protest that have merit with so many young, unarmed black men being killed by police.

7. Democrats support greener energy. We believe the consensus of climate change scientists. Their prognostications of dire consequences for our planet if we do not step up our collective efforts to reduce the warming of our atmosphere scare us to death. ‘Nuf said.

8. Democrats acknowledge the Separation of Church and State. America is not a Christian nation; The Constitution says so. The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices. It guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government. Literally the First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

9. Democrats support equal pay for women. Women in the U.S. who work full time, year-round are paid only 80 cents for every dollar paid to men — and for women of color, the wage gap is even larger. It’s long past time to close the gap. The free market has no incentive to make this happen. So, if women will ever be treated fairly, equitably in America, government must. But Republicans will never do this.

10. Democrats support a minimum wage increase. It’s been nearly 50 years since the last time the federal minimum wage peaked. This was way back in 1968. That was the last time the then-current federal minimum wage was on par with the rate with inflation, even though the minimum wage rate was raised back in 2009 to $7.25. Nobody can live on today’s minimum wage, and the free market has little incentive to raise it. So, if we are a society that truly cares about people, believes that corporations should not be allowed to exploit the disadvantaged, then government must raise the minimum wage and index it to the rate of inflation. But Republicans will never do this.

11. Democrats believe that, under most conditions, military action should be the last resort not the first. We believe that we have been too quick in the past to assert our influence on foreign nations by military invasion and occupation. Our invasion of Iraq during the Bush administration, is one such example. Yes, we toppled a brutal dictator. But, in so doing, the world is now reaping the consequences of instability in the Middle East and a widening of International terrorism.

12. Democrats support stricter gun control. The Constitutional right to own and “bear” arms is not absolute. The Supreme Court long ago decided this. But Republicans, under considerable influence by the National Rifle Association (NRA) would like to change this. The new SCOTUS may do so despite the fact that multiple studies from researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found that such “permit to purchase” laws, which include a particularly strong background check, reduce homicides, suicides and gun trafficking. Literature reviews that examine a wide range of gun policies throughout the U.S. also consistently find that these laws save lives.

Research also shows that domestic violence restraining orders with the teeth to remove firearms from abusers reduce intimate-partner homicide. Likewise, banning high-capacity magazines would likely reduce the deadly outcome of shootings. Australia’s ban and buyback of semi-automatic firearms significantly reduced gun deaths in that country.

13. Democrats believe that healthcare is a basic human right. The United States and Mexico are the only countries of the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that do not have universal health care. We believe that this is deplorable.

On December 10, 1948, the United States and 47 other nations signed the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The document stated that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of oneself and one’s family, including… medical care.” In 2005, the United States and the other member states of the World Health Organization signed World Health Assembly resolution 58.33, which stated that everyone should have access to health care services and should not suffer financial hardship when obtaining these services. According to a 2008 peer-reviewed study in the Lancet, “right-to-health features are not just good management, justice, or humanitarianism, they are obligations under human-rights law.”

As I said in my introductory paragraph, Fascism already has a foothold in our nation. Government no longer represents the people; it represents corporate interests and those, including corporations now, thanks to Citizens United, who have the money to buy legislative favors. But it doesn’t necessarily have to stay this way; we can restore our democracy and prospects for the future of our children and grandchildren. Whether you subscribe to all or any of the above reasons that I believe in the Democratic Party’s platform, believe this:  Fascism is here and it is supported by the Republican Party. We can defeat it, Fascism, again like we did during WWII, not with military might this time but with the exercise of our civil right to vote.

If we do not take up this challenge, if we do not turnout in large enough numbers and cast our votes for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot, dictatorship will almost certainly follow. Independent and third-party candidates won’t be able to make a difference; they can only caucus with one of the two major parties, Democrat or Republican. Republicans aren’t going to stand in Trump’s way either. GOP party leaders, in my opinion, are implicated in the conspiracy with Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump to install him in the White House.

Please feel free to post a comment, pro or con.

Published in: on October 11, 2018 at 1:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Luck and The Will of God

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Ask any Christian what they think about luck and you are likely to hear an answer like this, “We make our own luck.” But do we really? And what does the Bible say about luck? It says nothing actually. The word does not even appear in any translation that I have been able to find. I have found many instances of the word, chance, however. Here’s one: “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them…” ~ Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

What is luck if not a chance or random event? And if a chance event should be beneficial, would we not call that, “good luck” in the vernacular of today? If a chance event should befall some misfortune upon us, would we not call that, “bad luck?” And if God should be responsible for all things, sending the proverbial rain to fall on the righteous as well as the wicked, then we are faced with the hard reality that God either causes bad things to happen to good people, or else He passively allows it.

Here’s an example of what I would call, bad luck. You, a good person… mostly, are driving down the road, minding your own business and obeying all the rules of the road. Suddenly — BAM! A driver behind you, distracted by texting on his cell phone while driving, plows into your rear-end. You have just become collateral damage, a casualty of someone else’s bad choice. It was an event that God did not make happen, or maybe He did. We cannot know. But we do know that God did not prevent it from happening.

Here’s an example of what I would call, good luck. You, a typical male teenager, engage in your first sexual encounter, going “all the way,” unprotected, with a young lady who welcomed your advances, actually encouraged you. Weeks later, she informs you that she thinks she’s pregnant. You and she, scared out of your wits, commiserate with one another and postpone telling your parents. Then, a few days later, she tells you that she has miscarried. Did God intervene or was the miscarriage a random, natural event? We cannot know. But you are relieved and thank your proverbial “lucky stars.” Hopefully, you have learned your lesson.

Bible stories suggest that God’s will is manifest in three different ways: His intentional will, His circumstantial will, and His ultimate will. See Leslie D. Weatherford’s book, The Will of God.

God’s intentional will “for us,” according to Jeremiah 29:11, is that we should all prosper, that we should not be harmed, that we should have hope and a future. But why, why did He create us? The Bible makes this clear in Isaiah 43:7, God created us for His glory, God’s glory not ours. Therefore, both His “greater” intentional will and His ultimate will is simply to be glorified. Unfortunately, God’s intentional will for us sometimes has to be sacrificed due to chance events and, of course, our own poor choices. This is God’s circumstantial will. It involves Him passively allowing, rather than causing, something to happen. Chapter 1 of the book of Job, even though most biblical scholars consider Job to be a fictional or parabolic character, illustrates this in what God allowed Satan to do in the life of Job. It is also involved in the evil that God allowed Joseph’s brothers to do to Joseph in order to accomplish a greater good, a good not apparent to Joseph until years later (Genesis 50:20). So we have at least a partial answer to the question of why bad things happen to good people.

Does God ever intervene with the randomness of His creation or to circumvent the negative consequences of our poor choices? Sure He does. That is what we believe, and that is why we pray.

I have previously written about events in my life that I choose to call miracles. See A Tale of Two Miracles in The World According to Opa. In one of these two events I wrote about being Hepatitis-C positive and living  for years with the certain knowledge that I would one day start to display symptoms. I had anticipated having to undergo expensive therapies with uncomfortable side-effects in an attempt to thwart the inevitable, a protracted, painful death like the one my mother had had to endure. I prayed for God to take that cup away from my lips. Then, one day, God answered my prayer. Either that or I just go lucky. I became one of about 25 percent of Hepatitis-C infected individuals to spontaneously convert.

After the divorce from my first wife was final, I opened a letter from the local draft board. “Greetings,” it said… I was being ordered to report for an induction physical. I knew that I would pass the physical and, although I had anticipated that this would happen when filing for the divorce, I considered myself to be a most unlucky fellow. Timing was the problem; our country was in the midst of war in Southeast Asia. American casualties over there were mounting. The news every night was filled with frightening videos: helicopters delivering soldiers into the heat battle, bleeding bodies on stretchers being flown back to rear area aid stations, pictures of flag draped coffins being unloaded back stateside. So I anticipated my odds of surviving combat in the jungles to be only even, fair at best. Besides, I had the best job at that time that I had ever had. I was a TV cameraman for a local television station. I loved that job and I hated having to give it up. I had a new girlfriend too – a couple of them in fact — and a new car. Damn! But my induction into the Army turned out to be a long-term blessing, a blessing in disguise. Oh, I did have to experience combat in Vietnam – eventually.  But not before I had become a commissioned officer in the Army, not before I had learned to fly helicopters, not before I was trained to be an aircraft maintenance officer – a maintenance test pilot. So I dodged the worst of the war. My only year in Vietnam was a relatively quiet year. The worst year, 1968, the year of Tet, was over. During the two and a half years of training before my year in Vietnam, I met my current wife too – the mother of two of my three sons.

1967 and 1968 were the worst years for soldiers in Vietnam. Some of my flight instructors, Warrant Officer pilots who were serving state-side tours of duty between combat tours, prepared us as best they could for the horrors that we would soon face – horrors like red and blue streams of tracer bullets rising up to meet us when on short-final approaches to combat landing zones – horrors like the sound of bullets piercing the thin skins of our utility and gunship helicopters – horrors like watching others’ helicopters crashing and burning next to us – horrors like broken and bleeding bodies of soldiers being piled onto cargo floors behind us for evacuation, some of them still crying out in pain. After graduating from flight school and taking my turn over there, I’d have known a full share of these horrors. But I got lucky.

A week or so before graduation, some of us got amendments to the original orders assigning us to duty in Vietnam with helicopter flight school reroute. Some of us would go on to transition training in either Cobra gunships or in cargo helicopters like the big Chinook. Rarely, some of us would go to fixed-wing transition. Some of us, myself, and the future Best Man at my wedding, Marvin Adams, and another whose name I do not recall, were sent to Aviation Maintenance Officers’ Course in Ft. Eustis, Virginia. Marvin and I were there for twelve weeks while most of the rest of our flight class of commissioned officers was experiencing the worst weeks of the war. The officer who flew right seat with me in a Huey on our graduation formation fly-by flight, Johnny Benton, lasted only three weeks in Vietnam. He took a 50 caliber bullet to the head during one of his first in-country combat assault missions.  I read his name one morning in the Army Times obituaries among other class members’ names. Week after week more class members’ names were listed.

I did not know Johnny well during our time together in flight school. I got to know him much better after he died because I wrote to his parents. Their address was listed in the Army Times. I don’t know why I chose to write to them and not to others from my flight class, others that I had actually known better. But I did. I gave them my APO address so that they could write back to me should they want to. A few days after reporting to my unit in Vietnam, the Aviation Battery of the 101st Airborne Division’s Division Artillery, a half dozen letters from Johnny’s mother were delivered. Each contained a packet of KoolAide. Each week after that, like clockwork, I got another letter from her with another packet of KoolAide. Johnny had written to her asking her to send him some because, as she told me in a letter, he had said in his last letter to her that the water he had to drink tasted terrible. Those letters from Johnny’s mother were a blessing to me. I hope that her writing to me, and my brief answers, were a blessing to her too.

After returning from Vietnam, I married — the right woman this time, one of a few that I had dated while undergoing flight training. The ladies loved me while I was in flight school, and why wouldn’t they? I was still young, I was free every night of the week, I wasn’t too-bad-looking, an Army officer who had plenty of money to spend and who owned a new white Corvette – one with red interior. Luck struck again when, after a year, the Army offered to move me to attend any accredited university, so as to finish my undergraduate degree, and the Army approved my degree plan too: geography. I loved that subject, love it still. I was paid all pay and allowances, even my flight pay without having to log the obligatory minimum of two flight hours a month. The Army paid for my tuition and books too. In my spare time, I earned a commercial fixed-wing pilot’s license, flying friends and family members around to complete the required cross-country hours involved. This was paid for with Vietnam Era Veterans’ Benefit dollars.

During Advanced Field Artillery Officers’ Course, to which I was sent after graduating from my university under-graduate degree program, I completed a Masters Degree in Business Administration. I was sent to the Advanced Course because I was then too senior to return right away to Vietnam for a second tour. Luck? Maybe, or maybe it was just the way unforeseen events unfolded. I and a handful of other Field Artillery officers at Ft. Sill took advantage of an Oklahoma City University extension course to earn our masters degrees. This too was paid for with Vietnam Era Veterans’ Benefit dollars.

I learned a great deal about working with and leading others during subsequent Army assignments – to flying and various Field Artillery ground assignments at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, a flying and command assignment in Korea, flying, command and staff assignments in Germany, and analyst, test design and test director assignments in materiel acquisitions in Washington, D.C. All of this contributed to a rewarding career servicing engineering and materiel acquisitions contracts for DoD clients and later, teaching high school students in geography and economics courses.

Call me lucky or call me blessed. Either way, it matters only whether you believe in God or not. I do believe in God and I think that I’ve been some lucky and a whole lot blessed. Did I make my own luck? Sure, some of it. I made some good choices that enabled me to take advantage of chance opportunities. But, on the whole, I believe the following passage from scripture best applies: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him. That is why it is through Him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”                ~ 2 Corinthians 1:20

 Please feel free to post a comment or a question.

 

 

Published in: on August 3, 2017 at 7:06 pm  Comments (3)  

The Purpose of Life

God’s command to subdue the earth means for us to have mastery over it, all of it. But true mastery of anything cannot be accomplished without a thorough understanding of the thing to be mastered. With the authority to rule comes responsibility, the responsibility to rule well.

meaning-of-life

“He who dies first with the most toys wins!” Maybe you’ve heard this once-popular saying, maybe not. Maybe you laughed when you first heard it. If you’re old enough, maybe you saw it on a bumper sticker back in the 80s and laughed. If you did laugh, maybe you thought, “Well, hell, what else is there really?”

This saying is a quote originally attributed to the flamboyant millionaire, Malcolm Forbes. Forbes was an American entrep- reneur who was prominently known as the publisher of Forbes magazine, a business that he inherited from his wealthy father. He was also known as an avid promoter of free market, laissez faire capitalism. He was known too for an extravagant lifestyle, for throwing large, expensive parties for his wealthy friends, for travel and for his collections of homes, yachts, aircraft, art, motorcycles, and Fabergé eggs.

Forbes’ quote serves to sum up the attitude of people like him, people who tend to be more hedonistic. They see life in terms of opportunities for self-indulgence, for pleasure. Me first, they think, my family and friends next – all who serve me, care for me, comfort me, and those who pleasure me. To these types of people, everybody else is just a potential friend/ally or a potential adversary /competition. True hedonists like Forbes believe that this is the highest good and proper aim of human life. I whole- heartedly disagree. I’m a Christian. I am also a Democrat.

I taught a lesson to second graders today. The subject was biodiversity – a compound word, I taught my students – the first part, bio, meaning life, the second part, diversity, meaning many different kinds. The lesson wasn’t really about life; it was about learning to learn. It was about having an open mind, learning to think critically, learning how to compare and contrast. The lesson included an exercise:  comparing and contrasting two different life forms, animals and plants. Yes, second graders are smart enough for this kind of learning, and they’re able to grasp these ideas if the information is presented to them in ways to which they can relate.

I shared with my students how, when I was in school, it was believed that all solid matter was either animal, vegetable or mineral – it was believed that there were only two kingdoms of life: animal and vegetable. Today, I told them, scientists recognize six different kingdoms of life. Life on earth is truly diverse.

A hand went up. “Yes,” I said, recognizing the student.

“What is life, Opa?” I like it that the students in the class I visit on a regular basis call me Opa. It’s what my grandchildren call me.

I might have been thrown off by this question, a deeper question, one that most would not expect a second grader to ask. But I came prepared. I knew how smart, how inquisitive these students are. So I had thought about it ahead of time, I did some research.

“What do you think life is?” I asked the student.

“A gift,” he said, using a rising voice inflection suggesting a question rather than an answer. I surmise that this is something he had been told by a parent, a pastor or another teacher.

“Yes,” I said, “I believe that life is a gift too, one to be treasured, one to be used to good purpose. But that doesn’t truly answer the question scientifically, does it? Are there any other ideas?” I asked. None were offered, so I endeavored to explain.

“It turns out,” I began, “science now believes that solid matter is either organic or inorganic. Organic matter is that which contains compounds including the carbon element. Compound, remember, is a word that means something made up of more than one part, like the compound word, biodiversity. Solid matter that does not contain carbon compounds, like rocks, cannot be alive. But not all organic matter is alive either. All of it either is or once was alive though. Live organic matter has purpose, its primary purpose, is to survive long enough to reproduce, to create new organic material. Organic matter which is not now alive has a purpose too; it feeds organic matter, either directly or indirectly, which is now living. Think of compost, decaying organic matter which we use to feed our garden plants. Think of worms, insect larva, and scavenger birds feeding on the carcasses of dead squirrels and other small animals.

So,” I told my students, “the scientific definition of life is this: It is a transitory state of organic matter, a state in progress of change during which new organic matter is created. This,” I told my students, “is the cycle of life.”

While my students were thinking about this, processing it, I moved on to the exercise, the compare-and-contrast part of my lesson. We focused the rest of our time talking about the similarities and differences between plants and animals. And this, their answers, assured me that they understood how to think critically. I hope they will continue to think critically for their entire lives.

After returning home, I got to thinking about part of my lesson, that part having to do with life, specifically the part about the purpose of life. Is that all there is, I thought, surviving long enough to reproduce? For some forms of life, sure, but, no… surely not for higher forms of life, surely not for humans. I turned to the Study Bible online and found this explaining the famous passage in chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes: 19For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. 20 All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust21Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth?

Hold on, didn’t God set man apart from the other animals, gave us dominion over all the earth? That makes us special, does it not? Yes.

The word dominion means to rule or power over.  God has sovereign power over His creation and has delegated the authority to mankind to have dominion over the plants and other animals (Genesis 1:26). King David reinforces this in Psalm 8:6: “You made [mankind] rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet.” So humanity was meant to “subdue” the earth (Genesis 1:28 to hold a position of command over it; we were placed in a superior role and we are to exercise control over the earth, its flora and fauna.

God’s command to subdue the earth means for us to have mastery over it, all of it. But true mastery of anything cannot be accomplished without a thorough understanding of the thing to be mastered. With the authority to rule comes responsibility, the responsibility to rule well. There is an inherent accountability in God’s command to subdue the earth. Therefore, we have a collective responsibility to learn all there is to know about the earth, its occupants, and our place in the cosmos. We have a collective responsibility to protect and defend the environment.

The word, subdue, doesn’t necessarily imply violence or mistreatment. It can also mean “to bring under cultivation.” It can mean “to love and take care of” and that is the meaning I believe is conveyed in God’s Word. Therefore, understanding its true meaning, we are to be stewards, good stewards, of God’s creation. We are to love ourselves, love our neighbors and all of creation. That is our purpose. That is our greater purpose. But, yes, in due course, we will perform our basic purposes as living organisms too: We will survive to reproduce. But we will also do these things: we will protect and nurture our young as all other higher animals do; we will toil to produce so that we might share with our issue and with our neighbors, especially those who struggle, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually; we will contribute to the common good; we will leave a legacy, and; in due course, we will return to the dust from whence we came, thus completing the life cycle.

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Published in: on March 30, 2017 at 3:26 pm  Leave a Comment