Wednesday, April 28, 2010


The Dow Jones average of stocks recently topped the 11,000 mark for the first time in

nineteen months. Interest rates remain low and inflation remains under control. Yet, the

experts aren't ready to proclaim the end of our national economic nightmare because

unemployment is still too high, foreclosures are still up, and the commercial real estate

market is a disaster. And guess who is to blame? Everybody's to blame. We aren't spending

enough money.

Two-thirds of our economy's health depends on robust consumer spending. If Americans

don't spend money, businesses don't order new goods and services, employers don't hire new

workers, factories don't ramp up production, and our economy remains moribund. Even if

banks agreed to lend money to businesses small and large, if capital was available for start-up

companies, and if Americans don't spend a high proportion of their income on consuming; our

economy will remain weak. Patriotism is now defined in terms of conspicuous consumption.

The entire system of capitalism and free markets is ultimately a game of goods chasing money;

the question becoming: Will there be a time when we can't consume fast enough to keep the

system operating? You bet, just look around.

Americans need jobs in order to make the money to spend on consumption. We work

to earn money to meet our basic needs (food, shelter, transportation), while having enough

left over (discretionary income) to buy everything else. But, it seems wages and salaries in

many occupations aren't adequate these days; that is, if you are lucky enough to have a job.

This is not to say that wealth isn't being generated; it is, but it's being concentrated in fewer

and fewer hands.

Since 1973, the average American worker has seen almost no raises exceeding the rate

of inflation, meaning we have been losing buying power each year. Women entering the

workforce compensated somewhat for that loss, but cannot do so anymore. Unions, which

helped to create the middle class and put upward pressure on wages, have diminished to less

than 10% of American workers due to a combination of an eroding manufacturing base and

a constant attack by the wealthy and powerful to drive down the cost of what they pay in

wages and benefits. Simply put, the vast majority of people in America, you and I, are losing.

We don't manufacture much in this country anymore. More and more we import nearly

everything from oil to textiles to steel and at the same time we export less. Jobs which used

to pay a living wage become fewer and fewer as we continue our transition away from

manufacturing into both service and information. Agreements like the North American Free

Trade Act (NAFTA), the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), along with

membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), have enabled the process of

globalization to explode, decreasing the total number of good paying jobs. Globalization

means the average American worker loses, both in the short run and in the long run.

President Obama wants to create new "green" jobs especially in the area of alternative

energy; however, billions of dollars in federal subsidies will end up going to China since they

are the leaders in wind-turbine technology, thus creating big subsidies with minimal payback

in jobs for Americans. Obama and his Democrats want to spend billions on a new generation

of nuclear technology; but once again, no American company exists to build the plants and

the trickle-down money will go to investors and foreign professionals, creating jobs for

foreign-trained workers from other countries. Want to build clean-burning garbage plants

which create energy reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, avoid the need for new landfills,

is relatively pollution free, and deals with the ongoing problems created by our "use and

throw away" economy? Well, don't bother looking in the U.S., you'll have to go to the

Netherlands to see it working in all its glory.

As we spend over a trillion dollars (1,000 billion dollars) on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

and maintain an annual military budget of over $500 billion a year, our global competitors

are busy funneling their precious national resources into alternative energy, more efficient

public transportation systems, state-of-the-art steel manufacturing, and automobile factories.

While they improve their domestic capacity, we have been busy unilaterally dismantling our

industrial base for the last forty years.

Americans have been told our current situation was inevitable. We have gone broke

being the world's cop, while being told to accept globalization whether we like it or not. We

are told we have to take responsibility for many of the worlds ills. Imperialism is now

disguised in an expensive new suit and justified as defending freedom and democracy. One

could easily swear our enemies had taken over our domestic and foreign policy. Policies

clearly designed to destroy our economic base and turn us into a bankrupt debtor nation,

dooming us to exporting raw materials and skilled workers, while importing finished goods.

Do you remember the arguments made by Clinton, Rubin, Greenspan,

Globalization is inevitable, the key to national survival is competitiveness. We must now

compete worldwide for jobs and product markets. Americans had better get used to it.

Jobs are going away. We were not asked to embrace this new economic model; we were

commanded to obey and to blindly accept it. Strangely, at that time, the U.S. was economically

invincible. Look at us now.

We have an electrical grid which would make Haiti blush. One failing substation can

black out the entire East Coast. Our infrastructure of roads and bridges is crumbling before

our eyes (remember the bridge in Minnesota?). Hundreds of billions of dollars are needed

NOW to keep our nation operating. This is the 21st century's political hot potato. Other

nations are able to provide internet broadband access to their people at speeds four to six

times faster than anywhere in the U.S. This gives them huge competitive advantages in energy,

technology, and information. What's to become of an America worn out and in debt up to

our ears?

The answer, so our politicians say, is to spend our hard-earned cash on a broad, mostly

unnecessary array of products our competitors are busy making that somehow we are morally

obligated to consume. Problem: Americans cannot consume enough to turn the clock back

to the days when our economy sustained a vibrant middle class. The reality may be that

the world ultimately will not be able to spend enough to match the needs of the market to

provide goods and services! Globalization will force nations to specialize, to seek niches

they can serve better than their competitors. Internal disruptions, especially unanticipated

natural disasters in one part of the global marketplace, will immediately lead to devastating

human consequences in markets across the globe. The collapse of the mortgage securities

market in the United States led to economic turmoil all over the world. A volcano in Iceland

devastated the economy of Kenya; because without airplane flights, they could not get their

roses to market. A globalized and regionally specialized world market would be "nice" in

a perfect world; but it's a fairy tale in the real world of politics and natural disasters.

So, Americans are expected to spend more and more, while the jobs created are paying

less and less; and the cost of everything from healthcare to energy continues to rise. This

equates with economic failure in a fool's paradise. Our main problem seems to be we have

no national economic plan. There is no vision of where our nation is headed or what our

future should look like. Dealing with healthcare costs could have been a start; but the debate

in Congress failed to address any of the concerns I have raised. Washington has its head in

the sand. We have transitioned from a manufacturing to an information and service-based

society. Money for basic research has become such a low priority that it has all but dried up.

The infrastructure to support our current and future economy doesn't exist. Education is

understood to be vital to our nation's future; and yet we make college more and more

expensive, limiting those allowed to attend and saddling those lucky few with huge debt

burdens, graduation or not.

If consumers don't spend their money, the economy won't recover. Capitalism depends

on consumption. Yet, who of us right now feels honest confidence in our future? A future of

rampant globalization and fractured communities, the helpless feeling of smaller and smaller

paychecks, the knowledge that wealth is being created, but only for the fellow on the cover

of that slick magazine, a magazine you can barely afford that constantly teases you with that

ever more distant myth called the "American dream". And what are our politicians doing?

All the while, they are spending our precious blood and national treasure on unwinnable and

immoral wars and arguing about whether or not to reform a financial industry which almost

toppled our nation without firing a shot. Sad. Like a sick old dog chasing its tail.

Our nation desperately needs true leaders who will rebuild this country, create jobs, and

compete against the interests of other nations that are quickly surpassing us economically.

Do you hear anyone talking about any of this? What do you think? I welcome your comments

and rebuttals. Please send them to

Sunday, April 25, 2010


At Hastings School of Law in San Francisco, no campus group can exclude a student who

wishes to join. You don't believe in global warming, but want to join the environmental club?

You are welcome. You are opposed to the equal rights amendment, but want to join the

feminist law society on campus? Y'all come. No officially sanctioned club may discriminate

against any other student. You can see what's coming, can't you? A group of "Christian"

students want to be an official Hastings Club. Being a recognized campus group would entitle

them to a small subsidy, preferential treatment when trying to reserve an on-campus meeting

space, access to bulletin boards, etc. One problem, this group wants to exclude from

membership anyone who is gay, supports gay rights, or doesn't condemn premarital sex.

The school said "thanks, but no thanks" and denied the "Christians" official recognition.

Hastings is a state supported school. The California Constitution bans any form of

discrimination based on sexual orientation. It also requires separation of church and state

as does the U.S. Constitution. If Hastings were to accept this "Christian" group, taxpayers

would be endorsing prejudice and discrimination. Tax money would go to support a religious

group. The "Christians" claim Hastings policy has hurt them, even though they admit their

membership doubled after their application for Hastings Club status was turned down.

The "Christians" want it both ways. They want the advantages of being an on-campus

group; but they don't want to abide by the rules the school established for officially recognized

clubs. They cry foul and they claim Hastings is discriminating against them; but the reality

is they wish to discriminate, but don't want to pay the price. They can still be a group. They

can still hold meetings. They can pass out flyers and hold socials and prayer meetings. They

can associate with each other anytime they wish. No one, including Hastings, is denying them

their rights. They can exclude anyone they wish from their gatherings. What they cannot do

is discriminate and also expect official recognition. Taxpayers cannot be asked to subsidize

policies which are unconstitutional.

I have no idea how the oral arguments will play out. I can guess the positions of the

regressive Catholic block on the court. I truly don't see the conflict here. No one is making

the "Christians" form a club or denying them that ability. If they want one, they have to be

open, tolerant, even loving towards those who might want to join but disagree with them.

Years ago, the Olympic Club in San Francisco got into trouble because it didn't admit

women. Part of the club's golf course sat on city property and the city wanted the policy

changed. They were also sued because members could deduct their membership fees as

business expenses even though women were excluded from all the "business" being discussed.

Members argued they had the right to associate with whomever they wished and had the

right to exclude women. Ultimately, they lost. They did have the right to have a club and

they did have the right to exclude women; but they couldn't deduct their fees nor could their

golf course continue to occupy city land. In the end, they admitted women and no longer

treat their fees as business expenses. The club thrives and even had its first adult women's

basketball league a few years ago.

There is nothing wrong with a policy of non-discrimination. The Hasting's policy is

neutral. No club may discriminate against any other student. All comers have to be welcome.

It is not aimed at any one religion or philosophy. That this case stems from a "Christian"

group who wants to engage in prejudice and bigotry is an irony which will be lost on no one.

How did a philosophy of total love and care turn into one of prejudice and

discrimination? Why is it every other group at Hastings can open their membership to all

comers except the "Christians"? What perverted permutations occurred in the last 2000

years, to turn a philosophy of tolerance and forgiveness, committed to the least of your

brothers and sisters, into a political force for hatred and exclusion? "Christians" can only

meet with like-minded folks? How well would that approach have worked in the early

Church? Can you imagine Paul refusing to meet with anyone who didn't share his vision

and approach? What would have happened to the spread of early Christianity if membership

were limited to only those who bought into it hook, line, and sinker? Peter tried it. He

tried to force Gentile Christians to be circumcised and obey Jewish dietary laws and he was

overridden at the Council of Jerusalem. Christianity was open to all, not just those who

followed Jewish custom.

I hope the Supreme Court rules in Hasting's favor. To side with the "Christians" would

force California taxpayers to subsidize discrimination and would have the state ignoring

its own laws to accommodate a religious group. I wish I were confident the court will not

reward this group. Church and state need to be kept separate because religious or sectarian

disputes can tear a nation to shreds. Anyone been to Iraq or Afghanistan lately? What do you

think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

Note: Sometimes more than one blog is posted at a time; so be sure to check the previous

blogs to make sure that you have not missed any of the "Lion of the Left" postings.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


The governor of Virginia has chosen April to honor all those who fought for the Confederate

States of America. The governor of Virginia has decided his state will officially honor all

Virginians who took up arms against their country in an attempt to overthrow the legitimately

elected government. The governor of Virginia, in his remarks honoring those who would have

destroyed this nation, totally failed to mention the issue of slavery or how the Virginians

wanted to end this experiment in democracy; simply saying that the month-long homage

would be good for tourism.

The Confederate States of America declared war on the United States. They said it was

a "holy war" which God had ordained and God would insure their victory. What do you think

the reaction would have been if the governor had declared a month honoring Osama bin Laden?

His too is a "holy war" which is aimed at destroying this nation; and he too is convinced Allah

is on his side. Too outlandish you say? Crazy! The analogy doesn't work, you cry! Typical

Yankee bleeding heart liberal reaction, you opine!

I listened to former Bush advisor and adopted Southerner, Mary Matalin, try to defend

the Virginia resolution. She talked about Southern culture and courage. She waxed eloquently

about all the Civil War battles which occurred in Virginia. She saw no harm in honoring

traitors bent on destroying this nation. Then she dropped the big one: "Few Southerners

owned slaves and this was never a war about slavery anyway."

This revisionist history has been repeated and spouted practically since the war ended,

but particularly as civil rights and voting rights became popular topics and as acceptance of

African-Americans entered the mainstream of American culture. The Civil War was about

state's rights. It was not about slavery. Lincoln would have gladly let the South keep its

slaves to preserve the Union. Slavery was not the overriding issue which caused the war.

It is a way for those who love the Confederacy and want to fly a rebel flag and paint Southern

soldiers as patriots; to be able to get around the fact that if the Confederacy had been

successful, then hundreds of thousands of African-American slaves would still be in chains.

Yes, Lincoln would have allowed the South to have slavery to preserve the Union. He didn't

believe he had the constitutional authority to end it. However, in his inaugural address and

other speeches Lincoln opposed any expansion of slavery into new states. His opposition to

the expansion of slavery is what caused the South to declare war. They knew the institution

of slavery was doomed if they could not expand it. (They were so desperate to preserve and

expand slavery that there were plans proposed to conquer Cuba and have armed forces sent

to try to subdue a Latin American nation so as to expand slavery into those locations.)

The Confederate States of America and their supporters were traitors. They came closer

to destroying this nation than bin Laden or any other terrorist ever will. As a result of their

treason, 500,000 Americans died (2,900 died on September 11th; 2,800 died at Pearl Harbor).

How do you declare a month to honor those whose stated purpose was to end this nation?

What is it that the governor of Virginia finds is worth honoring in their efforts? Is he sorry

they lost? Is he honoring them for all the Yankees they killed? When you honor the

Confederacy and its cause, do you also honor those Confederate sympathizers who

assassinated President Lincoln?

Imagine being an African-American living in Virginia. Imagine picking up the morning

paper and reading how the governor wants to spend the month of April honoring those who

may have enslaved your relatives and wanted to preserve slavery in your home. How would

you feel? What subtle message does this send about the governor and his party's values

where you, a person of color, are concerned?

The governor of Virginia took an oath to preserve the Constitution. It is the same

Constitution the Confederate States of America wanted to destroy. How do you square that


Former Republican Senator Trent Lott from Mississippi suggested that this

country would have been better off if a segregationist, Strom Thurmond, had been elected

president in 1948. Republicans in South Carolina and other Southern states defend flying

the Confederate flag. The Republicans used the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act,

supported by Democrats, to scare white voters into changing parties and turning the South

into a solid Republican block. Republicans led the opposition to a national holiday honoring

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and now a Republican governor wants to honor the traitors who

tried to destroy this nation in order to preserve a system of human subjugation.

I have suggested more than once that this nation would have been better off today if

the South had been allowed to secede. Imagine a United States without Texas, Mississippi,

or Alabama. It is said with tongue firmly inserted in cheek, but it is interesting to imagine.

There is nothing glorious, courageous, or romantic in the attempt of some Americans

to destroy this country and preserve an institution as morally bankrupt as slavery. Perhaps

the only thing worse in 2010 is to have a white, regressive, and tone-deaf politician trying

to honor the effort. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please

send them to


I told you so!! Go back and read what I wrote about President Obama's decision to send

more soldiers to Afghanistan. I was and am against it. I observed the government was corrupt;

but what's worse is that the people of Afghanistan have no confidence in their President, Hamid

Karzai. In fact, some Afghans have joined the Taliban because of how offensive Karzai's

administration is. I also pointed out the parallels between Afghanistan and our past experience

with Vietnam; in particular, a regime so corrupt that President Kennedy approved a coup to

remove one corrupt administration only to install another equally corrupt administration.

In a series of speeches, Karzai has accused the United States of trying to "dominate" his

country. He accuses U.S. and NATO officials of falsely charging him with trying to steal the

recent presidential elections in which more than one million bogus votes were identified, his

brother being the prime suspect. Karzai attacked the Obama administration, accusing it of

meddling in internal Afghan affairs; conveniently ignoring the fact that he recently attempted

to take over the nation's election commission by replacing the commissioners with his own

hand-picked apparatchiks.

In a speech to tribal elders, Karzai said no American military actions will proceed in their

areas without them being notified. Analysts believe Karzai was, in effect, giving them veto

power over U.S. troop movements which would totally defeat any justification for having

American troops in Afghanistan. The icing on the cake, however, was when Karzai invited

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Kabul for a state visit. Ahmadinejad delivered

an anti-American tirade accusing the U.S. of every crime possible against humanity.

Thomas Friedman, the New York Times resident Iraq war cheerleader, recently reacted

to Karzai's speeches by asking " this is why we've sacrificed the lives of thousands of U.S.

soldiers? This is why we have spent over $200 billion to pull Afghanistan out of the Dark

Ages?" Friedman says we cannot be successful in Afghanistan with Karzai in power and

ultimately he will break our hearts. I couldn't agree more.

The Obama administration has virtually no leverage over Karzai. Obama flew to Kabul

to meet with him and demand he clean up the corruption, stop the drug trafficking, and

improve the lives of his people. Karzai ignored him. Now the administration is debating

whether or not to rescind an invitation for him to come to Washington to demonstrate our

displeasure. How pathetic!

Obama has no exit strategy. He has no definition of victory. He listened to the generals,

as the Regressives demanded; and has become another Democratic president involved in an

unwinnable war. Once again, Cindy Sheehan's question continues to loom large, demanding

an answer: "Mister President, what is the noble cause that soldiers died for in Afghanistan?"

Karzai's worst fear is that if Afghanistan is reformed and rebuilt, if the people get truly

honest elections, if the violence is reduced and their lives improve; he and his brother and

their corrupt henchmen will be thrown out. The United States winning means he loses. A

freer Afghanistan implies his own political destruction; therefore, he consistently sabotages

each and every U.S. goal for reform.

And what about his brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai? Karzai's brother runs the city of

Kandahar, the spiritual home of the Taliban. Not only has he been on the payroll of the CIA

for years with little to show for it; he's also the face of corruption in Afghanistan. He is

connected to the opium trade, which brings in billions of illegal dollars that goes to fund and

rebuild the Taliban and al Qaeda in his district. To this he's turned a blind eye. No business,

legal or illegal, can be conducted without him taking a cut. U.S. forces are about to start a

campaign in Wali Karzai's Kandahar. If he is not replaced, you can imagine how successful

the campaign will ultimately be.

We have backed the wrong horse. Unfortunately, he is the horse we rode in on and the

water in this river is too deep and swift to have second thoughts at this stage of the game.

The only leverage Obama has left is to threaten to pull our troops out and bring them home.

For political reasons, that won't happen. American soldiers, once again, will be thrown into

harm's way, to be killed and wounded. American taxpayers will, once again, be expected to

stand back and look stupid while hundreds of billions of dollars are flushed down another

rat hole. And this I can promise you: Years from now we will be waxing philosophic about

how we allowed ourselves to be blindly tricked, once again, into another pointless military

quagmire. Pathetic!! What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please

send them to


Let me start with a confession. I don't understand Twitter and Obie and Facebook and

all the other social media where the apparent goal is to never let a moment of ones life go

unobserved. I say this with the knowledge my oldest brother who is into his sexy sixties,

recently started a Facebook page and Twitter account. I'm not a Luddite. I love gadgets,

smart phones, texting, and I particularly love P.C.'s. However, this new trend eludes me. I may

be opening myself to the charge of being a hypocrite, considering I spent a good portion of my

adult working life sharing my personal life with strangers. Five nights a week and on Sundays

I'd open up, telling everything from the birth of my children to a frightening day at IKEA.

However, in spite of my talkative past, possibly our culture has gone a bit too far. When some

future Gibbons writes his version of the Rise and Fall of the American Empire, this could be

cited as the straw that broke the camel's back.

The New York Times Dining Section for April 7th featured a front page story about

people posting pictures of every morsel of food they eat for all the world to see on the internet.

The article chronicles the likes of Javier Garcia, a neuroscientist at UC Irvine, who posted over

9,000 photos of every single thing he's eaten in the last five years. Mr. Garcia says posting

a picture of every single thing he eats helps him stay on his diet and not gain weight. Food

pictures on the internet have increased ten-fold in the last two years. Over six million have

been posted on the Flickr site called "I Ate This", its most active photo sharing group. Because

of over 300,000 pictures posted by more than 19,000 people, Flickr actually has to limit the

number of photos an individual can post per month.

The pictures range from cereal to suckling pig to arugula-feta salads. People quoted in

the article say they get more comments on their food pictures than on anything else they post

online. One woman met her future husband through her food postings. Others say food

photos help them connect to others in a unique way.

Psychiatrists say the unconscious mind equates food with love; so they're not surprised

people want to share what they eat. What they didn't comment on, and which mystifies me

completely, is why anyone would want to view an image of what I just ate.

I admit I am not an adventurous eater. Heaven to me is a Philly Cheesesteak from the

Cheesesteak Shop on Divisadero. Paradise is a steak and hash brown breakfast at Louie's

near the Cliffhouse accompanied by old-fashioned sourdough toast or corned beef hash from

the Tennessee Grill on Taravel. A burger from the Bullshead in West Portal or Bill's on

Clement can be a moment of ecstasy. When my wife makes her chili or Irish bread or

homemade chocolate chip cookies, it is as if time has stopped and I am thrilled. However,

at no time has it ever crossed my mind that there was another living person who's wish was

to observe all of these repasts as I was consuming them.

It gets worse! Camera manufacturers like SONY, Nikon, Olympus, and Fuji are now

marketing special "food" or "cuisine" modes for their cameras which range in price from

$200-$600. I'm not kidding. People will spend $600 to get a special lens to take pictures

of the food they are eating in order to post them on the internet for others to see. Have

Americans have officially jumped the shark?

One of the common themes running through the article is how these photos connect to

others. Showing people what you eat somehow reveals a great deal about the kind of person

you are. Perhaps this is the ultimate revelation. While everyone is on Twitter and Facebook,

MySpace and Shutterfly, Chowhound and Foodcandy, shouldn't they be out with friends

enjoying each other's company and sharing the experience of a good meal? Why is it we don't

sit out on the front porch anymore? Most of us don't know our neighbors and don't want

to know them. Since our social interactions are less frequent, are we seeking new ways to

connect? Are we so desperate to be heard, touched, and desired that we have to advertise

what we eat?

I won't be posting any pictures of a Triscuit covered in winecheese topped with a slice of

dry salami any time soon. While it's one of my favorite snacks, I haven't got a clue what it

says about me nor why anyone else would care. I will continue to write and call friends and

family. I will continue to connect and share with everyone, friends and foe alike. More than

ever I am so grateful for an amazing family and friends. However, tonight's meal of baked

ziti in a supposed tomato sauce will not be on any photo sight near you. It's your loss?

What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

Monday, April 5, 2010


Before you read any further, take out a piece of paper and write down the words to our

National Anthem. I'll wait...

How did you do? Did you miss any of the words? Did you find it hard to remember the

first verse? Did you have to stop to think about what to write?

The majority of Americans cannot call to mind something as basic to being an American

as the first verse of our National Anthem, the Star Spangled Banner. This, in spite of the fact

you cannot attend a sporting event or other public event without the song being played. The

poetry of Francis Scott Key eludes them.

Last week, Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana, opened their college baseball season with

a doubleheader against the Sierra Heights Saints. According to the New York Times, for the

first time in school history, the National Anthem was played before the game. A person might

ask themselves, why is that? Goshen is a college founded by Mennonites. Mennonites

descended from the same Christian roots as the Amish, but adopted and adapted to modern

convention unlike their Amish brethren. One thing, however, the Mennonite faith did not

compromise is a faith in pacifism based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. So, until last week,

games at Goshen started with a team huddle and nothing else.

Historically, school administrators and students believed the words to the U.S. National

Anthem glorified and celebrated war, a view which has caused unnecessary violence and the

deaths of millions of people. Goshen has about one thousand students, almost half of which

are not Mennonites. The non-Mennonite students began to press for the playing of the anthem

before games. The debate, going on for a number of years, culminated in a decision by the

college president to play the music but not the words. a sort of concession, after

the anthem was played, those in attendance were asked to recite the Peace Prayer of

St. Francis of Assisi. Trust the Mennonites not to make compromises of this sort without a

significant dividend.

Non-Mennonite students cheered the decision and reminded other students that the flag,

the anthem, and the freedom they represent are what made this country great and are what

gives us the freedom to believe and pray to whomever we wish. Very nice, but there is a

problem with their logic: most Americans can't remember the words to their National

Anthem. The reason the tradition of playing it before sports events began was a response to

the rise of totalitarianism and communism in the Soviet Union. After September 11th, 2001,

the singing of God Bless America was added to major league baseball's Seventh Inning Stretch.

Apparently, Americans were not only amazed the flag was still standing, but also believe that

God was responsible.

As counterpoint to all the "feel-good" flag-waving and the mouthing of words we can't

remember, some passionately cry out that "patriotism" is the last refuge of scoundrels. They

say more harm has been done in the name of "patriotism" in this country than by almost any

other concept. "Patriotism" led to the Mexican War and the annexation of vast tracks of land

that once belonged to Mexico. It led to the genocide of the Native American people cloaked as

a love of country. It led to a bitter Civil War divided equally between those wanting both to

preserve and destroy our union. It led to the U.S. taking the last of Spain's overseas colonies.

Worse still, "patriotism" led to numerous laws restricting the very freedoms we at one

time worshipped: President John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, making

it a crime to criticize the government or the president because it could harm the country.

Japanese-Americans were put in camps because of the fear that some might possibly not be

loyal Americans. The 1950's brought the imposition of loyalty oaths, blacklists, and witch

hunts due to the "red scare". The Patriot Act (ironic name, don't you think?) was passed by

Congress just days after September 11th redefined every American citizen as a potential

terrorist. Telecom companies illegally spied on their customers, couching themselves as

patriotic Americans acting on President Bush's request. Americans who opposed the Vietnam

War, the Gore in the Gulf, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were attacked because of

their opinions and were branded as unpatriotic.

But who am I to talk? Simply a person that was told to leave the country because of my

criticism of the Bush Administration's lies. These lies were quickly exposed; but being right

doesn't improve people's view of how much you love your country.

Now, let's go back to the Mennonites at Goshen College. Despite a noble history of

weathering criticism, despite suffering persecution, despite threats of violence and actual

violence against them for their convictions about war and, in particular, wars of aggression

by any country, they had to compromise. They believe it is impossible to claim to be a

Christian, to follow Jesus's command to turn the other cheek, love your enemy, forgive an

infinite number of times, and then support the organized killing of human beings; but to

maintain good relations, they've given in.

We can debate the value and pragmatism of pacifism and we can debate how one puts

into practice their Christian faith. There is no debate, however, about the nature of the

National Anthem. It glorifies war, killing, and the view that defending or advancing your

country's values, including the evil of imperialism, justifies the use of force. Despite hearing

the song hundreds of times, most Americans can't remember all the words of the first verse;

so it's ludicrous to suggest that by simply playing the National Anthem before a baseball game

that a love of country will well up in the common heart of America.

Goshen College stood out as a place putting its beliefs into action. Their refusal to play

the anthem made people think. The college took the easy, white-bread kind of "love of

country" most Americans hold; and challenged it by simply not going along. Ideally, attending

a sporting event at Goshen might have caused a person to ask why the Mennonites weren't

playing the anthem before their games before this current change in policy. It might even

have caused a person to reflect on the Mennonite world view, so as to contrast and compare

them with our own. One thing for sure, the Mennonites are witness to a system of beliefs that

is truly patriotic because they honestly love their country enough to hold up a mirror for those

Americans whose only connection to any kind of primitive "patriotic" thought is right before

someone yells "play ball!"

I'm sorry to see the tradition end; but as a consolation, any game that starts with "Make

me a channel of your peace..." (The Peace Prayer) has something more to offer the average

sports fan than mere diversion and entertainment. The thoughtful among us will always find

a way. Thank you Goshen College!! What do you think? I welcome your comments and

rebuttals. Please send them to