Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Graduation, the start of your adult life. Many would identify that as occurring at college graduation, but I disagree. While being at college for most students is a time when others are still paying the bills, it remains a time when you are suddenly and fully responsible for your own actions. This posting constitutes a speech, I suppose. When I think of commencement addresses, I think of bombast and stuffy declarations larded with lots and lots of advice. This is traditional, but I think it is misguided.

You and your fellow grads have shown a level of commitment and determination which is all too often lacking in American education these days. Drop out rates are far too high to be regarded as a minor problem; but this is not true for you. You have made it and you have made it with high grades and a very active schedule of activities. Bravo, bravo, bravisimo!

The only bit of advice I have to give you today is: Keep up the good work. You have shown the depth and strength of your character. Just stay on course. End of advice.

Right now is a time for celebration. I want you and all grads to have a purely joyful graduation. This is the moment in your life which will always the great watershed between childhood and adulthood, between dependency and independence. Whatever else happens, this is your moment like no other. The only event that equals this event is becoming a parent--and it not only equals this, it far surpasses it.

For you Josh, and for you Nora, -- know that I am here for you. I repeat what I have said before. A man may say to a colleague or guest, “Mi casa es su casa.” My house is your house. He may say to dear friend, “Mi casa es tu casa.” My house is thy house. But I say to you, “Mi hogar es tu hogar.” My home is thy home.

To put it another way, Robert Frost’s the Death of the Hired Man declares, “Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Not as warm a statement, since it implies more obligation than desire, but nevertheless also accurate. Should you fail to continue along the course you have followed to date, should you hit a reef or become stranded on a sand bar, even if you have done wrong and the disaster is your own fault, yet I will love you. And even then, Mi hogar is tu hogar. This is not to say that I would approve of bad decisions on your part, but it does affirm that my love is not conditional. Bad behavior, bad choices, bad mistakes are not to be tolerated and must be changed; but you will always be welcome in my home.

There is no more to say, but as I am fond of doing, I will again quote from King James: "Rejoice and be glad" Psalm 118:24.

Love, Papa: aka, Pops

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thanks to a rather severe bout with my chronic bronchitis [plus complicating factors], I've been down and out for about a month. I wanted to react to the death of Bin laden more promptly, but at least I can work on it now. There was an interesting set of reactions to this man’s death. Many Americans were joyful, others felt that the joy was misplaced. This latter group was relieved that the mass murder was dead, but felt that joy at anyone's death was unbecoming and potentially dangerous in that it might provoke a response of counter vengeance in the Middle East.

As it happens, the people of the Middle East seem to have understood that joy at the death of a sworn and deadly enemy is quite different from joy at the deaths of thousands of innocent people in an act of terrorism. The other point that critics of the American public response made was more telling. Many of us still refer to America as a Christian nation. This creates the doubt that such rejoicing was an appropriately Christian response. The point is well taken, but distant from the realities of human nature. Yes, as Christians everyone should regard life as sacred and anyone's death as regrettable, even if it is necessary. But how realistic is it to expect people to always be thoughtful and philosophic about events which profoundly affect their lives?

Much of the joy was simply the release of the terror deliberately generated by this man. He set out to make people afraid, and he succeeded. Naturally, when the fear was destroyed, people were ecstatic. Consider the novel, Watership Down. Hazel and his band of refugees are faced with the threat of immanent death. Suddenly, the threat vanishes. They are joyful and ebullient. I wish I could quote the passage, but I can't find my copy. This accounts for most of the public expressions of celebration regarding Bin Laden's death. This is not the only motivation, of course, but it is a major contributor and is entirely understandable. We are merely people, not angels.

I, too took great delight in the man's destruction. He was a symbol of the evil of terrorism, a mass killer, a very bad example of humanity. I felt some guilt about it, but decided not to be too hard on myself or anyone else in regard to this issue. We may strive to be perfect, but it is foolish to ask us to attain such heights with regularity.

I do not suggest that we all attempt to adopt a Jain's or Llama's devotion to life. When I find a fly in the house, I try to shoo it outside. If I can't, I get the fly swatter. I may be the only person known to my family and friends who actually apologizes to the fly for killing it and asks God to forgive the act [yes, I actually do this, every time] but I don't hesitate to kill the creature. It has invaded my space and carries disease and I will not allow it harm my family, period. This applies to ants and etc. I am not being a hypocrite, I believe the act is a necessary evil, like some wars.

So I can sincerely say that I regret the necessity of killing bin Laden, but I would not have hesitated to have ordered it done if I were in a position to have done so. I also admit that I took my share of delight in the fact that this monster was finally punished for his actions. I even have been know to refer to him, since his burial at sea as Osama Bin Fishfood. Sorry, I won't say I am proud of that, but, after all, I am merely human too.