Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Center Must Hold

Jonah 4:5-11 (New Living Translation)

5 “Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see if anything would happen to the city. 6And the LORD God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah's head, shading him from the sun. This eased some of his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant.
7But God also prepared a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant, so that it soon died and withered away. 8And as the sun grew hot, God sent a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than this!” he exclaimed.
9Then God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?"
"Yes," Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”
10Then the LORD said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. And a plant is only, at best, short lived. 11But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn't I feel sorry for such a great city?”

Nancy and I are getting ready to take a couple of week’s vacation.
For those of you who are regular readers of my blog I’ll be back in a little over two weeks. I may, if I get access to a laptop or a PC, publish something along the way, but I doubt it. I just want to get away. I hope that you’ll maintain contact with me. The archives are filled with lots of stuff. Feel free to browse.

The last time we took a trip like this was in September, 2001. The memories of those days came back this morning. We woke up on September 11, 2001 in a bed and breakfast just a bit north of Albuquerque. It was a pleasant day and as we sat down for breakfast we were going over our plans to visit some of the pueblos west of the city and then continue on to the El Rancho Motel in Gallup for a night. Our eventual aim was the Grand Canyon, which I’d never seen. As we were doing this the husband of the B&B’s owner, who worked as an engineer in Albuquerque, came downstairs and said that he’d just heard a report of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center. While I was worried at first, I didn’t feel disturbed, believing that it was a small plane and that the damage was probably minimal. We all talked about it for a few minutes and then the man went back upstairs to get an additional report. About twenty minutes later he came back down and announced what has now become the tragic history of that day. Terrorists had crashed jetliners into the Trade Center, the Pentagon, and if they could have, they would have hit the White House as well.

The events surrounding Katrina have some of that same feel for us. We have a September vacation, commemorating our nineteenth anniversary, coming in the middle of a national tragedy. We feel the same sense of desperation at a distance today that most Americans feel as we watch people clinging to roofs, wading through infested water, or recounting the tragic loss of loved ones that we felt four years ago.
As we drove west from Albuquerque that day we listened to NPR’s increasingly grim reports. With each report our hearts would sink. It was a dark day.

We remember the feeling well.

As we start our vacation today we’ve done our part, but we know that more will be required.
We’ve prayed for our fellow citizens in the Gulf, we’ve donated, and will probably donate more, and have done all we can to bring words of comfort and unity to our little corner of the world.

I wish it were so for all of us, but it’s not. At both extremes of the political poles there are opportunists acting much like the looters who have taken advantage of this tragedy to advance selfish ends.

At one end there are religious extremists who are calling this God’s Day of Judgment and wrath against an evil city. New Orleans is, in their minds, the twenty-first century of Sodom and Gomorrah or Nineveh. I have a simple reminder for them from Holy Writ. In the greatest sermon ever preached, Jesus said these remarkable words:

7 “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”

If there are religious zealots reading this blog who are so self-righteous that they feel compelled to judge an entire city I would also remind them that they do so at their peril.

For those political zealots who are so callous that they would use human tragedy to advance a political agenda I have this reminder from history. The category four hurricane that devastated Galveston, killing eight thousand of the city’s inhabitants, in 1900 was no more Teddy Roosevelt or William Mckinley’s fault than Katrina is George Bush’s. The category five hurricane that swept through the Florida Keys in 1935 wasn’t Franklin Roosevelt’s fault, nor was the death of four hundred and eight the storm’s wake. The category three hurricane that killed six hundred New Englanders in 1938 was not the result of flaws in the environmental policy of FDR’s New Deal. The loss of three hundred and ninety souls during the category three hurricane that slammed into the northeastern United States in 1944 didn’t happen because President Roosevelt was paying too much attention to the war going on in Europe and the South Pacific.

I understand the anger and the frustration that comes at tragic times like these. I felt the same frustration and helplessness four years ago that feel now. But I believe the appropriate way to express that anger and frustration now is to pray and to give. The time for criticism will come later. The time to cleanse ourselves of personal or political sins will come later. When that day dawns we can convene commissions and we can hold prayer meetings. We can find out what we should have done logistically or spiritually. We can fix bridges and buildings, we can build homes and businesses, we can mend lives, and we can, if necessary, repent. But this is not the time for the looters of our national fabric to gain a foothold. There is far too much work to do now and we who occupy the center must hold. We’ve given and we’ve prayed, but more will be required of us. We must not allow the extremists to carry the day!

I have one last word for the extremists. If you’re a religious zealot and feel compelled to express your outrage, do it in your prayer closet, in private. If you feel the need to express your political rage, then express it out of the glare of the media spotlight. Express it by giving to charitable organizations that are at ground zero right now trying to rescue the lost. If you still feel outraged when you’ve done that, then go back into your prayer closet again or open your wallet once more. I doubt that you will, but I can say with all the conviction I can muster that this is the appropriate way for an American to act right now!

There’s nothing else I need to say. We are on our way. See you in about three weeks.


Jay said...

I suppose it is the civil thing to keep quite and not say anything...unpleasent.

that way, it can happen again

and again

and again

...but we won't hear anything that might be unpleasent

AubreyJ said...

Have a wonderful- safe vacation Mr. Dillon...
Until then...

dog1net said...

Great photo for your post and excellent commentary. Enjoy your vacation.

Vulture 6 said...

a friend of mine is takinga week an dcomming to Houston to help at the shelter. he will be staying with us to help defer the costs of the trip.

Choicemaker said...

Every September, I recall that is more than half a
century since I landed at Nagasaki with the 2nd Marine Division in the original occupation of Japan following World War II. This time every year, I have watched and listened to the light- hearted "peaceniks" and their light-headed symbolism-without-substance of ringing bells, flying pigeons, floating candles, and sonorous chanting and I recall again that "Peace is not a cause - it is an effect."

In July, 1945, my fellow 8th RCT Marines [I was a BARman] and I returned to Saipan following the successful conclusion of the Battle of Okinawa. We were issued new equipment and replacements joined each outfit in preparation for our coming amphibious assault on the home islands of Japan.

B-29 bombing had leveled the major cities of Japan, including Kobe, Osaka, Nagoya, Yokohama, Yokosuka, and Tokyo.

We were informed we would land three Marine divisions and six Army divisions, perhaps abreast, with large reserves following us in. It was estimated that it would cost half a million casualties to subdue the Japanese homeland.

In August, the A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima but the Japanese government refused to surrender. Three days later a second A-bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. The Imperial Japanese government finally surrendered.

Following the 1941 sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, a Japanese admiral said, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant..." Indeed, they had. Not surprisingly, the atomic bomb was produced by a free people functioning in a free environment. Not surprisingly because the creative process is a natural human choice-making process and inventiveness occurs most readily where choice-making opportunities abound. America!

Tamper with a giant, indeed! Tyrants, beware: Free men are nature's pit bulls of Liberty! The Japanese learned the hard way what tyrants of any generation should know: Never start a war with a free people - you never know what they may invent!

As a newly assigned member of a U.S. Marine intelligence section, I had a unique opportunity to visit many major cities of Japan, including Tokyo and Hiroshima, within weeks of their destruction. For a full year I observed the beaches, weapons, and troops we would have assaulted had the A-bombs not been dropped. Yes, it would have been very destructive for
all, but especially for the people of Japan.

When we landed in Japan, for what came to be the finest and most humane occupation of a defeated enemy in recorded history, it was with great appreciation, thanksgiving, and praise for the atomic bomb team, including the aircrew of the Enola Gay. A half million American homes had been spared the Gold Star flag, including, I'm sure, my own.

Whenever I hear the apologists expressing guilt and shame for A-bombing and ending the war Japan had started (they ignore the cause-effect relation between Pearl Harbor and Nagasaki), I have noted that neither the effete critics nor the puff-adder politicians are among us in the assault landing-craft or the stinking rice paddies of their suggested alternative, "conventional" warfare. Stammering reluctance is obvious and continuous, but they do love to pontificate about the Rights that others, and the Bomb, have bought and preserved for them.

The vanities of ignorance and camouflaged cowardice abound as license for the assertion of virtuous "rights" purchased by the blood of others - those others who have borne the burden and physical expense of Rights whining apologists so casually and self-righteously claim.

At best, these fakers manifest a profound and cryptic ignorance of causal relations, myopic perception, and dull I.Q. At worst, there is a word and description in The Constitution defining those who love the enemy more than they love their own countrymen and their own posterity. Every Yankee Doodle Dandy knows what that word is.

In 1945, America was the only nation in the world with the Bomb and it behaved responsibly and respectfully. It remained so until two among us betrayed it to the Kremlin. Still, this American weapon system has been the prime deterrent to earth's latest model world- tyranny: Seventy years of Soviet collectivist definition, coercion, and domination of individual human beings.

The message is this: Trust Freedom. Remember, tyrants never learn. The restriction of Freedom is the limitation of human choice, and choice is the fulcrum-point of the creative process in human affairs. As earth's choicemaker, it is our human identity on nature's beautiful blue planet and the natural premise of man's free institutions, environments, and respectful relations with one another. Made in the image of our Creator, free men choose, create, and progress - or die.

Free men should not fear or envy the oppressor nor
choose any of his ways. Recall with a confident Job and a victorious David, "Know ye not that you are in league with the stones of the field?"

Semper Fidelis

Jim Baxter
WW II and Korean War

Job 5:23 Proverbs 3:31 I Samuel 17:40

"Got Criteria?" See Psalm 119:1-176

+ + +

Paul said...

Very touching photo and an excellent post. The verses from Jonah were a great touch. Prayers for a wonderful vacation and a safe return.

Maciej said...

One of the best articles I have read on here. Great blog...I will definately blogmark this one! God bless!

coloradohurricane said...

Hello, just wanted to say I've seen your blog a lot on BlogExplosion and Blog Soldier, and while there are other blogs out there which I quickly glance at then move on, I always take the time to read your posts, because you are a voice of reason in a crazy blogosphere.

Many people don't really understand what a "JFK democrat" really is. JFK appointed Byron White, who was one of the best justices of the 20th century, IMHO.
He was also, by todays standards, more conservative than his opponent Nixon. Sometimes when I hear some Democrats saying the country has become more conservative and how America is becoming a theocracy, I imagine someone from today going back to the Nixon/Kennedy debates and asking the candidates how they feel about "Gay marriage" and what their reaction would be.

The Democratic party needs more people like you. America needs more people like you.

prying1 said...

Hope your vacation meets more of your expectations than you desired - Wonderful post. Wish I had said it. Most I can do is link to it.

Jerry Hanel said...

First, let me say: Have a great vacation.

Secondly, I really appreciate the way you handle these commentaries. Very insightful and non-aggressive, yet full of wisdom, should one care to look that far.

In the end it ISN'T about politics. Parties fade, politics swing year to year. But the fact is, those are real hurting people, and I really appreciate how you portray them. I wish more could see through your eyes.

I read your comments often,a nd you can be assured I will be lurking even more. Be blessed, and I look forward to meeting you one day in a royal courtyard.


Philip Del Ricci said...

I have really enjoyed reading your BLOG. It is refreshing to read a Christian perspective that I can firmly stand behind. The past few years I have seen many expressions of being "Christian" that I consider vile.

Thank you for this. I hope you have enjoyed your vacation.


P. Del Ricci - Dark Glass

DAVID C. PRICE said...

I enjoyed browsing your excellent blog. Blessings,