Wednesday, February 22, 2017


“In 20th century U.S. slang, “kimchi” was occasionally used in the phrase “in deep kimchi” (particularly by veterans of the Korean War), a euphemism for “in deep trouble”

Is America in what I used to hear GI’s who served in Korea call “the deep kimchi? It was their polite way of saying “We’re in deep shit.”

At any rate, the question stands. Are we in the “deep kimchi?”

There’s a lot of chatter about America’s security apparatus these days, brought to the fore in the light of the resignation/sacking of Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor. Were the N.S.A. and the C.I.A., with an extremely antagonistic executive at the helm, and Flynn, who, according to scuttlebutt, loved conspiracy theories almost as much as he loved Vladimir Putin and Russia, clandestinely conspiring against their bosses?
Everything I’m reading about this reminds me of one of my favorite films – John Frankenheimer’s  “Seven Days in May.”

The film was made in 1964, during the Cold War. The plot is straightforward. There’s a “liberal” President who has become quite unpopular. He’s trying to negotiate an arms treaty with the Soviets and appears to be willing to strip America of its ability to defend itself. A group of generals, seeing this, devise a plot to overthrow the weakened President. 

As things almost always  are in Hollywood, the liberal President was the hero of the film. It only makes sense, with Hollywood being Hollywood. Any good producer, director, or actor knows that “liberals” would never undermine an elected government. In their minds, only “right wingers” do such things. Liberals, as we all know, value our Constitution and the rule of law.

Watch the clip at the beginning of this essay and take a moment to substitute the unpopular President Lyman with an unpopular Donald Trump. Watch and I think you’ll see that there may be something quite interesting happening today, 

I honestly can’t tell which end is up here. Were Trump and Flynn conspiring against the Nation or were bureaucrats within our security agencies up to no good? Were the leadership and rank and file of our security agencies trying to protect us from an impending disaster? Or, were they, in ways subtle and not so subtle, flexing the enormous undercover weapons at their disposal? If so, to what end? Would it be service to the Nation? Or would it be something far more self-serving, if not sinister? In all the back and forth between the President and our intelligence agencies about leaks, suspicious activities, etc., who is telling the truth? Where does America’s left wing fit into all of this?

I’m suspicious, but then who isn’t or shouldn’t be? I am pretty certain that no one in this current dustup is up to any good. When I was a kid, I used to listen to “The Shadow.” As I observe current events, I think I can hear the dark musical tones, the sardonic cackling, and Lamont Cranston’s voice – “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men…….the Shadow knows!”

While I can take some comfort in knowing that the Shadow was a fictional character whose only aim in life was to entertain America, I’m not sure I can take the same kind of comfort in America’s current reality. I don’t find what I’m seeing very amusing. In fact, the air in Washington, D.C. is now pregnant with some really nasty possibilities, not the least of which is becoming subject to an unelected shadow government twisting all the dials and pulling the levers.

One of the things that I’ve found interesting is that those who would normally be expected to press the alarm buttons don’t seem to be concerned at all. I think you know who I’m talking about. It’s the left of center politicians and political writers. This morning, for example, I read a piece in The Atlantic that compared our “deep state” to Turkey’s. It was another way of saying, “Don’t be alarmed. Everything’s just fine in America. Pay no attention to those men behind the curtain.” The more I read from the piece, the further my jaw dropped. If I could have, I would have asked them if they were serious, but there was no point in that. Whoever wrote the piece obviously believed it.

So, am I supposed to believe that, since Turkey has a deeply rooted “deep state,” the United States can’t possibly have one? The syllogism doesn’t work for me. It’s a bit like complimenting the politicians in Massachusetts for their tax policy because the taxes in Massachusetts are a bit lower than the taxes in Sweden. It makes absolutely no sense to me.

Could America, with its strong political institutions, complete with checks and balances, its Constitution, and its history, fall prey to something like a “deep state?”

I want to say, “Absolutely not,” but I find myself hesitating.

We could at some point in the future find ourselves at the mercy of an unelected “deep state” that not only monitors, but directs our daily lives. If something like that happens, it won’t happen overnight. It will come in small, almost imperceptible increments, somewhat like what happens to the proverbial frog when he’s placed in a pan of lukewarm water and the flame is lit under the pan. One minute he’s feeling quite comfortable, but sooner or later he’s gonna’ be cooked.

In a 1966 Supreme Court case (Osborn v. United States, 385 U.S. 323,343. Justice William O. Douglas was the lone dissenting vote in a case that dealt with government wiretapping. The following words from his dissent express the very things I’m concerned about. Sometimes, on the surface, a decision rendered might seem easy to arrive at. But, there are occasionally some who ask what the implications of such a decision might be. Read Justice Douglas’s words and you’ll see what I mean:These examples and many others demonstrate an alarming trend whereby the privacy and dignity of our citizens is being whittled away by sometimes imperceptible steps. Taken individually, each step may be of little consequence. But when viewed as a whole, there begins to emerge a society quite unlike any we have seen -- a society in which government may intrude into the secret regions of man's life at will."

So, are we witnessing the rise of an American “deep state?” I can’t say for sure. The water does feel nice and warm right now, but I swear I can see some bureaucrat fiddling around with a book of matches, ready to ignite the burner under me that will eventually cook me.

Saturday, February 11, 2017


“I pity the poor immigrant
Who wishes he would've stayed home
Who uses all his power to do evil 
But in the end is always left so alone 
That man whom with his fingers cheats 
And who lies with ev'ry breath 
Who passionately hates his life 
And likewise fears his death.” 
    - Bob Dylan – “I Pity the Poor Immigrant” (1967) 

It doesn’t seem to matter what the issues are any more in America. The strident voices have taken over. This is very true when it comes to our current immigration policy and President Trump’s executive order on immigration.

I’ve seen a lot of information flowing hither and yon concerning the executive order, but I couldn’t find myself completely trusting what folks were saying. I probably should, but I know enough about human nature to understand that when people, friends or otherwise, have a political axe to grind, it’s Katy bar the door.

With all the give and take on the issue, I thought it might be a good idea to actually read Mr. Trump’s executive order. I did and it didn’t help a lot. Although the order banned entry to citizens of the now infamous Middle-Eastern countries, I couldn’t find anything in the order that barred entry to American citizens who had been born in other countries or citizens of other countries with green cards or valid entry visas.

At any rate, the matter has been litigated and the travel ban is now on hold, waiting for the President to either draft a new executive order or ram the current order to the Supreme Court. I guess it’s best to leave it all up to the lawyers.

In all the give and take about the executive order, I’ve learned that are lots and lots of shithouse lawyers in America these days. They seem to know or claim in subtle ways to know more about immigration laws than the people who draft them. When they comment on the subject, they cite their extensive knowledge and compassion. Please forgive me, but I doubt them. What little knowledge they have is a fig leaf for their alarming lack of understanding of how immigration is supposed to work in this country. They talk of compassion, but they wear a cloak that masks the sinister motives in their guts. When it comes right down to it, I think they hate Donald Trump far more than they love immigrants or refugees.

What little I know about immigration comes from experience. I’m the son of one. My mother was from Newfoundland, in the Canadian Maritimes. She came to America in the 1920’s with a third grade education, a little bit of money, and high hopes. She met my father, who was an American citizen, fell in love, got married, and started a family. I’m the youngest of her three children. My father died when I was six years old and my mother was left to take care of the three of us. In some ways she was fearless, but there was one thing that would always cause fear to bubble up in her like a volcano doing a slow boil. It was the dreaded letter from “immigration.” I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say, it was one hell of a tough road for her to hoe.

I remember the very first job I ever had, delivering vegetables for a Lebanese immigrant named Mr. Sahady. I would ride in his truck on Saturdays. He would drive around, hawking produce on his loudspeaker as we made our way up and down the streets of Cambridge. “Raspberries, strawberries, thirty-five cents a quart.” The words rang out through his thick accent, but folks seemed to understand what he was selling. Theywould either come down to his truck when he stopped or call their orders in from their apartment windows. I got the honor making deliveries, earning a nickel tip her or a dime tip there. When the day was done, my mother would collect the loot, which almost always included a generous gift from Mr. Sahady’s wallet.

As we drove around, Mr. Sahady occasionally talked about America, spiced with love and that thick accent. “I love Ameeeericah, Butch. This is a wonnerfull country.” Mr. Sahady had somewhere along the way become an American citizen. Where he was born wasn’t nearly as important to me as knowing that he was one of us. He was an American. His accent didn’t disqualify him, nor did his past. He had taken the oath of citizenship and that gave him all the rights I, a citizen by birth, had.

As Mr. Sahady made his Saturday rounds with me in tow, I learned to love America too. I knew I was poor, but I also knew I was free. I knew I could make my way in life.

Call me a fool if you will, but I still believe that’s the way things should work today.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Nancy and I have lived in Emporia, Kansas since 1999. Over our years here, we have been hosts to young international students from the Republic of Moldova, South Korea, Vietnam, China, Germany, and Colombia. The longer they stayed, the more we’ve loved them. They, in turn, graced our home with many of their friends from far-flung outposts of the world – Bangladesh, Pakistan, Mexico, India, to name a few. We’ve loved them too and always will. We’ve told them that our house is their house and we’ve meant it.

The first student we hosted was a young woman from the Republic of Moldova named Corina Nour. She came to us in 2003, the same year the lights went out in New York City. By the time she got to Wichita, after a long flight from Europe to New York, followed by a few days in the dark, she looked like she was shell-shocked. Then, to add insult to injury, the airline had lost her luggage. Nancy and I could only imagine what she was thinking. “I left the poorest country in Europe for this? Get me out of here, I wanna’ go home.”

We’re glad Corina made her way past the rocky start. She stayed with us a year, went home, did her under-graduate work in Romania, then came back to live with us while she worked on her Master’s degree. From there, she made her way to Silicon Valley, began a career, fell in love, and started a family. She and her husband, Sherwin, who is from a thoroughly Persian family, live near San Francisco. They have one precocious daughter, Elina, and are expecting a second daughter in a few months. 

Seeing Corina succeed has made me very happy. The only thing that would make me happier would be to see her become an American citizen. I think she wants to, but I’ll just have to wait and see. If, or when that day comes, I intend to be there to see her take the oath of citizenship.

If that time comes, Corina will have a lot to consider. She’s from Moldova and I’m sure there are loyalties she has to the country of her birth. She comes from a really good family. I’ve met her father, mother, and brother, and they are absolutely wonderful. The people of Moldova have much to be proud of. In the early nineties, they shook off the yoke of Soviet oppression and declared themselves to be an independent Republic.  The years since their declaration have been tough, but they’ve refused to be bullied by Vladimir Putin and his attempts to interfere in their political life.

For those who think that coming to America is as easy as a flick of the wrist, let me disabuse you of the notion. Becoming an American citizen and becoming part of our two and a half century old experiment isn’t easy. It requires a lot. Any prospective citizen must be at least minimally proficient in English, our common language. They must know something of our history, customs, law, etc. They must be, as President Trump put it so indelicately, subject to extreme vetting. It’s all spelled out in Section 337.1 of our Code of Federal Regulations and Section 337 (a) of our Immigration and Naturalization Act.

When those requirements are completed, a date is set and the applicant publicly recites the following oath:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

Our oath of citizenship also requires anyone applying for American citizenship to divest themselves of any titles of nobility (prince, lord, etc.). In other words, once they become an American citizen, they are no better than any other American citizen. They are simply one of us, nothing more, nothing less.

The wording of the oath is purposefully strong. For Corina or anyone else taking the oath it means he or she must renounce and ABJURE any allegiance they may have had to their home country. They must swear “true faith and allegiance” to our Constitution and laws. They must be willing to defend the United States “against all enemies, foreign and domestic” when “required by law.” 

Think of what that could mean. What if Moldova, as an ally of a foreign power, declared war on the United States? This country would expect her to abide by the oath she had taken. The same would hold true for someone from Mexico, Syria, Yemen, or any other country in the world.

Just a flick of the wrist, eh? 

The world is going through an enormous refugee crisis right now. People by the millions are fleeing counties like Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Mexico, and small Central American nations in desperation. The situation is so bad that I don’t think the question before us as a country is not whether to do something, but what we should be doing. 

This is where we are at loggerheads. On one side you have those who would bar entry to all and on the other you have those who would open the floodgates without requiring those coming to consider why they are coming and what we should in turn require of them.

I saw this first hand in Emporia, Kansas back in 2007 and 2008. A large number of Somali refugees came to work at Tyson Foods. One thing led to another and before long, Catholic Charities wanted Emporia to be named a “sanctuary city.” City leaders seemed to endorse the idea. It all came to a head at a public meeting. It wasn’t pretty.  There were the usual culprits that crawl out of the woodwork when government doesn’t think things through and just acts willy-nilly. There were a few race-baiting bigots, opposed by the so called “enlightened” members of the community who delighted in calling anyone who opposed the idea  roaring bigots and xenophobes. But, the real truth of the matter was to be found somewhere in the middle of the mess. The primary objection had to do with employment. Other minorities, Mexicans, Central Americans, Vietnamese, etc. saw the Somalis as a threat to their employment at the plant. They had families with hungry mouths to feed, bodies to clothe, and rent to pay so their families could stay warm. The “enlightened” members of the community, particularly those from Emporia State University couldn’t see that, or refused to. After all, many of them had secure, tenured positions at the university. I told some of them after the meeting that if the shoe had been on the other foot and the Somalis had coveted their jobs, they would have had no trouble finding their inner bigots.

Sometimes it’s a matter of whose ox is being gored, isn’t it?

Probably the most significant problem the city had with the Somalis, however, was that they did not want to assimilate. They had come here from a tribal culture and wanted little or nothing to do with America beyond employment. They cared little about our Constitution and didn’t appear to be willing to become part of the American way of life.

I asked several of the Somalis who attended the meeting if they understood why feelings were running so high. I talked to them about how America’s mission of mercy in Somalia back in the 90’s had turned into a nightmare. I asked them if they understood how some Americans felt as they watched some of their sons’ bodies being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by warlords. I asked them if they understood that most Americans were willing to once again extend the hand or mercy, but that they wanted some expressions of support for our way of life in return. The Somalis didn't seem to care; they just wanted to be left alone.

I don’t think the current situation with refugees from other countries is much different.

I’m one of many Americans who wants to help. I want to do my part. I’ve even sent a written recommendation to my Senator, Jerry Moran, on how it could be done. It’s probably a hair-brained idea, but I sent it because I care and I want to solve the problem. I’d be willing to bet I’ve done more in doing that than most of the President's critics have done in their lifetime when it comes to helping immigrants or refugees.

In a recent letter to our local newspaper, a friend of mine named Bill Hartman cited a speech made by Theodore Roosevelt in 1907. In think it’s appropriate to close with it and ask if those who oppose the President’s executive order so vehemently would be willing to support ideas that lend a helping hand to those in need while also upholding what I believe to be the heart of what it means to be an American:

“In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language .. And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”

Wednesday, February 01, 2017


“Hear this, you elders;
    listen, all who live in the land.
Has anything like this ever happened in your days
    or in the days of your ancestors?
Tell it to your children,
    and let your children tell it to their children,
    and their children to the next generation.”
-          Joel 1:2-3 (New International Version of the Bible)

January is a month that calls on people to remember. On January 22nd, hundreds of thousands of Americans, almost all women, marched in Washington, D.C. While many claimed they were coming to advance rights such as gender pay equity, gender identity equity, etc., the primary reason for the march was to show support for the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion on demand. The date chosen for the march was clearly significant. January 22nd was the date our Supreme Court legalized abortion.

In the 43 years since that decision, women have had about sixty million abortions, an average of one and a half million per year. The arguments made on behalf of the decision range from protecting women’s health, women’s choice in the matter, dealing with a problem pregnancy, etc. The most potent argument in the case for abortion is the health of the mother. After all, that’s what medicine is, or should be, all about. The health of the patient is the reason doctors also perform a half a million tonsillectomies and about three hundred thousand appendectomies every year. 

While the argument relating to the health of the mother appears relevant, it is in large part a fig leaf. In 2005, the Guttmacher Institute released a study that included data on the reasons women get abortions. The most common reason cited revolved around what Guttmacher termed “Having a baby would dramatically change my life.” When the data is stripped down further it becomes ever more revealing. 38% of women surveyed said a baby would interfere with their education or career. 19% said they would have to find a new place to live. Those who claim the pro-choice mantle claim that they’re trying to protect women in cases of rape or incest. Of course we should protect them in those cases, but the Guttmacher data reveals that only one percent of women get abortions in case of incest and less than one percent in cases of rape
As the march proceeded that day, there were plenty of signs expressing their outrage at Donald Trump, Roman Catholics, and anyone else who disagreed with them, including some that read, “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries,” “Keep abortion safe and legal,” or some that were quite clever like “This pussy has claws.”

Since 1973, abortion on demand has been legal. I doubt that it will ever be overturned. The pro-abortion lobby is very powerful. Organizations like NARAL and Planned Parenthood have convinced a lot of Americans that abortion is nothing more than removing a bit of problematic tissue. They’ve convinced many of us that the in-utero photos of children sucking their thumbs or responding to external stimuli are figments of our imaginations, that what we’re seeing isn’t a human being. We’re only seeing a conglomeration of tissue. Then, when the abortion is complete they sell the remains as human body parts to be used in laboratories. Useless tissue one moment….human body parts for sale the next.  Of course, they want us to believe their purposes are utterly altruistic. The hypocrisy and sleight of hand are astounding.

A week later there was another march held on January 27th. Since 1974, Americans have marched in Washington on behalf of the innocent unborn who have been sacrificed on the altar of choice. Their plea this year is the same as it has always been – “Give life a chance!” While Roe v Wade is still codified in law, they continue to march. While the body count continues to go ever higher, they march. They continue to march with signs that read, “We choose Life,” “We are a pro-life generation,” or “For those who can’t.” Some even carried signs that read, “I regret my abortion.” They’ll continue to march as long as the slaughter goes on. They’ll be mocked and vilified, but they will keep marching.

The date of the March for Life coincided with another commemoration this year. Throughout the world, and particularly in Israel, Jews have commemorated what has become known as the “Holocaust.” They’ve been doing so since 1953.  The solemn remembrance falls between the end of Passover and Israel’s Memorial Day for its fallen soldiers.  The date, January 27th, was chosen in a resolution passed by Israel’s Knesset in 1951.
Nancy and I have been to several of the world’s memorials to the Holocaust. We’ve walked around the six large glass columns in Boston’s Carmen Park. As we walked around the columns, we could see smoke or steam rising from the memorial’s floor. We spent some time reading the names of the six million Jews who were murdered in Hitler’s death camps. It was a moving experience.

We’ve been to our national memorial to the Holocaust in Washington, D.C.  Our visit started on the upper level, where there were artifacts, photos and other memorabilia that showed how innocently the Holocaust began. Then, as we made our way downstairs, the artifacts and photos got increasingly graphic. The temperature got colder and colder. By the end of our visit, one thing became very clear to us. Madness never elevates mankind. It descends, sweeping the innocent up in the apparatus of terror like chaff in the wind.

As moving and memorable as our visits in Boston and Washington, D.C, few can compare with three other sites we’ve visited. The first was Dachau. Until we had visited the extermination camp, I had always thought that the Nazis would want to hide what they were doing from public view, but Dachau disabused me of that notion. The camp is about 10 miles northwest of Munich. To put that in perspective, think in terms of what it would be like to have a death camp operating in Overland Park, Kansas, which is about 10 miles from downtown Kansas City, or Hoboken, New Jersey, which is just across the river from Manhattan with its vibrant theatre district along Broadway, opulent hotels, or the serenity of Central Park. As for the town of Dachau itself, it’s a short bus ride from downtown Munich. Again, I thought the Nazis would want to hide what they were doing, but I was wrong. The camp was just a short walk from the bus stop. It’s interesting to note that the town of Dachau had a long history of being a center for arts and culture. The people of Dachau were justifiably proud of the city’s twelve hundred year history of love for the arts. 

The camp itself was every bit as stark and foreboding as we had expected it to be. The barracks, now empty, seemed quite large until I considered how many Jews and other “miscreants” were housed in each unit. There was a large trench in front of the barbed war fence that encircled the camp. In the days before the efficiency of the gas chambers, Jews were taken to the fence and shot. The trenches conveniently swept all the blood away. When the Nazis discovered they couldn’t shoot the Jews fast enough, they set their engineers to the task of solving the problem. The answer was Zyklon B and incinerators to destroy all traces of those they considered vermin.  The ovens in the crematoria, with their metal doors squeaking when you moved them even slightly, were absolutely sickening. The idea that someone as civilized as the German people could strip another human being of anything they considered valuable, including hair, gold teeth,  money, books, jewelry, and yes, even their dignity, then gas them to death and incinerate them to ashes sickened me. I wanted to vomit. 

There were pieces of the Holocaust that couldn’t be considered large or grand, but it was every bit as much a Holocaust as the ghastly events taking place in the death camps. A few years ago, Nancy and I walked along the Danube River as it meandered through Budapest. Not far from the national parliament building we came across shoes that had been placed in neat rows along the riverbank. They were commemorating those Jews had been caught when the Nazis overran Hungary, rounded up as many as they could find, marched them to the river, shot them, and dumped their lifeless bodies in the river. Before disposing of the bodies, they took the shoes off the corpses. It was a testament to the strange mixture of human cruelty and efficiency that were hallmarks of the Holocaust.

The third memorable site was Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the Holocaust in Jerusalem. Translated, the words Yad Vashem mean “a place and a name,” They mirror a promise of God given to the people of Israel through the prophet Isaiah - “Even unto them will I give in my house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.”  (Isaiah 56:5).

The museum holds hundreds of thousands of photos and other artifacts that give witness to the evil that was inflicted on the Jewish people. After touring the main museum, we walked to the Children’s Memorial net door. We entered a room that was dark. The darkness was occasionally pierced by a small flash of light, sort of like the light that emanates from a flash camera. Then, following the brief flash, a child’s voice reciting his or her name filled the air. I stood there, stunned, as flash followed flash and voice followed voice. I slumped over and began to sob uncontrollably. The process went on and on until the names of the one and a half million children who died at the hands of the Nazis were recited. Then, the process started all over again.

I occasionally look back on that experience and when I do I think of Jesus’ words from the gospel of Mark – “If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” A million and a half! A million and a half! If that can’t reduce a person to tears, nothing can. Were these children vermin? How much evil could a human heart hold to think such a thing? I can’t imagine, not even at my wickedest. Yet, today many consider the unborn child to be even worse than vermin. To them, they are nothing more than tissue to be discarded like yesterday’s garbage. 

Most of us think in terms of one Holocaust, a one-time event that is long since passed. To most of us it’s ancient history. But, the commemoration in Jerusalem and the March for Life in Washington, D.C. are both part of a whole. They are both holocausts. The commemorative events in Washington, D.C. and Jerusalem call upon us to remember, to heed, and to choose life. 

While one Holocaust has thankfully ended, another continues unabated.

Tragically, there have been other mini-holocausts going on all around us since the 1990’s. In the nineties we had genocide in the Balkans while the United Nations dithered. We had genocide in Rwanda when Bill Clinton and his diplomatic team debated the definition of genocide while they advocated pulling all peacekeeping forces out of the country. The result was hundreds of thousands of deaths in just a few short months.  The most recent holocaust is taking place right now in Syria. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, thousands more wounded and maimed, and millions displaced to forage for food and shelter like wild animals. In response, supporters of one President cheered when he drew a red line, ignored it, then capped it all off by turning the war-torn country over to two brutal tyrants to do with as they pleased, thus abandoning those caught up in the brutality of poison gas and barrel bombs. Many supporters of a new President cheered when he recently closed an avenue of escape to those who have been ravaged for far too long.

Are there other holocausts waiting in the wings? I pray not, but I fear they are, like sin couching at Cain’s door. 

The prophet Joel warned ancient Israel of the doom that was to befall them. He spoke of locusts devouring the land, vines dried up and fig trees withered. He told drunkards to howl, priests to put on sackcloth, and virgins to mourn. Yet, paradoxically, he told the people that God still loved them and would deliver them. In bringing his message, he told the people they were to remember the things that were about to happen   – “Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your day or in the days of your ancestors? Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.”

As it always is when God interacts with humanity, there are both warnings and blessings. That was the crux of Joel’s message to Israel. The meaning of his words should be clear to us today. We must listen to his voice and heed what he is telling us so that we don’t repeat, in our own unique ways, the evil that poisoned Israel. If America is to be, like Israel, a “light to the nations,” we too must tell ourselves, our children, and our children’s children. If we ever fail to do so or refuse to give heed and voice to the prophet’s words, we will be doomed.