At and within the border

So this topic again.

To start I will cite my conclusion – What will come out of the present situation are workable immigration laws. The ones we have now don’t work and haven’t worked for at LEAST 50 years.

It’s curious that so many people are suddenly interested in the problem; only after pictures of crying, abandoned kids showed up – which establishes a new way to hate Donald Trump.  Before then it was easy to ignore the desperate suffering.  But there is little new.

Image result for immigrants crossing the border

Image result for immigration

There is a missing celebration of the fact that America is the destination for so many.  Far from the motivation of criminals wishing to exploit a soft country, which may be true in a small minority of cases, the promise of safety, opportunity and a better life in general is a draw that causes people to risk.  And risk they do.

I’ve known and still know several “illegal” immigrants (I quote illegal because that is a statement of law and laws change – as I predict they will now). And it’s a big mix of people – some desperate to have a home without violence, completely law abiding and hard working. Some came just to make more money than they could at home and send home the $$, rip off the system then move back after 20 years or so. I found out some who were committing felonies like forgery. Most I’ve known would love to be US citizens if that were possible. But it is also safe to say that there is compromise concerning laws, not just those of immigration they broke and are breaking to be here.

I went to the grocery store 2 hours ago. I saw about 10 people from my community that I can well guess from their appearance are not citizens (not just skin color, there are distinctive Ecuadorian and Brazilian features one can easily see). We have a huge (something like 2500 people) community of illegal aliens in my town. They buy groceries with money made in jobs where they don’t pay taxes, say.  Do I know that?  No, it’s an educated but often true guess.  

Image result for ecuadorian immigrants at the grocery counter

So .. what is the “American” thing to do? Should I call ICE? Should I take pictures with my camera? Is it my job to make their lives scary and miserable in new ways?

Know this – we don’t have the money, the resources the time or frankly the stomach to deport 11 million people. Ain’t happening. But laws that do something with those folks are needed; that’s the first problem to be solved. I’d think that we give people a long, hard road to citizenship, but a requirement to register. No register, no stay in US.

The ridiculous, inconsistent and broken laws also created the humanitarian crisis with kids being taken away from their parents. Since the Bible has entered into the discussion let me say definitively that no one really can square that with scripture no matter how it’s twisted. So, sorry, it’s wrong. Truly, it is simply enforcing some bad laws that’s caused the crisis, but even President Trump has decided it’s not a good idea.

The borders and the flow people to them are a second problem to be solved by laws. Stemming the flow requires dealing with the horrible state of broken countries, thugocracies that slaughter and exploiters that promise an easy solution through stealing away into the US.  America is not likely to solve any of those problems.  So asylum, where it is applicable, is a worthy and honored reason to allow entrance. I’m proud that our country has that in its laws. 

Image result for immigrants in trucks

When asylum can’t be granted, deportation or increased numbers of legal immigrants are really the only other options. The crushing numbers of these cases requires a huge number of judges to oversee that process. But it’s not an easy or cheap problem to solve. I would say that families need to stay together though; saying mothers have broken the law and therefore their children suffer is really quite lame. The Bible is full of instruction to take care of the orphans; this policy CREATES orphans. It doesn’t square, like I said. It also says how to treat aliens, all well and kindly.

The really bad guys, MS13 and the like, mostly in the drug trade with its murderous operations, fly under the radar. They won’t be easily detained or even found. They – “the criminal element” – are the reason for the wall idea. Which is why it won’t be effective.

The problem is complex and its solution(s) will be complex too. People don’t like complex things which is why liberals want to just people in and conservatives just want them to go away. It doesn’t matter; we MUST solve this and fix our immigration laws.

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Levator

Things that have floors:

  1. Buildings and homes
  2. The ocean
  3. One’s pelvis

The latter floor is one of muscle.  To be specific it is the levator (pronounced like the French might entitle Darth Vader, when his first name (well that was a title itself) was well known – “Le Vader”).  Anyway, this important and large sinew keeps the contents of your abdomen – I mean organs, intestines, colon, bladder, uterus (well, not me) etc – the contents that are YOU – from falling on the ground.  So give thanks for your levator; it’s a very good thing to have; handy and all that.

[I was going to put an anatomical picture here, but you can do your own research.  It’s fun and rewarding.]

The phrase “pain in the butt” is such a common saying that we assign it very easily to everything but its literal meaning.  And I want to go on record to say it’s real meaning is a real thing.  I’ve had that kind of pain for over 10 years now.  In 2010 I had a hemorrhoidectomy, the most painful surgery I have ever experienced.  I did record, but a year or so after I had more pain.  Same area, though this wasn’t quite as bad.  That is, it didn’t quite feel like sitting on a knife.  A fork is more like it.

So I had a second operation, a sphincterotomy to relieve a fissure, or tear, in the wall down there.  And it worked!  The fissure readily went away.

Then, about 5 years ago, a new pain started to happen.  It was fork-like in intensity, about level 4 on the pain scale.  And I would have it for 1-5 hours straight, always sitting down (which I must to drive of course).   I lived with it, having been cut up enough, until this past few weeks when I just had enough.  Mostly the timing was forced because when it hurts, I go to the men’s room for the obvious reasons.  Except the obvious reasons weren’t happening.

So I was fully prepared to go back for hemorrhoid banding or surgery, whatever it took.  I went to see Surgeon 1, who informed me that banding was not a likely possibility.  Which left me with the prospect of the most painful surgery I’ve ever had.  But he also referred me to Surgeon 2, a colorectal guy in Worcester, MA.

Well, after some very painful probing (during which I winced and said “You found it!” because that’s what you do, involuntarily and with a hope that he will stop it), he announced my problem was NOT hemorrhoidal but muscular.  I have spasms of the aforementioned levator muscle.  And they are painful.  And recurring and long-lasting when they happen.

So, treatment for such is via electrical shock.  You get plugged in and the resultant surge of electricity makes the muscle spasm, but since it lasts, it wears it out and it says “Ok, I’ve had enough, I’ll relax now.”  Ok, it doesn’t really SAY that, but it might as well.  And after 3 sessions of zappage, your problem dissipates.

I’m game, though getting plugged and plugged in sounds daunting.  I’ll give a full report, don’t worry.

Saving Monsters

I have known Larry Nassar. No, not the real guy, but guys with his same story, his same condition and problem. Some have been rapists, others child abusers. Some have done prison time, though nothing like he will now serve. The point at which I’ve known them was prior to the kind of fall Dr. Nassar has experienced.

larrynassar

Now, Dr. Nassar is a monster. I utterly agree with his conviction and the sentence given. But I work at saving monsters. It’s not popular in this day of #metoo and I completely understand the victim side of the equation. Part of the salvation of those monsters – actually the first step – is admitting the damage you’ve done. I’m not sure Nassar is there; indications are that no, he isn’t. It’s my prayer that he will come to admit then let redemption come to what’s left of his incarcerated life. The goal is that he can serve as a warning to others – both perpetrators and victims – and proof that you can recover from such horrible things.

I’ve have been part of Pure Desire for 8 years now. I came there because I need – and found – help. So I am committed to providing that help to others as well. I want to share some of what I’ve learned about sexual addiction (SA) so people can gain understanding as well. Some are so hurt as victims or so much in denial as perpetrators that there is little to be gained by reading this, but I think most can find something. I do not want to foster gender wars or exonerate those in the wrong. I do want to find a way out of the mess, because lives, though damaged, are worth restoration and saving.

So here are some points about the sexual addiction (SA):

  • It is a chemical addiction – the endorphins released during sexual arousal are increased in amount via visual and then physical stimulation and the addict keeps coming back for more.
  • The development of universally available high band internet has been the means of widespread access to material used to flame the addiction.
  • While SA affects up to 70% of all men, it also affects up to 25% of women. Acting out is different due to cultural gender expectations, but the same brain chemical dependency is in play.
  • SA thrives in an atmosphere of shame, isolation and denial. Those provide the Petri dish where it grows. Dr. Nassar sounds like he is still in denial, but the isolation in which he committed his abuses was the worst kind – physical contact with completely vulnerable victims in the most private of settings. That’s a perfect storm. Plus, his stature as physician left him regarded and feeling as above the law.
  • If it is to be confronted and addressed, the addict must be honest about his/her problem. We’re familiar with the AA preamble “Hi, my name is X and I’m an alcoholic” .. the same thing applies.
  • Also, a safe community of likewise-addicted individuals is necessary to overcome the denial and isolation. Confrontation is not a one-time deal but a constant standard of the community. If this thing is to be beaten – and it can be – absolute confidentiality must provide absolute honesty.
  • There is a causal relationship between the addiction and personal pain, usually going back to one’s family of origin. There is no blame placed on those who hurt the addict, only an identification of the source of that pain.
  • Also, there is often a secondary problem with anger present. It has accurately been said that SD is eroticized rage – that one’s fantasies are very often ones that celebrates, makes a hero of and glorifies the individual because in life that has far too seldom been the case.

Monsters are worth saving – even Dr. Nassar and those indicted in the #metoo movement. Their lives do not represent all men, but they do represent enough to say we have a serious problem with entitlement, denial and isolation. And those stem from other problems, though few seem to care. I do care, because someone cared about me. Their lives are worth saving.

So Dr. Nassar’s case should serve as a warning. Most sex addicts won’t be physically locked up for the rest of their lives, but they are already locked up in prisons of isolation, depravity and shame. Many don’t know there’s a way out. So marriages fold, secret lives are revealed in their horrible detail and people gawk and cluck tongues.

I don’t like it when that happens. I want to save the monsters.

Overcoming the inertia of indecision

In many areas of endeavor, high certainty is a rare commodity. Of that I am quite certain ….

The stress that goes with coming to decisions can stop people cold, effectively freezing them, their families or entire organizations till one is confident enough to proceed. This angst does not occur in a vacuum; it is the result of past failures and disappointments, complete with the criticism and shame that accompany them. It’s no wonder people wallow in indecision.

But as my manager once quipped (and this is a favorite of mine): “If you can’t make a mistake you can’t make anything.” Thomas Edison, after all, had thousands of “nice tries” on the way to the incandescent light bulb. His story is really one of persistence, not indecision. He was committed to a goal.

I’m writing about those who can’t even get that far. The inertia that can governs people is a dangerous habit that stops lives cold at each and every crossroad.  Over time, it is more dangerous than the mistakes that are so feared.

So it’s vital for someone who’s prone to this to develop steps to avoid it – to actively, progressively and quickly make decisions. Here are some of those steps:

  1. Gather intel – It seems obvious, yet the fear of proceeding even forbids the first clear action to come to a decision – learn about the parameters, procedure and possible outcomes of the different options before you. This can involve reading, searching the internet and most effective: talking with parties who have been there before. How truly bad is it to fail?  How truly great to “succeed”? It’s the testimony of those who’ve been there that can go a long way to encourage the procrastinator.
  2. Use pilots – There is no rule that says you have to commit everything you have to one path or another. A limited trial is an excellent way to test the waters and see how a decision would work if you fully made it. Of course a woman can’t launch a pilot pregnancy, for example. But she can try making the adjustments a pregnancy and parenthood would entail (except for the gestation part) – like taking care of someone’s young child for a weekend.  Of course many decisions are not as final as having a child, but the commitment level should be high.
  3. Fail quickly and cheaply – One of the precepts of the Agile development process is extremely useful in making decisions. This differs from the pilot approach in that the investment can be much higher. But it is the same in the limited time of such a commitment. It is obviously preferable to have a disaster after a month than after two years. Another perspective to this is that a limited time sprint of a project is a vital part of decision making. The truth is, none of us really know what it is going to be like down a certain path until we do it.
  4. Learn – Gathering intel is a first part of this, but formal schooling – even seminars – and learning by doing (see Fail quickly and cheaply) should all contribute to the knowledge of the decision maker. It’s also vital that what is learned is not only tactical truth but strategic principle. A single failure or success should contribute to knowledge and not stand on its own.
  5. Don’t personalize failure or “there is no failure” – Put simply, you must fail. It’s required. What culture does to people who fail is call them failures. Clearly that is extremely destructive thinking if you let it in. So … don’t! Things that didn’t work out are arguably more valuable than things that did. That’s not a “rose colored glasses” statement, it’s data. There are no failures really, just lessons learned. One set of objectives was not achieved, but another set was. Make sure you record the life lesson objectives. You’ll need them later.

There’s no reason to freeze in your tracks when it comes to choosing paths. Usually it’s the shame of past failures that keeps people stuck. No matter what faith (or “none”) you are, I want to share what I do with shame, as demonstrated by Christ:

Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God:

Scorn shame – HATE it. Not the people spewing it, but hate its effect on you.

That is a whole other topic, but it’s important to recognize what’s eating at you during points of indecision. And take steps to get out.

The grief police

Reeling from the triple bombings in Brussels yesterday, some of my friends have projected the colors of the Belgian flag or written pleas for prayers for Belgium. Others have taken it upon themselves to judge those expressions of shock and grief by saying that they are biased and thus, flawed. Citing the multiple loci of international terror, they search articles, the meme-o-sphere and blogosphere for graphics and pointed prose that aims to correct the presupposed racial and cultural bias.

Police

The trouble is, the presupposition is both erroneous and proud. And as such, it will be ignored or have the opposite effect than what was intended, because it will only annoy people.

Here’s why:

  1. Identification. If people see themselves as closer related to Belgians than Turks, Arabs or Africans, it’s because they are closer related. This is not bias, it’s ethnicity. And cultural affinity. If the pictures of the bloodied women in the Brussels subway connect to westerners more than those of women wearing hajibs or African women, it’s because that scene and those people look and dress like us. That will always be true. Turks, however, will naturally connect more with suffering people who look and dress like them. It’s not bias, it’s cultural and ethnic relationship.
  2. Historical affinity. The allies, America, Britain, Canada and others, fought and defeated the Nazis 72 years ago in Belgium. Belgium was a founding member of NATO. That matters, because the spirit of that alliance was that an attack on any of its members was an attack on them all. Turkey joined later which constitutes no second-class membership, but the link between the West and Turkey has never been like that among the European NATO members. No bias but affinity.
  3. Proximity. “If it can happen there, it can happen here” – said by Europeans or Americans – is more true referring to Belgium than to Africa or Turkey or other Middle Eastern states. Part of this is the nature of bordering nations in each case, part of it is form of governance another part is patterns of people movement. It may be inconvenient that the demographics of those practicing terror are Muslim and from Arab lands. And is tragic to use those demographics too loosely and ban all people whom they describe. Furthermore, I’m making no assumption that a terror incident in a nation that has lots of people who fit those traits is somehow less tragic or traumatic. But it is the case that terror done to nations further away has muffled implications compared to those closer. So, the outpouring is less. And those who would ban people movement to keep the problem away gain fuel. But for those who mourn, again, no bias, just proximity.

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Jesus spoke these words during his introduction – the beatitudes – to the Sermon on the Mount. The mourning is not only the common sorrow of loss but a deeper grief over the state of humankind. That kind of mourning cannot be practiced with bias, because it starts with my own sin and depravity. And really, I’m the only one I can let God work on. And I must surrender the conviction of wrongdoing to the Holy Spirit, who is VERY good at it. I mean that I make a lousy Holy Spirit.

When we project bias or any presumed internal attitude or disposition on others, we are attempting to do a job we don’t have the equipment to do.

Let people mourn. Deeply. As they will. It’s actually a very constructive practice in the end.

 

Candidates and leaders

The presidential election season is at its hottest point right now and it won’t cool off until a POTUS is elected in November. I have puzzled for a long time at my inability to embrace candidates. Listening to the diatribes of rabid fans from the left of right – and I am most delighted to have dear friends from both persuasions – has only made me more alienated.

It’s not so much with the process – the fire of political rhetoric both positive and negative has its place – but with the actual field of candidates we have this year. And .. well, most election years. It always seems that in the end I am voting for the lesser of two evils. There hasn’t been a candidate I would endorse for decades. Part of that is because I’m not an institution like a newspaper or trade union and I don’t have to endorse anyone. And part of it is that I just don’t align with the two party approach. But even that is not the whole story as I’ll talk about below.

So, in the first place, we have the issues that everyone crows about. The voting public is asked to fit into 2 groups – conservative (Republican) and liberal (Democrat). Using just three categories of stances one might have on the issues and allowing for only three view on those issues (I insist there is a moderate place in each category), we have a 9 entry table:

basicpoliticalspectrum

The “International” category includes things like foreign relations, immigration, etc., though most would include some of that in “Social”. My points are 2:

  1. This is a very simple picture of the true spectrum.
  2. If one fits into a solid conservative or liberal stance everywhere, there is still no candidate that does and that is a statistical rarity.

But I don’t even think an issues-based affinity works to choose a Commander-in-Chief. What I want, and what I think the nation needs, is a leader.  The qualities of a leader are different from those of a candidate who can draw a crowd and go toe to toe in a debate.  Leaders do that too, but they do much, much more.  Here are some qualities that show what I mean:

  1. Inclusion over issues – The ability to unite and inspire even ones ideological foes is a rare talent, and even more rare among presidential candidates. The president heads up only 1 branch of a three branch government. An issues-only presidency makes for legislative gridlock and aggressive judicial review. And this applies to the leading the American people, because crisis – and there will be that – requires it.
  2. Compassion at the core – While the left would lay claim to this point; I don’t mean it that way. The ability to hear out others and address their concerns with what are overriding concerns on your part matters. People are going to disagree, for lots of reasons. How someone treats his/her detractors speaks volume to that person’s character, and fit for the job. An inability to rise above vitriolic, ad hominem rhetoric disqualifies any leader.
  3. Courage to be unique – More than fitting a party’s platform, or the patterns of any tribe, the best presidents have convictions informed by higher sources. As a person of faith, I admire those who know that the parties do not fit with what they know to be true. Self- and tribal-interest mar righteousness, pulling its actions to into harmful directions. A leader with courage to be him/herself will receive accusations of not being strong-enough and others of being oppressive and abusing power. When both of those happen, we have a president.

 

I know I’m not alone in my reticence about this year’s candidates. And I know even writing this will alienate those who have been polarized. My goal is not that, but to help us all understand what a real leader is.

 

 

 

The Hubris of Revision

I read an article yesterday picking on Valentine’s Day. It took down the card companies, the forced and scheduled love, and even the Single’s Awareness Day which it has fostered.

The article said it was fine to celebrate. But somehow it was necessary to find things wrong with that, which is akin to saying “You are free to do that, but you’re an insensitive and ignorant idiot.” At least that’s what I heard.

It didn’t really go into history, and I think that’s because the writer may have found himself attacking something really beautiful. But historical and cultural revision is all the rage.
RevisionistHistory

And I’ll say it – it’s predominantly by the millennial generation.

Now getting history right is good. Let me talk a little about a popular-to-malign figure, Christopher Columbus:

I do think Columbus has been over-lionized, and mostly by a distinct group – my ethnic Italian friends. But the attack on old Chris has presented him without any good qualities. He was, at the very least, a daring explorer. And on the bad side, at the very least, a horrible governor. So now if you celebrate his day – which was always a good day to take off from work – you are a heretic and one espousing pillage and rape.

Not so!! I have no particular connection with things Columbus and I’ve known since 15 years old or so that the Norwegians were the first Europeans to set foot on North America.

So what? Columbus set sail across an ocean not knowing what he would find. His modern critics have the courage to post entries on the internet.

His crew was a collection of tough, morally compromised men who believed they answered to no one, not even Columbus.

I don’t know the details and context of the abuse his crew and people heaped on Native Americans. Neither do his detractors, though they love to find and spit disconnected writings as if they prove their points. We can probably say he at least didn’t stop it. But we don’t know what would happen if he did. There are other explorers who treated the indigenous people they encountered with kindness and dignity. Bartolome de la Casas is such a person.

Columbus had weaknesses – in particular he was a poor leader and governor. His men ran rampant and did their brutal best to ruin the good country and people they had found.

I’m not making excuses for Christopher Columbus. I’m saying he wasn’t as good as the holiday says and not as bad as his modern critics say.

The more troubling phenomenon is the need to revise. To make some points:

1. Snobs revise. C.S. Lewis coined the phrase “chronological snobbery” to describe the phenomenon of a generation declaring its superiority to past generations by applying its enlightened perspective to those living in past centuries. Note that he wrote that in the 1940s – so there’s nothing new about revisionism.  But “snobbery” is an accurate description of the practice.  One thing is certain – that same practice will be exercised by one’s children.  The snobs will be vilified by future snobs.

2. Context and progress matter. In the American south during the slave era, racism was rife. Believing that Africans were subhuman was required to live in a society where they were treated that way. It was wrong, horribly unjust and we live with the wounds of that society to this day. But expecting someone who lived in that society to have the values of 21st century America ignores the economic system in force and the struggle it would take to bring justice. So, reading the words of a white slave owner – like Thomas Jefferson – and coloring them all with a single fact is willfully ignorant and unfair.

3. Injection is fallacy. Like Walter Mitty, those who insert themselves as heroes, retroactively into systems and times of injustice and abuse are day dreaming. It’s so easy to write critically and spew ad hominem vitriol on one’s forebears. It’s an entirely different matter to live under such systems and stay alive to make change. Nazis killed detractors; and the fear that spawned helped poison the minds and actions of an entire generation of German people.  There were heroic ones who resisted, but they did so risking it all.

4. Do revisionists really care? If those writing so critically applied the same energy to the known injustices of today; they would get a taste of the roadblocks and realities of the good fight. That way they would understand better that, for instance, misogyny was once a sea in which entire cultures swam (indeed still swim) and its practice, assumptions and language permeated everything.

Please, let’s revise US. And let’s practice mercy – finding the good and virtue amidst whatever else we might find wrong – with our historical past.

We will then find that mercy triumphs over judgment. Period. And when we need mercy, we will also receive it. There was someone really important who said:

Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.