American Blessings – Lincoln at Lyceum

The first in a multi-part series of commentaries on Abraham Lincoln’s speech at Lyceum.

“We find ourselves in the peaceful possession, of the fairest portion of the earth, as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us.”

How many of us consider the blessings of being American?

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Riding Along

A few months at the Citizens’ Police Academy helps us see law enforcement officers in a better, and more human, light.

I was about to leave for school when I heard the loudspeaker. Looking out my window on that winter morning, I saw a police cruiser, some uniformed officers, and one policeman speaking into a handset, telling me to come out of the house. I walked out my front door, oblivious to the fact that I had my hands in my pockets on this cold day. The officers instantly drew their guns and aimed at me, shouting for me to take my hands out of my coat. Startled, I complied. One of the men moved me to the car, put my hands against it, and searched me, saying that shots had been fired at my location. Later my younger brother came out of the house – he had been setting off fire crackers.

I have had a few other interactions with police in my life. Once a lady in a campus clothing store called the police on me because she thought that I lingered there too long and she found it threatening. More than once I have seen the dreaded flashing blue lights of a police cruiser in my rear-view mirror. Driving home at 0200 after a shift as a bus boy at a local restaurant, an officer stopped me. As I searched my glove box for my registration and proof of insurance, he saw a black object. The officer exclaimed “what’s that” as he drew his weapon. “A comb” I replied, and handed it to him.

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Adventures in Athens – Sex, Imagery, and Religion

Religion and sexuality have been closely related in most cultures of the world throughout history. As a result, the images and vocabulary of human sexuality have often been used to express, and to experience, religion.

Priorities differ. Near the end of our time in Greece, I wanted to see the battlefield of Marathon, where the Greeks defeated the Persians in 490 BC. Marathon is an hour’s drive from Athens, and all that remains is a burial mound in a large field, and a few historical displays. Anna wanted to buy presents for friends and family, admittedly a higher priority. So I went to rent a car and Anna visited the Dimotiki Agora (Public Marketplace). Anna likes to shop, and is good at it. Amidst the panoply of scarves, table runners, wooden spoons, and other treasures, Anna encountered a rack of large, brightly painted, wooden penises, also known as phallic symbols. Amused, she took a photograph, and finished her shopping. I joined her at the market, and she joined me for the drive to Marathon.

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US Foreign Policy and Donald Trump

Pundits, politicians, progressives, and prophets panic over Donald Trump’s “failures” in his foreign policy. They may wish to reconsider.

“Disaster!” media outlets howl when they discuss American foreign policy in the first year of the Presidency of Donald Trump. Some commentators bemoan the withdrawal and even decline of US power, while others rejoice to see the return of a multipolar, rather than a unipolar (US “hyperpower”) or bipolar (US and USSR, or perhaps China, as superpowers) world. Recently the Economist, a British news magazine, announced that Trump has made America and the world less safe.

Whatever one thinks of President Donald Trump, he or she must consider these breathless pronouncements in terms of history and geopolitical reality, not just in terms of modern events. In a speech to the House of Commons (1 March 1848), Viscount Lord Palmerston (1784-1865) said “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”[1] He was right, and the permanent interests of nations are a surer guide to success on the international stage than the vagaries of the news cycle and the panic of political pundits.

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