Small Talk About Big Issues

Touching Base with Common Sense

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Table Photographer: Tallented, but unknown

Thanksgiving is, perhaps, my favorite holiday.  There is just something warmly special about family gathered around big tables, tasty stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, and of course a huge, golden-brown, steaming Turkey.  Add to that Pecan and Pumpkin pie, Grandpa telling stories, and Uncle James leaning back in his chair and unbuckling his belt in order to take in even more food.  Yep, I love Thanksgiving.

This year, however, I have read countless articles by people calling for a “Turkey-less” holiday.  They don’t want people to eat Turkey, claiming the Turkeys were inhumanely raised and killed.  These veganites would rather we sit around a table filled with soybeans and soybean by-products.  The interesting thing is the choice of eating meat or not eating meat is becoming a political issue instead of a personal choice.  Next thing we know, the politicians in Washington will be debating and trying to pass an anti-Turkey bill.

This Thanksgiving I am going to help devour a 20 lb., juicy Turkey.  I am going to look around the table with love and pride at  my family eating their fair share of Turkey.  At some point before I finish eating, I’m going to chuckle at the thought that the politically correct protectors of Turkeys are sucking on soybeans.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  May your day be filled with love and compassion.


November 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

War and Peace

WARNING: The following post contains graphic pictures and descriptions of war. 

 I have left the photographers’ names off their pictures for two reasons: 1) space and, in many cases, the unavailability of that information, and 2) the photographers were not seeking fame when these pictures were taken they were seeking to tell the true story of the cruelty of war.  Every picture is real, every person depicted had mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends.  Every person you see in these pictures had hopes, dreams, goals, and desires.  Some of these pictures are quite famous, others are rather obscure. All are readily available on the Internet.  Just as a personal note, I met or knew a couple of these photographers.

William Tecumseh Sherman is credited with the origination of the phrase “War is hell,” and he should know.  Serving under the command of Ulysses S. Grant and, later, as the Commander of the Union Army, he became infamous as a cunning strategist and unmerciful foe in the carrying out of his “scorched earth” policies against the Confederate States.  As a soldier, he carried out the directives of President Grant and helped get Abraham Lincoln elected.  As a politicians’ soldier, he was loved because he struck fear in the heart of the enemy and diminished their will to fight, and because he was willing to dirty his hands when others would not.

“War is hell,” as anyone who has been there will affirm!

Unlike citizens of many other countries, the majority of Americans can only give academic acknowledgment to this fact.  The reality is this: Nowhere does the desire for peace burn more intensely than in the heart of a soldier.  Warriors from every nation across the globe understand the horrors of war, regardless of the time frame in which they lived or are living.

It is an understanding of peace the uninitiated to mortal combat will never know.  Those who have never lived on the razor-sharp edge of death; Those who have never watched a human-being fall to the ground lifeless just above the front sight of their own rifle; Those who have never felt the rush of gases being expelled from the person they just stabbed; Those who have never experienced the warmth of another human’s life dripping from their blade-filled hand; Those who have never swallowed hard to squelch the rising sick, empty, nauseous feeling in their own gut left from the realization of having taken another’s life can yearn for peace more than those who have.

Those who have never witnessed first-hand the bloating, rotting, decaying bodies of what appears to have been once human now covered in dirt and flies; Those who have never witnessed the bloody, disintegrated bodies of men, women, and children ripped apart and riddled by bombs or gunfire; Those who have never witnessed the silent calmness of a dead comrade floating facedown along the blood-soaked shores can understand the depth of a soldier’s desire to see peace abound.

Those who have never smelled the bitter-sweet stench of burning flesh; Those who have never choked on the clouds of spent gunpowder; Those who have never smelled the aroma of their buddy’s life draining from his veins onto the foreign, musty soil can understand the warriors’ yearning to breath in the fresh, clean air of peace.

Those who have never heard the roar of the guns, the explosions of the munitions, or the wicked heart-stopping snap of bullets breaking the sound barrier as they whip by your ear; Those who have never heard the fluids of a human body boiling; Those who have never heard the heat of fire popping and cracking human bones; Those who have never heard the cries of death, misery, and sorrow can fathom the soldiers’ need for the quite solitude of peace.

Unlike in the white-glove clean offices of the high-backed, leather chairs filled with Armani suits, the battlefield is sterilized of common human problems.  Political parties do not exist.  Racial issues are left back in camp.  Religious views are narrowed to only one, “God (whoever he is conceived to be) save us from this terrestrial hell!”

The war is never over for the soldier.  Nightmares interrupt is sleep.  Flashbacks invade his days.  Common, everyday sights, sounds, tastes, and smells draw him back to the battleground.  Even in peace the warrior is troubled: troubled by the past and troubled about the future.  In a world of more than 6.5 billion people, war is an ever-present danger the experienced soldier longs to avoid for himself, his family, his neighbors, his country, and his world.

Peace burns within the breasts of soldiers…regardless of race, nationality, sex, or creed.

Today as I have written the above and searched for the photographs that accompany this writing, my eyes have been continually blurred with tears and my heart heavy with sadness because of 1) my own remembrance, 2) the remembrance of other soldiers reading this, and 3) for the state of our nation and our world.

Everyday across the globe patriots are dying for their country.  Loved ones are mourning the loss of their dead and dying.  The human race has been fighting among themselves since Cain and Able.  One website I visited today claimed that over the last 3000 years, only 250 years have known peace.  That statistic is a sad commentary on human relations.

Perhaps the saddest commentary of all is that human beings are not learning the lessons we should have learned over the countless blood-stained years of war in our histories.

Although horrific, war is not the problem.  Like peace, war is a symptom not a sickness, a by-product, not product.  The problem humankind faces, the sickness that makes us ill, is that we love power.  We are power-addicts dredging for our next fix.  Cain desired his religion to reign over the beliefs and practices of his brother Abel.  Political parties crave victories to experience the high that can only be felt by the injection of power.  Nations seek supremacy over the others and spouses vie for power over each other.  Almost everywhere a relationship between two or more people exists, a fight for power ensues.

Regardless of how you feel about his life or his music, Jimi Hendrix may very well have given us a prescription which starts us down the road to recovery.  He said, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”  May his words ring true in all the earth.

Great minds speaking of peace… 

“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”          Martin Luther King, Jr. 

“We make war that we may live in peace.”          Aristotle

“Peace is not something you wish for; It’s something you make, Something you do, Something you are, And something you give away.”          Robert Fulghum

 “The peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: “Our country — when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.”          Carl Schurz

“Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.”          Omar N. Bradley


I heard the bells on Christmas day

Their old familiar carols play

And mild and sweet the words repeat,

Of peace on earth, good will to men.


I thought how as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had roll’d along th’ unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.


And in despair I bow’d my head:

“There is no peace on earth,” I said,

“For hate is strong, and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

……….Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

November 18, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Legislative Session Preview

Steve Stemler

Photo by Conrad Moorer

A couple of weeks ago, I received an invitation to attend State Representative Steven R. Stemler’s 3rd Annual Fried Bologna & Bean Soup 2010 Legislative Session Preview.  I must confess that attending a Legislative Session Preview is not, and has never been, a high priority on my list.  In fact, attending such an event has never even made my Top 10,000 Things To Do list.  However, I was certainly attracted to the part about Fried Bologna and Bean Soup.  There really is nothing in this big, round world better than fried bologna between two pieces of white bread topped with mustard and dipped in good, ol’ fashion bean soup.  Other attractive things on the invitation were those two beautiful little words at the bottom: “Door Prizes”.  While I am not a gambler or a lucky man in the gaming sense of the word, I am a push over for door prizes.  The adrenaline rush that hits you when the announcer reads off the numbers on the tickets is just so amazing.  In addition to good food and door prizes, the wife and I have grown steadily closer to the Stemler family in the last five years through church and other family ties. 

On the other hand, there were those four names and topics listed in the center of the invitation that scared me a little.  Representative Stemler was going to talk about the session overview and highlight issues of local interest.  Representative Trent Van Haaften (a person I have never heard of before) was going to focus his remarks on the public policies surrounding Gaming and Alcohol.  Senator Bob Deig (another person I had never heard of before) would be summarizing the Senate and unemployment insurance.  Representative Klinker (still another person I had never heard of before) was scheduled to talk about education.  In my way of thinking this is like going to one of those really nice resorts and getting to spend the night for free…but…you have to listen to a 30 minute sales presentation and endure impossible pressure to buy a timeshare.  Would the food and door prizes be worth the pain?

So we had to make a decision: go or don’t go?

If you’ve read the “About” section of this blog, you know I’m not politically aligned with any party.  I have strong political views, and I strongly support those views with those that will listen.  The political candidates have to prove to me they are genuinely interested in the good of the people, not their pockets.  Steve Stemler has repeatedly demonstrated his personal selflessness in office and his down-to-earth caring for the people he serves. 

On the other hand, the other three speakers meant nothing to me.  The topics they were assigned were indeed important, but how would they handle their topics?  Would they speak with interesting style, or would their talks be so boring that my bologna and beans would sour in my stomach.

So, throwing all political (and personal) caution to the wind, the wife and I attended the preview tonight (12 Nov. 2009).  In 50 years of life, this is the first political event we have ever attended (outside of voting).  I really enjoyed myself!  I couldn’t believe I was sitting there listening to people I didn’t know talk and loving it.

While I don’t want to bore you with the details of the issues discussed because they may not even be issues where you are from, I do want to point out a few positive things I learned from attending this preview tonight.

1.  The people Steve Stemler picked to make Fried Bologna and Bean Soup really knew what they were doing.  It was better than good, it was fantastic.

2.  I actually won a door prize.  A coffee-table, picture-book by Susan W. Thrane and Tom Patterson titled, State Houses: America’s 50 State Capitol Buildings.  Just inside this $50 book cover, a hand-written note from Steve Stemler: “I hope you enjoy reading the history of America’s 50 State Capitol Buildings!  I wish you all the best! Steve–”  The really cool thing here is this: I know he genuinely meant every word of that note.

3.  The speakers delivered well-informed, sincere presentations.  Not once did I get the feeling they were trying to win my vote, draw me over a line, or apply pressure to the issues at hand (well…maybe once).  Instead, I felt like I listened to four people who love America, the State of Indiana, and the people they serve.  Not once did anyone speak of a political party.  There simply was no Republican bashing or Democrat praising.  What I heard were issues, real issue that need discussion and debate because they affect every citizen of this country, and more specifically, our State of Indiana.

4.  I am more convinced now than ever before that Representative Steven R. Stemler is the person I need in Indianapolis representing me.  Do we have our differences?  I’m not sure, but we probably do.  Here is what I am sure of…Steve Stemler will honestly listen to me; Steve Stemler will honestly seek to know my heart and my concerns; Steve Stemler will honestly represent me in the State’s legislative halls.  What else can any American ask of their politicians?  Stemler’s election motto is, “Stemler! State Representative.  Right Choice  – Right Time”  But for me that motto should read, “Stemler!  State Representative.  MY Choice ANYTIME!


November 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What will you do on Veteran’s Day?


The Veteran's Administration's 2009 Veteran's Day Poster

What will you do on Veteran’s Day?  Will you go to work?  Will you stay home?  Will you play with the kids, read a book, watch TV, or take your loved one out to eat?  The only correct answer that I can provide is this: you will do whatever you want to do because you are free to do just that.

For most Americans it will be business as usual.  The majority of people will go about their daily activities with only an academic acknowledgement of Veteran’s Day.  The majority of people will feel no pride in being an American, no sorrow for the loss of life or the physical dismemberment of our American soldiers.  No.  For most Americans, Veteran’s Day is just another excuse to offer a “Sale” or a “token” discount in their commercial world.

Only a few will stop long enough to remember the sacrifices by those who have paid and are paying for our freedom.  Only a few will shed a tear or say a prayer.  Only a few will place a flag by the headstone of a fallen American.  Only a few will visit their local VA Hospital and help a Vet.  Only a few will remember.  Only a few Americans will not forget.  Only a few will not forget those who have given and are now giving service to their country.  Only a few will not forget their beloved soldier who now resides in the silent city of the dead.  Only a few will not forget to utter a prayer of thanksgiving.  Only a few will not forget to offer a prayer of hope for those soldiers still serving their country in harm’s way.  Only a few will not forget.

What will you do on Veteran’s Day?

November 10, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Political Cheerleading

Unless you’ve just had your head in the sand, you’ve probably noticed a marked change in the media’s political attention.  Those we once trusted to be our guardians of truth have suddenly transformed into mushy, short-skirted cheerleaders shouting President-friendly messages to America regardless of the truth.

Take Eugene Robinson’s recent Op-Ed column titled, Obama’s Record?  Impressive.

Before we examine the column, let’s learn a little bit about Mr. Robinson.  Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize journalist born in Orangeburg, South Carolina and educated at the University of Michigan.  As a 25 year veteran of the media, Mr. Robinson has a long history of reporting the news.  Presently, he writes for The Washington Post.  When we look at Mr. Robinson’s journalist’s credentials, we somehow feel an intense sense of respect.

That respect, however, dimishes when we read such columns as Obama’s Record? in which he touts The President’s record of accomplishment in the first 287 days of office (

Although Mr. Robinson voices some disappointment with a few of the President’s actions or in-action, with Pom-poms in hand, Robinson shouts that President Obama was elected by a “healthy majority of American voters…to change the world.  Which is precisely what he is doing.”

As I read Mr. Robinson’s column, I felt an urge to go to the concession stand and buy some popcorn and a soft drink.  I checked the scoreboard…Obama’s Unsubstantiated Claims: 110, Obama’s Substantiated Claims: 1.  Robinson, and others of his ilk, continue to cheer the President’s ideas as if they were actions.  Face it, even the Nobel Prize committee awarded its prize to Mr. Obama on intent instead of action.

Can we substantiate real change with this administration?  What has the President actually done to revive Wall Street?  What has the President actually done to end the war in the Middle East?  What has the President actually done to stop our young Americans from dying on foreign soil?  Health care?  Industry?  Job creation?

I am all for appropriate change.  I am even for some of the changes our President is proposing, but I am categorically against turning our backs on truth.  Telling the same lies over and over do not make them true, it only changes the perception of the public.  If America is going to stand healthy, then it must stand on truth not perception.  America’s future rests not in the inaction or intentions of our elected officials, but in a joint effort of action by the American people and the politicians we elect.

When we stop the political cheerleading, we take our first step toward real change.

November 3, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments