- ► 2011 (91)
- ► 2010 (295)
- ► 2009 (235)
- ► 2008 (116)
- Justice System Gone Horribly Awry
- Moral Paralysis
- The definition of hero
- Goin' Green on Yahoo!
- My theological worldview
- Slouching toward Moscow
- The Surge: brilliantly planned and executed, despi...
- The Real Tony Blair
- How sad
- Target practice?
- Down with Coulter!!!!
- When the will to survive is vanquished
- The Cuba that Michael Moore won't show you
- To be American
- The First R
- Filipinos at 9, Jews at 10, Gays at 11
- Paging Dr. Death
- Michael Moore: Sicko
- July Fourth Seder?
- From sea to shining sea
- ▼ Jul 2007 (20)
Two middle-school students in Oregon are facing possible time in a juvenile jail and could have to register as sex offenders for smacking girls on the rear end at school.Another example of our society circling the drain hole. Here is a video interview of the two boys and their families. The prosecutor here is the sick one. Mark Steyn chimed in on this case on Sunday in the OC Register. In his column, he states that this is another proof of the infantilization of our society. I would agree, but I think it also points to the symptom of another crass aspect in our culture: the sexualization of our children. First the intellectual left demanded that younger and younger kids be made aware of sex (to the point that Barack Obama recently called for sex ed for kindergarteners). Now, not only are they demanding that children intimately know about sexual issues, they also believe that kids should view everything within the myopic prism of sexuality. A century ago, had some schoolchildren started some silly fad of rump-swatting, the adults would have corrected them, but no one would have thought to bring the issue into the sexual realm.
Cory Mashburn and Ryan Cornelison, both 13, were arrested in February after they were caught in the halls of Patton Middle School, in McMinnville, Ore., slapping girls on the rear end. Mashburn told ABC News in a phone interview that this was a common way of saying hello practiced by lots of kids at the school, akin to a secret handshake.
The boys spent five days in a juvenile detention facility and were charged with several counts of felony sex abuse for what they and their parents said was merely inappropriate but not criminal behavior.
The local district attorney has since backed off -- the felony charges have been dropped and the district attorney said probation would be an appropriate punishment. The Mashburns' lawyer said prosecutors offered Cory a plea bargain that would not require him to register as a sex offender, which the family plans to reject.
But the boys, if convicted at an Aug. 20 trial, still face the possibility of some jail time or registering for life as sex offenders.
The boys' families and lawyers said even sentencing them to probation would turn admittedly inappropriate but not uncommon juvenile rowdiness into a crime. If they are convicted of any of the misdemeanor charges against them, they would have to register as sex offenders.
"It's devastating," said Mark Lawrence, Cory Mashburn's lawyer. "To be a registered sex offender is to be designated as the most loathed in our society. These are young boys with bright futures, and the brightness of those futures would be over."
"It's stuff you hear about in boot camp, about World War II and Tarawa Marines who won the Medal of Honor," Lance Corporal Rob Rogers of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment told the Army Times. Corporal Rogers was describing the actions of his fellow Marine, Sgt. Rafael Peralta, a Mexican immigrant who enlisted in the Marine Corps the day he received his green card.
On the morning of November 15, 2004, the men of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines awoke before sunrise and continued what they had been doing for seven days previously - cleansing the city of Fallujah of terrorists house by house. At the fourth house they encountered that morning the Marines kicked in the door and "cleared" the front rooms, but then noticed a locked door off to the side that required inspection. Sgt. Rafael Peralta threw open the closed door, but behind it were three terrorists with AK-47s. Peralta was hit in the head and chest with multiple shots at close range. Peralta's fellow Marines had to step over his body to continue the shootout with the terrorists. As the firefight raged on, a "yellow, foreign-made, oval-shaped grenade," as Lance Corporal Travis Kaemmerer described it, rolled into the room where they were all standing and came to a stop near Peralta's body. But Sgt. Rafael Peralta wasn't dead - yet. This young immigrant of 25 years, who enlisted in the Marines when he received his green card, who volunteered for the front line duty in Fallujah, had one last act of heroism in him.
Peralta was proud to serve his adopted country. In his parent's home, on his bedroom walls hung only three items - a copy of the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and his boot camp graduation certificate. Before he set out for Fallujah, he wrote to his 14-year old brother, "be proud of me, bro...and be proud of being an American." Not only can Rafael's family be proud of him, but his fellow Marines are alive because of him. As Sgt. Rafael Peralta lay near death on the floor of a Fallujah terrorist hideout, he spotted the yellow grenade that had rolled next to his near-lifeless body. Once detonated, it would take out the rest of Peralta's squad. To save his fellow Marines, Peralta reached out, grabbed the grenade, and tucked it under his abdomen where it exploded. "Most of the Marines in the house were in the immediate area of the grenade," Cpl. Kaemmerer said. "We will never forget the second chance at life that Sgt. Peralta gave us."
Anyway, the page also has a quote by a famous person that randomly generates each time you load the main page. This is the quote that was showing when I opened the page: "The supreme reality of our time is the vulnerability of this planet. - John F. Kennedy"
Somehow, that quote didn't seem quite right coming from a president in the 1960's, so I looked it up. The actual quote is this: "The supreme reality of our time is our indivisibility as children of God and OUR common vulnerability ON this planet." Kennedy made this statement in an address to the Irish Parliament about 5 months before he was killed.
Hmmm, now that doesn't sound anything like what the warm-mongers on Yahoo quoted him as having said. Either they purposely twisted the quote to fit their needs or they have very poor researching skills.
You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan, You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.
What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com
UPDATE: After some research, I retook the quiz and here are my new scores:
What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com
President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that foreigners who publicly criticize him or his government while visiting Venezuela will be expelled from the country.It does make one wonder, how is it possible that Chavez has no sense of irony? After all, did not he visit the U.N. in NEW YORK last fall and referred to Bush as the devil? I may be mistaken, but I think my buddy Hugo was not expelled for those comments. Ah, the insanity of the left...
Chavez ordered officials to monitor statements made by international figures during their visits to Venezuela and deport any outspoken critics.
"How long are we going to allow a person -- from any country in the world -- to come to our own house to say there's a dictatorship here, that the president is a tyrant, and nobody does anything about it?" Chavez asked during his weekly television and radio program.
When Tony Blair announced his resignation after ten years as prime minister of the United Kingdom, his voice choked with emotion and he nearly shed a tear. He asked his audience to believe that he had always done what he thought was right. He would have been nearer the mark had he said that he always thought that what was right was whatever he had done.
In a confessional mood, Blair admitted that he had sometimes fallen short of what was expected of him. He did not give specifics, but we were expected to admire his candor and humility in making such an admission. It is no coincidence, however, that Blair reached maturity at the time of the publication of the famous book Psychobabble, which dissects the modern tendency to indulge in self-obsession without self-examination. Here was a mea culpa without the culpa. Bless me, people (Blair appeared to be saying), for I have sinned: but please don’t ask me to say how.
But how history will judge him overall, and whether it will absolve him (to adapt slightly a phrase coined by a famous, though now ailing, Antillean dictator), is another matter. Strictly speaking, history doesn’t absolve, or for that matter vindicate, anybody; only people absolve or vindicate, and except in the most obvious cases of villainy or sainthood, they come to different conclusions, using basically the same evidence. There can thus be no definitive judgment of Blair, especially one contemporaneous with his departure. Still, I will try.
...[for sake of space, I will direct you to read his column for the many reasons Dalrymple gives for his withering opinion of Blair]...
Blair, then, is no hero. Many in Britain believe that he has been the worst prime minister in recent British history, morally and possibly financially corrupt, shallow and egotistical, a man who combined the qualities of Elmer Gantry with those of Juan Domingo Perón. America should think twice about taking him to its heart now that he has stepped down.
If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, is it because Al Gore and a bunch of elderly rockers organized an all-star stadium gala on its behalf? The colossal flopperoo of Live Earth is a heartening reminder that there are some things too ridiculous even for global pop culture, and one of them is the Reverend Almer Gortry speaking truth to power ballads.
[T]here was something oddly touching about seeing rock gazillionaires who'd flown in by private jet tell Joe Schmoe all the stuff he doesn't need. Your own car? A washer and dryer? Ha! Why can't you take the bus and beat your underwear on the rocks down by the river with the native women all morning long?
So how far are the ecochondriacs prepared to take things? In London last week, the Optimum Population Trust called for Britons to have "one child less" because the United Kingdom's "high birth rate is a major factor in the current level of climate change, which can only be combated if families voluntarily limit the number of children they have."
Climate change is now widely regarded as the biggest problem facing the planet," says Professor John Guillebaud. "We're nearing the point of no return and people are feeling increasingly desperate and helpless. The answer lies in our own hands … We have to recognize that the biggest cause of climate change is climate changers — in other words, human beings, in the UK as well as abroad." As the professor sees it, having fewer children is "the simplest, quickest and most significant thing any of us could do to leave a sustainable and habitable planet for our children and grandchildren." The best thing we can do for our children is not to have them.
This is the logical reductio of climate-change fever: throw the baby out in order to save the bathwater. For a start, look at the "high birth rate" Professor Guillebaud is complaining about... [i]n Europe as a whole, the fertility rate is a little over 1.3, which is what demographers call "lowest-low" fertility, from which no society in human history has ever recovered. The Spanish, the Italians, the Germans, the Greeks, the Bulgars and Ukrainians will be extinct long before the polar bears or the Antarctic krill or the Latin-American three-toed tree sloth or any of the other species these professors wants to protect.
Well, I guess Professor Guillebaud's grandchildren (assuming he has any) will eventually discover whether he was right about that. Few westerners are yet as boldly explicit in their anti-humanism, but there is a more general insouciance among these ancient European peoples as they commence, in effect, to vanish from the earth in an incremental auto-genocide: the Scots and Germans would rather weep for obscure insects on distant continents than for themselves. They agitate for a Live Earth but are indifferent to their own demise.
A few months back, I was at a meeting in Australia on nanotechnology and one of those great boyish scientific gee-whiz types was raving about all the exciting new things that were being developed. Invited to cite an example, he named the self-repairing condom: Hey, how about that? Don't worry if it tears in mid-use, the hardworking nanomunchkins will zip it up again in nanoseconds and you'll be none the wiser. I'm as agog at the marvels of technology as the next chap, but you could hardly ask for a more poignant example of the west's boundless scientific innovation on the brink of ruinous demographic decline. Maybe the world that comes after western civilization will be more "sustainable" but I doubt it will be more "habitable."
So, to follow the leftist media's logic (if you pardon the expression), it is ok for a PEACE PRIZE winner to want to kill the leader of the free world but it is about the worst thing ever to joke about the political correctness of a homosexual "slur." It's a mad mad mad mad world in which we live.
[Israel] approved the release of 250 convicted Arab terrorists from prison, as a goodwill gesture to PA chief Abu Mazen.
Some of the terrorists being freed attempted to murder Israelis but missed their targets.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert admitted at the cabinet session that releasing the 250 terrorists will not convince Hamas and Hizbullah terrorists to free their IDF hostages. He explained that the move was a “good will” gesture to support Palestinian Authority Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas’s new government.
The British went through this routine in the days after the London tube bombings--perpetrated, you'll recall, by British subjects, born and bred. For a moment, this shocked the opinion-makers: we need to teach our young persons to feel British, they twittered. And what does being British involve? Drinking 28 pints after the Man United game and then staggering down the street baying and mooning and urinating in people's gardens before passing out in a pool of vomit? Er, well, no, that's too British. But golly, how about fish'n'chips and cricket and liking caterwauling popsters? Then a picture of the four bombers appeared on the front page of the tabloids: they were whitewater rafting in Wales. They were dressed as any other young Britons. They loved cricket and fish'n'chips. One of them left a video message to be broadcast on al Jazeera. He did all the usual jihadi-blather but in a broad Yorkshire accent: "Eee-oop, Allahu akbar!" If Coronation Street had been looking to introduce an Islamist cell into the Rover's Return, he'd have been perfect. These men were entirely assimilated--if being assimilated means chips and cricket.
The Dutch, on the other hand, acknowledged that there's more to being a citizen of a pluralist democratic state than junk food and sports teams. Four or five years ago, I had a fascinating conversation with some Dutch cabinet ministers about the need to ensure that immigrants understood what they would be required to assimilate with. So I was interested to see what they'd come up with. It turned out to be a video which they distributed to every embassy around the world to play to anyone thinking of moving to the Netherlands. It showed a topless woman on the beach and two guys kissing. Message: If you're uncomfortable with this, you might prefer to emigrate somewhere else. Except that they added a rider to say that, if you are uncomfortable with this because you're a Muslim or whatever, then you don't have to watch it. And that pre-emptive negation of the entire point of the exercise said more about the real state of the Netherlands than anything on screen.
Islam is a challenge to the West because of the assumption behind the Mississauga lady's injunction: being Muslim is not just a religious but a civil identity. There is historically no distinction in Islam between rendering unto God and rendering unto Caesar. By contrast, to be Canadian or British or Dutch seems less and less a civil identity and more and more just a smattering of local colour. If you're a travelling salesman who likes donuts in Toronto and chips in London and a spliff with a legalized prostitute in Amsterdam, presumably you're impeccably Canadian, British and Dutch.
This is a sad and reductive idea of national identity. And it's the vacuum into which pan-Islamism flowed--not for everyone, not for all Muslims, but for enough for it to have metastasized around the world into the most profound challenge to the nation-state. Another Dutch cabinet minister remarked a few months ago that if a majority of the electorate voted to introduce sharia that would be OK. In other words, as long as the tyranny is ushered in constitutionally (as it was in Germany three-quarters of a century ago), it's fine by him. Not by me. Liberty is a 24/7 condition, not merely a trip to the voting booth every few years. If a cabinet minister in a settled parliamentary democracy doesn't understand that, then why be surprised when the fire-breathing imams don't get it?
The nullity of the modern multicultural state is the heart of the problem. We talk airily about "moderate Muslims," but the reality is that Islam is moderated mainly by the overarching culture--often a dictatorial culture, such as the Soviet Union or the Suharto regime in Indonesia, but sometimes something less so. There is no reason for Islam to moderate itself in a land that declares we worship only donuts or topless sunbathers. We have to teach our children an "heroic national narrative" (in the splendid words of Australia's John Howard), one that teaches them their history warts and all, as opposed to (as now) warts only. A nation cannot survive as merely a big zip code: it has to be understood as the physical expression of certain ideas and the ongoing projection of a grand inheritance. If we can't articulate why sharia is wrong even if it's legitimized by plebiscite, then we fully deserve to end our days living under it. It's not about Islam. It's about us.
At $1 billion per year, Reading First, part of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act, accounts for just 2 percent of federal education spending. Yet this program for lifting reading achievement, always the apple of George W. Bush’s eye, is already delivering promising results. The commonsense idea informing it—that the best scientific research should guide the teaching of reading—was one of Bush’s signature education initiatives since his days as Texas governor, and it makes even more sense today.
To see clearly what’s at stake, we need to remind ourselves of the gravity of the national problem that Reading First seeks to solve—and of how it proposes to solve it.
After a century and a half of universal public education, and despite the highest per-pupil expenditure on public elementary and secondary education in the world, 40 percent of U.S. fourth-graders are reading below the minimally acceptable level, according to the gold-standard NAEP test. For minority students in inner-city schools, the reading failure rate is a shocking 65 percent. This educational failure bodes ill: children who don’t read by fourth grade almost always fall behind in all other subjects, often wind up in costly special education programs, and, as adults, have higher rates of drug addiction, incarceration, and welfare dependency.
Making the situation more tragic, nineteenth-century American children learned to read very well, thank you, in one-room schoolhouses, with nothing more than a single determined teacher wielding Noah Webster’s Blue-Backed Speller and the McGuffey readers. Even before a public school system existed in America, Alexis de Tocqueville had marveled at the country’s extraordinarily high literacy rates.
Happily, recent developments point the way to a solution to the nation’s reading woes. For the past several decades, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), a wing of the National Institutes of Health, has sponsored reading research at universities across the U.S, with scientists from cognitive neuroscience, pediatrics, genetics, educational psychology, and child development publishing hundreds of peer-reviewed studies that describe not just how children learn to read but why so many fall behind—and how schools can best keep it from happening.
The converging scientific evidence confirms what our great-grandmothers knew intuitively. The most effective reading instruction for most children—especially for those from disadvantaged homes—begins by training them to recognize the relationship between letters and the sounds they make (phonemic awareness), moves on to teaching them how to sound out whole words (phonics), and then focuses on fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Reading science has also developed effective new technologies to assess students’ progress in mastering the skills they need to decode written language. To make an analogy with medical science, reading science has discovered not only the educational equivalent of treating diabetes but also the technology that monitors how the treatment is working.
Unfortunately, the similarities between reading science and the medical kind end there. A breakthrough in medical research soon leads to new clinical practice. In education, however, the science has collided head-on with the ideologies and economic interests of the panjandrums of public education.
Reading science is a mortal threat to what E. D. Hirsch has called the “Thoughtworld” of American education—the system of “progressive” beliefs about classroom instruction promulgated by the ed schools that monopolize teacher training. The Thoughtworld has a cult-like attachment to a Romantic theory of reading instruction called “whole language,” which recently morphed into “balanced literacy” to make it sound more reasonable to dubious parents. Balanced-literacy true believers claim that to subject children to the “drill and kill” of direct phonics instruction is a form of child abuse.
The balanced-literacy cultists believe that learning to read is a natural process and that most children can intuit the alphabetic principle and the meaning of printed words with a little guidance from a teacher and through pleasant cooperative classroom activities such as “shared reading” and “reading circles.” Basically, this approach says that kids can learn to read by reading—by immersing themselves in print. And for some children from literate homes, where print and articulate conversation abound, this approach can work.
[T]he evidence is starting to come in. More than 5,600 schools in 1,700 school districts nationwide have received Reading First grants. The participation level is impressive in itself. It means that state education agencies and a large number of districts have pledged (in writing) to use Reading First grants exclusively to teach according to the principles of Scientifically Based Reading Research—a phrase that appears so often in the legislation that it has become an acronym, SBRR. So unless officials are lying and just grabbing the money, we now have a critical mass of educators willing to try the pro-science side of the reading wars.
A comprehensive study by an outside evaluator will appear in 2007, measuring Reading First’s influence on student achievement nationally. But some states and districts are already seeing significant improvement. When the relevant congressional committees hold hearings on NCLB reauthorization, they might start by looking to neighboring Virginia, where they’ll discover a dramatic example of Reading First’s power. With apologies to Dickens, we might call it a tale of two school districts—one welcoming Reading First, the other disdaining it.
The first, Richmond, offers a classic profile of an inner-city school district. Of its 25,000 students, 95 percent are black, more than 70 percent are poor enough to be in the free-lunch program, and 44 percent change schools during the year. Until 2001, Richmond’s student test scores were among Virginia’s worst. Only five of the district’s 51 schools achieved the status of full state accreditation.
But 2001 is also when Richmond school officials embarked on an ambitious reform, whose centerpiece was a standardized reading program based on evidence from the NICHD studies. By the time Reading First funds were available in 2002, Richmond was already up and running with a phonics-based reading program called Voyager Universal Literacy. The district channeled the modest $450,000 Reading First grant into a handful of its lowest-performing schools. But the principles of scientific reading instruction took hold throughout the district.
Since then, Richmond’s test scores have skyrocketed. By 2003, the number of the district’s schools achieving full state accreditation had climbed to 22. The next year, it rose to 39 and has now reached 44.
[T]he $6 billion for Reading First has more generally been one of the best investments ever in federal education spending. It has already brought some remarkable reading breakthroughs in many parts of the country and among at-risk students. It has spread awareness of what should be going on in the classrooms and in the teacher-training institutions. It has shown that a comprehensive solution to the nation’s reading crisis is right in front of our noses. If, in another decade, an unacceptable proportion of America’s children still can’t read by fourth grade, don’t blame George Bush. Blame the education leaders in our states and cities who, offered the solution, didn’t grab it.
Commencement weekend is hard to plan at the University of California, Los Angeles. The university now has so many separate identity-group graduations that scheduling them not to conflict with one another is a challenge. The women’s studies graduation and the Chicana/Chicano studies graduation are both set for 10 AM Saturday. The broader Hispanic graduation, “Raza,” is in near-conflict with the black graduation, which starts just an hour later.
Some students are presumably eligible for four or five graduations. A gay student with a Native American father and a Filipino mother could attend the Asian, Filipino, and American Indian ceremonies, plus the mainstream graduation and the Lavender Graduation for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students.
Graduates usually wear identity-group markers—a Filipino stole or a Vietnamese sash, for instance, or a rainbow tassel at the Lavender event. Promoters of ethnic and racial graduations often talk about the strong sense of community that they favor. But it is a sense of community based on blood, a dubious and historically dangerous organizing principle.
[T]he core reason for separatist graduations is the obvious one: on campus, assimilation is a hostile force, the domestic version of American imperialism. On many campuses, identity-group training begins with separate freshman orientation programs for nonwhites, who arrive earlier and are encouraged to bond before the first Caucasian freshmen arrive. Some schools have separate orientations for gays as well. Administrations tend to foster separatism by arguing that bias is everywhere, justifying double standards that favor identity groups.
As in so many areas of American life, the preposterous is now normal.
Before he turned his attention to mercy killing, Kevorkian argued for a new branch of medicine—namely, physiological experimentation on those condemned to death and about to be executed. His oddity is suggested not merely by the proposal itself, but by his surprise that his colleagues did not jump at it, and instead condemned it roundly. He attributed their resistance to conservatism, this being a pejorative term, of course.
Now it so happens that on the very day on which Kevorkian went free, 310 prisoners in Italy, condemned to life imprisonment for murder, petitioned the Italian president, requesting the reinstatement of the death penalty. An imprisoned chief of the Sicilian Mafia, Carmelo Musumeci, was the prime mover behind the petition, which read in part: “We ask that our life sentences be transformed into a death sentence. Our life is totally useless and means infinite suffering: a sentence that makes the future the same as the past, a past that crushes the present and eliminates any hope for the future.”
Surely there is an opportunity here for international cooperation of the best kind? It has long seemed paradoxical that many of those most strenuously opposed to the death penalty most fervently favor euthanasia, and not always the voluntary kind. It is seldom that such an ideological paradox can so neatly be resolved.
Avanti, Dr. Kevorkian! You have new worlds to conquer, especially since a condition of your parole is to take no part in euthanasia or assisted suicide. A change of jurisdictions would be just the thing. And I am sure that Signor Musumeci, as a small token of appreciation for being put out of his misery, would be happy to be experimented upon.
Sicko is not a documentary; it’s a cartoon, without animation. In the real world, health-care policy involves a sixth of the national economy, hundreds of government programs, thousands of private insurance plans, and hundreds of thousands of health-care workers; it is extraordinarily complex. In Sicko, by contrast, there are no nuances, no exceptions, no grays. Americans are exploited; insurance companies are bad; politicians are impotent.
Perhaps most remarkably, Moore finds perfection in Canada, Britain, France, and, yes, Cuba. He gushes that everyone in Canada enjoys coverage, and yet costs are lower there. Could there possibly be a tradeoff for this? In Sicko, there doesn’t seem to be any. Moore visits an ER in London, Ontario, and asks people how long they’ve waited for care. No one has cooled his heels for longer than 45 minutes!
Sicko’s depiction of Canadian health care is a complete misrepresentation. I grew up in Canada, so stories immediately jump to my mind: the relative who almost died of an acute abdomen, first waiting hours to see a doctor in an ER, then sent to another hospital for an ultrasound, and finally shipped back again by ambulance for the needed surgery; a woman with cancer who broke her hip (because of metastasis) and had to wait a dozen hours in an ER before being sent home.
Perhaps the major reason Jews have been able to keep their national identity alive for 3,000 years, the last 2,000 of which were nearly all spent dispersed among other nations, is ritual. No national or cultural identity can survive without ritual, even if the group remains in its own country.
Americans knew this until the era of anti-wisdom was ushered in by the baby boomer generation in the 1960s and '70s. We always had national holidays that celebrated something meaningful.
Unfortunately...Columbus Day is rarely celebrated since the European founding of European civilization on American soil is not politically correct.
Christmas has become less nationally meaningful as exemplified by the substitution of "Happy Holidays" for "Merry Christmas."
Memorial Day should be a solemn day on which Americans take time to honor those Americans who fought and died for America and for liberty. But, again, fewer and fewer Americans visit military cemeteries just as fewer communities have Memorial Day festivities.
We come, finally, to tomorrow, the mother of American holidays, July Fourth, the day America was born. This day has a long history of vibrant and meaningful celebrations. But it, too, is rapidly losing its meaning. For example, look around tomorrow -- especially if you live in a large urban area -- and see how few homes display the American flag. For most Americans it appears that the Fourth has become merely a day to take off from work and enjoy hot dogs with friends.
Our national holidays were established to commemorate the most significant national events and individuals in our history; they now exist primarily to provide us with a day off. This was reinforced by the nation's decision to shift some of the holidays to a Monday -- thereby losing the meaning of the specific date in order to give us a three-day weekend.
National memory dies without national ritual. And without a national memory, a nation dies. That is the secret at the heart of the Jewish people's survival that the American people must learn if they are to survive.
When Jews gather at the Passover Seder -- and this is the most widely observed Jewish holiday -- they recount the exodus from Egypt, an event that occurred 3,200 years ago. We Americans have difficulty keeping alive the memory of events that happened 231 years ago.
How have the Jews accomplished this? By the ritual of the Passover Seder. Jews spend the evening recounting the Exodus from Egypt -- and as if it happened to them. In the words of the Passover Haggadah -- the Passover Seder book -- "every person is obligated to regard himself as if he himself left Egypt." The story is retold in detail, and it is told as if it happened to those present at the Seder, not only to those who lived it 3,200 years ago.
That has to be the motto of the July Fourth Seder. We all have to retell the story in as much detail as possible and to regard ourselves as if we, no matter when we or our ancestors came to America -- were present at the nation's founding in 1776.
But someone -- or many someones -- must come up with a July Fourth Seder. A generation of Americans with little American identity -- emanating from little American memory -- has already grown into adulthood. The nation whose founders regarded itself as the Second Israel must now learn how to survive from the First.
This Fourth of July, Americans will sing the first verse, which at most performances nowadays is all we hear. But Miss Bates had more to say than mere topographic description. "America" is a fusion of the beauty of the land with the glory of the idea. As she wrote in the second verse:
Oh beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
God mend thine ev’ry flaw;
Confirm thy soul in self-control
Thy liberty in law...
Which is a more controversial notion in Massachusetts today than it was back then - that liberty operates best within self-imposed restraints.
For what could be a better summation of the nation than a patriotic anthem born in the majestic sweep of the Rockies and over the steaming hot dogs of Coney Island?
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!