Aim Higher

“Aim higher. You don’t need to talk. They are American citizens. They won an election. Take on their policies. The bottom line here is this is a diverse country.”

Part of a statement from Senator Lindsey Graham during a recent interview on Fox & Friends.

“He said, ‘Aim higher. Shoot higher.’ What am I going to do? Wait until we get somebody else in a higher position? A higher office? These are people that hate our country.”

A portion of President Trump’s response to Senator Graham’s call to tone down the rhetoric.

While I could go on ad nauseam about my extreme disappointment with the senator from South Carolina who once fashioned his political behavior after that of the late John McCain, even I don’t believe that presidential apologist and lackey Lindsey Graham was suggesting that the President set his sights on someone in an elected office higher than the four freshmen female members of Congress who were the most recent recipients of Mr. Trump’s bigotry and bogus patriotism.

Perhaps I’m being a bit old-fashioned, but during my lifetime when our presidents talked about improving our aim, it meant walking that high road, taking that next hill, or even reaching the Moon! As we take the time this weekend to celebrate the achievements of all those who brought about the success of the Apollo 11 mission, and to remember the martyred President that united all Americans behind a common goal of placing human beings on the lunar surface, I find the present state of our national discourse disgusting and disheartening.

A well placed wood carving behind the bar of McSorley’s Old Ale House in lower Manhattan bears the following warning for those patrons who might be lacking in proper tavern etiquette “Be good or be gone.” We are privileged to live in a country where a bartender has the right to tell unruly customers to go back from whence they came, but a president, or for that matter any elected official, is bound by their oath of office to accept, tolerate, and even embrace anyone who exercises their rights to legally express their dissatisfaction with the conditions of this 243 year old establishment called America. It would appear that the longevity and prosperity of both taverns and countries depends upon their ability to better serve the needs of an ever changing neighborhood.

Even McSorley’s, a place that had served the enlightened likes of Abraham Lincoln and Woody Guthrie during its long storied history, finally relented on its own bit of provincial prejudice by opening its doors to women clientele in 1970. Today every freshmen member of Congress would gladly be welcomed!

As for the President’s lack of welcome to the ladies of the House, many of his critics have used his latest Twitter feed channeling of McCarthyism as ironclad proof of his blatant racism. While I am not yet fully prepared to commit to that particular point of view, I am of the opinion that what he has done might even be worse than racism. Any politician that seeks to maintain their power and position by pandering to those who are the victims of their own fears and insecurities is guilty of committing an even more reprehensible act!

There is always the hope that through experience and a greater understanding of those differences that divide us, even the most hardened heart will conclude that we are all equal in this life and the next. But demagogues almost always take their ways to the grave.

Thankfully though, our Constitution provides that the person in the voting booth enjoys the same power as that person behind the bar. It’s simply a matter of …

Posted by Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Advertisements

The Quality of Light

Sunrise at Acadia – photo By Bill Trotter – Bangor Daily News

“We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us thru that darkness to a safe and sane future.” – John F. Kennedy

Even while our citizens endured the partial shutdown of government and the near total shutdown of governance, that lead photon on that first ray of sunlight coming over the horizon each morning still managed to awaken the continental United States by hitting its mark on the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Maine’s Acadia National Park. And while the roads of this nation’s first national park east of the Mississippi remained unplowed, the garbage uncollected, and the visitor’s center unmanned, the sun still continued to shine. It seems the natural order of the universe and nature function quite well without government–the human species not so much!

In the course of my own travels, I have found there is a bit of magic in that light that caresses the coast of Maine. For me personally, it has been a source of comfort, clarity, and inspiration. Not that I’m questioning the effectiveness of sunshine south of the Piscataqua, but that mix of both man-made and metaphorical pollution seems to have somewhat diminished the curative effects–especially along that storied stretch of the Potomac in Washington.

Morning in Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Afternoon in Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Approximately 116 nautical miles south of Acadia lies one family’s fortress that has weathered many Atlantic gales and has witnessed many a sunrise since the turn of the last century. And for most of my time, while trying to unsuccessfully coax the ocean’s bounty onto the end of my fishing rod in the waters off Kennebunkport, I was pretty much unaware of the potential political dynasty that was mixing vodka martinis on the lawn and playing tennis on the court at Walker’s Point. But during the summer of 1990, a few months before our armed incursion into Iraq, I became keenly aware that the price of oil was of far greater concern than the price of lobster. It was also during this period that I discovered that the 41st President of the United States enjoyed a good glass of beer as much as he enjoyed his martinis.

Evening on the Kennebunk River near Walker’s Point

“We are a nation of communities… a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.” – George H. W. Bush

The talk around town was that George H. W. Bush on occasion would be spotted hoisting a pint with locals and tourists alike. And by the end of his presidency, the opening of Federal Jack’s Brewpub in Kennebunkport would help to make his loss to William Jefferson Clinton in 1992 and subsequent retirement at Walker’s Point a bit more tolerable. And while there may have been a few dark clouds that obscured the late president’s so-called “1000 points of light”–he was a man who truly believed in the value of selfless public service to country and the possibility that we could actually become a kinder and gentler nation. Sadly, the flame of that fanciful notion seems to waning as of late.

“America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.” – Ronald Reagan

At the close of of last Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Trump may have been attempting to evoke that Reaganesque view of our place in the world when he said, “We must always keep faith in America’s destiny — that one Nation, under God, must be the hope and the promise and the light and the glory among all the nations of the world!” Unfortunately, for many of those most in need of seeing America’s light–that light will be nothing more than a brief glimpse between the slats of some steel barrier on our southern border

“Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.” George Washington

During the stifling summer of 1787, our nation’s first president presided over the Constitutional Convention. Hot days and even hotter tempers fueled the often contentious proceedings at the Philadelphia Statehouse.

On September 17, 1787, nearly four months after the convention convened, even the most cantankerous of those among the delegates would choose consensus and compromise–and commit their signatures to the United States Constitution. With the grand bargain now in hand, Doctor Benjamin Franklin of the Pennsylvania delegation could forego politics in favor of his much preferred philosophical musings. With his gaze fixed upon the carving of the sun on the backrest of the chair that gave George Washington some measure of comfort during the trials of that long, difficult summer, Franklin said, “I have often looked at that picture behind the president without being able to tell whether it was a rising or setting sun. Now at length, I have the happiness to know that it is indeed a rising, not a setting sun.”

Closing time at the White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island

While I have normally shared Mr. Franklin’s optimism about America’s future wellbeing, as of late, a few vexing shadows of doubt have darkened my horizon. Certainly, many thousand points of light continue to illuminate American skies, but our elected guiding lights have spent too much of their time in retreat under their respective red and blue bushels. So from my perspective, I’m not sure whether I’m seeing the dawn’s early light, the twilight’s last gleaming, or just the flickering lights of last call.

Make mine a double–it’s an awfully long road home–and an even longer road to 2020!

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Another Holiday in Harm’s Way

 

Christmas Truce Headline in the Seattle StarChristmas Truce 1914

 

Frank Stem was a faithful American patriot, an ardent fan of John Wayne, and someone who knew a thing or two about the harshness of winter below the 38th parallel. By the time I came to know this tough, seasoned Cold War combatant, the boys at the Pentagon had already moved our contest against communism from the frigid Korean peninsula to the soggy, steaming jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam. And Frank Stem had long since swapped out his M-1 Garand and Colt sidearm for a wooden pointer and a felt eraser. This soldier turned teacher now faced the daily threat posed by the longer hair and shorter skirts that filled the rows of desks at a fairly liberal leaning coed Catholic high school in northern New Jersey.

It was September of 1969 when I took my assigned seat in Mr. Stem’s classroom. While this tested warhorse would often espouse the benefits of military service, there was this soft side to his nature like that of the English headmaster, who worried about the fate of his own adolescent charges during the First World War, in the film Goodbye, Mr. Chips. And having acquired ample knowledge of American history along with a good dose of common sense, Frank Stem was probably a bit more inclined to heed the advice of those who had cautioned against getting involved in a land war in Asia. So in a schoolroom upon whose walls might hang a picture of the Duke on horseback, Neil Armstrong on the Moon, or Jimi Hendrix on the stage at Woodstock, this older warrior and his young aspiring activists would often find some middle ground. Unfortunately, in today’s political climate–that middle ground has become our own frightful version of no man’s land!

In the days leading up to Christmas in 1914, soldiers on both sides of the conflict abandoned their trenches and ventured onto that deadly stretch of ground along the Western Front–not for the want of war, but for the possibility of peace. As history has borne out on so many other occasions, there are wiser men among the ranks even when there are only fools at the top. And that simple fact holds true both on and off the battlefield.

I have no idea how Frank Stem would view the current standoff  at the 38th parallel. But my recollections of this intelligent, decent man lead me to believe that he, like myself, would be immensely concerned that the fate of so many lives are dependent upon the diplomatic skills of Donald Trump or Dennis Rodman.

In keeping with those other Christmases past, we at American Public House Review raise a glass to all our  men and women in the armed forces of the United States. We pray for their protection and safe return–and we look to that day when none of our soldiers will have to spend another holiday in harm’s way!

This haunting and poignant piece by John McCutcheon continues to capture that sentiment best.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Arming for Armageddon

Jupiter Ballistic Missile

As far back as I can possibly reach into my conscious memory, there has been some person in authority warning us of the impending possibility of our earthly expiration. From the preachers in the pulpit to the pols in the public square, there has been no shortage of voices giving us reason to cower under our actual or metaphorical desks. The latest message of an approaching Armageddon is being delivered by Tennessee Senator Bob Corker. And in a rare break with my usual inclination of wanting to shoot the messenger, at this particular crossroad–I actually share the concerns of the courier.

As the  President prepares for his trip to Asia next month, I question whether or not there is either the capacity or the judgement needed to bring about a peaceful curbing of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. But ever since the Second World War, we’ve spent trillions of dollars, risked armed conflict, and sacrificed thousands of American lives in order to put limitations on the firepower available to those nations and outside groups that were perceived as threats to our national security. While those policies of containment may have been a necessary evil, one might question why there is not the same resolve or expenditure of resources when it comes to protecting our citizens from those legitimate threats that exist within our own borders.

Why is it that our leader’s and legislator’s eagerness to regulate the killing potential of those seemingly unstable and unfriendly types that inhabit our planet tends to always stop at the water’s edge? Perhaps it’s because terrorists and rogue regimes may possess the firepower, but in most instances–they just haven’t yet acquired the lobbying power.

While I find the thought of ICBMs in Iran and Nukes in North Korea to be somewhat disheartening, that which brings the most discomfort to my domestic tranquility is the thought of bump stocks in the barnyard and that loose cannon in the West Wing!

Loose Cannon Hop 3

 

Personally, the only Loose Cannon that makes the cut in my life is that wonderful IPA from those exceptional brewers at Heavy Seas.

 

 

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

Updating My Status With the United States Secret Service

ferndale-inn-bar

Like many of my fellow Americans, I’ve taken the “wait and see approach” since the election of Donald J. Trump. But with more than a month having passed since his inauguration, I believe I’ve already seen enough, and I’ve probably waited much too long–not that I’ve formulated a suitable response to this unfolding national quandary other than to utter the words “God help us” much more than usual.

I’ve heard from more than one friend that they have abandoned social media and cable news in order to find some sense of refuge and peace. I, on the other hand, continue to expose myself to the onslaught of electronic punditry, and to engage my bar room customers as to the pros and cons of this presidency. But then I have the advantage of those quiet late nights after the dispirited Democrats, the few remorseful, but mostly rejoicing Republicans, and the incredulous independents have all gone home.

My outpost during this particular political cycle has been the Ferndale Inn, a wonderful old Upper Bucks County establishment that has been around long enough to have served some of those that lived through the colonial insurrection of 76 as well as the civil unraveling of 1861. Perhaps it is their ghosts that motivated me to once again attempt to reach out to yet another incoming administration. So on the morning of the 20th day of January 2017 while the Trumps were contemplating an afternoon stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue, I was heading into to town to post my letter to the incoming President.

I sent copies to both the White House and to Trump Tower in New York City. In retrospect, I probably should have also sent a copy to the clubhouse in West Palm Beach–because every indicator suggests that the only persons that may have read the letter are those tasked with monitoring the mail to make sure that there is nothing more threatening than what might be perceived by the Bannon wing of the White House as the poisoned pros of some poor misguided moderate. So in the hope that all my words don’t fall on deaf ears, I will also share the letter with the audience of this blog and American Pubic House Review.

General Ulysses S. GrantAppomattox RevisitedGeneral Robert E. Lee

Dear President Trump:

The preservation of a healthy democracy demands participation beyond the voting booth, hence the reason for this letter. First of all, while I did not cast my ballot for you, I want you to know that I sincerely hope and pray for the success and well being of you and your family as you embark upon the many challenges of the presidency. To that end I wish you Godspeed sir!

From this point on, forgive me if my writings ramble on a bit as I attempt to blend the practical with the philosophical side of our politics.

On Jobs:

I applaud your efforts to retain and create employment opportunities within our borders. But I believe we need to be realistic and honest with American labor about the real potential employment numbers within certain industries. Even if we produced steel or mined coal to the extent of the peak years of the twentieth-century, we would do so with a fraction of the manpower that was needed in the past. In 1923, it took 863,000 coal miners to produce approximately 600 million short tons of coal. Today you could double that production number with a workforce of less than 70,000. The new reality calls for much more aggressive retraining programs. And if we can’t bring new jobs and industries to those areas hardest hit by change, then perhaps the government needs to provide assistance so that it is affordable for people to relocate to those places where there are new avenues of employment.

On Healthcare:

I believe that we should acknowledge and maintain the moral high ground achieved by the previous administration. No human being should ever be denied healthcare because of a pre-existing condition. And that care should be truly affordable and in keeping to the highest standards of modern medicine! America’s middle-class cannot afford another monthly bill that is equivalent to a payment on a BMW. And from solely a business perspective, every dollar that is spent on just providing a family with essential needs and services further erodes the growth of those parts of the economy that depend upon  discretionary spending.

Healthcare over the past several decades has evolved from being a necessary institution into something more akin to just another big business. And while I believe that those dedicated souls that provide the care and the cures should be well paid, we can’t expect the average American to shoulder the financial burden of something that now accounts for nearly 20% of our gross domestic product.

I certainly agree with your point of view that we need to create more competitive pricing of insurance by expanding the marketplace beyond state borders. But I also believe that the real cost savings will be realized in the delivery of services. Because of what has been perceived as being a bottomless well of government and private insurance monies, hospitals have grown into bloated, inefficient bureaucracies. Perhaps we need a moonshot approach to medicine—one where the government develops new lifesaving techniques and technologies, and then rewards those public and private entities that incorporate them into the practice of medicine in the most cost-effective manner.

On Immigration:

Once we get beyond the rhetoric of the issue, there are no easy answers accept to say that a good immigration policy is in fact good for business. Whether we utilize the carrot or stick approach to the problems at our borders, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we are the country that has always advertised ourselves as that land of opportunity. And whenever we needed to dig a canal, build a railroad, or send men underground in order to provide the fuel for our industrial might, we called upon the immigrant to break their backs and to risk their lives. Historically, it has always been a relationship of convenience tailored to the needs of the business class and the political class with the immigrant caught somewhere in the middle. Even today not much has changed. In the same breath American business welcomes the illegal through the backdoor to wash the dishes, while our politicians propose protections that keep those same people from entering through the front door under the guise that they might be stealing food off of the same plates that they just washed.

Putting the obvious hypocrisy aside, no matter what reforms are eventually adopted they must be initiated from a position of reason and compassion—because the vast majority of those that choose to cross borders illegally are in fact doing so because they are facing genuine hardships and immediate threats. And in some instances, those dire conditions came about in part because of American economic and foreign policy. Before we propose legislation or sign anything into law, we must ask ourselves what we would do if our own families were in that position?

In the past, when life wasn’t to our liking, we crossed an ocean, we crossed many borders, we displaced others, and on some occasions we made claims to land in a manner that was neither moral nor legitimate. It is incumbent upon every American to remember our own journey before we intervene on the itinerary of others.

On Having Skin in the Game:

There are those that have accused you of being a bit thin-skinned. As one who shares the condition of having a sharp tongue and strong opinions while at the same time not always being receptive to that potentially bruising return volley, there isn’t much that I can offer other than to say that before we tally the falsehoods and slights put forth by others, it would serve us well to apply a bit of self-accounting regarding our own behavior. Furthermore, an effective presidency does require a thick skin, because those who desire that position must wear many skins: the skin of the rich and the poor, the skin of the powerful and the downtrodden, the skin of all races, the skin of all colors, the skin of all creeds, and the skin of all nations. Because that is what America has always been and always will be as long we continue to uphold the aspirations and principles of our Founders.

But ultimately, our leaders will not be measured by the thickness of their skin, but instead by the broadness of their shoulders and the size of their hearts!

On Healing a Nation:

Our Constitution can be rather problematic—because within its structure lies the seeds for our potential unity or disunity depending upon how we choose to exercise our rights. Those freedoms enshrined within that document allow us to exclude or include, to tear down or raise up, and to inflict pain or promote healing.

In 1861, there were those who believed that the Constitution went so far as to provide for the right of secession. It would take four years of carnage and deprivation to prove otherwise. But as we consider a nation that today is mired in contentious rancor and has been politically reduced to a map of red and blue, one might wonder has much changed since Lee surrendered his army to Grant at Appomattox?

I wish that prior to taking the oath of office every President-elect would spend a quiet winter’s day of reflection at Antietam, Gettysburg, or any Civil War battlefield. There were no real victors on these pieces of ground—just body counts that led the commanders on one side or the other to foolishly presume that they had won the day. But there would be many bitter harvests on those hallowed fields before a severely wounded nation would make any sense of the struggle—let alone claim victory.

On August 8, 1885, some of those same veterans, who had faced the fire and the fury from opposite sides of the lines at places like Shiloh, Vicksburg and Cold Harbor, now marched shoulder-to-shoulder as they accompanied the body of General Ulysses S. Grant to its temporary place of rest in New York City’s Riverside Park. On this day at least, young enemies would stand together as old friends.

During his final years, as he had done throughout his presidency, Grant sought to bring about a spirit of renewal and reconciliation to a nation still suffering the lingering deep divisions that remained after the Civil War. Even during those final months of life while suffering the ravages of a painful and debilitating throat cancer, General Grant would provide counsel to his friends and former adversaries with a gentle dignity and optimism that belied his immense suffering.

Ulysses S. Grant truly lived up to those words spoken by Abraham Lincoln at his first inaugural address, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

May all Americans, and especially our leaders, aspire to those better angels!

Sincerely,

Chris Poh,  Editor for American Public House Review

The Morning After Last Night’s Casualties

home-bar

Somewhere on the other side of 3 am, I finally decided to make last call at my home bar. There was little resistance considering I was the only one left standing. This session would yield little solace other than the civil and somewhat gracious tone of Donald Trump’s victory speech after Hillary Clinton’s telephone call acknowledging her defeat.

Unable to sleep, I would return to the television set a few short hours later to see how America was faring after the revolution. Much to my surprise, the early morning pundits had not been cancelled or beheaded. At worst, they were eating their crow with good humor as the “I told you so” side of the panel restrained their glee. And even  the stock market futures that had indicated a precipitous fall during the overnight opened on the upside. In fact, most companies trading on the Dow were enjoying healthy gains with one notable exception. Smith and Wesson had lost nearly 16% of its value.

A company that had benefited in part because of the irrational fears propagated by the NRA and right wing media may regret having a few less Democrats in power. It’s funny how sometimes you wind up losing even when you think you’ve won. Take heed Mr. Limbaugh.

As the morning progressed, leaders and politicians from both parties took to the airwaves to talk about unity, inclusion, and healing. By early afternoon, I was feeling somewhat optimistic again about our collective prospects. Our democracy had once more demonstrated its resilience and ability to peacefully pass power from one party to the other. And while I’m not a big fan of one group having all of the political marbles–recalcitrance, obstruction, and gridlock as excuses for not governing will have to be shelved until at least the 2018 midterm election.

So once again, my silver lining syndrome remains intact. And since I was born without a team gene, I’m open to the possibility of worthwhile policy being generated by either side of the political spectrum. But there remains a lingering sadness about this election, because it resembles a civil war more than a revolution. And while we didn’t sacrifice a single soul in the course of this particular domestic squabble, this nation lost some portion of its honor, dignity, and humanity along the way. And like both sides at the Battle of Gettysburg, we have to wonder if it was worth the cost?

Cannons at Gettysburg

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

Rigged and Ready for the Real Revolution

 

Sons of Liberty at the Green Dragon - Artist Unknown

Sons of Liberty at the Green Dragon – Artist Unknown

 

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.                                                             From Thomas Jefferson to William Smith  1787

In modern America it seems that the discontented and the demagogues have always held our third President in the highest regard. From tee shirts to bar room banter, those touting the next revolution are quick to remind us that any rotten fruit that sprouts from that sacred “Liberty Tree” should be pruned with extreme prejudice as per the periodic prescriptive measures supposedly proposed by Thomas Jefferson.

(While I remain  a staunch advocate for the cause of alliteration in literature, even I believe that some degree of poetic license may been have abused during the execution of the previous sentence)

Although Mr. Jefferson felt that a modicum of public rebellion from time to time was  a healthy way to keep an overreaching governing class in check, he much preferred the peaceful coexistence between the powers that be and the people. In what has become known as the “Tree of Liberty” letter, Jefferson expressed his concerns that the Constitution would vest too much control to a central government that was at that time already weary of further armed uprisings, similar to the tax insurrection that had occurred in Massachusetts in 1786 and 1787. Ultimately, Jefferson believed that it was a lack of knowledge that led a disgruntled public to consider taking up arms against the government. Toward the end of his letter to William Smith, he states, “The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon & pacify them.”

Whether or not it is even possible today to discover the facts about anyone or anything is a matter of debate. Political punditry and pitchfork populism are a malignancy that obscure and eventually obliterate the truth. But there is one certain truth that I believe we must make abundantly clear to a distrustful electorate. Contrary to the rants of Donald J. Trump, This election is not rigged!

As it has always been since the onset of this republic, there are those forces in the press and the media that have attempted to influence the vote by way of an institutional or personal bias. Historically, candidates for public office from both parties have had personal ties to newspapers and broadcast outlets. But in the age of the internet and social media there are more than enough sources to support and validate everyone’s version of the truth. The only thing that is truly rigged against us is that portion of the human brain that causes us to occasionally blindly follow those that affirm our own personal perceptions–even if those perceptions are totally without merit.

So before we are tempted to threaten bodily harm against any of our fellow citizens because one of our candidates for the office of President is falsely crying fire in a crowded theater, remember that Thomas Jefferson followed The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants with the words It is its natural manure. 

Hopefully Americans will reject the current line of bullshit and demagoguery in favor of that real revolution that will only come about as a result of reasonable human beings working together to address our difficulties and differences in a spirit of concern, compassion, and compromise!

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

 

Why…

Vigil for Pulse from Perth

As a nation, whenever we are forced to endure the painful aftermath  brought on by those who use murder as a means of expressing their extreme distaste for society, there seems to be that innate need to make some sense of the senseless– or to apply reason to the unreasonable. The irrational ruthless actions of one man sitting alone at the Pulse in Orlando, Florida, will once again stir our collective conscience to ask ourselves why. Why did this happen? Why do they hate? Why do they kill?

For much of the immediate future, there will be those countless supposed expert voices espousing answers and solutions. And unfortunately, there is nothing like a national tragedy during an election year to fuel the self-righteous indignation of that portion of the political class that tend to speak only to our fears. Those same human beings will attempt to convince us of some greater truth concerning the motivations, affiliations, and ideologies of those that engage in  violent behaviors. But in the end, there will only be a whole lot of speculation carefully woven between the sorrow and the tears.

During my own lifetime, I’ve witnessed far too many of these unconscionable  deeds, and when all was said and done, the theories and explanations always fell far short of our need to know why such reprehensible attacks occurred.

Right up until that moment when Jack Ruby fired the shot that would end the life of  John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald seemed to be redefining his role and responsibility in the death of the President. And after years of inquiries and investigations, we are no closer to knowing the workings of the mind of a man whose loyalties and attachments were mercurial and contradictory to say the least. I suspect that ultimately our understanding of Omar Mateen will be no different. He will be just another name in that long litany of those that have unjustifiably bloodied our history and broken our hearts.

So we are left with only a handful of truths concerning this crime and its political ramifications:

  • Most mass killings in the United States have been carried out using legally purchased weapons. So we can probably save some lives with commonsense regulations that do not impinge upon the intent of the Second Amendment.
  • Some individuals should not have access to either airliners or assault rifles.
  • And certain politicians should definitely not have access to either Air Force One or America’s arsenal.
  • But most importantly, we need not ask why–but instead why not?

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?     Robert Kennedy

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

 

 

Pay No Attention to the Curtain Behind the Man

trump_christie

“Showtime is over. We are not electing an entertainer-in-chief. Showmanship is fun, but it is not the kind of leadership that will truly change America,”  Governor Chris Christie commenting about Donald Trump at a January campaign stop in New Hampshire

Perhaps it was merely a matter of window dressing on Donald Trump’s own behalf that motivated him to include Governor Christie as part of the political backdrop at the makeshift press room at Mar-a-Lago after Tuesday night’s election returns. The Donald could tout a bit of inside the Republican establishment support while basking in the glow of those very favorable primary results courtesy of the faithful that bank on Trump’s brand of outside the Beltway salvation. But the bigger question remains–just what are Mr. Christie’s motivations for taking the stage at the potential winter White House in Palm Beach?

One might wonder could there possibly be enough room on the same playground for these two blustering, bellicose bullies. And the look in the Governor’s eyes the other night indicated either similar misgivings, or just maybe he was feeling an attack of Catholic conscience coming on. For any of us that have had a past with the Church of Rome, there is always that recollection of some priest or nun that reminded us to be weary of the sin of guilt by association.

There are those pundits and commentators that are suggesting that Governor Christie is simply continuing to set his sights on Washington. Speculation abounds about the possible appointment to attorney general under a Trump presidency. And yes, I could easily imagine Chris and Donald sipping pina coladas at the estate in Palm Beach as they review who on the president’s enemies list should be subject to federal prosecution.

As for myself, I believe Governor Christie was in Florida on the evening of Super Tuesday because he simply can’t stand the idea of having to spend any more time in the Garden State than is absolutely necessary. His travels over the past several years have made that fact abundantly clear. And for the better part of the rest of March, he will most likely not be seen anywhere near the vicinity of the New Jersey Statehouse. And I find that all to be very troubling. Because while there may be many important dates in the month of March that will require the governor to function as the commander-in-chief toady to the Trump campaign–there is no more important date than that of the 17th.

And any self-respecting, bona fide Trenton politician will be spending St. Patrick’s Day at the Tir na nog Irish Pub!  

St. Patty's Day at Tir-na-nog Irish Pub in Trenton, New Jersey

 Posted by Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Birth of a Caliphate

Birth_of_a_Nation_theatrical_poster

In 1915, D. W. Griffith brought craft and controversy to the silent screen with the release of The Birth of a Nation. This cinematic adaptation of The Clansman, a novel written by Thomas Dixon, Jr., is thought to have been instrumental in bringing about the second incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan in America. The film’s glorification of those that sought to restore the political and social institutions of the antebellum South through intimidation and terror would spawn a new powerful wave of white supremacy.

The repackaged Klan would expand its ideology of intolerance to include Jews, Catholics, and non-Anglo immigrants–all the while claiming to be answering the call of some God sanctioned greater Christian ethic. By its peak in 1925, this so-called fraternal organization would boast a membership of several million Americans. The cast in celluloid semi-social medium of the early 20th century may have inadvertently become the tool to rally, recruit, and radicalize a mass audience. Fast forward 100 years, and it should be no wonder to anyone that the means of modern media can so effectively convince thousands to embrace jihad, and for some of those minions to pursue their own personal pathology in the streets of Paris, Alleppo, or San Bernardino.

Quite frankly, I suspect there is very little difference between the modern terrorist and those that in the past unleashed murder and brutality against innocent civilian populations. Our inclination to believe that the nature and behavior of some of our kind is any worse than it ever was is most likely the result of our near immediate exposure to the excessive carnage and casualties inflicted by a handful of determined individuals with access to extreme firepower.

I am only grateful that the over 700 hate groups currently estimated to be operating within the United States seem to be lacking the savvy, sophistication, and organizational skills of those like-minded factions that operate outside of our borders. Instead of needing to establish something akin to a caliphate, our own homegrown brand of end-timer religious zealots seem to be content with spewing their dissatisfaction with mankind from some backwater compound or the back corner table of some gin mill.

It is not by any means my intent to downplay the current menace that we now face as a nation, but at the same time, it would serve us well to maintain an historical perspective about the true character of our adversaries. If we fail to do this we may fall victim to an even far greater threat–that being the tendency to be taken in by those who rely solely on the art of demagoguery  to achieve power. History has always borne out that those individuals pose the greater threat to democracy and personal liberty.

Those who at present operate beneath the mantle of a distorted apocalyptic view of Islam will ultimately prove themselves to be like every other rogue enterprise that feeds on the vulnerability of those who, either imagine, or because of legitimate grievances against governments feel that they have neither a voice nor legal redress regarding their own well being. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will eventually weaken and wither under the weight of superior military opposition from without, and by those inherent internal forces that bring about the demise of all despotic earthly jurisdictions. Even God can’t save the wolves when the sheep begin to grow a set of canines–and then develop the courage and conviction to bite back.

Hopefully, when that day is finally upon us, reason and religion will no longer be a matter of conflict–and God’s will for a few and goodwill towards all will be understood to be one and the same! 

Posted by Chris Poh for American Public House Review

       

%d bloggers like this: