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From Ordinary to Extraordinary: An  Independence Day Lesson 

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​Hot dogs and hamburgers, fireworks and sparklers. These are the things we’ve become accustomed to enjoying on the fourth of July.  

But these are not original to Independence Day. The first Independence Day past without picnics and fanfare, instead it was filled with trechory and warfare. Unlike the consequences we may endure–expanding waistlines, indigestion and unintended burns–when our Founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence they were literally signing their death warrants. Had America lost, their reward for fighting for independence and liberty would have been death by hanging or firing squad. We often think of our Founding Fathers as this group of extraordinary men, and while they certainly earned our respect and admiration, they weren’t born extraordinary. These men, and the women that supported them, were ordinary individuals who did something extraordinary because they stepped up and out. They believed in what they were doing, and they believed in the cause before them enough to risk everything. The fight for independence wasn’t easy and it wasn’t a sure thing. These individuals came from  all walks of life. Some were rich, some were poor, some were educated,some were not, there were seasoned are overnight militia, they were farmers and merchants, pastors and the unreligious. In addition to fighting the largest colonial power and strongest military at the time, the Founding Fathers faced opposition from their own neighbors who thought it best to remain a colony, and disagreements within their own ranks in terms of how best to build a new nation. What propelled these men to greatness was their resolve to figure a way though all the obstacles; their ability to find compromise yet stand firm on the issues of freedom and liberty which burned inside their souls. 

Each one of us has within ourselves the ability to go from ordinary to extraordinary just as they did. But we have to be willing to accept the risks as well as the rewards. Today too many of us are unwilling to take that risk or rock the boat for fear of reprisal, and more often than not we would also rather it be our way or the highway so we fail to compromise and find a common ground which may very well move us closer to our goals. While I love the trappings that come with celebrating Independence Day, more than that I love the lessons and sacrifices that make it possible for me to enjoying those trappings. My ancestors came from across Europe and North America, but I am an American born and bred under the Red, White and Blue, and though I don’t wear a uniform I will fight with all the power and abilities God has given me to preserve what our Founding Fathers sought to build — a nation of freedom.

“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

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How the Second Amendment Kills

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The debate over gun ownership in the US is nothing new, but the fervor which is ignited with each new discussion is reaching a profound level. On both sides of the aisle you have analysts and proponents singing what is right and what is wrong, and with each new terrorist attack or mass shooting the chorus picks up at an increased tempo. The Democrats and anti-gun advocates would have you believe that it is all a matter of too many firearms. Commentators and articles often cite the fact that there are now more guns in America than people (never mind the fact that the same could be said of chickens or any number of products). The Republicans and pro-gun advocate discuss the Constitution, terrorism and laws already on the books. There are valid points and overreaches on both sides.

“The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes…. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” – Thomas Jefferson, Commonplace Book (quoting 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria), 1774-1776

You cannot have a real discussion about guns without addressing the common sense issues that surround each situation that precedes these national tragedies. Are there too many guns? Perhaps, but guns alone can’t kill people, they require an individual to pull the trigger. Creating more laws to make it more difficult to purchase a gun won’t stop someone determined to kill. A criminal by definition does not follow the law. As for closing loopholes like the “Terror Watch List,” law abiding citizens should accept a bit of red tape if it will indeed prevent terror attacks like the one in Orlando. It is also important to realize that terror attacks are not gun issues, they are foreign policy issues. No amount of gun discussion or policy making is going to deter a terrorist. They are separate issues. One policy agenda that might actually impact the number of mass shootings is mental health. In each and every mass shooting incident that has occurred since Columbine it has been discovered that the perpetrator had a mental health issue. Instead of discussing how to address the loopholes in the mental health crisis hours and hours are spent discussing how citizens don’t need high powered or fully-automatic weapons and limitless supplies of ammunition. They completely ignore that fact that according to law enforcement and weapons specialists not only is it more complex to purchase fully automatic weapons, they are extremely regulated and it is illegal to convert a semi-automatic weapon to fully automatic.

“To disarm the people…[i]s the most effectual way to enslave them.”- George Mason

Common ground can be found on issues of capacity, ammunition, watch lists, loopholes, mental health and terrorism. The one issue where no debate needs to be had is on the right to bear arms. It is a God given right to protect yourself, your family and your property. The founding fathers and the framers of the Constitution understood this, but they felt strongly enough in their fear of overreaching government that they included the right to keep and bear arms in the Second Amendment. Anyone who has studied American Independence and the lead up to the Revolutionary War will understand why this was such an important point to the framers. Those who have not should watch a few episodes of AMC’s Turn. Though creative license is surely taken in some areas, the vivid reality of being occupied and unable to protect or defend oneself because all firearms were confiscated is something to behold. In this past season’s last few episodes a British soldier has gone off on his own quest and is terrorizing towns along the New England coast. He can’t be stopped because no one is armed but his invading unit. While the show may be entertainment, it’s a frightening thought that all Americas could be unarmed. After all, it was the British’s demand that all weapons be handed over that prompted the framers to include the Second Amendment. Had it not been for the “well-regulated Militia” that sprung up during the Revolutionary War, America very well would have lost and the world would be a different place. While the Second Amendment provides for a variety of legal activities, its intended purpose is to keep America free and safe from and an inside overzealous government and from outside invading forces. The Second Amendment does not kill people, it kills threats to freedom.

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Second Amendment, United States Constitution

BREXIT: UK to Become New Third World Country

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Now that David Cameron has kept his word and allowed UK citizens to vote on whether they wish to remain a member of the European Union, he is looking for a new job, the brexitfinancial markets took a dive and numerous analysts believe the UK has sealed its fate as a once powerful nation. All this is in response to the 52-48 vote to exit the EU that many thought would not happen. Citizens shocked the world with their decision to put national interests over collective politics, and now reports act as if the UK will be plunged into the dark ages.

The debate over whether to stay or go is complicated. The EU is a myriad of rules and regulations set up in theory to provide peace and prosperity to a continent that spent a good deal of the last century in war. In reality its system of government—which puts collective good over individual state autonomy—can be so complicated even those who work in it on a regular basis are at times confused. There are certainly pros and cons on both sides; for as many issues as people have with the EU the ability to easily travel, work and engage in commerce across a continent half the size of the US is quite appealing. However, the citizens of the UK (the ones most directly affected by the decisions and policies of the EU) have decided that the tradeoffs they have been making now outweigh the benefits.

The most interesting thing about this is not the decision itself, but the response.

This is a nation that has produced the longest reigning monarchy, the largest colonial dcempire, the strongest navy (~1800-1900), Shakespeare, Stonehenge, Lloyds of London, not to mention Churchill, Thatcher, the Beatles, Harry Potter and David Beckham. It’s difficult to believe that a nation of this caliber will, by exiting the EU, shrivel up and die. For starters, the UK has always maintained its own currency, the Sterling Pound, meaning that will not be negotiating any currency issues. Second, they are not the only nation to decide not to be members of the European Union; Iceland, Norway and Switzerland are not members. Third, their exit (which will be determined via negotiations) does not mean they will not be involved in European matters. It’s highly unlikely that the nation will now revert inward and completely ignore the rest of the continent. In many of the multinational peacekeeping and trade organizations that exist, nonmember nations are invited and participate in events in order to gain greater perspectives. It is highly probable that the UK will now take an independent leadership role on the world stage—as it did for thousands of years before the creation of the European Union.

There is an important lesson here for everyone. As caring human beings it is a natural instinct to be concerned about others. We form family units, deep bonds of friendships, connections with coworkers; it’s only natural that in governing and policy the idea of ‘the collective whole’ would be considered. There are certainly times and issues where the benefit of the whole is greater than the individual, but it’s a fine line and one that must be carefully monitored. In the US the belief in individual liberty and state autonomy are cornerstone principles of governing. Yesterday, the citizens of the UK expressed their opinion that in their country those issues are also paramount and need to be put at the forefront of their governing. It does not mean, and should not be insinuated, that because one believes in putting their national interest over global interest that they are somehow racist or ethnocentric. In life and in governing you have priorities, they change over time, but they are always there and you always have to choose which things to prioritize.

This is Why I Fight

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I didn’t live through WWII, and there are certainly other reasons behind my patriotism, but the history and images from this time period evoke a feeling in me that is hard to put into words. I am beyond grateful for the sacrifices of those who fought in this war, and I’m heartbroken over the events that brought this war to action.

It is those two emotions that drive me to work harder for the preservation of our nation, the values we hold dear and the freedoms it provides—even when the odds seem insurmountable and the road is lonely. I can’t imagine what the world would look like today if America had not fought the extremism and imperialism that permeated the ’30s and ’40s, or if Americans had not rallied around those efforts by serving both overseas and on the home front. I realize that other nations worked with the US, and that many Americans opposed our involvement, but no one can deny the prominent role we played or the patriotism that saturated the nation.

There are forces at work today that seek to destroy America. As in the 1930’s with Hitler’s extremism, these forces have crept in slowly, but they are gaining footholds and seeking to rewrite our history and our destiny. To allow that would be to allow the blood of the men and women who died protecting our way of life from extremism to have spilled for nothing. We must not allow that to occur. Our differences need to not divide us. We must find common ground and we must unite. As our forces did on the shores of Normandy (and around the world in so many other battles we have fought), we must come together as one body to preserve freedom for all, to promote personal achievement, and to secure the blessings of liberty. A house divided cannot stand.

To the men and women who gave their last full measure of devotion on the beaches of Normandy and soil all over Europe on June 6, 1944, I will never forget and will continue to fight for the freedoms you died protecting. To the families of those individuals my heart goes out to you and my eternal thanks for your sacrifice.

*Images courtesy of http://www.army.mil and http://www.history.com

 

War Weary American Blood ‘The Best’

 

Americans are war weary.  While no one ever likes war, since network news brought the battles of Vietnam into homes on a nightly basis Americans have been more vocal about their opposition to engaging in battles that do not directly impact our soil. However, the battles of today are vastly different than at any time in our history. Today the war that is waged is not one of country against country where the participants are easily identified by uniform. The battles are not fought according to traditional military style, and civilian casualties are not limited “collateral damage.” Instead we are facing an enemy that sees all human beings as participants, all geographic locations as acceptable fields of battle, and death as a prize. In addition, this enemy has an uncanny ability to blend into their surroundings until that moment of truth when they are ready to pull the trigger, flip the switch or swing the blade.

The events that rocked Paris, and the watching world, Friday night were horrific. To date it has left 132 died, another 350 injured, thousands shaken and a city on lockdown. Unfortunately, this is not the only attack to have occurred in recent weeks. On Thursday, a mere 24 hours before the Paris attacks, two suicide bombers detonated themselves in a crowded marketplace in the southern end of Beirut. The blast killed 43 and injured more than 200. A third bomber was found dead among the carnage, but his explosives had not detonated indicating that it could have been much worse.  Add to this list the fact that investigators are now saying that the Russian airliner that crashed in the Saini peninsula just over a week ago, killing all 224 people aboard, was in fact brought down by a bomb as an act of terror.  Previous reports had already stated ISIS was taking responsibility for the downed aircraft, but no confirmation had been made. And if these events were not enough, in the last month alone there have been other lone wolf style attacks in Egypt and Yemen inspired by ISIS. None of these include the continued bloodshed in Syria, Iraq and the outlining areas where ISIS continues killing innocent people as it forges ahead with its caliphate.

Although these events have not taken place on American soil, they impact Americans. Be it through solidarity with our allies, sympathy for fellow human beings, empathy for having endured similar circumstances or a fear of what is next. Because the uncomfortable reality is that without a definitive response each new attack breeds emboldened behavior.

Shortly after the attacks in Paris it was reported that ISIS social media accounts were praising the attacks and stating that “The American blood is best, and we will taste it soon.” Despite America’s war weariness these fighters are closing in. According to Harleen Gambhir, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, the current goal of ISIS is “through these regional affiliates and through efforts to create chaos in the wider world, the organization will be able to expand, and perhaps incite a global apocalyptic war.”

France responded to that goal today by dropping 20 bombs on the heart of ISIS in its so called capital city of Raqqa, Syria. French President François Hollande had called the Friday attacks an “act of war” and promised that France would respond. How the US will respond to the continued threats remains to be seen. While President Obama has authorized airstrikes in the last few days, his goal has always been to end US military activities in the region. Meanwhile, GOP Presidential hopefuls have made it known that more needs to be done.  Senator Marco Rubio went as far as to say “Key to the success of this is we’re going to have to conduct an increased number of special-operations attacks targeting ISIS leadership and revealing that they are not invincible. They are presenting themselves as this invincible force, and we need to cut off that narrative.” Perhaps France’s swift response will be a blow to ISIS, or perhaps it will only seek to strengthen their resolve. In the meantime while US officials say there are no credible threats against the US, ISIS’s own statements and stated goal appear to be a warning that they are out for blood, and they would love for that blood to be American.

Images Courtesy: Wikipedia, Pinterest and Times of Israel

Flag Day 2015

Main Street USA

The Stars and Stripes, Old Glory, the Red, White and Blue, the Star Spangled Banner, the Banner—all these names have been used to describe the US flag. Whatever you call it, the American flag is a symbol of patriotism and the constant quest for freedom and liberty.

Today is Flag Day, and it marks the 238th anniversary of the adoption of the US flag by the 2nd Continental Congress. Originally inscribed with 13 strips and 13 stars, representative of the original colonies, the flag has grown as the nation has grown with the last star added in 1960 after Hawaii became the 50th state. Though the number of stars have changed the original design and its meaning have not.  George Washington is credited with saying “We take the stars from heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity representing liberty.”

Today the flag is still a symbol of freedom, the pursuit of liberty and power over tyranny and is flown proudly over thousands of public and private structures, as well as residences, around the world. Regardless of your political beliefs when looking at the flag a feeling of inspiration is evoked—inspiration from the courage that it took to forge a new and independent path, and the fortitude it has taken to endure that path.

We Must Never Forget: D-Day @ 71

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US National Memorial site in Normandy, France honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

US National Memorial site in Normandy, France honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

As time marches on historical events often fade from view and give rise to incidents of present day. History curriculums change and the stories from those personally involved in history grow silent as the generations pass. Such is the case with D-Day. As the number of D-Day survivors decreases so too do their stories–but not their importance.

It is up to us to keep their importance from fading from view. This day is set aside as a reminder of the sacrifice thousands made on the beaches of France in order to bring extremism to an end and allow freedom to flourish. But it is not something that should only be remembered once a year. The lessons of WWII cannot, and should not, be relegated to once a year proposition. Instead they should be a constant reminder of the power of extremism, the might of united fronts and the bravery of the human spirit.

Super Bowl Showdown

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Like it or not politics is a continuously running game, and the first primary of the 2016 Presidential election will be here before we know it. If politics annoys you than you are probably saying “it’s a year away why are we talking about this?” However, if you are a political junkie than your mindset is more likely “it’s less than a year away and there is a lot to be done!”

Rumors and innuendo are a dime a dozen, but if they are true than the field for the Republican nominee for President is stacking up to be quite a showdown. To date stories have been run that include names like Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker forming exploratory committees. On Friday Mitt Romney formally announced he won’t seek the nomination thinning the crowd, but only a little. Though they have not made any official comments, there are also big names like Rubio, Paul, Christie, Jindal and Perry. And don’t discount the possibility of dark horse candidates that might pop up. With all the possibilities who is the best? Which candidate will the party pick? And who will the people support?

Each potential candidate has achieved outstanding accomplishments in their own right. But accomplishments do not always translate into party backing or Election Day votes in the political arena. It has been suggested by bloggers that Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is the favorite of the GOP establishment due to his ability to win three races as a Republican in a traditionally blue state. Additionally Gov. Walker has battled and won some tough showdowns with the Left in his home state. The big question still remains: would voters rally around him.

One of the problems the GOP has faced in recent general elections has been the ability to rally all Republican support. In each of the last two Presidential Elections a significant section of the party sat home. Despite a sweeping mandate in the November mid-terms, you cannot ignore the fact that voter turnout will be higher in a Presidential election, and the DNC will get their people to the polls. Therefore, the principal challenge in the less than two years that lie ahead will not be finding someone to run, but finding the unifying candidate to run.

The field is full of pro-bowlers, and the primaries will certainly be Super Bowl-esque. However, there are two halves to this game: the party needs to listen to the actual voters and the voters need to realize that no one person will meet every expectation. The big picture is what is most important, and despite our two party system most Americans do not fit perfectly into either camp.

Share your current pick for the Republican nominee using the #Election2016.

Putin is a Better Leader

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Image courtesy of Redstate.com

It is rather shocking for a freedom loving journalist to say that Vladimir Putin is a better leader than the current President of the United States. It is also an extremely relative statement; however, given the current climate there is a hint of truth in this declaration.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks that rocked France last week, leaders from around the world gathered in Paris this past Sunday to participate in an anti-terrorist rally. Over 30 nations sent high ranking representatives to stand shoulder to shoulder with the French people; noticeably absent was the United States. Given our own history with terrorism, our history in standing with Europe, and the fact that France is our oldest ally, it is inconceivable that the leader of the “free world” failed to attend, or send adequate representation, to the rally this past weekend. Despite the presence of Attorney General Eric Holder in France, he did not actually attend the rally, nor did President Obama or VP Biden who were both in DC while Secretary Kerry was in India. At the moment when the eyes of the world were watching our leader failed to step forward and turn his words into action.

This incident is not the first in which this administration has taken a backseat in world affairs; it is however, one of the more publicly scrutinized occurrences. It was a trending topic on Twitter last night, and even the most liberal news outlets commented on the absence of US officials. For a nation that once led the world in efforts of freedom, democracy and peace keeping, we have lost many steps over the last six years due to an administration that fails to embrace the exceptionalism that is America, and an occupant in the White House that lacks true patriotism. Here is where it can be argued that Vladimir Putin is a better leader.

Do not miss read this. Vladimir Putin is quite capable of being a dangerous man, and rumors that he silences those who oppose him are not to be dismissed. This is a man who grew up in the Soviet Union during the Cold War and served in the military as well as his country’s highest intelligence office—the KGB. He also, despite tensions with George W. Bush, was one of the first world leaders to condemn the 9/11 attacks and offer support. He did the same last week with France despite continued tensions with Western Europe over Ukraine, even sending his highest foreign policy representative to the rally on Sunday. Despite what anyone says or thinks Putin always has one thing in mind—his country—how the people of Russia view her and how the outside world views her. Putin is a patriot for Russia. Watching the winter games in Sochi taught me that, and examining everything he has done since then has solidified that concept. His goal is to strengthen Russia and return her to a Soviet Union power status. And that is a trait the current US administration lacks; they are not patriots and they have weakened the US.