Another Auld Lang Syne

In 1788, 29-year old Scottish poet Robert Burns sat himself down and wrote a poem that he titled ‘Auld Lang Syne’, which would literally translate today into “old long since”, “long long ago”, or even “days gone by.”

 It was similar in phrasing and verse to a 1711 work by James Watson, and Burns himself stated that his work was based on an older one.

The song that is traditionally sang today as we ring out an old year and ring in a new one, as we will tonight at midnight, is attributed to Burns and includes the spirit of the older Watson work with Burns own work blended into it.

In this spirit of celebrating another ‘auld lang syne’ we are remembering days or times that have gone before us. People in our lives, events, places that have been important to us. This has been the practice stretching back for a couple of hundred years now.

The Scots celebrated a new year with the song and spread this custom into England, then further on into America and around the world. It became a true New Year’s Eve staple when in 1929 band leader Guy Lombardo began to use it in his radio and later his television broadcasts as his signature song to ring in the new year.

In modern times we take the song to be a last look back at what has happened in our lives and in our world over the past year, and then look forward to a new start in a new year.

In 1981, pop singer Dan Fogelberg released the song ‘Same Old Lang Syne’, which has become a popular radio staple here in America during the Christmas holidays. In the hauntingly melancholy Fogelberg song, the main character has a chance encounter in a grocery store on Christmas Eve with an old lover.

The two then embark on a brief reunion that afternoon over a few drinks and shared memories. But in the end, each realizes that they must move away from that moment’s reflection on ‘the good old days’ and back into the reality of their lives and their futures, which do not include one another.

As I look back on my life, there are many similar people as in the Fogelberg song. People who still hold a solid place in my heart, who in fact will always hold that place.

I look back on them in fondness from time to time, but then move forward again with my life as it is today. That those former friends and lovers are no longer an active part of that life makes most of them no less special to me.

So as I look back on 2008 tonight, there are many people and events that I will remember with fondness that are particular to this past year.

At the top of the list is a welcome to the world to my new grandson, Reznor Lydon Lloyd.

Then there are the new co-workers whom I got to know in my first year at the police department’s Advanced Training Unit. The classmates and teachers that I met during my final year at St. Joseph’s University added to my year.

On the big stage of local and world events there was the incredible World Series run of my beloved Philadelphia Phillies. In politics the emergence of a strong conservative woman in Sarah Palin was a bright spot.

Those were the “hello’s”, there are always the goodbyes. This past year, fortunately for me, there were few family members in that category. However, four of my fellow Philly cops lost their lives this year in the line of duty. My ‘auld lang syne’ will thus include Steve Liczbinski, Isabel Nazario, Pat McDonald, and Tim Simpson.

I look forward to 2009 with hope for better times for my children and grandchildren, and hope for continued health and happiness for myself and my wife Debbie.

The new year will ultimately bring incredible drama across the world, stories that we cannot envision at this moment. I hope and pray that, for the most part, they bring positive developments for most of the world’s inhabitants.

Tonight as the ball drops and the countdown ends, we will celebrate another auld lang syne. I wish you all and all of your family members a very happy, healthy, safe, fun, prosperous New Year in 2009.

2008 American of the Year: George W. Bush

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George W. Bush is winding down the final three weeks of an eventful pair of terms as the President of the United States.

For the past seven of those years, the President has been under as heavy a burden as any American leader before him. That burden of trying to protect and defend America following the attacks of 9/11 has defined his Presidency.

There have been many of his predecessors who have had to guide the nation in a time of war. Some notables include Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman during World War II, and Ronald Reagan in the ‘Cold War’.

Lincoln, Truman, and Reagan each had the faith, the strength, the moral courage, and the personal timing to bring these struggles to a successful close for the nation.

Roosevelt, alas, did not live to see the fruits of his difficult labor, but his vision and courage, his willingness to stand up to the evils of Nazism and totalitarianism were vital to our American future, indeed the entire free world’s future. Much the same can be said of President George W. Bush these past seven years.

As we all know, on September 11th, 2001, just over eight months into his first term, the United States suffered a major attack on our continental soil by the foreign power of Islamism. The forces of Islamofascist terror had been at war with America and the western world for at least a decade to that point.

They declared it against us, and they had previously taken action with attacks against our interests both abroad (Kenya, Tanzania, Lebanon) and here at home (the first WTC attack.) Still, while we knew they meant us harm, few understood the imminent danger in their ability to actually reach out and destroy serious targets on America’s shores.

That reality was slapped home on 9/11 when a pair of airliners flew into the Twin Towers and resulted in their destruction, and another flew into the Pentagon doing serious damage to our main national defense headquarters.

A third airliner had been thwarted from doing even further damage thanks to the bravery of the passengers, who had learned of the earlier attacks. In the end, approximately 3,000 Americans and foreigners lost their lives as a result of the attacks.

The Bush administration plans for the future, both in domestic policy and foreign affairs, were forever altered by the events of that September morning. The fact of the matter is that the primary responsibility of the President of the United States, of our national government in fact, is to preserve, protect, and defend the union.

In his seven years in office following those attacks, the President has taken us on the offensive against the Islamofascists, and has thus averted any further attacks on us by an enemy sworn to inflict even further damage.

In the aftermath of the attacks he established what has become known as the ‘Bush Doctrine’, which is basically the combination of ideas stating that there is no ‘moral relativism’. We are good, they are evil, and that is a fact beyond dispute.

Further that the United States will go on the offensive in wiping out these terror organizations, and will also deal with nations who support them in an aggressive manner. And in doing so we will not only be reactive, doing something only after we are attacked, but will also be preemptive in hitting those who clearly state their intention to harm us.

The President responded to 9/11 by sending our troops into Afghanistan to wipe out the Taliban regime that was both terrorizing its fellow Afghanis, and which also was harboring the terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda, who had attacked us on 9/11.

He followed that up by sending them into Iraq to rout Sadaam Hussein and his dangerous and murderous Baathist government, and to help Iraqis install a democratic government that would serve as both a launching pad and a beacon of hope for the entire region. All the while, our troops military actions in the Middle East would attract the attention of the Islamists, diverting them from America’s own shores.

Despite the ups and down of every major military struggle in history, the strategy has worked remarkably well. The seeds of freedom have been planted in a region of the world where they had not existed for centuries, and where it appeared just a few years ago that they would never take root.

Perhaps most importantly, the President has clearly done his job of protecting the United States, as we have not been successfully attacked on his watch again since 9/11. From Afghanistan to Iraq, from Guantanamo Bay to the Patriot Act, the President and his team have been proven out to be consistently correct in their efforts to keep us safe.

As President Bush leaves office, he can also hang his hat on a pair of tremendous achievements on the domestic front: keeping taxes low and appointing constitutional SCOTUS judges.

The current financial meltdown is a problem largely outside of the President’s scope to control, the mistakes that led to it largely having begun in the Clinton administration. But keeping taxes low has allowed the crisis from being even worse.

In his appointments of both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, the President has hit a pair of judicial homeruns that will benefit our nation long after he leaves office next month.

It is true that he needed direction in the Alito appointment after initially wanting his friend, Harriet Myers, for the position. But he showed great leadership in his willingness to listen and in his ability to admit when he was wrong, and he ultimately made the correct decision and nomination.

There were outstanding candidates this past year aside from the President, most notably the Republican VP nominee and Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who was the runner-up.

It is very difficult to justify someone like President-elect Barack Obama, whose only real action this year was in running for an office. Perhaps one of these individuals will be honored here in the future based on their actions, rather than for a political campaign. But in this past year, no one in the country had a more difficult job than President Bush, and he came through with flying colors.

Despite an intensely negative media portrayal and the utter disrespect of the Democrats over almost the entirety of his terms in office that resulted in his low approval ratings, the President has kept his head high and his country safe.

The day that he leaves office next month, the nation will likely begin to become a far less safe place, and that will likely only deteriorate over the ensuing months and years. In the long term, it says here that Bush will be viewed in a positive light, and will be proven even more right in his principled positions.

For his leadership in continuing to fight for the nation’s safety and security despite the ravenous attacks of his political enemies, for the continuing example of his public faith in God, and for keeping America safe, this website is proud to honor President George W. Bush as the 5th annual ‘American of the Year’, following in the footsteps of previous honorees Pat Tillman (2004), Bill O’Reilly (2005), Rev. Billy Graham (2006), and P/O Chuck Cassidy (2007).

To view those previous honorees, please click on the below ‘Tag of “American of the Year”

I Told Me So

I hate to write about the same thing so close together, but after writing about the Eagles just a couple of days ago, here we go again. That was the title of my article on Saturday: ‘Here We Go Again’, relating to the resumption of the Eagles rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys in the season finale. It was going to be the season finale, because there was only a slim chance that the Birds could slip into the NFL playoffs. A number of different things needed to happen, one in particular being a longshot at best. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had to lose at home to the Oakland Raiders. The Bucs would make the playoffs if they won in front of their rabid fans. The Raiders seemingly had nothing to play for in a lost season. It had all the makings of a Bucs blowout, and when Tampa took a 10-point lead into the 4th quarter you expected the Raiders to coast out of 2008 and Tampa fans to celebrate heartily. But…wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, the Raiders did not roll over. They kept coming. They scored the final 17 points of the game. They beat Tampa Bay, and in doing so the Eagles fans watching at home or following the game in the Linc parking lot suddenly saw the door swinging open again. That door had seemingly been slammed shut a week earlier. Last weekend, the Eagles had this same scenario. The teams that they needed to lose did indeed lose, and the Birds went into their game in Washington needing to beat the ‘Skins to take control of a playoff slot. They came out listless and lost without even scoring a touchdown, and thus were in this desperate position yesterday. When the Raiders sacked Tampa quarterback Jeff Garcia, the dead-armed maniac who had miraculously led the Birds to the playoffs just two seasons ago, the clock ran out on the Bucs season, and that door again opened for the Birds. Even with that little favor from Oakland, the Eagles still needed another thing to happen. Either the Houston Texans had to upend the Chicago Bears, or the Giants had to beat the Minnesota Vikings. So Eagles fans found themselves in the unusual position of rooting on the G-Men. They would not cooperate. Despite leading most of the game, the Giants lost to the Vikes on a last-second field goal. So the game in Houston was a must-win for the Eagles, and it didn’t look good early as the Bears bolted to a 10 point lead. But once again things went the Birds way. Houston rallied and held off Chicago for a 7-point win. Suddenly, the Bucs and the Bears were eliminated from the playoffs thanks to their own inability to win the key game, and the Eagles playoff door was now completely wide open. It was down to a one game pre-playoff with those hated Cowboys. Whomever won the late afternoon game at the Linc would enter the playoffs on a high. The loser would see their season end in disappointing and disheartening fashion. You expected that it would be a great game, with both teams coming out firing with all guns. It didn’t happen. The Dallas Cowboys showed up, but that was all they did. The Eagles, led by their fiery, rejuvenated, future Hall of Fame safety Brian Dawkins and their similarly revived quarterback Donovan McNabb delivered hit after hit, blow after blow, big play after big play. In the first half, McNabb led the Eagles to three touchdowns, sneaking in for one himself and firing a pair of TD passes for the others, and the Eagles opened up a 27-3 halftime lead. In the 2nd half it was the defense turn. Dawkins ripped the ball from two Cowboys carriers, and each time his defensive mates scooped up the fumbles and returned them for touchdowns. What was already a blowout turned into the greatest rout in the history of this legendary rivalry as the Birds finished up a 44-6 victory that put them into the playoffs. Dallas took their high-salaried, big name roster home on what had to be an extremely painful flight home to ‘Big D’. No thought was sweeter for Birds fans than to send the Dallas party home in that manner. A couple of months ago when the buzzards began circling this Eagles team for the first time, and their quarterback for what seemed like the umpteenth time, I would frequently defend Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid to friends and family. Only folks with short memories could look past what Reid has done here over the past decade. He has now taken the Birds to the playoffs for the 7th time in 10 seasons that have included five NFC east titles, 4 trips to the NFC Championship game and one Super Bowl visit. There has never been such a sustained period of success in the history of this franchise. To even utter any phrase that would suggest he should be replaced as the head coach is naive at best, and now should be considered downright stupid at worst. As for McNabb, even being a longtime fan, and even believing that his physical skills would likely yield at least a couple of more strong seasons, I thought it might be time to turn the page and start to rebuild under the ‘quarterback of the future’ in Kevin Kolb. There were fewer low points than the back-to-back embarrassments of the tie in Cincinnati and the humiliating loss to Baltimore, and McNabb looked old and tired in those games. I joined the cause of calling for a change at the position, going back on my earlier defense of the QB. I was wrong, and so was everyone else who called for McNabb’s head. The man has done nothing since he has been here, when healthy, but win for a decade. He is by far the greatest quarterback in the history of the Eagles franchise. He clearly is not physically old. He rose from the ashes of the Baltimore benching and proved as much over this last month. No matter what the Eagles do in these upcoming playoffs, both Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb should be back next year, and the year after that, and probably the year after that as well. I was right earlier in the season to defend them. Now after yesterday’s historic, unforgettable victory, I can finally say it: I told me so.

TV Watch: The Journey Home

There is a regular weekly television program on EWTN called ‘The Journey Home’, and during this program various individuals are highlighted who each have made that ‘journey home’ to the Catholic Church from some other religious denomination.

The program is inspirational both for Catholics and for those of other Christian faiths, as well as for complete non-Christians.

It is an evangelical program in that the guests speak to their own individual, personal experiences in coming to the Church, or back to the Church after being away.

The regular host is Marcus Grodi, a former Protestant minister who himself returned to the Church a number of years ago. Grodi is the founder and head of the Coming Home Network, which is a group that helps folks on this journey towards a fuller, more complete relationship with Jesus Christ.

It is so very important to remember that Christ Himself founded just one Church, not many. He did not make Peter the head of His Church, and then tell his followers that if something came up while Peter and his successors were spreading and refining the Word, they should take a walk and start their own church.

Taking that kind of action to its logical conclusion would, in fact, result in church after church branching off because some individual or group did not like some particular church law or decision.

It was the vanity and ego of Henry VIII that began the Protestant movement to begin with: how do you expect to start a system of belief based itself on human vanity and pride and have it be sustained in perpetuity? That statement is not meant as an insult, it is meant as a challenge.

Today’s Protestants really need to ask themselves two very important questions. First, the Gospels that you correctly follow, but that you go no further than in your system of faith – where did they come from? Secondly, what exactly is it that your are ‘protesting’ as a Protestant? The answer to both questions is the same: the very ‘one’ Church (this is what Catholic means – one) founded by Jesus Christ.

Often we are simply a product of our upbringing. Our family may have historically attended a particular church, held a particular belief system, and we simply incorporated that into our own lives without looking too closely at the reasons.

Also, there is a great deal of selfishness in today’s world. We don’t want to be told what to do, we don’t want to follow rules. We want to ‘decide for ourselves’ and not be forced into compromising our own personal positions on certain issues such as abortion, homosexuality, family, and more. So we gravitate towards a church that allows us to keep our position, or at least more easily, one that does not challenge us to something more.

The Roman Catholic Church is not the enemy. It is not some ‘beast’, it is not full of pedophiles, it is not hypocritical. Is it perfect? Absolutely, in that it was founded by Christ and ultimately is guided by and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Are the men and women who lead particular ministries or programs or schools sometimes a challenge? You bet they are, after all, they are human.

The challenge for individuals is not to leave the Church, or stay away, but to challenge yourself to stay or return. The problems of the world are with people, not with the Church, and good people with good hearts can only help improve Christ’s Church from within.

You can continue to coast along outside of the world of the Church, and even sling barbs and accusations and obscenities at it from out there. But I challenge you to examine yourself and your life, and your current belief system. Really do some looking, searching, praying.

I often simplistically equate the struggle within to a statement made by Tom Hanks in the film “A League of Their Own.” In the film, his head coaching character of Jimmy Dugan tells his star player this about baseball: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.” I put it to you that it is the same with the Church. It is not easy, but it’s that very hard that makes it great, that challenges you to think, to do, to be something more.

The title of this entry, as all posts here at my blog are, is a link to further information. In this case it is a link to the Coming Home Network, a good place to start your own journey home. Another would be that very EWTN program of the same name, airing each Monday at 8pm. No bells and whistles, no fire and brimstone here, just a simple conversation among returnees.

My own prayers go out to anyone who might read this and be inspired to take a closer look at returning to the Catholic Church. We are always ready, willing, waiting to open our arms to you when you open the eyes of your heart to the Lord’s original Church, the only one that He established. God bless you.

NOTE: this is a continuation of the regular “TV Watch” and “Sunday Sermon” series, all entries of both can be viewed by clicking on either ‘label’ below this article

Eagles-Cowboys: Here We Go Again

No matter the circumstances, the playoff implications or the records of the two teams, football games between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys are the epitome of the word ‘rivalry’.

In two different eras, the Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett days of the 1970’s, and the Troy Aikman-Emmitt Smith- Michael Irvin days of the mid-1990’s, the Eagles and their fans had to sit through numerous defeats at the hands of the team from ‘Big D’.

The Birds got some revenge during the bluster of the Buddy Ryan era, and even more during their emergence as a perennial contender this past decade. Along the way there have been numerous unforgettable games and moments.

This all started way back on September 30th, 1960, a full year before I was even born. The Cowboys were an expansion team that year, and the Eagles were on their way to winning their last NFL championship to this day.

But on that late September day it didn’t matter that Dallas would end up winless, or that the Birds would win a title. The Cowboys fought the Eagles tooth and nail before the Birds finally overcame with a narrow 27-25 victory.

Veteran sports writer Stan Hochman has told the story that the real beginnings of the venom in the rivalry can be traced to the late 1960’s and an Eagles running back named Tim Brown.

Brown ran all over the Cowboys in those days, and so it was rumored that Dallas coach Tom Landry put a ‘contract’ out on Brown, some reward for one of his own players taking Brown out of the game.

On December 10th, 1967, the ‘Boys were delivering a beating, having the Eagles down by 31-3 at the half. Late in the 2nd half, Brown was finishing up his route as a decoy on a pass play aimed at a different receiver.

As that pass fell incomplete, Dallas linebacker Lee Roy Jordan blind-sided Brown with a stiff elbow to the jaw. Brown’s jaw was broken, he had six loose teeth, and he ate from a straw for a month and a half. Jordan got a 15-yard penalty. The rivalry was on.

It was mostly one-sided, as the Cowboys went on to win 17 of the 20 games played between the two teams during the 1970’s. As the decade was ending, however, the Eagles were emerging from their losing ways, and were advancing towards their moment of deliverance.

Under young, energetic head coach Dick Vermeil, the Birds advanced to the NFC Championship on January 11th, 1981. Who would be waiting there, standing between the franchise and its first-ever Super Bowl berth? The Dallas Cowboys, of course.

On this day at cold, windy Veteran’s Stadium things would be different, and it would start early. Birds all-pro running back Wilbert Montgomery took a hand-off from Ron Jaworski, slipped through the Dallas line, and bolted 42 yards for a first quarter touchdown.

Eagles Hall of Fame linebacker Bill Bergey would say that it felt like ‘millions of volts of electricity’ was coming from the fans in the stands that afternoon. The Eagles went on to finish off the Cowboys by a 20-7 score in front of those delirious fans.

As a 19-year old young fan myself, I remember it vividly, this great victory over our hated rivals. That victory came just a little more than two months after the Phillies had delivered us a World Series championship. We were on top of the world.

Those are just some of the memories from ages ago now that have shaped the great rivalry. Tomorrow it will rear its head once again here in Philadelphia. It could mean a playoff berth for one or both of the teams. It could mean nothing in the standings.

The Eagles fans will most certainly be ready, no matter the circumstances of the standings or playoffs, which will have been settled by game time. One thing is certain, it will mean something, because it is Eagles-Cowboys. If it ends up being the Eagles final game of the season, there are few better ways to end it than with a win over Dallas.