Pandemics Are Nothing to Sneeze At

For some people it’s probably a big joke. ‘Swine Flu’, it just has a funny name, right? For others it’s probably a case of wondering what all the fuss is about, since we are talking about a few dozen cases in the United States, and all of those are down around the border with Mexico, which has the real problem.

So what’s the big deal? Why all the headline stories in the newspaper and on television? And what’s with all those empty stadiums this past weekend for all the big soccer matches down there south of the border?

Well glad that you asked, because the topic of handling a pandemic, at least from a law enforcement perspective, is being addressed this year in one of the Philly police MPOETC courses that I am teaching.

The course, titled ‘Crisis & Emergency Management’, is a scenario-based course in which the police officers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are presented with four unusual situations. Officers are asked to place themselves in the scenario, and are guided as to how they should be expected to respond. They are also given information on some of the resources that would be coming to help in the situation from the government and other entities.

One of the scenarios, in fact the final one that they are being presented, is a pandemic flu outbreak. How timely, huh? I can’t tell you how many times that I have gotten that look in class. You know the one, the “You gotta be kidding me, this will never happen” look.

Well as today’s headlines are beginning to relate, pandemic outbreaks are not only things that happened in the distant past or the subjects of science fiction, but they are very real threats to our society and our world, and we need to be prepared and informed.

A ‘pandemic’ is a breakout of an infectious disease that spreads through populations of humans or animals or both, from person-to-person (animal to person, animal to animal) across large geographic regions, continents, and even around the world.

There have been a number of pandemics to hit the world in recorded history. Many have heard of the ‘Black Death’ of ‘bubonic plague’ pandemic that struck in the 14th century and killed 20-30 million Europeans in just six years.

During the 1700’s, at the time of the ‘Thirty Years War’, approximately eight million Germans were wiped out by an outbreak of plague and typhus.

In the 19th century, another plague outbreak began in China and spread all around the world, killing 10 million people in India. There were numerous outbreaks of ‘cholera’ in the 19th century, including an 1866 outbreak in our own country that killed some 50,000 Americans.

Also here in the U.S., the ‘Spanish flu’ pandemic struck in 1918-1919, eventually spreading to all corners of the world and infecting up to 5% of the human population, with 20% of people feeling some effects. In six months, some estimates had the number of dead worldwide as 50 million, but others placed it at twice that number.

In 1957-58, the ‘Asian flu’ caused upwards of 70,000 deaths here in the U.S., and in 1968-69 the ‘Hong Kong flu’ killed 34,000 Americans.

Just as recently as 2003, the world reeled at the possibility of another pandemic called ‘SARS’, a highly contagious pneumonia type. Quick action around the world stopped its spread before it could become a pandemic. That illness was not eradicated, however, and could reemerge at any time.

The bottom line is that there is nothing at all cute about ‘Swine flu’ despite its comical sounding name. It is an illness that draws that name because it is prevalent in swine or pig populations. This is a killer illness that at the very least can make a lot of people very ill.

You need to pay close attention to the news on this pandemic, and take every precaution that public health authorities release as seriously as possible. In a worst case scenario here in America, we could see scenes such as played out in those Mexican football/soccer games this past weekend.

What are known as ‘social distancing methods’ could well be put into effect, where large groups of people are kept apart from one another. This is accomplished by methods such as closing schools, bars, restaurants, and other public gathering places and events such as pro sports games would perhaps be played, but in front of empty ballparks and arenas.

We will see individuals placed into ‘isolation’ when they have been diagnosed with the illness. This means they are kept away from others during their period of infectiousness.

We would also likely see individuals, and possibly families, work places, or entire communities put into ‘quarantine’ when they have been in contact with individuals who are diagnosed as positive with the illness. The quarantine would remain until those folks in contact can be deemed illness-free.

And if things ever get really bad due to a pandemic disease outbreak, you may need to not only pay strict attention and follow along with strict adherence to public health and law enforcement authorities directions. But you may also need to toss in a prayer or two while you’re at it, because hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people are likely to end up dead.

The ‘secret’ to a good marriage

Thanks to Miss USA runner-up Carrie Prejean, there has been a lot of discussion around the country in the past week regarding the issue of the sacrament of Marriage.

I also had the honor of attending a wedding yesterday, and got to enjoy all of the joy and happiness that surrounds those blissful occasions.

I’m going to keep the marriage topic going for one more day here. Only this time it’s not going to be the issue of ‘who’ or ‘what’ should or should not be allowed to marry.

Rather, I’m going to dip in to my own personal experience and education bag of tricks to offer some advice to married couples, and to those who are contemplating getting married.

I think that I can speak on this topic as well as most anyone on earth. I’ve been married twice in my lifetime, raised children, and gone through almost every type of struggle that most normal married persons go through, including any number that I myself created along the way. I’ve bought and remodeled two homes. I’ve bought three cars, a handful of barbecue grills, and a golden retriever.

I’ve gone from being a ‘cafeteria’ Catholic to a solid, church-going, sacrament receiving, money-happily-donated defender of the faith. My point is that, like many of you, I come from a decades-long background and experience base that gives me a strong perspective of what it takes to make a marriage work.

I didn’t come upon my own particular ideas easily or quickly, nor without causing myself and my family in both marriages a number of difficult moments. But what I have learned is that marriage can be broken down to the dedication of ones self to a pair of very simple words: love and priority. Let’s deal with the easy one first.

Some people would think that the idea of ‘love’ is the more difficult, but I say that is not true. To me, love is the beginning and the bedrock of any marriage relationship. But we also need to remember what love is and is not. Love is not that romantic feeling that you get when you first meet someone and feel that ‘connection’ or attraction.

Many people get those early months and even first couple of years of a relationship when the sexual attraction and energy are strong, when the bonds of intimacy towards one another are first being formed, confused with actual true love. True love is something that grows over time. It may actually come in those early months for some. For others it may grow over a period of years.

One thing that is certain is that you need to have a certain level of personal experience and maturity in order to understand that true love comes not only with an attraction to, but also with a respect and a deep caring for your partner. Once you obtain that level of understanding, then the knowledge of your love for another is revealed to you in your heart.

It is a fact of your life, the very fibre of your inner being that you cannot deny. When you love someone, you see the world through their eyes, you feel their pain and their joy, you would give your life for them. You never have to ask the question, there is none to be asked. It is simple truthful knowledge. This true love will never die. It cannot be burned out by the fires, or frozen solid by coldness, or stomped out by the giants that will inevitably cross our paths in life.

The Bible indicates that love is from God, and in fact states that “God is love.” He loved man so much that, despite our turn from him, despite our rebellion, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” This is the type of love that married people need to have towards one another. The type that sacrifices and gives in perpetuity, without expecting anything in return, that is not conditioned on the response of the other person.

I put it to you that in fact, true love is impossible without a relationship with God. The feelings that you have for one another, whatever they may be, however long they may have existed, will not be enough to sustain a true, deep, passionate, committed love without God’s care and involvement in the relationship. You might feel responsibility, affection, even enjoy physical intimacy, but that is not love.

The second term is a bit trickier, and hearkens much more to the tangible, physical, easy to grasp everyday world of all of our lives. That idea of ‘priority’ again takes experience. There is no substitute for actually growing up, not just physically, but more particularly growing mentally and emotionally.

Through personal trial and error, through watching the example of others, and through formal education we learn that actions have consequences. We learn that some of these consequences are good, and some of our actions yield greater good. We also learn that some are bad, and yield various levels of poor results for us.

But we also learn those many lessons in between ‘good’ and ‘bad’, learning that some actions yield better results than others. And so in most of our lives we learn to ‘prioritize’ our actions, doing those good things most of the time that will yield us the best results.

Married couples, and this is a special message that those contemplating marriage need to hear, must make one another and their family their greatest priority, and must constantly examine their lives to ensure that their personal individual priorities are not taking precedence over those of the family.

If you are not prepared to subordinate your own needs and desires to those of a spouse and children, then you should not even be thinking of getting married. If you know that you do in fact truly love your partner, and are committed to building and sustaining a family with them throughout your life no matter what circumstances arise, then you should by all means go ahead and marry them.

You should absolutely not get married because they look good, are good in bed, like the same sports teams or music as you like, are the same religion, or for any other reason whatsoever. And once married, you need to continually prioritize your family first. Not only the caring for of them physically, but the emotional nurturing of your relationships, the education of your children, these things must come first.

Most of us work hard for hours upon hours each week, and we deserve some ‘down time’ for ourselves. But we must always be very careful that this time never takes away from our family time. In fact, our first enjoyment should always be in the spending of time with our partners and our children.

We also need time to sleep, to rest our bodies. If we deny ourselves this necessary act, then we make ourselves vulnerable to emotional and physical pains and anxieties that will take away our ability to make the best decisions for ourselves and our families.

A good marriage based on true love will prioritize itself to include working to sustain our families with shelter, food, clothing, and education but which also at the same time includes time with them bonding and enjoying one another. Sleep and rest must be prioritized, because without these we cannot be healthy enough to function properly in our right mind and body, thus denying our family our best.

Most everything else is extra, a bonus that comes during those few hours each week where we are not working, or enjoying time with our family, or resting. Some weeks those bonus or extra hours may not come at all, but how can any reasonable man or woman say that they are missing out on anything that life has to offer of real lasting value simply because they didn’t get to listen to some music file, or play some video game, or watch some television show, or go to some concert or movie?

Believe me, over the course of our lives, a normal life will yield many opportunities for entertainment and pleasure. We must prioritize our partner, our spouse, our family above all else. And above all of this we must place our own personal, individual relationship with God, and realize that a home that has Jesus Christ as its rock and foundation has a far greater chance of weathering the storms of life than any home trying to do so without Him.

Most of the problems that we have all encountered in our lives, if we are fully honest with ourselves, can trace themselves back to times when we decided that we were going to make our own desires our priorities rather than the will of God as demanded of us in His commandments, as further expanded upon by the teachings of Jesus Christ, and then as grown by the Holy Spirit in the teachings of the Church down through the ages.

The two bedrocks of any good marriage then are love and priority. When you know without thinking that you love someone else, when they can say the same about you, and when you can confidently know that you will always make them your first priority no matter what else happens, then you have the stuff of a good, lasting, loving marriage.

I can tell you this for certain in my own life: I love my wife. Debbie Veasey has all of my love, truly and for as long as we live and hopefully beyond that, and of that there is never any question in my mind or heart, ever, no matter what happens. She has all of my love, and she is my priority. The same extends to my children and grandchildren, and the rest of my family. But that marriage between Debbie and I has to be the rock on which all the rest settles.

In the end, there will be one final test of your marriage that will absolutely tell if it was based on this true love. It will be the old ‘proof is in the pudding’ saying, and you won’t know perhaps until your last day on this earth. This final test is stated perfectly in the closing lyrics of a song titled ‘When It’s Love’ by the rock group Van Halen, which ends “When it’s love, it lasts forever.” Amen.

What a Hateful Liberal Bigot Looks Like

They have always existed, but they have become more emboldened with the recent leftward lurch in American political direction.

I am talking today about liberal bigots, those lefties who are not only obstinately or intolerantly devoted to their own opinions and prejudices, but who also regard and treat those who disagree with them with vitriolic hatred.

You frequently hear them harping about wanting freedom of speech, the right to express their opinions and viewpoints publicly, even the right to have their alternative lifestyles accepted by the mainstream public as ‘normal’ or at least ‘acceptable’. But this freedom of speech, this right to express opinions and viewpoints, can never, ever extend to those who disagree with them.

Perfect case in point came this past weekend with the Miss USA pageant questioning incident. As I previously discussed in another recent post, Miss California, Carrie Prejean, was a contestant in the pageant. She is a beauty queen, a model, and she had a simple goal, to win a beauty pageant title.

She wasn’t looking to change the world on Sunday night, and certainly when it came to the question-answer stage she did not expect a controversial question on an epic hot-button sociological and moral topic.

In any event, that is exactly what she received from pageant judge Mario Lavandeira, who goes by the professional name of ‘Perez Hilton’. Lavandeira is a gay activist and celebrity blogger, and basically asked Prejean whether she supported ‘gay marriage’, and to give the reasons behind whatever her feelings were on the issue.

Carrie Prejean simply replied from her heart, basically saying that she did not support the idea, that she believed marriage should only be between a man and a woman, and that this was how she was raised, taught, and now fundamentally believed.

In the immediate aftermath of the pageant, at which she nearly won, finishing as the first runner-up, Hilton said that Prejean was a ‘cunt’, and then took to the internet and video-blogged that Hilton lost because she was “a dumb bitch.”

So in other words, Hilton as a gay activist has a right to voice his opinion on the issue, and the mainstream American public is supposed to tolerate not only that viewpoint, but also his public expression of it.

But the same right is not extended to Carrie Prejean. Because she disagrees with Hilton on this issue, and because she had the audacity to answer his question with honesty, she is pilloried as some sort of bigot and neanderthal thinker, and then called names as well?

How far does this freedom of expression, this right to your own viewpoints go, Mr. Hilton? And it wasn’t just Perez Hilton, but also most of the ‘gay rights’ movement, and in fact most liberals as well, who ganged up on Carrie Prejean. In doing so they exposed themselves publicly for what they really are, a group of hateful bigots, everything that they claim to be against.

This is the United States of America, and we are supposed to celebrate, support, and grow from the expression of differing opinions, not denounce them with hatred, ignorance, and profanity.

It isn’t as if Carrie Prejean said that any gay who actually got married should go to hell. She didn’t say they should be arrested, tortured, or even publicly embarrassed if they tried to marry. She did not express that she didn’t like gay people in general, and didn’t call them any names.

In short, she said nothing that would incite hatred or intolerance of gays. She simply answered the question put to her regarding the issue of marriage, stating that it should be between a man and a woman, which it should.

Not an opinion, by the way, but a fact since the early days of man, and one that has only gained any public forum at all since the fringe gay element of society began imposing it’s radical views on the vast mainstream ‘straight’ majority just a few decades ago.

Carrie Prejean simply answered a direct question without lambasting or profaning anyone, but the response that she received in reply has been what we have come to typically expect from the liberal community.

We conservatives love an open debate, love ideas expressed in public, and embrace the notion of having them put to the test of a vote. That is the true spirit of American freedom and diversity and exceptionalism at work.

There are groups who have wanted that freedom of speech repressed in the past: Nazis, Communists, and brutal dictators of all stripes go this way. Add now to that group the ultra-liberal bigots who want anyone shut up and shut down who does not agree with them, from Rush Limbaugh to Sean Hannity to Ann Coulter to Carrie Prejean.

For anyone out there who agreed with Perez Hilton’s response to Carrie Prejean, not his view on the topic of gay marriage, but with his response to Sunday night’s question-answer session, then you can count yourself in that group of liberal bigots.

NOTE: As with every entry at this Blog, there is a ‘Comments’ button below. You can do so anonymously, but it would be appreciated if you had the courage of your convictions to add at least a real name.

Miss California Gives Straight Answer

What was very obvious early on in the Miss USA pageant held this past Sunday night was that Miss California, Carrie Prejean, was a beautiful young woman on the outside.

She was the typical stereotype of what we all would expect from a ‘California Girl’: blond, long legs, gorgeous face. And when it came time for the bikini/swimsuit competition she displayed the great body that you would expect to come strolling down the beach in Malibu.

But what did not become apparent until right near the end was just how beautiful Carrie Prejean is on the inside. It took an incredibly controversial question under those circumstances from an incredibly outrageous, over-rated, quasi-celebrity judge in the pageant named Perez Hilton who demonstrated his own internal ugliness to bring out Miss California’s inner beauty.

Hilton, an openly gay male and celebrity gossip blogger, had the task of asking a question of Ms. Prejean during the final portion of the contest. All of the other finalists had to give their opinions on the somewhat difficult questions asked by a particular judge when their own turns came, but none got a more outrageous judge with a more sensational question than Ms. Prejean.

Hilton asked his question with wide-eyed enthusiasm, quite obviously expecting a different response: “Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit? Why or why not?” 

With the relative softballs that the other finalists were being tossed in comparison to this bomb shell of a question, Miss California looked momentarily lost as she searched her mind and her heart for an answer. She quite obviously knew that this was her make-or-break moment.

Many people thought that she was the odds-on favorite to win, and the results of later voting showed that was indeed the case heading in to this question period. A politically correct answer, even some non-committal answer, very likely would have resulted in her being crowned as Miss USA.

But fortunately for everyone in attendance and for everyone searching for good examples in these increasingly amoral days, Carrie Prejean is a Christian, and she simply could not sell out here true beliefs for a pageant crown.

She stumbled through her answer as she tried hard to balance those beliefs with an answer that might still salvage the title. Some of her reply included “I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.”

Well hallelujah! First, a young woman with integrity enough to answer a controversial question with honesty. She very well could have gone another way with her public answer, won the crown, kept her personal beliefs to herself for now, and perhaps revealed them down the road as a ‘change of heart’.

But that’s not how Carrie Prejean rolls. This beautiful young girl just a few short years out of high school stood on that stage in front of thousands watching her live, and millions more on television, and spoke from her heart and soul.

And secondly, big kudos go out to the parents and family that raised this young woman to also be beautiful on the inside, and to understand at such a young age that truth cannot be compromised for expediency. She later would comment that she now believed that God had placed her in that position intentionally, and I would have to agree with her.

Immediately, the exasperated Hilton was taken aback, and he along with numerous gays in the audience and later on the internet and in other forums had negative, hurtful, and profane comments to make about this wonderful young lady. There is only one word that comes to mind: typical.

The fact is that God instituted marriage as a sacrament to be between a man and a woman. That is in no way a hurtful or sexist or demeaning statement towards gays. It is simply the truth.

Though there were a smattering of boos, the large majority in the audience cheered and applauded when Ms. Prejean gave her answer, one that she had to know once she was finished would derail her Miss USA hopes. As it turns out, it was still very close. She finished as a very close 1st Runner-Up in the judges voting.

In the aftermath, the Miss California Organization denounced her answer and said that they did not agree with it. Shame on them for not standing up for their California girl. One of the most liberal states in the American union has already turned thumbs down on gay marriage when it was put to the public for a vote, which only shows that even many people with generally liberal political and social viewpoints understand basic, fundamental truths.

In response, Hilton commented that she lost the pageant because of her answer, and then later video-blogged that she did not lose because of the answer, but because she was a “dumb bitch“.

This one should not even be considered in any way controversial on Prejean’s part, but the controversy should be squarely on Perez, who showed with his attitude and his words that he is a total and complete horses ass. Perez Hilton is a perfect representation of all that is ugly in the world today, while Carrie Prejean represents all that is right and true.

After his outrageous attacks on her simple honest answer, Prejean said simply that she would pray for Hilton. Thankfully, she stood up and showed all of us her beauty on Sunday night, both inside and out. Congratulations to Carrie Prejean for her high finish in the pageant, but more importantly for her, for taking the higher ground that night and ever since.