R.I.P. 2009

Philadelphia Police Officer John Pawlowski (25) and six other law enforcement officers from Pennsylvania joined 113 more from around the United States as of December 30th. Rest In Peace, heroes all…

Harry Wolf and Brian Bates…

Harry Kalas (73), Danny Ozark (85), Peter Zezel (44), Gary Papa (54), Fred Sherman (86)…

Michael Jackson (50), Patrick Swayze (57), Farrah Fawcett (62), Brittany Murphy (32), Ron Silver (62), Steve McNair (36), Natasha Richardson (45), Karl Malden (97), Ed McMahon (86), Bea Arthur (86), Ricardo Montalban (88), Dom DeLuise (75), David Carradine (72), John Hughes (59), Irving Kristol (90), Jack Kemp (73), Ted Kennedy (77), Eunice Kennedy Shriver (88), Socks Clinton (cat-19), Henry Gibson (73), Mary Travers (72), John Updike (76), Robert Novak (78), Les Paul (94), Oral Roberts (91), Soupy Sales (83), Captain Lou Albano (76), Billy Mays (50), Wayman Tisdale (44), Chuck Daly (78), Sam Cohn (79), Marilyn Chambers (56), Nick Adenhart (22), Paul Harvey (90), Carl Pohlad (93), Fr. Richard Neuhaus (72), James Whitmore (87), Greg Page (50), Doc Blanchard (84), Dom DiMaggio (92), Fred Travalena (66), Gale Storm (87), Walter Cronkite (92), Oscar Mayer (95), Dominick Dunne (83), George Michael (70), Roy Disney (79), Gene Barry (90), Tommy Henrich (96)…

Apologies to anyone who feels that I should have named someone in particular. It is a difficult list to make comprehensive. No one was left off intentionally, so please feel free to add on in a comment. RIP to all…

2009 American of the Year: Glenn Beck

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This was a year of tremendous change for America, and the vast majority of it was not for the good. Our national debt, already out of control as the year began, has now soared to previously unimaginable levels.

Our government has taken over control of large portions of private industry, and is poised to take over even more in the coming years.

On the international front, we have become indecisive and noncommittal in fighting a war against a determined Islamofascist enemy that continues to look for ways to attack us, kill our citizens, and deal crippling blows to our economy and our way of life.

Thanks to recent election results, we face a future of increasing debt and taxation and decreasing personal freedom and liberty.

Not willing to stand by and simply whine and complain on the airwaves, radio talk show host Glenn Beck took his blossoming television program from CNN’s Headline News and moved to the Fox News network in early 2009.

This move allowed him to get out from under the umbrella of the liberal mandate of CNN and into the Fox world that allows fair and balanced reporting of all sides of the issues.

Beck then began a year-long education of the American people on civics, history, and current events that was quite simply not being discussed anywhere else in any clear and consistent manner.

For his efforts as a truthful voice crying out in the wilderness, and for his out-front leadership of traditional America, this website is proud to name Glenn Beck as it’s 2009 American of the Year.

Beck follows in the footsteps of previous honorees Pat Tillman (2004), Bill O’Reilly (2005), Rev. Billy Graham (2006), P/O Chuck Cassidy (2007), and President George W. Bush (2008).

While many years have seen a number of worthy individuals fall just short while being considered, no one really came close to challenging Beck for this year’s honor.

There is no doubt that websites, magazines, and news programs run by and catering to ultra-liberals, socialists, and Europeans will look to make their ‘Person of the Year’ selections soon.

Many of them will no doubt select Barack Obama for his, uh, for…hmmm. There is the whole being sworn in and becoming the first-ever minority, well, half-minority President in American history thing. But then that is really a ceremony.

Should we give someone an award for contributions during an entire year when all they really accomplished was ceremonial? Well, apparently they give out the Nobel prize for accomplishing nothing. But this website will not fall into that trap.

The more important thing would seem to be not winning an election, but what you do once you are in office. Other than driving up debt, decreasing freedom, and lessening national security, it’s hard to find any accomplishments of Obama this past year.

This year, Beck released another in a what is fast becoming a series of best-selling books. His latest is titled “Arguing With Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government” and in it he takes on these targets with simple facts.

Gun control? Government-run health care? Illegal immigration? You might think that you have an opinion, but in this book, Glenn will help you to understand the facts.

The 45-year old Beck did more than lend a leading voice to the most worthy cause of protecting and preserving the U.S. Constitution and restoring American exceptionalism, though that enough would be worthy of the honor.

As a concrete measure, he organized the ‘9-12 Project’ to embody the spirit that the vast majority of Americans felt on the day after the 9-11-2001 terrorist attacks.

Beck’s ‘9-12 Project’ is based on 9 principles and 12 values that embody this spirit. The principles include basic ideals such as “America is good”, “I believe in God”, “The family is sacred”, and “The government works for me.”

The 12 values are: honesty, reverence, hope, thrift, humility, charity, sincerity, moderation, hard work, courage, personal responsibility, and gratitude.

Beck also gave a voice to the ‘Tea Party’ movement which grew at formal town hall gatherings all across the country during 2009. Based on the ‘Boston Tea Party’ concept of protest against excessive government actions and taxation, these localized events exploded into a massive taxpayer march on Washington on September 12th, 2009.

His style is one of intellectual inquisitiveness mixed with what he himself calls a ‘rodeo clown’ persona. Open about being a recovering alcoholic, Beck sprinkles his television program with the same humor that is a hallmark of his radio show, adding formal charts and graphics and video accompanied by simple presentations made by him alone standing at a chalkboard. He engages guests at both venues of all political persuasions in conversation rather than rancorous debate.

Critics of Beck’s programming presentations have often used terms such as ‘fear-monger’ and ‘conspiratorial’, and yet almost never do you here any substance behind such accusations and commentary.

As is a hallmark of the liberal community in general, name-calling is about all that the left has to offer up in rebuttal when challenged on-air by Beck’s biting tongue and sharp wit.

In September of 2009, Beck was highlighted by the usually left-leaning Time magazine in a cover piece titled “Is Glenn Beck Bad For America?” In this sweeping article that basically painted him as one would expect from a liberal tome, Time had this to say of his programming:

“As melodrama, it’s thumping good stuff. But as politics, it’s sort of a train wreck — at once powerful, spellbinding and uncontrolled.”

What the magazine did not say is perhaps the most telling thing. It did not say that he is a liar.

There are any number of radio talk hosts, television commentators, political pundits, comic satirists, and armchair politicians out there. But exactly because he is so “powerful, spellbinding and uncontrolled” as well as truthful, Glenn Beck taps into the raw nerves of the large numbers of Americans who are as rightfully frightened for the future of our once-great nation as he himself has become.

For his expressive courage, his moral conviction, his articulation of truth, his love of America, he is an example to us all. For what he has overcome in his personal life to become a wealthy, influential opinion shaper, as well as a devoted, loving family man, he is an example as well.

For all of this, and for his work with the ‘9-12 Project’ and the ‘Tea Party’ movement, Glenn Beck is this website’s 2009 American of the Year.

NOTE: To view the write-ups for all of the ‘American of the Year’ winners simply click on to that ‘Tag’ below this article at http://www.mattveasey.com

Islamism Series: What Are We Prepared to Do?

In the 1987 film ‘The Untouchables’, Kevin Costner plays famed lawman Elliot Ness, who is tasked to lead a fight against the violent empire of infamous crime boss Al Capone in Chicago during the Prohibition era.

In the beginning, Ness tries some of the usual law enforcement tactics of the day, but appears to be going nowhere in his efforts to defeat Capone.

Finally his right-hand man in the film, street cop ‘Jim Malone’ as played in an Oscar-winning performance by Sean Connery, turns to Ness and asks him a blunt question:

“What are you prepared to do?”

This is always the single most important question that needs to be asked, understood, and answered before committing to fight any war at any level.

Whether at the level of law enforcement fighting criminal groups to keep the public safe on the home front, or at the level of national armed forces fighting enemies from abroad with the same goal, this simple question cannot be avoided.

Decades ago a war was declared against the United States by the forces of radical Islam around the world. It was declared with public statements, and those statements were backed up with physical attacks against American troops, citizens, and interests abroad and eventually with attacks against the American homeland.

For years the answer to that question of “What are you prepared to do?” seemed to be a tit-for-tat response. They blew up something of ours, we lobbed a missile at something of theirs.

The international community cried if we killed civilians in our attacks, but shed no tears for American Marines and other service persons and civilians killed in attacks against our embassies or troops.

Nothing much changed until finally the radical Islamists were able to pull off a large-scale attack right here on our own shores with the physically, financially, and emotionally devastating attacks of September 11th, 2001 against Washington and New York.

Less than one year into his first term in office, President George W. Bush was faced with the question for the first time: “What are you prepared to do?”And for the first time, an American leader did not pull a knee-jerk response by lobbing a missile.

For perhaps the very first time, an American leader and his team actually sat down and took a good, long, hard look at the reality of the situation.

The United States was not the victim of some random attack by 20 guys who hijacked some planes. America was attacked by an entity which viewed us as a sworn enemy and wanted nothing less than either our destruction or our capitulation to their worldview. Join up with Islam completely or die, that was and is the message from this enemy.

This was not the usual, traditional type of enemy, and fighting them would require an entirely new mindset and commitment level. In days now long gone by we could identify an enemy as a nation-state or group thereof, and largely pinpoint this enemy and defeat them on a geographical battlefield.

The enemy that we now faced was more of a network of ideological radicals scattered in both large and small groups all over the globe, including some in our own country, that was in some cases well-funded and trained. In some cases this network was being expressly, implicitly, or tacitly supported by a nation-state.

Faced with destruction, devastation, and death on his home front on his watch, President Bush answered the question fully when on September 15th, 2001 he said the following:

 “This act will not stand. We will find who did it. We will smoke them out of their holes; we will get them running; and we will bring them to justice. We will not only deal with those who dare attack America, we will deal with those who harbor them, and feed them, and house them. Make no mistake about it. Underneath our tears is the strong determination of America to win this war. And we will win it.”

In this statement, Bush correctly recognized that the problem was not only with the people who actually pulled off the attacks of 9/11, but fully extended to those who supported and nurtured these people both physically and ideologically.

Bush also here became the first American leader to publicly acknowledge that we were at war, and further, he promised that we would win that war. But he also went further, recognizing that this war would be long:

“This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while. And the American people must be patient. I’m going to be patient. But I can assure the American people I am determined, I’m not going to be distracted, I will keep my focus…It is time for us to win the first war of the 21st century decisively, so that our children and our grandchildren can live peacefully into the 21st century.”

The problem was clear, a war was declared on us, attacks were taking place against us, and Americans were dying. The problem was recognized with an acknowledgement that we were indeed at war. The question of what we were prepared to do about it seemed to be answered appropriately: we would fight wherever necessary for as long as necessary to win decisively to ensure lasting peace.

While we dealt them blows on their home bases in Afghanistan and began to establish a democratic foothold in the Middle East both there and in Iraq, the Islamists continued the war with attacks on the trains of Madrid, Spain on March 11th, 2004 and on school children in Beslan, Russia on September 1st, 2004 and on the buses and subways in London, England on July 7th, 2005 among others.

Unfortunately a problem began to develop. As we finally took the fight to the radical Islamists, some Americans, particularly Democratic Party politicians who were out of political power and their media lackeys, all too quickly forgot the pain and destruction of 9/11 and the many other Islamic attacks on America and our allies. They began to use the continuing war and the inevitable American service person deaths as a political football.

During the final 2,682 days of his two terms stretching over more than 7 years following those 9/11 attacks, the policies and strategies of President Bush and his team kept the United States safe from any further successful attacks by a determined enemy who was demonstrating all around the rest of the world that it was still very capable of delivering death and destruction.

The current American administration wants desperately to end our involvement in this war. It was elected largely by painting President Bush as a hateful war-monger and won with a promise to take that very action, in fact. However, on actually taking office and being faced with the reality of the situation themselves, Barack Obama and his people seem surprised to find that is it not America that is the problem after all.

This past week saw a reminder from al Qaeda and the radical Islamists that this war is far from over. They again attempted to use airliners to deliver devastating attacks against the United States on American soil. In fact, they continue to seek nuclear, bio-chemical, radiological and other weapons of mass destruction in what will likely one day be a successful large-scale attack on the United States.

The radical Islamists do not care what American political party is in power. They do not care what the skin color or sex or age is of the American president at any given time. They care only about one thing, that America openly convert to Islam and accept Sharia Law as the ruling cultural influence and legal authority. Anything less will result in the continuation of the war from their end.

That is the real important thing that we need to remember, that a war is not over just because we pull many or even all of our troops out of any country. Vietnam did not end when we Americans fled with our tails between our legs. Instead, the victorious North Vietnamese slaughtered an estimated 4.5 million South Vietnamese who our brave military persons had been protecting. But hey, a bunch of hippies and newscasters felt better, so it was okay.

Unless we become even more determined to fight this war against radical Islam with stronger conventional forces and tactics backed by more determined diplomatic energy and support to the region in finances and infra-structure development over what will likely be decades of commitment, we will lose. And the ramifications of our failure now will be even greater than our failure to win in Vietnam.

It likely won’t happen suddenly or overnight, and maybe not even over one generation. But Islam and its accompanying discrimination, intimidation, and hatred will eventually win out. Either that, or some totalitarian regime of Communism led by Russia or China will become the dominant power. The failure this time of the world’s beacon of freedom, the United States of America, will be a devastating blow to freedom everywhere.

So as every bomb explodes, as every school is attacked, as every head is lopped off, as more Americans are threatened and killed, as our leadership continues to talk tough after an attack while plotting our retreat the question begins to shout out to the American public. Do you want to become Islamic, or die? If the answer is neither, then you are again faced with that one simple question: what are you prepared to do?

NOTE: This continues the ongoing ‘Islamism Series’, each entry of which can be viewed by clicking on to that tag below 

Time, talent, and treasure

This morning for the first time I processed up the main aisle and on to the altar, and then stepped up to the lectern in front of my fellow parishioners at the 7:30am Mass at St. Christopher’s Church in Somerton to present the first reading from the Old Testament.

The selection was from the 1st book of Samuel, one of the ‘Historical Books’, and told the story of how a barren woman named Hannah prayed to God for a son and promised that if the Lord so gifted her she would turn the child over to the priesthood. God granted her desire, and she kept to her promise after weaning Samuel as a small child.

God had given Hannah a gift, and Hannah responded in kind by sharing her gift with the Lord. It was this very gifting process that led me to the lectern on Sunday morning through a ‘Stewardship’ program beginning to spread through the Catholic church and other Christian denominations as well.

Stewardship is the process of realizing that all that we have and all that we are is a gift from God. This makes us ‘stewards’ of these gifts in that we manage them on behalf of the Lord during our time here on earth.

In managing these gifts we are not only encouraged but are expected to share them with the body of the Church. In evaluating exactly how each of us can best share our gifts we should examine in our own lives the opportunities that we all have to give of our time, our talents, and our treasure.

The first opportunity, to give of our time, can take on many forms. The very least amount of time that we should be giving is that 1 hour each week to attend Mass. The normal 7-day week consists of 168 hours. God only asks that you come to His house for one of those. The very least you can do is give Him that hour and keep holy the Sabbath.

Of course what we are really talking about in Stewardship is giving more than the minimum. So more than the minimum of your time might involve some other activity on behalf of the Church. You could volunteer to help clean the church building prior to Christmas or Easter. Every parish or church community has volunteer opportunities ranging from smaller commitments to larger ones.

Another way to increase your Stewardship would be to share your talent. For some that might be a physical gift. Perhaps you are good with carpentry or plumbing and could volunteer to help your church in those areas. I am a police officer and a teacher with a great deal of public speaking experience, thus my decision to become involved in sharing that talent as a lector.

Not everyone is cut out to be a lector. Many people have a fear of speaking in front of large crowds, or just simply are not very good readers, or both. Neither of those has ever been a problem for me. But where tools are concerned, I’m lucky that I can even screw in a light bulb. Every one of us has some type of talent or career experience that we can share. Again, your individual church will have opportunities available for you to help.

Finally, you can share your treasure. This means exactly what it sounds like it means – money. You can do this through direct giving, increasing even slightly the amount that you place in a church envelope or collection, for instance. It could also mean bequething property or valuables to the church on your passing.

There are many skeptics when it comes to giving money or valuables to what they perceive to be an entity as large as the Catholic Church. Keep in mind that every individual parish runs largely on it’s own resources. Your directed gift or increased contributions will go directly to help the church that services your very own communities spiritual needs.

You don’t have to do anything. You can just keep going along the way that you are right now. Many Catholics and other Christians, and members of other faith systems, have drifted away from church almost entirely. Many Christians joke of becoming ‘Chreasters’, where they attend services only on Christmas and Easter. Others say things flippantly such as “I’m good with God, me and Him talk directly to one another.”

Jesus turned to Peter and told him that he would be the rock upon which “I will build my church, which will overcome all the evil forces arrayed against it.” Jesus also taught that “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” In these specific but in many other example of his teachings and his living he showed the importance of gathering as a church community.

Personally, I have decided to begin with the small steps of volunteering with my church Lector Society to do the readings at Mass. My wife and I have decided to slightly increase our Sunday collection offerings. I am going to begin to look for other opportunities, and we will continue to build our own stewardship role with our church over time.

God calls each of us to the role of Stewardship, the sharing of those gifts which He has given to us in this life. It is up to each one of us to more closely examine our lives and our abilities, to get in touch with our own church, and to find an opportunity to present and share those gifts of time, talent, and treasure in honor of the Lord.

NOTE: This is the final ‘Sunday Sermon’ entry of 2009, a regular series of which all previous entries can be read by clicking on to the label below this posting at http://www.mattveasey.com

The two millenium miracle

What do you believe about Christmas? At this time of year, billions of people on the planet are celebrating the birth of a baby that happened over two milleniums ago in a small town in what we know today as the Middle East.

Have you ever stopped to ask a simple question, one that would appear to be logical? That question would be, why?

Let’s take a trip back in time. We’ll make it a reality trip, one that journeys into the real world of those days and a few more over the ensuing centuries. Starting in first century Bethlehem in Judea, we find it dry and hot. No one exchanged Christmas cards. There were no trees being decorated. No one wore a crucifix around their neck.

Depending on whatever you choose to believe, on one mostly quiet night a teenage girl gave birth in a room, or a cave, or a barn, or a stable. Her child was a son, and she and her older carpenter fiancee would eventually take this child home with them to Nazareth and raise him through boyhood and adolescence into early manhood.

As a man, he would eventually become a preacher and a teacher, extolling men to love one another. Many of his teachings would run counter to the religious and political powers of the day, and he and his followers would eventually be seen as dangerous. He was taken into custody and ultimately killed by crucifixion, typical of political prisoners of Rome in those days.

There is little to suggest on the surface that there is anything special about this story. Baby born in a small town in the middle of nowhere to a teenage single mother grows up to become a somewhat popular preacher and is crucified as thousands of others were who also dared to stand up against the powers-that-be of the day.

In the aftermath of his death, his dozen or so closest followers are afraid for their own lives. They deny knowing him and go into hiding. Over the next few decades they will argue among and splinter apart from one another over how he actually would want them to remember him and continue to spread the word.

A few centuries after his death, with all of those original followers long dead and gone, the mother of a Roman ruler suddenly begins to believe, manages to convert her son, and the once obscure belief system becomes mainstream. What has become known as ‘Christianity’ grows and spreads.

Over the next 1,600 years the ‘Church’ of these followers in the teachings of Jesus Christ will explode around the world and across history in numbers of believers, material wealth, and influence. It is estimated that today there are well over 200 million Christians in America, over 76% of the entire population of the United States.

Around the world today there are more than two billion Christians. One out of ever three people on the planet believe in the deity of that small baby born to that unwed teenage mother in that small town over two thousand years ago. How do you account for that, other than divinely inspired and shepherded miracle?

No matter what the actual day and date may have been, tonight we celebrate the birth of that small boy child. Few could possibly have realized it at the time, but the child born that night in those humble circumstances would be an undeniable light unto the world.

So back to the original question that I asked. What do you believe about Christmas? If you celebrate it, but don’t believe in Jesus Christ, then why do you celebrate it? Because everyone else does? That’s pretty lame of you. If you don’t celebrate it, then how do you account for the miracle of these past two millenium? How do you account for more than 2 billion adherents today? Mass hysteria?

The purpose here was to challenge you to think about not only Christmas, but the particular origination of the holiday, the ‘reason for the season’, the actual birth of Jesus Christ. Think about how that small child grew into a man about whom it can be legitimately claimed has changed and influenced the world more than any other that ever walked the face of the earth.

The two millenium miracle continues to grow and spread today. Despite constant and increasing attacks on the celebration of Christmas here in America, it cannot be erased from the public consciousness. The reason that Christianity has grown and spread and continues to do so against the forces of secularism, radical Islam, and other sworn enemies is a simple one: it is Truth. Merry Christmas.