David Brooks: Are We on the Path to National Ruin?

12brooksWeb-master768I never really understood how fascism could have come to Europe, but I think I understand better now. You start with some fundamental historical transformation, like the Great Depression or the shift to an information economy. A certain number of people are dispossessed. They lose identity, self-respect and hope.

They begin to base their sense of self-worth on their tribe, not their behavior. They become mired in their resentments, spiraling deeper into the addiction of their own victimology. They fall for politicians who lie about the source of their problems and about how they can surmount them. Facts lose their meaning. Entertainment replaces reality.

Once facts are unmoored, everything else is unmoored, too. People who value humility and kindness in private life abandon those traits when they select leaders in the common sphere. Hardened by a corrosive cynicism, they fall for morally deranged little showmen.

And then perhaps there’s a catalyzing event. Societies in this condition are culturally tense and socially isolated. That means there are a lot of lonely, alienated young men seeking self-worth through violence. Some wear police badges; some sit in their rooms fantasizing of mass murder. When they act, the results can be convulsive.

Read and reflect on it all.

Lincoln on the 4th of July and Declaration of Independence

lincoln19In the 1850s, Abraham Lincoln’s rhetoric was suffused with a profound sense of loss. He considered it shameful national backsliding that a new affirmative defense of slavery had arisen in the South. At the time of the Founding our nation had merely tolerated slavery; now, it was an institution actively celebrated in part of the country.

In a letter in 1855 despairing of ending slavery, Lincoln wrote to the Kentuckian George Robertson that “the fourth of July has not quite dwindled away; it is still a great day–/for burning fire-crackers/!!!”

At around this time, Lincoln fastened on the Declaration of Independence as “his political chart and inspiration,” in the words of his White House secretary John G. Nicolay.

He made it the guidepost by which the country could return to its lost ideals. His example shows the enduring vitality and the endless potential for renewal that is inherent in the Declaration.

Some good stuff here. See what you think.

Our Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America…

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, declaration_of_independence_630Liberty 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, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Read and reflect on it all. A country without God as its basis and foundation cannot be free.

A Prayer for Fathers’ Day

Heavenly Father,
you entrusted your Son Jesus,
the child of Mary,
to the care of Joseph, an earthly father.
Bless all fathers
as they care for their families.
Give them strength and wisdom,
tenderness and patience;
support them in the work they have to do,
protecting those who look to them,
as we look to you for love and salvation,
through Jesus Christ our rock and defender.
Amen.

Happy Fathers’ Day, Dad

My dad has been dead now for over 12 years. In some ways it seems like an eternity, that he was never here, but thankfully I know that’s not true. I still miss my dad as much as I did the day he died but I am really happy for him because I know where he is. I know he is healed from all that bedeviled him in the last years of his life. I know he is reunited with mom and the rest of his family. I know they are enjoying their rest in the Lord and are safely in his care. How could I be anything but glad for him?

My dad continues to influence me in a thousand different ways. He’s instilled in me a sense of responsibility for my family. He instilled in me a love for life and made me understand the importance of being a responsible and good community member. He also taught me a thing or two about honoring my family name, although I have not always done a very good job with that.

I have his fierce streak of independence in me in ways that I am only now beginning to understand. Dad owned his own business and because it never grew very big, he struggled financially. But I know he wouldn’t have traded it in for anything in the world. He loved being his own boss and contributing to the growth of his community in that capacity. In fact, he was voted as outstanding young businessman by the JCs shortly after he returned home from the Army. Maybe that is one of the reasons I enjoy being the rector at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church.

I am proud of my dad for serving his country during WWII. He loved his country, but never blindly. He kept a balanced perspective on life and loved to be with his friends, especially mom’s and his dear friends, the Terrys.

I am proud of my dad for the courage and grace he displayed throughout his life, especially in the last years when his body slowly robbed him of his mobility. I know that had to be hard for him, very hard. But he never complained, never lost his good spirit or sense of optimism. Dad always believed things would work out for the best and he lived that belief right up to the day he died.

Dad also taught me to persevere, to never tuck my tail and run. That has helped me in many ways over my life because perseverance can indicate a belief in our ability to get the job done, even if we need a little help from our friends on occasion.

Our home was always stable and I could always count on a sense of regularity and familiarity. I knew when to expect him home. I knew when he would be at work. I didn’t have to worry about him running around or being reckless with our family’s resources. This familiarity did not breed a sense of contempt. Instead, it fostered a sense of security and stability.

Like my grandpa Maney did with him when he was a boy, my dad took me to a ball game every year, starting when I was 5 years old, and that string continued unbroken until the last year of his life when he could no longer get to the ballpark. We would usually go to Cincinnati, but during the baseball strike in the early 1980’s we went to watch the Toledo Mudhens game so that our streak would not be broken. He would let me invite a buddy to come with me and I am sure we drove him nuts on more than one occasion. But he never complained, never got angry with me or my invited friend.

Dad also played catch with me on a regular basis when I was a kid. Hit me in the mouth with pitched balls on more than a few occasions (well, maybe I just missed the pitched balls, which then hit me in the mouth—but I like my story better).

Another fond memory I have of dad is when he took me to Canada to go fishing a couple of times. Neither one of us were great outdoorsmen but we survived somehow and got along just fine.

I worked for my dad at his shoe store and he was a tough boss. He always told me that working for your dad was the worst thing you could do because dads expected more out of their kids than out of their regular employees—and he practiced what he preached. But in hindsight that was a good thing for me because it taught me to do my best.

I could go on and on but I’ll stop here and just enjoy some more fond memories of my papa.

I hope that some day, God willing, I can be the man my father was. I’m almost 63 now and I’m not there yet, not even close. But even if I don’t reach the goal, I am thankful that God blessed me with my dad for almost 51 years. Thank you, God, for blessing me with my father, John Fox Maney. Thank you dad, for being the Father you were to me. Happy Fathers’ Day, Bear. I love you.

On a Personal Note

On this date in 2010 at First United Methodist Church in Van Wert, OH we debuted the anthem commissioned in my mother’s memory, Longing to Draw Near by Craig Courtney. My grandparents Maney were married on this date in 1917, my dad participated in D-Day on this date in 1944, I graduated from high school on this date in 1971, and my daughter Bridget graduated from high school on this date in 2008. June 6 has been a big day for the Maney family!

A Prayer for Memorial Day

Adapted from here:

Eternal God,
Creator of years, of centuries,
Lord of whatever is beyond time,
Maker of all species and master of all history —
How shall we speak to you
from our smallness and inconsequence?
Except that you have called us to worship you in spirit and in truth;
You have dignified us with loves and loyalties;
You have lifted us up with your loving-kindnesses.
Therefore we are bold to come before you without groveling
(though we sometimes feel that low)
and without fear
(though we are often anxious).
We sing with spirit and pray with courage
because you have dignified us;
You have redeemed us from the aimlessness
of things going meaninglessly well.

God, lift the hearts of those
for whom this holiday is not just diversion,
but painful memory and continued deprivation.
Bless those whose dear ones have died
needlessly, wastefully (as it seems)
in accident or misadventure.
We remember with compassion and thanksgiving those who have died
serving this country in times of war.

We all must come to bereavement and separation,
when all the answers we are offered
fail the question death asks of each of us.
But we believe that you will provide for us
as others have been provided with the fulfillment of
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”
because we believe that you have raised Jesus our Lord from the dead
and conquered death itself,
and that you have given us the privilege
of sharing in his risen life as his followers,
both now and for all eternity.
We offer our prayers and thanksgiving
in Jesus our risen Lord’s name. Amen.

Traditional Memorial Day

Today we celebrate Memorial Day, which happens to fall this year on the traditional day for Memorial Day. It was originally called “Decoration Day.” Up until the 1971 it was always celebrated today. But afterward it has become a movable federal holiday. You can read about its history here, and I hope you will take the time to do so. On a personal note, my grandparents Shaffer were married on this day in 1917. Cool.

Take a moment today to remember those who have given their lives so that we might enjoy the freedom we have. Take time to remember the current members of our armed forces as well and give thanks that God continues to raise up brave men and women to serve our country in a very dangerous world.

Thank you veterans, past and present, for your service to our country. May God bless you and yours.

Remembering on the Memorial Day

Memorial Day PictureI am remembering today the men and women who serve and have served our country, and who have given their lives for this nation.

I am thankful for my own grandfathers, John S. Maney and F. Earl Shaffer, who fought in WWI.

I am thankful for my father, John F. Maney, and my uncle, W. Everett Jones, who fought in Europe during WWII.

I am thankful for my father-in-law, Donald E. Traylor, who served in Germany during the Korean War.

I am thankful for my dear friend and brother in Christ, John Falor, who fought in Vietnam, as well as my friends, Tod Tapola and Jim Lytle, who also fought there.

I am thankful for Colonel David Mullins who fought in Iraq.

Thank you all, and thank God for continuing to raise up men and women who are willing to serve and sacrifice for our country to keep us free.

General Orders No. 11, Washington DC, May 5, 1868

From here.

  1. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit. 

JOHN A. LOGAN,
Commander-in-Chief

N.P. CHIPMAN,
Adjutant General

Official:
WM. T. COLLINS, A.A.G.

Read the entire order that started Memorial Day.