Saturday, September 11, 2010

Stricken with Terminal Disease, Presidency Nears Death

by Ken Brown
Springfield, MO
The Ozark Uncle started writing this post on Wednesday, September 8, 2010--he never expected that it would be 9/11 before it was completed and published.

We are at a pivotal moment in U.S. History.  The Ozark Uncle perceives that hardships are ahead for those generations following what the 65-year old is calling his Pampered Generation--those of us born between 1935 through 1945.  We didn't have to serve in WWII, and we were later blessed with good paying union jobs and now many of us are living on funded pensions.  But our country has major internal structure problems--political, financial and even militarily.  Money to fund the Baby Boomer Generation (e.g., born in 1946 or later) retirements just isn't there.  There probably isn't a politician alive with any kind of a magic bullet to fix our fiscal problems--we need to look to self-reliance and each be willing to make some kind of sacrifice.

A dear friend in my Over 70 Club forwarded me an email that listed many suggestions for changes in our country--of course it's one of those with bold type, different colored fonts and, you guessed it, an anonymous author.  But the Ozark Uncle saw possibilities in the list and he may dissect the ideas when he has a chance.  Perhaps considered extreme now, in a couple of decades many of these suggestions will occur by default, not by any political decision.

[Insert silence: the Ozark Uncle is taking a moment to remember the victims of the 9/11 tragedy which changed our world forever.  But he's also remembering those who died at Pearl Harbor, the millions of Holocaust, Armenian and Rwandan genocide victims, plus the millions of soldiers whatever their uniform, and all the innocent civilians killed in wars].

Well, that moment of silence didn't go too well; just as I went into silence, 19-month old Skye baby asked the Ozark Uncle to put on his "Papa" hat and get her more "Wice Kispies."  That highest-priority task completed, let's get on with the heart of the matter at hand.

Honored Member of the Ozark Uncle's Over 80 Club: Code Name Miss Lillian
The Ozark Uncle has a relative who he is calling Lillian--that's not her real name.  She's in her 80s now, and she lives in the same rural southern community in which she was born.  Best I can tell, Miss Lillian raised her children as a single parent.  For many of those years, she supported her children as a medical nurse working at the side of the same doctor in a small town clinic.  She knew all the patients' personal and medical history but will take that knowledge to the grave with her.  Morals and ethics are hardwired into Miss Lillian.  And she's perhaps one of the wisest people I know.

Miss Lillian is a very private individual, and few photos exist of her.  The facsimile of an unidentified older woman to the left is not her.  Miss Lillian has no use for computers and little use for television.  If told about the Ozark Uncle's openness on Facebook and his two blogs, she'd just fold her arms, look up into his eyes and with her soft but stern rural accent, say, "Kee-un, Kee-un".  Then she'd just bow her head and shake it in disbelief.

You see, to Miss Lillian, something like Facebook should be renamed Fools Book, and to her a blog is something that happens between the house and the septic tank.  And you know, with regard to the Ozark Uncle's writings, she'd probably be right on each count!

To my knowledge, Miss Lillian doesn't watch too much television.  FOX is something to be kept out of the hen house, and for all she knows, CNN, HLN and MSNBC are random letters on an eyesight chart.  Yet, she seems to gather sufficient information that makes her quite knowledgable on what she considers is relevant to her and her rural world.  You see, the Ozark Uncle perceives that Miss Lillian does better than most at setting priorities as to what is really important in her life and that of her family.  Not every national battle is hers to fight.

Miss Lillian's front door is like a lot of other people.  It's open wide for her close friends and relatives; she can be a wonderful hostess and will serve a healthy southern meal and fresh brewed iced tea.  However, business with all others can be conducted just fine through the screen door.  Miss Lillian and the Ozark Uncle haven't discussed it--no reason to--but she probably would not be comfortable at all with Muslims, foreign speakers, or gays in her home even if they were my friends.  But, be assured if any one of them had a car wreck out in front of her house and was bleeding profusely, the nurse in Lillian would be out there doing her best to help out another human being, and she wouldn't worry about whether she had a pair of latex gloves or not.  There are no pretenses with Miss Lillian--without ever using a cuss word, she can make it real clear what should transpire around her.

Uncle Ozark, What's Your Point?
The Ozark Uncle could write for pages about his perceptions of Miss Lillian, but she's introduced here for a specific reason.  Have I already said Miss Lillian is one of the wisest people I know?  Well, the subject of respect for a sitting U.S. President came up between me and one of Miss Lillian's daughters recently.  Reportedly, Miss Lillian always quoted her own mother to her children and it's as follows: "My Mama always said you may not have voted for a President and may not even like the man, but he always deserves your respect as the President of the United States."  That piece of wisdom is today's thought for tomorrow's generation.  Unfortunately, with the death of the U.S. Presidency at hand, this point of view may only fade into the annals of history as how things used to be.  Here's an example of the Presidency's disease.

Branson Financial Center
A couple of times a month, the Ozark Uncle takes a family member to a medical appointment in Branson, 45 miles south of Springfield. (Interestingly, he'll be making that trip again later today--September 11).    The doctor's office is in the Branson Financial Center, and an immigration attorney with a Hispanic name has the adjacent suite.  Frequently, one will share the elevator with Spanish-speaking immigrants from Mexico.

Also in the BFC building are the real estate offices of Commercial One Brokers.  This summer, the partners of this firm purchased a full-sized billboard near the town of Ozark between Springfield and Branson which says: Vote for Obama?  Embarrassed Yet?  In an interview with Springfield TV station, KY3, partner Steve Critchfield acknowledged that he'd received death threats because of it, but he rather glibly moralized that "...if every one is happy with Obama, they could go out and buy billboards saying so."  The Ozark Uncle will let that statement just land on the floor and stay there.
Billboard Similar to Critchfield sign
on U.S. 65 near Ozark MO
The Ozark Uncle really doesn't have any perceptions about how Critchfield et al should use their advertising dollars--though, the real estate business must be good in Taney County, Missouri.  No doubt the partners felt that their clients and their target market (white retirees with 401k funds from my Pampered Generation) would be happy with this sign--might even help business.  If I were Critchfield, though, I'd probably avoid local restaurants for awhile after considering who might be making my omelet and exactly what could be used for seasoning.

But, hey, the Ozark Uncle is cool.  He's all for the First Amendment.  Yet Gainesville, Florida's Pastor Terry Jones and his 50 followers who intended to burn Muslim holy books today (9/11) are really testing the amendment's limits relative to the public's common good.  (Since this posting was started on Wednesday, Pastor Terry Jones has been granted prime time coverage of his every move.  What a country--another religious figure with the surname Jones [like Jim and Bob] will become a household name.

Now back to Critchfield's billboard question.  [Note: the Ozark Uncle's little postings are intended for today's adults but, over time, will also serve as an archive for his grandchildren and their children as to how their Grandpa Brown perceived issues during this historically troublesome time].

Disappointment?  Sometimes.  Embarrassment? Never.
The Ozark Uncle struggles with the concept that anyone in America should be embarrassed about a vote--it doesn't make sense to him.  Oh, perhaps failing to vote at all might be a cause for some guilt.  While his ancestors had to cast their ballots with the little information printed in their weekly newspapers and talk around the wood stove at the General Store, the Ozark Uncle's era isn't too much better off.  Technology, mass media and advertising make it almost impossible to make an informed decision before voting.  Lies, falsehoods and misstatements litter the political landscape.  Candidates can't really come out and express their true thoughts--they are chained to specific positions and code words like "Pro-Choice" or "Pro-Life" lest they be deserted by some political base critical to their election.

Some voters don't look at the candidates' names but only for the (R) or (D) behind them and vote accordingly.  Others of us form some impression and cast a vote.  What follows is the Ozark Uncle's recollection of his Presidential votes over the past 20 years of voting.  It may not be totally accurate because many a time he went into the voting booth terribly undecided.  For today's readers, it illustrates a typical American's attempt to vote responsibly.  For his descendants, it leaves a little trail to show that he just didn't vote for all the (R)s or all the (D)s.

1992 -- Bush 1 versus CLINTON (D) versus Perot (I).  The Ozark Uncle distinctly remembers voting for Ross Perot.  He didn't know enough about Clinton, and he still felt that Bush 1 had not been forthcoming on the Iran-Contra scandal hung over from his Reagan era Vice-Presidency.

1996 -- Dole (R) versus CLINTON (D).  A real fan of Sen. Bob Dole (R), the Ozark Uncle considered voting for him.  Still he wasn't packaged right by his campaign staff.  Also the Ozark Uncle, while disturbed by Clinton's sexual scandals, sensed that powerful people were in the background waking up every morning determined to that particular President's day was a living Hell.  From the Ozark Uncle's perspective, the U.S. Presidency contracted its fatal disease under Clinton.  A lively debate can be had as to whether the disease was from internal (Clinton's own fault) or external sources.

2000 -- BUSH 2 (R) versus Gore (D).  The Ozark Uncle was a reluctant voter this year.  Right along here, he saw futility in being tied to either party and he became an independent and sees no reason to change the rest of his life.  In 2000, at 55 years of aged and about to take early retirement on a public education pension, the Ozark Uncle had become a real fan of a Vietnam hero by the name of John McCain.  Then the Bush campaign people played the "race card" on my hero, John, and his dark-skinned adopted daughter during the South Carolina primary, and the rest is history.  (By the way, in recent years, the Ozark Uncle has expressed a point of view that America missed a great opportunity when John McCain was not made President in 2000 instead of George Bush.  Hindsight is 20-20 they say but the Ozark Uncle perceives that President McCain might have had the magic bullet needed to eradicate the Presidency's fatal disease).

2004 -- BUSH 2 (R) versus Kerry (D).  Although forever thoughtful, Ozark Uncle can be more naive than many people, and he bought then Secretary of State Colin Powell's WMD speech to the United Nations, and he supported the Iraq war during Bush's first term.  By 2004, however, both the Ozark Uncle and Powell realized they had been duped.  Still the Ozark Uncle voted for Bush because he really felt that the Bush-Cheney alliance got us into the mess, and they should be given a chance to get us out.

2008 -- McCain (R) versus OBAMA (D).   The 2008 campaign was very hard on the Ozark Uncle.  His close relatives were quite divided, and lots of discussions led to family disunity.  Eventually everyone figured out that it was best not to talk about it.  The Ozark Uncle went ahead and voted for Barack Hussein Obama after his hero,  John McCain, selected the unknown "Mama Grizzly", Sarah Palin, as his running mate.  Some of my intelligent Christian friends applied incredible contortions to common sense attempting to convince me she was ready for the co-pilot's seat of a great nation.  I found my own intellect being insulted on every corner, and I abandoned my buddy, John McCain, once I got into the voting booth. [Note: since that time, the Ozark Uncle has become much more impressed with Ms. Palin and would give her due consideration in 2012.  It would be nice, however, if her so-called "grizzly" skin could toughen a little bit--she seems to fight every unfavorable mention of her].

Ozark Uncle Has had Many Embarrassing Moments But Not from a Vote
There you have it, Grandchildren, and any other interested parties--my voting record for what it is over the past 20 years.  Am I embarrassed by any of those votes?  No, and it's really a silly question.  Were some of the votes misguided or dumb votes?  Probably some and maybe all but who's to say--voters are accountable only to themselves, no one else.

As for the present, the Ozark Uncle perceives that with all the power that voters gave to the political left in 2008, President Obama and his Democratic party have turned on the political oven for the Republicans when they get the kitchen back in its control in 2010.  In the oven, the Democrats have been able to place half-baked casseroles of health care, energy, immigration, financial reform and entitlements (including tax breaks).

Now, after the 2010 elections, the Republicans will get another chance to (1) take the casseroles out of the oven and discard them or (2) somehow change the ingredients in the casseroles--a feat requiring culinary magic.  It won't be easy for them -- you see each casserole is implanted with a few tablespoons of an unknown substance that can lead one to political suicide.  To my grandchildren, when you read this, national politics is not an easy career in Papa Brown waning years.

Impending Death of the U.S. Presidency
The Ozark Uncle's July 28, 2010, post entitled War Heroes and Victims.  Near the end of the post, the Ozark Uncle cites retired Lt. Col. Andrew Bacevich and his book Limits of Power.  He argues that the system in Washington is so broken that the holder of the U.S. Presidency is really irrelevant.  This systemic virus has helped lead to its impending death foreseen by the Ozark Uncle.

Symptoms of the Presidency's fatal disease called D-I-S-R-E-S-P-E-C-T surfaced early in the first term of William Jefferson Clinton.  The position of First Lady was temporarily affected by the disease too but seems to have at least partially recovered.  The Presidency's disease was in almost total remission during the first term of George Walker Bush, but only for a short time.  Now, under Barack Hussein Obama, the Presidency's affliction appears to be worse than ever (as evidenced by the Critchfield billboard).

Note: some experts (no substantiations available at the moment) suggest that the country would be better off after the death of the U.S. Presidency followed by a re-incarnation as a Prime Minister, perhaps.  With this lower profile position would come lowered expectations--something that people should want if they want to reduce the effect of government.  Thus, with the death of the U.S. Presidency, this Prime Minister-type person would still have considerable governing power but little to govern--just a country of "I"s and "Me"s with little unity, insight, or compassion among us.  Also, an empty Treasury will cause Americans to ween themselves from entitlements, tax breaks and wasteful spending.  Thus, we are the problem, not our elected politicians.

Today's Thoughts for Tomorrow's Generation
Piper Palin with her brother at the 2008
Republican Convention
To the left is a photo of Todd and Sarah Palin's two youngest children, Piper and Trig.  Note that the photo appeared on CNN and hopefully Ms. Palin won't mind my using it.  Piper is my favorite, and part of me wishes she were at the Brown house playing with the Ozark Uncle's two Grand-Girls, Ora and Skye Brown, instead of being dragged around the country as part of the Palin Family Tour.

Watching the 2008 Republican Convention, the Ozark Uncle immediately wondered how the limelight would affect each member of the Palin family.  Certainly life hasn't been the same for little Piper since that night.  Her family is now wealthy but family time has to be totally different and is difficult to manage.  Such is life for children of high-profile parents.

Skye and Ora Brown - 2010
Today's thoughts for tomorrow's generation are really guided to the parents and grandparents (Papa and Grandma Brown included) of today's young children.  Recognize that 2010 is a really troubling time in America that could just as easily worsen as improve.  The Ozark Uncle's perception is that we should prepare our little ones for a time when they shouldn't count on state and national government to be of major significance in their lives.

A few suggestions to the parents and grandparents come to mind such as to help the little ones: (1) learn to be self-reliant; (2) learn to take care of their bodies and their minds, (3) learn to garden, cook and clean (Ora, remember, like the Box Car Children--Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny?)

James "the Genius" Brown
self-portrait -- 2008

Louie "the Athlete" Brown - 2010
Learn survival skills and ways to be at peace with less material things.  Seek out as much practical education and training as they can.  Don't forget the liberal arts but basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter are always the first order of the day.

Show them ways they can find peace for themselves in a wonderful yet ever changing less materialistic world.

Thanks for reading to the end.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

BECK, the OLD LADY, and the "JESUS" WORD

Greetings from the Ozarks Plateau here in Springfield MO where the weather on this Sunday morning is gorgeous.  The Ozark Uncle is compelled to write about his Saturday and all two of his encounters with the "Jesus" word that occurred that day.  Needless to say this posting won't take long.

Beck-Palin Rally
Joy and I didn't have the grand-girls this weekend so we started a rather lonely Saturday morning with coffee in the living room.  We turned on C-Span and encountered the start of Glenn Beck's Restore Our Honor rally (click on the link to view the entire event) at the D.C. Lincoln Memorial.  For the time we had before leaving the house, I listened carefully not only for content but for word usage.

Glenn Beck speaking on the steps
 of the Lincoln Memorial.
Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA
Although the Ozark Uncle's hearing is worsening, he senses that his listening skills are improving.  He has now listened to Glenn Beck videos for two or three times in the last month, and he's still mulling on the content.  Listening to the rally on Saturday, he understood Mr. Beck to say in a round-about way that a divine vision had came to him last year after a Florida rally revealing what God wanted him to do.

Otherwise the Ozark Uncle listened for the "Jesus" word somewhere in Beck's comments about his being anointed but never heard the word used.   During the 45-minutes or so that he was able to watch, the Ozark Uncle only heard the "Jesus" word once.  Sarah Palin didn't use it either but a Christian minister's prayer, the content of which didn't include the word, ended with "In Jesus's name we pray."

Thrift Store Volunteering
Joy and I then left home to spend our Saturday volunteering at the Thrift Haven (TH) thrift store.  We try to get there not long after it opens as 10 a.m. and stay until 6 p.m. when it closes.  The store benefits the Fair Haven Children's Home in nearby Strafford, and the Home is operated by Springfield's Water Mill Church of Christ.  So, the store has a very happy and peaceful environment, and the Ozark Uncle enjoys being down there except the piped in A Capella church music is not one his listening favorites.  He grew up with old time gospel music accompanied by an acoustic guitar.

My wife, Joy, has been the TH volunteer "toy lady" for almost three years.  When she broke her wrist this past spring, the Ozark Uncle went down to help her and he's been going ever since.  Well, back in the hot warehouse off the side of the store, Joy and I sort through all the donations of toys and games, select the best for sale and then pack the rest for shipment to other countries (there's an irony there that the Ozark Uncle has to gloss over for time's sake at this moment).

The Lady
The Ozark Uncle's "station" at TH is close to the door between the warehouse and the store, and early in the afternoon, an elderly lady popped her head in this "employees only" door and asked for help.  The lady was definitely in her 70s and maybe a little older.  Her layered clothing was of the type that disguised any perception of her economic status--she could have been poor and she could have been rich.  Her grey hair was slightly unkempt but neat enough--beauty salons were definitely not a line item in her monthly budget.  Eccentric, that's what the Ozark Uncle perceived.  Please read on.

The lady was looking for a special kind of lamp base and wanted to know what we had in the warehouse.  Well, it wasn't the Ozark Uncle's department, but he proceeded to help her look around the warehouse.  The manager of the day (a former house parent at the Children's Home), strolled through and joined our search.  The lady had a very specific idea of what she wanted, and after turning down several that we found, she selected one lamp base resting in the $1.50 box still unpriced.

Her Visions
As I proceeded to place a price tag on the lamp, the lady started to testify to me.  In a nutshell, she told me of visions she had received from God.  In her visions, God had told her that the people who ran "the government" were going to be replaced soon, and God was going to make a series of changes because of what we've become.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the store manager quietly creep away leaving the two of us alone.  The lady went on to tell about her visions for at least another minute, and then there was a slight pause as she looked at me for feedback.

"Have you written this down?" I said.
"No, it's all here in my heart." as you placed a hand on her chest.  "And I'll tell you God says Jesus is coming soon."

I don't know what came over me but I threw both my arms up in the air like an Assemblies of God worshiper.  Excitedly I said, "You said the Jesus word!!" and I spun in a circle.

The Point of All This
The lady accepted my emotional outburst with a seeming mixture of pleasure, shock, and bewilderment.  While she no doubt had told other people of her visions, probably no one had reacted quite like the Ozark Uncle.  We had a few more words of encouragement to each other, she thanked me for my help, and she exited the warehouse back into the store.

Those readers who've read some of the Ozark Uncle's early postings to his other blog, The Brown Perspective, know he can take an encounter like this with the elderly lady and cogitate on it for quite a while.   Well, working in the warehouse at TH is not terribly taxing on one's brain, so he mulled over both the Beck rally and the Elderly lady off and on the rest of the day.

A fundamental question lodged in the Ozark Uncle's brain--Whose vision is more credible, that of Glenn Beck or that of The Lady.  Should one even try to judge whether these visions occurred or not? The Ozark Uncle is certainly not going to try to judge.   The Ozark Uncle is better off having seen some of Glenn Beck's rally and hearing this elderly lady testimony.

Closing Thoughts
Once at home last night, I noted on Facebook that inspirational blogger, Terry Hampton, had sent a link to a CNN interview with a long-time religion journalist, Cathleen Falsani, about whether Obama is a Christian.  Another link that has the interview transcribed is one Obama's Fascinating Interview with Cathleen Falsani.   To all my friends, I try to watch the links you suggest regardless of their political slant.  Please do yourself a favor and watch this seven minute video.  This journalist is framing the debate on the "Christian" question.  My perspective is that if this question is going to be a litmus test, start lining up all those you trust, watch their eyes, and then start asking them how then feel about the "Jesus" word.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


One of today's news headlines compelled the Ozark Uncle to write a quick and half-baked post this evening. He really wasn't ready to write an in-depth Brown Perspective on either the Muslim or the Gay issues although his cerebral oven has been baking a Perspective "pie" all summer about the latter.

Snakes Alive!
The Ozark Uncle never planned an extensive Perspective post on serpents nor a shorter Today's Thoughts post but let's start right here and now and get it over with.  As a child and all the way into his thirties, the Ozark Uncle had an abnormal fear of snakes--not spiders, nor bugs, nor lizards, just snakes.  They appeared in his dreams as nightmares, and he found himself avoiding the possibility of a snake sighting or encounter if at all possible.  He even avoided the Biology class in high school for fear he'd have to dissect a snake.

Ozark Uncle and
Grandchildren with
a Friendly Python-2007
As he got older, the Ozark Uncle questioned himself about his fear of snakes and decided he'd never really gotten to know any snakes personally and was totally unfamiliar with their actions, dispositions, and capabilities. One day, a greenhouse friend, Dianna, gave him a tour; as they went down the first aisle of plants she said, "Now, Oscar, don't you go scaring me."  She explained that Oscar was a garter snake that lived in the greenhouse and helped control the insects.  Then she went about working among the plants with no fear of the little creature.

Not long after, I had to work on my mother's landscaping, and she had quite a nest of garter snakes that resided along the back side of her house.  Their presence bothered me considerably but remembering Dianna's technique, I began to call them "friends" and talk to them as I worked.  Now we got along fairly well but the Ozark Uncle was still far from cured.  The next module of sensitivity training for the Ozark Uncle was to watch documentaries on reptiles to get a sense of their movements, their speed and even their striking distance if they struck at all.  This part was probably the hardest because it took a long while before I became comfortable with the closeup views of their heads and bodies.

Ozark Uncle with 4-year old
Ora and a Friendly King Snake
Still a work-in-progress, the Ozark Uncle attended a seminar at the Springfield Nature Center which featured a snake expert.  This gentleman brought several live non-poisonous snakes including a large snake that he let the children come up and touch.  Well, there was the adult Ozark Uncle in line with these seven and eight year olds, waiting for his turn to touch the snake which he did!  Self-worth shot up like a rocket!  Someone in the audience asked the expert about handling poisonous snakes and his reply was, "I don't know, I've NEVER handled a poisonous snake."

In the Ozarks, if any snake should be called evil, it would be a poisonous snake.  The expert's advice is simply to try to stay away from "evil" serpents.   Some of my readers know that the Ozark Uncle has been Mr. Field Trip for his six-year old granddaughter, Ora, since she was about three.  The Nature Center was a major part of my effort to help allay her fears of reptiles and insects caused simply because she hadn't gotten acquainted with them.

Mayhem Over Muslim Cordoba Center 
The Ozark Uncle's regular readers know he displays an extremely open mind on a wide range of issues.  He feels the need to lift up the covers, read between the lines, and listen to what isn't said as much as what is said.  And he wants to make up his mind, not have it made up for him, and he follows his gut as to whether an information source is credible.  He is always on the guard for hidden agendas which in the media are more numerous than snakes in the Ozarks.

The Ozark Uncle has an elderly friend who, at the moment, is frightened for her children and grandchildren because of the impending Muslim menace.  I tried to call her this morning to console her and intend to try again tomorrow.  Although we email regularly, I want to hear her voice and her hear mine.  There will be comfort come out of our visit.

Rick Mathes & Wife, Mission Gate
Prison Ministry, St. Louis, MO
A couple of days ago, this friend forwarded me a "new" email that recounted questions and answers between Rick Mathes, a Christian prison minister, and a Muslim Imam during a prison ministry seminar.  My friend felt this was a recent event, and she's very disturbed about the Muslim faith taking over our society.

In this supposed discussion during the seminar, the Iman confirmed that Muslims are commanded to kill one infidel (i.e., an un-believer).  Well, if one does a search of the internet for the name "Rick Mathes," several sites pop up that identify this forwarded email as being at least five years old, and the underlying encounter has some question marks as to Mathes' version of it.  For example, research indicated that the encounter occurred at the Fulton Penitentiary here in Missouri in 2003.  The prison staff indicated that no Muslim Imam or cleric could be found for the seminar that Mathes attended so a Muslim inmate used what knowledge he had to answer questions.  No one remembers anything resembling Mathes' claims, and when asked by a reporter back in 2005, Mathes didn't really want to discuss it.

This is not the first time one of my older conservative Christian friends have received recycled missives intending to instill fear and encourage older voter turnout.  The Ozark Uncle is really unprepared to address the Muslim issue or agenda, today, but he senses political agendas all over the matter.  The news magazines that come to the Brown house (Time and Newsweek) both identify the issue as being right-wing fear mongering.  If one were to enter the words "Ground Zero Mosque" into a search engine, one can see immediately that the focus of the headline is in direct correlation with the news outlet.  Right-wing outlets are ratcheting up the rhetoric while all other outlets (presumably labeled left-wing) bring out the inconsistencies of the argument and express concern that some Muslims will be pushed to the extreme side of their religion by the issue.

For the moment, the Ozark Uncle's perception is this--Muslims are like serpents; most are nonpoisonous and they would just like to be left alone to lead a peaceful life.  Some of the peaceful Muslims' cousins are poisonous (i.e., they are terrorists), and they WILL strike again within our borders--the Ozark Uncle perceives it will be sooner rather than later.  They are more evil and more dangerous than a poisonous snake because the terrorists are proactive whereas the snakes are reactive.  Generally, if one doesn't invade a snake's den, she won't come into yours.

To my knowledge there are very few Muslims in Springfield.  The only Muslim friends I had moved to Los Angeles not long after 9/11.  They wanted to be in a safer environment, I perceived.  Here in Springfield, small Islamic Center is off of Division Street and it's on my "to visit" list.  It's like going to the Nature Center to get used to an harmless reptile.  The Ozark Uncle wants to know more about this issue.

For God's Sake Help Gays Get Out of the Closet
Today, the Ozark Uncle had lunch with his granddaughter at Pershing Elementary and then headed to Panera Bread for a large glass of unsweetened ice tea and free WI-FI.  In his Gmail Inbox, the Ozark Uncle had a message from the e-magazine, The Atlantic, with the following headline: Bush Campaign Chief and Former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman: I'm Gay.  Mehlman was quoted as saying

Ken Mehlman
"It's taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life," said Mehlman, now an executive vice-president with the New York City-based private equity firm, KKR. "Everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey, and for me, over the past few months, I've told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they've been wonderful and supportive. The process has been something that's made me a happier and better person. It's something I wish I had done years ago."

The Ozark Uncle read the above quotation at 2 p.m. this afternoon on his wife's Toshiba Laptop using Panera Bread's WiFi.  Immediately, he felt compelled to write this post, and it had to be this evening.  He picked up his granddaughter from school a 3 p.m., delivered her to her destination and immediately told  his wife, Joy, "I have to write tonight--everything else off the schedule--I have to write."

Please Read Carefully
During the summer, the Ozark Uncle came to know a Christian who went all the way through a Protestant seminary to learn that the related church would not let him pastor because of his life style.   He is the partner to a close relative of mine; since we met this summer, he has opened up to me.  The Ozark Uncle's long unasked questions about homosexuality simply had to do with the following: when and how do adolescents get involved with the gay life style?  That's all he wanted and still wants to know.

The new Christian gay friend recommended that I read Mel White's Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America.  Well, the Springfield-Greene County Library doesn't have a copy.  So a copy was purchased from, and of course came in a brown paper wrapper.  It took the Ozark Uncle a few weeks to finish the book which he did last week.

Rev. Mel White
I had not read too far into Mel White's book, maybe 30 pages or less, and I realized he was writing my own story as a teenage Christian except from the opposite sexual orientation.  Just as I felt guilt for my lust and desires for females, he felt an even worse guilt for his desire for males which surfaced when he was 12 years old.  Raised in a very religious home where his grandmother was a Pentecostal minister, Mel White hid his desires for years, and married a wonderful and beautiful Christian woman who he loved and she loved him.  He went on to become a national Fundamental Christian leader and pastor, and also a Christian movie producer.  Eventually he was hired to "ghost write" books for Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Jim and Tammy Bakker.

After all kinds of Christian counseling and therapy treatments while in the closet, Mel was a nervous wreck and finally after many years of marriage, he cheated on his wife for the first time.  His guilt was unbearable and a more sympathetic Christian therapist said "Mel, you have to tell her, today!"  Well, he did tell Lyla White that day--what a fantastic woman!  The couple prayed and tried to work through it for several more years but they finally let each other go after 25 years of marriage.  Still he remained in the closet until 1993 when he was 53 years old!  His lovely wife, Lyla, wrote the foreword to Mel's book and it was heartwarming--I still can't get over her love for Mel and her spiritual strength.

My regular readers know I seldom if ever use the use the word believe and prefer the term perception.  The latter allows more information to come in that might alter a perception but beliefs are much more concrete and immovable.  

Well, here's a rare moment--I believe the Whites' story, and I perceive that there are no telling how many other Ken Mehlmans and Mel Whites still in the closet across this nation.  America, we have to let these fellow Americans out of the closet--men and women.   They are in your churches, your military, your work place, and they are not causing you any harm but they are living a miserable life in the closet.  That's now my perception, and I'm stickin' to it.

My discussion on gays doesn't have anything to do with gay marriage--it has to do with kindness for our fellow human beings.  And the Ozark Uncle wants to learn more about my gay brothers and sisters--Mel White contends you can't be led to the lifestyle, your natural sexual orientation does it for you.  A conservative friend told me there are no scientific studies of this--Mel White says there are.  The Ozark Uncle wants to know more.

(There is an irony to gay marriage -- it's an institution that gays want but a lot of heterosexuals are giving up on--isn't that ironic?)  I saw somewhere the other day, "Fix Marriage, Not Gays."

Are there evil gays like there are evil Muslims (terrorists) or evil snakes (poisonous)?  Yes, but even before his enlightenment this summer, the Ozark Uncle has always perceived that there are several times more sex crimes against women by men than there are against men by men.  And pedophilia, child porn, and sex abuse are evil regardless of the parties involved--that's a major issue and breaks my heart but is not relevant to this discussion.

The Ozark Uncle will no doubt write more on the topic of sexual orientation, and he may lose some friends because of it--he certainly hopes not.  Mel White lost friends and even though Mehlman says he's being supported, one has to know there will be lots of acquaintances who won't be accepting his phone calls tomorrow.

Message to the GOP
Republicans, the Ozark Uncle is a gosh darn independent who is also a fiscal hawk.  He's an old Governmental Accounting professor and knows his stuff regarding budgets.  America needs real Republican fiscal conservatism but would you stop pissing me off?! Stop putting fear into everyone to get votes.  (Note to self: yeah, like they're going to listen to you?)

And here is Today's Thought for Tomorrow's Generation.  Young people, it may take thirty years or more but the Ozark Uncle perceives that you will bring a stop to this political madness.  Watch, listen, and feel for all that is going on around you, and a true path will appear on which you will travel forward as Americans.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The "N" Word and the "J" Word

by Ken Brown
Springfield, MO

Foreword:  The Ozark Uncle is paradoxical in many ways but particularly regarding religion -- he is a non-Christian who loves Jesus, (h)is teachings and (h)is principles.  The Ozark Uncle tries not to be judgmental but doesn't always succeed.    If readers find places in this post where I seem to judge or not be Christ-like, please call me out on them.  The biggest concern is that the Ozark Uncle, as a non-Christian, is passing judgment on people who call themselves Christians.  I'll accept all criticisms as graciously as possible.

Rights, Rights, Rights--Rights to Say the "N" Word and Rights to Build a Muslim YMCA.
(Saturday night--Aug. 19) Well, on this blog, the Ozark Uncle posted some thoughts about Dr. Laura and her use of the "N" word on air during her Aug. 10 show.  The posting received responses of both agreement and disagreement with her actions.

(Sunday morning--Aug. 20), the Ozark Uncle used Facebook to shared NPR's report on religious freedom versus freedom of speech.   The religious freedom issue relates to the so-called Ground-Zero Mosque and whether American Muslim rights are being imperiled.  Again voices appeared on my Facebook account on both sides of this dilemma.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) Ky.
Sunday mornings at the Brown house generally involve drinking coffee while watching Meet the Press as the host, David Gregory, wrestles with politicians trying to get them to "out" themselves as to their true agendas.   He most always fails in his effort.

On this particular Sunday morning, the Ozark Uncle was actually dreading it because he knew the headliner guest, Mitch McConnell, would say absolutely nothing about Republican ideas for when they regain power.  [Note on photo at left: Ok, you caught me being biased.  The internet provided over 100 images of the Senator, and I chose the one that seemed the least flattering.  Also it was the only one with his mouth closed].

P.S. Joy ended up watching the show, and she confirmed that he again said nothing worthwhile.  But she failed to mention one thing--when he was asked about whether Obama was a Christian and not a Muslim, Sen. McConnell said he had to take the President at his word that he's a Christian.  Some media outlets took that to mean McConnell wanted to keep the question in play.  What do you think would happen if Gregory's question was "Senator, do you love Jesus and do you think the President loves Jesus?"  Besides Gregory being fired for using the "J" word, what would the Senator say?

At the end of this blog posting, the Ozark Uncle will talk about Jesus being the important focus for everyone, and the term "Christian" is a rather hollow sounding word.  People sling around the words "I'm a Christian" when many of them don't have the foggiest idea of what Jesus should be in their everyday lives [oops, judgment--my bad].  The Ozark Uncle does try to focus on Jesus even though he's a non-Christian.  Regular readers already know this but one can get a glimpse of the Ozark Uncle's past religious experiences on his other blog site "The Brown Perspective" particularly in his "Baptists Turns Green" posting).

Today's Thoughts for the Ozark Uncle
The Ozark Uncle has only a few Facebook friends who are not Caucasian.  But he wants more diversity in his pool of Facebook friends and his personal friends here in Springfield.  If they wish, black friends can tell me what the "N" word means within their community.  The Ozark Uncle perceives that the use of the word is controversial within the black community and it's their issue to address.

At the moment, the Ozark Uncle's perception on disparaging word usage is like this--he has some close friends who play golf together.  Listen to the group on the golf course and you might hear something like this:
    "Dumb Ass, shut up and hit the damn golf ball."
    "Listen Turd Bird, go over behind that tree and play with yourself--I'll hit the ball when I'm good and ready."

Now, let someone from the trailing group of golfers call one of us "Dumb Ass", and we've got ourselves a situation.  The same is for the "N" Word.

And that's where I'm leaving this "N" word business.  In summary, it's more that the word, it's (a) the context, (b) who is saying it and (c) how it is being said.  In America, everyone has the right to say any word or groups of words they wish, but they don't necessarily have an automatic safe harbor after they've said those words.  We are all responsibility for our actions (including our words).

The "J" Word--Today's Thoughts for Tomorrow's Generation
Finally something good out of Sunday, August 21 (besides a first grader's birthday party that the Ozark Uncle attended).

"Sister" Terry Hampton's regular posting on her More To Live For blog outlined her perception of a disconnect between American Christianity and the ways of Jesus.  My interpretation of her main point is that American Christianity focuses on words in the Bible, not on Jesus and his Way.
Rev. Oswald Chambers
She cites the Rev. Oswald Chambers and his book of daily devotions called My Utmost For His Highest.  [Note: Chambers' wife pulled together the book of his writings after his death].  The 19th Century Scottish minister taught that a complete knowledge of the words in the Bible was useless if one did not have a personal relationship with Jesus.

My good friend, Fern, keeps sending me quotes from Thomas Jefferson.  That reminded me of the Jefferson Bible in which Jefferson extracted all the teachings of Jesus and placed them in a single volume.  In essence, he created the first "red-letter edition."  Those are the passages that get the Ozark Uncle's attention more than any.

A few years ago, the WWJD bracelets seemed to be everywhere.  The Ozark Uncle even adopted the personal motto, "What Would Jesus Do?"  Today's thought for tomorrow's generation is to consider Jesus as a pattern for your life and address daily problems with "WWJD."  Once you're comfortable with and accept his principles and his ethics, start using the "J" Word.   It's not a word you hear every day.

 News channel (Fox, CNN, MSNBC) watchers, listen and count the number of times the "J" word is used.  An interviewee might use it in an occasional personal testimony but it probably won't hear a moderator us it.  You'll hear words like God, Christian, Evil, Devil, and Divine but not Jesus.  Is it a politically incorrect word? 

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Hot in Springfield -- will mow half the lawn that's still unmowed about 7:45 this evening.  Joy said that Russia is having an incredibly hot summer.

Thrift Haven second-hand store -- Joy (the Ozark Aunt) should be home from TH sometime after 6 p.m.  I was up there from about 10:30 a.m. until around 1:30 p.m.  I had to come home and take a nap.  The Ozark Uncle is going to have to get his diet and exercise right if he expects to keep up his quality of life.

Dr. Laura, the "N" Word has a Horrible History with Blacks 

Dr. Laura -- 63-year old Laura Catherine Schlessinger announced this past week that she is ending her national radio show, Dr. Laura, at the end of this year.  This was after she got into an exchange with an African American woman on her live show.  Before the dialogue was over, Schlessinger had used the "N" word eleven times on the air.  I'm still trying to hear a full audio of it, but I perceive that her "advice" to this woman was really more off-color than even the use of the word.   It's now eleven days later and all the evidence is that Schlessinger could rise as a conservative heroine, and her fame and fortune will grow.  Sarah Palin of Alaska has jumped to her defense and through a "Twitter" claimed Dr. Laura is not a racist.  I had to smile at this and wondered if Dr. Laura appreciated Sarah stealing some of the limelight.  

My Thoughts on Dr. Laura
I listened to Dr. Laura on radio back in her early days--it was a time when I needed all the advice I could get.  Since then, I've learned that the best advice is to ignore advice who haven't been in my shoes.  Her advice wasn't all that bad on her show, but her callers were often unbelievably pathetic, and Dr. Laura seemed to chew them up into little pieces before going to a station break.  I imagined these troubled souls becoming even more distraught and helpless after Laura's staff cut them off.  So, if there was one reason I turned her off is that her program format turned me off.  But, if you love Dr. Laura, don't fret -- she'll come out of this with more influence than ever.

The Ozark Uncle perceives there are a growing number of Americans who want to call other Americans whatever they wish--even if it's offensive (First Amendment and all that).  The Ozark Uncle needs to learn how to "Twitter."  He's considering twittering to both Sarah and Laura this question: Is there a name I could call each of you that would immediately insult you?  Here in the Ozarks, most of us don't like to be called "hillbillys"; native Floridians don't like to be called "Crackers." Back in the 1960s, my old college buddy, Ralph Johnson, didn't like being introduced as "my colored friend."  Can you believe I didn't really understand that at first?  Ralph did a lot to help this white boy see through the eyes of someone of another race.

Back to Sarah and Laura, if I were to know what words might push their buttons, the Ozark Uncle wouldn't use them.  There is enough hateful and hurtful things being said among us Americans, and I for one won't be a part of it.  Sometimes it's hard to keep from it, but it's a game I really don't want to play.

To the future generation, the Ozark Uncle says, be considerate of other people's feelings.  I perceive a future when America will again be a caring nation.  But it will be a time when Americans have much less (food and housing, for example).  And it's much easier to care for each other when we're all in the same lifeboat.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

War Heroes and Victims

by Ken Brown
Springfield, MO
Although we've gotten off schedule here in the hot days of July, the Ozark Uncle's almost 14-year-old grandson, James Brown, and I try to walk a trail in the area once a week.  James is keen into nature while his younger brother, Louis, age 12, is the athlete (soccer goalie/golfer) in the family.  Thus, Grandpa Brown's field trips generally involve one grandchild or another which makes for a great time always.
James "the Genius" Brown
The Brown family has lots of little traditions, and the Ozark Uncle has several personal ones; for example, one is never play the same golf course twice in a row (course familiarity breeds good scores which leads to false self-image of said golfer's ability--actually the Ozark Uncle has never had this problem regardless).  Another is to never walk the same set of trails twice in a row--the Ozark Uncle gets bored easily.  Last, having tried it once, the Ozark Uncle vows never to piss in the wind (especially in southwest Kansas -- background story forthcoming in a future post).

File photo from Wilson's Creek Site
In late June, James and I had chosen for our weekly excursion the foot trails at Wilson's Creek Battlefield about eight miles southwest of Springfield.  We parked the Ozark Uncle's 2003 Ford Escape on the Confederate (east) side of  Wilson's Creek near the hill where on the morning of August 10, 1861, Pulaski's Confederate cannon bombarded the Union lines on Bloody Hill across the creek valley to the west.

Knowing Bloody Hill was the tallest, Papa Brown had planned a hike that would allow the pair of us to trudge  up to the apex of Bloody Hill before heading back to the Ford Escape; under this plan, he allowed himself a downhill walk for the last half of the trek.  So not far from the parked Escape we found the path that led to the top of Pulaski Battery Hill; there we took time to discuss the cannon on display and look across the creek valley toward Bloody Hill.

File Photo of Battery Hill
Immediately James declared that the cannon was really a Howitzer; he noted the green corrosion on the chamber and tapped his knuckles near the barrel end to bring out its bell ringing quality.  At the time, I was dubious about the cannon being a Howitzer, but did not dispute my grandson's claim.  A wise move on the Ozark Uncle's part because alas a quick check on the internet later in the day confirmed that, yes, these cannon pieces were called Howitzers, the same name as the enhanced versions that appeared in the World Wars of the 20th Century.

From Pulaski's hill, we headed down the "wire road" which dates back before the Civil War; it was actually used by the Confederates on their trek out of Arkansas to their camp site at Wilson's Creek.   Had we been on that road in 1861, we would have seen thousands of men camped out in this valley along the creek.  While many were dressed in Confederate gray, other types and colors of uniforms were used.  Uniform confusion would lead to the Union defeat that day in 1861.  (The scapegoat for the Union became Col. Franz Sigel who advanced his brigade from the south right into a unit he thought was Union because of its blue uniforms when in fact it was a Confederate unit--he was routed and that turned the tide toward the Confederates).

File photo of Wilson's Creek
I digress, back to 2010.  For James and me, crossing over Wilson's Creek to the west or Union side is by way of an old iron bridge with a wood plank floor.  Although built after the Civil War, the bridge has historical charm to it.  James and I stopped on the bridge and looked down into the murky waters and noted a warning sign suggesting that the water was too polluted to even be entered.   These polluted waters flow out of Springfield toward the James River and finally into Table Rock Lake where thousands of people flock to swim, boat or fish each year.  Is pollution a current problem for the tourist-laden recreational lake?  It certainly is.

Having spied some bubbles surfacing on the water, James suggested that the creek might still have some fish in it but otherwise, it really looked like it might be one of those "dead zones" we hear about in our oceans.   With a sigh, I said: "James, you, your children and your grandchildren are going to be faced with cleaning up what my generation has done.  But I have confidence you can do it"  He nodded in agreement but his mind well could have gone straight to the thought of having children and no further.  We're bonding, and we can and probably will talk about just about anything including having children on our future treks.

Once across the old bridge to the Union side of the creek, we found a trail that veered off to the northwest toward the apex of Bloody Hill.  On it is a monument marking the spot where the Union's Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon was shot off his horse and died; not long afterward, the Union forces, in some disarray, retreated back to Springfield, and the battlefield was left to the remaining Confederate Army and the casualties from both sides.  On the orders of the Confederate officers, Lyon's dead body was immediately removed to a nearby farmhouse so that it would not be dishonored or abused by the enlisted men.

File photo of Lyon's Monument
Once we reached the top of Bloody Hill, James and I saw the small monument placed there for Gen. Lyon several decades ago.  "That's an obelisk," James the genius stated matter-of-factly.  Incredible is the data base of knowledge he has already harnessed in 13 short years.

Now half way through our hike and getting rather thirsty, both of us pined for the same creature comfort (a 59 cent 32-oz cold soda from one of the area's many Kum-N-Go convenience stores).

Perhaps being disrespectful, we bypassed seeing and reflecting at "the sink hole" where the bodies of at least 30 Union soldiers were buried in a hurried manner right after the conflict ended.  There may be some unrecovered bodies in it.

At that moment, though, all we wanted was to leave and find the Ford Escape.  We started our descent back down the trail toward the Ford Escape with James well in the lead--but apparently not far enough ahead.  The Ozark Uncle used the opportunity to relieve himself of bodily gases.  "Grandpa! I can't believe you did that," James exclaimed.  We laughed about it, and I decided that James knows a little more about Grandpa each we go time out.  My retort was, "James, you didn't know your Grandpa was an Old Fart?!"

During all of his visits to Wilson's Creek Battlefield over the years, the Ozark Uncle always reflects on the price paid by the combatants and their families in a conflict that pitted Americans against Americans--sometimes even blood relatives.
The Ozark Uncle's
Henry Curtis Gunnels
in his Union blues.
Records of the Ozark Uncle's ancestors indicate their propensity to join the Missouri Union ranks while the ancestors of his wife, Joy, were all in the Arkansas Confederate ranks.  Being on the west side of the Mississippi River, all our ancestors probably focused mainly on surviving the war and keeping their land if they had any.  They owned no slaves; so they were involved in a conflict not really of their own choosing--maybe they had opinions about state sovereignty or pride, but that was just about it.  With that in mind, I perceive that loved ones who suffered a casualty weren't really war heroes but victims of circumstances over which they had little control.  (Three of the Ozark Uncle's four great-grandfathers enlisted in the Union army for short periods of time -- some of the time they were in what was called "Home Guards" where they stayed in current Douglas County, MO to protect the county as best they could.  Ken's fourth great-grandfather, William Burton, was murdered by Confederate bushwhackers in his native Douglas County, MO, around 45 miles north of the Arkansas line).

The Ozark Uncle is a hard one for people to classify or pigeon hole.  His perspectives on most issues (e.g., abortion, environment, gays, guns, health care, immigration, politics, religion, taxes or welfare) are uniquely personal to him.  He is free to share his perspective (as in this blog) if one has the time for a lengthy discussion.  His views are not easily stated in a few words.

As in the Christian Bible, the Ozark Uncle struggles to say he's in one camp like that of Cephus or Paul (1 Cor. 1:12).  He hesitates to say he is "pro-life" or "pro-choice" because, to do so, he is inadvertently thrown into a group defined in a incredibly specific way by unknown people with an agenda toward one side of that issue.   One can find parallel classification terms on all the issues listed above (for example, saying one is pro-gun or pro-environment can lead to similar classification errors of a person).

Source: VietnamW
Regarding war, the Ozark Uncle is hard to classify as well -- he is neither a hawk nor a dove.  Now 65 years old, the Ozark Uncle has always, always, always supported American troops who are in harm's way.  His war would have been in Vietnam during the last half of the 1960s for which he legally registered but was never called.  He heard all the protests and the card burning during that war, and he didn't like it.  As much as he tries to be a forgiving and forgetting soul, he has had an awfully hard time dealing with Jane Fonda's visit to the enemy side of that war.  It was an incredibly stupid act for which I feel Ms. Fonda is probably asking forgiveness every night before she goes to bed.

To this day, the Ozark Uncle has a special feeling for the soldiers who went in his place to that conflict in "Nam" with its unique horrors.  Specific to that war, generally one got drafted into that conflict--it wasn't a choice as it is now.  Those who returned were immediate heroes to the Ozark Uncle even though they came home to less than a hero's welcome.  Yet, when reading about the way in which leadership prosecuted that war, one can easily build a case for also calling the 'Nam vets victims.

Thinking back to all the conflicts in which the United States has entered during my adult life, I remember being in agreement with the start up of every action, and oftentimes I wished we would have gotten there earlier.  I was ecstatic about our entry into Afghanistan after 9/11, and I accepted Colin Powell's "evidence" to the United Nations about WMDs in Iraq but it didn't totally feel right (now, I believe wonder if we had elected Sen. John McCain in 2000 instead of George W. Bush, we probably would never have gone to Iraq).

Yet as the latest conflicts (Iraq and Afghanistan) have waged on, the Ozark Uncle's radar is always picking up signals that our reasons for being in those places are foggy at best.  Yet withdrawal seems to present very real consequences too that are beyond the Ozark Uncle's understanding.  What has changed in the Ozark Uncle is his growing lack of confidence in military leadership both at the Pentagon and in the White House.  This perception didn't start with the current administration but has been building for at least a couple of decades.

With all this uncertainly about Afghanistan that is front page news right now, I have to ask myself "Are the young soldiers dying in those places heroes?"  They most certainly are, but I have a deep fear that the second classification, that of victim, may raise it's ugly head some day soon.  The Ozark Uncle intends to write more on the issue of heroes versus victims.  The subject is very unsettling to him.  Troop morale is so important, and it's hard to be objective without undercutting the troops' efforts.  It's a dilemma.

An unbiased and informed view is difficult to find by the average American on our country's military presence on foreign soil.  Presently, one of the Ozark Uncle's ever changing rules of thumb is to listen to (1) academics whose specialty is the country in which the conflict is occurring (they know the background from before the conflict), and (2) retired military officers who have never worked in the Pentagon (they know what is really happening now and are willing to share it in an unbiased and open way).

I'm not sure the average journalist can see the whole picture, and I absolutely ignore "the suits" across the Potomac from the Pentagon in Washington at each end of Pennsylvania Avenue.  The job of all "suits" whether they be the President, his/her cabinet, Congressional members or staff, is not to tell us the truth but to sway public opinion in a way that supports their goals for the nation.  If you and I were there we'd probably do the same thing.  (I once held a relatively high administrative position at a large University; while in that position I held the belief perception that truth was the best policy--needless to say I had my head handed to me on a platter!)

The Ozark Uncle's perspective has been influenced greatly by the book, Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, by retired Lt. Col., Andrew J. Bacevich.  It was published in August 2008 before the Presidential election.  Bacevich's perspective caused me to see the political parties and Washington in a totally different light.  He provided me peace in the knowledge that the system is broken and not fixable by either party.  I took this point of view to the ballot box in November of 2008, and I was prepared to accept whoever (whomever, hell I don't know which) won the elections.  Bacevich is billed as a conservative who sees things as they really are, not what he wishes them to be.

Bacevich has his book chapters organized around the themes--the economy, politics, and the military, all three of which he describes as being in a state of crisis.  Presently my copy is with a retired political science professor.  I'm wanting feedback on Bacevich's political view.  My background as a former accounting professor helped me to evaluate his economy section.  His military view seemed a little like "sour grapes" but was well reasoned.

As my fellow blogger, Terry Hampton, wrote this past weekend, we should evaluate the authors we read.  Look for their agendas and signs of credibility.  Many of us need to read her post entitled "Consider What You Hear."

Below is the uplifting third grade video sent to me by a cousin around Memorial Day -- it's incredibly appropriate and a nice way to end this post.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tolerance for Perspectives

by Ken Brown
Springfield, MO 65809
IF you had the power to sort of wave a magic wand and make one change in America, what would it be?  Would it relate to one of the mainstream issues that dominate our current news (e.g., immigration, religion, environment, war or taxation)?  No offense intended, but hopefully you won't wish that "The American People" (a terribly fractured group) think and act just like you think and act.
Tolerance for Different Perspectives
FOR the Ozark Uncle, his one wave of the wand would cause each American to become more tolerant of the different perspectives of other Americans.   The word perspective is generally defined as a "point of view based on one's opinions, beliefs and experiences." [] From his own perspective, the Ozark Uncle feels that is the nation's biggest problem.  Everyone seems to "anchor" onto a position and becomes stubborn and obstinate. 
THE drawing at left of a railroad track represents a perspective--a vanishing point perspective in that the tracks merge in the distance to one point.  We all have different perspectives even of this drawing, and that is the central point of the posts on the Ozark Uncle's blog.  Please fellow Americans, can we all try to respect and tolerate all points of view?
THE Ozark Uncle knows his wish would take a magic wand or some other kind of miracle.  We Americans are seemingly clustered into groups according to a certain perspective, and we stop trying to understand other views.  Additionally, we choose one or two daily information sources (i.e., a certain "news" channel, newspaper or maybe even a specific TV evangelist) that cement our perspectives to where our view can't be changed.  In the Ozark Uncle's opinion, being unable to engage in  continued evaluation of a person's perspectives is neither mentally nor spiritually healthy.
Palestinian-Israeli Perspectives--the Ozark Uncle is perplexed.
NOT just in America, it's worldwide--intolerance of different perspectives in virtually every country. A case in point is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Joy and I have learned so much about this from our dear friend, Mareen.  
MAREEN is a well-educated woman of the Jewish faith, and she keeps well abreast of the Palestinian-Israeli situation using a series of international news outlets that range from Al Jazerra to Singapore's Strait Times.  She's the first to acknowledge that her perspective is bias toward the belief that the Jews are God's chosen people and heirs to the Holy Land.  Still, Mareen is unique--she's constantly evaluating her perspective regarding the Palestinian question.  Through Mareen, I've learned that even the citizens of Israel have different perspectives on the issue--essentially two groups that are either hawks or doves.
ON June 24, Mareen sent me a news item from the Israeli news service,  The news item reported that a YouTube video of a Palestinian children's choir was getting a lot of views, and the singing group has become very popular among Arabs.  Apparently the video was produced by a Jordanian group called "Birds of Paradise."  Not knowing how long the video entitled "When We Die as Martyrs" will stay on line, I've transcribed the lyrics as follows:

{Young girl sings}
When we die as martyrs, we will go to heaven

No, don't say we are too young, this life has turned us into grownups
Without Palestine, what meaning is there in childhood?
Even if they give us the whole World it won't make us forget her, no, no
My country and my blood are for her sake
 {Adult sings}
Children, you have fulfilled your religious obligation
There is no God by Allah and the martyr is Allah's favorite
You have taught us the meaning of manhood
 {Young girl prays}
O Allah, with your mercy I shall be assisted
O vital and enduring God 

O merciful of mercifuls O noble of nobles
O Allah, Protect Islam and the Muslims
O Allah, Save the Children of Palestine
O Allah, take revenge for us
O Allah, answer our prayers.  Amen.

YOU may have to view the video more than once to catch it but there is one scene where children with Jewish skullcaps (Kippahs) are in the background with toy assault rifles.

THE article included this quote: "Journalist Fawzia Nasir al-Naeem wrote in the Saudi Arabian newspaper Al-Jazirah that [Birds of Paradise] is one of the most widely distributed children's song groups in the Arab world, and it seems to have crossed the ocean to Canada and Britain." She added that the group represents a new wave in Jihadist youth indoctrination, as it is child-friendly, as opposed to previous Jihadist programs.
What Is a Martyr Anyway?

BECAUSE of the Sept. 11, 2001, suicide bombings and subsequent suicide bombings in Iraq.  the word martyr has deviated far from its original meaning of  "...somebody who suffers persecution and death for the people, a country or an organization, or refusing to renounce a belief, usually religious, political or rights." [].  Until the 1990s, the only martyrs I had heard of were early Christians and Joan of Arc.  Tending to be a little on the naïve side, the Ozark Uncle even viewed the Palestinian video as simply suggesting the children's willingness to die at the hands of Israeli aggression--not through suicide-terrorist acts.  
Ozark Uncle's Perspective?  Uh Well, You See....Hell, I don't know.
THE Ozark Uncle is struggling with a comfortable perspective about (1) the video, (2) its possible exploitation of children and (3) even the whole concept of what is a martyr.  The Ozark Uncle cannot readily share his friend Mareen's view because he honestly doesn't know who, if anyone, should possess a given parcel of land on this earth (including his own).  From a distant and uninformed point of view, he senses that the Palestinian-Israeli issue is all about land possession and governance over it.  An old and recurring story in recorded history. 
THE Ozark Uncle's and Mareen's eastern Springfield homes each sit on land less than a mile from the James River.  This river's banks were enjoyed by little Osage Indian children and their families for a couple thousand of years before the white man's land ownership system took over.  While it would take another miracle for the Osage tribe, I have to imagine how I'd feel if somehow they were able to regain power and come take back their lands including my house and Mareen's.  
Is the Gaza Strip Another Indian Reservation?
AS outlined in earlier posts, the Ozark Uncle's perspectives have been fluctuating both during and after his 2010 Lonesome Road Trip through Arkansas and Oklahoma in May.  Right after his trip, the Ozark Uncle took the advice of a friend and read Dennis McAuliffe's Bloodland about the 1920s murders of wealthy Osage Indians in Oklahoma by greedy white men. 
Actually, McAuliffe only re-awakened the Ozark Uncle's to native American mistreatment--he was already sensitized in the 1970s when he read Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
DID the native Americans come to hate white Americans as much as Palestinians hate Israelis?  Well probably even more so if that's possible.  I'm sure the proud Osage Indians would love to have made that Jordanian video 150 years ago. 
DID McAuliffe's book give me any new perspectives?  Actually two: one regarding the family of Laura Ingalls Wilder (hang on Cathie, this is the post that any Alsup would love to read or write), and the other about the Indian Reservation system.  
WELL, in his book, McAuliffe talks about the American government's use of Indian Reservations as a way to control and effectively wipe out an unwanted race of people.  Then, according to McAuliffe, in the 1950s, the white South African government was researching how to corral its unwanted race of black people.  Their research led them to the United States, not to study how black Americans had been treated, but how the reservation system effectively eradicated most Indian tribes by the end of the 1800s.
Non-Christian, Non-Jewish, Non-Muslim--How Does One Form a Perspective?
THE 2007 Palestinian map at left shows those areas under Palestinian authority in green and the rest under Israeli control.  From this map, one can see why Palestinians get alarmed when new Jewish settlements are set up in the West Bank.  It's eerily similar to the encroachments of white settlers onto the Osage Reservation in southeastern Kansas in the 1830s.  
AMERICA is reported to be a Christian nation, and my old Nazarene friends, Guy and Doris Gettys, God rest their souls, preached to me often the need to support Israel because of, as I recall, an interpretation of the Book of Revelations in the Christian Bible.  Once Israel is defeated, the end is near--or something like that.   That Revelations book was hard for the Ozark Uncle to read in his Christian years and even harder to interpret.  Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant movement back in the 15th Century, reportedly felt so unsure about that Book of Revelations that he felt it should have been left on the cutting room floor as the chapter selection committee did its work. 
End This Damn Thing, Brown.
THIS post is going nowhere--it's not settling anything.  All of recorded history confirms that land goes to the one with the biggest stick.  Without a magic wand or some divine intervention, this Palestinian issue will not be solved except in the same way as recorded history--through armed conflict aided by the Indian Reservation concept.  
BUT the Ozark Uncle has made a resolution--inform himself about the history of how we got to this point.  That's something Christians, Jews and Muslims should all do--and if possible try to be tolerant of all perspectives.  Still, if this earth is turning one-hundred years from now, it wouldn't surprise me if historians will be talking about the similarities between the Palestinians and the Osage Indian tribe.