Scholarships and Discipleship
Aug 17th, 2012 by Sonja

As most of you know by now, LightGirl has been playing hockey since she was 12. To say she loves it is an understatement. If more than 7 days go by in a row in which she is not on the ice, she starts to get a little wiggy.

This year she is playing for a competitive travel team (Tier 1). The coach gave a version of the following to the team parents in a meeting back in June:

“We are a competitive team for this area. But there are a lot stronger teams out there. Put it this way … there are approximately 200 D1 (NCAA top level) scholarships for women hockey players. Of those 200, all but 11 of them usually go to Canadian women. The remaining 11 are spread out amongst all US women hockey players. We are going to play hard and practice hard, but if you really think your daughter is a serious candidate for one of those 11 scholarships, you are in the wrong program. “

My husband told me about this the other day as I wasn’t at the meeting. And I thought about it for a while. He’s right about this program … it’s a good one, but there are many others that are out there and girls who are going to go to a top-rated hockey college will be playing for those other programs … not here in Northern Virginia. He will push this team to do their best, but ultimately, any success these girls accomplish will not be here, but will be because of the lessons they’ve learned here … on the ice. And that’s a good thing.

I thought about this for a while and let it percolate as I thought about the church and the damaging, hurtful ideas I see out there being promoted by people who claim the name of Christ.

I thought to myself that it’s extremely unfortunate that the church does not have anyone from the outside that will be heard to say, “If you think you’re special enough to speak judgement into this or that situation, you’re in the wrong program.” You’re in the wrong place to be making statements about God and what S/He wants or will do or … anything. You … We don’t have the knowledge necessary to make those judgements. We don’t have anyone who can intrude on all the righteousness and self-righteousness to say, “Wait a minute. Stop and think about who you are and what needs to happen here.” What are the real measures of success? And are we chasing the wrong rabbit?

You’re Absolutely Right
Sep 8th, 2010 by Sonja

… Claire.  If things were different, they wouldn’t be the same.

That’s one of my all time favorite quotes from my all time favorite show in the universe.  Law & Order.  The original.  You can tell by the person being spoken to, that it was an early-ish episode; season 5, episode 9, “Scoundrels”.  The bad guy had been in prison for a pyramid scheme defrauding hundreds of people of their life savings.  He was out on a work release program.  Jack McCoy and Claire Kincade were trying to prosecute “Scoundrel” Willard Tappan for bank rolling a conspiracy to murder a lawyer who was going to reveal his continuing schemes.  Willard Tappan was played by a soap veteran who had made his bones playing a slinky, slimey villain, so arrogance, greed, and ick come through the small screen with a glint in his eye and the tilt of his head.  He does it well and that sentence spoken with just the right amount of hubris has always made me love it and hate it at the same time.  Because it’s true, yet I want to kick over it’s traces and scream at it.  Punch it in the eye and give it a bloody nose.  Make it run home, crying to it’s mama.  I don’t like it.

If things were different, they wouldn’t be the same.  We all know that.  And we’re all frustrated by it to greater and lesser degrees.  I think we know the things that could be.  The rightness that isn’t.  The injustices we see and those we cannot, but rail against anyway.

So it was last month when a tragedy befell my community.  In the wee hours of the morning there was a traffic accident.  Two cars collided.  One car driven by a young man who had imbibed too much the night before and was on his way to …. ?   I do not know.  But it was likely a day laborer job.  A hard work job, sweating in the sun.  The other car bore three elderly women driving from Richmond to the Benedictine Monastery.  They were/are nuns.  None of the people in the cars ever achieved their destination on that August morning.  The young man is now in prison awaiting trial.  One of the nuns has gone to her eternal home.  The other two were hospitalized with grievous injuries.

The young man who was at fault in the accident had also been drinking and his blood alcohol was significantly raised.  This was not the first time he had been driving while under the influence and he had had his driving privileges revoked.  He should not have been driving.  This is true.  If things were different, they wouldn’t be the same.

The young man was also in this country without proper documentation.

I do not use the term illegal immigrant for a reason.  It is inflammatory and it is wrong.  It is also an oxymoron  The word “illegal” implies a wrong actively done to someone else; a theft or a rape or a fraud.  People who come to this country without going through the proper channels are not always doing those things.  Sometimes they then also commit crimes while they are here, but so do our citizens as we see in our very obese prison system.  The word immigrant implies that someone is here using the proper channels and will stay.  So how can someone possibly be an illegal immigrant?  Those who come here without proper documentation are undocumented aliens; strangers in a strange land.

So it is that this young man is and was an undocumented alien who was driving without a license and with several DUI’s to his name.  He is still being held by the authorities as charges have been brought against him for felony murder, a charge which holds the possibility of 40 years in prison.  The outrage against this young man for his undocumented status is palpable in my community.  He is being charged for felony murder (rather than the lesser count of involuntary manslaughter, the usual charge given for a death while under the influence) simply because of where he was born and his lack of papers.  He came here with his parents when he was NINE!  It’s not as though he had a choice.  He is also being charged at the higher count because of his victim, an elderly and saintly nun.

Shortly after this accident happened, a similar accident happened in my community.  It was in the wee hours of the morning and two cars collided sending people to their death.  Alcohol was involved.  This time though, there were no undocumented aliens in one car and no nuns in the other.  Simply a couple of intoxicated young (white) men in one car and a young (white) woman in the other.  There was one short article commemorating the young people, a few comments and it was over.   No outrage.  No jacked up prosecutor.  Just heartbroken families and grief.  Which might be as it should be for all such cases; even those including nuns and undocumented aliens.

This is part of the September Synchroblog discussing Immigration Issues.  Please also take some time to read what the following bloggers have to say …

Mike Victorino at Still A Night Owl – Being the Flag
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules – Together We Can Make Dreams Come True
Sonnie Swentson-Forbes at Hey Sonnie – Immigration Stories
Matt Stone at Glocal Christianity – Is Xenophobia Ever Christlike?
Steve Hayes at Khanya – Christians and the Immigration Issue
Ellen Haroutunian – Give Me Your Tired …
Bethany Stedman – Choosing Love Instead of Fear
Pete Houston at Peter’s Progress – Of Rape and Refuge
Joshua Seek – Loving Our Immigrant Brother
Amanda MacInnis at Cheese Wearing Theology – Christians and Immigration
Kathy Escobar at the carnival in my head – it’s alot easier to against immigration reform …
Jonathan Brink – Immigration Synchroblog

Shiny Happy …. Women
Jul 7th, 2010 by Sonja

The first rumble of something in the wind came late yesterday.  I was tired.  Grumpy even.  The day had been empty and I was supposed to be able to sew all day after a busy weekend.  But I ended up driving all day.  So I sat on the sofa and was mad.  It had been good for everyone else.  Just not me.  There seems to be a theme in that lately and I am slowly but steadily ending up without so much wick to my candle.  So I checked into my googlereader and found that kathy escobar had posted a rather interestingly titled post, “drinking the company koolaid.” Now since she usually writes about more Jesus-y things and her church-y gathering, I wondered what could be up with that!  And read it.

It was a most uncharacteristic rant from her about the state of women in the church.  Not that she thinks that women in the church over all have it made and we should stop going on about it.  Far from that.  It’s just that usually she has other things on her mind.  And she is very good about choosing her battles (windmills) very wisely.  She is no Don Quixote (unlike yours truly).  She referenced a post by Pam Hogeweide (Happy Christian Women … really??) … which is a must read.  But more importantly, she linked to some data that is being published by Jim Henderson, of Off The Map.  It’s a recent Barna Group survey of 603 Christian (self-described) women and what they thought of women and leadership in the church.

What he has published so far seems to be fairly provocative –

1. 84% say that their church’s perspective on women in ministry is almost identical, very similar, or somewhat similar to their own.

2. 83% say that their Senior Pastor is somewhat, highly or completely supportive of women leading in their church

3. 82% say they can tell by their church’s actions that the church values the leadership of women

4. 81% say that their church provides women with the same degree of leadership opportunities as Jesus would.

5. 72% say they possess a lot of spiritual freedom in their life

6. 70% say that the media has little influence on their decision-making

7. 71% say fear is not something they experience ever or often in their life

8. 62% say that ALL leadership roles are open to them in their church.

9. Only 1% say they often struggle with jealousy

10. Among those who feel they are capable of doing more to serve God, and should be doing more, only 4% say that their fear of failure is holding them back from doing more to serve God.

I commented at Jim’s blog (where he published this data).  I’m wondering how this survey was taken.  If it was taken on paper (either virtual or literal) or by phone that would give different results … especially when dealing with a group of women.   I think that this is incredibly revealing of how the church has become a system of brain-washing rather than God’s Kingdom revealed tiny piece by tiny piece. Because the Kingdom of Heaven is not about men or women or leadership.  Or who will be first.  It’s about who will be last.  It’s about finding the lost sheep, the lost penny; giving away your wrap when someone needs a shirt; enabling someone to care for others when at first they can barely care for themselves; it’s about spreading the Love Divine around, not keeping it for yourself.

It made me angry to read these statistics.  It made me angry, not just for the women … but for all the people involved in those churches.  They are losing out.  This is not the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount, or as he walked with his disciples or at any time.  Would even Peter, or John the beloved disciple be able to answer these questions so affirmatively?  How about Mary Magdalene?  Good grief, if even the disciples struggled with jealousy why on earth can only 6 women out 603 acknowledge it?  Perhaps it was the word, often, that threw them off.  Maybe they decided that they could deny that jealousy was something that strolled in and regularly did battle in their hearts.  I know I will stand up and say that I am jealous all the time.  It doesn’t make me mean anymore, but acknowledging it to myself and being able to laugh at it has made it easier.

Then this report made me sad.  The kind of sad that aches in my bones.  Because when I look at it I see poverty.  The church in North America (like the US) may have a lot of money.  It may have a lot of stuff.  We may also have a lot of people for all I know.  But we are starving to death.  Emaciated and dying for lack of food, water and oxygen.  Worse, we are doing it to ourselves.  With a huge smile on our faces.  We are a people with anorexia or bulemia.  When we look in the mirror we see fat and happy, but the reality is we are starving.  Dying.

In the end, we can know a lot of stuff about the Bible.  We can even know a lot of stuff about God and Jesus.  But if we do not have love … love enough to be honest with ourselves and our neighbors and our communities, then we are nothing but a clanging gong.

What You Thought Was Freedom Is Just Greed
Jul 5th, 2010 by Sonja

Every year I wrestle with Independence Day.  I don’t know why I can’t just enjoy it … the sights, sounds, camaraderie, bon hommie, brownies and, of course, fireworks.  No.  I must wrestle with ideas.  What is this day that we celebrate each year.  Are we free?  What does that mean?  How does our freedom here effect and affect others around the world?  What have we done and what are we doing?

Of course, there is a song out there that expresses my ennui.  But I’d forgotten it.  Then I heard it anew this morning.

Gone by U2, from their Pop album

Listen to that.  Or, just read the lyrics here

Gotta feel so guilty
Got so much for so little …

The opening lines.  And I look around at my own life; at how much I have for how little I’ve done.  The good fortune I’ve had to be born into empire unaware.  And I wonder at what the course we’ve taken here in this country.  This nation become empire.

So what is freedom?  What is this idea that we celebrate each Independence Day with such nationalistic fervor and patriotic delight?

According to it is “… the condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints” However, can any of us ever be truly free?  Well, yes.  If the definition as posed here is used.  If we are to use “externally imposed restraints” as our measure.  It has been said that my freedom ends at your nose.  This implies that I am free to act as I will as long as it does not impinge upon your freedom.  Then we have a problem.  So if restraints are to be applied, they must be internal.  That is, I must apply them.

What if I do not?  What if I choose to bumble on my merry way getting my stuff because I am free … what I thought was freedom is just greed.  What happens to the people around me when I do not apply internal restraints?  Or if there is no one big enough to apply external restraints?  Or there is too much greed to go around?

Transformative Leaders – Where Are You?
Jan 12th, 2009 by Sonja

I probably have better things to think about, but it bugs me when the newspapers glorify religious leaders like Mark Driscoll.  The recent NYTimes article about him, his church and his ministry, entitled, “Who Would Jesus Smack Down?” by Molly Worthen was well-written and fairly balanced. But it bugs me because it’s not an accurate depiction of people of faith. There are so very many of us in churches across denominational lines who care deeply for their neighbors, love justice, seek mercy and walk humbly after God; and do those things in very quantifiable ways. They’re not all sitting in plush theatres listening to a self-aggrandizing hack talk about having sex and calling it love.

I wish the papers would pick up more articles about people stepping up to the plate for the little guy. For the underdog. People like Roy Bourgeois … a now excommunicated Catholic priest.

You may wonder what Father Roy did to get himself excommunicated. It was likely pretty bad. Given the news lately about Catholic priests lately, it would not be unlikely for you to think that he had abused boys in his care. But you would be wrong. Father Roy Bourgeois did the unthinkable. He participated in the ordination of women on August 8 and refused to recant. You can read parts of his letter here (ht Christy Lambertson, Dry Bones Dance). It’s quite beautiful.

So I’m thinking today about leadership and transformation into something more Christ-like. What those leaders might look like and where they might be found.

If you’d like to participate in a discussion about this and other thought-provoking articles that people read this week, come join Missional Tribe and our discussion group, Wisdom Lingers.  We’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Cost of a Life – Part Three
Dec 18th, 2008 by Sonja

Lightbulbs in clamshell packagingOne of the things that both amazes me and frustrates me about life these days is plastic.  And not just any plastic, but the hard plastic packaging that manufacturers use to protect their products; it’s commonly called clamshell packaging.  It is so frustrating to get into that we now need a special instrument just to open our products when we get them home; simple scissors will no longer do.

A further disturbance in the force arises when this packaging is used to secure and protect so-called “green” products, such as these flourescent light bulbs.  I’m not certain, but to me it seems that all of the energy saved by using such light bulbs is off-set by that used in the packing of them.  Not to mention the breakage that occurs as you attempt to free the bulbs from their captivity (UPDATE – photo credit: Beth Terry @ FakePlasticFish).

On the other hand, I think this packaging is amazing.  It’s lightweight, strong and virtually indestructible.  If it weren’t so blasted difficult to get into once it has been sealed around a product, it would be a nearly perfect package.  It’s other problem is that it is lumpy and awkward.  When giving the product as a gift, you can’t wrap them easily.  I far prefer boxes for their tidy square corners and the precise way they can be wrapped.  The wrapping paper industry has accommodated the advent of clamshells by producing gift bags to be used with tissue paper.  These bags can be used one or more times, cost very little to produce and may be sold at a much higher price.

So the clamshells have become ubiquitous.  We don’t think too much about them anymore beyond cursing them as we attempt to get our prizes out of them.  But why do we have them?  What purpose do they serve?  To me they are a shining example of how we humans have become subject to the machine.  Allow me to explain.

Before the Industrial Revolution things were made one at a time.  Slowly, precisely and by hand.  The producers were known by their consumers for the most part.  Production and consumption were closely tied together.  Blacksmiths who couldn’t make a good nail lost business, regardless of how good their horseshoes were. This was because more people needed nails than needed horseshoes.  Blacksmiths were known for how good or worthless their product was.  They were also known for how fair they were.  This was true of all tradesmen and women.  The good, honest fair tradesmen and women made honest livings, others … not so much.  Young people were taught the trade one or two at a time by an older mentor in an apprentice relationship.

Then, about a hundred years ago, Henry Ford introduced the assembly line into the manufacturing process and life as we know it changed for good.

Don’t get me wrong.  There was a lot that was good in the ideas that came with assembly line manufacturing.  But as we’ve discovered in the intervening century, progress is not all it’s cracked up to be either.  I’d much rather not travel with these accommodations any longer (Photo by Shorpy – the 100 year old photo blog)

Road to Culpeper - 1920

It reminds me of the Thomas Hobbes quote about life for humans being nasty, brutish and short.

The problem, though, with assembly line manufacturing and the clamshell packaging that has resulted from it, is that it begins to treat human beings as a product of it’s own process.  Humans, creations made in the image of God, begin to be seen as products of human creation.  We see this both during the process (employees of the production company – workers on the assembly line) and the perception of the consumers who will purchase the product.  It does not suit the efficiency of the process to consider humans as individuals … whether during the process of production or during the process of consumption.  If we begin to see humans as individuals, with unique needs, unique desires, unique hopes, unique dreams, unique failures and unique successes, then they may no longer be relied upon to purchase cloned products that are spewed by the millions off assembly-lines by robots and purchased by robots.  Even though much of the labor that goes into assembly lines has now been replaced by artificial intelligence, and robots, there remains a need for human interaction with the process … eyes on.  To catch the errors.

We are not robots.  We are not clones of one another.  There is no one size that fits all … even when it comes to automobiles.  Can we turn back the clock?  No.  Not a chance in hell.

The Cost of a Life – Part Two
Dec 3rd, 2008 by Sonja

When LightHusband and I started dating and for the first part of our married life he was a drummer.  He played the snare drum with the Third US Infantry Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps; the US Army’s Honor Guard for the President.  About six months after our first date, Ronald Reagan was inaugurated for the second time.  This lead to an interesting juxtaposition for the two of us.

LightHusband was scheduled to march in Reagan’s inaugural parade in the lead unit.  I was busily looking for protest to march in.  And I was fairly vocal about it.

Ronald Reagan was a very popular President and his legacy has much to be admired, but we are now beginning to realize the one major flaw in what he left us:  trickle down economics.   I knew then that any idea that people could be willingly parted from their money and it would somehow trickle down to those with none was ludicrous.  Even given the tenets of capitalism, it would never work.  I was determined to protest it.  LightHusband, of course, had his orders which were to march in the parade.

Neither event happened.  The weather prevented all outdoor activities that year as it was unseasonably cold and we all celebrated the night before by drinking into the wee hours at a local watering hole.  I seem to remember that Blue Hawaiians featured prominently in my repertoire that evening.

Ronald Reagan was duly sworn in without public protest or public fanfare of the outdoors variety.  He continued his presidency for four more years without a hitch.  Not that anyone anticipated a hitch, of course.

During his presidency I was vigilant for the evil I was sure that was to come.  I was certain that all sorts of horrible economic woes were about to befall us because of Reagan’s ill-thought-out plans and designs.


Nothing happened.  In fact, we slowly but surely began to dig ourselves out of the rut.  And by the 1990’s our economy was in a boom again.  The Dow didn’t know a ceiling.  Unemployment was low.  Housing starts were high.  All economic indices were that we were good.  It appeared that trickle-down economics did work.  Or at least some version of it.

The trouble is that trickle-down economics rewards greed.  So does capitalism (inherently).  So we find ourselves in 2008 with an economy on the rocks and now we are looking to the government to bail out the very corporations which stumbled and fell in the first place.

It took a long time for ugliness inherent in trickle-down economics to become apparent, but now we are seeing the fruit ripen on the vine.  What is that fruit?

–Customers who trample a temporary employee to death at a Wal-Mart so they can get the best prices for Christmas …

… and then sue the store for inadequate security.

–Executives of the auto industry who fly individual private jets to Washington DC  to ask for money to bail out their companies.  I understand the need for private planes … but did the idea of plane pooling never occur to these men?  No one is that important.

–AIG receiving a multi–billion dollar bailout, then taking its staff on a multi-million dollar retreat.

These are well known and well discussed examples.  But they are examples of greed run amok.  Greed at the top and greed at the bottom.  We are all greedy … every one of us.  We all want what we do not have.  We look over the fence and see green, green grass that must surely taste sweeter than the dusty dry stalks at our feet.  Inherently, we are told, that’s a good thing.  Go for that greener grass … you deserve it.  You’ve earned it.

No one ever thought to ask what expense it came at.

Leadership In An Age of Cholera
Nov 4th, 2008 by Sonja

Crime & CholeraCholera: any of several diseases of humans and domestic animals usually marked by severe gastrointestinal symptoms ; especially : an acute diarrheal disease caused by an enterotoxin produced by a comma-shaped gram-negative bacillus (Vibrio cholerae syn. V. comma) when it is present in large numbers in the proximal part of the human small intestine.  Merriam-Webster on-line

I just voted.  Yes, I voted for the hip, young man of color for President.  I have many reasons why and I’ll get to them in a second.  But first a wee story or two.

It was exciting to go and vote this time.  In fact, I scared my poor poll worker, I was so exuberant at the little screen.  Then when she handed me my sticker, she hugged me.  As I attempted to dance through the wrong doors in exit, all the poll workers called to me and I turned around abashed at my silliness.  I was just too giddy.  Why was I giddy?  Here’s why.

I remember the 1960’s.  Most of all, I remember Martin Luther King, Jr.  If I had to pick a hero, he’d be it.  He was a legend in his own time.  I might pick Gandhi, but for a real American hero, I’d pick King.  Every year I listen to his “I Have A Dream” speech and cry.  I’ve studied his speeches and writings; I have a fairly good idea of which Biblical prophets he was studying when he wrote.  And today … well, today … I got to vote for someone based upon the content of his character not the color of his skin.  Amen and hallelujah.  And the tiny little poll worker who hugged me?  Well, she was African-American too.

Mind you, I did NOT vote for Obama because of his roots either. Did I listen to both sides?  No, not equally.  I lost respect for the Republican party back in 2000 and again when Republicans treated James Jeffords with such disrespect when he became an independent.  The party had huge barriers to overcome in my mind, and they failed to get there.

Here is why I voted for Obama …

“People are more inclined to be drawn in if their leader has a compelling vision. Great leaders help people get in touch with their own aspirations and then will help them forge those aspirations into a personal vision.” John Kotter

I didn’t find that quote until about a week ago when I was looking for something else entirely.   But it encapsulates my reasons for choosing Obama for president.  Even my father has some qualms about the details of his platform, the hows and wherefors.  What exactly will he do if he is elected?  For someone with little time in his role in the Senate those are very legitimate questions.  But it’s his ability to inspire that I look at.

Frankly, I’m tired of leaders who go around poking into private business looking for what is wrong.  I want leaders who will inspire us to find our dreams and make them reality.  It is in those dreams and that reality that we will rebuild our economy, our infrastructure, get us off the dependence on petroleum and many of the other ills that we currently find ourselves in.   That sort of leadership is transformational; it begins at the top and trickles down.  We learn how to encourage and develop our own dreams.  Then we learn how to encourage and develop the dreams of others.

Or will it?  Can a charismatic leader help us overcome our addiction to power?  That’s the question for the ages.  Too often people in leadership are at the top, they lead from above and are in a position of power.  They have the ability to cause hardship, pain and devastation to those they purport to lead.  Typically, those who are leading hold all or most of the cards.  But in this new scenario, of dream empowerment, the little guy, the individual is given the space to dream and realize those dreams.

So, will we find this in Obama?  I don’t know.  I hope so.  But that’s what I voted for; that’s what I’m hoping for.  That’s the kind of leadership I’m hoping for.  In this age of choleric leadership, we need something new.  We need something that won’t revolt us and turn our stomachs.  Something, someone nationally, and locally who will help us find our own dreams and turn them into reality.


This is part of synchroblog on Leadership … the rest of the most excellent writings are below, please check them out:

Jonathan Brink – Letter To The President

Adam Gonnerman – Aspiring to the Episcopate

Kai – Leadership – Is Servant Leadership a Broken Model?

Sally Coleman – In the world but not of it- servant leadership for the 21st Century Church

Alan Knox – Submission is given not taken

Joe Miller – Elders Lead a Healthy Family: The Future

Cobus van Wyngaard – Empowering leadership

Steve Hayes – Servant leadership

Geoff Matheson – Leadership

John Smulo – Australian Leadership Lessons

Helen Mildenhall – Leadership

Tyler Savage – Moral Leadership – Is it what we need?

Bryan Riley – Leading is to Listen and Obey

Susan Barnes – Give someone else a turn!

Liz Dyer – A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Polls…

Lionel Woods – Why Diverse Leadership is Good for America

Julie Clawson – Leadership Expectations

Ellen Haroutunian – A New Kind Of Leadership

Matt Stone – Converting Leadership

Steve Bradley – Lording or Leading?

Adam Myers – Two types of Leadership

Bethany Stedman – A Leadership Mosaic

Kathy Escobar – I’m Pretty Sure This Book Won’t Make It On The Bestseller List

Fuzzy Orthodoxy – Self Leadership

Sonja Andrews – Leadership In An Age of Cholera

Tara Hull – Leadership & Being A Single Mom

I’m Ashamed
Oct 1st, 2008 by Sonja

Danziger on So, like many US-ians I’ve been following the market and the hoopla surrounding what is being called the financial crisis and bailout.

The President is calling for a lot of money to be earmarked to spend on companies which made risky bad financial decisions.  Otherwise, so the thinking goes, our market will crash.  Our credit will be bad.  All sorts of horrible things will happen.  There are, apparently, monsters in our national closet just waiting to come out and eat us.

Well, there’s a part of me that’s feeling the crunch on behalf of my in-laws.  That’s for sure.  People who are depending on the stock market right now for their retirement income are bearing the brunt of this.  People who are planning to retire in the next five years or so will also bear the brunt of this.

Here’s the thing though.  Or perhaps it’s several things that I’ve been thinking about.

First is this.  This crisis did not happen overnight.  It has been slowly building over the course of about 30 years.  It began during the Reagan administration and has been the result of successive Republican AND Democratic administrations AND Congresses turning a blind eye to the consequences of their economic policies.  This is a bi-partisan issue.  No party can point the finger at the other and say, “It’s all their fault.”  Because both have done some good and a lot of bad.

For a crisis that’s been coming for so long, how is it that our government got caught with it’s pants down?

As a Christian, I do not look to a government, or a political party, or a president for redemption, perfection or utopia in this world.  However, I am a citizen and so I am a bearer of the social contract that we all hold with our government here in the U.S.  I believe that social contract gives me certain privileges and rights, but it also brings with it certain responsibilities.  It also gives the government and it’s representatives certain rights and responsibilities.  We tend to dicker amongst the left and right about what those rights and responsibilities should be.  And how they should be meted out.  But we don’t dicker about the necessity of having a government.  We all tend to agree about that.

There’s been a lot of noise and heat generated lately about this crisis heralding another Great Depression.  This feels like fear-mongering to me.  And that makes me ashamed of my government and our leadership.  Lord knows, I do not want another Great Depression, nor the panic or Dust Bowl that accompanied it.  It was a terrible time for our country and the world.  People struggled and died.  But people also struggled and overcame.  We forget that part of the story line.  We came together as a nation during the Depression.  We helped each other.  Yes, FDR put into place some things that have frayed around the edges and are coming apart at the seams now, but at the time, they were a safety net.  This allowed people to help themselves and each other.  I think of our National Park System and our national highway system both built in part by the Civilian Conservation Corps.  When people were out of work, Roosevelt created jobs for them.

Our current government though, is not living up to its part of our social contract.  Regardless of which bits and pieces you feel the government should be providing (i.e. whether you’re a liberal or a conservative), our government in its current form is not looking out for the citizens, but is looking out for business entities alone.   By rushing through this enormous financial bailout and forcing the citizenry to bear all the bad risk brought on by greedy decision-making on Wall Street, a Democratic Congress and Republican Administration are reneging on their end of the bargain.  Congress (both House and Senate) should slow down, ask for hearings from professionals in every walk of economic life.  A couple of weeks won’t hurt (as we’re seeing).  There are more options for solving this problem than all or nothing as the politicians would like us to believe.

Some of those options might involve all of us planting gardens and growing our own vegetables (Victory Gardens).  It might involve personal sacrifice on the part of the executives and executive boards of those fat cat companies; as it really should and as I seem to remember from my economics classes.  It might involve real leadership from the top, real ideas, real negotiating, real compromise, real change.  There are other options out there.  And if we’re going to put that much money on the line, we all need the opportunity to step back, take a breath and decide if it really and
truly is necessary. Or, are Adam Smith’s bones chattering in his grave  about now? Because from what little I remember from my economics  classes, this bailout/rescue seems to fly directly in the face of  solid capitalist market theory.

Privatize Gains; Socialize Losses
Sep 20th, 2008 by Sonja

I’m so angry right now I almost can’t sleep at night.  It’s a boiling, gutteral fury.  When I try to speak of it, I begin to sputter and use bad language because I don’t have enough words to express the utter depth of my rage.

My In-lawsMy in-laws turned 70 this year.  My mother will turn 70 early next year and my father is 75.  My parents are extremely fortunate because a relative left them unexpectedly very well off about 14 years ago.  However, my in-laws are not in that place.

My father-in-law worked hard all his life.  He still works hard.  He is 70 years old and with a bachelors degree in economics he works in a hardware store.  This year they will not be taking their annual three month winter trip to Florida as they cannot afford it.  Financially.  Unfortunately, their children and children-in-laws are all holding their breath for the toll this will take on their health.  They are good people who depend on the vagaries of the stock market for their fixed income retirement package.  They are good people who were depending on the stability of real estate to sell their home of 35 years when they needed to to supplement their retirement income.  Now they can do neither.

Remember when I said that the first national election I ever voted in, I voted for John Anderson?  Well … I had turned nineteen that May and Ronald Reagan won that election for those of you who remember which race John Anderson ran in.  So, for the entirety of my adult life, I have heard lessons on the economy from the conservative side of the street.  In a nutshell, those lessons may be summed up by saying, “The market will correct itself, the government does not need to regulate it.”  and “We’re not a socialist state, keep the government out of the market.”  Don’t fool yourselves, Bill Clinton was no liberal when it came to economics.  There was a very good reason why he kept Alan Greenspan in charge of the Federal Reserve for almost the entirety of his presidency.  Clinton was a fiscal conservative and only barely a social liberal.

Yet, every time I turn around these same fiscal conservatives … these Republicans who hue and cry about the government staying out of the market … run to the government for a bailout when their greed fails them.  When their pride, hubris, greed and foolishness fail and put all of us in jeopardy … they run to the government teat, just like a welfare mother in the projects.  I am way past disgust.  Just where exactly do they think that government money comes from?  The trees?  No … I have news for these financiers of great and immortal fame … it comes from me and you.  We are now paying for their foolishness.

Those men of millions and billions, who ran their companies into the ground, ran to Uncle Sam for help cleaning up the mess, are now keeping the millions they gained personally and have the unmitigated gall to fight for their 60 and 70 million dollar severance packages.  They are keeping their houses (multiples each), their personal jets, their yachts, their jewelry, their … whatever, whatever, whatever AND all their money AND we get to clean up the mess they made; AND we get to pay the court fees for the battle that they’ll stage to keep their severance packages.

The ugly thing about this is this is privatizing gains and socializing losses. So when things are going well, the managements make out, the shareholders make out, the counterparties are fine. All the private sector people do well. But when something goes wrong, when decisions are made that turn out to be bad decisions, the U.S. taxpayer has to take on the problem.

And there’s something very wrong about that. Because all of those people that made all that money are running off here into the distance with the money, carrying it in their bags. And the United States taxpayer is on the hook. Gretchen Morgenson of the Times on Bill Moyers Journal Sept. 19

So … when does the market correct itself?  I’m just curious.

I think these people need to help pay for the mistakes and help clean up the mess they’ve made … just like I do with my children.  The only thing anyone “needs” is one house and one car.  Strip them of everything else and use that money to begin the bailout … that’s market correction.  Because I want someone, anyone, to help my in-laws out of this mess.  They have lived life well, made responsible, wise, and even generous decisions … so why on earth should they and everyone else who have done likewise be made to clean up this mess?

After all, the only people who didn’t see this coming were those who don’t know their history.  That would be … almost everyone.

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