Monday, March 16, 2009

Forgetting the Past

"I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven" Phillipians 3:13-14

So it's been a couple of weeks. Not much going on, so that is the reason for the silence. I've just been thinking lately. As usual. About what? Hmmmm....let's see...forgiveness, religion, community, marriage, family, career...what it means to be an American...let's just heap it ALL on there. It's hard for me to limit what I'm writing about, so I apologize in advance for this post if it is either ridiculously lengthy, boring or disjointed. But I won't apologize for posting it. It's what I do. Read, don't read, criticize, don't criticize, like it, hate it, agree wholeheartedly or think I'm a fool, it's here. And I have to think there is some courage involved with just putting this out there for others to see. Or maybe it's just another weirdo form of exhibitionism. Who knows? All I know is that it seems to help me deal with what I am thinking and feeling, and hopefully I am becoming a somewhat better writer by the mere practice of writing. Either way, here it is.

The above quote from the bible has been on my mind a lot lately. Probably because I posted it on my refrigerator a couple of months back while I was despairing the kind of parent and person I am turning out to be. A good friend of mine sent it to me. She has taken the time to write me and let me know she cares on several occassions. She has shared herself with me...and not just the parts she likes. I think that she is a deeply caring person and I am a better person for having met her. When she sent the quote, she was encouraging me to be a tad easier on myself and not quite so critical. I accepted her concern and caring, and hung up the quote on my appliance, hoping to use it as a daily affirmation of the fact that God is not expecting perfection of me. Especially not right now.

Something interesting is happening. I don't know if this is God-inspired or not. Maybe it's just because I am relating to the quote from my own experience. Maybe it's both. As I reach inside to get the milk or juice or whatever, I am confronted with the same quote each day. Sometimes I don't think of it at all except to be reminded that I have a good friend out there who really does care. Some days it blends in with the pictures my son has added to the front of the refrigerator. And when I first read the quote I read it for it's beginning..."I am still not all I should be,..." then there was the middle stuff, and then I focused on: "I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus is calling us up to heaven"

But it's different. Today, as I was reaching for the milk for my coffee, my eyes focused on this part: "but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead..." Ladies and gentlemen, that is where I have been stuck. The past. Learning to let go of the past. I think that I have been unable to grasp what God has for me in the present and the future because I cannot let go of the past. It's the same mistake that many of my family members before me have made. And continue to make. Being bitter over past hurts. Losing opportunities for relationships. Fearing what the future holds because of what was unleashed in the past. My inability to let go of history. While it is true that if we do not learn from history we are doomed to repeat it, I think the same is equally true if we do not learn to let go of history. Let go of the past.

There are so many things that have happened over the years that have caused me great pain. Due to these things I have curled into a tiny emotional ball and stopped growing. This is a problem. A problem that I do not know how to solve yet. How do I learn to let go of decades of painful shit? See, I know in an intellectual way what I must do. I must forgive and move on so that I can fully live. But I have absolutely NO idea of what that looks like in action.

I have no desire to continually whine. I often choose not to say what is on my mind to friends and relatives because I don't want to sound whiney. I can't stand people who ALWAYS complain but refuse to actually DO anything about it. This is NOT by the way, the same, in my humble opinion, as seeking out a listening ear once in a while. It's okay to vent your troubles with someone you care about and whom you know cares about you, but over the course of months and years those troubles should be different troubles. You should not be venting about the same things in 20 years as you are right now. If so, my thought is that you are not learning and growing from what life has to offer.

This makes me think of another quote: "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me." (I Corinthians 13:11) The time has come to stop whining. Great. Terrific. I'm on board. Does anyone have a magic wand to make that happen for me? I know...childish thinking again. I know what I'm supposed to do, just not how to make it happen. See, I have become painfully aware that I am a whiner. No one has pointed this out to me, so it isn't like I have been insulted into finally shutting up.

It's just that I am sooooooo sick of being upset about the same stupid things. Mostly things that I cannot change. Things that feel unfair to me. I have this big thing about being fair you see. I want so badly for life to be equitable, and life just isn't that way. I played by the rules of the game, so I should be counted one of the winners, right? So why are all these unfair things happening to me (boo hoo), and why are all the rule breakers of the world prospering? What's the damn point in having integrity when those who are succeeding don't?

For a perfect example of what I am talking about, check out this article: "Commentary: Cheney says U.S. can torture but can't heal" (link: )

This is an article posted today on

In it, it says
"According to recently released legal memos from the Bush-Cheney administration, the former vice president believes that the federal government can ignore the First Amendment and suppress free speech and freedom of the press as part of its "war on terror."
An October 23, 2001, memo from Justice Department lawyers John C. Yoo and Robert J. Delahunty said, "First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully."
Former Vice PresidentCheney also believes, according to these same memos, that the federal government can send troops to burst into the homes of American citizens without a search warrant, despite the Fourth Amendment's protection against such unreasonable searches. He believes that the federal government has the right to arrest an American citizen on American soil and hold him in prison without charges. He believes that the federal government can listen in on your phone conversations without a court order."

Before I let you go on this, CNN also said, in this same article, that Cheney believes torture is perfectly acceptable...

"In fact, Yoo has said the federal government has the power to grab your young son and crush his private parts if the president thinks that will help the "war on terror."

Think I'm kidding? Here's the verbatim exchange from a debate between Yoo and Notre Dame professor Doug Cassel:

Cassel: If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?

Yoo: No treaty ...

Cassel: Also no law by Congress -- that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo ...

Yoo: I think it depends on why the president thinks he needs to do that."

Contrast these comments, with others the article points out:

"Thanks to John King, we now know: Cheney believes that the government cannot help with health care, improve education or wean America off Middle East oil. I'm not kidding.

Cheney, whose authoritarian impulses run deep, is suddenly worried that the federal government might become too powerful under President Obama.

"I worry a lot," he told King, "that they're using the current set of economic difficulties to try to justify a massive expansion in the government, and much more authority for the government over the private sector. I don't think that's good. I don't think that's going to solve the problem."

Set aside the, umm, irony of a guy who is alive, thank God, because of government-provided health care opposing health care for taxpaying Americans. And set aside the hypocrisy of the Bush-Cheney Medicare prescription drug entitlement, the greatest expansion of the federal role in health care since President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Focus instead on Cheney's alarmist rhetoric: "a massive expansion in the government", "much more authority for the government." Cheney is comfortable with a government that has the authority to torture, imprison, censor and kill. Just not a government that has the capacity and compassion to write a health insurance policy or take on Big Oil."

If this doesn't scare you it should. Not only should it scare you to hear this in my opinion, it should embarrass you. To think that we elected this man to the second highest office in the country...oh wait...we didn't. Remember? We elected someone else...unless you trust what happened in Florida that election year.

Whether we elected him or not, people like him, people who were like-minded were running our government for eight years. Why? Because he has money? Because he had connections to the oil industry? Or because we voted along party lines and didn't think about what bill of goods our party was selling? Or perhaps it was because it was the "lesser of two evils." No wait. Maybe it was because we were apathetic. Our vote doesn't matter anyway. Hmmmm....gotta think about that one. So apathy allowed this man to disguise his derranged view as the majority opinion?

Who was it who said that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing? Was it Batman? Liam Neeson? Eleanor Roosevelt? Teddy Roosevelt? Lincoln? Whoever said it was right. And that is exactly what many are doing. Nothing.

But I think I made my point. A man who took the oath to uphold the constitution is now suggesting that suspending civil rights that are the very fabric of that constitution is acceptable. This same man is also implying that compassion and humanity are "a massive expansion in the government."

So this joker has been successful? I shake my head at the absence of logic here. How is this fair? Or just? I worry about what a man with this kind of philosophy and the kind of power that he had may have done. And I can't be the only one who is worried. I am hardly the most politically savvy, well-informed, of age voter. I'm sure that there is already much more urbane discussion of this topic in many places around the world.

But nothing I say on my puny blog will change a thing (I don't never knows). I'm just venting dear reader. I'd like to think that I have more integrity than our former Vice President. But I must confess I know little of Mr. Cheney. The little I do know about him scares me, but I cannot say I am a student of his life or even his policies.

And that is why the Cheney's of the world succeed I think. Those of us who know right from wrong become fearful. Life's complexities beat the stuffing out of us. We become frozen, a deer in the headlights, convinced that our opinions aren't informed enough, or defended well enough. We know evil when we see it even if we can't define it, but in the face of the majority, we clam up. Like a punch-drunk fighter, we dodge and parry the blows of a world that lacks nobility, but we lack the depth of understanding to know where to land the knock-out blow on our enemy.

At the risk of sounding like I am campaigning for our already in office President Obama, I am hopeful that Mr. President DOES know where to land the knock-out blow. He has studied his enemy and knows when to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. He is optimistic enough to believe that caring DOES matter and that "yes we can" make the world a safer place without sacrificing our beliefs.

I am hopeful that I will not be proven wrong over the next four years. I am not naive enough to believe that Mr. Obama will solve all our problems. He has a tall order to fill during the course of his presidency. He is young. He may be inexperienced. We'll see. What I DO believe with all my heart is that he truly cares. He cares about your average "joe the plumber," (more than McRage truly does), he cares about smoothing the ruffled feathers his predescessors left in the wake of their "war on terror." He cares about bridge building, community and integrity. He cares about fostering a supportive environment where Americans are free to pursue their own brand of happiness.

God I sound ridiculous. Why didn't I just write his speeches for crying out loud? But you know what? I'd rather sound ridiculous and hopeful than cynical and dejected. And this is my blog anyway. I can write this if I want to.

And I want to. I want to sound hopeful. I want to feel hopeful. I want to believe that people matter. That you can be successful AND care about those around you. I want to. Really.

My five things:

1.) I am grateful that I live in a country where I am free to read what I want and to have an opinion about it...publicly

2.) I am grateful that our nation chose a new path of leadership

3.) I am grateful for the opportunity to put childish things behind me

4.) I am grateful that you are reading this

5.) I am grateful that God does not expect perfection of me

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