Monday, November 30, 2009

Giving Thanks for Many Blessings

And now, it's time to recall some of the many blessings that God has bestowed on our country this past year:

1. Awesome turnout for the pro-life rallies. The 37th Annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. in January drew some 310,000 people, who marched up Constitution Avenue in a powerful witness of the right to life of the unborn to the newly inaugurated administration of President Barack Obama. Negative pro-abortion pundits in the media pointed out that this figure was 28,000 people lower than the 338,000 marchers who peacefully demonstrated last year. However, these commentators neglected to account for the devastating economic crisis that had begun to grip the whole nation and the world at the time. It speaks volumes that in spite of this turmoil, almost as many citizens showed up for the pro-life cause this year as in 2008. When adjustment is made for the country's economic condition and all the people who wanted to attend the 2009 March but were unable because of financial difficulties, this year's turnout can actually be considered an increase, in keeping with the trend seen thruout this past decade.

If the traditional, well-established March for Life leaves any lingering doubt as to the sentiments of the American public regarding abortion, the more recently founded Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco doesn't. California is a bellwether state for the nation, which means that the trends we see occurring there serve as a good indicator of the general direction the nation as a whole is taking. In 2005, the first annual Walk for Life event drew an estimated 7,000 participants. Next year 15,000 people showed up. In 2007 23,000 individuals took part; last year there were 28,000 walkers. This year, the fifth annual Walk for Life drew 36,000 demonstrators, a substantial increase from the number recorded last year. Rising from humble beginnings, in just five years the Walk for Life has quickly mushroomed into a national phenomenon in its own right, becoming a destination for pro-life advocates across the western half of the United States. Both the D.C. and San Francisco rallies demonstrated that the pro-life movement in America is healthy and vibrant despite some political setbacks in the election of 2008.

2. FOCA was defeated. For more than twenty years, a radical coalition of senators and representatives in the U.S. Congress has been trying to enact certain provisions regarding abortion into law. These include the use of federal tax dollars to fund "abortion coverage"; legalizing the performance of abortion procedures by someone other than a licensed physician; forcing all U.S. hospitals and physicians to provide abortion services regardless of their objection to the practice; the repeal of all state restrictions on abortion; and the establishment of abortion as a "fundamental right" subject to unlimited government funding and support. All of these horrifying provisions were incorporated into a single nightmare bill called the Freedom of Choice Act, which was introduced into Congress in 2007. On July 17 of that year, at a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, Illinois senator Barack Obama infamously declared, "The first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act." With the advent of the Obama administration, Congress finally had a real chance of passing this horrendous legislation. Thanks to the United States Catholic bishops and the American people, who registered their overwhelming outcry against FOCA in postcards, letters, phone calls, faxes, emails and online petitions, President Obama was unable to keep his promise upon entering the White House because the bill never reached his desk. Congress gave up its attempt to pass FOCA, and Obama's first act as president was to sign an economic stimulus bill instead.

3. Traditional marriage wins again. In November 2004, California voters had easily passed a statewide referendum which defined marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman. All was well until June 2008, when the California Supreme Court gave in to the urging of radical homosexual pressure groups and declared that the 2004 referendum adopted by 66 percent of the voters was un-constitutional. Supporters of traditional marriage quickly responded by placing a new bill, Proposition 8, on the state ballot, which rejected the high court's decision and reaffirmed the previous referendum banning any government recognition of homosexual marriage. In November 2008, the state's voters adopted Proposition 8 by a margin of 52 to 48 percent. This past May, California's Supreme Court again got involved, taking up the question of whether the new proposition approved by the voters was constitutional. On May 26, the high court ruled that Proposition 8 was constitutional, and thus the state of California from then onward would only recognize marriage between a man and a woman. This makes California the first state in the country to legalize "gay marriage" and then de-legalize it--and as with abortion, this is a pretty reliable indication of the direction our nation is taking with regard to homosexual marriage. State courts will continue trying to force legalization of homosexual "marriage" on a par with traditional marriage, and the people will continue turning it down.

So far, this trend is holding: In November, Maine became the 31st consecutive state in the union to approve a referendum preserving the legal institution of marriage as between a man and a woman.

As usual, my post has grown longer than I originally intended, so you will pardon me if I confine myself to one-liners for the rest.

4. Tate Publishing releases my first book, America's Back-Door Enemy. (June 23)

5. Pope Benedict XVI releases his first social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate. (July 7)

Lastly, and the biggest of all:

6. The United States House of representatives amends H.R. 3200 (America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009) to prohibit the use of federal taxpayer funds for "abortion coverage" and to reaffirm longstanding federal laws that protect the conscience rights of physicians and other health care professionals who object to conducting or participating in abortions. (November 7)

I was grateful for all of these blessings and many others this past Thanksgiving holiday. There is no denying that our country has been dragging through a lot of serious problems this year. However, at the same time we should not fail to duly appreciate the significant blessings recounted above. Nor should we forget to thank God, "from whom all blessings flow," or neglect the fact that these good things have been obtained from Him through the prayers and sacrifices of so many nuns and monks in convents and monasteries thruout this nation and the world.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reality Check for President Obama

Okay, I have some stuff to catch up on here. Good news! One year after the smashing electoral victory that sent Illinois Senator Barack Obama to the White House with such power and glory, a few state elections held earlier this month (on November 3) seem to hint that the process of recovery has already begun for Republicans. In Virginia, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell defeated Democratic contender Creigh Deeds by a landslide, winning 59 percent of the vote to Deeds' 41 percent. McDonnell will replace the state's Democratic incumbent governor Tim Kaine. In 2008 a big deal was made of the fact that President Obama cruised to a win in Virginia, making it a "blue state" for the first time in thirty years. However, the magic of Obama seems to be losing its power. Twice this year, the president visited Virginia to publicly demonstrate his support for Deeds and urged Virginians to vote for him. Such efforts were ultimately fruitless. However, this Republican comeback was considered fairly predictable in a state that has been traditionally red for decades, and because of that it still counted as only a minor setback for President Obama.

Yes, the Obama administration might have dismissed this loss and moved on, had it not been for another top-level Republican victory in New Jersey. Here a Republican candidate for the governorship, Chris Christie, defeated Democratic incumbent governor Jon Corzine by a margin of 49 to 45 percent. This victory was considered more significant, however, because New Jersey is a highly urbanized East Coast state that in recent years has been just as blue as California. Moreover, just last year New Jersey voters selected President Obama by a landslide of 66 percent.

This one-two punch was certainly a test of President Obama's influence, as the media correctly admitted. And I think it is fair to say, that these two Republican pickups in an election off-year are evidence of a much broader dissatisfaction with the Obama administration that has already permeated the American public just in that administration's first year in office. Americans may have elected Barack Obama with a rush of gushy feelings because he was a handsome, positive orator who offered hope and change, as well as to show their disappointment with certain aspects of the Bush administration and Republicans. But when it comes down to concrete issues such as abortion, traditional marriage, health care, taxes, and the economy, during 2009 it has been President Obama versus the American people. On abortion and traditional marriage, important victories have been won in spite of the administration. On health care, Americans don't want an expensive "public option" that would create a vast new government bureaucracy and jack up their taxes to further heights. On taxes, the American people want a real tax cut; the administration has not given it to them. On the economy, unemployment rates continue to rise, small businesses are closing much faster than new ones are opening, and the average Joe is no better off than he was a year ago. No wonder our president's nationwide approval rating is now in the 40s.

I myself do not profess to be a Republican or a Democrat, but am independent of political parties. Thus I find the election results in these two states significant not so much because Republican candidates won, but because both of the Democratic candidates who lost were pro-abortion. In other words, the Democratic ship is sinking because most of its passengers insist on continuing to promote an evil practice that Americans no longer support. Nationally, the election results taken together are a backlash against Democrats in Congress and the White House for championing abortion and raising taxes.

Oh, and did you hear the rest of the good news from Election Day? Voters in Maine turned down a referendum that would have allowed "gay marriage" in their state. This makes Maine the 31st state in a row to reject homosexual "marriage" by popular vote.

More good news in the next column.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Tale of Two Seasons

Fall is now one of my favorite seasons. There is something magical about the cool dry weather, the gentle slanting sunshine, the deep blue sky, and the brilliant colors adorning the trees that invites contemplation in a way that the piercing overhead sun, stifling humidity, and solid green of summer simply cannot. It is true that summertime is generally considered the ultimate season for relaxation; it is certainly the time when travel and outdoor activities are at their peak, while many people are enjoying a well-deserved break from work and school activities. However, if I am not mistaken, oftentimes summer can degenerate from a healthy period of recreation and refreshment into a mirror of the rest of the frenetic working year; people try to cram all the sports, vacations, family picnics, scenic drives, gardening, summer programs, and garage sales they can in between weddings and holidays during the three months of warm weather, only to find themselves exhausted as they return to their regular work schedule. This reminds me with a chuckle of a quotation from columnist Russell Baker in Back to Basics: "Leisure pastime in this country has become so complicated that it is now hard work....We are not far from the time when a man after a hard weekend of leisure will go thankfully off to his job to unwind."

I personally find the autumn environment more conducive to relaxation than that of summer. As I gaze at the natural beauty of a perfect autumn day, I observe that nature is slowing down, and this invites me to slow down as well. As fall moves on and the sun gradually traces a lower arc across the sky, the golden orb seems to be descending graciously toward the earth and bathing the forests in some of its light. The striking sight of a tree blanketed in yellow leaves especially evokes this impression. Then as October melts into November, the leaves silently drop off the tree branches as though they are surrendering with resignation to the approach of winter. This encourages me to prepare for the freezing weather that will soon be upon us.

While growing up in the temperate, semi-arid climate of coastal California, I did not really know what seasons were. We never had snow where I lived, and a hard frost was rare. The local farmers benefited from a twelve-month growing season for many of their crops. Also there were few deciduous trees that could turn color in fall. When I first moved to Ohio at the age of sixteen, I was initially shocked by the Midwest weather, which seemed extreme: humid with highs in the 90s in summer, mountains of snow and slippery ice with temperatures reaching thirteen below zero in winter. I could mention also the dozens of yearly thunderstorms with their deadly lightning and resulting thunder banging the windows of the house, or the tornado watches that frequently accompanied these storms. Over time, however, I gradually became adjusted to the meteorological conditions of the Buckeye State, and I learned to appreciate the more sedate weather that spring and fall offered. After about five years of living in Ohio, I felt that the rhythm of the seasons had finally sunk into my bones. It has been an interesting experience to see what “real” weather is like outside of California.

Lately I've been enjoying the sight of fall leaves adorning the ground around the house and getting my outdoor Christmas lightstrings ready for the joyful season ahead. There is something about brown fallen leaves and Christmas lights that makes the two go well together. This mimics the blending of fall and winter weather patterns that typically marks the month of November.

I enjoy putting up Christmas lights on the house just as my father used to do every year as I was growing up. My enthusiasm for this annual hobby has not waned with my entry into adulthood. Like a Christmas tree and other decorations inside the home, outdoor lights add cheer to the celebration of Christ’s birth, and they can lift the spirits of other people passing by in the evening too. Moreover, while the heavy, energy-consuming C9 lights of my childhood had to be stapled to the eaves of the roof, you can do just about anything with the miniature lights, and the energy costs are much lower. (And now the latest and greatest are LED lights, which use even less energy.)

Another trait that fall and winter share is dark, starry night skies. This is partly due to clearer, colder air and partly to the fact that the brightest stars in the heavens are found in the winter sky. Just as I admire the awesome sight of a dark winter sky filled with countless glistening stars, I take delight in the picturesque scene of little red, orange, green, pink, blue and purple lights contrasting with the black darkness of a winter evening. They remind me of Christ, the true Light of our lives, Who came down from Heaven into this world to lead us out of spiritual darkness.