Saturday, September 26, 2015

Quote of the Day

"Joy springs from a grateful heart. Truly, we have received much, so many graces, so many blessings, and we rejoice in this. It will do us good to think back on our lives with the grace of remembrance. Remembrance of when we were first called, remembrance of the road travelled, remembrance of graces received… and, above all, remembrance of our encounter with Jesus Christ so often along the way. Remembrance of the amazement which our encounter with Jesus Christ awakens in our hearts."

--Pope Francis

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Quote of the Day

"But what is hope? Is it to be optimistic? No. Optimism is a mood. Tomorrow, you wake up with an upset stomach and you’re not optimistic, you see everything in a negative light. Hope is something more. Hope is something that endures through suffering. Hope knows how to suffer to bring forward a project. It knows how to make sacrifices. Are you capable of making sacrifices for a future or do you only want to live today and leave what comes to those who come after? Hope is fruitful. Hope gives life.... Hope endures suffering, it’s hardworking, it’s fruitful, it gives us work and it saves us from the throwaway culture. Hope that brings together, brings everyone together, because a people that knows how to bring itself together to look toward the future and build social friendship, as I said, despite thinking differently, this people has hope."

--Pope Francis

Monday, September 21, 2015

Pope Francis in America: Hope Amidst Crisis

by Justin Soutar

The long-anticipated visit of Pope Francis to the United States takes place at a critical juncture in the history of our nation. America is in profound crisis in many respects, and the symptoms of this crisis are painfully evident throughout our society and culture.

We have a crisis of leadership in Washington, where corrupt politicians continue to sacrifice the common good to the interests of a greedy few while threatening and bullying their principled colleagues into submission. We have a crisis of personal responsibility, in which people make excuses for their faults, rationalize away their sins and evil habits, and blame other people and circumstances for their problems. We have a socioeconomic crisis characterized by a yawning gap between rich and poor Americans, a high poverty rate and the near-total disappearance of a healthy middle class. We have a fiscal crisis with ever-increasing government spending fueling a runaway national debt, aided and abetted by a highly secretive and largely unaccountable Federal Reserve. We have a crisis of education, in which growing numbers of American citizens know little or nothing about the early history and development of our nation, the religious and moral values of the Founders, or the principles and philosophy undergirding our Constitution. We have a crisis of human life, in which abortion remains legal and subsidized by federal tax dollars while assisted suicide and euthanasia are being pushed at the state level. We have a crisis of religious liberty and moral conscience rights, in which millions of Americans are being forbidden to publicly practice their religion and compelled by federal mandate or judicial fiat to do what they know is wrong under penalty of heavy fines or jail time. We have a crisis of marriage and family life characterized by low marriage and birth rates and high divorce rates, widespread addiction to pornography, millions of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and single-parent households, and immoral homosexual relationships legally glorified as "marriages". We have a crisis of truth in which the public is deliberately misinformed about critical domestic, foreign, and environmental issues by a consumerist-driven mainstream media in order to advance the private interests of a handful of Fortune 500 business executives, while personal opinion and virtual reality have become substitutes for objective truth. And we have a crisis of love, in which many people relentlessly pursue their own interests and follow their own selfish desires in the name of "love" with little or no concern for the good of the other person or the wider community.

All of these various crises our nation is experiencing can be said to flow from two in particular: a crisis of faith in God and a crisis of moral values. America is losing her way because she has tossed her religious and moral compass overboard, recklessly abandoning faith and trust in God and foolishly refusing the sure guidance of His Law. She is being gradually transformed from a Christian country into a radically secularist one, with moral relativism replacing traditional Judeo-Christian moral norms grounded in natural law. Religion and morality, the two great pillars of the foundation on which our nation was built, are crumbling. Thanks to her own insanity and stupidity, America is now drifting into dangerous waters and risking the possibility of shipwreck.

It is in this dark and uncertain time in our nation's history that God, in His infinite mercy, sends us the brilliant light of His humble servant Pope Francis with the challenging and prophetic message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ--a message of truth and love, a message of faith and hope, a message of repentance and conversion, a message of mercy and forgiveness, a message of personal responsibility, of respect for human rights, of peace and justice, of care for the common good, of the beauty of marriage and family life according to God's plan. The word of this Gospel message, conveyed by both word and example, will carry within it the power to revive our dying nation and restore our former greatness--but this power will only be activated if we the people of the United States listen carefully to the message, accept it in its fullness, take it to heart, and follow it faithfully in our daily lives. Let us pray that America will be receptive to this powerful, life-giving message and take it to heart so that it can rescue her from the path of self-destruction and lead her on towards a better future.

Copyright 2015 Justin D. Soutar. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Quote of the Day

"The present period of civilization seems marked by the long-term effects of a society administered by economic technocracy. The subordination of ethics to the logic of profit has tremendous resources and enormous media support. In this scenario, a new alliance of man and woman becomes not only necessary but also strategic for the emancipation of people from the colonization of money. This alliance must return to orientate politics, the economy and civil coexistence! It decides the habitability of the earth, the transmission of the meaning of life, the bonds of memory and of hope."

--Pope Francis

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Quote of the Day

"Therefore, from the day we heard this, we do not cease praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light."

--Colossians 1:9-12

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Article Heritage Series #5: "The Grand American Puppet Show"

Two years ago this month, I started this "Article Heritage" series here on my blog, in which we step back from the present moment just for a bit and take a retrospective look at some articles from my early days as a freelance writer, meaning articles from the years 2005 to 2007. It's been eight months since the last installment of this series, so once again we're overdue for another. Here is a rather light-hearted satirical piece I wrote in the summer of 2007 in which I poked some fun at the corrupt and dishonest 2008 presidential campaign, which was already well underway at that time. Now, eight years later, I wouldn't have to change very much to make the article accurately describe the even more corrupt and dishonest 2016 presidential contest, since Hillary Clinton is unfortunately once again the presumptive Democratic nominee thanks to her unrelenting lust for power and her supposedly opposite number on the presidential stage, real estate magnate Donald Trump, is one of her own financial supporters and not much different from her on the issues despite his bold rhetorical efforts to appear genuinely Republican. Much like Arnold Schwarzenegger (and Hillary), Trump is a wealthy and corrupt establishment politician essentially devoid of character and morals who's putting on a brilliant act to dazzle his audience in an attempt to grasp the office of the presidency for the rewards it offers. What a charade. God save us from another unscrupulous career politician for president. I don't think our country can handle it. Of course, the current presidential race is not simply a replay of the 2008 contest; the remarkable ascendancy of principled citizen statesmen and Tea Party leaders Ben Carson, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio despite mainstream media attempts to ignore and sideline them adds an interesting dynamic to the 2016 campaign and offers the tantalizing possibility that a God-fearing man of character and principle may actually win the Republican nomination this time around. But that's a serious topic that deserves a serious article. For now, here's my classic humorous piece from 2007, which originally appeared on the website Political Cortex and on my Newsvine page in March of 2008:


The Grand American Puppet Show

by Justin Soutar
July 6, 2007


            Each year, it seems, the Grand American Puppet Show is getting longer, and the assortment of characters more diverse and talented. This time the curtain was lifted in the middle of 2006, more than two years before the Grand American Puppet Choice Day—er, excuse me, Election Day. The first two characters to appear on stage were New York Senator Hillary Clinton, representing the Democratic Party, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, representing the Republican Party.  

Indeed, with the bold and surprising appearance of the latter, all pretensions to making the quadrennial presidential race look like anything more than a puppet show were stripped away. Governor Schwarzenegger is not eligible for the presidency because he is an immigrant to the United States and our Constitution forbids immigrants from becoming president. However, such inconvenient realism and outmoded respect for tradition—as well as that obnoxious entity called the law of the land—must not be allowed to interrupt a good show. Since the national audience at large did not know whether to laugh, cry or cheer for Schwarzenegger, he has receded to the back of the stage—but only temporarily. More on him later.

            Meanwhile, Senator Clinton has basked in the spotlight on the left side of center stage for more than a year now thanks to piles of money from her loyal puppeteers (narrow special interest groups). Somehow her lackluster performance has managed to draw applause from no less than forty percent of the jaded American audience. But this should not be taken to imply a positive judgment in her regard. The popularity Clinton has attained is more a reflection of American war weariness, disillusionment with the neocon-hijacked Republican Party, a desire for change, and her demagogic manipulation of these feelings than it is a reflection of her own skill.

            Though he must take second place to Hillary Clinton, North Carolina Senator John Edwards is the most accomplished puppet of all. His splendid wealth as a lawyer and his cadre of devoted puppeteers have kept him on the stage. While Senator Edwards’ beaming smile and ethereal manner have delighted spectators, his hypocrisy has triggered more than a few cases of nausea and vomiting. It is plainly obvious to almost his entire audience that Edwards is a corrupt playboy living in a world far removed from the average American, who says one thing and does another, who cares for nothing so much as enjoying his life and wealth. Since he is the leading puppet, Edwards would make the worst possible president.

            Delaware Senator Joe Biden, who is also a lawyer, is fairly well-known for his attempts to reach the dead center of the stage. Senator Biden serves on numerous Senate committees where he has the opportunity to lead debates and introduce legislation. On almost every Senate bill, whether it deals with abortion or the minimum wage or defense spending, he has voted both ways or refused to vote, making it hard to pin down his positions on the issues. Biden’s act has chiefly consisted of two features: precariously walking the tightrope near center stage on all issues and keeping an eye on the performance of his more admired fellow puppet Obama. With this dangerous combination of moves, Biden fell to the stage floor and is likely to never fully recover.

            Another Democratic candidate may be more appealing in some ways, and even sincerely straining to be more than just a puppet, but he is also out of touch with his audience in important areas. The fact that Illinois Senator Barack Obama hails from the Midwest rather than from the tightly-knit, super-rich, over-educated East Coast intellectual establishment is a major plus that has brought him cheers. Yet while Senator Obama has captivated Americans with his youth, his vision for the future of America and the prospect of breaking the two-hundred-twenty-year-long chain of white presidents, his support for abortion and homosexuality has alienated the growing number of morally conscious Americans, resulting in many catcalls. Early in 2007 the popularity of Obama’s performance threatened to push Hillary from left center stage, but her puppeteers quickly came to the rescue with more funds.  

Finally, Tennessee Senator Al Gore is down but not out. After spending eight years across the street from the Chief Puppet’s Mansion (the White House), the temptation to power will likely urge him to claim a spot on the stage. Senator Gore has had lots of time to polish his ability as a puppet. He seized a golden opportunity to expose this talent to the entire nation and world when he refused to concede the 2000 presidential election, a sparkling recital which drew praise and derision. In recent years Gore has established a considerable reputation for his efforts to raise public awareness of global warming and his dedication to replacing American dependence on petroleum with alternative energy sources. Like many Democrats he also sings the song of plenty, smoothly promising to guarantee every American the necessities of life with a heap of taxes garnered mainly from the rich (but not, of course, from the pockets of Gore or his rich cronies). These acts have won significant applause from like-minded Americans. However, Gore’s demagoguery seems to be a reflection of that of Edwards.

            In general, the Republican contenders for president have been even more lackluster. Unlike Senator Clinton, who has steadily held a place in the spotlight, the Republicans have taken turns occupying the right-hand area of center stage. The prime selling point for Arizona Senator John McCain is that he has the distinction of being the only well-funded candidate with a reliable record of opposition to abortion. In addition, Senator McCain is a genuine Vietnam War veteran who spent five years in the hellish conditions of a Communist prison camp. He was the first serious Republican hopeful to draw the audience’s interest in 2006 with his condemnation of torture of al-Qaeda suspects abroad. Despite McCain’s backing for the Bush administration’s “War on “Terrorism” policy and its war in Iraq, his Congressional efforts at immigration and campaign finance reform have earned him a reputation for bipartisanship. Moreover, the soft-spoken, smiling man can aver a greater amount of integrity than any of the other candidates. While his combination of heroism, principle and charm seems irresistible, McCain’s age and the fact that his honesty keeps him from fulfilling his puppet potential have nudged him towards the rear of the stage.

            McCain was followed by Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who has spent lavishly on his campaign in an effort to win the hearts and cheers of American spectators. By flashing his own cards of integrity and commitment to values, Governor Romney gradually elbowed McCain to the side. The hard core of American neocons has cheered him on with uncontrollable excitement. Nevertheless, from the large majority of Americans Romney’s act has drawn a rather subdued reaction—and not just because he is a Mormon. His record of egregious flip-flopping on the issue of abortion and his calls for a further increase in defense spending fail to resonate with most Americans. Romney is a puppet of neocon warmongers and war profiteers whose patriotism and hatred for terrorism is confined to their pocketbooks.

            In turn, Romney has vied with New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, a power-hungry demagogue whose leadership record is nothing short of abysmal. He has defended all uses of excessive force by the New York police, declared the air at Ground Zero safe when the fires were still burning after 9/11, and attempted to serve an illegal third term as mayor. Though his puppeteers have created quite an impressive performance that some Americans have applauded, he is far too similar to President Bush on foreign policy matters to ever be elected by a plurality of the American people. His presidency would be focused on expanding public access to abortions and on a disastrous foreign policy of war for oil, both of which only benefit the rich entrepreneurial (puppeteer) class.

            The most recent Republican candidate to rule the stage is former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson. His apparent surge in popularity is a result of excessive positive attention from the mega-corporate media. However, the strikes against Mr. Thompson are many: he is a lawyer, a longtime Washington lobbyist for big businesses such as General Electric and Westinghouse, a staunch advocate of the “War on Terrorism” and the war in Iraq, and he served as legal defense for I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was convicted of lying to federal investigators about the Plame affair. The appearance of Thompson on right center stage suspiciously coincided with the climax of Libby’s trial, his conviction, and his pardon by President Bush. While this man is generally pro-life and favors limited government, the familiar moves of his dance and his ties to the same puppets that are controlling the current Bush administration have led to persistent boos from the overwhelming majority of the American people.

            Americans are clapping for these mediocre puppets because no better performers have been invited or admitted to the stage. The puppeteers are not interested in offering a presidential candidate dedicated to rock-solid moral values and imbued with common sense who actually will meet the needs of America, as that would ruin their silly presentation. Take Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, for example. He is a fervent pro-lifer, a defender of traditional marriage, a champion of fiscal discipline, had the common sense to turn against the Iraq war after supporting it for several years, disapproves of President Bush’s domestic wiretapping program, and favors stricter border security. On all these varied issues, Senator Brownback can count on steady backing from a clear majority of American voters. Because he is in general a committed, principled statesman rather than a puppet of special interests, he has been shunned by the puppeteers and all but forced offstage. The fact that Brownback was even briefly admitted to the rear of the stage in early 2007 was recognition of his approval of NAFTA and his vote for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

            The Republican and Democratic parties, which run this show, are taken far too seriously by tens of millions of Americans. Indeed, one should not expect gaily reveling parties to conduct the urgent business of the country. Both the Republican and Democratic charades are meant to divert American attention from the well-greased lobby networks busily moving and shaking national politics. Neither has the true interests of the country in mind. The parties are the subtle opiate of the masses, serving as channels for popular discontent to forestall rebellion and revolution—the most dreaded enemies of our freedom and democracy, according to the rich puppeteers. Yet most Americans still cling to the parties as if to salvation because each one represents some of the policies our country needs. At the same time, a steady diet of puppets and parties does not make for a healthy nation.

In 2006 the puppet extravaganza took an interesting twist when longtime Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, a registered Democrat who supports abortion and the Iraq war, officially left his party to become an “independent” senator. Thus Senator Lieberman is the only puppet to occupy dead center stage, even though the central limelight is off for the moment. Neocons love Lieberman for his continual defense of Israeli policies and the Iraq war, and he is respected by Republicans and Democrats as a thinker willing to cross party lines—although in fact he is a pawn of special interests on both sides. No one has been discussing him as a presidential hopeful and he has not mentioned a desire to enter the race. However, the affable Lieberman may be a politician anticipating the future, a puppet quietly waiting for the right moment to storm the stage and do his dance. With so many special interest groups tied to him, he is almost certain to step out from the shadows and “surprise” Americans in the 2008 Grand American Puppet Show. Lieberman’s unusual renunciation of political affiliation could well be a ploy to gain widespread American support in a run for higher office. Recall the 2004 event, in which Howard Dean was expected to win the Democratic primary but instead we received the surprise of puppet extraordinaire John Kerry. My guess is that Lieberman will either be selected by Hillary or the Republican candidate as a running mate, or that he himself will win the Democratic nomination for president and take Hillary as his running mate.

            Furthermore, this upcoming 2008 Election Day will be more of an authentic Grand American Puppet Choice Day than any previous presidential election. The 2006 Congressional election served as a dry run for this makeover. In more than a dozen states across the country on November 7, 2006, newly installed electronic voting machines failed to work properly, and secrecy holders were dispensed with. Even worse, the citizens were deceived by mysterious signs stating that their polling place had been moved. All these unprecedented elements are part of a grand scheme to transform the presidential election into a true farce and prevent the people from choosing their demagogue. In 2008, American voters will attempt to choose a particular puppet as president, but the already tested forms of trickery will be employed to swing the election in favor of the opposite puppet. This puppet will then have the audacity to claim that he (or she) is the choice of the American people.

            This is where California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger could come back onstage and begin stealing the show. Perhaps he will wait to put on his act until the 2012 American Puppet Show rolls around. Like Giuliani, Governor Schwarzenegger is an ambitious, self-centered politician as well as an exceptionally cunning demagogue who would love to gain the most powerful political office on earth. But in order for him to do so, a Constitutional Amendment allowing a legal immigrant to become president would have to be passed by two-thirds of the United States, or thirty-four states. Schwarzenegger realizes that few states would agree to change a longstanding, widely accepted law that our nation’s founders established for sound reasons. Therefore, voting tricks to the rescue! Schwarzenegger’s puppeteers fiddle with the voting machines and, voila—to the nation’s semi-bewilderment, the Presidential (Puppet) Immigration Status Amendment passes. From that occasion onward, Americans will have, for all practical purposes, lost control of their nation.

            With each quadrennial American Puppet Show in recent decades, Americans have been subjected to a more and more entertaining spectacle. The 2008 extravaganza is certainly a cut above previous shows. Just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned, our presidents now enjoy the fine life while uncontrolled big business and technological development speed America down the highway to disaster. When the next Grand American Puppet Choice Day finally rolls around, Americans may find themselves so dazzled, bored, and stupefied that they will reject not only the finalists, but the entire masquerade. The greatest tribute to the talent of the Grand American Puppets on Puppet Choice Day would be a hearty burst of laughter from all three hundred million Americans.


Copyright © 2007 by Justin Soutar. All rights reserved.