One Voice

… because one voice, armed with the truth, can help begin to heal the world.

Problems not simple, but they’re not insoluble either

The truth isn’t always simple, especially when people look for answers as to why something terrible happened.

When the news came from Newtown, Conn., that a shooter had murdered 26 people — 20 of them small children — and then had taken his own life, people had lots of answers. Depending on their own personal agendas, the answers ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said it happened because we had taken God out of our schools, but he backed off some from that when people started asking him if he meant God had been responsible for the death of 20 6- and 7-year-olds.

Liberals are blaming guns, conservatives are blaming everything except guns and some folks are even blaming the mental health system.

I love the ones who try to blow off responsibility completely by running some ancient quote from Ronald Reagan that when a crime is committed, it is the fault of the individual who committed it and not society overall. The irony there is that it was during Reagan’s administration that the mental health system got decimated.

That was also the period when the National Rifle Association became one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, and when the culture seemed to fall off a cliff.

Read more…

posted by Mike in in God's name,Politics,Ranting,Tragedy and have No Comments

Are we becoming a rage-fueled society?

“These times are so uncertain, there’s a yearning undefined and people filled with rage. We all need a little tenderness, how can love survive in such a graceless age?”
– DON HENLEY, “Heart of the Matter

People who know me know I have been writing about this verse from this song for more than 20 years. Until recently I always focused on the last part of it, writing about what a graceless age in which we live. An age of trashy culture, disposable relationships and a ridiculous lust for wealth.

Lately I have been thinking more and more about the rage.

Jim Gaffigan in "The Great New Wonderful"

Everyone seems so angry all the time. Whether it’s the economy, or politics, or people furious that someone might want to practice a different religion than they do, even people who seem pretty happy have things that piss them off.

Danny Leiner’s underrated 2005 film, “The Great New Wonderful,” tells five intertwining stories about New Yorkers exactly one year after Sept. 11, 2001. In Sandie’s Story, Jim Gaffigan plays a man who worked in the Twin Towers and survived the day. His superiors have asked survivors to meet with a psychologist to make sure they are recovering.

Sandie says over and over again that he is fine, while the psychologist says that when he looks at Sandie, he sees a man completely full of repressed rage.

In the end, Sandie hits the psychologist over the head with a chair, runs out of the office and keeps running all the way to Connecticut.

“I think I’m lost,” he says when he finally stops running.

A lot of people are angry these days — filled with rage — and I blame an awful lot of it on our misbegotten culture and values that have gotten so far out of whack I’m not sure Americans from 100 years ago would even recognize our country.

The concept of “news” has all but vanished, and nearly everything is presented to us now — whether left or right — as both what happened and what it “really means,” courtesy of the agenda of whoever is paying the presenter. Watch Fox News and you’ll see that the agenda is to fill people with rage about what those awful people on the left are trying to do. Watch MSNBC and they’ll tell you the same stories but the villains are those on the right.

Truth has all but vanished. Candidates for president can tell literally hundreds of out-and-out lies and have them passed of as “differences of opinion.” A candidate for vice president can lie again and again about what his proposals would do, but the only time people really make a fuss is when he lies about how fast he ran a marathon.

When people don’t know what to believe, they get angry.

Seventy percent of American families are — at best — just getting by. It’s a constant struggle to pay bills, and the chance really to get ahead just doesn’t exist. Fear of losing everything makes people angry.

Watch movies or television and there is little that is ennobling or uplifting. Most of what we get from our culture is cynicism. That makes people angry.

Our economic system is failing most of us. Our political system serves no one except major campaign contributors. More and more people seem to be buying into old, discredited beliefs about how the only truly noble thing in the world is self-interest.

That makes me angry. There are few people less noble than those who live their lives based only on their own interest. And with all due respect to my conservative friends, that’s nothing that Ronald Reagan ever preached.

Yeah, I’m angry. I might even be full of rage, but most of it isn’t about politics. I’m coming up on my 20th wedding anniversary, and my wife has been suffering serious health problems for more than a year now. A great deal of my time goes into caring for her, and there are times it doesn’t seem to do any good at all.

All I can do is get up each morning and try to make that day as good as possible.

Then again, that’s really all any of us can do, and maybe — with God’s grace — things will get a little better and we’ll feel a little less angry.

Otherwise, what’s the use?






posted by Mike in Family,Happiness,love and have No Comments

Our culture can be whatever we want it to be

If there is one thing that has always fascinated me, it’s how popular culture used to be an important reflection of how we saw ourselves.

A beautiful portrait of home front America.

It mattered to us as a people to think well of ourselves, and that was why the culture — mostly the movies — almost always appealed to the better angels of our nature. We didn’t romanticize con men or clever criminals or attractive sociopaths, and we didn’t glorify cynicism. Imagine a movie made today where everyone in a railroad car on a troop train headed off to war joins in and sings a popular hymn.

I don’t know if it’s possible for kids who grew up in our modern, oh-so-cynical world to look at movies like “The Human Comedy,” one of those wonderful old MGM efforts during World War II, and understand that people really used to feel this way. Homer McCauley, the hero played by Mickey Rooney, would be in his 80s now. I’m not sure he would recognize the country he grew up in.

I wish we still lived in a country where we looked for the good in each other, a country where we still expected people to treat each other honorably. A country where we didn’t assume that everyone was in it only for their own interest, a country where people weren’t ashamed to say they were patriotic, or they believed in God, or they loved their neighbors.

Look at those old movies, the ones made during the war, and you actually see people going to church or praying. You actually see them talking about faith and ideals.

Is that world gone for good?

I don’t think it has to be. I think our world can be whatever we want it to be, and I think the culture will be whatever we demand of it. Maybe the biggest problem is that we just lowered our standards.

Maybe we can raise them again.

posted by Mike in Americana,Happiness,Movies and have Comments (2)

Tough to realize that old-timer quality

About 10 years ago, I was in a sports memorabilia store looking at autographed baseballs.

I was more of a collector then than I am now — my remaining collection is in a case that holds 12 balls — and I was considering purchasing balls signed by Frank Robinson and Johnny Bench.

“Oh, you like the old timers,” the attractive young sales clerk said to me.

Old timers? I almost screamed. Bench didn’t reach the majors until after I graduated from high school. Had I really lived that long as an adult, that a great player reached the big leagues, had his entire career and been retired long enough to be an “old timer?”

It’s the same thing with movies, television and music. “Star Wars” and “Jaws” aren’t old-time classics to me, and neither are “Happy Days” and “Welcome Back Kotter.” Bob Seger and Journey aren’t old-time rockers.

Are they?

If those are the old timers now, then where does that leave Joe Dimaggio (whose autograph I do have), “Casablanca,” “I Love Lucy” and Elvis Presley? Prehistoric? From a time when dinosaurs ruled the earth?

In recent years I’ve been collecting DVDs of some of the classic sci-fi films of the ’50s — movies like “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers,” the original “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and numerous others. I’m sure kids look at those movies now and laugh because the special effects are so cheesy, but I wonder if they’re looking at movies like the newest “Star Trek” — which I enjoyed — and laughing because they know the special effects are all done by computers and blue screens.

My good friend Mike Haskins wishes we could return to a day when baseball players had to get jobs in the off-season. I’m not sure we were better off then, but at least when ballplayers made $8,000 a year, they seemed more human to us.

There’s a certain unreality to life as we head into the second decade of the 21st century. It used to be that we could look at a family on television — be they Bradys, Cleavers or Cunninghams — and recognize only a slightly idealized version of families we actually knew. But now everything is so exaggerated that we can’t see ourselves in the picture at all.

Probably the last real family on television was the Conner family — Dan, Roseanne and their kids, who lived real lives, who fought with each other and ragged each other and still managed to love each other.

How did we go from Laverne & Shirley, working-class girls who lived in a crummy basement apartment in Milwaukee, to the six “Friends” with New York apartments anyone not named Trump would have had trouble affording.

Maybe it’s that movies and television used to turn a mirror on our lives and now they try and help us escape our lives.

Yeah, I guess I am an old timer.

posted by Mike in Americana,baby boom,baseball,Movies,Music,Ranting and have No Comments
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