What is Work?

Photo – US Department of Labor

This question came to mind recently and seems like an appropriate question for today, which is Labor Day 2021.

The question came to mind when my wife and I had some long-overdue landscaping work done in our backyard.  Three men, younger than I but not kids by any definition, spent several days changing the contours of the yard, taking out scraggly old bushes and putting in lush new ones, laying sod, mulching, planting groundcover, and building a semi-massive retaining wall with BIG rocks.

I work from home on a table in the corner of the bedroom and could easily observe what they were doing and the stress and sweat involved. What those guys were doing more than met my old-fashioned definition of work: lots of muscle and a day ending with dirty clothes, tired muscles, and a sense of having accomplished something.

I was jolted by the contrast a couple days ago when I searched Google Images for a picture representing “work” to accompany a story I was writing. Apparently, the Google definition of work involves one or more of the following:

  • Sitting in front of a computer screen.
  • Sitting with several people in a room of cubicles with everyone sitting in front of a computer screen.
  • Sitting around a table in a meeting in which everyone is sitting in front of a computer screen.
  • An exhausted “worker” passed out in front of a computer screen.

OK. As someone who spends most of his day in front of a computer screen, I’m not going to say using a computer can’t be work. But honestly, it ain’t work like those guys were doing in my backyard. And I wonder how much computer “work” people actually do that qualifies as real work.

As I said above, Labor Day reminded me of the men working in my yard. I expect most people (at least those who graduated from public school in the past 30 years) know little more about Labor Day than that it is the unofficial end of summer, relatives come over to cook hot dogs on the grill, government offices are closed, you don’t get mail, and there is no school. (When I was a boy – as old geezers like to say – school started AFTER Labor Day. Today it starts at least a week earlier, which I believe is because today’s kids need more time to learn less than my generation.)

The US Department of Labor has this to say about the holiday:

Observed the first Monday in September, Labor Day is an annual celebration of the social and economic achievements of American workers. The holiday is rooted in the late nineteenth century, when labor activists pushed for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions workers have made to America’s strength, prosperity, and well-being.

Let me translate: Unions and social activists wanted Labor Day to emphasize their demands for less work and more pay and politicians agreed in order to placate labor leaders and attract votes. This is all part of the sometimes delicate, sometimes violent, dance between labor and management.

But at the risk of sounding hopelessly un-WOKE, belonging to a union or any aspect of the labor force doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing any real work. It seems to me that a huge percentage of the labor force is pushing papers around, shuffling files, checking the checkers, and generally getting paid for doing very little.

Woody Allen may be someone with many personal faults but he was spot on when he said that “90 percent of life is showing up.”

We all have worked with people who did little more than show up. On one occasion, a journalist asked Pope John XXIII how many people worked in the Vatican

“About half,” the Pope responded. That line generated quite a laugh, but it really isn’t funny. It is far too true in many organizations include, from my personal observations, the Catholic Church.

I like to think that I work hard and contribute to the world being a better place. I’m blessed to be able to see the fruits of my labor published in a place where many people can read what I have to say.

But when it comes to good, old-fashioned hard work, I have those landscapers in my mind’s eye. I hope they have the day off on Labor Day.

Chasing the Big Lie

Sistine Chapel Ceiling

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,[a] knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Genesis 3: 1-7

The serpent was the first to deliver the “big lie.” He was hardly the last.

Rome’s Emperor Nero us the technique. When Rome was burning, he blamed the fire on the Christians. That rumor got repeated over and over until people believed it (for a time).

Hitler and his communications expert, Joseph Goebbels, described the big lie like this:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Today, politicians are the unchallenged champions of the big lie. Examples are easy to recall:

  • Read my lips, no new taxes.
  • If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.
  • Peace is at hand (Vietnam).
  • Mission Accomplished (Iraq).

Most recently, we’ve heard President Biden spew a string of big lies:

  • There is no way the Taliban will overrun Kabul anytime soon.
  • We will get every American out of Afghanistan.
  • We managed the greatest airlift in history.
  • The war is over.

Our government is pouring the big lie on us in every press conference and through a compliant, lazy news media.

The President (or whoever is pulling his strings) has abandoned scores of Americans and those who served the cause of freedom in Afghanistan. They even left the dogs behind.

They left somewhere between $20 billion and $80 billion worth of high-tech military equipment behind, making the Taliban one of the best-equipped fighting forces on earth.

Trustworthy sources report murder, torture, and rape as the business of the day in the new Islamic paradise of Afghanistan. Christians likely will be offered a simple, clear, choice: convert to Islam or die.

But the Biden bunch tell us everything is just great, and that they did a dandy job managing the situation. They are going to keep telling us that as long as they think we are buying the big lie.

Eve bought the Big Lie and passed it on to Adam and we humans have been passing it on ever since. At the lie’s core is the idea that we should depend on something other than God.

Many have looked to themselves. The liars leading our country want us to look to government.

How dare you.

Fundamental Change in Action

How often in recent months have I seen reports on legislation at the state and federal levels (and sometimes in my own little village) and exclaimed: “Don’t these idiots know they are destroying our country?”

I’ve heard the same question on talk radio and read it in commentaries by columnists I respect and tend to agree with. There is in the question an assumption that preserving the United States and its Constitution is something we all agree with.

When Congress quadruples the debt ceiling and passes trillions of unfunded free giveaways, you might assume this is well-intended. These noble public servants must be confident they are not harming the nation. Maybe not.

Sadly, I have been deluded. Destroying the United States is the objective of a narrow majority of the members of Congress.

I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, we had eight years of a President who claimed to be an expert on the Constitution but apparently didn’t agree with its content or intent. He promised fundamental change to our nation and we failed to realize how fundamental he intended. Now we witness fundamental change in action.

President Obama was clear in his conviction that the Constitution should guarantee what government will do for people.  That concept is blossoming before our eyes in legislation that will confiscate life savings and property from some people and provide “free” everything to others: college, health care, kindergarten, childcare, housing, transportation, and on and on.

Under this approach, the government will regulate what you can do and what you can own. And those making the rules will be government kings and queens living in mansions.

Obama famously asked Joe the Plumber why he would need to earn more than $250,000 a year. The puzzled plumber likely didn’t get an invitation to the former President’s 60th birthday party, which drew hundreds of guests to a lavish gala at the former president’s $12 million mansion. (I guess Obama needs more than $250,000 a year to live on.)

As George Orwell wrote in Animal Farm, some pigs are more equal than others. There are so many examples of elitist hypocrisy:

  • John Kerry wants to save the planet by having you take public transportation; he flies to meetings in a private jet.
  • A St. Louis politician wants to defund the police; she has taxpayer-provided security guards.
  • CDC officials state their concern about a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, SD; they offer no worries about 100,00 young people jammed into a park in Chicago for a rock concert (or those priviledged few at the Obama birthday bash).
  • The leaders of teacher unions campaign against school vouchers; many send their own children to private schools.

Somewhere along the line, many (perhaps most) of our politicians and educators forgot why the United States fought for it independence from England. Perhaps they never learned why.

The colonists had experienced the rule of a tyrannical government, a government that demanded to make all decisions about the people. So they wrote a constitution not to proscribe what government should do but to make clear what it shall not do. They chose not a new, reformed, king but a representative republic where the government would be restricted and the people could achieve what their God-given talents and hard work might provide.

If we continue in the current direction Congress would take us, we will get a new king.  He or she will sit in (or behind) the White House with a court of people who have more money than the rest of us combined and believe they know what is best for the common people.

These people have more in common with King George  than George Washington. These people disdain the common people.

And if the people complain, they likely will say, “let them eat cake.”

Losing the Olympic Spirit

When I was a boy, the Olympics were just beginning to be broadcast on television and they were a BIG deal.

I would sit with my mom and little brother in front of the television in the evening and watch the world’s greatest athletes compete. Mom, God rest her soul, saw the games as not only an athletic competition but the confrontation of good and evil. The big moment of the day was on the late news when they gave the medal count for the day, and we prayed for the United States to have the most.

The Americans were the good guys and the Soviets and their pawns in Eastern Europe were the bad guys. The atmosphere in our living room was a little like the Rocky movies where the hardworking American overcomes the evil product of the Soviet system and anyone watching (at least in the United States) feels proud to be an American.

Thanks to the American Olympic kneelers, complainers, and WOKE campaigners, my enthusiasm for the games has dimmed. In fact, it has nearly disappeared.

Maybe I owe these spoiled snowflakes a debt of gratitude. In my boyhood days – and until recently – I would get rather nervous watching the games. If the US basketball team was behind, I would get nervous. If the US runners had fewer medals than the Cubans, I would be upset.

That has changed. If the US soccer players decide the Olympics are the place to protest the imperfections of their country, why should I lose sleep over whether they win or lose? If US basketball players are too busy promoting shoe sales in China to attend the games, why should I be concerned with their welfare?

I loved sports as a kid. I wasn’t especially strong, fast, or talented and certainly never had the ability to compete at a high level. The thought of competing in the Olympics was too far beyond me to even be a dream.

As a result, I expect anyone who is able to represent their country in the Olympics to be grateful. That is especially true for Americans, who enjoy greater freedom and opportunity than anyone else in the world.

The Olympics are a time to say, “thank you” rather than “America stinks.”

Of course, the rotten apples in America’s Olympic barrel are the minority.  Most of our competitors are grateful to participate.  Some are patriotic and many are wonderful role models.  For them, I still feel that patriotic urge. We produce some of the greatest human beings on earth.

The rotten apples need to remember that because of America, they can choose to make fools of themselves on the world stage. They can kneel during our anthem, give critical media interviews, and make insensitive comments on social media.

That is a privilege few of their competitors from around the world enjoy. I pray our athletes develop the wisdom to know when and how to best use that freedom.

The Greatest Fish Story Ever Told

The author in a rare moment when fishing turned to catching

St. Joseph, foster father to Jesus and I have something important in common; we are fishermen.

I know. You may be saying that I have no evidence that Joseph ever went fishing. But faith and logic – and a little imagination — have convinced me that Joseph loved to fish and this had a profound influence on Jesus.

Let me explain…

My wife and I have a son and a daughter.  The son is six years older than the daughter.  Both are all grown up with children of their own now.  But when they were 8 and 2, we were trying to figure out a vacation that would have things both would enjoy.  We decided to rent a cabin on a little lake in Wisconsin and spend a week fishing, hiking, playing on the beach, and relaxing.

I had never been much of an outdoorsman and expected to have a miserable time.  Instead, I loved it and we returned every year for two decades.  Much to my surprise, I became an avid fisherman. That isn’t to say that I’m much of a catcher of fish but I do love trying.

As Father’s Day approached this year, I got to thinking (some might even say I had a sort of vision) of Joseph in the carpenter’s shop with Jesus. They probably worked long, hard, days.  Carpentry is physical work, especially in Joseph’s time before there were power tools.

So it would only be natural that Joseph would take a break for a week or two in the summer and plan a little vacation. According to ancient texts, Nazareth wasn’t much of a resort town in those days but the Sea of Galilee is a day’s walk away. I’m think it would make sense for Joseph to pack up Mary and Jesus and head off to the sea for a week of fishing and relaxing on the shore.

Those of you who have read the Bible know that it doesn’t have a lot to say about Jesus before his public ministry. We see him as a baby, get a glimpse of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt, see him presented and later found in the temple.

The rest of the time we presume he was helping dad in the carpenter’s shop.  And as I have seen, he went on a fishing vacation each summer.

This early exposure to fishing was to have a profound effect on Jesus and some of the decisions he made during his public life.  Clearly, those annual trips to the sea exposed him to the bravery, honesty, and leadership of fishermen.

He learned that fishermen know how to communicate with others and tell a good story. When he picked his disciples, he knew he would need people who could remain optimistic even when people rejected them and refused to hear their words of faith.

Nobody is more optimistic than a fisherman.  A fisherman can cast a line for hours without a bite and still believe the next cast will generate a record catch. That’s the sort of attitude an evangelist must have.

Thus, when it came to picking disciples, Jesus went to the sea of Galilee, the place where he had so many fond childhood fishing memories, and built his core of followers on fishermen. He even founded His Church on the shoulders of a fisherman.

Perhaps this sounds far-fetched.  I certainly have not had an approved vision.  But it makes sense, at least as much as most fish stories.

I Challenge You to Vote

The folks who run Major League Baseball just decided to move the 2021 Allstar Game from Georgia to Colorado.

The stated reason is that Georgia legislators have passed a law that requires a person to have an ID to vote. Some on the liberal side of the political spectrum have charged that this is voter suppression aimed at keeping the poor, minority, downtrodden, humble, and meek from voting.

This is interesting in light of the fact that Colorado requires an ID to vote.

In light of the controversy around the 2020 Presidential election and charges (many like true) of fake ballots being counted, it is reasonable that many states are enacting laws to ensure the integrity of elections.  After all, this isn’t – or isn’t supposed to be – a banana republic.

Voting is a serious responsibility in a republic such as ours.  It should not be taken lightly. It should be cherished and something that takes a little effort.

Some politicians are vowing to make it easier to vote.  If they mean the polls are handicapped accessible, public transportation is available for people to get to the polls, and employers have to give people time off to do their civic duty, that is fine with me.

If it means you don’t have to prove you have the right to vote or even your identity, I have a serious issue with that. We should make sure that everyone who is legally entitled to vote is able to vote (once per election).

The hypocrisy of folks like the baseball executives who are criticizing Georgia lawmakers is breathtaking.  They don’t think you should produce an ID to vote, but try showing up at the will call window at Yankee Stadium and ask for the lower box seats you reserved without producing an ID.

Airlines are protesting Georgia’s legislation but I can’t remember every getting on a commercial airplane without showing an ID.  In fact, I’ve been scanned, patted down, and interrogated.

I can’t get a driver’s license, fishing license, or sticker for my kayak without producing an ID. Which isn’t to say getting a fishing license is a huge challenge. I just think it ought to require as much effort to vote.

Frankly, if someone doesn’t have an official ID and can’t figure out how to get one, I really don’t think they should be helping to decide who wins the next Presidential election. I don’t think they should be helping to choose the local dog catcher.

At the risk of sounding as un-woke-ish as is possible, I challenge our elected representatives to make it HARDER to vote.

The Week That Was and Never Should Have Been

Theodor Horydczak Collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

As a student of history, I am blessed to find hope despite the events in America over the past year. I’m also disappointed that our nation has proved it learns little from the lessons provided by the past.

Put another way, we have survived events far worse than the January 6, 2021, demonstrations in Washington. Unfortunately, we keep creating crises to challenge America’s desire to survive.

As the unfortunate events of last week unfolded, several images from history wandered through my mind.

Rome was destroyed by a great fire in July of the year 64. The Roman historian Tacitus recounts the horrible event, noting that it was generally believed initially that emperor Nero (who was missing a few cards in his deck) had set the fire. Nero, being clever as well as evil, blamed the upstart religious sect: Christians. The emperor was not about to let a crisis go to waste (even one he created) and used it to attack the troublesome followers of Christ.

It occurred to me that perhaps those who raised a ruckus in the Capitol Building were some of the same thugs who have been inciting trouble in cities around the country for the past year.  They were not the people who have been attending Trump rallies in joyful happiness for several years and I expect will continue to do so.

As I looked at pictures and videos of the gang that stormed into the Capitol Building, I couldn’t help but think that they didn’t look like people out to foment a revolution.  Throw a tantrum maybe. Express their frustration, perhaps.

Into my mind came the image of Howard Beale, the fictional newsman from the film 1976 film Network . Frustrated by all the turmoil in the world, he would end his nightly newscast screaming, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

I think there are millions of Howard Beales in America today:

  • Small-business owners in Chicago, Portland, Kenosha, Minneapolis and beyond who saw their properties looted and burned as police were ordered to stand down and let the violence run its course. (After all, as the Speaker of the House said, “people are going to do what they are going to do”.)
  • Unemployed workers who have lost their jobs at retail stores, restaurants, and thousands of service companies because businesses have been ordered shut by politicians despite scant evidence there was any benefit to public health.
  • Postal workers, nurses, and grocery employees who have been required to work while union teachers refuse to return to their jobs. (Although Catholic schools are open and doing just fine.)
  • Son, daughters, and grandkids being prevented from visiting the elderly in nursing homes.
  • People seeing their taxes raised and their benefits reduced.
  • A government relief package that includes billions for dubious foreign aid, bailouts for non-essential institutions, and money for pork projects.

I’ve seen several self-righteous politicians and complicit news commentators decry the “desecration” of the “hallowed” ground of the capitol building. Frankly, I doubt a mob could do more to desecrate the halls of congress than the liars, cheats, and political hacks who have populated the building for the past four years. Trashing a few offices hardly comes close to wasting trillions of taxpayer dollars and letting China ruin American industry, something the incoming Administration seems determined to accelerate.

I read about a member of Congress who wanted to punish whoever it is who trespassed in his office.  I expect the owners of the empty stores on Chicago formerly Magnificent Mile feel the same way about the people who looted their businesses.

Hearing of all the nonsense going on in Congress, another image come to my mind, this from the Gospel, Mark 11:15-17: And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold pigeons; [16] and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. [17] And he taught, and said to them, “Is it not written, `My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 

The moneychangers in the temple were small-time hustlers compared to the criminals who likely stole the election and will certainly try to steal your property and the hearts and minds of your children.

Yet, I have hope because we have survived progressive nonsense (Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt), totalitarian aggression (USSR, Hitler), and massive divisiveness in our nation (Civil War, 1960s).

Can we ever learn that progressive political policies don’t lead to everyone’s prosperity but to lost jobs, failed economies, even starvation? They don’t produce the Garden of Eden, they produce Venezuela.

Can we ever learn that massing power at the center doesn’t create the good for all but a Stalin?

Can we ever learn that there is good and evil in the world and two wrongs don’t make a right?

We can and we must. And I pray that we never must take the difficult path our forefathers were called to follow:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

If anyone doesn’t recognize these words, you need to read the founding documents of our nation – and your high-school civics teacher should lose tenure.

The Choice is Clear

Today’s great universities face myriad challenging choices.

Shall we expand the college of engineering?

Are the changes in secondary school requirements necessitating changes in how we educate teachers?

What is the ongoing role of a classical liberal education?

My alma mater, the University of Illinois, Urbana, faces all these challenges but one even more daunting to its politically correct leadership: the choice of a new mascot.

I wrote about this early in the year (Messing with a Mascot). As I mentioned then, the university really never had a mascot; it had a symbol: Chief Illiniwek.

However, in an ill-considered fit of progressive mindlessness, the university did away with The Chief. He was replaced (sort of) by a big orange capital “I”.

A big orange “I” could stand for many things… Illinois… idiot… illiterate… idolatry… insanity.  Such obscurity could not stand.

In response, the university has been accepting recommendations for a new (actually, its first) mascot.  The frontrunner appears to be a fairly unimpressive bird called the kingfisher. As I mentioned in my earlier blog, there are important and obvious reasons why the kingfisher is a selection that is for the birds.

The indisputable and most glorious choice for University of Illinois mascot is the Tully Monster. I’m serious.

If you aren’t familiar with this prehistoric denizen then shame on you. After all, the Tully Monster (Tullimonstrum gregarium) is the official state fossil of Illinois and inhabited the waters covering the state some 300 million years ago. It was discovered in 1958 by Francis Tully.

Illinois State Geological Survey paleontologist Donald Mikulic lobbied the State Legislation to give Tully the honor, which the wise legislators did in 1989.  Mikulic was lucky he got that done when he did; today Tully would be competing with Mike Madigan and Dick Durbin for state fossil.

Why would Tully be a great mascot?

  1. Tully Monster fossils have only been found in the Mazon Creek fossil beds of Illinois. That means it is Illinois’ fossil and nobody else can claim it. 
  2. Lots of universities have mascots named after birds or furry animals, but they are hardly unique. No other school has a Tully Monster. (I should point out that Ohio State’s mascot is a nut, the Buckeye, which may say something about the school’s football fans.)
  3. The Tully Monster was a soft-bodied, highly flexible creature that grew as long as 18 inches.  It was a voracious carnivore with a long jaw and sharp teeth.  You would not have wanted to encounter Tully in the wild, prehistoric waters of Illinois. Tully was tough!
  4. It is easy to picture a vicious depiction of Tully on athletic uniforms and banners. At minimum, the unusual image would distract other teams and give Illinois teams an advantage. (We need all the help we can get.)
  5. Unlike Chief Illiniwek, Tully is unlikely to arose the ire of activists – although anything is possible. Maybe there are fossil-rights activists who have been dormant.

I know there are some who will point out that nobody alive today has ever seen a living Tully Monster. I don’t think that should be a deal breaker.

Notre Dame has a leprechaun as its mascot and despite legends to the contrary, nobody has ever really seen a leprechaun. At least we know that Tully was real.

The Forgotten Essential Workers

This is not another tribute to those brave essential workers who continue to serve society during the coronavirus pandemic.

You hear their praises sung daily on the radio and read of their dedication in newspapers: emergency responders, police, fire fighters, nurses, doctors, letter carriers, grocery workers, and sanitation workers.

There are the cashiers in gas stations. In some cases you can include teachers. In Chicago, near my home, the Catholic school teachers have proved themselves essential by showing up live and in person each day to teach their students. The public-school teachers, led by a grubby union, have decided to hide at home (that makes them non-essential in my book).

Calling some people essential and others non-essential may be the biggest example of judgmental discrimination in history. The list of people above certainly includes groups that are urgently needed if society is to function on a daily basis.  But they are no more “essential” than artists and musicians. Yes, I can get along without music longer than I can get along without groceries – but music is essential to my definition of a world I want to live in.

Some people, perhaps most people, extoll the essential services of government. Most of the “essential” workers mentioned earlier work for government at some level. However, in my state, Illinois, government services are generally poor and taxes continue to rise to pay the unfunded pensions of essential (and in some cases extremely unessential) government employees.

As I write this, the coronavirus vaccines developed by private companies are rolling out.  President Trump – whether you like him or not – provided the most essential factor in getting vaccines done in record time. He got government out of the way.  If the government were given the task of creating the vaccines we’d still be setting up blue-ribbon panels of experts and arguing about which agency should be in charge.

Sadly, in all this talk of essential workers, there are two groups who are seldom if ever mentioned.

The first are what I’ll call “faith workers.” These include priests, nuns, ministers, and leaders of Jewish, Muslim, and other non-Christian creeds. They have tried to continue to fill the faith needs of their followers despite government efforts to close their facilities and keep their members from getting together for such absolutely essential activities as prayer.

Government restrictions have made it challenging (in some instances impossible) for people of faith to conduct the corporal acts of mercy:  to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to give shelter to travelers, to visit the sick, to visit the imprisoned, and to bury the dead.

Government is trying to control people to a greater degree than ever before in America’s history.  Don’t misunderstand; we have been through difficult times and sacrifices many times in the past.  But never before has the government reached so far to restrict our movement and define our thinking.

Government restrictions have ruined businesses and broken countless family dreams. In return, there is scant evidence those restrictions have really benefitted our health. Nobody has proved to me that avoiding human contact and wearing a mask while riding my bicycle is beneficial.

Of course, the federal government has sent zillions of dollars in aid to individual, businesses, and other levels of government. This brings me to the second category of forgotten essential workers: taxpayers.

Contrary to what many socialists believe, the government really doesn’t have its own money to spend. Government has assumed the authority to spend our money.

All the free stuff government gives away isn’t really free.  It is paid for by taxpayers.

I cringe every time I hear a government leader say the government is providing free health care, free housing, free food, or free anything else.  It isn’t that I’m opposed to helping people; I am opposed to government taking credit and claiming it is providing anything for free.

Government can only give something to a person by taking the required resources from someone else. That makes – from the government’s perspective – the taxpayer the most essential worker of all.

The next time you get anything “free” from the government, don’t thank your senator. Thank your taxpaying neighbors.

The Audacity of Unity

Marching band at Arirang Mass Games – North Korea

I’m writing this a few days after the 2020 national elections in the United States.

It has been a contentious political season and that will continue. Both candidates believe they won the presidency and there is ample evidence of cheating, fraud, confusion, and old-fashioned political chicanery.

Now that election day has passed and despite the cloudiness of the result, the calls are starting for unity. Politicians, civic leaders, and clerics are calling for unity as if it is the greatest good a society can attain.

I’m not so sure.

Unity can be helpful if you are an orchestra, basketball team, or army assaulting an enemy. In the political world it might or might not be a good thing.  Unity isn’t a virtue.

Catholics point to four cardinal virtues (fortitude, justice, temperance, prudence) and three theological virtues (faith, hope, charity). The Catechism of the Catholic Church talks about seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.” [CCC 1831.]

As I said, “unity” doesn’t make the list of virtues. It is mentioned in scripture, but always in the context of something wonderful that will occur if all people are of one heart with Christ. It is achieved by conversion rather than coercion.

Unity is one of the triad of what I believe are today’ progressive virtues, which also include tolerance and acceptance. (Neither of these is mentioned in the list of virtues presented by the Church).

When today’s progressive talks of unity, it means everyone must accept and tolerate a libertine political philosophy that promotes a great many things government should do for everyone, which comes with massive control and cost. It is a philosophy that rejects the US Constitution, which seeks to protect people from the tyranny of big government.

Why should I abandon my Christian faith and my belief in the good of my country to achieve unity?

Looking around the world, I see evidence that unity is a characteristic more of oppressive governments than free nations. Certainly, the nations with the most “unity” are North Korea, China, Iran, and Cuba. Nations that believe in freedom – USA, UK, Ireland, France – tend to have a lot of bickering and sloppy debate.

Unity can work for good or evil. Americans came together to play a major role in victory in two world wars. That was a good thing.

Hitler united a suffering Germany in a common effort to conquer the world.  That wasn’t such a good thing.

Today, it seems that unity depends on my acceptance of abortion, sexual immorality, forced income redistribution, seizure of private property, socialization of medicine, and rejection of religious freedom.

Under those circumstances, I won’t be much of a unifier. I refuse to be united to evil. I believe in a Christian unity that rejects audacity.