2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 900 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 15 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Pearl Harbor: Lessons in Global Aggression

I am saddened for my children’s sake. Their world lacks the focus of the one I grew up in. The enemies were clear, the dangers real. Safe spaces were those marked with yellow-and-black fallout shelter signs, political correctness not required. Ours was a warrior nation that had rolled from one conflict to the next with a firm sense of what mattered: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I come from the final bloom of the baby boom. Some of those who categorize such things would place me at the very start of Generation X, but I wasn’t lost in the middle. My parents grew up in the Depression, uncles served in World War II and Korea. My older brothers went to Vietnam. Though America was the only nation that had used nuclear weapons in war, the Soviet threat was real. Communism was evil and our loved ones ventured deep into harm’s way to staunch its flow. The U.S. of A., for all her faults, was a force to be reckoned with and her righteous anger was fearsome to behold.

For seven years now I have consoled myself with the thought that things really aren’t that bad; after all, we survived Roosevelt. How much harm could Obama do in only half the time? Sadly, this mantra doesn’t comfort me the way it used to. I am far from being a fan of FDR. But regardless my feelings about the disastrous “progressive” agenda he foisted upon our nation, I must admit that his performance on the world stage on his worst day highlights the incompetence of our current president and the smallness of the front runners of the opposition.

On December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan attached Pearl Harbor even while it was still in diplomatic talks with the United States. Two thousand, three hundred and forty military personnel and forty-eight civilians were killed.[1] The following day, President Roosevelt addressed the Congress. His speech is a classic, an icon of American History. No doubt, you have heard it with Roosevelt’s distinctive denouncement of the date as one “which will live in infamy.”[2] Roosevelt proceeded with a brief summary of the attack and logical proofs of its premeditated nature. He then enumerated the other assaults that Japan had made in the Pacific theater. What followed was clear leadership.

“As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.[3]

Note that as Commander in Chief, he directed that all measures be taken for our defense. FDR is the patron saint of liberalism. But this clear commitment to national defense led him to incarcerate in American concentration camps United States citizens of Japanese descent whose only crime was their ancestors’ nation of origin. It is easy to dismiss this act as shameful in retrospect. But to do so fails to take into account not only the absolute sense it made then, but also the number of people who peacefully complied to relocation in the interest of national unity.[4] Today our leaders pale at the thought of racial profiling. Let me ask you, were you in the least bit surprised that the perpetrators of the San Bernardino massacre were Muslims with Arabic surnames?[5]

Let me ask you, were you in the least bit surprised that the perpetrators of the San Bernardino massacre were Muslims with Arabic surnames?

“I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.”[6]

I was tempted to splash some bolding across the text of the quote for emphasis, but thought better of it as I would have bolded the entire thing! I never thought I would see the day when I would say, “Lord, I wish we had a leader like Roosevelt today!” He had no doubt that he was clear on the national heartbeat. He asserted not only vigorous defense but also a total commitment to making sure that Japan would never be threat to the United States again. This promise has held true for the seventy years since their defeat, a defeat that was ensured by the release of the most fearsome weapon of war then known to man and responsible for over two hundred thousand killed. Today we incarcerate military personnel who lose the rules of engagement in the heat of battle!

“Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.”[7]

It is a simple statement, but one which our current leaders seem unable to make. In 1993, a bomb planted by Muslim extremists blew up in the World Trade center, killing five and injuring hundreds. In 1995, a car bomb parked by Muslim extremists in Saudi Arabia killed five Americans and injured thirty others. In 1998, Muslim extremists bombed the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In 2000, the USS Cole was attacked by Muslim extremists. When Muslim extremists attacked us on September 11, 2001, did President Bush declare that we had been attacked and were at war with Muslim extremists?

“I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It’s practiced freely by many millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends. It is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them.”[8]

Anyone who has read history objectively knows that the teachings of Mohammad are not peaceful and their goodness is highly suspect. The Crusaders who murdered in the name of Christ were traitors to their religion. Muslims who practice jihad are faithful to theirs. “Muslim radical” is truly no different than “Islamic fundamentalist” – a person who believes the Koran and follows the teachings of Mohammad. But 21st Century American political leaders – be they Democrat or Republican – don’t have the courage to say so. And because they won’t say it, they can’t declare war against it.

“Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”[9]

George Bush declared war on terror. We were attacked by people who believe in the edicts of their prophet, by a culture and system of faith that honors force above all else. And after thousands of innocent civilian lives are lost in a single day’s work of ruthless execution, we respond with a diffused call to war against “terror” as if holdouts of the ETA or the IRA held anything in common with Al Qaeda and ISIL besides methods. Let us return to Roosevelt for an example of how it is done.

“I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.”[10]

Congress’s response to this call for declaration of war was swift and decisive.

“Whereas the Imperial Government of Japan has committed unprovoked acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America:

Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Imperial Government of Japan which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Imperial Government of Japan; and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.[11]

Our nation has seen much conflict since WWII, but it hasn’t gone to war with such clarity since. I am no fan of George W. Bush. But despite the fact that his speech before Congress after the 9/11 attacks left much to be desired, it stands head-and-shoulders above the drivel we hear from the White House these days. In the face of the reestablishment of an Islamic Caliphate and the wake of multiple attacks by Islamic fundamentalists on Americans both at home and abroad, what does the Obama administration focus on as the enemy? Your carbon footprint.

Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel unveiled several initiatives and a need for the Defense Department to make climate change a consideration in strategic planning, calling climate change as a “threat multiplier”.[12] Considering the numerous armies that have succumbed to disaster due to unforeseeable weather conditions, the hubris of planning for climate change contentions is laughable.[13]

Secretary of State John Kerry feels that climate change should be addressed with as much immediacy as the Islamic State (which could lead astute observers to believe the administration is going to do next to nothing about climate change).[14]

Addressing college students in Iowa, Vice President Joe Biden said, “Global warming is the greatest threat to your generation of anything at all, across the board.”[15] One would think he could be a bit more realistic with college students and warn them of the real danger to themselves of unemployment if they didn’t get a marketable degree in business administration or one of the hard sciences! People are being brutally beheaded for all the world to see by those who vehemently declare us and our way of life to be their sworn enemy and destined for destruction and global warming is the greatest threat? Oh, Joe, say it isn’t so!

And what of our fearless leader? He gets situation briefs every day. Surely he must be aware of the dangers posed to America by those committed to a fundamentalist practice of Islam? Sadly, when he isn’t pushing nuclear treaties with nations that enshrine us as their enemy in their national constitution, he’s spouting drivel like this:

“As the world’s largest economy and second-largest carbon emitter, as a country with unsurpassed ability to drive innovation and scientific breakthroughs, as the country that people around the world continue to look to in times of crisis, we’ve got a vital role to play. We can’t stand on the sidelines. We’ve got a unique responsibility.”[16]

Allow me to run that through a translator for you: America is the reason for global warming and her economy must be made to pay!

When asked whether he believed that climate change was a greater threat than terrorism, his response included this gem:

“What we know is that as human beings are placed under strain, then bad things happen. Whenever people are desperate, when people start lacking food, when people are not able to make a living or take care of their families, that’s when ideologies arise that are dangerous.”[17]

No, Mr. President, dangerous ideologies arise because there is true evil in this world. And the men and women like Syed Farook and Tshfeen Malik go out in a blaze of infamous glory after slaughtering the infidels, they don’t do it as a response to rising temperatures in San Bernardino. They do so in accordance with the ideologies preached and practiced by Abu al-Qasim Muhammad. I understand that in the modern age American leaders have lacked the spine to officially declare war since WWII. In this day, I would settle for leaders who were willing to admit who is at war with us: Islamic fundamentalists.

[1] http://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/18arizona/18charts1.htm, accessed 12/5/2015.
[2] http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/presidents/franklin-delano-roosevelt/pearl-harbor-speech-december-8-1941.php, accessed 12/5/15. The URL will take the reader to the full text of the speech. In my opinion, it stands shoulder to shoulder with Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
[3] Ibid., emphasis added.
[4] Go to http://resisters.com/learn-more/jacl/mike-masaokas-rebuttal-to-critics/ to read some of the complexity of the situation from the eyes of an American-Japanese leader who lived through the experience.
[5] Ironically enough, Farook means “the one who distinguishes between right and wrong.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farooq, accessed 12/5/15.
[6] http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/presidents/franklin-delano-roosevelt/pearl-harbor-speech-december-8-1941.php, accessed 12/5/2015.
[7] Ibid.
[8] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/specials/attacked/transcripts/bushaddress_092001.html, accessed 12/5.2015.
[9] Ibid.
[10] http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/presidents/franklin-delano-roosevelt/pearl-harbor-speech-december-8-1941.php, accessed 12/5/15.
[11] https://www.law.ou.edu/ushistory/japwar.shtml, accessed 12/5/15.
[12] http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/603440, accessed 12/5/15.
[13] Joshua 10:11 is one ancient and extreme example, but there are modern ones as well.
[14] http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/218480-kerry-climate-change-as-urgent-at-isil-ebola, accessed 12/6/15.
[15] http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/02/12/joe-biden-to-college-students-global-warming-is-greatest-threat-to-your-generation/, accessed 12/6/15.
[16] http://www.newsmax.com/FastFeatures/obama-global-warming-climate-change-quotes/2014/11/02/id/604276/ accessed 12/6/10.
[17] http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/12/04/response-trump-obama-defends-saying-climate-change-bigger-threat-terrorism/, accessed 12/6/15. Emphasis added.

True Horror: A Halloween Tale

Rationalists are ill equipped to deal with the realities of the underworld. Reports of paranormal activity are viewed skeptically if not derisively. People who swear they have seen a ghost or are sure that their house is haunted are considered gullible, delusional, or deceitful. Scientific man wouldn’t recognize a demon if it slapped him in the face. After all, in a universe without God, how can there be such a thing as a devil?

Despite the substantial gains that secular humanism appears to have made in establishing a materialistic world view for the masses of Western civilization, popular culture belies their success. If rationalism reigns supreme, why is Halloween one of the fastest-growing consumer holidays?[1] Modern man may take his stand to explain this away with psychological arguments about humanity’s proclivity for pretense or sociological theories about the propagation of the traditions of youth that adults bequeath to their children in commemoration of romanticized memories, but this doesn’t go quite far enough to justify the macabre. A recent survey of Halloween costume picks has witches, zombies, and vampires in the top ten. No one should be surprised, least of all the Devil; who came in a disappointing eleventh in the survey just below a three-way tie between serial killers, tarts, and politicians[2] – which one could argue would give him tenth place representation on influence alone.

To Christians who bemoan the open embracement of the occult that Halloween provides, I would advise a review of Church history if they wish to know the reasons for its popular continuance. The ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween), the festival of the dead, was transmuted by the Church into All Hallows Eve through the implementation of celebrations and rites that incorporated the pagan holiday in order to be culturally relevant in their outreach.[3] This approach continues into the modern era in which fellowship halls across the Evangelical spectrum are opened up to alternative events where children can enjoy a little bit of dress up and lots of sugar in a “safe” environment. Personally, I think it would be safer for them to see the realities of the spirit realm.

The ancients believed in sacred times and places, seasons and shrines where the vail between this dimension and the next was nothing more than a wisp of gossamer easily moved aside by the wind. Such instincts led them to communal worship in admiration or for appeasement and safety. When the otherworldly was afoot, best be in the company of brothers. Anyone who has had even a fleeting moment of fear in the dark knows the sensation of a haunted place. And most have felt this brush on their skin at one time or another with the lights on. To encounter the spiritual is common to the human condition, for we are spirit beings. Halloween’s centuries long continuance is a testament of this.

But the pretend horrors of Halloween are nothing compared to the true terrors that the spirit realm holds. The costume masks are mere grotesques of the dangers of the dark. And the children of darkness hold no candle to the terrors of the heavenlies. One could pile demons, ghosts, and lycans atop all the wiccans, walking corpses, and blood suckers[4] in the world and not come close to matching the menace of the lowly insects of the spirit realm, let alone its higher beings.

Revelation 9:1-12 (Contemporary English Version)
1 When the fifth angel blew his trumpet, I saw a star fall from the sky to earth. It was given the key to the tunnel that leads down to the deep pit.
2 As it opened the tunnel, smoke poured out like the smoke of a great furnace. The sun and the air turned dark because of the smoke.
3 Locusts came out of the smoke and covered the earth. They were given the same power that scorpions have.
4 The locusts were told not to harm the grass on the earth or any plant or any tree. They were to punish only those people who did not have God’s mark on their foreheads.
5 The locusts were allowed to make them suffer for five months, but not to kill them. The suffering they caused was like the sting of a scorpion.
6 In those days people will want to die, but they will not be able to. They will hope for death, but it will escape from them.
7 These locusts looked like horses ready for battle. On their heads they wore something like gold crowns, and they had human faces.
8 Their hair was like a woman’s long hair, and their teeth were like those of a lion.
9 On their chests they wore armor made of iron. Their wings roared like an army of horse-drawn chariots rushing into battle.
10 Their tails were like a scorpion’s tail with a stinger that had the power to hurt someone for five months.
11 Their king was the angel in charge of the deep pit. In Hebrew his name was Abaddon, and in Greek it was Apollyon.
12 The first horrible thing has now happened! But wait. Two more horrible things will happen soon.

If you think these scorpions are bad news, consider the specter of the horses of the underworld:

Revelation 9:17b-19 (CEV)
17b The heads of the horses looked like lions, with fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths.
18 One-third of all people were killed by the three terrible troubles caused by the fire, the smoke, and the sulfur.
19 The horses had powerful mouths, and their tails were like poisonous snakes that bite and hurt.

As bad as these are, the Dragon is even worse.

Revelation 12:3-4 (CEV)
3 Something else appeared in the sky. It was a huge red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, and a crown on each of its seven heads.
4 With its tail, it dragged a third of the stars from the sky and threw them down to the earth. Then the dragon turned toward the woman, because it wanted to eat her child as soon as it was born.

No horror tale pretended to by man in a bid for free candy or filmed by him to sell sweets and popcorn to the adoring masses can touch the realities that hell holds captive. And the dwellers of the dark kingdom are but pale shadows of the terrifying light of the bright ones.

Ezekiel 1:4-14 (New King James Version)
4 Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire.
5 Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man.
6 Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings.
7 Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the soles of calves’ feet. They sparkled like the color of burnished bronze.
8 The hands of a man were under their wings on their four sides; and each of the four had faces and wings.
9 Their wings touched one another. The creatures did not turn when they went, but each one went straight forward.
10 As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle.
11 Thus were their faces. Their wings stretched upward; two wings of each one touched one another, and two covered their bodies.
12 And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went.
13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches going back and forth among the living creatures. The fire was bright, and out of the fire went lightning.
14 And the living creatures ran back and forth, in appearance like a flash of lightning.
24 When they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of many waters, like the voice of the Almighty, a tumult like the noise of an army; and when they stood still, they let down their wings.

These creatures – taller than tornadoes, brighter than lightning, loud as the voice of the Almighty – worship One more terrifying than themselves.[5]

Revelation 1:12-18 (NKJV)
12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands,
13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.
14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;
15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;
16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.
17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.
18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

John’s vision of Jesus glorified was far more terrible than his glimpse of Him transfigured.[6] True horror would be to perish beneath the sword of the Living Lord returning from Heaven[7], to die at the hand of the One who died for you because His grace was rejected.

2 Corinthians 6:2 (NKJV)
For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.”  Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Matthew 10:28 (NKJV)
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

This year, as in the centuries before it, many will don themselves in mockeries of the spirit realm. They will mum their way through occult pantomimes, oblivious to the true dangers lurking in the darkness or the worse danger of rejecting the Light. Man’s reason may deny these realities. But his heart and the hair at the nape of his neck know better. Evil is real, but it trembles before God.[8] It is far better to feel His embrace at our repentance[9] than to face the hand of His judgment,[10] for “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)

John 3:16 (NKJV)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

[1] Treacy Reynolds, “Record Number of Americans Buy Halloween Costumes”, https://nrf.com/media/press-releases/record-number-of-americans-buy-halloween-costumes, accessed 10/18/15.
[2] https://nrf.com/sites/default/files/Images/Media%20Center/Costumes%209-12-15%20press.pdf, accessed 10/18/15.
[3] Jack Santino, “Halloween: The Fantasy and Folklore of All Hallows”, The Library of Congress American Folklife Center, http://www.loc.gov/folklife/halloween.html, accessed 10/30/15.
[4] The reader is free to choose vampires or politicians or both for this reference.
[5] See Rev 4:6-11
[6] Matt 17:1-2
[7] Rev 19:11-18
[8] James 2:19
[9] Luke 15:10
[10] Heb 10:31

Dealing with the Devil: U.S. Foreign Policy and Iranian Nuclear Power

Mohammad Mossadegh is seldom mentioned in connection with the Iran Nuclear Agreement. But his memory was alive in the minds of the young revolutionaries who sacked the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and took over sixty Americans hostage.[1] Remembering one of the many interrogations he endured during his 444 harrowing days of captivity, John Lambert recounted “he asked me about the 1953 coup…that overthrew Mossadegh, organized by Kermit Roosevelt and the CIA. ‘What was your role in that?’ And I said, ‘Well, I was about ten years old at the time. I don’t think I had much of a role.’”[2]

Mr. Lambert may have only been about ten years old when the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran was pushed out of power through the machinations of the CIA, but the Ayatollah Khomeini was fifty-one and he would not forget the impacts American intervention made on his country and his people.

To fully appreciate the causes of Mossadegh’s downfall, one must go back to 1901 when Iran still called herself Persia. It was in that year that William D’Arcy, a millionaire London socialite, negotiated a 60-year concession with Persia’s then Shah, Mozzafar-al-Din of the Dajar dynasty.[3] The concession gave D’Arcy the exclusive right to prospect for, extract, and sell Persia’s petroleum. Discovery of large oil deposits at Masjid-i-Saleiman led to the establishment of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the grandfather enterprise of the oil giant we now call BP.[4]

The British government purchased the controlling interest of the company in 1913. Shortly thereafter, Winston Churchill – then an official in the British Admiralty – convinced the navy to switch from Welsh coal to Iranian oil.[5] The world hasn’t been the same since.

WWI saw Persia overrun by British and Russian forces as they slugged it out with the Ottoman Turks. The war’s conclusion found Persia impoverished, broken, and ripe for plucking. Reza Khan, commander of the Persian Cossack Brigade, staged a coup d’état in 1921 with British complicity. He had himself crowned the first Shah of the new Pahlavi Dynasty in 1925 and began an intensive program of modernization. Though he had benefited from British patronage, he was never keen on their entrenchment in his country.

Faced with an aggressive political entity to his north in the form of the nascent Soviet Union and the overt power plays of the British Empire within his own borders, the Shah continually played one side against the other in order to retain as much of his sovereignty as possible. Changing the nation’s name to Iran in 1935 is perhaps indicative of who he believed would wind up king of the hill in European and global affairs. Iran is a cognate of Aryan and refers to “the Land of the Aryans.”[6]

By 1941 Germany was Iran’s greatest trade partner. Over 2,000 German nationals were living in Iran working on various industrial projects. Their presence on the main vein of Britain’s oil was certainly cause for concern to the Crown. On August 21, 1941, Great Britain and the Soviet Union made a joint demand that Iran expel all German nationals. The Shah refused. The Brits and Russians invaded four days later. Aryan or not, Reza Shah read the handwriting on the wall and abdicated his throne in favor of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.[7] The Pahlavi Dynasty’s second and last Shah would be a tool in the hands of the West his entire reign.

Enter Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh. A distinguished public servant of Iran whose career began long before Reza Khan’s coup, he was in 1950 the parliamentary chairman of the committee responsible for negotiating Iran’s oil contracts and concessions. The committee turned their attention fully on the now named Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) to garner a more equitable deal than the D’Arcy concession had bequeathed them. Iran’s share of the profits from AIOC was less than the taxes the company paid to the British Crown. Mossadegh pressed AIOC for a 50-50 deal. They countered with a proposal which increased the payments to Iran but fell short of the requested share. Mossadegh’s committee rejected their offer.[8]

AIOC returned the following year with a 50-50 proposal, but it was too late. Mossadegh’s patience had run out. He rejected the deal and pushed for the full nationalization of AIOC’s properties. Having begun his opposition to the Pahlavi Dynasty in 1923, he was a force to be reckoned with in 1951. When he was elected as Prime Minister, the Shah didn’t have the political or popular clout to keep him from the post.[9] As Prime Minister, Mossadegh pushed forward to nationalize AIOC. The British government would have none of it and they easily convinced the Americans to help them intervene.

Known to the Britain’s MI6 as Operation Boot and to the CIA as TPAJAX, the covert operation to remove Mossadegh from power was led by the Americans under the guise of needing a win against the Soviets in the early years of the Cold War. The “TP” in TPAJAX stood for “Tudah Party,” a Communist political party in Iran. But an official CIA internal history of the operation written in 1954 by Dr. Donald N. Wilber reveals the true cause and aims of the coup d’état against Mossadegh:

“By the end of 1952, it had become clear that the Mossadeq government in Iran was incapable of reaching an oil settlement with interested Western countries…It was the aim of the TPAJAX project to cause the fall of the Mossadeq government; to reestablish the prestige and power of the Shah; and to replace the Mossadeq government with one which would govern Iran according to constructive policies. Specifically, the aim was to bring to power a government which would reach an equitable oil settlement…”[10]

To reestablish the prestige and power of the Shah, the CIA chose as their puppet a Major General in the Iranian Army, Fazlollah Zahedi. Though General Zahedi led the charge and was installed as Prime Minister by the Shah upon the coup’s successful completion, the Americans were not going to leave its continued success to chance. The U.S. sent in Major-General Schwarzkopf – “Stormin” Norman’s father – to form and train security forces that were loyal to the Shah. These security agents, organized and trained by Americans with the assistance of Israeli Mossad officers, developed into what became the dreaded SAVAK; Iran’s secret police and the brutal enforcers of the Shah’s power. Though the Ayatollah Khomeini would repurpose the Shah’s torture chambers to a new class of victims, it was ostensibly against this oppression that he inspired his countrymen to revolt under the banner of Islam.

I remember my glee when after having been held captive, humiliated, and paraded under an incompetent Jimmy Carter for 444 days, the American hostages in Iran were released within minutes of Ronald Reagan taking the oath of office as President. My revelry would surely have been shorter had I known that once in the Oval Office, Reagan would authorize the sell of billions of dollars’ worth of American weapons to Iran through Israeli hands. Not content with this level of interloping, we later sold even more arms and provided intelligence to Saddam Hussein in order to bolster him in his war effort against Iran. [11] The Iran-Iraq war would claim by some estimates nearly a million Iranian casualties in its eight year course.

Though much has changed in the thirty-five years since Saddam invaded Iran, ever so much remains the same. Known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran Nuclear Agreement brings together frenemies old and new – the E3/EU+3: China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The plan is practical, measurable, and highly technical.[12] Considering the fact that all five permanent members of the UN Security Council took part in crafting the plan, it is irresponsible to characterize it as the foreign relations debacle of a single man regardless of one’s opinion of President Obama’s politics. And even though the JCPOA specifies the types of nuclear material and facility designs the Iranians may use down to level of their neutron fluxes, the Iran Nuclear Agreement isn’t really about nukes. It’s about oil.

Reminiscent of its reactions to Iranian politics in the 1950s, the West hasn’t allowed the Islamic Republic of Iran to fully function in the global economy since its violent birth in 1979. Her oil fields are still rich and their infrastructure is in dire need of investment and repair. And the world is thirsty for fuel. Under the terms of the JCPOA, Iranian crude will once again flow freely into the world market. The E3/EU+3 will benefit from the sell of equipment and technology to Iran as well as extend and deepen the economic benefit of reduced oil prices.[13] Iran will regain her long-frozen assets and garner better prices per barrel than she was enjoying on the black market as well as increase her production through oil field upgrades. Though Putin’s Russia may lose some European petrol sells in the short term, it gains even greater hegemony in the uranium market as it is where Iran must sell its excesses and who it must turn to to down blend their current stores of enriched uranium. Everyone wins. Well, almost.

America would have been much better served had President Eisenhower and the CIA opted to support Mohammad Mossadegh in the 1950s. Though nationalizing an industry runs counter to the philosophy of property rights and free trade, it presents much less of an ideological affront than the toppling of a democratically elected leader in favor of a despotic monarch. It is quite possible that an Iran under Mossadegh might have developed into a more modern mindset than she finds herself in today. And if he had had the chance to lead his country through that dangerous decade, it is highly probable that we would have negotiated a nuclear agreement with men of his breadth and caliber: lawyers, financiers, musicians, and tirelessly courageous public servants.[14] As it stands, we are beholden to the Ayatollahs.

The problem with the JCPOA isn’t the wording of the nuclear agreement. The problem is with the wording of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (CIRI). Much like our founding documents, the Iranian Constitution presents the reasons for the rise of the Islamic Republic. Its revolution was part of a “devastating protest of Imam Khumayni against the American conspiracy…which was intended to…reinforce…economic dependence of Iran on world imperialism.”[15] Having identified its primary enemy, the CIRI proceeds to declare its global intentions.

“With due attention to the Islamic content of the Iranian Revolution, the Constitution provides the necessary basis for ensuring the continuation of the Revolution at home and abroad. In particular, in the development of international relations, the Constitution will strive with other Islamic and popular movements to prepare the way for the formation of a single world community (in accordance with the Koranic verse “This your community is a single community, and I am your Lord, so worship Me” [21:92]), and to assure the continuation of the struggle for the liberation of all deprived and oppressed peoples in the world…”[16]

“In the formation and equipping of the country’s defense forces, due attention must be paid to faith and ideology as the basic criteria. Accordingly, the Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps are to be organized in conformity with this goal, and they will be responsible not only for guarding and preserving the frontiers of the country, but also for fulfilling the ideological mission of jihad in God’s way; that is, extending the sovereignty of God’s law throughout the world (this is in accordance with the Koranic verse “Prepare against them whatever force you are able to muster, and strings of horses, striking fear into the enemy of God and your enemy, and others besides them” [8:60]).”[17]

The White House estimated as late as July of this year that Iran could have enough weapons grade uranium to build a bomb as early as September and at the latest October.[18] Nuclear weapons notwithstanding, Iran has proven quite capable of exporting bloodshed, mayhem, and jihad abroad with purely conventional weapons and a severely restricted money supply. The JCPOA is definitely a deal with the devil. But who the devil is depends on which side of the table the parties are sitting.

[1] “The Iranian Hostage Crisis”, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/carter-hostage-crisis, (accessed September 6, 2015).
[2] “444 Days: Memoirs of an Iran Hostage”, http://adst.org/2013/10/444-days-memoirs-of-an-iranian-hostage, (accessed September 6, 2015).
[3] “Anglo-Persian Oil Company”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Persian_Oil_Company, (accessed September 25, 2015).
[4] “D’Arcy, William Knox (1849-1917)”, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/darcy-william-knox-5882, (accessed September 25, 2015).
[5] “How the world got addicted to oil, and where biofuels will take us” by Tom Philpott, http://grist.org/article/oped, (accessed September 24, 2015).
[6] David Motadel, Islam and Nazi Germany’s War, (London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press 2014), 57.
[7] Michael E. Haskew, The World War II Desk Reference, (Edison: Grand Central Press 2004), 89.
[8] “Mohamad Mossadeq, the Nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and the Attempted Overthrow of the Shah” by Thayer Watkins, http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/mossadeq.htm, (accessed September 20, 2015).
[9] Pahlavi was insecure enough in his position that he actually left the country.
[10] Dr. Donald N. Wilber, Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran: November 1952 – August 1953, (CIA, Clandestine Services History 1954), http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB28/summary.pdf, (accessed September 20, 2015), emphasis added.
[11] “U.S. Secretly Gave Aid to Iraq Early in Its War Against Iran” by Seymour M. Hersh, http://www.nytimes.com/1992/01/26/world/us-secretly-gave-aid-to-iraq-early-in-its-war-against-iran.html, (accessed September 21, 2015).
[12] The full text of the agreement is available at http://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/full-text-iran-deal-120080, (accessed September 27, 2015).
[13] Crude oil prices dropped in mere anticipation of the agreement. It is estimated that Iran’s projected injection of one million barrels per day into the world market could reduce prices by $5-$10 per barrel. [“How Much Pressure Will Iran Put On Oil Prices?” by Ekaterina Pokrovskaya, http://oilprice.com/Energy/Oil-Prices/How-Much-Pressure-Will-Iran-Put-On-Oil-Prices.html, (accessed September 6, 2015).]
[14] Mossadegh held his first post in government at the age of 15 as Chief of Finance of the Khorasan Province. He studied political science in Tehran and Paris and attended law school in Switzerland. He also played the Tar, a traditional Persian string instrument. See http://www.mohammadmossadegh.com/biography, (accessed September 20, 2015).
[15] Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, sec. The Dawn of the Movement. Emphasis added.
[16] Ibid., sec. The Form of Government in Islam. Emphasis added.
[17] Ibid., sec. The Religious Army. Emphasis added.
[18] “6 Things You Should Know About The Iran Nuclear Deal”, http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/07/14/422920192/6-things-you-should-know-about-the-iran-nuclear-deal, (accessed September 20, 2015).

Obergefell v. Hodges: A Primer in Same-sex Legislation

(1) Whereas, the right to personal choice – be it to murder an unborn child or to cohabit with another of the same-sex – is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy;[1]

(2) Whereas, the right to marry is fundamental because is supports a two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals[2] and despite the fact that it has been understood for millennia to be a union between two people of the opposite sex;[3]

(3) Whereas, the right to marry safeguards children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of childrearing, procreation, and education[4] (and regardless the facts that same-sex unions can’t procreate and that children reared by same-sex couples fare worse than those raised in intact biological families);[5]

(4) Whereas, this Court’s cases and the Nation’s traditions make it clear that marriage is a keystone of our social order[6] (which we hereby determine to dismantle by judicial edict);

BE IT ENACTED BY THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES that the Constitution read as follows: Same-sex couples have the right to marry and their pretense of traditional family life must be recognized and protected in and by all States and all who oppose such unions shall be vilified and prosecuted for seeking to disparage the choices of same-sex couples and thus diminish their personhood.[7]

Formatting the Court’s opinion regarding same-sex marriage in the fashion of a legislative bill would be humorous were it not for that fact that most of the language above formed the basis of the majority’s decision to find within the Constitution a radical redefinition of marriage and enforce its acceptance in what once was one of the most religiously conservative nations on earth.

The opinion handed down on June 26, 2015, is already old news in our twenty-four-seven media culture. Since then, a lone shooter has accomplished in one murderous rampage what the Union Army could not even after the expense of over 600,000 American lives;[8] the Obama administration has given the Republic of Iran a clear path to develop nuclear weapons in a deal that not only bans U. S. inspectors, but also commits us as a nation to help Iran safeguard its program against sabotage;[9] and Mohammond Youssuf Abdulazeez has murdered four Marines and a sailor in Tennessee and the FBI thinks it “premature to speculate on the motives of the shooter at this time.”[10] Though all of these events are momentous in their own right; their significance pales in light of the societal shift that the Court has imposed upon America.

Liberals, Libertarians, Secular Humanists, and Evolutionary Atheists (who refuse to admit the inconsistency to their philosophy that same-sex unions pose) all have cause to celebrate the Court’s decision. But Conservatives, Constitutionalists, and yes, even Christians have much to be concerned about because the country they grew up isn’t the nation their children are inheriting.

Obergefell v. Hodges,[11] its opinion and dissents, should be required reading for all civic minded Americans. I offer the following synopsis as a primer to its framework.

Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court in which Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Keagan joined. The Court delivered this opinion with a slim majority of one.[12] The other four justices – Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito – all wrote dissents. All the dissenters were nominated to the Court by Republican presidents. All those in the opinion were nominated by Democrats with the exception of Kennedy; which is evidence that being indoctrinated as a California lawyer speaks more of one’s philosophy than any political affiliation might.

Kennedy cited four “principles” which formed the basis of his decision. I have listed them above. I leave it to the reader to examine the original document and discover how much (or little) I have satirically added. Kennedy also relied heavily on three previous Supreme Court cases to make his point:

Loving v. Virginia, in which Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, sought to have their marriage recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia; Zablocki v. Redhail, in which Roger Redhail, a man in arrears on child support payments was denied a license to marry his pregnant girlfriend, a woman; and Turner v. Safley, in which Leonard Safley, a male inmate of the Missouri correctional system, fought the state’s prohibition to marry P. J. Watson, a female inmate. It is from these three cases of one man seeking the right to marry one woman that Justice Kennedy weaves the Constitutional right for a man to marry a man or a woman to marry a woman; reason, tradition, or biology be damned.

I recognize that the cry against legislating from the bench is standard shtick for conservative commentators and politicians alike. But the accusation against this Court’s action comes from within the Court itself. Note the following from Chief Justice Roberts’s dissent:

“Allowing unelected federal judges to select which unenumerated rights rank as ‘fundamental’ – and to strike down state laws on the basis of that determination – raises obvious concerns about the judicial role.” (Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ____ (2015), Roberts, C. J., dissenting, at 11.)

“But this Court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have the power to say what the law is, not what it should be.” (Ibid., at 2.)

“Understand well what this dissent is about: It is not about whether, in my judgment, the institution of marriage should be changed to include same-sex couples. It is instead about whether, in our democratic republic, that decision should rest with the people acting through their elected representatives, or with five lawyers who happen to hold commissions authorizing them to resolve legal disputes according to law. The Constitution leaves no doubt about the answer.” (Ibid., at 3.)

“The majority purports to identify four ‘principles and traditions’ in this Court’s due process precedents that support a fundamental right for same-sex couples to marry. In reality, however, the majority’s approach has no basis in principle or tradition, except for the unprincipled tradition of judicial policymaking.” (Ibid., at 10; internal citation omitted.)

“The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent. The majority expressly disclaims judicial ‘caution’ and omits even a pretense of humility, openly relying on its desire to remake society according to its own ‘new insight’ into the ‘nature of injustice.’ As a result, the Court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the States and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are?” (Ibid., at 3.)

Just who do they think they are, indeed. Nine judges: five in majority, four in dissent. An opinion more personally enforced than legally achieved. A watershed moving more earth than the belief that privacy has greater constitutional protection than the precious produce of procreation should enjoy. A denial of fact, an imposition of falsehood. The adult child of the sexual revolution has finally come home to rule the roost.

[1] Adapted from Justice Kennedy’s Opinion of the Court, Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ____ (2015), at 12.
[2] Ibid., at 13.
[3] Ibid, at 3-4.
[4] Ibid, at 14.
[5] See some of the stats I shared in “Your Mama!”
[6] Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ____ (2015), Kennedy, J., at 16.
[7] Adapted from Justice Kennedy’s Opinion of the Court, Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ____ (2015), at 19.
[8] http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/07/09/south-carolina-house-votes-to-remove-confederate-flag-from-statehouse-grounds, accessed 7/19/15; see also “Why We Have Mass Shootings in the United States”.
[9] http://freebeacon.com/national-security/iran-bans-u-s-inspectors-from-all-nuclear-sites, accessed 7/19/15.
[10] https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/fbi-statement-on-shootings-at-military-facilities-in-chattanooga-tennessee, accessed 7/19/15.
[11] http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf, 7/19/15. Though the Syllabus is a helpful overview, one should read the opinion as written by Justice Kennedy and then follow through on the dissents.
[12] Roe v. Wade was a 7-2 decision, a clear super majority.

I Was Born This Way!

I wasn’t born a poor black child in Mississippi; but had I been, I’d be one angry black man. While marchers chant “Black lives matter!” and young African Americans work toward assuming the mantle previously worn by the likes of Rosa Parks  and Martin Luther King, Jr., all seem oblivious to the fact that their cause has been hijacked and co-opted; stolen by thieves who choose to be oblivious to the obvious significance of their genitalia.

Consider for a moment the heavy lifting that Africans and African descendants did during the colonial decades leading up to the Declaration of Independence – independence of European colonials from their European overlords that is. Imagine, if you can, being the brunt of the continued brutality and inhumanity of chattel slavery that ended with the Civil War. Add to your contemplations the persistent injustices of American apartheid meted out during the Jim Crow era on a significant portion of our population for no other reason than who they were born to and what their skin color was.

water fountain

Such reflections are necessary, particularly if you happen to be white; doubly so if you happen to be a white conservative. The marchers of the 1960s risked life, limb, and their limited liberties to confront institutionalized racism that presented real disadvantages to people of color. In so doing, they pushed our culture closer to the true spirit of its founding ideals.

African Americans living in 21st century America are much better off than their grandparents were in the 20th century, but the work is far from done. Even though we have a black president, ruminate for a minute how it is that selling cigarettes illegally in New York, not paying child support in South Carolina, or making eye contact with law enforcement officers in Maryland can be a death sentence for a black man. Then think about a wedding cake denied to two grooms or citizens who demand their “right” to a government funded sex-reassignment surgery. Is it really the same? No, nowhere near. Regardless, the LGBT lobby has successfully co-opted our culture’s expressed abhorrence of prejudice that black people bled and died to build. They have done this by asserting that their condition is a matter of biological determinism. In other words, they were born that way.

Sex is a straightforward, biological reality. It is a reality that has been readily understood by mankind for millennia. We know this to be true even if we didn’t have history books. Our very existence is evidence of it. I was born as were you. We each had parents who recognized the purpose and ultimate potential of their reproductive organs and used them accordingly. Without such knowledge, there would be no human race. To make babies requires a man and a woman. Men don’t birth babies, women do. Men are men and women are women down to the cellular level. Women do not have Y chromosomes, men do. Simple.

Sex is a matter of birth. I have a copy of my father’s birth certificate. Under “SEX OF CHILD”, “Male” has been typed in. My father was born in California in 1931. I have a copy of my youngest child’s birth certificate. Printed in black for all posterity to see are the words “SEX: MALE”. Though he was born seventy-two years after his grandfather, identifying the sex of a baby is a skill we successfully carried into the 21st century.

Racial classification in America is historically tied to ancestry. There was a time in the United States when a single black great-grandparent made one black and unable to legally marry a white person. It mattered not at the time how lily-white the other seven great-grandparents were.[1] This refusal of marriage was a true injustice imposed upon people simply due to the conditions of their birth.

Neither the transgendered nor the same-sex oriented suffers from a condition of birth. But both groups have foisted this lie on a public ready to embrace it and gain an easy entrance into the halls of the socially enlightened. Privileged whites and affluent blacks too young to have made their mark in history during the glory days of the civil rights movement gleefully jump on the bandwagon of same-sex “marriage” advocacy[2] with all the fervor of a freedom marcher and none of the risk. In so doing, they divert focus and energy away from true tragedies of social injustice still prevalent in our society.

1280px-Kinsey_Scale.svg

In 1948, Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues developed the Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale based on interviews with people about their sexual histories. Often referred to as the “Kinsey Scale”, it is a seven-point scheme in which zero means exclusively heterosexual and six means exclusively homosexual. Following is the description of each level in the scale:

0- Exclusively heterosexual with no homosexual
1- Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual
2- Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
3- Equally heterosexual and homosexual
4- Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
5- Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
6- Exclusively homosexual

Even in 1948, Kinsey recognized that the level of homosexual inclination and expression could vary over a person’s lifetime.[3] His observations have been substantiated through later studies. A 1970 study found that 75% of all homosexuals had at one time or another been sexually aroused by the opposite sex. A 1983 study found that over half of all people who had ever been homosexually aroused were currently heterosexual. A 1992 study found that more than 90% of Americans who had had any same-gender sex since puberty had also had opposite-gender sex.[4]

Same-sex orientation, unlike its proponents would have us believe, isn’t an “always on” unavoidable condition of birth. The elasticity of behavior among those who identify themselves as homosexual testifies to the hypocrisy of their claim. Homosexuality, like transgenderism, isn’t a matter of biology but of psychology. In selling their fraud of biological determinism, they would have us see straight and gay water fountains as symbols of their cause instead of understanding that their attack is really on the sex-appropriate signs of public restrooms.

restrooms

Transgendered people who undergo sex-reassignment surgery (SRS) are perhaps the most extreme and tragic examples of a fight against reality. Consider Lynn Conway, a transgender female who completed her transition from man to “female” in 1968 and has been a transgender activist since going public in 1999. Prior to surgery, Lynn was married to a woman and fathered two children. In 2002, Lynn married a man.[5] Any serious thought about this history is sure to hurt the head, but think we must.

Even though SRS is commonly referred to as a “sex change” operation, sex change is biologically impossible. A transgender female isn’t a woman, he is a feminized man.[6] He has been castrated, his penis has been mutilated, and its skin has been turned outside in. But he is a man nonetheless. Every cell of his body will attest to that fact even if his mind won’t accept it and the results of his plastic surgery cleverly hide the truth. Any sex he has with males will be homosexual even if his partner is unaware of his true biological gender.

Dr. Paul McHugh, former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, made an elegant defense for reality when he stated “policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention. This intensely felt sense of being transgendered constitutes a mental disorder…the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken—it does not correspond with physical reality… Claiming that this is [a] civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.”[7]

Of course, policy makers and the media have every incentive to embrace the LGBT cause. Politicians can gain easy applause for their pro-diversity stance without addressing the real problems of disproportionate poverty, fatherlessness, and incarceration of blacks while the media makes millions on the next installment of the newest Kardashian female intent on throwing his javelin away for another round of gold.

[1] Dorothy Roberts, Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century, (New York: The New Press 2011), 19.
[2] For one such example, see the post “Another Black Robed Bandit Buys the Lie”.
[3] “What is the Kinsey Scale?”, http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/research/ak-hhscale.html, accessed 5/10/15.
[4] Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, (Nashville: Abingdon Press 2001), 418-419. The studies cited were: Bell and Weinberg (1970), Family Research Institute (1983), and the National Health and Social Life Survey (1992).
[5] “Lynn Conway”, http://www.gendercentre.org.au/resources/polare-archive/archived-articles/how-many-of-us-are-there.htm, accessed 5/10/15
[6] Paul McHugh, “Transgender Surgery Isn’t the Solution”, http://www.wsj.com/articles/paul-mchugh-transgender-surgery-isnt-the-solution-1402615120, accessed 5/10/15
[7] Ibid.

Pizza Night: Milestone on Recovery Road

I prefer miracles over medicine, but enjoy being alive most of all. With a diagnosis of cancer comes an assault of life-altering information. You are no longer just feeling sick; you are ill. You aren’t fighting off some foreign invader; you are being attacked by your own flesh. Treatment success rates are given to you in percentiles and the percentiles matter. The devastation of the therapy is contrasted with the known path of the disease and it actually sounds like the better option.

I still chuckle when I see drug commercials on television. You know the ones. People who look somewhat healthy are all shown celebrating the various fun activities of a normal life: family dinners, beach outings, fishing trips, and the like. The cheerful voiceover announcer begins to talk in soothing tones about the new drug you should ask your doctor for to treat your condition. “Do you suffer from an overactive bladder? Are trips to the bathroom keeping you from going to the beach? Nopeasama® could be the drug for you. Patients treated with Nopeasama® have shown marked improvement in bladder control and have been able to reclaim their lives.”

The music is uplifting and the lighting bright. The fancy logo scrolls across the screen as the announcer’s tone drops in volume and elevates in seriousness. “Nopeasama® has been known to cause diarrhea, severe vomiting, and frequent nosebleeds in some patients. Other possible side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, depression, and dehydration. In some instances, Nopeasama® has caused blindness in small hamsters and redheads. If you are a small hamster, do not take this product.” I laugh, but I laugh like a man whistling through a graveyard.

Faced with a choice between a highly probable death and a course of therapy guaranteed to cause permanent damage, I signed up for the treatment. This seems like a no-brainer and it actually is. Had I taken more time to think about it – or if I had known then what I know now – I might have chickened out and ran the other way. After all, dying in and of itself isn’t that scary of a concept to confront. Perhaps a story might help to explain what I mean.

Pretend for a moment that you are the hero in a classic Western movie. You are minding your own business, leaning up against the hitching post while you watch the dusty traffic on Main Street. A man in a black hat rides up to you, leans forward in his saddle and says, “You know, I could kill you, Cal.”[1] You see, that threat only carries a minimal level of menace. We in the audience barely squirm as you calmly stare the villain down with a cocky I’d-like-to-see-you-try smirk on your face. “CUT!” the director cries. “Let’s do that again; only this time, make me feel it.” You knew this was coming, because black hat always blows his line on the first take.

“I’m gonna kill ya, Cal,” black hat says. “But I’m gonna kill ya slow, see; so it hurts. Hurts real bad. And I’m gonna make your woman watch while I do it.” Now the audience is nervous and black hat hasn’t even given the details yet. Then he says, “I’m gonna make your tongue swell up so big that swallowing water will be nothin’ but a distant and painful memory. I’m gonna fill the lymph nodes in your neck with so much fluid, they’re gonna explode clean through your skin. Once I’m nearly done with you, you’ll wish you had taken me up on my offer!” No cocky smirk this time, black hat is serious and you’re in trouble. What’s worse, your woman is looking real nervous and on the verge of tears. “Offer? What offer you talkin’ about, Cancer Bill?” The villain looks pensive. Misery was his game and he was fairly good at causing it by sneaking up on folks. But it was always a gamble when you asked them to volunteer for it.

“Oh, well, we can go through all that I just talked about or you let me bolt you down in the Mask and shoot you with my fancy new ray gun every mornin’ for seven weeks straight. Your neck will burn worse than that time on the cattle drive when you forgot your bandana and lost your hat in the windstorm. But you won’t mind that much because about the middle of the third week, your throat’s gonna feel like I shoved a brandin’ iron down it and let it sit a while as I watched the smoke come out your nose. And in case you get any funny ideas about making things better with some ice cream or mamma’s chicken soup, I’m gonna fill your veins with my special snake venom. It won’t kill ya, maybe, but you’ll wish you’d died. All you gotta do is make it to the end of the seven weeks and I’ll call the feud off.”

“Well, why didn’t you say that in the first place, Cancer Bill. Sign me up for the torture. It sounds like the more sensible deal. Besides, makes me nervous when my woman cries.” Cue the sunset.

Upon reflection, my decision to undergo chemotherapy and radiation for head and neck cancer was perhaps more cavalier than courageous. They warned me it would be painfully difficult and leave me a changed man. But I had no idea how painful and nor did I appreciate the challenges that the differences would make. Which brings me to pizza night, or almost.

Shortly after my second dose of chemo, anything that had even a remote connection to tomatoes came off the menu. I love tomatoes. Fresh tomato slices served with dinner? Sign me up. Tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches? Any time of year. Ketchup? Good on eggs, potatoes, burgers, meatloaf, and any meal that needed help. Stews, spaghetti, eggplant parmesan, lasagna, and pizza. I loved them all. But I especially love a good pizza. All of this and any possibility of it came off the menu. Tomatoes turned into nausea inducing rusty metal with a crust of sugar in my mouth. And they tasted that way long after my throat had healed and the chemo was gone. It hasn’t been until recently, now some nineteen months after my last infusion of the life-saving deadly cocktail, that tomato sauce has been tolerable.

So it was that after an impromptu movie date with my bride, I spied the pizzeria across the courtyard from the theater and said, “Let’s get dinner.” “Are you serious?” she asked. “Yeah, I’m game.” I said. Never mind that taking on crust substantially adds to the challenge of swallowing food without saliva. Never mind that often times I eat by memory as how food now tastes frequently bears little resemblance to how it used to taste. Never mind that it was after eleven o’clock at night. It was pizza and for the first time in a while, I really felt like I got the draw on Cancer Bill.

It didn’t taste like it used to, but it came real close. And it only took me three glasses of water to get two small slices down. But I was thankful. Thankful to have come through. Thankful to be alive. Thankful to eat pizza. And thankful most of all for my bride.

[1] If you’re name isn’t Cal, just go with it. It’s a movie, for goodness sake!